Category Archives: Other Issues

Posts on many other important geopolitical issues.

Stratfor: Russia’s economy burns; they have no good options.

Summary: As Obama’s military requests vast new sums to defend against Russia, Stratfor examines Russia’s crashing economy — and its few options for recovery. Russia is largest casualty of the financial world war begun by the Saudi Princes (bet on them to win). While this great conflict burns the US military dances away to its own delusional but profitable tune.

Stratfor

Russia Has Few Options for Turning Its Economy Around

Stratfor, 5 February 2016

Forecast

  • The Central Bank of Russia will try to reduce high inflation and encourage growth to counter the economy’s rapid deterioration.
  • However, the bank probably will not be able to rely on its biggest tool — the interest rate — to do so, instead turning to less effective means that will have little impact on inflation.
  • While the central bank’s efforts to reform the banking sector will not yield many immediate gains, they could spur growth in the long run by encouraging investment in Russian businesses.
  • Meanwhile, the Kremlin will use its limited resources to prop up Russia’s most important sectors, including agriculture and the military.
  • Still, unrest will likely grow throughout the year as inflation continues to put pressure on the Russian people.

Analysis

Low oil prices have thrown a wrench in many of the world’s economies, but perhaps nowhere more so than Russia. Depressed energy prices have sent the value of the Russian ruble tumbling and inflation soaring, and much of the Russian population is struggling to make ends meet.

The Central Bank of Russia, under pressure to find a solution to the country’s deepening economic crisis, is exploring all of the monetary policy options at its disposal. But the bank will find that its primary tool for combating the inflation wreaking havoc on the Russian economy — adjusting the country’s key interest rate — may be difficult to actually use under the current circumstances. As a result, bank officials will likely be forced to turn to secondary, less effective measures to keep the Russian economy from sliding even further into disrepair.

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Stratfor: What Kind of Great Power Will China Become?

Summary: How China wields its growing power will help shape the geopolitical world of the 21st century. Here Stratfor looks at China and speculates at what it might become. {1st of 2 posts today.}

Stratfor

What Kind of Power Will China Become?

Stratfor, 3 February 2016

These are grim times for the Chinese economy. In the two years since property markets peaked and subsequently began to slow in most cities across China, it has become abundantly clear that the approach to economic management that sustained double-digit annual growth for two decades has exhausted itself. The unprecedented stock market volatility of the past year, along with signs of spreading unemployment and labor unrest in many regions, are important reminders that the transition to new foundations of national economic growth will in all likelihood be bitter, slow and unnervingly uncertain.

In times like these, it is tempting to embrace visions of irreversible decline — just as it was easy, in the expansive years of consistently high growth, to view China’s rise as straightforward and inevitable. As Stratfor pointed out well before the 2008-09 global financial crisis, which set in motion many of the policies and processes that underlie China’s current woes, the only certainty in the high-growth years was that they would someday end. Their ending, we predicted, would unleash tremendous and potentially destabilizing social pressures long kept at bay by the promise of universal employment and rising material prosperity. At the least, this process would slow China’s political, military and economic rise as the decade ends. At worst, it would send China into a more debilitating and longer-lasting period of crisis and fragmentation.

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Scrum: a new organizational tool that will help shape the 21st century

Summary: A new industrial revolution has begun. We usually think of these are new tech and new machines, but they also create new ways of thinking and new methods of doing business — changes almost as important as the new tech. Here Mike Few discusses new ways of problem solving, which create new forms of organization. {@nd of 2 posts today.}

The F3EAD framework

Scrum: how it works

Combat Scrum: From Iraq to the Research Triangle Park

By Mike Few (Major, US Army, Retired)
Introduction to his presentation at the Global SCRUM GATHERING®
18-20 April 2016 at Orlando, FL

The day was March 25, 2007, our unit was 5-73 Recon (Airborne), and these events would culminate into what was known on the strategic level as the Iraq Surge.   After much failure, we knew that we were losing the war.  We decided to change our thinking and adopt a decentralized, adaptive framework to try and salvage a win. The results were astonishing — real, tangible patterns not whitewashed Orwellian KPI’s {key performance indicators} on a PowerPoint slide to brief the Generals.

Down in a desolate, lonesome river valley, over a 90-day period, things begin to change as we changed our behavior.  Our empowered teams began collecting actionable intelligence, we were able to penetrate deep into enemy territory and neutralize several enemy-training camps, and our squadron became one of the most decorated units during the Surge. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were practicing Scrum,

  • Incremental, iterative operations to accomplish mission, just like sprints.
  • Routine, deliberate adaptive planning meetings to identify and prioritize goals, just like backlogs.
  • Decentralized execution with absolute collaboration at the team level.
  • Post-operation inspection of results followed by debriefs to adapt and restart planning.

Today, I serve as the leader of an Agile Program Office at a Financial Technology company practicing Holacracy.  I help coach, mentor, and guide teams building 30 different hardware and software solutions for handling cash in both financial and retail markets.  However, I have no formal background in software or computer science. I suppose that you could consider me an Accidental ScrumMaster and an Agilist.

