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Slightly Skeptical View on Neoliberal Transformation of University Education

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Introduction

Previously education was mostly about "finding yourself" -- developing understanding of the world and yourself, as well as developing those set of abilities that you was gifted most. And deciding what you want to do in the future, within contins of job market and your abilities.  Neoliberalism has changed that dramatically. Education now is just in "investment" into your "entrepreneurial self" to increase your value as "human capital" holder and this your value in the "labout market." (Symptomatic Redness -Philip Mirowski - YouTube).  That's bullsh*t, but people already brainwashed by neoliberals from the middle school buy it uncritically.

Today we live in a world of predatory bankers, predatory educators, predatory health care providers, all of them out for themselves…. Neoliberalism  is the philosophy of the Silicon Valley chieftains, the big university systems, and the Wall Street titans who gave so much to Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign…. They are pretend to belong to so called "creative vlass", but in reality are self-interested, parasitical, and predatory. Common people are not admissible to this new aristocracy even if they have two university educations.

In the current circumstances education is no longer the answer to rising inequality. Instead of serving as a social lift it, it designed to propagate the current status of parents and at least in some cases, became more of a social trap converting poorer or more reckless (as in specializing in areas were job market is not existent) graduates into debt slaves without chances to repay the loans. All this is connected with neoliberal transformation of education. With the collapse of post-war public funded educational model and privatization of the University education students face a pretty cruel world. World in which they are cows to milk.

Now universities became institutions very similar to McDonalds ( or, in less politically correct terms, Bordellos of Higher Learning). Like McDonalds they need to price their services so that to receive nice profit and they to make themselves more attractive to industry they intentionally feed students with overspecialized curriculum instead of concentrating on fundamentals and the developing the ability to understand the world. Which was the hallmark of university education of the past.

Since 1970th Neo-Liberal University model replaced public funded university model (Dewey model). It is now collapsing as there are not that many students, who are able (and now with lower job prospects and persistent tales of graduates working as bartenders) to pay inflated tuition fees. Foreigners somewhat compensates for this , but with current high prices Canada, UK and Europe are more attractive for all but the most rich parents.   That means that higher education again by-and-large became privilege of the rich and upper middle class.

Lower student enrollment first hit after  dot-com boom, when the number of students who want to be programmers decines several times.   Expensive private colleges start hunting for people with government support (such a former members of Arm forces).  The elite universities, which traditionally serve the top 1% and rich foreigners fared better but were also hit. As David Schultz wrote in his article (Logos, 2012):

Yet the Dewey model began to collapse in middle of the 1970s. Perhaps it was the retrenchment of the SUNY and CUNY systems in New York under Governor Hugh Carey in 1976 that began the end of the democratic university. What caused its retrenchment was the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

The fiscal crisis of the 1970s was born of numerous problems. Inflationary pressures caused by Vietnam and the energy embargoes of the 1970s, and recessionary forces from relative declines in American economic productivity produced significant economic shocks, including to the public sector where many state and local governments edged toward bankruptcy.

Efforts to relieve declining corporate profits and productivity initiated efforts to restructure the economy, including cutting back on government services. The response, first in England under Margaret Thatcher and then in the United States under Ronald Reagan, was an effort to retrench the state by a package that included decreases in government expenditures for social welfare programs, cutbacks on business regulations, resistance to labor rights, and tax cuts. Collectively these proposals are referred to as Neo-liberalism and their aim was to restore profitability and autonomy to free markets with the belief that unfettered by the government that would restore productivity.

Neo-liberalism had a major impact on higher education. First beginning under President Carter and then more so under Ronald Reagan, the federal and state governments cut taxes and public expenditures. The combination of the two meant a halt to the Dewey business model as support for public institutions decreased and federal money dried up.

From a high in the 1960s and early 70s when states and the federal government provided generous funding to expand their public systems to educate the Baby Boomers, state universities now receive only a small percentage of their money from the government. As I pointed out in my 2005 Logos “The Corporate University in American Society” article in 1991, 74% of the funding for public universities came from states, in 2004; it was down to 64%, with state systems in Illinois, Michigan and Virginia down to 25%, 18%, and 8% respectively. Since then, the percentages have shrunk even more, rendering state universities public institutions more in name than in funding.

Higher education under Neo-liberalism needed a new business model and it found it in the corporate university. The corporate university is one where colleges increasingly use corporate structures and management styles to run the university. This includes abandoning the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) shared governance model where faculty had an equal voice in the running of the school, including over curriculum, selection of department chairs, deans, and presidents, and determination of many of the other policies affecting the academy. The corporate university replaced the shared governance model with one more typical of a business corporation.

For the corporate university, many decisions, including increasingly those affecting curriculum, are determined by a top-down pyramid style of authority. University administration often composed not of typical academics but those with business or corporate backgrounds had pre-empted many of the decisions faculty used to make. Under a corporate model, the trustees, increasingly composed of more business leaders than before, select, often with minimal input from the faculty, the president who, in turn, again with minimal or no faculty voice, select the deans, department heads, and other administrative personnel.

University bureaucracy and presidents became way too greedy

Neoliberalism professes the idea the personal greed can serve positive society goals, which is reflected in famous neoliberal slogan "greed is good". And university presidents listen. Now presidents of neoliberal universities do not want to get $100K per year salary, they want one, or better several, million dollars -- the salary of the CEO of major corporation (Student Debt Grows Faster at Universities With Highest-Paid Leaders, Study Finds - NYTimes.com)

At the 25 public universities with the highest-paid presidents, both student debt and the use of part-time adjunct faculty grew far faster than at the average state university from 2005 to 2012, according to a new study by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning Washington research group.

The study, “The One Percent at State U: How University Presidents Profit from Rising Student Debt and Low-Wage Faculty Labor,” examined the relationship between executive pay, student debt and low-wage faculty labor at the 25 top-paying public universities.

The co-authors, Andrew Erwin and Marjorie Wood, found that administrative expenditures at the highest-paying universities outpaced spending on scholarships by more than two to one. And while adjunct faculty members became more numerous at the 25 universities, the share of permanent faculty declined drastically.

“The high executive pay obviously isn’t the direct cause of higher student debt, or cuts in labor spending,” Ms. Wood said. “But if you think about it in terms of the allocation of resources, it does seem to be the tip of a very large iceberg, with universities that have top-heavy executive spending also having more adjuncts, more tuition increases and more administrative spending.”

... ... ...

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual survey of public university presidents’ compensation, also released Sunday, found that nine chief executives earned more than $1 million in total compensation in 2012-13, up from four the previous year, and three in 2010-11. The median total compensation of the 256 presidents in the survey was $478,896, a 5 percent increase over the previous year.

... ... ...

As in several past years, the highest-compensated president, at $6,057,615 in this period, was E. Gordon Gee, who resigned from Ohio State last summer amid trustee complaints about frequent gaffes. He has since become the president of West Virginia University.

This trick requires dramatic raising of tuition costs. University bureaucracy also got taste for better salaries and all those deans, etc want to be remunerated like vice presidents. So raising the tuition costs became the key existential idea of neoliberal university. Not quality of education, but tuition costs now are the key criteria of success. And if you can charge students $40K per semester it is very, very good. If does not matter that most population get less then $20 an hour.

The same is true for professors, who proved to be no less corruptible. And some of them, such as economic departments, simply serve as prostitutes for financial oligarchy. So they were corrupted even before that rat race for profit. Of course there are exceptions. But they only prove the rule.

As the result university tuition inflation outpaced inflation by leaps and bounds. At some point amount that you pay (and the level of debt after graduation) becomes an important factor in choosing the university. So children of "have" and "have nots" get into different educational institutions and do not meet each other. In a way aristocracy returned via back door.

Job market situation and hidden financial rip offs

Neoliberal university professes "deep specialization" to create "ready for the job market" graduates. And that creates another problem: education became more like stock market game and that makes more difficult for you to change your specialization late in the education cycle. But too early choice entails typical stock market problem: you might miss the peak of the market or worse get into prolonged slump, as graduates in finance learned all too well in 2008.

That's why it is important not to accumulate too much debt: large debt after graduation put you in situation like "all in" play in poker. You essentially bet that in the chosen specialty there will be open positions with high salary, when you graduate. If you lose this bet , you became a debt slave for considerable period of your life.

As a result of this "reaction to the market trends" by neoliberal universities, when universities became appendixes of HR of large corporations students need to be more aware of real university machinery, then students in 50th or 60th of the last century. And first student should not assume that the university is functioning for  their benefits.

One problem for a student is that there are now way too many variables that you do not control. Among them:

On the deep level neoliberal university is not interested to help you to find specialization and place in life where can unleash your talents. You are just a paying customers much like in McDonalds, and university interests are such they might try to push you in wrong direction or load you with too much debt.

If there is deep mismatch as was with computer science graduates after crash of dot-com boom, or simply bad job market due to economy stagnation and you can't find the job for your new specialty (or if you got "junk" specialty with inherent high level of unemployment among professionals) and you have substantial education debt, then waiting tables or having some other MacJob is a real disaster for you. As with such salaries you simply can't pay it back. So controlling the level of debt is very important and in this sense parents financial help is now necessary. In other words education became more and more "rich kids game".

That does not mean that university education should be avoided for those from families with modest means. On the contrary it provides unique experience and help a person to mature in multiple ways difficult to achieve without it. It is still one of the best ways to get vertical mobility. But unless parents can support you need to try to find the most economical way to obtain it without acquiring too much debt. This is you first university exam. And if you fail it you are in trouble.

For example, computer science education is a great way to learn quite a few things necessary for a modern life. But the price does matter and prestige of the university institution that you attend is just one of the factors you should consider in your evaluation. It should not be the major factor ("vanity fair") unless your parents are rich and can support you. If you are good you can get later a master degree in a prestigious university after graduation from a regular college. Or even Ph.D.

County colleges are greatly underappreciated and generally provide pretty high standard of education, giving ability to students to save money for the first two years before transferring to a four year college. They also smooth the transition as finding yourself among people who are only equal or superior then you (and have access to financial resource that you don't have) is a huge stress. The proverb say that it is better to be first in the village then last in the town has some truth in it. Prestigious universities might provide a career boost (high fly companies usually accept resumes only from Ivy League members), but they cost so much that you need to be a son or daughter of well-to-do parents to feel comfortably in them. Or extremely talented. Also amount of career boost that elite universities provide depends on whom your parents are and what connections they have. It does not depend solely on you and the university. Again, I would like to stress that you should resist "vanity fair" approach to your education: a much better way is to try to obtain BS in a regular university and them try to obtain MS and then, if you are good, PHD, in a prestigious university. Here is a fragment of an interesting discussion that covers this topic (Low Mobility Is Not a Social Tragedy?, Feb 13, 2013 ; I recommend you to read the whole discussion ):

kievite:

I would like to defend Greg Clack.

I think that Greg Clack point is that the number of gifted children is limited and that exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies (story of Alexander Hamilton was really fascinating for me, the story of Mikhail Lomonosov http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Lomonosov was another one -- he went from the very bottom to the top of Russian aristocracy just on the strength of his abilities as a scientist). In no way the ability to "hold its own" (typical for rich families kids) against which many here expressed some resentment represents social mobility. But the number of kids who went down is low -- that's actually proves Greg Clack point:

(1) Studies of social mobility using surnames suggest two things. Social mobility rates are much lower than conventionally estimated. And social mobility rates estimated in this way vary little across societies and time periods. Sweden is no more mobile than contemporary England and the USA, or even than medieval England. Social mobility rates seem to be independent of social institutions (see the other studies on China, India, Japan and the USA now linked here).

Francisco Ferreira rejects this interpretation, and restates the idea that there is a strong link between social mobility rates and inequality in his interesting post.

What is wrong with the data Ferreira cites? Conventional estimates of social mobility, which look at just single aspects of social status such as income, are contaminated by noise. If we measure mobility on one aspect of status such as income, it will seem rapid.

But this is because income is a very noisy measure of the underlying status of families. The status of families is a combination of their education, occupation, income, wealth, health, and residence. They will often trade off income for some other aspect of status such as occupation. A child can be as socially successful as a low paid philosophy professor as a high paid car salesman. Thus if we measure just one aspect of status such as income we are going to confuse the random fluctuations of income across generations, influenced by such things as career choices between business and philosophy, with true generalised social mobility.

If these estimates of social mobility were anywhere near correct as indicating true underlying rates of social mobility, then we would not find that the aristocrats of 1700 in Sweden are still overrepresented in all elite occupations of Sweden. Further, the more equal is income in a society, the less signal will income give of the true social status of families. In a society such as Sweden, where the difference in income between bus drivers and philosophy professors is modest, income tells us little about the social status of families. It is contaminated much more by random noise. Thus it will appear if we measure social status just by income that mobility is much greater in Sweden than in the USA, because in the USA income is a much better indicator of the true overall status of families.

The last two paragraphs of Greg Clark article cited by Mark Thoma are badly written and actually are somewhat disconnected with his line of thinking as I understand it as well as with the general line of argumentation of the paper.

Again, I would like to stress that a low intergenerational mobility includes the ability of kids with silver spoon in their mouth to keep a status close to their parent. The fact that they a have different starting point then kids from lower strata of society does not change that.

I think that the key argument that needs testing is that the number of challengers from lower strata of the society is always pretty low and is to a large extent accommodated by the societies we know (of course some societies are better then others).

Actually it would be interesting to look at the social mobility data of the USSR from this point of view.

But in no way, say, Mark Thoma was a regular kid, although circumstances for vertical mobility at this time were definitely better then now. He did possessed some qualities which made possible his upward move although his choice of economics was probably a mistake ;-).

Whether those qualities were enough in more restrictive environments we simply don't know, but circumstances for him were difficult enough as they were.

EC -> kievite...

"the number of gifted children is limited"

I stopped reading after that. I teach at a high school in a town with a real mix of highly elite families, working class families, and poor families, and I can tell you that the children of affluent parents are not obviously more gifted than the children of poor families. They do, however, have a lot more social capital, and they have vastly more success. But the limitations on being "gifted" are irrelevant.

According to an extensive study (Turkheimer et al., 2003) of 50,000 pregnant women and the children they went on to have (including enough sets of twins to be able to study the role of innate genetic differences), variation in IQ among the affluent seems to be largely genetic.

Among the poor, however, IQ has very little to do with genes -- probably because the genetic differences are swamped and suppressed by the environmental differences, as few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances.

kievite -> EC...

All you said is true. I completely agree that "...few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances." So there are losses here and we should openly talk about them.

Also it goes without saying that social capital is extremely important for a child. That's why downward mobility of children from upper classes is suppressed, despite the fact that some of them are plain vanilla stupid.

But how this disproves the point made that "exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies"? I think you just jumped the gun...

mrrunangun:

The early boomers benefitted from the happy confluence of the postwar boom, LBJ's Great Society efforts toward financial assistance for those seeking to advance their educations, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act which opened opportunities for marginalized social groups in institutions largely closed to them under the prewar social customs in the US.

The US Supreme Court is made up of only Jews and Catholics as of this writing, a circumstance inconceivable in the prewar America. Catholics were largely relegated to separate and unequal institutions. Jews' opportunities were limited by quotas and had a separate set of institutions of their own where their numbers could support such. Where their numbers were not sufficient, they were often relegated to second rate institutions.

Jewish doctors frequently became the leading men in the Catholic hospitals in Midwestern industrial towns where they were unwelcome in the towns' main hospitals. Schools, clubs, hospitals, professional and commercial organizations often had quota or exclusionary policies. Meritocracy has its drawbacks, but we've seen worse in living memory.

The really cruel world of a neoliberal university

Of course bad things that happened to you during your university years are soon forgotten and nostalgia colors everything in role tones, but the truth is that the modern university is a very cruel world. Now more then ever. Here are some random observations of the subject (See also my Diploma Mills page about high education sharks for which sucking you dry financially is the main goal ):

Lysenkoism and petty, greedy pseudo-scientific scum as professors and teachers

Most teachers and Professors in the university are good, honest people who are trying to make some contribution to science and teach students (difficult things to mix). But not all. One of the most dangerous feature of neoliberal university are influx of people who represent a toxic mix of teacher, snake oil seller, careerist and cult follower. They are not teachers but brainwashers, hired guns -- propagandists masquerading as University professors. That is why we have witnessed such a corruption and politicization of science and rising proportion of research and theories taught at the universities that are fraudulent.

Previously teacher was a person somewhat similar to a monk. A person who consciously traded the ability to work in science to the possibility of acquiring material wealth, at least excessive material wealth. As Ernest Rutherford once reminded Pyotr Kapitsa "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:24)

But in neoliberal university way too many teachers/researchers took Faustian bargain when one trades the academic independence for above average personal wealth, influence, for the power grab. And despite popular image of scientists and university professors they proved to be as corruptible by money as Wall Street traders ;-). This is because the sponsors of their research such as big business, non-governmental organizations (NGO) and government vie to publish reports and results that put the sponsors in the best light. Good example is relations of pharmaceutical industry and academia

“The answer to that question is at once both predictable and shocking: For the past two decades, medical research has been quietly corrupted by cash from private industry. Most doctors and academic researchers aren't corrupt in the sense of intending to defraud the public or harm patients, but rather, more insidiously, guilty of allowing the pharmaceutical and biotech industries to manipulate medical science through financial relationships, in effect tainting the system that is supposed to further the understanding of disease and protect patients from ineffective or dangerous drugs. More than 60 percent of clinical studies--those involving human subjects--are now funded not by the federal government, but by the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. That means that the studies published in scientific journals like Nature and The New England Journal of Medicine--those critical reference points for thousands of clinicians deciding what drugs to prescribe patients, as well as for individuals trying to educate themselves about conditions and science reporters from the popular media who will publicize the findings--are increasingly likely to be designed, controlled, and sometimes even ghost-written by marketing departments, rather than academic scientists. Companies routinely delay or prevent the publication of data that show their drugs are ineffective.

...

“ Novartis, stepped in and provided additional funding for development. In 1984, private companies contributed a mere $26 million to university research budgets. By 2000, they were ponying up $2.3 billion, an increase of 9000 percent that provided much needed funds to universities at a time when the cost of doing medical research was skyrocketing.”

Historically the scientific community is held together through its joint acceptance of the same fundamental principles of conducting research (and teaching those results) and ethics. Scientific research is best practiced in a voluntary, honest and free atmosphere. But this idyllic arrangement as well as scientific ethics now belongs to the past ( The Corruption of Science )

“It’s a long-standing and crucial question that, as yet, remains unanswered: just how common is scientific misconduct? In the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE, Daniele Fanelli of the University of Edinburgh reports the first meta-analysis of surveys questioning scientists about their misbehaviours. The results suggest that altering or making up data is more frequent than previously estimated and might be particularly high in medical research.

...There is immense pressure on scientists to produce results, to publish, to seek glory, or just to get tenure. Scientists are human beings, after all, and sometimes they approach their field with preconceptions or biases. Politics certainly comes into play; consider eugenics in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, or eugenics in Nazi Germany.

Now we can talk only about the level of political and economical pressure and corresponding level of corruption on professors and scientists, not so much about presence or absence of corruption in science and education. What really matters for students is that when they feel that a professor is a scum, they nevertheless try to imitate. See for example Harvard Mafia, Andrei Shleifer and the economic rape of Russia.

Historically the situation started to change even before neoliberal university became a dominant educational institution. Previously, despite the fact that money for science were in short supply, scientists maintained a self-discipline. That changed after WWII. Prior to World War II there was little government financial support for science. A graduate student working on a Ph.D. degree was expected to make a new discovery to earn that degree. And if somebody else came first he needed to find a new theme and to restart his work.

But with the advent of NSF scientists started to "propose" directions of research to get funding. And be sure this instill atmosphere of sycophantism and political correctness. This process accelerated dramatically since 1980th with the ascendance of neoliberalism as a dominant USA ideology, when greed became playing significant role in US universities. It should be understood that now the university professor is no longer is a teacher and a scientist, but predominantly "grants provider" for the university and that means that he/she is in the first place a political agent, a manipulator on a mission from the external agent (typically the state via NSF or other agency, see The Corruption of Science in America -- Puppet Masters -- Sott.net)

For the unwashed masses University professor career still represents the ultimate carrier of truth for a given discipline, so his opinion have a distinct political weight. And the architects of our neoliberal world fully use this "superstition". Like we can see with neoclassical economics, economists have turned into an instrument of cognitive manipulation, when under the guise of science financial oligarchy promote beneficial to itself but false and simplistic picture of the world, using University professors to brainwash the masses into "correct" thinking.

Professors literally became a religious figures, and cult members or even cult leaders. The first sign of this dangerous disease of the modern university was probably Lysenkoism in the USSR. In this sense one can say that Lysenkoism represented a natural side effect of shrinking of freedom of the scientific community and growing influence of political power on science. As by Frederick Seitz noted in his The Present Danger To Science and Society

Everyone knows that the scientific community faces financial problems at the present time. If that were its only problem, some form of restructuring and allocation of funds, perhaps along lines well tested in Europe and modified in characteristic American ways, might provide solutions that would lead to stability and balance well into the next century. Unfortunately, the situation is more complex, made so by the fact that the scientific establishment has become the object of controversy from both outside and inside its special domain. The most important aspects of the controversy are of a new kind and direct attention away from matters that are sufficiently urgent to be the focus of a great deal of the community's attention.

The assaults on science from the outside arise from such movements as the ugly form of "political correctness" that has taken root in important portions of our academic community. There are to be found, in addition, certain tendencies toward a home-grown variant of the anti-intellectual Lysenkoism that afflicted science in the Stalinist Soviet Union. So-called fraud cases are being dealt with in new, bureaucratic ways that cut across the traditional methods of arriving at truth in science. From inside the scientific community, meanwhile, there are challenges that go far beyond those that arise from the intense competition for the limited funds that are available to nourish the country's scientific endeavor.

The critical issue of arriving at a balanced approach to funding for science is being subordinated to issues made to seem urgent by unhealthy alliances of scientists and bureaucrats. Science and the integrity of its practitioners are under attack and, increasingly, legislators and bureaucrats shape the decisions that determine which paths scientific research should take. There is, in addition, a sinister tendency, especially in environmental affairs, toward considering the undertaking of expensive projects that are proposed by some scientists to remedy worst-case formulations of problems before the radical and expensive remedies are proven to be needed. They are viewed seriously though they are based on the advice of opportunistic alarmists in science who leap ahead of what is learned from solid research to encourage support for the expensive remedies they perceive to be necessary. The potential for very great damage to science and society is real.

Textbook racket is a part of neoliberal transformation of university education

Unfortunately a large part of the textbook market in the USA has all signs of corrupted monopoly infested with cronyism and incompetence to the extent that Standard Oil practices looks pretty benign in comparison. As the site MakeTextbooksAffordable.com states on its font page:

The report found that even though students already pay $900 year for textbooks, textbook publishers artificially inflate the price of textbooks by adding bells and whistles to the current texts, and forcing cheaper used books off the market by producing expensive new editions of textbooks that are barely different from the previous edition.

And some university professors are part of these scheme. Congressmen David Wu sites the opinion of the publisher in his letter "If a student is paying hundreds of dollars for a book, it's because the professor has ordered the Cadillac edition". But that might be true only for CS where any professor can easily find a cheaper high quality substitute from publishers like O'Reilly (and students can do this too, see Softpanorama Bookshelf actually about finding the best CS book (and some other) at reasonable prices. In other disciplines like mathematics situation is a real racket: The cost of a common calculus textbook is over $100 in the USA. This is a blatant, open rip-off. Economics is probably even worse with some useless junk selling for almost $300 per book.

In the meantime, enterprising students have many ways to cut the cost of buying textbooks.

But here one needs to see a bigger picture: low quality of recommended textbooks and, especially, the quality of university instruction makes it necessary buying additional textbooks. Also the ownership of best textbooks often makes the difference between success and failure in the particular course. In this sense additional $100 spending for books for each course makes economic sense as the common alternative is to drop the course, which often means $1K of more loss.

There are several ways to save on additional textbooks that hopefully can somewhat compensate for the low quality of tuition in a typical university. With some effort a student can often save approximately 50% of the cover price. Again my Links2bookstores page contains more information.

At the same time if the instructor is weak, or, worse, belongs to "fundamentalists", a category of instructors that does not distinguish between important and unimportant things and overloads the course with "useless overcomplexity" additional books are one of few countermeasures against this typical university-style rip-off. Dropping the course is a difficult maneuver that requires perfect timing and problems with instructor and the course content usually do not surface during the first month of the study when you can still do it for free or with minimal damage.

College textbook publishing became a racket with the growth of neoliberalism. And it is pretty dirty racket with willing accomplishes in form of so called professors like Greg Mankiw. For instance, you can find a used 5th edition Mankiw introductory to Microeconomics for under $4.00, while a new 7th edition costs over $200. An interesting discussion of this problem can be found at Thoughts on High-Priced Textbooks'

Tim Taylor on why textbooks cost so much:

Thoughts on High-Priced Textbooks: High textbook prices are a pebble in the shoe of many college students. Sure, it's not the biggest financial issue they face, But it's a real and nagging annoyance that for hinders performance for many students. ...
David Kestenbaum and Jacob Goldstein at National Public Radio took up this question recently on one of their "Planet Money" podcasts. ... For economists, a highlight is that they converse with Greg Mankiw, author of what is currently the best-selling introductory economics textbook, which as they point out is selling for $286 on Amazon. Maybe this is a good place to point out that I am not a neutral observer in this argument: The third edition of my own Principles of Economics textbook is available through Textbook Media. The pricing varies from $25 for online access to the book, up through $60 for both a paper copy (soft-cover, black and white) and online access.

Several explanations for high textbook prices are on offer. The standard arguments are that textbook companies are marketing selling to professors, not to students, and professors are not necessarily very sensitive to textbook prices. (Indeed, one can argue that before the rapid rise in textbook prices in the last couple of decades, it made sense for professors not to focus too much on textbook prices.) Competition in the textbook market is limited, and the big publishers load up their books with features that might appeal to professors: multi-colored hardcover books, with DVDs and online access, together with test banks that allow professors to give quizzes and tests that can be machine-graded. At many colleges and universities, the intro econ class is taught in a large lecture format, which can include hundreds or even several thousand students, as well as a flock of teaching assistants, so some form of computerized grading and feedback is almost a necessity. Some of the marketing by textbook companies involves paying professors for reviewing chapters--of course in the hope that such reviewers will adopt the book.

The NPR show casts much of this dynamic as a "principal-agent problem," the name for a situation in which one person (the "principal") wants another person (the "agent") to act on their behalf, but lacks the ability to observe or evaluate the actions of the agent in a complete way. Principal-agent analysis is often used, for example, to think about the problem of a manager motivating employees. But it can also be used to consider the issue of students (the "principals") wanting the professor (the "agent") to choose the book that will best suit the needs of the students, with all factors of price and quality duly taken into account. The NPR reporters quote one expert saying that the profit margin for high school textbooks is 5-10%, because those books decisions are made by school districts and states that negotiate hard. However, profit margins on college textbooks--where the textbook choice is often made by a professor who may not even know the price that students will pay--are more like 20%.

The NPR report suggests this principal-agent framework to Greg Mankiw, author of the top-selling $286 economic textbook. Mankiw points out that principal-agent problems are in no way nefarious, but come up in many contexts. For example, when you get an operation, you rely on the doctor to make choices that involve costs; when you get your car fixed, you rely on a mechanic to make choices that involve costs; when you are having home repairs done, you rely on a repair person or a contractor to make choices that involve costs. Mankiw argues that professors, acting as the agents of students, have legitimate reason to be concerned about tradeoffs of time and money. As he notes, a high quality book is more important "than saving them a few dollars"--and he suggests that saving $30 isn't worth it for a low-quality book.

But of course, in the real world there are more choices than a high-quality $286 book and a low-quality $256 book. The PIRG student surveys suggest that up to two-thirds of students are avoiding buying textbooks at all, even though they fear it will hurt their grade, or are shifting to other classes with lower textbook costs. If a student is working 10 hours a week at a part-time job, making $8/hour after taxes, then the difference between $286 book and a $60 book is 28.25 hours--nearly three weeks of part-time work. I am unaware of any evidence in which students were randomly assigned different textbooks but otherwise taught and evaluated in the same way, and kept time diaries, which would show that higher-priced books save time or improve academic performance. It is by no means obvious that a lower-cost book (yes, like my own) works less well for students than a higher-cost book from a big publisher. Some would put that point more strongly.

A final dynamic that may be contributing to higher-prices textbooks is a sort of vicious circle related to the textbook resale market. The NPR report says that when selling a textbook over a three-year edition, a typical pattern was that sales fell by half after the first year and again by half after the second year, as students who had bought the first edition resold the book to later students. Of course, this dynamic also means that many students who bought the book new are not really paying full-price, but instead paying the original price minus the resale price. The argument is that as textbooks have increased in price, the resale market has become ever-more active, so that sales of a textbook in later years have dwindled much more quickly. Textbook companies react to this process by charging more for the new textbook, which of course only spurs more activity in the resale market.

A big question for the future of textbooks is how and in what ways they migrate to electronic forms. On one side, the hope is that electronic textbooks will offer expanded functionality, as well as being cheaper. But this future is not foreordained. At least at present, my sense is that the functionality of reading and taking notes in online textbooks hasn't yet caught up to the ease of reading on paper. Technology and better screens may well shift this balance over time. But even setting aside questions of reading for long periods of time on screen, or taking notes on screen, at present it remains harder to skip around in a computerized text between what you are currently reading and the earlier text that you need to be checking, as well as skipping to various graphs, tables, and definitions. To say it more simply, in a number of subjects it may still be harder to study an on-line text than to study a paper text.

Moreover, as textbook manufacturers shift to an on-line world, they will bring with them their full bag of tricks for getting paid. The Senack report notes:

Today’s marketplace offers more digital textbook options to the student consumer than ever. “Etextbooks” are digitized texts that students read on a laptop or tablet. Similar to PDF documents, e-textbooks enable students to annotate, highlight and search. The cost may be 40-50 percent of the print retail price, and access expires after 180 days. Publishers have introduced e-textbooks for nearly all their traditional textbook offerings. In addition, the emergence of the ereader like the Kindle and iPad, as well as the emergence of many e-textbook rental programs, all seemed to indicate that the e-textbook will alter the college textbook landscape for the better.

However, despite this shift, users of e-textbooks are subject to expiration dates, on-line codes that only work once, page printing limits, and other tactics that only serve to restrict use and increase cost.

Unfortunately for students, the publishing companies’ venture into e-textbooks is a continuation of the practices they use to monopolize the print market.

JohnH:

My understanding is that there are cases where the professor requires the textbook he wrote and for which he receives royalties...

In such cases, the publisher and the professor's interests align against the student, who pays through the teeth.

djb:

good article but i have a real problem with introductory texts on economics

they are completely biased, mostly towards supply side of the debate

meaning, of course, they are wrong

if they just contained that which is undeniably true then ok, or if they presented it as this school of thought says this and that school of thought says the other, ok,

The Raven:

A general rule of thumb: half the selling price of a book is spent before the first impression is made on paper. Speaking as a very small publisher, I think the main problem is that the texts are expensive to produce.

They take a lot of editorial and design effort, so the fixed costs of textbook production are high, the production costs are often high, and textbook bestsellers are not common, so they don't usually make it up on volume.

Now, one could, for standard freshman and sophomore texts, aim at lower costs and higher volumes, but that's not academic publishing, and nothing is going to help with upper-level texts; the market is just not that big.

pgl -> to The Raven...

Excellent! With a high elasticity of demand, the increase in quantity beats the drop in price. Unless the marginal cost of printing books is higher than I suspect it is, Mankiw's publisher is not a profit maximizing monopolist. I'm telling you the best economics is right here and we don't charge $286!

The Raven -> to pgl...

Thanks.

You'd have to market a book *hard* to get that increase in demand, though. It's not a student-by-student sale decision; the professors have to be marketed. The other thing about publishing economics that people outside the industry don't realize: most books don't make much money, so publishers rely on the good-sellers and the best-sellers for much of their profits. If you've got something you're pretty sure is going to be in demand, *you mark it up,* because in William Golding's immortal phrase, "Nobody knows anything."

Over the past 25 or so years, the consolidation of publishing has put the money types more and more in control of the business. And the money types always want to only market best sellers. This is sort of like Germany saying that everyone should make money exporting. "That trick never works."

Now, if anyone wanted to bring the price of an Econ 101 book down, one could do a no-frills book, small, soft-covered, and strictly monochrome, or perhaps an ebook. (But watch out—only some ebook readers support mathematics well.) It might cost $50 or so (I'm guessing—I'm not a textbook publisher.) It would not look impressive, and this might make a problem for marketing, but students could still learn from it. And—who knows?—it might even sell.

T.J.:

The issue is that textbook publishers release new editions every couple of years. For many subjects, including economics, this is absurd. Sciences don't change that quickly.

For instance, you can find a used 5th edition Mankiw introductory to Microeconomics for under $4.00, while a new 7th edition costs over $200.

Has principles of microeconomics changed that much over the course of 6 years? No, but textbook companies make a few changes on the margin and charge you hundreds of dollars for a new edition. Many times, professors require online access codes to supplement their lecture. Therefore, the student is forced into the newer edition, in which often there is no substantial differences or major improvements in presenting the material.

When you have that sort of market power, it is easy to achieve economic rents.

pgl -> to T.J....

"Sciences don't change that quickly". One would hope those freshwater books changed after their utter failures to predict the most recent recession. But they likely haven't.

cm -> to T.J....

There are errata, and some content that the author has in mind doesn't make it into the first edition, or not at the intended quality/depth. Most people who have never published something substantial have no idea how much work it is to get non-fiction scientific/technical stuff publication ready. Not only on the author's part but also editing and proofreading/giving feedback at a collegial level. (Not meaning to knock down fiction, that's a different set of challenges.)

Bill Ellis:

Two Ideas I would like to see combined. A period of Universal public service that earns a free higher and or tech education. Something like the GI bill for all.

I think making universal public service a right of passage could help us be a more unified society. If we have kids from inner city Detroit, rural West Virginia, suburban San Francisco and the oil fields of Oklahoma working side by side it would open their eyes to each other in ways that are never experienced by most American kids who are living in communities of institutional self-segregation.

Having said that.. free education is a no brainer no matter what.
To cover everyone's tuition it would only cost us about forty billion more than the feds already spend on higher ed. That's a rounding error in terms of our total budget.

We subsidize big oil and gas to the tune of about 50 billion a year.

The maddening thing is that the national debate is not even close to taking Free Ed seriously. Instead Liz Warren is portrayed some kind of wild eyed radical for proposing a modest cut in interest rates on student loans and some narrow way to get some forgiveness of debt.

John Cummings:

It is part of the educational industrial complex (which include vouchers and government backed private school industrial complex)

Educational industrial complex
Military industrial complex
Medical industrial complex
Prison industrial complex

Fred C. Dobbs:

(Evidently, 'It’s Economics 101'.)

Higher education: Why textbooks cost so much http://econ.st/1yzDU5Z via @TheEconomist - Aug 16th 2014

Students can learn a lot about economics when they buy Greg Mankiw’s “Principles of Economics”—even if they don’t read it. Like many popular textbooks, it is horribly expensive: $292.17 on Amazon. Indeed, the nominal price of textbooks has risen more than fifteen fold since 1970, three times the rate of inflation (see chart, at link).

Like doctors prescribing drugs, professors assigning textbooks do not pay for the products themselves, so they have little incentive to pick cheap ones. Some assign books they have written themselves. The 20m post-secondary students in America often have little choice in the matter. Small wonder textbooks generate megabucks.

But hope is not lost for poor scholars. Foreign editions are easy to find online and often cheaper—sometimes by over 90%. Publishers can be litigious about this, but in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that Americans have the right to buy and resell copyrighted material obtained legally. Many university bookstores now let students rent books and return them. Publishers have begun to offer digital textbooks, which are cheaper but can’t be resold. And if all else fails, there is always the library.

Related: How Your Textbook Dollars Are Divvied Up http://t.usnews.com/a2B567 via @usnews - Aug 28, 2012

Fred C. Dobbs -> to Fred C. Dobbs...

(A bunch of experts discuss the matter.)

Room for Debate: The Real Cost of College Textbooks http://nyti.ms/1qEHasX - July 2010

(Including a couple of economists!)

Fred C. Dobbs -> to Fred C. Dobbs...

How to Cut Your Textbook Costs in Half -- or More-Kiplinger http://po.st/nCZsxY - August 2014

(By renting e-books, donchaknow.)

(Turns out Mankiw's Econ textbook, which
currently costs $289 in hardcover from
Amazon, can be rented in Kindle format
for a mere $173 - for 180 days.)

(Hardcover rental is $70, however.)

Fred C. Dobbs -> to Fred C. Dobbs...

(Wait a second. The Federales fixed
this problem back in 2008...)

Advocates say a new set of federal provisions, aimed at driving down the cost of college textbooks, should help students this fall. On July 1, (2010) these rules took effect:

Publishers must give professors detailed information about textbook prices, revision histories and a list of alternate formats.

Publishers have to sell materials typically bundled with textbooks -- such as CDs, DVDs and workbooks -- separately so students don't have to buy them.

Colleges have to include in-course schedules with required textbooks for each class, including the book's price and International Standard Book Number, an identifying tool.

The protections, included in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, are an attempt to lessen student debt, said U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., on Wednesday.

"The cost of education is of concern not only to students and families but to the nation," Durbin said, explaining why the government got involved in textbook prices. "Students are emerging with more and more debt."

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/07/22/97931_new-federal-rules-take-aim-at.html?rh=1

Charles Peterson:

A $289 econ text is only marked up 20% ???

I'm not sure how to account for this, but I believe a full account of markup should include royalties if they have become outrageous economic rent.

Jim Harrison:

Textbooks have been outrageously expensive for a long time, though some of the prices quoted in this article were astonishing to me and I used to be in the business. Nothing much has changed. The complaints and the defenses sound very familiar. Even in the 70s and 80s, publishers groused about how the used trade hurt their sales and the suggestion was repeatedly made that one way around the trap was to produce much cheaper texts and make up the difference on volume. Unfortunately, the numbers never add up for that business plan since the major textbook publishers have huge sunk costs in the big sales forces needed to support the current model. Anyhow, good cheap books have long been available for many big undergrad courses if profs want to assign them and don't mind producing their own tests and other teaching aids. A handful of profs do just that and were already doing it thirty years ago, but they are a distinct minority.

About the revision racket: the funny thing is that old editions of textbooks are often better than more recent editions. Market research makes good books worse in much the same way that it eventually screws up software by the relentless addition of bells and whistles. I'm a technical writer these days and keep copies of several old classics at hand when I need to brush up: Feynman's lectures on physics; the first edition of Freeman, Pisani, and Purves on Statistics; the 2nd edition of Linus Pauling's Intro Chem text; Goldstein on Thermo; and a real museum piece, Sylvaner Thomas' Calculus Made Easy. Many of these books have been reprinted by Dover and are available for peanuts.

To be fair, the high price for textbooks makes more sense in some fields than in others. The three or four year revision cycle is absurd for math books since the math remains the same decade after decade, but texts in areas like molecular biology really do have to be revised frequently and substantively, a very labor-intensive task. Which is why I give a pass to the Biology editors and the folks who struggle to update the Intermediate Accounting books with the latest FASB standards.

cm -> to Jim Harrison...

Can you elaborate on the revision "paradox"? Surely not only in very new fields, the state of the art progresses, or textbook authors see a need or opportunity to include new material (I suspect somebody setting out to write a comprehensive text has more ideas what to write about than can be finished at the required quality in the required time, for the first edition).

How would the subsequent editions be worse, if the new content is driven by the author and not by external marketing considerations, unless the new material is at the expense of older material (e.g. #pages limit)?

From my very limited experience, authors who are not in it for making a profit, and who write for a small market (selling up to a few thousand copies per year is a small market) run into substantial overhead costs for editing, marketing (i.e. making the existence of the book known to the target audience), and distribution, and basically have to do the work for free. Some, and perhaps most, certainly academic, publishers have "charity" programs where they publish small editions where they at best break even or even cross-subsidize them out of "full rate" publications. Then people complain about excessive prices for the latter.

Leading Edge Boomer:

Jeebus, $286 for a textbook, from an author who is often wrong lately? I co-authored a graduate computer science text (low volume = higher cost) that retailed in the low two digits.

cm -> to Leading Edge Boomer...

I will not comment on the author's merit or lack thereof, but $286 is really in "WTF" territory, for any textbook.

cm -> to Leading Edge Boomer...

I once contributed to a book, and the authors/editors decided to collectively waive their royalties to hit an affordable price (and I suspect it was still a charity deal on the part of the largely academic publisher). But I got my free copy.

Jim Harrison:

At least for big market textbooks, the motive for revisions is generally financial and that's as true for the authors as the publishers. In fact, the authors are often the ones who push for new editions as their royalty checks steadily diminish. In cases where it's the authors who are reluctant to revise for whatever reason, publishers often sweeten the deal with advances, grants, or other goodies.

I don't mean to be completely cynical. Authors and editors certainly try to produce a better product when they put out new editions, and it very often happens that the second edition is better than the first. Especially in later cycles, however, the changes are usually pretty cosmetic. The editor in charge of the project solicits advice from users and potential users and comes up with a list of "improvements" in a process not entirely different than what happens when various interests in Washington get their pet provisions put in a bill. If you think that professor X is likely to adopt the text if you go along with his ideas and plug his contributions in the acknowledgements, the idea is very likely to be irresistible.

The sales force also weighs in. They want feature they can tout; but since real improvements are hard to come by, that usually means more and more pedagogy: boxes, pictures, computer programs, and umpteen forms of emphasis. Let me assure you it takes desperate ingenuity to come up with something new to add to an Intermediate Algebra textbook. "Now with a new way to factor trinomials" isn't exactly a memorable pitch. Meanwhile, after three or four editions, the author, who presumably would be the best source of serious innovation for a new edition, is generally bored to death with the project.

As I said above, there are textbooks that really do need perpetually revision for substantive reasons; but in most fields what Freshmen and Sophomores need to learn has been known for a long time. My remarks on revisions also don't apply very well to upper level texts in smaller markets, in part because students tend to hang on to serious books in their majors so the companies have less incentive to beat the used book market with new editions.

reason:

From what I remember of my university days (in the long distant past), we didn't have text books (that was for school kids). We had lectures and lists of reading materials (that if we were lucky we could find in the library and photocopy relvant sections). I did have a copy of Samualson (relatively cheap). But the emphasis was on a reading a variety of sources. What has changed, and why?

reason:

P.S. Not have text books would have the advantage of ensuring that the students attended lectures and stayed awake during them.

Jay:

No mention of the cost for this textbook...

http://www.amazon.com/Economics-Paul-Krugman/dp/1429251638/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1413545846&sr=8-2&keywords=krugman+wells

grizzled:

My own biggest peeve concerns calculus textbooks, especially introductory calculus textbooks. The material hasn't changed in at least 60 years, if not longer. If it weren't for the current ridiculously long copyright terms people could just use old ones.

The last time I took the subject our professor went to some lengths to let us use the previous edition, which was available used. The only real change in the next edition was in the problems. That is, if a student was assigned "problem 8 in section xxx" having the most recent edition was the only way to know what the problem was.

I don't see any redeeming value in this.

Bloix:

My son took an intro geology course a few years ago. The textbook price at the school bookstore was about $125. He purchased the gray market (legal) "international edition" - word for word, page for page the same, but with a different picture on the cover - over the internet for about $50.

It's my understanding that this sort of price-differential is common. Mankiw's book appears to be available in the "international edition" for $60 (soft cover).

http://www.abebooks.com/9781285165875/Principles-Economics-7th-Edition-Mankiw-128516587X/plp

Please don't tell me that publishers and authors are not making money when they sell their books for US$50 or 60 in Australia.

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov


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[Apr 01, 2020] This is the problem with the Democrats: people are more interested in class issues, and economic equality then identity politics by Rod Dreher

Notable quotes:
"... This is the problem with the Democrats. You might be interested in class issues, and economic equality, and not at all interested in wokeness. But what you're going to get is wokeness, because that is what the power-holding class in the Democratic Party really cares about. As James Lindsay, the left-liberal professor who does heroic work fighting wokeness, told me in our recent interview: ..."
"... Of course [Social Justice Warriors] going to find ways to use this crisis to their advantage. They go around inventing problems or dramatically exaggerating or misinterpreting small problems to push their agenda; why wouldn't they do the same in a situation where there's so much chaos and thus so much going wrong. My experience so far is that people are really underestimating how much of this there will be and how much of it will be institutionalized while we're busy doing other things like tending to the sick and dying and trying not to lose our livelihoods and/or join them ourselves. ..."
"... It's very important to understand that "Critical Social Justice" isn't just activism and some academic theories about things. It's a way of thinking about the world, and that way is rooted in critical theory as it has been applied mostly to identity groups and identity politics ..."
Mar 31, 2020 | The American Conservative
George Scialabba has a wonderful essay about Orwell in Commonweal . Though Scialabba writes in it about Orwell's criticism of the right, this passage jumped out:

Might Orwell's sensitive nose have detected a whiff of cant anywhere on the contemporary left? I suspect he would have cast a baleful eye on identity politics. He would, I think, be dubious about "diversity." Why do every college and corporation in America have a fleet of "diversity" officers? What is gained by ensuring -- at enormous expense -- that every student or employee is proud of his/her culture and that every other student or employee respects it? According to Walter Benn Michaels in The Trouble with Diversity, what is gained is the avoidance of class conflict. "The commitment to diversity is at best a distraction and at worst an essentially reactionary position . We would much rather celebrate cultural diversity than seek to establish economic equality."

Orwell was moderately obsessed with class. He would probably have noted that the explosive growth of inequality in the United States over the past four decades has closely paralleled the explosive growth of the diversity industry, and would have drawn some conclusions. He might have asked: If there were two societies with the same Gini coefficient, but in one of them, the proportion of billionaires by race and gender matched that of the general population, would that society be morally better than the other? Or: If the ratio of CEO to median employee earnings was the same in two societies, but in one of them the proportion of CEOs by race and gender matched that of the general population, would that society be morally better than the other? I'm pretty sure that most diversity bureaucrats would answer "yes" to both questions, and that Orwell would have answered "no."

Orwell was fearless, so a tribute to him shouldn't pull any punches. I think he would suggest that there was something irrational about the way we enforce our most sensitive taboo: the N-word. From the wholesale banning of Huckleberry Finn to the many times teachers and civil servants have been censured, and in one case fired, for using the word "niggardly" (which has no etymological relation to the N-word) to the resignation under pressure recently of a Cambridge, Massachusetts, school committeewoman for using the N-word in a discussion of a proposed high-school course about the N-word, we have often made fools of ourselves and done disadvantaged African Americans no good. As the school superintendent summarized the Cambridge case: the committeewoman "made a point about racist language and used the full N-word instead of the common substitute, 'N-word.' Although said in the context of a classroom discussion, and not directed to any student or adult present, the full pronunciation of the word was upsetting to a number of students and adults who were present or who have since heard about the incident." No one, however, as far as I am aware, has publicly expressed hurt feelings over the fact that the average net worth of African Americans in the Boston area is $8. (Eight, no zeros.) As Benn Michaels observes: "As long as the left continues to worry about [respect], the right won't have to worry about inequality."

Read it all.

I wrote earlier today about actually existing conservatism being more of a "folk libertarianism" than anything resembling philosophical conservatism. But what about actually existing liberalism?

The surprising triumph of Joe Biden, the most normie Democrat in America, tells us something about actually existing liberalism. Illiberal progressivism dominates in academia, the media, and in corporate America's human resources departments. A reader sends in this abstract from a paper published by a Penn professor at the Ivy League university's Wharton School of Business (Trump's alma mater!) in which she argues that the state should

forbid identity-based discrimination but permit refusals of service for projects that foster hate toward protected groups, even where the hate-based project is intimately linked to a protected characteristic (as with religious groups that mandate white supremacy). Far from perpetuating discrimination, these refusals instead promote anti-discrimination norms, and they help realize the vision of the morally inflected marketplace that the Article defends.

You could say that Biden's (not yet assured) victory in the Democratic primaries shows that actually existing liberalism is much less interested in wokeness than in bread-and-butter issues. After all, the more self-consciously woke candidates in the Democratic race didn't get anywhere. I would like to read it that way. But would Biden actually stand up to any wokeness? After all, this is the man who tweeted:

Let's be clear: Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time. There is no room for compromise when it comes to basic human rights.

-- Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) January 25, 2020

This is the problem with the Democrats. You might be interested in class issues, and economic equality, and not at all interested in wokeness. But what you're going to get is wokeness, because that is what the power-holding class in the Democratic Party really cares about. As James Lindsay, the left-liberal professor who does heroic work fighting wokeness, told me in our recent interview:

Of course [Social Justice Warriors] going to find ways to use this crisis to their advantage. They go around inventing problems or dramatically exaggerating or misinterpreting small problems to push their agenda; why wouldn't they do the same in a situation where there's so much chaos and thus so much going wrong. My experience so far is that people are really underestimating how much of this there will be and how much of it will be institutionalized while we're busy doing other things like tending to the sick and dying and trying not to lose our livelihoods and/or join them ourselves.

It's very important to understand that "Critical Social Justice" isn't just activism and some academic theories about things. It's a way of thinking about the world, and that way is rooted in critical theory as it has been applied mostly to identity groups and identity politics. Thus, not only do they think about almost nothing except ways that "systemic power" and "dominant groups" are creating all the problems around us, they've more or less forgotten how to think about problems in any other way. The underlying assumption of their Theory–and that's intentionally capitalized because it means a very specific thing–is that the very fabric of society is built out of unjust systemic power dynamics, and it is their job (as "critical theorists") to find those, "make them visible," and then to move on to doing it with the next thing, ideally while teaching other people to do it too. This crisis will be full of opportunities to do that, and they will do it relentlessly. So, it's not so much a matter of them "finding a way" to use this crisis to their advantage as it is that they don't really do anything else.

To be honest, I don't have a lot of confidence in predictions about what valence wokeness (or right-wing culture war themes) will have in this fall's election, given the economic destruction upon us now. I do have confidence, though, that if the left gets into power, this professional class of woke activists will march triumphantly through the institutions of government, and implement their identity-politics utopianism. Do I think that most Democratic voters do, or would, favor that? No, probably not. I imagine they would be voting Democratic primarily to oust Trump, and secondarily because they are more interested in income inequality...

If Orwell were alive today and writing with his superlative critical pen about them, he would struggle to find publication in one of our major liberal journals.

UPDATE: Just now:

I'm sure Critical Social Justice isn't quietly reorganizing things that might matter because of the pandemic Or so I keep being told. https://t.co/LEzvjqbu2B

-- James Lindsay, staying home (@ConceptualJames) March 31, 2020

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative . He has written and edited for the New York Post , The Dallas Morning News , National Review , the South Florida Sun-Sentinel , the Washington Times , and the Baton Rouge Advocate . Rod's commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal , Commentary , the Weekly Standard , Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming , Crunchy Cons , How Dante Can Save Your Life , and The Benedict Option

[Mar 26, 2020] Reflections on a Century of Junk Science

Highly recommended!
Mar 26, 2020 | www.unz.com

Kratoklastes , says: Show Comment Next New Comment March 25, 2020 at 6:16 pm GMT

@thotmonger

I also remember some of early estimates of Mad Cow disease in humans in UK and they turned out to be very exaggerated.

When the political class was trying to de-gay HIV/AIDS in 1987, they had Oprah tell everyone that 20% of heterosexual people would be dead before 1990.

The first I learned of Oprah's jaw-droppingly sensationalist remarks, was in a piece a couple of days ago on AmericanThinker (which sounds like a rare bird indeed, if not an outright oxymoron – but it has good stuff from time to time).

Anyhow, it was an interesting piece – entitled " Reflections on a Century of Junk Science " by the author of " Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture ", which I will acquire today. (The book's 11 years old, but sounds like it will be along the same lines as Kendrick's " Doctoring Data: How to Sort Out Medical Advice from Medical Nonsense ", which was excellent).

[Mar 24, 2020] Coronovirus and Yevgeny Zamyatin dystopian novel We

See We (novel) - Wikipedia
Mar 24, 2020 | off-guardian.org

We is set in the future. D-503, a spacecraft engineer, lives in the One State,[3] an urban nation constructed almost entirely of glass, which assists mass surveillance. The structure of the state is Panopticon-like, and life is scientifically managed F. W. Taylor-style. People march in step with each other and are uniformed. There is no way of referring to people except by their given numbers. The society is run strictly by logic or reason as the primary justification for the laws or the construct of the society.[4][5] The individual's behaviour is based on logic by way of formulas and equations outlined by the One State.[6]

Francis Lee ,

Sounds very much like Yevgeny Zamyatin – We . But we never thought it would happen!

[Mar 23, 2020] Dystopian books and coronavirus

Mar 23, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Jay , Mar 23 2020 18:34 utc | 14

In the case of "Brave New World", the establishment knows how to cure pretty much any conventional disease. Then if you're in approved society you die around age 60 because of everything that's kept you alive and looking like 40.

I just read the book last month for the first time in 30+ years. It does belong on that diagram. And "1984" doesn't either, since it really doesn't deal with anything like infectious diseases--reread that about 2 years ago.


I've not read the other 2 outer books ever, but the movie of "Fahrenheit 451", which I just watched and Bradbury certainly had a hand in writing, has nothing to do with infectious disease.

There might be something in Camus' "The Plague" though. Haven't read that since the 1980s.

There aren't food shortages so not sure about the "Soylent Green" reference, yet at least. "Long's Run" is about killing people off at age 35, which I guess overlaps with "kill 80% of the poor workers", something the likes of Charles Koch certainly supports. So indirectly there could be a "Logan's Run" connection.

Gattica is just about favored people with the right genes, so an update of "Brave New World", without the highly literate "savage" as the main character.

I don't see how "The Matrix" relates, that's more about the material world's completeness being an illusion.

"Clockwork Orange?" A thug suppressed with mind control?

Haven't read "Lord of the Flies", but don't the kids worship a god of the island, and justify the horrors they commit based on that conception of god or a god?

[Mar 18, 2020] 1984 the second edition

Mar 18, 2020 | caucus99percent.com

Obvious cognitive decline is a stutter.

Massive exit poll discrepancies are normal.

An ex-president installing his right-hand man as his successor is democracy.

Facts are Kremlin talking points.

Journalism is a crime.

War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength.

link

[Mar 16, 2020] Situation with COVID-19 on campuses

Mar 16, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Sophy , March 14, 2020 at 11:43 am

Everything the CDC has been doing has been shocking. As a health care provider I just don't want to even look at their recommendations anymore: their information is months old and not based in science, let alone current research on COVID-19.

Local colleges have been shutting down but forcing instructors to go to the schools – that's not social distancing. And many are still having students in EMT, nursing, psychology, physical therapy, and other health sciences, go to their clinicals, where they will be exposed without adequate personal protection equipment. This is because of the CDC. And admin's greed for money.

Anon , March 14, 2020 at 1:41 pm

My local community college, after implementing/pleading with students to incorporate careful hygiene and social distancing into their time on campus, and seeing minimal compliance, decided to make ALL lecture classes online access for the next 3 weeks (at least). We have no known Covid-19 cases in the COUNTY. (But since testing is not extant, or common, no one knows what the true situation is.)

