James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States, and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More
James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.
Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.
I was around guns much of my life. Grew up in the Congo, hunting. Marine Corps recon, professional training and use. CIA paramilitary, more training and use. Three wars: upcountry in Vietnam I had a bunker full of exotic weapons that had been collected over a ten-year period but were not on the inventory and could not be taken home by our military when they left -- we'd take them out and fire them every week; we carried guns everywhere we went, again upcountry just a few miles from the enemy's battalions; then in the Angola War I hired and organized three bands of professional mercenaries, killers by definition.In the consulate in the Katanga I had an impressive collection, bought out the weapons of the retiring elephant hunter. And I hunted. And at the family ranch in South Texas I hunted deer and javelinas.Then I lost all interest in hunting. I killed a beautiful animal and looked at the carcass thinking how much more beautiful it had been alive. I shot a bird and had the same feeling. Both dead so I could have the dubious Freudian pleasure of pulling a trigger and killing them.The Katanga had been flush beautiful wildlife; it had been alive, the hills crawling with beautiful animals. Then came independence and arms turned over to the new armies. And our war in the Katanga (JFK/CIA), thousands of modern semiautomatic and automatic weapons left in the hands of our disbanded army, and the animals were broadly exterminated, the rolling plains were lifeless--we could drive all day and not see an animal.In Burundi, where I served, President Micombero got himself a helicopter. Began flying around the shores of Lake Tanganyika machine-gunning hippopotamuses in the water.Recalling as a boy in the Congo driving with my father in a truck across the plains area. We came on a Belgian who had been hunting all day, had a camera, wanted my father to take a picture of him with his trophies. He stood with his gun and his foot on a pile of 26 heads of little gazelles he had killed. In later years we drove through the same plains, and never ever saw another antelope.Even here in Austin, we are retired across the street from a lovely quiet park on the river. I walk my dog. Talk to the squirrels - - they sit on limbs not far above my head. Then one morning I found my neighbor down in the park with his son and a 22, killing the squirrels to "teach his son how to hunt." I pleasantly explained to him that he could teach his son how to enjoy live animals, that the squirrels he had killed were gone, dead. (He won-- the park no longer has any squirrels.)
Congratulations to the families that asked for the change. Apart from revising its movie policy, as best I can tell United has never apologized for or acknowledged the original over-reaction -- that of humiliating the family by turning them over to the police. I've had no followup beyond the opaque statement I quoted a month ago.We won! ...Our voice combined with other voices of journalists, traveling parents, and organizations like the Campaign for a Commericial Free Childhood made this happen.I hoped to get the full policy from United Airlines to share with you. But I am satisfied with this for now:"From: "CustomerCare@united.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>To: D...Sent: Friday, May 3, 2013 12:57 AMSubject: United Airlines -Dear Ms. xx:The policy change is that the standards are in line with guidelines ofPG-rated movies. More review may be underway, however this is internalcompany information.Regards,CxxxxCustomer CareNow who wants to contact American Airlines and Delta?!?"
I am a Captain with United Airlines. I have been with UA for over 25 years. There is no excuse for the way you [actually Matthew Klint] were treated on your Newark Istanbul flight.
Let me tell you how the incident should have been handled. I had a very similar incident on a Las Vegas-Dulles flight. A flight attendant told me of a disruptive passenger that would not move his underage son out of the exit row. I went out of the cockpit to see what was going on. I went to Customer Service and had them come back to the airplane. I spoke with the man. I wanted to hear his side of the story. He began to tell me how UA had put his special needs son in a different row than him. He had moved the child to the row because the FA had not listened to him, but ordered him to move the boy. While he was telling me his side the FA immediately tried to interrupt. I told her to let the man speak. When he was through I told him not to worry the Customer Service person would re-seat them so that we could get on our way.
I wanted to point out the difference in approach to the situation. The flight attendant had told me what she thought was going on. She told me how they had to move or be thrown off the airplane. As a professional I wanted to get all the facts before just arbitrarily removing someone from the airplane. The situation was defused and we went on our way.
