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Question time on the FM website – chapter 16

17 December 2011

Ask any question about geopolitics, broadly defined. We — and others reading the FM website — will attempt to answer it in the comments.   All answers welcomed!

  • Please use the REPLY button when replying to a previous comment, to keep threads together.

Questions received so far

Click on the link to go directly to that thread.

  1. Do you think the Mexico civil war described in Fred’s article will spread north of the border?
  2. Comment
  3. Comment
  4. Discussion about Jefferson’s letter (one of his most interesting and badly quoted)
  5. What’s your take on Dmitry Orlov’s take on European and United States collapse post peak oil?
  6. More about Orlov.
  7. What if Mexico or Columbia legalized drugs?  Would this reduce the drug wars?
  8. Interesting comment and question about the “Occupy” movement.
  9. Comment about OWS.
  10. Did the Iraq war have anything to do with the “Arab Spring”?
  11. A candidate for the “Dumbest Article of the Week”

To start the discussion:  articles of interest this week

  1. The Myth of the Middle“, Mark Schmitt, Democracy (a journal of ideas), Winter 2012 — “Why we should be skeptical about the current mania for a third party that appeals to independents and libertarians.” Review of The Declaration of Independents By Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch
  2. “Deference To The Generals Be Damned”, National Journal, 17 December 2011 — “Republican presidential candidates searching for a way to criticize President Obama’s handling of national security have settled on a simple formulation: The commander in chief, they charge, doesn’t listen to his generals. … Republicans in Congress are pushing the Pentagon to do things it would rather not do.”
  3. The Exodus Begins {from Mexico}“, Fred Reed, 15 December 2011 — “Mexico is being wrecked in what amounts to an out-sourced American civil war. … Ignorance has consequences.”
  4. Looking back at conservatives predictions in 2009 that we’d have high inflation in 2010 or 2011: “Inflation Predictions“, Paul Krugman, New York Times, 15 December 2011 — Often wrong, but always confident in their faux economics!
  5. The assholocracy“, Geoffrey K. Pullum (Prof of general linguistics, U of Edinburgh.), Language Log, 13 December 2011 — About our ruling elites.
  6. Junkyard Gives Up Secret Accounts of Massacre in Iraq“, New York Times, 14 December 2011 — “One by one, the Marines sat down, swore to tell the truth and began to give secret interviews discussing one of the most horrific episodes of America’s time in Iraq: the 2005 massacre by Marines of Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha. “
  7. What I Learned in 40 Years of Doing Intelligence Analysis for US Foreign Policymakers“, Martin Petersen (retired senior CIA Directorate of Intelligence officer), Studies in Intelligence, March 2011

Quote of the week

Excerpt from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to William S. Smith, from Paris, November 13 1787 (source), about the American Revolution.  People cite the last sentence, but it has a different sense read in context.

… And can history produce an instance of rebellion so honourably conducted?

I say nothing of it’s motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness.

God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13 states independent 11 years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?

Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. Pluto permalink
    17 December 2011 12:20 am

    The Fred article was very interesting. Do you think the civil war described in the article will spread north of the border? What little I’ve heard suggests not but that doesn’t seem reasonable to me. The Mexican cartels are highly competitive with each other and it seems reasonable for them to start striking at their opponent’s distribution networks here in the US.

    Your article from the Congressional Record was astonishing and depressing. It is truly amazing to see how far out of control the US military has gotten. I wonder if they’d turn against us if we didn’t pay them so well.

    Minor note, you’ve misspelled Paul Krugman’s name in the link.

    Like

  2. Greg Connolly permalink
    17 December 2011 4:09 am

    “Fred” …man, you got to love Fred. Been reading him since way back. Cutting, to-the-point, terrific exposes. Too much reality from Fred for most Americans, I think.

    “Huge numbers of Americans use drugs, most assuredly including people on Capitol Hill. Moralists and the Feds don’t want them to use drugs. Putting many millions of white users in Leavenworth would be politically awkward.”

    The naive insular nature of most of us is almost breathtaking. The world has changed drastically over the last 40-50 years and America has simply not bothered to take note !?

