Tag Archives: politics

Are You Afraid Yet?

Are You Afraid Yet?

By the wildest of coincidences I got two phone calls today that opened with exactly the same question… and I mean word-for-word:  “Are you afraid yet?”

I didn’t “get” the meaning of the first one until it was explained that the fear being questioned was about Trump’s expected reach for autocratic power as exemplified by his pardoning of such sleazes as the political scam artist Blagojevich (sentenced to 14 years for trying to “sell” Obama’s former Senate Seat but pardoned by Trump after 8 years.)  They also pointed to interference in the Roger Stone case where DOJ recommendations for sentencing were lowered from originally at 14 years down to 4.

I was aware of both actions but had initially dismissed both as just more political theater following the great abortive impeachment attempt. But in the spirit of the iconic Clara Peller, I was unable to find “the beef.”  Every President, with Constitutional authority to do so, has issued Presidential pardons.  In all cases the subject of those pardons had been duly tried and convicted yet the president of the day took it upon himself to overturn those decisions.  Some few, I thought, were at least marginally justified; but in a lot of those cases I could not find any justification at all except from some political issue or another.  Clinton pardoned sleazoid friends, confidants, and contributors as did Obama, and both Bushes and virtually all Presidents before them.  The constitution (Article 2, Section 2, § 1)  is clear that the President has the power and authority to do that for crimes against the U.S..  I can question the wisdom of it – and do, to be honest — but, given the law as it is, I therefore do not see it as an abuse of power.  In Stone’s case the recommended sentencing table indicated 3-4 years for lying to a congressional investigation.  But in the heat of the political turmoil the prosecutors wove in another charge that stepped it up about 3 levels and ran with that so where now, for a process crime, he was going to be recommended a greater sentence than is on the table for a rapist.   It seemed to me at the time that it was his support for Trump that got him that extended sentence, not his actual crime.  Plus, it was merely a recommendation, the judge has the final authority as to what to actually order for sentencing and that was not yet done.  The list of prosecutors who complained or resigned were, to me, simply grandstanding since similar action, but in less politically loaded cases, happens with some frequency.

Besides, the President could simply pardon him and be done with it.

The worry shared by the two callers, however, seemed to be that this was somehow unique and, more to the point, was foretelling Trump’s inevitable and imminent (in their view) move to become our first emperor, throw away all law he didn’t like, and refuse to step down if he lost this election or after his second term.  Their arguments were that after the failed impeachment, he now was empowered to think he could do anything he wanted, including ignoring an election or, later, term limits, and no one could do anything about it.

If that actually happens, then I think all bets are off and I cannot fathom him, even as petulantly tantrum throwing as he does when things go badly for him, barricading himself in the White House and being dragged out by the heels, if necessary, by the U.S. Marshals and/or the Secret Service.

I would admit that If, at some point, a direct order from the Supreme Court were issued to him which he openly and overtly refused to obey, then we are (finally and sadly) facing a real Constitutional crisis but assuming the obvious legitimacy of the order, I do not believe the citizenry would stand for it.  Even supporters of his policies would have to see that brazen move as well over the line… or so I prefer to believe.   Meantime, however, his actions are within his authority under the Constitution.  If we don’t like the policies he enacts under that authority, then the solution is readily at hand – the ballot box.

In this case the callers were concerned that Trump, via executive orders, would simply turn himself into a monarch and us into “subjects” and be free to rule however his mind took him.  In their view, Caligula would be remembered as a Boy Scout by comparison to the legal and moral depravity to quickly follow. Long time readers know I’m opposed to Executive Orders philosophically and believe it is a stretch to see them as valid.  Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has ruled they are valid if they are supported by the Constitution (somewhat circular in reasoning) or from a clause authorizing such power (duh), or from a law passed by Congress authorizing it. I just don’t think that executive orders are ever specifically allowed AT ALL under the wording of the Constitution but that’s an argument for a different post.

Sometimes an EO can squeak by because it reflects the desires of congress which does not have the fortitude to actually make a law to that effect and prefers to let the President take the heat for it so they do not challenge it.  But I can see no way that even a friendly court would see an executive order that directly disobeyed one a Supreme Court ruling as being acceptable.  And to think no one would challenge an EO that let Trump remain in office after his term limits or after losing an election has not been paying attention to the current political climate.