Combat taught me Scrum.  Through a trial by fire in an unforgiving environment, I learned to change the way that I see and understand problems.  There are thousands of other veterans out there like me that learned the same lessons, and they could have an immediate impact in your business for real results.  Here’s how we did it.

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Stratfor: Getting to the Root of France’s Muslim Dilemma

Summary:  Generations of immigration gave France cheap docile workers. Now comes the hangover as France struggles to integrate them, amidst concerns about rising Islamic fundamentalism and recruitment by jihadists.

Stratfor

Getting to the Root of France’s Muslim Dilemma

By Joe Parson. Stratfor, 24 January 2016

The jihadist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo signified the beginning of a new period of insecurity for France. Since those shots rang out a little over a year ago, France has been beset by threats, false alarms and more successful attacks. The latest of these, of course, took place in Paris itself, triggering the first nationwide state of emergency since 1961. Having been away for most of 2015, when I arrived back for the holidays I found the country had somehow changed. Disembarking at Charles de Gaulle airport’s oldest terminal, whimsically known as le Camembert for its roundness, I found the same futuristic, grimy moving walkways and familiar odor of the Paris metro. Much was the same, but then I noticed that the usual airport security was gone, replaced by military personnel patrolling with automatic rifles.

France’s security alert system, Plan Vigipirate, was developed in the late 1970s, updated once in the mid-1990s and twice more in the early 2000s. It reached its highest level of alert (scarlet) after the March 2012 Toulouse and Montauban attacks. In January 2015, however, authorities created a new, higher level to reflect the perceived current danger.

As I traveled through Paris and the rest of the country I saw these security measures in action on the city’s metro and on the country’s high-speed train, the Train à Grande Vitesse. Security checks have become much more common, and this has led to some delays. False alarms triggered by such things as suspicious packets of cookies on a Nantes tram or forgotten luggage have stopped trains across the country. Over the New Year holiday, the center of Paris was cordoned off and people were individually screened before being allowed to continue on foot. Even the Christmas market in Strasbourg, far from Paris, was blocked off to automobile traffic, and identification checks were mandatory.

Security measures in the wake of attacks have been made more complex — and politically volatile — by France’s sizeable Muslim population. French Muslims themselves, especially immigrants, have become the focus of a great deal of scrutiny over the past year. In 2010, 4.8 million Muslims lived in France, the second-largest population in the European Union and the largest in proportion to population: 7.5 percent. This has led many on the far right to call for policies specifically limiting Muslim immigration. Opinions, however, are mixed — a 2015 Pew Research poll found that only 24 percent of the country held unfavorable views of Muslims. Popular perception of Islam has played a moderating role in the government’s reaction while ensuring safety for all, including the French Muslim population.

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Does the unrest in Saudi Arabia mean their government is tottering?

Summary: The Saudi Princes rule one of the nations key to the current geopolitical order. Recent news stories suggest it is tottering, such as the execution of a reformist Shiite cleric. A close look at authoritative sources gives the answer, one that also illuminates other questions about current events.

Saud flag

Saudi execution of Shia cleric sparks outrage in Middle East
The Guardian, 2 January 2016

The Iranian government and religious leaders across the Middle East have condemned Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shia cleric {Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr} and warned of repercussions that could bring down the country’s royal family.

Nimr had long been regarded as the most vocal Shia leader in the eastern Saudi province of Qatif, willing to publicly criticise the ruling al-Saud family and call for elections. He was, however, careful to avoid calling for violence, analysts say. That did not prevent the interior ministry from accusing him of being behind attacks on police, alongside a group of other suspects it said were working on behalf of Iran, the kingdom’s main regional rival.

… The execution was described as a “grave mistake” by the Supreme Islamic Shia Council in Lebanon and a “flagrant violation of human rights” by Yemen’s Houthi movement. … Iran’s Shia leadership said the execution of Nimr “would cost Saudi Arabia dearly”.

…Nimr was one of 47 people Saudi Arabian executed for terrorism on Friday. The interior ministry said most of those killed were involved in a series of al-Qaida attacks between 2003 and 2006. … The simultaneous execution of 47 people on security grounds was the biggest such event in Saudi Arabia since the 1980 killing of 63 jihadi rebels who seized Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979.

The Mehr News Agency reports strong words by Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jaber Ansari…

The Iranian diplomat lamented that while Takfiri and extremist terrorists have disrupted peace in the region and the whole world, executing an unarmed dissident who just criticized the Saudi regime for religious and political issues depicts a total lack of wisdom and shrewdness among Saudies. Jaber Ansari categorically condemned the move and drew attentions to the fact that Saudis, who support and feed terrorists and extremists Takfiries in other countries, are very authoritarian and repressive in dealing with their home dissidents.

Mehr quotes strong language by Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami, a senior member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts:

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