This Blog Is No Longer Active

September 28, 2014

This Blog Is No Longer Active. Tot ziens.

(Fair Warning: If you are going to read this post, you need to read it through to the end)

The question of societal and political polarization in America is one over which a great deal of ink has been spilled. Many discuss the “big sort” – the migration of individuals into areas where they only speak to those with a similar worldview – and perhaps this has causal value. After all, I live in Seattle – it’s rather well sorted. Still, I’m not sure. One thing I am certain about is the fundamental inability of both sides of the spectrum to understand one other. I propose the following contention: the political Left in America does not understand the political Right. Specifically, there is a highly limited reading/understanding of conservative philosophy and scholarship which has impeded and continues to impede dialogue between the two sides.

Now, before you close this window and grumble – give me a moment, let me set out my case. This is a hypothesis after all – evidence must be provided. Yes, one can make the argument the other way round – and it indeed has value – political polarization is a two sided coin after all. But that’s a question for a different post and a topic which I have had and continue to have perpetual discussions about with conservative colleagues. I think the contention I am making here does has significant empirical support and is worthy of consideration. So, if you will kindly indulge me …

First off, as I always tell my undergrads: nothing can be done until there is a conceptualization. A clear understanding of what one is discussing, a solid definition as to its meaning is essential – absent that, everything is rubbish. Garbage in, garbage out – words to live by. So we must begin by defining “the right.” And I ask those readers on the left how they define it? What is “the right?” What is “conservatism?” Is the “right” necessarily conservative? If not, what is it? What ideas or approaches comprise contemporary conservative thought? How does conservatism relate to those on “the right” who are not “conservative?”

I’m serious. I would like an answer. Take some time with it – pour a glass of wine, turn on some music (the standard Strauss or Wagner or Bruckner for European conservatism or Country music for the American variant if it helps) and prepare a definition/set of answers. I can wait. Here’s some stereotypical conservative music by which you can reflect…

Ready? Okay …

If I can subdivide and discuss the differences in the branches of one small and increasingly obscure variant of the Left, Marxism (Trotsykism, Maoism, Marcusian Eurocommunism, Bukharinism, Stalinism, etc), it’s only reasonable to expect that those on the other side of the spectrum can set out a definition of conservatism. And let’s be serious here, none of that anti-choice! homophobic! privileged! nonsense. That’s just a subjective conclusion as regards a perception of a policy position. That’s not a definition of this belief system. That in no way sets out the underlying philosophy, the axioms, the corollaries, the assumptions, etc. Rather, if that is one’s definition, that is, I am sorry to say, what we call: lazy. It is abdicating one’s responsibility to understand the world in favor of a shallow, self-referential response. And I don’t think anyone I know (well, anyone I know and respect) wants that. Let’s go a bit deeper …

What is the philosophy of human nature of conservatism? How does human nature inform the understanding of decision making? How does agency impact political outcomes? Is there any role for structure? How is structure understood and shouldn’t that be a point of commonality? If not, why not? What is “the good?” How is that practically understood? How can it be achieved? How does it relate to the state? How should politics then be organized? How should the state be run? Why that way? Are there different variants? I could go on for page after page after page.

There are a myriad of questions and indeed a myriad of answers. However, my point (and I do apologize for beating it into the ground with the litany of interrogatories) is that in my experience many on the intellectual left cannot answer these questions about the basics of conservatism. And even if an answer can be provided it is generally one which is based off of a “via negativa” approach from one’s own belief system rather than a reading of what conservative philosophers and theorists actually say themselves. This leads to serious misunderstandings.

I’ve enjoyed many interesting discussions while in graduate school about the finer points of Marx and Foucault etc. I have very rarely had the benefit of a chat with a colleague on the left who could/would discuss conservative thought in detail (with the exception of allusions to Robert George or Antonin Scalia – although it’s always their conclusions, never how they reached their conclusions). And I don’t blame them. It’s not their fault. Conservatism is simply not referenced/taught today other than as a shibboleth. An impediment to be overcome. Conservatism is essentially a non-entity (despite the 40% of the American population who identify as holding the view). Thus, most conversations I have about conservatism entail spending an absurd amount of time explaining “that is not actually what we believe.” For example, conservatism and neo-liberalism are not synonyms and the less we throw around the word “Straussian” the better. Libertarians have a similar problem with the whole “It’s all about Ayn Rand!” thing. It’s exhausting.

