Category Archives: Geopolitical News

Posts about interesting news, with links and brief excerpts.

Updates to past posts, and an open thread to post comments and questions about gepolitics

Summary: Today we have updates to past posts, interesting recent news about important themes.  Also, please use this as an open thread to comment and ask questions about geopolitics.

By Drew Friedman, New York Observer, 21 August 2012

Contents

  1. More news of the robot revolution
  2. The rumor-mongers were wrong (again) about US carriers attacking Iran
  3. Ayn Rand back in the news!
  4. The rumors were wrong. Prince Bandar is alive!

All of these stories are about observation, learning, and adapting. Things we used to do so well, but appear to have forgotten.

(1)  More news of the robot revolution

During the past two years the FM website has run many posts about the robot revolution, the next wave of automation in manufacturing and especially services. Better vision, mechanical skills, sensors, ability to interact with humans, and what sci-fi author James Blish called “semi-intelligence” = another structural shift in unemployment.

Slowly it comes into view of the general public: “Skilled Work, Without the Worker“, New York Times, 18 August 2012 — Excerpt:

This is the future. A new wave of robots, far more adept than those now commonly used by automakers and other heavy manufacturers, are replacing workers around the world in both manufacturing and distribution. Factories like the one here in the Netherlands are a striking counterpoint to those used by Apple and other consumer electronics giants, which employ hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers.

… The falling costs and growing sophistication of robots have touched off a renewed debate among economists and technologists over how quickly jobs will be lost. This year, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made the case for a rapid transformation. “The pace and scale of this encroachment into human skills is relatively recent and has profound economic implications,” they wrote in their book, “Race Against the Machine.”

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Whatever You Do, Don’t Read This Book!

Summary:  On rare occasions a book arrives that’s both important and timely. Mike Lofgren’s new book, “The Party is Over”, is both. Here Winslow Wheeler explains why you should read this book.  Or, for your peace of mind, you shouldn’t read this book. As citizens, understanding the peril of the Republic creates the obligation to act.

The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats became useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted
by Mike Lofgren.
Review by Winslow Wheeler, reposted with permission.

Contents

  1. A review of The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy…
  2. An excerpt & other reviews about the book
  3. About Mike Lofgren
  4. About Winslow Wheeler
  5. Other works by and about Mike S. Lofgren
  6. For More Information about American Politics

(1)  Book Review by Winslow Wheeler

I recently finish reading my friend and colleague Mike Lofgren’s book, The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats became useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted.

The Democrats like to talk about this book because it will confirm what they want you to believe about the Republicans. But the Democrats also hope you will take their word for what’s in the book and not read it. It contains an important chapter about their own party being just as sold out to the Banksters and Big Money as the Republicans — but also so feckless as to comprise, as Lofgren describes them, just half a political party. Your reading the book would be bad news for the Democrats.

The Republicans are happy the Democrats are making noise about this book; that way they can claim it is just a left wing screed. The Republicans especially don’t want you to read any bio of Lofgren (find one here) because that will explain that Lofgren is no lefty, and if you understand that, you might get interested to read what this conservative voice of conscience has to say. That would be bad news for the Republicans.

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Wisdom in the raw: best of the comments from the FM website

Summary: Intense bare-knuckle discussions of important topics brings out the occasional burst of raw wisdom. Here we harvest those from the comments section of the FM website. Please post in the comments your favorites and your reactions.

By Walt Kelly, for the first Earth Day in 1971

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Pogo: one of America’s greatest philosophers explains the challenge for our time
  3. How to reply to scientists that disagree with you about climate change
  4. Why do conservatives call Obama “Fearless Leader”?
  5. One of the best attacks on Obama
  6. The key to the reform of America
  7. Some best of thread winners
  8. See the future of comments on the FM website!

(1) Introduction

The FM website has 23 thousand comments, and they show its evolution. We started with the goal of presenting information and analysis about technical aspects of geopolitics: our wars, 4GW, history, military theory, and economics.  We believed that this would help people better understand the world, and the comment section would provide readers an opportunity to discuss things on the edge of the known — the borders of our data, theory — and differing values. We were naive.

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The significance for America of Romney’s choice of Ryan as VP

Summary: Let’s consider the significance of VP Paul Ryan.  My conclusion: it makes little difference.  In our system the key decisions were made during the primaries, especially during the earliest months — when few paid attention.

This is America in the 21st century, irony ascendant.  Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee — the House being the senior chamber on money bills — with his primary distinction being his inability to craft a plan that adds up. Or remotely matches GOP priorities, or any rational sense of national priorities.

In this respect Ryan matches his running mate, whose economic proposals are ruining the reputations of the experts who signed them.

The saddest aspect of this pair of charlatans is that they’ll be treated as serious statesman — obsequiously so — by the legion of journalist-stenographers who will dog their footsteps until November.

No, that’s wrong.  The saddest aspect of this is that it marks the second time the GOP has nominated a team woefully unqualified for the Presidency. The elderly crank and his Alaskan fruitcake VP.  And now the innumeracy twins. All living proof that our political system broke years ago, and we didn’t notice.

But half of America will love them, applauding their every word. Just as the Democrats will applaud Mr. Hope And Change, despite that he broke most of his 2008 campaign pledges — and their hearts. It’s all about tribes today.  Who we are (or pretend to be), rather than policies.

Now for the good news:

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Remember the old days, when the GOP and Dems advocated different policies? No longer, since the conservatives won.

