The 1% build a New America on the ruins of the old.

Summary: Today’s article by Tom Engelhardt discusses what might be the greatest issue of our age, the fall of the Second American Republic (built on the Constitution) as the 1% builds a new political regime on its ruins. As with Rome’s evolution from Republic to the Empire, the outward forms remain roughly the same while its essence and dynamics change.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Death of the republic

First Half of “The New American Order

1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People”

By Tom Engelhardt
Posted at TomDispatch, 19 March 2015.
Re-posted here with his generous permission.

Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.

Let me make my case, however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of “we the people.”

Whatever this may add up to, it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway, and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.

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Identifying the guilty: tying nation states to cyber espionage

Summary:  It’s the cycle of our time. Cyberattack on us. The government points a figure, without evidence and encumbered by their history of lies (and of committing similar deeds).  Today cyber intelligence analyst Emilio Iasiello explains why attribution is so important but difficult to do.  (2nd of 2 posts today.)

“Attempt the end and never stand to doubt;
Nothing’s so hard but search will find it out.”

— Robert Herrick, “Hesperides” (1648).

Lighthouse shining in a storm

Tying Nation States to Cyber Espionage

By Emilio Iasiello, 3 March 2015
From DarkMatters:
providing superior attack intelligence.

Posted with the their gracious permission

Introduction

Cyber espionage is a significant contributor to what then Director of the National Security Agency Keith Alexander termed “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.”

While 2014 marked some of the more sensationalized breaches committed by cyber criminals, espionage actors continued to demonstrate their prowess by targeting a wide variety of sectors in support of information theft. Yet, as more cyber espionage campaigns have come to light, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that part of this actor set is composed of enterprising independent contractors looking to monetize their efforts, rather than being directed by or working directly for a foreign government.

The case of Su Bin articulates why this new “as-a-service” model could potentially provide an opportunity for miscalculation and error, thereby impacting governments from developing appropriate response actions.

Attribution in Cyberspace is Difficult at Best

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How Robots & Algorithms Are Taking Over

Summary: Today we have another essay about the 3rd industrial revolution now under way (aka the robot revolution), reviewing another new book preparing us for what is to come. We’ve had 50 years of warnings, all ignored. We’ll have to move soon to avoid severe social turmoil. Let’s not repeat our ugly 19th C history. {1st of 2 posts today.}

“We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come — namely, technological
unemployment. This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economising the useof labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour. ”

— John Maynard Keynes, “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren“, The Nation and Athenœum, 11 and 18 October 1930.

Cover of <i>Galaxie</i>, 1959

Cover of Galaxie, 1959. CCI/Art Archive.

Excerpt from
How Robots & Algorithms
Are Taking Over

By Sue Halpern.
London Review of Books, 5 March 2015

Halpern reviews:

Here is what that future — which is to say now — looks like: banking, logistics, surgery, and medical recordkeeping are just a few of the occupations that have already been given over to machines. Manufacturing, which has long been hospitable to mechanization and automation, is becoming more so as the cost of industrial robots drops, especially in relation to the cost of human labor.

… Meanwhile, algorithms are writing most corporate reports, analyzing intelligence data for the NSA and CIA, reading mammograms, grading tests, and sniffing out plagiarism. Computers fly planes — Nicholas Carr points out that the average airline pilot is now at the helm of an airplane for about 3 minutes per flight — and they compose music and pick which pop songs should be recorded based on which chord progressions and riffs were hits in the past. Computers pursue drug development — a robot in the UK named Eve may have just found a new compound to treat malaria — and fill pharmacy vials.

Xerox uses computers — not people — to select which applicants to hire for its call centers. The retail giant Amazon “employs” 15,000 warehouse robots to pull items off the shelf and pack boxes. The self-driving car is being road-tested. A number of hotels are staffed by robotic desk clerks and cleaned by robotic chambermaids. Airports are instituting robotic valet parking. Cynthia Breazeal, the director of MIT’s personal robots group … $25 million in venture capital funding, to bring Jibo, “the world’s first social robot,” to market.

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Government officials’ lies erode the Republic’s foundation. Do we care?

Summary: Today we look at a vital indicator showing the decay of the Republic and point to the guilty parties. Our leaders lie to us, often and about serious matters. The price paid by them and us has come due. How we pay it will help determine our future.

“Never believe anything about the government until it has been officially denied.”
— Attributed to Bismarck. Lies from government are not new.

Contents

  1. Another day, another lie.
  2. List the big lies.
  3. The most important poll.
  4. What comes next?
  5. For More Information

(1) Another day, another lie.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, 20 February 2015

And our view continues to be that political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful, and legal. We do not support a political transition in Venezuela by non-constitutional means.

She doubled down on March 10, saying “despite the statements to the contrary from Venezuelan officials, we are not promoting instability in Venezuela. Rather we believe respect for democratic norms and human rights is the best guarantee of Venezuela’s stability.”

This is quite false. The US has assisted — sometimes taking the lead — in overthrowing scores of elected governments since 1900. A large fraction of these were elected leaders who advocated policies the US government did not like. That tradition continues up to the 2014 coup d’état in Ukraine following its President signing a trade treaty with the US instead of the EU.