The goal of moving to online class instruction is to minimize the number of students (15K total) on campus and limit contact with older instructors, counselors, and other staff. Lab classes (PE, Science) will continue under strict personal contact protocol. The solution is a compromise between health issues and the need for students to complete 80% of course curricula to get transferable college credits. We'll see if the gamble works out.

Closing K-12 schools is a "no win" situation. Some parents want them closed, others don't. In Los Angeles the school district decided to close from pressure by the teachers labor union. Again, few kids understand/implement the protocols of social distancing and smaller home groups may be the better option (for some). Meals for disadvantaged students will continue at the LAUSD (~500K students), but they will be drive-thru pick-up.

It appears the pandemic could bring even the invincible US to its knees.

Jack Parsons , March 15, 2020 at 12:11 am

Children are all super-spreaders. There is no good argument for schools to be open.

[Mar 15, 2020] According to Amazon's rankings, Camus' The Plague is now #7 in the Self-Help Psychology Humor category, which is an irony Camus himself probably couldn't have gotten away with

Mar 15, 2020 | www.counterpunch.org

"What on earth prompted you to take a hand in this, doctor?"

"I don't know. My my code of morals, perhaps."

"Your code of morals. What code, if I may ask?"

"Comprehension."

[Mar 15, 2020] Roaming Charges: Going Viral by Jeffrey St. Clair

Mar 15, 2020 | www.counterpunch.org

March 13, 2020

From Albert Camus's The Plague , which is once again on my nightstand: "There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise."

+ We are witnessing what happens to a country (this one) that faces a pandemic after it has privatized almost every aspect of its public social welfare and health systems & gutted the teaching of science in public schools so thoroughly that most people can't even understand what's coming at them

+ Even as we are being told to distance ourselves from each other, we need more solidarity now than ever before, because the System we are living under has failed, failed to offer even a minimum level of protection to those most vulnerable, just as we all knew it would fail, in precisely the ways it was meant to fail.

+ Leave it to Mike Davis , who wrote a terrifying book a few years ago on Avian Flu, to give us a stark forecast for what we're up against: "There is, however, more reliable data on the virus's impact on certain groups in a few countries. It is very scary. Italy, for example, reports a staggering 23 per cent death rate among those over 65; in Britain the figure is now 18 per cent. The 'corona flu' that Trump waves off is an unprecedented danger to geriatric populations, with a potential death toll in the millions."

+ Six months from now, 75% of Americans will have a "pre-existing condition." The other 25% will probably be composting

+ When CDC Director Dr. Redfield was asked at a congressional hearing on Thursday morning who's in charge of making sure coronavirus tests can be administered, he hesitated and then turned to Dr. Fauci, who said, "My colleague is looking at me to answer that "

+ Do you REALLY want to give Trump those extreme powers, Bernie?

We are dealing with a national emergency and the president should declare one now.

-- Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 12, 2020

... ... ...

+ All of the financial elites who were willing to swallow Trump's nativism, managerial incompetence and anti-science lunacies in exchange for tax cuts, gutted regulations and a bull market are getting their just desserts but did they have to drag the rest of us down with them?

[Mar 12, 2020] UNZ site has h undreds of books in html for free download:

Mar 12, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Wukchumni , March 12, 2020 at 2:04 pm

I'm re-reading A Confederacy of Dunces in keeping with the theme of our leadership.

farragut , March 12, 2020 at 2:37 pm

I tried reading that about 20 years ago, but it never engaged me. I'll have to give it another try.

Currently, I'm reading Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon for the third time. One of his best, in my opinion. But, I'd also recommend the System of the World trilogy. Slower-paced, but also tremendously satisfying.

lyman alpha blob , March 12, 2020 at 3:42 pm

Stay away from Stephenson's latest, Fall, or Dodge in Hell . I've loved everything else I've read by him, but this last one was truly execrable. I slogged through the whole thing, thinking there must be some point to it all, and there never was.

Sastun , March 12, 2020 at 7:18 pm

Stephenson can be incredibly hit or miss. I loved Anathem, Cryptonomicon, Zodiac, and Diamond Age, thought that anything Stephenson touched: cyberpunk, alt-history, sprawling world building, etc was pure gold. Then I read Reamde What a waste of a thousand pages.

Librarian Guy , March 12, 2020 at 5:01 pm

Confederacy is great, and I say that as a former New Orleanian . . .

If you like humor around absurd characters and their doings, I would recommend Charles Portis' works, all are good. He's best known for True Grit , but additionally both Dog of the South, Masters of Atlantis are also outstanding. The latter is a lot of fun with secret societies, Theosophy & Masonry, that kind of social stew.

A bit more gentle in his absurdity than the over-the-top characters in Confederacy, but lots of fun.

Amfortas the hippie , March 12, 2020 at 5:32 pm

I picked up Anathem at random several years ago and it gave me a Nerdwoody.
I love constructed universes(LOTR, Dune) but that one was so subtle it was almost implied that there's all this s^^t going on.
you had to grow into it.

Given EITC, I just had a haul:
Harvey's "Neoliberalism", Mr Hudson's "Forgive them ", Ruskin's" Unto this Last"(currently involved), Frank's"Listen Liberal"(similarly involved), and EP Thompson's "The Making of the English Working Class" this latter of which i've wanted to read for a long while.
All of them due to suggestions or mentions on NC in the last couple of years.
the first two and the last will hafta wait till all i'm doing is harvesting.

EITC + Spring Break + General Spingtime = Sudden Flurry of Activity.
2 sheds in progress sheep/goat and woodshed gigantic telephone poles set, ready for me to wander by and frame it in then another Barnraising Day(ribs, tater salad, beer, etc) to put the r-panel up(already pained red with yellow stripes(everything else is blue and green and purple) then the next however long for me to finish it up.
and i've planted more this year than i have in 20.
including around 80 black gallon+ pots with seeds/acorns i've picked up all over, or rooted cuttings of everything else i've come across.
and tons of manure.

so, only Light Reading for now.
for i am not worth shootin'.

Janie , March 12, 2020 at 6:04 pm

Amfortas, try that masterpiece article of social anthropology, The Nacirema, from about 1950. It's online.

AbateMagicThinking But Not Money , March 12, 2020 at 5:36 pm

A Conferacy of Dunces:

is one my "reference" books for hilarity with the added bonus that the title can be applied to so many situations (mainly political).

Pip-Pip!

ps Try "Puckoon" by the late, great Spike Milligan.

Fox Blew , March 12, 2020 at 2:40 pm

Wukchumni

A Confederacy of Dunces spoke to me! Funniest book I have ever read. And like you, I've re-read several times. Just seeing the title makes me laugh. :-)

russell1200 , March 12, 2020 at 2:44 pm

Anatomy of a Campaign: The British Fiasco in Norway, 1940 – John Kiszely
The British underfunded their military until too late. Which would have been o.k. up to a point, except they seemed to have no realization at this point how disparate the Nazi German capabilities were compared to their own.

When We Were Vikings – Andrew David MacDonald
A very nice coming of age tail of an adult mentally challenged young woman who is into Vikings and dealing with a family crisis.

Dune Navigator , March 12, 2020 at 3:09 pm

#Library-of-Psychohistory,_for_times_of_plague_and_famine (TM)____________
Anabasis by Xenophon
Muqaddimmah: an Introduction to History by ibn Khaldun
Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time by Johanna Nichols
Hamlet's Mill by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend
The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe by Marija Gimbutas
Models of Discovery by Herbert Simon
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
Unifying the Mind by David Danks
Targeted Learning in Data Science: Causal Inference for Complex Longitudinal Studies by Mark Vanderlaan and Sherri Rose
Vladimir Propp and the Study of Structure in Hebrew Biblical Narrative by Pamela J. Milne
Washington Babylon by Alexander Cockburn and Ken Silverstein

Ignacio , March 12, 2020 at 7:58 pm

Albert Camus-The Plague is again a best-seller.

Billy , March 12, 2020 at 3:31 pm

Hundreds of books in html for free download:

https://www.unz.com/book/

Algernon Blackwood Anthony Hope Anthony Trollope Anton Chekhov Arthur Conan Doyle Arthur Quiller-Couch Baroness Orczy Benjamin Disraeli Charles Dickens Dinah Craik E. Phillips Oppenheim Edith Wharton Elizabeth Gaskell Eugene Sue F. Marion Crawford G.A. Henty G.K. Chesterton George Gissing George Meredith Gertrude Atherton H. Rider Haggard H.G. Wells Hamlin
Garland Henry James Honore de Balzac etc

[Mar 12, 2020] Harvard's Let Them Eat Veritas Richest University's Poor Students Shafted as School Provides Spotty, Inadequate Help as It T

Mar 12, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Harvard University should be ashamed of itself. It has dumped the problem of its sudden closure due to coronavirus largely on the students themselves and their families. While most of them are affluent enough to handle the financial fallout of buying airfare at the last minute and storing or shipping their clothes, books, and other possessions, Harvard's students from lower income backgrounds have, to a significant degree, been left in the lurch.

... ... ...

But Harvard's conduct is indefensible. Harvard has, or perhaps more accurately had, a nearly $39 billion endowment. Contrast that with an exceedingly generous estimate of what it might cost to help make these financially stressed undergraduates whole, at least in terms of getting out of Cambridge, or for the ones who really can't go home (flights to their country cancelled), putting them up. Harvard has 6,800 undergraduates. Assume 25% get significant financial support. Even a gold plated solution would cost at most $10,000.

6,800 x .25 x $10,000 = $17 million.

That is couch lint for Harvard.

As the University of Dayton example attests, university and college closures are widespread. For the well-endowed ones who have students attending only by virtue of having received financial aid and/or having the school arrange for paid employment to help pay for their tuition, the failure of the school to provide generous help is a disgrace.

At Harvard, the afflicted students are petitioning the university to let them store things on campus for free (which was standard practice in my day) and let the ones who can't go home stay on campus. How many could that possibly be? 200 at most? Harvard has a medical center that won't have anything to do once the kids leave. How hard would it be for their staff to check these students' temperatures daily and test anyone who had symptoms?

And the university will have enough empty rooms that it could easily set aside other dorm rooms if quarantine were needed.

But the Harvard disregard is a sign of where things are likely to go in the US. A university is supposed to be a community. They are more cohesive than most of our cities and towns. Yet a crisis comes, and the grotesquely well paid university administrators can't be bothered either to make creative use of resources at hand, or dip in Harvard's huge pot of money.

In other words, expect the rich to walk all over the poor out of indifference, as we are seeing at Harvard now.

___

1 Harvard houses and Yale colleges are groups of dormitories, each with their own adminisphere (such as a faculty dean a resident dean, a house tutor), their own kitchen and dining room, a common room, a library, and other amenities. They are modeled on the Cambridge and Oxford college system. At Harvard, a house has roughly 300 to 400 students.


Michael , March 12, 2020 at 1:09 am

The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed. Get Out! Just got notice I am next up at my library for Wm Gibson's new book, Agency. $17M is a rounding error yet the wealthy feel its too much to ask.

Bill Gates $5M stills rankles me

bmeisen , March 12, 2020 at 2:41 am

Are we hearing the American "college experience" bubble popping? In this fantasy, youth buy products that are packaged as educational experiences. They pay through the nose for them and they are blind to their folly because they believe that the stamped and signed receipt of payment handed to them with great pomp and circumstance will boost their future earning potential to the degree necessary so that they can some day lead lives that are free of educational debt, which until then will of course involve interest costs (compounded) as we do not want socialism.

Why exactly doesn't Harvard charge 1 million? They could get it and they'd only have customers who can deal gracefully with situations like this.

Enrico Malatesta , March 12, 2020 at 8:39 am

Although Harvard (and other esteemed Universities) are selling 'exclusivity', the veneer of egalitarianism is still required for the Brand.

Two Random Thoughts:

I'd like to know the graduation statistics of those college students that entered through the Admissions Scandle.

The Harvard Endowment is an important pool of shadow money, never forget it was the Harvard Fund that 'bought' the worthless Arbusto (Harken Energy) stock that enabled Dubya to get his stake to become Texas Rangers managing general partner, and then Governor, and then front man for Dick Cheney.

Larry Y , March 12, 2020 at 10:26 am

At many US elite academic institutions, the hardest part is getting in (exceptions usually in "hard science", engineering, etc.). Also, they probably have all the the help they need to graduate.

Dave , March 12, 2020 at 3:11 am

Come to California. Harvard is dead! You'll get a better education and the weather doesn't suck. Harvard stopped being relevant over a decade ago.

Anon , March 12, 2020 at 1:49 pm

Actually, don't come to California for higher education. Housing, traffic, cycling risks, and, now, Covid-19 is getting worse. The UC/CalState system can't provide access to it's own in-state high school students that qualify for entry.

The Rev Kev , March 12, 2020 at 3:33 am

This is brutal this. They could have helped their own students using only the money in their petty cash drawer and they said nope! I suppose that this is a lesson for those Harvard students that is pretty simple. If you have money so this move is not a problem for you, then that is the way that it is supposed to be. If you are studying here and are in a precarious position then it is all on you. Pure power politics.

It would be ironic if down the track that Harvard produced a Bill Gates from the later group that went on to achieve fabulous wealth. But that this future alumni, when asked by Harvard for money for them, would say sure – and give a massive contribution to Yale and call it the 2020 Corona Fund.

GM , March 12, 2020 at 4:18 am

I too was an undergrad at an institution in the Cambridge area, and I am not from the US.

Got a full financial aid, but that does not fully cover your housing and does not at all cover your food or other expenses, so you had to work during the term to make it. And you had to move out of the dorm in the summer. Fortunately, in our particular dorm, there was storage in the basement of the dorm, so we did not have to look for outside storage, but others were not so lucky. But moving out at the end of the term was still a major disruption that one had to plan for well in advance.

So I am very well aware of the situation undergrads at Harvard find themselves in, and my first thought when I saw the news was "WTF are these students supposed to do now?".

Especially the international ones. Because a day after Harvard announces that students are kicked out of the dorms, what does Trump do? Bans travel from Europe for 30 days. Which effectively means banning traveling TO Europe too, because those are all round-trip flights. This is on top of the travel restrictions regarding several countries in Asia already in place.

In the best of times, it was always near-impossible to find a flight on such a short notice. Now when so many flights have been cancelled, how is one supposed to go home, when there are thousands of others in the same situation (because Harvard isn't the only university that is doing this)? It is not even a possibility for many, forget the expenses. There are simply no flights. And most of these students don't even have a car to sleep in.

I will venture a guess regarding why this is done -- they don't want to get sued by litigious-minded parents if undergrads get it while on campus. Which, admittedly, there is a high chance of happening, unless they self-isolated the whole campus (but that would have created a legal mess on a whole new level). Dorms often have 2, 3, 4 students living in the same room, and the virus is very clearly airborne, so it would also get between rooms through the air seeping beneath the doors (which is why in China quarantines involve sealing the doors with tape). Also, bathrooms are shared across the whole floor, which is another transmission risk.

So the administration took the easy decision -- instead of trying to help the student population, and start that early on when it was the time to do so (i.e. mid-February), which would have involved some effort and risk on its part, it just dumped the problem onto the students

PlutoniumKun , March 12, 2020 at 4:43 am

Thats quite disgusting – I'm assuming it is fear of litigation that is driving this.

I was in Trinity College Dublin last night for an evening class – the nearest Ireland would have to a Harvard (except, as the grads there would no doubt add 'with about 300 more years of history and teaching experience'). They had a Covid case in, ironically enough, the biology department last week.

But they are acting I think quite responsibly – phasing in a slow shutdown – all lectures have gone online, but small tutorials, etc., still going on, with lots of support for foreign students. They were actually criticised for being over the top (there are still plenty of people who still 'don't get it' and sadly many are in a position of authority.)

GM , March 12, 2020 at 6:33 am

Litigation is certainly a big part of it. The other aspect might be health insurance. Students are on university plans. Which tend to not be that great, because it is a young and healthy population. When catastrophic situations have arisen in the past on campus (which happens regularly, several times a year in fact), the university has often been stuck with the bill, especially with international students.

And it will be a lot of long ICU stays to pay for in the coming months, even among the young and healthy.

Louis Fyne , March 12, 2020 at 9:07 am

I think you're right w/health insurance. plans are likely self-insured and not modeled to have a cohort students popping into the ICU. Then add rash panic.

Smaller colleges I can kinda understand, Harvard? give me a break

Adam1 , March 12, 2020 at 6:02 am

It seems like almost all colleges and universitys will be moving to the online solution, but you can tell it's a decision made by some administrators who really don't get it. Online classes may be a substitute for lecture, but they wont fill the needs of art students (like my wife who laughed at hearing this idea), science and engineering majors or anyone who needs other facilities and equipment to actually complete work – your oven at home wont replace a kiln as my wife says.

Left in Wisconsin , March 12, 2020 at 2:06 pm

I would disagree that the administrators don't get it. On their list of priorities, "avoiding huge lawsuits" is a much higher priority than "providing quality instruction to students." I have been in and around higher ed for the last 30 years and it's not clear to me that the latter is even on the list.

Louis Fyne , March 12, 2020 at 9:04 am

Online classes for the yes of the year–mmmm, ok .but closing dorms? that is just insane and against the medical evidence (aka seniors are the most at risk, under-40, while not immune, are in infinitely better shape than those over 70 and/or those w/health issues).

And Dorms are (generally) like typical apartment complexes, not military barracks.

If anything, keeping students (aka asymptomatic, mobile, disease vectors) away from seniors is the absolutely best thing for society. just saying

Hana M , March 12, 2020 at 11:44 am

Yes! 100% correct.

Anon , March 12, 2020 at 2:37 pm

Sending the students home promotes the "OK Boomer Revenge" aspect of the this novel coronavirus.

(OK Boomer Revenge: older voters with Medicare being impacted greater than younger voters w/o Medicare.)

Democrita , March 12, 2020 at 9:39 am

I have a child at UC Santa Cruz, hotbed of striking teaching assistants. We are coming up on spring break and last night had a talk with him about what to do. There are risks to flying home. There are risks to staying at school. But the latter risks are compounded by the fact that we don't know what the school admin will do.

If he comes home for spring break, will he be able to go back? If he can't, what happens to his stuff? If he stays, will they be allowed to remain in the dorms? And what happens in September? I am sure he will not want to change schools now that he has established friendships and a sense of place. I don't want to pay $66,000 per year -- an effort that involves his parents and both sets of grandparents -- for him to take online classes. I have been a university teacher, so I know exactly what those are worth. :)

At least we can afford it, and we have friends in Cali if he gets stuck there. This action by Harvard is unconscionable. Then again, if Harvard had a conscience, it wouldn't be Harvard. But UCSC, based on its treatment of the striking TAs, doesn't have a conscience either.

I have a handful of relatives who voted for Biden, too, and I just want to punch them all in the face. Idjits. Hooray for ecocide! Onward to mass extinction! Guess the kid won't need that college education after all. Maybe we can use the money to send him to survival school.

Randy G , March 12, 2020 at 11:59 am

Wow! $66,000! For a supposedly public university. I went to UC Santa Cruz, admittedly a few decades ago, and I was paying something like $2000 a year. The U.S. is making incredible progress -- just all of it heading off in the wrong direction and toward the edge of the cliff. Very soon your local library–should it still exist -- can file The Road Warrior in the documentary section.

Good luck to you and your children. And give your Biden loving relatives a friendly punch for me.

Anon , March 12, 2020 at 2:42 pm

They are likely paying out-of-state tuition. In-state is about one-third of that.

Left in Wisconsin , March 12, 2020 at 2:26 pm

But UCSC, based on its treatment of the striking TAs, doesn't have a conscience either.

This is the key point. The neoliberalization of the U.S. university – "public" as well as private – has been clear for quite awhile but there are strong ideological pressures not to see it, not least by all the brainiacs who exist on college campuses.

My prediction is that most U administrations will issue guidance to faculty to give students full credit for all courses this semester (regardless of how much work actually gets done). The smart ones are looking ahead to the fall and trying to figure out what to do if enrollment/tuition, state aid and research funding crash, which seems pretty likely if things are not back to normal shortly. The 2008 crash turned out to be a godsend to higher ed, driving huge numbers of unemployed back to school for "re-training." But that bubble only lasted a couple of years and enrollment trends have been steeply downward since 2010-11. The last five years have already seen, again mostly uncommented on, the beginnings of a shake-out (some schools closing, lots of changing emphasis to programs that can bring cash in the door, ubiquitous move to adjuncts instead of permanent faculty). Expect that to ramp up considerably. Ironically, perhaps the only counter-trend has been a HUGE increase in the number of Chinese students (of which there are now apparently about 5K at my Big 10 U) paying full freight. Can that continue?

Anon , March 12, 2020 at 2:53 pm

Well, California does have standards. Getting course credit will require completing 80% of the course curricula. Since the UC System is on the Quarter system (12 weeks, not 15) the UCSC students have likely passed that threshold.

Encouraging International students to attend at out-of-state tuition rates is now standard operating procedure in California. The new president of my local community college unabashedly said it in a recent letter that it was necessary. The college needs to eliminate its $5M budget deficit by 2022. (Real estate investors are salivating: student housing, apartments, and SF Home speculation, etc.)

Mark D , March 12, 2020 at 10:21 am

Harvard's endowment is only $40 billion. How can you expect an institution with only $40 billion in the bank to spend money to help poor students?

Hana M , March 12, 2020 at 11:38 am

From a public health standpoint this is insane. Boston is a known epicenter for the pandemic with reported cases doubling daily. To send students home–wherever home is–without testing for the virus risks spreading the disease further. I hope Governor Charlie Baker will step in stop this from happening.

https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2020/03/11/heres-how-boston-colleges-are-approaching-refunds-after-asking-students-to-vacate-campus-housing

[Mar 10, 2020] Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us by Paul Verhaeghe

Highly recommended!
Neoliberalism destroys solidarity; as the result it destroys both the society and individuals
Notable quotes:
"... Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatisation have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you're reading this sceptically, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favours certain personality traits and penalises others. ..."
"... On top of all this, you are flexible and impulsive, always on the lookout for new stimuli and challenges. In practice, this leads to risky behaviour, but never mind, it won't be you who has to pick up the pieces. The source of inspiration for this list? The psychopathy checklist by Robert Hare , the best-known specialist on psychopathy today. ..."
"... the financial crisis illustrated at a macro-social level (for example, in the conflicts between eurozone countries) what a neoliberal meritocracy does to people. Solidarity becomes an expensive luxury and makes way for temporary alliances, the main preoccupation always being to extract more profit from the situation than your competition. Social ties with colleagues weaken, as does emotional commitment to the enterprise or organisation. ..."
"... Bullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak – in psychology it's known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other. ..."
"... Constant evaluations at work cause a decline in autonomy and a growing dependence on external, often shifting, norms ..."
"... More important, though, is the serious damage to people's self-respect. Self-respect largely depends on the recognition that we receive from the other, as thinkers from Hegel to Lacan have shown. Sennett comes to a similar conclusion when he sees the main question for employees these days as being "Who needs me?" For a growing group of people, the answer is: no one. ..."
"... A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. ..."
"... the paradox of our era as: "Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless." ..."
Sep 29, 2014 | www.theguardian.com

An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and our personalities

'We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited.'

We tend to perceive our identities as stable and largely separate from outside forces. But over decades of research and therapeutic practice, I have become convinced that economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatisation have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you're reading this sceptically, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favours certain personality traits and penalises others.

There are certain ideal characteristics needed to make a career today. The first is articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible. Contact can be superficial, but since this applies to most human interaction nowadays, this won't really be noticed.

It's important to be able to talk up your own capacities as much as you can – you know a lot of people, you've got plenty of experience under your belt and you recently completed a major project. Later, people will find out that this was mostly hot air, but the fact that they were initially fooled is down to another personality trait: you can lie convincingly and feel little guilt. That's why you never take responsibility for your own behaviour.

On top of all this, you are flexible and impulsive, always on the lookout for new stimuli and challenges. In practice, this leads to risky behaviour, but never mind, it won't be you who has to pick up the pieces. The source of inspiration for this list? The psychopathy checklist by Robert Hare , the best-known specialist on psychopathy today.

This description is, of course, a caricature taken to extremes. Nevertheless, the financial crisis illustrated at a macro-social level (for example, in the conflicts between eurozone countries) what a neoliberal meritocracy does to people. Solidarity becomes an expensive luxury and makes way for temporary alliances, the main preoccupation always being to extract more profit from the situation than your competition. Social ties with colleagues weaken, as does emotional commitment to the enterprise or organisation.

Bullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak – in psychology it's known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other.

Constant evaluations at work cause a decline in autonomy and a growing dependence on external, often shifting, norms. This results in what the sociologist Richard Sennett has aptly described as the "infantilisation of the workers". Adults display childish outbursts of temper and are jealous about trivialities ("She got a new office chair and I didn't"), tell white lies, resort to deceit, delight in the downfall of others and cherish petty feelings of revenge. This is the consequence of a system that prevents people from thinking independently and that fails to treat employees as adults.

More important, though, is the serious damage to people's self-respect. Self-respect largely depends on the recognition that we receive from the other, as thinkers from Hegel to Lacan have shown. Sennett comes to a similar conclusion when he sees the main question for employees these days as being "Who needs me?" For a growing group of people, the answer is: no one.

Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system.

A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. For those who believe in the fairytale of unrestricted choice, self-government and self-management are the pre-eminent political messages, especially if they appear to promise freedom. Along with the idea of the perfectible individual, the freedom we perceive ourselves as having in the west is the greatest untruth of this day and age.

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman neatly summarised the paradox of our era as: "Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless." We are indeed freer than before, in the sense that we can criticise religion, take advantage of the new laissez-faire attitude to sex and support any political movement we like. We can do all these things because they no longer have any significance – freedom of this kind is prompted by indifference. Yet, on the other hand, our daily lives have become a constant battle against a bureaucracy that would make Kafka weak at the knees. There are regulations about everything, from the salt content of bread to urban poultry-keeping.

Our presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, "make" something of ourselves. You don't need to look far for examples. A highly skilled individual who puts parenting before their career comes in for criticism. A person with a good job who turns down a promotion to invest more time in other things is seen as crazy – unless those other things ensure success. A young woman who wants to become a primary school teacher is told by her parents that she should start off by getting a master's degree in economics – a primary school teacher, whatever can she be thinking of?

There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.

Psychology Work & careers Economics Economic policy

See also

[Mar 07, 2020] The Surprising and Sobering Science of How We Gain and Lose Influence

Mar 07, 2020 | getpocket.com

Stories to fuel your mind. "We rise in power and make a difference in the world due to what is best about human nature, but we fall from power due to what is worst." Brain Pickings |

Art by Shaun Tan for a special edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales .

Thoreau wrote as he contemplated how silence ennobles speech . In the century and a half since, we have created a culture that equates loudness with leadership, abrasiveness with authority. We mistake shouting for powerful speech much as we mistake force for power itself. And yet the real measure of power is more in the realm of Thoreau's "fine things."

So argues UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner in The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence ( public library ) -- the culmination of twenty years of research exploring what power is, what confers it upon an individual, and how it shapes the structure of a collective, a community, and a culture. Drawing on a wealth of social science studies and insights from successful teams ranging from companies like Pixar and Google to restorative justice programs in San Quentin State Prison, he demonstrates "the surprising and lasting influence of soft power (culture, ideas, art, and institutions) as compared to hard power (military might, invasion, and economic sanctions)."

Keltner writes:

Life is made up of patterns. Patterns of eating, thirst, sleep, and fight-or-flight are crucial to our individual survival; patterns of courtship, sex, attachment, conflict, play, creativity, family life, and collaboration are crucial to our collective survival. Wisdom is our ability to perceive these patterns and to shape them into coherent chapters within the longer narrative of our lives.

Power dynamics, Keltner notes, are among the central patterns that shape our experience of life, from our romantic relationships to the workplace. But at the heart of power is a troubling paradox -- a malignant feature of human psychology responsible for John Dalberg-Acton's oft-cited insight that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Keltner explains the psychological machinery of this malfunction and considers our recourse for resisting its workings:

The power paradox is this: we rise in power and make a difference in the world due to what is best about human nature, but we fall from power due to what is worst. We gain a capacity to make a difference in the world by enhancing the lives of others, but the very experience of having power and privilege leads us to behave, in our worst moments, like impulsive, out-of-control sociopaths.

How we handle the power paradox guides our personal and work lives and determines, ultimately, how happy we and the people we care about will be. It determines our empathy, generosity, civility, innovation, intellectual rigor, and the collaborative strength of our communities and social networks. Its ripple effects shape the patterns that make up our families, neighborhoods, and workplaces, as well as the broader patterns of social organization that define societies and our current political struggles.

[...]

Much of what is most unsettling about human nature -- stigma, greed, arrogance, racial and sexual violence, and the nonrandom distribution of depression and bad health to the poor -- follows from how we handle the power paradox.

Art by Olivier Tallec from Louis I, King of the Sheep, an illustrated parable of how power changes us .

What causes us to mishandle the power paradox, Keltner argues, is our culture's traditional understanding of power -- a sort of time-capsule that no longer serves us. Predicated on force, ruthlessness, and strategic coercion, it was shaped by Niccolò Machiavelli's sixteenth-century book The Prince -- but it is as antiquated today as the geocentric model of the universe that dominated Machiavelli's day. What governs the modern world, Keltner demonstrates through two decades of revelatory studies, is a different kind of power -- softer, more relational, predicated on reputation rather than force, measured by one's ability to affect the lives of others positively and shift the course of the world, however slightly, toward the common good. He writes:

Perhaps most critically, thinking of power as coercive force and fraud blinds us to its pervasiveness in our daily lives and the fact that it shapes our every interaction, from those between parents and children to those between work colleagues.

[...]

Power defines the waking life of every human being. It is found not only in extraordinary acts but also in quotidian acts, indeed in every interaction and every relationship, be it an attempt to get a two-year-old to eat green vegetables or to inspire a stubborn colleague to do her best work. It lies in providing an opportunity to someone, or asking a friend the right question to stir creative thought, or calming a colleague's rattled nerves, or directing resources to a young person trying to make it in society. Power dynamics, patterns of mutual influence, define the ongoing interactions between fetus and mother, infant and parent, between romantic partners, childhood friends, teens, people at work, and groups in conflict. Power is the medium through which we relate to one another. Power is about making a difference in the world by influencing others.

In a sentiment that parallels Thoreau's wisdom on silence and shouting, Keltner adds:

A new wave of thinking about power reveals that it is given to us by others rather than grabbed. We gain power by acting in ways that improve the lives of other people in our social networks.

One key consequence of the fact that power is given to us by others is its reputational nature -- an insight both disquieting to the ego and comforting to the soul, for we are inescapably social creatures. Keltner observes:

Our influence, the lasting difference that we make in the world, is ultimately only as good as what others think of us. Having enduring power is a privilege that depends on other people continuing to give it to us.

"Enduring" is an operative word in Keltner's premise. The "power paradox" is paradoxical precisely because those who manage to wrest power forcibly by the Machiavellian model may have power, or perceived power, for a certain amount of time, but that amount is finite. Its finitude springs from the attrition of the person's reputation. But the most troubling aspect of the power paradox is that even if a person rises to power by counter-Machiavellian means -- kindness, generosity, concern with the common good -- power itself will eventually warp her priorities and render her less kind, less generous, less concerned with the common good, which will in turn erode her power as her reputation for these counter-qualities grows.

Keltner cites a number of studies demonstrating these tendencies empirically -- poor people give to charity a greater portion of their income than rich people, those in positions of power exhibit more entitled behaviors, people who drive expensive cars are significantly crueler to pedestrians at crosswalks, and so forth.

But in reading these alarmingly consistent studies, I had to wonder about one crucial confound that remains unaddressed: People in positions of power also tend to be busier -- that is, they tend to have greater demands on their time. We know from the now-iconic 1970s Good Samaritan study that the single greatest predictor of uncaring, unkind, and uncompassionate behavior, even among people who have devoted their lives to the welfare of others, is a perceived lack of time -- a feeling of being rushed. The sense of urgency seems to consume all of our other concerns -- it is the razor's blade that severs our connection to anything outside ourselves, anything beyond the task at hand, and turns our laser-sharp focus of concern onto the the immediacy of the self alone.

Art from Anne Sexton's little-known children's book .

We know this empirically, and we know its anecdotal truth intimately -- I doubt I'm alone in the awareness that despite a deep commitment to kindness, I find myself most likely to, say, be impatient with a fellow cyclist when I feel pressed for time, when I know I'm running late. Even Keltner's famous and tragicomical study, which found that drivers of expensive cars are most inconsiderate to pedestrians, might suffer from the same confound -- those who can afford expensive cars are typically people we would deem "successful," who also typically have far greater demands on their time. So could it be that a scarcity of time -- that inescapable hum of consciousness -- rather than an excess of power is the true corrupting agent of the psyche?

And so another paradox lives inside the power paradox -- the more powerful a person becomes, the busier and more rushed she is, which cuts her off from the very qualities that define the truly powerful. What would the studies Keltner cites look like if we controlled not only for power, but for time -- for the perception of being rushed and demand-strained beyond capacity? (Kierkegaard condemned the corrosive effect of busyness nearly two centuries ago.)

Still, Keltner's central point -- that power in the modern world is "gained and maintained through a focus on others" -- remains valid and important. He considers the conscious considerations we can make in order to bypass the perils of the power paradox:

Handling the power paradox depends on finding a balance between the gratification of your own desires and your focus on other people. As the most social of species, we evolved several other-focused, universal social practices that bring out the good in others and that make for strong social collectives. A thoughtful practitioner of these practices will not be misled by the rush of the experience of power down the path of self-gratification and abuse, but will choose instead to enjoy the deeper delights of making a lasting difference in the world. These social practices are fourfold: empathizing, giving, expressing gratitude, and telling stories. All four of these practices dignify and delight others. They constitute the basis of strong, mutually empowered ties. You can lean on them to enhance your power at any moment of the day by stirring others to effective action.

But "power" is one of those words -- like "love" and "happiness" -- to have become grab-bag terms for a constellation of behaviors, states, emotions, and phenomena. Noting that "a critical task of science is to provide clear nomenclature -- precise terms that sharpen our understanding of patterned phenomena in the outside world and inside the mind," Keltner offers elegant and necessary definitions of the distinct notions comprising the constellation of power in modern society:

POWER your capacity to make a difference in the world by influencing the states of other people.

STATUS the respect that you enjoy from other people in your social network; the esteem they direct to you. Status goes with power often but not always.

CONTROL your capacity to determine the outcomes in your life. You can have complete control over your life -- think of the reclusive hermit -- but have no power.

SOCIAL CLASS the mixture of family wealth, educational achievement, and occupational prestige that you enjoy; alternatively, the subjective sense you have of where you stand on a class ladder in society, high, middle, or low. Both forms of social class are societal forms of power.

In the remainder of The Power Paradox , Keltner goes on to examine, through a robust body of research bridged with intelligent insight, what we can do both as individuals and as a society to cultivate the qualities that empower us by empowering others and counter those that feed the most selfish and small-spirited tendencies of human nature. Complement it with Blaise Pascal's timeless 17th-century wisdom on the art of persuasion and philosopher Martha Nussbaum on human dignity and the nuanced relationship between agency and victimhood .

HT Shankar Vedantam / Hidden Brain

[Mar 07, 2020] Looking for a Good Pandemic Story to Soothe Your Coronavirus Anxieties? Try Katherine Anne Porter's Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Rebecca Onion

Mar 07, 2020 | slate.com
Photo illustration by Slate
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Counterintuitive as it may sound, people fearing the coronavirus are buying up copies of Albert Camus' The Plague , Stephen King's The Stand , and Dean Koontz's The Eyes of Darkness . If you're one of those who finds consuming pandemic stories to be palliative for your anxiety, I recommend the addition of one of the only pieces of American fiction about the 1918–19 flu pandemic that was written by a survivor: Katherine Anne Porter's Pale Horse, Pale Rider . This short novel, published in 1939, is a story of two doomed lovers caught up in the gears of world war and a deadly virus; somehow, it manages to be romantic and bitter, all at once.

The story is semi-autobiographical. Porter was 28 during the 1918–19 pandemic and working for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. She was dating a young soldier, who was readying for deployment overseas. When she fell sick, he nursed her at her boarding house, until her editor finally pulled strings to get her admitted to a hospital. That hospital was so overcrowded that Porter was left on a gurney in a hallway for nine days, running a fever of 105. When she recovered, she found out that the soldier had died of the flu. Pale Horse, Pale Rider gives the bones of this experience to its protagonist, Miranda Gay.

Miranda bristles at jingoistic homefront culture, which Porter depicts as a mind virus that rivals the flu. A couple of unctuous war bond salesmen try to guilt Miranda into purchasing a bond she cannot afford; she and the other female reporter at her paper worry that they will lose their jobs if they can't scrape together the money to buy one. The novel shows how the expectation of support for the war colors everyone's daily interactions. Miranda describes how everyone reacts in a particular way when they hear the words "the war": "It was habitual, automatic, to give that solemn, mystically uplifted grin when you spoke the words or heard them spoken."

The war and the flu mingle together as threats to a good thing that's happening in Miranda's life. In this fictionalization of Porter's experience, the soldier Miranda is in love with is named Adam, and he's from Texas. They've been dating about 10 days, but they both feel like this is something real. They've spent those 10 days in the frenzy of early romance: dancing to jazz, going to see plays she needs to write about for the paper, poking around geological museums, skipping out of town to take hikes. They both know that their mutual affection will be short-lived, since he'll be going to France soon. What they don't know is that it will be the virus that gets them first.

While Miranda admits to herself how much she would love him if he weren't bound for the war, between them, they keep everything light by policy; the flu is no exception. "It seems to be a plague, something out of the Middle Ages," Miranda says to Adam, who is about to be sent back to training, about the sickness. "Did you ever see so many funerals, ever?" "Never did," he replies. "Well, let's be strong minded and not have any of it. I've got four days more straight from the blue and not a blade of grass must grow under our feet." With that, they make plans to go dancing.

Slowly, the flu makes its presence known in her body, even as her mind continues to dwell on the war. On the night she collapses from the sickness she's been feeling inklings of for days, Adam and Miranda go to a play together, so she can review it. It's a boring play, but before the third act, a fundraiser comes onstage to implore people to buy war bonds. It's this endless speech, which hits all the patriotic high notes, that catalyzes Miranda's illness, making her head ache and spin.

At a restaurant after the play, she passes out; when she comes to, Adam is nursing her in her boardinghouse room. That's the last time she has with him. After she's taken to the hospital and suffers through days of pain and fever dreams, Miranda wakes up, finds out he's dead, and feels profoundly alienated from her body and her life. "Can this be my face?" Miranda asks when she looks in the mirror after finally regaining consciousness. "Are these my own hands?" she asks a nurse, "holding them up to show the yellow tint like melted wax glimmering between the closed fingers."

The book's small story of one person's tragedy reminds us that illness is a personal trauma, and a pandemic is a million personal traumas in one. Porter said of the flu pandemic in an interview in 1963: "It simply divided my life, cut across it like that. So that everything before that was just getting ready, and after that I was in some strange way altered." Pale Horse, Pale Rider isn't a book about secretly released bioweapons or an epic struggle between good and evil or a metaphor about Nazism; it's just a story about people coming to terms with their own mortality. "The body is a curious monster, no place to live in, how could anyone feel at home there?" Miranda asks. How, indeed?

[Mar 04, 2020] May the Best Man Win

Mar 04, 2020 | caucus99percent.com

Cant Stop the M... on Wed, 03/04/2020 - 8:28am We base our entire politics on the idea that we're living in a meritocracy. In other words, like the knights of old at a joust, we find out who is best through competition, a competition assumed to be both fair and honest. In the old days, the joust was assumed to be fair and honest because God was both omnipotent and just and therefore, obviously, would not allow a bad man to win. Nowadays, even most of us who believe in God don't believe that God controls the outcome of competitions in that way. Yet the assumption of a fair and honest competition persists, despite blatant evidence to the contrary.

In the case of U.S. elections, it is assumed, not that the will of God controls the outcome of competitions, but that the will of the people does. Voter suppression and election fraud are hand-waved away on the dubious grounds that any candidate strong enough could overcome such things. Or maybe the people are to blame. The supporters of the defeated candidate must not have worked hard enough, or maybe the people generally are to blame for not voting in large enough numbers. Those who challenge any of these assumptions are defeated, either by institutional inertia or by gaslighting.

Nothing happens, so nothing happened

Here's what I mean by institutional inertia.

In 2000, there was ample evidence that George W. Bush had committed fraud in the presidential election, with the help of his brother, the governor of Florida. In 2004, there was ample evidence that George W. Bush had committed fraud once again, famously in Ohio, and less famously in Florida for a second time. However, in the first case, Gore stopped fighting after an obviously partisan and corrupt Supreme Court decision, and not a single member of the U.S. Senate was willing to help the Congressional Black Caucus challenge the election. In the second case, Kerry refused to challenge the election in Congress, and the legal case he brought about election fraud, after the fact, did not even make it to the Supreme Court.

In 2016, when New Yorkers brought a case that there had been election fraud and voter suppression in the Democratic primaries, the case was thrown out on the grounds that each county in New York had to file such cases separately, and, by then, the election would be over. Pleas to delay the vote count, or to delay declaring a winner, until the voting rights of the people could be secured, were brushed aside. Much later, when a civil lawsuit was brought against the DNC, the case was once again thrown out for lack of standing, but not before the DNC lawyers had defended their client on the grounds that the DNC didn't have to provide a fair competition, or any competition at all, really, and certainly didn't have to care what the people thought.

The effect of this institutional inertia is not simply that cheaters win the day, or that the people, whose will is being suppressed, lose morale and give up. The complaint itself begins to fade from people's minds. People begin to make excuses for what happened, to justify it, to act as if there never were cheating to begin with. Even many of those who dissent find that, over time, the injustice they remember mellows: no less a person than Jimmy Dore, hardly a weak-minded hack for the establishment, talks now about Gore's "loss" in 2000 as an evil caused by the electoral college. While the electoral college is obviously a tool for elites to control American politics (and never has that been so obvious as over the past two election cycles), such a narrative ignores and erases the police checkpoints that were set up in 2000 near predominantly African American polling places in Leon county, Florida. It ignores the Republican Speaker of the House, Tom DeLay, sending Republican staffers to Dade County to break up Miami's vote count by marching into the Supervisor of Elections office and screaming at the top of their lungs so that no accurate count could take place. It ignores and erases the digital Jim Crow that purged the voter lists of African American Democrats by claiming, falsely, that they were felons. It ignores the fact that emails between the State of Florida and the company that created the Jim Crow software revealed that the company had warned that their software would draw too many false positives, and that the State of Florida had replied "That's just what we want."

Similarly, the DNC's perfidy in 2016 has been reduced to the following: 1) that they had pre-selected their candidate, and didn't provide a real or fair competition, 2) that they gave debate questions ahead of time to Hillary Clinton, 3)that they used the electoral college, most particularly superdelegates, to overwhelm the Sanders movement, and that 4) the party primaries were often closed, not allowing independents the right to vote. Left out, or forgotten, are the multiple polling places closed in states from Arizona to New York (in New York, sometimes even the open polling places had no staff or broken machines), the media calling California for Clinton before the votes were counted, the 136,000 voters purged off Brooklyn's voter rolls (no doubt because Bernie Sanders was born and grew up in Brooklyn and that might have given him an advantage there), and the much larger multi-state purge of the Democratic party through changing people's voter registration without their knowledge and consent.

I'm not bringing this up to attack Jimmy Dore, who is one of the most reliable truth-tellers in the media today, but rather to point out what people's minds do under the stress of watching the establishment normalize corruption again and again. If there is no power to challenge institutional corruption, most people, over time, make of the corruption something less unjust and outrageous. Simply smothering objections to injustice with institutional inertia, will, over time, allow the victors to erase the evidence of their crime.

Sore Loserman

Since we believe, with the faith of fanatics, that competition must be honest and fair, it's easy to gaslight the losers (or the apparent losers). The Republicans in 2000 did not need to disprove the fact that George W. Bush had committed fraud and contravened the will of the people when he climbed up a staircase of disenfranchised Black faces to become President. All the Republicans needed to do was issue tens of thousands of bumper stickers that replaced the words "Gore/Lieberman" with "Sore Loserman." The RNC was using the same argument that was bruited about in the 1980s about poverty and employment. Unemployed poor people had lost the economic competition. Therefore, there must be something wrong with them. Maybe they weren't educated enough, smart enough, clean enough, hard-working enough; maybe they were people of bad character. Bloomberg's racial profiling worked much the same way. Black people are losers in the judicial game because they commit more crimes. That's why we put more police in their neighborhoods, because there are more criminals among young Black men than anywhere else. Corruption can't bring down a meritorious man. If you're good, you'll win. If you complain about cheating or any other form of injustice, you must be a Sore Loserman, attempting to cover up your own inadequacies by whining.

It's pretty obvious that this way of thinking makes it literally impossible to stop even the most outrageous injustice, as long as the perpetrators of that injustice have enough power to spread their "Sore Loser" messaging far and wide. So if I commit identity theft today and access one of your bank accounts, I can be brought to account. But if Wall St cheats homeowners, there was probably something wrong with the homeowners, or with the government for suggesting that those homeowners should get loans. If George W. Bush cheats in an election, there was probably something wrong with the other candidate, or with the voters.

People tend to get upset when I bring this up, because they think that talking about the corruption of the system will demoralize voters, making such discussions their own form of voter suppression. But I bring this up because the worst damage that can come out of Bernie Sanders losing contests in a highly compromised electoral process is that the idea of meritocracy be preserved. There are valid reasons for voting even in a corrupted system (of the "make 'em sweat" variety). There are valid reasons for not voting in a corrupted system. But whatever a citizen chooses to do on Election Day, the idea of meritocracy must die.

Despite all the truly horrendous policies, from both the Democrats and the Republicans, that have laid our society, our people, and the world to waste, the most poisonous effect of the tyranny we live under is its fraudulence: its pretense of being a fair, accurate, and reasonable expression of the will of the people. Even the Democrats' attacks on Trump, who is supposed to be a Manchurian candidate placed in office by Russian intelligence operatives and an existential threat to our democracy, have, in the past two years, increasingly focused on the people who support Trump. It's the voters fault for supporting the bad man. So even when we are supposedly in a situation of foreign powers changing the outcome of a presidential election, it's still the people's fault. Why? Well, there was a competition, and somebody won, so the person who won must be there by the will of the people. It has to be the people's fault.

Corruption among the powerful isn't a thing.

System-wide corruption in all the various infrastructures of our country, especially the political ones, isn't a thing.

Or, if it is, you just didn't do enough lifting at the political gym to be able to fend it off.

[Feb 22, 2020] I understand "social media" literally in the Orwellian sense, it is "social" media just like war is peace. The true meaning is "asocial media" which prevents real interaction, and is under complete control by big brother: you can become a non-person at any moment.

Feb 22, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Norwegian , Feb 22 2020 19:12 utc | 66

Posted by: Bemildred | Feb 22 2020 13:41 utc | 20
The "social" is "social media" is in contrast to "professional" or "business" or "commercial" media, i.e. the MSM and other commercial media.

I understand "social media" literally in the Orwellian sense, it is "social" media just like war is peace. The true meaning is "asocial media" which prevents real interaction, and under complete control by big brother, you can become a non-person at any moment.

[Feb 10, 2020] Why You May Never Learn the Truth About Anything in Washington

Feb 10, 2020 | angrybearblog.com

run75441 | February 9, 2020 7:00 pm

History Politics I hang around some pretty intelligent people who have smart friends commenting on their facebook pages. The first part of this post is from a comment on Claude Scales's Facebook page by William R. Everdell. I think it fits with the NYT article Claude referenced. The second part of this is a shorten version of the NYT Opinion article "Why You May Never Learn the Truth About ICE," Matthew Connelly, Professor of History, Columbia.

George Orwell in "'1984', Winston Smith was dropping documents into the 'memory hole' by his desk at the Ministry of Truth – Minitrue

'Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'

[Feb 03, 2020] Amazon.com Customer reviews White House Warriors How the National Security Council Transformed the American Way of War

Highly recommended!
This book sheds some light into the story of how Administrative assistants to Present became independent heavily influenced by CIA body controlling the USA foreign policy and to a large extent controlling the President. Recent revolt of NSC (Aka Ukrainegate) shows that the servant became the master
The books contains some interesting information about forming NSC by Truman --- the father of the US National Security State. And bureaucratic turf war the preceded it. It wwas actually Eisenhower who created forma position of a "special assistant to the president for national security affairs"
The author also cover a little bit disastrous decision to launch a "surge" (ironically by the female chickenhawk Meghan O'Sullivan), -- which attests neocon nature of current NSC and level of indoctrination of staffers in "Full Spectrum Dominance" doctrine quite clearly. That's why a faction of NSC launched a coup d'état against Trump in t he form of Ukrainegate and probably was instrumental in Russiagate as well.
Notable quotes:
"... Starting in the 1960s, the NSC dethroned the State Department in providing analysis, intelligence, and even some diplomacy to the diplomat in chief. In the years after September 11th, the staff also began to take greater responsibility, especially for planning, from the military and the rest of the Pentagon. Both departments have struggled and often failed to reclaim lost ground and influence in Washington. ..."
"... Yet war is a hard thing to try to manage from the Executive Office Building. Thousands of miles from the frontlines and far from harm, the NSC make recommendations based on what they come to know from intelligence reports, news sources, phone calls, video-teleconferences, and visits to the front. Even with advice based only on this limited and limiting view, the NSC staff has transformed how the United States fights its wars. ..."
"... Although presidents bear the ultimate responsibilities for these decisions, the NSC staff played an essential, and increasing, role in the thinking behind each bold move. In conflict after conflict, a more powerful NSC staff has fundamentally altered the American way of war. It is now far less informed by the perspective of the military and the view from the frontlines. It is less patient for progress and more dependent on the clocks in the Executive Office Building and Washington than those in theater. It is far more combative, less able to accept defeat, and more willing to risk a change of course. ..."
"... The NSC common law's kept the peace in Washington for years after Iran-Contra. The restrictions against outright advocacy and outsized operational responsibilities were accepted by those at the White House as well as in the agencies during Republican and Democratic administrations. Yet as many in Washington believed the world grew more interconnected and the national security stakes increased, especially after September 11th, a more powerful NSC has given staffers the opportunity to bend, and occasionally break, the common laws, as they have been expected to and allowed to take on more responsibilities for developing strategies and new r ideas from those in the bureaucracy and military. ..."
"... ...Meanwhile, others, including the anonymous author of the infamous September 2018 New York Times opinion piece, believe government officials who comprise a "steady state" amid Trump's chaotic presidency are "unsung heroes" resisting his worst instincts and overreaches. 13 Thus, it is no surprise that more and more Americans are concerned: a 2018 poll found that 74 percent of Americans feel a group of officials arc able to control government policy without accountability. ..."
"... it is no wonder some Americans have taken to assuming the worst of their public servants. ..."
"... Each member of the NSC staff needs to remember that their growing, unaccountable power has helped give evidence to the worries about a deep state. Although no one in Washington gives up influence voluntarily, the staff, even its warriors, need to remember it is not just what they fight for but whether a fight is necessary at all. ..."
"... ... Too many in Washington, including at the Executive Office Building, have forgotten that public service is a privilege that bestows on them great responsibility. Although the NSC has long justified its actions in the name of national security, the means with which its members have pursued that objective have made for a more aggressive American way of war, a more fractious Washington, and more conspiracies about government. ..."
"... The question is for what and for whom they will fight in the years and wars ahead. ..."
Feb 03, 2020 | www.amazon.com

The men and women walking the hushed corridors of the Executive Office Building do not look like warriors. Most are middle-aged professionals with penchants for dark business suits and prestigious graduate degrees, who have spent their lives serving their country in windowless offices, on far-off battle-fields, or at embassies abroad. Before arriving at the NSC, many joined the military or the nation's diplomatic corps, some dedicated themselves to teaching and writing about national security, and others spent their days working for the types of politicians who become presidents. By the time they joined the staff, each had shown the pluck -- and the good fortune -- required to end up staffing a president.

When each NSC staffer first walks up the steps to the Executive Office Building, he or she joins an institution like no other in government. Compared to the Pentagon and other bureaucracies, the staff is small, hierarchically flat with only a few titles like directors and senior directors reporting to the national security advisor and his or her deputies. Compared to all those at the agencies, even most cabinet secretaries, the staff are also given unparalleled access to the president and the discussions about the biggest decisions in national security.

Yet despite their access, the NSC staff was created as a political, legal, and bureaucratic afterthought. The National Security Council was established both
to better coordinate foreign policy after World War II and as part of a deal to create what became known as the Defense Department. Since the army and navy only agreed to be unified under a single department and a civilian cabinet secretary if each still had a seat at the table where decisions about war were expected to be made, establishing the National Security Council was critical to ensuring passage of the National Security Act of 1947. The law, as well as its amendments two years later, unified the armed forces while also establishing the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as well as the CIA.

... ... ...

Fans of television's the West Wing would be forgiven for expecting that once in the Oval Office, all a staffer needs to do to change policy is to deliver a well-timed whisper in the president's car or a rousing speech in his company. It is not that such dramatic moments never occur, but real change in government requires not just speaking up but the grinding policy work required to have something new to say.

A staffer, alone or with NSC and agency colleagues, must develop an idea until feasible and defend it from opposition driven by personal pique, bureaucratic jealousy, or substantive disagreement, and often all three.

Granted none of these fights are over particularly new ideas, as few proposals in war are truly novel. If anything, the staffs history is a reminder of how little new there is under the guise of national security. Alter all, escalations, ultimatums, and counterinsurgency are only innovative in the context of the latest conflicts. The NSC staff is usually proposing old ideas, some as old as war itself like a surge of troops, to new circumstances and a critical moment.

Yet even an old idea can have real power in the right hands at the right time, so it is worth considering how much more influence the NSC brings to its fights today.

... ... ...

A larger staff can do even more thanks to technology. With the establishment of the Situation Room in 1961 and its subsequent upgrades, as well as the widespread adoption of email in the 1980s, the classified email system during the 2000s, and desktop video teleconferencing systems in the 2010s, White House technology upgrades have been justified because the president deserves the latest and the fastest. These same advances give each member of the staff global reach, including to war zones half a world away, from the safety of the Executive Office Building.

The NSC has also grown more powerful along with the presidency it serves. The White House, even in the hands of an inexperienced and disorganized president like Trump, drives the government's agenda, the news media's coverage, and the American public's attention. The NSC staff can, if skilled enough, leverage the office's influence for their own ideas and purposes. Presidents have also explicitly empowered the staff in big ways -- like putting them in the middle of the policymaking process -- and small -- like granting them ranks that put them on the same level as other agency officials.

Recent staffers have also had the president's ear nearly every day, and sometimes more often, while secretaries of state and defense rarely have that much face time in the Oval Office. Each has a department with tens of thousands (and in the Pentagon's case millions) of employees to manage. Most significantly, both also answer not just to the president but to Congress, which has oversight authority for their departments and an expectation for regular updates. There are few more consequential power differences between the NSC and the departments than to whom each must answer.

Even more, the NSC staff get to work and fight in anonymity. Members of Congress, journalists, and historians are usually too busy keeping track of the National Security Council principals to focus on the guys and gals behind the national security advisors, who are themselves behind the president. Few in Washington, and fewer still across the country, know the names of the staff advising the president let alone what they arc saying in their memos and moments with him.

