"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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So, OK, my employer made me burn off some vacation days before the end of the fiscal year, in the form of a cap on the number of PTO hours that can be carried over from FY14 into FY15, which boundary has shifted by 3 months due to our recent change of ownership. Much lower down, my management intimated that due to certain software-release and testing milestone dates, no significant block of time off in February or March would be approved. But thanks to an unrelated M&A a few years back (a spectacularly problematic one, destined to be a business-school case study for decades to come), we now get the MLK holiday off. I decided to take the whole week and head southwest in search of sunlight. After a swing through New Mexico, I am spending a few days at Crow’s Nest, a 10-minute hike from the 6+ acres I own near Bloys Camp. It’s my first visit in four years.
Mitre Peak (1887m/6190’) as seen from my lot
This is what I would write if somebody made me enter one of those hoary MLK essay contests that middle- or high-school students get sucked into. The entries that I’ve read over the years have seemed pretty unimaginative, but it’s hardly realistic to expect much historical perspective from a teenager. The tone I’m aiming for here is, of course, originality combined with some mildly discomfiting assertions, while avoiding stereotypical politics. The structure is a simple three-parter: past, present, and (near) future.
The world weighs on my shoulders, but what am I to do?
You sometimes drive me crazy, but I worry about you
I know it makes no difference to what you’re going through
But I see the tip of the iceberg, and I worry about you …
Reading through background material on the UN’s recent request for $16.4 billion in humanitarian aid in 2015, I find that the number of displaced people was already at its highest since World War II at the end of 2013, and has risen by several million since then. Nearly all are somewhere inside or on the perimeter of the Muslim world, with Ukraine the only sizeable exception. My sense, in which I am hardly alone, is that we are reliving the mid-1930s, with aggression unchecked and chaos unmitigated by morally exhausted Western institutions. That “low dishonest decade” ended in global war with a per capita death toll around 1 in 40. A proportional event a few years from now would kill 200 million people.
Cold and misty morning, I heard a warning borne in the air
About an age of power where no one had an hour to spare …
– Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression, Part 1”
Imagine that you just stepped out of a time machine into the mid-1930s with a case of partial historical amnesia. From your reading of history, you can still remember that the nation has been beset with economic difficulties for several years that will continue for several more. You also clearly remember that this is followed by participation in a global war, but you cannot recall just when it starts or who it’s with. A few days of newspapers and radio broadcasts, however, apprise you of obvious precursors to that conflict and various candidates for both allies and enemies.
As mentioned several times in this forum, I adhere to a historical model, consisting either of a four-part cycle of generational temperaments (Strauss and Howe), or a related but simpler system dynamic/generational flow (Xenakis). That model posits the above scenario as a description of our current situation and a prediction of its near future: a tremendous national trial, currently consisting mostly of failing domestic institutions, is underway. It will somehow transform into a geopolitical military phase and reach a crescendo early in the next decade. It cannot be avoided, only confronted.
Nor will it be a low-intensity conflict like the so-called “wars” of recent decades, which have had US casualty counts comparable to those of ordinary garrison duty a generation ago. Xenakis has coined the descriptive, and thoroughly alarming, term genocidal crisis war for these events. Some earlier instances in American history have killed >1% of the entire population and much larger portions of easily identifiable subsets of it. Any early-21st-century event of this type is overwhelmingly likely to kill millions of people in this country, many if not most of them noncombatants. And besides its stupendous quantitative aspect, the psychological effect will be such that the survivors (including young children) remain dedicated, for the rest of their lives, to preventing such a thing from ever happening again.
I will nonetheless argue that no matter how firmly convinced we may be that an utterly desperate struggle, with plenty of attendant disasters, is inevitable and imminent, we must avoid both individual panic and collective overreaction.