    “I have never understood their mixture of appalling ignorance, incuriosity (I say it’s a word), insularity, narcissistic nationalism, and otherworldly moralizing resting on platitudinous amorality. All elections are personality contests, all politics is domestic, and everything is done in bromides so that neither public nor pols have to know anything at all. Ignorance has consequences.”

    You continually surprise me with what you find and Offer Up, FM. Good one. Bravo in spite of all the disgusting outrageous stuff the Fred tells us to consider.

    Like

  3. Greg Connolly permalink
    17 December 2011 4:35 am

    “The Myth of the Middle“ Another good one…whew, almost too much reasoned writing and sanity for us in one Posting. Thnx.

    Like

  4. Matt D. permalink
    17 December 2011 5:09 am

    Thank you for the as always informative post, Fabius. Your quote of the day is misdirected, however– Thomas Jefferson was referring to Shays’ Rebellion, not the American Revolution.

    Just now reading about Shays’ Rebellion, I learned some interesting stuff that I didn’t remember from history class– like the fact that the whole conflict was over money scarcity and mass seizures of farms and property from indebted farmers, most of whom were war veterans. Also, observe Jefferson’s effortless, condescending elitism– the little peasants are clearly wrong, though charmingly so, in attempting to challenge the legitimacy of their lords.

    So perhaps this whole blood-sucking elites thing goes back farther than the 1970s. Funny thing is, the 1780’s were supposed to be the golden age of American democracy, what with founding fathers and all……

    Like

    • mike j permalink
      17 December 2011 5:44 am

      Matt-

      You have Jefferson wrong. He was a utopian and a radical, who believed if everyone was more like him, we would barely need a government at all. Hamilton was the condescending elitist, but very talented in economics. We are still living out their arguments. Hamilton is winning.

      Like

    • 17 December 2011 5:45 am

      mike j

      “who believed if everyone was more like him, we would barely need a government at all. Hamilton was the condescending elitist,”

      That aptly describes Jeffersion, but is IMO an example of “condescending elitist” thinking!

      Like

    • Pluto permalink
      17 December 2011 3:31 pm

      At first I had the same take as Matt but on further re-reading I realized this was a considerably deeper discussion. Let’s break this down and see where it leads us.

      The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.

      That’s a pretty good description of today’s situation in the US. People, in general, don’t understand their rights, their responsibilities, or the situation (back to our broken OODA loop), they feel powerless and lethargic.

      We have had 13 states independent 11 years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion?

      This is poor math and pure propaganda. First he should only be counting 1783 (the end of the rebellion against the British) to 1787 (when the letter was written). Furthermore he should either have 1 country or 13 countries, not inflating the success of the one country by multiplying it by 13 states. Finally, if he’d checked his history more carefully I’m sure that he’d find multiple examples of postage stamp-sized states going very long periods without rebellion.

      & what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?

      Here is the heart of Jefferson’s argument, if rulers are not afraid of the consequences of their actions towards their own people they will naturally, over time, tend towards more and more autocratic and punitive measures. There has been ample evidence of this since 9/11 and as the Constitution dies in our lethargic hearts the pace of autocratic changes has been escalating.

      Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two?

      A strange set of comments overall. I suspect that Jefferson was trying to communicate a considerably different set of ideas than we are receiving from his words. The key is probably the “pardon and pacify them” part which, in Jefferson’s day, probably didn’t include concentration and re-education camps.

      Jefferson also apparently believes that these ill-informed rebellions would be small and easily put down. This ignores the fact that the American Revolution took eight years and bankrupted the British government.

      Like

    • mike j permalink
      17 December 2011 10:02 pm

      FM-

      I thought the same when I wrote that, but after some reflection I can only agree to “elitist.” My understanding of Jefferson is that he really did believe that all people were more perfect-able, so he was not condescending.

      Pluto-

      The context of this letter is that Jefferson is in pre-revolution Paris, and its less than two months since the adoption of the Constitution. He is disconnected from events back home. References to the “13 states” should be understood as to how they existed under the Articles of Confederation.

