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Blind Anger Is Going to Destroy Us…

History is clear about some things and among those is that if you give anger enough fuel it will lead to violence.   Charles Hayek wrote, “It doesn’t take much of a trigger to push extremely large crowds of very angry protesters into committing acts of rioting and violence. And rioting and violence can ultimately lead to widespread civil unrest and calls for ‘revolution’.”  Among the photos and videos of the latest protests is a picture of a woman holding up a sign that reads, “Remove Trump by any means necessary!”  My God people, don’t you see where this is going?

Many of you are already engaged in selective amnesia over Trump’s Executive Directive to temporarily restrict immigration from 7 (of the 50) predominantly Muslim countries in the world, having forgotten that in 2011 Saint Barack issued an identical temporary ban on refugees from Iraq until a better vetting system could be created.  His administration also was the compiler of the list that Trump used to designate countries for his temporary ban.  But for disciples of Saint Barack he was just trying to keep us safe while the evil Trump demon is seen as being un-American and simply tearing down the fabric of our country.  The only substantive difference was in scope and that as disciples you were prostrating yourselves at the feet  of your political messiah and now are in rending your clothes and engaging in emotional self-flagellation in shock that there are actually people out there dumb enough to reject his (to you) enlightened teachings.  Therefore even for similar or even identical actions if Saint Barack does it, it has to be good and if Demon Trump does the same thing it has to be bad and therefore, by definition based on initiator and despite identical effects, they cannot be the same things.  But the only REAL differences, other than length of ban, was that Obama was smart enough to do it quietly and Trump was narcissistic enough to make a production and spectacle of it.   Even arch liberal attorney from Harvard, Allan Dershowitz opined that whether one favored it or not on a policy basis he thought this would pass Constitutional muster.

I was not completely sold on the efficiency of the ban when Obama did it and feel the same now.  There are too many holes in it to be effective and thus far no details on the better vetting being promised.  But good grief, folks, get a grip.  Obama’s temporary ban was for 6 months and whether or not it actually kept any bad guys out the country still stood and no massive upheaval took place.  I assume there was no evidence of it working because if there were ANY evidence it stopped so much as one attack we would have heard about it endlessly from Obama the same as he claimed he killed Bin Laden.  Trump’s ban is for 90 days and the odds are good we will survive it as well.

But the amnesia goes deeper into territory beyond the merely hypocritical and into the dangerous zone.  For those with at least a smattering of remembered history, you have to recall that only once in the political history of the planet has an attempted revolution ended upon a better note than it started and that was our War of Independence from England.  Every other  Revolution, from France ending in the Reign of Terror to Russia ending in the Stalin blood baths, to the Chinese atrocities by Mao’s Red Army, revolution has been a predictable recipe for long term disaster for the country.  Over a century and a half later our own country is really not completely over the rancor from our own civil war.  Almost a century ago, the National Socialist Party in Germany was correct that the Weimar Republic was destroying their country but the result of their overturning existing structures was Adolph Hitler.  Statistically the attempts at regime change by extra- systemic means is most likely to lead to something worse than what was overturned.

For me, the division that created the grid lock of the last years has ossified in the congress and culture to fashion a division that threatens to tear us apart with far greater power and skill than any foreign enemy could do.  And continuing the dialogue of hatred simply exacerbates the problem.  The continued ad hominem slurs flung wildly at each other do not serve to persuade anyone to change sides and only cause the warring factions to dig their heels in deeper.  There is so much history to let you know that you are, on both sides of this, simply hurting the country more that the hated other side could ever do by itself.  My ancestors, the Highland Scots were too busy launching clan against clan to have any chance of a strong coordinated front against the British.  The American Indian tribes were too busy counting coup on each other to join forces to hold the Europeans at bay.  One time tribes united and wiped out Custer but then quickly broke apart and were easy prey.  Is your growing hatred so great you cannot see what you are doing to the far more important entity than your sainted candidates? (That would be the country by the way.)  You claim you want to save the country from the evil hordes massed on the other side of the political spectrum; but they, equally fervent and sincere in their beliefs, claim exactly the same thing.  And together you leave us broken and defenseless from the real enemies out there.

Some of you are so taken by the hatred for the other side I am frankly embarrassed to admit I know you.  And that statement is aimed in BOTH directions.  But this time the overt hatred seems to be coming mostly from the left.  You were scandalized by the rightwing stonewalling Obama accusing them, accurately I think, of not thinking about the country.  Well guess what guys, now you are doing the same.

The real problem I see is that you are high centering on a basket of red herrings when other more important and problematic activities are taking place quietly.  From an internal perspective, Trump’s creating a private security force to replace some of the Secret Service responsibilities has some frightening negative potential from a historical perspective.  His declaring as a candidate for 2020 is hard to explain other than as a ploy to allow funding available to candidates but not to presidents along with other shields for activities that would be blocked for him as a president.  His reshuffling of his intelligence and security departments and meetings may be a good thing but it needs to be explained to a skeptical nation because it could also be easily interpreted as a means of consolidating power for a coup into tyranny.  I think many of the departments need a major shaking up, but because such shake up can go in multiple directions I think the initiator of those actions needs to explain them and his rationale to the public.

From a geopolitical perspective, we are a single step away from chaos and war on a grand scale. Let’s review…  Iran is testing ballistic missiles claiming it is for “defense.” Really?  Their intercepted communications are exploring the concept of using HEMP (High altitude ElectroMagnetic Pulse) weapons against the great Satan which, in case you have forgotten, is us.   North Korea is testing nukes and delivery vehicles.  China has been creating new militarized islands in the territorial waters of Vietnam and Philippines and a few months ago, sent a naval fleet into U.S. Territorial waters.  Russia has taken and claimed other neighboring countries and twice strafed U.S. naval vessels in international waters.  India is busily damming and redirecting water from a river that flows through Pakistan and is considered their “river of life” and over which they have stated they would go to war and pre-emptively use their nukes. And ISIS continues its harangue to kill Americans wherever they can be found.

Meantime on the home front, to help coalesce opposing parties into a unified front we have idiots openly supporting the concept of an assassination as an acceptable solution to the demon Trump situation.  Maybe we have reached the end of track for our country and between internal morons trying to take us apart in violence and outside villains doing all they can to destabilize us even further and then pick us off we are way into borrowed time.

Your reality checks have bounced… you are sitting on the back of a tiger but worried about the rats.

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Posted by on January 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Evolving “Trump Doctrine” — The Good and the Bad.

I’m so tired of all of the desperate cries of knee-jerk revulsion at the new President Elect that pretend to know with absolute certainty that, among other things, he is a spawn of the Devil to put even the previously hated “Bush Demon” to shame, and that he is, by liberal definition, the political and geo-political AntiChrist that will usher us rapidly down the road to ruin and perdition, darkness will envelope the country shore to shore and we will all be living wretched lives in caves surely by, oh, say, mid February at the latest… 

True, Trump certainly is not a supporter of socialistic tendencies as desired by the alt-left and is, to their increasing horror, an unabashed, unrepentant capitalist.  Viewed in a vacuum, that does, I confess appeal to me in terms of economic philosophies; but that does not lend itself to quite so simple a conclusion for either side when placed in the context of a government leader as opposed to a business leader. 

But there are somethings that the business world, especially that part of it that is international in application, does better than governments, and one of those is gathering and interpreting geo-political intelligence on the areas and governments in which it must do business.  Why do I say that?  After all literature is overflowing with tales of the intelligence exploits of CIA, MI6, KGB and GRU.  As some of you know, my military service was in an intelligence capacity so I do know of the vast capabilities of governmental information gathering using both overt and covert methodologies.  But there is a huge weakness in governmental intelligence and it was seldom more evident than in my time during the Vietnam era.  It is always in the service of the political institution which oversees it and its results are too often, perhaps most often, filtered through that political filter and arrives tainted and spun for the pleasure of the administration.  This is not done by the field operators who risk their lives to gather information, but by the top level political appointees and courtiers who must present it and hopefully walk away with their jobs intact.  In my opinion, in doing so they betray the operators in the field AND their country but I admit they have to operate in an environment of political capriciousness in which I would not long survive.

