Five interesting articles about our changing world

I found these of interest.  You might also.  Subjects:  China, value of a college education, freedom, paedophiles, Mickey Mouse, terrorism, CIA + Drugs, Helicopter Journalism, and Afghanistan.

(1)  China has overinvested and now has too much of almost everything:

An explosive report released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in September said earnings of graduates were now at par and even lower than those of migrant laborers. The news came as a blow to many high-aspiring parents and youngsters in a country that has for centuries prided itself on cultivating elite Confucian intelligentsia.

… Some 6.1 million graduates entered the job market this summer, 540,000 more than last year. In 2008 the employment rate for graduates was less than 70% . This year nearly 2 million of graduates, many of them postgraduate diploma holders, are expected to be left without job placements.

(2)  For the “watching your freedom float away in the wind” file:

Parents are being banned from playing with their children in council recreation areas because they have not been vetted by police. Mothers and fathers are being forced to watch their children from outside perimeter fences because of fears they could be paedophiles. Watford Council was branded a ‘disgrace’ yesterday after excluding parents from two fenced-off adventure playgrounds unless they first undergo criminal record checks.

(3)  More Islamic terrorists, again no involvment with Afghanistan — Neocons advocate bombing Pakistan and Chicago:

US prosecutors said yesterday that they had broken up an international terror plot, codenamed the Mickey Mouse Project, against the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Two men from Chicago who went to military school in Pakistan face terrorism charges for allegedly targeting the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which outraged hardline Muslims by publishing the 12 cartoons in 2005

(4)  More evidence of amnesia drugs in the water supply:  Americans still do not see the parallels between Afghanistan and Viet Nam: 

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.

(5)  The past is the present, because we refuse to learn.

During the early phase of the Vietnam War, many American columnists went on similar ride-alongs with generals; subsequent events made their rosy accounts seem disconnected from reality. In Ignatius’s case, we don’t have to wait for history.


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10 thoughts on “Five interesting articles about our changing world”

  1. An interesting Op-Ed on the Soviets in Afghanistan: “Transcripts of Defeat“, Victor Sebestyen (author of “Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire.”), op-ed in New York Times, 29 October 2009 — Opening:

    THE highly decorated general sat opposite his commander in chief and explained the problems his army faced fighting in the hills around Kabul: “There is no piece of land in Afghanistan that has not been occupied by one of our soldiers at some time or another,” he said. “Nevertheless much of the territory stays in the hands of the terrorists. We control the provincial centers, but we cannot maintain political control over the territory we seize.

    “Our soldiers are not to blame. They’ve fought incredibly bravely in adverse conditions. But to occupy towns and villages temporarily has little value in such a vast land where the insurgents can just disappear into the hills.” He went on to request extra troops and equipment. “Without them, without a lot more men, this war will continue for a very, very long time,” he said.

  2. Its not something in the drinking water . Its prozacs and statins . People in power should be subject to random urine tests.
    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s a real point. I’ve heard quiet muttering about this, the effect of widespread use of anti-depressants on our markets and public policy machinery. It’s probably not good, and IMO should be studied.

  3. Excellent reading. May I suggest another? I find William Hawkins piece regarding the parallels between the Spanish Hapsburg and the American empires fascinating: “Applying Economic Lessons from Spain’s Hapsburgs to America Today“, posted at Family Security Matters, 27 October 2009.

    Chuck Graves III
    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s an excellent analogy. The best work I’ve seen about this is “The Sustainable Debts of Philip II: A Reconstruction of Spain’s Fiscal Position“, 1560-1598”, Mauricio Drelichman and Hans-Joachim Voth, 6 November 2007.

  4. “Parents are being banned from playing with their children in council recreation areas because they have not been vetted by police. Mothers and fathers are being forced to watch their children from outside perimeter fences because of fears they could be paedophiles.”

    This is endpoint of the nanny state, a worldview founded – among other things – upon the chimerical notions of complete security and safety, rather than freedom and individual responsibility.

