Thursday, November 21, 2013
Yup you heard right. I was skeptical last month. But the fact that a deal was not reached yet in Geneva brings possibility. It gives more chance for the media to crow about a peace deal. More peace 'talk' = more chance for successful peace talks. Peace and war no longer stem from interests in a postmodern age. That does not mean war is not possible anymore. But it will be the result of accident rather than design.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Well lots of talk about diplomatic breakthroughs lately. These have some observers already speculating about a different Near East. I can say this: modern peace is based upon interests of industries and States. You find an equilibrium that suits all parties well enough. Modus vivendi. On that basis there is little chance: none of the actors and industries want peace enough. But a postmodern peace is de-referenced peace. Interests would not drive it. So it is always more possible than modern peace. But are we there now? Answer: not yet. Need more media 'peace' hype and more regime 'peace' hype. Enough of that, for long enough will overwhelm the old modern (anti-)peace model in this case.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Fake, fake and more fake means gearing for a resurrection of some real politics. This show about a government crisis is not even convincing acting. No Oscars here. But you can bet that when the dust settles more austerity will be negotiated. It was the goal from the start but there was no excuse to do it. Now the Prezident can appear reasonable when benefits for seniors are cut and tax breaks handed out to the more fortunate. More interesting perhaps, is how policy is conducted nowadays: by overblown virtuality (and theatrics). As the Virtual world becomes more prominent, (e.g. drone wars fought on monitors not tanks or amphibious landings like D-day, wall street not main street, facebook not bars, amazon not jc penny, etc.), physical politics is diminishing. More and more, politicians seek ways to work through the virtual (they must!) in order to impact upon physical politics (Machiavelli, power, deal-making, constituency services, etc.). But their effort will fail. No, physical politics will not disappear but the Virtual space is becoming less and less connected to it. Soon politicos will not be able to make changes, no matter how much they holler on Sunday morning talk shows.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
The government of the US 'shut down' long ago as of many other governments across the globe. This outcome is not from any actions that they have taken (e.g. no not from overspending, too much debt nor neglect of the poor). They have rather all been de-referenced or unmoored thanks to a wave of communication which equalizes all deep ideas and values. What it means to be American has faded to the point where the US government has been pursuing counter-national interests such as giving Iraq to Iran and gutting its manufacturing base through tariff-destruction. Even the anti-America, aka Iran, is detached from its religious roots and likely rapidly which is why their new President seeks some quick successes before its irrelevance is complete. The EU governments pursue policies that do not help their majorities while claiming to defer to the even more distant government in Brussels. In the face of these trends, the looming shutdown is strangely anti-climactic. Washington DC has already been detached from the nation. A congressionally mandated shutdown only certifies the trend.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
Despite what they say, Americans are fascinated with the Middle East. In keeping with this tradition I offer the following predictions for that hungry audience about a war on Syria by Obama. The first two have non-terrible results, the third is unclear, and the fourth is catastrophic. 1. Obama-United States-France (former colonial power!) attacks Syria in a perfectly scripted way, just as he said he would, with little retaliation from Assad and Hezbollah. The targets are precisely those announced publicly resulting in few losses that could change the outcome of the civil war. This is the most postmodern, hyperreal outcome. It is exactly what Baudrillard wrote of the Gulf War but this time it would be even more perfectly staged (requiring Russian help). Probably no one would be wholly satisfied with the aftermath because it would be little changed from the present (9/6/2013). The same grumblers would still grumble. 2. US Congress says no and Obama sets a precedent to restrain future presidents from adventurism and wag-the-dog scenarios. This result is the liberal favorite. 3. Obama-United States-France (former colonial power!) attack Syria and Hezbollah massively (not in a limited way as he said he would) destroying the deterrents set up by Assad and Hezbollah. Retaliation is impossible. This is the AIPAC favored outcome. 4. Obama-United States-France (former colonials!) attack Syria but forewarned on the timing by Russia, Assad and Hezbollah launch everything they have at every enemy in sight (following a use-it-or-lose-it logic). The reprisals and counter-reprisals lead to full scale war or even world war. (You may notice that none of these predictions have anything to do with the use of gas). END
Thursday, August 29, 2013
I know little about Asia. There are tensions and historical grievances that could get inflamed easily. But the Asians have agreed to some new protocols on addressing differences at the ASEAN meeting. It is not consensus on the differences. But they are deferred, for awhile.