Both callers (it was like déjà vu on the phone) were thinking about leaving the country if he lost the upcoming election and refused to step down and, further, was allowed to do so by the legislature and courts.  That is where we parted agreements.  As I noted above, I don’t believe the other branches of government would sit idling by for it. The callers also felt that sooner or later an empowered Trump would send “the troops” after dissenters like any tried and true dictator from Hitler to Mao.  The problem is that even the “good ol’ boys” who support him would, I believe, balk at a rogue president sending federal troops to corral dissident citizens.  One reason is that it would force a conflict they could not abide; the first order of business of any newly minted dictator has historically been to remove all weapons from the hands of the citizens so they cannot fight back.  That would have to come first but when it did, now he would be treading on sacred redneck ground.  They would see that as a clear betrayal.  Progressives would be in the unenviable position of supporting the confiscation of guns generally, but, embarrassingly having to admit the 2nd Amendment may have been right all along in ensuring a defense against a government spun out of control.  How could they argue guns should be removed from citizens but, wait a minute, at the same time deal with the ugly reality that they might be needed to hold off the evil Trump empire?  Worse, the poor progressives would have to rely on their unwashed enemies, whom they despise, those poor souls clinging to their guns and God, i.e. the deplorables as Hillary called them, to protect them from the troglodyte  knuckle draggers of Trump’s loyal forces out to take first their weapons and then their freedoms.

I do agree that if it happened it would be a grim state in which to find oneself embroiled.  But this is my country.  I have answered its call once, I will do so again if need be to save it from a would-be despot.  America is unique in that we have this long tradition of citizen-soldier; and while that cadre willing to fight instead of run to hide somewhere may be shrinking, what remains is pretty well armed.  It has historically been so well armed that decrypted transmission showed the Japanese high command contemplated an invasion of U.S. soil to distract us from the Pacific but was dissuaded by people who had studied in the U.S. convincing them that Americans were not constitutionally able to accept invasion or occupation, would fight to the death over it, and were well enough armed to make the attempt costly in the extreme.  I want to believe that attitude has not yet died out and we are not all cowards that would run from the fight. If I am wrong about that, then morally, we have already ceded our country and our rights to the dark side and all that remains is making it official.

When Caesar brought his legions across the Rubicon River toward Rome in contradiction to both policy and tradition, the Roman Senate was in a dire straight since the other legions were away on other fronts and neither the citizenry nor even the Praetorian guards were in anyway prepared to take on Caesar’s  battle-hardened troops.  But I also do not believe the U.S. military would support an attempted coup and would, instead, be on the side of the defenders of the Constitution trying to save their rights and their homes.  Given the speed of modern military deployments, military leaders still loyal to the oaths they swore could bring the troops home very quickly once word of any impending overreach leaked out – and I think it would leak quickly.  And since he has already irritated much of military command by refusing to listen to their counsel, I do not think they would be disposed to capitulate in an overthrow of the country’s laws and practices.  They have, after all, now seen several of their highly thought-of comrades called on to serve in some role and then thrown under the bus, so they would have no doubt of their own fate should any such attempt be made.

Finally, I think Trump himself would think better of it.  Oh, I have no doubt he wishes to be monarch; when he was running the first time I noted that it appeared he was running for the crown not the presidency.  But he would have to know that in the end, perhaps after a very ugly bit of civil carnage, he would lose and then be remembered as the only president to try to overthrow the constitution.  I do not think he wants that as his legacy.

So, in the end, no, I’m not afraid.  I’m concerned and hope against hope that the Democrats find and field a winning candidate with policies I could get behind (however last night’s debate from Las Vegas made that seem like more and more a forlorn hope).  But there is still some little time.  But assuming, given the weak field against him, Trump wins re-election, I do not think he would see that (at least privately to himself, as a green light, to declare himself our de facto Emperor.  Someone in his circle would surely remind him of the fate of Caesar who tried the same thing.

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Posted by on February 20, 2020 in Uncategorized


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A Binary World is Only for the Simple Minded

I completely understand how, for the simple minded, life would be so much easier to grasp and deal with if every ethical, philosophical, or political issue truly existed in an “either-or” world.  But the idea that “if you are not for us you must be against us” is a stupid, simplistic, and intellectually poverty-stricken concept.  Nevertheless it seems to be the one perspective at play in the press and in social media these days.

