THE macroeconomic discussions that Apple’s success prompts tend to be very curious things. Here we have a company that’s been phenomenally successful, making products people love and directly creating nearly 50,000 American jobs in doing so, criticised for not locating its manufacturing operations in America, even as Americans complain to Apple about the working conditions of those doing the manufacture abroad: life in dormitories, 12-hour shifts 6 days a week, and low pay. It isn’t enough for Apple to have changed the world with its innovative consumer electronics. It must also rebuild American manufacturing, and not just any manufacturing: the manufacturing of decades ago when reasonable hours and high wages were the norm.
The utility of Apple, however, is that it does provide a framework within which we can discuss the significant changes that have occurred across the global economy in recent decades. Contributing to that effort is a very nice and much talked about piece from the New York Times, which asks simply why it is that Apple’s manufacturing is located in Asia.
A smaller share of Americans moved last year that at any time on record, as I noted in a previous post. Nearly six in ten Americans live in the state where they were born, according to the U.S. Census bureau. But there is considerable variation from state to state, as the map (above) by Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute shows. More than three quarters of the people in Louisiana (78.9 percent), Michigan (76.6 percent) and Ohio (75.1 percent) were born there, as opposed to just 24.3 percent of Nevadans, 35.2 percent of Floridians, 37.2 percent of the residents of Washington, D.C., and 37.7 percent of Arizonans. A high level of home-grown residents is also indicative of a lack of inflow of new people.
der Spiegel:SPIEGEL: Mikhail Sergeyevich, you turned 80 this spring. How do you feel?
Gorbachev: Oh, what a question. Do you have to ask me that? I’ve gone through three operations in the last five years. That was pretty tough on me, because they were all major operations: First on my carotid artery, then on my prostate and this year on my spine.
SPIEGEL: In Munich.
Gorbachev: Yes. It was a risky procedure. I’m grateful to the Germans.
SPIEGEL: But you look good. We saw you before the operation.
Gorbachev: They say you need three or four months to get back to normal after an operation like that. Do you remember the book “The Fourth Vertebra,” by the Finnish author Martti Larni? It is a wonderful book. In my case it was the fifth (vertebra). I’ve started walking again, but every beginning is difficult.
SPIEGEL: And yet you are back in politics, and you’re even making headlines again. Why don’t you finally sit back and relax?
Gorbachev: Politics is my second love, next to my love for Raisa.
SPIEGEL: Your deceased wife.
When Admiral Timothy Keating, the head of America’s Pacific command, met a senior Chinese admiral in 2008, he heard a surprising offer. Keating reported that his unnamed counterpart had suggested drawing a line down the middle of the Pacific and added: “You guys can have the east part of the Pacific, Hawaii to the States. We’ll take the west part of the Pacific, from Hawaii to China.” It was a weak joke, perhaps, but one that touched on what is likely to be the most sensitive and important topic in international politics over the next 50 years. Will the US continue to be the dominant power in the Pacific and in east Asia – or will it be supplanted by China? And what role will be played by India, the country that many strategists assume will be the third superpower of the 21st century?
The public statements of American, Chinese and Indian political leaders – and even of the academic establishments in all three countries – tend to stress the necessity for great power co-operation in Asia and the Pacific. The economic and political benefits of working together are said to be too great to ignore. The dangers of allowing international rivalries to grow are too enormous to be contemplated.
Is this your first visit to Syria, the passport-control man asks me. No, I tell him, I came here once before over a decade ago. He stamps my passport. I had been very lucky to get a Syrian visa this time. The travel advice was not to visit. The Syrian regime is very wary of foreigners, fearing that journalists and spies are inflaming the situation further. I collect my bag and walk through customs, passing a poster, of modest size, of President Bashar al-Assad with the words in Arabic proclaiming: “Leader of the youth, hope of the youth.”
