Category Archives: general

Nasrallah confirms Hezbollah, Iran bolstering presence along Golan border – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

Hezbollah on Friday confirmed Israeli suspicions that it was establishing a greater military presence near the Syrian-Israeli frontier on the Golan Heights.

Nasrallah’s remarks reaffirmed the Hezbollah-Iranian effort to solidify another front in the struggle against its nemesis, Israel.

“They killed us in broad daylight, we kill them in broad daylight,” he said. “They hit two of our vehicles, we hit two of their vehicles.”

“We do not want a war but we are not afraid of it and we must distinguish between the two and the Israelis must also understand this very well,” he said.

He said the group had been ready for all possibilities ahead of the retaliatory attack, one of the most serious clashes since the two sides fought a war in 2006. They have appeared to back away from further escalation since the incident.

Nasrallah confirms Hezbollah, Iran bolstering presence along Golan border – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

carolinglick | Iran — Unafraid and Undeterred

The fact that the men were willing to risk exposure by traveling together along the border with Israel indicates how critical the front is for the regime in Tehran. It also indicates that in all likelihood, they were planning an imminent attack against Israel.

According to Ehud Yaari, Channel 2’s Arab Affairs commentator, Iran and Hezbollah seek to widen Hezbollah’s front against Israel from Lebanon to Syria. They wish to establish missile bases on the northern Hermon, and are expanding Hezbollah’s strategic depth from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley to the outskirts of Damascus.

The fact that they are in control over large swathes of the border area and are willing to risk exposure in order to ready the front for operations exposes Iran’s strategic goal of encircling Israel on the ground and the risks it is willing to take to achieve that goal.

But Iran’s willingness to expose its forces and Hezbollah forces also indicates something else. It indicates that they believe that there is a force deterring Israel from attacking them.

From the Golan Heights to Gaza, from Yemen and Iraq to Latin America to Nantanz and Arak, Iran is boldly advancing its nuclear and imperialist agenda. As Charles Krauthammer noted last Friday, the nations of the Middle East allied with the US are sounding the alarm.

carolinglick | Iran — Unafraid and Undeterred

“The fact that the men were willing to risk exposure by traveling together along the border with Israel indicates how critical the front is for the regime in Tehran. It also indicates that in all likelihood, they were planning an imminent attack against Israel.”

If Hezbollah and Iranian leaders were already planning some kind of escalation against Israel, then wouldn’t that threat only be delayed at this point? In other worlds, they’ll be back.

Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says – NYTimes.com

A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.

“We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.

But there is still time to avert catastrophe, Dr. McCauley and his colleagues also found. Compared with the continents, the oceans are mostly intact, still wild enough to bounce back to ecological health.

Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says – NYTimes.com

So we are looking at some kind of a collapse of ocean life. It is possible to avert the collapse, but how likely is that? How likely is it for countries around the world to make major changes in how they affect the ocean? I have my doubts about that. I think current trends will mostly continue as world population increases. That will put even more stress on the oceans of the world. What about another major oil spill like the BP Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010?

“If you cranked up the aquarium heater and dumped some acid in the water, your fish would not be very happy,” Dr. Pinsky said. “In effect, that’s what we’re doing to the oceans.”

I’m all for not dumping acid into the ocean, but of course one of them has to jump on the climate change bandwagon: “Ultimately, Dr. Palumbi warned, slowing extinctions in the oceans will mean cutting back on carbon emissions, not just adapting to them.”

 

 

Conflict trumps economy as top risk to world in Davos survey | Reuters

The risk of international conflict is now the biggest threat facing countries and businesses in the coming decade, trumping concerns about the economy, the World Economic Forum said on Thursday.

The group’s annual assessment of global hazards sets the scene for its meeting in Davos next week, although it is based on responses received some months ago. It is the first time the survey has headlined conflict as the top risk, reflecting an increasingly dangerous world.

The previous nine editions of the Global Risks report have tended to highlight economic threats such as fiscal crises, the collapse of asset prices and widening income disparity.

This time, economics have taken a relative backseat as nearly 900 experts in the survey fretted over the pro-Russian separatist uprising in Ukraine, the dramatic rise of the Islamic State militant group and other geopolitical flashpoints.

Conflict trumps economy as top risk to world in Davos survey | Reuters

Multicultural Suicide

Fueling the Western paralysis in dealing with radical Islam is the late 20th century doctrine of multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism is one of those buzzwords that does not mean what it should. The ancient and generic Western study of many cultures is not multiculturalism. Rather, the trendy term promotes non-Western cultures to a status equal with or superior to Western culture largely to fulfill contemporary political agendas.