      Jefferson is saying that rebellions are good things, and again this is something he really believes. In a nutshell, his message is: “Shay’s Rebellion is nothing to worry about. This is what free people do when they think they’re getting a raw deal. Its the price we must be willing to pay to not live like Olde Europe. So, if they’re wrong, we need to explain it better, and if they’re right, give them what they want so we can all get on with our lives.” Consider the very next sentence from the quoted letter:

      “Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusetts: and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen-yard in order.”

      Like

    • Matt D. permalink
      18 December 2011 2:41 am

      I think that what we see as Jefferson’s elitism can also be thought of as loyalty to the ideal of gentility. We can see from the way he talks that he still belongs to the older worldview that sees distinctions between classes as a natural enabler of social harmony, allowing the different parts of society to “mesh” and work together towards common goals, similar to the way that gears and other parts all fit together and help propel a machine. The role of the gentility in Jefferson’s world is to lead, care for, and even instruct the masses. He also obviously believes in an objective common good, that people can on either the right or the wrong side of.

      Nowadays we tend to think of rigid social distinctions as dividing society into warring factions with competing and irreconcilable interests. We have good reasons for thinking this way, but we usually forget that the founding fathers did not exactly share this view. Equality for them was equality among gentlemen. They generally would not have understood our modern expectation that either equality or possession of civic virtues can be spread universally.

      So while Jefferson sympathizes with the rebellious independent farmers, he knows where his loyalties lie.

      Like

  5. FireSideCollapse permalink
    17 December 2011 5:18 am

    I’m curious, what’s your take on Dmitry Orlov’s take on European and United States collapse post peak oil? From Energy Bulletin:

    “DO: The severity of collapse will depend on how quickly societies can scale down their energy use, curtail their reliance on industry, grow their own food, go back to manual methods of production for fulfilling their immediate needs, and so forth. It is to be expected that large cities and industrial centers will depopulate the fastest. On the other hand, remote, land-locked, rural areas will not have the local resources to reboot into a post-industrial mode. But there is hope for small-to-middling towns that are surrounded by arable land and have access to a waterway. To see what will be survivable, one needs to look at ancient and medieval settlement patterns, ignoring places that became overdeveloped during the industrial era. Those are the places to move to, to ride out the coming events.”

    Like

    • 17 December 2011 5:26 am

      It’s nice, as story telling goes. Suitable to tell children around a campfire.

      Why does anyone take such tales seriously? There is no supporting data, just somebody making stuff up. It’s sad that the Internet puts the wisdom of humanity at our fingertips, yet so many people choose instead to fill their minds with chaff.

      Like

  6. FireSideCollapse permalink
    17 December 2011 5:31 am

    Fabius, why do you ignore the die off the occurred during the collapse of the Soviet Union, a die off that proclaimed millions of soviet citizens lives?

    Dmitry Orlov witness this himself. You claimed he has no supporting data, but he’s perfect to create an comparison between societal collapses given he witnesses one himself.

    Like

    • 17 December 2011 6:46 am

      Firesidecollapse — Your comment is daft on too many levels to count. A few points here.

      (1) “why do you ignore the die off the occurred during the collapse of the Soviet Union”

      What is a “die off”? What mass death occured during the collapse of the USSR? Why is the USSR regime change relevant to peak oil?

      (2) “Dmitry Orlov witness this himself.”

      Millions witnessed WWI, the post-war flue, Stalin’s executions, WWII, Mao’s executions, the Khmer Rouge executions — to name just a few of the mass deaths in the past century. Shall we ask them about peak oil?

      Witnessing events gives no special insight to an observer, who often knows less than experts who have gathered broader data and have the capacity to analyze it. And certainly it gives no special insight to the analysis of unrelated social and economic phenomena.

      (3) “You claimed he has no supporting data, but he’s perfect to create an comparison between societal collapses given he witnesses one himself.”

      I don’t know what you are attempting to say. Perhaps you mean he can state specific observations, and state a logical basis why they apply to a different situation. That’s true, but it’s not what Orlov does. He makes stuff up. Stories for the guilable.

