Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The next four years

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  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Well, Russia refrained from trying to infiltrate Austria (and after the 1950s, NATO refrained from trying to infiltrate the Warsaw Pact - before that they did, but all their attempts were betrayed by Philby).

    But then, Khrushchev and Brezhnev (not to mention Eisenhower and Nixon) were relatively sane and responsible politicians.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • Stephen R, in reply to Luke Williamson,

    Russia has experienced multiple invasions, including by US military during the Russian civil war 1918.

    True. But they've also done their share of invading. Poland was invaded in 1939 by Germany and Russia, and over the course of WW2 lost something like 20% of their population. The Russians weren't kinder to the locals than the Germans.

    Ukraine in WW2 was split between Germany and Russia. A Ukrainian ex-co-worker of mine said that of course a lot of the current opposition to Russia was from organisations that used to be pro-Nazi, because when they started, the two choices were Hitler or Stalin.

    A bunch of my friends in Finland told me that "Last time we had to surrender to Russia because we ran out of bullets, next time we won't run out" - others are telling me they're woken up in the suburbs of Helsinki by the fighter jets doing high-speed take-offs to intercept the Russian aircraft who are "accidentally" entering Finnish airspace. Many of the things that Russia used as pretexts in Ukraine also apply to Finland (Finland used to be ruled by Russia, and has people on the eastern borders who speak Russian)

    Russia is scaring a lot of people in Europe at the moment. They're not the poor picked-on victim.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 259 posts Report

  • Jason Kemp, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    All those new jobs will be a myth.

    Thanks Hilary. I agree. Anyone who voted for jobs being returned to the U.S (or anywhere else in the world) is dreaming. The background forces which have favoured global supply chains are not going to change any time soon.

    Automation is changing the landscape everywhere and the paradox is that the same reasons businesses automate ( to increase profitability) is the very reason that jobs disappear. Ok I’m over simplifying but that is an issue that has not been addressed at all. The proverbial elephant in the room.

    Why Trump Doesn’t Tweet About Automation (by Thomas H. Davenport)

    Makes very good points.

    economists, including the MIT labor economist David Autor, argue that automation is a much greater factor in manufacturing job loss than outsourcing or trade deals is. And as I and others have argued, new automation technologies are going to have similar impacts on non-manufacturing workers.

    Greg Hayes, the CEO of Carrier’s parent firm United Technologies, admitted that automation would eventually win out in the highly visible negotiation between Trump and Carrier over jobs at an Indiana plant. A few days after Trump supposedly saved 750 jobs at Carrier, Hayes revealed in a CNBC interview with Jim Cramer that: “We’re going to make a $16 million investment in that factory in Indianapolis to automate to drive the cost down so that we can continue to be competitive….But what that ultimately means is there will be fewer jobs.” (Emphasis mine.)

    President Obama realizes that automation is a serious problem, although his administration hasn’t done much to address it. In his farewell speech to the nation on January 10, he noted: “But the next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete.”

    I am currently in Otago and somewhat tuned into local debates. There are increasingly more dairy farms here. The new farms rely on irrigation and other capital intensive systems but they create relatively few actual jobs.

    And those jobs are not well paid. What should the locals do? Compete for low wages to milk cows? It is not easy to even have a discussion because as Davenport notes

    the work replaced by automation historically hasn’t been very fulfilling.

    20 years ago I studied various dairy sector companies for case studies on innovation. That was before Fonterra & pre internet so much of that research is “offline”. Just this week I caught up with one of those academics to check whether say Fonterra has kept the innovation flame burning – as a proxy for creating more high paying jobs. According to him the short answer is no.

    It is hard to argue for for jobs “on the farm” but we certainly should argue for creating more jobs in “added-value” processing and higher value products…

    This is all slightly off topic but in a roundabout way I think that government does have a role to encourage innovation and to lead from the top.

    When you have a politician whose appointees want to dismantle 'all of the things' that doesn't create jobs - it loses them.

    Automation of jobs is killing more jobs that outsourcing ever did. The fix is not simple but if we start with respecting rights and responsibilities we have a better chance of changing that.

    BTW – for the record in case anyone was interested How the Attacks on Trump Reinforce His Strategy by Roger L. Martin which is an article on strategy & argues that Trump chose to be politically incorrect which helped me to make more sense of that election.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 368 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    Trump seems to have released some uncontrollable forces. The world needs to develop a coherent response, but I'm not sure how this will happen. It will probably start with individuals and communities and hopefully in some innovative ways.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Big difference: the countries on Russia’s border are asking for NATO protection. They’re terrified by Russia moving nuclear-capable missiles into Kalingrad.

    I’d also point out a non-trivial number of these countries have already had Russian troops on their streets in living memory and didn’t much like the experience.

    Sorry for being harsh here, but there’s some serious False Equivalence Bingo being played from the other side of the world. It really has to stop.

    Russia has experienced multiple invasions

    Seriously, when the does Russia stop getting to use Operation Barbarossa as a free pass for being everyone’s neighbour from Hell? It’s been seventy-five years.