I did not come out of the cockpit with the preconceived notion that I was going to throw someone off the ac. In your situation I would not have overreacted over pictures. I did not know such a rule even existed. I am confused about the picture thing anyway. I would have listened to you before I made a determination whether you had to leave.
You need to know that United was not always so anti passenger in the past. Since continental took over our management they have brought in all kinds of rather strange and illogical rules.
1. You cannot take pictures, I assume because of security, but they are paying to have the secondary barriers that protect the cockpit removed from our aircraft.
2. You cannot pay cash for your food or drinks in coach.
3. You can order special meals such as Hindu, but you will most likely get a burger because management is from Texas and everyone likes beef right? (Didn't work out so well with a group of Indian Hindu engineers in First Class coming from London. You know the sacred cow and all. I apologized to them, but the damage was done.)
We are supposed to speak to our CEO like he is a close friend or something. If you don't call him Jeff he becomes upset. [JF note: This is Jeff Smisek, well known to all United travelers because of the video ads featuring him that precede the safety instructions on each flight.] They call everyone co-workers. They setup a human resource complaint system so that anyone can file formal complaints against their fellow workers for the littlest thing. You can be terminated. We have over 200 complaints being investigated just for the pilots so far.
My point is the new UA management is anti-employee as well as anti-passenger. It puts a tremendous amount of pressure on everyone. Some people handle it differently than others. I think your case is a perfect example.
I on behalf of all United Airlines employees would like to apologize to you to your ordeal. Management might think they are too important to apologize, but I think you would find the people that make the airline work don't think that way.
If domestic politics continue to drive Chinese diplomacy, ... the result will be an increasingly isolated China. Perhaps the best hope is that [new president Xi Jinping] will begin confronting the reality that Beijing's heavy-handed foreign policies are the principal cause of its rapidly deteriorating security environment... But [this] would also require a serious discussion with the Chinese people that is at odds with the current government's jingoist rhetoric. In the meantime, whatever China's defense white paper has to say, the U.S. rebalancing to Asia is not containing China. Besides, a U.S. policy of containment is hardly necessary when China is so effectively containing itself.2) The Hidden Harmonies blog is known for stoutly defending anything Chinese against criticism from any outsider (the authors are not big fans of my work). Now it offers a bracing "what's really wrong with China" essay by an ethnically Chinese foreigner, writing under a pseudonym, who has moved to China and is alarmed by what he has seen. I've frequently noted that, even though a thousand aspects of modern Chinese life drive me crazy, I still can't help liking the openness, the vim, the life of most of the people I meet here. That is, I find it easier to get along with the people than with the whole system. This blog writer sees things differently:
After living here for more than 9 months, I have come to a most repugnant conclusion. It pains me to even think about it for I am a Chinese person who has often defended the traditions, institutions, values and dignity of the Children of Heaven. But the truth is often painful at first. I realize now that much of the problems in Chinese society, and a plethora of problems there are, are not from the Chinese government (not a surprise to me since I am a long time China watcher suspicious of the anti government rhetoric of the west). What is surprising is that the myriad problems within Chinese society comes from the behavior, values and the beliefs of its people, a people that with all their traditions of wisdom behave in the most atrocious, despicable manner towards each other today. In a sense, I'd always expected this but were perhaps too proud to admit it and needed first hand experience for verification. Now I cannot escape that basic truth.
I think you may be overly skittish here. I collected data on 350 Google things and ran some statistics on it all.The study at the Gwern site is quite a tour de force. I won't attempt to summarize it but will just say, if you're interested in statistical analyses, you will find this interesting. I hope it's right about Keep, but for now Evernote does the job for me.
Results: Only ~1/3 of Google products have ever been killed, and in particular, the 5-year survival estimate for Keep produced by my final model is ~60%, which seems like a pretty reasonable risk to take if the product is useful, and especially given that you correctly point
out that> 1) Google has often orphaned services, but it has never "disappeared" data. (I am using "to disappear" in the transitive-verb sense familiar from Latin American politics.) It has been a leader in making sure you could make your own copies, or extract, any of your info that was in its part of the cloud.The loss of Reader is a serious blow to many people including myself, but let's not go overboard and damn Google for worse than it deserves.
