Article Archive

Here are some writings and speeches that I think are of lasting interest.

The Transparent Society by David Brin for Wired (1996).

SF writer David Brin predicted that development of surveillance technology would make privacy a thing of the past.  Rather that fight a losing battle for privacy, he said, citizens should level the playing field by insisting on transparency of government and corporate operations.

Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity by Gregg Easterbook for The Atlantic (1997)

Norman Borlaug and his co-workers, by breeding high-yield “green revolution” crops, saved the lives of millions of people who would have died from starvation.  They may have saved more people than were murdered by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

“Star Wars” despots vs. “Star Trek” populists by David Brin for Salon (1999)

SF writer David Brin argued that both Star Wars and Star Trek have underlying political and philosophical agendas that reflect a basic conflict in the world today.  Star Wars is based on age-old archetypes of magic, mystery and authority.  Star Trek embodies the modern values of freedom, reason and tolerance.

Citizenship in Emergency by Elaine Scarry for the Boston Review (2002)

Elaine Scarry wrote that the true meaning of the Second Amendment to the Constitution is that the United States should rely on American citizens for the defense of the country.  This was shown on Sept. 11, 2001, when the only effective action against the terrorists was not by the American military, but by the passengers on Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania.

Friedman Wrong About Islam Again and the Amman Statement on Ecumenism by Juan Cole for Informed Comment. (2005)

Read this if you doubt that Muslim authorities have condemend Al Qaeda and terrorism.

Being Poor by John Scalzi (2005)

What poor people have to think about every day and middle class people take for granted.

Closing the Collapse Gap: the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US by Dmitry Orlov (2006)

Dmitry Orlov, a Russian-born American citizen who witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union, thinks that the USA will collapse for the same reasons the USSR did—including unwinnable wars, corrupt government and delusions of grandeur that prevent honest discussion.  But he argued that the collapse of the USSR left its former citizens in a better position to survive than Americans will be, because the inefficiency of the Soviet bureaucracy forced people to have to fend for themselves.

The Quiet Coup by Simon Johnson for The Atlantic (2009).

Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, wrote that the United States is a classic case of a country taken over by a financial oligarchy.

The Acceleration of Addictiveness by Paul Graham (2010)

The dynamics of free-market capitalism generate increasingly addictive products.  The more addictive your product, psychologically or otherwise, the more profitable.  The laws of the unfettered free market say that addictiveness can only increase.

A Big Little Idea Called Legibility by Venkat Rao for ribbonfarm (2010)

Venkat Rao developed the ideas in James Scott’s Seeing Like a State, which are that the institutions of the modern world result from government’s attempts to make individuals and communities “legible” to rulers so that they may be taxed, conscripted and organized more efficiently, and that such legibility tempts governments to make far-reaching plans based on incomplete knowledge, often with disastrous results.  The whole blog post, including comments and links, is well worth reading.

Top Secret America by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin for The Washington Post (2010)

As of 2010, there were 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private contractors doing Top Secret work related to counter-terrorism, homeland security and intelligence.  More than 850,000 Americans have top secret clearances.  The Top Secret complex has become so large, so complicated and so secret that nobody knows how much it costs, how many people it employs or whether it is making America safer.

The Rise of the New Global Elite by Chrystria Freeland for The Atlantic.  (2011)

The world’s super-rich have a strong sense of entitlement, not much sense of responsibility and more fellow-feeling for each other than for people in their home countries.

Of the 1% by the 1%, for the 1% by Joseph E. Stiglitz for Vanity Fair magazine (2011).

Joseph Stiglitz, a former chief economist for the World Bank and winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize, wrote that the growing concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny elite leads to shrinking opportunity, a distorted economy and inability to unite to deal with national problems.

The Myth of American Meritocracy by Ron Unz for The American Conservative (2012)

Ron Unz, the publisher of The American Conservative, presented statistical evidence to argued that Ivy League colleges discriminate against qualified Asian-Americans and in favor of unqualified Jewish students.  Overall he made a good case that Ivy League admissions policies are biased in favor of the American economic and intellectual elites.

Pipelineistan and the New Silk Road(s) by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.  (2013)

Foreign correspondent Pepe Escobar believes the key to world politics is control of the oil and gas of Central Asia and of the pipeline routes across the heart of Eurasia.

All the Infrastructure a Tyrant Would Need, Courtesy of Bush and Obama by Conor Friedersdorf for The Atlantic.  (2013)

If someone with the ambition to be a dictator should come to power in the United States, the laws and institutions to facilitate dictatorship are already in place.

Anatomy of the Deep State by Michael Lofgren for Moyers & Company.  (2014)

Covert military, intelligence and surveillance agencies are a government unto themselves, which are not subject to elections and are not subject to the normal budget process.

The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic.  (2014)

Ta-Nehisi Coates made the case that African-Americans have been victimized by the U.S. government not just in the days of slavery and Jim Crow, but down to the present day.  He did not call for a money payment, but for recognition that the United States has a moral debt to its black citizens.

A Different Idea of Our Declaration by Glordon S. Woods for the New York Review of Books (2014)

A review of Danielle Allen’s Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality.

What This Cruel War Was Over by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic. (2015)

Read this if you doubt that the Civil War was about slavery.

Moral Mondays: the new fusion politics by William J. Barber II for UU World (2015)

A conservative Christian black minister leads a multi-racial, multi-cultural coalition in defense of human rights and the public interest.

The World Beyond Your Head: becoming an individual in an age of distraction, an interview of Matthew Crawford by Ian Tuttle for National Review.  (2015)

Matthew Crawford, a published philosopher and custom maker of motorcycle parts, believes that the desire for individual freedom has been carried to the extreme of not only rejection of external authority, but rejection of external reality.  The way to live a meaningful life is by mastering a tradition, living within it and adding to it.

Shrink-wrapped by Andrew Scull for the Times Literary Supplement (2016)

The untold history of psychiatry.

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