It’s happening in Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, Bosnia, Syria, and beyond. Revolutions, unrest, and riots are sweeping the globe. The near-simultaneous eruption of violent protest can seem random and chaotic; inevitable symptoms of an unstable world. But there’s at least one common thread between the disparate nations, cultures, and people in conflict, one element that has demonstrably proven to make these uprisings more likely: high global food prices.
Just over a year ago, complex systems theorists at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned us that if food prices continued to climb, so too would the likelihood that there would be riots across the globe. Sure enough, we’re seeing them now. The paper’s author, Yaneer
Bar-Yam, charted the rise in the FAO food price index—a measure the UN uses to map the cost of food over time—and found that whenever it rose above 210, riots broke out worldwide. It happened in 2008 after the economic collapse, and again in 2011, when a Tunisian street vendor who could no longer feed his family set himself on fire in protest. Bar-Yam built a model with the data, which then predicted that something like the Arab Spring would ensue just weeks before it did. Four days before Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation helped ignite the revolution that would spread across the region, NECSI submitted a government report that highlighted the risk that rising food prices posed to global stability. Now, the model has once again proven prescient—2013 saw the third-highest food prices on record, and that’s when the seeds for the conflicts across the world were sewn.
I love stuff like this. Policies that would make everyone richer and better off in the long run, but which will never get implemented (with the exception of legalizing marijuana) because we will never get past the knee-jerk emotional reaction that politicians can use against such policies. I was disappointed that a universal basic income didn’t make the list, though.
One: Eliminate the mortgage tax deduction, which lets homeowners deduct the interest they pay on their mortgages. Gone. After all, big houses get bigger tax breaks, driving up prices for everyone. Why distort the housing market and subsidize people buying expensive houses?
Two: End the tax deduction companies get for providing health-care to employees. Neither employees nor employers pay taxes on workplace health insurance benefits. That encourages fancier insurance coverage, driving up usage and, therefore, health costs overall. Eliminating the deduction will drive up costs for people with workplace healthcare, but makes the health-care market fairer.
Three: Eliminate the corporate income tax. Completely. If companies reinvest the money into their businesses, that’s good. Don’t tax companies in an effort to tax rich people.
Four: Eliminate all income and payroll taxes. All of them. For everyone. Taxes discourage whatever you’re taxing, but we like income, so why tax it? Payroll taxes discourage creating jobs. Not such a good idea. Instead, impose a consumption tax, designed to be progressive to protect lower-income households.
Five: Tax carbon emissions. Yes, that means higher gasoline prices. It’s a kind of consumption tax, and can be structured to make sure it doesn’t disproportionately harm lower-income Americans. More, it’s taxing something that’s bad, which gives people an incentive to stop polluting.
Six: Legalize marijuana. Stop spending so much trying to put pot users and dealers in jail — it costs a lot of money to catch them, prosecute them, and then put them up in jail. Criminalizing drugs also drives drug prices up, making gang leaders rich.
On Tuesday, Bill Gates released his annual letter commenting on his foundation’s work. This year’s edition takes particular aim at the “three myths” that block progress for the poor: The myth that aid doesn’t work, the myth that aid is wasted and the myth that aid will just lead to overpopulation. We spoke about the three myths Tuesday morning. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.
They were never going to be able to contain themselves. For all the promises of a dignified commemoration, the Tory right’s standard bearers held back for less than 48 hours into the new year before launching a full-throated defence of the “war to end all wars”. The killing fields of Gallipoli and the Somme had been drenched in blood for a “noble cause”, declared Michael Gove. The slaughter unleashed in 1914 had been a “just war” for freedom.
Hostility to the war, the education secretary complained, had been fostered by leftwingers and comedians who denigrated patriotism and painted the conflict as a “misbegotten shambles”. Gove was backed by the prime minister, as talk of international reconciliation was left to junior ministerial ranks.
This is all preposterous nonsense. Unlike the second world war, the bloodbath of 1914-18 was not a just war. It was a savage industrial slaughter perpetrated by a gang of predatory imperial powers, locked in a deadly struggle to capture and carve up territories, markets and resources.
Germany was the rising industrial power and colonial Johnny-come-lately of the time, seeking its place in the sun from the British and French empires. The war erupted directly from the fight for imperial dominance in the Balkans, as Austria-Hungary and Russia scrapped for the pickings from the crumbling Ottoman empire. All the ruling elites of Europe, tied together in a deathly quadrille of unstable alliances, shared the blame for the murderous barbarism they oversaw. The idea that Britain and its allies were defending liberal democracy, let alone international law or the rights of small nations, is simply absurd.
Three cheers to the American government for finding new and creative ways to give all our money to big corporations.
