The Hype Surrounding Hyperloop

Summary: History shows that the new industrial revolution just beginning will bring wonders, things often seemingly more like science fiction than practical technology. Here Stratfor looks at the hyperloop, a potentially transformative new transportation technology — if it works. At the end are links are posts about even more fantastic technologies.


The Hype Surrounding Hyperloop.
Stratfor, 26 September 2016.


Following a recent visit to Elon Musk’s Tesla electric car factory in California, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed interest in a less mature but potentially more groundbreaking idea: Hyperloop. Musk, the founder of companies such as SpaceX and Tesla, released an open-source proposal for the new mode of transportation in 2013. Essentially a levitating train car traveling through a tube in near vacuum conditions, Hyperloop technology could make in minutes trips that normally take hours.

Over the past three years, a handful of companies have taken the idea and run with it. But despite interest and investment, enough physical and technical hurdles remain that implementation of such a system is years, possibly even decades, away. Should Hyperloop come to fruition, it has the potential to shape geopolitical relationships and behaviors of nations like other transportation methods that came before it. India’s prime minister is evidently optimistic about the technology, as are leaders from a number of other nations. But should they be?

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Does terrorism work? Richard English gives the answer.

Summary: A large literature discusses the effectiveness of foreign armies and their tools against insurgencies, but few ask about the other side. Does terrorism work for insurgents? A new book by Richard English fills that gap, with some surprising conclusions. Since terrorism is a key tool of 4GW, the dominant form of war in our time, the fate of the world depends on the answer.


By Any Means or None

By Thomas Nagel.
London Review of Books. 8 September 2016.
Posted with the author’s generous permission.

Review of Does Terrorism Work? A history by Richard English (2016).


When I am hit with news of yet another terrorist attack, I often wonder what these people hope to achieve. In a depressingly timely book, Richard English tries to answer that question for a number of important cases, in order to address the broader question of his title.

First, he has to specify what would count as ‘working’, and then he has to look at the historical facts to determine what the groups he studies have actually achieved. He devotes a chapter each to al-Qaida, the Provisional IRA, Hamas and the Basque separatist group ETA, and in a final chapter runs quickly through a score of other examples. While he emphasises that terrorism is also practised by states, his subject here is terrorism by non-state actors – specifically, non-state organisations that have pursued a campaign of terrorism over a significant period of time.

His aim is to interpret these campaigns so far as possible as the work of rational agents employing violent means to pursue definite political ends: the motives of lone-wolf terrorists are liable to be inchoate. All four of English’s main examples have been very explicit about what they want and how they hope to get it, and he observes that they have all failed in their main aims, as have almost all other terrorist campaigns, with a few important exceptions. But he also looks closely at the full range of their effects, to determine whether they have ‘worked’ in some more qualified sense.

He distinguishes three further senses, short of strategic victory, in which terrorism might be said to work: partial strategic victory, tactical success and the inherent rewards of struggle as such – and there are further subdivisions within these categories. (It seems to me that the last item doesn’t really belong on this list. If, as English reports, the members of the IRA and other groups have enjoyed the inherent rewards of comradeship, excitement and an ennobling sense of purpose, that is at best a beneficial side-effect of their terrorist activity, not a way in which it succeeds or ‘works’.)

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Fact-checking: useful, until it becomes politically biased trivial pursuit

Summary: Monday’s debate shows the limit of fact-checking, even in those rare cases where it’s politically neutral. While useful in small doses, it boosts our obsession with the trivial aspects of the race and obscures the great issues at stake. Also, it’s seldom done with a neutral viewpoint — becoming glib defenses of the established narrative.

Truth, not Pravda, Will Make You Free


Fact-checking is useful but has become part of our dysfunctional political campaigns. They turn the debates into trivial pursuit, with fact-checking a fun, easy, cheap role for journalists. The product is entertaining and superficial — the hallmarks of modern election coverage. The deeper issues are lost in the chatter about sound bites and personalities. No surprise that only 55% of Americans vote for president. For example see Bloomberg’s Fact Checker’s summary of the debate

“The candidates spent a good deal of time on stop-and-frisk, racial issues, Obama birther matter, ISIS and nuclear weapons. Trump appeared to be rambling on a number of questions, especially on foreign policy. Clinton made points on the tax returns, with Trump not ending questions about whether he failed to pay any federal income taxes — and not offering a clear reason as to why he’s not releasing his tax returns.”

Where are the discussions of resurgent populism and progressivism, of long-suppressed issues such as mass immigration and globalization, and of vital questions such how to handle our failed wars since 9/11?

The major media’s fact checkers (see Bloomberg and the AP) caught some of Clinton’s whoppers (her flip-flopping about the Trans-Pacific Partnership), missed some (lying about Iran’s nuclear program; see tomorrow’s post), and displayed astonishing bias about others. Let’s look as examples of the bias.

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Why Trump thrives despite the news media’s attacks

Summary: Large numbers of journalists have joined the Clinton campaign. They pay for their political adventure with the credibility of their profession. So far their attacks on Trump have been in vain. Here’s why they have failed.

Trust broken

Paul Krugman speaks with intelligence and wit for the US liberal community. Blind to populism, he cannot understand why Clinton and Trump are almost tied in the polls. But he has found an answer, explained in a series of posts. He blames the press. “Why Are The Media Objectively Pro-Trump?” “How Did The Race Get Close?” “The Falsity of False Equivalence“.

That seems odd, since the vast majority of US journalists visibly hate Trump as they have few major political figures in the modern era. But Krugman and others call for journalists to attack Trump even more strongly. That seems odd. Where can they go after calling Trump an authoritarian, fascist, racist, and sexist Hitler? However, they are trying.

However the law of equivalent exchange tells us that we cannot get something for nothing. We must give something of equal value to gain anything. Journalists enlist in the war against Trump, what have they given up in return? Their credibility with Republicans. They become Clinton’s shocktroops; the cost is another hit to the credibility of their profession.

See this graph from Gallup’s dirge for the news media: “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low“. In one year Republicans’ trust in the news media has fallen from 32% to 14%. What will it be in the 2017 survey?

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Everything you need to know about yesterday’s debate

Summary: Here is everything you need to know about yesterday’s debate, beyond the trivialities that filled the 90 minutes. These are things your favorite news media might not have mentioned.

Raphael: Plato & Aristotle

A group photo during the debate.



  1. South Park shows us a great debate.
  2. The candidates lie to us!
  3. Compare these debates with real debates.
  4. Do debates matter?
  5. Reactions to the debate.
  6. Conclusions.
  7. For More Information.


Debate between Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich .
Prophecy by South Park, aired on 27 October 2004.
Just like our debates, but more entertaining.

Pearl clutching

(2)  The candidates lie to us!

There is much pearl-clutching by the chattering classes about the lies told by the candidates. This is quite absurd, or perhaps just decades too late for outrage. Our candidates lie to us because they are smart. They have learned that we accept lies (perhaps we even prefer lies). Look at the big list of lies since 1940 by our leaders — all successful, for none of which we inflicted retribution.

When we no longer tolerate lies from our leaders, then our leaders will lie to us less often.

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