The second weapon Southern senators had at their disposal was their longevity. Control of Senate committees went by seniority and because the South was a one-party state, Southerners were invariably the ones who had been there longest. In the 1920s, when the Democratic Party was being battered by Republicans in national elections, the South was immune. During this period, 67 per cent of all Democrats in the Senate and 72 per cent in the House came from the South. When a new raft of Northern and Western Democrats were returned on FDR's coat tails in the 1930s, the same Southerners were still around. So it didn't matter whether the Democrats were down or up, the South still ended up on top. When the party was down, Southern representatives were the only ones standing; when the party was up, Southern representatives were the ones with all the experience. There was no way for a Democratic president to legislate without letting the South get its fingerprints all over his bills.
Katznelson's argument is that the distinctive character of the postwar American state was determined by the compromises that riddled the New Deal from its outset until its demise under Eisenhower. The result was a 'Janus-faced' politics: outwardly assertive, interventionist, crusading, moralising, always looking to take the fight to the enemy; inwardly constrained, laissez-faire, decentralised, protective of private interests, reluctant to uphold the public good. Katznelson sees this dual state - mixing nearly unconstrained public capacity with nearly unconstrained private power - as both enduring and pathological.
In turn, one lovely detail in this photo made me think of a famous shot from the historical archives. It's of Adlai Stevenson, during his 1952 presidential campaign:The category, I guess, is "It Was Ever Thus for Journalists, Even Before The Internet."This is, by the way, my all-time favorite photo of my dad. How happy I am to find it on The Atlantic's own website! [In an item about David Broder by Ron Brownstein.]
Housekeeping note: As previously mentioned, I've been on an unexpectedly long Internet hiatus, first finishing off one Atlantic project -- and then preparing for another, about which I'm more excited than by anything in quite a long while. I'll be preparing to say more about that later this spring.
For now, to smooth the return to online presence, here is a dispatch I wrote for the latest edition of the Next Economy project, run jointly by The Atlantic and National Journal. The theme in this installment is an examination of what it means, now, to be "middle class," after many decades of economic pressure pushing people both up and down and away from the middle. My part of the project was to ask what the idea of middle-classness has meant to America. The results are in the brief item below.
When sociologists or historians have looked at the United States, they have quickly identified important differences of class. Indentured servants versus free settlers in the colonial era, sharecroppers versus landowners in the post-Civil War South, labor versus management in America's industrial age. Some of the most influential examinations of American culture and politics have applied a class-conscious perspective. These range from academic studies such as John Dollard's Caste and Class in a Southern Town, to novels such as John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, to great works of journalism such as J. Anthony Lukas's Common Ground, his chronicle of the struggles over school desegregation that polarized Boston in the 1970s.
Yet when Americans have looked at themselves, they have usually downplayed such differences in favor of the idea that most people are part of the great American middle class. For people at the top, this can be a form of modesty -- or, more cynically, a way of deflecting attention from inequalities. For people at the bottom, it can reflect hopes and goals -- and, of course, illusions. For everyone else, it reflects the combination of a reality and a theory.
The reality is that, compared with the still-feudal makeup of much of Europe and the stark extremes of many developing societies, America has indeed been the arena in which more people, from a broader variety of backgrounds, could pursue more opportunities than ever before. Even in rapidly growing modern China, the closest counterpart to our term for an average person would be laobaixing, with a connotation less like "middle class" and more like "the masses."
In periods when U.S. society has not been more open, mobile, and equal than others in the world, many Americans have still acted as if there are benefits to believing, or pretending, the contrary. Through ups and downs, we have preferred to believe that the standard middle-class social contract is intact, and that those who follow the rules -- study, marriage, work, discipline -- can expect a reasonable middle-class outcome.
We're now in one of those periods when the reality of intense pressure on the middle class diverges from long-held assumptions of how the American bargain should work. Compared with most European countries, our economy is more polarized and unequal. Compared with most Asian countries, the economic welfare of our middle class has been stagnant rather than rising. Compared with our own 20th-century history, our entire society is materially better off in countless ways -- from life span and environmental improvement to average education levels, house size, and most other material measures -- but is also becoming more stratified and rigid. The education and income level into which a child is born is becoming a better predictor of where he or she will end up as an adult. It has become hard to imagine new waves of opportunity and mobility comparable to those created by the 19th-century settlement of the West, the GI Bill, or the post-World War II migration to the Sun Belt.
