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Tim O'Reilly
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Tim O'Reilly

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I love that +Kickstarter  and the UN Refugee Agency are partnering to raise money for Syrian refugees. This is a real opportunity to step up folks. It's easy to do "clicktivism." Let's raise some serious money for people who are in real need.

If you want some human stories about the refugee crisis, go to (or follow here, or  on Instagram or Facebook.) Brandon Stanton has been doing an amazing job of humanizing the crisis. +Humans of New York 
Millions of Syrian people have been forced from their homes by violence and war. All of us can help the UN Refugee Agency provide them and other refugees worldwide with the necessities to survive and rebuild.
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Thanks for sharing that, +Tim O'Reilly​​, and kudos to UNHCR for getting creative.

Still, I think it's disgusting that rich country donors have left the world's refugee agency so severely underfunded that they can't do their job.

Every penny helps, but the gap is hundreds of millions of dollars, not just hundreds of thousands. The Kickstarter campaign is a nice touch, but it can't be an excuse for us not to hold our politicians' feet to the fire here in the rich world to get serious money flowing (even just 5% of what we're spending on military interventions in the region).

Side note: Last week I signed up to give an automatic $100/month donation to HCR, but I did so knowing that personal donations can't be more than a tiny drop in a very large, empty bucket.
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This story of Afghan “aid” highlights how often cupidity and political theater overrule strategic goals. So often in Washington, the press conference and the resulting coverage is the main objective. And foreign aid is so often seen as a way to boost American businesses rather than a clear-eyed and sincere attempt to solve a problem. 
Efforts to build an effective air force began late, and, in the view of some Afghan officials, have gone nowhere, even as the Afghans fight the Taliban mostly alone.
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I dunno, the article does point out there are difficulties with just dumping a bunch of AH-64's on the Afghan Airforce. It's not a capability that is built up purely with equipment and they are trying to build a self reliant organisation. It's a shame the Russian hardware is no longer maintainable but supply chain management is always a tricky problem to solve. 
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This is very good. Republicans and Democrats alike should read it.
I was a Reagan fan, back in 1980.

You have to cut me some slack. I was 17. Today, 35 years later -- I'm still a bit of a Reagan fan. Not much for the things he actually did, though there are some things I can point at even today and say he got right -- but for what he claimed to want.

(What did he do? California's Briggs Iniative, in 1978. It would have prevented gay Americans from working in schools. The Anita Bryant wing of the Republican Party was all in favor of it. Reagan, who was about to run for President, got pushed hard to at least keep his mouth shut bout it -- instead he wrote a letter opposing it, and an editorial in the Herald-Examiner against it as well.

(What else? I'm unclear that anything the U.S. did actually accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union; the idea that we spent them into bankruptcy is not really falsifiable. But he was right to stand against it -- he did and never wavered.)

But where Reagan touched me, moved me, really connected with me to the point where I was prepared to become a conservative murderbot and Spread the Good News, was when he talked about the evils of deficit spending, the evils of borrowing from your children.

"You and I, as individuals," he said, "can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but only for a limited period of time. Why should we think that collectively as a nation we are not bound by that same limitation?"

It made sense to me then, and it makes sense to me now. No, a country is not a household; I've seen that meme too. But a country is a finite set of resources, and when those resources are heading out of the country to pay overseas lenders, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars a year, son, you got a condition.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time discussing the extraordinary gap in performance on the deficit between Democratic and Republican administrations, post-1980. In Republican Administrations the deficit goes up, and in Democratic Administrations the deficit goes down. Period. This is a 35-year coincidental correlation, at this point -- and it's not the House, which allegedly holds the power of the purse; the deficit's gone up with Democratic Houses and Republican Presidents, down with Democratic Houses and Republican Presidents; up with Republican Houses and Republican Presidents (exploded under Bush and Speaker Hastert) -- and down with Republican Houses and Democratic Presidents. (Indeed -- Republican House and Republican President is the worst combination; Republican House and Democratic President the best, by far, for controlling spending. There's something to be said for the hatred Republicans have for Democratic Presidents.)