Myriad college courses are offered on scholars from the left but I have yet to see a course on “The Political Philosophy of Edmund Burke” or “20th century Conservative Thought.” The closest we get is perhaps modern meditations on Medieval philosophy or right Classical Liberalism. Many people I know teach politics and run through the basics of Burke or Kirk – but a week or two in a seminar course is certainly insufficient to understand it, let alone lecture on it. I would never presume to teach, say, Judith Butler, after reading a couple of her articles. I would give a horribly shallow perspective on her work.

This is a problem.

I am a conservative. I find a great deal of thought on the left to be disconcerting because I see it ending in tears, causing pain, hurting individuals, and I reject the assumptions which underlie it. However, I’ve taken the time to learn the various schools of thought on the left and the diverse approaches – and the diversity is seriously impressive (just as it is on the right). And that taught me something. It taught me that my interlocutors are not evil. The people who disagree with me are not bad, they are not morally bankrupt – rather, they have a different approach for achieving “the good,” as they see it. I might disagree with an argument but I can respect it as a well built (although flawed) philosophical system and I can see someone from that side of the spectrum as motivated by good intentions. Is conservatism respected? How can it be if it not taught and not understood? Are conservatives understood as motivated by a desire to achieve “good” outcomes? How can they be when their conceptualization of the good is not even understood?

Thus my concern – particularly over years hearing and reading comments by colleagues, well educated colleagues, on the left – is that those of us on the right are seen as “bad,” as “mean,” as “heartless,” as “ignorant.” After years of that sort of thing – I honestly worry that people believe it.

Well, we’re not. And it’s pretty darn presumptuous to say that we are. We have an idea of the good – and at an abstract level of understanding as to “happiness” and “human well being” and “opportunity” I believe the right and left actually agree. We just disagree about getting there. However one cannot understand that on anything more than a throw away, superficial level unless one actually reads, studies, and learns conservative scholarship. No conservative author starts off with some sort of Montgomery Burns-esque “How can I hurt people today? How can I keep poor people poor? How can I oppress women and minority groups?”

We do not seek to oppress anyone. And I get it – many think that we DO oppress people – either intentionally or unintentionally. Everyone has a right to their own perspective, but we see it differently. Simply saying “X is bad. X is an outcome, therefore replace all that precedes X with Y” doesn’t work. There’s a chance conservatives aren’t too thrilled with X either. In fact, it might be good if X were not an outcome. However, while X is bad, Z is also out there and Z is worse and Y is likely to cause Z. What often is seen as approbation of X is in fact a recognition of a prior need to avoid Z. So why do we prioritize avoiding Z? Well, to understand that it is necessary to go into all those questions I asked earlier. In other words, it is necessary to understand the philosophy of conservatism and the implications thereof for particular questions at particular times and in particular contexts.

Thus I would like to make a request of my friends on the left – pick up the “Cambridge Companion to Burke” or another anthology of writing on conservative philosophy. Learn what we believe. Learn our philosophical system. I doubt you will be converted but I guarantee we’ll have better conversations, better interactions, and – if your position is in fact correct – you will have much better criticisms of our worldview than before. We’re going to keep reading your stuff (well, some of us – the ones in higher ed at least –  we are sort of obligated so to do based on your numbers) – it would be cool if you could meet us half-way.

Aquinas defined evil as “the absence of the good” – by accepting that conservatives do (with intent) strive for the “good,” albeit in a different way, maybe we can move forward towards more constructive and useful discussion and debate. And I promise to keep working on those on my side of spectrum – as noted earlier, it’s a shared problem.

A German firm has found a niche in the market and has begun a delivery service for airplane food, you can read the full story here:

http://www.springwise.com/airline-food-service-wings-door-week/

Hence I have to admit my dirty little secret: I love airplane dining – and not just the meals but the entire experience.

Now – I hear your disbelief and I understand it. I was once like you. I loathed airline food and was the guy who picked up some smoked salmon and Belgian water crackers at the “Stereotypical Stuff from Seattle” airport gift shop, waved off the flight attendant, and with a wonderful feeling of superiority dug into my self-catered meal. That was a mistake.

I’ve traveled an absurd amount over the years and thus have had the opportunity to experience the entire cornucopia of sky-based dining. And I use the word “cornucopia” advisedly – I believe it was KLM that once had an actual cornucopia filled with different chocolates in Business Class (maybe it was back in the day on Sabena – it was a decade or so ago). Aeroflot serves a brilliant kosher meal – a splendid broiled white fish with salmon roe caviar. Pakistan International’s business class meals are always spicy and filling and of such quality that for any westerner unfamiliar with the digestive requirements of South Asian cuisine there will be no extra trips to the on board lavatory. Singapore Airlines – well, what’s not to love? Sure it’s a pseudo-democratic authoritarian state but they damn well know how to run an airline. There is some genuinely excellent food served on planes these days.