On college campuses, multiculturalism not so much manifests itself in the worthy interest in Chinese literature, Persian history, or hieroglyphics, but rather has become more a therapeutic exercise of exaggerating Western sins while ignoring non-Western pathologies to attract those who see themselves in some way as not part of the dominant culture.

It is a deductive ideology that starts with a premise of Western fault and then makes evidence fit the paradigm. It is ironic that only Western culture is self-critical and since antiquity far more interested than other civilizations in empirically investigating the culture of the other.  It is no accident that Europeans and Americans take on their own racism, sexism, and tribalism in a way that is not true of China, Nigeria or Mexico. Parody, satire, and caricature are not Chinese, African, or Arab words.

A multicultural approach to the conquest of Mexico usually does not investigate the tragedy of the collision between 16th-century imperial Spain and the Aztec Empire. More often it renders the conquest as melodrama between a mostly noble indigenous people slaughtered by a mostly toxic European Christian culture, acting true to its imperialistic and colonialist traditions and values.

In other words, there is little attention given to Aztec imperialism, colonialism, slavery, human sacrifice, and cannibalism, but rather a great deal of emphasis on Aztec sophisticated time-reckoning, monumental building skills, and social stratification. To explain the miraculous defeat of the huge Mexican empire by a few rag-tag, greedy conquistadors, discussion would not entail the innate savagery of the Aztecs that drove neighboring indigenous tribes to ally themselves with Cortés. Much less would multiculturalism dare ask why the Aztecs did not deploy an expeditionary force to Barcelona, or outfit their soldiers with metal breastplates, harquebuses, and steel swords, or at least equip their defenders with artillery, crossbows, and mines.

For the multiculturalist, the sins of the non-West are mostly ignored or attributed to Western influence, while those of the West are peculiar to Western civilization. In terms of the challenge of radical Islam, multiculturalism manifests itself in the abstract with the notion that Islamists are simply the fundamentalist counterparts to any other religion. Islamic extremists are no different from Christian extremists, as the isolated examples of David Koresh or the Rev. Jim Jones are cited ad nauseam as the morally and numerically equivalent bookends to thousands of radical Islamic terrorist acts that plague the world each month. We are not to assess other religions by any absolute standard, given that such judgmentalism would inevitably be prejudiced by endemic Western privilege. There is nothing in the Sermon on the Mount that differs much from what is found in the Koran. And on and on and on.

Radical Islam and Multicultural Suicide | Works and Days

Niall Ferguson: The ‘Divergent’ World of 2015 – WSJ

In Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” — a 2011 “young adult” novel set in a dystopian future not a thousand miles removed from “The Hunger Games”—humanity is divided into five factions according to their dominant character traits: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite. This being a post-apocalyptic Chicago, the last faction turns out to be the bad guys. People who fail the initiation tests are consigned to poverty as “factionless.” People with multiple traits are classified as “divergent” and persecuted.

If you were to sort the world’s countries into five factions, you would need a slightly modified classification scheme. The U.S., its economic recovery firmly established despite learned talk of secular stagnation, is looking Dauntless. Then there are the Erudite little countries, like Estonia and Singapore, that have the rare distinction of intelligent governance. But the other three factions would need different names.

There are the Abject: from Argentina to Venezuela by way of Russia, corrupt pseudo-democracies reliant on the export of natural resources. There are the Aspirant: from India to Mexico and Peru, countries engaged in a real process of economic reform. And let’s not forget the Catatonic: from Japan to the eurozone, economies either immune to monetary stimulus or reluctant to administer it.

Niall Ferguson: The ‘Divergent’ World of 2015 – WSJ

Psychopathy and Politics

“Putin is as psychopathic as Stalin, fortunately with much reduced demographic and physical assets with which to work.”

At the time of WWII, there were two extended psychopathic systems, militant Islam and the Marxist Soviet Union, and two psychopathic nation-states, Germany and Japan.  Germany and Japan were purged of psychopathic behaviors, at great cost, during WWII.  The Marxist Soviet Union collapsed of psychopathic dishonesty, inefficiency, incompetence, and corruption in 1991.  It would have been well worth our while to assure that Russia never again became psychopathic, but no such foresight.  Putin is as psychopathic as Stalin, fortunately with much reduced demographic and physical assets with which to work.  After a certain amount of death and destruction, Putin’s Russia will collapse in much less time than it took for the Soviet Union to collapse, because Putin has fewer assets to waste.

