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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

How to Understand Trump’s Democrats

Posted by hkarner - 3. Dezember 2020

Date: 02‑12‑2020

Source: The Wall Street Journal By Jason L. Riley

A new book examines the phenomenon that still has political pros and the press scratching their heads.

Even as Donald Trump prepares to leave the White House next month—without conceding defeat, it appears—many Democrats and members of the press haven’t come to terms with how he got there in the first place.

For four years, the president’s detractors have blamed Russian interference, sexism, white nationalists, James Comey—or some combination thereof—for Hillary Clinton’s shocking loss in 2016. What they’ve failed to do is seriously consider how Mr. Trump managed to flip millions of voters who had previously supported Barack Obama. It was these Trump Democrats, not Moscow shenanigans or the alt‑right, who put Mr. Trump in the Oval Office. And these voters not only stayed loyal to Mr. Trump in his re‑election bid but grew in number and delivered all manner of down‑ballot victories to Republicans. Mr. Trump may be (noisily) exiting the stage, but his supporters are well‑positioned to make their presence felt in politics long after he’s gone.

Massive party switching isn’t unheard of, as readers old enough to remember Nixon Democrats in 1972 and Reagan Democrats in 1984 can attest. But Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan won in landslides. What was unique about Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016 is that he lost the national popular vote yet managed to win some of the deepest blue areas in the country. In their revealing new book, “Trump’s Democrats,” Stephanie Muravchik and Jon A. Shields explain why so many steadfast Democrats decided to abandon the party for Mr. Trump and have stood by him notwithstanding the disapproving glares from liberal elites.

Ms. Muravchik and Mr. Shields are married academics—she’s a historian, he’s a political scientist. They describe the book as an “ethnographic study,” but don’t let that scare you. It reads like the best kind of long‑form journalism. The reporting is excellent, while the writing is clear and largely objective. The authors aren’t Trump supporters but are respectful of people who are, and they avoid the liberal disdain and condescension that we’ve grown accustomed to from mainstream media outlets.

“We are struck . . . by the fact that the dominant explanations of Trump’s appeal all have one thing in common: they all assume that something must be seriously wrong with Trump enthusiasts,” they write. “Trump won, we are told, either because of racial prejudices or economic distress or various diseases of social despair, such as drug abuse, family breakdown, and suicide. Thus, in these accounts, Trump voters are driven by resentment or anger or desperation. How else could one cast a vote for Trump? Though it is never stated explicitly, such views rest on the assumption that any well‑adjusted, healthy, flourishing citizen would reject Trump.”

Ms. Muravchik and Mr. Shields argue that cultural and geographic isolation may explain why Trump supporters have been such a conundrum for pollsters and the Washington press. To address this problem, they conducted field research in three Democratic strongholds that went for Mr. Trump in 2016. Ottumwa, Iowa, is part of the Rust Belt and had consistently voted Democrat since 1972. Johnston, R.I., is a suburb of Providence that last voted Republican in 1984. And Elliott County, Ky., a small rural community in Appalachia, had never voted for a Republican candidate since it was formed in the 1860s. Yet “Trump won 70 percent of the vote in Elliott County—a place where the ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans is similar to San Francisco’s,” the authors write.

All three areas are overwhelmingly white, household incomes tend to be below average, and few inhabitants have college degrees. Nevertheless, when these voters looked at the New York billionaire, they saw someone with working‑class political sensibilities. His language, his attitude, his mannerisms—everything that scandalized the Washington establishment—endeared him to these voters. The president’s critics accused him of violating political norms, but those were national political norms. To the Trump Democrats, the president behaved like the politicians they encountered locally every day.

Mr. Trump recalled a kind of old‑school machine Democrat. He was a nonideological, transactional pol who cut deals to take care of his own and demanded loyalty in return. He was a relentless counterpuncher who equated magnanimity with weakness and never backed down. The president’s choice of family members to fill high‑level advisory positions normally reserved for people with more expertise or experience is less common in the nation’s capital but not considered out of the ordinary in many of these local communities that swung to Mr. Trump. Time and again, Washington Democrats were outraged, while Trump Democrats shrugged.

There weren’t enough Obama‑Trump supporters to deliver the president a second term, but there are too many to ignore. Many reside in states that currently decide national elections. Democrats will want to win them back. Getting to know them a little better might help.

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A new chapter in the evolution of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens

Posted by hkarner - 10. November 2020

Date: 09‑11‑2020

Source: The Observer Killian Fox

Yuval Noah Harari, drawn by Daniel Casanave for Sapiens: A Graphic History.

When it was first suggested to Yuval Noah Harari that he appear as a character in the illustrated version of Sapiens, his mega‑bestselling “brief history of humankind”, which is about to be published in a graphic version, he did not jump at the idea. “I vetoed it,” he says over the phone from his home outside Tel Aviv. “I try to keep myself mostly outside my books.”