Adrift without a map, we are, in the sea of current events. Especially after this last week, which brought us a ground war in Gaza and the shoot-down of a passenger airliner over Ukraine; both situations a little out of the depth of the past experience of Chicago community organizer, even one who spent his grade school years in Indonesia. Quite a large number of the blogs and commenters that I follow have speculated over the last couple of months – at least since last year – and have predicted disaster. They know not the day nor the hour, but they have read the various augurs according to their inclinations, suspicions and particular expertise, and gloomily speculate on the odds of various events occurring. There is something bad coming, the air is thick and heavy with signs and portents, never mind the cheery cast that the current administration and its public affairs division attempts to put on it. It’s like a makeup artist, plying the art on a six-months-dead corpse; it’s just not working. Read the rest of this entry »
Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina are languishing in differing shades of turmoil, steadily losing ground to regional underdogs. The Pacific Alliance, an historic trade agreement between Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Colombia (and coming soon: Costa Rica), has the potential to recolor Latin America’s economic map and introduce some new regional powerhouses to the world stage.
Four nations are developing an initiative that could add new dynamism to Latin America, redraw the economic map of the region, and boost its connections with the rest of the world—especially Asia. It could also offer neighboring countries a pragmatic alternative to the more political groupings dominated by Brazil, Cuba, and Venezuela.
Belmont Club has a good post today on the collapse of Venezuela. The car manufacturers have announced they are closing their plants.
Toyota Motor Co. said it would shut down its assembly operations in Venezuela due to the government’s foreign exchange controls that have crippled imports and made it impossible to bring in parts needed to build its vehicles.
The country’s other car manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford, haven’t even started operations this year, while waiting for needed parts to arrive.
If all goes well, I will be arriving at MIA on American 1665 from Port-au-Prince at 3:35 PM local time this Saturday. The plan, such as it is, is that I call Jonathan once I am through customs. I somewhat inappropriately made reservations for lodging much closer to FLL, just because I like the place (Villa Europa in Hollywood) and haven’t had the chance to stay there in a while. So anyway, southern Floridians interested in a probable wide-ranging and somewhat ethanol-assisted discussion (#civilsociety #crisisof2020 #statefailure #younameit) are encouraged to contact Jonathan and … figure something out. Hey, I have people for that.
The British seem to be discovering something about immigration that was obvious to many of us on this side of the Atlantic a long time ago.
The release of a previously unseen document suggested that Labour’s migration policy over the past decade had been aimed not just at meeting the country’s economic needs, but also the Government’s “social objectives”.
The paper said migration would “enhance economic growth” and made clear that trying to halt or reverse it could be “economically damaging”. But it also stated that immigration had general “benefits” and that a new policy framework was needed to “maximise” the contribution of migration to the Government’s wider social aims.
The Government has always denied that social engineering played a part in its migration policy.
However, the paper, which was written in 2000 at a time when immigration began to increase dramatically, said controls were contrary to its policy objectives and could lead to “social exclusion”.
Imagine that !
Last night, the Conservatives demanded an independent inquiry into the issue. It was alleged that the document showed that Labour had overseen a deliberate open-door policy on immigration to boost multi-culturalism.
Voting trends indicate that migrants and their descendants are much more likely to vote Labour.
The existence of the draft policy paper, which was drawn up by a Cabinet Office think tank and a Home Office research unit, was disclosed last year by Andrew Neather, a former adviser to Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett.
He alleged at the time that the sharp increase in immigration over the past 10 years was partly due to a “driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multi-cultural”.
Yet Marco Rubio assures us that the new immigrant citizen will vote for Republicans out of gratitude.
Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch, said the document showed that Mr Neather, who claimed ministers wanted to radically change the country and “rub the Right’s nose in diversity”, had been correct in his account of Labour’s immigration policy.