Articles: Psychopathy and Politics

Opinion: Vladimir Putin, just evil enough – CNN.com

Vice President Joe Biden recently confided a sensational bit of news to the New Yorker magazine: In a 2011 meeting with Vladimir Putin, he had actually told Russia’s then-prime minister that he had no “soul.” Even more remarkable was Putin’s response. “And he looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand one another.’ ”

Many people — in Ukraine, Europe, America and even Russia — probably share Biden and Putin’s estimation of the Russian president’s spiritual condition. In saying Putin has no soul, it means he seems to lack both the capacity to feel emotions and to show empathy.

Opinion: Vladimir Putin, just evil enough – CNN.com

Is Vladimir Putin a Psychopath? | 1913 Intel

So this is how the world ends… isn’t it? – Telegraph

4. Nuclear war

Still the most plausible ‘doomsday’ scenario. Despite arms limitations treaties, there are more than 15,000 nuclear warheads and bombs in existence – enough, in theory, to kill every human on Earth several times over. Even a small nuclear war has the potential to cause widespread devastation. In 2011, a study by NASA scientists concluded that a limited atomic war between India and Pakistan involving just 100 Hiroshima-sized detonations would throw enough dust into the air to cause temperatures to drop more than 1.2C globally for a decade.

Probability: High. Nine states have nuclear weapons, and more want to join the nuclear club. The nuclear wannabees are not paragons of democracy.

Result: It is unlikely that even a global nuclear war between Russia and Nato would wipe us all out, but it would kill billions and wreck the world economy for a century. A regional war, we now know, could have effects far beyond the borders of the conflict.

So this is how the world ends… isn’t it? – Telegraph

Thoughts from the Frontline – On the Verge of Chaos

“There are some geopolitical thinkers I respect who argue that all this could trigger a regime change in Russia. And others who argue that it will make Vladimir Putin even stronger and that he will want to double down on his policy of destabilizing Ukraine sooner rather than later. Putin does not strike me as being willing to step aside in the manner of a Boris Yeltsin. I doubt he will go gently into that good night. He is a wildcard on the geopolitical stage.”

The “this” referred to above is about low oil prices and the fact that China will be devaluing its currency soon. That big energy deal between Russia and China is in yuan. If China is forced to devalue its currency in order to respond to Japan, then that is going increase pain on Russia.

Concerning Russia, there is a threat of regime change, instability plus limited options. Sounds like revolution will soon enough start brewing in Russia unless Putin can somehow redirect everybody’s attention. And truly Putin is not kind of guy (so far) that is likely to go quietly in the night. Things are more likely to get worse before they get better.

Thoughts from the Frontline – On the Verge of Chaos [Excerpt]

Complexity and Collapse

Okay class, for those who want a little extra credit, I’m going to give you some extra reading and viewing. Lacy Hunt encouraged me to listen again to our friend Niall Ferguson’s speech entitled “Empires on the Edge of Chaos” (Note: the introduction is 10 minutes long and can be skipped. You know who Niall is. And there is considerable Q&A at the end, so the speech itself is roughly 40 to 45 minutes. But the Q&A has lots of laughs, which makes it worth it.) Or you can read this article by Niall in Foreign Affairs, which has much of the same content.

I want to repeat the two quoted paragraphs that opened this letter, along with one more from the Foreign Affairs article. (Again, all emphasis mine.)

Great powers and empires are, I would suggest, complex systems, made up of a very large number of interacting components that are asymmetrically organized, which means their construction more resembles a termite hill than an Egyptian pyramid. They operate somewhere between order and disorder – on “the edge of chaos,” in the phrase of the computer scientist Christopher Langton. Such systems can appear to operate quite stably for some time; they seem to be in equilibrium but are, in fact, constantly adapting. But there comes a moment when complex systems “go critical.” A very small trigger can set off a “phase transition” from a benign equilibrium to a crisis – a single grain of sand causes a whole pile to collapse, or a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon and brings about a hurricane in southeastern England.

Not long after such crises happen, historians arrive on the scene. They are the scholars who specialize in the study of “fat tail” events – the low-frequency, high-impact moments that inhabit the tails of probability distributions, such as wars, revolutions, financial crashes, and imperial collapses. But historians often misunderstand complexity in decoding these events. They are trained to explain calamity in terms of long-term causes, often dating back decades. This is what Nassim Taleb rightly condemned in The Black Swan as “the narrative fallacy”: the construction of psychologically satisfying stories on the principle of post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

Defeat in the mountains of the Hindu Kush or on the plains of Mesopotamia has long been a harbinger of imperial fall. It is no coincidence that the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in the annus mirabilis of 1989. What happened 20 years ago, like the events of the distant fifth century, is a reminder that empires do not in fact appear, rise, reign, decline, and fall according to some recurrent and predictable life cycle. It is historians who retrospectively portray the process of imperial dissolution as slow-acting, with multiple overdetermining causes. Rather, empires behave like all complex adaptive systems. They function in apparent equilibrium for some unknowable period. And then, quite abruptly, they collapse.