Today, there arc too many unnamed NSC staffers for anyone's good, including their own. Even with the recent congressional limit on policy staffers, the NSC is too big to be thoroughly managed or effective. National security advisors and their deputies are so busy during their days that it is hard to keep up with all their own emails, calls, and reading, let alone ensure each member of the staff is doing their own work or doing it well. The common law and a de tacto honor system has also struggled to keep staff in check as they try to handle every issue from war to women's rights and every to-do list item from drafting talking points to doing secret diplomacy.

Although many factors contribute to the NSC's success, history suggests they do best with the right-size job. The answer to better national security policy and process is not a bigger staff but smaller writs. The NSC should focus on fewer issues, and then only on the smaller stuff, like what the president needs for calls and meetings, and the big, what some call grand strategic, questions about the nation's interests, ambitions, and capacities that should be asked and answered before any major decision.

... ... ...

Along the way, the staff has taken on greater responsibilities from agencies like the departments of state and defense as each has grown more bureaucratic and sclerotic. Starting in the 1960s, the NSC dethroned the State Department in providing analysis, intelligence, and even some diplomacy to the diplomat in chief. In the years after September 11th, the staff also began to take greater responsibility, especially for planning, from the military and the rest of the Pentagon. Both departments have struggled and often failed to reclaim lost ground and influence in Washington.

As a result, today the NSC has, regretfully, become the strategic engine of the government's national security policymaking. The staff, along with the national security advisor, determine which issues -- large and small -- require attention, develop the plans for most of them, and try to manage day-to-day the implementation of each strategy. That is too sweeping a remit for a couple hundred unaccountable staffers sitting at the Executive Office Building thousands of miles from war zones and foreign capitals. Such immense responsibility also docs not make the best use of talent in government, leaving the military and the nation's diplomats fighting with the White House over policies while trying to execute plans they have less and less ownership over.

... ... ...

Although protocol still requires members of the NSC to sit on the backbench in National Security Council meetings, the staff s voice and advice can carry as much weight as those of the principals sitting at the table, just as the staff has taken on more of each department's responsibilities, the NSC arc expected to be advisors to the president, even on military strategy. With that charge, the staff has taken to spending more time and effort developing their own policy ideas -- and fighting for them.

Yet war is a hard thing to try to manage from the Executive Office Building. Thousands of miles from the frontlines and far from harm, the NSC make recommendations based on what they come to know from intelligence reports, news sources, phone calls, video-teleconferences, and visits to the front. Even with advice based only on this limited and limiting view, the NSC staff has transformed how the United States fights its wars.

The American way of war, developed over decades of thinking and fighting, informs how and why the nation goes to battle. Over the course of American history and, most relevantly, since the end of World War II, the US military and other national security professionals have developed, often through great turmoil, strategic preferences and habits, like deploying the latest technology possible instead of the largest number of troops. Despite the tremendous planning that goes into these most serious of undertakings, each new conflict tests the prevailing way of war and often finds it wanting.

Even knowing how dangerous it is to relight the last war, it is still not easy to find the right course for a new one. Government in general and national security specifically are risk-averse enterprises where it is often simpler to rely on standard operating procedures and stay on a chosen course, regardless of whether progress is slow and the sense of drift is severe. Even then, many in the military, who often react to even the mildest of suggestions and inquiries as unnecessary or even dangerous micromanagement, defend the prevailing approach with its defining doctrine and syndrome.

As Machiavelli recommended long ago, there is a need for hard questions in government and war in particular. He wrote that a leader "ought to be a great askcr, and a patient hearer of the truth." 7 From the Executive Office Building, the NSC staff, who are more distanced from the action as well as the fog of war, have tried to fill this role for a busy and often distracted president. They are, however, not nearly as patient as Machiavelli recommended: they have proven more willing, indeed too willing at times, to ask about what is working and what is not.

Warfighters are not alone in being frustrated by questions: everyone from architects to zookeepers believes they know how best to do their job and that with a bit more time, they will get it right. Without any of the responsibility for the doing, the NSC staff not only asks hard questions but, by avoiding implementation bias, is willing to admit, often long before those in the field, that the current plan is failing. A more technologically advanced NSC, with the ability to reach deep into the chain of command and war zones for updates, has also given the staff the intelligence to back up its impatience.

Most times in history, the NSC staff has correctly predicted that time is running against a chosen strategy. Halperin. and others on the Nixon NSC, were accurate in their assessments of Vietnam. Dur and his Reagan NSC colleagues were right to worry that diplomacy was moving too slowly in Lebanon. Haass and Vershbow were correct when they were concerned with how windows of opportunity for action were shrinking in the Gulf and Balkans respectively, just as O'Sullivan was right that things needed to change relatively soon in Iraq.

Yet an impatient NSC staff has a worse track record giving the president answers to what should come next. The NSC staff naturally have opinions and ideas about what can be done when events and war feel out of control, but ideas about what can be done when events and war feel out of control, but the very distance and disengagement that allow' the NSC to be so effective at measuring progress make its ideas less grounded in operational realities and more clouded by the fog of Washington. The NSC, often stridently, wants to do something more, to "go big when wc can," as one recent staffer encouraged his president, to fix a failing policy or win a w r ar, but that is not a strategy, nor does that ambition make the staff the best equipped to figure out the next steps."

With their proposals for a new plan, deployment, or initiative, the staff has made more bad recommendations than good. The Diem coup and the Beirut mission are two examples, and particularly tragic ones at that, of NSC staff recommendations gone awry. The Iraq surge was certainly a courageous decision, but by committing so many troops to that country, the manpower w r as not available for a war in Afghanistan that was falling off track. Even the more successful NSC recommendations for changes in US strategy in the Gulf War and in Bosnia did not end up exactly as planned, in part because even good ideas in war rarely do.

Although presidents bear the ultimate responsibilities for these decisions, the NSC staff played an essential, and increasing, role in the thinking behind each bold move. In conflict after conflict, a more powerful NSC staff has fundamentally altered the American way of war. It is now far less informed by the perspective of the military and the view from the frontlines. It is less patient for progress and more dependent on the clocks in the Executive Office Building and Washington than those in theater. It is far more combative, less able to accept defeat, and more willing to risk a change of course.

And it is characterized by more frequent and counterproductive friction between the civilian and military leaders.

... ... ...

Through it all, as the NSC's voice has grown louder in the nation's war rooms, the staff has transformed how Washington works, and more often does not work. The NSC's fights to change course have had another casualty: the ugly collapse of the common law' that has governed Washington policymaking for more than a generation. The result today is a government that trusts less, fights more, and decides much slower.

National security policy- and decision-making was never supposed to be a fair fight. Eliot Cohen, a civil-military scholar with high-level government experience, has called the give-and-take of the interagency process an "unequal" dialogue -- one in which presidents are entitled to not just make the ultimate decision but also to ask questions, often with the NSC's help, at any time and about any topic.* Everyone else, from the secretaries of state and defense in Washington dow r n to the commanders and ambassadors abroad, has to expect and tolerate such presidential interventions and then carry out his orders.

Even an unfair fight can have rules, however. The NSC common law's kept the peace in Washington for years after Iran-Contra. The restrictions against outright advocacy and outsized operational responsibilities were accepted by those at the White House as well as in the agencies during Republican and Democratic administrations. Yet as many in Washington believed the world grew more interconnected and the national security stakes increased, especially after September 11th, a more powerful NSC has given staffers the opportunity to bend, and occasionally break, the common laws, as they have been expected to and allowed to take on more responsibilities for developing strategies and new r ideas from those in the bureaucracy and military.

... ... ...

...Meanwhile, others, including the anonymous author of the infamous September 2018 New York Times opinion piece, believe government officials who comprise a "steady state" amid Trump's chaotic presidency are "unsung heroes" resisting his worst instincts and overreaches. 13 Thus, it is no surprise that more and more Americans are concerned: a 2018 poll found that 74 percent of Americans feel a group of officials arc able to control government policy without accountability.

In an era when Americans can see on reality television how their fish are caught, meals arc cooked, and businesses are financed, it is strange that few have ever heard the voice of an NSC staffer. The Executive Office Building is not the only building out of reach: most of the government taxpayers' fund is hard, and getting harder, to see. With bigger security blockades, longer waits on declassification, and more severe crackdowns on leaks, it is no wonder some Americans have taken to assuming the worst of their public servants.

The American people need to know the NSC's war stories if for no other reason than each makes clear that there is no organized deep state in Washington. If one existed, there would be little need for the NSC to fight so hard to coordinate the government's various players and parts. However, this history also makes plain that though the United States can overcome bad decisions and survive military disasters, a belief in a deep state is a threat to the NSC and so much more.

... ... ...

Each member of the NSC staff needs to remember that their growing, unaccountable power has helped give evidence to the worries about a deep state. Although no one in Washington gives up influence voluntarily, the staff, even its warriors, need to remember it is not just what they fight for but whether a fight is necessary at all. Shortcuts and squabbles may make sense when every second feels like it counts, but the best public servants do what is necessary for the president even as they protect, for years to come, the health of the institutions and the very democracy in which they serve. As hard as that can be to remember when the clock in the Oval Office is ticking, doing things the right way is even more important than the latest crises, war, or meeting with the president.

... ... ...

... Too many in Washington, including at the Executive Office Building, have forgotten that public service is a privilege that bestows on them great responsibility. Although the NSC has long justified its actions in the name of national security, the means with which its members have pursued that objective have made for a more aggressive American way of war, a more fractious Washington, and more conspiracies about government.

Centuries ago, Plato argued that civilians must hope for warriors who could be trusted to be both "gentle to their own and cruel to their enemies." At a time when many doubt government and those who serve in it, the NSC staff s history demonstrates just what White House warriors arc capable of. The question is for what and for whom they will fight in the years and wars ahead.

... ... ...

The legendary British double agent Kim Philby wrote: "just because a document is a document it has a glamour which tempts the reader to give it more weight than it deserves An hour of a serious discussion with a trustworthy informant is often more valuable than any number of original documents. Of course, it is best to have both."

Alexandra Jones , September 15, 2019

The Untold History of the NSC

A must-read for anyone interested in history or foreign policy. Gans pulls back the curtain on arguably the most powerful yet opaque body in foreign policy decision-making, the National Security Council. Each chapter recounts a different administration -- as told through the work of an NSC staffer. Through these beautifully-written portraits of largely unknown staffers, Gans reveals the chilling, outsized influence of this small, unelected institution on American war and peace. From this perspective, even the policy success stories seem more luck than skill -- leaving readers concerned about the NSC's continued unchecked power.

[Feb 01, 2020] Brexit means that Oceania is born!

Feb 01, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

FSD , Jan 31 2020 19:59 utc | 28

Britain has finally made the Orwellian Pivot. Brazil is Bolsonaro-fied, Mexico and Canada are USMCA-ed, Venezuela will be MAGA-cized. The Monroe Doctrine is growing carnivorous incisors. Oceania is born!

https://imgur.com/gallery/uicp6HO

Qparticle , Feb 1 2020 17:27 utc | 114

No wonder banker boy Macron has been nice to Vlad lately, time to go east...

Posted by: Paco | Feb 1 2020 7:36 utc | 84
-- --

Hee hee hee! ;)

[Jan 27, 2020] Warren as an extremely weak, incoherent politician: one example if her approach to student debt problem

There is a huge difference between extremely bright students and medicate ones. Bright students are the future of the society and need to be nurtures and helped in any way possible for the range of specialties that are important (STEM is one example)
There is difference between the degree in computer science and the degree in some obscure nationality studies (let's say Eastern European studies; few people that are needed can be paid by intelligence agencies ;-) Obscure areas should be generally available only to well to do students, who can pay for their education.
Like is the case with alcoholism, some student debt is the result of bad personal choices.
Notable quotes:
"... Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times, ..."
"... "My daughter's getting out of school, I saved all my money, so she doesn't have any student debt. Am I going to get my money back?" ..."
"... So, we end up paying for people who didn't save any money, then those who did the right thing get screwed, ..."
"... "We did the right thing and we get screwed," ..."
"... "Look, we build a future going forward by making it better. By that same logic what would we have done? Not started Social Security because we didn't start it last week for you or last month for you," ..."
"... "We don't build an America by saddling our kids with debt. We build an America by saying we're going to open up those opportunities for kids to be able to get an education without getting crushed by student loan debt." ..."
"... Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) campaigns in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 19, 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) ..."
"... "I'll direct the Secretary of Education to use their authority to begin to compromise and modify federal student loans consistent with my plan to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for 95% of student loan borrowers (about 42 million people)," ..."
"... A scholarship system awarding free tuition to the top 5% of college applicants (NOT biased by race, gender, etc) who apply to the U.S.'s best STEM programs, hell yes! Free tuition for future Democrat voters, f^%k that! ..."
Jan 27, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times,

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) defended her plan to pay off college loans after being confronted by a father in Iowa in an exchange that went viral.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is confronted by a father who worked double shifts to pay for his daughters education and wants to know if he will get his money back. pic.twitter.com/t2GGbAnG08

-- Eddie Donovan (@EddieDonovan) January 21, 2020

The father approached Warren, a leading Democratic presidential contender, after a campaign event in Grimes.

"My daughter's getting out of school, I saved all my money, so she doesn't have any student debt. Am I going to get my money back?" the man asked Warren.

"Of course not," Warren replied.

" So, we end up paying for people who didn't save any money, then those who did the right thing get screwed, " the father told her.

He then described a friend who makes more money but didn't save up while he worked double shifts to save up to pay for his daughter's college.

The father became upset, accusing Warren of laughing.

"We did the right thing and we get screwed," he added before walking off.

In an appearance on "CBS This Morning" on Friday, Warren was asked about the exchange.

Last night, a father who saved for his daughter's college education approached @SenWarren and challenged her proposed student loan forgiveness plan. @TonyDokoupil asks the senator for her response: pic.twitter.com/jLUXPqChC6

-- CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) January 24, 2020

"Look, we build a future going forward by making it better. By that same logic what would we have done? Not started Social Security because we didn't start it last week for you or last month for you," Warren said.

Pressed on whether she was saying "tough luck" to people like the father, she said "No." She then recounted how she got to go to college despite coming from a poor family.

"There was a $50 a semester option for me. I was able to go to college and become a public school teacher because America had invested in a $50 a semester option for me. Today that's not available," she said.

"We don't build an America by saddling our kids with debt. We build an America by saying we're going to open up those opportunities for kids to be able to get an education without getting crushed by student loan debt."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) campaigns in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 19, 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

One of Warren's plans is to cancel student loans. According to her website , on her first day as president she would cancel student loan debt as well as give free tuition to public colleges and technical schools and ban for-profit colleges from getting aid from the federal government.

"I'll direct the Secretary of Education to use their authority to begin to compromise and modify federal student loans consistent with my plan to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for 95% of student loan borrowers (about 42 million people)," Warren wrote.

"I'll also direct the Secretary of Education to use every existing authority available to rein in the for-profit college industry, crack down on predatory student lending, and combat the racial disparities in our higher education system."

Sounds an awful lot like the dad above is right those that did the "right thing" are gonna get "screwed."


csmith , 1 minute ago link

Warren's debt forgiveness plan will turbo-boost the increases in college costs. It is the EXACTLY backwards remedy for out-of-control college costs.

mtndds , 2 minutes ago link

Warren you bitch, I paid back my student loans responsibly by working my *** off (140k) and now you want to give others a free ride? I sure hope that I get a refund for all that money I paid back.

moron counter , 7 minutes ago link

Obama did this kinds thing with housing. I got outbid by 100k on a house. The other bidder who got it didn't make his house payments so Obama restructured his loan knocking off 100k from his loan and giving him a 1% interest rate on it. He again didn't make his payments and got it restructured again but I didn't hear the terms of that one.

chelydra , 12 minutes ago link

If student loan debt is such a crisis, force every university to use their precious endowment funds to underwrite those loans AND let those loans get discharged in bankruptcy. Maybe then those schools would start to question whether having a dozen "Diversity Deans" each being paid $100k+ salaries is really worth the expense (among other things).

Imagine That , 12 minutes ago link

A scholarship system awarding free tuition to the top 5% of college applicants (NOT biased by race, gender, etc) who apply to the U.S.'s best STEM programs, hell yes! Free tuition for future Democrat voters, f^%k that!

FightingDinosaur , 15 minutes ago link

The pissed off dad in this story has only one person to be pissed off at: himself, for being stupid. Understand something about college degrees: 90% of them, including majors like accounting, are not worth the paper they are printed on. Anyone who works double shifts to pay for anyone's college degree, even their own, is stupid. Look at why college costs so much: go to any state, and you'll see that 70% or more of the highest paid state employees are employed by public colleges and universities. You need to play these sons of bitches at their game, use their funny money to pay for the degree, and walk away. If you play the way these sons of bitches tell you to play, you get what you deserve.

I used their funny money to get a degree that wasn't worth the paper it was printed on and walked away. I don't give a **** if the sons of bitches grab my tax refund. Why? Because I have my withholdings set up so they get next to nothing in April. It costs the sons of bitches more to print up the garnishment letter and send it to me than what they're stealing from me. Guess what I use for an address? P.O. Box (can't serve a summons to a ghost).

If you're going to do what stupid, pissed off dad did, and work double shifts, you need to be trading out of all that funny money you're being paid for those double shifts, and trading into personal economic leverage (gold first, then silver). Instead of having bedrock to build multi-generational wealth, he has a daughter with a degree in pouring coffee, and nothing else to show for it. He only has himself to blame for drinking the Kool Aid. I can grab overtime every Saturday at my job if I want it, and every last penny of that OT is traded out of funny money and into gold ASAP.

Understand the US real estate market: the only reason it did not die five years ago was because we welcomed rich foreigners to come in and buy real estate to protect their wealth. We've stopped doing that, we have an over-abundance of domestic sellers and a severe shortage of domestic buyers. It's also where history says you need to be if you want to build multi-generational wealth. Warren actually needs to go further than what she's proposing. Not only does she need to discharge 100% of those balances by EO, she also needs to refund all those tax refunds stolen under false pretenses. Anything less, and we are guaranteed, for the next 40 years, to have a real estate market and economy which resembles Japan since 1989.

Why do I buy gold? So I can play people like Warren at their game. I'll take whatever loan discharge she gives me, and have lots of leverage in reserve to take advantage of what will be a once in a lifetime real estate fire sale.

Centurion9.41 , 13 minutes ago link

Here's an idea...

Make those who want to be bailed out have to pay the bailout back by working every non-holiday Saturday (at the minimum wage rate) for the government and citizens (e.g who need work done around the house, take care of the elderly - in the bathroom) until the debt is paid back. AND let those who have not taken the debt relief supervise them - getting paid by the government at the same rate, minimum wage. 🦞🦞🦞🦞🦞

gatorengineer , 13 minutes ago link

For a decent college it's between 35-70k a year.... Why? 300k a year library professors, if it weren't for tenure the problem would largely he self correcting as rntrillments drop...

southpaw47 , 18 minutes ago link

My how times have changed. My son was a college grad circa 1996. He did the JUCO thing for 1 1/2 years , worked a part time job for the duration, and picked up an A S while making the President's list. I aid, out of pocket all educational expenses while he lived at home and provided for a nice lifestyle while he was in school. As promised, he finished his education, out of state, which I paid for all along the way. 2 more years, he graduated, on the Pres list, and picked up his B S. No student debt, in his words, was one of the the greatest gifts. Today he is debt free, (so am I ), and he is a very happy , financially secure ( until the world goes upside down) mature adult. Hey Lizzie, send me a check.

Snaffew , 27 minutes ago link

They are all ignoring the real problem...the Federal mandated system of the guaranteed student loan program. Anyone with a pulse can get a guaranteed student loan, thus creating a massive rise in college admissions. The colleges are guaranteed the money for these loans, while the lender (the US gov't) is not guaranteed to be paid back by the students receiving these loans,. this created a fool proof, risk free ability for colleges and universities across the country to jack up their tuition costs at over a 5:1 ratio of income growth over the last 25 years. The problem is the program itself, students need to earn their ability to enroll in college through hard work and good grades. Currently, any moron with a high school diploma can go to college on a guaranteed student loan program and the colleges are more than willing to take on any idiot that wants to go to school despite their aspirations, work ethics, intelligence, achievements, etc. The universities have been given a blank check to expand their campuses, drastically inflate the salaries and pensions of professors and administrators of these schools all at the expense of this guaranteed "free" money from the government that only achieved an immense amount of the population going to overpriced schools in order to get a diploma in useless pursuits like african american studies, philosophy, creative writing, music, criminal justice, arts, basket weaving, etc.. The skyrocketing costs of colleges and student debt is the direct result of this miserably failed system of the guaranteed student loan. The majority of which have no business going to higher education because they don't have the aptitude, work ethic and intelligence necessary to actually receive a degree in anything that benefits the economy and themselves going forward. 30 years ago the average state college admission was roughly $4k a year for a good state school, today it is roughly $20k or far more. Meanwhile, the average income has gone up a meaningless amount. Get rid of the guaranteed student loan program and make the colleges responsible for accepting the responsibility of the loans for their students. I guarantee enrollment will decrease and costs will decline making it much more affordable for the truly responsible and aspiring student to achieve their dreams of a degree without a $250k loan needed for completion nor the lifelong strain of debt on their future incomes. The colleges are raping the system the same as all these shoestring companies take advantage of the medicaid system and give hovarounds and walking canes, and hearing aids for free because the gov't reimburses them at wildly inflated prices under some federally passed mandate. The system is the problem, eliminating the debt will only exacerbate it and cost taxpayers trillions more each and every year as "free" college will now entice every moron with a heartbeat the ability to go to outrageously priced schools with no skin in the game on the taxpayer's dime. Elizabeth Warren is an idiot....someone needs to have a sit down with her and discuss this rationale in her luxurious, state of the art TeePee.

Balance-Sheet , 11 minutes ago link

While you are correct corrupting academics with huge payoffs is how you secure their votes and the votes of most of the 'students' for decades to come.

Any group or industry can be paid off and you might think of the system as a set of interlocking payoffs until you get out to the margins and the fringes where the cash and benefits are a lot thinner.

bkwaz4 , 25 minutes ago link

Everyone who continues to pay taxes to these neo-Bolsheviks is going to get screwed. The only alternative is to stop funding these criminals completely.

johnduncan78 , 25 minutes ago link

What a sorry presidential canditate! She flat out LIED about being native american to get FREE college. And now this. Where has America gone????????? Socialism sems to be what most want nowadays. It has NEVER EVER worked anywhere in the world at any time! If yoou think therwise, just name ONE countryn it has worked in ! What a lying bunch the democrats are..........................

Lie_Detector , 27 minutes ago link

Warren Defends Plan To Cancel Student Debt

So all if us have to pay for it. Why did I have to pay for University and College in the 1970's if I wanted to further my education and now that I am older I have to foot the bill for the young people of today? Pay DOUBLE? (just to buy votes for traitors?)

I think NOT! Take your theft from the people, to buy votes of everyone from young people to illegal criminals to outright criminals in prison to dead people and resign before we decide to arrest you.

Democrats, HANG IT UP! We are NOT paying for YOUR illegitimate votes.

Resist-Socialist-Dem-Lies , 24 minutes ago link

Notice too how all their "we're going to wipe out your debt!" promises never seem to include the big "endowments" of these fascist colleges that jacked up tuition 1000% over what it used to cost.

No, those creepy commie profs and their freaky administrators get to keep their big TAX FREE endowments AND their big salaries.

Big Gov by Sanders/Warren don't seem to think that's obscene.

Lie_Detector , 22 minutes ago link

You are absolutely correct. 45 years ago you could almost work part time and actually PAY your way through college. Today you almost need a physicians salary to pay for these OVERPRICED sewers filled with leftist propaganda.

moron counter , 27 minutes ago link

It's obvious that Warren doesn't teach economics or even math. They weren't smart enough when they took out the loans and they are not good with paying their bills so move the goal posts to bail them out. Has anyone given the thought that maybe they shouldn't have gone to college at all. Sounds like they will all work for the government anyways.

[Jan 26, 2020] The Collapse of Neoliberalism by Ganesh Sitaraman

Highly recommended!
From the book The Great Democracy by Ganesh Sitaraman.
This is a very valuable article, probably the best written in 2019 on the topic, that discusses several important aspects of neoliberalism better then its predecessors...
Notable quotes:
"... For some, and especially for those in the millennial generation, the Great Recession and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started a process of reflection on what the neoliberal era had delivered. ..."
"... neoliberal policies had already wreaked havoc around the world ..."
"... "excessively rapid financial and capital market liberalization was probably the single most important cause of the crisis"; he also notes that after the crisis, the International Monetary Fund's policies "exacerbated the downturns." ..."
"... In study after study, political scientists have shown that the U.S. government is highly responsive to the policy preferences of the wealthiest people, corporations, and trade associations -- and that it is largely unresponsive to the views of ordinary people. The wealthiest people, corporations, and their interest groups participate more in politics, spend more on politics, and lobby governments more. Leading political scientists have declared that the U.S. is no longer best characterized as a democracy or a republic but as an oligarchy -- a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. ..."
"... Neoliberalism's war on "society," by pushing toward the privatization and marketization of everything, indirectly facilitates a retreat into tribalism. ..."
"... neoliberalism's radical individualism has increasingly raised two interlocking problems. First, when taken to an extreme, social fracturing into identity groups can be used to divide people and prevent the creation of a shared civic identity. ..."
"... Demagogues rely on this fracturing to inflame racial, nationalist, and religious antagonism, which only further fuels the divisions within society. Neoliberalism's war on "society," by pushing toward the privatization and marketization of everything, thus indirectly facilitates a retreat into tribalism that further undermines the preconditions for a free and democratic society. ..."
"... The second problem is that neoliberals on right and left sometimes use identity as a shield to protect neoliberal policies. As one commentator has argued, "Without the bedrock of class politics, identity politics has become an agenda of inclusionary neoliberalism in which individuals can be accommodated but addressing structural inequalities cannot." What this means is that some neoliberals hold high the banner of inclusiveness on gender and race and thus claim to be progressive reformers, but they then turn a blind eye to systemic changes in politics and the economy. ..."
"... They thought globalization was inevitable and that ever-expanding trade liberalization was desirable even if the political system never corrected for trade's winners and losers. They were wrong. These aren't minor mistakes. ..."
"... In spite of these failures, most policymakers did not have a new ideology or different worldview through which to comprehend the problems of this time. So, by and large, the collective response was not to abandon neoliberalism. After the Great Crash of 2008, neoliberals chafed at attempts to push forward aggressive Keynesian spending programs to spark demand. President Barack Obama's advisers shrank the size of the post-crash stimulus package for fear it would seem too large to the neoliberal consensus of the era -- and on top of that, they compromised on its content. ..."
"... When it came to affirmative, forward-looking policy, the neoliberal framework also remained dominant. ..."
"... It is worth emphasizing that Obamacare's central feature is a private marketplace in which people can buy their own health care, with subsidies for individuals who are near the poverty line ..."
"... Fearful of losing their seats, centrists extracted these concessions from progressives. Little good it did them. The president's party almost always loses seats in midterm elections, and this time was no different. For their caution, centrists both lost their seats and gave Americans fewer and worse health care choices. ..."
"... The Republican Party platform in 2012, for example, called for weaker Wall Street, environmental, and worker safety regulations; lower taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals; and further liberalization of trade. It called for abolishing federal student loans, in addition to privatizing rail, western lands, airport security, and the post office. Republicans also continued their support for cutting health care and retirement security. After 40 years moving in this direction -- and with it failing at every turn -- you might think they would change their views. But Republicans didn't, and many still haven't. ..."
"... Although neoliberalism had little to offer, in the absence of a new ideological framework, it hung over the Obama presidency -- but now in a new form. Many on the center-left adopted what we might call the "technocratic ideology," a rebranded version of the policy minimalism of the 1990s that replaced minimalism's tactical and pragmatic foundations with scientific ones. The term itself is somewhat oxymoronic, as technocrats seem like the opposite of ideologues. ..."
"... The technocratic ideology preserves the status quo with a variety of tactics. We might call the first the "complexity canard." ..."
"... The most frequent uses of this tactic are in sectors that economists have come to dominate -- international trade, antitrust, and financial regulation, for example. The result of this mind-set is that bold, structural reforms are pushed aside and highly technical changes adopted instead. Financial regulation provides a particularly good case, given the 2008 crash and the Great Recession. When it came time to establish a new regulatory regime for the financial sector, there wasn't a massive restructuring, despite the biggest crash in 70 years. ..."
"... Instead, for the most part, the Dodd-Frank Act was classically technocratic. It kept the sector basically the same, with a few tweaks here and there. There was no attempt to restructure the financial sector completely. ..."
"... The Volcker Rule, for example, sought to ban banks from proprietary trading. But instead of doing that through a simple, clean breakup rule (like the one enacted under the old Glass-Steagall regime), the Volcker Rule was subject to a multitude of exceptions and carve-outs -- measures that federal regulators were then required to explain and implement with hundreds of pages of technical regulations ..."
"... Dodd-Frank also illustrates a second tenet of the technocratic ideology: The failures of technocracy can be solved by more technocracy. ..."
"... Dodd-Frank created the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a government body tasked with what is called macroprudential regulation. What this means is that government regulators are supposed to monitor the entire economy and turn the dials of regulation up and down a little bit to keep the economy from another crash. But ask yourself this: Why would we ever believe they could do such a thing? We know those very same regulators failed to identify, warn about, or act on the 2008 crisis. ..."
"... In the first stage, neoliberalism gained traction in response to the crises of the 1970s. It is easy to think of Thatcherism and Reaganism as emerging fully formed, springing from Zeus's head like the goddess Athena. ..."
"... Early leaders were not as ideologically bold as later mythmakers think. In the second stage, neoliberalism became normalized. It persisted beyond the founding personalities -- and, partly because of its longevity in power, grew so dominant that the other side adopted it. ..."
"... Eventually, however, the neoliberal ideology extended its tentacles into every area of policy and even social life, and in its third stage, overextended. The result in economic policy was the Great Crash of 2008, economic stagnation, and inequality at century-high levels. In foreign policy, it was the disastrous Iraq War and ongoing chaos and uncertainty in the Middle East. ..."
"... The fourth and final stage is collapse, irrelevance, and a wandering search for the future. With the world in crisis, neoliberalism no longer has even plausible solutions to today's problems. ..."
"... The solutions of the neoliberal era offer no serious ideas for how to restitch the fraying social fabric, in which people are increasingly tribal, divided, and disconnected from civic community ..."
Dec 23, 2019 | newrepublic.com
Welcome to the Decade From Hell , our look back at an arbitrary 10-year period that began with a great outpouring of hope and ended in a cavalcade of despair. The long-dominant ideology brought us forever wars, the Great Recession, and extreme inequality. Good riddance.

With the 2008 financial crash and the Great Recession, the ideology of neoliberalism lost its force. The approach to politics, global trade, and social philosophy that defined an era led not to never-ending prosperity but utter disaster. "Laissez-faire is finished," declared French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan admitted in testimony before Congress that his ideology was flawed. In an extraordinary statement, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared that the crash "called into question the prevailing neoliberal economic orthodoxy of the past 30 years -- the orthodoxy that has underpinned the national and global regulatory frameworks that have so spectacularly failed to prevent the economic mayhem which has been visited upon us."

... ... ...

[Jan 22, 2020] Journalism as the last escape of mathematically illiterates

Jan 22, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Walter , Jan 22 2020 12:30 utc | 95

@ Russ | Jan 22 2020 8:33 utc | 86 (about the gas cylinder(s).

Any bright high-school kid who's been through the math curriculum and has some calculus can tell you, give you, a range of terminal velocities in air at that elevation. You have to assume that the thing fell in the "best" attitude, and also the "worst" attitude - a matter of aerodynamic drag. Obviously there's a terminal velocity - somewhere about 200 feet per second. There's a minimum altitude above which it doesn't fall any faster because of drag...and it has a krappy drag coefficient. You have to work with the numbers to get a fine understanding...but it's the sort of question you'd see in a university engineering exam.

The mass is assumed to be something like 100 pounds. Do the math.

Then there's the question of concrete quality...it's highly heterogeneous..but you can assume it's top quality, and estimate the rebar density and thickness from the pretty pictures.

And you can assume zero projectile deformation (not even straps torn off!!?) and the hole's not big enough.

The story's bull.

William Gruff , Jan 22 2020 13:48 utc | 98

somebody @96: "But Western main stream media does not report on it."

Of course not. The western corporate mass media does not have among their workforce "Any bright high-school kid who's been through the math curriculum and has some calculus..." that Walter @95 points out as being a prerequisite to see how bogus is the narrative they are tasked with amplifying. The workforce chose to major in Journalism specifically because they had difficulties with basic arithmetic, with such heartless and unyielding topics as addition and subtraction being forever beyond them in the absence of a calculator.

Many think I exaggerate or am joking, but this is literal truth. These individuals of which the corporate mass media are composed get their conception of physics from crappy syfy movies in which spaceship blasters make "Pew-pew!!" noises in the vacuum of space. If it is necessary for the plot that a flimsy canister is able to punch through steel rebar reinforced concrete with barely a scratch, then they are fine with it. If these new age journalists' "contact" in Langley (what we know to be their "handler" or "operator" ) says it is believable, they won't pause for an instant to question.

After all, earnest delusion and ignorance serves the Mockingbird mass media's handlers in the CIA far better than does cynical and deliberate deception, though that last does have a sizable role to play as well. Deliberate deception is difficult and requires some skill, while any American can do stupidity with the greatest of ease.

[Jan 19, 2020] Comparing the American to the former Soviet educational system

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... There was nothing particularly great in the Soviet educational system. Other than students, who were selected very competitively (often more than 10-30 people for one place in ordinary universities and 100-1000 in elite; yes, 1000 or more per one place was observed in theater specialties). ..."
"... Also, the motivation for study was pretty high: if you fail two times to be admitted to the university, you were drafted into the Red Army. If you were expelled for the bad academic rating (which was, I think, to fail more then two exams in one semester) -- the same call from the Red Army was waiting for you. ..."
"... translation of foreign books in the USSR was the only first-class enterprise (despite outdated equipment). It was first-class both in the selection and the speed of translation. For example, as Knuth mentioned, all three volumes of his books were translated into Russian within a very short interval. ..."
"... But I think students learn as much from each other as from professors, and if the level of the class was extremely high, the results were corresponding. In other words, poor university teachers did not harm them that much, and a lot what they learn, they learn on their own (except fundamental disciplines) -- kind of self-education buried within ;-). ..."
"... Also, rigid soviet system (you have a zero opportunity to select your own set of subjects for a degree) has one important advantage. It schools you to be determined and persisting, no matter what subject you were assigned. To be a real fighter, in some academic or non-academic sense. ..."
"... I think that the main reason for the high quality of Soviet engineers of this period was not the education the got, but the fact that talented people were nowhere to go; there was no "business path." That's why Berezovsky became an academic scholar and even reached the level of the Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Science ..."
"... The level of backwardness of computer science education in the 90th in the USSR was staggering. So the fact that there were so many talented programmers in the country, many of whom later found a well-paid job in the Western countries, was mostly due to the level of the talent of those few who managed to get into universities. ..."
"... Many problems with Soviet education persist in Russia. Andrei Martyanov looks at many problems of Russian society via rose glasses. Taking into account the current level of Russophobia, that's a noble stance, and I do not object to his exaggerations. ..."
Dec 09, 2019 | www.unz.com

refl says: Next New Comment December 8, 2019 at 6:30 am GMT 200 Words

@RadicalCenter

The question even to compare the American to the Russian or former Soviet educational system is delusional.

However, the US has understood something that the Russians and any decent people don't get: The people are consumers. They should not be educated beyond the needed to use the most recent applications on their electronic devices. Anything further carries the danger of having them discontent and thus an inroad to the Western entity.

Also, a military is not there to win wars and subsequently have a headache about how to deal with the conquered people. It is about wrecking far away places and providing opportunities to claim invoices from the federal government.

Modern, hybrid warfare is not about applying this or that military means, but about occupying the universities, courts and parliaments of the subdued people – finally occupying their minds. And yes, to do so includes that the weaponry should look cool and provide job opportunities for the hopeless youngsters of that amorphous mass formerly called the nation.

The Russians, Chinese, Iranians will have to stay alert 24/7/365 not to fall into the abyss of depravity that the Great Western Civilisation is offering to them. I am afraid, that the threat is very real that in the end they will be worn down.

likbez says: December 9, 2019 at 5:47 am GMT 800 Words @refl refl,

The question even to compare the American to the Russian or former Soviet educational system is delusional.

Believe me or not, I would prefer the USA system of education (with all its warts) to the Soviet system in the 70-90th without any hesitation. And with the same quality of students, the USA would achive the same or better results.

There was nothing particularly great in the Soviet educational system. Other than students, who were selected very competitively (often more than 10-30 people for one place in ordinary universities and 100-1000 in elite; yes, 1000 or more per one place was observed in theater specialties).

Soviet universities were as poor as church rats, which has one good side effect that they were forced to concentrate more on classic subjects like physics and math, which do not require expensive labs. So students got a solid background in math and physics. But that's about it.

Also, the motivation for study was pretty high: if you fail two times to be admitted to the university, you were drafted into the Red Army. If you were expelled for the bad academic rating (which was, I think, to fail more then two exams in one semester) -- the same call from the Red Army was waiting for you.

As emigrants from the USSR told me, programming courses were simply dismal, and graduates essentially learned the craft of the jobs, not at universities.

Even math books were the second rate in comparison with the USA textbooks of the same period.

They were written by a representative of so-called axiomatic schools and were extremely boring and uninformative. But many good math books were translated (for example, Polia writings) Actually, as I understand, translation of foreign books in the USSR was the only first-class enterprise (despite outdated equipment). It was first-class both in the selection and the speed of translation. For example, as Knuth mentioned, all three volumes of his books were translated into Russian within a very short interval.

Academic degrees were also mostly fake (much like they are in the USA now ;-): one of my friends told me that his Ph.D. from top Ukrainian University was counted only as a master degree in the USA by the commission which studied his thesis (I believe in NYU)

But again, most good western books on tech subjects were translated and were somewhat available. And if you compare Feynman lectures (which were also translated) to Soviet physics textbooks, Soviet textbooks were not even competitive. Some "cutting edge" books was OK. But very few.

The professors and lectures (including professors large part of which were just incompetent jerks, promoted due to nepotism or Communist party activities) deteriorated to the level that was simply painful to watch. Some came to lectures completely unprepared or drank, or tried to teach some completely bogus theories of their own invention. Many did not come at all sending assistants.

My impression is that essentially, in 1990, Soviet science and education experienced the same crisis as the Communist social system as a whole.

But I think students learn as much from each other as from professors, and if the level of the class was extremely high, the results were corresponding. In other words, poor university teachers did not harm them that much, and a lot what they learn, they learn on their own (except fundamental disciplines) -- kind of self-education buried within ;-).

Also, rigid soviet system (you have a zero opportunity to select your own set of subjects for a degree) has one important advantage. It schools you to be determined and persisting, no matter what subject you were assigned. To be a real fighter, in some academic or non-academic sense.

That was especially true as you also need to pass exams in Marxism philosophy and Political economy to get a degree. Those subjects were frown upon, but in retrospect were useful: students were forced to read classics, not junk like in neo-classical economics courses in the USA.

I think that the main reason for the high quality of Soviet engineers of this period was not the education the got, but the fact that talented people were nowhere to go; there was no "business path." That's why Berezovsky became an academic scholar and even reached the level of the Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Science

The level of backwardness of computer science education in the 90th in the USSR was staggering. So the fact that there were so many talented programmers in the country, many of whom later found a well-paid job in the Western countries, was mostly due to the level of the talent of those few who managed to get into universities.

Many problems with Soviet education persist in Russia. Andrei Martyanov looks at many problems of Russian society via rose glasses. Taking into account the current level of Russophobia, that's a noble stance, and I do not object to his exaggerations.

But the reality is more complex.

[Jan 18, 2020] Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire is available for free download

Highly recommended!
Jan 18, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

karlof1 , Jan 17 2020 23:30 utc | 58

jef @48--

Yep! Hudson laid it all out in 1972, Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire . The link allows you to freely download the 2nd edition published in 2003.

And in case you missed it on the multiple occasions I've linked it, "US Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses" .

The question on everyone's mind: When will the trumpet blare and the walls come tumbling down? And second to that, when will Iran take the next action in its avenging Soleimani's murder?

[Jan 18, 2020] The Mission Waging War and Keeping Peace With America's Military Dana Priest 9780393010244 Amazon.com Books

Notable quotes:
"... Unfortunately, the book does little more to move into an analysis of US foreign policy decision making beyond the military's impact nor does it make recommendations for changes to better the current situation. The book seemed to be more of a compilation of "reports from the field" than an analysis of foreign policy decision making and the military's role in it. I suppose the author's goals and my expectations were decidedly different but I expected more from this book. ..."
Jan 18, 2020 | www.amazon.com

Hugh Claffey , December 9, 2012

Book published in 2003, still very relevant

I read David Halberstam's `War in a Time of Peace' and this seemed like a good continuation. Halbersam covers the Bush 1, Clinton period, in retrospect an idyllic period. This book transitions through 9/11, but really covers the development of the Combatant Commander for the US Military in the various areas of the world - Pacific Command, Central Command etc. It does cover the successful invasion of Afghanistan, it covers conflicts in Kosova, Columbia and relationships in the Middle East and Asia. It doesn't cover the Iraq invasion or subsequent failures.

I was particularly struck by the contrast between the resources available for the military commanders in various countries, and the US ambassadors to the same countries. The commanders can have transport and material resources which are an order of magnitude away from the civilians, and therefore the local politicians/dictators get the message that the US relationship is mainly a military one. Priest gives a good overview, especially in the Kosovo, of the power and limitations of the military-only relationship. She also concludes that even the military must take some part in peace-making and low level nation-building, but the bigger story in that the US, by virtue of its size and power, must take a nation-development role if it hopes to avoid having a low-level war with the developing world for generations to come. In fact the situation has probably got clearly since, and the current debate about leaving Afghanistan and non-intervention in Syria, makes this book appear prophetic.

Lastly there are remarkable portraits of Generals Zinni and Blair who were combatant commanders in the Central and Pacific commands during this time period. The contrast between their power and status when in the military and their post-military career is significant (though not mentioned in the book), Zinni was messed about when proposed but eventually not selected as ambassador to Saudia Arabia, Blair was later director of National Intelligence in the Obama White House, but was could not get along in that particular fishbowl and was fired in mid 2010.

Sir Charles Panther , February 27, 2006
An Adequate Overview, yet Factually Incorrect, Fundamentally Flawed

Overall, this book is a basic overview of the structure and operation of the US armed forces theater commands in the final days of their power and prestige, before the Bush administration centralized control, power, prestige, decision- and policy-making to Washington, DC. It is a view of the last great days of the regional Commanders-in-Chief, the CINCs, and their geographically-oriented theater commands of immense space, scope, power and influence.

My criticism of this book is straightforward and simple, yet speaks directly to the overall character and accuracy of this work: Dana Priest is grossly incorrect in her statements, and therefore in the conclusions she makes, specifically in Chapter Ten, "The Indonesian Handshake." I was intimately and directly involved in the entire episode, and it did not unfold as she describes.

I quote from page 230: "Meanwhile, since January 1998, seven intelligence analysts at the 'Joint Intelligence Center Pacific' (JIC), the world largest military-intelligence center, in a windowless concrete building near (US Pacific Command CINC, Admiral Dennis) Blair's headquarters in Hawaii, had tracked the movements of Indonesian military and militia forces in East Timor and Indonesia. The Indonesia desk in the JIC had grown from one to nine persons and maintained a round-the-clock 'crisis action' mode. Over the preceding year, the analysts had received a tenfold increase in imagery and a fivefold increase in electronic collection. It was actually too much to process."

First of all, Priest blows the name of the institution she's describing. It's the Joint Intelligence Center Pacific, or JICPAC (now Joint Intelligence Operations Center, Pacific, or JIOC-PAC). Second, the "Indonesia desk" implies a single person monitoring this country. That was never the case, as a team of at least five analysts had always been assigned to maritime Southeast Asia. Suharto's 1998 fall had ramped up both Pacific Command's and JICPAC's attention to Indonesia, and the scheduled elections of mid-1999 and following East Timor referendum were anticipated months in advance, with commensurate analytical adjustments and assignments. Newly assigned to the Pacific Command intelligence directorate, I was detailed to JICPAC personally by the Pacific Command Director for Intelligence, Rear Admiral Rick Porterfield to assist in this effort.

I was one of two US Army Foreign Area Officers (FAOs) assigned to this issue. I had just completed five years of training in Southeast Asia, with an International Studies masters degree, both Indonesian and Malaysian language training, and attendance at the 1998 class of the Malaysian Armed Forces Staff College. My partner was an Indonesian staff college graduate. We two Southeast Asia FAOs, both senior US Army majors, were the officers in charge. I was the Chief of the East Timor Crisis Cell for the entire period of the East Timor crisis, and I take immense pride in the work that I and especially my analysts performed during this period. This was the best analytical team I've ever worked with, experienced, highly intellectual, eager, motivated, and thoroughly familiar with the issue at hand, as well as all of the related regional and functional issues. They performed brilliantly in an extended crisis mode.

At no time was the information we were requesting and receiving "too much to process." Early on, Admiral Blair and Rear Admiral Porterfield recognized the potential for unrest and crisis, and supported all command activities to prepare for all possible outcomes, which we explored and analyzed continuously. I and my people updated both leaders daily with briefings, papers, and direct consultation, which increased in frequency, intensity and scope as events unfolded. We aggressively worked with all relevant and engaged national-level agencies and elements for our intelligence collection requirements, and based upon national-level reconciliation we were given what was available and appropriate to the situation. Yes, we were receiving increased collection and reporting, through all intelligence disciplines and channels, not merely the ones Priest cites. At no time was anything we were doing or being asked to do too much for us to process. At no time was the information that we were requesting from national-level intelligence collection too much for us to process. The support we received from the commanding officer of JICPAC, now Marine Major General Mike Ennis, was outstanding in every possible way. He supported our needs and actions personally and fully, a consummate professional and directly engaged commanding officer. Whatever resources and assets we requested, he personally attended to those needs, immediately.

I challenge Ms. Priest to name the source(s) who provided such grossly incorrect information. I was present in Hawaii as she did her research there, and at no time were either my FAO partner or I contacted to discuss our roles in the crisis.

I offer a highly telling anecdote which illustrates Ms. Priest's qualifications to write on this specific issue: Upon entering JICPAC for the very first time, Ms. Priest asked informally and good-naturedly of her escorts, "Why is the Australian flag flying outside?" Well, yes, both Pacific Command and JICPAC work very closely with our Australian partners, always have, and enjoy doing so immensely. But JICPAC does not fly a foreign flag from its quarterdeck. Of course, Ms. Priest had mistaken the Hawaiian flag with its Union Jack in the upper left corner as the Australian flag, telling the JICPAC intelligence specialists, researchers, and analysts more than enough about her familiarity with Pacific Command, showing a small yet true measure of the depth of expertise and background knowledge she brought to her work in the US Pacific Command theater.

Bottom Line: Take this book as a historical account of the now-gone days of the power and prestige of the theater commands, a late 90s snapshot. That being said, the book is fundamentally flawed and factually incorrect, at least as far as Chapter Ten reads. I cannot speak for the remainder of the work, but my direct and intimate experience with the events she grossly incorrectly describes here is more than enough for me to dismiss this book in its entirety.


Eric Johnson December 12, 2003

Mission Accomplished?
Format: Hardcover

Dana Priest is a well-respected journalist with the Washington Post and a frequent guest on NBC's "Meet the Press." She specializes on military and intelligence topics, so it was with great interest that I read her book "The Mission". Her thesis, that the US military is playing an ever increasing role in US foreign policy matters and that the nation is becoming dependent on the military's presence in foreign affairs, could not be more timely.
She presents her argument via a series of vignettes which cover senior military leaders as well as a broad spectrum of recent military operations. She primarily writes from the military's perspective and its impact on foreign policy. The profiles of the four, 4-star commanders provide the reader with a sense of the situation each commander faced in 1999 and how their ideals influenced not only their area of responsibility but also our foreign affairs. Priest chronicles our military activities with examples that range from major operations in Afghanistan and the Balkans, our covert drug war in South America, and the relatively unnoticed actions in Nigeria and Indonesia. Her stories capture the military's struggle to achieve success across the entire spectrum of operations.

She does a good job of stating her argument and offers varied examples of where the military is setting the foreign policy agenda. Unfortunately, the book does little more to move into an analysis of US foreign policy decision making beyond the military's impact nor does it make recommendations for changes to better the current situation. The book seemed to be more of a compilation of "reports from the field" than an analysis of foreign policy decision making and the military's role in it. I suppose the author's goals and my expectations were decidedly different but I expected more from this book.

I feel her point would have benefited from a comparison of the State Dept's and the DoD's role in US foreign policy making. She also needed to consider the contributions of non-governmental organizations to the foreign policy equation. Additionally, if the author thinks we are becoming reliant on the military to conduct foreign policy, she should include recommendations to counter that reliance. I enjoyed reading the well-written vignettes, thought this is a great introduction on the topic of political-military relations as it impacts foreign affairs, but would like to see more analysis and less story-telling.

A worthwhile read.

[Jan 12, 2020] Sandworm A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin's Most Dangerous Hackers Andy Greenberg 9780385544405 Amazon.co

Jan 12, 2020 | www.amazon.com

Not recommended for anybody with a college education, especially in STEM. The author's writing is entertaining, but that's the only positive feature of the book. All-in-all this is a collection of cyber-rumors. Thus one star.

The content is simply yet another "Russians under each bed" fearmongering transposed into cyberspace. The magic abbreviation GRU sells such sensationalist nonsense really well. What is funny is that the organization referred as GRU does not exist under this name since I think 1991; after the dissolution of the USSR it was renamed GU (Wikipedia GRU_(G.U.)), but I heard that now Russians in view of the popularity of the name in the West plan to restore the original name ;-).

So much for the non-technical competence of the author in this area. The guy clearly can't shoot straight and belongs to the category of journalists whose news coverage is considered to be inappropriately influenced by business interests, political motives, and trumpeted by the corporate media. There is an appropriate slang name for this category; you can Google it.

In a way, the book can serve as a classic example of Russophobia in the narrow area of cybersecurity. He presents little or no legitimate facts, preferring to retell rumors and using eye-catching phrases like a "dark room with glowing monitors". For example, "Working on computers whose glowing monitors were the room's only light source, the reverse engineers began by running the Ukrainians' malware-infected PowerPoint attachment again and again inside a series of virtual machines."

It is absurd to have a dark room to investigate malware ;-)

Techniques of category of journalists include exaggerations of news events, misrepresentation of facts, sensationalism, scandal-mongering, and . They usually politicized facts and treat them in an unprofessional and/or unethical fashion.

The author is clearly is not a programmer, just a reasonably gifted snake cyber oil seller. He would be better off if he tries to distill the content of Vault 7 based on Wikileak's information. In this case, I think both source code (archive of malware ) and descriptions and user manuals are available in the public domain; so with enough tech skills and time in hand one can write a really fascinating book. But that's too hard for the guy. So he just decided to milk the public by rehashing and spreading unsubstantiated cyber rumors.

The technical level of the author can be illustrated by the following paragraph
---quote---
When Robinson finally cracked those layers of obfuscation after a week of trial and error, he was rewarded with a view of the BlackEnergy samples millions of ones and zeros -- a collection of data that was, at a glance, still entirely meaningless. This was, after all, the program in its compiled form, translated into machine-readable binary rather than any human-readable programming language. To understand the binary, Robinson would have to watch it execute
step-by-step on his computer, unraveling it in real-time with a common reverse-engineering tool called IDA Pro that translated the function of its commands into code as they ran. "It's almost like you're trying to determine what someone might look like solely by looking at their DNA," Robinson said. "And the god that created that person
was trying to make the process as hard as possible."
---end---

So trivial step-by-step tracing of the code using a non-standard (more suitable for the specific purpose) binary debugger (IDA) is in the author's opinion close to decoding DNA. Nice try but no cigar ;-) .

Actually, the debugger does not necessarily process machine binary code. It can be some VM code like Java VM. For example, parts of Flame malware (2012) were written in LUA. Along with Stuxnet this was another groundbreaking malware, which unfortunately was omitted by the author.

Similar incompetent techno-blabbing fills the rest of the book.

Unless this is a pre-paid part of a disinformation campaign by usual suspects, the book is really weak and should be avoided at prices above one dollar plus shipping. But it is OK effort, if we view it as a part of the disinformation campaign and the attempt to revive McCarthyism.

Ukrainian part of his story fully correlates with the State Department talking points, and as such, it is stupid to pay money for it. All other Russophobia based cyber-entertainment and fearmongering is available for free, including multiple good quality videos on YouTube (look for Crowdstrike :-)

This propaganda honcho was too lazy even to collect relevant information about the Stuxnet -- the groundbreaking worm, which really opened a new changer in cyberwafare. It is covered in just a dozen pages (96-109) -- less then the length is less of a free good quality magazine article on this important subject (for example, from Mark Russinovich).
But on the level of qualification of the author all worms looks the same :-) In reality this was a real, very sophisticated act of cyberwafare, not some Ukrainian hallucinations.

I fully agree with the assessment of "val s golovskoy" (the only other one star reviewer so far):
--quote--
1.0 out of 5 stars Readers: do not waste your time. December 30, 2019
Tones of rumors, zero facts. The book is following the fashionable trend to dump everything happens in America/UK to the Kremlin. Easy and comfortable but far from reality.

The author [is] full of fears and see enemy's computers even under his bed. This book creating another legend: how Russian hackers tried (but did not) to crash Ukrainian system.

Absolutely false and extremely boring. Low intellectual level - do not waste your time.

-- end --
Here is the contents of the book:

313 - In 2010, Michael Hayden, the former director of the NSA and CIA, made a darkly prescient point in a keynote at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, speaking to a crowd of programmers, security engineers, and hackers. "You guys made the cyber domain look like the north German plain. Then you bitch and moan when you get invaded," he said. "On the Internet, we arc all Poland. We all get invaded on the Web. The inherent geography of this domain is that everything plays to the offense."

317- In an era marked by those in positions of power telling shameless, blatantly self-promotional lies, that sort of selfless truth telling is more admirable and important than ever.


CONTENTS

Introduction

Prologue

PART I EMERGENCE

PART II ORIGINS

PART III EVOLUTION

PART IV APOTHEOSIS

~*8 Afrrrmirb 2iLi

79 ГНмапсе 112

PART V IDENTITY

30 GRU 221

31 Defectors 227

32 hifbmuttsioimoye Protivoborstvo 233

33 The Penalty 243

34 Bad Rabbit. Olympic Destroyer 247

33 False Flags 254

36 74455 260

37 The Tower 266

38 Russia 111

.39 The Elephant and the Insurgent 277

PART VI LESSONS

40 ( ii'nn j IS2

41 Rlai к Stun 2il£i

42 Rfsilit-ntt- Ш

Epilogue 311

Appendix: Sandworm's Connection

to French Election Hacking 315

Acknowledgments 317

Smtirr Notn 121)

Bibliography 335

Index lib

Page 7

Working on computers whose glowing monitors were the room's only
light source, the reverse engineers began by running the Ukrainians'
malware-infected PowerPoint attachment again and again inside a
scries of virtual machines -- ephemeral simulations of a computer
housed within a real, physical one, each one of them as scaled oft
from the rest of the computer as the black room was from the rest
of the iSight offices.