In fact there is a pretty robust correlation between how undemocratic a country is and the quality of its food – the more democracy, the worse the cuisine (see: Singapore, Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi – in ascending order of cuisine and descending order of political rights – North Korea is the outlier).

But I digress – it’s not just the food. It’s the risk, the gamble, the thrill of anticipation. As someone with a reasonable knowledge of statistics and a deep, probably pathological aversion to risk, I don’t gamble. I just don’t enjoy it. It’s a waste of money. For me, airplane food fills the need for that frisson of excitement without actually wagering anything of actual value. Permit me to explain …

So you’ve boarded Korean Air (fine firm, excellent service) for yet another flight from San Francisco to Beijing via Seoul – 10 hours to go. Following take off you make some quiet personal judgments as to the neighboring passengers, have a brief conversations with Mr. and Mrs. Li who are on their way home to Shanghai after a few weeks with their son and his family in Portland, and you turn on a movie and have 9.5 hours to kill. Reruns of “The Big Bang Theory” and that horrible Montreal comedy program “Just For Laughs” – it’s a televised argument for why Quebec should never become independent – probably aren’t going to cut it as regards one’s need for amusing distraction. But the meal is coming. There will be two – dinner and breakfast with a snack in between. This is where your focus should be. This should be your center of attention. For you are no longer on a plane my friend. No – you have transported yourself to another world. You are in the casino of the skies. Vegas without the despair. Macau without the corrupt local government officials. Monte Carlo sans Eurotrash.

To novice players, the meal is basically low risk roulette. Red or black? Chicken or beef? Other players make their choices. The time runs out as the stewardess comes closer and closer. You try to get a peak of what is under the tin foil wrapping or you listen for the groans as the losers express their regret in a myriad of languages and cultural distinct grunts of disdain. Finally – the moment has arrived, and the decision is upon you. This is some serious drama.

While not a fan of this version of the game, there’s still some appeal there. There is the possibility of a lovely bit of diced chicken in a well prepared oyster sauce with boiled rice OR the horror of overcooked, plasma textured beef with vaguely green colored legumes. Even if you lose (the beef – never go with the beef or God forbid anything referred to as “lasagna,” it’s a fool’s bet – the house knows you’ve got images of Omaha steaks in your head and they are playing to win or at least avoid bankruptcy) there might be a decent pastry or some fruit. Kiwi is for some reason omnipresent. Almond jelly is a personal favorite of mine on Asian airlines. And there are still the “slot machines” left to play – will they give you more bread? an extra bottle of wine? My personal favorite – “Is there any way I could get a glass of port from up in business class?” (Smile and polite expression with a hand on the shoulder is the standard form here)

Conversely, to serious players – “the pros” – such as myself – the rule is: never take the standard meal. That’s a poor man’s game. We’re playing Baccarat over here. The specialty meal is on a spectrum which is much wider. An executive at Astana Airlines (Kazakhstan’s main carrier, run by British executives) once mentioned to me how much they hate the specialty meal thing. Each one costs around $30 and this problematizes their margins. In my mind, the idea of screwing over an airline should be sufficient for anyone to order the meal – at the worst you have made up for any extra fees, on a good day it’s a splendid dining experience. Moreover, you are served first – you make your bet and there’s no going back.

Still, there are some downsides – bigger rewards, but bigger risks. With the kosher meal there is always the fear that if the plane is hijacked the first person the terrorists are going to go for is the guy who has a paper trail to love of Israel. I doubt they will buy my explanation even if I show them the rosary I invariably carry in my briefcase. At the same time, sometimes the specialty meal is downright disgusting – in one of my worst losses I one was served gefilte fish. A professional low point but I still pick myself up and sit back at the tray table for one more round.

Many people feel that because of their own religious or cultural identity they cannot do this. I’m a white Catholic guy and I have eaten more kosher, halal, and (when I am feeling dangerous) Hindu vegetarian meals than anyone I know. On a flight from Hong Kong to LA my seatmate – of the Jewish faith – noticed that at snack time I got a piping hot pastrami sandwich with deli mustard while he suffered through ramen noodles with boiling water. Upon his inquiry as to what he assumed was a shared religion I simply said: “While I am not of your faith, I do appreciate your cuisine. Christians like deli meat too.” We’re still in touch.