This is part three of my explanation of how America went from having the fastest and cheapest Internet service in the world to what we have today — not very fast, not very cheap Internet service that is hurting our ability to compete economically with the rest of the world. Part one detailed expected improvements in U.S. broadband based on emerging competitive factors, yet decried that it was too little too late. Part two explained how U.S. broadband ISPs are different from most overseas ISPs and how those differences make it unlikely that we’ll ever regain leadership in this space. And this week’s final part explains that this all came about because Americans were deceived and defrauded by many of their telephone companies to the tune of $200 billion — money that was supposed to have gone to pay for a broadband future we don’t — and never will — have.
There are no good guys in this story. Misguided and incompetent regulation combined with utilities that found ways to game the system resulted in what had been the best communication system in the world becoming just so-so, though very profitable. We as consumers were consistently sold ideas that were impractical only to have those be replaced later by less-ambitious technologies that, in turn, were still under-delivered. Congress set mandates then provided little or no oversight. The FCC was (and probably still is) managed for the benefit of the companies and their lobbyists, not for you and me. And the upshot is that I could move to Japan and pay $14 per month for 100-megabit-per-second Internet service but I can’t do that here and will probably never be able to.
Wow. Nazi germany and the USSR had nothing on this lot.
The NSA revelations keep on coming, and if you’re feeling desensitized to the whole thing it’s time to refocus and get your game face on for 2014. Because shit continues to get real.
SPIEGEL published two pieces this morning about the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division, aka premier hacking ninja squad. According to Snowden documents, TAO has a catalog of all the commercial equipment that carries NSA backdoors. And it’s a who’s who of a list. Storage products from Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor and Samsung have backdoors in their firmware, firewalls from Juniper Networks have been compromised, plus networking equipment from Cisco and Huawei, and even unspecified products from Dell. TAO actually intercepts online orders of these and other electronics to bug them.
SPIEGEL notes that the documents do not provide any evidence that the manufacturers mentioned had any idea about this NSA activity. Every company spokesperson contacted by Spiegel reporters denied having any knowledge of the situation, though Dell officials said instead that the company “respects and complies with the laws of all countries in which it operates.”
TAO uses software hacking in things like Windows bug reports to get the information and device control they need, of course. But if that’s not enough, they even have a special group of hardware hackers who create modified equipment for TAO specialists to try and plant. A monitor cable that allows “TAO personnel to see what is displayed on the targeted monitor,” costs $30. An “active GSM base station” for monitoring cellphone calls costs $40,000, and converted flashdrives that plant bugs and can also transmit and receive data with hidden radio signals come in 50-packs for more than $1 million. The NSA octopus spreads its tentacles even further. [SPIEGEL, SPIEGEL]
I really don’t understand why every country doesn’t just vote for a guy like this.
A recent viral image of Uruguay’s president I hoped to shed a little light on who this man really is.
I hope this does him justice.
Mujica, currently the president of Uruguay, is know for being a rarity among powerful politicians, as he chooses to donate around 90% of his $12,000 (£7,500) monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs.
A guerrilla fighter for Tupamaros ( a “Robin hood” organization that stole from the rich and gave to the poor) he was imprisoned twice, kept in horrible conditions, escaped once, and was only apprehended after being shot six times by the police. He was released fourteen years later when a constitutional democracy was restored.
Although this beautiful palace with 42 staff members is available to him he instead lives on a small farm a few minutes from the capital.
He drives a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle, and is a part time farmer, growing chrysanthemums (a kind of flower) for sale at a nearby markets. He lives in a small house with his wife, who was also an imprisoned guerrilla fighter and member of Tupamaros, who is now a Uruguayan senator.
His only protection are two guards positioned on his road (required by the government) and his three legged dog Manjula . Under his presidency Uruguay has legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage, while also enacting one of the region’s most sweeping abortion rights laws and sharply boosting the use of renewable energy sources like wind and biomass. He does not liked to be called the worlds poorest president, stating that “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, who is poor.” If anyone has anything to add PLEASE say so in the comment! Also please read the links if you want more as I didn’t want this to get to long.
In case you ever wanted an idea of what kind of smear job Fox News does on companies that are trying to help clean up the environment. Follow the link for the full detail on how demonstrably bullshit these statements were.
1. Fox Business Reporter: Germany’s Solar Industry Better Than U.S.’s Because “They’ve Got A Lot More Sun Than We Do.”
2. After Electric Automaker Tesla Becomes A Success, Fox Forgets Its Federal Loan.
3. Bill O’Reilly Smears Tesla, Falsely Claims It Had Net Losses.
4. WSJ Editorial Board Member: New York City’s Bike Share Program Part Of “Totalitarian” Plot.
5. Fox News: Wind Turbines May Cause ”Devastating” Health Effects.
6. Right-Wing Media Falsely Claim Energy Efficiency Responsible For Super Bowl Blackout.
8. When Fox Couldn’t Point To Actual Facts To Smear Tesla, They Made Some Up.