Intelligence in the business world is, on the other hand, far more pragmatic.  They do not care about the political issues other than how they effect the business bottom line.  More importantly, to successfully operate under foreign authority and oversight, you have to know the reality of the situation in the areas you wish to operate whether you like it or not. 

Therefore, private intelligence, while perhaps not as granular as governmental intelligence, is, in my experience and opinion, frequently more accurate in its final presentations.  One of the best sources of business-oriented intelligence has, for many years, been the organization “Stratfor.”  And once again, they have reviewed a subject too clouded in emotion and personal paranoia (or euphoria) to yield workable conclusions for mass consumption, to wit, the geopolitical approaches and views of our about to be installed newly minted President, Donald Trump.  So with their kind permission, here is a reprint of their latest paper on the evolving geopolitical “doctrines” of a President Trump. 

As usual and typically for Strafor, they objectively present the good and the bad to help businesses prepare for the world stage which is about to change dramatically.  I would recommend this to folks who are so overwrought with the current epidemic of emotional incontinence over the election that they are polarized into the “Trump can do nothing right” or the “Trump can do nothing wrong” camps.  As usual the truth lies in the middle and Stratfor analysts are among the very few to try to objectively sort it all out.

——— Republished Paper by Stratfor on the Evolving “Trump Doctrine”———–

THE TRUMP DOCTRINE: A WORK IN PROGRESS

By Reva Goujon, Stratfor

The world is in a “frenzy of study,” Henry Kissinger said in a recent interview. At home and abroad, strategists and pundits are trying to piece together a blueprint of American foreign policy under U.S. President-elect Donald Trump from a stream of tweets, some campaign slogans, a few eye-catching Cabinet picks, meetings at Trump Tower, and a pingpong match already underway with Beijing. Highbrow intellectualism can be a handicap in this exercise. Commentators among the Washington establishment have been quick to dismiss Trump’s foreign policy moves outright as erratic and self-serving over the past few weeks. In an op-ed entitled “Trump Failed His First Foreign Policy Test,” for instance, columnist David Ignatius admonished the president-elect for the “hot mess” his phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen precipitated. Trump makes people uncomfortable. It’s what he does best, in fact. But how this quality applies to foreign policy is a question that merits deeper exploration than knee-jerk displays of stricken disbelief. After all, as Kissinger noted in his Dec. 18 interview, “a president has to have some core convictions.”

So what are Trump’s? From what we can discern so far from his upbringing, the trajectory of his career and the profiles of those who have infiltrated his inner circle, Trump prizes business acumen and a “killer” instinct for managing affairs. He has enough corporate firepower in his Cabinet to fill the next Forbes’ list. By nominating ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, he has demonstrated his belief that tough deal-making — identifying sources of leverage and showing a willingness to use them — is the secret to running a country and presiding over the international system. Trump does not fear nationalism; he sees it as the natural and rightful path for every state, the United States included, to pursue in protecting its interests. He also seems to have internalized the idea that the United States is losing its competitiveness and that internationalist foreign policy is to blame. Finally, Trump apparently believes that U.S. foreign policy has become too predictable and overwrought with diplomatic formality. Better to say it like it is and call out institutions and conventions that have outlived their usefulness.

This, at least, is the worldview at a distance. When we come in for a closer look, however, some of the cracks come into clearer view. In 1953, General Motors Co. CEO Charles Wilson was asked in his Senate confirmation hearing to become President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s secretary of defense whether his decisions in office could end up harming his company. He answered that they might but that he could not imagine such a scenario since “for years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.” In fact, what is good for a business will not always be congruent with the national interest. A company is answerable to its shareholders, just as a president is answerable to some degree to Congress and the American public. But the mission of the CEO — maximizing value for its shareholders — entails different considerations when pursuing the raison d’etat and preserving a social contract with a nation’s citizenry. The latter entwines economic arguments with the social and moral obligations of the state, a nebulous territory where inefficiencies, compromise and the social consequences of massive deregulation are unavoidable.

Driving a Hard Bargain

Trump sees it as his mission to repair the social contract with the American public by bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States. This will be easier said than done, however. Across-the-board tariffs against big trading partners, such as China, might have worked 20 years ago but not in today’s globalized environment. Raising import tariffs now could cause the price of goods no longer produced domestically to skyrocket and disrupt international supply chains, turning many U.S. businesses into pawns in various overseas trade wars.

It could be argued that China depends more heavily on exports than the United States does and cannot afford to risk its vital supply lines in a major confrontation with the world’s most powerful navy. This, in effect, leaves Washington with the upper hand in its trade tussle with Beijing. In the search for additional leverage against China, Trump has shown a willingness to expire Washington’s “one-China” policy, a holdover from the Cold War that dodged the question of Taiwan’s statehood to drive a wedge between the Soviets and Communist China.

But that’s just one side of the equation. China has twin imperatives to maintain access to export markets and raw materials and to prevent an outside power from blockading its northern coast through the Taiwan Strait. If Trump’s policies interfere with these objectives, Beijing has levers it can pull to retaliate. Should the United States play the Taiwan card to try to exact economic concessions from Beijing, China can strong-arm U.S. companies operating on the mainland. Beijing can also use its enormous economic clout over Taiwan — whose semiconductor manufacturing and assembly industry is tightly intertwined with the mainland — to threaten a disruption to the global tech supply chain. Furthermore, as its recent seizure of an unmanned U.S. naval drone illustrated, China can flex its maritime muscle, albeit cautiously, to raise the stakes in a trade dispute with the United States. Though Trump would rather leave it to regional stakeholders such as Japan and South Korea to balance against Beijing, his compulsion to correct the United States’ trade relationship with China will draw him into stormy security waters in the Pacific.

A Different Kind of Negotiation

Just as Trump regards the one-China policy as a relic of the Cold War worth revisiting, he intends to update Washington’s relationship with Moscow. As Trump sees it, the United States is not fighting an existential battle with Russia deserving of Cold War-era collective security commitments. Russia is no longer preoccupied with forging an empire under an ideology that is anathema to Western capitalism. Instead, Moscow is focused on the more basic task of constructing a national identity and insulating the state and its borderlands from Western encroachment in anticipation of greater domestic turmoil to come. As Kissinger recently put it, Russian President Vladimir Putin is like one of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s characters, for whom “the question of Russian identity is very crucial because, as a result of the collapse of communism, Russia has lost about 300 years of its history.” If Russia were to try to build a state by expanding its already sprawling territory, nationalism would not be enough to hold it together. Consequently, Putin is trying to defend the areas surrounding his country and compel the West to recognize and respect that sphere of influence.

Taking a less alarmist view of Russia’s intentions, the Trump administration sees an opening to develop a new understanding with Moscow, one that could put to rest the question of Crimea and perhaps recognize Russia’s influence over eastern Ukraine. Syria, a peripheral issue for both Moscow and Washington, would be recognized as such. Since sanctions are a drag on business and Russia sorely needs investment, Trump could ease the measures to get a dialogue moving on what an understanding would look like without sacrificing the U.S. military presence along Europe’s eastern flank.

Should Tillerson be confirmed as secretary of state, Trump would rely on his knowledge of Kremlin personalities and their internal feuds to advance the negotiations. After all, if a company needs good inroads with the Kremlin to do business in Russia, the same must go for a government that wants to negotiate with Moscow. But negotiating access to Russia’s Arctic shelf on ExxonMobil’s behalf is not the same as conducting talks centered on Russia (or China, for that matter) trying to get the West out of its backyard.

Russia has no illusion that a shuffle of personalities in the White House will reverse U.S. policy and cede the former Soviet sphere to it. The United States will still be compelled to keep a check on Russia’s moves in Europe just as Moscow will maintain its levers across several theaters, from cybersecurity to arms control to proxy wars in the Middle East. Though Trump’s administration may change the tone of the conversation and broach the topic of tactical concessions, Russia will still be driven by an unrelenting distrust of Western intentions that will keep defenses up on both sides. Nonetheless, the very notion of a private bargain developing between Washington and Moscow will inject uncertainty into long-standing collective security arrangements as the European Continent is undergoing another Machiavellian moment in history where the assertion of state interests is breaking the bonds of its flawed union.