So next time you are flying – try it. Adjust your perspective. Order in advance. And learn to love the excitement which comes from airplane food. Randomness can be fun. And on occasion – filling and delicious.

I read Roger Cohen’s article, “The Great Unraveling” this morning in the New York Times before I kayaked over to my office. Incidentally, I really want to do one of those “People of the Northwest” commercials that PEMCO insurance put out, “Kayaks to work guy – you’re one us.” If you are unfamiliar:

But I digress …

Cohen’s piece gave me something to reflect on throughout the day other than my present work related obsession with FDI and legal/industrial change in post-socialist states. He rather well encapsulates the zeitgeist of global fear. And, to be fair, he has a point – Ebola, the Islamic State, Russian aggression in Ukraine, etc. None of these are (Martha) Stewartian “good things.” But an “unraveling?” An unraveling from what? I’ll avoid belaboring the yarn based analogy and simply state that it is time we take a step back and place this in historical perspective.

Granted, if you are working under the assumption that there is such a thing as an “arc of history” and that it always bends towards justice or the idea that the path of history is one of teleological progress towards human betterment – you are probably rather panicked. I’m sad to be the one to have to tell you this, but there is no pre-determined outcome of history. Yeah, I know, it’s a hard pill to swallow and no one’s making a Flintstone’s chewable version of this one.

Civilizational stability and improvement is remarkably contingent. Hegel was wrong. Marx was wrong. Fukuyama was wrong. In reality, there are simply different equilibria at different points in time owing to the strength of various institutions (both formal and informal) and how individual actors and organizations make decisions within the confines set by those institutions. Sometimes the outcomes are positive when judged by various subjective measures, sometimes they are not so good. In layman’s terms: shit happens.

Recall Argentina in the early 20th century – a top ranked global economy and the recipient of millions of European migrants. Today – an economic joke and large out-migration. Sweden in the early 20th century was termed by one scholar “the impoverished sophisticate” owing to its economic problems. Today – a darn nice place to live, despite the recent election results. More recently – Zimbabwe. At the time of its establishment the best education and health scores of any country in Africa. Today – total collapse. The evidence is even greater if you know a bit about Chinese history – not to get too Daoist about it – but the rise and fall pattern is pretty darn consistent. And while it pains me as a conservative to say it: Nothing is permanent. I teach a course on the history of western civilization – the historical normalcy (hat tip to Warren G. Harding for coining that word) of constant, painful change is one of the themes I try to get across to my undergraduates. It saves tears later.

So I am here to tell you – let’s all calm down a bit. To illustrate this fact, let’s jump back 35 years to 1979 – the year after my glorious birth. What was the world like in 1979? Today the trend seems to be to recall the Cold War period as one of relative peace and order without the violent chaos which afflicts the globe today. Personally, I blame John Lewis Gaddis for inadvertently helping to create this myth. To those who hold such a position I say: Really? It’s time to claw back some of that college tuition money. You sound like you have a case for it.

Let’s take a look at ten of the defining events of that year:

1. The American ambassador to Afghanistan, Adolph Dubs, was kidnapped and eventually killed. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December.
2. The Khmer Rouge after engaging in mass genocide which took the lives of 2 million Cambodians were finally overthrown by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. A low level civil war would continue for the next decade. China invaded Vietnam – hundreds of thousands die.
3. The Iranian government was overthrown and supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini took control of the government creating the Islamic Republic. The US Embassy hostage crisis would begin in November.
4. The United Nations was led by Kurt Waldheim – if you are unfamiliar with his earlier work it involved rounding up the Jews of Southeastern Europe for eventual extermination at Auschwitz.
5. Scotland voted for home rule (although it was not implemented)
6. IRA terrorism was commonplace in London – notable deaths that year included Lord Mountbatten and Airey Nieve.
7. Jean-Bédel Bokassa, dictator of the Central African Republic, massacres 100 students who protested compulsory school uniforms – he is then overthrown by the French.
8. The civil war in El Salvador began.
9. Saddam Hussein took office as president of Iraq.
10. Mecca’s Grand Mosque was seized by radical militants – 250 dead, 600 wounded.

And let’s remember that all of this took place while the perpetual threat of Global Thermonuclear War between the United States and the Soviet Union hung over everyone.

