The passing scene: January 1, 2015

The Tragedy of the American Military by James Fallows for The Atlantic.

Gun Trouble by Robert H. Scales for The Atlantic.

HighAirfare35e18The U.S. armed forces have greater prestige than at any time in American history, and the nation spends almost as much on its armed forces as the whole rest of the world put together.  Yet the USA doesn’t seem to be able to win wars, or even provide troops with a gun that doesn’t jam.

James Fallows wrote in The Atlantic that the United States has become a “chickenhawk nation.”  The majority of Americans do not wish to serve in the military and have no real desire to understand the military, so we take the easy way out which is to say, “thank you for your service,” and go about our business.

Military procurement has become a business subsidy and job creation program.  If the USA reduced its military force and weapons spending to what is needed to defend the nation, and nothing else was done, a recession would result.

Infrastructure advances in the rest-of-the-world will blow your mind by james321 for Daily Kos.

We Americans used to pride ourselves on our mega-engineering projects, but now the rest of the world is leaving us behind.

China has opened direct rail service from the China Sea to Madrid.  Switzerland is about to open its 35-mile Gotthard Base Tunnel under the Alps.  Italy is soon to start high-speed rail service between Milan and Rome, capable of speeds up to 250 miles per hour.

We Americans don’t even perform maintenance on what we’ve got, and that’s a sign of a society with a fatal loss of concern for its future, just as our military strategy is a sign of a society with a fatal loss of a sense of reality.


A Plan for a Sustainable Future by Mark Z. Jacobsen and Mark A. Delucchi in Scientific American (2009)  Now here’s a mega-engineering project worth tackling.  [Hat tip to Hal Bauer]

borderpatrolU.S. Border Patrol Caught More Non-Mexicans Than Mexicans for the First Time Ever in 2014 by Keegan Hamilton for Vice News.

The reason is not so much an increase unauthorized immigration from Central America as a sharp drop in unauthorized immigration from Mexico.

Why Airlines Want to Make You Suffer by Tim Wu for the New Yorker.

The standard business model for airlines is to make air travel an unpleasant experience, then to charge fees for alleviating the bad experience.  When Jet Blue offered good service at a reasonable price, Wu reported that Wall Street analysts accused management of being overly brand-conscious and customer-oriented.

The NYPD’s Work Stoppage Is Surreal by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

The NYPD Slowdown Might Backfire—And That Might Be a Good Thing by Mike the Mad Biologist.

Germany has a serious wolf problem and nobody knows what to do about it by Jason Overdorf for Global Post.

From Company State to Liberal Empire: Reframing the Rise and Demise of the British East India Company Monopoly, 1600-1815, by Aaron Windel of Simon Fraser University for H-Review.  [Hat tip to Craig Hanyan]

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