Perhaps it really does speak of a complete failure of insight for those whose input of data comes only from sources singing with their own particular choir.  Perhaps it reveals a concession to intellectual laziness that is endemic to our increasingly entitled and brain-numbed society.  But from wherever it stems, it is a failure that has led us to near complete governmental dysfunction and gridlock at one of the most dangerous and vulnerable times in our history.  And it has created a world of intellectual retardation that, if allowed to continue, can lead us only backwards into a devolution of spirit and knowledge that will make the Hobbesian prophesy of a life that is “Nasty, brutish, and short” seem like a vacation in paradise.

This “with us or against us” perspective pretty much eliminates the inclusion of anyone with more than a few brain cells to rub together and it is an outlook honed and polished by the simple expedients of demonizing all whose philosophies that are not sung about in the hymnals of a particular choir.  Surrounding oneself only with “like minded” people is a sure prescription for a narrowing of view and a constraint upon incoming information that might be accurate but tends to remove one from the safe comfort zone of their own myopia.

Sincerity of belief does not, and never has been, an indicator of reality any more than a localized or even broad consensus of opinion.  Human history is riddled with sincerely held but now discredited beliefs in virtually all areas of inquiry from philosophy to hard science that fell because one person, usually vilified and persecuted at the time, had the intellectual honesty and personal courage to say, basically, “I don’t think that is right…”

And yet, at universities, the places allegedly dedicated to the acquisition of knowledge and broadening of intellect and intellectual pursuits, we are seeing a frightening closure of minds.  From political correctness run amuck to what appears like a primal terror of opposing ideas and ideals, students and faculty collude to shut down even the option of hearing ideas contrary to their own.  No longer satisfied simply to not show up and hope the speaker found themselves speaking to rows of empty seats, out of control students now bully faculty and administrations into prohibiting the speech in the first place.

If the loyalists in the late 18th century on this continent had adopted those behaviors we would still be a colony of Great Britain.  There can be few things more in conflict with the American ideals than the prohibition of the free flow of ideas including those with which we disagree.

That was a problem we addressed back when it was accepted that ideas and philosophies about how a people would govern themselves were complex and derived from an incredible diversity of resources from ancient literature and the Bible to the (then) modern debates between the intellectual giants such as Locke and Black and Rousseau and Godwin.

But the crowd whose memes and tropes I now read on Facebook would be incapable of grasping the nuances of those towering essays and their internal complexities because none of them were easily reduceable to one-liners, demonizing labels, or bumper sticker philosophies.  They are blithely unaware of the fact that by grasping at simple and single concepts stemming from both sides of those great debates that ultimately found their way into what we now loosely refer to as Liberal and Conservative perspectives, we now would make those past thinkers on all sides of the discussions stunned at our collective ignorance of what they were all about.  I think they would all be ashamed of the poor quality of the progeny, both intellectually and educationally, that followed them, in other words… us.

Because we no longer grasp the nuances and subtleties of the underlying concepts we claim to follow and, worse, cannot see past the cherry-picked sub-concepts we decided, for our own preferences and needs, were the ones to be adhered to and accepted as our own gospels, we no longer have the intellectual ammunition to be able to see areas of overlap with other concepts from which compromise can be found.  If you only know the letters “A” and “Z” then any inclusion of something such as “L” or “M” is not even possible.

r intellectual myopia has blinded us to the forest of ideas than can be harvested for personal and culture growth and we see only the trees, and worse yet, only those trees that fit with our preferences independent of any connection to reality or the larger impact of those selected views on the broader culture of our own society, much less those of others.

While social media is increasingly filled with voices terrified of counter ideas, for my part I am terrified of that crowd seeking to shut down debate and the free expression of ideas, even those I despise.  This is self-righteous book burning that does not even allow the book to be created before its ideas are vilified and its authors run out or locked out of town lest their scurrilous ideas contaminate our precious little ears.

When I was young we knew that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”  Today we have grown so fragile of insight and psyches, and so vulnerable to words that we deem some of them harmful in and of themselves and seek to shelter ourselves from even hearing them.

We should stand ashamed of ourselves for our moral and intellectual cowardice.  We should stand ashamed of how we have dumbed down education and basic parenting to foist a generation of thin-skinned, entitled, victimized, intellectual cowards on this world.  And, especially for the so-called educators who have joined in on this embrace of a binary world view when if any group should know better it is that credentialed, self-benighted crowd, their well-deserved shame should put them on their knees in a collective revival of their forgotten calling to expand the minds of their students instead of narrowing them down to where they can see only the world as the Prof sees it.