Lots of talk about credibility at stake for the US and Obama if there is no response to the alleged gas attack near Damascus. But the problem is that there is too much credibility; that the West seeks regime change. It happened in Iraq and in Libya already so you can bet Assad and Nasrallah (head of Hezbollah) believe it. So if they think they are going to die today from British and French today or tomorrow from cannibals, the question is what will they do if attacked. That is why there has been a delay in Western action: Uncertainty about their response not about any gas attack (about which no Western leader cares about). Will Syria and Hezbollah go all out, knowing that their regimes are about to be changed? The ideal, theoretical Western attack would be so limited that there would be no real response from the defenders. That would require much communication, trust, and you guessed it, credibility (but a different sort). Here is what is needed: 'Hi Assad, this is Obama. Hi I'm going to bomb you in a very limited way that will not tilt the balance of power to the cannibals, is that cool?' Do you promise it will be limited in that way? Yes. Ok go ahead.' This is the conversation, more or less (perhaps with the Russians as guarantors) that needs to happen for surgical strikes to receive little response. Think it is possible? If not, then it is time to swallow your pride and eat crow about crossing some red line...
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Friday, August 2, 2013
The Russians have been chafing for decades from US lectures to them about human rights. Granting Snowden asylum as if he were politically persecuted gives Putin the symbol he needs to reverse that perspective.
Yes Egypt again. You cant help but be fascinated by such raw, real politics. A solution? How about a standing constitutional council which includes major parties and groups that can change the constitution. The President would have veto power but could be overridden by the majority or a super-majority. The idea that Egypt can become Turkey and repress the bearded guys or go back to the days of Mubarak is ludicrous. Too many high hopes raised for everyone by 'the revolution' for such a counter-move to be stable.
Monday, July 8, 2013
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
The Obama Administration today declared that it will not enforce the employer mandates for health care coverage until 2015. A break for business, a loss for labor, a loss for insurance companies, yada yada yada. The usual; politics defined as the picking of winners and losers (contrast with sports where there are winners and losers too but nobody picks them, we hope). Now when the USSC upheld the mandatory purchase section of the Affordable Care Act...now that was something...that was a signal of a new day in American politics. Calls to mind the Eastern saying, 'may you live in interesting times.'
Saturday, June 29, 2013
The glee with which the media are hunting Snowden is a signal of their irrelevance. (CNN was running dawn to dusk coverage for awhile). Experts on extradition law are trotted out. Is this what they study in journalism school? And do te American people gain any insight or knowledge from such information? Answer? No. The media has become society's background noise.
When Obama made his speech dialing down his drones war it was hailed as a turning point. It was supposed to show that the US was serious about disengagement from Af-Pak. But it was a public plea to the Pashtuns/Taliban not to be so ferocious in the usual spring offensive. It worked, sort of. Direct talks are on the way and they are without preconditions. They are also without Karzai who has become irrelevant. The US would like to stay in Afghanistan but not under the gun. The question is can they offer guarantees that would satisfy Omar? He does not want to be in a parade in Kabul and wind up getting droned. My guess is that te Taliban will never trust the US. So they will have to leave or stay but under te gun.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
If any citizen stood and said that they refuse to pay their taxes that is akin to conspiracy. And if they did not pay their taxes that is a crime. Don't really see the problem if the national tax agency, authorized by constitutional amendment, upholds the law. When Vietnam war protesters threatened to withhold taxes because of their pacifism they were tried and convicted. Probably no one on earth is completely satisfied with their country's tax policy.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Does anyone else see a correlation between Israelis airstrikes and Assad's successes? They divert focus away from the Syrian regime because the only thing Syrians hate more than their government are the occupiers of their Golan hills. Thanks Bibi for splitting the focus of the Syrian population.
Monday, May 13, 2013
And what is exactly is the difference between Boston and New Orleans incidents? Guns not bombs? From Yahoo news: "FBI spokeswoman Mary Beth Romig told reporters that the shooting was "strictly an act of street violence in New Orleans," not at an act of terrorism. The AP reports that nearly 400 people had shown up for the parade but 200 were in the direct area where the shots went off."
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
By charging Tsarnaev today with using Weapons of Mass Destruction, we got the signal of the war's end. What happened in Boston was murder, which has always the most heinous crime in human society. Last time I checked we were still human. But to call three crockpot bombs WMD's trivializes the term (which was already made ridiculous when none were found in Iraq). It turns a crazy conspiracy and murders into a caricature and undermines a justice system well designed for the marathon bomb perpetrators.