My point here is not in any way to downplay the severity and horror of the current state of the world. Rather, it is to simply point out that none of this is new. In fact, placing 2014 and 1979 in comparison – things are in fact quite a bit better. The institutional structure of global consumer capitalism has actually done remarkably well. Democracy is much more widespread than it was 35 year ago (see Chile, Uruguay – well most of Latin America). The number of people living in poverty has plummeted (note China, India, Southeast Asia). However, “better” does not mean “perfect.” And it never will. Utopia is a fool’s errand.

We are simply in a period of flux. The Cold War ended. The US had a decade long victory lap of unipolarity. This period is coming to a close and owing to shifts in relative military/economic power and changes in technology new conflicts arise and old conflicts are unfrozen. The problem isn’t the seeming chaos. The problem is the absence of a workable model to respond to it and an informed vision for where to go and how to get there. By assuming that post-Cold War unipolarity was the norm and once that unfortunate business in the Middle East was taken care of everything could push forward nicely or move on to an ideologically and strategically familiar “Cold War II: This Time, It’s China,” the OECD states abrogated their responsibility to actually develop a long term foreign policy and institutional strategy to maintain global stability.

Building supra-national institutions is hard (see the current state of the EU), building national institutions is harder (see Iraq and Afghanistan). It is the height of intellectual arrogance to assume that these can simply be created, be sufficiently embedded, and facilitate a glorious world of Pareto optimality. Not gonna happen. The evidence against it is overwhelming. Moreover our knowledge as to how to actually do this is still at a very early and very raw stage. We stopped and rested on our laurels and thought everything was going to be just fine. Madness.

So, if as you read the news you react with grim despair (and there is nothing wrong with that on occasion, see Kierkegaard) – don’t sigh and get depressed. Keep asking – “What’s the plan?” Demand a plan. Demand something beyond a reactive set of policy decisions. If you happen to be a social scientist or political theorist – develop a plan. Someone has to – and I’m not seeing much out there which is very realistic or historically informed. And if your respective national government can’t present one – perhaps its time for them to leave office. Things are bad, but things have been worse and there is no reason to assume that things today should automatically be better. The sooner we accept the anarchy and chaos and grasp that this is the reality we have to confront – and that it’s a pretty messy reality – the faster things will improve.

I’ll conclude by noting that while 1979 was a rather bad year (surely a hangover after the global celebrations of my 1978 birth was to be expected), it was also the year Queen came out with one of the best songs ever recorded. Freddie Mercury provides, per usual, salient advice for those working on new understandings of global order: “Don’t Stop Me Now.” Things are not unsolvable. So get to work – there’s a lot of catching up to do and a lot of dead wood to clear from the road. If you are content with current global leadership and the current global models as to how to confront global problems – you should be depressed. And you only have yourself to blame.

Post-travel, a few interesting pieces …

1. Edward Glaeser on the challenges of urbanization: http://www.city-journal.org/2014/24_3_urbanization.html

2. The Guardian discusses Okinawa’s independence movement (note: not gonna happen): http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/15/okinawa-independence-scotland-japan-us-military-base

3. The future of the state sector in China – worth ordering: http://www.amazon.com/Party-Man-Company-Chinas-Capitalism/dp/1623200385/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408668991&sr=8-1&keywords=joe+zhang+party+man/marginalrevol-20

4. The Pivot to Asia, part 87: http://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2014/06/04/the_obama_doctrine__the_pivot_to_asia_107256.html

Dear Scotland,

Hey, America here – your eldest child. So, how’s it going? Sorry for being out of touch for so long – we’ve been swamped with work – so this is a bit of an awkward letter to write. And what with your occasionally overbearing Presbyterian heritage and rather constant criticism of our life choices, we have not had the closest of relationships in recent years. But let’s not get into that. We’ve both made mistakes. We probably could have helped out a bit more when you were low on cash and we should have tried to appreciate your cuisine and poetry and learned your Scots Gaelic but it’s just not very practical in our line of work. Regardless, we do think back fondly on our times together – summers at Andrew Carnegie’s place in the Highlands, World Wars I and II, quoting Trainspotting (sorry about Braveheart – not our fault, Mel Gibson is Australia’s kid), drinking too much single malt, and making fun of the extended family (incidentally – New Zealand has gained a ton of weight). Thus I hope you will hear us out.

Over here your upcoming independence referendum has been in the news quite a bit as of late and we are rather concerned about the outcome. While we moved out of the imperial house some time ago and live on the other side of the world (you should visit, seriously, our yard is massive and you should see the size of the place, makes Balmoral look like a shanty) – we really don’t want to see you and England, our historical parents, get divorced.

