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Other voices: China’s ascendance must remind us what America stands for

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Other voices: China’s ascendance must remind us what America stands for

Human freedom has many threats, as we are reminded of today of all days.

The struggle for freedom is never finished. It is iterative and incremental. Where freedom is won, it can be lost again.

We think of this now not only in memory of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 that were aimed at American democracy and individual determinism but in the broader context of today’s global human struggle for freedom.

The morning of Sept. 11, many of us believed with good reason that the tide was with us and that Western democracy, with its protection of innate human rights, was ascendant. We hoped the war of ideas was won and that broadening freedom and respect for human dignity were its prize.

Today, surveying the world around us, there is much to worry about. And among the first worries we register now is a regressing China.

Twenty years ago, we had reason to believe that China would join the world of free nations by expanding human rights and democratic self-determination as economic freedom and personal prosperity began to bloom. China officially joined the World Trade Organization on Dec. 11, 2001, after enduring the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s, preceded by decades of struggle and desperation under Mao’s despotically insane economic and social policies.

A series of reform-minded leaders advanced China with actual great leaps forward, creating an economy that could not only feed but actually enrich its people. Those people, we expected, would seek and win political freedom to match their newfound economic self-determinism.

We were only half right. While the Chinese people have sought greater freedom, the Chinese Communist Party has retrenched in its devotion to oppression in the name of self-preservation.

In the person of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the CCP is grossly expanding its authoritarian control over the lives of the Chinese people. And its expansionist vision on the foreign stage should be a cause for grave concern.

The list of crackdowns and violations of human rights are too numerous to detail here. We note as among the worst offenses the elimination of a free and democratic government and press in Hong Kong and the ongoing oppression and even elimination of Uyghur people in Xinjiang province. But, as The Washington Post pointed out in a recent article, Xi’s policies are diminishing freedom in just about every area of Chinese life.

The Chinese Communist Party cherishes a vision of cradle-to-grave control of human life, with the ancillary belief that this can occur in an economically prosperous society. Just follow the rules and nobody gets hurt, it suggests. The vision is as fundamentally misguided about human nature as Mao’s grotesque Great Leap Forward programs. But it may be more sustainable in the short run as a way of doing business. And, given China’s current economic might and influence in the developing world, it could be expanded either by force or coercion.

It is popular now to suggest that America is damaged goods, that our role on the world stage is so diminished we are no longer an effective advocate of freedom. After the shameful retreat from Afghanistan, there is, sadly, some truth to this. And to no one is that sweeter than Xi Jinping.

That is why it is crucial for every American, and especially for the American president, to remember that America’s central idea — its reason for being — is the elevation of human freedom and of the God-given rights that codify that freedom. We need a clear foreign policy that acknowledges China as it is, not for what we wish it to be.

It matters for us, and it matters for the world.

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Colorado unemployment rate drops to 5.6% in September, but job gains lag

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Colorado unemployment rate drops to 5.6% in September, but job gains lag

Colorado’s unemployment rate continued to fall in September despite another month of below-average job gains tied to weaker-than-expected hiring in the public sector, according to an update Friday from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 5.9% in August to 5.6% in September, which equates to 10,100 fewer unemployed workers. Colorado ranks 35th for its unemployment rate, which remains stubbornly above the U.S. seasonally-adjusted rate of 4.8%.

Employers in the state added a net 5,100 nonfarm jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis between the middle of August and the middle of September. Before the pandemic, that would be a solid gain, but it is only 42% of the monthly gains averaged earlier this year.

“While that represents a decent number of jobs added, it does fall short of the average from February to July which was 12,000 jobs a month,” said Ryan Gedney, a senior labor economist with the CDLE. In August, the state added a revised 5,000 jobs over July and September wasn’t much better at 5,100.

Gedney declined to attribute the end of enhanced federal unemployment benefits in early September to the drop in the state’s unemployment rate. One of the conditions of receiving unemployment benefits is that recipients must certify they are actively looking for work.

If the state economy keeps adding jobs around last month’s pace, Colorado won’t reach pre-pandemic employment counts until January 2023, said Chris Brown, vice president of policy and research at the Common Sense Institute, in a research note Thursday.

Accounting for population gains, Colorado employers need to add 9,884 jobs a month to get back to pre-pandemic levels by 2023.

“This recovery is like a bad cold, it just seems like it takes forever to get over it,” said Gary Horvath, a Broomfield economist who closely tracks the monthly employment reports.

Gedney said the past two months of weaker employment gains coincide with the rise in COVID-19 cases tied to the delta variant. But for months now, employers have complained they can’t fill openings and that could also be holding back hiring.

Horvath said when he recently tried to schedule a furnace tune-up to get ahead of falling temperatures, he was told the earliest appointment slot was Jan. 25, a sign that technicians are in short supply.

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Denver tees off planning process for Kennedy Golf Course overhaul

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Denver tees off planning process for Kennedy Golf Course overhaul

Denver is asking not what Kennedy Golf Course can do for the city, but what the city can do for the golf course.

A master plan is being developed to redesign the golf course so that all of its segments would be comparable to one another, and to consider a new clubhouse and other features.

Kennedy is the largest of Denver’s seven golf courses. It has 27 holes of regulation golf between three nine-hole sections. The first two nines, named Babe Lind and West, were constructed in 1963, and the Creek nine was completed in 1994.