    Benjamin Franklin, 1775, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” These words, perhaps overused by scribes like me, remain very true. Safety is to some degree an illusion, security an ever-moving target. Seeking to assure either one 100% of the time extinguishes human freedom and invites an ever-growing government into once-private lives. Has no one taught the parents of Watford that self-reliant mature people cannot be raised in such a smothering environment? Growing up involves risk; the alternative is to remain naive and unable to cope with the world’s challenges and dangers into physical maturity. Children have to be allowed to venture into the world, little by little, to development the resourcefulness and self-reliance needed in today’s world.

    Perhaps I am missing the point; the cynic in me suspects that the nanny staters the above; the last thing they want is self-reliant citizens – for who will want/need big brother to take care of him then?

    Commentator Dennis Prager has speculated that the shift from male-dominated institutions to more female-oriented ones has led to institutions which reflect the value many women hold most dear – compassion. Prager’s thesis is that, generally speaking, men tend to favor policies and institutions based on rules, laws and hierarchies as the highest value while women tend to favor ones built on compassion as thier prime value. Obviously, both are needed in society but when one side dominates too much, there are deleterious consequences, such as playgrounds which prohibit parents from being near children. In this case, there seems to be some truth to this view.

    The same impulses are at work in the USA, the diving boards that used to be found at many municipal pools have disappeared, due to fears of lawsuits, but more generally overarching concerns over safety. Hockey players no longer have the option of wearing a helmet, farceguard, or mouthguard – they are mandated; motorcyclists have to wear helmets, drivers seatbelts, and so on.

    In the America of my youth 35 years ago, such thinking was much less common, and in the childhood of my parents in the 1930s and 1940s, it was unheard of. While good, life was also understood to be tough and full of risks, which were part of the cost of living in freedom.

  5. Its not prozacs and statins in the drinking water….judging by the physical and emotional signs, Nany Pelosi is under the influence of powerful psychtropic drugs. I am not joking.

    Transparency in this day and age should include the physical and drug use status of our elected representatives.

  6. Here’s another thing to go with the drugs .
    Over the years , I’ve dealt with various solicitors as we all have to .I dont know if you have solicitors and barristers like we do , but presumably they have a common root , and belong to the genus lawyers .
    All the solicitors I have met , have : Had no concept of time , except regarding their charging ; had no interest in grasping my intent ; been unable to see wood for trees ; missed seeing some of the biggest trees ; gleefully dredged up problems , but left them laying dead in the water , rather than offering a choice of solutions .
    Large swathes of gov are populated by lawyers .
    Gov might be better if run by farmers ( used to seizing the moment ,planning ahead and haggling ), or first-opinion doctors ( used to assessing and solving problems in 10 minute slots . )

  7. That makes me smile (never liked Communism). When the intellectuals don’t have jobs or have opportunities to advance in society, you get revolutions. Probably bloody, since the Party is willing and not afraid to keep hold with an iron fist. Their secret police deserve to be hung from lamp poles.

    It’s not amnesia drugs. People only remember traumatic events, or long-periods of general feelings (sadness, happiness, etc). Everything other than that is forgotten.

    Pete: Hear, hear! I’ve heard that people were responsible for their own safety when they travel, and now tort consumes 2% of GDP. 2%!
    Although I disagree on the male-domination bit. I don’t know what’s with the anti-sexism trend among conservatives (which partially makes sense since opinions are cyclical), but to me I think it’s a struggle between those who aren’t responsible, who live disorganized lives (look at their cars and their bumpers), and those who are. And then there’s the poor, when your only chance at success is a good brain and/or good luck.

    Anna Nicholas: People want stability. I’ve heard that some people didn’t vote for McCain because he changed strategies alot (soldiers have to make decisions right then and there). Even I want some stability.

  8. Nexus , well if lawyers in power result in stability ,QED , the Afghan war seems pretty stable !

  9. The Afghan War doesn’t seem to be fazing America much.
    FM reply: Spending borrowed money is fun, however wild and irresponsible. Like taking those last few drinks on a bender. It’s only the hangover that hurts.

  10. Both of you fail to see my point. For clarification:

    Anna: Apparent stability.

    FM: It’s still not going to matter. A better analogy would be someone eating several large dinners at once, and later figuring out what did it when the person has food poisoning. The Afghan War is one but many dinners. And afterward, we’ll be scratching our heads at what did it when it was all of above.

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