Koko Bear

We are aware that your marriage has been going through a rough patch for some time now. We recall the impacts of economic reform in the 1980s and the screaming matches between you and Westminister over the future of your heavy industry and resource sector. We know that your inheritance, in the form of North Sea oil, probably could have been better invested and utilized as regards long term economic and social development. And on our last visit we noticed that with the establishment of the Scottish parliament you and England began sleeping in separate bedrooms. It was apparent that the romance was gone and the two of you had come to some sort of workable arrangement as to the future. And we kept our mouth shut. But this whole divorce thing – it’s just a step too far.

Now we know that the idea of moving out and finding a nice place somewhere where you don’t have to deal with England’s crap – the alcoholism, exhausting sense of cultural superiority, and lack of empathy as regards your needs – might seem like a good idea on the surface. That condominium complex the continental Europeans have built does look fun – I hear they’re adding a pool. However it’s not certain your application will be accepted and even if it is, that German lady who own the building seems to be less than trustworthy as regards the contractual obligations. At the end of the day, you’d essentially be moving down a notch and throwing away quite a bit.

You and England, despite your differences, do in fact make an excellent team – look at the Scottish Enlightenment, you BUILT the United Kingdom. The Empire – yeah, England took all the glory but you basically ran it. The UK’s position as a global economic and military power is your achievement as much as it is England’s. You talk England down off the ledge when they get a bit too extreme on things and you are able to utilize their large economy and population to seriously punch above your weight in global affairs. It is also your responsibility. The UK remains a bulwark of western civilization and a stable global order – abdicating your position in it and causing serious global instability is not the Scotland we know and love (that misguided 17th century colonization of Panama notwithstanding). Sure being Norway or Denmark – comfy, export-based, small – is fun but, and as a good Calvinist you will surely recognize, it’s pretty much lazy free-riding on the efforts of others.

Finally, we are sort of concerned about your finances if you decide to go through with this. Your banking sector is amazing but your own economy is not large enough to guarantee its stability. Remember what happened to the neighbors? Ireland and Iceland? Not good. Additionally, England has been rather clear that a divorce is not going to be amicable and you really are going to need your own central bank and currency – we’re not seeing how that is going to happen. We’ve done “dollarization” with some of our neighbors over here – it’s fine for us, but it’s a last resort monetary policy for unstable third world states, not one which should be adopted by the nation which essentially created capitalism (we still have a painting of great-great-great-grandfather Adam Smith on our desk).

Thus, we urge you to reject independence and remain in the United Kingdom. Please don’t make us choose with which of you we want to maintain the “special relationship.” On an emotional level, while our siblings New Zealand and Australia will probably be okay, this is likely to send our more sensitive brother, Canada, into a very deep depression. It’s going to cause all those memories about the bad years with Quebec to come flooding back.

At present, we in the USA have quite a few problems of our own so the idea of our historical parents getting divorced is rather upsetting to us. Broken homes can cause many unforeseen problems for offspring and, as I am sure you know, we already are quite a handful. You’ve seen us on our best behavior and at our worst over the last 240 years, so “acting out” in response to a divorce is unlikely to be positive for anyone.

For the sake of the children, please try to work it out.

Love,
America

P.S. You were always the “fun” parent – don’t make us spend Christmas with England. It’s exhausting.

Today is Immigrant’s Day in Argentina, the annual moment the Argentine population regrets Argentina as the chosen destination of their ancestors. It’s also the 233rd birthday of the city of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula, aka Los Angeles and the 107th anniversary of the death of Norwegian composer and all around good guy Edvard Grieg. Here’s some appropriate Grieg to start your day and the list of what you should read today …

1. Understanding ISIS: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119259/isis-history-islamic-states-new-caliphate-syria-and-iraq

2. Redefining the poverty level in Asia: http://www.economist.com/news/economic-and-financial-indicators/21614146-poverty-asia?fsrc=scn/fb/te/pe/ed/povertyinasia

3. The Impressionist art movement began Nov. 13, 1872, right around 7:35 a.m. local time. http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-impressionism-monet-astronomy-20140902-story.html

4. George Monbiot on Scottish independence (shockingly, he’s contrarian). http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/scots-independence-england-scotland

5. The Coase Theorem and the war of reclining airplane seats. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/28/upshot/dont-want-me-to-recline-my-airline-seat-you-can-pay-me.html?smid=pl-share&abt=0002&abg=1

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