Teaching critical thinking does NOT mean teaching students they should learn to see the world as the professor does.  It means giving them the tools to see the broader collection of influences having an impact on THEIR world and then formulate their own conclusions as to what collection of concepts they wish to assemble to make it work for them.

But that revival of intellectual courage and moral honesty is not likely to happen anytime soon.  Adams wrote that a republic for of government could last only so long as the citizenry shared an ethical moral code.  We’ve not just lost that code, in a successful effort to remove consequences from behaviors we have thrown it away.   I think we are seeing his sad prophesy coming to fruition.  And the rallying call of the destructive force is being broadcast in post after post on social media for all to see.


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Posted by on February 24, 2018 in Uncategorized


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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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Be Careful What You Ask For 

I never knew so much vilification could be rained down on one living man before, but wow, Donald Trump will surely have some sort of “most hated” title to go down in history.  Vlad The Impaler, Ghengis Khan, Tamerlane, Attila, Lorenzo D’Medici, Torquemada, Ivan the Terrible, these were all pikers compared to Trump.  Hitler was a Boy Scout and Stalin was a choir boy by comparison.  Wow, c’mon now, get a grip… he isn’t even in office yet.

What is equally fascinating is the litany of brutal social media posts all seeming to encourage and push him and his new administration toward a galaxy class failure.  Well, as many know I did not support and did not vote for the man but… but … regardless of your fondest desires, boys and girls, he is the next president.  You have tried every ploy in the book now even cooking up sordid allegations but you know what?  It doesn’t matter.  By the rules of the game he won fair and square.  The bizarre attempt to get the entire electoral college to go rogue failed miserably.  Accept it, he is the next President.

So why are you all clamoring for him to fail?  Remember when Obama was elected (I didn’t vote for him either) how you were all exercised about the idiots hoping for his failure?  You were right, they were idiots; like or loathe the president we are in this, as citizens, together and the president’s failure is our failure as well.  So why is it now OK to hope for Trump’s failure?

Let’s stipulate, for purposes of this discussion, that all of the terrible things said about him are true.  It doesn’t change a thing and isn’t going to, despite all of the last minute shenanigans.  Good guy, bad guy, idiot, or savant, he enters a world about which there is little disagreement among close international observers as to how dire it really is.  Consider this:

We live in a world at a time where geopolitically it is more dangerous than at any time since the Soviet Union failed.  ISIS is now a full-fledged Army with the avowed goal of wiping out the west and all infidels and apostates and ushering in a new world Caliphate.  We push them out of one city only to watch helplessly while they take over another.  Iran has the avowed goal of destroying the Jewish State and, while they are at it, the “Great Satan,” which is us.  They even have been busy with their new uranium from the Russians (bought with our hostage money), creating plans for a HEMP (High altitude Electro-Magnetic Pulse) explosion that would fry our grids (plural) and most of the electronic devices across the U.S.  (However the same result could be achieved by taking out under a score of selected transmission sites manually by conventional explosives and operatives on the ground.)  Then while we quickly descend into chaos killing and eating each other in the dark their sponsored terrorists can make short work of us in the name of Allah.  China is taking over the South China Seas even creating new islands and militarizing them while working hard at building a huge modern navy ignoring UN complaints.  North Korea is boasting ballistic missile capability and a desire to fire one at us and laughing at the UN.  And Russia itself under a leader who seems to want to be the next Peter The Great is expanding into neighboring states and thumbing its nose at world complaints.

Economically, chaos is also just over the horizon.  The Chinese currency has been accepted into the basket of currencies for the IMF’s “special drawing rights” as reserve currency for international trade in furtherance of a goal to devalue the dollar already weakened with unrestrained printing.  If the dollar’s value drops sufficiently then those holding debt from us will want repayment and maybe NOT in dollars.  China is already divesting of dollars in trade for gold   And speaking of the debt, at now almost $20 Trillion (it doubled in the last administration) it would take over $168,000.00 from each taxpayer in the country to repay it.  How likely do you think that is?  Really?

In any case, to pay taxes we must have jobs to create taxpayers.  The government loves to point out that fewer people are filing for unemployment.  Who cares?  That is not the real measure; it just tells us few people are applying.  The REAL measure of employment is the Bureau of Labor Statistics on “Labor Participation Rates” that show we have a lower percentage of people who can work and want to work but are employed than at any time since the 1970s.  We have increased the number of people below the poverty level and massively increased the number of food stamps.