Summary:  The evolution from the America-that-once-was to the New America so far occurs without much notice. But it’s apparent if we step back and see the discontinuities in our politics, which foreshadow greater changes to come. Today we look at one such, the Democrats adopting GOP views. The inspiration for this post came from the comment thread to this post.

A new language always reflects a new point of view, and the gradual, unconscious popularization of new words, or of old words used in new ways, is a sure sign of a profound change in people’s articulation of the world. When bishops, a generation after Hobbes’s death, almost naturally spoke the language of the state of nature, contract and rights, it was clear that he had defeated the ecclesiastical authorities, who were no longer able to understand themselves as they once had.

It was henceforward inevitable that the modern archbishops of Canterbury would have no more in common with the ancient ones than does the second Elizabeth with the first.
— From Part Two, Chapter 1 of The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom (1987)

The deepest possible evidence that the Right is winning in America: the Left adopts their reasoning and beliefs. That’s the long-term significance of Obama Administration. They have …

  • expanded the WOT to more nations (eg, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan),
  • greatly expanded the government’s secrecy program, by executive action in effect legislating an Official Secrets Act (except for self-promotional leaks by senior officials),
  • continued an expanded the war on Iran in alliance with Israel (now with assassinations, sabatoge, and sanctions),
  • adopted an economic policy centered on supporting banks (eg, bailouts, protection from regulation),
  • adopted fiscal policy focused on cutting taxes (with some small increases) and cutting spending (eg, advocacy of the Simpson-Bowles recommendations, described by the LA Times as a guide to cutting services for the middle class while protecting the interests of the wealthy).
  • largely adopted the Republican’s health care vision, developed by conservative think-tanks (eg, Heritage), implemented by GOP standard-bearer Romney, applauded by GOP leaders (eg, Newt),
  • please list other examples in the comments

So far the parties differ mostly on social policy — loud disputes usually put only lightly into policy by either side. But that too will change.

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Assassination of an important Saudi Prince! By Syria. Or Iran. Or both. Or it might be a fake story.

Summary:  This news story might be important. Or fake. Either way, it illustrates hidden dynamics in the Middle East and provides a useful lesson — how the Internet can help us sift through the morass of information to find the useful gems of information.

“When I was sixteen, I went to work for a newspaper in Hong Kong. It was a rag, but the editor taught me one important lesson. The key to a great story is not who, or what, or when, but why.”
— Elliot Carver, in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Contents

See the updates to this mystery in the comments!

  1. Setting the stage
  2. The timeline of stories
  3. Tentative conclusions
  4. Updates to the story (also posted in comments)
  5. Tips for reading the news for information
  6. For more information

(1)  Setting the stage

(a)  Useful backgrounder on Prince Bandar: “The Prince and the Revolution“, Simon Henderson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), Foreign Policy, 24 July 2012 — “Saudi Arabia is bringing back its most talented operator to manage the Arab Spring. But can Bandar stem the rot in Riyadh?” Note Bandar’s biographer is William Simpson, not “Sampson”.

(b)  What might have been a key overlooked note: “Saudi Prince Bandar: a flamboyant, hawkish spy chief“, Reuters, 20 July 2012:

“He’s just the right person for the right time in Saudi. They have a more hawkish foreign policy and he’s the leading hawk of the House of Saud,” said David Ottaway, Bandar’s biographer and a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. The United States’ closest Arab ally is a firm supporter of the Syrian rebels now battling in Damascus to oust President Bashar al-Assad and is mending fences with Washington after a disagreement over last year’s Arab uprisings.

“Bandar is quite aggressive, not at all like a typical cautious Saudi diplomat. If the aim is to bring Bashar down quick and fast, he will have a free hand to do what he thinks necessary. He likes to receive an order and implement it as he sees fit,” said Jamal Khashoggi, an influential Saudi commentator.

(c)  Blast rocks Saudi Arabia intelligence headquarters“, Kurdpress News, 22 July 2012 — Iranian news media also reported this (Press TV, Fars News).

“Riyadh- Reports from Saudi Arabia said that a Sunday explosion rattled the country’s intelligence headquarters in Riyadh.Reporting from Saudi Arabia, the Yemeni al-Fajr news website said the deputy head of the Saudi’s intelligence service has been killed in the blast.The website side Mashaal al-Qarni, deputy of Bandar bin Sultan, the head of the secret service, has been killed in the blast.

(2)  The timeline of stories

None of these are reliable sources, except the Times of Israel (their story is straight reporting).  But they tell interesting stories, and sometimes they’re right.

(a) Syria reportedly eliminated Bandar bin Sultan in retaliation for Damascus bombing“, Voltaire Network, 29 July 2012 —

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What does Greenpeace’s “Shell” hoax tell us about America?

Summary: Small events act as valuable “tells”, showing us how America has changed. They give us evidence, allowing us to benchmark ourselves vs. our forefathers. Today we look at Greenpeace’s hoax about Shell, a demonstration of how skilled experts conduct politics in 21st America. Let’s not waste time condemning Left and Right for using methods that work so well. Rather let’s change so that they no longer work so well.

More:  Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper:  I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More:  And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, the laws all being flat?  … Do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?  I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
— From A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt — This applies just as well to truth as the law (analogy by Abi Sutherland)

Contents

  1. About the hoax by Greenpeace
  2. Some reactions to the hoax
  3. Lessons learned from the hoax
  4. Historical precedents
  5. For more information

(1)  About the hoax by Greenpeace

Here’s the video that went viral:

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(2)  Some reactions to the hoax

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