The single most commented-upon letter that I have written was called “Fingers of Instability.” Longtime readers know it well, and I would suggest new readers take the time. It contains extremely important concepts for understanding why financial markets can advance smoothly for so long, and then all of a sudden there is chaos. The fingers of instability distributed throughout the sand pile of the global economic system end up getting triggered by some event that may in itself be quite minor. Yes, there are many factors contributing to an unstable global sand economic pile (think massive global debt, wanton overleverage, mischievous central banks with immoderate views of their importance, etc., etc.), but it only takes that fateful final grain of sand, dropped on just the right spot in the pile, to bring the whole thing cascading down.

What Niall is talking about is something that goes far deeper than another financial crisis like the one we recently experienced. What he is pointing out is that countries in financial distress are more constrained than normal in their actions. They have less ability to respond to crises. And some countries in crisis react in very unpredictable ways. Let’s talk about a second-order problem stemming from the fact that Japan is doing what it feels is necessary to keep from suffering a deflationary collapse. Understand, I’m not being critical of the Japanese for taking the actions they have, because I simply don’t know what other choice they have. That’s what makes their situation so difficult.

Japan’s major economic competitors – Germany, Korea, and China – will all have to respond, or their businesses will lose competitive advantage. Okay, we have seen large-scale currency movements all our lives. We adjust. That’s what businesses do.

Except, China and Russia have just signed an agreement for Russia to export rather massive amounts of energy to China, and they will take payment in yuan rather than dollars. A yuan that is going to be falling in value against the dollar as China responds to Japan.

In an ideal world for Russia, the Russian central bank would simply take the Chinese currency and add it to their reserves. But that would trigger a rather large “oops” that was not in the equation when they signed that deal. The yuan they are going to get is going to be losing value on the international market, and Russia is going to need hard currency (i.e. dollars) to pay down its large dollar-denominated debt and buy equipment to maintain and increase its ability to produce energy. And that equipment is generally sold in dollars and not in renminbi.

Couple that situation with the real potential for oil to go below $70 and Russia would have significant budgetary problems. And as David Hale pointed out recently in a private letter, if the US and Iran actually settle their differences over nuclear armaments later this month and sanctions are lifted, that could bring another 1–1.5 million barrels of oil a day onto the world energy markets. (He suggests it would have the same effect as a $400 billion global tax cut.) Mexico is committed to increasing its output, as are other countries, including the US. Sub-$70 oil is not out of the question, and in a global recession we could touch $50 easily. And while that would be good for consumers everywhere, it would certainly put a strain on Russia and other oil-producing countries. In fact, the scenario portends a major crisis for Russia.

And while we’re not as worried about Venezuela or other smaller oil producers, Russia is a potential problem, simply because it is so unpredictable. As noted above, the Japanese population is willing to take a great deal of pain. I don’t think we can say the same thing about the Russians at this point.

There are some geopolitical thinkers I respect who argue that all this could trigger a regime change in Russia. And others who argue that it will make Vladimir Putin even stronger and that he will want to double down on his policy of destabilizing Ukraine sooner rather than later. Putin does not strike me as being willing to step aside in the manner of a Boris Yeltsin. I doubt he will go gently into that good night. He is a wildcard on the geopolitical stage.

Russia has been willing to let the ruble fall rather precipitously rather than supporting it with their dollar reserves, which they are saving for other purposes. Even though the Russian economic situation is deteriorating due to sanctions, the Russian people have so far seemed to tolerate the downturn. As noted in last week’s Outside the Box, the West in general and the US in particular are blamed for Russia’s woes multiple times daily in the Russian media. Given the unpredictability of the current Russian leadership, there is simply no way to guess the outcome. That should make you nervous.

The Fragile Eight

The 2008 crisis demonstrated that the global economic system is far more connected than most imagined. There has been no real deleveraging since that time as nations everywhere have doubled down on deficits and debt. European banks are just as leveraged to sovereign debt as they were before the crisis hit.