In those sealed containers, the code could be studied like a scor-
pion under an aquarium's glass. They'd allow it to infect its virtual
victims repeatedly, as the reverse engineers spun up simulations of
different digital machines, running varied versions of Windows and
Microsoft Office, to study the dimensions and flexibility of the attack.
When they'd determined that the code could extract itself from the
PowerPoint file and gain full control of even the latest, fully patched
versions of the software, they had their confirmation: It was indeed
a zero day, as rare and powerful as the Ukrainians and Hultquist
had suspected. By late in the evening -- a passage of time that went
almost entirely unmarked within their work space -- they'd produced
a detailed report to share with Microsoft and their customers and
coded their own version of it, a proof-of-concept rewrite that dem-
onstrated its attack, like a pathogen in a test tube.

>

val s golovskoy

Readers: do not waste your time

1.0 out of 5 stars Readers: do not waste your time December 30, 2019 Format: Hardcover Tones of rumors, zero facts. The book is following the fashionable trend to dump everything happens in America/UK to the Kremlin. Easy and comfortable but far from reality. The author full of fears and see enemy's computers even under his bed. This book creating another legend: how Russian hackers tried (but did not) to crash Ukrainian system. Absolutely false and extremely boring. Low intellectual level- do not waste your time.

[Jan 11, 2020] William Greider Knew What Ailed the Democratic Party by Katrina vanden Heuvel

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... "When the party of activist government, faced with an epic crisis, will not use government's extensive powers to reverse the economic disorders and heal deepening social deterioration, then it must be the end of the line for the governing ideology inherited from Roosevelt, Truman and Johnson." ..."
"... Bill's frustration with what he referred to as "the rightward-drifting Democrats" ran deep. While his books often explored economic themes -- with particular brilliance in One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism (1997) and Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country (1987) -- he was at his finest when he wrote about the awful intersection of money and politics, in books such as Who Will Tell the People? The Betrayal of American Democracy (1992). ..."
"... Bill believed Wall Street money was corrupting American politics in general, and the Democratic Party in particular. Decades ago, during the Reagan interregnum, he warned that if the Democrats did not renew the robust commitment to economic justice that characterized FDR's tenure at its best, then surely right-wing populists would seize the opening. As always, whether he was writing for The Washington Post , Rolling Stone or The Nation (where he served as the ablest of all national affairs correspondents), Bill was right. ..."
"... The power arrangement resembles a shared monopoly, in which two companies have tacitly ceded territories to each other to avoid costly competition. ..."
"... Furthermore, the permanent hierarchy of both parties is dominated at the top by a network of pricey Washington lawyers and lobbyists who represent business interests and collaborate with one another on lobbying the government -- while pretending to be opponents. These inside players channel their corporate clients' money to the elected politicians. In effect, everyone is on the same side. ..."
Jan 01, 2020 | www.thenation.com

I knew Bill as a quick-witted comrade in the press corps of too many campaigns to count, a generous mentor, an ideological compatriot, and an occasional co-conspirator. He taught me to see politics not as the game that TV pundits discuss but as a high-stakes struggle for power in which the Democrats foolishly, and then dangerously, yielded far too much ground to increasingly right-wing Republicans. This son of the Depression era bemoaned the failure of the Democratic Party to make a New Deal–style response to the financial meltdown of 2008,

I knew Bill as a quick-witted comrade in the press corps of too many campaigns to count, a generous mentor, an ideological compatriot, and an occasional co-conspirator. He taught me to see politics not as the game that TV pundits discuss but as a high-stakes struggle for power in which the Democrats foolishly, and then dangerously, yielded far too much ground to increasingly right-wing Republicans.

This son of the Depression era bemoaned the failure of the Democratic Party to make a New Deal–style response to the financial meltdown of 2008, This son of the Depression era bemoaned the failure of the Democratic Party to make a New Deal–style response to the financial meltdown of 2008, explaining after the devastating Republican victories of 2010 , "When the party of activist government, faced with an epic crisis, will not use government's extensive powers to reverse the economic disorders and heal deepening social deterioration, then it must be the end of the line for the governing ideology inherited from Roosevelt, Truman and Johnson."

And, anticipating the rise of Donald Trump, he counseled that the void left by Democrats who pulled their punches would be filled by Republicans who would not hesitate to practice the crudest divide-and-conquer politics. And, anticipating the rise of Donald Trump, he counseled that the void left by Democrats who pulled their punches would be filled by Republicans who would not hesitate to practice the crudest divide-and-conquer politics.

Bill's frustration with what he referred to as "the rightward-drifting Democrats" ran deep. While his books often explored economic themes -- with particular brilliance in One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism (1997) and Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country (1987) -- he was at his finest when he wrote about the awful intersection of money and politics, in books such as Who Will Tell the People? The Betrayal of American Democracy (1992).

Bill believed Wall Street money was corrupting American politics in general, and the Democratic Party in particular. Decades ago, during the Reagan interregnum, he warned that if the Democrats did not renew the robust commitment to economic justice that characterized FDR's tenure at its best, then surely right-wing populists would seize the opening. As always, whether he was writing for The Washington Post , Rolling Stone or The Nation (where he served as the ablest of all national affairs correspondents), Bill was right.

More than 30 years ago, he recognized that "the two-party rivalry is not nearly as significant as it's made to appear" and counseled that

The power arrangement resembles a shared monopoly, in which two companies have tacitly ceded territories to each other to avoid costly competition.

Furthermore, the permanent hierarchy of both parties is dominated at the top by a network of pricey Washington lawyers and lobbyists who represent business interests and collaborate with one another on lobbying the government -- while pretending to be opponents. These inside players channel their corporate clients' money to the elected politicians. In effect, everyone is on the same side.

The parties have begun to delineate themselves a bit more in recent years. But not sufficiently, as Bill explained in scorchingly honest articles for The Nation . He spoke inconvenient truths about the roots of our current politics, especially when he explained that "the Democratic Party's crude betrayal of the working class was carried out by Bill Clinton and Al Gore when those 'New Democrats' won power in 1992. The Clinton-Gore administration swiftly enacted NAFTA, with Republican votes, sealing the deal with Republican policy-makers and selling out the remnants of organized labor." Bill recognized the necessity of understanding this history in order to explain the rise of Trump and Trumpism.

Above all, Bill argued that for Democrats to seize the high ground, morally and electorally, they had to stop being a "managerial party" and reacquaint themselves with the message FDR delivered during an epically successful 1936 reelection run. That was the year when Roosevelt declared that

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace -- business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me -- and I welcome their hatred.

I don't know if Bill had that FDR speech memorized. But he carried its spirit in his heart and soul. And he taught the rest of us to do the same. He appreciated the history, as all great journalists do. But there was a point to its recollection. He wanted people to think about how a genuine two-party system might work in the 21st century.

The better part of two decades ago, Bill pointed to the way out when he wrote, for The Nation , on Republican scheming to roll back the economic and social advances initiated by progressives during the 20th century. It was sound advice then. It is sounder advice now, as a great wrestling for the soul of the Democratic Party plays out in the fight for the 2020 nomination to take on Trump.

"Most elected Democrats, I think, now see their role as managerial rather than big reform, and fear that even talking about ideology will stick them with the right's demon label: 'liberal,'" he suggested. But, he continued,

If a new understanding of progressive purpose does get formed, one that connects to social reality and describes a more promising future, the vision will not originate in Washington but among those who see realities up close and are struggling now to change things on the ground. We are a very wealthy (and brutally powerful) nation, so why do people experience so much stress and confinement in their lives, a sense of loss and failure? The answers, I suggest, will lead to a new formulation of what progressives want.

The first place to inquire is not the failures of government but the malformed power relationships of American capitalism -- the terms of employment that reduce many workers to powerless digits, the closely held decisions of finance capital that shape our society, the waste and destruction embedded in our system of mass consumption and production. The goal is, like the right's, to create greater self-fulfillment but as broadly as possible. Self-reliance and individualism can be made meaningful for all only by first reviving the power of collective action.

My own conviction is that a lot of Americans are ready to take up these questions and many others. Some are actually old questions -- issues of power that were not resolved in the great reform eras of the past. They await a new generation bold enough to ask if our prosperous society is really as free and satisfied as it claims to be. When conscientious people find ideas and remedies that resonate with the real experiences of Americans, then they will have their vision, and perhaps the true answer to the right wing.

This was how Bill Greider told the people of the politics that must be. He wrote truthfully, boldly, consistently, without fear or favor, and without the empty partisanships of these awkward times. He was our North Star.

[Jan 07, 2020] The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and its Heritage by Arthur Koestler (2015-08-03)

Jan 07, 2020 | www.amazon.com

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 Paperback $10.44

[Jan 04, 2020] Critical thinking is anathema to the neoliberal establishment. That s why they need to corrupt the language, to make the resistance more difficult and requiring higher level of IQ

Highly recommended!
Manipulation of the language is one of the most powerful Propaganda tool. See the original Orwell essay at George Orwell Politics and the English Language. among other things he stated "But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought."
Notable quotes:
"... we were set a writing task as a follow-up, reporting on the same story using the same facts, from completely opposing points of view, using euphemism and mind-numbing cliches. Teach children to do this themselves and they can see how language can be skewed and facts distorted and misrepresented without technically lying. ..."
"... It might be taught in Media Studies, I suppose - but gosh, don't the right really hate that particular subject! Critical thinking is anathema to them. ..."
Jan 17, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

BluebellWood -> Supermassive , 29 Nov 2018 12:41

Yep - education is the key.

I remember at school we read Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language in an English class and then we were set a writing task as a follow-up, reporting on the same story using the same facts, from completely opposing points of view, using euphemism and mind-numbing cliches. Teach children to do this themselves and they can see how language can be skewed and facts distorted and misrepresented without technically lying.

How many children in schools are taught such critical thinking these days, I wonder? It might be taught in Media Studies, I suppose - but gosh, don't the right really hate that particular subject! Critical thinking is anathema to them.

[Jan 02, 2020] The Ministry of Minority-Worship Gay Rights and Goals of Globohomo by Tobias Langdon

Aug 30, 2019 | www.unz.com

Totalitarian ideologies live by lies and contradiction. For example, the slave-state of North Korea , ruled by a hereditary dictatorship, proclaims itself a Democratic People's Republic when it is neither democratic, popular, nor a republic.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four , Orwell wrote of how "the names of the four Ministries by which [the oppressed population is] governed exhibit a sort of impudence in their deliberate reversal of the facts. The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation.

These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy; they are deliberate exercises in doublethink ."

Defending the death-machine

You could, then, call GCHQ and the NSA part of the Ministry of Morality. While breaking laws against surveillance and trying to destroy freedom of expression and enquiry, they pretend that they're caring, ethical organizations who defend the oppressed and want to build a better world. In fact, of course, GCHQ and the NSA are defending the death-machine of the military-industrial complex , which has been wrecking nations and slaughtering civilians in the Middle East (and elsewhere ) for decades.

They're also defending the traitorous Western governments that first import millions of Third-Worlders , then use the resultant crime, terrorism and racial conflict to justify mass surveillance and harsh laws against free speech .


OzzyBonHalen , says: August 29, 2019 at 6:54 am GMT

Quote: Orwell didn't foresee the celebration of homosexuality by totalitarians, but he did explain it.

If you read Anthony Burgess' The Wanting Seed he writes about the roles of gays in dystopia. He also talks about race, two things that Orwell and Huxley didn't. The Wanting Seed is just as important in the world of dystopia as Brave New World or 1984.

Reg Cæsar , says: August 29, 2019 at 7:49 am GMT

one way George Orwell got the future completely wrong

That assumes he was writing about the future. He was mocking the Soviet "justice" system in the recent past. The man was a satirist, after all. How did Stalin's men treat sexual deviation?

... ... ...

Walter , says: August 29, 2019 at 9:40 am GMT
NSA needs to revisit their grammar studies. They may benefit from attention to the correct use of commas.

"At NSA, talented individuals of all backgrounds, contribute to something bigger than themselves: national security. #PrideMonth."

The globo-sodomy is one thing, but the torture of grammar! Ye gods!

MarkU , says: August 29, 2019 at 2:03 pm GMT
A few points.

1) The iniquities of the members of one skyfairy cult are not evidence for the virtues of another such organisation and never will be.

2) It seems likely to me that homosexuality is a feature of overpopulation and may be a natural population control mechanism. Experiments have shown that rats kept in overcrowded conditions exhibit homosexual tendencies and also become more violent towards other rats. I doubt that it is purely a coincidence that homosexuality first became notable round about the time that humans started living in cities.

Other species have means of controlling their populations, rabbits for example can reabsorb their embryos if the population count is too high, seals can freeze the development of their foetuses etc.

I see no rational purpose in demonising homosexuals and I am certainly not going to let the purveyors of ancient superstitious claptrap do my thinking for me. Cue howls of outrage from both skyfairy cultists and from queers (if they are happy to use the word I don't see why I shouldn't)

3) It seems to me that the Zionist bankers have essentially bankrupted the western world in an attempt to bring the rest of the world under their control, they have failed. They are now attempting to mobilise any and all sections of the population that identify as minorities as allies against the majorities in those countries, importing as many more as they can get away with. What sense does it make to reinforce their narrative that it is heterosexual whites v everyone else? because that is exactly what some people are doing. The Zionists are making their following as broad as possible while attempting to narrow ours, why play into their hands? Opposition to immigration for example does not have to be presented as a racial issue, many people here in the UK were opposed to mass immigration from eastern Europe on purely economic grounds, Poles and Lithuanians are not a different race and hardly even a different culture. Do you really think that Blacks and Latinos that have been in the US for generations are uniformly delighted about a new influx of cheap labour? Do you really believe that Muslims are the natural allies of Jews or of homosexuals? If you actually put some thought into the struggle rather than relying on superstitious claptrap and bigotry you might be able to start pushing back.

Liza , says: August 29, 2019 at 3:50 pm GMT
@Bardon Kaldian

So, Western civilization is going to collapse because of a few fairies & fag hags?

Yes, it looks as if it will collapse. Not because the fairies and fag hags are all-powerful, but because we have had it so good & easy for so long that we've gotten weaker than any determined, focused fairy or hag.

Astonished , says: August 29, 2019 at 4:00 pm GMT
@MarkU I agree.

Leftism in general, which I characterize as a mass adoption of a "mental map" (the gross oversimplification of infinite reality people use to navigate their lives) highly estranged from underlying reality, is Nature's "suicide switch" for an organism that has grossly overgrown its ecological niche.

Today people believe palpably unreal things, in incredibly large numbers, with incredibly deep fervor. The poster-child is the belief in the efficacy of magical incantations (statute legislation) to change Actual Reality. If "we" want to end racism (however we define it in the Newspeak Dictionary) then we just pass a law and "pow!" it's gone. (When that doesn't work, we pass another law, and another and another and another, always expecting a different result.)

Ditto the banking (and monetary) system. Money used to be basically a "receipt" for actually having something IN HAND to take to the market and engage in trade. This was the essence of Say's Law, "in order to consume (buy something) you must first produce."

Some clever Machiavellians figured out that if you could "complexify" and obscure the monetary system enough, you could obtain the legal right to create from thin air the ability to enter that market and buy something, which stripped to its essence is the crime of fraud.

Banking has been an open fraud for a very long time, certainly since the era of naked fiat money was introduced in the 1960's. But as long as everyone went along with the gag, and especially once Credit Bubble Funny Money started fueling a debt orgy and rationalizing an asset price mania, everyone thought "we could all get rich."

Today we have vast claims on real wealth (real wealth is productive land, productive plant & equipment and capital you can hold in your hands, so to speak.) But we have uncountable claims on each unit of real capital. The Machiavellians think that they will end up holding title to it all, when the day comes to actually make an honest accounting. I suspect that they lack the political power to pull that off, but only time will tell.

When this long, insane boom is reconciled, a lot of productive capital will turn out to be nothing but vaporware and rusting steel. Entire industries arose to cater to credit-bubble-demand, and when the bubble eventually ceases to inflate, demand in (and the capital applied to) those industries will collapse. How many hospitals do you need when no one has the money to pay for their services, and the tax base has burned to the ground?

Nature's suicide switch.

gwynedd1 , says: August 29, 2019 at 5:36 pm GMT
Simple formula. Liberalism was the defense of the individual against the group.

All one needs to do is a simple substitution. Minorities , environment , animals etc are a means by witch one can make individuals into the institutionalized oppressor. Even better is the so called intersectional mini oppressions which make nearly all victims which in turns makes all guilty. State intervention must increase .Guilty people , as all religions of the world understand, are easily dominated and controlled.

The power the individual is destroyed by its own momentum.

Ris_Eruwaedhiel , says: August 29, 2019 at 10:25 pm GMT
@Digital Samizdat The Bolsheviks first pushed "free love" – easy divorce, abortion and homosexuality. There even was serious discussion about whether or not to abolish marriage. They reversed themselves and by the time WWII broke out, the official culture of the Soviet Union was more socially conservative than that of the US. Even in the 1980s, the Commies were tough on gays, lesbians and druggies.

[Jan 01, 2020] Time for PhD supervision

Jan 01, 2020 | crookedtimber.org

by Ingrid Robeyns on December 29, 2019 Some aspects of academia show great international variation. There is one on which I haven't found any good data, and hence thought I'll ask the crowd here so that we can gather our own data, even if it will be not very scientifically collected.

The question is this: if you are a university teacher/professor and your department awards PhD-degrees, do you get any official time allocated (or time-compensation) for PhD supervision? If it is part of a teaching load model, how many hours (or % teaching load) is it equivalent to? Or is there an expectation that you take on PhD-students but that this does not lead to a reduction in other tasks?

How do international practices of the conditions for PhD-supervisors compare?

In my faculty (Humanities at Utrecht University, the Netherlands), all supervisors together (which generally are two, sometimes three) are collectively given a teaching load reduction of 132 hours in the year follow the graduation of the PhD-candidate. So your teaching reduction upon successful graduation of a PhD-candidate tends to be 66 hours. For the supervisory work you effectively do in the four years prior to graduation, there is no time allocated; so you effectively do this in your research or your leisure time.

To put this into perspective: most (assistant/associate/full) professors teach 50-70% of their time, and a fulltime workload is 1670 hours, or 1750 hours if you are saving for a sabbatical. This can be reduced if you have major managerial tasks (e.g. Head of Department) or if a large part of your wage is paid by a research grant. So without reductions, we teach about 835-1190 hours a year (this includes the time for preparation and examination, but frankly, one always needs more than the teaching load models allocate for a given course. And in general there are no TAs or other support staff to help with the practical sides of teaching).

For writing the grants that are almost always needed to create the jobs for PhD students (with success rates now around 15%), and for supervising those who in the end do not get their PhD degree, there is no time put aside for the supervisor/applicants. That time also goes, effectively, from our research time, or, more realistically, from our leisure time.

Recently, I heard from a British colleague and a Swedish colleague their models for PhD-supervision, which were way more generous (and rightly so in my view), so thought I'll throw the question on the table here: what, if any, time-compensation/teachingreduction do you get for supervising PhD students?

I am not trying to suggest here that without adequate time set aside for doing this work, it would not be worthwhile supervising PhDs. There are in many cases other forms of rewards for the work one does as a PhD supervisor. One might be the honor of supervising PhDs, and in most cases the intrinsic rewards of the supervisory process – the satisfaction of seeing a young person take their first steps as a scholar, and being able to play a crucial role in this process. There is , after all, a reason why the Germans call their PhD-supervisor mein Doktorvater or meine Doktormutter – since yes, there is this element of helping someone to grow, in a cognitive and professional sense. Professionally, there are few people who had so much influence on me as my PhD-supervisor, and I am hoping that some of my (former) PhD-students will think the same at some point in their lives. So it would be wrong to frame it merely as a burden, since there is the intrinsic value of the rather unique professional relationship. But that cannot be a reason to not give PhDsupervisors the time they need to properly supervise, given how severe time pressure in academia is. I see this as a real tension.

In some academic fields, there may be professional research benefits for the supervisors, such as becoming co-authors on the publications the PhD-students write under your supervision. I recently examined a PhD-thesis in medical ethics, and all chapters (being articles published or under review) had been co-written with several members of the supervisory team. Even raising the funds to hire the PhD is sometimes seen as sufficient reason to be listed as a co-author. In the humanities there is no such a thing: we don't put our names on articles of our PhDstudents, even if we contributed significantly to the development of that piece (rightly so in my view).

I'm posting this because I am interested in the international comparison in its own right, but also because of its relevance in discussions on higher education policies which are currently very intense in the Netherlands, on which I'll write another blogpost later.

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Chris Bertram 12.29.19 at 9:45 am ( 1 )

In my part of my university each PhD student earns her supervisors around 60 notional hours/1600 total per annum, but that's usually divided 5/1 between two supervisors, so that the person actually doing the work has about 50 hours, so slightly over an hour/week given annual leave etc. My greatest beef with this is when we admit non-anglophone PhD students. Since they officially have a level of competence in English as a condition of their admission, they do not get any extra time for supervision. But in practice, their work takes much longer to read and you have to put a lot of work into improving their English.
Mike Beggs 12.29.19 at 10:18 am ( 2 )
In my faculty (Arts and Social Sciences at Sydney) the primary supervisor gets 40 hours per year and an auxiliary supervisor gets ten. (There is some flexibility for the 50 total hours to be divided differently.)

In a recent survey of faculty staff with a response rate of around 30%, most reported spending longer per primary supervision: the median was 50 hours.

There's actually a growing literature on academic time use. Kenny and Fluck have published a series of papers based on a large survey of Australian academics. The median reported time spent supervising a higher degree student per year was 60 hours over all discipline groups, 50 hours for Arts, Law and Humanities. (Kenny and Fluck 2018 'Research workloads in Australian universities', _Australian Universities Review_ -- and the companion papers on teaching and admin workloads are also worth googling for the full results over lots of tasks.)

Matt Matravers 12.29.19 at 10:31 am ( 3 )
When we tried to establish a "norm" at the University of York, it turned out that practice varied widely not only across faculties, but within the arts and humanities and social sciences. Some departments simply included it in "research time" and gave zero extra time, others gave a (more-or-less generous) "teaching" allocation. So, I am not sure you can get any useful comparisons even at an institutional level let alone internationally.
Currently, in the Law School at York, a PhD student – during the period of registration (i.e., only for the first 3 years) – earns her supervisors around 80 notional hours of teaching per year. This is split across the supervisory team in proportion to their involvement.
Many colleagues think this is insufficient, in particular with non-anglophone students and it can be particularly galling if one is putting a lot of work into the final "writing up" year.
For what it is worth, I found this very hard to manage when I was Head of Department (and so responsible for workloads). The issue for me was that in many cases senior colleagues had several PhD students and (some) junior colleagues none (or very little involvement. This was back in the day of most students have one supervisor.). Modelling a system where PhD supervision was "properly" rewarded (that is, where I tried to allocate hours in accordance to the amount of time it actually took) resulted in a very hierarchical department where (roughly) senior colleagues did PhD supervision and junior colleagues taught undergraduates. So, I didn't do it.
For what it is worth (addressing the wider issues of workload), it seems to me that there is an inevitable gap between a workload system conceived of as a mechanism of "counting" (how many hours does this job actually take?) and conceived of as a mechanism of "distribution" (how much work is there to be done and how many people to do it?). Of course, the distributive principles cannot stray too far from the realities revealed in counting, but it (seems to me at least) perfectly okay to think that the distributive principles include other considerations like the "shape" of the department, individual "goals" (having PhD students is good for promotion at York) and personal development, gender, and so on.
Finally, this problem does not seem to be unique to PhD supervision (the current "hot topic" at York is how to count/distribute time for research grant writing, which at the moment is simply included in individual research in most, but not all, departments). York tried to introduce a workload model across the university and never managed it because departmental variations were so huge (in everything from whether/how to include teaching preparation time to how to rank administrative tasks). That said, this may be the result of our particular institutional history (until recently, we had a very flat structure with only relatively autonomous departments and no faculties).
Faustusnotes 12.29.19 at 10:48 am ( 4 )
In Japan as far as I know there is no allowance at all, and senior staff (the professor who is the official supervisor) often dump all supervisory responsibility on the most junior staff. There is also often no limit on how many PhD students the professor can take on (and dump on their assistant prof). This is particularly bad with masters students, whose theses are much more time limited and challenging to supervise.

I don't know if it's a general thing but my colleagues in China tell me they are only allowed a PhD student if they publish above a certain level – PhD students are treated as a valuable asset you need to struggle to get. (I think they are paid by the uni but don't quote me). In the universities I know of in China the PhD student has to publish to graduate (sometimes like 3 papers) so the benefits to the supervisor are obvious.

I'm in public health where publication is relatively easy and quick. I don't know how it is in other disciplines (but the Japanese professor dumping his responsibilities on junior staff is quite common across disciplines as far as I can tell).

Harry 12.29.19 at 12:34 pm ( 5 )
It's not part of a workload model for us. We're expected to teach 2 classes a semester (8 contact hours a week total), then research, service, and graduate supervision on top, but the only thing that is specified is the 2 classes. So no compensation for PhD students. In practice the number of PhD supervisions varies greatly across faculty (as you'd expect), as does the amount of service work we do (if you're good at it you get asked to do more, if you're tenured and responsible you generally try to say yes), as does the amount of time we actually spend on the courses we teach.

As do our salaries, to be fair, which reflect years of service, perceived quality of research, how much the people elected to the department budget value the other things we do, and, to some extent, market forces.

What I've described is my own department. There's huge variation across campus, including variation in numbers of courses we're expected to teach.

Possibly worth mentioning that from what I have gathered expectations of how many courses we teach have fallen dramatically (across campus) over the past 50 years, and the number of course releases granted have increased dramatically: I estimate faculty in the humanities teach 30% less than 50 years ago, and in the sciences 50% less. I imagine this is similar across public research universities and SLACs.

notGoodenough 12.29.19 at 1:47 pm ( 6 )
So, purely anecdotal and from the perspective of a PhD and post-doc in Science at 2 different, fairly well thought of UK Universities (Russel group, etc. etc.).

PhD students are highly valuable. This is because a Masters or summer student are necessarily short term, and it is difficult to fulfil much breakthrough research (sometimes you need a few years of banging your head against a wall ). Post-docs are phenomenally expensive as in the UK as the University charges a huge amount just to have them – e.g. a rough breakdown (from some years ago, so a little out of date) is to just have a post-doc (i.e. no equipment, materials, etc.) is in excess of £110K per year. Some 31000 is for salary, the rest goes to the University to keep the lights on. Having more than a few post-docs, for all but the most successful labs, became prohibitively expensive.

However, as a PhD most of my time was with my post-docs (in my first year I saw my professor once, for 1hr, in later years maybe a few times more, so approximately 15 hr over 3.5 years). As a post-doc, the PhD students had regular meetings in a group format once per month (so, more or less 2-3 hr per month). In both cases it, in principle, was possible to go and meet the supervisor if you felt the need, but generally speaking your post-doc was the point of contact on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis.

I've not been a lecturer, so this is very speculative, but my impression is that supervising PhD students is generally considered a research activity, and thus you are not budgeted time for it specifically.

Not sure if any of this is useful, but feel free to hit me up for more details if you think it is useful/interesting.

Karen Anderson 12.29.19 at 2:03 pm ( 7 )
I taught for 15 years at 3 Dutch universities, 3 years at a Russell Group university in England, and am now at an Irish university. I did my PhD in the United States. Like the other posters, I have experienced wide variation in 'compensation' for PhD supervision. One of the reasons I left my position at a British university was the bizarre (and I thought, unfair) model for workload allocation. PhD supervision was highly 'compensated', and actual classroom teaching of undergrads was not. I had colleagues who met all or most of their teaching obligations with PhD supervision and did not teach undergrads.
I don't know what the best way to compensate PhD supervision is, but there are a couple of aspects I think need more attention. The first is wide variation in the number of PhD students in any given department and the rules/norms governing who is (de facto) permitted to supervise PhDs. Dutch departments have fewer PhD students than UK/Irish departments (for complicated reasons), and only full (and now associate?) profs are permitted to supervise. PhD supervision is important for promotion (as it is in the UK and IE), so everyone wants to do it, but not everyone has access. I am not sure that an activity that is so important for career progression should be generously compensated.
The second issue concerns co-authoring with a PhD student. I can see the advantages of this (which Ingrid mentions), but the proliferation of the article-based PhD where the supervisors co-author all articles is a cause for concern. Again, I am not convinced that a PhD supervisor should be generously compensated for something (publications) that strongly advances their own career. And it is not clear to me that the supervisor's contribution to the publication (in many cases, at least) amounts to more than what would be considered 'normal' PhD supervision in the US, Canada, and many European universities. This makes it very difficult to evaluate a newly minted PhD's CV, and it inflates the publication list of more senior academics.
A couple of ideas: 1) cap the number of PhD students that staff can supervise, or at least cap the number for which teaching points are earned. 2) ensure that all academic staff have access to PhD supervision.
praisegod barbones 12.29.19 at 4:32 pm ( 8 )
Private university in Turkey : the basic assumption here is that supervising PhD students and MA theses takes zero time (although people typically budget an hour per week per student.
Neville Morley 12.29.19 at 4:50 pm ( 9 )
The workload allocation for Humanities at the University of Exeter is similar to Chris's account of Bristol (where I worked previously), though it's more common for the hours to be divided 70/30, 60/40 or even 50/50 between first and second supervisors, with the latter playing a much more active role. The biggest difference, however, is that you continue to receive an allowance when the student is writing up, and even if they're revising after a first examination, whereas the Bristol practice was, at least, that you get a workload allowance for the first three years and then nothing for the period which in my experience often required the greatest amount of work
Phil 12.29.19 at 5:50 pm ( 10 )
I haven't – yet – supervised a doctoral student, but I did examine a viva this year & was surprised to find that this carried no workload allowance at all, which seems odd given the amount of reading time involved. (Fortunately I wasn't mad busy.)
likbez 12.29.19 at 7:10 pm ( 11 )
40-60 hours are typical. They do not compensate for the effort but still.
oldster 12.29.19 at 7:16 pm ( 12 )
Former US academic; taught at a few R1 uni's from 80s to aughts.

To echo the doughty Puritan: " the basic assumption here is that supervising PhD students and MA theses takes zero time."

We had a standard teaching load, and expectations for research and service. But there was no calculation of supervisory load -- it simply was not tracked, budgeted, or accounted for. As Harry says above, there were wide disparities from person to person, since some people attract a lot of grad students and some do not (and some repel them, either for strategic purposes, or because they are repellent no matter what they try).

No one cared whether you supervised 15 PhD students or zero. Not quite true -- there was some unofficial awareness among colleagues who thought collegially about things. And you might get some private thanks or informal kudos for doing more than your share. But there was absolutely no official account of it. And this was true at all 3 R1s I taught at over several decades.

That's partly because -- in a Humanities field -- the funding of grad students does not follow the prof, but the program as a whole. So, Central Admin knows that your department is training 25 PhDs, because Central Admin has to figure their tuition, stipends, etc. But the money then flows to your department as a whole, with no closer investigation of who in your department is doing the work.

The picture must be radically different in the Sciences, where there is literal accounting of PhD students, since they are supported by the professor's grant-money.

hix 12.29.19 at 8:08 pm ( 13 )
Surely there are other ways to offload work to PhD students one would otherwise have to do oneself besides getting research recognition for their thesis. How much of that is possible should also vary across countries. So a comparsion of alocated supervision time only seems a bit one sided.
John Quiggin 12.29.19 at 10:07 pm ( 14 )
As regards co-authorship, my PhD students and postdocs are often keen to include me on the theory that a paper with a more senior author will have a better chance of acceptance. My impression is that, in economics, the expectation is that the main job market paper will be sole-authored or else co-authored with another junior researcher, but that others are likely to be co-authored with the supervisor.

To complicate things further, economics (like philosophy, I believe) works on average quality rather than total contribution. So, a publication with a student in a journal lower ranked than my average paper is actually a negative for me.

Matt 12.29.19 at 10:38 pm ( 15 )
I assume that "Harry" above is Harry B of the blog. If so, he's showing why comparisons w/ the US on this will be hard, if not impossible. In many countries, there is a weird fantasy that academics can and should be treated like hourly employees, with "hours" assigned to things. (This is certainly so in Australia.) Of course, it's a fantasy in that, if it in fact takes a lot more "hours" to do the things you're assigned, you don't get over-time, comp time, or paid more. The other down-side is that this system leads, in my experience, to more micro-managing – being expected to "account" for your time to a much greater degree. The US system treats academics more like salaried employees – you get paid a certain amount, you have certain tasks to do, and you must do them (some of them at particular times, like teaching classes) but otherwise you're not dealing with "hours" for things. The down-side is that there can be lots of variation in how much work people actually do – even teaching the same "number" of classes can vary a lot depending on the number of preps, size, how often you've taught it, if you have TAs, etc., and having more advisees may not lead to more recognition on its own. The plus side is that less time is spent on being mico-managed and bureaucratic nonsense. The relevant point here, though, is that it's really hard to make a comparison like the one asked for between systems where one treats academics more like hourly employees and the other more like salaried employees.
Gabriel 12.29.19 at 10:52 pm ( 16 )
My wife (a New Zealand academic with confirmation) is allocated a. 24 hours per year for supervising PhD students. She trusts that the ludicrousness of this number is not lost on those present.
billcinsd 12.30.19 at 1:39 am ( 17 )
I am a Professor in an Engineering discipline at a small, state engineering school in the US. Our workload is departmentally determined. My department is fairly small, ~100 undergrads, but does quite a bit of research. My nominal workload is 40% teaching, 40% research and 20% service. This is based on 40 working hours per week. My effective workload is 46% teaching, 8% advising (both undergrad and grad), 23% overseeing my funded research projects and about 25% service. This is more than 100%, which is true for almost all faculty at my school.

Thus, I estimate how much time I spend doing various things and then convert that to credit hours, as my contract is specified in terms of 18 credit hours of work per semester, making a credit hour about 2 hours and 40 minutes

Kevin 12.30.19 at 2:11 pm ( 18 )
In Technological University Dublin (formerly Dublin Institute of Technology), supervision of a full-time PhD student attracts a time allowance of 2 hours per week (48 hours per annum), from a weekly teaching load of 16 contact hours for lecturers (18 hours for assistant lecturers). So, for example, a lecturer with two full-time PhD students will allocate 25% (4 hours) of his / her weekly contact teaching duties to this role.
Michael Dunn 12.30.19 at 2:45 pm ( 19 )
In my department (at Uppsala University, Sweden) the workload norm is 88 hours per year supervisory time for the main supervisor and 20 for the assistant supervisor. This time includes the face-to-face hours, as well as reading, commenting, etc. The split can be done differently to reflect other kinds of co-supervisory arrangements. This seems very generous compared to what others are reporting, which is sad, since an average of 1 hour meeting, 1 hour reading per week for 44 weeks in a year would work out as very minimal supervision -- and supervisors typically spend much more time on supervision related tasks than this.
Johan Karlsson Schaffer 12.30.19 at 4:44 pm ( 20 )
A couple of years ago, I did a survey of the formal teaching duties at polisci departments at Scandinavian universities for a report published by the Swedish Institute for Labour Market Evaluation. The survey looked at the formal percentage of teaching duty for senior lecturers and full professors, and the formal compensation in terms of hours allotted for various teaching activities (e.g., lectures, supervision at different levels, examination and so on).

We found, first, that the formal teaching duty varied quite a lot across Scandinavian universities, but that all Swedish universities had less generous conditions than Danish and Norwegian universities, which came closer to the Humboldtian ideal of unity of teaching and research.

Second, by multiplying teaching duty and compensation for a standard set of teaching activities, we found that the consequences for the individual lecturer could be quite drastic: over a hypothetical career from age 35 to retirement at 67, a lecturer at the least generous university could have ten whole years more of teaching duty than their colleague at the most generous university.

The report is, unfortunately, only available in Swedish, but the graphs and tables (which also includes detailed information on the compensation for PhD supervision) should be rather self-explanatory.
https://www.ifau.se/sv/Forskning/Publikationer/Rapporter/2016/att-mota-den-hogre-utbildningens-utmaningar/

Here's a blog post summary of these findings that include the most important graphs:
https://politologerna.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/att-mota-den-hogre-utbildningens-utmaningar/

Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 12.30.19 at 6:53 pm ( 21 )
I'm an Associate Professor in Computer Science at a US R1 university.

As Matt says, the description in Ingrid's post is totally unlike how things are thought of at all in US universities. My load is 40% research, 40% teaching, 20% service, which is standard for tenure-track faculty in my department (and I think across departments here). The standard teaching load is 3 courses per year (2 in one semester, 1 in the other). However, there are several exceptions to this: before tenure, faculty are assigned only 2 courses per year. Also, if you support (with external grant funding) 3 PhD students or post-docs in the previous year then you only teach 2 courses the next year. Additionally, pre-tenure faculty are asked to do considerably less service.

Furthermore, there are several additional differences that are relevant. First, and most importantly, the distinction between "research" and "PhD supervision" does not exist in science. Effectively all of my research is joint with PhD students, although sometimes they are not "my" students, but those of my collaborators. Second, not all students are funded by grants; PhD students can also be funded by teaching. So it's possible to have one or two students without bringing in funding. Third, there's a strong expectation that training PhD students is part of the job, you wouldn't get tenure/promotion/etc if you just didn't do it.

Z 12.30.19 at 8:33 pm ( 22 )
In my institution, you don't get any teaching load reduction, whereas you do get a tiny but non-zero reduction for supervising a master thesis, or even an undergraduate research project. I believe that is the norm in France in science in general, and most likely overall. The logic behind that choice is that supervising a PhD student is supposed to bring its own benefits: the student will do a lot of lab work for the superviser, the superviser will cosign the research papers etc.

In math (my own field), there is no lab work to be done and the French tradition is that papers drawn from the PhD should be signed by the student alone, so the arrangement is quite unfavorable to us.

On the other hand

So without reductions, we teach about 835-1190 hours a year

Did I read that right? Can you clarify how many hours are counted for one hour in front of the students? That number looks like madness to me (and I have a heavy teaching load myself).

CdnNew 12.30.19 at 9:11 pm ( 23 )
Canadian math prof:

"Highly research-active" profs teach one fewer course per year. There is some flexibility as to how to maintain this designation, but typically you must have at least 2 active graduate students at any given time (and meet various other requirements).

Going through our standard courseload: if you ignore the other work related to maintaining status, your first two Ph.D. students are worth about 90 hours/year, and the remainder are worth nothing.

likbez 12.31.19 at 12:57 am ( 24 )
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John Quiggin 12.29.19 at 10:07 pm @14

As regards co-authorship, my Ph.D. students and postdocs are often keen to include me on the theory that a paper with a more senior author will have a better chance of acceptance.

This is an important point. I agree that it is somewhat dishonest to use your post-grad students to increase you number of publications. But it should be weighted against the real difficulties of young researchers to get their papers published. And the fact that sometimes brilliant papers from them are rejected. Nobody can abolish clan behavior in the academy. And the "academic kitchen" is pretty dirty, and takes years to understand ;-).

Sometimes publishing oversees helps here, and young researchers should keep this in mind. For many foreign journals, just the fact that you are a foreigner from a prestigious university is a plus that weights on the acceptance.

[Dec 31, 2019] Time for PhD supervision -- Crooked Timber

Dec 31, 2019 | crookedtimber.org
Time for PhD supervision

by Ingrid Robeyns on December 29, 2019 Some aspects of academia show great international variation. There is one on which I haven't found any good data, and hence thought I'll ask the crowd here so that we can gather our own data, even if it will be not very scientifically collected.

The question is this: if you are a university teacher/professor and your department awards PhD-degrees, do you get any official time allocated (or time-compensation) for PhD supervision? If it is part of a teaching load model, how many hours (or % teaching load) is it equivalent to? Or is there an expectation that you take on PhD-students but that this does not lead to a reduction in other tasks?

How do international practices of the conditions for PhD-supervisors compare?

In my faculty (Humanities at Utrecht University, the Netherlands), all supervisors together (which generally are two, sometimes three) are collectively given a teaching load reduction of 132 hours in the year follow the graduation of the PhD-candidate. So your teaching reduction upon successful graduation of a PhD-candidate tends to be 66 hours. For the supervisory work you effectively do in the four years prior to graduation, there is no time allocated; so you effectively do this in your research or your leisure time.

To put this into perspective: most (assistant/associate/full) professors teach 50-70% of their time, and a fulltime workload is 1670 hours, or 1750 hours if you are saving for a sabbatical. This can be reduced if you have major managerial tasks (e.g. Head of Department) or if a large part of your wage is paid by a research grant. So without reductions, we teach about 835-1190 hours a year (this includes the time for preparation and examination, but frankly, one always needs more than the teaching load models allocate for a given course. And in general there are no TAs or other support staff to help with the practical sides of teaching).

For writing the grants that are almost always needed to create the jobs for PhD students (with success rates now around 15%), and for supervising those who in the end do not get their PhD degree, there is no time put aside for the supervisor/applicants. That time also goes, effectively, from our research time, or, more realistically, from our leisure time.

Recently, I heard from a British colleague and a Swedish colleague their models for PhD-supervision, which were way more generous (and rightly so in my view), so thought I'll throw the question on the table here: what, if any, time-compensation/teachingreduction do you get for supervising PhD students?

I am not trying to suggest here that without adequate time set aside for doing this work, it would not be worthwhile supervising PhDs. There are in many cases other forms of rewards for the work one does as a PhD supervisor. One might be the honor of supervising PhDs, and in most cases the intrinsic rewards of the supervisory process – the satisfaction of seeing a young person take their first steps as a scholar, and being able to play a crucial role in this process. There is , after all, a reason why the Germans call their PhD-supervisor mein Doktorvater or meine Doktormutter – since yes, there is this element of helping someone to grow, in a cognitive and professional sense. Professionally, there are few people who had so much influence on me as my PhD-supervisor, and I am hoping that some of my (former) PhD-students will think the same at some point in their lives. So it would be wrong to frame it merely as a burden, since there is the intrinsic value of the rather unique professional relationship. But that cannot be a reason to not give PhDsupervisors the time they need to properly supervise, given how severe time pressure in academia is. I see this as a real tension.

In some academic fields, there may be professional research benefits for the supervisors, such as becoming co-authors on the publications the PhD-students write under your supervision. I recently examined a PhD-thesis in medical ethics, and all chapters (being articles published or under review) had been co-written with several members of the supervisory team. Even raising the funds to hire the PhD is sometimes seen as sufficient reason to be listed as a co-author. In the humanities there is no such a thing: we don't put our names on articles of our PhDstudents, even if we contributed significantly to the development of that piece (rightly so in my view).

I'm posting this because I am interested in the international comparison in its own right, but also because of its relevance in discussions on higher education policies which are currently very intense in the Netherlands, on which I'll write another blogpost later.

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Chris Bertram 12.29.19 at 9:45 am ( 1 )

In my part of my university each PhD student earns her supervisors around 60 notional hours/1600 total per annum, but that's usually divided 5/1 between two supervisors, so that the person actually doing the work has about 50 hours, so slightly over an hour/week given annual leave etc. My greatest beef with this is when we admit non-anglophone PhD students. Since they officially have a level of competence in English as a condition of their admission, they do not get any extra time for supervision. But in practice, their work takes much longer to read and you have to put a lot of work into improving their English.
Mike Beggs 12.29.19 at 10:18 am ( 2 )
In my faculty (Arts and Social Sciences at Sydney) the primary supervisor gets 40 hours per year and an auxiliary supervisor gets ten. (There is some flexibility for the 50 total hours to be divided differently.)

In a recent survey of faculty staff with a response rate of around 30%, most reported spending longer per primary supervision: the median was 50 hours.

There's actually a growing literature on academic time use. Kenny and Fluck have published a series of papers based on a large survey of Australian academics. The median reported time spent supervising a higher degree student per year was 60 hours over all discipline groups, 50 hours for Arts, Law and Humanities. (Kenny and Fluck 2018 'Research workloads in Australian universities', _Australian Universities Review_ -- and the companion papers on teaching and admin workloads are also worth googling for the full results over lots of tasks.)

Matt Matravers 12.29.19 at 10:31 am ( 3 )
When we tried to establish a "norm" at the University of York, it turned out that practice varied widely not only across faculties, but within the arts and humanities and social sciences. Some departments simply included it in "research time" and gave zero extra time, others gave a (more-or-less generous) "teaching" allocation. So, I am not sure you can get any useful comparisons even at an institutional level let alone internationally.
Currently, in the Law School at York, a PhD student – during the period of registration (i.e., only for the first 3 years) – earns her supervisors around 80 notional hours of teaching per year. This is split across the supervisory team in proportion to their involvement.
Many colleagues think this is insufficient, in particular with non-anglophone students and it can be particularly galling if one is putting a lot of work into the final "writing up" year.
For what it is worth, I found this very hard to manage when I was Head of Department (and so responsible for workloads). The issue for me was that in many cases senior colleagues had several PhD students and (some) junior colleagues none (or very little involvement. This was back in the day of most students have one supervisor.). Modelling a system where PhD supervision was "properly" rewarded (that is, where I tried to allocate hours in accordance to the amount of time it actually took) resulted in a very hierarchical department where (roughly) senior colleagues did PhD supervision and junior colleagues taught undergraduates. So, I didn't do it.
For what it is worth (addressing the wider issues of workload), it seems to me that there is an inevitable gap between a workload system conceived of as a mechanism of "counting" (how many hours does this job actually take?) and conceived of as a mechanism of "distribution" (how much work is there to be done and how many people to do it?). Of course, the distributive principles cannot stray too far from the realities revealed in counting, but it (seems to me at least) perfectly okay to think that the distributive principles include other considerations like the "shape" of the department, individual "goals" (having PhD students is good for promotion at York) and personal development, gender, and so on.
Finally, this problem does not seem to be unique to PhD supervision (the current "hot topic" at York is how to count/distribute time for research grant writing, which at the moment is simply included in individual research in most, but not all, departments). York tried to introduce a workload model across the university and never managed it because departmental variations were so huge (in everything from whether/how to include teaching preparation time to how to rank administrative tasks). That said, this may be the result of our particular institutional history (until recently, we had a very flat structure with only relatively autonomous departments and no faculties).
Faustusnotes 12.29.19 at 10:48 am ( 4 )
In Japan as far as I know there is no allowance at all, and senior staff (the professor who is the official supervisor) often dump all supervisory responsibility on the most junior staff. There is also often no limit on how many PhD students the professor can take on (and dump on their assistant prof). This is particularly bad with masters students, whose theses are much more time limited and challenging to supervise.

I don't know if it's a general thing but my colleagues in China tell me they are only allowed a PhD student if they publish above a certain level – PhD students are treated as a valuable asset you need to struggle to get. (I think they are paid by the uni but don't quote me). In the universities I know of in China the PhD student has to publish to graduate (sometimes like 3 papers) so the benefits to the supervisor are obvious.

I'm in public health where publication is relatively easy and quick. I don't know how it is in other disciplines (but the Japanese professor dumping his responsibilities on junior staff is quite common across disciplines as far as I can tell).

Harry 12.29.19 at 12:34 pm ( 5 )
It's not part of a workload model for us. We're expected to teach 2 classes a semester (8 contact hours a week total), then research, service, and graduate supervision on top, but the only thing that is specified is the 2 classes. So no compensation for PhD students. In practice the number of PhD supervisions varies greatly across faculty (as you'd expect), as does the amount of service work we do (if you're good at it you get asked to do more, if you're tenured and responsible you generally try to say yes), as does the amount of time we actually spend on the courses we teach.

As do our salaries, to be fair, which reflect years of service, perceived quality of research, how much the people elected to the department budget value the other things we do, and, to some extent, market forces.

What I've described is my own department. There's huge variation across campus, including variation in numbers of courses we're expected to teach.

Possibly worth mentioning that from what I have gathered expectations of how many courses we teach have fallen dramatically (across campus) over the past 50 years, and the number of course releases granted have increased dramatically: I estimate faculty in the humanities teach 30% less than 50 years ago, and in the sciences 50% less. I imagine this is similar across public research universities and SLACs.

notGoodenough 12.29.19 at 1:47 pm ( 6 )
So, purely anecdotal and from the perspective of a PhD and post-doc in Science at 2 different, fairly well thought of UK Universities (Russel group, etc. etc.).

PhD students are highly valuable. This is because a Masters or summer student are necessarily short term, and it is difficult to fulfil much breakthrough research (sometimes you need a few years of banging your head against a wall ). Post-docs are phenomenally expensive as in the UK as the University charges a huge amount just to have them – e.g. a rough breakdown (from some years ago, so a little out of date) is to just have a post-doc (i.e. no equipment, materials, etc.) is in excess of £110K per year. Some 31000 is for salary, the rest goes to the University to keep the lights on. Having more than a few post-docs, for all but the most successful labs, became prohibitively expensive.

However, as a PhD most of my time was with my post-docs (in my first year I saw my professor once, for 1hr, in later years maybe a few times more, so approximately 15 hr over 3.5 years). As a post-doc, the PhD students had regular meetings in a group format once per month (so, more or less 2-3 hr per month). In both cases it, in principle, was possible to go and meet the supervisor if you felt the need, but generally speaking your post-doc was the point of contact on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis.

I've not been a lecturer, so this is very speculative, but my impression is that supervising PhD students is generally considered a research activity, and thus you are not budgeted time for it specifically.

Not sure if any of this is useful, but feel free to hit me up for more details if you think it is useful/interesting.

Karen Anderson 12.29.19 at 2:03 pm ( 7 )
I taught for 15 years at 3 Dutch universities, 3 years at a Russell Group university in England, and am now at an Irish university. I did my PhD in the United States. Like the other posters, I have experienced wide variation in 'compensation' for PhD supervision. One of the reasons I left my position at a British university was the bizarre (and I thought, unfair) model for workload allocation. PhD supervision was highly 'compensated', and actual classroom teaching of undergrads was not. I had colleagues who met all or most of their teaching obligations with PhD supervision and did not teach undergrads.
I don't know what the best way to compensate PhD supervision is, but there are a couple of aspects I think need more attention. The first is wide variation in the number of PhD students in any given department and the rules/norms governing who is (de facto) permitted to supervise PhDs. Dutch departments have fewer PhD students than UK/Irish departments (for complicated reasons), and only full (and now associate?) profs are permitted to supervise. PhD supervision is important for promotion (as it is in the UK and IE), so everyone wants to do it, but not everyone has access. I am not sure that an activity that is so important for career progression should be generously compensated.
The second issue concerns co-authoring with a PhD student. I can see the advantages of this (which Ingrid mentions), but the proliferation of the article-based PhD where the supervisors co-author all articles is a cause for concern. Again, I am not convinced that a PhD supervisor should be generously compensated for something (publications) that strongly advances their own career. And it is not clear to me that the supervisor's contribution to the publication (in many cases, at least) amounts to more than what would be considered 'normal' PhD supervision in the US, Canada, and many European universities. This makes it very difficult to evaluate a newly minted PhD's CV, and it inflates the publication list of more senior academics.
A couple of ideas: 1) cap the number of PhD students that staff can supervise, or at least cap the number for which teaching points are earned. 2) ensure that all academic staff have access to PhD supervision.
praisegod barbones 12.29.19 at 4:32 pm ( 8 )
Private university in Turkey : the basic assumption here is that supervising PhD students and MA theses takes zero time (although people typically budget an hour per week per student.
Neville Morley 12.29.19 at 4:50 pm ( 9 )
The workload allocation for Humanities at the University of Exeter is similar to Chris's account of Bristol (where I worked previously), though it's more common for the hours to be divided 70/30, 60/40 or even 50/50 between first and second supervisors, with the latter playing a much more active role. The biggest difference, however, is that you continue to receive an allowance when the student is writing up, and even if they're revising after a first examination, whereas the Bristol practice was, at least, that you get a workload allowance for the first three years and then nothing for the period which in my experience often required the greatest amount of work
Phil 12.29.19 at 5:50 pm ( 10 )
I haven't – yet – supervised a doctoral student, but I did examine a viva this year & was surprised to find that this carried no workload allowance at all, which seems odd given the amount of reading time involved. (Fortunately I wasn't mad busy.)
likbez 12.29.19 at 7:10 pm ( 11 )
40-60 hours are typical. They do not compensate for the effort but still.
oldster 12.29.19 at 7:16 pm ( 12 )
Former US academic; taught at a few R1 uni's from 80s to aughts.

To echo the doughty Puritan: " the basic assumption here is that supervising PhD students and MA theses takes zero time."

We had a standard teaching load, and expectations for research and service. But there was no calculation of supervisory load -- it simply was not tracked, budgeted, or accounted for. As Harry says above, there were wide disparities from person to person, since some people attract a lot of grad students and some do not (and some repel them, either for strategic purposes, or because they are repellent no matter what they try).

No one cared whether you supervised 15 PhD students or zero. Not quite true -- there was some unofficial awareness among colleagues who thought collegially about things. And you might get some private thanks or informal kudos for doing more than your share. But there was absolutely no official account of it. And this was true at all 3 R1s I taught at over several decades.

That's partly because -- in a Humanities field -- the funding of grad students does not follow the prof, but the program as a whole. So, Central Admin knows that your department is training 25 PhDs, because Central Admin has to figure their tuition, stipends, etc. But the money then flows to your department as a whole, with no closer investigation of who in your department is doing the work.

The picture must be radically different in the Sciences, where there is literal accounting of PhD students, since they are supported by the professor's grant-money.

hix 12.29.19 at 8:08 pm ( 13 )
Surely there are other ways to offload work to PhD students one would otherwise have to do oneself besides getting research recognition for their thesis. How much of that is possible should also vary across countries. So a comparsion of alocated supervision time only seems a bit one sided.
John Quiggin 12.29.19 at 10:07 pm ( 14 )
As regards co-authorship, my PhD students and postdocs are often keen to include me on the theory that a paper with a more senior author will have a better chance of acceptance. My impression is that, in economics, the expectation is that the main job market paper will be sole-authored or else co-authored with another junior researcher, but that others are likely to be co-authored with the supervisor.

To complicate things further, economics (like philosophy, I believe) works on average quality rather than total contribution. So, a publication with a student in a journal lower ranked than my average paper is actually a negative for me.

Matt 12.29.19 at 10:38 pm ( 15 )
I assume that "Harry" above is Harry B of the blog. If so, he's showing why comparisons w/ the US on this will be hard, if not impossible. In many countries, there is a weird fantasy that academics can and should be treated like hourly employees, with "hours" assigned to things. (This is certainly so in Australia.) Of course, it's a fantasy in that, if it in fact takes a lot more "hours" to do the things you're assigned, you don't get over-time, comp time, or paid more. The other down-side is that this system leads, in my experience, to more micro-managing – being expected to "account" for your time to a much greater degree. The US system treats academics more like salaried employees – you get paid a certain amount, you have certain tasks to do, and you must do them (some of them at particular times, like teaching classes) but otherwise you're not dealing with "hours" for things. The down-side is that there can be lots of variation in how much work people actually do – even teaching the same "number" of classes can vary a lot depending on the number of preps, size, how often you've taught it, if you have TAs, etc., and having more advisees may not lead to more recognition on its own. The plus side is that less time is spent on being mico-managed and bureaucratic nonsense. The relevant point here, though, is that it's really hard to make a comparison like the one asked for between systems where one treats academics more like hourly employees and the other more like salaried employees.
Gabriel 12.29.19 at 10:52 pm ( 16 )
My wife (a New Zealand academic with confirmation) is allocated a. 24 hours per year for supervising PhD students. She trusts that the ludicrousness of this number is not lost on those present.
billcinsd 12.30.19 at 1:39 am ( 17 )
I am a Professor in an Engineering discipline at a small, state engineering school in the US. Our workload is departmentally determined. My department is fairly small, ~100 undergrads, but does quite a bit of research. My nominal workload is 40% teaching, 40% research and 20% service. This is based on 40 working hours per week. My effective workload is 46% teaching, 8% advising (both undergrad and grad), 23% overseeing my funded research projects and about 25% service. This is more than 100%, which is true for almost all faculty at my school.