      (4) Peak oil will be a complex phenomenon, the nature of which we can only speculate about, since it can take a VERY wide range of forms. Only quantitative analysis can give us useful forecasts, such as in Hersh’s Mitigations report:

      Watching people die gives someone the ability to guess about that in the same manner as at it gives one the ability to write about quantum mechanics.

      Like

    • 17 December 2011 2:44 pm

      One observes that although the world outside is not aware of it, there is a whole pundit genre in the Russosphere that makes a living writing fanciful tracts on the coming collapse of America. Has done so for decades. Orlov, whose Russian experiences was as a child and later a tourist, appears to channel them to a great degree.

      Like

    • Whirlwind permalink
      17 December 2011 5:02 pm

      Fabius what do you feel the consquences of peak oil will be?

      Like

    • 17 December 2011 5:22 pm

      There is no one “peak oil” scenario. It might play out in a hundred different ways during the next two decades, as there are so many variables. New technology, rate of capital investment, rate of GDP growth — in addition to the geology (when peaking occurs, length of the following plateau, rate of decline afterwards).

      Most peak oil literature consists of absurdly confident guessing about these things to compose narratives pleasing to the author. In effect, novels about future history. Most are not worth reading, except as fun fiction.

      We could know more, but prefer not to. Give Robert Hirsch thirty million dollars to study the subject, and in three years we would have an analytical base on which to make intelligent public policy.

      For a brief intro to this see One of the top questions for our time: how will Peak Oil affect the economy?, 6 September 2011.

      For more info see the FM Reference Page about Peak Oil.

      Like

    • Whirlwind permalink
      17 December 2011 5:52 pm

      And by die off I think FireSide means a significant decline of the global population to pre industrial levels because of peak oil and the collapse of industrial civilization required to maintain such population numbers.

      Like

    • 17 December 2011 9:41 pm

      “… by die off I think FireSide means a significant decline of the global population to pre industrial levels… ”

      Obviously that’s not what FireSide means by die off, as in this sentence from his comment: “why do you ignore the die off that occurred during the collapse of the Soviet Union…”

      Like

    • david jones permalink
      17 December 2011 9:54 pm

      I think Orlov has some good points to make, I wouldn’t throw it all out in one heap.

      One of them is that the USSR was this great powerful empire, but with a hopelessly broken economic system, and thus, hopelessly broke. The warning signs were there for decades. But the vast majority, like my grandparents, ignored them. There was this huge ‘suspension of disbelief’ mental effect going on. When the economic collapse hit it was nasty, the immediate aftermath was a strange mix of corrupt mafia capitalism, anarchy, and surviving soviet institutions rolling along out of their own size and inertia. After some years, the countries of the USSR recovered. Orlov tells the story well and I think it’s worth reading.

      Again, one of the take-home messages is how everyone was so shocked by the end of the USSR and what followed, even though they shouldn’t have been.

      Orlov goes on to speculate as to how something similar could happen here, and if it did how everyone would be just as surprised, and finally, ways that Americans could replicate some of the more effective coping mechanisms that were discovered in the soviet experience. He advocates off-grid living and is extremely pessimistic about the USA’s long-term future, and a lot of his blog is more about that than the soviet experience part.

      Like

    • 17 December 2011 11:05 pm

      Your own statements show the flaws in Orlov’s essay.

      (1) “One of them is that the USSR was this great powerful empire, but with a hopelessly broken economic system”

      True, but a pedestrian insight. Does anyone not know this?

      (2) “The warning signs were there for decades. But the vast majority, like my grandparents, ignored them.”

      Ditto. But peak oil is exactly the opposite situation. There have been incessent warnings, esp since “The end of cheap oil“, by Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherrère. Scientific American, March 1998. It’s not a strong start for your case.

      (3) “Orlov goes on to speculate as to how something similar could happen here, and if it did how everyone would be just as surprised, and finally, ways that Americans could replicate some of the more effective coping mechanisms that were discovered in the soviet experience”

      He just makes stuff up, without even attempting to create a factual or logical foundation for his statements. Apparently his confidence impresses you, implying some validity to his wild speculation. Not so for me.

