Independence Day Inspiration

Summary; Today we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, a a milestone on the march to American independence. But we should also remember that journey’s now almost lost beginning — events equally heroic but more relevant and inspirational to us today.

“We have spent the prime of our lives in procuring {for our children} the precious blessing of liberty. Let them spend theirs in shewing that it is the great parent of science and of virtue; and that a nation will be great in both, always in proportion as it is free. ”

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Willard, 24 March 1789.

Fireworks

We’re free, but how did we become so? Every successful round of political reform begins with people deciding to act and then organizing like minded people. In 1772 Samuel Adams and others decided to start the Committees of Correspondence, the first step on the road to independence. In 1785 Benjamin Franklin and others organized the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society. In 1887 William Wilberforce and others began a crusade to end the slave trade in British ships.

These programs took years, decades, or generations of struggle to win. We forget this by focusing on the moments of triumph and forgetting the years of struggle that produced them. Perhaps on Independence Day we should read the speeches that led to the Declaration. Like this by Thomas Paine, from the first of the 16 “The Crisis” pamphlets (23 December 1776).

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STRATFOR gives A New Way to Think About Mexican Organized Crime

Summary: Stratfor looks at events in our southern partner, whose dynamics we ignore but might have a decisive effect on 21st century America. Trade, crime, immigration — Mexico is a central player in all of these, yet we pay more attention to events in Yemen. It’s another example of our cloudy vision, a weakness that can negate even the greatest power.   {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“What nation poses the greatest threat to the sovereignty of the US?”
“Mexico.”
— Q&A following briefing by Martin van Creveld to a US intelligence agency. Twenty years ago they were incredulous. Now it seems more realistic.

Stratfor

A New Way to Think About Mexican Organized Crime

By Tristan Reed at Stratfor, 15 January 2015

Decentralized but more powerful

Since the emergence of the Guadalajara cartel in the 1980s as one of the country’s largest drug trafficking organizations, Mexican organized crime has continued to expand its reach up and down the global supply chains of illicit drugs.

Under the Guadalajara cartel and its contemporaries, such as the Gulf cartel, led by Juan Garcia Abrego, a relatively small number of crime bosses controlled Mexico’s terrestrial illicit supply chains. Crime bosses such as Miguel Angel “El Padrino” Felix Gallardo, the leader of the Guadalajara cartel, oversaw the bulk of the trafficking operations necessary to push drugs into the United States and received large portions of the revenue generated. By the same token, this facilitated law enforcement’s ability to disrupt entire supply chains with a single arrest. Such highly centralized structures ultimately proved unsustainable under consistent and aggressive law enforcement pressure. Thus, as Mexican organized crime has expanded its control over greater shares of the global drug trade, it has simultaneously become more decentralized, as exemplified by an increasing number of organizational splits.

Indeed, the arrest of Felix Gallardo in 1989 and of colleagues such as Rafael Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo a few years prior led to the breakdown of the Guadalajara cartel by 1990. Thanks to geographic factors, however, Mexican organized crime was destined to increasingly dominate the global illicit drug trade, soon even eclipsing the role Colombian drug traffickers played in supplying cocaine to the huge and highly lucrative retail markets in the United States.

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Martin van Creveld asks who will stop the Monster, the Islamic State?

Summary:  Today Martin van Creveld looks at the Islamic State. Are they ethnic militia unable to expand from their home zone, or a modern version of the Asiatic hordes? Who will stop them?  (1st of 2 posts today.}

Not how they see the Islamic State

 

The Monster

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 13 August 2014

Here with his generous permission

The monster — the Sunni militias which, equipped by the Saudis with the active backing of the U.S, have been waging civil war in Syria for over three years — has risen against its benefactors. Unable to make headway against Syrian dictator Basher Assad, they have turned to the much softer target that once constituted Iraq but is now, thanks to George Bush Jr, no more than an awful mess. Doing so, they shed any “secular” and “liberal” character they may once had possessed. Instead they revealed their true colors as murderous bandits who wage war with a ferocity rare even among Arabs.

Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and home to one of the world’s most important oil fields, has already fallen to them. As resistance seems to be crumbling, the capital, Baghdad, may well be next in line. Should that happen then the way to Basra and the Gulf countries in the south will be open. The outcome could well be another Afghanistan threatening to export terrorism, and perhaps more than just terrorism, both to the Gulf States in the south and to Jordan in the west — not to mention what may happen to the world’s economy should one of its main oil-exporting countries be knocked out.

And the West? Following more than a decade of warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, its armed forces are exhausted and urgently in need of recuperation. Many of them have also been made the subject of endless cuts. As a result, their strength has been reduced to a fraction of what it used to be even as recently as the early 2000s. For some of them, the American ones in particular, new threats are looming in other parts of the world such as Southeast Asia. Perhaps most important of all, the politicians responsible for the wars in question have been largely discredited. Their successors, with President Barak Obama at their head, may engage in loose talk about the need to use force, as German President Joachim Gauk recently did. However, as President Obama has said, they will not spend any considerable resources to intervene in the ongoing struggle.

Nor, in truth, is there any reason to believe that, if Obama did respond to Iraqi Government pleas and did spend such resources, the outcome would be at all satisfactory.

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Prepare for terror on the 4th of July!

Summary: Another holiday, another rumor of a terrorist attack. Here we examine today’s alarm, show why it’s probably baseless, and discuss the purpose these fear attacks serve.  It’s a fit subject for the 4th of July weekend, a time for us to compare the Founders’ hopes vs. what we’ve become.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.”
— Attributed to Aristotle.

No Fear

The partnership of al Qaeda and America’s Deep State has reshaped our society in ways we don’t fully understand and cannot clearly see — but has made us more fearful, perhaps cowardly. Since 9/11 we have had these holiday warnings (fortunately they’re getting less frequent, and getting less attention).

Meteorologist Anthony Watts runs Watts up with That, one of the largest climate websites (by audience) in the world. Today he posted “About the Fourth of July and ISIS – from a friend who is a police officer, and a ‘spook’“, opening with this from Jeff Greeson’s Facebook page (I can’t find it):

To everyone that reads my wall, ESPECIALLY in big cities: The freakout over the 4th of July is real. I get intelligence that you don’t get, and the FBI is serious this time. Go out and be an American, but keep a charged cellphone with you, and don’t let fear of being called a racist stop you from calling [in] something in that is suspicious. And for the sake of all that’s holy, if something makes your Spidey sense tingle, GET YOUR FAMILY AWAY FROM IT.

He points to this by pseudonymous “Nate Hale”, allegedly a “retired military intelligence officer” who posted a scary note at In From the Cold

Two days ago, former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morrell said there was “nothing routine” about warnings of possible ISIS attacks in the CONUS during the 4th of July weekend. At the time, we noted it was quite unusual for a former intelligence official to be so blunt in his assessment.  Mr. Morrell (who made the observation on CBS This Morning) went on to say that he “wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sitting her a week from today talking about an ISIS attack in the United States over the [July 4th] weekend.”

Now, we’re beginning to see why Morrell offered such a dire prediction.  Shepard Smith of Fox News reported last night the FBI is establishing special command centers in 56 cities around the country, to prepare for possible terrorist attacks during the holiday period.

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Why Japan can become an economic star of the 21st century

Summary:  Today we look at the future of Japan, and speculate at how well it will cope with the new industrial revolution. Their unique strengths (sometimes wrongly considered weaknesses) suggest that the 21st century might see the sun again rising over Japan. America too will face this challenge; we should watch and learn from Japan.   {1st of 2 posts today. It is a revised version of posts from 2013 and 2014}

Contents

  1. A falling population is a boon for Japan
  2. A new Industrial Revolution
  3. Japan: suited to be a star of the 21st Century
  4. For More Information

 

(1)  A falling population is a boon for Japan

Japan’s government has worried about its overpopulation since the Meiji Restoration when they had about 3 million people (1868). They encouraged emigration to Korea, to no effect. They had 50 million in 1910, 100 million in 1967, and a peak in 2008 at 128 million — all crowded into a narrow urban belt along the coast. At their current level of fertility, by 2100 their population might be half of today’s, back to the level of 1930.  If fertility continues to fall, population might fall to 60 million (1925) or even 50 million (1910).

