You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!

We live in a world of instant gratification. McDonald’s is not the cause, but one of the many symptoms – and more like the diabetes its product can induces. Another can easily be found in the internet, where headlines proclaim shock, outrage, and amazement fighting to get the attention of bloated and lethargic minds.

The unfolding Trump series of scandals moves to a different timeline, however. Justice moves slowly as it gathers evidence. It takes time to turn the insiders and have them fully repent. But that’s not to say that after a long, slow burn there isn’t some room for dramatic testimony that lays the entire case out.

There’s a time for everything to finally turn into explosive headlines. Fur Trump, that time is now.

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Negotiating, Away!

Wall Street is cheering as trade talks with China progress. A full-on trade war may be averted. Is this reason to celebrate?

While it’s always good to avoid any kind of war, there is still reason to be concerned. Two very different nations with different economies still have to come to some kind of terms over the long haul. More to the point, it’s not about the differences in the economies but different approaches to very basic aspects of being a nation-state, including law.

Leaders sitting down and working out a deal seems like a good thing. But as always, the nature of the deal itself is very important.

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Humbling Chill

(The Sage) knows he makes no fine display,
and wears rough clothes, not finery.
It is not in his expectancy of men
that they should understand his ways,
for he carries his jade within his heart.
– Tao Te Ching 70 (Rosenthal)

The short, hunched figure marched with purpose. The weather bent us both down, compelled our gaze towards cautious feet and the treacherous lack of grip underneath them. It was only a casual glance that saw the short red coat and hood approaching as I wondered who else might be out making their own time down the sidewalk. A child? A friend? Anyone I knew?

When the figure was close I could see it was an older woman. It wasn’t until she was close that I could make out anything about her even as we both concentrated on our chilling task, the path from here to there. I smiled a quick “Hello!” and she said as much back as we passed, still a stranger if also a comrade in purpose. But we were both anonymous in our shields against the cold that might catch up if we had stopped for any more than a word. The weather itself had rendered us equal, distant, and humble.

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A Frothy China

Is it possible for a nation to rapidly modernize, joining the fully developed first world in just one generation?

The answer to that is clearly, “Yes,” but it comes with a lot of conditions and warnings. China, in its drive to be a great power and assume its rightful place in the world almost immediately, is paying attention to none of them.

That’s a harsh assessment, and it’s not quite correct. But there are far, far too many issues with the rapid rise of China that are not being dealt with appropriately. More importantly, given one quarter of the planet’s population, how this proceeds is going to affect everyone, everywhere.

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Work For All?

On a bizzy Monday, I thought I would re-reun this piece from four years ago with no edits.  I think it’s even more accurate now.

Is technology a net creator or destroyer of jobs? The question is as old as the Industrial Revolution, when workers in mills found themselves put out of work by large industrial looms. In France, they threw their shoes (sabots) into the weaving machines to destroy them – the origin of the term “sabotage”. The protests didn’t stop the machines, however, and the workers had to find something else to do in an ever-changing economy where machines did more and more work.

Today, the pace of technological change is faster than ever, with new gadgets coming into our lives constantly. Automation is also transforming our lives, with new robots and artificial intelligence replacing workers constantly. Are today’s productivity gains tomorrow’s unemployment? Increasingly those who study technology in our lives and the popular media are coming to the conclusion that yes, workers are net losers in the race against tech. And this is not a partisan issue.

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Emergency Powers

Queen Elizabeth II (or I, if you’re Scottish) is one of the most powerful people in the world. She can dissolve Parliament on a whim, declare war, revoke passports, and commit just about any act that would be a crime to anyone else with no consequences.

This may surprise you, given that she never does any of these things. Yet the main reason why the monarch of the UK still holds all these powers, what with the Magna Carta and Commonwealth and other historical tidbits, is a simple one. She absolutely never uses them. If she did, you can bet the UK would become a Republic faster than you could sing, “Rule, Britannia.”

This may seem like a rhetorical point, even with Brexit turning far further South than the Treaty of Rome ever enabled. But we’re about to see this principle in action. Not in the UK, but here in the US.

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Rail is Dead, Long Live Rail

Governor Newsom has officially ended California’s main high speed rail effort, cutting the project to the small section currently under construction. It’s a sad day for those of us who are supporters of high speed rail across the US for many reasons.

The most important reason to find this announcement upsetting is that it simply had to happen. This line, as conceived, planned, and implemented was dangerously flawed. Moving forward with this as the standard of rail in the US would cripple implementation across the nation.

It’s better off dead.  We’re all better off with it being dead.

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