Thus, I estimate how much time I spend doing various things and then convert that to credit hours, as my contract is specified in terms of 18 credit hours of work per semester, making a credit hour about 2 hours and 40 minutes

Kevin 12.30.19 at 2:11 pm ( 18 )
In Technological University Dublin (formerly Dublin Institute of Technology), supervision of a full-time PhD student attracts a time allowance of 2 hours per week (48 hours per annum), from a weekly teaching load of 16 contact hours for lecturers (18 hours for assistant lecturers). So, for example, a lecturer with two full-time PhD students will allocate 25% (4 hours) of his / her weekly contact teaching duties to this role.
Michael Dunn 12.30.19 at 2:45 pm ( 19 )
In my department (at Uppsala University, Sweden) the workload norm is 88 hours per year supervisory time for the main supervisor and 20 for the assistant supervisor. This time includes the face-to-face hours, as well as reading, commenting, etc. The split can be done differently to reflect other kinds of co-supervisory arrangements. This seems very generous compared to what others are reporting, which is sad, since an average of 1 hour meeting, 1 hour reading per week for 44 weeks in a year would work out as very minimal supervision -- and supervisors typically spend much more time on supervision related tasks than this.
Johan Karlsson Schaffer 12.30.19 at 4:44 pm ( 20 )
A couple of years ago, I did a survey of the formal teaching duties at polisci departments at Scandinavian universities for a report published by the Swedish Institute for Labour Market Evaluation. The survey looked at the formal percentage of teaching duty for senior lecturers and full professors, and the formal compensation in terms of hours allotted for various teaching activities (e.g., lectures, supervision at different levels, examination and so on).

We found, first, that the formal teaching duty varied quite a lot across Scandinavian universities, but that all Swedish universities had less generous conditions than Danish and Norwegian universities, which came closer to the Humboldtian ideal of unity of teaching and research.

Second, by multiplying teaching duty and compensation for a standard set of teaching activities, we found that the consequences for the individual lecturer could be quite drastic: over a hypothetical career from age 35 to retirement at 67, a lecturer at the least generous university could have ten whole years more of teaching duty than their colleague at the most generous university.

The report is, unfortunately, only available in Swedish, but the graphs and tables (which also includes detailed information on the compensation for PhD supervision) should be rather self-explanatory.
https://www.ifau.se/sv/Forskning/Publikationer/Rapporter/2016/att-mota-den-hogre-utbildningens-utmaningar/

Here's a blog post summary of these findings that include the most important graphs:
https://politologerna.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/att-mota-den-hogre-utbildningens-utmaningar/

Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 12.30.19 at 6:53 pm ( 21 )
I'm an Associate Professor in Computer Science at a US R1 university.

As Matt says, the description in Ingrid's post is totally unlike how things are thought of at all in US universities. My load is 40% research, 40% teaching, 20% service, which is standard for tenure-track faculty in my department (and I think across departments here). The standard teaching load is 3 courses per year (2 in one semester, 1 in the other). However, there are several exceptions to this: before tenure, faculty are assigned only 2 courses per year. Also, if you support (with external grant funding) 3 PhD students or post-docs in the previous year then you only teach 2 courses the next year. Additionally, pre-tenure faculty are asked to do considerably less service.

Furthermore, there are several additional differences that are relevant. First, and most importantly, the distinction between "research" and "PhD supervision" does not exist in science. Effectively all of my research is joint with PhD students, although sometimes they are not "my" students, but those of my collaborators. Second, not all students are funded by grants; PhD students can also be funded by teaching. So it's possible to have one or two students without bringing in funding. Third, there's a strong expectation that training PhD students is part of the job, you wouldn't get tenure/promotion/etc if you just didn't do it.

Z 12.30.19 at 8:33 pm ( 22 )
In my institution, you don't get any teaching load reduction, whereas you do get a tiny but non-zero reduction for supervising a master thesis, or even an undergraduate research project. I believe that is the norm in France in science in general, and most likely overall. The logic behind that choice is that supervising a PhD student is supposed to bring its own benefits: the student will do a lot of lab work for the superviser, the superviser will cosign the research papers etc.

In math (my own field), there is no lab work to be done and the French tradition is that papers drawn from the PhD should be signed by the student alone, so the arrangement is quite unfavorable to us.

On the other hand

So without reductions, we teach about 835-1190 hours a year

Did I read that right? Can you clarify how many hours are counted for one hour in front of the students? That number looks like madness to me (and I have a heavy teaching load myself).

CdnNew 12.30.19 at 9:11 pm ( 23 )
Canadian math prof:

"Highly research-active" profs teach one fewer course per year. There is some flexibility as to how to maintain this designation, but typically you must have at least 2 active graduate students at any given time (and meet various other requirements).

Going through our standard courseload: if you ignore the other work related to maintaining status, your first two Ph.D. students are worth about 90 hours/year, and the remainder are worth nothing.

likbez 12.31.19 at 12:57 am ( 24 )
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

John Quiggin 12.29.19 at 10:07 pm @14

As regards co-authorship, my Ph.D. students and postdocs are often keen to include me on the theory that a paper with a more senior author will have a better chance of acceptance.

This is an important point. I agree that it is somewhat dishonest to use your post-grad students to increase you number of publications. But it should be weighted against the real difficulties of young researchers to get their papers published. And the fact that sometimes brilliant papers from them are rejected. Nobody can abolish clan behavior in the academy. And the "academic kitchen" is pretty dirty, and takes years to understand ;-).

Sometimes publishing oversees helps here, and young researchers should keep this in mind. For many foreign journals, just the fact that you are a foreigner from a prestigious university is a plus that weights on the acceptance.

[Dec 29, 2019] The process of imbecilization of the West

Dec 29, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

vk , Dec 28 2019 15:28 utc | 4

One more example of the process of imbecilization of the West:

Millennials are turning to magic & astrology for 'empowerment' because liberal ideology failed them

Imbecilization is a normal historical process where intellectual declines follows the economic decline of a given empire. There's growing evidence the West is going through the same process.

A with any composite, complex historical process, imbecilization doesn't happen in a uniform and linear way. Economics was the first science that descended into pseudo-science in the capitalist world (after Marx dismantled Classic Economics). Philosophy followed. Erudite art degenerated after the fall of Modernism somewhere in the 1950s. Human sciences in general became fragmented and little more than a constelation of esoterism and pseudo-sciences - a condition they still enjoy today (e.g. the dismembering of History into Sociology, Behavioral Economics and others).

Meanwhile, the so-called STEM or "Hard Sciences" continued to prosper for some decades, until they also hit a ceiling in the 1990s. The fall of the profitability of the capitalist world led it to resort to "financialization" to keep the system going, which resulted in the most brilliant capitalist mathematicians to be hosed to Wall Street instead to the likes of NASA. Those MIT mathematicians and rocket scientists created the algorithms Wall Street still uses today, but they did not stop the 2008 meltdown.

Nowadays, those brilliant STEM minds are nothing more than fraudsters who keep their careers going by creating meaningless experiments (because they need the funding) only to publish articles and keep their production quotas or self-censuring bootlickers for Wall Street and Big Pharma. When they get to work for a big corporation, they are mere architects of planned obsolescence or patent renewing. There's a new book I strongly recommend all of you to read:

Silent Conflict: A Hidden History of Early Soviet-Western Relations , by Michael Jabara Carley

Here's an interview with him in Sputnik News , in the occasion of this book's release.


[Dec 29, 2019] The Great Democracy How to Fix Our Politics, Unrig the Economy, and Unite America by Ganesh Sitaraman

Dec 29, 2019 | www.amazon.com
  1. Introduction: The Edge of a New Era i
  2. The Origins and Meaning of Neoliberalism я
  3. The Neoliberal Ideology 37-45
  4. The Last Days of Neoliberalism
  5. Alter Neoliberalism
  6. Toward a Great Democracy 8
  7. United Democracy
  8. Economic Democracy
  9. Political Democracy
  10. Defending Democracy
  11. Conclusion: The Politics of Achieving s great Democracy 205
  12. Acknowledgments 211
  13. Notes 215
  14. Index 243
>

skeptic , December 27, 2019

The first part of the book is the best primier of neoliberlism the money can buy

This author is brilliant. He gave a comprehensive yet very compact overview of neoliberalism the first part of the book. An overview which IMHO is very difficult to match. Here are the key ideas and periods that he outlined:

== quote ==
This is not an ordinary political moment. Everywhere around us, the old order is collapsing. The golden age of postwar economic growth is over, replaced by a new Gilded Age of inequality and stagnation... People once united by common culture and information are now fractured into social media echo chambers.

The [neo]liberal international order is cracking as nationalism grows in strength and global institutions decay. The United States' role as a global superpower is challenged by the rising strength of China and a new era of Russian assertiveness.

Optimists hope that generational and demographic change will restore inexorable progress. Pessimists interpret the current moment as the decline and fall of democracy.

.. we are currently in the midst of one of these epochal transitions. We live on the edge of a new era in politics -- the third since the Great Depression and World War II. The first era is probably best described as liberal.... from the 1940s through the 1970s, a version of political liberalism provided the paradigm for politics. Charting a path between the state control of communists and fascists and the laissez-faire market that dominated before the Great Depression, liberals adopted a form of regulated capitalism. Government set the rules of the road for the economy, regulated finance, invested to create jobs and spark consumer demand, policed the bad behavior of businesses, and provided a social safety net for Americans. Big institutions -- big government, big corporations, big labor -- cooperated to balance the needs of stakeholders in society. In the United States, it was called New Deal Liberalism. In Europe, social democracy. There were differences across countries, of course, but the general approach was similar. ...even the conservatives of the time were liberal. Republican president Dwight Eisenhower championed the national highway system and warned of the military-industrial complex. President Richard Nixon said, "I am now a Keynesian in economics." His administration created the EPA and expanded Social Security by indexing benefits to inflation.

...since the 1980s, we have lived in a second era -- that of neoliberalism. In economic and social policy, neoliberalism's tenets are simple: deregulation, privatization, liberalization, and austerity. Under neoliberalism, individuals are on their own and should be responsible for themselves. Instead of governments, corporations, and unions balancing the interests of all stakeholders, the primary regulator of social interests should be the marketplace. Neoliberals opposed unions and unionization, they wanted to pursue vouchers instead of public provision of services, and they sought to shrink the size and functioning of government, even if it meant a less effective government. Markets worked like magic, and market logic would be applied to all aspects of life. Around the world, the neoliberal era came with an aggressive emphasis on expanding democracy and human rights, even by military force. Expanding trade and commerce came with little regard for who the winners and losers were -- or what the political fallout might be. ...It was President Bill Clinton who said that the "era of big government is over" and who celebrated the legislation deregulating Wall Street.

...With the election of Donald Trump, the neoliberal era has reached its end. While in control of the House, Senate, and presidency, Republicans neither repealed the Affordable Care Act nor privatized Social Security and Medicare. Their party is increasingly fractured between Trumpist conservatives, who are far more nationalist, and the never-Trump old-line conservatives like Bill Kristol or Jeb Bush. An increasing number of people recognize that neoliberalism's solutions are unsuited to the challenges of our time.
== end ==
The most valuable part of the book IMHO are two chapters devoted to the collapse of neoliberalism

The author also proposes a very interesting approach to evaluation of the identity politics as a political strategy:

== quote ==
To be sure, race, gender, culture, and other aspects of social life have always been important to politics. But neoliberalism's radical individualism has increasingly raised two interlocking problems. First, when taken to an extreme, social fracturing into identity groups can be used to divide people and prevent the creation of a shared civic identity. Self-government requires uniting through our commonalities and aspiring to achieve a shared future.

When individuals fall back onto clans, tribes, and us-versus-them identities, the political community gets fragmented. It becomes harder for people to see each other as part of that same shared future.

Demagogues [more correctly neoliberals] rely on this fracturing to inflame racial, nationalist, and religious antagonism, which only further fuels the divisions within society. Neoliberalism's war on "society," by pushing toward the privatization and marketization of everything, thus indirectly facilitates a retreat into tribalism that further undermines the preconditions for a free and democratic society.

The second problem is that neoliberals on right and left sometimes use identity as a shield to protect neoliberal policies. As one commentator has argued, "Without the bedrock of class politics, identity politics has become an agenda of inclusionary neoliberalism in which individuals can be accommodated but addressing structural inequalities cannot." What this means is that some neoliberals hold high the banner of inclusiveness on gender and race and thus claim to be progressive reformers, but they then turn a blind eye to systemic changes in politics and the economy.

Critics argue that this is "neoliberal identity politics," and it gives its proponents the space to perpetuate the policies of deregulation, privatization, liberalization, and austerity.

Of course, the result is to leave in place political and economic structures that harm the very groups that inclusionary neoliberals claim to support. The foreign policy adventures of the neoconservatives and liberal internationalists haven't fared much better than economic policy or cultural politics. The U.S. and its coalition partners have been bogged down in the war in Afghanistan for 18 years and counting. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq is a liberal democracy, nor did the attempt to establish democracy in Iraq lead to a domino effect that swept the Middle East and reformed its governments for the better. Instead, power in Iraq has shifted from American occupiers to sectarian militias, to the Iraqi government, to Islamic State terrorists, and back to the Iraqi government -- and more than 100,000 Iraqis are dead.

Or take the liberal internationalist 2011 intervention in Libya. The result was not a peaceful transition to stable democracy but instead civil war and instability, with thousands dead as the country splintered and portions were overrun by terrorist groups. On the grounds of democracy promotion, it is hard to say these interventions were a success. And for those motivated to expand human rights around the world, it is hard to justify these wars as humanitarian victories -- on the civilian death count alone.

Indeed, the central anchoring assumptions of the American foreign policy establishment have been proven wrong. Foreign policymakers largely assumed that all good things would go together -- democracy, markets, and human rights -- and so they thought opening China to trade would inexorably lead to it becoming a liberal democracy. They were wrong. They thought Russia would become liberal through swift democratization and privatization. They were wrong.

They thought globalization was inevitable and that ever-expanding trade liberalization was desirable even if the political system never corrected for trade's winners and losers. They were wrong. These aren't minor mistakes. And to be clear, Donald Trump had nothing to do with them. All of these failures were evident prior to the 2016 election.
== end ==

In other words identity politics is, first and foremost, a dirty and shrewd political strategy developed by the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party (aka "soft neoliberals".)

Along with Neo-McCarthyism it represents a mechanism to compensate for the loss by Clinton Democrats of their primary voting block: trade union members, who in 2016 "en mass" defected to Trump.

Initially Clinton calculation was that trade union voters has nowhere to go anyways, and it was correct for first decade or so of his betrayal. But gradually trade union members and lower middle class started to leave Dems in droves (Demexit; compare with Brexit) and that where identity politics was invented to compensate for this loss.

We also can identity politics as a double edge sword, which the second edge being the political strategy of the "soft neoliberals " directed at discrediting and the suppression of the rising nationalism.

The author correctly argues that the resurgence of nationalism is the inevitable byproduct of the dominance of neoliberalism, resurgence which I think is capable to bury neoliberalism as it lost the popular support (which now is limited to financial oligarchy and high income professional groups, such as we can find in corporate and military brass, (shrinking) IT sector, upper strata of academy, upper strata of medical professionals, etc.)

In other words, if you are interested in this topic (as well as the most probable outcome of 2020 elections which would be the second referendum on neoliberalism held in the USA) , please buy the book; you will never regret this decision ;-)

That means that the structure of the current system isn't just flawed which imply that most problems are relatively minor and can be fixed by making some tweaks. It is unfixable, because the "Identity wars" reflect a deep moral contradictions within neoliberal ideology. And they can't be solved within this framework.

[Dec 23, 2019] The Economists' Hour False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society by Binyamin Appelbaum

Dec 23, 2019 | www.amazon.com

>

Kerry Knudsen , September 7, 2019

Excellent history of libertarian capitalism in U.S.A.

This was an objective and readable history of libertarian economics (sometimes called neo-liberal economics) especially in the United States beginning in the 50s. It will be highly influential book especially if the next recession is as terrible as 2007 and a strong reform movement develops. Whether you support libertarian ideas of the free market or you support the reform and regulation of our current form of capitalism the book is informative. If you are an ideologue you will not be satisfied and the book offers no solutions. One reviewer seems to think book is pro-Democratic but the book gives ample evidence that the elites of both parties have bought in to libertarian economic ideas. Whether you watch CNBC or follow politics this book will help you understand the buzz words used by some commentators and what they really mean. The personal history of economists was interesting too.

Nancy Famolari , September 3, 2019
A Readable Look at How Economists Shaped the World

When the economy was booming after WWII, economists were found primarily in academia, but as the economy slowed and solutions were sought, the economists came out of hiding. Starting with Milton Friedman, economists entered the political arena, and their ideas began to shape the economy not just of the United States, but of the world.

The author tells the story of how these economists came to the forefront of political thought with their belief that the economy given the impetus of free markets would bring prosperity and did not need so much government intervention. The author tells the stories of Walter Oi, whose calculations persuaded President Nixon to end conscription, and Thomas Shelling who made value assessments of human life to underpin his suggested policies.

This book is very readable. It focuses on the stories of individual economists, their ideas, and how the ideas impacted the lives of people. I enjoyed the book very much. It tells you a lot about policy and economics, but isn't preachy or dry. The author uses his focus on individuals and episodes in their lives to bring this rather deep discipline to life. I highly recommend it.

[Dec 20, 2019] Is College 'Worth It' One Study Says Maybe Not

Level of talent is another important factor. Especially difficult people are able to succeed in fields which are absolutely closed for others. Think about the level of competition in middle ages when a single academic position needed to be waited until previous holder retires. Still it did not prevented rising people like Euler to the top.
You should take the results from Clever.com published below with a grain of slat.
Dec 20, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

by Tyler Durden Fri, 12/20/2019 - 17:25 0 SHARES

The unjustifiably high cost of college tuition in the US has dragged a whole generation into debt slavery. The average cost of a 4-year degree in the US is 3x higher than it was in 1990. Even tuition at in-state schools is climbing more quickly than incomes.

As more people are forced to go into deep levels of debt to afford an education, more would-be students are being forced to take a hard look and reevaluate the ROI on a college degree.

And as college tuition continues to outpace wage growth, for a growing number of people, the answer to 'is college worth it?' is going to be no.

A reporter at Clever.com did some digging, and tabulated the ROI on different types of degrees: the bachelor's, master's and doctorate.

Generally speaking, people with at least a bachelor's degree typically earn more money over their lifetime than those who never attended college, and it's also easier to get a job with a degree.

But while Americans with a bachelor's degree might be on to something, those who earn a Master's and PHD-level degrees can't say the same.

While nearly half the population has a bachelor's degree, only 13% of Americans have a master's or Phd-level degree.

And according to Clever's analysis, many higher-level degrees may not be worth the time and money that students spend.

In fact, the longer someone spends in school, the more the value of their degrees diminishes.

Of course, ROI changes depending on the subject that an individual studies. Clever found that the best bachelor's degrees, unsurprisingly, tend to be in the STEM area: operations research, petroleum engineering, biological and physical sciences, biopsychology and gerontology.

Here, the data are showing us something that we find to be very interesting. Namely, that those who spend more money on a low-ROI bachelor's degree often find their careers to be more 'meaningful' than your average engineer. Does this mean there's an inverse relationship between spiritual fulfillment and monetary compensation when it comes to ones' career path? Possibly. But would like to suggest another possible explanation.

The children of America's wealthy often choose low-yield fields like journalism and English, since they don't face as much pressure to maximize earnings (their parents very often cover the cost of their education and living expenses) they can enjoy finding 'meaning' in low-paying careers like being a social media manager or writing for Gawker Media - careers that also don't require the hard work and dedication required of, say, a mechanical engineer at Boeing.

[Dec 20, 2019] Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone

Dec 20, 2019 | www.amazon.com

WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? Since this deceptively simple question first came into my mind, I haven't been able to shake it. We think we understand the word, but what are we really referring to when we talk about a system in which the people rule themselves?

The word democracy is all around us, invoked in almost every conceivable context: government, business, technology, education, and media. At the same time, its meaning, taken as self-evident, is rarely given much serious consideration. Though the headlines tell us democracy is in "crisis," we don't have a clear conception of what it is that is at risk. The significance of the democratic ideal, as well as its practical substance, is surprisingly elusive.

For most of my life, the word democracy didn't hold much appeal. I was of course never against democracy per se, but words such as justice , equality , freedom , solidarity , socialism , and revolution resonated more deeply. Democracy struck me as mealy-mouthed, even debased. That idealistic anarchists and authoritarian leaders are equally inclined to claim "democracy" as their own only demonstrated its lack of depth. North Korea does, after all, call itself a "Democratic People's Republic," and Iraq was invaded by the U.S. Army in the name of bringing democracy to the Middle East. But today I no longer see the opportunistic use of the word as a sign of the idea's vapidity. Those powers co-opt the concept of democracy because they realize that it represents a profound threat to the established order, a threat they desperately hope to contain.

After making a documentary film, What Is Democracy? , I now understand the concept's disorienting vagueness and protean character as a source of strength; I have come to accept, and even appreciate, that there is no single definition I can stand behind that feels unconditionally conclusive. Though the practice has extensive global roots, the word democracy comes to us from ancient Greece, and it conveys a seemingly simple idea: the people ( demos ) rule or hold power ( kratos ). Democracy is the promise of the people ruling, but a promise that can never be wholly fulfilled because its implications and scope keep changing. Over centuries our conceptions of democracy have expanded and evolved, with democracy becoming more inclusive and robust in many ways, yet who counts as the people, how they rule, and where they do so remain eternally up for debate. Democracy destabilizes its own legitimacy and purpose by design, subjecting its core components to continual examination and scrutiny.

Perfect democracy, I've come to believe, may not in fact exist and never will, but that doesn't mean we can't make progress toward it, or that what there is of it can't disappear. For this reason, I am more convinced than ever that the questions of what democracy is -- and, more important, what it could be -- are ones we must perpetually ask.

Right now, many who question democracy do so out of disillusionment, fear, and outrage. Democracy may not exist, yet it still manages to disappoint. Political gridlock, corruption, unaccountable representatives, and the lack of meaningful alternatives incense people across the ideological spectrum; their anger simmers at dehumanizing bureaucracy, blatant hypocrisy, and lack of voice. Leaders are not accountable and voters rightly feel their choices are limited, all while the rich keep getting richer and regular people scramble to survive. In advanced democracies around the world, a growing number of people aren't even bothering to vote -- a right many people fought and died for fairly recently. Most Americans will say that they live in a democracy, but few will say that they trust the government, while the state generally inspires negative reactions, ranging from frustration to contempt and suspicion. The situation calls to mind Jean-Jacques Rousseau's observation from The Social Contract : "In a well-ordered city every man flies to the assemblies; under a bad government no one cares to stir a step to get to them. As soon as any man says of the State What does it matter to me? the State may be given up for lost." 1

A cauldron of causes generates an atmosphere of corrosive cynicism, social fragmentation, and unease, with blame too often directed downward at the most vulnerable populations. And it's not just in the United States. Consider the United Kingdom vote to leave the European Union, the decision known as Brexit; the resurgence of right-wing populism across Europe; coups and reactionary electoral victories in Brazil; and the rise of fascism in India. Plato's warning about democracy devolving into tyranny rings chillingly prophetic. The promise of self-rule risks becoming not a promise but a curse, a self-destructive motor pushing toward destinations more volatile, divided, despotic, and mean.

But this book isn't about the pitfalls of popular sovereignty, though it certainly has its perils. Nor is it about the shortcomings of current liberal democratic political systems or the ways they have been corrupted by money and power -- though they have been. That's a story that has been told before, and while it will be the backdrop to my inquiry it is not the focus. This book, instead, is an invitation to think about the word democracy from various angles, looking back through history and reflecting on the philosophy and practice of self-rule in hopes that a more contemplative view will shed useful light on our present predicament. My goal is not to negate the sense of alarm nor deter people from action but to remind us that we are part of a long, complex, and still-unfolding chronicle, whatever the day's headlines might be or whoever governs the country.

Taking a more theoretical approach to democracy's winding, thorny path and inherently paradoxical nature can also provide solace and reassurance. Ruling ourselves has never been straightforward and never will be. Ever vexing and unpredictable, democracy is a process that involves endless reassessment and renewal, not an endpoint we reach before taking a rest (leaving us with a finished system to tweak at the margins). As such, this book is my admittedly unorthodox, idiosyncratic call to democratize society from the bottom to the top. It is also an expression of my belief that we cannot re think democracy if we haven't really thought about it in the first place.

WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? Since this deceptively simple question first came into my mind, I haven't been able to shake it. We think we understand the word, but what are we really referring to when we talk about a system in which the people rule themselves?

The word democracy is all around us, invoked in almost every conceivable context: government, business, technology, education, and media. At the same time, its meaning, taken as self-evident, is rarely given much serious consideration. Though the headlines tell us democracy is in "crisis," we don't have a clear conception of what it is that is at risk. The significance of the democratic ideal, as well as its practical substance, is surprisingly elusive.

For most of my life, the word democracy didn't hold much appeal. I was of course never against democracy per se, but words such as justice , equality , freedom , solidarity , socialism , and revolution resonated more deeply. Democracy struck me as mealy-mouthed, even debased. That idealistic anarchists and authoritarian leaders are equally inclined to claim "democracy" as their own only demonstrated its lack of depth. North Korea does, after all, call itself a "Democratic People's Republic," and Iraq was invaded by the U.S. Army in the name of bringing democracy to the Middle East. But today I no longer see the opportunistic use of the word as a sign of the idea's vapidity. Those powers co-opt the concept of democracy because they realize that it represents a profound threat to the established order, a threat they desperately hope to contain.

After making a documentary film, What Is Democracy? , I now understand the concept's disorienting vagueness and protean character as a source of strength; I have come to accept, and even appreciate, that there is no single definition I can stand behind that feels unconditionally conclusive. Though the practice has extensive global roots, the word democracy comes to us from ancient Greece, and it conveys a seemingly simple idea: the people ( demos ) rule or hold power ( kratos ). Democracy is the promise of the people ruling, but a promise that can never be wholly fulfilled because its implications and scope keep changing. Over centuries our conceptions of democracy have expanded and evolved, with democracy becoming more inclusive and robust in many ways, yet who counts as the people, how they rule, and where they do so remain eternally up for debate. Democracy destabilizes its own legitimacy and purpose by design, subjecting its core components to continual examination and scrutiny.

Perfect democracy, I've come to believe, may not in fact exist and never will, but that doesn't mean we can't make progress toward it, or that what there is of it can't disappear. For this reason, I am more convinced than ever that the questions of what democracy is -- and, more important, what it could be -- are ones we must perpetually ask.

Right now, many who question democracy do so out of disillusionment, fear, and outrage. Democracy may not exist, yet it still manages to disappoint. Political gridlock, corruption, unaccountable representatives, and the lack of meaningful alternatives incense people across the ideological spectrum; their anger simmers at dehumanizing bureaucracy, blatant hypocrisy, and lack of voice. Leaders are not accountable and voters rightly feel their choices are limited, all while the rich keep getting richer and regular people scramble to survive. In advanced democracies around the world, a growing number of people aren't even bothering to vote -- a right many people fought and died for fairly recently. Most Americans will say that they live in a democracy, but few will say that they trust the government, while the state generally inspires negative reactions, ranging from frustration to contempt and suspicion. The situation calls to mind Jean-Jacques Rousseau's observation from The Social Contract : "In a well-ordered city every man flies to the assemblies; under a bad government no one cares to stir a step to get to them. As soon as any man says of the State What does it matter to me? the State may be given up for lost." 1

A cauldron of causes generates an atmosphere of corrosive cynicism, social fragmentation, and unease, with blame too often directed downward at the most vulnerable populations. And it's not just in the United States. Consider the United Kingdom vote to leave the European Union, the decision known as Brexit; the resurgence of right-wing populism across Europe; coups and reactionary electoral victories in Brazil; and the rise of fascism in India. Plato's warning about democracy devolving into tyranny rings chillingly prophetic. The promise of self-rule risks becoming not a promise but a curse, a self-destructive motor pushing toward destinations more volatile, divided, despotic, and mean.

But this book isn't about the pitfalls of popular sovereignty, though it certainly has its perils. Nor is it about the shortcomings of current liberal democratic political systems or the ways they have been corrupted by money and power -- though they have been. That's a story that has been told before, and while it will be the backdrop to my inquiry it is not the focus. This book, instead, is an invitation to think about the word democracy from various angles, looking back through history and reflecting on the philosophy and practice of self-rule in hopes that a more contemplative view will shed useful light on our present predicament. My goal is not to negate the sense of alarm nor deter people from action but to remind us that we are part of a long, complex, and still-unfolding chronicle, whatever the day's headlines might be or whoever governs the country.

Taking a more theoretical approach to democracy's winding, thorny path and inherently paradoxical nature can also provide solace and reassurance. Ruling ourselves has never been straightforward and never will be. Ever vexing and unpredictable, democracy is a process that involves endless reassessment and renewal, not an endpoint we reach before taking a rest (leaving us with a finished system to tweak at the margins). As such, this book is my admittedly unorthodox, idiosyncratic call to democratize society from the bottom to the top. It is also an expression of my belief that we cannot re think democracy if we haven't really thought about it in the first place.

WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? Since this deceptively simple question first came into my mind, I haven't been able to shake it. We think we understand the word, but what are we really referring to when we talk about a system in which the people rule themselves?

The word democracy is all around us, invoked in almost every conceivable context: government, business, technology, education, and media. At the same time, its meaning, taken as self-evident, is rarely given much serious consideration. Though the headlines tell us democracy is in "crisis," we don't have a clear conception of what it is that is at risk. The significance of the democratic ideal, as well as its practical substance, is surprisingly elusive.

For most of my life, the word democracy didn't hold much appeal. I was of course never against democracy per se, but words such as justice , equality , freedom , solidarity , socialism , and revolution resonated more deeply. Democracy struck me as mealy-mouthed, even debased. That idealistic anarchists and authoritarian leaders are equally inclined to claim "democracy" as their own only demonstrated its lack of depth. North Korea does, after all, call itself a "Democratic People's Republic," and Iraq was invaded by the U.S. Army in the name of bringing democracy to the Middle East. But today I no longer see the opportunistic use of the word as a sign of the idea's vapidity. Those powers co-opt the concept of democracy because they realize that it represents a profound threat to the established order, a threat they desperately hope to contain.

After making a documentary film, What Is Democracy? , I now understand the concept's disorienting vagueness and protean character as a source of strength; I have come to accept, and even appreciate, that there is no single definition I can stand behind that feels unconditionally conclusive. Though the practice has extensive global roots, the word democracy comes to us from ancient Greece, and it conveys a seemingly simple idea: the people ( demos ) rule or hold power ( kratos ). Democracy is the promise of the people ruling, but a promise that can never be wholly fulfilled because its implications and scope keep changing. Over centuries our conceptions of democracy have expanded and evolved, with democracy becoming more inclusive and robust in many ways, yet who counts as the people, how they rule, and where they do so remain eternally up for debate. Democracy destabilizes its own legitimacy and purpose by design, subjecting its core components to continual examination and scrutiny.

Perfect democracy, I've come to believe, may not in fact exist and never will, but that doesn't mean we can't make progress toward it, or that what there is of it can't disappear. For this reason, I am more convinced than ever that the questions of what democracy is -- and, more important, what it could be -- are ones we must perpetually ask.

Right now, many who question democracy do so out of disillusionment, fear, and outrage. Democracy may not exist, yet it still manages to disappoint. Political gridlock, corruption, unaccountable representatives, and the lack of meaningful alternatives incense people across the ideological spectrum; their anger simmers at dehumanizing bureaucracy, blatant hypocrisy, and lack of voice. Leaders are not accountable and voters rightly feel their choices are limited, all while the rich keep getting richer and regular people scramble to survive. In advanced democracies around the world, a growing number of people aren't even bothering to vote -- a right many people fought and died for fairly recently. Most Americans will say that they live in a democracy, but few will say that they trust the government, while the state generally inspires negative reactions, ranging from frustration to contempt and suspicion. The situation calls to mind Jean-Jacques Rousseau's observation from The Social Contract : "In a well-ordered city every man flies to the assemblies; under a bad government no one cares to stir a step to get to them. As soon as any man says of the State What does it matter to me? the State may be given up for lost." 1

A cauldron of causes generates an atmosphere of corrosive cynicism, social fragmentation, and unease, with blame too often directed downward at the most vulnerable populations. And it's not just in the United States. Consider the United Kingdom vote to leave the European Union, the decision known as Brexit; the resurgence of right-wing populism across Europe; coups and reactionary electoral victories in Brazil; and the rise of fascism in India. Plato's warning about democracy devolving into tyranny rings chillingly prophetic. The promise of self-rule risks becoming not a promise but a curse, a self-destructive motor pushing toward destinations more volatile, divided, despotic, and mean.

But this book isn't about the pitfalls of popular sovereignty, though it certainly has its perils. Nor is it about the shortcomings of current liberal democratic political systems or the ways they have been corrupted by money and power -- though they have been. That's a story that has been told before, and while it will be the backdrop to my inquiry it is not the focus. This book, instead, is an invitation to think about the word democracy from various angles, looking back through history and reflecting on the philosophy and practice of self-rule in hopes that a more contemplative view will shed useful light on our present predicament. My goal is not to negate the sense of alarm nor deter people from action but to remind us that we are part of a long, complex, and still-unfolding chronicle, whatever the day's headlines might be or whoever governs the country.

Taking a more theoretical approach to democracy's winding, thorny path and inherently paradoxical nature can also provide solace and reassurance. Ruling ourselves has never been straightforward and never will be. Ever vexing and unpredictable, democracy is a process that involves endless reassessment and renewal, not an endpoint we reach before taking a rest (leaving us with a finished system to tweak at the margins). As such, this book is my admittedly unorthodox, idiosyncratic call to democratize society from the bottom to the top. It is also an expression of my belief that we cannot re think democracy if we haven't really thought about it in the first place.

>

Tonstant Weader , May 29, 2019

You want a physical copy so you can mark it up and highlight and bookmark and clip

Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone is one of those books you might want to get in its physical form so you can shove it full of bookmarks, highlight sentences, write notes, stick little sticky arrows to note something special, and generally leave it in unfit condition for anyone but you, but that will be okay because you will be going back to it again and again whenever you want to argue about something. Yes, it's that good.

Astra Taylor does the difficult job examining democracy, something we talk about a lot without ever completely understanding its full implications. To do this, she examines eight tensions that pull democracies in different directions and are critical to balance or at least understand when understanding democracy. These tensions are interrogated in separate chapters, looking at history, research, and political experience that impinge on them. The vast research involved in these explorations is astonishing.

In the first chapter she examines the tension between freedom and equality and notes that once upon a time we thought they went hand in hand, but that they have become oppositional thanks to political movements that serve the powerful who define freedom in terms of making money and avoidance of regulation rather than freedom from want, hunger, or fear. Equality has become, to American eyes, the enemy of freedom. The second chapter looks at decision-making, the tension of conflict and consensus. This includes the understanding of loyal opposition, something that seems to be lost with a president who calls his political opponents traitors. I appreciated her taking on how consensus can become anti-democratic and stultifying.

The third chapter looks at the tension of inclusion and exclusion, who is the demos, to whom is the democracy accountable. In the fourth, the balance between choice and coercion is explored. Pro-corporate theorists talk about government coercion and attacks on liberty when they are not allowed to poison our drinking water and make government the enemy of the people. She also explores how we seem to think freedom is the be all, end all except at work. Chapter Five looks at spontaneity versus structure. This has an important analysis of organizing versus activism and how the focus on youth movements has weakened social justice movements overall as the energy dissipates after college without the labor and community organizations to foster movement energy. Chapter Six explores the balance between mass opinion and expertise and how meritocracy works against democracy. This chapter looks at how education functions to keep the powerful powerful from generation to generation, "the paradoxical, deeply contradictory role of education under capitalism , which facilitates the ascension of some while preparing a great many more for lowly positions of servitude."

Chapter Seven looks at the geography of democracy, not just in terms of federalism and the federal, state, and local levels of participating in democracy but also the supranational entities like the World Trade Organization and how they undercut democracy and the integrity of the state. Chapter Eight considers what we inherit from the past, the traditions and norms of democracy and what we owe the future, including our obligations to pass on a livable planet.

Needless to say, this is all very discouraging in its totality, but the final chapter encourages us to balance pessimism with optimism just as democracy must balance all those other tensions.

It took me forever to read Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone. That is because after I read a chapter I needed to think about it before I moved on to the next. I took sixteen pages of notes while reading it. I hate taking notes, but I did not want to lose the ideas.

This is also a book you might want to read with some other people, perhaps discussing a chapter at a time. I do not think it is a book you can read passively, without stopping to talk to someone, tweet, or reread. It's that good.

That does not mean I agree with every word of the book, but then the author does an excellent job of interrogating her own ideas. She might seem to be asserting an opinion, and then offer a counter-example because she is rigorous like that. She perhaps places too much faith in Marxist theory from time to time, but then that may be because like democracy, it has never really existed except in conceptual form.

Taylor does not offer a simple answer because there are no simple answers. She does not pretend to know how to, or even if we can, fix democracy. She gives us the questions, the problems, and some ideas, but as someone who truly believes in government by the people, she asks us to take up the challenge.

I received an e-galley of Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone from the publisher through NetGalley.

[Dec 11, 2019] Mr. Putin Operative in the Kremlin (Geopolitics in the 21st Century) - Kindle edition by Fiona Hill, Clifford G. Gaddy. Politi

Dec 11, 2019 | www.amazon.com

NEW AND EXPANDED

MR. PUTIN

OPERATIVE IN

THE KREMLIN

Fiona Hill

Clifford G. Gaddy

BROOKINGS INSTITUTION PRESS

Washington, D.C.

Copyright © 2013

Paperback edition © 2015

THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION

1775 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036

www.brookings.edu

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the Brookings Institution Press.

The Brookings Institution is a private nonprofit organization devoted to research, education, and publication on important issues of domestic and foreign policy. Its principal purpose is to bring the highest quality independent research and analysis to bear on current and emerging policy problems. Interpretations or conclusions in Brookings publications should be understood to be solely those of the authors.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:

Hill, Fiona, 1965–

Mr. Putin : operative in the Kremlin / Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy.

pages ; cm. -- (Brookings focus book)

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-8157-2376-9 (hardcover : alk. paper)

1. Putin, Vladimir Vladimirovich, 1952– 2. Presidents -- Russia (Federation) 3. Russia (Federation) -- Politics and government -- 1991– I. Gaddy, Clifford G. II. Title. III. Series: Brookings focus books.

DK510.766.P87H55 2012

947.086'2092 -- dc23

[B] 2012041470

ISBN 978-0-8157-2617-3 (pbk. : alk. paper)

ISBN 978-0-8157-2618-0 (e-book)

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Printed on acid-free paper

Typeset in Sabon

Composition by Cynthia Stock

Silver Spring, Maryland
CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

PART I. THE OPERATIVE EMERGES

1 Who Is Mr. Putin?

2 Boris Yeltsin and the Time of Troubles

3 The Statist

4 The History Man

5 The Survivalist

6 The Outsider

7 The Free Marketeer

8 The Case Officer

9 The System

PART II. THE OPERATIVE ENGAGES

10 The Stakeholders' Revolt

11 Putin's World

12 The American Education of Mr. Putin

13 Russia Resurgent

14 The Operative Abroad

CODA

The Operative in Action

Chronology

Notes on Translation, Transliteration, Nomenclature, Style, and Sources

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Notes

Bibliography

Index
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

THIS BOOK IS THE REVISED and considerably expanded version of the first edition of Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin , which we finished writing in September 2012 and was published in 2013. The original manuscript was the result of a long-standing collaboration between Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy as colleagues at the Brookings Institution, dating to the beginning of Mr. Putin's presidency in 2000. The background for the authors' research work (individually and jointly) was outlined in the acknowledgments to the 2013 edition. These acknowledgments also thanked all the colleagues and contacts who assisted in fleshing out specific ideas and identifying source material.

Fiona Hill researched and wrote the additional material for this second edition, which moves the narrative frame of the original book from its focus on the Russian domestic scene to the international arena. Between the launch of the first edition in early 2013 and September 2014, Fiona Hill collected and analyzed new source material and embarked on a series of international research trips to conduct supplemental interviews with analysts, policymakers, government officials, and private sector representatives on the key themes of the book. Some of these trips were sponsored by external organizations, including the Embassy of the United States in Berlin and the U.S. consulates in Germany (through the U.S. Department of State's Strategic Speaker Program); the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (through its official visitors and speakers program); and the Department of National Defence of Canada (through the National Defence, Defence Engagement Program). Other trips and interviews were facilitated through meetings and conferences arranged by partner organizations, including the Aspen Institute, Chatham House, the Council on the United States and Italy, the Ditchley Foundation, the European Council on Foreign Relations, the EU Institute for Strategic Studies, the German Marshall Fund, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), the Körber Stiftung, the London School of Economics, and the Munich Security Conference. Participation in numerous Brookings Institution conferences, seminars, and private meetings in Washington, D.C., and Europe also provided opportunities to engage in one-on-one or small-group discussions with a range of U.S., European, and Russian officials, as well as U.S. and international business figures active in Russia.

Other interviews with officials were conducted in Washington, D.C. (as indicated in the endnotes), with the assistance of the embassies of many foreign countries, including Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the Delegation of the European Union.

Clifford Gaddy contributed new material and conclusions from two separate research projects: on the reform of the Russian military and the evolution of Russia's new military doctrine (conducted with Michael O'Hanlon), and on the state of the Russian economy (conducted with Barry Ickes). Some of this material will also be reflected in Clifford Gaddy and Barry Ickes's forthcoming book: Russia's Addiction. The Political Economy of Resource Dependence.

The book was written between June and September 2014 with the help and hard work of Brookings senior research assistant Hannah Thoburn. Hannah was a genuine collaborator on both editions of the book, carrying out painstaking work on Russian source material and playing an essential role in all aspects of the manuscript preparation.

Irina Angelescu played a critical role in the final stages of completing the manuscript, checking sources, editing, and thinking through the organization of concepts and material. Bilyana Lilly, Jan Malaskowski, and Catherine Trainor also assisted with the identification of Russian language source material.

Jill Dougherty, Michael O'Hanlon, Robert Otto, and Angela Stent all reviewed the text and gave invaluable editorial, conceptual, and organizational suggestions for the final manuscript. Also at Brookings, Andrew Moffatt provided moral support, kept everything on track, and made sure that time and the necessary funding were carved out so the work could get done. Other colleagues shared sources and ideas, and offered critiques, including Strobe Talbott, Tim Boersma, Charley Ebinger, Kai Eide, Michael Doran, Erica Downs, Bruce Jones, Kenneth Lieberthal, Tanvi Madan, Suzanne Maloney, Ted Piccone, Natan Sachs, Mireya Solis, Harold Trinkunas, and Thomas Wright.

Colleagues at the Center on the United States and Europe -- Riccardo Alcaro, Pavel Baev, Carlo Bastasin, Caitlyn Davis, Jutta Falke-Ischinger, Richard Kauzlarich, Kemal Kirişci, Steven Pifer, and Jeremy Shapiro -- all generously took the time to brainstorm on core concepts.

Valentina Kalk, Janet Walker, and other colleagues at Brookings Institution Press embraced the idea of an expanded second edition of the book and assisted the project all along the way. The Brookings Institution Press also covered the new editorial and production costs for the book. Independent editor John Felton gave editorial support and suggestions for improving the final manuscript. Laura Mooney and other colleagues at the Brookings library helped with difficult sourcing. Gail Chalef and Tina Trenkner pitched in with a range of ideas on outreach as the new version of the book moved toward completion.

As the second phase of research moved along, several people who had read the first edition raised important questions about core ideas, flagged articles in the Russian and international press, suggested individuals for interviews (or offered themselves for interview), and very generously sent their own and other publications for reference. These included Hannes Adomeit, Ellen Barry, Samuel Bendett, Lynn Berry, J. D. Bindenagel, Samuel Charap, William Courtney, Igor Danchenko, Jaba Devdariani, William Drozdiak, John Evans, Florence Fee, Katja Gloger, Paul Goble, Tomas Gomart, Charles Grant, Zuhra Halimova, Michael Haltzel, Andrej Heinke, Marc Hujer, Shinji Hyodo, Shoichi Ito, Akihiro Iwashita, Barbara Junge, Alisher Khamidov, Nina Khrushcheva, Hiroshi Kimura, Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Martin Klingst, John Kornblum, Ivan Krastev, Johann Legner, Bobo Lo, Jenny Lo, Alexander Lukin, Georg Mascolo, Steven Lee Myers, James Nixey, Rene Nyberg, Craig Oliphant, Tim Oliver, Bruce Parrott, William Partlett, Volker Perthes, Simon Saradzhyan, Yukio Satoh, Zachary Shore, Mary Springer, Holger Stark, Constanze Steltzenmüller, Stephen Szabo, Michael Thumann, Kazuhiko Togo, Mikhail Troitsky, Charles Undeland, David Du Vivier, Thomas de Waal, Kyle Wilson, Igor Zevelev, and Nikolai Zlobin.

Finally, our dear friend and colleague Clara O'Donnell was a great source of inspiration and ideas at the beginning of the new edition. Clara passed away in January 2014 and did not see the project completed. Her loss is keenly felt, and perhaps this second edition of the book may serve in some small measure as a testament to her accomplishments and memory.

We are grateful for the generous support of Stephen and Barbara Friedman, whose contributions to the Brookings Foreign Policy program made this book possible. This revised edition is part of Foreign Policy's project, Order from Chaos. The book's findings are in keeping with Brookings's mission: to conduct high-quality and independent research and, based on that research, to provide innovative, practical recommendations for policymakers and the public. The conclusions and recommendations of any Brookings research are solely those of its authors and do not reflect the views of the Institution, its management, or its other scholars.
PART ONE THE OPERATIVE EMERGES
CHAPTER ONE WHO IS MR. PUTIN?

ON MARCH 18, 2014 , still bathed in the afterglow of the Winter Olympics that he had hosted in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russian president Vladimir Putin stepped up to a podium in the Kremlin to address the nation. Before an assembly of Russian officials and parliamentarians, Putin signed the documents officially reuniting the Russian Federation and the peninsular republic of Crimea, the home base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. Crimea had seceded from Ukraine only two days earlier, on March 16. The Russian president gave what was intended to be a historic speech. The events were fresh, but his address was laden with references to several centuries of Russian history.

Putin invoked the origins of Orthodox Christianity in Russia. He referenced military victories on land and sea that had helped forge the Russian Empire. He noted the grievances that had festered in Russia since the 1990s, when the state was unable to protect its interests after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. At the center of his narrative was Crimea. Crimea "has always been an inseparable part of Russia," Putin declared. Moscow's decision to annex Crimea was rooted in the need to right an "outrageous historical injustice." That injustice began with the Bolsheviks, who put lands that Russia had conquered into their new Soviet republic of Ukraine. Then, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev made the fateful decision in 1954 to transfer Crimea from the Russian Federation to Ukraine. When the Soviet state fell apart in 1991, Russian-speaking Crimea was left in Ukraine "like a sack of potatoes," Putin said. 1 The Russian nation was divided by borders.

Vladimir Putin's speech and the ceremony reuniting Russia with its "lost province" came after several months of political upheaval in Ukraine. Demonstrations that had begun in late November 2013 as a protest against Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych's decision to back out of the planned signing of an association agreement with the European Union soon turned into a large-scale protest movement against his government. By February 2014, protesters were engaged in clashes with Ukrainian police that left over 100 people dead on both sides. 2 On February 21, 2014, talks between Yanukovych and the opposition were brokered by outside parties, including Russia. A provisional agreement, intended to end the violence and pave the way for new presidential elections at the end of 2014, was upended when Yanukovych abruptly fled the country. After several days of confusion, Yanukovych resurfaced in Russia. Meanwhile, the opposition in Ukraine formed an interim government and set presidential elections for May 25, 2014.

At about the same time that Yanukovych left Ukraine, unidentified armed men began to seize control of strategic infrastructure on the Crimean Peninsula. On March 6, the Crimean parliament voted to hold a snap referendum on independence and the prospect of joining Russia. On March 16, the results of the referendum indicated that 97 percent of those voting had opted to unite with Russia. It was this referendum that Putin used to justify Russia's reincorporation, its annexation, of Crimea. He opened his speech with a reference to the referendum and how more than 82 percent of eligible voters had turned out to make this momentous and overwhelming choice in favor of becoming part of Russia. The people of Crimea had exercised their right -- the right of all nations -- to self-determination. They had chosen to restore the unity of the Russian world and historical Russia. But by annexing the Crimean Peninsula, immediately after the referendum, Putin had dealt the greatest blow to European security since the end of the Cold War. In the eyes of most external observers, Putin's Russia was now a definitively revisionist power. In a short span of time, between February 21 and March 18, 2014, Russia had moved from brokering peace to taking a piece of Ukraine.

As Western leaders deliberated how to punish Putin for seizing Crimea and deter him from similar actions in the rest of Ukraine and elsewhere, questions arose: Why did Putin do this? What does he want? Many commentators turned back to questions that had been asked nearly 15 years earlier, when Vladimir Putin first emerged from near-obscurity to become the leader of Russia: "Who is Mr. Putin?" For some observers, the answer was easy: Putin was who he had always been -- a corrupt, avaricious, and power-hungry authoritarian leader. What Putin did in Ukraine was just a logical next step to what he had been doing in Russia since 2000: trying to tighten his grip on power. Annexing Crimea and the nationalist rhetoric Putin used to justify it were merely ploys to bolster his flagging public support and distract the population from problems at home. Other commentators saw Putin's shift toward nationalist rhetoric and his decision to annex Crimea as evidence of new "imperial" thinking, and as dangerously genuine. Putin's goal, they proposed, was to restore the Soviet Union or the old Russian Empire. But if that was true, where were the patterns and key indicators of neo-imperialist revisionism in Putin's past behavior? Many world leaders and analysts wondered what they had missed. Unable to reconcile their old understanding of Putin with his behavior in Ukraine, some concluded that Putin himself had changed. A "new Putin" must have appeared in the Kremlin.

If, in fact, Putin's behavior in the Ukraine crisis was really different from the past, it could provide an opportunity to understand him better. In his 2014 book, A Sense of the Enemy: The High-Stakes History of Reading Your Rival's Mind, Zachary Shore argues that it is precisely when people break with previous patterns of behavior that we can begin to gain an understanding of their real character. Patterns of past behavior are a poor predictor of how a person will act in the future. Contexts change and alter people's actions. Pattern breaks are key for analyzing individual behavior. They push us to focus on the invariant aspects of the person's self. They help reveal the hidden drivers, the underlying motivations, and what an actor, a leader, values most. 3

This is the essence of our approach in this book. The book is an effort to figure out who Mr. Putin is in terms of his motivations -- what drives him to act as he does? Rather than present a chronicle of events in which Putin played a role, we concentrate on events that shaped him. We look at formative experiences of Putin's past. And where we do examine his actions, we focus on the circumstances in which he acted. Our reasoning is that if Putin's actions and words differed during the crisis in Ukraine in 2014 from what we might have expected in the past, it is likely that the circumstances changed. Indeed, as we will lay out and describe in the two parts of this book, Vladimir Putin's behavior is driven by the imperative to adapt and respond to changing -- especially, unpredicted -- circumstances.

This book is not intended to be a definitive biography or a comprehensive study of everything about Vladimir Putin. Although personal and even intimate life experiences shape the way an individual thinks and views the world, we do not delve into Putin's family life or close friendships. We also do not critique all the different stories about him, and we try to avoid retreading ground that has been covered extensively in other analyses and biographies. Our purpose is to look for new insights in all the material we have on Vladimir Putin.

THE ELUSIVE NATURE OF FACTS

It is remarkable -- almost hard to believe -- that for 15 years there has not been a single substantive biography published in Russian, by a Russian, of President Putin. It is true that a few very incomplete books -- limited in their scope -- appeared in his first months as president. There is also, of course, Putin's own autobiography, Ot pervogo litsa (First person), which appeared in early 2000. 4 Arguably the only other true biography with wide circulation in Russia is a translation of Alexander Rahr's Wladimir Putin: Der "Deutsche" im Kreml (Vladimir Putin: the "German" in the Kremlin). 5 By contrast, there have been a number of serious biographies of Putin in English. The West, particularly the United States, is used to a steady flow of memoirs, and tell-alls, from former associates of our leaders. There has been nothing like that in Russia. Rather than the flow of information about the man who has led the country for a decade and a half growing stronger, it has actually declined over time. Above all, the information that does emerge has been increasingly controlled and manipulated. Instead of independently verifiable new facts from identified sources, there are only "stories" about Putin from unidentified sources, sources who are -- we are invariably assured by those who tell the stories -- "close to the Kremlin." There is also the phenomenon of old stories being recycled as astonishing new revelations.

Attempting to write about Vladimir Putin is thus a challenge for many reasons. One that we ourselves never imagined until we were well into this venture is that, like it or not, when you delve into his hidden aspects, whether in the past or present, you are playing a game with Putin. It is a game where he is in charge. He controls the facts and the "stories." For that reason, every apparent fact or story needs to be regarded with suspicion. It has to be traced back to original sources. If that turns out to be impossible, or the source seems unreliable, what does one do with the information? As the reader will soon find out, we too use stories about Putin. But we do so with caution. We have tested the sources. When we were unable to do so to the fullest extent, we make that clear. Most important, we have learned to ask the question, "Why has this story been circulated?"

The most obvious reason we cannot take any story or so-called fact at face value when it comes to Vladimir Putin is that we are dealing with someone who is a master at manipulating information, suppressing information, and creating pseudo-information. In the course of studying Putin, and Putin's Russia, we have learned this the hard way. In today's world of social media, the public has the impression that we know, or easily can know, everything about everybody. Nothing, it seems, is private or secret. And still, after 15 years, we remain ignorant of some of the most basic facts about a man who is arguably the most powerful individual in the world, the leader of an important nation. When there is no certifiably real and solid information, any tidbit becomes precious.

THE PUTIN BIOGRAPHY

Where then do we start? The basic biographical data, surely, are beyond dispute. Vladimir Putin was born in the Soviet city of Leningrad in October 1952 and was his parents' only surviving child. His childhood was spent in Leningrad, where his youthful pursuits included training first in sambo (a martial art combining judo and wrestling that was developed by the Soviet Red Army) and then in judo. After school, Putin studied law at Leningrad State University (LGU), graduated in 1975, and immediately joined the Soviet intelligence service, the KGB. He was posted to Dresden in East Germany in 1985, after completing a year of study at the KGB's academy in Moscow. He was recalled from Dresden to Leningrad in 1990, just as the USSR was on the verge of collapse.