Of course the planet is warming up.  Given where we are statistically between glacial periods some scientists ask why isn’t it warmer?  Given precession and wobble of the earth’s orbit we are prey to the sun and its storms which have historically warmed us up dramatically.  Indeed by sheer luck and a few hours of planetary travel through space we barely missed a solar storm that would have engulfed us just recently (making a HEMP explosion seem like a firecracker). But what are we doing?  We’re wasting time arguing about whether the warming is completely natural or completely human caused and who does or does not believe either side.  We will have lots of time to debate that, what we have very little time for (if the worst case predictions come true which is always the safe course to follow ) is preparing for the results if the sea levels do rise dramatically.  As far as I’ve read, only Boston is taking preparations that will channel the water if it rises and even if not will create an attractive feature along a modified waterfront.  California?  Nope.  They’re still arguing over tidal generators and desalinization displacing a few fish along the shore and how to keep water from the farmers in the Central Valley in order to save the Delta Smelt and Snail Darters.  Meantime true believers keep pointing so an alleged consensus of scientists (as if a consensus in science has EVER been an indicator of reality throughout history) that is largely irrelevant especially as other concerns present a far more existential threat to the country in the short term.

Despite the delusion of the left, Trump is walking into a left over and developing quagmire that could well be beyond ANYONE’S ability to fix.  If he fails, especially if he fails on several of those fronts, this country will be in deep trouble, and could perhaps become a true 3rd world country overnight if the power goes down.  So, given all of that, what level of idiocy does it take to root for him to fail?  What special kind of stupid is required to want to see him unable to stabilize any of those issues much less all of them?  What manner of historical, sociological, political, economical, philosophical ignorance is needed to think that if he fails the result of that failure will be better for us and the country than if somehow, even magically, he succeeds?

Whether you hate him or love him, whether you think his is spawn of the devil or a saving angel, whether you think his is any or all of the scurrilous labels that have been applied to him in the time since the election, you sure as Hell better hope he succeeds as president in getting this country back on its feet and strong again. Given the world we are facing I’m not sure any living human could succeed in saving us over the next few years, much less Trump.  But I am hoping against hope that I am wrong.

I wrote back in the mid-1990s that I believed that by the elections of 2012 we had not turned this country back from its current course we would have passed the point of no return on the slide into our eventual downfall, ready to turn the reins over to the next super power, God Help us, because I thought it would be China.  But that was before ISIS found the vacuum it needed to grow into the threat it has become.

However, we did not make that course correction by 2012.  I do not know but that it might be too late or whether, even if we make it now, we can escape the same fate as all the other great civilizations; and for exactly the same reasons.  So whatever I may believe about Trump’s competence or personality or psychology or intellect, I have no option but to hope he can pull it off, succeed as president and get this country back on track.

Obama said, in his farewell address, there is no greater title than Citizen of the U.S.  I happen to agree with that statement.  And I think our duty, as citizens, is to put the animosity of the election behind us and try to work together at least civilly to help our new president succeed.  That means we have to remind him when we think he is off track, but it also means we have to support him when he actually seems to be making things improve.  And we must learn to do both in a respectful manner likely to appeal to those we seek to persuade rather than simply drive the wedges between us deeper.

No one individual is either all good or all bad, and certainly that is also true of any collective or humans including political parties.  If we cannot objectively see the bad things our guy is doing and work to correct it, but also see the good thing their guy is doing and work to help support it, then we  do not deserve the title of Citizen.

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Posted by on January 12, 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”———–


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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Voicing the Modernly Unthinkable

Followers of my blog and writing know that I am a huge fan of the private intelligence company, “Stratfor.”  That they are so often right on when even the resources of a governmental intellligence agency fail to deliver functional results is because their clients — international corporations — need to know the truth in order to operate in an increasingly complex world.  Privately CEOs may support one political philosophy or another, but when it comes to business… it is all business.  Only a grasp of the geopolitical realities of the world in which they operate gives them a good shot at the revenue they seek.

Let the politicos duke it out over positions left, right, and in between.  They are all based on theories of how the world OUGHT to operate but rarely on observations of how it actually works.  And at the moment it does not take a deep covert spook to know that the world is in chaos.  Divides of ideology, faith, economics, philosophies, are turning ever larger areas of the planet into bloodbaths.  The promised peace and understanding of the information age  have failed to materialize like the hoped for Arab Spring.