      Like

    • david jones permalink
      18 December 2011 2:59 pm

      (1) pedestrian for us here, not as much for citizens of the USSR at the time. I think the analogy here might be that with the financial sector growing huge, and developing a compulsive-gambler personality, our society isn’t as good at making economic decisions as it once was.

      (2) The USSR got screwed (in part) because oil became cheap, so it’s not the same, I think Orlov’s thesis is that the USSR relied on oil exports to cover up all it’s other deficiencies. When that market turned against them, the other weaknesses took over and finished off the empire in less than a decade. Our scenario is the reverse- we rely on cheap oil, but there is a mirror-image vulnerability.

      I personally don’t think our society is doing nearly what it should to deal with the likely scarcity, aka, expensiveness of oil. We are obviously trying hard to secure the remaining oil in the world, and developing technology to reach further underground and so forth. But what about funding fusion research? fission? solar? (china seems to be doing all the work here). Also there would have to be upgrades to the electricity grid to deal with increased use of intermittent power sources like wind/solar. The technology exists but it takes a long time and lots of investment. How about encouraging use of natural gas in cars and trucks? the rest of the world already does this. And in general, placing more value on light, energy efficient construction. Oh and rail.

      If anyone buys into the “peak oil” story, they can also respond individually and on a business level as well, by changing where you live and where your businesses are located to places that need less energy to live / operate. All long term stuff that’s easy to put off until later.

      (3) Not going to defend that stuff, it is speculation as you say. But I think if you believe in (1) and (2), you have a lot more motivation to speculate about the alternatives.

      Like

    • 18 December 2011 4:36 pm

      I don’t see how your remarks are a rational defense of Orlov’s work.

      (1) You misrepresent what I said.

      Jones: “One of them is that the USSR was this great powerful empire, but with a hopelessly broken economic system”

      FM: “True, but a pedestrian insight. Does anyone not know this?”

      Jones: “pedestrian for us here, not as much for citizens of the USSR at the time.”

      But it’s not an observation Orlov made during the collapse (“at the time”). It’s a pedestrian insight because made in Orlov’s current writings. It’s as if you claim he’s a prophet because he said the sun set yesterday.

      (2) “I think Orlov’s thesis is that the USSR relied on oil exports to cover up all it’s other deficiencies.”

      It’s not “Orlov’s theory”:. It’s consensus thinking, well over a decade old, familar to anyone reading The Economist or the New York Times. You might as well give Orlov credit for the Theory of Gravity.

      (3) Now we get to the key part of your defense for Orlov — there isn’t any.

      The rest of your comment is standard “peak oil” speculation, not distinctive to Orlov in any way. My theory is that doomsters cite Orlov as an authority because he gives a foreign (aka authoratative) name to their baseless views. Orlov’s actual content — data and logic — is immaterial to him, which is why they seldom mention it — and, like you, make little effort to defend it when called.

      I find this annoying. It’s a waste of our time. These are serious issues, and this kind of chaff does not help.

      Like

    • david jones permalink
      19 December 2011 1:41 pm

      > I find this annoying. It’s a waste of our time. These are serious issues, and this kind of chaff does not help.

      I’ll stop, but I think you’re still missing what I was trying to get at. I was not trying to convince anyone he is a genius, I was saying I find his point of view relevant today. There was a very deep denial going on during the end of communism that we ought to keep an eye open for here, now and in the coming years. Unlike him I’m not convinced that “collapse” of our empire is inevitable, but it is possible, for reasons of economic un-sustainability.

      Like

    • 19 December 2011 2:09 pm

      “think you’re still missing what I was trying to get at.”

      You comments were clear and well-expressed. I doubt anyone is “missing” your meaning. It’s the doomsterist viewpoint that is intellectual chaff, a waste of our time. Like Orlov’s, that you championed.

