[via Plenty O'Toole]
Food for thought.
As we move into 2012, with little to no fan fare, this happened. Was it worth it?
The last American troops have left Iraq amid fresh concerns about the stability of the political system they are leaving behind.
The last of roughly 110 vehicles carrying around 500 troops mostly belonging to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, crossed the border into Kuwait as the sun rose on Sunday morning, leaving just a couple of hundred soldiers at the US embassy, in a country where there were once nearly 170,000 troops on 505 bases.
The generally subdued departure was punctuated by intermittent shouts of joy.
It ended a war that left tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 4,500 American soldiers dead, many more wounded, and 1.75 million Iraqis displaced, after the US-led invasion unleashed brutal sectarian killing.
Read more at ABC News online.
He’s been called a genius, an innovator and a visionary. Perhaps he was all three. Steve Jobs, the American computer entrepreneur and inventor, co-founder, chairman and executive CEO of Apple died on 5 October at age 56 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
The internet was awash in messages of condolence.
He was a modern-day Edison, but, interestingly, Jobs wasn’t an engineer or a designer. However, as Cliff Kuang noted in his piece for Co.Design in August this year, he was one of the greatest users of technology of all time, and that made all the difference.
As the man who introduced the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad to the world, Jobs changed computing and communications forever. Jobs famously said, “the computer is the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.” Just as a bike allows people to travel and explore their world, the products Apple created under Steve Jobs allowed people to explore and connect to their worlds in ways never before imagined.
When a figure of Jobs’ iconic standing passes, it’s easy to get caught up in the sense of public grief. Gawker, perhaps too heavily, tried to place Jobs’ death in perspective.
Regardless of your stance, the man changed the way we live. I would say for the better.
Ever the innovator, perhaps the last word is best left to Jobs himself: “Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
As we draw near to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the commentariat have begun looking back at the decade that was, investigating how it has shaped the United States and, more broadly, the global community.
While there is surely much more to be written as September 11 fast approaches, two extraordinarily good pieces have caught my attention. The first is Frank Rich’s article in New York Magazine. In his opening sentence, Rich quips, “It was ‘the day that changed everything,’ until it didn’t”.
In retrospect, the most consequential event of the past ten years may not have been 9/11 or the Iraq War but the looting of the American economy by those in power in Washington and on Wall Street.
In such an alternative telling of the decade’s history, the key move Bush made after 9/11 had nothing to do with military strategy or national-security policy. It was instead his considered decision to rule out shared sacrifice as a governing principle for the fight ahead. Sacrifice was high among the unifying ideals that many Americans hoped would emerge from the rubble of ground zero, where so many Good Samaritans had practiced it. But the president scuttled the notion on the first weekend after the attack, telling Americans that it was his “hope” that “they make no sacrifice whatsoever” beyond, perhaps, tolerating enhanced airline security. Few leaders in either party contradicted him. Bush would soon implore us to “get down to Disney World in Florida” and would even lend his image to a travel-industry ad promoting tourism. Our marching orders were to go shopping.
By framing the events of 9/11 in these terms, Rich suggests, the Bush administration unwittingly helped to exacerbate the current economic crisis in the United States:
By portraying Afghanistan and Iraq as utterly cost-free to a credulous public, the Bush administration injected the cancer into the American body politic that threatens it today: If we don’t need new taxes to fight two wars, why do we need them for anything?
The intervening years since 9/11 have evidently provided the benefit of perspective. This is illustrated nicely in David J. Rothkopf’s piece for Foreign Policy. In a similar vain to Rich, Rothkopf writes:
Indeed, we have been overestimating its significance since almost the moment it happened.
That is not, by the way, to diminish the brutal blows struck 10 years ago or the deeply felt human experiences associated with it and its aftermath. Rather it is to say that once again we will seek to frame 9/11 as a great event, the definer of an era, when in fact, its greatest defining characteristic was that of a distraction — The Great Distraction — that drew America’s focus and that of many in the world from the greater issues of our time. That distraction and the opportunity costs associated with it were bin Laden’s triumph and our loss — and our ultimate victory will come as we get a grip back on reality.
Rothkopf goes on to suggest 10 events of the past decade which are, culturally speaking, more important than the tragic events of 9/11. He suggests that with the benefit of time, we are now, collectively, able to look beyond the attack to other milestones that have shaped (and are continuing to shape) us.
Rothkopf nominates the following ten events:
10. The American Response to 9/11
9. The Arab Spring
8. The Rebalancing of Asia
7. The Stagnation of the U.S. and Other Developed-World Economies
6. The Invention of Social Media
5. The Proliferation of Cell Phones and Hand-Held Computing Devices
4. The Crash of 2008
3. The Eurozone Crisis and the Crash of 2011-2012
2. The Failure to Address Global Warming
1. The Rise of China and the Other BRICs
Food for thought, indeed.
The Age has a good article on the state of Australia’s digital economy this week:
According to a report to be released today by Deloitte Access Economics, commissioned by search engine giant Google Australia, the internet economy was worth about $50 billion in 2010, 3.6 per cent of gross domestic product, and was forecast to rise to $70 billion over the next five years.
