Category Archives: general

The Hypnotic Dance of Death | Frontpage Mag

In my correspondence regarding the events in Cologne, an editor of a Russian newspaper asked a natural but discouraging question. Perplexed, he asked me: “Where were the German men?”

Indeed, for those of us who grew up in Soviet Russia, it would be inconceivable that some drunk young people could publicly mock and harass girls on New Year’s Eve in the very center of Moscow or Saint Petersburg. If they dared to do this, they wouldn’t survive until the morning; they would become “martyrs” and would have their way with 72 virgins in a completely different realm.

Ethical codes, embedded in us on a genetic level, would demand that we intervene on behalf of the women. Especially in a situation where normal adult men were more numerous than the rapists, and the rapists themselves were not terrorists, cyborgs or aliens, but mere street punks.

As it turned out, in Germany, Sweden, Austria and elsewhere, these codes were fatally violated. A great number of strong healthy men, having heard the girls screaming and crying, and having seen the crimes being committed, didn’t do anything to save the victims. In rare cases, the girls were defended by migrants from Eastern Europe or Third World countries.

The Hypnotic Dance of Death | Frontpage Mag

World’s Deadliest – Stoat Hypnotizes Rabbit

Report: World Freedom in Decline for 10th Year

In another major report Wednesday on human-rights concerns, The Freedom House group said more aggressive tactics by authoritarian regimes, an upsurge in terrorist attacks and a global economic downturn have contributed to a disturbing decline in freedom worldwide.

The U.S.-based international human rights group said freedom worldwide declined in 2015, for the 10th consecutive year.

The annual report by Freedom House says 72 countries showed a decline in freedom for the year, the largest number since the downturn began.

The human rights group says of the 195 countries assessed, 50 were rated “Not Free” and 59 deemed “Partly Free.” The report says Syria, the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, Somalia, North Korea, Uzbekistan and Eritrea were among the worst offenders.

Report: World Freedom in Decline for 10th Year

Noted torture enthusiast Donald Rumsfeld has made a really difficult solitaire app – Quartz

After obtaining permission from the Churchill family in 2014, Rumsfeld’s office worked with the Washington, DC-based Javelin agency (run by a former Rumsfeld aide) to create the app, which is called “Churchill Solitaire.” It’s on Apple’s current list of “best new games” and has a 4.5-star rating in the app store.

The new game, Rumsfeld told the Wall Street Journal, “requires you to be strategic, to look around corners, to think ahead, and to never give in—which is the phrase Churchill would have used.” Presumably, the game is meant to be addictive, but not painful.

Noted torture enthusiast Donald Rumsfeld has made a really difficult solitaire app – Quartz

CITI: Everything you learned about how the world works is probably wrong

It’s time to rethink everything we know about how the world is ordered.

Citi is out with a big new report on our current geopolitical order, and maybe what happens next.

What the firm argues, effectively, is that the global order most of today’s adults have come to know as “true” probably isn’t so anymore.

At the heart of Citi’s report is the idea that “Pax Americana” — defined as the “post-World War II global order that relied, to a large extent, on American military, economic, and diplomatic power to guarantee relative political stability and economic development” — is over. Or at least ending.

But the problem is that there’s nothing coming up to replace Pax Americana.


Here’s Citi (emphasis added):

[M]ost political and business leaders and investors today have largely “grown up’ in the post-1991 era, often described as the most peaceful and prosperous in human history and characterized by a host of pro-globalization developments and effective US hegemony. With this in mind, hopes for a reversion to the pre-global financial crisis mean, and with it, a return to some semblance of linear progress, may bemisplaced [...]

In our view, political and business leaders will need to be more attuned to the new shape of global political risk, a paradigm shift that means that previous policies will fail to keep pace and uncertainty will remain high, with the potential to interact in unexpected ways. Among the key implications of this more fragile and interconnected risk outlook is that so-called Black Swan events — in this case, geopolitical events producing instability spanning several orders of magnitude — may be both more likely and more difficult for leaders and global financial institutions to resolve.

Citi roughly argues that the arc of history is — and has been — turning away from this Pax Americana state of affairs and toward, well, something else.

What else is the whole point of the exercise.