Sapiens covers the broad arc of our species’ story, from the emergence of human cultures in Africa 70,000 years ago to our hyper‑connected present, in 500 pages. It has been one of the most spectacular publishing successes of the past decade, selling more than 10m copies since it was translated into English in 2014, and its enormous popularity has turned a little‑known Israeli history professor into one of the most influential public intellectuals on the planet. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Kenneth Rogoff Says More…

Posted by hkarner - 28. Oktober 2020

Date: 27‑10‑2020

Source: Project Syndicate by Kenneth Rogoff

Kenneth Rogoff, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Harvard University and recipient of the 2011 Deutsche Bank Prize in Financial Economics, was the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund from 2001 to 2003. He is co‑author of This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly and author of The Curse of Cash.

This week in Say More, PS talks with Kenneth Rogoff, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Harvard University.

Project Syndicate: The current disconnect between stock‑market valuations and the real economy, you recently explained, is rooted in the fact that “small businesses and individual service proprietors,” rather than publicly traded companies, are bearing the brunt of the COVID‑19 crisis. You also noted that, as government support lapses, many “otherwise viable businesses” will fail, “leaving large publicly traded companies with an even stronger market position.” Yet when US President Donald Trump announced that he had ended negotiations with Congress over a new stimulus bill, the stock market immediately soured. Was this a blip, perhaps driven by the realization that large companies, such as airlines, weren’t getting bailed out anytime soon? Or does it suggest that Wall Street and Main Street aren’t so disconnected after all?

Kenneth Rogoff: To be clear, much of the stimulus being doled out today is best described as (badly needed) disaster relief. Government programs, such as extended unemployment relief and direct money transfers, have helped ordinary people, but that does not mean they are bad for the stock market. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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“How Can You Not Be Worried?”

Posted by hkarner - 26. Oktober 2020

Date: 25‑10‑2020

Source: DER SPIEGEL Interview Conducted By Roland Nelles

Bob Woodward on the 2020 Election

Famed Journalist Bob Woodward brought down U.S. President Richard Nixon with his reporting on the Watergate scandal. Now he talks to DER SPIEGEL about Donald Trump’s „catastrophic“ handling of the coronavirus, the outcome of the coming election and his new book, “Rage.”

Washington seems dead amid the COVID‑19 pandemic. Many of the offices around the White House have been closed, and the few restaurants in the United States capital that have stayed open are usually empty.

Bob Woodward, 77, is also working from home. For decades, he has been among the most important chroniclers of political affairs in the capital. In the early 1970s, he uncovered the Watergate scandal together with his colleague Carl Bernstein at the Washington Post, leading to the 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon. He later wrote books about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Woodward has been awarded two Pulitzer Prizes. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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What happens when companies devolve power

Posted by hkarner - 14. Oktober 2020

Date: 11‑10‑2020

Source: The Economist Bartleby

Free the workers

Many commentators paint a bleak picture of the future of work. Automation will spread from manufacturing to services, eliminating well‑paid white‑collar jobs. The workforce will be divided into a narrow technocratic elite and a mass of low‑skilled, insecure jobs in the “precariat”.

But it does not need to be this way, according to Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini, two management consultants whose new book, “Humanocracy”, is as optimistic as its title is off‑putting. They envisage a world in which low‑skilled jobs can be enhanced—if only employees are given the chance to use their initiative and change the way they operate. “What makes a job low skilled is not the nature of the work it entails, or the credentials required, but whether or not the people performing the task have the opportunity to grow their capabilities and tackle novel problems,” they write. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Bertrand Badré Says More…

Posted by hkarner - 3. September 2020

Date: 01‑09‑2020

Source: Project Syndicate by Bertrand Badré

Bertrand Badré, a former managing director of the World Bank, is CEO of Blue like an Orange Sustainable Capital and the author of Can Finance Save the World?

 This week, PS talks with Bertrand Badré, a former managing director of the World Bank and the current CEO of Blue like an Orange Sustainable Capital. 

Project Syndicate: In your latest PS commentary, you, Ronald Cohen, and Bruno Roche compare post‑war multilateralism and financial capitalism to “various systems of exploitation” throughout history, which “have built empires and amassed great wealth while performing atrociously in terms of human wellbeing and social capital.” The latter systems’ collapse “represented moral progress,” you wrote, “because it allowed for a new era in which human rights and shared prosperity could prevail.” What makes you think capitalism can be “refashioned,” rather than that it will or should be replaced?

Bertrand Badré: It was less a comparison than a reminder and, I hope, a wakeup call. Systems do not last forever. They evolve, collapse, get replaced. If the systems are highly unjust or exploitative, this can be a very good thing. But if they are merely flawed, there is no guarantee that what replaces them will be superior. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Adam Tooze – Rückblick eines Kenners auf zehn Jahre Weltwirtschaftskrise

Posted by hkarner - 24. August 2020

Gero Jenner, 22/8/2020

Vor kurzem (am 14. August) hatte ich das Glück, ein Interview mit dem britischen Historiker Adam Tooze im Österreichischen Rundfunk zu verfolgen. Ich war so beeindruckt, dass ich mir das Buch „Crashed. How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World“ (Allen Lane 2018) umgehend verschaffte – und so ist mit zwei Jahren Verspätung ein wichtiges Werk auch bei mir angekommen. Folgende Überlegungen sind aus der Lektüre hervorgegangen:

Wenn ein Autor großes Detailwissen mit der Fähigkeit verbindet, Dinge in ihrem Zusammenhang und ihrer gegenseitigen Abhängigkeit zu sehen, dann beschert er dem Leser Aha-Erlebnisse. Das ist in dem Buch „Crashed“ von der ersten bis zur letzten Seite der Fall. Freilich ist Geschichtswissenschaft ohne einen wertenden Standpunkt des Autors nicht denkbar. Über ein Uhrwerk, eine chemische Verbindung oder ein Virus kann die Wissenschaft wertfrei reden, aber nicht über die Weltwirtschaft. Deswegen sollte man gleich zu Anfang bemerken, welche Position der Historiker in diesem Buch bezieht.

Tooze macht kein Geheimnis daraus, dass er sich dem linken Lager der amerikanischen Politik verbunden fühlt. Der Leser wird daher mit dem ganzen Ausmaß der ökonomischen und sozialen Zerstörungen konfrontiert, welche die Krise von 2008 und die darauffolgende Eurokrise bewirkten. Hier wird nichts beschönigt; diese beiden Krisen, so Tooze, hätten noch größere Verheerungen angerichtet als die Große Depression von 1929.*1* Das gilt für die USA, *2* aber mehr noch für die übrige Welt, vor allem das südliche Europa.*3*

Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Deconstructing Donald

Posted by hkarner - 16. August 2020

Date: 14‑08‑2020

Source: Project Syndicate by Elizabeth Drew

Elizabeth Drew is a Washington‑based journalist and the author, most recently, of Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall. 

Recent books on Donald Trump by authors representing a wide range of perspectives help to shed light on some of the under‑appreciated or already forgotten features of Trump’s presidency. If there is one takeaway, it is that the last four years have been every bit as disastrous for America as they seem.

Ÿ    John Bolton, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, Simon & Schuster, 2020.

Ÿ    David Frum, Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy, Harper, 2020.

Ÿ    Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America, Penguin Press, 2020.

Ÿ    Stuart Stevens, It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, Knopf, 2020.

Ÿ    Mary L. Trump, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, Simon & Schuster, 2020.

Ÿ    The Fact Checker Staff of The Washington Post, Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth, Scribner, 2020. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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James Lovelock: ‚The biosphere and I are both in the last 1% of our lives‘

Posted by hkarner - 20. Juli 2020

Date: 19‑07‑2020

Source: The Guardian Jonathan Watts

On the eve of his 101st birthday, the father of the Gaia theory discusses Covid‑19, extreme weather… and freezing hamsters

James Lovelock near his home on the Dorset coast

James Lovelock is best known as the father of Gaia Theory, the revolutionary idea that life on Earth is a self‑regulating community of organisms interacting with each other and their surroundings. An independent scientist who eschews the academic establishment, he has variously been described as a maverick, prophet of doom, environmental philosopher and Gandalf. This month, he turns 101, but shows little sign of slowing his intellectual output. A paperback version of his latest book, Novacene, will shortly be released and he is working on a follow‑up.

Fourteen years ago, you predicted that extreme weather would become the norm and the world would see more disasters in 2020. The first half of this year has seen a global pandemic, the first temperatures over 100F in the Arctic Circle, immense fires in Australia and Siberia, and plagues of locusts in Africa and South America. Do you feel vindicated as a scientist or disappointed as a human that your apocalyptic words have proved prophetic?

It’s all pretty obvious really, but you never know when you have got things right until quite a long time afterwards because a surprise can turn up. Besides, I’m not a scientist really. I’m an inventor or a mechanic. It’s a different thing. The Gaia theory is just engineering written very large indeed. I mean you have got this ideal rotating ball in space, illuminated by a nice standard star. Up until now, the Earth system has always kept things cool on the Earth, fit for life, that is the essence of Gaia. It’s an engineering job and it has been well done. But I would say the biosphere and I are both in the last 1% or our lives. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The Dimming of GE’s Bold Digital Dreams

Posted by hkarner - 19. Juli 2020

Date: 18‑07‑2020

Source: The Wall Street Journal

The industrial giant hoped to remake itself as a software powerhouse.

Here’s what went wrong.

In early 2014, the High‑Impact Innovation Team in General Electric Co.’s Connecticut headquarters received an urgent call: It was time to present one of their apps to Jeff Immelt. The chief executive had an expanding interest in tech, having promised an “industrial internet” that GE would help build for the world.

It was the job of the HIIT team to develop apps for use within the company—such as an iPad app to connect lighting engineers with the lighting sales force, and a web‑based application for employee performance reviews. The division’s public relations staff pitched the team’s innovations to the business press.

Employees jumped at the chance to show Mr. Immelt their hard work, reinforcing his vision of overhauling the conglomerate in the image of a software skunk works. But in 2014 there was a small problem: the app in question wasn’t built yet. The team had digital design files—mock‑ups of the way the program might eventually look—but nothing running on a real machine to show the longtime CEO. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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