.Brian Beedham, foreign editor of The Economist for a quarter of a century, died this week, aged 87 F or nearly all the 25 years leading up to the collapse of communism in 1989, two intellects dominated the pages of The Econ- omist. They were Norman Macrae, as dep- uty editor, and Brian Beedham, as foreign editor. Their marks were influential, endur- ing-and quite different. Norman, who died in 2010, relished iconoclasm, and orig- inal ideas sprang like a fountain from his ef- fervescent mind. Brian, bearded, tweed- jacketed and pipe-smoking (or pipe-pok- ing), held ideas that were more considered. It was he who provided the paper’s atti- tude to the post-war world. In that world, nothing was as important as seeing off communism, which in turn could be achieved only by the unyielding exercise of American strength. This view was not in itself unusual. What made it re- markable, and formidable, were the clarity, elegance and intellectual power with which it was propounded. No issue demanded the exercise of these qualities more than the Vietnam war, and probably none caused Brian more an- guish. A man of great kindness, and with- out a hint of vanity or pretension, he was far from being either a heartless ideologue or a primitive anti-communist (though he never visited either Russia or Vietnam to put his opinions to the test). But his unwa- vering defence of American policy drew criticism from both colleagues and readers. Why did he persist in pounding such a lonely trail, even after it had become clear that the American venture in South-East Asia was doomed? The short answer was conviction. His anti-communism was born of a love affair with America. As a young man, at Leeds Grammar School and Oxford, his politics had been leftish. They might have stayed that way. But in 1955 ambition bore him from the Yorkshire Post to The Economist where, after a few months, he won a Commonwealth Fund fellowship and with it a year study- ing local politics in the South and the West of the United States. In America Brian dis- covered a national ideology based on indi- vidualism, bottom-up democracy and an active belief in liberty that meant pro- blems could be solved at home and na- tions could be freed abroad. This was ex- actly in tune with his own emerging ideas. The dispassionate romantic Coming from drab, class-ridden, 1950s Brit- ain, Brian might have stayed. But he felt in- dubitably British. The Suez crisis was be- ginning just as he left for America in August 1956; he so strongly backed the in- vasion of Egypt that he volunteered his ser- vice to the British military attache in Wash- ington, ready even to give up his new American adventure to fight for this hopeless cause. And though he later became enthusiastic about direct democracy (an en- thusiasm, like that for homeopathic pills, which was fostered by his links with Swit- zerland through Barbara, his wife), he was a monarchist to the end. Suspicious of intellectuals, Brian rel- ished exposing the soft, less-than-rigorous- ly-thought-out (he was fond of hyphens) orthodoxies of the liberal left. As foreign editor, he liked to draw unsparing compar- isons between the Soviet Union and the Nationalist regime in South Africa: to deny freedom on the basis of ideological convic- tions, he argued, was no less objectionable than denying it on the basis of colour. It was no doubt Brian’s command of words that helped to make him our Washington correspondent in 1958 and then, in 1963, foreign editor. In this role he wrote leaders on all manner of topics, often argu- ing a difficult case: for nuclear weapons, say; for supporting Israel (another of his unshakable causes) when sentiment was running otherwise; or indeed for the do- mino theory itself, which was never so ringingly defended. Brian was equally skilled as a sub-edi- tor. Articles that arrived on his desk with no clear beginning, end or theme were turned, apparently effortlessly, into some- thing perfectly sharp and coherent. More annoyingly for authors, articles that were perfectly coherent were sometimes turned with a few tweaks, deft as a paw-dab from one of his beloved cats, into pieces that said something quite different from what had been intended. A statement of fact might be qualified by “it is said” or the American invasion of Cambodia would become a “counter-attack”. These intrusions could be difficult to square with The Economist's tradition of open-mindedness; especially as Brian’s own mind was more contradictory than it seemed. His favourite conversation-part- ners were men like Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Richard Perle, hawkish intervention- ists; but he also had an acquaintance, al- most friendship, with at least one kgb man at the Soviet embassy in the 1980s. Away from work, the world he was analysing weekly was kept at bay. He did not own a television set, and found the best use of computers was to listen to American civil-war songs. Some of his pieces were pounded out on an ancient Ol- ivetti in a turret of Barbara’s family castle in the Alps, surrounded by peaks and clouds. Deep down he was a romantic, capable of great human feeling, whose head con- stantly seemed to remind him to keep a rein on his heart. He wrote sympathetical- ly and perceptively about Islam, and mov- ingly about refugees-especially boat peo- ple, and especially if they were Vietnam- ese. They were making his point for him....The Economist May l6th 2015

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Amazon is caught in a surprise grassroots battle with local critics who are furious that it's been promised billions of taxpayer dollars to put jobs in New York, Arlington and Nashville, the winners of its search for a second headquarters.