I jump in a taxi. I ask the driver how are things in Syria. Things are fine, he assures me. There has been some trouble around the country, but things are OK in Damascus. As we drive, we chat. He points out the area where Druze live. With his hand, he waves in another direction to where Palestinian refugees live, and then again to where Iraqi refugees live. Alawites are over there and in villages. Christians this way and in villages. Sunnis are around 65 percent of the population. Kurds live in the north. Many different peoples live in Syria. I ask him how he knows who someone is or whether they are Sunni or Shiite. He tells me that he does not know and it does not interest him to know: There is no sectarianism here in Syria. We pass Damascus University. Outside there are lots of flags and pictures of Assad and his deceased father. Across the city, the Syrian flag is flying strong and photos of the president are omnipresent. As I ride through al-Umawiyeen Square, I see lots of young men and women gathering, holding Syrian flags. It is not a demonstration, a Syrian tells me; it is a celebration — a celebration of the regime. Later, I watch the event on television. It has made the international news. Tens of thousands of Syrians have come out to al-Umawiyeen Square to show their support for President Bashar al-Assad in a lively celebration that includes pop singers and fireworks.
Jim Grant’s father pursued a varied career, including studying the timpani. He even played for a while with the Pittsburgh Symphony. But the day came when he rethought his career choice. “For the Flying Dutchman overture,” says his son, “they had him cranking a wind machine.”
The younger Mr. Grant, who can be sardonic about his own chosen profession, might say he’s spent the past 28 years cranking a wind machine, though it would be a grossly unjust characterization. Mr. Grant is founder and writer of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, perhaps the most iconic of the Wall Street newsletters. He is also one of Wall Street’s strongest advocates of the gold standard, knowing full well it would take away much of Wall Street’s fun.
You might say that, as a journalist and historian of finance, he has been in training his whole life for times like ours—in which the monetary disorders he has so astutely chronicled are reaching a crescendo. The abiding interest of Grant’s, both man and newsletter, has been the question of value, and how to know it. “Kids today talk about beer goggles—an especially sympathetic state of perception with regard to a member of the opposite sex,” he says of our current market environment. “We collectively wear interest-rate goggles because we see market values through the prism of zero-percent funding costs. Everything is distorted.”
The taxi driver to Beirut airport tells me that yom al-qiyama (the day of judgment) is approaching. There will be a big explosion soon — a very big explosion. The revolutions sweeping the Arab World are not good. Islamic parties will come to power everywhere. There will be no more Christians left in the Middle East. Believe me, believe me, he insists. In anticipation, he will make the Hajj to Mecca this year, inshallah. I tell him that I am traveling to Iraq as a tourist. The look he gives me in the rear view mirror says it all: He thinks I am crazy.
I am heading back to Iraq nine months after I left my job as Political Advisor to the Commanding General of U.S. Forces Iraq. Earlier this year, a Sheikh emailed me from his iPad, “Miss Emma we miss you. You must come visit us as a guest. You will stay with me. And you will have no power!” I am excited and nervous. The plane is about a third full. I am the only foreigner. I look around at my fellow passengers. I wonder who they are and whether they bear a grudge for something we might have done.
The flight is one and a half hours long. I read and doze. As we approach Iraq, I look out of the window. The sky is full of sand and visibility is poor. But I can make out the Euphrates below. Land of the two rivers, I am coming back.
I do not have an Iraqi visa. Visas issued in Iraqi Embassies abroad are not recognized by Baghdad airport. I have a letter from an Iraqi General in the Ministry of Interior, complete with a signature and stamp. In the airport, I present my passport and letter, fill out a form, pay $80, and receive a visa within 15 minutes. I collect my bag. I am through. I want to reach down and touch the ground, this land that has soaked up so much blood over the years — ours and theirs.
All historians encounter them, at some point in their careers: Vast troves of data that are undeniably useful to history–but too complex to make narratively interesting. For Stanford’s Richard White, an American historian, these were railroad freight tables. The reams of paper held a story about America, he knew. It just seemed impossible to tell it.
Impossible to tell in a traditional way, that is. White is the director of the Stanford University Spatial History Project, an interdisciplinary lab at the university that produces “creative visual analysis to further research in the field of history.” (The images in this post are taken from the project’s many visualizations.) Recent announcements on the project site announce “source data now available” (openness is one of the project’s tenets) on such topics as “Mapping Rio,” “Land Speculation in Fresno County: 1860-1891,” and “When the Loss of a Finger is Considered a ‘Minor’ Injury.”