But is there a root?  The often rancorous discord between scientists and social observers about underlying causes brings them to the point of a shooting war itself.  But somethings seem to have become accepted as completely out of bounds.  Our own leaders cannot bring themselves to accept that Islamic Extremist Terrorists even exist… they are now  labeled “armed insurgents.”  And no view bumping into the idea that there are some cultural roots of the discord are allowed, especially in academia where diversity and cultural tolerance are so evolved into an evangelical faith as to bump often into craven cowardice.

THat can work for politicians and sycophantic partisans.  but it cannot work for those whose businesses depend on trying to get to the truth.  And into that fray, marches Stratfor with a typically blunt, no-nonsense inquiry into causality not just correlations.  Reprinted with their kind permission below is such an essay.  It does not pretend to answers.  But answers will never flow from a denial of problems and issues.  Just as you cannot defeat an enemy you will not identify, you cannot solve problems you cannot identify.  Here is an essay asking hard, uncomfortable questions.  But they are questions with which we had better get comfortable.


Mind the Gap

JANUARY 28, 2015 | 09:00 GMT

By Jay Ogilvy

The Charlie Hebdo attack and its aftermath in the streets and in the press tempt one to dust off Samuel Huntington‘s 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Despite the criticisms he provoked with that book and his earlier 1993 article in Foreign Affairs, recent events would seem to be proving him prescient.

Or was he?

While I am not about to deny the importance of religion and culture as drivers of geopolitical dynamics, I will argue that, more important than the clashes among the great civilizations, there is a clash within each of the great civilizations. This is the clash between those who have “made it” (in a sense yet to be defined) and those who have been “left behind” — a phrase that is rich with ironic resonance.

Before I make my argument, I warn that the point I’m trying to make is fairly subtle. So, in the interest of clarity, let me lay out what I’m not saying before I make that point. I am not saying that Islam as a whole is somehow retrograde. I am not agreeing with author Sam Harris’ October 2014 remark on “Real Time with Bill Maher” that “Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas.” Nor am I saying that all religions are somehow equal, or that culture is unimportant. The essays in the book Culture Matters, which Huntington helped edit, argue that different cultures have different comparative advantages when it comes to economic competitiveness. These essays build on the foundation laid down by Max Weber’s 1905 work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. It is only the “sulfuric odor of race,” as Harvard historian David Landes writes on the first page of the first essay in Culture Matters, that has kept scholars from exploring the under-researched linkages between culture and economic performance.

Making It in the Modern World

The issue of the comparative advantages or disadvantages of different cultures is complicated and getting more so because with modernity and globalization, our lives are getting more complicated. We are all in each other’s faces today in a way that was simply not the case in earlier centuries. Whether through travel or telecommunications or increasingly ubiquitous and inexpensive media, each and every one of us is more aware of the cultural other than in times past. This is obvious. What is not so obvious are the social and psychological consequences of the inevitable comparisons this awareness invites us to make: How are we measuring up, as individuals and as civilizations?

In the modern world, the development of the individual human, which is tied in part to culture, has become more and more important. If you think of a single human life as a kind of footrace — as if the developmental path from infancy to maturity were spanning a certain distance — then progress over the last several millennia has moved out the goal posts of maturity. It simply takes longer to learn the skills it takes to “make it” as an adult. Surely there were skills our Stone Age ancestors had to acquire that we moderns lack, but they did not have to file income taxes or shop for insurance. Postmodern thinkers have critiqued the idea of progress and perhaps we do need a concept that is forgivingly pluralistic. Still, there have been indisputable improvements in many basic measures of human progress. This is borne out by improved demographic statistics such as birth weight, height and longevity, as well as declining poverty and illiteracy. To put it very simply, we humans have come a long way.

But these historic achievements have come at a price. It is not simple for individuals to master this elaborate structure we call modern civilization with its buildings and institutions and culture and history and science and law. A child can’t do it. Babies born into this world are biologically very similar to babies born 10,000 years ago; biological evolution is simply too slow and cannot equip us to manage this structure. And childhood has gotten ever longer. “Neoteny” is the technical term for the prolongation of the period during which an offspring remains dependent on its parent. In some species, such as fish or spiders, newborns can fend for themselves immediately. In other species — ducks, deer, dogs and cats — the young remain dependent on their mothers for a period of weeks. In humans, the period of dependency extends for years. And as the generations and centuries pass, especially recently, that period of dependency keeps getting longer.