An Unlikely Precedent

Despite the changes that Trump will doubtless bring to the presidency, his foreign policy is not as unprecedented as the world’s pundits may claim. The bridge between President Barack Obama’s foreign policy doctrine and the one evolving under Trump is not entirely sturdy, but the foundation is there. As president, Obama was a realist. He considered it his mission to rebalance the United States after the country had overextended itself fighting wars in the Islamic world. His resistance to expanding U.S. military commitments in the Middle East was deeply ingrained; as he said in an interview in The Atlantic, “it is literally in my DNA to be suspicious of tribalism.” He held strong convictions that the United States would once again be trampled under a sectarian horde in the Middle East if it tried to extend its ambitions beyond the more immediate and visible threat of the Islamic State. He also pressured even close U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom to pay their fair share in security commitments because, as he put it, “free riders aggravate me.” Obama was a follower of 20th-century American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who held a rather Hobbesian view of the world as a struggle among self-interested groups. (It was Niebuhr who wrote, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”) The current president built a foreign policy on extreme restraint while addressing his own set of geopolitical anachronisms: the United States’ relationships with Iran and Cuba.

But Obama, unlike Trump, applied an internationalist lens to his realist views. He wanted his allies to pay their share but was resolute in keeping the U.S. security umbrella over their heads. He viewed foreign trade as a means to build alliances and contain conflicts. Still, protectionism was already well underway during Obama’s tenure. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the United States has led G-20 countries in carrying out discriminatory trade measures on selective industries (particularly metals), according to a report by Global Trade Alert. At the same time, Obama saw that the world was changing with technology and that old jobs would give way to advances in manufacturing. He preferred to think in longer horizons, at times to his own detriment: For Obama, the long-term impact of climate change was existential compared with the short-term threat posed by the Islamic State.

By contrast, Trump’s realism is steeped in nationalism and tends to be more myopic in assessing threats. His solution to displaced American labor is to punish foreign trade partners rather than to retool the workforce to adapt to demographic and technological change. Under Trump, climate change concerns will take a back seat to the more immediate desires to ease regulations on business. Rather than play a restrained globalist role, the next president would sooner respect countries’ rights to defend themselves, irrespective of the long-term consequences of undermining time-honored collective security arrangements. Though a departure from an already defunct two-state solution in Israel’s favor acknowledges the current reality, it also risks further destabilizing the balance of power in the Middle East as Turkey continues its resurgence and multiple civil wars rage on. A short-term escalation with Beijing over trade and Taiwan could cost Washington a much bigger strategic discussion over China’s attempts to achieve parity with the United States in numerous spheres, from cyberspace to the seas.

Keeping the World on Its Toes

Perhaps the greatest difference between the Obama and Trump foreign policies lies in what may be Trump’s biggest virtue: his unpredictability. Obama has been criticized as overly cautious in his foreign policy and thus too much of a known entity for U.S. adversaries. Trump, on the other hand, gives the impression that he is willing to throw caution to the wind and rely on instinct in shaping foreign policy. This matters immensely for U.S. allies and adversaries alike that have to be kept on their toes in developing their long-term strategy while avoiding the unexpected with the world’s superpower.

Regardless of who occupies the presidency, the United States’ strong geopolitical foundation gives it options. As opposed to more vulnerable countries in less forgiving locales, the United States, buffered as it is by two vast oceans, can debate the merits of isolationism and intervention. George Kennan, a diplomat during the Cold War era, may have captured the immense power of the country’s unpredictability best:

“[American democracy is like] one of those prehistoric monsters with a body as long as this room and a brain the size of a pin: He lives there in his comfortable primeval mud and pays little attention to his environment; he is slow to wrath — in fact, you practically have to whack his tail off to make him aware that his interests are being disturbed; but, once he grasps this, he lays about him with such blind determination that he not only destroys his adversary but largely wrecks his native habitat.”

Aloofness in international affairs is a geopolitical luxury, but it cannot be taken for granted. That may be the basis for the Trump doctrine.

Top of Form

The Trump Doctrine: A Work in Progress is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

———-End of Republished Essay on the Evolving “Trump Doctrine”———

I hope this was enlightening and hopefully a little calming.  We, as a country, need to rapidly get over our emotional paralysis and work together.  When Obama took office the left accused the right of refusing to cooperate in anything leading to a gridlock that was bad for the country.  Well, now the shoe is on the other foot and what remains to be seen is whether the left will act as they said the right should have done, or whether they will simply now repeat the old ills they once excoriated and take us into the tragically flawed state of playing tribal level “payback” and thereby guarantee the failure of us as a nation among nations.

Time will tell…

 

 

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Why does the world seem to be in such Chaos?

No wonder some groups feel the apocalypse is near, the world seems to be tearing itself apart nearly everywhere you look.  Why, when world productivity is up, when information technology easily connects nearly all of us, would this be happening?  It seems counter-intuitive so surely the only explanation can be the designs of a higher power to bring all this to an end.

There are, however, other explanations and one of the best I’ve seen has come from my favorite geopolitical intel service, Stratfor.  This is written by Dr. George D. Kaplan. He is the author of Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, which will be published by Random House in March 2014. In 2012, he published The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, and in 2010, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power. In both 2011 and 2012, he was chosen by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.”  His essay, written for Stratfor and re-publishered here by permission from Stratfor, follows:

——- Stratofr Report “Why So Much Anarchy? by George Kaplan ———————

Twenty years ago, in February 1994, I published a lengthy cover story in The Atlantic Monthly, “The Coming Anarchy: How Scarcity, Crime, Overpopulation, Tribalism, and Disease are Rapidly Destroying the Social Fabric of Our Planet.” I argued that the combination of resource depletion (like water), demographic youth bulges and the proliferation of shanty towns throughout the developing world would enflame ethnic and sectarian divides, creating the conditions for domestic political breakdown and the transformation of war into increasingly irregular forms — making it often indistinguishable from terrorism. I wrote about the erosion of national borders and the rise of the environment as the principal security issues of the 21st century. I accurately predicted the collapse of certain African states in the late 1990s and the rise of political Islam in Turkey and other places. Islam, I wrote, was a religion ideally suited for the badly urbanized poor who were willing to fight. I also got things wrong, such as the probable intensification of racial divisions in the United States; in fact, such divisions have been impressively ameliorated.

However, what is not in dispute is that significant portions of the earth, rather than follow the dictates of Progress and Rationalism, are simply harder and harder to govern, even as there is insufficient evidence of an emerging and widespread civil society. Civil society in significant swaths of the earth is still the province of a relatively elite few in capital cities — the very people Western journalists feel most comfortable befriending and interviewing, so that the size and influence of such a class is exaggerated by the media.

The anarchy unleashed in the Arab world, in particular, has other roots, though — roots not adequately dealt with in my original article:

The End of Imperialism. That’s right. Imperialism provided much of Africa, Asia and Latin America with security and administrative order. The Europeans divided the planet into a gridwork of entities — both artificial and not — and governed. It may not have been fair, and it may not have been altogether civil, but it provided order. Imperialism, the mainstay of stability for human populations for thousands of years, is now gone.

The End of Post-Colonial Strongmen. Colonialism did not end completely with the departure of European colonialists. It continued for decades in the guise of strong dictators, who had inherited state systems from the colonialists. Because these strongmen often saw themselves as anti-Western freedom fighters, they believed that they now had the moral justification to govern as they pleased. The Europeans had not been democratic in the Middle East, and neither was this new class of rulers. Hafez al Assad, Saddam Hussein, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Moammar Gadhafi and the Nasserite pharaohs in Egypt right up through Hosni Mubarak all belonged to this category, which, like that of the imperialists, has been quickly retreating from the scene (despite a comeback in Egypt).

No Institutions. Here we come to the key element. The post-colonial Arab dictators ran moukhabarat states: states whose order depended on the secret police and the other, related security services. But beyond that, institutional and bureaucratic development was weak and unresponsive to the needs of the population — a population that, because it was increasingly urbanized, required social services and complex infrastructure. (Alas, urban societies are more demanding on central governments than agricultural ones, and the world is rapidly urbanizing.) It is institutions that fill the gap between the ruler at the top and the extended family or tribe at the bottom. Thus, with insufficient institutional development, the chances for either dictatorship or anarchy proliferate. Civil society occupies the middle ground between those extremes, but it cannot prosper without the requisite institutions and bureaucracies.