During his time in the KGB, Putin worked as a case officer (the "operative" of our title) and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1990–91, he moved into the intelligence service's "active reserve" and returned to Leningrad State University as a deputy to the vice rector. He became an adviser to one of his former law professors, Anatoly Sobchak, who left the university to become chairman of Leningrad's city soviet, or council. Putin worked with Sobchak during Sobchak's successful electoral campaign to become the first democratically elected mayor of what was now St. Petersburg. In June 1991, Putin became a deputy mayor of St. Petersburg and was put in charge of the city's Committee for External Relations. He officially resigned from the KGB in August 1991.

In 1996, after Mayor Sobchak lost his bid for reelection, Vladimir Putin moved to Moscow to work in the Kremlin in the department that managed presidential property. In March 1997, Putin was elevated to deputy chief of the presidential staff. He assumed a number of other responsibilities within the Kremlin before being appointed head of the Russian Federal Security Service (the FSB, the successor to the KGB) in July 1998. A year later, in August 1999, Vladimir Putin was named, in rapid succession, one of Russia's first deputy prime ministers and then prime minister by President Boris Yeltsin, who also indicated Putin was his preferred successor as president. Finally, on December 31, 1999, Putin became acting president of Russia after Yeltsin resigned. He was officially elected to the position of president in March 2000. Putin served two terms as Russia's president from 2000 to 2004 and from 2004 to 2008, before stepping aside -- in line with Russia's constitutional prohibition against three consecutive presidential terms -- to assume the position of prime minister. In March 2012, Putin was reelected to serve another term as Russia's president until 2018, thanks to a constitutional amendment pushed through by then President Dmitry Medvedev in December 2008 extending the presidential term from four to six years.

These basic facts have been covered in books and newspaper articles. Yet there is some uncertainty in the sources about specific dates and the sequencing of Vladimir Putin's professional trajectory. This is especially the case for his KGB service, but also for some of the period when he was in the St. Petersburg mayor's office, including how long he was technically part of the KGB's "active reserve." Personal information, including on key childhood events, his 1983 marriage to his wife, Lyudmila (whom he divorced in 2014), the birth of two daughters in 1985 and 1986 (Maria and Yekaterina), and his friendships with politicians and businessmen from Leningrad/St. Petersburg is remarkably scant for such a prominent public figure. His wife, daughters, and other family members, for example, are conspicuously absent from the public domain. Information about him that was available at the beginning of his presidency has also been suppressed, distorted, or lost in a morass of competing and often contradictory versions swirling with rumor and innuendo. Some materials -- related to a notorious 1990s food scandal in St. Petersburg, which almost upended Putin's early political career -- have been expunged, along with those with access to them. When it comes to Mr. Putin, very little information is definitive, confirmable, or reliable.

As a result, there are many important and enduring mysteries about Vladimir Putin that we will not address in detail in this book. Take something so fundamental as his initial rise to power as Russian president. In less than two-and-a-half years from 1997 to 99, Vladimir Putin was promoted to increasingly lofty positions, from deputy chief of the presidential staff, to head of the FSB, to prime minister, then to acting president. How could this happen? Who facilitated Putin's rise? Putin does not have a story about that in his official biographical interviews. He leaves it to others to spin their versions. The fact that there are multiple competing answers to such a basic question as who chose Putin to be Boris Yeltsin's successor in 1999 is one of the reasons we decided to write this book and to adopt the specific approach we have. All the versions of who made this important decision are based on retrospective accounts, including from Boris Yeltsin himself in his memoir Midnight Diaries. Almost nothing comes from real-time statements or reliable accounts of actions taken. Even then -- if this kind of information were available -- we would not know what really happened behind the scenes. It is clear that many of the after-the-fact statements are self-serving. None of them seem completely credible. They are from people trying to claim credit, or avoid blame, for a set of decisions that proved monumental for Russia.

Rather than spending time parsing the course of events in this period and analyzing the various people who may or may not have influenced the decision to install Vladimir Putin as Boris Yeltsin's successor, we parse and analyze Putin himself. We focus on a series of vignettes from his basic biography that form part of a more coherent, larger story. We also emphasize Putin's own role in getting where he did. We stress the one thing we are certain about: Putin shaped his own fate. We do not deny there was an element of accident or chance in his ultimate rise to power. Nor do we deny there were real people who acted on his behalf -- people who thought at a particular time that he was "their man" who would promote their interests. But, for us, it was what Mr. Putin did that is the most critical element in his biography.

As a good KGB operative, Vladimir Putin kept his own ambitions tightly under wraps. Like most ambitious people, he took advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves. Mr. Putin paid close attention to individuals who might further his career. He studied them, strengthened his personal and professional ties to them, did favors for them, and manipulated them. He allowed -- even actively encouraged -- people to underestimate him even as he maneuvered himself into influential positions and quietly accumulated real power. Instead of providing a "Who's Who" of Vladimir Putin's political circle, we highlight some of the people who played important roles for Putin at different junctures. These include Russian historical figures whose biographies and ideas Putin appropriated and tailored to suit his own personal narrative. They also include a few people from his inner circle whose relationships and roles illuminate the connections Putin developed to put himself in a position to become Russian president and, more important, to become a president with the power to implement his goals. None of Vladimir Putin's personal ties, however, made his rise to power inevitable.

To understand our approach, it might be useful to present a couple of examples of the specious "stories" that have circulated about Putin and have been taken at face value by some authors. One is the story of Putin's alleged personal fortune. The other relates to an apparent KGB assessment of Putin as a dangerously risk-prone individual who likes to gamble.

PUTIN'S PERSONAL WEALTH

In the wake of Putin's actions in Ukraine in the spring of 2014 and the search by politicians in the West for effective levers to "punish Putin," one tempting option was to focus on the Russian president's personal wealth. Over the years, there have been repeated stories about how Mr. Putin had accumulated a vast fortune thanks to massive corruption within the inner circle of what we call Russia, Inc. 6 Early on, it was rumored that Putin's net worth was $20 billion. With each retelling, the number grew -- $30 billion, $40 billion, $70 billion, up (at last count) to $100 billion. These stories date back to Putin's time in the St. Petersburg mayor's office, they implicate his family and close associates, and they have been frequently featured in Russian as well as Western media. There is, however, little hard documentary evidence to back up even the most credible reporting. 7

Some of the world's top financial institutions have conducted serious research on how the corrupt hide their stolen assets. 8 We did not have the means to undertake the kind of detailed and laborious technical work necessary to pursue Mr. Putin's purported ill-gotten gains, nor did we want to engage in further conjecture on this subject. As we indicate in the book, there is notable circumstantial evidence -- including expensive watches and suits -- of Mr. Putin's supposedly luxurious lifestyle beyond the official trappings of the Russian presidency. These extravagances on their own do not make the case that he has amassed a fortune in the tens of billions of dollars. There are competing narratives that Putin's day-to-day lifestyle is ascetic rather than luxurious. It is certainly true that individuals with close and long-standing personal ties to Vladimir Putin now occupy positions of great responsibility within the Russian economy and are some of Russia's (and the world's) richest men. In interviews, they are remarkably frank in discussing the links between their political connections, their economic roles, and their money.

There might also be political reasons for Putin to accumulate and flaunt personal wealth. Indeed, some of the stories in the Russian press, and some related to us by Russian colleagues, suggest that Mr. Putin himself might even encourage rumors that he is the richest of the rich to curb political ambitions among Russia's billionaire businessmen, the so-called oligarchs. They cannot even compete in the realm of personal wealth with Vladimir Putin, and it is he who has supreme power in Russia. But this is all speculation about facts that remain, for now, unproven.

The problem arises when this so-called fact of huge personal wealth leads to the conclusion that greed must necessarily be Vladimir Putin's principal motivation, or that somehow the fear of losing his personal fortune, or his associates' fortunes, would restrain his actions in the international arena. Even if Vladimir Putin has enriched himself and those around him, we do not believe a quest for personal wealth is primarily what drives him. We need to understand what else motivates Putin's actions as head of the Russian state.

A "DIMINISHED SENSE OF DANGER"

One idea that gained currency during the crisis in Ukraine is that Putin is a reckless gambler who takes dangerous risks. 9 This argument is based on the alleged fact that Putin's KGB trainers deemed that he suffered from a "diminished sense of danger" ( ponizhennoye chuvstvo opasnosti ). Although presented in a couple of recent books about Putin as if it were a new revelation, this is a story familiar to anyone who has read Putin's 2000 book, Ot pervogo litsa. 10 There, Putin describes how, when he was studying at the KGB academy, one characteristic ascribed to him as a "negative trait" was a "diminished" or "lowered sense of danger" -- a deficiency that was considered very serious, he noted. 11

In fact, the Putin book turns out to be the only source for this story, something that ought to have set off alarm bells. Ot pervogo litsa was intended to be a campaign biography, or "semi-autobiography." The publication of the book was orchestrated by Putin's staff in the spring of 2000 based on a series of one-on-one interviews with a carefully selected troika of Russian journalists. Putin's team's task was to stage-manage the initial presentation, to all of Russia, of this relatively unknown person who was now standing for election as president of the country. It was crafted as a set of conversations with Putin himself, his wife, and other people close to him in his childhood and early life. Every vignette, every new fact presented in the book was chosen for a specific political purpose. The journalists who interviewed Putin also used some of the material for articles in their own newspapers and other publications.

What, then, could Putin's purpose have been in revealing such a character flaw? The answer becomes evident when one reflects on the curious ending of the book. Ot pervogo litsa ends with the interviewers noting that Putin seems, after all the episodes in his life that they have gone through, to be a predictable and rather boring person. Had he never done anything on a whim perhaps? Putin responded by recounting an incident when he risked his own life and that of his passenger, his martial arts coach, while driving on a road outside Leningrad (in fact when he was at university). He tried to grab a piece of hay through his open car window from a passing farm truck and very nearly lost control of the car. At the end of the harrowing ride, his white-faced (and presumably furious) coach turned to Putin and said, "You take risks." Why did Putin do that? "I guess I thought the hay smelled good" ( Navernoye, seno vkusno pakhlo ), said Putin. 12 This is the last line in the book. The reader clearly is meant to identify with Putin's coach and ask: "Wait! What was that all about? Just who is this guy?"

This story offers a classic case of Putin and his team imparting and spinning information in a confusing manner so that it can be interpreted in multiple ways. Putin tells contradictory versions of the story in the same passages of his book. Immediately after stating that the characteristic was ascribed to him during his KGB studies, Putin then suggests that his "lowered sense of danger" was well-known to him and all his friends already in his university days (that is, before he was ever in the KGB). 13 Putin wants people to see him in certain ways, and yet be confused. He promotes the idea of himself both as a risk-taker and as someone who takes calculated risks and always has a fallback option. Which version is the real one? Both have a certain power and useful effect. The end result of Putin's misinformation and contradictory information is to create the image that he is unknowable and unpredictable and therefore even dangerous. It is part of his play in the domestic and international political game -- to keep everyone guessing about, and in some cases fearing, how he might react.

Putin is hardly the first world leader to engage in this sort of conscious image manipulation to create doubts about their rationality or even sanity. Richard Nixon's notorious "Madman Theory" during the Vietnam War is a case in point. In 1972, believing he had a chance to bluff the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table to end the war, Nixon instructed his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, to convey the message to the North Vietnamese, via their Soviet backers, that Nixon was prepared to use a nuclear weapon. As James Rosen and Luke Nichter write in a recent article, "Nixon wanted to impress upon the Soviets that the president of the United States was, in a word, mad: unstable, erratic in his decision-making, and capable of anything." 14 In a memoir, former White House chief of staff H. R. Haldeman wrote that Nixon had carefully scripted it all. According to Haldeman, Nixon told him, "I call it the Madman Theory . I want the North Vietnamese to believe I've reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them that, 'for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry -- and he has his hand on the nuclear button,' and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace." 15

In reality, Putin's goal in planting stories about himself is more complicated than Nixon's. He is not simply trying to project a specific image of himself or even to sow confusion about the "real" Putin. He also wants to track how the initial seeding of an idea is carried forward, and by whom. Putin wants to see how the original version is embellished and then how it ultimately is played back to him again. This is an exercise. It is Putin's own version of an American children's game, "telephone" (known in the United Kingdom as "Chinese whispers," where it was also called, in earlier versions, "Russian scandal"). In seeding intrigue, Putin wants to see how others interpret what he says and then how they react. The focus is on people's perceptions rather than reality. Figuring out how others think and act, when they know nothing about him or how he operates, gives Mr. Putin a tactical political advantage.

As we have concluded over the course of writing this book, for Vladimir Putin the main thing about information is not whether it is true or not. It is how words and deeds are perceived by others. Putin is less interested in presenting a particular version of reality than in seeing how others react to the information. For him, others are participants in a game he directs. He chooses inputs, they react. He judges. Their responses to his input tell him who they think he is -- but by responding they also tell him who they are, what they want, what they care about. For his part, Vladimir Putin reveals very little in return. Indeed, he goes to great, often elaborate, lengths to throw other participants off track. As president and prime minister, he has presented himself as a myriad of different personas. Since 2000, Mr. Putin has been the ultimate international political performance artist.

THE KREMLIN SPECIAL PROPS DEPARTMENT: STAGING THE PRESIDENT

Over the last several years, Vladimir Putin's public relations team has pushed his image in a multiplicity of directions, pitching him as everything from big game hunter and conservationist to scuba diver to biker -- even nightclub crooner. Leaders of other countries have gained notoriety for their flamboyant or patriotic style of dressing to appeal to and rally the masses -- like Fidel Castro's and Hugo Chávez's military fatigues, Yasser Arafat's ubiquitous keffiyeh scarf, Muammar Qaddafi's robes (and tent), Hamid Karzai's carefully calculated blend of traditional Afghan tribal dress, and Yulia Tymoshenko's ultra-chic Ukrainian-peasant blonde braids -- but Vladimir Putin has out-dressed them all. He has appeared in an endless number of guises for encounters with the press or Russian special interest groups, or at times of crisis, as during raging peat bog fires around Moscow in 2010, when he was transformed into a fire-fighting airplane pilot. All this theatricality is done with the assistance, it would seem, of the Kremlin's inexhaustible wardrobe and special props department.

On the surface, Mr. Putin's antics are reminiscent of a much-beloved children's book and animated cartoon series in the United Kingdom, "Mr. Benn." Each morning, Mr. Benn, a nondescript British man in a standard issue bowler hat and business suit, strolls down his street and is beckoned into a mysterious costume shop by a mustachioed, fez-wearing shopkeeper. The shopkeeper whisks Mr. Benn into a changing room. Mr. Benn puts on a costume that has already been laid out by the shopkeeper, walks out a secret door, and assumes a new costume-appropriate identity, as if by magic. In every episode, Mr. Benn solves a problem for the people he encounters during his adventure, until summoned back to reality by the shopkeeper. 16 Like his cartoon analogue, Mr. Putin, with the assistance of his press secretary, Dmitry Peskov (mustachioed but without the fez), and a coterie of press people, as if by magic embarks on a series of adventures (some of which oddly enough overlap with Mr. Benn's). In the course of his adventures, Mr. Putin pulls off every costume and performance with aplomb, a straight face, and a demonstration of skill.

Vladimir Putin and his PR team -- which closely monitors the public reactions to the Mr. Putin episodes -- are aware that these performances lack universal appeal and have sparked amusement at home and abroad because of their elaborate and very obvious staging. This has led people to depict him as a shallow, cartoonish figure, or a man with no face, no substance, no soul. Putin is often seen as a "man from nowhere," who can appear to be anybody to anyone. 17

But Russian intellectual elites, the Russian political opposition to Mr. Putin, and overseas commentators are not his target audiences. Each episode of Mr. Putin has a specific purpose. They are all based on feedback from opinion polls suggesting the Kremlin needs to reach out and create a direct personal connection to a particular group among the Russian population. Press Secretary Peskov admitted this directly in a meeting with the press in August 2011 after Mr. Putin dove to the bottom of the Black Sea to retrieve some suspiciously immaculate amphorae. 18 Putin himself has asserted in biographical interviews that one of his main skills is to get people -- in this case the Russian people, his audience(s) -- to see him as what they want him to be, not what he really is. These performances portray Putin as the ultimate Russian action man, capable of dealing with every eventuality.

THE SERIOUS SIDE: SHOWING RESPECT

It is important to realize that there is something deeper, more complicated, at work beneath the façade of the "Mr. Putin" performances, something that an outside observer will always find hard to grasp. Each of the guises that Putin adopts, and the actions he undertakes, pays a degree of respect to a certain group and validates that group's place in Russian society. If the Russian president pulls on a leather jacket and rides off on a motorcycle with Russia's equivalent of the "Hell's Angels" or dresses up in a white suit to fly a microlight aircraft directing the migration of endangered birds, Russian bikers and Russian conservationists both get their time in the spotlight. Bikers and conservationists can believe they are equally worthy of presidential attention. They have inspired presidential action. They have their role to play in Russian society, just like everyone else. The performances create a sense of commonality and unity.

Western politicians routinely set out to convince voters that they are one of them, downing beers and snacks they would never normally eat in bars and restaurants they would not otherwise frequent. But Putin is not out to win votes. He is running a country. His actions have more in common with the leaders of traditional societies than Western leaders. Hamid Karzai, when leader of Afghanistan from 2004 to 2014, for example, frequently told his Western interlocutors that contrary to their interpretations of democracy, he understood democracy to be rule by consensus, not by majority. Without consensus, Afghan society would quickly descend into fragmentation, conflict, and violent strife. To bring reform to Afghanistan there had to be a broad consensus. Consensus created unity. Traditional Afghan methods of forging consensus, like the shura, a formalized consultation with societal leaders and elders, were more effective in reaching consensus, Karzai argued, than Western parliamentary innovations. The most important element of a shura, a consultation, Karzai emphasized, was not reaching some kind of decision, but showing respect in a credible way and validating the views of others. Karzai's adoption of traditional dress was one way of establishing credibility. Showing up in person and sitting for hours at a shura, or inviting Afghan tribal leaders to meetings in his own home, and simply listening to the discussions were important ways of showing respect. In Afghanistan, societal leaders wanted to feel they had been listened to by the Afghan president, not just informed of executive decisions after the fact. 19

Similarly, Putin has stressed on several occasions that he considers listening to the Russian people and hearing what they have to say in person as part of his duty as head of the Russian state. 20 He has traveled extensively to Russia's far-flung regions over the course of his presidencies and during his time as prime minister and devised an array of forums for meeting with and hearing from the public. In an impromptu 2012 meeting with Russian-American journalist and author Masha Gessen, Putin also claimed that most of the costumed stunts were his own idea and not his staff's. He wanted personally to draw attention to certain people and places and issues that he thought were being neglected or, in other words, not given sufficient respect by the rest of society. 21 Collectively, these small but elaborately staged and highly publicized acts of respect have been one of the reasons why Vladimir Putin has consistently polled as Russia's most popular politician for a decade and a half.

Putin's stage performances have the double advantage not only of ensuring his domestic popularity but also of keeping outside analysts confused about his true identity. He benefits from leaving people guessing about how accurately his various PR versions reflect his real persona. But if we do not accept these stage performances as even partly reflecting his identity, then the question remains: Who is Mr. Putin? In fact, Putin hints that he is like Russia itself in the famous poem of Fyodor Tyutchev:

With the mind alone Russia cannot be understood,

No ordinary yardstick spans her greatness:

She stands alone, unique –

In Russia one can only believe. 22

THE REAL MR. PUTINS

In this book, we pick up the idea of a multiplicity of Mr. Putins from his PR stunts in creating a portrait that attempts to provide some answers to the question "Who is Mr. Putin?" We argue that uncovering the multiple "real Putins" requires looking beyond the staged performances and the deliberately assumed guises that constitute the Putin political brand. For most of the first decade of the 2000s, Putin displayed remarkable strength as a political actor in the Russian context. This strength was derived from the combination of six individual identities we discuss and highlight in this book, not from his staged performances. We term these identities the Statist, the History Man, the Survivalist, the Outsider, the Free Marketeer, and the Case Officer. In Part I of this book, which focuses on the period up until 2012, we discuss each of the identities in detail, looking at their central elements and evolution, and their roots in Russian history, culture, and politics. We then explain how Russia's current political system can be seen as a logical result of the combination of Putin's six identities, along with the set of personal and professional relationships he formed over several decades in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

We begin Part I with an initial set of three identities: the Statist, the History Man, and the Survivalist. These are the most generic, in the sense that they characterize a larger group of Russians than just Mr. Putin, especially Russian politicians in Putin's general age cohort who began their careers during the Soviet period and launched themselves onto the national political stage in the 1990s. These first three identities provide the foundation for Mr. Putin's views about the Russian state, his political philosophy, and his conception of his first presidential terms in the 2000s. The decade of the 1990s -- the Russian Federation's first decade as a stand-alone, independent country after the dissolution of the USSR -- is a central element in the Statist, History Man, and Survivalist identities. This was the decade when Russia fell into economic and political crisis, and Moscow lost its direct authority over the rest of the former Soviet republics, including lands that had previously been part of the Russian Empire. This period also provides the overarching context for the identities as well as for Vladimir Putin's personal political narrative. Putin began his tenure as acting Russian president by publishing a December 1999 treatise, which we refer to as his "Millennium Message," on the lessons from Russia's experience in the 1990s and how he would address them. During his 2012 presidential election campaign, Putin returned to the themes of this earlier treatise. He made frequent explicit reference to what he described as the chaos of Russia in the 1990s under President Boris Yeltsin. He sharply contrasted this to the decade of political and economic stability he believes that he, personally, brought to the country after taking office in 1999. Putin essentially ran his 2012 campaign against the past, specifically the 1990s, rather than against another candidate. Mr. Putin clearly sees his presidency as the product of, as well as the answer to, the Russia of the 1990s.

The first three identities help explain Mr. Putin's goals, while the next three -- the Outsider, the Free Marketeer, and the Case Officer -- are more personal. They are primarily about the means he has been able to employ to achieve his ends. Putin's childhood experiences in a working class neighborhood of Leningrad, his years in the KGB at home and abroad, and his activities in the local government of post-Soviet St. Petersburg and then in a series of below-the-radar positions in the Kremlin in the late 1990s, all left him with a unique combination of skills and experience that helped propel him into the presidency in 1999–2000. They allowed him to build up and maintain the political and economic system that has been in place in Russia ever since.

That system, and Mr. Putin personally, has faced major challenges, both at home and abroad, in recent years. Part II of the book attempts to explain Putin's responses to those challenges in terms of the framework developed in Part I . At home, beginning with a political crisis in 2011–12, it seemed that some of Mr. Putin's core identities had ceased being strengths and had become sources of weakness for him, as well as a fundamental vulnerability for the personalized system of governance he had created within the Kremlin. As we will show, key elements of his identities prevented Mr. Putin from relating and connecting to thousands of Russian citizens who took to the streets in protest after Russia's 2011 parliamentary and 2012 presidential elections. In the end, however, Putin prevailed over the protesters. We will argue that he did so by going back to his core identities.

Our final chapters in Part II examine Mr. Putin in the context of his views of and interactions with the outside world, culminating with the crisis in Ukraine in 2013–14. Our objective is to understand Putin's motivations and his behavior by again drawing upon the insights of Part I . We first trace the evolution of his thinking about Russia's relations with the outside world and then show how Mr. Putin, the Operative in the Kremlin, translated that thinking into action as the Operative Abroad.

A CONTEXTUAL PORTRAIT

The ultimate purpose of our analysis is to provide a portrait of Mr. Putin's mental outlook, his worldview, and the individual aspects, or identities, that comprise this worldview. Like everyone else, Putin is an amalgam, a composite, of his life experiences. Putin's identities are parallel, not sequential. They blend into each other and are not mutually exclusive. In many respects they could be packaged differently from the way we present them. The most generic identities -- the Statist, the History Man, and the Survivalist -- could be merged together. They overlap in some obvious ways and have some themes in common. Nonetheless, there are key distinctions in each of them that we seek to tease out. Putin's outlook has been shaped by many influences: a combination of the Soviet and Russian contexts in which he grew up, lived and worked; a personal interest in Russian history and literature; his legal studies at Leningrad State University (LGU); his KGB training; his KGB service in Dresden in East Germany; his experiences in 1990s St. Petersburg; his early days in Moscow in 1996–99; and his time at the helm of the Russian state since 2000. Instead of trying to track down all the Putin stories to fit with these experiences, we have built a contextual narrative based on the known parts of Putin's biography, a close examination of his public pronouncements over more than a decade, and, not least, our own personal encounters with Mr. Putin. 23

Just as we do not know who exactly selected Mr. Putin to be Boris Yeltsin's successor in 1999, we do not know specifically what Putin did during his 16 years in the KGB. We do, however, know the context of the KGB during the period when Vladimir Putin operated in it. So, for example, we have examined the careers, published writings, and memoirs of leading KGB officials such as Yury Andropov and Filipp Bobkov -- the people who shaped the institution and thus Putin's role in it. Similarly, Putin constantly refers to Russia's "time of troubles" in the 1990s as the negative reference point for his presidency and premiership. Although we do not know exactly what Putin was thinking about in the 1990s, we know a great deal about the events and debates of this decade in which people around him were closely involved. We also have ample evidence in Mr. Putin's own writings and speeches from 1999 to 2014, of his appropriation of the core concepts and language of an identifiable body of political and legal thought from the 1990s. In short, we know what others around Mr. Putin said or did in a certain timeframe, even if we cannot always prove what Putin himself was up to. We focus on what seems the most credible in a particular context to draw out information relevant to Putin's specific identities.

But before we turn to Mr. Putin's six identities, we begin with the context of his emergence onto the political scene -- Russia of the 1990s. Putin did not appear out of the blue or from "nowhere" when he arrived in Moscow in 1996 to take up a position in the Russian presidential administration. He most demonstrably came from St. Petersburg. He also came from a group around Mayor Anatoly Sobchak to whom he had first gravitated in the 1970s when he was a student in LGU's law faculty and Sobchak was a lecturer there. Vladimir Putin's KGB superiors later assigned him to work at LGU in 1990, bringing him back into Anatoly Sobchak's orbit. Features of Mr. Putin's personality then drew him into the center of Sobchak's team as the former law professor campaigned to become mayor of St. Petersburg. Because of his real identities -- and particular (often unsavory) skills associated with his role as a former KGB case officer -- Vladimir Putin was subsequently determined by the St. Petersburg mayor and his close circle of associates to be uniquely well-suited for the task of enforcing informal rules and making corrupt businesses deliver in the freewheeling days of the 1990s. Putin became widely known as "Sobchak's fixer," and some of the activities he engaged in while in St. Petersburg helped pave his way to power in Moscow.
CHAPTER TWO BORIS YELTSIN AND THE TIME OF TROUBLES

SOME COMMENTATORS HAVE DEPICTED THE story of how Mr. Putin came to be prime minster and then president of Russia as something akin to a tragedy that ruptured what appeared to be a generally positive trajectory of post-Soviet Russia in the 1990s toward the development of a more pluralistic democratic state and market economy. Vladimir Putin views the trajectory of 1990s in a very different way. For him, the Russian state was in a downward spiral. His elevation to the presidency at the end of 1999 was the logical culmination of, as well as the response to, a series of sometimes fatal (not just fateful) mistakes made by Russian political figures over the course of this tumultuous decade. The agenda of his presidency was an explicit response to the 1990s. His goal, as he himself often states, was to address the mistakes that were made and put Russia back on track.

The early part of the 1990s was framed by the great upheaval of the Soviet collapse, attempts at radical economic reform, and a declaration of hostilities between an ambitious Russian parliament and a weak presidency. In the years before Mr. Putin came to Moscow, factional squabbling within the Russian leadership, and endless changes in top personnel and the composition of the Russian government, created a strong sense that President Boris Yeltsin had allowed events to spin out of control. In 1993, President Yeltsin laid siege to the Russian parliamentary building to force a recalcitrant legislature to its knees and back into line with the executive branch, thus inaugurating a period of rule by presidential decree that would last for several years. In 1994, Yeltsin launched a brutal and unsuccessful domestic war to suppress an independence drive in the republic of Chechnya, sparking two decades of brutal conflict and ongoing insurgency in Russia's North Caucasus region. In 1996, Yeltsin's team ran a dirty election campaign to keep their, by now, ailing and unpopular leader in the Kremlin. They made a deal for political support with the oligarchs -- the leading figures in Russia's new private business sectors -- that resulted in the supposed pioneers of Russia's market economy manipulating politics and fighting among themselves over the purchase of former state assets. In the same timeframe, repeated setbacks to Russia's foreign policy goals in the Balkans and elsewhere in the former Soviet space compounded a public perception of disorder verging on chaos.

One narrative among the Russian political and intellectual elite in this period -- both inside and outside government -- was that the Russian state had fallen into another time of troubles ( smutnoye vremya ). This is the narrative that Putin adopted when he embarked on his presidency in 1999–2000. Russia's infamous smutnoye vremya was the historical period that marked the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century. The death of the last tsar of the Rurikid dynasty was followed by uprisings, invasions, and widespread famine before the establishment and consolidation of the new Romanov dynasty. Boris Yeltsin's critics compared him unfavorably with Boris Godunov, the notorious de facto Russian regent during the time of troubles. Similar evocations were made to other historical periods of insurgency and uncertainty in the eighteenth century under Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, to the aftermath of the Decembrist revolt in the 1820s–30s, and to the long span of episodic revolutionary turmoil from the 1860s up to World War I that culminated in the Revolution of 1917. 1

On January 1, 1992, President Yeltsin launched an ambitious economic reform program intended to transform Russia's inherited Soviet economy into a modern market economy. The approach, labeled "shock therapy," was modeled on the recent experience of transition in Poland and other former communist countries. The key steps included the abolition of central planning for manufacturing and other production, the privatization of government enterprises, rapid liberalization of prices, and stark budget cuts aimed at restoring fiscal balance. For a Russian population that for decades had known only fixed prices, lifetime employment guarantees, and a cradle-to-grave welfare system, there was no doubt about the shock. Since virtually all prices were deregulated at the same time, they predictably jumped to unprecedented levels in one single leap. Accumulated household savings were rendered worthless. There were no provisions for compensation by the government. Enterprises were left without government orders. Their directors had neither the time nor the skills to find alternative customers before they had to simply shut down production. 2 Unemployment soared.

The austerity measures did not lead to any immediate improvement in government finances. Deficits ballooned while government services collapsed. Yeltsin's team of academic policymakers, headed by Yegor Gaidar, reassured the president and the public that all this had been expected but that the painful period would be brief. Recovery was around the corner. The result would be much greater prosperity than ever before under the Soviet system. The recovery -- the therapy part of shock therapy -- did not come. Inflation raged: prices rose on average by 20 percent a month throughout 1993. 3 Unemployment continued to grow. The economy as a whole shifted from a growth and development orientation to pure survival. On a private level, Russian households did the same. But publicly there was outrage.

From the outset, Gaidar and his group of young economists bore the brunt of the criticism for the economic and political consequences of the program. They became the target of conservative factions in the Russian parliament and industrial circles who had vested interests in Soviet-style business as usual. By the end of 1992, they were out of the cabinet and Boris Yeltsin had appointed Viktor Chernomyrdin, former head of the Russian gas industry and a member of the industrial lobby, as prime minister. Although parliament viewed Chernomyrdin as a proponent of a slower pace of reform, the conservative factions maintained their pressure on President Yeltsin. With Gaidar no longer overseeing economic policy, the Russian parliament moved to challenge Yeltsin on other political issues, including the process for passing a new Russian constitution. Both the parliament and the presidential administration set about creating their own competing drafts to replace the defunct Soviet-era constitution.

PRESIDENT VERSUS PARLIAMENT

The political standoff between the Russian legislative and executive branches degenerated to the point where effective governance was virtually impossible. In September 1993, Yeltsin abolished the existing parliament and announced that there would be elections for a new lower house in December 1993. He declared that the new lower house would now be called the State Duma, the name of the late imperial Russian legislature. The Russian parliament countered by naming its own acting president -- Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, who had moved into open political opposition to Yeltsin. Rutskoi set up an alternative cabinet in the "White House," the Russian parliamentary building. The confrontation came to a bloody end on October 3–4, 1993. Supporters of the parliament marched on Ostankino, the Moscow television tower, and a number of protesters were killed in a skirmish with interior ministry forces. On the morning of October 4, Yeltsin ordered Russian military tanks to fire on the White House to force his erstwhile vice president and the deputies to surrender. One hundred forty-five people were killed and 800 wounded in the assault and associated street fighting, according to official statements.

The events of October 1993 were (at that point) the most violent political confrontation in the Russian capital since the Revolution of 1917. 4 They left their mark on many Russian political figures of the period, including Mr. Putin. After the fighting was over and new elections were held, President Yeltsin stripped the new State Duma of many legislative oversight functions. He relocated parliament from the charred remnants of the White House to an old Soviet building symbolically in the shadow of the Kremlin walls. The scorch marks on the White House were washed off, the building was cleaned up and renovated, and it was handed off to become the seat of the Russian government. In a January 2012 interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, Gleb Pavlovsky -- a former Kremlin adviser and political strategist who worked closely with Putin during his tenure as president and prime minister before being fired in 2011 -- observed that the 1993 standoff between Yeltsin and the parliament had a profound effect on Vladimir Putin. The assault on the White House shaped Putin's views about what tended to happen when the balance of power shifted in Russia. The losers in a political confrontation would be put against the wall and shot. "Putin always said, we know ourselves we know that as soon as we move aside, you will destroy us. He said that directly, you'll put us to the wall and execute us. And we don't want to go to the wall that was a very deep belief and was based on [the] very tough confrontations of 1993 when Yeltsin fired on the Supreme Soviet [parliament] and killed a lot more people -- Putin knows -- than was officially announced ." 5

A NEW PRESIDENTIAL CONSTITUTION

Fortunately for Putin, he was nowhere near either the Kremlin or the White House walls in 1993. He was a bystander to Yeltsin's showdown with the parliament, sitting on the sidelines in the mayor's office in St. Petersburg. Putin's then boss, Anatoly Sobchak, however, was one of the key drafters of the new Russian constitution. 6 This would prove to be one of the most consequential documents for defining Putin's future presidency. Having shelled the parliament into submission, Yeltsin pushed through a draft of the constitution that granted the Russian president and the executive branch extensive powers over domestic and foreign policy. In effect, Yeltsin's new constitution retroactively legitimized many of the steps he had taken (excluding the military action) to curb the powers of parliament. It was a potentially powerful tool for any president, like Mr. Putin, trying to secure the preeminent position in Russian political life.

The 1993 Russian constitutional process was deeply rooted in earlier historical attempts to create a constitution. Although there was a good deal of discussion of other international conceptual sources and constitutional models, the document that emerged drew heavily from ideas put forward in Russia's late tsarist era. One of the creators of the 1993 Russian constitution, Sergei Shakhrai, would later claim that it was a "myth" that the Russian constitution had drawn any inspiration whatsoever from any Western constitutional models -- except, perhaps, for the fact that the Russian president was conceived as the "Russian equivalent of the British Queen." 7 (Great Britain, of course, does not have a constitution in the modern sense of a single written document, nor does the British monarch have real political power.) The Russian presidency enshrined in the constitution far exceeded even the U.S. and French equivalents in its sweep of authority.

DEBACLE IN THE DUMA

In spite of the bloodletting and his new quasi-monarchical powers, President Yeltsin found the Russian State Duma no easier to work with than the old parliament. The 1993 December elections produced a parliament split between generally anti-reform parties, including the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), and pro-reform parties such as Russia's Choice and the Russian United Democratic Party, Yabloko ("apple"). Among the parties, the nationalist LDPR secured almost a quarter (22.9 percent) of the popular vote, outstripping the second-place Russia's Choice with 15 percent. 8 The Duma subsequently fell upon itself in a series of factional and personal squabbles. Parties and blocs formed and reformed with dizzying frequency, and some parliamentary sessions were disrupted by fistfights. 9 Similar scenes played out in regional legislatures, including in St. Petersburg. A decade later, Putin would refer to the legislative rough and tumble with considerable distaste, noting that the repeated brawls had given him a very low opinion of politics. 10

In spring 1995, after much debate, a new election law was passed setting parliamentary elections for December 1995 and presidential elections for June 1996. As would happen again in 2011, the Kremlin had an unpleasant "December surprise" in the 1995 parliamentary election. The opposition Communist Party trounced the ruling party of the period, Nash dom Rossiya (NDR), or Our Home Is Russia, which had been formed under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to try to unify the range of pro-reform or "democratic" parties. 11 As we will discuss later, Putin had his own role to play in this debacle, leading NDR's local campaign in St. Petersburg, an experience that put him off electoral politics even further.

YELTSIN, THE OLIGARCHS, AND THE JUNE 1996 ELECTION

The subsequent 1996 presidential election -- which like other Russian presidential elections consisted of two rounds to reduce the pool of candidates to two if no one got a clear majority of the vote -- was transformed into an apparent head-to-head contest between Yeltsin and Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist Party leader. Zyuganov made it clear that he would end Yeltsin's economic reforms and return to a modified Soviet-style system if he won the presidency. At this fateful juncture, Yeltsin was undergoing his own personal time of troubles. The Russian president was in poor health. He would in fact have a serious heart attack between the electoral rounds and disappear from public view for a substantial period of time. These troubles compounded his government's political difficulties. They also set the scene for Putin's subsequent move to Moscow. Just before the presidential election, Yeltsin's approval ratings fell to an all-time low of 3 percent. Yeltsin risked forfeiting the election to Zyuganov unless the team around him could pull off a political miracle, but the team lacked the resources for a full-scale national electoral campaign. The Kremlin's coffers were empty, and new independent media outlets had eclipsed the stale programming and content of the old state television, newspapers, and radio. 12

Yeltsin's team reached out to a set of business people who had benefitted directly from the government's reform program. They had amassed fortunes in new financial institutions and acquired stakes in the new media. Among them were Boris Berezovsky, head of Logovaz, one of Russia's largest holding companies, which had controlling shares or interests in media outlets, including the Russian television station ORT, the newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta, and the weekly magazine Ogonyok ; Vladimir Potanin, the president of Uneximbank, Russia's third-largest bank in terms of assets; Mikhail Khodorkovsky, head of the Menatep-Rosprom financial industrial group; Vladimir Gusinsky, the founder of the Most Bank and media group; Pyotr Aven, a former Russian minister turned banker; Mikhail Fridman, the president of Alfa Bank; and Alexander Smolensky, the head of Stolichny Savings Bank. 13 In return for campaign contributions on a massive scale and preferential media access, Yeltsin promised this group of seven oligarchs privileged bidding positions for controlling shares in some of Russia's most important state companies in the oil and gas, metallurgy, and other industrial sectors when they were privatized. This notorious "loans-for-shares" agreement has been thoroughly parsed and widely documented. 14 It brought the titans of Russian business, the oligarchs, who bankrolled the campaign into the business of deciding who would run Russia. It also laid the ground for clashes between the Yeltsin "Family" (Boris Yeltsin's family members and his closest associates) and some of the businessmen -- with serious political consequences for Russia in the period leading up to 1999 -- as their respective sets of interests inevitably diverged. 15

The 1996 Russian presidential campaign prefigured the political tools, components, and principal actors of the Putin era in the 2000s. The heavy use of Western-style PR, the negative campaigning, discrediting of opponents, the rise of both independent reformed communist and Russian nationalist political movements, and massive infusions of campaign capital from vested private business interests paved the way for the politics of the subsequent decade. Gennady Zyuganov became the main political pretender to the Russian presidency. He was also Putin's primary putative opponent in the March 2012 presidential election, reprising his 1996 role. Russian general and Afghan war hero Alexander Lebed, a strong nationalist candidate who came in third place in the first round of the 1996 election, died in a helicopter crash in April 2002. He was succeeded on the national stage at various points by his colleague and co-founder of the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO) nationalist movement, Dmitry Rogozin. 16 Other political figures -- like nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the LDPR, which Yeltsin's team in 1996 portrayed in the domestic and international media as the stalking horse for fascism -- also became permanent fixtures of the Russian political scene. After that election, some of the "magnificent seven" oligarchs were given positions in the Russian government, including Boris Berezovsky as deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council and Vladimir Potanin as first deputy prime minister. Berezovsky, along with Vladimir Gusinsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, would later become the dramatis personae of Putin's clashes with the oligarchs in the early 2000s. Berezovsky and Gusinsky ended up in exile and Khodorkovsky was dispatched to a Siberian jail. 17

WAR IN CHECHNYA: DOUBLE-DEALING WITH RUSSIA'S REGIONS

In the midst of the political machinations around the parliament and the presidency, Yeltsin was embroiled in another struggle to forge a new political relationship between Moscow and the individual regions of the Russian Federation. This struggle unleashed a war in the Russian North Caucasus that would also prove instrumental in Putin's rise to the presidency in 1999. Like its dealings with parliament, the Yeltsin government's engagement with the regions was ad hoc and contradictory. It vacillated among legislative measures, police action, military intervention, repression, and conciliatory bilateral treaties that granted different regions varying concessions. The policies Yeltsin initiated provided the frame for contentious center-periphery relations that have dogged Vladimir Putin's time in office.

Protests against central government policies -- including changes in internal administrative borders and Moscow's high-level political appointments at the regional and local level -- had been an enduring feature of politics in the Soviet periphery since the late 1950s. 18 After the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Russian Federation, Russia's own regions continued to demand territorial and political changes. The Russian North Caucasus republic of Chechnya declared its independence and seceded, even before the end of the USSR, in November 1991. In February 1992, Yeltsin tried to push through a new Federal Treaty to resolve all the contested issues. Chechnya and the republic of Tatarstan in the Russian Volga region rejected it -- raising fears that Russia would unravel like the USSR. Tatarstan and a number of other Russian regions then rejected the provisions in the new 1993 Russian constitution that delineated regional powers. As a stop-gap effort, the Yeltsin government concluded a bilateral treaty with Tatarstan in February 1994. As far as Chechnya was concerned, Yeltsin made a half-hearted effort to negotiate the republic's return to the Federation. He then threw Moscow's support behind forces opposed to the independent Chechen government. A botched effort in summer 1994 to overthrow the Chechen government ended with Chechen government forces capturing Russian operatives, who were paraded in front of the media to humiliate Moscow and Yeltsin.

In December 1994, the Russian government launched a full-scale military assault on Chechnya. The assault became the largest military campaign on Russian soil since World War II, with mass civilian and military casualties and the almost complete destruction of Chechnya's principal city, Grozny. In August 1996, just after the presidential election and simultaneous with Putin's arrival in Moscow, the over-extended Russian military essentially collapsed as an effective fighting force. The military's morale was sapped by high casualties, as well as by shortages of critical armaments that forced commanders to dip into stocks of vintage World War II ordnance. Even some of the most basic supplies for the predominantly conscript soldiers ran out -- with appeals sent out during one part of the winter campaign for the Russian population to knit thick socks for Russian forces fighting in the cold and unforgiving mountainous regions of Chechnya. The war in Chechnya resulted in Russia's most significant military defeat since Afghanistan the previous decade, but this time on its own territory. 19 Partly at the instigation of General Lebed -- who was now a power to be reckoned with in Russian politics after his strong showing in the June presidential election -- the Yeltsin government was forced to conclude a truce with the Chechen government. In a subsequent peace agreement, Moscow agreed to end the military intervention and then conclude a bilateral treaty on future relations with Chechnya. Many prominent figures in the Russian political and military elite bristled at this humiliation and stressed that the arrangements hammered out with Chechnya in 1996–97 would be temporary. 20

The war between Moscow and Chechnya emboldened other regions to demand bilateral treaties. Instead of a stopgap measure, the treaties became the primary mechanism for regulating Moscow's relations with its entire periphery. 21 Over a two-year period, the Yeltsin government was forced to negotiate agreements with Bashkortorstan, a major oil-producing region next to Tatarstan; republics neighboring Chechnya in the North Caucasus; Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Perm, and Irkutsk, all predominantly ethnic Russian regions stretching from Russia's heartland into the Urals and the Lake Baikal region of Siberia; the Siberian republic of Sakha-Yakutiya, which is the heart of Russia's diamond industry; the exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea; and even St. Petersburg and the surrounding Leningrad oblast. 22 The treaties proved a useful tool for avoiding further ruinous conflict. They also resulted in the piecemeal, asymmetric decentralization of the Russian state and a confounding set of overlapping responsibilities.

The bilateral treaties were extremely unpopular in central government and parliamentary circles. By the end of the 1990s, as Putin rose to the top of the Russian government, they had become one of the most enduring symbols of the administrative chaos and weakness of the Russian state. Politicians in Moscow demanded they be overturned. With the treaties in place, leaders of republics vaulted from the status of regional functionaries to presidents and national-level political figures. Regional politicians reinterpreted Moscow's decrees to suit local concerns. They refused to implement Russian federal legislation. They created their own economic associations. They withheld tax revenues from the federal government. They openly criticized central government policy. 23 Beyond Chechnya, this weakness found perhaps its best expression in the Russian far east, in Primorsky Krai. There, at the furthest edge of the Russian Federation, Moscow engaged in what seemed like a never-ending political battle with the region's obstinate governor, Yevgeny Nazdratenko. From his political perch in Vladivostok, the governor assailed the Yeltsin government's attempts to reach a border agreement with China. He accused Moscow of cutting off Primorsky Krai's access to the Pacific Ocean. He stationed his own paramilitary Cossack forces on the border, diverted federal funds for his personal pet projects, and generally harangued Yeltsin for creating the region's chronic economic problems. 24 Putin would later find a creative way of dealing with Governor Nazdratenko that would become a hallmark of his efforts to deal with other difficult personalities in the 2000s.

THWARTED ABROAD

In the meantime, as the Yeltsin government waged war with Chechnya and engaged in a tug-of-war with Primorsky Krai, Moscow's foreign policy faltered. Russia's internecine conflicts and economic weakness constrained its ability to exert influence on consequential developments abroad. In the late 1980s USSR, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze had drawn a direct link between domestic and foreign policy. To secure international financial support for restructuring and revitalizing the Soviet economy, they abandoned the USSR's traditional confrontational posture toward the West and focused instead on reducing international tensions. 25 Boris Yeltsin initially continued the same foreign policy line with Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev. During the early stages of shock therapy, relations with international financial and political institutions and the United States were prioritized. On February 1, 1992, President Yeltsin and U.S. president George Herbert Walker Bush issued a joint declaration that Russia and the United States were no longer adversaries. They proclaimed a new era of strategic partnership.

Optimism for this partnership rapidly faded as Russia's relations with the West became mired in a series of international crises. After the break-up of Yugoslavia, full-scale fighting erupted in Sarajevo, the capital of the new state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. United Nations (UN) sanctions were slapped against Serbia -- Yugoslavia's primary successor state and one of imperial Russia's traditional regional allies -- which openly supported ethnic Serbian forces in what soon became a civil war. In July 1992, UN and other international peacekeeping forces intervened, provoking a backlash from Moscow. Conservative and nationalist factions in the Russian parliament protested that Russia had not been suitably consulted in spite of its historic interests in the Balkans. Russia's relations with its neighborhood immediately took on a harsher tone.

The term "near abroad" was introduced by Foreign Minister Kozyrev and other Russian officials to describe the former Soviet states on Russia's borders. Government reports were produced on ways of safeguarding Russian interests in these states. 26 At an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting in Stockholm in December 1992, Kozyrev offered a version of a speech to his counterparts that clearly captured a new mood in Moscow. He outlined an assertive Russian foreign policy, reaffirming Russia's traditional support for Serbia, laying claim to the entire former Soviet space, and reserving Russia's right to exert influence through military as well as economic means. 27 By this time, the Russian parliament's backlash to shock therapy was in full swing. There was a general perception, in both the Yeltsin government and parliament, that Russia was being treated as a developing or second-tier country by the West. Despite repeated promises of substantial financial aid, the United States and international financial institutions had been unable to provide sufficient assistance to alleviate the most severe effects of Russia's economic reforms. 28 The disillusioned Yeltsin government increasingly turned its foreign policy attention away from the West and toward the new states of the former Soviet Union -- trying to salvage what was left of Moscow's previous regional authority.

REBUFFED IN THE NEAR ABROAD

Yeltsin's overtures for closer relations were soon rebuffed in the near abroad. After the collapse of the USSR, the Yeltsin team thought it had created a mechanism for some form of post-Soviet regional reintegration under Russian leadership through the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Nothing went quite according to plan. Most CIS member states saw the organization either as a means for heading off nasty Yugoslav-style conflicts, or as the beginning of a mutual civilized divorce. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania -- which the USSR had annexed during World War II in an act that the UN declared illegal -- refused to join the CIS. They set their sights instead on membership in the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Georgia also initially refused. Moldova and Azerbaijan agreed only to associate membership. Ukraine, the most important of the other former Soviet republics, joined the CIS but clashed with Russia over dividing the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet -- based in Sevastopol on Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula. 29

Then fighting broke out between several new states and various separatist territorial entities, pulling Moscow into the fray. Armed clashes flared between Azerbaijan and the ethnic Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh. Across the border from Azerbaijan, Georgia fought with two of its autonomous regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In Moldova, violence erupted between forces loyal to the new government and the secessionist Transnistria region. Troops from the Soviet 14th Army stationed in Transnistria intervened. General Alexander Lebed, commander of the 14th Army, burst into the national spotlight with his efforts to separate the sides and secure Russian military installations and weapons stockpiles. Further afield, in Central Asia, Tajikistan fell into civil war. 30

The ethno-political violence in the Soviet successor states was exacerbated by Moscow's confrontation with Estonia and Latvia over the status of post-war Russian-speaking immigrants. Both states introduced legislation demanding that those immigrants fulfill residence and language requirements before they could apply for citizenship. In November 1992, the UN adopted a resolution calling for Moscow to withdraw all former Soviet troops from the Baltic states, given their illegal annexation. The Yeltsin government tried to link the troop withdrawal demanded by the UN to its dispute with the Baltic states. If the immigrants were given citizenship, the troops would be withdrawn; otherwise they would stay until the issue was resolved. In September 1993 at the United Nations General Assembly, Foreign Minister Kozyrev dug in Moscow's heels even further. He declared Russia's "special responsibility" for protecting Russian language speakers (including in Transnistria and the Baltic states) and demanded the UN grant Russia primacy in future peacekeeping missions sent into former Soviet republics. 31 These efforts were to no avail. Sustained Western pressure, including specific threats to withhold loans vital for Russia's economic reform program, ultimately forced Moscow's hand. The last former Soviet soldier was out of the Baltic states by August 31, 1994. 32

Elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, Moscow did its best to retain whatever leverage it could. In the Caucasus, Russian operatives and weaponry were used in conflicts and coups against perceived anti-Russian leaders. Economic pressure was deployed against Ukraine and the Central Asian states in a variety of disputes. A Moscow-encouraged Crimean independence movement impinged on Ukraine's claims to the Black Sea Fleet. By September 1995, the CIS and the near abroad had become the priority area for Russian foreign policy and the focal point of its principal vital interests. President Yeltsin signed a decree on the integration of the CIS, which set ambitious goals for enhancing economic, political, and military ties. 33 When he came into office in 1999–2000, Putin would continue to emphasize the importance of Russia's relations with the former Soviet republics and of maintaining Moscow's grip on the various levers of influence over them. He also took away some critical lessons from Russia's experience of being ousted (in his view) ignominiously from the Baltic states in August 1994.

VEERING FROM WEST TO EAST

At the time, none of the Yeltsin government's actions were seen by the political and military elite in Moscow to have appreciably improved Russia's international standing. The conflicts dominated Russia's domestic and foreign policy agenda. Relations with the United States and the West degenerated. In 1994, the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina escalated, culminating in punitive actions against Serbia by the EU and the United States, and then NATO air strikes. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and President Yeltsin were informed of the air attacks after the NATO allies had already made the decision. Although NATO later worked out an arrangement for Russian troops to serve in a NATO peacekeeping contingent in Bosnia under their own command, Russia's parliament was, once again, infuriated. Concurrent with the action in the Balkans, NATO's 1994 decision to expand the alliance to the new democracies of Eastern Europe, and by extension to former Soviet republics such as the Baltic states, was protested by all Russian political factions. Between 1994 and 1997, the expansion of NATO dominated Russia's interactions with the West.

In an interview in the Moscow News in September 1995, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev summed up the general elite consensus in Moscow. 34 The West had taken advantage of Russia's weakness. The West's policy in Europe, the Balkans, and within the former Soviet Union, he asserted, "is marked by a clear disrespect for Russia, as is shown by its failure to consult Russia on the issue of NATO bombings [in Yugoslavia] . All this proves that some Western politicians would have liked to see Russia play second fiddle in world politics . Whatever Russia's domestic problems, it will never reconcile itself to such a humiliating position." 35

Gorbachev insisted that Russia "badly need[ed] a meaningful policy on the international scene, a policy aimed at restoring the security system in Europe and Russia's role as a top player in world politics." He also urged a change in Western policies in Russia's former spheres of influence, warning that "an arrogant attitude towards Russia and her interests is deeply insulting to the Russian people, and that is fraught with grave consequences." 36

Not long after Gorbachev's interview, President Yeltsin replaced Foreign Minister Kozyrev in January 1996 with the former head of Russian foreign intelligence and Middle East specialist Yevgeny Primakov. Humiliated and insulted in the West, Moscow made foreign policy overtures toward former Soviet allies in Asia and the Middle East -- again with the urging of factions within the parliament and government. Primakov's appointment marked the beginning of initiatives aimed at rebuilding Russia's relations with China, India, Iraq, Iran, and other powers the USSR had previously courted. There was little further talk of partnership with the United States.

MOUNTING DEMANDS FOR THE RESTORATION OF THE STATE: PUTIN COMES TO MOSCOW

This is when Putin came to Moscow to join the Russian presidential administration. Between 1991 and 1996, Russian domestic and foreign policy had endured a long series of humiliating setbacks. Russian politicians were at each other's throats. Yeltsin had shelled the Russian parliament but had not forced it into complete submission. New political opposition forces and the oligarchs had been emboldened by their roles in the June 1996 presidential election campaign. The government's progressive economic reform program was in tatters, and its team of economic reformers was in disarray. The economy was in full-blown recession. Tens of thousands had taken to the streets to demand unpaid wages and pensions and to protest rising prices. War had ravaged Chechnya and pulled it even further away from Moscow's orbit. Regional leaders were picking apart the Russian Federation, treaty by treaty. NATO had denied Russia its traditional role in the Balkan conflicts. The West had pushed Russia out of the Baltic states. Ukraine and other putative allies in the near abroad were fighting over the Soviet spoils -- with Moscow and among themselves. Relations with the United States were on a downward trajectory.
CHAPTER THREE THE STATIST

WHEN PUTIN ARRIVED IN MOSCOW in August 1996, few in Russian elite circles had any illusions about the depth of the state's domestic crisis and the loss of its previous great-power status internationally. Many internal observers feared Russia was in danger of total collapse. They bristled at Western commentators constantly regurgitating a description of the country during the late Soviet period as "Upper Volta with missiles." 1 Russian politics was focused on preserving what was left and avoiding further humiliations. Practically every political group and party across the Russian political spectrum, from right to left, felt that the post-Soviet dismantling of the state had gone too far and advocated the restoration of Russian "state power." Even some of the liberal economists around Yegor Gaidar who were at the forefront of pulling apart the old Soviet economy in 1992–93 had moved in this direction. 2

Everything Putin has said on the subject of saving Russia from chaos since he came to power is consistent with the general elite consensus in the late 1990s on the importance of restoring order. Most of the Russian domestic and foreign policy priorities that Putin would adopt when he became president were already identified by the Russian political elite in the same period. All Vladimir Putin had to do in the 2000s was to channel and synthesize the various ideas percolating through newspaper columns and political manifestos about how to address Russia's crisis of statehood to produce what has loosely been referred to as "Putinism." This included the re-creation of a more authoritative centralized state apparatus -- the so-called vertikal vlasti or "vertical of power" -- and greater assertiveness in foreign policy, especially in the near abroad and other areas where Russia had experienced its greatest setbacks under Boris Yeltsin. 3 Although Putin was short on the specifics of what he would actually do at the outset of his presidency, he would ultimately derive most of his ideas for action from some of the more conservative factions in the 1990s political debates.