      “I was saying I find his point of view relevant today … that ‘collapse’ of our empire is is possible, for reasons of economic un-sustainability.”

      It’s relevant in the marginal sense that it’s always possible. Everywhere, always. Yellowstone might explode any day, a cold spell or drought might kill the crops, the debt that drives growth might spark collapse, water/soil/oil might run out, our public policies risk trade or military war, (since Rome) we may be exposed to harmful pollution, etc. We could sit around all day making a list.

      Yelling DOOM does not help. Worse yet it’s a distraction from managing these risks amidst our other critical tasks necessary for life. It’s the opposite of doing useful research on risks, allowing comparison among them so that rational policy measures can be taken.

      When called on their usually specious data and logic, doomsters (like yourself) resort to the I was just raising your awareness of the risks arguement. That’s not a valid defense, IMO. Not only does debunking arguements consume scarce resources (including time) that could be put to better use — but the repeated necessity of debunking false doomster theories deadens awareness of risk. Like the boy who cried “wolf”. When really serious dangers appear, the public may be less likely to listen to experts’ alarms — as they’ve “learned” that such warnings are always wrong.

      Like

  7. 17 December 2011 8:46 am

    Colombia’s President Santos is open to legalizing drugs: “Juan Manuel Santos: ‘It is time to think again about the war on drugs’“, Guardian, 12 November 2011 — “Colombia’s president speaks frankly of the price his country has paid and his success in dismantling the cartels”

    Would such a policy in Mexico limit the drug wars or is it the US which needs to implement this policy?

    Like

    • 17 December 2011 3:53 pm

      That’s an out-of-the-box and interesting scenario! The Latin drug exporting nations legalize drugs — switiching sides, from their current US alliance to de facto allies with the drug cartels (ie, providing a base from which they can operate). That would be a bold gamble. More likely to work if several Latin nations did so together.

      That would reduce their internal conflicts, but make them a target for US operations (both explicit and covert) to overthrown their governments. As so many nations have learned, the US has become good at this (as Iran is learning). On the other hand, as we move to a multi-polar world order there are nations (eg, China, Russia) willing to directly oppose such US efforts. Moving that struggle for global influence into the western hemisphere would have unpredictable effects.

      Like

  8. Pluto permalink
    17 December 2011 4:21 pm

    I’ve been thinking a little bit about the OWS movement and have come to some conclusions on which I’d like some feedback.

    Any number of commentators have been puzzled by the OWS movement and its goals and have predicted its failure. If my thoughts are correct, I suspect they may be wrong in multiple dimensions.

    The first and most important question about OWS is “what is its goal?” Most commentators believe it attempts to influence the government to act in a way that benefits its supporters and that its actions poorly support its goals.

    While it certainly could have started that way, I think it quickly morphed into something else, potentially much more powerful. I believe that the OWS movement is now about rejecting a government that is “of, by, and for the wealthy” and is about rallying supporters and resources while experimenting with establishing opposition governments.

    There was never any attempt to establish a unified set of demands and present them to the government. Instead they mostly spent their time and energy making sure that their members were safe and cared for. This the goal of local government, not a protest movement. A lot of the successes of the OWS, like the human microphone, left people feeling energized, empowered, and wanting more of what they had just experienced.

    Although I never visited my local OWS movement, I spoke with a number of people who did and they were in an almost religious ecstasy immediately after taking part and spoke quite strongly in its favor for weeks after even a single visit. I literally cannot imagine how the experience has rewired the brains of the people who were there day after day. But I can safely say that a lot of new connections were forged in the OWS camps that will have an impact for a long time.

    The locations chosen by the most successful local OWS movements were very central, accessible, and legal. This caught the media’s eye and they followed it obsessively day after day, which vastly increased its support and resources.

    The most successful OWS movements sought to accommodate the daily needs of the police while still achieving their goals. This made them very obviously NOT lawbreakers and increased the willingness of the police to let the camps continue to exist as long as possible.