There is also a par-three course on the golf campus that doubles with foot golf, and two putt-putt courses are adjacent to the clubhouse. The campus features a large driving range with a practice putting green, but the short-game practice area has been decommissioned for now.

Richard Mandell, a golf architect tapped to lead the city’s overhaul of the course, is looking to reshape it for the foreseeable future. Kennedy was constructed when drivers were still made of wood and technology didn’t help players hit 350-yard drives.

Provided by the City of Denver

Richard Mandell is the golf architect leading the city’s overhaul of the Kennedy Golf Course.

Despite having some of the most challenging holes of Denver courses, Kennedy is showing its age. For example, tee boxes are typically designed to vary in length depending on a golfer’s skill. But Kennedy’s are close to one another.

“We plan on renovating all three nines of the golf course, and one of the goals that we discussed was (to make) all equal nines, so that it’s not always going to be the Creek and Babe nine and the West is for overflow,” Mandell said.

Scott Rethlake, the city’s director of golf, said creating continuity throughout the three courses is a big focus.

“You can tell that things were developed and constructed at different times. This is an effort to make it more consistent,” Rethlake said, adding the course will be redesigned “so that anyone would want to play those three nines.”

The projects would be phased over five to 10 years. Denver is still taking input from people to determine what will go into the master plan before it is sent to the City Council for consideration. The cost of the renovations has not been determined.

The West nine is considered the easiest of the three (depending on who you ask), and the Babe Lind nine is its more difficult sibling. Creek is a bit shorter than the three, but it is narrow and demands accurate shots.

“Because of budget constraints, we can’t build everything at the same time. But we can design everything at the same time,” Mandell said.

The clubhouse at Kennedy Golf Course

Provided by the City of Denver

The clubhouse at Kennedy Golf Course could be renovated or replaced as part of an upcoming master plan.

Some of the other changes Mandell mentioned would be putting bunkers in the middle of the fairways instead of off to the sides, making players strategize more than “grip it and rip it.”

Some of the master plan’s goals include updating the course’s infrastructure, making the course more environmentally efficient and improving safety by separating holes farther apart.

Mandell said the renovations are necessary because golf courses have a lifespan of about 30 years before they need at least soil replacement and other upgrades because of drainage issues.

“We’re not completely, in any case, ripping the whole place up. That’s not part of our plan,” Mandell said. “But what we are thinking is how to best utilize the features. On the Creek nine, I’m thinking how we could best use Cherry Creek. We’re not disturbing Cherry Creek, but maybe shifting things for Cherry Creek.”

The course would never be completely shut down, Mandell said, adding at least 18 holes will be playable while one of the nines is reconfigured.

Councilwoman Kendra Black, who represents the southeast corner of Denver, said she may not be a golfer, but she is eager to see certain features of Kennedy overhauled.

“I really want a new club house, more like the one at City Park, and a refreshing of the putt-putt,” Black told BusinessDen. “For years, community members have been advocating for these improvements. The course itself has a lot of great features but is very old. Many features are from 1963.”

The next meeting for the golf course master plan will take place 5-7 p.m. Oct. 27 at Hebrew Educational Alliance, 3600 S. Ivanhoe St.

One of the largest renovations of Denver golf courses was completed in 2019 at City Park near the Denver Zoo. That $45 million project completely redesigned the golf course and constructed a new 11,000-square-foot clubhouse, about 15 years after the city had constructed a clubhouse at the corner of 26th Avenue and York Street.

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Smartphones may be too good

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Smartphones may be too good

By Shira Ovide, The New York Times Company

I’m going to pose an intentionally provocative question: What if smartphones are so successful and useful that they are holding back innovation?

Technologists are now imagining what could be the next big thing. But there may never be anything else like the smartphone, the first and perhaps last mass market and globally transformative computer.

I may wind up looking like a 19th-century futurist who couldn’t imagine that horses would be replaced by cars. But let me make the case that the phenomenon of the smartphone may never be replicated.

First, when people in technology imagine the future, they’re implicitly betting that smartphones will be displaced as the center of our digital lives by things that are less obvious — not slabs that pull us away from our world but technologies that are almost indistinguishable from the air that we breathe.

Virtual reality goggles are bulky annoyances now, but the bet is that tech like VR or computers that can “learn” like people will eventually blur the line between online and real life, and between human and computer, to the point of erasure. That’s the vision behind the “metaverse,” a broad vision that virtual human interactions will be as complex as the real thing.

Perhaps you’re thinking that more immersive and human-ish technologies sound intriguing, or maybe they seem like the woo-woo dreams of kooks. (Or maybe a little of both.) Either way, technologists must prove to us that the future they imagine is more compelling and useful than the digital life that we already have thanks to the magical supercomputers in our pockets.

The challenge for any new technology is that smartphones succeeded to the point where it’s hard to imagine alternatives. In a sales boom that lasted about a decade, the devices transformed from a novelty for rich nerds to the only computer that billions of people around the world have ever owned. Smartphones have succeeded to the point where we don’t need to pay them much notice. (Yes, that includes the incrementally updated iPhone models that Apple talked about on Tuesday.)

The allure of these devices in our lives and in technologists’ imaginations is so powerful that any new technology now has to exist almost in opposition to the smartphone.

When my New York Times colleague Mike Isaac tried Facebook’s new model of glasses that can snap photos with a tap on the temple, a company executive said to him: “Isn’t that better than having to take out your phone and hold it in front of your face every time you want to capture a moment?”

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