But I am going to spend some time breaking down Ronald Reagan's performance on the deficit, because he's pretty much where all this started: said one thing, did very much another.

Let's start by dismissing the argument that the House was responsible for all this. It's not true, at its core. Ronald Reagan requested $29.4 billion more in spending than Congress passed. Conservative/libertarian types will dispute this. If you want to understand how this gag works, read here:

So Congress was slightly more responsible than Reagan, yeah. This isn't saying much: those budgets were disasters, and the disaster was almost immediately evident to everyone: in fiscal 1981 the deficit was $78B, the debt was $994B, and the debt as a percentage of GDP was 34% -- that last number is the best way to understand what's going on with these numbers; inflation lowers the value of the dollar, over time, but GDP is GDP.

By 1989 the deficit was $152B, the debt was 2.9 Trillion, and the debt as a percentage of GDP was 55%.

What caused this? Tax cuts, and spending hikes. You think Democrats spend like crazy, you haven't paid attention to either of the Reagan or Bush II administrations.

A word in favor of very nearly the last Republican politician I actually liked -- Bush I loved his country, raised taxes, and primed the pump for the Clinton Administration's eventual elimination of the deficit, and a decade of economic good times. Clinton mostly gets credit for that, but it was him, a brave Democratic Congress in the year of Clinton's first budget, and George HW Bush, who deserve the credit. (Don't the Republicans in the House, who fought Clinton at every turn deserve some credit? Well, at the level of causing complete paralysis, they do; the modern House deserves the same sort of credit for Obama's budget deficits dropping. I'm not clear if seething hatred is really praiseworthy, but at the level of only caring about results, thanks, guys.)

But back to Reagan -- we can argue Obama another decade. (And will, for all the decades I have left.)

One of the things Reagan gets credit for is that, in the face of mounting deficits, he did in fact raise taxes. Several times. And he did. But it's worthwhile, comparing his tax cuts and his tax hikes.

The total of Reagan's tax cuts: $275B.

The total of Reagan's tax hikes: $133B.

So one of those numbers is twice as big as the other. And what's more, they're different kinds of tax cuts and tax hikes. They redistributed the tax burden: the cuts helped the wealthy; the hikes hit the middle and working classes. Ronald Reagan, in eight years, shifted the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class and poor, and took a debt that had required 80-odd years to create (a debt that Robert Heinlein found horrifying when it was still relatively small) -- and tripled it in two terms.

I missed voting for Ronald Reagan by three weeks: I turned 18 on November 30, 1980. It's a truism that people tend to stick with their first votes; they've got skin in the game, they want the person they voted for to succeed, and whichever party that person belongs to, is the party they tend to vote for, going forward, for the rest of their lives. (And this is why Obama's two great performances with the young is so long-term scary for the GOP -- it's not just that they voted Democratic now; they're going to vote Democrat til they die.)

Alternate worlds -- I can picture a world where I'd been born on November 1, instead of November 30. I'd have voted for Reagan, without a doubt. (I thought then, and think now, that Jimmy Carter was a terrible President.) Would I then have spent the next four years desperately searching for justifications for his brutal budgets, his failure to deliver on the thing that made me a Reaganista in the first place? I don't know. I like to think not, but people are far more rationalizing than rational, to mention Robert Heinlein for the second time.