    I'm kind of missing the good old days, when winter was enlivened by the annual ritual of Putin's cronies at Gazprom threatening to cut off the natural gas supply of whoever in Europe was pissing off Putin the most at the time.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report

  • tim kong,

    I wrote this in the week after the election - http://www.continue.nz/a-dream/

    And I still think that is what is the greatest fear I have - that this enabling of language that belittles and uses power to make others small and less worthy - will be the new norm.

    We're told there is a bullying problem in schools and in our society, but somehow as adults, it's OK to rationalise the election of a bully to the highest office of power in the United States.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 153 posts Report

  • Gabor Toth,

    The day after the election I met up with a North Carolina voter who had voted Trump. I think his expectations of what a Trump presidency would look like are completely wrong and only time will tell but the signs of instability and randomness favouring the richest and most privileges are all there.

    This is worth a read. As well as the author's regret in voting the way she did, it also gives an insight into the problem with "Obamacare" which led to many voting for Trump in the first place; i.e. the absurdity of a monthly medical insurance bill of US $893 supposedly being "affordable care".

    I voted for Donald Trump, and I already regret it

    Wellington • Since Dec 2006 • 137 posts Report

  • Zach Bagnall,

    Remember, the insurance companies increased their premiums in the weeks immediately before the election. Perfect storm.

    Colorado • Since Nov 2006 • 121 posts Report

  • Russell Brown,


    Wow. The US Labor Department's Women's Bureau has suddenly and without explanation put up a link for people to download all its resources. Which strongly suggests a fear that those resources might not be there for long. Far out.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Russell Brown,

    And another one.

    EPA scientists are rushing to save climate data available to the public on their website, after being told it would be removed.

    This is a war on knowledge. It's evil.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Seriously, when the does Russia stop getting to use Operation Barbarossa as a free pass for being everyone’s neighbour from Hell? It’s been seventy-five years.

    Indeed. If 1941 gets an invocation (as it seems to over and over), lest we forget the events that led up to it, plus the tanks of 1956 and 1968.

    However, largely Russia’s (ruthless) iron clamp on Eastern Europe was driven by extreme paranoia. Stalin never saw an event or a person he didn’t regard as a threat – sometimes with good reason (it’s hard to overstate how much the post-revolution invasions transformed the Soviet psyche), but often, as the deaths of countless ‘counterrevolutionaries’ in the 30s and 40s will attest, not.

    An aggressive NATO on their border, the Marshall plan, US fixing Western European elections, and the re-militarising of Germany by the US in the 50s, B-52s prodding Russian airspace hourly and the words of the likes of Dulles and Curtis LeMay hardly gave them cause to think they were not under threat. Attempts to roll back the Cold War post-Stalin were rebuffed repeatedly which led to the Cuban Crisis when the Soviets decided to put missiles on the US border as the US had done to them. Tit for tat.

    When Gorby finally took the steps (or declined to react as in the case of Eastern Europe in 89) to end the Cold War, he did so under clear guarantees from the US not to extend NATO east.

    There was a moment in the next decade when it looked like Russia might evolve into something resembling an open democracy, but the failure of the US to stick to those NATO commitments terrified Russia and opened the door to the rise of the former KGB, now no longer contained by the state – and to Putin’s coup-in-all-but-name in 1999/2000.

    Many of the new Eastern NATO members, too, were offered substantial fiscal incentives to join, overcoming some initial reluctance (especially in the South East of Europe).

    Is Putin a wily monster with designs on the former Soviet Empire? I think the evidence is overwhelming, but he is in part a US construct too.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3284 posts Report

  • James Dunne,

    How exactly does Russia become more secure by bullying its neighbours and acting like Upper Volga with nukes?

    Wellington • Since Sep 2013 • 25 posts Report

  • WH, in reply to Jason Kemp,

    Automation of jobs is killing more jobs that outsourcing ever did.

    I wonder whether this gets at the difference between Luddism and ideas in the space around mercantilism. While an uneven convergence of standards of living seems inevitable, we’ll either make the right moves when it comes to the policies that lie behind the balance of payments or struggle to afford what we buy from other countries.

    Along with the closure of their factories, US workers have had to contend with stagnating wages and significant increases in the cost of tertiary education and healthcare. Obamacare has clearly helped, but one of those graphs states that employer-based healthcare premiums clock in at 21% of the median income, and I suspect that’s before co-pays, deductibles and other out of pocket costs.

    In any event, I wish the people of the United States all the very best for the next four years.

    Since Nov 2006 • 797 posts Report

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to James Dunne,

    How exactly does Russia become more secure by bullying its neighbours and acting like Upper Volga with nukes?

    The states that were part of the former Soviet Union (and historically greater Russia, like the Ukraine) are not regarded as “neighbours” by the current Russian rulers.

    If you go back some 500 years, the states that would become the Soviet Union were largely part then of the Russian empire.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3284 posts Report

  • Zach Bagnall,

    Believe me, I want it to be four years (with a shake up at the midterms in 2018! yeah!) but expect this is probably going to be the full eight.

