Category Archives: Other Issues

Posts on many other important geopolitical issues.

The advertising glut dooms the social media industry

Summary:  The internet is a mirror in which we can see important aspects of America. Businesses funded by speculation (greed) struggle to survive in an era of few opportunities and falling investment, while high technology and rising inequality reshape America. The social media stocks are in this maelstrom, as virtual advertising space grows faster than their audience and advertisers dollars. Publishers grow desperate, try ever more intrusive ads. Few will survive.

Bubble cloud

Contents

  1. The race for internet revenue.
  2. Speculation.
  3. Inequality.
  4. Analysis of the ad-supported internet.
  5. For More Information.
  6. Great books about bubbles.

(1)  The race for revenue on the internet

The evolution of the internet is best seen in terms of what pays for it: banner ads, then pop-up ads, then auto-run video ads, and now “integrating” the content with the advertisements (these tends often end by debasing the product). It is an evolution to increasingly intrusive ads, forcing people to either spend more of their time killing the ads — or installing ad blockers (which are in a Red Queen race with the developers of ad technology).

Don’t blame the managers of these companies. That’s as foolish as blaming airlines for the poor service that accompanies the cheap fares we demand. We don’t pay for most of the information and many of the services we get on the internet. As Andrew Lewis said: “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” So we have no grounds to complain.

The managers know the futility of this race they’re locked into, but they’re desperate.

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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 explains why our actions in the Syrian civil war will fail

Summary:  Today Martin van Creveld, one of our generation’s most acute geopolitical analysts, gives a brilliant brief on the Syrian civil war, putting it in the larger context of America’s mad Middle Eastern policy. I recommend reading, especially his conclusions.   (2nd of 2 posts today.}

“Any wise enemy is better than an ignorant friend.”
— Arab proverb.

Bashar al Assad. Photo by Reuters.

Bashar al Assad. Photo by Reuters.

For Whom the Bells Toll

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 11 June 2015

For Bashir Assad, the bells have been tolling. If one believes the media, he and the regime he represents are on their last legs. Whether or not that is true is not at issue here — similar predictions have been heard ever since civil war broke out in Syria four years ago. What I do want to do is take a look at the origins of the war, the way it has been going, and what the future may look like in case the predictions come true.

The decisive fact about the Assad — meaning, in Arabic, “Lion” — family is that they are Alawites. The Alawites are a section within the Sunni Shia tradition. They do not, however, form part of the mainstream. Some Islamic scholars do not even regard them as Muslims; claiming that they are basically pagans who worship the moon and the stars. The community is scattered among Syria, Turkey and Lebanon. It is, however, only in Syria that they form a significant minority, counting perhaps one seventh of the population. That explains why Bashir’s paternal grandfather, Ali Suleiman al Assad (1875-1963), supported French colonial rule. He and his fellow Alawites knew well enough how majority Muslims deal with minority ones.

Suleiman’s son Hafez made his career as an air force officer. In 1963 he took part in a coup that brought the Ba’ath, a party that professed a curious mixture of secularism, nationalism, and socialism, to power. In 1966 he co-authored another coup, this time one that took place inside the Ba’ath leadership; in 1970, following a third coup, he assumed power as a military dictator. He did not, however, do much to change the nature of the regime. The latter remained what it had been. An amalgam of secularism, nationalism, “Arab” socialism; and of course the kind of brutal police state which seems to be more or less the only kind most Arabs understand and can live under.

{Read the rest at Martin van Creveld’s website}

Update on 3 battles in the war for control of America: TPP, NSA, & police

Summary:  We’re in the endgame — the pursuit phase of battle — where the 1% employ the power gathered through years of careful planning and work. Hence the number of important conflicts splashing over the front pages. Much depends on their outcomes. I’ve predicted wins for the 1%, as their well-organized and funded political machine defeats our apathy. Here’s the action on 3 of these clashes as of today.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Crystal Ball

Contents

  1. The Trans Pacific Partnership.
  2. Our out-of-control police.
  3. Government surveillance of Americans.
  4. For More Information.

(1)  The Trans Pacific Partnership

Under the cloak of “free trade”, a large secret plan to screw us. Three weeks ago I forecast that it would pass. Today’s vote suggests that I might be wrong, as a bipartisan alliance in the House voted against Obama on a key step in the legislative dance. The vote among Democrats was 40-144 against, among Republicans 86-158 against.

House Democrats delivered a stinging defeat to President Obama’s trade agenda when a vast majority voted to derail legislation designed to help him advance a sweeping deal with 11 Pacific-rim nations.

The House voted 302 to 126 to sink a measure to grant financial aid to displaced workers, fracturing hopes at the White House that the package would smooth the path for Congress to approve a separate bill to grant Obama fast-track authority to complete an accord with 11 other Pacific Rim nations.

“I don’t think you ever nail anything down around here,” Obama told reporters on his way out of the Capitol. “It’s always moving.”

