The enormous stakes of India’s election

“distilled down to its essence, the election is about one really big thing: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s democracy-threatening quest to revolutionize the Indian state.
If the polling is even close to right, he’ll win a mandate to finish what he started.”

https://www.vox.com/world-politics/351497/india-election-2024-explainer-narendra-modi-bjp

“Everyone is absolutely terrified”: Inside a US ally’s secret war on its American critics

“I have spent the past several months investigating stories like Naik’s: critics of India who say the Indian government has reached across the Pacific Ocean to harass them on American soil.
Interviews with political figures, experts, and activists revealed a sustained campaign where Narendra Modi’s government threatens American citizens and permanent residents who dare speak out on the declining state of the country’s democracy. This campaign has not been described publicly until now because many people in the community — even prominent ones — are too afraid to talk about it. (The Indian government did not respond to repeated and detailed requests for comment.)”

https://www.vox.com/world-politics/24160779/inside-indias-secret-campaign-to-threaten-and-harass-americans

How I went from left to center-left

“The most important issues here, to me, are the related topics of China and climate change. I used to think the engagement with China strategy made sense, and I thought the people who objected to it were mostly driven by economic ignorance about the benefits of free trade. I still think the economic arguments for free trade are sound, but the actual geopolitical situation has evolved to the point where it’s clear that commercial ties between the United States and China were not fostering world peace or the liberalization of Chinese society.
Unfortunately, a lot of what’s happened since the conventional wisdom shifted on China is just unprincipled protectionism.

I think that’s wrong. Reducing dependence on imported Chinese manufactured goods is like trying to make sure we have the capacity to produce more ammunition — it’s not an economic policy at all, it’s a national security policy that involves incurring economic costs. We should be freeing up trade with the rest of the world, especially with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. Which is just to say that the China situation has made me more supportive of ideas I would have rejected in the past, like increasing the defense budget, while continuing to feel that the new post-neoliberal ideas, on both the left and the right, are basically wrong.

But this really comes crashing into the mainstream progressive view of climate policy. Since the mid-Bush years, American carbon dioxide emissions have fallen nearly 20 percent, while global emissions have risen by over 20 percent.

Just to clarify that I am not a knuckle-dragging moron, the following standard environmentalist points are all true:

On a per capita basis, American emissions are still exceptionally high.

On a historical basis, America is still the major contributor to climate pollution.

The countries poised to suffer most from climate change are not the ones that have benefitted most from industrialization.

Those three considerations do add up, in my opinion, to a compelling moral case for American climate leadership. That said, the cold hard fact that I’ve come around to is that while it would be worth it for the United States of America to bear significant economic costs to avert climate change, it is literally not possible for us to do that. Given that the United States needs tax revenue, we can and should price the externality associated with our domestic carbon dioxide consumption. And we should fund clean energy innovation, continue to drive down the cost of batteries and solar panels, and make complementary regulatory changes to try to speed the deployment of long-range transmission lines, along with geothermal, small modular reactors, and fusion power. But China is doing a lot of that innovation and deployment right now and also building tons of coal plants, and we have no way of stopping them.

Instead of wrestling with these realities, American environmentalists are too often shopping ideas like denying poor countries financing for their own industrialization or trying to stop the United States from supplying the world with natural gas. These ideas almost certainly won’t work as environmental policy, because countries that want natural gas will just get the gas and the financing from other less friendly countries. And if they did work, the outcomes wouldn’t be desirable — trying to reduce emissions by choking off economic development in poor countries inverts the moral logic of the whole argument.”

https://www.slowboring.com/p/how-i-went-from-left-to-center-left

Trump’s Proposed Tariffs Would Cost Families $1,700 Annually

“A set of new tariffs proposed by former President Donald Trump would cost the average American family an estimated $1,700 annually—and lower-income households would be hit relatively harder, a new analysis warns.
Trump has called for a 10 percent across-the-board tariff on all imports combined with higher tariffs (potentially as high as 60 percent, he’s claimed) aimed specifically at imports from China. Together, those two policies would cost Americans about $500 billion per year, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), a trade-focused think tank.”

https://reason.com/2024/05/22/trumps-proposed-tariffs-would-cost-families-1700-annually/

The obscure federal intelligence bureau that got Vietnam, Iraq, and Ukraine right

“The bureau’s stellar track record seems, on paper, inexplicable. INR is tiny, with fewer than 500 employees total. The DIA has over 16,500, and while the CIA’s headcount is classified, it was 21,575 in 2013, when Edward Snowden leaked it.
You could fit over 47 INRs in the CIA, and even if you exclude the non-analysts on the CIA’s payroll, Langley’s analytic headcount is far greater than INR’s. Tom Fingar, who led the bureau from 2000 to 2001 and 2004 to 2005, once told a reporter its budget was “decimal dust.” In 2023, it came to only $83.5 million, or 0.1 percent of overall US intelligence spending.

On top of that, INR has no spies abroad, no satellites in the sky, no bugs on any laptops. But it reads the same raw intel as everyone else, and in at least a few cases, was the only agency to get some key questions right.

Saying “INR does a better job than DIA or CIA,” as a general matter, would go too far, not least because making a judgment like that in a responsible way would require access to classified information that the press and public can’t read. But it clearly is doing something different, which in a few key cases has paid off. And at least some policymakers have noticed. Bill Clinton told the 9/11 Commission he found memos by INR more helpful than the President’s Daily Brief, then prepared by the CIA.

I spoke to 10 veterans of the bureau, including six former assistant secretaries who led it. While no single ingredient seems to explain its relative success, a few ingredients together might:

INR analysts are true experts. They are heavily recruited from PhD programs and even professorships, and have been on their subject matter (a set of countries, or a thematic specialty like trade flows or terrorism) for an average of 14 years. CIA analysts typically switch assignments every two to three years.
INR’s small size means that analyses are written by individuals, not by committee, and analysts have fewer editors and managers separating them from the policymakers they’re advising. That means less groupthink, and clearer individual perspectives.
INR staff work alongside State Department policymakers, meaning they get regular feedback on what kind of information is most useful to them.”

https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/351638/the-obscure-federal-intelligence-bureau-that-got-vietnam-iraq-and-ukraine-right