Category Archives: Geopolitical News

Posts about interesting news, with links and brief excerpts.

What are the big questions that 2014 might answer?

Summary:  December brings forth a crop of retrospective analysis about the past year and confident forecasts about the next. The FM website has posted almost daily doses of the former, and I lack the confidence to do the latter. Instead let’s ask about questions. What issues might dominate 2014, and influence the years beyond? Finding the right questions can help us open our minds to the unexpected, and perhaps even prepare for it. Post your questions in the comments.

Question Mark #1

“Uncertainty … is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales.”
— From the introduction to A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (1945)

Questions

  1. Effects of the taper?
  2. Results from Abenomics?
  3. The War on Terror?
  4. The global warming campaign?
  5. For More Information

(1)  The taper

What effect will normalizing monetary policy (slowing QE3 being the first step) have on the economy? Will it slow the economy? Will it depress asset prices? Will it boost interest rates, perhaps ruinously? If it ends badly, will it decrease public confidence in the Federal Reserve, perhaps in economists?

Also, how strong are the deflationary forces at work? Inflation has fallen during QE3, despite credit and GDP growth, with little change in the value of the US dollar. That’s an anomaly (much of my forecasting success comes from attention to anomalies ignored by the consensus). What happens to inflation as QE3 ends? Do we get the widely predicted inflationary hangover, or lapse into deflation?

Click here to see posts about the taper.

(2)  Abenomics

There were to be three arrows:

  • double the money supply in two years,
  • boost the fiscal stimulus (borrow and spend even more),
  • structural reform.

So far the government has fired the first two arrows, but not the third and most important one. The arrows were to produce:

  • increased real wages,
  • increased inflation (specifically, core inflation; not just increased cost of imports) with flattish interest rates,
  • increased volume of exports (using the lower value of the Yen to gain market share, not just increase profits),
  • a more efficient Japan (from the combination of faster growth, more investment, and reform).

The results to date are zero out of four. Wages are falling; real wages are falling even faster. Import prices are rising, but not other prices. Export volumes are not up strongly (+4.4% YoY in October). Reforms so far remain only talk.

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Justice still lives. It’s found a new home – in Europe.

Summary:  The European Court of Human Rights shows America that the love of justice still lives there, finding Macedonia guilty of the crime of cooperating with CIA crimes.  Slowly what was a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14) sinks into the mud.  Slowly our global leadership erodes, leaving just another military power (funded by loans from Japan and China).

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A Lady Justice for the 21st C. By Zhack-Isfaction at DeviantArt.

Content

  1. Summary of the case
  2. The Court’s ruling
  3. America responds: secrets trump justice
  4. More about this episode of our history
  5. For More Information about justice in America

This is another in a series of posts about the death of justice in America.  Links to the others appear at the end.

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(1)  Summary of the case

From “Torturing the Wrong Man“, Amy Davidson,
The New Yorker, 13 December 2012

A judgment issued on Thursday by the European Court of Human Rights contains an account of the treatment of a man who, after some detective work by a foreign police force, was handed over to the CIA as suspected member of Al Qaeda …

Why would someone with such dangerous connections be released? What about the information he might have that could unravel some devious plot?

The answer is simple: after a couple of months, the C.I.A. figured out that they had picked up not a shadowy terrorist but a car salesman from Bavaria who happened to have a similar name. Even then, they kept him prisoner for several weeks while trying to figure out their next move. There is now no dispute that this was a case of simple mistaken identity.

(2)  The ruling

Excerpt from a Decision by the European Court of Human Rights, 13 December 2012:

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Question time on the FM website. Post your questions and answers!

Summary: It’s time again for question time — “ask the mineshaft”. In the comments post your questions about geopolitics. And post your answers to other people’s questions.  This is a community exercise, from the German “Gemeinschaft” (see Wikipedia).

Contents

  1. How do open source projects & businesses fare in the Boydian world of competition, rate of change, etc?
  2. Why was the consulate in Benghazi attacked?
  3. What’s the status of peak oil?
  4. Will the Israel-Gaza situation escalate?
  5. If one could “rally” the American people to address any one issue in the US, which would be the most pressing?
  6. What can Nietzsche tell us about America?
  7. Why did cell phones go dead after Hurricane Sandy?
  8. More about a solar flare’s effect on the US power grid.
  9. Brilliant question: E puribus unum was our unofficial motto until Congress adopted In God we trust in 1956. Does this show a shift of our attitudes towards both the rest of the world, and ourselves?
  10. ______

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Understanding our political system: the how-to guide by its builders

Summary: Rarely does the news media run an article about our history that explains much about today’s America. Here’s the exception, from The New Yorker, about the origins of political consulting — and the formation of our current political system.  It was built by people who understand our weaknesses. We must understand it before planning reforms, and strengthen our minds in order to succeed.

The Founders, from The New Yorker, 9/24/2012

Excerpt from “The Lie Factory – How politics became a business” by Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, 24 September 2012.  These are just snippets from the exhaustively researched, well-written, and timely article (the quality of article that built The New Yorker’s reputation).

The opening section describes Upton Sinclair, the Democratic Party’s candidate for Governor of California in 1934, running on the slogan EPIC: “End Poverty in California”. Afterwards he wrote I, Candidate for Governor, and How I Got Licked.