    Colorado • Since Nov 2006 • 121 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Russell Brown,

    This is a war on knowledge. It’s evil.

    This scares me.

    We have become so dependent on the ability to validate our assertions with an appropriate 'link' to an official (read 'government') document. Especially when we are having to engage with a government agency.

    We will be told "we have no record of that so it didn't happen, wasn't said, nobody ever recorded that..."

    Like it never happened.

    And it'll come down to their word against ours. (Peter and I have been locked in such combat for the past year...hopefully a post for Access soon.)

    Battle lines drawn.

    And on a mass scale like this....prelude to what...civil war?

    Considering most if not all of these resources were compiled using taxpayer funding...surely this amounts to theft from the State by the current administration.

    Now I'm seriously rattled...this is 'mess with their heads' stuff.

    Thanks Russell for posting this. I think.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Zach Bagnall,

    I doubt Chump will last more than one, but I suspect you are correct overall.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Neil,

    Putin’s belief that the Ukraine is part of Russia hasn’t got anything to do with the US.

    Obama attempted to reach out to Putin – an 8 year window of opportunity Putin responded to with military aggression.

    Russia as victim is how Putin likes to portray things. His campaign against Hillary Clinton is probably in part payback for Bill Clinton’s actions against Russian-backed Serbian fascists back in the 90s.


    Since Nov 2016 • 382 posts Report

  • andin, in reply to Jason Kemp,

    The background forces which have favoured global supply chains

    You mean greed! (of the I got mine fuck you buddy variety) Lets stop dressing it up in beige language .
    Nah thats not going to change not for the forseeable little while anyway.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1891 posts Report

  • Jason Kemp, in reply to WH,

    Thanks - Davenport does mention some of that.

    "It’s true that previous waves of automation didn’t decrease employment over the long run. Economists once had a term, the “Luddite fallacy,” for those who believed that advancing technology eliminated human jobs. But now many economists, including Larry Summers, are concerned that the previous pattern won’t be repeated in this round of automation. Nevertheless, no politician wants to be viewed as a Luddite. It’s yet another reason not to speak out about the threat of job loss from automation."

    As for the Chinese Mercantilism (thanks for that link) - I understand that impulse completely. The article you referred to though also mentions IP theft on a large scale costing the US up to $50b. The Chinese want fairer standards for foreign direct investment rather than just being seen as a low cost producer.

    Fair enough. I can remember meeting some US Telco companies in the 80's and 90's who viewed NZ and every other country as a place to exploit. NZ has in comparative terms got smarter on that count but it is not surprising that the "rising middle class" in Indonesia , India and China might want something different for their futures.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 368 posts Report

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Neil,

    Putin’s belief that the Ukraine is part of Russia hasn’t got anything to do with the US.

    No, it has a far deeper history. Russia has regarded it as a part of the greater Russian Empire for half a millennium or more.

    That Putin found himself in a position to assert that claim does have something to with the US though, and you are right, part of it was the way the Clinton handled Serbia (and humiliated Russia). Clinton, too, was the president who first broke the agreement not to expand NATO into the former Warsaw Pact countries*. Bush and Obama continued it. That empowered those that wanted the democratic experiment to end.

    None of which justifies Putin's aggressive positions of course.

    I guess it goes around.

    *Gorby has since denied that such an agreement was made - and then later walked back from that denial. However, the memos and transcripts from the meetings exist.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3284 posts Report

  • Jason Kemp, in reply to andin,

    Thanks Andin,

    Business people at the top of the foodchain are deciding to throw their employees under the bus for all sorts of reasons including greed.

    We want the benefits of technology but now that it is services automation and not just products the interplay is much more complex.

    Part of this is the way that politicians and the public are being talked to and about in terms of GDP and productivity.

    We live in a time when GDP is not the best way to measure quality of life or even things like clean air and clean water.

    If we valued clean water as much as I think we should we would just shut down huge chunks of the dairy sector until we had solved those problems for example.

    I’m thinking of some of the work done by Hazel Henderson and others. And dare I say it ethical markets and ethical thinking.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 368 posts Report

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3284 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    The National Endowment for the Humanities, founded in 1965, is a leading source of funding for humanities programs in the United States. Its grants support cultural institutions including museums, libraries, and public television, as well as universities and individual scholarship. It has supported over 7,000 book projects, including 16 Pulitzer Prize winners, and the United States Newspaper Project, cataloguing over 60 million pages of historic newspapers for future use by scholars.

    This was the topic of the family's dinner tonight. Not only our universal dependency on the web archive, but also the incredible importance of preserving pre-web material.
    The example of researchers using archived newspapers...national, state and county publications...from the past 150 plus years to validate historical claims when the current 'official' accounts differ widely from traditional oral histories.
    History can truly be re-written, and unless these archives are preserved and cherished the truth will be written off as fanciful fiction.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Jason Kemp,

    If we valued clean water as much as I think we should we would just shut down huge chunks of the dairy sector until we had solved those problems

    Way too late to usefully restrict nitrates in our waterways. Stuffed for many decades, no matter what we do today. De-stocking of cows and will happen, but not fast enough.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

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