Feeble Identities. With feeble institutions, such post-colonial states have feeble identities. If the state only means oppression, then its population consists of subjects, not citizens. Subjects of despotisms know only fear, not loyalty. If the state has only fear to offer, then, if the pillars of the dictatorship crumble or are brought low, it is non-state identities that fill the subsequent void. And in a state configured by long-standing legal borders, however artificially drawn they may have been, the triumph of non-state identities can mean anarchy.

Doctrinal Battles. Religion occupies a place in daily life in the Islamic world that the West has not known since the days — a millennium ago — when the West was called “Christendom.” Thus, non-state identity in the 21st-century Middle East generally means religious identity. And because there are variations of belief even within a great world religion like Islam, the rise of religious identity and the consequent decline of state identity means the inflammation of doctrinal disputes, which can take on an irregular, military form. In the early medieval era, the Byzantine Empire — whose whole identity was infused with Christianity — had violent, doctrinal disputes between iconoclasts (those opposed to graven images like icons) and iconodules (those who venerated them). As the Roman Empire collapsed and Christianity rose as a replacement identity, the upshot was not tranquility but violent, doctrinal disputes between Donatists, Monotheletes and other Christian sects and heresies. So, too, in the Muslim world today, as state identities weaken and sectarian and other differences within Islam come to the fore, often violently.

Information Technology. Various forms of electronic communication, often transmitted by smartphones, can empower the crowd against a hated regime, as protesters who do not know each other personally can find each other through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. But while such technology can help topple governments, it cannot provide a coherent and organized replacement pole of bureaucratic power to maintain political stability afterwards. This is how technology encourages anarchy. The Industrial Age was about bigness: big tanks, aircraft carriers, railway networks and so forth, which magnified the power of big centralized states. But the post-industrial age is about smallness, which can empower small and oppressed groups, allowing them to challenge the state — with anarchy sometimes the result.

Because we are talking here about long-term processes rather than specific events, anarchy in one form or another will be with us for some time, until new political formations arise that provide for the requisite order. And these new political formations need not be necessarily democratic.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, societies in Central and Eastern Europe that had sizable middle classes and reasonable bureaucratic traditions prior to World War II were able to transform themselves into relatively stable democracies. But the Middle East and much of Africa lack such bourgeoisie traditions, and so the fall of strongmen has left a void. West African countries that fell into anarchy in the late 1990s — a few years after my article was published — like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast, still have not really recovered, but are wards of the international community through foreign peacekeeping forces or advisers, even as they struggle to develop a middle class and a manufacturing base. For, the development of efficient and responsive bureaucracies requires literate functionaries, which, in turn, requires a middle class.

The real question marks are Russia and China. The possible weakening of authoritarian rule in those sprawling states may usher in less democracy than chronic instability and ethnic separatism that would dwarf in scale the current instability in the Middle East. Indeed, what follows Vladimir Putin could be worse, not better. The same holds true for a weakening of autocracy in China.

The future of world politics will be about which societies can develop responsive institutions to govern vast geographical space and which cannot. That is the question toward which the present season of anarchy leads.

————– End of Essay ————–

Some might argue that this merely narrates the mechanism by which the “End Times” is being set in motion.  Who knows?  But what is, or ought to be clear is that the world has become a far more dangerous place not a nicer one as was predicted at the “end” of the cold war.  For all of the idiocy and atrocity that transpired as two superpowers used the rest of the world as their pawns against each other, the bottom line was that both realized that a full-on confrontation was not only unwinnable by either side but that it could, with a high degree of probability, leave the planet a wrecked place truly unfit for human habitation.  And, being politically greedy but not stupid, both realized that all it would take is one radical player in one of their puppet kingdoms to do something truly stupid and we would be drawn into such a nightmare scenario whther they wanted it or not.  Remember the Cuban Missle Crisis?

The uncontested result was that the superpowers kept an ultimatly tight rein on their various puppet regimes and forced them to play relatively nice in their own sandboxes.  But that grip that kept us out of World War III was tenuous and maintained only by sometimes brutal authority.  Whine about it all we can as we pretend to some enlightenment and humanity, but the real politic on the ground shows us to be a species exactly as people like Harris and Ardrey posulated: ferociously territorial, acquisitive, and aggressive.

When the Soviet control of the Balkans was lifted, within days ethinic groups that had peacefully coexisted under the iron fist of soviet sponsored dictators, returned to killing each other wholesale.  In Africa and the middle east colonial powers, which had created working governmental infrastructures, granted independence to cultures that begged and fought for it under the assurances they were as good at governing themselves as any of the imperial powers.  The result?  Within weeks the various factions were back to committing genocide and mayhem on each other and the infrastructors collapsed around them.

How can that be?  If, as is passionately argued, all cultures are equally capable of enlightend behavior toward their own and their world, then it can NOT be happening.  But it has… and is still going on.  Kaplan’s essay addressed some of the objective reasons, but if you think about them for a few minutes they are extremely disturbing in their implications.

Is, for example, our much vaunted technical progress that has elevated our standards of living and put us in touch with the world actually an underlying cause of the anarchy and the ruin that will flow from it?  Is our enlightened desire to grant independence and self-determination to people not always a good thing for them OR for us?  Was the often brutal and always self serving actions of the superpowers in controlling their puppets actualy responsible for a quieter and safer world that the one that has resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the cold war mentalities?

If that is true, even in potential, then we would be fored to ask how many other modern concepts that seem so humane, so fair, so proper, so “good” may turn out to have a very keen double edge that will, in the end, swing round and take a chunk out of us in some extremely tender spot and leave us far worse off than before we “got it” about how we should allow any and every behavior and never discriminate between “right” and “wrong” actions or choices?  And worse in today’s environment, it may force us to consider that some of the modern anarchic groups are fanning the flames of actions that will somedy burn us all down, the good with the bad?

To the “modern” progressive mind those are unthinkable possibilities.  So too is the idea that a divine power is unravelling the fabric that holds the world together and worse, He is doing so on purpose.  So what is left?  What is causing it?  That is a critical question and seeking an even more critical answer… at least if we would like NOT to see the world descend inescapably into a state of anarchy that will reduce us back to a far more primitive state and set in motion the horrid future of many negative sci-fi futures.

And given the accelerating rate of decay, we do really need to find some answers faily quickly.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Where the HELL is the President???

After that last multi-part post I thought i could relax a little and not worry about any subsequent postings for at least a week.  But reality has a way of influencing our most ardent desires.  And as stupid as the postings on Facebook have been relative to the presidential race, the silence on recent events is far more stunning and far more indicative of a population totally self absorbed and out of touch with things in the broader world that can turn round and bite them.

Are you all paying attention or does Prince Harry’s latest streak or Bradjalina’s latest spat demand your full attention?  Do you have even the remotest clue that possibly, just possibly, very recent events concerning the middle east, while they may not have actually lit the fuse, certainly opened the box of matches?

In two countries in the middle east, Egypt and Libya, Islamists principally following the Muslim Brotherhood, yes, that same group our administration declared were good guys, stormed and took over the American Embassies. These were factions that we had recently helped to overthrow the former governments and from whom, in any intelligent part of the world, we might have expected some loyalty.  But none was evident as the walls were scaled, fires were set, flags were torn down, and violence and murder were perpetrated on our representatives to those countries.

This is not like having some tourists attacked, heinous as that would be.  Are you aware that an embassy is considered by all governments to be the sovereign soil of its country?  The other countries with embassies here demand that status of us and in past administrations we have demanded it of them.  Two of our embassies were just attacked and overrun.  By the language of international law, when any, much less two areas of American territory were attacked an overrun, that is an overt act of war.  Once inside the compounds they tore down the American flag, burned it, and replaced it with their own.  That is an act of war.

But it gets worse.  In one of the attacks, an American ambassador was killed – no. let’s call it what it was, he was murdered.  THAT is an act of war if one ever existed.  In scale only does this depart from the precedent of Pearl Harbor.