As French historian Philippe Aries informed us in Centuries of Childhood, “in medieval society, the idea of childhood did not exist.” Prior to modernity, young people were adults in miniature, trying to fit in wherever they could. But then childhood got invented. Child labor laws kept children out of the factories and truancy laws kept them in public schools. For a recent example of the statutory extension of childhood known as neoteny, consider U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement that he intends to make community college available for free to any high school graduate, thus extending studenthood by two years.

The care and feeding and training of your average human cub have become far greater than the single season that bear cubs require. And it seems to be getting ever longer as more 20-somethings and even 30-somethings find it cheaper to live with mom and dad, whether or not they are enrolled in school or college. The curriculum required to flourish as an adult seems to be getting ever longer, the goal posts of meaningful maturity ever further away from the “starting line,” which has not moved. Our biology has not changed at anywhere near the rate of our history. And this growing gap between infancy and modern maturity is true for every civilization, not just Islamic civilization.

The picture gets complicated, though, because the vexed history of the relationships among the world’s great civilizations leaves little doubt about different levels of development along any number of different scales of achievement. Christian democracies have outperformed the economies and cultures of the rest of the world. Is this an accident? Or is there something in the cultural software of the West that renders it better able to serve the needs of its people than does the cultural software called Islam?

Those Left Behind

Clearly there is a feeling among many in the Islamic world that they, as a civilization, have been “left behind” by history. Consider this passage from Snow, the novel by Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk:

“We’re poor and insignificant,” said Fazul, with a strange fury in his voice. “Our wretched lives have no place in human history. One day all of us living now in Kars will be dead and gone. No one will remember us; no one will care what happened to us. We’ll spend the rest of our days arguing about what sort of scarf women should wrap around their heads, and no one will care in the slightest because we’re eaten up by our own petty, idiotic quarrels. When I see so many people around me leading such stupid lives and then vanishing without a trace, an anger runs through me…”

Earlier I mentioned the ironic resonance of this phrase, “left behind.” I think of two other recent uses: first, the education reform legislation in the United States known as the No Child Left Behind Act; the second, the best-selling series of 13 novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in which true believers are taken up by the Rapture while the sinners are “left behind.” In both of these uses, it is clearly a bad thing to be left behind.

This growing divide between those who have made it and those who are being left behind is happening globally, in each of the great civilizations, not just Islam. To quote my fellow Stratfor columnist, Ian Morris, from just last week:

Culture is something we can change in response to circumstances rather than waiting, as other animals must, for our genes to evolve under the pressures of natural selection. As a result, though we are still basically the same animals that we were when we invented agriculture at the end of the ice age, our societies have evolved faster and faster and will continue to do so at an ever-increasing rate in the 21st century.

And because the fundamental dynamics of this divide are rooted in the mismatch between the pace of change of biological evolution on the one hand (very slow) and historical or technological change on the other (ever faster), it is hard to see how this gap can be closed. We don’t want to stop progress, and yet the more progress we make, the further out the goal posts of modern maturity recede and the more significant culture becomes.

There is a link between the “left behind” phenomenon and the rise of the ultra-right in Europe. As the number of unemployed, disaffected, hopeless youth grows, so also does the appeal of extremist rhetoric — to both sides. On the Muslim side, more talk from the Islamic State about slaying the infidels. On the ultra-right, more talk about Islamic extremists. Like a crowded restaurant, the louder the voices get, the louder the voices get.

I use this expression, those who have “made it,” because the gap in question is not simply between the rich and the poor. Accomplished intellectuals such as Pamuk feel it as well. The writer Pankaj Mishra, born in Uttar Pradesh, India, in 1969, is another rising star from the East who writes about the dilemma of Asian intellectuals, the Hobson’s choice they face between recoiling into the embrace of their ancient cultures or adopting Western ways precisely to gain the strength to resist the West. This is their paradox: Either accept the Trojan horse of Western culture to master its “secrets” — technology, organization, bureaucracy and the power that accrues to a nation-state — or accept the role of underpaid extras in a movie, a very partial “universal” history, that stars the West. In my next column, I’ll explore more of Mishra’s insights from several of his books.

Read more: Mind the Gap | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook


It is interesting in how it echos some of the warnings I’ve written about simply by reading the Qu’ran and applying its dictates to the modern world.  As the Turkish writer agonized over his people focussing their energies on arguing over the proper head scarf while all of that talent and intellect was running toward the ash heap of history, we are no better.  We make philosophical minutia into earth-shattering importance and create a great political divide that accomplishes nothing except to take our collective eyes off of the real issues in the world.