As for “democratic norms and human rights”, US allies outside Europe have often been short on these. For details visit one of our closest allies, the land run by the Saudi Princes.

Realpolitic justifies alliances with nations having political systems we find disgusting. There are too few angels on Earth to guarantee our safety (and they might not choose to ally with us). Our hypocrisy is quite amazing. But that’s not the subject of this post.

During WWII our leaders routinely lied to us, justified by military necessity. After WWII they continued to do so, ever more frequently and boldly. They considered this wise, reinforcing the distinction between the inner party who knows the truth and the outer party that believes the lies (the proles remain uncaring and ignorant). It worked for decades.

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Updating the recession watch; & what might the government do to fight a slowdown?

Summary: The economic data continues to darken. Let’s review the situation — updating the recession watch — and guessing what might be the government’s response to a recession. It’s an era of new normals, so we should expect steps that would have been considered incredible or even mad a decade or two ago.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more. We must be over the rainbow!”
— Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”.

Economy

Contents

  1. The bad news
  2. Worse news
  3. The weak data
  4. What comes next?
  5. For More Information
  6. Perhaps a better world lies ahead

(1)  The bad news

The graph below gives an ugly forecast. But let’s keep this in context, especially now that the doomsters have discovered it. The value of the Atlanta Fed’s GDPnow forecast is its immediacy. They explain that it’s no more accurate than forecasts by economists or other models. Which is to say it’s a best guess made with limited information. Also, the Fed remains hopeful that Q1 is an aberration, so that 2015 has growth of 2.3% – 2.7%.

20150317 GDPnow forecast

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The key to understanding our wars: the trinity of COIN.

Summary:  Most of our wars since Korea have been counter-insurgencies (COIN), in which we employ a trinity of methods — firepower, mobility, and militia. It doesn’t work for us, or for any foreign armies doing COIN. Today we review the trinity and why it fails, and ask the more important question of why we don’t see this pattern.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Celtic Trinity Knot

Out of 3 tools come one outcome (Celtic Trinity Knot).

Since Mao brought 4GW to maturity after WWII, modern armed forces, whether of developed or undeveloped nations, tend to rely on a trinity of methods to fight insurgencies.  None of these are new (almost nothing is new in war; it’s all a matter of combinations, emphasis, and execution).

  1. Popular front militia
  2. Firepower on civilians
  3. Sweep and destroy missions

Armies rediscover these 3 methods, each time dressing them up in the fancy terminology befitting radical innovations. Sometimes they mask their use behind pseudo-science, as DoD did with FM 3-24 (describing our new way of counter-insurgency, behind which they relied on the big 3 methods). We don’t see this history because it’s not useful for the military and their journalist allies to show us, and we have amnesia about our history.

Popular front militia were a core component of our fighting in Southeast Asia. When we recruited local militia in Iraq it’s COINnew, new, new.   Local militia were a staple of our fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the usual frequently ugly results. See these examples from March 2013 (torture by Shiite militia) and March 2015 (“Afghan Militia Leaders, Empowered by U.S. to Fight Taliban, Inspire Fear in Villages“). More articles see this post and this one from 2009.

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Scary lessons for America from pre-revolutionary France.

Summary: Today we look at 18thC France, and speculate about our future. They too had their 1%, hungry for wealth and power. In a time of troubles, they refused to compromise and so plunged France into a long bloody transition to a new regime. Our situation is very different, but there are a few ominous similarities.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“It’s all about power and the unassailable might of money.”
— E. P. Arnold Royalton, the great 21st century industrialist in “Speed Racer” (2008).

"Liberty Leading the People", Eugène Delacroix (1830).

“Liberty Leading the People”, Eugène Delacroix (1830).

Contents

  1. Pre-revolutionary France
  2. America today
  3. Differences and similarities
  4. Books by GOP candidates
  5. For More Information

(1)  Pre-revolutionary France

There was desperate need for financial reform of the French government in the late 18thC, but deep institutional failure prevented reform. King Louis XVI wanted reform, especially the nobility and clergy to pay taxes, but the nobility and clergy blocked change through the parlements (high courts) and Assembly of Notables (1787) — an opposite outcome to that of the previous great crisis in 1626.

Out of easy options, the King called the Estates General in 1789. The 3 Estates each had one vote: the nobility, the clergy, the commons. This might have been the last opportunity to save France from revolution. Each Estate prepared a list of grievances (Cahiers de doléances).

The nobility desired a weaker King: limitations on royal absolutism, guarantee of individual liberties, and taxes only with approval of the Esates General. For this they were prepared to give almost nothing, and had little interest in lightening the burden on the commons. They wanted compensation for abolishing the corvée (forced unpaid labor) and capitaineries (game preserves of the King and nobility). Their opening offer to the commons: nothing.

With no room for negotiation, the Estates General immediately deadlocked. On June 17 the Third Estate, plus defectors from the other two, declared themselves the National Assembly. On June 20 the King locked them from the Salle des États. They relocated to the Royal Tennis Courts, and swore the Tennis Court Oath. The revolution had begun.

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