And what set off this attack?  A cheap, independent, stupid movie was what.   A F*****G MOVIE was all it took to rouse adherents to the “religion of peace” to attack U.S. territory and murder its Ambassador.  In my opinion the moment word was received of the actions, the congress should have been convened, the acts of war recognized for what they were, the governments of the countries put on notice that we would be considering responses but that in the meantime not another dime of foreign aid would flow into their corrupt coffers… and they could stand by for the REAL response…

But what did we actually do?  The following day – not that very evening – the following day our fearsome guardian of the American way essentially apologized for the affront of the movie.  He did mention the attacks and murder really shouldn’t have happened and were perhaps a bit over the top, but the major thrust was that we were sorry and that our values did not include insulting someone else’s religion.  Apparently however, they do condone murder of our own people based on the provocation of an insult to someone else’s beliefs.  THat is news to me and not news i find positive since it tosses out the 1st amendment.  Remember this murder did not happen on foreign streets, it happened on U.S. territory.

And wait a minute, was the government the one who created the film?  Were its comments about violent Muslims coming from any official voice of the country?  Did embassy personnel or the ambassador himself offer free screenings of the film on the embassy lawns and speak on its behalf?  Did the movie even act as if it were speaking for the country as a whole?  No, they did not.

But both attacks took place after some time passed as the crazed, ignorant savages worked themselves into a frenzied froth before launching the actual assaults.  There was enough time for message to be sent here asking for guidance. The governments of those countries then had more than enough time to become aware of the growing mob, assemble their troops to, as all countries agree to do, defend the embassies of countries they host, but they did not. We apparently didn’t even ask them to.  That overt, purposeful lack of action on their part is tantamount to a tacit official OK of the actions and, it turns out, neither has offered any sort of apology or offer of restitution for the actions of their countrymen.

Do you truly believe we are respected in those areas more so for being patently weak-kneed in a response to attack?  Do you truly imagine a warrior culture such as theirs would look up to such cringing cowardice and seemingly paralyzed leadership?

But it gets still worse.  A flashpoint that nearly everyone agrees has the potential for escalating into a conflict that will inure to the benefit of NO ONE is the issue of Iran and its nuclear ambitions.  So far, the rhetoric has served both sides if, and only if, the leadership of Iran truly are completely rational persons fully in command of the realities of the world and history despite idiotic assertions and saber rattling rhetoric.

If that rationality it true then we (the U.S., Iran, and Israel) are playing a dangerous but understandable game where the rhetoric serves to keep the people stirred up but the reality is far less inflammable.    If that is true, Iran may indeed NOT have any nuclear weapons ambitions but is using the possibility for international credibility, Israel may actually not feel threatened with their very existence but wishes to test its so-called “friends” relative to their actual support, and we can cleverly, if cruelly, play them off against each other by holding to the public rhetoric that we want to give Iran more time to ‘come clean’ and stop their weapons plans but in the meantime we will hold Israel back from precipitous action.

It is a potential win-win-win in a macabre and ugly game of international politics.  But it will work only if Iran and its leaders are (a) rational and actually do not really have the desire to build a nuclear arsenal and (b) there is not a hidden agenda that would make the Iranian government have fish other than Israel to fry, oh, such as re-establishing the Persian empire and Hegemony of old and, at the same time, settling once and for all the under the table war between Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam.

If either (a) is not true or (b) IS true then we, the U.S. have been suckered (or strode knowingly) into a huge problem likely to spill over into regional and then possibly global war.

And then… into that uncertain environment steps Iran’s leader who, purposefully as an insult, comes to speak to the U.N. Security Council on Yom Kippur, one of the holiest of Jewish Holidays.  The next day, Israel’s leader then comes to New York to speak.  Israel is internally seriously divided in purpose between those that want to do a pre-emptive strike before Iran can develop a weapon and those who believe that since they have not even tested a device yet, there is no hard evidence they are developing one and a strike is a very bad idea.  The U.S. certainly acts as if it is in the second camp while, officially, being a firm back-up to Israel if that is wrong, something the Iranians cannot ignore.  We back worthless sanctions for the PR value but do virtually nothing else even though the sanctions have only the effect of irritating the Iranian public who attempt to clean up their government went unsupported while we whole-heartedly backed the Muslim Brotherhood’s take over of an Egyptian leader who was at least sometimes an American ally.

And what happens?  The Israeli leader asks to meet with the American leader.  Of all the people in the world you would think we would want to chat with and both press our point while getting a feel for his real intentions it would be him, especially since he is given to rhetoric as volatile as that of the Iranians.  But the response from us is that our leader is too busy.  His schedule is full.  He cannot meet.  And what IS on his schedule that day?  Appearing on the Letterman show.

I know Letterman is a huge fan and supporter, but what private citizen, even George Soros or Michael Moore, could be more important than meeting with a person who may hold the key to war in the region?  For that matter what government official would not happily re-schedule a meeting if in doing so they could help promote the agenda of at least delaying such a war?  Well, now we know the answer to that question and it is not some lower level functionary, it is our dear leader himself.

There is a complex geopolitical high wire act going on with global stakes and our President does not seem to get it.  If our stance and rebuff make the Israelis feel they truly are on their own and all decisions have to be based solely on their own beliefs about a potentially existential threat, and the Iranians are made to think that despite blanket and outdated comments of support, we will not get involved in their squabble, just how much more secure do you think we have made the situation?

The only thing that even remotely makes sense, other than potted plant levels of stupidity, is that the Administration wants Israel to either act first or so frighten the Iranians that they perform a pre-emptive strike to forestall the feared Israeli pre-emptive strike and hopes that this time, finally, Israel looses.

No?  Give me another logically sound way to look at it?  You cannot separate these two actions happening so close together.  You cannot think that the rebuff to Israel which happened first fell on deaf Islamic ears and did not play some part in the thinking that led to the belief in an assault on American soil that could be done without consequences.

And regardless of your conclusions about the Israeli leader’s rebuff, do you think it is good for us to have the Muslim militants assume, based on experience, they can mess with us and get no more than a few words about how we wish they had not done it but we understand why they might be mad at us?   Is that a position for the U.S. to occupy in the world that you honestly think will lead to others respecting us and to a greater likelihood of world peace?

If you do, then I think that while the jury is still out about the administration being rock stupid, there is no longer any question about you.

(ADDENDUM… to be fair…)
Finally, today, our President, after a round of criticisms from a number of fronts, went BACK before the cameras and actually condemned the actions and said we would punish the people responsible.  i applaud that position but it should have been the FIRST reaction, not one as part of damage control.  We shall see if something actually happens…  However AFTER that the countries involved now are apologizing and offering to help.  Perhaps they think that now Obama is forced into real action so they had better shape up.  That would indicate they do not know the lengths he will go to to avoid that but it is informative to indicate that when we DO at least act or talk like we are still America and mean business it gets a response.

If only it were true…

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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So, What AM I For and Against Politically? Part 4

Here in the last module of this series, I’ll spell out my beliefs on the issues of jobs, foreign policy, energy policies, American exceptionalism, and then wrap it up.  If you ahve arrived here directly from a search on key words or tags, please, please, do both of us a favor and jump back to part one to read the set-up and foundation for this series.  Without reading that, some of this may nor make any sense to you.  Of course depending on your political orientation some of this may be preaching to the choir or set your teeth on edge but that is because I am not a party partisan, but a truly independent who thinks the country is more important than a party or its narrowly defined and self-serving platform.

Anyway, lets get this last part underway…

JOBS

The most commonly trotted out reason for lack of employment is a mismatch between the needs of the employer and the skill sets of the potential employees.  This convenient perspective is, amazingly, attractive to the ideologies from both the left and the right, though they see very different solutions to it.

The Atlantic (Spt 8, 20120) however offered a different view.

Dig deeper into what employers say, though, and the skills mismatch gets complicated. A 2011 employer survey from the Manufacturing Institute found that the top skill deficiency among manufacturing workers was “inadequate problem-solving skills.” No. 3 on the list was “inadequate basic employability skills (attendance timeliness, work ethic, etc.).” In the 2012 Manpower survey, 26% of employers complained about the lack of such “soft skills.” If the American workforce doesn’t show up on time or think outside the box, that may be a problem — but probably not one solved by more math, science, and technical training, the go-to remedies.