THE "MILLENNIUM MESSAGE"

The first key to Vladimir Putin's personality is his view of himself as a man of the state, his identity as a statist ( gosudarstvennik in Russian). Putin sees himself as someone who belongs to a large cohort of people demanding the restoration of the state. Vladimir Putin publicly presented himself as a statist and offered his vision for the restoration of the Russian state in one of his first major political statements and presentations just before he became acting Russian president. This statement sets the scene for Putin's time as both president and prime minister. As a result, we need to examine the specific connotations of being a statist in the Russian context of the 1990s.

On December 29, 1999, the website of the Russian government posted a 5,000-word treatise under the signature of then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Its title was "Russia on the Threshold of the New Millennium." Two days later, the president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, appeared on national television to declare that he was resigning and handing over power to Putin. The Internet treatise became known as the "Millennium Message." It was Vladimir Putin's political mission statement or manifesto for the beginning of his presidency, and it provides the overall framework for understanding the system of governance he has created around him.

One of Putin's main points in his manifesto was that throughout history, the Russian state lost its status when its people were divided, when Russians lost sight of the common values that united them and distinguished them from all others. Since the fall of communism, Putin asserted, Russians had embraced personal rights and freedoms, freedom of personal expression, freedom to travel abroad. These universal values were fine, but they were not "Russian." Nor would they be enough to ensure Russia's survival. There were other, distinctly Russian values that were at the core of what Putin called the "Russian Idea." Those values were patriotism, collectivism, solidarity, derzhavnost' -- the belief that Russia is destined always to be a great power ( derzhava ) exerting its influence abroad -- and the untranslatable gosudarstvennichestvo .

Russia is not America or Britain with their historical liberal traditions, Putin went on:

For us, the state and its institutions and structures have always played an exceptionally important role in the life of the country and the people. For Russians, a strong state is not an anomaly to fight against. Quite the contrary, it is the source and guarantor of order, the initiator and the main driving force of any change . Society desires the restoration of the guiding and regulating role of the state. 4

Putin promised to restore that role. He declared himself to be a gosudarstvennik , a builder of the state, a servant of the state. A gosudarstvennik , a person who believes that Russia must be and must have a strong state, has a particular resonance in Russia. It does not imply someone who engages in politics. A gosudarstvennik is not a politician driven by a set of distinct beliefs who represents a certain group or constituency and jumps into the fray to run for political office. Instead, the term refers to someone who is selected or self-selects to serve the country on a permanent basis and who believes only in the state itself.

*

[Dec 10, 2019] The revealed face of the the USA ruling class during Trump impeachment is Neo-Orwellian.

Dec 10, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

clarky90 , , December 9, 2019 at 7:06 pm

The MSM is reporting the "impeachment" as if it was a serious (approved by expert academics) endeavor. However, the veil is lifting. The revealed face of the ruling class is Neo-Orwellian.

"Nadler's committee will likely vote to impeach Trump. In a report defining what it considers impeachable offenses, the committee states that even if Trump did not actually break any laws in his supposed "quid pro quo" dealings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he can still be impeached for his unstated motives.

"The question is not whether the president's conduct could have resulted from permissible motives. It is whether the president's real reasons, the ones in his mind at the time, were legitimate, " it stated."

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980918000328

Certainly they are working on mind wave tech, to scan us for "unstated motives" as we live our day to day lives?

[Dec 07, 2019] What students know and can do in mathematics

Dec 07, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , December 05, 2019 at 11:52 AM

http://www.oecd.org/pisa/publications/PISA2018_CN_QCI.pdf

December, 2019

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial survey of 15-year-old students that assesses the extent to which they have acquired the key knowledge and skills essential for full participation in society. The assessment focuses on proficiency in reading, mathematics, science and an innovative domain (in 2018, the innovative domain was global competence), and on students' well-being.

Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China)

What 15-year-old students in B-S-J-Z (China) know and can do

Figure 1. Snapshot of performance in reading, mathematics and science

[Graph]

• Students in B-S-J-Z (China) scored higher than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average in reading, mathematics and science.

• Compared to the OECD average, a larger proportion of students in B-S-J-Z (China) performed at the highest levels of proficiency (Level 5 or 6) in at least one subject; at the same time a larger proportion of students achieved a minimum level of proficiency (Level 2 or higher) in at least one subject.

What students know and can do in reading

• In B-S-J-Z (China), 95% of students attained at least Level 2 proficiency in reading, significantly more than on average across OECD countries (OECD average: 77%). At a minimum, these students can identify the main idea in a text of moderate length, find information based on explicit, though sometimes complex criteria, and can reflect on the purpose and form of texts when explicitly directed to do so. Over 85% of students in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China), Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong (China), Ireland, Macao (China), Poland and Singapore performed at this level or above.

• Some 22% of students in B-S-J-Z (China) were top performers in reading, meaning that they attained Level 5 or 6 in the PISA reading test (OECD average: 9%). At these levels, students can comprehend lengthy texts, deal with concepts that are abstract or counterintuitive, and establish distinctions between fact and opinion, based on implicit cues pertaining to the content or source of the information. In 20 education systems, including those of 15 OECD countries, more than 10% of 15-year-old students were top performers.

What students know and can do in mathematics

• Some 98% of students in B-S-J-Z (China) attained Level 2 or higher in mathematics (OECD average: 76%). At a minimum, these students can interpret and recognise, without direct instructions, how a (simple) situation can be represented mathematically (e.g. comparing the total distance across two alternative routes, or converting prices into a different currency). The share of 15-year-old students who attained minimum levels of proficiency in mathematics (Level 2 or higher) varied widely – from 98% in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China) to 2% in Zambia, which participated in the PISA for Development assessment in 2017. On average across OECD countries, 76% of students attained at least Level 2 proficiency in mathematics.

• In B-S-J-Z (China), 44% of students scored at Level 5 or higher in mathematics (OECD average: 11%). Six Asian countries and economies had the largest shares of students who did so: Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China) (44%), Singapore (37%), Hong Kong (China) (29%), Macao (China) (28%), Chinese Taipei (23%) and Korea (21%). These students can model complex situations mathematically, and can select, compare and evaluate appropriate problem-solving strategies for dealing with them.

What students know and can do in science

• Some 98% of students in B-S-J-Z (China) attained Level 2 or higher in science significantly more than on average across OECD countries (OECD average: 78%). At a minimum, these students can recognise the correct explanation for familiar scientific phenomena and can use such knowledge to identify, in simple cases, whether a conclusion is valid based on the data provided.

• In B-S-J-Z (China), 32% of students were top performers in science, meaning that they were proficient at Level 5 or 6 (OECD average: 7%). These students can creatively and autonomously apply their knowledge of and about science to a wide variety of situations, including unfamiliar ones.

Paine -> anne... , December 05, 2019 at 01:07 PM
Massively impressive

[Dec 06, 2019] Mastering Blockchain Distributed ledger technology, decentralization, and smart contracts explained, 2nd Edition

Dec 06, 2019 | www.amazon.com

Copyright © 2018 Packt Publishing

About the author Imran Bashir has an M.Sc. in Information Security from Royal Holloway, University of London, and has a background in software development, solution architecture, infrastructure management, and IT service management. He is also a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the British Computer Society (BCS). Imran has sixteen years' of experience in the public and financial sectors.

He worked on large scale IT projects in the public sector before moving to the financial services industry. Since then, he has worked in various technical roles for different financial companies in Europe's financial capital, London. He is currently working for an investment bank in London as Vice President in the Technology department.

Table of Contents

  1. Title Page
  2. Copyright and Credits
    1. Mastering Blockchain Second Edition
  3. Packt Upsell
    1. Why subscribe?
    2. PacktPub.com
  4. Contributors
    1. About the author
    2. About the reviewer
    3. Packt is searching for authors like you
  5. Preface
    1. Who this book is for
    2. What this book covers
    3. To get the most out of this book
      1. Download the example code files
      2. Download the color images
      3. Conventions used
    4. Get in touch
      1. Reviews
  6. Blockchain 101
    1. The growth of blockchain technology
    2. Distributed systems
    3. The history of blockchain and Bitcoin
      1. Electronic cash
      2. Blockchain
        1. Blockchain defined
          1. Peer-to-peer
          2. Distributed ledger
          3. Cryptographically-secure
          4. Append-only
          5. Updateable via consensus
      3. Generic elements of a blockchain
        1. How blockchain works
        2. How blockchain accumulates blocks
      4. Benefits and limitations of blockchain
      5. Tiers of blockchain technology
      6. Features of a blockchain
    4. Types of blockchain
      1. Distributed ledgers
      2. Distributed Ledger Technology
      3. Public blockchains
      4. Private blockchains
        1. Semiprivate blockchains
        2. Sidechains
        3. Permissioned ledger
      5. Shared ledger
      6. Fully private and proprietary blockchains
      7. Tokenized blockchains
      8. Tokenless blockchains
    5. Consensus
      1. Consensus mechanism
      2. Types of consensus mechanisms
      3. Consensus in blockchain
    6. CAP theorem and blockchain
    7. Summary
  7. Decentralization
    1. Decentralization using blockchain
    2. Methods of decentralization
      1. Disintermediation
      2. Contest-driven decentralization
    3. Routes to decentralization
      1. How to decentralize
      2. The decentralization framework example
    4. Blockchain and full ecosystem decentralization
      1. Storage
      2. Communication
      3. Computing power and decentralization
    5. Smart contracts
    6. Decentralized Organizations
      1. Decentralized Autonomous Organizations
      2. Decentralized Autonomous Corporations
      3. Decentralized Autonomous Societies
      4. Decentralized Applications (DApps)
      5. Requirements of a Decentralized Application
      6. Operations of a DApp
        1. DApp examples
          1. KYC-Chain
          2. OpenBazaar
          3. Lazooz
    7. Platforms for decentralization
      1. Ethereum
      2. MaidSafe
      3. Lisk
    8. Summary
  8. Symmetric Cryptography
    1. Working with the OpenSSL command line
    2. Introduction
      1. Mathematics
        1. Set
        2. Group
        3. Field
        4. A finite field
        5. Order
        6. An abelian group
        7. Prime fields
        8. Ring
        9. A cyclic group
        10. Modular arithmetic
      2. Cryptography
      3. Confidentiality
      4. Integrity
      5. Authentication
        1. Entity authentication
        2. Data origin authentication
      6. Non-repudiation
      7. Accountability
    3. Cryptographic primitives
      1. Symmetric cryptography
        1. Stream ciphers
        2. Block ciphers
          1. Block encryption mode
          2. Electronic Code Book
          3. Cipher Block Chaining
          4. Counter mode
          5. Keystream generation mode
          6. Message authentication mode
          7. Cryptographic hash mode
      2. Data Encryption Standard
      3. Advanced Encryption Standard
        1. How AES works
    4. Summary
  9. Public Key Cryptography
    1. Asymmetric cryptography
      1. Integer factorization
      2. Discrete logarithm
      3. Elliptic curves
    2. Public and private keys
      1. RSA
        1. Encryption and decryption using RSA
        2. Elliptic Curve Cryptography
          1. Mathematics behind ECC
          2. Point addition
          3. Point doubling
      2. Discrete logarithm problem in ECC
        1. RSA using OpenSSL
        2. RSA public and private key pair
          1. Private key
          2. Public key
          3. Exploring the public key
        3. Encryption and decryption
          1. Encryption
          2. Decryption
        4. ECC using OpenSSL
          1. ECC private and public key pair
          2. Private key
          3. Private key generation
      3. Hash functions
        1. Compression of arbitrary messages into fixed-length digest
        2. Easy to compute
        3. Preimage resistance
        4. Second preimage resistance
        5. Collision resistance
        6. Message Digest
        7. Secure Hash Algorithms
          1. Design of Secure Hash Algorithms
          2. Design of SHA-256
          3. Design of SHA-3 (Keccak)
          4. OpenSSL example of hash functions
          5. Message Authentication Codes
          6. MACs using block ciphers
          7. Hash-based MACs
        8. Merkle trees
        9. Patricia trees
        10. Distributed Hash Tables
        11. Digital signatures
      4. RSA digital signature algorithm
        1. Sign then encrypt
        2. Encrypt then sign
      5. Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm
        1. How to generate a digital signature using OpenSSL
        2. ECDSA using OpenSSL
        3. Homomorphic encryption
        4. Signcryption
        5. Zero-Knowledge Proofs
        6. Blind signatures
        7. Encoding schemes
    3. Financial markets and trading
      1. Trading
      2. Exchanges
        1. Orders and order properties
        2. Order management and routing systems
        3. Components of a trade
        4. The underlying instrument
        5. General attributes
        6. Economics
        7. Sales
        8. Counterparty
      3. Trade life cycle
      4. Order anticipators
      5. Market manipulation
    4. Summary
  10. Introducing Bitcoin
    1. Bitcoin
      1. Bitcoin definition
      2. Bitcoin – a bird's-eye view
        1. Sending a payment to someone
    2. Digital keys and addresses
      1. Private keys in Bitcoin
      2. Public keys in Bitcoin
      3. Addresses in Bitcoin
        1. Base58Check encoding
        2. Vanity addresses
          1. Multisignature addresses
    3. Transactions
      1. The transaction life cycle
        1. Transaction fee
        2. Transaction pools
      2. The transaction data structure
        1. Metadata
        2. Inputs
        3. Outputs
        4. Verification
        5. The script language
        6. Commonly used opcodes
      3. Types of transactions
        1. Coinbase transactions
        2. Contracts
      4. Transaction verification
        1. Transaction malleability
    4. Blockchain
      1. The structure of a block
      2. The structure of a block header
      3. The genesis block
    5. Mining
      1. Tasks of the miners
      2. Mining rewards
      3. Proof of Work (PoW)
      4. The mining algorithm
      5. The hash rate
      6. Mining systems
        1. CPU
        2. GPU
        3. FPGA
        4. ASICs
      7. Mining pools
    6. Summary
  11. Bitcoin Network and Payments
    1. The Bitcoin network
    2. Wallets
      1. Non-deterministic wallets
      2. Deterministic wallets
      3. Hierarchical Deterministic wallets
      4. Brain wallets
      5. Paper wallets
      6. Hardware wallets
      7. Online wallets
      8. Mobile wallets
    3. Bitcoin payments
    4. Innovation in Bitcoin
      1. Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs)
      2. Advanced protocols
      3. Segregated Witness (SegWit)
      4. Bitcoin Cash
      5. Bitcoin Unlimited
      6. Bitcoin Gold
      7. Bitcoin investment and buying and selling bitcoins
    5. Summary
  12. Bitcoin Clients and APIs
    1. Bitcoin installation
      1. Types of Bitcoin Core clients
        1. Bitcoind
        2. Bitcoin-cli
        3. Bitcoin-qt
      2. Setting up a Bitcoin node
      3. Setting up the source code
      4. Setting up bitcoin.conf
      5. Starting up a node in testnet
      6. Starting up a node in regtest
      7. Experimenting with Bitcoin-cli
      8. Bitcoin programming and the command-line interface
    2. Summary
  13. Alternative Coins
    1. Theoretical foundations
      1. Alternatives to Proof of Work
        1. Proof of Storage
        2. Proof of Stake (PoS)
      2. Various stake types
        1. Proof of coinage
        2. Proof of Deposit (PoD)
        3. Proof of Burn
        4. Proof of Activity (PoA)
        5. Nonoutsourceable puzzles
      3. Difficulty adjustment and retargeting algorithms
        1. Kimoto Gravity Well
        2. Dark Gravity Wave
        3. DigiShield
        4. MIDAS
    2. Bitcoin limitations
      1. Privacy and anonymity
        1. Mixing protocols
        2. Third-party mixing protocols
        3. Inherent anonymity
      2. Extended protocols on top of Bitcoin
        1. Colored coins
        2. Counterparty
      3. Development of altcoins
        1. Consensus algorithms
        2. Hashing algorithms
        3. Difficulty adjustment algorithms
        4. Inter-block time
        5. Block rewards
        6. Reward halving rate
        7. Block size and transaction size
        8. Interest rate
        9. Coinage
        10. Total supply of coins
    3. Namecoin
      1. Trading Namecoins
      2. Obtaining Namecoins
      3. Generating Namecoin records
    4. Litecoin
    5. Primecoin
      1. Trading Primecoin
      2. Mining guide
    6. Zcash
      1. Trading Zcash
      2. Mining guide
        1. Address generation
        2. GPU mining
          1. Downloading and compiling nheqminer
      3. Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)
      4. ERC20 tokens
    7. Summary
  14. Smart Contracts
    1. History
    2. Definition
    3. Ricardian contracts
      1. Smart contract templates
      2. Oracles
      3. Smart Oracles
      4. Deploying smart contracts on a blockchain
      5. The DAO
    4. Summary
  15. Ethereum 101
    1. Introduction
      1. The yellow paper
        1. Useful mathematical symbols
      2. Ethereum blockchain
    2. Ethereum – bird's eye view
    3. The Ethereum network
      1. Mainnet
      2. Testnet
      3. Private net
    4. Components of the Ethereum ecosystem
      1. Keys and addresses
      2. Accounts
        1. Types of accounts
      3. Transactions and messages
        1. Contract creation transaction
        2. Message call transaction
        3. Messages
        4. Calls
        5. Transaction validation and execution
        6. The transaction substate
        7. State storage in the Ethereum blockchain
        8. The world state
        9. The account state
        10. Transaction receipts
      4. Ether cryptocurrency / tokens (ETC and ETH)
      5. The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)
        1. Execution environment
        2. Machine state
        3. The iterator function
      6. Smart contracts
        1. Native contracts
    5. Summary
  16. Further Ethereum
    1. Programming languages
      1. Runtime bytecode
        1. Opcodes and their meaning
        2. Arithmetic operations
        3. Logical operations
        4. Cryptographic operations
        5. Environmental information
        6. Block information
        7. Stack, memory, storage, and flow operations
        8. Push operations
        9. Duplication operations
        10. Exchange operations
        11. Logging operations
        12. System operations
      2. Blocks and blockchain
        1. The genesis block
        2. The block validation mechanism
          1. Block finalization
        3. Block difficulty
        4. Gas
      3. Fee schedule
        1. Forks in the blockchain
        2. Nodes and miners
          1. The consensus mechanism
        3. Ethash
          1. CPU mining
          2. GPU mining
          3. Benchmarking
          4. Mining rigs
          5. Mining pools
        4. Wallets and client software
          1. Geth
          2. Eth
          3. Pyethapp
          4. Parity
          5. Light clients
          6. Installation
          7. Eth installation
          8. Mist browser
          9. Geth
          10. The geth console
          11. Funding the account with bitcoin
          12. Parity installation
          13. Creating accounts using the parity command line
        5. APIs, tools, and DApps
          1. Applications (DApps and DAOs) developed on Ethereum
          2. Tools
      4. Supporting protocols
        1. Whisper
        2. Swarm
      5. Scalability, security, and other challenges
      6. Trading and investment
    2. Summary
  17. Ethereum Development Environment
    1. Test networks
    2. Setting up a private net
      1. Network ID
      2. The genesis file
      3. Data directory
        1. Flags and their meaning
        2. Static nodes
    3. Starting up the private network
      1. Running Mist on private net
      2. Deploying contracts using Mist
      3. Block explorer for private net / local Ethereum block explorer
    4. Summary
  18. Development Tools and Frameworks
    1. Languages
      1. Compilers
        1. Solidity compiler (solc)
          1. Installation on Linux
          2. Installation on macOS
        2. Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)
          1. Remix
        3. Tools and libraries
          1. Node version 7
          2. EthereumJS
        4. Ganache
        5. MetaMask
        6. Truffle
          1. Installation
        7. Contract development and deployment
          1. Writing
          2. Testing
    2. Solidity language
      1. Types
        1. Value types
          1. Boolean
          2. Integers
          3. Address
        2. Literals
          1. Integer literals
          2. String literals
          3. Hexadecimal literals
        3. Enums
        4. Function types
          1. Internal functions
          2. External functions
        5. Reference types
          1. Arrays
          2. Structs
          3. Data location
          4. Mappings
        6. Global variables
        7. Control structures
          1. Events 
          2. Inheritance
          3. Libraries
          4. Functions
        8. Layout of a Solidity source code file
          1. Version pragma
          2. Import
          3. Comments
    3. Summary
  19. Introducing Web3
    1. Web3
      1. Contract deployment
      2. POST requests
      3. The HTML and JavaScript frontend
        1. Installing web3.js
          1. Example
          2. Creating a web3 object
          3. Checking availability by calling any web3 method
          4. Contract functions
      4. Development frameworks
        1. Truffle
          1. Initializing Truffle
          2. Interaction with the contract
          3. Another example
          4. An example project – Proof of Idea
        2. Oracles
        3. Deployment on decentralized storage using IPFS
          1. Installing IPFS
        4. Distributed ledgers
    2. Summary
  20. Hyperledger
    1. Projects under Hyperledger
      1. Fabric
      2. Sawtooth Lake
      3. Iroha
      4. Burrow
      5. Indy
      6. Explorer
      7. Cello
      8. Composer
      9. Quilt
    2. Hyperledger as a protocol
    3. The reference architecture
      1. Requirements and design goals of Hyperledger Fabric
        1. The modular approach
        2. Privacy and confidentiality
        3. Scalability
        4. Deterministic transactions
        5. Identity
        6. Auditability
        7. Interoperability
        8. Portability
        9. Rich data queries
    4. Fabric
      1. Hyperledger Fabric
        1. Membership services
        2. Blockchain services
        3. Consensus services
        4. Distributed ledger
          1. The peer to peer protocol
          2. Ledger storage
          3. Chaincode services
          4. Components of the fabric
          5. Peers
          6. Orderer nodes
          7. Clients
          8. Channels
          9. World state database
          10. Transactions
          11. Membership Service Provider (MSP)
          12. Smart contracts
          13. Crypto service provider
          14. Applications on blockchain
          15. Chaincode implementation
          16. The application model
          17. Consensus in Hyperledger Fabric
          18. The transaction life cycle in Hyperledger Fabric
      2. Sawtooth Lake
        1. PoET
        2. Transaction families
        3. Consensus in Sawtooth
        4. The development environment – Sawtooth Lake
      3. Corda
        1. Architecture
          1. State objects
          2. Transactions
          3. Consensus
          4. Flows
        2. Components
          1. Nodes
          2. The permissioning service
          3. Network map service
          4. Notary service
          5. Oracle service
          6. Transactions
          7. Vaults
          8. CorDapp
        3. The development environment – Corda
    5. Summary
  21. Alternative Blockchains
    1. Blockchains
      1. Kadena
      2. Ripple
        1. Transactions
          1. Payments related
          2. Order related
          3. Account and security-related
        2. Interledger
          1. Application layer
          2. Transport layer
          3. Interledger layer
          4. Ledger layer
      3. Stellar
      4. Rootstock
        1. Sidechain
        2. Drivechain
      5. Quorum
        1. Transaction manager
        2. Crypto Enclave
        3. QuorumChain
        4. Network manager
      6. Tezos
      7. Storj
      8. MaidSafe
      9. BigchainDB
      10. MultiChain
      11. Tendermint
        1. Tendermint Core
        2. Tendermint Socket Protocol (TMSP)
    2. Platforms and frameworks
      1. Eris
    3. Summary
  22. Blockchain – Outside of Currencies
    1. Internet of Things
      1. Physical object layer
      2. Device layer
      3. Network layer
      4. Management layer
      5. Application layer
      6. IoT blockchain experiment
        1. First node setup
        2. Raspberry Pi node setup
          1. Installing Node.js
        3. Circuit
      7. Government
        1. Border control
        2. Voting
        3. Citizen identification (ID cards)
        4. Miscellaneous
      8. Health
      9. Finance
        1. Insurance
        2. Post-trade settlement
        3. Financial crime prevention
      10. Media
    2. Summary
  23. Scalability and Other Challenges
    1. Scalability
      1. Network plane
      2. Consensus plane
      3. Storage plane
      4. View plane
      5. Block size increase
      6. Block interval reduction
      7. Invertible Bloom Lookup Tables
      8. Sharding
      9. State channels
      10. Private blockchain
      11. Proof of Stake
      12. Sidechains
        1. Subchains
        2. Tree chains (trees)
        3. Block propagation
        4. Bitcoin-NG
        5. Plasma
    2. Privacy
      1. Indistinguishability Obfuscation
      2. Homomorphic encryption
      3. Zero-Knowledge Proofs
      4. State channels
      5. Secure multiparty computation
      6. Usage of hardware to provide confidentiality
      7. CoinJoin
      8. Confidential transactions
      9. MimbleWimble
      10. Security
        1. Smart contract security
          1. Formal verification and analysis
          2. Oyente tool
    3. Summary
  24. Current Landscape and What's Next
    1. Emerging trends
      1. Application-specific blockchains (ASBCs)
      2. Enterprise-grade blockchains
      3. Private blockchains
      4. Start-ups
      5. Strong research interest
      6. Standardization
      7. Enhancements
      8. Real-world implementations
      9. Consortia
      10. Answers to technical challenges
      11. Convergence
      12. Education of blockchain technology
      13. Employment
      14. Cryptoeconomics
      15. Research in cryptography
      16. New programming languages
      17. Hardware research and development
      18. Research in formal methods and security
      19. Alternatives to blockchains
      20. Interoperability efforts
      21. Blockchain as a Service
      22. Efforts to reduce electricity consumption
    2. Other challenges
      1. Regulation
      2. Dark side
    3. Blockchain research
      1. Smart contracts
      2. Centralization issues
      3. Limitations in cryptographic functions
      4. Consensus algorithms
      5. Scalability
      6. Code obfuscation
    4. Notable projects
      1. Zcash on Ethereum
      2. CollCo
      3. Cello
      4. Qtum
      5. Bitcoin-NG
      6. Solidus
      7. Hawk
      8. Town-Crier
      9. SETLCoin
      10. TEEChan
      11. Falcon
      12. Bletchley
      13. Casper
    5. Miscellaneous tools
      1. Solidity extension for Microsoft Visual Studio
      2. MetaMask
      3. Stratis
      4. Embark
      5. DAPPLE
      6. Meteor
      7. uPort
      8. INFURA
    6. Convergence with other industries
    7. Future
    8. Summary
  25. Another Book You May Enjoy
    1. Leave a review – let other readers know what you think
Preface This book has one goal, to introduce theoretical and practical aspects of the blockchain technology. This book contains all material that is necessary to become a blockchain technical expert. Since the publication of the first edition of this book, a lot has changed and progressed further with regards to blockchain; therefore, a need to update the book has arisen. The multitude of benefits envisaged by the implementation of blockchain technology has sparked profound interest among researchers from academia and industry who are tirelessly researching this technology. As a result, many consortia, working groups, projects, and professional bodies have emerged, which are involved in the development and further advancement of this technology. The second edition of this book will provide in-depth insights into decentralization, smart contracts, and various blockchain platforms such as Ethereum, Bitcoin, and Hyperledger Fabric. After reading this book, readers will be able to develop a deep understanding of inner workings of the blockchain technology and will be able to develop blockchain applications. This book covers all topics relevant to the blockchain technology, including cryptography, cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and various other platforms and tools used for blockchain development. It is recommended that readers have a basic understanding of computer science and basic programming experience to benefit fully from this book. However, if that is not the case then still this book can be read easily, as relevant background material is provided where necessary. Who this book is for This book is for anyone who wants to understand blockchain in depth. It can also be used as a reference by developers who are developing applications for blockchain. Also, this book can be used as a textbook for courses related to blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. It can also be used as a learning resource for various examinations and certifications related to cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. What this book covers Chapter 1 , Blockchain 101 , introduces the basic concepts of distributed computing on which blockchain technology is based. It also covers history, definitions, features, types, and benefits of blockchains along with various consensus mechanisms that are at the core of the blockchain technology. Chapter 2 , Decentralization , covers the concept of decentralization and its relationship with blockchain technology. Various methods and platforms that can be used to decentralize a process or a system have also been introduced. Chapter 3 , Symmetric Cryptography , introduces the theoretical foundations of symmetric cryptography, which is necessary to understand that how various security services such as confidentiality and integrity are provided. Chapter 4 , Public Key Cryptography , introduces concepts such as public and private keys, digital signatures and hash functions with practical examples. Finally, an introduction to financial markets is also included as there are many interesting use cases for blockchain technology in the financial sector. Chapter 5 , Introducing Bitcoin , covers Bitcoin, the first and largest blockchain. It introduces technical concepts related to bitcoin cryptocurrency in detail. Chapter 6 , Bitcoin Network and Payments , covers Bitcoin network, relevant protocols and various Bitcoin wallets. Moreover, advanced protocols, Bitcoin trading and payments is also introduced. Chapter 7 , Bitcoin Clients and APIs , introduces various Bitcoin clients and programming APIs that can be used to build Bitcoin applications. Chapter 8 , Alternative Coins , introduces alternative cryptocurrencies that were introduced after the invention of Bitcoin. It also presents examples of different altcoins, their properties, and how they have been developed and implemented. Chapter 9 , Smart Contracts , provides an in-depth discussion on smart contracts. Topics such as history, the definition of smart contracts, Ricardian contracts, Oracles, and the theoretical aspects of smart contracts are presented in this chapter. Chapter 10 , Ethereum 101 , introduces the design and architecture of the Ethereum blockchain in detail. It covers various technical concepts related to the Ethereum blockchain that explains the underlying principles, features, and components of this platform in depth. Chapter 11 , Further Ethereum , continues the introduction of Ethereum from pervious chapter and covers topics related to Ethereum Virtual Machine, mining and supporting protocols for Ethereum. Chapter 12 , Ethereum Development Environment , covers the topics related to setting up private networks for Ethereum smart contract development and programming. Chapter 13 , Development Tools and Frameworks , provides a detailed practical introduction to the Solidity programming language and different relevant tools and frameworks that are used for Ethereum development. Chapter 14 , Introducing Web3 , covers development of decentralized applications and smart contracts using the Ethereum blockchain. A detailed introduction to Web3 API is provided along with multiple practical examples and a final project. Chapter 15 , Hyperledger , presents a discussion about the Hyperledger project from the Linux Foundation, which includes different blockchain projects introduced by its members. Chapter 16 , Alternative Blockchains , introduces alternative blockchain solutions and platforms. It provides technical details and features of alternative blockchains and relevant platforms. Chapter 17 , Blockchain – Outside of Currencies , provides a practical and detailed introduction to applications of blockchain technology in fields others than cryptocurrencies, including Internet of Things, government, media, and finance. Chapter 18 , Scalability and Other Challenges , is dedicated to a discussion of the challenges faced by blockchain technology and how to address them. Chapter 19 , Current Landscape and What's Next , is aimed at providing information about the current landscape, projects, and research efforts related to blockchain technology. Also, some predictions based on the current state of blockchain technology have also been made. To get the most out of this book Download the example code files You can download the example code files for this book from your account at www.packtpub.com . If you purchased this book elsewhere, you can visit www.packtpub.com/support and register to have the files emailed directly to you. You can download the code files by following these steps:
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  2. Select the SUPPORT tab.
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Once the file is downloaded, please make sure that you unzip or extract the folder using the latest version of: The code bundle for the book is also hosted on GitHub at https://github.com/PacktPublishing/Mastering-Blockchain-Second-Edition . In case there's an update to the code, it will be updated on the existing GitHub repository. We also have other code bundles from our rich catalog of books and videos available at https://github.com/PacktPublishing/ . Check them out! Download the color images We also provide a PDF file that has color images of the screenshots/diagrams used in this book. You can download it here: http://www.packtpub.com/sites/default/files/downloads/MasteringBlockchainSecondEdition_ColorImages.pdf . Conventions used There are a number of text conventions used throughout this book. CodeInText : Indicates code words in text, database table names, folder names, filenames, file extensions, pathnames, dummy URLs, user input, and Twitter handles. Here is an example: "After executing the command, a file named privatekey.pem is produced, which contains the generated private key as follows." A block of code is set as follows:
pragma solidity ^0.4.0;

contract TestStruct {

struct Trade

{

uint tradeid;

uint quantity;

uint price;

string trader;

}

//This struct can be initialized and used as below

Trade tStruct = Trade({tradeid:123, quantity:1, price:1, trader:"equinox"});

}

When we wish to draw your attention to a particular part of a code block, the relevant lines or items are set in bold:
pragma solidity ^0.4.0;

contract TestStruct {

struct Trade

{

uint tradeid;

uint quantity;

uint price;

string trader;

}

//This struct can be initialized and used as below

Trade tStruct = Trade({tradeid:123, quantity:1, price:1, trader:"equinox"});

}

Any command-line input or output is written as follows:
$ sudo apt-get install solc
Bold : Indicates a new term, an important word, or words that you see onscreen. For example, words in menus or dialog boxes appear in the text like this. Here is an example: "Enter the password and click on SEND TRANSACTION to deploy the contract."
Warnings or important notes appear like this.
Tips and tricks appear like this.
Get in touch Feedback from our readers is always welcome. General feedback : Email feedback@packtpub.com and mention the book title in the subject of your message. If you have questions about any aspect of this book, please email us at questions@packtpub.com . Errata : Although we have taken every care to ensure the accuracy of our content, mistakes do happen. If you have found a mistake in this book, we would be grateful if you would report this to us. Please visit www.packtpub.com/submit-errata , selecting your book, clicking on the Errata Submission Form link, and entering the details. Piracy : If you come across any illegal copies of our works in any form on the Internet, we would be grateful if you would provide us with the location address or website name. Please contact us at copyright@packtpub.com with a link to the material. If you are interested in becoming an author : If there is a topic that you have expertise in and you are interested in either writing or contributing to a book, please visit authors.packtpub.com . Reviews Please leave a review. Once you have read and used this book, why not leave a review on the site that you purchased it from? Potential readers can then see and use your unbiased opinion to make purchase decisions, we at Packt can understand what you think about our products, and our authors can see your feedback on their book. Thank you! For more information about Packt, please visit packtpub.com . Blockchain 101 If you are reading this book, it is very likely that you already have heard about blockchain and have some fundamental appreciation of its enormous potential. If not, then let me tell you that this is a technology that has promised to positively alter the existing paradigms of nearly all industries including, but not limited to IT, finance, government, media, medical, and law. This chapter serves an introduction to blockchain technology, its technical foundations, the theory behind it, and various techniques that have been combined together to build what is known today as blockchain. In this chapter, we first describe the theoretical foundations of distributed systems. Next, we address the precursors of Bitcoin by which blockchain technology was introduced to the world. Finally, we introduce you to blockchain technology. This approach is a logical way to understanding blockchain technology, as the roots of blockchain are in distributed systems. We will cover a lot of ground quickly here, but don't worry -- we will go over a great deal of this material in much greater detail as you move through the book. The growth of blockchain technology With the invention of Bitcoin in 2008, the world was introduced to a new concept, which is now likely to revolutionize the whole of society. It is something that promises to have an impact on every industry, including but not limited to the financial sector, government, media, law, and arts. Some describe blockchain as a revolution, whereas another school of thought believes that it is going to be more evolutionary, and it will take many years before any practical benefits of blockchain reach fruition. This thinking is correct to some extent, but in my opinion, the revolution has already begun. Many prominent organizations all around the world are already writing proofs of concept using blockchain technology, as its disruptive potential has now been fully recognized. However, some organizations are still in the preliminary exploration stage, though they are expected to progress more quickly as the technology matures. It is a technology that has an impact on current technologies too and possesses the ability to change them at a fundamental level. If we look at the last few years, we notice that in 2013 some ideas started to emerge that suggested usage of blockchain in other areas than cryptocurrencies. Around that time the primary usage of blockchain was cryptocurrencies, and many new coins emerged during that time. The following graph shows a broad-spectrum outline of year wise progression and adaption trend of blockchain technology. Years shown on the x axis indicate the range of time in which a specific phase of blockchain technology falls. Each phase has a name which represents the action and is shown on the x axis starting from the period of IDEAS & THOUGHTS to eventually MATURITY & FURTHER STANDARDIZATION . The y axis shows level of activity, involvement and adoption of blockchain technology. The graph shows that eventually, roughly around 2025 blockchain technology is expected to become mature with a high number of users. Blockchain technology adoption and maturity The preceding graph shows that in 2013 IDEAS & THOUGHTS emerged related to other usages of blockchain technology apart from cryptocurrencies. Then in 2014 some RESEARCH & EXPERIMENTATION started which led to PROOF OF CONCEPTS , FURTHER RESEARCH , and full-scale TRIAL PROJECTS between 2015 and 2017. In 2018 we will see REAL WORLD IMPLEMENTATIONS . Already many projects are underway and set to replace existing systems, for example, Australian Securities Exchange ( ASX ) is soon to become the first organization to replace its legacy clearing and settlement system with blockchain technology.
More information on this topic can be found at https://www.asx.com.au/services/chess-replacement.htm .
It is expected that during 2019 more research will be carried out along with some interest towards regulation and standardization of blockchain technology. After this, production ready projects and off the shelf products utilizing blockchain technology will be available from 2020 and by 2021 mainstream usage of blockchain technology is expected to start. Progress in blockchain technology almost feels like the internet dot-com boom of the late 1990s. More research is expected to continue along with adaption and further maturity of blockchain technology, and finally, in 2025 it is expected that the technology will be mature enough to be used on day to day basis. Please note that the timelines provided in the chart are not strict and can vary as it is quite difficult to predict that when exactly blockchain technology will become mature. This graph is based on the progress made in the recent years and the current climate of research, interest and enthusiasm regarding this technology which suggests that by 2025 blockchain technology is expected to become mature. Interest in blockchain technology has risen quite significantly over the last few years. Once dismissed as simply geek money from a cryptocurrency point of view, or as something that was just not considered worth pursuing, blockchain is now being researched by the largest companies and organizations around the world. Millions of dollars are being spent to adapt and experiment with this technology. This is evident from recent actions taken by European Union where they have announced plans to increase funding for blockchain research to almost 340 million euros by 2020.
Interested readers can read more about this at https://www.irishtimes.com/business/technology/boost-for-blockchain-research-as-eu-increases-funding-four-fold-1.3383340 .
Another report suggests that global spending on blockchain technology research could reach 9.2 billion dollars by 2021.
More information regarding this can be found at https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/report-suggests-global-spending-blockchain-tech-could-reach-92-billion-2021/ .
There are various consortiums such as Enterprise Ethereum Alliance ( EEA ), Hyperledger , and R3 , which have been established for research and development of blockchain technology. Moreover, a large number of start-ups are providing blockchain-based solutions already. A simple trend search on Google reveals the immense scale of interest in blockchain technology over the last few years. Especially, since early 2017 the increase in the search term blockchain is quite significant, as shown in the following graph: Google trend graph for blockchain Various benefits of this technology are envisioned, such as decentralized trust, cost savings, transparency, and efficiency. However, there are multiple challenges too that are an area of active research on blockchain, such as scalability and privacy. In this book, we are going to see how blockchain technology can help bring about the benefits mentioned earlier. You are going to learn about what exactly is blockchain technology, and how it can reshape businesses, multiple industries, and indeed everyday life by bringing about a plenitude of benefits such as efficiency, cost saving, transparency, and security. We will also explore what is distributed ledger technology, decentralization, and smart contracts and how technology solutions can be developed and implemented using mainstream blockchain platforms such as Ethereum, and Hyperledger. We will also investigate that what challenges need to be addressed before blockchain can become a mainstream technology. Chapter 18 , Scalability and Other Challenges , is dedicated to a discussion of the limitations and challenges of blockchain technology. Distributed systems Understanding distributed systems is essential to the understanding of blockchain technology, as blockchain is a distributed system at its core. It is a distributed ledger which can be centralized or decentralized. A blockchain is originally intended to be and is usually used as a decentralized platform. It can be thought of as a system that has properties of both decentralized and distributed paradigms. It is a decentralized-distributed system. Distributed systems are a computing paradigm whereby two or more nodes work with each other in a coordinated fashion to achieve a common outcome. It is modeled in such a way that end users see it as a single logical platform. For example, Google's search engine is based on a large distributed system, but to a user, it looks like a single, coherent platform. A node can be defined as an individual player in a distributed system. All nodes are capable of sending and receiving messages to and from each other. Nodes can be honest, faulty, or malicious, and they have memory and a processor. A node that exhibits irrational behavior is also known as a Byzantine node after the Byzantine Generals Problem.
The Byzantine Generals problem

In 1982, a thought experiment was proposed by Lamport and others in their research paper, The Byzantine Generals Problem which is available at: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/publication/byzantine-generals-problem/ whereby a group of army generals who lead different parts of the Byzantine army are planning to attack or retreat from a city. The only way of communicating among them is via a messenger. They need to agree to strike at the same time in order to win. The issue is that one or more generals might be traitors who could send a misleading message. Therefore, there is a need for a viable mechanism that allows for agreement among the generals, even in the presence of the treacherous ones, so that the attack can still take place at the same time. As an analogy to distributed systems, the generals can be considered nodes, the traitors as Byzantine (malicious) nodes, and the messenger can be thought of as a channel of communication among the generals.

This problem was solved in 1999 by Castro and Liskov who presented the Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance ( PBFT ) algorithm, where consensus is reached after a certain number of messages are received containing the same signed content.

This type of inconsistent behavior of Byzantine nodes can be intentionally malicious, which is detrimental to the operation of the network. Any unexpected behavior by a node on the network, whether malicious or not, can be categorized as Byzantine. A small-scale example of a distributed system is shown in the following diagram. This distributed system has six nodes out of which one ( N4 ) is a Byzantine node leading to possible data inconsistency. L2 is a link that is broken or slow, and this can lead to partition in the network. Design of a distributed system: N4 is a Byzantine node, L2 is broken or a slow network link The primary challenge in distributed system design is coordination between nodes and fault tolerance. Even if some of the nodes become faulty or network links break, the distributed system should be able to tolerate this and continue to work to achieve the desired result. This problem has been an active area of distributed system design research for many years, and several algorithms and mechanisms have been proposed to overcome these issues. Distributed systems are so challenging to design that a hypothesis known as the CAP theorem has been proven, which states that a distributed system cannot have all three of the much-desired properties simultaneously; that is, consistency, availability, and partition tolerance. We will dive into the CAP theorem in more detail later in this chapter. The history of blockchain and Bitcoin Blockchain was introduced with the invention of Bitcoin in 2008. Its practical implementation then occurred in 2009. For the purposes of this chapter, it is sufficient to review Bitcoin very briefly, as it will be explored in great depth in Chapter 5 , Introducing Bitcoin . However, it is essential to refer to Bitcoin because, without it, the history of blockchain is not complete. Electronic cash The concept of electronic cash or digital currency is not new. Since the 1980s, e-cash protocols have existed that are based on a model proposed by David Chaum. Just as understanding the concept of distributed systems is necessary to comprehend blockchain technology, the idea of electronic cash is also essential in order to appreciate the first and astonishingly successful application of blockchain, Bitcoin, or more broadly cryptocurrencies in general. Two fundamental e-cash system issues need to be addressed: accountability and anonymity. Accountability is required to ensure that cash is spendable only once (double-spend problem) and that it can only be spent by its rightful owner. Double spend problem arises when same money can be spent twice. As it is quite easy to make copies of digital data, this becomes a big issue in digital currencies as you can make many copies of same digital cash. Anonymity is required to protect users' privacy. As with physical cash, it is almost impossible to trace back spending to the individual who actually paid the money. David Chaum solved both of these problems during his work in 1980s by using two cryptographic operations, namely blind signatures and secret sharing . These terminologies and related concepts will be discussed in detail in Chapter 3 , Symmetric Cryptography and Chapter 4 , Public Key Cryptography . For the moment, it is sufficient to say that blind signatures allow for signing a document without actually seeing it, and secret sharing is a concept that enables the detection of double spending, that is using the same e-cash token twice (double spending). In 2009, the first practical implementation of an electronic cash (e-cash) system named Bitcoin appeared. The term cryptocurrency emerged later. For the very first time, it solved the problem of distributed consensus in a trustless network. It used public key cryptography with a Proof of Work ( PoW ) mechanism to provide a secure, controlled, and decentralized method of minting digital currency. The key innovation was the idea of an ordered list of blocks composed of transactions and cryptographically secured by the PoW mechanism. This concept will be explained in greater detail in Chapter 5 , Introducing Bitcoin . Other technologies used in Bitcoin, but which existed before its invention, include Merkle trees, hash functions, and hash chains. All these concepts are explained in appropriate depth in Chapter 4 , Public Key Cryptography . Looking at all the technologies mentioned earlier and their relevant history, it is easy to see how concepts from electronic cash schemes and distributed systems were combined to create Bitcoin and what now is known as blockchain. This concept can also be visualized with the help of the following diagram: The various ideas that supported the invention of Bitcoin and blockchain Blockchain In 2008, a groundbreaking paper entitled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System was written on the topic of peer-to-peer electronic cash under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto . It introduced the term chain of blocks . No one knows the actual identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. After introducing Bitcoin in 2009, he remained active in the Bitcoin developer community until 2011. He then handed over Bitcoin development to its core developers and simply disappeared. Since then, there has been no communication from him whatsoever, and his existence and identity are shrouded in mystery. The term chain of blocks evolved over the years into the word blockchain . As stated earlier, blockchain technology incorporates a multitude of applications that can be implemented in various economic sectors. Particularly in the finance sector, significant improvement in the performance of financial transactions and settlements is seen as resulting in desirable time and cost reductions. Additional light will be shed on these aspects of blockchain in Chapter 17 , Blockchain – Outside of Currencies where practical use cases will be discussed in detail for various industries. For now, it is sufficient to say that parts of nearly all economic sectors have already realized the potential and promise of blockchain and have embarked, or will do so soon, on the journey to capitalize on the benefits of blockchain technology. Blockchain defined
Layman's definition : Blockchain is an ever-growing, secure, shared record keeping system in which each user of the data holds a copy of the records, which can only be updated if all parties involved in a transaction agree to update.

Technical definition : Blockchain is a peer-to-peer, distributed ledger that is cryptographically-secure, append-only, immutable (extremely hard to change), and updateable only via consensus or agreement among peers.

Now let's examine the preceding definitions in more detail. We will look at all keywords in the definitions one by one. Peer-to-peer The first keyword in the technical definition is peer-to-peer . This means that there is no central controller in the network, and all participants talk to each other directly. This property allows for cash transactions to be exchanged directly among the peers without a third-party involvement, such as by a bank. Distributed ledger Dissecting the technical definition further reveals that blockchain is a distributed ledger , which simply means that a ledger is spread across the network among all peers in the network, and each peer holds a copy of the complete ledger. Cryptographically-secure Next, we see that this ledger is cryptographically-secure , which means that cryptography has been used to provide security services which make this ledger secure against tampering and misuse. These services include non-repudiation, data integrity, and data origin authentication. You will see how this is achieved later in Chapter 3 , Symmetric Cryptography which introduces the fascinating world of cryptography. Append-only Another property that we encounter is that blockchain is append-only , which means that data can only be added to the blockchain in time-ordered sequential order . This property implies that once data is added to the blockchain, it is almost impossible to change that data and can be considered practically immutable. Nonetheless, it can be changed in rare scenarios wherein collusion against the blockchain network succeeds in gaining more than 51 percent of the power. There may be some legitimate reasons to change data in the blockchain once it has been added, such as the right to be forgotten or right to erasure (also defined in General Data Protection ( GDPR ) ruling, https://gdpr-info.eu/art-17-gdpr/ ). However, those are individual cases that need to be handled separately and that require an elegant technical solution. For all practical purposes, blockchain is indeed immutable and cannot be changed. Updateable via consensus Finally, the most critical attribute of a blockchain is that it is updateable only via consensus. This is what gives it the power of decentralization. In this scenario, no central authority is in control of updating the ledger. Instead, any update made to the blockchain is validated against strict criteria defined by the blockchain protocol and added to the blockchain only after a consensus has been reached among all participating peers/nodes on the network. To achieve consensus, there are various consensus facilitation algorithms which ensure that all parties are in agreement about the final state of the data on the blockchain network and resolutely agree upon it to be true. Consensus algorithms are discussed later in this chapter and throughout the book as appropriate. Blockchain can be thought of as a layer of a distributed peer-to-peer network running on top of the internet, as can be seen in the following diagram. It is analogous to SMTP, HTTP, or FTP running on top of TCP/IP. The network view of a blockchain At the bottom layer in the preceding diagram, there is the internet, which provides a basic communication layer for any network. In this case, a peer-to-peer network runs on top of the internet, which hosts another layer of blockchain. That layer contains transactions, blocks, consensus mechanisms, state machines, and blockchain smart contracts. All of these components are shown as a single logical entity in a box, representing blockchain above the peer-to-peer network. Finally, at the top, there are users or nodes that connect to the blockchain and perform various operations such as consensus, transaction verification, and processing. These concepts will be discussed in detail later in this book. From a business standpoint, a blockchain can be defined as a platform where peers can exchange value / electronic cash using transactions without the need for a centrally-trusted arbitrator. For example, for cash transfers, banks act as a trusted third party. In financial trading, a central clearing house acts as an arbitrator between two trading parties. This concept is compelling, and once you absorb it, you will realize the enormous potential of blockchain technology. This disintermediation allows blockchain to be a decentralized consensus mechanism where no single authority is in charge of the database. Immediately, you'll see a significant benefit of decentralization here, because if no banks or central clearing houses are required, then it immediately leads to cost savings, faster transaction speeds, and trust. A block is merely a selection of transactions bundled together and organized logically. A transaction is a record of an event, for example, the event of transferring cash from a sender's account to a beneficiary's account. A block is made up of transactions, and its size varies depending on the type and design of the blockchain in use. A reference to a previous block is also included in the block unless it is a genesis block. A genesis block is the first block in the blockchain that is hardcoded at the time the blockchain was first started. The structure of a block is also dependent on the type and design of a blockchain. Generally, however, there are just a few attributes that are essential to the functionality of a block: the block header, which is composed of pointer to previous block, the timestamp, nonce, Merkle root, and the block body that contains transactions. There are also other attributes in a block, but generally, the aforementioned components are always available in a block. A nonce is a number that is generated and used only once. A nonce is used extensively in many cryptographic operations to provide replay protection, authentication, and encryption. In blockchain, it's used in PoW consensus algorithms and for transaction replay protection. Merkle root is a hash of all of the nodes of a Merkle tree. Merkle trees are widely used to validate the large data structures securely and efficiently. In the blockchain world, Merkle trees are commonly used to allow efficient verification of transactions. Merkle root in a blockchain is present in the block header section of a block, which is the hash of all transactions in a block. This means that verifying only the Merkle root is required to verify all transactions present in the Merkle tree instead of verifying all transactions one by one. We will elaborate further on these concepts in Chapter 4 , Public Key Cryptography . The generic structure of a block. This preceding structure is a simple block diagram that depicts a block. Specific block structures relative to their blockchain technologies will be discussed later in the book with greater in-depth technical detail. Generic elements of a blockchain Now, let's walk through the generic elements of a blockchain. You can use this as a handy reference section if you ever need a reminder about the different parts of a blockchain. More precise elements will be discussed in the context of their respective blockchains in later chapters, for example, the Ethereum blockchain. The structure of a generic blockchain can be visualized with the help of the following diagram: Generic structure of a blockchain Elements of a generic blockchain are described here one by one. These are the elements that you will come across in relation to blockchain: To facilitate arbitrary program development on a blockchain, Turing complete programming language is needed, and it is now a very desirable feature of blockchains. Think of this as a computer that allows development of any program using programming languages. Nevertheless, the security of such languages is a crucial question and an essential and ongoing research area. We will discuss this in greater detail in Chapter 5 , Introducing Bitcoin , Chapter 9 , Smart Contracts , and Chapter 13 , Development Tools and Frameworks , later in this book. How blockchain works We have now defined and described blockchain. Now let's see how a blockchain actually works. Nodes are either miners who create new blocks and mint cryptocurrency (coins) or block signers who validates and digitally sign the transactions. A critical decision that every blockchain network has to make is to figure out that which node will append the next block to the blockchain. This decision is made using a consensus mechanism . The consensus mechanism will be described later in this chapter. Now we will look at the how a blockchain validates transactions and creates and adds blocks to grow the blockchain. How blockchain accumulates blocks Now we will look at a general scheme for creating blocks. This scheme is presented here to give you a general idea of how blocks are generated and what the relationship is between transactions and blocks:
  1. A node starts a transaction by first creating and then digitally signing it with its private key. A transaction can represent various actions in a blockchain. Most commonly this is a data structure that represents transfer of value between users on the blockchain network. Transaction data structure usually consists of some logic of transfer of value, relevant rules, source and destination addresses, and other validation information. This will be covered in more detail in specific chapters on Bitcoin and Ethereum later in the book.
  2. A transaction is propagated (flooded) by using a flooding protocol, called Gossip protocol, to peers that validate the transaction based on preset criteria. Usually, more than one node are required to verify the transaction.
  1. Once the transaction is validated, it is included in a block, which is then propagated onto the network. At this point, the transaction is considered confirmed.
  2. The newly-created block now becomes part of the ledger, and the next block links itself cryptographically back to this block. This link is a hash pointer. At this stage, the transaction gets its second confirmation and the block gets its first confirmation.
  3. Transactions are then reconfirmed every time a new block is created. Usually, six confirmations in the Bitcoin network are required to consider the transaction final.
It is worth noting that steps 4 and 5 are considered non-compulsory, as the transaction itself is finalized in step 3; however, block confirmation and further transaction reconfirmations, if required, are then carried out in step 4 and step 5. This completes the basic introduction to blockchain. In the next section, you will learn about the benefits and limitations of this technology. Benefits and limitations of blockchain Numerous advantages of blockchain technology have been discussed in many industries and proposed by thought leaders around the world who are participating in the blockchain space. The notable benefits of blockchain technology are as follows: As with any technology, some challenges need to be addressed in order to make a system more robust, useful, and accessible. Blockchain technology is no exception. In fact, much effort is being made in both academia and industry to overcome the challenges posed by blockchain technology. The most sensitive blockchain problems are as follows: All of these issues and possible solutions will be discussed in detail in Chapter 18 , Scalability and Other Challenges . Tiers of blockchain technology In this section, various layers of blockchain technology are presented. It is thought that due to the rapid development and progress being made in blockchain technology, many applications will evolve. Some of these advancements have already been realized, while others are anticipated in the near future based on the current rate of advancement in blockchain technology. The three levels discussed here were initially described in the book Blockchain: Blueprint for a New Economy by Melanie Swan , O'Reilly Media , 2015 as blockchain tiers categorized by applications in each category. This is how blockchain is evolving, and this versioning shows different tiers of evolution and usage of blockchain technology. In fact, all blockchain platforms, with limited exceptions, support these functionalities and applications. This versioning is just a logical segregation of various blockchain categories based on the way that they are currently being used, are evolving, or predicted to evolve. Also note that this versioning is being presented here for completeness and for historic reasons, as these definitions are somewhat blurred now, and with the exception of Bitcoin (Blockchain 1.0), all newer blockchain platforms that support smart contract development can be programmed to provide the functionalities and applications mentioned in all blockchain tiers: 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and beyond. In addition to Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3, or Tier X in the future, the following represents my own vision of what blockchain technology eventually could become as this technology advances: Machina Economicus is a concept which comes from the field of Artificial Intelligence ( AI ) and computational economics. It can be defined as a machine that makes logical and perfect decisions. There are various technical challenges that need to be addressed before this dream can be realized.
Discussion of Machina Economicus is beyond the scope of this book, interested readers can refer to https://www.infosys.com/insights/purposeful-ai/Documents/machina-economicus.pdf , for more information.
This concept in the context of blockchain and its convergence with AI will be elaborated on in Chapter 19 , Current Landscape and What's Next . Features of a blockchain A blockchain performs various functions which are supported by various features. These functions include but are not limited to transfer of value, managing assets and agreements. All of the blockchain tiers described in the previous section perform these functions with the help of features offered by blockchain, but with some exceptions. For example, smart contracts are not supported by all blockchain platforms, such as Bitcoin. Another example is that not all blockchain platforms produce cryptocurrency or tokens, such as Hyperledger Fabric, and MultiChain. The features of a blockchain are described here:
Smart Contracts

Blockchain technology provides a platform for running smart contracts. These are automated, autonomous programs that reside on the blockchain network and encapsulate the business logic and code needed to execute a required function when certain conditions are met. For example, think about an insurance contract where a claim is paid to the traveler if the flight is canceled. In the real world, this process normally takes a significant amount of time to make the claim, verify it, and pay the insurance amount to the claimant (traveler). What if this whole process were automated with cryptographically-enforced trust, transparency, and execution so that as soon as the smart contract received a feed that the flight in question has been canceled, it automatically triggers the insurance payment to the claimant? If the flight is on time, the smart contract pays itself.