The recent Geneva Report on global deleveraging highlighted what the authors termed the “fragile eight” countries of Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Turkey, India, Indonesia, Russia, and South Africa as an “important source of concern in terms of future debt trajectories.” China and the “fragile eight” could find themselves in the unwanted role of hosts to the next phase of the global leverage crisis, it warned.

The accumulation of household, corporate, and government debt in both the emerging and developed worlds has been made all the more troubling by stubbornly low and slowing growth rates. The global capacity to take on more debt is rapidly diminishing because of the combination of low growth and low inflation, if not outright deflation, that we are beginning to see in major countries.

There seems to be a stubborn unwillingness on the part of authorities to recognize the problems that come along with swelling sovereign debt. We are coming ever closer to the point at which countries are going to have difficulty raising debt at interest rates that makes sense, absent the ability to create a shock and awe campaign like Japan’s. And few countries (actually, none come to mind) have the ability to monetize their debt to the tune of 200% of GDP, as Japan is setting out to do, without causing a dramatic currency collapse.

I have this argument all the time with fellow analysts. I get that “austerity” in a deflationary or even disinflationary environment is not exactly pro-growth. And if a country’s debt is low and there is growth, then you can get away with increasing debt. But there is a limit to the amount of debt that a country can take on, and we are approaching it in country after country. This trend is not good for global economic growth or stability. The second-order unintended consequences, such as those Niall describes, are very difficult to contemplate.

The world is not going to come to an end. I will be writing this letter and hopefully you will be reading it in 10 years. But economies and markets are going to get more fragile and volatile in the meantime. This is not the time to be a full-throated bull in the equity markets. And given the potential dollar bull market, there is going to be pressure on most commodities. Corporate debt, especially high-yield debt, is priced for perfection. When I look out over the horizon, I simply don’t see perfection. At a minimum, you should not be long high-yield debt. And if you’re running a business, you should get all the debt you can, even if you bank the cash, at today’s low rates for as long a term as you can get it. Take advantage of this unbelievably forgiving debt environment.

Thoughts from the Frontline – On the Verge of Chaos

George Orwell’s 1984: Summary + Video + Audio Book

Check out George Orwell’s 1984 Video SparkNote: Quick and easy 1984 synopsis, analysis, and discussion of major characters and themes in the novel. For more 1984 resources, go to www.sparknotes.com/lit/1984.

Video SparkNotes: Orwell’s 1984 Summary – YouTube

Video SparkNotes: Orwell’s 1984 Summary

1984 is a 1956 film loosely based on the novel of the same name by George Orwell. This is the first cinema rendition of the story, directed by Michael Anderson, and starring Edmond O’Brien. Also starring are Donald Pleasence, Jan Sterling, and Michael Redgrave. Pleasence also appeared in the 1954 television version of the film, playing the character of Syme, which in the film was amalgamated with that of Parsons. O’Brien, the antagonist, was renamed “O’Connor,” possibly to avoid confusion with lead actor Edmond O’Brien.

After the customary distributor agreement expired, the film was withdrawn from the theatrical and TV distribution channels by Orwell’s estate and was not legally obtainable for many years

Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 — 21 January 1950),[1] known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. His work is marked by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism and commitment to democratic socialism.[2][3]

Commonly ranked as one of the most influential English writers of the 20th century and as one of the most important chroniclers of English culture of his generation,[4] Orwell wrote literary criticism, poetry, fiction and polemical journalism. He is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945), which together (as of 2009) have sold more copies than any two books by any other 20th-century author.[5] His book Homage to Catalonia (1938), an account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, is widely acclaimed, as are his numerous essays on politics, literature, language, and culture. In 2008, The Times ranked him second on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945″.[6]

Orwell’s work continues to influence popular and political culture, and the term Orwellian — descriptive of totalitarian or authoritarian social practices — has entered the language together with several of his neologisms, including Cold War, Big Brother, thought police, Room 101, doublethink, and thoughtcrime.

? 1984 George Orwell – Full Movie – Hollywood best Greatest blockbuster movie Film – YouTube

1984 George Orwell – Full Movie

The audio book:

CITI: These 6 Huge Trends Are Completely Reshaping The World Economy | Business Insider

Trend 1: The world is getting more integrated.
Trend 2: The global population is getting older.
Trend 3: Next-generation technology will enter the global market place.
Trend 4: Emerging economies will drive global economic growth.
Trend 5: Systemic risks are a threat to globally integrated companies.
Trend 6: Global governance systems will fail to solve international problems.

CITI: These 6 Huge Trends Are Completely Reshaping The World Economy | Business Insider