The Manpower survey also suggests another possibility. When firms were asked why they have difficulty hiring, 55% picked “lack of available applicants,” but essentially the same percentage, 54%, said candidates are “looking for more pay than is offered” (many more than the 40% selecting lack of “hard” skill). This is an important reminder that the labor market is a market. The U.S. conversation revolves around whether workers have the right skills. Whether firms are willing to pay enough to compensate workers for having acquired those skills is rarely mentioned. When firms post job openings at a certain wage and no one comes forward, we call this a skills mismatch. In a different universe, we might call it a pay mismatch.

This is, in my opinion, a product of the entitled, parasitical culture we are now raising.  No one is willing to, as once was a cliché, start in the mail room and work their way up.  They expect, not just want but expect, to come out of school and into the boardroom.  And schools compound the problem by implying that is what should happen.

But it doesn’t end there.  The Atlantic article continues…

In a new book, University of Pennsylvania business professor Peter Cappelli offers a different take, arguing that a big part of the reason American firms feel as if they can’t find qualified workers is because of overly restrictive hiring practices. Based on interviews with personnel managers and others, he describes procedures that screen out anyone without precisely the right academic qualifications, job descriptions that include so many different roles that finding one person to fill the slot is practically impossible, and employers who aren’t willing to hire people without specific past job titles, even if those people are otherwise experienced enough for the job.

That last paragraph points to a huge problem: the rise of “credentialism” that has accompanied the rise of importance of the HR department in businesses.  Back “in-the-day” operations people in the areas where workers were needed would interview candidates and were able to know, pretty quickly, if they had the knowledge and skills to tackle the jobs independent of any degrees or other credentials.  But as HR rose to prominence, the HR people themselves had no clue so increasingly turned to reliance on paperwork to provide the imprimatur they needed.

The result is that lots of ready and willing individuals who actually could do the job, are failing the credential screening.  And the opposite happens as well; overly credentialed individuals are also turned away without thought to their situations or willingness, especially in this economy, to do the job.

Even if the operations people knew the new hires would leave if and when the economy turned around, they also knew that were getting good workers with terrific “soft skills” that, while they were there, might be more productive than a “perfect” fit as determined by credentials.   I have been hired as an independent contractor/consultant to produce work for high pay and temporarily fill positions that would NOT have been offered me because my credentials did not match those determined by HR to be dispositive.  What I had was a portfolio of work to look at showing I could indeed do the work and which I could show directly to the manager doing the outsourcing.  But as an applicant for a job I would never have passed the initial screening through HR.

These are not problems the government can solve.  They are problems of culture, parenting, schooling, and business practices and not amenable to governmental oversight.  What IS subject to governmental restraints however is overall business productivity and the ability of government not to try to directly influence or create productivity, which it cannot do if it wanted to, but to stand back to allow the people who CAN increase productivity through management skills and creativity, to do their jobs and be rewarded for them.  Business, per se, is not the enemy here, it is, in many ways, the solution and government can only effect them negatively through direct action and interference.

Government regulations can – operative word, “can” – provide safeguards to protect potential victims of corporate abuse.  But, in typical governmental manner, a little control leads quickly to the desire for more control and quickly the regulations initially serving a good protective service become restrictive to productivity and the flexibility a business needs to survive and prosper.  The problems stem from the fact that politicians, especially professional politicians, have never had a real job not run a real business.  To solve that we need to return to the founders’ concepts of citizen legislators who were willing, for a very limited time, to come to Washington to help the government decide policies based on real-world knowledge and experience.

To work, if the regulation is actually a well thought out and proper regulation, it must be applied equally and cronies of the regulators cannot be allowed to “opt out” in order to curry favor and money for elections.

To solve that we need not only term limits but also major limits on the post-service benefits awarded to public “servants” that make them, understandable, anxious to remain in office.  Senators, Representatives, and Presidents are important, but individually are no more important than teachers and as teachers do for a career, should be willing to serve their country for a few years at the same pay scale.

Legislators who freshly come from the world of business, workers and leaders alike, would be far more likely to understand the issues and pass or remove laws to increase production and their own career when they are shortly forced back into the private sector.

FOREIGN POLICY

If history has shown us anything it is that Presidents are shaped by geopolitical events but do not themselves shape the events nor are they in any way in control of their happenings or their effects.  In this arena Presidents are but rarely able to be other than completely reactive.  Avowals of actions and approaches to the world’s situations are, and must be, scrapped in a heartbeat when reality comes knocking on their door.  Only in rare instances has a President’s statements of purpose and plan survived the interaction with geopolitical reality.

So here, their campaign promises and statements even of passionately held beliefs, are of virtually no value in forecasting what will really happen during their term in office.  Often it is those utterly unexpected world events that, in retrospect, define a presidency far more than their stated intentions.  So here I think we are better off looking to their core character and see their beliefs not from the standpoint of what they will initiate, but rather, how they will react when the other players on the world’s stage go off the rails.

Even there we are admittedly on shaky grounds since most of us are quite ignorant of the totality of realities surrounding world players and events.   What drives them to act? What limits them and us to act? What are the impact and influence of local and regional geography and history?  What do the actors on this wide stage believe about each other whether true or not?  What are the likely ripple effects of made and lost connections between nation-states is information few of us are in a position to know or even evaluate in an informed way.

The only data left open to us, and even that is not always predictive, is the character and avowed positions of the candidates going through a process well known for its hyperbole and cavalier attachment to the truth.  If, however, we can look back over that candidate’s life, review those individuals and the events and people in their lives that influenced them, what their record of actions and writings reveals vis-à-vis what they would like to have happen, we can perhaps come close to being able to predict their responses even if we can never do so with infallibility.

My personal belief is that it is, in too many cases, the unintentional consequences of our foreign meddling that has created so much discord.  Therefore I believe we should stop it all cold turkey.  For one year, there should be an absolute moratorium on all foreign aid with that money being applied to domestic issues where we really need them.  Then, after other countries have seen the value of our aid based on the sudden loss of it, even if it is just to feed the corrupted coffers of the local tyrant, we can now review it and determine future aid, if any, based on what truly best serves our own long term interests.

But not a penny should go to countries that openly or clandestinely work against our interests or support terror groups that do it as surrogates.  We should not be in the business of facilitating and perpetuating tyranny and we don’t have to.

Some say we need to do that to guarantee energy supplies.  But I beg to differ as noted below.  If we make sure we truly have a military that no other nation-state or player in the world could attack without the very real likelihood of near instant destruction, we need worry about nothing but rebuilding our own country.  If a Nation-State understood clearly that any proxy action would be deemed an action by them directly and receive the same cataclysmic response,  it would make the world a safer place.  For all of the talk of martyrdom, the ego-ridden leadership actually wants OTHERS to be martyrs for them, not the other way around.

We should be happy and open to legitimate trade.  An enlightened mercantile country depends on other successful places with which to trade.  If other places wish to hack their own people into spaghetti out of pure evil, that is none of our business unless and until they put a toe over the line.  And then, without warning or hesitation, we should cut those toes off and then go home.

ENERGY POLICIES

What a can of political worms we have allowed this topic to become.  With righteous self flagellation we have crippled our own ability to be free of all foreign influence and dependence… and basically we have done it for no discernable reward.

We have within the territorial limits of our country, more petroleum reserves than in all of the middle east but we are simply sitting on it.  I could understand that as a short sighted bit of self interest (let them run out before tapping into our own) but that totally ignores the problems of international politics if they DO completely run out and we have the goodies the whole world wants and needs.  Talk about setting us up to become an isolated target.  Whoa.

So here is what I would propose.

1.  I would create an energy commission that included top scientists in the energy field, energy producers, manufacturers of goods that require energy for power and for constituent parts, along with environmental scientists.  And to that commission I would issue the following charge and back it, as much as possible, with funds but mostly try to appeal to their ethics and interests as Americans.  I would expect them to work within the business structures from which they come and would not set up a new bureaucracy to run it.

2.  I would, just as JFK did for aerospace, set a target for the creation of alternative energy to replace all but component needs of fossil fuels and at a rate equal or lower to that of fossil fuels within 20 years.

3.  Exploration and extraction of all types of fossil fuels within our territorial borders would commence with a goal of being completely free of the need for so much as an ounce of oil from any foreign country in 5 years.

4.  Environmental scientists would work WITH energy producers so that the extraction and transportation procedures had a minimal effect on the environment and at such time as we could cut back because of viable alternative energy sources coming on line, those sources of fossil fuels could be capped and their remaining reservoirs saved with the areas brought back to a natural state as much as possible.