    The protest season is over now that winter has arrived, at least in the northern cities. But I’m sure there are a great many discussions going on about what worked and what didn’t and planning for next year’s season. It wouldn’t surprise me if the OWS becomes more about ignoring the official government and taking care of the increasingly large number of American citizens who feel (justly or not) that they are no longer supported by the American government.

    “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” – Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence

    What happens when the governed peaceably remove their consent from the government?

    Like

    • 17 December 2011 6:32 pm

      When only the .1% rule it should be called the plutocracy. Generally “plutocracy” is loosely translated as “the rule of wealth”. Plutocracy is more appropriate than “aristocracy” (the self glorifying “rule of the best”). But, actually, “plutocracy” also means the rule of Pluto (also known as Hades, Satan, the Devil, and under its earlier Babylonian and Hindu versions). Thus plutocracy is not just the rule of wealth, but that of the Dark Side.

      Since time immemorial, reasonable civilizations have known of the exponential function: interest make wealth grow proportionally to its size. Thus, wealth, especially hyper wealth, needs to be taxed more, just to have society be static, and social inequalities not exploding. Otherwise hyper wealth concentrates, and the socio-economy implodes. Many civilizations have collapsed that way.

      This necessity of taxing wealth much more, has been violated recently, this is why we are being subjugated by plutocracy.

      Website: Some of thoughts of Patrice Ayme’s thoughts.

      Like

    • david jones permalink
      17 December 2011 9:22 pm

      I did visit the OWS in new york, in early October, and stopped by again a little over a week ago, but they were kicked out, the weather turned cold, and the park they were in was full of private security guards. Thought I’d share:

      What I saw in October was encouraging. The crowd seemed to me 70% very young (teens / early 20’s), the rest being an even mix of ages. I’m guessing there were around 2000-3000 people in the small park. Since some of the ground was taken up by tents, the rest of the space was a wall-to-wall people environment. Everyone was very positive and respectful, and there were signs (home-made signs, I saw almost zero mass-produced machine-printed signs like you see at some protest events). Some had very creative and funny and poigniant messages…

      Here’s the thing though. The number of people was tiny. I went to two protests against the Iraq war when it was starting in 2003 and 2004, and there were easily 10 times as many people, maybe 50 times as many – wall to wall people filling up an avenue for 10 blocks. Of course this was a one-day event. They had machine-printed signs too, so there was clearly at least some money behind it, which is both good and bad. Some presidential candidates came to speak. The main ones didn’t.

      Anyhow, the numbers could also be a “measure of success” for the OWS group- with a pretty small group of actual on-the-ground protesters, they are/were all over the media. The anti-war protests I went to in 2003 were largely ignored — they got a 30-second mention in the nightly news. The evening of the protest I met up with some uptown friends in NYC for drinks, less than 3 miles away, and they didn’t even know it was happening. So big improvement there for OWS.

      I think the message is obvious. Try to get more people to recognize the worsening inequality in our country. I also don’t think the protesters have the power to change anything at all. The protest culture in the US is totally pacifist, so even a crowd of 100,000 protesters wouldn’t really scare anyone- bringing out the riot gear for the much smaller OWS crowd was a foolish move on the part of the mayor/police. Made them seem bigger than they were. The exact same number of people walking around (drunk) at the end of a Puerto Rican Day parade in NYC, on the other hand, has the NYPD genuinely nervous- I’ve seen that a bunch of times too when I lived there. I don’t want to see a violent revolution but I’m pretty sure a non-violent attempt at a revolution isn’t going to change anything.

      I suppose the purpose of the OWS is to plant seeds in a lot of minds. Break down the common man’s faith in the system. If things get worse, perhaps they will sprout into something. I remember seeing a pretty fierce argument between two people holding signs about whether Obama is part of the problem or not. This gave me hope ;-)

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    • 18 December 2011 4:56 pm

      I believe the fantasizing and illogical analysis of the recent protest movements — the Tea Party and Occupy movements — shows why we are weak, one of the great themes on the FM website. We’ve lost the ability to clearly see the world. Instead we view an interior world, reality distorted by our hopes and dreams — the basis on which we act.

      (1) Misreading the past.