But as for the major things worth keeping in mind right now and going forward, here’s Citi again, at length (emphasis added):

The United States, through diplomatic activism backed up by unrivaled military power, kept many regional conflicts under control (or pacified them), such as between Pakistan and India, North and South Korea, Israel and its neighbors, and the states of the former Yugoslavia. It did not dominate world affairs in a hegemonic way (which would have been impossible even for the US), but it served as the arbiter of last resort and the world’s reserve power. After 1989, most nations buying into the post-Cold-War surge of economic globalization consumed US stability services around the world, even those who openly or clandestinely opposed America’s relative dominance.

But this fortunate power structure has changed significantly over at least the last decade. The US position in global affairs has weakened. Other powers have gotten stronger. Some military interventions, such as the Iraq war, have eroded both US credibility and resources, an outcome supported by a host of global public opinion data. Less political capital is available in Washington to underpin America’s global role, leading to a “leadership from behind” culture that is considered to be ineffective and widely perceived as US weakness. Inward-looking, isolationist leanings have gained political traction in America’s political mainstream. The threshold of what constitutes US national interest has narrowed markedly in comparison to previous decades.

As a consequence, the international system is suffering from power sclerosis, compounded by absence of a replacement. The “Great Power Sclerosis” describes a situation in which Pax Americana has not been effectively supplanted by another system of global order, but in which its ability to resolve crisis, foster compromise, discipline rogue players, and defuse regional and local conflict is greatly diminished. In a situation of power sclerosis, the institutional framework of Pax Americana is still in place, but the effectiveness of these institutions has either been reduced, is being challenged, or is in doubt [...]

No global or regional power has emerged yet that is willing or capable to responsibly (or, thankfully, irresponsibly) fill the gap that America’s relative decline has created. Europeans are currently too inwardly-focused and too disunited to tap their full potential, both at home, and globally. China, the only other potential step-in, limits itself, for the time being, to a mostly regional role. It is generally interested in global stability as it is one of the biggest beneficiaries of integrated markets, but its political agenda, especially in its immediate neighborhood, does not fully overlap with that of the US or the wider West [...]

As a net result of all of these trends and developments, local and regional crises around the world play out stronger and more intensively than they used to. Weaker cohesion and diminished disciplining power make escalations of small conflicts more likely and encourage rogue states and opponents of liberal order to assert themselves more self-confidently. Stability in the overall system is weakened and likely to further deteriorate incrementally. The assessment of political risk in and around Europe, and around the world, needs to be made against this backdrop.

Read the full report from Citi here »

Citi on Pax Americana end – Business Insider

The report establishes that the Syrian conflict is a global systematic risk with the ability to grow – thinking about the refugees flooding into Europe.

Why care about the fact that it is a global systematic risk?

Because this kind of risk has the ability to escalate significantly. We can see that in the refugees. We can also see that with the involvement of Russia and Iran. If it grows to engulf Israel, then the significance escalates by orders of magnitude. That happens because it effectively brings the conflict to the West. And that means a great-power war is entirely possible.

GLOBAL POLITICAL RISK – Is This the Dawning of a New Era?

In this paper, we identify and outline a new danger, that traditional “Old Geopolitical Risks”, e.g. military conflict, weak and failing states, unconventional weapons risk, etc. and what we call “New Socio-Economic Risks”, which includes Citi Research’s concept of Vox Populi risk, the rise of new and non-mainstream parties, populism, sectarianism and tribalism and more protests and referenda, are increasingly converging in an environment where global growth is stagnating while public expectations remain high and government capacity to effect positive change through reforms is low.

A prime example of this phenomenon, which we first referred to as “Everything that Rises Must Converge”, is evident in the extent to which the Syria conflict, now entering its fifth year, had initially not been deemed as being “systemically significant” according to traditional criteria (meaning having the potential to generate either a growth or an oil price shock).

Yet the displacement of as much as half of Syria’s population, on top of a burgeoning population of forcibly displaced people globally (60 million according to UNHCR, the highest number since WWII4) has led to a “great migration”, as people increasingly globalize themselves. This has in turn led to unprecedented migration from the Mediterranean basin into Europe, resulting in a spike in political risk as a slow growing European economy tries to absorb refugees, subsequently damaging the standing of one of the most popular and powerful leaders in the world — German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In this context, recent events that could further aggravate Saudi-Iranian tensions, may well complicate the efforts to resolve the Syria conflict. A further increase in the flow of refugees to Europe could also have an acute impact upon the UK Brexit debate and German and French elections in 2017 — and therefore the future of the European project. Geopolitical events far away and in areas that seem of only modest economic or financial significance could next arrive at the doorstep of major economies — and financial markets.