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Reforms are coming to America’s police, either with them or over them. Which?

Summary: For decades people have written about our unjust criminal justice system, dysfunctional in many ways from the arbitrary and unsupervised power of district attorneies down to our 3rd world-like prisons (e.g., overcrowding, run by gangs, with routine rape). However it worked sufficiently well for our elites to remain stable and repel criticisms. The people oppressed had little power and less legitimacy, so their complaints had no effect. Now the structure totters, undermined as technology washes away its foundation. Let’s hope we’ll get large reforms that produce a better system.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Contents

  1. DNA tests reveal kangaroo court justice.
  2. SWAT and militarization of police.
  3. Cameras plus YouTube = a revolution.
  4. The action results from the reaction.
  5. Opportunity knocks for the Left.
  6. For More Information.

(1) DNA tests reveal kangaroo court justice

The revolution produced by DNA testing tore the facade of justice off the system. The tiny Innocence Project has exonerated 325 prisoners so far, a microscopic fraction of those unjustly convicted now rotting in jail or tarred with a felony conviction. Worse, examination of their cases reveals their trials as travesties of justice: prosecutor misconduct, bungled laboratory forensics, perjured testimony, and pervasive witness misidentification.

For links to articles about these things see About the collapse of the American Criminal Justice System. Still, these were just inconsequential dots in the daily news flow.

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We worry about rule-breaking by the underclass, not the upper class

Summary: The daily press gives us lurid tales of the underclass breaking social norms, but seldom does so about the more serious lost professionalism that helps the upper class. Before we tinker with American society to reverse our rising inequality, we should understand the processes that created this problem. I believe we not only don’t understand the causes, we don’t even clearly see the deep changes in American society during the past few decades — during the Boomers’ years. This is another post about our poor vision of America.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Our Broken Society

Content

  1. Breaking social norms.
  2. Loss of professionalism.
  3. Rise of self-interest in other occupations.
  4. Conclusions.
  5. For More Information.

(1)  Breaking social norms

We talk a lot about underclass break society’s behavioral norms. In his 1986 book Beyond Entitlement Lawrence Mead (Prof Pol Sci, NY U) taught us to fear their increasingly “dysfunctional” behavior: criminality, drug use, promiscuity, out-of-wedlock births, excessive rates of divorce, etc. Sadly we seldom notice the breaking of norms occurring just as strongly in the upper classes — with greater effect on our social cohesion and level of inequality.

(2)  Loss of professionalism. Broken professions.

Like the word “gentleman”, the meaning of “professional” has eroded away to a bland sense of well-behaved. Managing conflicts of interests was a major factor distinguishing professionals from other trained people. For example, doctors, accountants, and attorneys balanced their clients’ interests vs. theirs as business people vs. those of society. Attorneys were expected to act as “officers of the court”. In an epidemic doctors were expected to place the public’s health above that of the patient’s and their own. Accountants were to maintain the integrity of the financial reporting system that guides the money flows of our society.

These standards were often honored in the breach — America was never Heaven — but during my lifetime they have collapsed. What’s happened in medicine and law clearly shows the problem and the result.

In the early 1980’s doctors realized they the controlled America’s health care checkbook, and could leap from affluent to wealth by “optimizing” their practice: bringing in-house diagnostic and out-patient services and then over-utilizing them, taking de facto bribes from drug and medical device companies, and in a hundred other ways. Conferences and articles gave step-by-step instructions, and their incomes rose — varying widely by specialty, skyrocketing for the most aggressive doctors (see this paper, and a later one).

Only slowly did the pushback arrive, the current push to disenfranchise them — turning decision-making over to the HMO’s, enmeshing doctors in paperwork, authorizing less-trained technicians to do aspects of their work, and eventually automating much of their work.

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Are government workers America’s dumbest people?

Summary:  Today a journalist explains that government workers are “America’s dumbest people.” It’s an episode from social media, the stages of our time on which people dance out their values and beliefs. These conversations provide a mirror in which we can see western society, and from which we can deduce the hidden forces molding our society.

Bainbridge Colby on hatred and faction

A conversation about our polarized time

A good story starts with the action. AP: “Federal Government Suffers Massive Hacking Attack“. Next we turn for a reaction from a notable journalists on Twitter, a intelligent person whom I respect. It’s a trivial vignette, but telling about our time (and the 2nd such conversation I had this week on Twitter). He tweets the AP story with this framing…

“Dastardly Chinese discover identity of America’s dumbest people. So what are they going to do with this knowledge?”

This is a commonplace of our time — quite daft but stated as obvious fact even by intelligent, educated people. Much like belief that Bush Jr. is like Hitler, Obama is like Lenin, Blacks are inferior (or degenerates), or 97% of scientists believe that anthropogenic global warming will prove catastrophic by 2100 if not stopped. What happens when these people have their belief questioned?

My reply: “Is that a statement of tribal identity? Does it seem sensible or funny otherwise?” His reply…

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