Somewhere in another splinter of time, is a slightly older version of me busy writing the exact opposite of this piece, with the same conviction with which I wrote this one? Maybe. If so, hi there, Dan: I love you anyway. You're wrong, though.
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why isn't Obama on this chart?  oh I remember now, because he increased the debt more than the Bushes combined?
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Just published the latest in my #WTFEconomy (What's the Future of Work) series of essays on Medium. I make the case for Uber's surge pricing, and point out that algorithms don’t stand still.
Harnessing the Power of Markets and Multi-factor Algorithms
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The full piece is worth reading, but this was a tough paragraph to read: "What Hurricane Katrina, the floodwall and levee collapses, and the aftermath taught me is that America, and its institutions, simply don’t work — and that people like it that way. Perhaps this is a boilerplate observation, so obvious in light of what happened there, and all our other disasters and chronic problems — the Iraq war, political gridlock, gun violence, and a thousand other things. But I believe this is an under-appreciated point. America is an optimistic nation. It has a short memory. Our political system and media don’t really learn very obvious lessons that unspool right in front of everyone’s faces. And so we end up repeating our errors — at least, some of them — to great sorrow. And I expect the sorrow is going to get a lot greater in the coming decades."

My recollection is that someone shared a photoset on Flickr, and that was the eye opener for me about how bad things were post-Katrina. It was also an eye opener about the power of what would eventually be called social media: people sharing information, photos, and opinions with each other directly.
As the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approached, I did not plan to write about it. Yes, I thought about doing somethi…
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Nice street
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My latest post about service companies and design is up. It includes further explanation of our thinking behind the upcoming Design Conference. Enjoy! 
Register now for the O'Reilly Design Conference, which will explore the evolving role of design in business and society along with the tools designers need to shape the...
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Tim O'Reilly

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Data can play a great role in advancing sustainability. I'm quoted in this short video from Planet Labs, in conjunction with their speech at the UN, about the need for a common data infrastructure for sustainability.
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My latest post on Medium. I describe what makes a real unicorn. Hint: It's not the valuation.
“Unicorn” is the term du jour in Silicon Valley, used to describe a startup with a valuation of more than a billion doll…
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How fragile life is, even for the best of us. We heard this morning that our friend Jake Brewer was killed yesterday in a bike accident. 

I try to take comfort in poetry. I have always loved Wallace Stevens' thoughts in Esthetique du Mal in moments like this:

"He breathes a summer sleep,
In which his wound is good because life was.
No part of him was ever part of death."

And yes, there is somehow a deep continuity, in which we all one way or another come to that moment of our undoing, and our end is just one more part of a good life. None of us know when it will be. So we have to make the most of each moment - and that's what Jake did, throwing himself into life, fully.

But it's still a tragedy. Edna St Vincent Millay captured that tragedy perfectly in Dirge without Music:

"I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned."
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R I P Jake Brewer thank you 😇
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Neil Gaiman is a magical writer. This is a fabulous opportunity to own DRM-free ebooks by Neil, with the proceeds going to charity.
Pay what you want for priceless Neil Gaiman rarities available for the first time digitally!
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Never realized he wrote Day of the Dead. That was one of my favorite B5 episodes and one of Season 5's few redeeming features.
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So good: "Overwork is not defined by the amount of our day work occupies but by the amount of our selves tied up to it. We “over” work not when we work too hard but when working becomes less of a means and more of an end. When meditation, exercise, sleep, holidays, and even parenting, are cast as tools to make us better workers."
While organizations wage wars for talent, it seems talent is at war with itself.
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Is not easy at all,overwork is the amount of work we tied our selves with.
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Here is the latest in my #WTFeconomy  series of posts on Medium. (Earlier posts include The WTF Economy ( and Networks and the Nature of the Firm ( Still to come: These Are The Days of Miracles and Wonders, The Augmented Worker, and more.) These articles are exploring technology and the future of work, and are leading up to an event in November called the Next:Economy Summit (
Critics of the on-demand economy fail to understand that virtually all low-wage work in America is “on demand”, and on f…
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Work like in China, low cost maximized profits.
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Humble Books Bundle: Neil Gaiman Rarities

Pay what you want for priceless Neil Gaiman rarities available for the first time digitally!

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Why I Left United Airlines - The New Yorker

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