Well that's it. Terrorism is over. And thankfully so. If what happened in Boston had been real terrorism there would have been more death. What we got was simulated terror: make-believe terrorists fighting for a cause that was either not their own and/or non-existent and, again thankfully, not really competent enough to do more harm. It was a simulation of terror, a farce of it. Usually farce comes at the end of a phase or text so it is possible to say the age of terror is over. But and this is important too, this does not mean that more botched actions will not happen in the future. And maybe too what counts as the end of that phase is the beginning of another: an age of foolish terror and maybe one that in some sense is more terrifying than folks fighting for a cause. It will be terror without cause and without reference; for terror's sake without even the self-serving comfort of being able to say that they did it because they hate our freedoms. Whether in Arizona, Connecticut, or Boston the perpetrators will not be society's losers nor traitors but ungrateful persons who got the most love that society could give them. I sure hope that I am wrong about this future...
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Lots of folks are talking about who won the Iraq war. It is a legitimate question: victory, winners, losers are all terms connected with war and its end. The verdict of most commentators is that Iran won. Bush smashed the Sunnis from power and cleansed them from Baghdad with his surge. That left Shiites in charge in charge. And with leftover Sunnis blowing them up every week where else can they turn for help but Iran. The attack was no mistake. There are no errors in politics. The Americans must have planned this outcome. But why? Was Bush an Iranian sleeper agent? Or maybe the USA wanted a bigger enemy. What's the point of the giant military expense after all. But the Soviets are gone...Iraq was too easy...hey let's make Iran into even more of challenge in the ongoing fight over Near East energy reserves.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Today, El Erian posted another analysis that Fed. interventions simply can't continue without serious consequences for markets and economic health. See here: But with all due respect, no, it won't all crash down. In a new, postmod age now. Erian still thinking old skool modern production model where firms invest in plant, produce, and then profit. Who does that? That economics model is over. We are in speculations mode of competitive uncertainty. The certainty of productive investment has been replaced by the productive investment of uncertainty. The markets can now profit from it, e.g. mulling over Fed minutes or gauging Israeli threats to stop Persian oil flows. But it happens competitively, which after all is what capitalism has always said it was about. One month commodities markets do well. The next they don't. Then bonds lose value, now they are in again. Equities drop but then find something to cheer about. The euro falls then it is the yen's turn, etc., etc. This is musical chairs economics. And so long as no one sector nor region is permanently left out of the flows, this new global system can, over the long term, stay in balance. So stop the nostalgia and let's develop new models (besides the let's raise global growth model) from this situation that are sustainable.
Flying under the radar of globe watchers: Saudi Arabia. Some writers think the monarchy is shaky but their evidence is shaky. This G20 state is doing well economically and even better politically. Confident after Bahrain, these men of the desert have learned to fish well and are netting the whole of the Near east thereby. Egypt is off balance. And with Sunni missionaries and schools spread out from Mauritania to Indonesia, sunni soldiers winning in Libya and soon Syria, backed up by unlimited funds, Saudi looks to clean up this year. And they have the US working as bodyguard. Plus, should the US destroy Iran (and the current global balance, don't think that Russia and China won't follow the US example and at the very least destroy their enemies too, e,g, Georgia and Taiwan), the Saudis can then bag Baghdad too. Before it gets to that, the fear premium will put a few extra petrodollars in their pockets. It is a win win; their time to shine.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Political economy attracts me. There is much talk these about crony capitalism, which is the idea that business profits are made through collusion with politicians. But the market is more profound. Instead big profits are being made not simply by collusion with politicians, which has primarily only kept some firms out of bankruptcy. Instead the market is a shark tank where any investment in production invites hedge fund shorts and even eventual acquisition. Everyone is waiting to see which firm will be a chump and put money down for a future that will not exist. This is why today firms fire, not hire. They destroy factories, not build them. They let refineries rot not build new ones. Etc., etc. Chump firms that dare to invest in production are subject to a stock feeding frenzy and shareholder outcry.
The new leadership approach for professional associations for lawyers or scholars has become having the former, present, and future presidents interact and pass on knowledge to each other. Certainly Benedict will have a say on who will occupy his chair. He can also offer advice; two heads are better than one, right? But why did this happen? Not old age or infirmity. John Paul 2, the last pope was even more frail. Doing the bidding of some powerful secret society? Maybe. The Vatican is most worried about Europe, and Benedict could not figure out a strategy to turn around its fortunes there. Now Europe's current crisis offers an opportunity for the Vatican, but not under Benedict. A twitter account was a puny start. The Vatican possesses much more Virtual capacity and resources than that. The Catholic god and associated saints are perfect icons for a postmodern age of transmission flows. But the physical church is becoming quite burdensome. Its various, ongoing scandals are sapping the strength of the organization. The Vatican can succeed by turning the various parishes into franchises. Take a page from new capitalism: turn them into 'contractors' and thereby release Vatican responsibility for their misconduct.