This is indeed a revolutionary feature of blockchain, as it provides flexibility, speed, security, and automation for real-world scenarios that can lead to a completely trustworthy system with significant cost reductions. Smart contracts can be programmed to perform any actions that blockchain users need and according to their specific business requirements.


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William Slater III , June 13, 2018

If you want to learn Blockchain or if you think you really understand Blockchain, check out this excellent book.

If you want to learn Blockchain or if you think you really understand Blockchain, check out this excellent book.

I bought Imran Bashir's Mastering Blockchain, 2nd Edition because I knew it was a complete update to his first edition, and because I wanted to keep up with what's happening in the rapidly moving world of Blockchain Development. Needless to say, I am a huge fan of Blockchain and the promise it has for trusted, decentralized distributed computing transactions.

I have been pleasantly surprised and extremely satisfied with this invaluable tome. It could have been titled "The Bible of Blockchain", because that's basically what it is. No serious Blockchain Developer or Blockchain Project Manager should be without this book. With its wealth of information on every facet of Blockchain, it is easily worth more than 10 times the purchase price. That is not an exaggeration and here's why:

1. The author, who is clearly a great author and a very experienced practitioner of all areas Blockchain development.

2. It is authoritative.

3. Easy to read.

4. Extremely thorough.

5. Provides useful Blockchain knowledge that is immediately useful to all Blockchain professionals from the novice to the journeyman and master.

What really stands out:

The author's explanation of Blockchain, what it is, its components, and how it works is some of the clearest and most thorough I have seen.

His incredible explanations of the details about Ethereum and the Ethereum Development environment works. And his explanations of the Ethereum Virtual Machine and Ethereum Messaging are the best and clearest I have seen.

The author is such a great teacher that he suggests tricks like installing Wireshark so that the Blockchain engineer can actually see the network events between clients and servers happening in real-time.

The author generously defines and suggests a full spectrum of Blockchain tools from Wallet Managers to Blockchain Browsers to development environments and that is much appreciated.

His though coverage of major cryptocurrencies shows that he his fair, knowledgeable, passionate about providing as much information as possible to the reader.

In Summary:

I love this book and have recommended it to everyone I know who is interested in Blockchain. I also teach Blockchain at the graduate school level and have used this book in my course development and teaching, for my students and the interns I am working with this summer of 2018. Quite simply, there is nothing better on the market.

Special thanks to the author, Imran Bashir, for his tireless work that produced this masterpiece, and to everyone at PACKT for publishing it. It is the best Blockchain Book of 2018.

Amazon Customer , July 3, 2018
This was the best book I found out there for Blockchain

As a non-developer, I was able to understand 80% of this book. The information was thorough and concise. This was the best book I found out there for Blockchain. Read more 10 people found this helpful

Torben Worm , December 1, 2018
Practical hands-on book

This book touches a lot of subjects from distribution over cryptography to blockchain and smart contracts with many practical examples and pointers to further resources. If you are interested in getting started with blockchain and related technologies it's a good starting point, but if you are interested in the more theoretical aspects and deeper insights you will probably find that the book does not fulfil your needs.

Ele Liao , July 4, 2019
a good first book for blockchain

an easy read for a very comprehensive context in the blockchain. Read more Helpful

ST , October 22, 2019
comprehensive text on blockchain

I have read a number of popular books on blockchain. This is the first book that serves as a text on blockchain. Excellent, clear presentation. Read more Helpful

Muriel , June 23, 2018
Thorough and accessible

I am a developer currently building a Solidity DApp. I acquired an advanced reader's copy of this book. "Mastering Blockchain" by Imran Bashir does a thorough job explaining the foundational concepts behind blockchain programming. I like how the book contains both high-level descriptions and diagrams as well as examples of implementation at the code level. I was pleasantly surprised by how accessible the writing is. This book helped me understand the differences between various types of blockchain technologies. For example, my Bitcoin developer friends asked me how the Ethereum Patricia Merkle Tries I use are different from the regular Merkle Trees they use in their work. This book gave very clear and concise explanations of that particular difference between Bitcoin and Ethereum data structures.

Victor , July 30, 2018
It covers the essential and a bit more.

There are several books regarding the topic and it's quite complicate to find a good one among all the noise. I would say that this is a good one. It's quite concise to go direct to the topic but at the same time it provides a complete view. Quite interesting, and this is something that almost all other publications miss is the cryptography side. There are several chapters focused on the topic and these provides a complete background that let you to understand better the blockchain mechanism. Is a really good book for people with some technical background that want to understand blockchain.

Rami Kudmani , June 20, 2018
Comprehensive and Enjoyable

I have read the first edition of this book. The book is well-structured and it covers a broad spectrum of knowledge around blockchain technology. What is interesting about this book is that it is one of the rare blockchain books that you could read the majority of it by non-tech people. The other thing is that it covers many important aspects about Blockchain starting from digital currencies, alt-coins down to non-financial applications.

I liked that book and would recommend it for newbies who are looking to understand blockchain and crypto-currencies, for for someone who understands bits and pieces here and there and wants to fill knowledge gaps about this interesting topic.

[Dec 06, 2019] Academic Conformism is the road to 1984. - Sic Semper Tyrannis

Dec 06, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com

01 December 2019 Academic Conformism is the road to "1984."

Symptoms-of-groupthink-janis-72-l

The world is filled with conformism and groupthink. Most people do not wish to think for themselves. Thinking for oneself is dangerous, requires effort and often leads to rejection by the herd of one's peers.

The profession of arms, the intelligence business, the civil service bureaucracy, the wondrous world of groups like the League of Women Voters, Rotary Club as well as the empire of the thinktanks are all rotten with this sickness, an illness which leads inevitably to stereotyped and unrealistic thinking, thinking that does not reflect reality.

The worst locus of this mentally crippling phenomenon is the world of the academics. I have served on a number of boards that awarded Ph.D and post doctoral grants. I was on the Fulbright Fellowship federal board. I was on the HF Guggenheim program and executive boards for a long time. Those are two examples of my exposure to the individual and collective academic minds.

As a class of people I find them unimpressive. The credentialing exercise in acquiring a doctorate is basically a nepotistic process of sucking up to elders and a crutch for ego support as well as an entrance ticket for various hierarchies, among them the world of the academy. The process of degree acquisition itself requires sponsorship by esteemed academics who recommend candidates who do not stray very far from the corpus of known work in whichever narrow field is involved. The endorsements from RESPECTED academics are often decisive in the award of grants.

This process is continued throughout a career in academic research. PEER REVIEW is the sine qua non for acceptance of a "paper," invitation to career making conferences, or to the Holy of Holies, TENURE.

This life experience forms and creates CONFORMISTS, people who instinctively boot-lick their fellows in a search for the "Good Doggy" moments that make up their lives. These people are for sale. Their price may not be money, but they are still for sale. They want to be accepted as members of their group. Dissent leads to expulsion or effective rejection from the group.

This mentality renders doubtful any assertion that a large group of academics supports any stated conclusion. As a species academics will say or do anything to be included in their caste.

This makes them inherently dangerous. They will support any party or parties, of any political inclination if that group has the money, and the potential or actual power to maintain the academics as a tribe. pl

1984-Novel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conformity

Posted at 11:59 AM in Whatever | Permalink

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A. Pols , 01 December 2019 at 12:58 PM

Climate change: "scientific consensus"
doug , 01 December 2019 at 01:01 PM
Sir,

That is the nature of tribes and humans are very tribal. At least most of them. Fortunately, there are outliers. I was recently reading "Political Tribes" which was written by a couple who are both law professors that examines this.

Take global warming (aka the rebranded climate change). Good luck getting grants to do any skeptical research. This highly complex subject which posits human impact is a perfect example of tribal bias.

My success in the private sector comes from consistent questioning what I wanted to be true to prevent suboptimal design decisions.

I also instinctively dislike groups that have some idealized view of "What is to be done?"

As Groucho said: "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member"

J , 01 December 2019 at 01:22 PM
Reminds one of the Borg, doesn't it?

The 'isms' had it, be it Nazism, Fascism, Communism, Totalitarianism, Elitism all demand conformity and adherence to group think. If one does not co-tow to whichever 'ism' is at play, those outside their group think are persecuted, ostracized, jailed, and executed all because they defy their conformity demands, and defy allegiance to them.

One world, one religion, one government, one Borg. all lead down the same road to -- Orwell's 1984.

artemesia said in reply to J ... , 01 December 2019 at 08:18 PM
Gotta laugh or you'll cry
Talk about group-think:
First comment: 12:58 pm
Second comment: 1:01 pm
Third comment: 1:22 pm

24 minutes and WE HAVE A WINNER: "Nazism & Fascism are . . ."

Gee Mr. Wilson, what stunningly independent thinking. How 'thinking-outside-the-History-Channel-box"ish.

Factotum , 01 December 2019 at 03:18 PM
David Halberstam: The Best and the Brightest. (Reminder how the heck we got into Vietnam, when the best and the brightest were serving as presidential advisors.)

Also good Halberstam re-read: The Powers that Be - when the conservative media controlled the levers of power; not the uber-liberal one we experience today.

fotokemist , 01 December 2019 at 05:16 PM
Col.,

You nailed it. Just as spontaneous natural processes tend toward disorder, human activity seems to tend toward corruption. Keep up the good work.

J , 01 December 2019 at 05:39 PM
Colonel

What do you think about this one

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/federal-court-oks-virginia-redistricting-plan/2019/02/14/2c2832a0-3090-11e9-813a-0ab2f17e305b_story.html

J , 01 December 2019 at 05:45 PM
Appears that NYC's Michael Bloomberg bought Virginia politics

https://www.nraila.org/articles/20191125/bloomberg-bought-virginia-legislators-introduce-confiscatory-gun-ban

J , 01 December 2019 at 05:51 PM
Virginia rural areas are rushing to protect themselves from the leftist Democrats legislation against them

https://www.virginiamercury.com/2019/11/20/were-going-to-have-to-defend-ourselves-after-democratic-victories-rural-virginia-counties-rush-to-declare-themselves-gun-sanctuaries/

turcopolier , 01 December 2019 at 06:43 PM
J

One more indication that Virginia is gone forever into the Blue group.

Babak Makkinejad , 01 December 2019 at 07:30 PM
If you are mediocre, in any place, you will prosper since you are not a threat to anyone.

If you are a genious, you will propser as you are untouchable by the ocean of mediocrity.

If you are brilliant, but not genious, you will not prosper.

Babak Makkinejad , 01 December 2019 at 07:32 PM
Happy is the man who has no imagination, for he is saved, as the Medieval Christians believed.
Diana C said in reply to Babak Makkinejad... , 01 December 2019 at 09:50 PM
I'm not sure I agree with you about the Medieval Christians having no imagination. Chaucer's pilgrims were all interesting characters. Perhaps they weren't all brilliant or virtuous, but they were, as Chaucer created them, all INDIVIDUALS.

I try not to make judgments about medieval Muslims. I simply have had not chance to learn much about them; so I try not to lump them all together in my mind.

Babak Makkinejad -> Diana C... , 02 December 2019 at 12:06 AM
After 1200, Muslims ran out of steam, encouraged & advised by their so-called Thinkers to conform the Law and thus guarantee their After Life. What is more important: Knowledge or Faith? Athens or zJerusalem? If your innovation causes you to go astray, discard it.
Elora Danan said in reply to Diana C... , 02 December 2019 at 02:06 PM
May be Makkinejad refers to this issue...

From Wiki on Liberal Arts...

Due to the negative opinion that some Fathers of the Church expressed in relation to ancient culture, all-medieval Christianity did not consider the teaching of liberal arts a priority. Initially, in the monastic and episcopal schools the essential rudiments were taught to understand the Bible and the chant, leaving aside the "subtleties" of grammar and oratory. It will not be until the educational design of Alcuino when the liberal arts became the central part of the curriculum.
Diana C said in reply to Elora Danan... , 02 December 2019 at 09:36 PM
I guess I was thinking of the common people, who did count themselves as Christian, and not the people in the "schools," though some of Chaucer's characters were in the church--e.g., a prioress, a friar, and so on. But these characters certainly knew how they were "supposed" to live their lives but clearly weren't living their lives as the church would have them live.

In that regard, perhaps there was a group of Christians who were IN the church. What I am saying is that almost all people in England at that time were--or at least considered themselves as Christians. However, they were indeed not living their lives as a member of the "Borg."

Perhaps, since I am a Protestant Christian, I am also not part of the group of people who are Christian and who are "accepted" in this Borg-like group.

I often feel dismissed and diminished when my Christian beliefs, which I have held since childhood, seem not to be worthy of consideration in the discussion.

Vegetius , 01 December 2019 at 08:11 PM
How long ago was your last academic experience? My understanding is that in the liberal arts it has basically become a long struggle session. Basically if you are a straight white male you keep your head down and think in secret, like Winston Smith.

The answer to a lot of this is simple: end all federal funding to any public institution any part of which has speech codes more restrictive than settled law with regard to the First Amendment.

Trump could have done this his first day in office, and he actually tweeted about it once. But no.

Patrick Armstrong -> Vegetius... , 01 December 2019 at 09:10 PM
Requirements, IMO are 1) a certain amount of intelligence but not all that much 2) some luck (your supervisor shouldn't die, someone else shouldn't beat you to it, your examiners shouldn't take a scunner to you or your supervisor) 3, and probably most important, sitzfleisch: the ability to nail your bum to the chair and plow through it. And, also important, to know when to stop.

(an absurdly long process in N American it seems, years and years and years. I got mine in the UK -- write the thesis and that's it)

Babak Makkinejad -> Vegetius... , 02 December 2019 at 12:09 AM
Liberal Arts education has been made available to the masses: they do not understand it, appreciate, need it, or can even use it. A very small percentage of mankind is suited for that kind of education. It is almost criminal negligence to have expanded it so much.
Babak Makkinejad -> Vegetius... , 02 December 2019 at 12:12 AM
See here please for an example

https://youtu.be/uRIKJCKWla4

Vegetius said in reply to Babak Makkinejad... , 02 December 2019 at 10:20 AM
Remember, Weinstein was fine with the anti-white, anti-western, anti-Christian agenda at Evergreen until it inconvenienced him. Then he learned to his shock that pulling his J-card would not give him a pass. At which point the pathetic attempt at gatekeeping called the "intellectual dark web" was declared.

Taleb and Weinstein have had an interesting back-and-forth on twitter lately over the latter's statement:

"We are going to have to figure out how to govern the Earth. That requires us to agree on values, ground rules and assumptions. I don't care about private faith. I care that all populations maintain compatibility with a common belief system that prioritizes no one's sacred book."

The test for whether Weinstein is lying or not is simple: will he support a global ban on infant genital mutilation?

wtofd , 01 December 2019 at 08:15 PM
Nassim Taleb, of Black Swan fame, talks about this phenomenon in Skin in the Game. He also writes convincingly, if briefly, about the radical Sunni threat and Americans confusing the Shia as the global threat. Worthwhile.
Patrick Armstrong , 01 December 2019 at 09:06 PM
The best description of a PhD that I can think of came from a tailor. He had learned his trade in Germany and, when he was ready to become a master, the local guild gave him a task -- to make a morning suit from start to finish, every bit done by him. Then they tore it apart checking everything and decided that he had the ability to be ranked as a master tailor. That's all a PhD thesis is: proof that you can do the whole research and writing thing.
However, I believe that of late it has more and more become an exercise in showing that you are a loyal acolyte of whatever school your supervisor belongs to. I conclude this from younger PhDs I met at work.
Mine dates, BTW, from 1976 and I am amused to see (everything's on the Net these days) that there has been a (modest) uptick in demand. But an exercise that, when I started work for the govt, probably got me more starting money and gave a useful title in a military-dominated world where everyone had a title. "Doctor" being impressive enough but usefully vague.
All irrelevant these days and no relation, BTW, to Russia (Just as well since most Russia/Soviet teachers in the English-speaking world seem to hate Russia and all that it has ever done.)
Terence Gore , 01 December 2019 at 09:38 PM

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/attack-on-1619-project-socialists/

Dreher's article on the 1619 project of the NY TIMES where there is an effort to re frame the history of the US in the context of slavery. He quotes World Socialist Web Site's view on the 'movement'. From the WSWS editorial

"Despite the pretense of establishing the United States' "true" foundation, the 1619 Project is a politically motivated falsification of history. Its aim is to create a historical narrative that legitimizes the effort of the Democratic Party to construct an electoral coalition based on the prioritizing of personal "identities" -- i.e., gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, and, above all, race."

Dreher picks out a part of an interview that relates to the new academic conformity

"The reflection of identity politics in the curriculum is the primacy of cultural history. There was a time, a long, long time ago, when a "diverse history faculty" meant that you had an economic historian, a political historian, a social historian, a historian of the American Revolution, of the Civil War, and so on. And now a diverse history faculty means a women's historian, a gay historian, a Chinese-American historian, a Latino historian. So it's a completely different kind of diversity.

On a global scale the benefit of this has been tremendous. We have more -- and we should have more -- African history, Latin American history, Asian history, than we ever have. Within US history it has produced narrow faculties in which everybody is basically writing the same thing. And so you don't bump into the economic historian at the mailbox and say "Is it true that all the wealth came from slavery," and have them say, "that's ridiculous," and explain why it can't be true."

Those who control the past...

Diana C , 01 December 2019 at 10:14 PM
I am sad to agree with the points made in this post.

I find it a little frightening to think about what might happen to our country if academia continues on this course.

However, as a person who dropped out of a doctoral program because it just wasn't in me to interpret all assigned readings as a Marxist or a totally wacky feminist who feels men and women might not be of the same species, I just decided not to get a doctorate and dropped out of the program. I've been happier for it.

Later, I watched as friends, family members, and their various friends and family members who realized the absolute worthlessness of public education nowadays in NEA controlled schools turned to home schooling, charter schools, and various other alternate ways of providing an actual education for their children.

I've met many of the children of these parents and am often quite pleased with the fact that for the most part they are individuals who can speak and think freely and are happy to be finding their way in the world doing what they want to do.

I hope more and more parents like these young people's parents break away from the public NEA option. There are many very good choices for educating our children to become real individual people who contribute in their individual ways to a vial economy and society.

I am counting on God, Who is Good and Loving to make this current state of affairs temporary in the long lifetime of this world. I give it to God, as they say, and I do not mourn my not ever getting that doctorate--a dream I had as a young girl. Not having it doesn't mean I can't still read and study and think on my own.

Mathias Alexander , 02 December 2019 at 03:27 AM
I expect group think works out fine for hunter-gatherers.
Paul Robinson , 02 December 2019 at 09:17 AM
Much of what I write could well be considered 'non-conformist', but I've never encountered any problems in academia because of it. In fact, being a professor gives one the security which makes one confident enough to be non-conformist. Sweeping generalizations are unhelpful.
Fred -> Paul Robinson ... , 02 December 2019 at 11:05 AM
Paul,

" being a professor gives one the security"

Sounds like you got yours are sure don't want to lose it.

Diana C said in reply to Fred ... , 02 December 2019 at 04:18 PM
During my years as a student and my years as an adjunct instructor in several undergrad and community college programs, I also had no problems. I was teaching required undergrad classes such as research writing and essay writing.

It was easy in those classes to set my own standards. No full professors want to teach those classes because it requires much time and effort to plan lessons and to grade papers. For argumentation essays and argumentation research papers it was my right to insist that the student research all views of the research question they chose, though many students tried hard not to have to report the opinions they did not like and to have to explain exactly why they felt that side was invalid.

I was lucky in the fact that when I taught those classes, "political correctness" had not yet developed a firm foothold in the universities.

I left teaching those classes at about the time "political correctness" was beginning.

The only time I was reported to the Dean was by a student who wanted to research the question of whether Elvis was dead or not. I told her that if her source list included the National Enquirer or and other grocery store "news" magazine, I would not accept her paper. My department chairman didn't laugh at her complaint, but he did back me up and smiled when he told me he had said she had to follow my rule.

And sadly, the journalism majors were also hard to deal with. They didn't want to research at all. They felt all they had to do was call people they felt were important sources to provide quotes for their essays or papers. They didn't feel it was necessary to do any in-depth research on the issue they had chosen, usually an issue that was important at the time in the state or local community. It made them angry that I felt they should do some background research in order to balance quoted opinions.

turcopolier , 02 December 2019 at 09:22 AM
Paul Robinson

No. Sweeping generalizations are quite helpful because they express opinions about behavior in general. As for you, you may have tenure but if you start saying things like, "Bigfoot is real," you will find yourself largely ostracized. Actually academics prefer extremely narrow foci for studies because the possibility of conflict among them is thereby reduced,

vig said in reply to turcopolier ... , 04 December 2019 at 08:23 AM
As for you, you may have tenure but if you start saying things like, "Bigfoot is real," you will find yourself largely ostracized.

You feel the Bigfoot and related para-normal phenomena should matter in Public and International Affair studies? Since comparable phenomena are reported all over the world? In the context of what larger topic/theme/course could/should it be considered?

Or are you suggesting a Prof in international relations couldn't even mention privately he feels Bigfoot is an interesting phenomenon? Suggesting it would get him into troubles no matter how solid his research in his own field?

I was careful to include a wide diversity of groups in my critique of humanity.

Yes, you were. But you also spent a considerable amount of digital ink on academics more generally and academia.

Paul Robinson , 02 December 2019 at 09:44 AM
All I can say is that I have never in 20 years in academia felt the slightest pressure from other academics to bend my research or writing to fit their will. Pressure to conform has, however, come from outside the university - my one experience writing a report for a think tank did not end well. On the whole, in my own field of study, I find academics much more reasonable, nuanced, and willing to discuss and consider alternatives, than politicians, journalists, and think tank types. Of course, that is just one person's experience, and I wouldn't generalize from it, any more than you should from yours. But there it is.
Fred -> Paul Robinson ... , 02 December 2019 at 08:35 PM
Paul,


They are pushing the envelope in Cambridge. Got a couple students killed, rather ironic that,. But I'm sure they are not responsible nor will they adjust their theory based on the new evidence. Video here:
http://www.unz.com/isteve/london-bridge-victims-professors-now-getting-some-unwanted-attention/

Elora Danan , 02 December 2019 at 10:12 AM
Once Elora thought of studying Social Sciences in University at Distance...but, after seeing the cadre of professors, being one a member of CFR who, moreover, got lately involveded in the Integrity Initiative scandal as a one of the cluster in charge of spreading maledicence through their columns in MSM on certain respectable colonel they deemed too much pro-Russian to be head of national intelligence...she certainly desisted...and decided that she would better learn on her own...

After all, it was "highly likely" he was going to catearme de plano, sin ni siquiera leer lo que escribo ....only because Elora is so....

J , 02 December 2019 at 10:28 AM
It looks like Soylent Green is a not too far off possibility. Washington State has thrown out the dignity of the human death and subsequent corpse with their Washington State's bath water. They'll be composting dead human beings like they would compost rotting food or rotting garbage. With burial or cremation, there is some dignity given to the life of the individual who life has passed, whereas with composting, they'll be throwing the human corpse with its decaying fluids and all into basically a sewage pit to rot. With them composting human dead like a rotting cabbage, basic human dignity will have been cast into the trash heap. The Elites are now coming out in the open and calling for human cannibalism, and there could be legislation enacted like what Washington State did with human composting, legislation to make human cannibalism a reality. And a step further is turning the human corpse into a palatable food item, which is what Soylent Green was in the movie. The humanity of that movie thought they were eating vegetable crackers, unbeknownst to them they were eating their next of kin, or their neighbor down the street. In the movie, garbage trucks gathered up the dead corpses like they were cord-wood, and took them to a processing station, much like what the human composting will have -- processing stations.

Remember that Orwell's 1984 was poo poo'd as never happening just a few short years ago. And the 1973 movie Soylent Green was poo poo'd as science fiction when it was released.

World's First Human Composting Facility is Coming to Seattle in 2021

https://themindunleashed.com/2019/12/human-composting-facility-seattle-2021.html

fredw , 02 December 2019 at 11:00 AM
Academics make easy targets for this crew, but, as noted above, they they are far from unique in their tribal instincts. The thing that appalled me most after my Vietnam experience (apart from the fact that William Calley's entire chain of command did not go to prison) was the discovery of how many people had figured out that our cause was all but unwinnable and how little influence that discovery had. When the preparatory simulation exercises showed us consistently losing, the pentagon stopped the war gaming. Etc. all the way through the war. In fact even the catastrophe they suffered in Tet '68 did not shift the balance in our favor.

John Maynard Keynes made the academics' ultimate response to the notion that people in more "practical" pursuits are more realistic: "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist."

And no, Keynes was not that much an advocate for academics either: " Education: the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the indifferent by the incompetent."

Fred -> fredw... , 02 December 2019 at 03:31 PM
Fredw,

Then why did North Vietnam sign the Paris peace accords?

fredw said in reply to Fred ... , 02 December 2019 at 07:27 PM
Because they thought the accords meant that we agreed to let them win the war. That interpretation doesn't mesh with Nixon's ferocious rhetoric about the Christmas bombing, but that was the truth. And they were pretty shrewd about that sort of thing.

I can't prove it and they would never say it, but I thought at the time that the Christmas bombing sent a message that we needed an end to it more than they did. So they reached out and sure enough we were willing to settle on terms similar to what they had offered in 1968.

That is not to say that they were anything other than horrible brutal people. But they were not stupid horrible brutal people, and they had the commitment to see it through. And we did not. It was their country.

Fred -> fredw... , 02 December 2019 at 08:30 PM
Fredw,

A few million South Vietnamese would disagree.

fredw said in reply to Fred ... , 03 December 2019 at 08:01 AM
"A few million South Vietnamese would disagree."

I doubt it. The ones I have spoken with about it saw it pretty much the same way at the time. They spent a couple years hoping against hope that they were wrong - that the US did have the commitment to see it through. Their hopes were disappointed.

Fred -> fredw... , 03 December 2019 at 08:47 AM
Fredw,


Would that be the ones who fled communism after the NV army invaded the the Republic of Vietnam or the fine people of the Socialist Republic who brought freedom from the barrels of all those guns?

TonyL said in reply to fredw... , 03 December 2019 at 04:52 AM
"Because they thought the accords meant that we agreed to let them win the war."

No fredw. That's a naive (or simplistic, should I say) thinking. They had no illlusion like that, they just practiced age old Sun Tzu's teaching. In other words, if you know you can win with diplomacy why spend the blood and treasure to achieve the same thing? Demonstrate to your enemy that you are really willing to fight to the end no matter it takes, and then negotiate the peace to your favor.

turcopolier -> fredw... , 02 December 2019 at 08:34 PM
All

I was careful to include a wide diversity of groups in my critique of humanity.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 07:57 AM
Indeed you did. The commenters seem more focused on academics.
Serge , 02 December 2019 at 11:21 AM
This conformism is not only limited to the humanities, it has crept insidiously into the physical and natural sciences. Pharmaceutical companies can now depend on an endless supply of conformist Scientists who will advocate for the drugging up of children in order to treat imaginary first world diseases.
PeterVE , 02 December 2019 at 11:45 AM
Yesterday, we had a guest Minister at my Unitarian church (I can feel the eye rolls from the commentariat already....). She has an economics degree from Princeton, a business degree from MIT, and an M.Div from Meadville Lombard Theological School. She comes to ministry after a career in high tech and slow food. She is of European and Native American ancestry, and practices the Hawaiian culture with her Big Island ohana. (Isn't that cultural appropriation? /snark)

She opened with two sweeping proclamations:
"I am here today to help you all break the habit of referring to Native People in the past tense..."
"We are standing on stolen land..."

She then followed those with an incoherent sermon, which I hesitate to even try to summarize.
One of her points was that Governor Bradford, who wrote the famous sermon speaking the shining city on the hill, believed in the righteousness of his cause, including treating the Natives as lesser beings. She did note that the Unitarian Church is a descendant of those original Congregational churches, but she missed the part where we still believe in the righteousness of our cause, and the right to treat the lesser orders as we wish.

Back to her two opening remarks:
I fully know that there are still descendants of the original settlers of our area still here.
The particular land where the First Unitarian Church of Providence stands is part of the land conveyed by deed from the Narragansett tribe to Roger Williams, and the deed is in the Providence City Hall Archives, signed by the Sachems Cononicus and Miantonomi.
I can hardly think of a better example of the product of group think, where the particulars of your audience don't matter.

J , 02 December 2019 at 03:04 PM
Colonel,

Democrat Presidential hopeful just stepped into a bog without his waders on.


https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2019/12/01/pete-buttigieg-nods-as-pastor-says-illegal-aliens-just-reclaiming-stolen-land/

jdledell , 02 December 2019 at 07:35 PM
Pat is probably going to toss me out of here for this comment. Conformity and "Group Think" is a human characteristic that is probably hard wired into our brains. It is not just academics who are subject to this trait but every group, poliitcal, religious or otherwise. That is how we got into Iraq. I got a kick out of an article in the Hill this morning about Trump's trillion dollar annual defcits. The comment section was almost universal in " it was Obama's fault". There was "group think' at work since anyone who disagreed was roundly booed and the fact that not a single Republican congresscritter has raised their voice on our annual deficits when if it was a Democrat President the hue and cry would drown out normal reporting. Don't get me wrong, the Democrats are not any better but group think is very widespread.
J -> jdledell... , 03 December 2019 at 09:13 AM
Both Democrats and Republicans have taken their brains and are using them to wipe their arses. The expression 'Sh*t for brains' fits them to a tee.

If they're not using their brains as basketballs and dribbling with them, they're converting what little grey matter they have into toliet paper.

Makes me fear for my fellow human beings.

turcopolier , 02 December 2019 at 08:15 PM
jdledell

You are a brave non-conformist soul. I hope I am your friend.

jdledell said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 06:17 PM
Pat - Yes you are, That is why I'm on your site every day.
turcopolier , 02 December 2019 at 08:19 PM
fredw

Contemptibly disrespectful to the brave men who carried out Linebacker II. It would seem that you were a communist sympathizer. No sympathy for all the Vietnamese who did not want to be ruled by the communists?

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 12:49 PM
The men who carried out Linebacker II were American soldiers (and sailors and airmen) who as usual gave it their all. I don't disrespect even Richard Nixon or the military brass who ordered it. They faced seriously tough problems with no good solutions. I am just reporting the signalling I perceived with whatever insight I had picked up from a year of interacting with Vietnamese.

And whatever my words might "seem" to imply, I have no sympathy at all for Communism or the Dang Lao Dong Viet Nam. But facing them day after day takes you beyond the abstraction of "enemy". You get some insight into how they interpret the world. I don't claim any real expertise. I didn't do that long enough to get a really deep understanding. And the people I dealt with were low level. I am just reporting how I thought they might have reacted to events as they unfolded. The Vietnamese I knew(both sides) were very logical calculating people. They wouldn't underestimate the effects of what we did, but they would always be looking for the motivation behind it.

I was heartbroken for the Vietnamese who put their lives on the line in the expectation that we would somehow pull it out. We owed them. We copped out on that debt. I don't believe we could have saved their war, but we should have done a lot better for them when it was lost.

fredw said in reply to fredw... , 03 December 2019 at 01:49 PM
"I was heartbroken for the Vietnamese who put their lives on the line in the expectation that we would somehow pull it out."

"Heartbroken" is true, but when I think of those days the overwhelming emotion is shame.

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 08:25 AM
fredw

"A couple of years?" Our involvement started before the French left and lasted until 1975.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 11:58 AM
A couple of years after the accords. US commitment didn't last much longer than that. That was the point. The accords signaled to many Vietnamese that we were played out. Yes, we had been there for a long time, but we had come to the point of accepting that we could not have the outcome we had fought for.
turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 08:46 AM
tonyl

you seem to have missed the fact that between the armistice agreement and the onslaught in 1975 there were two + years. In that period of time they watched and waited until the US Congress cut off all aid to SVN and then they overran the country.

TonyL said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 07:55 PM
Colonel,

No sir. I did not missed that fact. I merely disagreed with fredw's opinion about the reason why the North Vietnamese came to the negotiating table. Vietnamese people are pragmatic. Being a small country, they always do that regardless of of the situation.

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 08:50 AM
Fred

The NVA invaded SVN in 1964. That is why we brought major forces into the country in 1965.

J , 03 December 2019 at 09:09 AM
I feel sorry for the children of Britain

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-11-29/british-government-decide-how-children-can-decorate-their-bedrooms

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 01:42 PM
fredw

Blame the American people. They gave up, influenced by NVN IO and its American Left allies. The US Congress of the day reflected that.

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 01:45 PM
fredw

The American people betrayed the Vietnamese, not the military. And truth be told most of the SVN people were lukewarm participants in their own defense.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 02:02 PM
I don't see that you are disagreeing with my account of commitment levels. That said, there were both deeply committed south Vietnamese and many more who put their lives on the line betting that we could keep them from the bloody hell promised by a Communist victory. We took that bargain on that basis. Morally, I find it similar to the situation that you have described for the Kurds in Syria. It could only end ugly.
fredw , 03 December 2019 at 02:23 PM
Perhaps the most shocking revelation that interrogators received was the realization that it wasn't primarily us the enemy were worried about. Most of their anxieties were directed toward the lukewarm ARVNs who despite their many many many failings were perceived as the more dangerous enemy. We were a known (if lethal) factor. We did not represent an alternative to them. We rarely had the knowledge or understanding of local conditions to be really effective. The ARVNs did, and suffered four times our casualty rates trying to make their alternative happen.

This is not a judgement of military or social effectiveness, just an observation of what their levels of concern seemed to be.

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 02:25 PM
fredw

You are mighty certain for someone who was not there. Yes, there were Vietnamese who fought well and hard but not enough of them. You don't seem to understand that we were there to help them. We did not run their government, leftist beliefs about that not withstanding. We did not command their army.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 02:50 PM
"Not there"? Where was I in 1970? Sure looked like Viet Nam. Sure was hot.
There sure were a lot people speaking tieng Viet Nam. Mine had to improve really fast. I think you may have lost the thread.
turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 02:30 PM
fredw

I am sure they were afraid of being turned over to the ARVN who were likely to torture and kill them if they were in the mood. The NVA and VC main force troops wre just as liely to do the same. You sound like John Vann who once rebuked me for not loving the Vietnamese. He was right.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 02:52 PM
Agreed that they are pretty hard to love.
turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 04:53 PM
fredw

"I think you may have lost the thread." Why would I know anything about you?

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 05:03 PM
All right granted. The contents of my prior posts are much more present in my mind than in yours. In any case, I don't see that we actually disagree that much. I think that we just have different reactions to similar sets of acts. Not my purpose to annoy you for no reason. Good luck with your roofing. I would probably fall the roof, even when I was young.
turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 05:38 PM
fredw

We have Fred, Freds, fredw. How many more Fred? " The contents of my prior posts are much more present in my mind than in yours" Duh! Vann asked why I did not love the Vietnamese. My answer wa something like "Why should I? I am here to fight a war on their behalf. That does not require me to love them."

turcopolier , 04 December 2019 at 08:27 AM
vig

Professors are generally people who prefer the catfights in the academy to actual work in industry, finance, engineering, etc. does that mean that I generally think they are drones? Yes, I do.

Turcopolier , 04 December 2019 at 01:38 PM

I received this comment from DMR, presumab;y a member of the professoriat.

"Mr Robinson's remarks are spot on. In my experience most academics worth their salt are absorbed in their research area however microscopic the focus, and delight above all in lively exchange of ideas with colleagues and students when afforded the opportunity to do so in the classroom, at conferences, in published research. Conformism, some of it timid, and competition, often cut-throat, there certainly are. Who would deny this? But as in any profession or walk of life they are par for the course. Forty years as a university teacher encourage me to say that these deformations professionelles are far from definitive, still less all-encompassing. Most unusually for you, Col. Lang, and pace your vaunted experience on boards of award-granting bodies/degree committees, your judgements in this instance smack of personal animus and bespeak an unwarrantedly generalized contempt. I say this with respect and no wish to annoy." It is a characteristic of the academy that its members wish to be thought independent thinkers. They are united in that thought. Professor, i will seek to conform to your "professional" mores. My most personal animus is reserved for social "scientists.

[Dec 04, 2019] A Warning

Looks like a sequel to Wolff book
Dec 04, 2019 | www.amazon.com

linda galella , November 19, 2019

"This may be our last chance to act to hold the man accountable..."

Well, that was "A Warning", for sure! The anonymous author of this tell all, Trump outter, goes on to proclaim "we must look deeper at the roots of the present disorder, which is why I have written this book."

Based on his/hers opening salvo, I proceeded with an open mind and hoped a first hand accounting of events would give me something more, something new, something unbiased...after reading every single word, I'm not sure what to think any more.

"A Warning", by Anonymous, is a well written political volume that speaks clearly, and authoritatively concerning the events that take place in the White House and with our president, Donald J. Trump. They have avoided all the histrionics that fill the tomes offered by most of the media members. There's plenty of passion and urgency behind what's being said it's just not crazed which for me, lends it an air of veracity. I'm settled for 60% of the discourse.

By chapter 5 my opinion of the author's recanting about the details of the POTUS's daily events has begun to become suspect and I'm starting to get that feeling that something is "off". I read on trying to keep my open mind, feelings at bay. It's not easy because the stories being told are starting to take on a schoolyard tenor such as: listing snippets of twitter tweets (only the "bad"parts), highlighting his inadequacies as a statesman/politician (DJT never claimed to be more than a businessman). It's not wrong to mention these things, it's the spirit in how it's done and the vacuum.

This is about the time that anonymous' logic becomes unfounded, for me; a Venn diagraming dilemma of if-then, WHAT?

Positing that POTUS has such a weakness for strong men that he would make egregious blunders of national security, as well as waffle on business and finance issues just doesn't make sense. Sorry. If for no other reason than his sheer business acumen, I'm rejecting this premise. Yes, he blunders on with lack of finesse in the deportment and statesman columns but...nope.

"A Warning" continues on pretty much in this manner, more and more juvenile until we end up firmly in the land of snark with chapter seven and "The Apologists" where the author in his anonymity proclaims how we can identify the various flavors of apologists, all they think and feel and all they need to do-to get , be and do better; presumptuous, IMHO. I'm sure snark wasn't the intended goal but it's how I arrived, for me.

All things considered, the writing and publishing are excellent. For the first half of the book, I was impressed with the author's ability to detail the story, taking the high road. The road got lonely along the way and anonymous veered to the access road, never joining yellow journalism highway to deliver "A Warning" 📚

Menkaure , November 21, 2019
Half-Hearted Epiphany

A lot of reviewers are saying "It's nothing we didn't already know," and at first, that was my conclusion as well: there's no bombshells here. But upon reflection, there actually is something that we didn't know. It answered a mystery that has perplexed me for the better part of 3 years, albeit I don't think the author knows it themselves. The million dollar question: how could anyone with any morality, dignity, patriotism, or merely a sense of self-preservation work in the Trump administration? 'A Warning' is not any kind of explosive insider expose on the workings of the current White House. It's far too vague and generalized, avoiding specifics on nearly every topic to the point of exasperation. What this book is, is an attempt by the author to justify their bad, and it must be said, weak choices. It's both a sub-conscious excuse and apology for what's clear the author has still not fully come to terms with themselves. Between the lines, you can almost see him/her trying to work it out, never quite grasping his/her own moral weakness in enabling a man they know to be dangerously incompetent. Everybody, anybody, who has ever worked for somebody else has faced this dilemma at some point in their career: when the boss is bad; you either stay for self-serving reasons (like your finances) or you make a stand before the boss damages the whole enterprise. The author is trying to make a stand, and failing at it. The alarming aspect in this instance, is the stakes are so much higher, the highest, in fact. This is a book written by somebody deep in denial, attempting to work it out but not quite willing, yet, to look themselves directly in the mirror. Chapter 7, "Apologists," is the most telling. The author is not just explaining the motivations of his/her co-participants, but is unwittingly addressing their self as well. Perhaps the most important question here, is WHO does Anonymous think they are "Warning?" at this point? For the Never-Trumpers this is all old news. For the Ever-Trumpers, they're never going to read anything unapproved by their Dear Leader. For those on the fence (if there are any) they're comatose and aren't capable of comprehension. This wasn't written for anybody but the author's own conscience, and even at that, it hedges, dances around itself, and avoids mirrors.

Amazon Customer , November 19, 2019
Discusses what is already known about Trump with little in the way of solutions.

The book tells readers what is already known and readily apparent about Donald Trump: his lack of empathy and curiousity, his volatility and impetuousness, his vengeful nature, the long-lasting damage he is doing to the country's institutions and norms.

The book does not delve into much, if any, new territory that has not been previously reported. Mentions of specific administration members and their individual actions are sparing and go little beyond general notions that many intitially thought Trump would turn his behavior around, are continually dumbfounded by him, try behind the scenes to keep the wheels of government on the road and fail due to his ADD, vanity, and pettiness, and that all know they are expendible to him.

The author devotes quite a bit of time discussing historical Greek democratic philosophy and examples to compare to the current situation. While interesting, it only serves to put Trump's personality and failings into yet another historical context which would surprise nobody who has paid any attention to this administration, government, politics, law, or history.

One of the largest problems with the author's arguments and solutions is that it ultimately lack individual courage. The author takes time to discuss the passengers aboard Flight 93 that fought back against the hijackers on 9/11. He/she even ends the book with the famous last words of one of the passengers who fought back: " Let's roll." While we do not know the identity of the author, his or her actions in publishing this book are not the same. The actions of passengers deciding to fight back against hijackers was not anonymous. They did not fail to show their faces. They met the danger head-on and with full knowledge of the consequences of failure. They did not try to leave it to others. The author gives the coda that the general public needs to wake up and do something, but then does not get in the aisle with the rest of the passengers to fight back. While the author's explanation of remaining anonymous is logical (that the message is more important than the messenger), the author ultimately falls prey to one of the flaws of everyone else who serves Trump: that he/she is not willing to speak truth directly to power regardless of the horrific consequences of not doing so. Former Senator Jeff Flake and Representative Justin Amash have made many of the same philosophical and logical points as the author regarding Trump's damaging actions publicly, to their own political demise. The reader cannot help but wonder if the author is still in the administration taking daily part in the passivity of those who know better but will not say it to Trump's face.

The book offers much in the way of problems but little in the way of solutions. The author suggests Americans be engaged in civics and politics at local and state levels. The author suggests that we find the political middle and return to civility. The author does not posit how the reader should, given such a dire warning, convince the many people to change course, who: 1) see what Trump really is and actually like it, 2) have been completely fooled about who Trump really is but will not respond to facts, logic, and/or self-interest, and 3) hold power to do something about Trump (i.e.: 53 Republican Senators) but remain passive due to a variety of personal, social, political, or economic factors.

Ultimately, the book puts forth an important analysis of Trump, the sycophants that surround him, and the damage he continues to do. But it doesn't come with the gravity of someone who is willing to risk his/her own skin in order to try to save the country that he/she seems to hold so dear. The message would mean more if the author was willing to risk all like the passengers of Flight 93.

joel wing , November 22, 2019
Disappointing Repeats major faults w/Trump without adding any new details

A Warning by Anonymous who claims to be a senior Trump administration official comes on the heal of previous tell all books such as Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury and Bob Woodward's Fear. Unfortunately, if one read those books or has paid attention to the news there is nothing really new in A Warning, which outlines the argument against the Trump presidency.

Anonymous' argument is that Trump is unfit for the presidency and most be voted out of office in the next election. The author's complaints are well known. The president knows nothing about how the government, the economy or foreign policy works which leads to endless problems as he makes pronouncements, Tweets, or asks his staff to do things that can't be done, and sometimes might even be illegal. He contemplated telling the National Guard that was deployed to the border with Mexico to shoot people trying to enter illegally as a deterrent. Trump isn't inquisitive, doesn't read, and is an avid consumer of conspiracy theories. Trump for example is so adverse to reading and has such a short attention span that his staff has been reduced to briefing him with just one graphic or one slide that represents one main issue, and to repeat that point over and over in the hopes that it will sink in with the chief executive. Many times that fails. Instead, Trump's main sources of information are cable news and a variety of conspiracy theories he hears or makes up himself. The president's language is divisive. Trump revels in smack talking, and one of his favorite times is to go to rallies where he can unleash a new line against his opponents. He enjoys being a rabble rouser and inciting his followers. The president came into office with a diverse cabinet of generals, politicians, and businessmen, but most of them have left. Not only that, but some of them were willing to stand up to the president and tell him things he didn't want to hear. The author considers himself part of this group. Now Trump is surrounded by people that only tell him what he wants to hear. All together that has led the White House into one crisis after another. Trump Tweets he wanted out of Syria without telling any of his staff beforehand. The White House had outlined a $2 trillion infrastructure bill with the Democrats, but then Trump got mad watching cable TV before a planned meeting and walked away from the deal. The author has one great characterization at an end of a chapter where he says the government is like one of Trump's companies. It's badly managed, a sociopath is at its head, there is infighting, lawsuits, debt, shady deals, and everything is focused upon the owner rather than the customers.

Anonymous does make one new argument you rarely hear, and that is Trump is not a conservative. He starts off with the fact that Trump has changed his party affiliation several times. He also has violated many of the hall marks of conservatism such as free trade, fiscal responsibility, and cutting the size of the federal government. Trump for example, has created a huge budget deficit with his tax cuts while continuing to increase public spending.

Again, the problem with the book isn't the message, it's just that his has all been said before. I was at least expecting some interesting stories to go along with this laundry list of faults, but was disappointed by the lack of them. In the end, if this is the first book you're thinking of reading about Trump you will get the main arguments against his presidency. If you've been following Trump and his faults, then there's little to see here.

E.M. Tennessen , November 21, 2019
Familiar info in a new package

"A Warning" confirms with additional anecdotes what we already know--useful if you don't want to go all over the web for "all the news" about the White House's inner workings and the President's behavior. It's well-written but would have been more compelling if the op-eds, snark and name-calling had been edited out. Clearly, not written (but possibly edited) by someone with a journalism background. The chapter on "character" was the most valuable as it serves as a reminder of what we are looking for in a leader of our country, or any leader, in fact--someone with integrity, honesty, service-minded, respectful of others, clear-thinking, etc. It's clear from what's written here that if the President is re-elected, it says more about our nation than it does about a 73-year-old man who clearly has attention deficit disorder, possibly a reading disability, and absolutely no experience with statecraft. (Nor does he care. I don't know what's worse.) I'm sure this book will become a part of our interesting historical record!

DalkasChris , November 22, 2019
Don't Bother

I purchased this book (against my better judgment) because I thought maybe the insights in this book would be enlightening. But I wish I hadn't spent the money. First, most of what was related in these pages, other than the opinion parts, were already well known through media, especially The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as other other media outlets.

Second, anyone paying attention would have anticipated Trump's actions. What made me want to vomit after finishing this book was the realization that the Republican party doesn't care and will continue to support Trump, regardless of the evidence that he is not fit to serve and the author despite issuing this "warning", doesn't have the guts or the patriotism to come out of the shadows.

I also take issue with the author's portrayal of "never Trumpers" as crazed haters. That's the farthest from the truth. Many of us recognized early on that Trump is agrifter and a liar and an unscrupulous opportunist. We are not crazed; we are sounding the alarm! We are sensible patriots who love our country and our Constitution, who do not want to see our discourse redown into tribal factions and, possibly, into civil war (hopefully, if such does occur it will be cyber rather than armed conflict).

Every single day we are asked to ignore what our eyes can clearly see and what our ears can clearly hear and our brains can easily deduce in order to allow Trump's reality to proceed unquestioned. He doesn't understand he is not a monarch and his children are not heirs to the throne. The lies are non-stop and getting worse and the people surrounding him, including the author, are doing NOTHING to reign him in.

Last, we are in the midst of an impeachment inquiry. I've read every deposition that has been released and watched every minute of direct testimony during the hearings. It is without contest that Trump attempted to extort and bribe Ukraine in order to have the newly inaugurated president of Ukraine announce an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden's involvement with Burisma. Sondland made it abundantly clear that no such actual investigation would be necessary, just the announcement of an investigation to tarnish Joe Biden's reputation and electoral standing. Trump's act was sleazy and wrong and illegal (check the statute about soliciting foreign involvement in domestic elections).

I'm infuriated by the author's insinuation that we who oppose such actions by any president are somehow deranged. The writer seems to think that impeachment and removal from office for such dirty tricks involving a foreign government should be somehow, beyond the pale for a civilized society. NO! Trump has obviously abused his office and put an ally in danger by withholding funding HE WAS NOT AUTHORIZED TO WITHHOLD, according to our Constitution. The author seems to think we should just cover our eyes to these transgressions and wait until the next election to vote Trump out.

What about all of the damage Trump can perpetrate on our democracy and on our foreign policy. He has done so much damage alrready, how can we allow him another year and keep our fingers crossed that it doesn't get worse? Also, since Trump was obviously trying to influence our upcoming elections with his dirty dealings, how can we allow him to remain in office knowing that he will do anything to cheat to win?

We anti-Trumpers (not never-Trumpers) are constantly accused of trying to perpetuate a "coup" by trying to remove Trump from office via either impeachment or through the 25th. That would only be true if Hilllary Clinton was installed in Trump's place. But If Trump leaves office before his first term is up, Mike Pence will assume the duties of president, not HRC. -- certainly not a "coup" to anyone who has half a brain and understands how our system works. It would still be a Republican administration and there would still be a Republican Senate. Certainly NOT a coup, just a Constitutional succession of the next in.line.

With regard to restoring a "climate of truth", that is impossible so long as alternative media (including FOX) exists. We Americans used to share a truth courtesy of the likes of Walter Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley and others. Now, there's "left" media and a "right" media and they both exist in their own realities. We no longer share the same reality. If we no.longer share the same immutable facts and truths, then how can we work out our differences and our needs so we can all come to a consensus?

This book left me feeling angry and afraid for the future of my country, especially because people like the "anomynous" author doesn't take his citizenship and patriotism a step forward and tell what he knows on the record.

Don't waste your money. The author is a coward and should never profit from his lack of courage.

World Traveller , November 22, 2019
Should Have Remained an Op Ed

This is not a very good book . I say this even though I was so looking forward to it , even buying it in pre-publication. On the publication date, I woke up early and started to read it, only to find it repetitious and general in nature.
Trump is described as amoral, indifferent, inattentive and impulsive – repeatedly. But with little background. The author is afraid of being identified as such so he deletes specific information that may later identify him. High ranking officials are identified as "high ranking officials". Important meetings are identified as "important meetings".
I did not read the original article that led to the book but It feels like the author took the article and padded it into a book. Disappointing: a waste of time; a waste of money.

Uh How How How , November 22, 2019
Self-aggrandizing, short on new info, long on whining written by a coward

I am a critic of this Administration.

First off, I really enjoyed the author's listing of every sleazy thing Trump has ever done (none of which are new or even greatly detailed), followed by snarky quips about Democrats taking power with too much zeal to investigate. That's the kind of 'logic' we are looking at here. The argument is that there is a lawless criminal in the White House but it's better to whine about him in print than do anything about it.

Secondly, there is no new information in this book. There is nothing here I have not heard before. There are no damning conversations or dramatic revelations. This book packages up the reporting of every news agency to date and just vomits it out at us. We've heard this all before. We had the author's level of indignation three years ago. We came to these conclusions three years ago. It is insulting that the author presents this material with a 'ta-daaa!' It's a scam.

Thirdly, Trump does what he does because weasels like the author of this 'book' let him. No matter what justifications this guy has for himself, he is still nothing but an enabler, and is complicit in the actions of this Administration. The author spends most of the book whining about the things Trump has done, takes no responsibility for anything, and does a LOT of "CYA." (cover your butt).

This is a 'nothing-burger.'

[Dec 04, 2019] A Warning A manifesto of the pro-war "Resistance" in the American state by Andre Damon

Notable quotes:
"... The anonymous author of the piece revealed that "many of the senior officials in [Trump's] own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations." The "adults in the room," he claimed, are leading a "two-track presidency." ..."
"... The author, "Anonymous," has been publicly identified as Guy Snodgrass, the US Navy commander who served as the communications secretary for the Department of Defense under Gen. James Mattis. Posting a report of his alleged authorship on Twitter, Snodgrass cryptically mused, "the swirl continues. ..."
"... If the allegation is true, it would have ominous implications. It would mean that the New York Times gave the military an opportunity to denounce a president as "amoral," "impetuous," "petty" and "ineffective," and to all but advocate his removal via unconstitutional means. ..."
"... We do not know whether Snodgrass is the author of A Warning , but the themes of the National Defense Strategy document are consistent with the emphasis of the book. ..."
"... A Warning makes one thing abundantly clear: the "Resistance" to Trump's policies within the state, which is the basis of the Democrats' opposition to him, centers on claims that Trump is insufficiently aggressive in defending and expanding America's imperial interests against Russia and China. ..."
"... A Warning argues that "America's dominant role on the international stage is at risk today," but Trump is "not positioning us to strengthen our empire of liberty." It continues: "Instead, he's left the empire's flank vulnerable to power-hungry competitors" with his "isolationist, what's-in-it-for-me attitude toward the world." ..."
"... Politically, the author appears to be an anti-Trump Republican. He urges his "fellow Republicans" to vote for a c