I do not think the appraisals of history written in another hundred years ill be kind to us.

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Posted by on January 29, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Moral Conundrum: Good versus Greater Good

Increasingly, especially now with the flap over the report on CIA activities, I am seeing posts by individuals living a life I used to envy.  Safe and secure in a land of freedom purchased by a nearly died-out breed of men and women who valued our land and ideals so much they were willing to risk and sometimes give their lives to protect and maintain it, these beneficiaries of the bravery of others sat back in homes, the lowliest of which would be a palace to multitudes in that messy, sometimes ugly, often brutal world “over there” somewhere.  They dreamed of a world where all peoples of all creeds and all colors and all ancestry played nice in the global sandbox together simply because it was the right thing to do.  Limited by intellects that often could not keep up with their education they fancied, ignoring the lessons we should have learned back in the Carter Administration’s geopolitical fantasies, that if WE just were nice to them the rest of the world would be nice to us and soon to each other.

I must agree it is a pleasing vision and confess I wish it were true.  But my own experience of it taught me clearly and painfully (both figuratively and literally) that it is not.  Back in the halcyon days of college and callow youth coupled with shallow pleasures I went through my own academic fantasy land emerging thinking, because it was the song of the choir du jour, that the rest of the world simply wanted what we wanted: that being to raise their families in peace and harmony and maybe be able to buy that new cow or car next year.

It was a shock to my entire system to come face to face with people who did not want what we wanted or had, who did not give a tinker’s damn about whether we were nice or not but only wanted one thing from us… that we be gone from the face of the earth and out of their way so they could establish the world order their sacred text promised them.   And as true believers they were willing to commit any deed, no matter how shocking or heinous it might seem to us, in order to achieve that goal because all would be forgiven if they were successful to what, in their eyes, was the greater good.

As a warrior culture they saw kindness and concession as weakness and an indication of their own strength and rightness of purpose.  Meantime we here in the lap of comparative luxury and soft living (abject depravity and decadence to them) were increasingly populated by terminally ignorant people who equated, morally and ethically, depriving someone of sleep with depriving them of their life.  They saw no distinction in their world view between making someone THINK they were going to drown to scare them into divulging information and sawing the head off of a captive with a hunting knife.  They conflated embarrassment from immodesty with live dismemberment.  They believed in the moral equivalency of hacking a prisoner to death with making someone put up with a cell where the lights were never turned off and loud hip hopmusic was played constantly.  (I might have to agree about the hip hop music…)

Don’t misunderstand me.  Torture per se is never “good” (and there are certainly various definitions about which we might argue). But then neither is killing. Nevertheless the real world contains grim unfortunate moments when good and bad are relative and balanced on a a razor;s edge against awful but mutually exclusive options where one good must be measured against another to see which is greater. Most people have mercifully never in their lives had to encounter such moments.  I think that is something for which they should be endlessly thankful and I do not begrudge them that lack of experience; indeed I’m a little jealous.  Sometimes ignorance is indeed bliss.  But it can also be incredibly dangerous.   However,  that safety and blessed innocence does not give rise to their standing to criticize those who have.  And when gut wrenching decisions are placed in the hands of political partisans of either side, only one thing is certain… the real truth is unlikely to be revealed.

Bottom line for me – just for me – is, would I condone us ever chopping off body parts or doing real damage to someone to gain information?  I would like to think not…  but if that person knew where my buried alive child was and did not want to tell me though time and oxygen were running out, I might have a different reaction.  I would not pretend to know how I would respond to a situation where extracted information from one person who saw no problem committing atrocities on their enemies might save hundreds of innocent people.  I’d like to think I would hew to the high road but sometimes it is not that easy or clear; sometimes there is a balancing act between good and greater good, between bad and greater bad that cannot be avoided except through willful blindness and terminal ignorance.  And before you are willing to cast your stone at one side or another in that discussion, I suggest you keep that stone in your pocket until you too have had to face such a moment.  I’m not talking about facing it vicariously through voting or lobbying for someone ELSE to have to decide or do the “wet work” for you, I mean you personally faced with the most horrid of choices based on the most compelling but competing of needs.

Then and then only, however, are you qualified to judge others who, facing precisely that, have made a decision in either direction.

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Posted by on December 10, 2014 in Uncategorized


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