In these circumstances, does it make sense for America to maintain the ideal, or myth, that we are a middle-class society? I believe it does, even though this concept may make it harder for us to perceive or discuss the nation's genuine and growing inequalities. It remains worthwhile, because most of the elements of middle-class identity encourage traits America needs.
One of those elements is: Because I'm middle class, I have something in common with my neighbors and fellow citizens. The United States has been at its best politically and economically when we have viewed other members of society as "us" rather than "them."
Another middle-class assumption is: I am as good as anyone else. This is in contrast to the forelock-tugging deference built into feudalism and now on display in Downton Abbey. From Poor Richard's Almanack onward, American culture has reflected the belief that ideas and ambitions deserve consideration no matter their origin. This in turn has been an element of American ingenuity and resilience.
Finally, to be middle class is to believe that any goal should be within reach. Success takes effort, and it depends on luck. But a long string of ascents from middle-class-or-below origins, from the Wright brothers and Henry Ford a century ago to Steve Jobs and Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor in our day, suggests a possibility rare in other societies. We are better off believing that this is still the American way.
Yes, this is the 20 millionth time I have made this point. (Recently here, with special Orwell-homage.) But here is why it is worth noting again. Just in the past few minutes readers have sent in these illustrations of the success of step No. 5, above:From Business Insider (source of screen grab above):
GUN CONTROL VOTE FAILS IN SENATE -- Obama Speaks Now On FailureNo, 60 votes were needed to break the filibuster threat. Note that in the "mostly partisan vote of 54-46" the 54 senators were voting for the measure.
With Vice President Joe Biden presiding over the Senate, an amendment to expand background checks on gun purchases failed to pass through the body, falling by a mostly partisan vote of 54-46...
Sixty votes were needed to pass the legislation through the Senate.
The Senate has rejected a bipartisan proposal to expand background checks on firearms and close the so-called gun show loophole, handing President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders a major defeat on one of the key pieces of the president's second-term agenda.I won't add the line-by-line explication because you can do it yourselves. Actually, I can't resist: that last passive-voice sentence calls out for "to break a filibuster threat." Look at this home-page splash from Politico (below), and imagine if it said what actually happened: "GOP filibusters gun control."
The vote was 54-46, with only four Republicans crossing the aisle and voting with the Democrats in favor of the bipartisan proposal by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Sixty votes were needed.
In rapid succession, a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks for would-be gun purchasers, a ban on assault weapons and a ban on high-capacity gun magazines all failed to get the 60 votes needed under an agreement both parties had reached to consider the amendments.Here's a clearer statement of the reality from an anti-filibuster group called Fix the Senate Now. Its careful phrasing works around the fact that opponents didn't want this to be called a filibuster (see points 4 and 5) but were applying the same filibuster 60-vote standard.
>>During television news coverage in 1966/67, the song was aired as a soundtrack as the cameras focused on US Infantrymen on patrol during the Vietnam War. Later, during that same time frame, Sinatra traveled to South Vietnam to perform for U.S. servicemen. It was used on the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987). Sinatra also sang it on an episode of China Beach in the late-1980s. In 2005, Paul Revere & the Raiders recorded a revamped version of the song using Sinatra's original vocal track. It appeared on the CD Ride to the Wall, Vol. 2, with proceeds going to help Vietnam veterans.In addition, the Fembots were introduced to the strains of the opening and closing notes of the song in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.<<
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|China Airborne||China Daily|
|China Menace||China Today|
|Copenhagen||Crisis of the press|
|Doing Business in China||Dreaming in Chinese|
|Going to hell|
|Ideas 2009||Ideas 2011|
|Obama in Asia||Obesity|
|Occupy Movement||Occupy Wall Street|
|Security Theater||Self-pity and its discontents|
|Walk like an American||Wine|
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