5.  Manufacturers of vehicles of all types would be required to work together with engineers and scientists to work toward a goal of maximum elimination of vehicle created pollutants in 15 years at a cost that did not significantly increase the cost of the vehicles nor increase pollution during the manufacturing process just to eliminate it on the back end.  It requires a certain amount of energy to move a given mass with given aerodynamics at a given velocity.  There is no escaping that.  The goal is to make that required energy total as efficient and as clean as possible.

6.  Manufacturers of products using petroleum by-products, such as plastic and other synthetic materials would be tasked with maximizing the production of materials not relying on petroleum products in 20 years.

I believe if we did that we would see a panicked OPEC drop prices immediately anyway but we should remain dedicated to the end goal and never waver from it.

AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM

There was a time when Americans were indeed exceptional.  There was a fire in their bellies that drove them to create an incredibly positive and powerful nation-state out of a virtual wilderness.   We granted more patents and made more scientific discoveries than any other place on the planet.  We were the ones to explore the depths of the oceans and walk on the moon.  We created an economy that was the model and guide for the rest of the world.  We became, finally, the only remaining superpower.   In spite of the scars and occasional lapses into ill conceived or downright evil actions, the sum total of our actions added up to something uniquely positive and powerful that was a beacon for the world.  The operative word here is, “was” and that is as inexcusable as it is tragic.

To a very large degree Americans and America were able to become exceptional because as a people we believed that we were.   As our rivals reached but fell short, again, it was to in some part because THEY did NOT believe it for themselves.  Both the winners and losers were the product of self-fulfilling prophesies about themselves.  It had nothing to do with national rhetoric or propaganda, but about individuals’ inner feelings for themselves and the collective of themselves they called their country.

But with that exceptional stand comes exceptional responsibilities.  As the political and philosophical winds changed, we grew increasingly unable to meet those responsibilities and now, fulfilling our own growing feeling about ourselves, our once great exceptional qualities are evaporating.  And we are causing it ourselves.  We are capable, as a people, of great good or great evil.  The direction will depend on our feelings about ourselves and our place in the world.

If we return to seeing ourselves as a beacon to the world, exemplified by the Statue of Libery, we have a potential for great good.  If we slip into seeing ourselves as simply a great power with the world at out feet we are capable of great evil.  But when we devolve into seeing ourselves as being, individually and collectively, as just like any other country including countries where stone-age savagery is the norm, where women are killed for thinking and bettering themselves, where major contributions are bribery, corruption, and ego-driven machisimo, then we will fade into a distant memory and be of no value to others or to ourselves.

I see that dark place as, under liberal leadership, where now we are headed.  I am opposed to it.  When we reach a point where we are afraid to or unable to identify and reject evil wherever we see it, a state I see us approaching, then we are truly lost.

——————-

So, there you have it.  A summation of my beliefs on many of the topics that I think may be at play in this coming election.  Those beliefs will find opponents in ALL of the current parties involved.  I claim none of them to house my personal belief structure.  Unfortunately, I am left, as I have been for some time now, forcing my vote to go for the least abhorrent to me; not someone I am confident in, believe in completely, or even mostly.  What remains is the lesser, even though not by much, of two bad choices.  Adding to the confusion is the reality that one of those choices offers a well known and consistent political philosophy that I do oppose almost in its entirety but the other is a far greater unknown since he seems to have vacillated on so many issues depending on the needs of the moment.  I trust the former but to do things I will really despise.  I do not trust the latter at all, but that leaves room for a potential surprise to the good side so that is how I will vote.  But it leaves me sad to think how far we have fallen as a country when these are the choices trotted out for us.

There is nothing exceptional about either in terms of the direction America in its glory was headed.  But, in my view, one will gleefully and purposefully lead us to ruin so he can transform us into his own vision.  I cannot support that because I do not support the vision.  The other may simply buy us some time to find the people we really need, but I would rather, as a country, tread water than slip under the surface being pulled down by the sharks of a world view that will destroy us and what little is left of our spirit.

How the Hell did we ever reach such a point?  The answer is that too many of us got wrapped up in our own worlds and took our eyes off of the bigger ball that was the country and its directions.  Promised goodies and freebies or selective help to un-level the playing fields in our favors we fell prey to crony capitalism and with it an opening to destroy capitalism altogether and gave rise to the parasitical generation of takers and users.  At its base it is not a political problem but an ethical and moral one.

We were told by the founders that the form of government they gave us would only work under a highly moral and ethical citizenry.  And as they predicted, when that based lost its way, the government, the government OF those people, has lost its way too.

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Second Week of Spring Semester is History

San Diego –Quite a few things to chat about from events of this week.  From school to my hot car to Egypt to Reagan’s birthday, topics come leaping out so lets get this underway.

Well, we made it through the second week of the Spring Semester without major angst.  Unfortunately i had to turn down an amazing number of second week requests to crash some of my classes as they were simply full and there was no room.  I was able to let a few into some classes that were nearly full but not yet to overflowing and the early attrition did open up a couple of seats here and there.  Now that period is over and the crush for seats in class is over.  I was chastised for not showing proper respect to our IT team but in truth i have none to show nor will I facilitate their incompetence by pretending they are good at it.  As I keep saying over and over, you cannot fix a problem you will not admit exists.

Field Trip/Workshop Dates:  In the Landscape Class i finally got back information on availability for lodging for our field trips and those are now set.  The three day trip to Lone Pine and Alabama Hills will be March 11-13 and the four day trip to Yosemite will be April 28-May 1.  i gave out data on where i was able to arrange discounts in class this week so people can start to get their reservations in early.  We will also be doing a Saturday afternoon workshop for students interested in printing on Canvas on Feb  19th at 1 pm – 4pm +/-.   Sign up is through the Check Out room.  If the canvas workshop is successful then we may do more during the semester.

Jag Progress: This has been a time of trying to “beta test” the Jag’s engine work.  I have had very little time and in any case it is necessary to work carefully since I’ve not been able to get into DMV for the temp permit to go to a California Smog referee for a new ID/Compliance sticker.  My old one is in the engine compartment and consequently it has faded over the years.  You can still read the numbers but cannot scan the bar code with a reader and the law is that it must be scanned.  That has to have been in order to sell more scanners; some legislature cleaned up big time when they got that law passed.  It showed me one problem from the first drive back from the shop.  The tuner had set it up for serious competition driving not for daily freeway stuff.  The shift points were placed high at the top of the “power band” so the car simply would not shift into High (and then overdrive).  I ran it to 90 mph quickly but still it did not shift.  The Tach was right in the power band at that point at about 3,000 RPM… but it was in third gear.  OK, Note one for tweaking…

Anyway, yesterday I drove to Barrett Junction for lunch because the old Highway 94 road can be a fun one to drive.     There was too much local traffic to really play with it seriously but it was obviously now a much stronger car especially in the mid range.  However as I was returning, the engine cut out.  It then returned to fire and then cut out again.  It did this on and off a few time  until I was almost back to campus but just past the Highway 125 interchange it cut out and… did NOT come back.  I drifted over to the side and checked the engine for anything that seems to have become unplugged.  it was obviously an electrical problem because when it cut out all gauges and lights died with it.  But the battery was connected, coil was connected, at the junction box for ignition all was connected yet it was still dead as the proverbial doorknob.  (Note: does anyone know a live doorknob? They must have very short life spans…)  i called Lawton at Top Flight Corvette/Racing where it had been worked on and he went through a series of checks on the phone with me, none of which led anywhere so he called a tow truck for me.

Once back at the shop they were stumped until one of the mechanics noticed there was no wire running into the alternator.  In fact there was no connector post on the alternator AT ALL.  And there, dangling down was the post, still connected to the wire that had come completely out of the alternator.  In fact it had arced and spot welded itself to the engine and almost looked like it belonged there.  The guys jumped on it and quickly swapped it for an alternator they had on the shelf, charged the battery and the car was fine.  None of them had ever seen anything quite like it so even though it was an irritation I at least kept my reputation for not bringing them anything normal.