In it, Sinclair described how, immediately after the Democratic Convention, the Los Angeles Times began running on its front page a box with an Upton Sinclair quotation in it, a practice that the paper continued, every day, for six weeks, until the opening of the polls. “Reading these boxes day after day,” Sinclair wrote, “I made up my mind that the election was lost.”

Sinclair got licked, he said, because the opposition ran what he called a Lie Factory. “I was told they had a dozen men searching the libraries and reading every word I had ever published.” They’d find lines he’d written, speeches of fictional characters in novels, and stick them in the paper, as if Sinclair had said them. “They had a staff of political chemists at work, preparing poisons to be let loose in the California atmosphere on every one of a hundred mornings.”

Actually, they had, at the time, a staff of only two, and the company wasn’t called the Lie Factory. It was called Campaigns, Inc …  the first political-consulting firm in the history of the world, founded in 1933 by Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter.

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At the Tampa Convention Right & Left display our great illness: Tribalism

Summary: Today we have another weekend discussion post. It’s a summary of primary theme driving my posts, the new tribalism of the American people. It probably makes impossible reform of our society and salvage of the Second Republic. I have no idea how to do more than describe it.  Please post your thoughts about this in the comments, especially about its origins and possible cures.

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The self-righteous debunking by the Left of the Right’s lies at Tampa display no love of truth. Instead they are another futile volley of words in the vain battles that characterize our post-fact society. These factual rebuttals, however accurate or well-delivered, change no minds on the Right, whose members are indoctrinated to ignore input from impure sources.

We see the exact same dynamic at work in the climate change propaganda campaigns.   Here the Left displays the same contempt for fact — ripping research findings out of context, exaggerating their magnitude and certainty, and tribalism (good climate scientists sound the alarms,  evil scientist are skeptical or have alternative theories).  Here the Right gains a feeling of superiority citing facts and authorities to which the Left remains blind.

Like all religious wars, both sides bask in their moral superiority — and rejoice in the ignorance and evil of their opponents.

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Two vital lessons from the election so far, about lies and force

Summary:  This campaign season has, as they should, taught us much about the condition of the Republic’s most vital political processes.  We should have learned that the Republic is dying.  Watch your TV and smell the rot.  Our leaders lie — big lies — and are willing to casually use overwhelming force to suppress protests. What will we learn in the remaining two months? We can re-take control, if we can muster the will to do so.

Sam Adams, 21 January 1776

Sam Adams, 21 January 1776

Wonderful is the effect of impudent & persevering lying. The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, and what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves.
— Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William S. Smith, written from Paris on 13 November 1787

Contents

  1. Romney’s willingness to exaggerate, misrepresent, and lie
  2. Significance of the use of armed force at the Occupy Protests and Party Conventions
  3. For more information about the campaign, propaganda, fixing America

These are not partisan issues. No matter how pleasing the rhetoric, don’t accept lies from politicians you support. And our history shows that major public events in America need not be locked down by heavily armed troops (no matter if called police, SWAT, or national guard) like those in some tin-pot fascist state.  These things happen only because we allow them to happen. Speak out! Each of us is potentially a force for change.

(1)  Romney’s willingness to exaggerate, misrepresent, and lie

Among the froth of condemnation, few mention this is merely this is the logical growth of a long-standing trend. Going back at least to May 1960, with Eisenhower’s lies about the U-2 shot down over the Soviet Union.  Since then the lies have grown in size and frequency, from the Tonkin Gulf incident to Iraq’s nukes to the big lie of Afghanistan. Each success showing our weakness, encouraging further weakness.

A strong, proud people would not tolerate leaders who treated them with such contempt. Now our leaders have looked at this history and made a discovery of the kind that changes the destiny of nations.  Our leaders (both left and right) have discovered that they can routinely lie to us.  Not just without consequence, but their supporters will uncritically believe almost everything. Lie after lie after lie.

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Today we ask the mineshaft: Is the Right winning or losing in America?

Summary:  Today we ask about the future of the GOP, and America.  Are they ascendant, or a list gasp of a dying ideology?  We ask the mineshaft!  As in “ask the community”, from the German “Gemeinschaft” (see Wikipedia).  Post your answer in the comments.

To help you better understand the world, the FM website takes clear positions on current events — and sometimes makes bold predictions about the future.  The results appear in the Past Predictions (wins) and Smackdowns pages.  Here we discuss a prediction about a vital question, asking if my prediction so far looks accurate or wrong.

The GOP ran a disastrous campaign in 2008.  Two days before the election I outlined two paths the GOP might take after defeat.

  1. Door #1:  Purge the Party’s membership, keeping only the faithful
  2. Door #2:  reflection and rebuilding

I cited a large body of GOP defectors predicting the GOP would take door #1, leading to its doom.  Other posts (see below) explored the likely consequences.

The GOP did take door #1, with the rise of the Tea Party, purging of moderates (ie, center-right), and radicalizing of its platform — to the point of madness, a large-scale disconnect from reality seen by its leaders, pundits, and candidates. It’s visible almost each day in the headlines.

But instead of collapse, they gained power in the 2010 elections. Since then trends in both Congress and the Courts suggest a movement ascendant — not in decline.  Polls show America even split between the two parties, an unusual degree of balance between them.

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