GLOBAL POLITICAL RISK

Week Ahead Political Diary: Destination Davos for world leaders – FT.com

With geopolitical tensions at boiling point in the Middle East, the conceit that the World Economic Forum can forge greater understanding of common problems and solutions appears more distant than ever.

The formal programme of meetings is loosely based around the theme of “a fourth industrial revolution”, in which people, companies and the world must learn to live with an accelerating pace of technological progress. Questions of whether robots will take people’s jobs or even become sufficiently autonomous to be a threat to humans will occupy business leaders, economists, scientists and politicians.

While business and political leaders will dominate the formal agenda, including visits by new leaders Mauricio Macri, Argentine president, and Justin Trudeau, Canadian prime minister, the ski resort is packed with corporate executives and financiers without passes for the Congress Centre, keen to take part in a global networking extravaganza. Davos is a place for introductions and quiet deals.

Week Ahead Political Diary: Destination Davos for world leaders – FT.com

Why Are America’s Allies So Persistently Pathetic? | The National Interest Blog

The United States is allied with every major industrialized power on the planet. America’s friends in Asia and Europe generally are prosperous and populous. Yet decades after the conflicts which led to Washington’s security guarantees for them, the allied gaggle remains a bunch of ‘losers,’ to paraphrase Donald Trump.

Last week North Korea staged its fourth nuclear test. Naturally, South Korea and Japan reacted in horror. But it was America which acted. The United States sent a Guam-based B-52 wandering across South Korean skies to remind Pyongyang—as if it needed reminding—that America’s military was on station. “This was a demonstration of the ironclad U.S. commitment to our allies in South Korea, in Japan, and to the defense of the American homeland,” opined Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., head of Pacific Command.

Why Are America’s Allies So Persistently Pathetic? | The National Interest Blog

This map shows which countries people are leaving and entering

Notably (but unsurprisingly), people tend to leave poorer countries in favor of richer ones.

Europe, Canada, and Australia stand out as countries that received a lot of migrants. Additionally, Saudi Arabia sees a large influx of migrants, who make up a majority of its labor force.

On the flip side, Libya and Sudan stand out as countries that saw large numbers exit. And Northern Africa, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and pockets of South America also saw migrants leave.

Map showing global migration – Business Insider

Amazon.com: Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science

“Alice Dreger’s commentary on the pitfalls of social justice activism is a critical contribution to social justice literature. Anyone that considers them-self a social justice warrior should read this book cover to cover. Dreger provides insight into the motivations of not only social justice groups but also those groups like scientists, politicians etc, they unnecessarily come into conflict with. This book should be an instruction manual for activists on how (and how not) to deal with others.”

This non fiction work is the brain child of Alice Dreger a well known historian/activist with the intersex and transgender movements. I discovered that an intersex person has both sets of sexual organs while a transgender person feels they are the wrong sex at birth. Dr. Dreger helped doctors to see that the practice of immediate surgery on babies was not the best option, that it is better to wait and have the patient make the choice to operate or do nothing at all. Lots of intersex people would do nothing at all and would like recognition as a completely new sex.

The reference to Galileo’s middle finger is a story told early in the book about the re-burial of Galileo and a worker cutting off his middle finger as a relic which can be seen today in a museum in Italy. When the author saw it, she had a hard time stifling her giggles as the middle finger means something completely different in America.

The majority of this book takes on the task of unbiased scientific research and whether it can be achieved in this day of grant money, political polarization and the internet.

Dr. Dreger came under the scrutiny of another group of intersex/transgender activists who didn’t like the fact that she looked into their allegations against another professor and his work. She found that they had lied, and spread the lies to others until the man was getting death threats against himself and his children. After her experience, she decided to check out other scientists and researchers who had been discredited to see if the attacks were true or not. What she discovered astounded her.

Napoleon Chagnon was a famous anthropologist who studied a tribe called Yanomamo in the Amazon for many years exclusively. Then a man named Freeman wrote a paper attacking his work and accusing him of gross misdeeds. Suddenly his research money disappeared and he retired to Michigan. When Dr. Dregers checked into the allegations she discovered that Mr. Freeman’s witnesses did not say what he said they did, or that he himself was the source of their beliefs. “Freeman succeeded in part because he followed what I had learned is the number-one rule in making s*** up. Make it so unbelievable that people have to believe it.”