I would be remiss in not including a plug here.  That shop is wonderful and it has one of those rarities I have come to find in very short supply: an honest and skilled mechanic.  Alan Curtis who first built the car was one of them but he retired.  Now Lawton at Top flight has taken over care of the car and he is like Alan (without the British accent): skilled to the point of being creative and artistic and scrupulously honest.  As a race driver of long standing and experience himself, and as head of a racing team he does understand high performance cars and loves them.  His shop is always filled — and I mean FILLED — with wonderful and powerful cars.  And his son is following in his hard to fill footsteps.  I’m telling you, if you have any form of muscle car or other high performance American iron trust me on this; here is where you need to take it.  Let me know and I’ll put you in contact.

Geopolitics: The unrest in Egypt continues.  As has become typical, our would-be erstwhile leadership has responded based not on facts or history or even the country’s best interests, but on the basis of what their own party’s leaders have done in the past vis-a-vis connections with various foreign governments.  Those from the parties that supported and still funnel money to Mubarak  see nothing positive in the protests as they focus only on what they see as the inevitable disaster to flow from this.    Meantime those who hated the leaders that supported Mubarak see the protestors as the new voices of democracy to be backed.  In doing so they show the same lack of knowledge about the players and regional issues as they did in the first Iranian revolution when they dumped the Shaw and lately in the unrest over the past elections.

When the Shah was overthrown in a coup by a “democratic” revolution that democratic ideal, as much as there was of it in a land that knew nothing about Jeffersonian Democracy and only about the far less messy (if far more painful) monarchies, autocracies and tyrannies, was short lived and soon taken over by the Islamic extremists to bring about a complete Theocracy — something we helped to facilitate and then got our hand bitten by way of thanks. When the protestors then took to the streets in the last election to defeat the current Iranian President, a person clearly in need of defeating, our own political idiocracy saw the opposition as potential allies of the U.S. but never bothered, apparently, to study the make up of them.  The argument in Iran was not over pro or anti U.S. policy, that was but a convenient and handy bone to the political dogs slobbering at their feet tossed out to try to lure us into their court.  The truth was the only real argument was theologically dogmatic and the protestors saw a different role and status in government authority vested in the clergy and Ayatollahs.  That was utterly meaningless and not even remoptely understandable to and by us, but was a critical distinction to them, worthy of risky protest.  But the protestors were not ever or remotely about regaining a secular society much less a democracy.

Now in regards to Egypt the same reaction is taking place in the hallowed halls of our government and the spewings of the mainstream press and its pundits.  And it is seen through the same willful blinders as before.  The regime of the current President is remarkable mainly for its corruption and ill treatment of the Egyptians themselves; of that there is no doubt.  We stupidly pour tons of money into their economy and then say nothing when it is skimmed off by the elite but rarely makes its way back to the streets where we pretend it is intended.  We spend  a statistically important part of our taxes to support the extravagances of foreign despots.  In some cases, and this was one of them, they did some of our bidding and helped a little with the current issues of terrorists even though that was mostly in their own self interests.  So some supported him without question and other opposed him without context.

Sadly Egypt is hardly a stand out case for this idiocy, virtually every tin hat dictator we readily support does the same thing.  And so certainly the ranks of the protestors contain those who would like to make of Egypt a more democratic society dedicated to serving the needs of its people and also to maintain their status as a secular government, not wanting to return to Taliban-like suppression of human rights and especially women’s rights.  But behind the scenes, just as there was in Iran when their pro-democrativ movement was taken over and subverted by Islamic extremists, funneling money into the movement and waiting in the wings is another extreme Islamic group, the Islamic Brotherhood.  Though not listed as a terrorist group themselves it is generally agreed that they exist to support and funnel money to groups that ARE terrorists from Al Qaeda to Hamas to Hezbollah.  Their own charter and surrogates make it impossible to ignore their real goals and purposes and it is open for anyone to read if they will take the time.

History in the region has given us several examples of Middle Eastern/Arabic and North African protests that turned into revolutions and overthrew the existing regime:  Iran,  Yeman, Oman as a few examples.  There are exceptions as there always are, but the trend has been that the ‘democratic’ movement, or just the movement crying for change and better treatment by the people, initially succeeded but was so poorly led, funded, and/or organized that once the major power was eliminated and it was safe for them to emerge,  the extremists moved in to set up their end goal from the start: an Islamic Theocracy.  This situation in Egypt is far more complex and has far more potential dangers than either side of our aisle of entrenched political morons seems willing to admit or address.

On one hand that is none of our business.  If that is what the people want then let them live with it.  That is what democracy is supposed to mean.  But when a newly formed government threatens the stability of the area and, by extension, the world, then it unfortunately becomes our business.  This is why it is SO important for us, in the short term as we look for workable affordable alternatives, to make use of our own fossil fuel resources so that those savages over there can be free to hack each other to pieces, burn wells, close canals, and force $10/gallon gas to their black heart’s content… but not on us.

Except for politicians with money to be made, no one in the energy business questions that oil, especially middle eastern oil is running out.  The easy and cheap to get “sweet” oil has already run out over most of the middle east and only so-called “sour” crude which is very expensive to extract and refine, remains.  We can ignore it all we want but there is no getting around the fact that it was oil and oil alone that allowed our planet to double its population and more in the years since it was discovered and turned to our use.  It was oil and oil alone that allowed our incredible growth in a standard of living.

Not just gasoline, but most of our lives and life styles are dependent utterly on by-products of oil.  And even for gasoline and vehicle fuel, it is oil and oil alone that allows for relatively cheap transportation and flow of goods around the country and the world.  North America has vast reserves that are untapped.  Bringing them online takes time.  If we continue to delay then the loss of oil from other sources may happen in a time span shorter than what it would take to start replacing it with domestic oil and if that happens we will see an impact on our lives like none other that has happened before in history.  The sad truth remains that we could bring our own oil reserves online faster than we can start from where we are now and fully augment alternative energy technologies for direct use in heating and fuel.  But even if we could, there is no other product that can yield, things like the plastics and other compounds that while generally ignored, actually make our lives livable as they are now.  imagine a world without oil-based plastic and I will show you the 18th and early 19th century.

Yes, of course,  we should start an earnest program to explore the alternatives and find substitutes as quickly as we can.   But we also need to address and prepare for the shorter term in which oil, not just for us, but for the world starts to either run out or be so tightly controlled by antagonistic regimes as to functionally cease to be available.  We get most of our oil from Canada and Mexico now but what if pretty much all of the industrial world started knocking on their doors because their supply of middle east oil was no longer available for whatever reason?  Governments and their people are, in unfortunate fact, so utterly dependent on the products that flow, at the moment, only from oil, that if the supplies are shut down there will be major world wide upheaval, and countries will. in fact, go to war over access to it.  They may not want to, but they will have to in order to maintain some semblance of their former standards of living.  We need to make sure we are not in such a vulnerable position and now is the time to start to work on ALL fronts.

Of course we will not do that…  and to make matters worse, as money is cut from education the individuals who could become the future scientists to find our solutions will be missing in action here because they were never created int he first place or supported when they were; but not in places overseas that realize how important education is.  Think about where that will place us in terms of world leverage in influence… or standards of living costs.

Reagan’s Birthday:  Much political hay has been made over the birthdate of Ronald Reagan this past week. He has become the icon for one side and the bogeyman for the other.  And one of the main cores of the arguments swirling around him and his accomplishments is the issue of tax cuts.  One side says he had the largest tax cuts in history and the other that he has the largest tax increases in history.  Good grief… so who is right?  The answer is they both are.  Early in his presidency he put through an enormous tax cut that was, in fact, the largest since we started imposing a “temporary and voluntary” income tax in the first place to pay for war.  But in his own autobiography, he admits that given the times and other issues he went too far and too fast.  So he started putting into place a series of tax hikes that also constituted the largest set of tax hikes ever done.  But what is missing from both sides of the argument is that his tax hikes only replaced about HALF of the tax cuts he had made in the first place.  And that was enough to get the rest of his agenda through including bankrupting the Soviet Union and still bring some enormous productivity to the home shores.  His cuts in government spending were also significant.  They actually negatively effected me directly when money was lost for an NEA grant.  But it was the right thing to do and I never regreted the policy even though I bemoaned the loss of our own grant money.

So, yeah, interesting week…

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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