New Silk Roads and a Eurasian Century? | Pepe Escobar

Geopolitical change is usually glacial. Shifts in economic and military power large enough to alter the international balance take time, lots of time. It’s also true, however, that once the pieces are in place realignments can occur with stunning rapidity. We may be in the midst of just such a revolution.

Those wedded to the existing paradigm are often the last to see it coming. After decades, generations or in some cases centuries at the pinnacle, the existing arrangement can seem to have all the force of a law of nature. That may be even more true when the top dog’s view of itself as exceptional pre-dates its ascendancy.

From Beijing’s point of view, the Ukraine crisis was a case of Washington crossing every imaginable red line to harass and isolate Russia. To its leaders, this looks like a concerted attempt to destabilize the region in ways favorable to American interests, supported by a full range of Washington’s elite from neocons and Cold War “liberals” to humanitarian interventionists in the Susan Rice and Samantha Power mold. Of course, if you’ve been following the Ukraine crisis from Washington, such perspectives seem as alien as those of any Martian.

Pepe Escobar thinks a most unusual brew may be fermenting. One that adds Germany to the Eurasian ascendancy he believes is already well underway. Continue reading

A ‘gas bridge’ too far? | Business Spectator

Many see shale gas as a saviour, the “bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change” as Obama put it recently.

Examined more closely, its merits are doubtful. An article in “Business Spectator” laid out the two principal downsides.

First, the greenhouse gas emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency has pegged natural gas leakage from production at 1.5 per cent. But the agency tends to rely on industry-provided numbers. A separate study by 15 scientists from institutions including Harvard, NOAA and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab looked at comprehensive atmospheric data and models, and concluded the leakage was at least 3 per cent. At 2.7 per cent or more, natural gas loses any advantage over coal in terms of its greenhouse effect.

That finding is backed up by other, more local studies by NOAA, which found a 4 per cent leakage rate from natural gas production around Denver, a 6-to-12 per cent rate from production in Colorado’s Uintah Basin, and a 17 per cent rate in the Los Angeles basin. Continue reading

What would Maggie do now? | Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson can be a funny guy.

People aren’t remotely interested in how much tax these characters pay. That does nothing to palliate their primary offence, which is to be so stonkingly and in their view emetically rich.

Emetically, for those who (like me) haven’t run across it before, means vomit inducing.

He loves stirring things up, saying the unsayable, tweaking friends and opponents. By all accounts, he rides easily over his own stumbles and idiocies, an irrepressible, privileged, well educated, scruffy and oversized urchin.

Last week, he gave the Margaret Thatcher Lecture at the Centre for Policy Studies.

Somewhat careless comments about the uses of greed and the distribution of IQ in “our species” got most of the critical attention. Still, alongside this, and his boosterism for Britain, and his unabashed enthusiasm for free markets and meritocracy, worries about rising inequality dotted the speech. I rather liked his summary of the dilemma. Continue reading

AWS revolutionised startup economics | GigaOM

I had a ringside seat for the startup creation during the 1990s Internet boom and it was clear that in order for a web-based company to exist, the table stakes were about $2-to-$3 million. That money was spent on servers, storage systems, networking gear, database licenses and web server software. And that’s before taking into account the data center space rentals and bandwidth costs.

In short, if you didn’t have venture capitalists backing you, then getting going was a monumental task. A lot of that money went to line the pockets of Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, EMC, Dell and Compaq/HP.

Today, all it takes to hang up a shingle is the proverbial dollar and a dream. It’s more like a credit card, Amazon account and an idea. In Silicon Valley, it is fashionable to laud and celebrate the accelerators and new funding tools such as AngelList, but to be fair, none of those would have much to do had it not been for AWS.

via New startup economics: Why Amazon (web services) and Dropbox need each other — GigaOM.

Bezos on The Washington Post

Jeff Bezos talks about what he can, and can’t, bring to The Washington Post.

From the first day at Amazon 18 years ago, they stuck with three principles: “Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.” These core ideas may be equally useful in trying to solve the dilemma confronting all newspapers, particularly journalistic icons like the Post.

“I had to convince myself that I could bring something to the table,” he said. “I discussed this at great length with Don. I thought I could, because I could offer runway and some skill in technology and the Internet and a point of view about long-term thinking, reader focus and the willingness to experiment.” [ . . . . ]

“There’s no lone genius who figures it all out and sends down the magic formula. You study, you debate, you brainstorm and the answers start to emerge. It takes time. Nothing happens quickly in this mode. You develop theories and hypotheses, but you don’t know if readers will respond. You do as many experiments as rapidly as possible. ‘Quickly’ in my mind would be years.”

via Jeffrey Bezos, Washington Post’s next owner, aims for a new ‘golden era’ at the newspaper – The Washington Post.