Why it matters: Amazon won the top-down battle, with support from governors, mayors and economic development organizations. But it’s now confronting bottom-up outrage from activists and local lawmakers who were cut out of the bidding process.
The big picture: Jeff Bezos’ empire is no stranger to fights, having taken out retail rivals with brute force and neutralized Washington, D.C., threats with grand gestures like backing a $15 minimum wage for its employees. Still, it has struggled to head off these local fights — all while Google and Apple plan major expansions in crowded cities without the backlash.
  • Google on Monday announced it will spend $1 billion and lease 3 new properties (on top of the $2.4 billion purchase of Chelsea Market this year) to more than double its NYC workforce, already at more than 7,000 workers.
  • Apple last week announced a $1 billion, 5,000-employee expansion in Austin.
How Amazon's HQ2 choices are playing out around the country:
  • In New York, members of the city council took turns brutalizing Amazon executives over the tax incentives that are part of the deal for the company to set up shop in Queens. They also harshly questioned Amazon's engagement with the legislative body and the necessity of a helipad that could accompany its office.
  • From outside NYC's city hall, Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s criticism of the company has been echoed by progressive activist organizations emboldened by her election win.
  • Activists in Nashville and Virginia — the other HQ2 winners — are organizing around their own concerns about how Amazon’s negotiations will affect their communities. (Nashville isn't one of the two HQ2s, but Amazon is developing a new operations center there.)
“I don’t think they expected the level of public, grassroots outcry and the level of pushback from elected officials, neighborhood residents, the critical look that was taken at them by the press in New York City. I think they were surprised.”
— City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a critic of the tax incentives
Across the winning locales and the losing cities, the criticism is the same: The entire process was shrouded in secrecy.
  • "One of the things that the majority of people who ran for local office ran on is transparency, but then we woke up one day to find out that Amazon is coming to town,” said Odessa Kelly, an organizer in Nashville.
In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the company is “excited to work with New Yorkers over the coming months and years to bring a new Amazon headquarters to Long Island City and help support the community."
  • The spokesperson noted, "We expect our new headquarters to generate more than $20 billion in new tax revenues for community improvements and the people of New York."
  • The company has also pointed to the fact that it will not receive many of the incentives unless it delivers on its promise to create jobs.
Amazon has responded to the criticisms by hiring more lobbying firepower in communities where it could face backlash to the office deals.
  • Since October, Amazon has registered four more lobbyists in Virginia, according to public records.
  • The New York Times reported that Amazon retained new lobbyists in New York City ahead of its council hearing.
Yes, but: The opposition to Amazon is making lots of noise, but it lacks legal authority to shut down the new satellite offices.
  • Amazon also has buy-in from key officials, including governors, mayors and many federal lawmakers.
  • According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 57% of New York City voters approve of Amazon’s headquarters project in Queens' Long Island City while 26% disapprove. They are more split on whether they support the tax incentives used to lure the project.
What to watch: Lawmakers in New York are looking to hold more hearings with Amazon, and activists in Nashville and Virginia are seeking out allies in city governments.
The bottom line: "This backlash is serious,” said Nate Jensen, a professor at UT Austin who studies tax incentives. “We haven't seen this kind of resistance at the grassroots."

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