World power swings back to America

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

The American phoenix is slowly rising again. Within five years or so, the US will be well on its way to self-sufficiency in fuel and energy. Manufacturing will have closed the labour gap with China in a clutch of key industries. The current account might even be in surplus.

Assumptions that the Great Republic must inevitably spiral into economic and strategic decline – so like the chatter of the late 1980s, when Japan was in vogue – will seem wildly off the mark by then.
Telegraph readers already know about the “shale gas revolution” that has turned America into the world’s number one producer of natural gas, ahead of Russia.

Less known is that the technology of hydraulic fracturing – breaking rocks with jets of water – will also bring a quantum leap in shale oil supply, mostly from the Bakken fields in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas, and other reserves across the Mid-West.

Immelt on America going “all-in”

Chrystia Freeland:

I had breakfast this week with Jeffrey R. Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric, and the main dish on the menu was tough love. In an interview before a packed hall in Times Square, the boss of the more than a century-old $177 billion global behemoth told me that Americans can still win in the global economy — but that they need to fight harder.

“We are not trying that hard,” Immelt said. “We haven’t really tried as hard as we can to compete, educate and sell our products around the world and I think we can do better.

“The world just plays harder than we play,” he said. “Whether it is on exports or whether it is on foreign direct investment, the rest of the world plays for keeps. And we just don’t have a similar philosophy.”



Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has her own reasons for feeling grim, but she can take some comfort from the fact that Immelt pointed to Germany, whose version of capitalism Americans are accustomed to dismissing as plodding and inflexible, as one nation that is outselling the Yanks.

“Chancellor Merkel flies from Berlin to Beijing, there’s 25 German C.E.O.’s that get off the plane right behind her. And they connect the dots. They play hard, they play to win, they play for exports,” Immelt said. “We’re not all-in the same way that the Germans are all-in.”

The Germans certainly play the world much better than we Americans.

Our health-care productivity problem, in one chart

Sarah Kliff:

For months now, the health sector has led the economy in job creation, producing more than 300,000 more jobs since this time last year. Even as overall job creation sputtered last month, the health sector added 44,000 new positions.

But health-care job growth isn’t necessarily a good thing, at least when it comes to controlling our skyrocketing health costs. More health-care jobs mean more health-care spending, the opposite of what most health policy wonks want to see happen.

A New England Journal of Medicine article this morning really gets at this tension, between the good of job creation and bad of growing health costs. It suggests that a key driver behind our health-care job growth is a decline in productivity. We’re adding more workers, the article argues, because, in the aggregate, each health-care worker is doing less. And that’s the opposite of every other industry sector that’s growing right now. Take a look:

We Are All Just Data

Jack Kaufman:

Recently for English, we had to write a quick paragraph using a bunch of vocabulary words we had learned while reading American literature. I chose to write about a potential conversation that I would love to have with Larry Page. Here it is:

“I sat down in the theater for what would become an arduous, yet interesting conversation with Larry Page, one of the founders of Google. I started off by asking him if the new social network Google had been working on was received with much approbation. He said it was doing great, with tens of millions of users and active engagement with everyone on the site, though Facebook’s new Timeline feature and Open Graph would require Google’s vigilance to come up with new innovations in the social space. My next question led to a change in his disposition, as I asked him whether “free” products such as the ones from Facebook and Google were artifices to gather immense amounts of data to give marketers super-focused ad placement. He then said that the usurpations I was alleging were incredibly false, that I was an insidious person, and that he was going to leave.”

Let’s gaze upon the corpse of the Fourth Amendment

Fabius Maximus:

Summary: Most of the Bill of Rights has been de facto voided, as Courts sometimes — or often — rely on specious logic to ignore the word’s plain meaning. A few phrases retain their force, giving us the illusion of liberty (eg, we are well-armed sheep). Over time the dead area probably will continue to expand, the arrival of the inevitable again surprising us. Here we look at the corpse of the fourth amendment.
Look, in this place ran Cassius’ dagger through:
See what a rent the envious Casca made:
Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb’d;
And as he pluck’d his cursed steel away …

Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up
To such a sudden flood of mutiny.
They that have done this deed are honourable:
What private griefs they have, alas, I know not,
That made them do it: they are wise and honourable,
And will, no doubt, with reasons answer you.

Privacy Study: Top U.S. Websites Share Visitor Personal Data

Julia Angwin:

A study released Tuesday shows that 45% of the top 185 U.S. websites transmit identifying details about their visitors to at least four outside websites.

The data transmitted was primarily a “username” – which is the name a person uses to log into a website – or a user ID assigned by the website to a user. It was usually transmitted through referrers – which is information about the web page transmitted automatically.

In some cases, the data went much further: the study found for instance that the online dating website OKCupid sent the gender, age, zip code, relationship status and ‘drug use frequency’ to two companies that sell personal data in auctions, BlueKai and Lotame.

On the historic context of institutionalized gathering of personal data

Tom O’Doherty:

As Dediu acknowledges, this in itself is not a new insight — there has been plenty of coverage of privacy controversies at Facebook, Google and other companies. What was interesting, however, was that he linked this to a larger historical context, referring to the process of institutions (state and private) gathering information about individuals over the last few centuries. This reminded me of an interview that Cabinet Magazine conducted with Valentin Groebner in 2006, about the medieval and pre-modern tracking of individuals.

Groebner,? Professor of History at the University of Lucerne, Switzerland, is the author of Who Are You?: Identification, Deception, and Surveillance in Early Modern Europe, and his interview with David Serlin talks about the history of passports, in the context of larger historical surrenderings of privacy in the last two hundred years.

It is possible that the current wave of institutional data-hoarding may in effect be the last. The companies who are leading it are far more efficient than previous authorities — historically, state and church authorities. They are taking the data from people who are apparently far more willing to give it than in previous eras. And they are going to be able to analyse and process personal data far more finely than anyone else ever has. This is not really an alarmist conclusion — although the situation itself is alarming — but simply an acknowledgement of existing reality. Dediu’s comment that “this will become a political question” and that “these things are doomsday issues for some” is interesting in the context of the recent successes of the privacy-advocating Piratenpartei (Pirate Party) in the 2011 Berlin state elections.