This was just one example in her book, but it’s the one that stuck with me. “Good scholarship had to put the search for truth first and the quest for social justice second.”
We need to be truly open-minded and not have a fore gone conclusion on what our research will discover. “But the quest for truth-the quest to understand the world around us-must ultimately be how you enact the good.”

Universities today no longer require professors to “publish or perish”, instead they expect you to bring money into the university through grants and contracts. “Our usefulness is not measured by generation of high-quality knowledge but by the volume of grants added to the university economic machine. This means our work is skewed toward the politically safe or, worse, the industrially expedient.”

We need to fix this problem and fix it now, before it is too late. I highly recommend this book to anyone who thirsts for knowledge and truth.

Amazon.com: Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science (9781594206085): Alice Dreger: Books

Forget the Fed, the world is a powder keg

Not the Bavarians’ ‘person of the year’

Could it be then that investors are worrying about the dwindling customer traffic in Europe’s department stores and restaurants during the main shopping season of the year? Maybe they will also worry about huge losses caused by emptying shopping malls last Saturday in Tampa, Florida, Hackensack, New Jersey, and Farmington, New Mexico, in response to bomb threats.

These would be entirely legitimate concerns as terrorist attacks, an intractable migrant crisis, civil unrest, the killing fields in Central Europe, military standoffs in East Asia and EU’s radical political changes give pause for thought and keep the hands away from wallets and “buy” buttons on smart gadgets.

The German government is on the ropes; the present governing coalition may even disintegrate well before the general elections in the second half of 2017.

French PM fears ‘civil war’

France is in an even worse shape. The country will probably remain under an indefinite state of emergency as it continues to face threats from home grown terrorists. The extreme-right party, Front National, is polling at nearly 30 percent, well ahead of a disoriented Socialist-led governing coalition and a largely clueless right-of-center opposition. The situation is so desperate that the prime minister was peddling the fears of civil war to get votes in Sunday’s regional elections.

That is the predicament of Europe’s two political tenors who are supposed to lead the continent’s economic, political and social agenda.

Investors and more than 22 million of EU’s unemployed have to keep saying, prayerfully: Thank God for the ECB. But for how long?

Things can snap at any moment. Hate and distrust is driving European neighbors to cut their railway connections and to protect themselves with walls of barbed wire. There is no peace in Ukraine; fighting continues and its prime minister is manhandled in the parliament by what he called “mentally retarded” deputies. And there is no end to armies of migrants from the Middle East and North and Central Africa as Germany et al. keep arguing about who will call the shots in the name of Western values.

Focus is on Fed but Europe politics in chaos, Asia tensions high

The concept that has underpinned the modern geopolitical era is in crisis

“The order established and proclaimed by the West stands at a turning point.”

The years from perhaps 1948 to the turn of the century marked a brief moment in human history when one could speak of an incipient global world order composed of an amalgam of American idealism and traditional European concepts of statehood and balance of power. But vast regions of the world have never shared and only acquiesced in the Western concept of order. These reservations are now becoming explicit, for example, in the Ukraine crisis and the South China Sea. The order established and proclaimed by the West stands at a turning point.

First, the nature of the state itself—the basic formal unit of international life—has been subjected to a multitude of pressures. …

The challenge in Asia is the opposite of Europe’s: Balance-of-power principles prevail unrelated to an agreed concept of legitimacy, driving some disagreements to the edge of confrontation.

The clash between the international economy and the political institutions that ostensibly govern it also weakens the sense of common purpose necessary for world order. The economic system has become global, while the political structure of the world remains based on the nation-state. Economic globalization, in its essence, ignores national frontiers. Foreign policy affirms them, even as it seeks to reconcile conflicting national aims or ideals of world order.

The international order thus faces a paradox: Its prosperity is dependent on the success of globalization, but the process produces a political reaction that often works counter to its aspirations.

The penalty for failing will be not so much a major war between states (though in some regions this remains possible) as an evolution into spheres of influence identified with particular domestic structures and forms of governance. At its edges, each sphere would be tempted to test its strength against other entities deemed illegitimate. A struggle between regions could be even more debilitating than the struggle between nations has been.

[Published on August 29, 2014]

Henry Kissinger on the Assembly of a New World Order – WSJ