The effect on Japan’s environment would be wonderful. Japan could become a garden with the cleaner technology of that future era (a common question in grade-school history will be “Teacher, what is ‘pollution’?”).

See this graph showing the coming evolution of the age distribution in Japan (source; see more information from their National Institute of Population and Social Security Research).

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Why is America militarizing, becoming a 21stC Prussia?

Summary: Like fish in water, we cannot easily see the trends shaping our world. Such as the militarization of America, both foreign and domestic. We’re becoming in some ways like Prussia, sad since Prussia/Germany proved that the time for such behavior has passed. It’s not too late for us to take the reins of the nation and change course.  This is a sequel to Why are we militarizing American society?   {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“Know thyself.” — Carved into Apollo’s Oracle of Delphi.

Know Thyself

After so many years of US wars in so many nations — mostly against purely local insurgencies — a question arises that requires an answer. It’s frequently asked by our most perceptive geopolitical analysts.

  1. Is America Addicted to War?” by Stephen M. Walt (Prof International Relations, Harvard), Foreign Policy, 4 April 2011 — “The top 5 reasons why we keep getting into foolish fights.”
  2. Is America Addicted to War?” by Paul Solman (journalist), PBS, 28 November 2011
  3. America: Addicted to War, Afraid of Peace” by Gregory A. Daddis (Colonel, US Army; Professor History at West Point), The National Interest, 11 June 2015 — “After decades of being at war, the United States has come to the point where it can’t live without it.”
  4. “Hi, I’m Uncle Sam and I’m a War-oholic” by William Astore (Lt. Colonel, USAF, retired) at TomDispatch, 15 June 2015.

It’s not just our fighting overseas — more frequent than by anyone else since WWII — or our massive military/intel spending (a multiple of the spending by all our potential enemies combined), but the way America conducts its affairs. Looking at this Franz-Stefan Gady (foreign policy analyst, East West Institute) asks “Is the United States the new Prussia?” at the Small Wars Journal.

In few other democratic countries in the world have more generals found places in administrations or indeed have become heads of states (one notable exception is Israel). Almost every four-star general in the United States sooner or later is presumed to have presidential aspirations. Interestingly, it is the presidents who were former generals who usually display the least confidence in the performance of the armed service, such as George Washington, Grant, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The military influence can be seen acutely in foreign policy. A report by the Advisory Committee on Transformational Diplomacy states…

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Happy Meals: now made with 20% less people!

Summary:  By now everybody sees that a new industrial revolution has begun, but few clearly see its dynamics. This post looks at one example: the debate about wages. Raise wages or lower them, it makes little difference compared to the new technology that does jobs both cheaper and better.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Minimum Wage Meme: False

 

Funny but false, showing a deep misunderstanding of how automation works…

 

Mike Konczal demolishes fantasies about a post-work world in his rebuttal to Derek Thompson’s article in The Atlantic (discussed here yesterday): “The Hard Work of Taking Apart Post-Work Fantasy” at the Roosevelt Institute. However, he believes several false elements of consensus thinking, such as this: “If wages are stagnant or even falling, what incentive is there to build the robots to replace those workers?

Economist Gregory Clark gives an example showing why that’s false in A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (2007)…

There was a type of employee at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution whose job and livelihood largely vanished in the early twentieth century. This was the horse. The population of working horses actually peaked in England long after the Industrial Revolution, in 1901, when 3.25 million were at work. Though they had been replaced by rail for long-distance haulage and by steam engines for driving machinery, they still plowed fields, hauled wagons and carriages short distances, pulled boats on the canals, toiled in the pits, and carried armies into battle.

But the arrival of the internal combustion engine in the late nineteenth century rapidly displaced these workers, so that by 1924 there were fewer than two million. There was always a wage at which all these horses could have remained employed. But that wage was so low that it did not pay for their feed.

Horses then, people now. New technology allows machines to do their jobs cheaper and better. McDonald’s shows how this works as they install kiosks allowing people to enter their own orders. They’re already used at “McDonalds in Switzerland“. In the US they’re being tested where “The McDonald’s of the future lets you customize your burgers“.

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