      Jefferson, in the Declaration: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

      Pluto: “What happens when the governed peaceably remove their consent from the government?”

      Jefferson was writing poetry (or, if you prefer, philosophy). It’s not a statement of political science. Most regimes now and in the past neither have nor require that kind of consent. They require the consent of sheep, a calculation of acceptence vs. the cost of rebellion.

      Only when sheep become men do governments need to even consider the importance of consent.

      (2) Refusual to see the power and intelligence of our ruling elites

      Jones: “The protest culture in the US is totally pacifist, so even a crowd of 100,000 protesters wouldn’t really scare anyone- bringing out the riot gear for the much smaller OWS crowd was a foolish move on the part of the mayor/police. Made them seem bigger than they were.”

      This is a commonplace analysis, explaining why the powerful and successful of our society are making silly mistakes. Much like the “stupid bankers” narrative, IMO it serves as a cognative mechanism to reduce people’s fears — fears resulting from the rational growth of our ruling elites power, and the resulting freedom with which they exercise that power over us.

      In fact the naked exercise of power in these movements — easily cooping the Tea Party, bruttally crushing the OWS — shows the transition from the first phase of the revolution (overturning the Second Republic) to the next.

      The first was done largely by political manuvering (buying candidates and election) and information operations (ie, funding think tanks and such to effect a long-term program of propaganda)

      The second phase takes place now, as people see the result of phase one. Phase two is the display of power, cowing opponents (and potential opponents) into a feeling of helplessness. It’s a consolidation of power, and shaping government institutions into a new form.

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  9. jonh permalink
    17 December 2011 11:54 pm

    Did the Iraq war have anything to do with the “Arab Spring”? I believe Chris Hitchens has said something in the affirmative to this affect.

    Like

    • 18 December 2011 12:05 am

      Who knows? It is not possible to determine such things. But we can ask questions to help us understand the situation.

      (1) What do the participants say? This is the most important evidence. Answer: they don’t mention the invasion of Iraq as inspiration or reason to act. Hence there is probably no connection.

      (2) Is there a logical connection? In this case, between a foreign infidel army invading to overthrow a ME regime — and a grassroots protest against local regimes.

      Our geopolitical experts assert a connection. But most of them are apologists for the US government, who would assert a commention between the sun rising and a US invasion if useful to justify US actions. They are tame dancing bears, entertaining to watch but poor sources of insight.

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  10. A candidate for the "Dumbest Article of the Week" permalink
    18 December 2011 5:31 pm

    “War Really Is Going Out Of Style”, by Joshua S. Goldstein and Steven Pinker (), New York Times, 18 December 2011 — Conclusion:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/opinion/sunday/war-really-is-going-out-of-style.html

    Why is war in decline? For one thing, it no longer pays.

    … The futility of conquest is part of the emergence of an international community regulated by norms and taboos and wielding more effective tools for managing conflicts. Among those tools, the United Nations’ 100,000 deployed peacekeepers have measurably improved the success of peace agreements in civil wars.

    War also declines as prosperity and trade rise. Historically, wealth came from land and conquest was profitable. Today, wealth comes from trade, and war only hurts. When leaders’ power depends on delivering economic growth, and when a country’s government becomes richer and stronger than its warlords, war loses its appeal.

    Perhaps the deepest cause of the waning of war is a growing repugnance toward institutionalized violence.

    Joshua S. Goldstein, professor emeritus of international relations at American University, is the author of “Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide.” Steven Pinker, a psychology professor at Harvard, is the author of “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.”

    Rebuttals:

    Reason #1: Yes, conventional war no longer pays. Esp as nukes (a word oddly missing from their article) made conventional war almost suicidal. Hence the evolution of war towards 4GW, which (so far at least) is far lower intensity.

    Reason #2: False. WWI in Europe followed a fantastic increase in prosperity and trade.

    Reason #3: Probably false. See the Congo (another word oddly missing from their analysis). More importantly, war has often been a cyclical phenomenon in human affairs. Compare 1790-1915 and 1914-1945 with the long peace of 1815-1914.

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