Billed as the first attempt to measure and track the full contribution of Australia’s digital economy, Deloitte’s report calculates that the internet economy’s $50 billion size was half of the powerhouse mining sector’s contribution to GDP last year, and just $3 billion less than the retail sector’s share.
It concludes that the total economic benefit of the internet to the wider Australian economy stands at about $80 billion – including productivity gains to households and businesses.
But it does not say how much of the growth in the internet economy is at the expense of other Australian industries.
Read the full article here.
On 10 July the Australian government announced it would introduce a carbon tax at $23 a tonne in July 2012, rising 2.5% annually plus inflation and moving to a market-based emissions trading scheme in 2015.
Judging by the reaction of Australian media and commentariat, you’d be forgiven for thinking Prime Minister Julia Gillard had announced the new date of the Rapture.
Inevitably, the he said/she said slinging match between Julia Gillard and Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, started immediately.
While the science surrounding climate change should stand as irrefutable, it appears the economics is still disputable.
Here’s a taste of some of the better commentary:
Frank Jotzo writes in The Conversation:
Although the carbon pricing scheme has its warts, the negotiations between Labor, the Greens and the Independents have also produced some genuinely positive outcomes. The package will not bring big reductions in emissions in the short term, but it can be the first step on the long road to a lower-carbon economy.
However, as Bernard Kean writes in Crikey:
Regardless of how well Labor, the independents and the Greens argue the case for the carbon price package in coming days and weeks, Tony Abbott has already secured a major victory. The fall in consumer and business sentiment in recent months across a range of indicators is attributable to several things, including worsening conditions overseas, but many economists are attributing it to concerns about the carbon price scheme.
Concerns, of course, that have been ruthlessly fanned by Abbott, exploiting uncertainty and lack of detail to warn the sky would fall in, driving up household costs and endangering jobs.
The fact that it’s now clear few jobs will be endangered and those households that aren’t compensated face only trivial price rises, while inconveniencing Abbott as his makes his way around the country, is secondary to the fact that voters appear to have taken on his counsel of despair.
While the public may still be scratching their head about the carbon tax and how it impacts them, economic correspondent Peter Martin writes on his blog:
Gillard’s policy can be understood. It takes on board the two key lessons learned in economics over the past two centuries – that relative prices matter, and if you change them you change behaviour. Want more babies? Offer a baby bonus. Want more people to work? Raise the tax-free threshold, and so on.
…her plan eschews the creation of a massive new bureaucracy to hand out grants for worthy programs to cut emissions…And there’s something else. Gillard’s scheme offers certainty – not just for the next nine years as does Abbott’s scheme, which spells out a plan to achieve emissions reductions until 2020 and then stops – but to 2050 and beyond.
Whether firms like the prices imposed by the Gillard scheme or not, it lets them do the sort of planning they need to do when they are considering installing long-lived equipment such as new power plants or bidding for firms…
To see more of what the experts think, check out the great commentary on The Conversation.
Influencers is a short documentary that explores what it means to be an influencer and how trends and creativity become contagious today in music, fashion and entertainment. The short film attempts to understand the essence of influence, what makes a person influential without taking a statistical or metric approach. Written and Directed by Paul Rojanathara and Davis Johnson, the film is a Polaroid snapshot of New York influential creatives (advertising, design, fashion and entertainment) who are shaping today’s pop culture.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’re probably aware by now that WikiLeaks is the issue du jour. So you can join the conversation, here’s a round up of some of the latest commentary.
“WikiLeaks publishes its material on its own site, which is housed on a few dozen servers around the globe, including places like Sweden, Belgium and the United States that the organization considers friendly to journalists and document leakers. By being everywhere, yet in no exact place, WikiLeaks is, in effect, beyond the reach of any institution or government that hopes to silence it.” – The New York Times
“It would be an exaggeration to say that diplomacy will never be the same again. Self-interest means that countries will still send and receive private messages. But communication will be more difficult. The trading of opinions, insights and favours necessarily requires shadow, not light. Unofficial contacts such as businessmen, journalists, campaigners and other citizens who talk to American diplomats, out of goodwill or self-interest, will think twice about doing so. Being tarred as an American crony can be lethal.” – The Economist
“WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?” Julian Assange in The Australian
“Julian Assange is one of us, as worthy at least of our protection as Chapelle Corby. He has broken no law and has greatly enlarged the amusement of nations.” – Bob Ellis in The Drum
The Atlantic has published a list of ten of the most remarkable ideas to emerge in 2010:
What’s that expression? Necessity is the mother of… Let’s just say 2010 has been a year of great necessity. Natural disasters, man-made disasters, bedbug plagues, political tsunamis (or was it monsoons?)—they all changed life in ways that demanded ingenious thinking. And whether by finding new uses for existing technologies, or devising novel solutions wholesale, smart minds dealt with this year’s challenges with that most effective of coping mechanisms: innovation.
To take a look at ten of the most remarkable ideas to have emerged in 2010 click here.