Poor Mexico, runs the saying usually attributed to long-time Mexican strongman Porfirio Diaz, So far from God, so close to the United States. I was thinking of this, when we went to see the movie For Greater Glory – mostly because I had seen brief mention of it here and there on the libertarian-conservative side of the blogosphere, and the whole premise of it interested me, mostly because I had never heard of such a thing as the Cristero War. Never heard of it, and it happened in the lifetime of my grandparents, in the country right next door … and heck, in California we studied Mexico in the sixth grade. It appeared from casual conversation with the dozen or so people who caught the early matinee at a movie multiplex in San Antonio, only one of them had ever heard of it, either. Was there some cosmic cover-up, or did we have troubles enough of our own at the time … or was it just that Mexico was so constantly in turmoil that one more horrific civil struggle just blended seamlessly into the one before and the one after? Read the rest of this entry »
So it was interesting – in a slow down and get a good look at the media wreck by the side of the highway kind of way – watching the Malia-Obama-Goes-to-Mexico story getting scrubbed off newspaper sites the other day. My daughter was actually surfing the intertubules that afternoon, noticed how the story was there and gone again, in the blink of an eye: ‘Hey, there’s another Obama vay-cay, how many weeks since the last one? Whoops!’ Quite honestly, we had never seen the like; a news story appearing and disappearing like that, and I thought at first that maybe a couple of newspapers had fallen for a fake story and then withdrawn it almost at once. But no … it was was a genuine story, and massively-withdrawn almost as soon as it was posted here, there and almost everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve read that the above slogan was prominently displayed at polling places during the “elections” held during the early years of the Nazi regime. While the only definitive links on I can find on this poster are at the search summary screen here, it is clear that these elections (in 1933, 1936, and 1938) were marked by a climate of extreme intimidation, as well as the banning of opposition parties. This link suggests that to the extent people were still able to choose to vote by secret ballot, surreptitious means were used to identify those who had voted “incorrectly.”
In Venezuela, in 2003, dictator-in-waiting Hugo Chavez asserted that “those who sign against Chavez are signing against their country and against the future”, and added, “whoever signs against Chavez, there will remain his name recorded for history.
And in the United States in 2012, a tweet sent out under the name of and with the evident approval of Barack Obama said:
Add your name to demand that the Koch brothers make their donors public: http://OFA.BO/mfLtZX
(The reference is to the organization Americans for Prosperity, to which the Kochs have contributed but of which they are not officers or directors.)
Pressuring a political organization to make the names of its donors public is intimidation, pure and simple. Should Obama win a second term, you can expect the level of intimidation directed against American citizens not in his camp to rise to levels which are now almost unimaginable.
As I was working over a hot computer this afternoon, with the local classical music station on, I heard a reader for this little excursion. Oh, my – I wondered if Texas Public Radio just wants us to get a good look at what happens when a prosperous state undergoes a revolution of the proletariat, and have received a full ration of social justice, as well as management by the modern version of the philosopher kings … yep, get a good long hard look at the itinerary. It includes a stop at the Bay of Pigs Museum. Lots of lovely pre-revolution buildings – at least, that is what the TPR website page about the tour displays.
Gee, I guess they couldn’t wrangle a tour to Syria – I gather that it’s lovely, this time of year. Or maybe to another civil-rights hellhole like Burma, or Iran; so many lovely historic buildings and pleasing vistas, for the delectation of the culturally-sensitive and well-heeled visitors. I am just gob-smacked by this – and the timing for this particular tour offering, as well as the community that it has been offered to. San Antonio is a fairly conservative town, full of former military – and many of whom are sponsors and contributors to public radio – or at least, we were, back in the day.
I used to work at this place, as a part-time announcer; until they decided to let all the local part-timers go, and manage the station with a combination of full-time professionals and automation. I used to think that TPR was one of those intersections where a lot of different circles in San Antonio intersected. Now, my daughter is wondering – Did Sean Penn and Michael Moore go halfsies on corporate-sponsoring Texas Public Radio?
Whatever may be the traditional sympathy of our countrymen as individuals with a people who seem to be struggling for larger autonomy and greater freedom, deepened, as such sympathy naturally must be, in behalf of our neighbors, yet the plain duty of their Government is to observe in good faith the recognized obligations of international relationship. The performance of this duty should not be made more difficult by a disregard on the part of our citizens of the obligations growing out of their allegiance to their country, which should restrain them from violating as individuals the neutrality which the nation of which they are members is bound to observe in its relations to friendly sovereign states. Though neither the warmth of our people’s sympathy with the Cuban insurgents, nor our loss and material damage consequent upon the futile endeavors thus far made to restore peace and order, nor any shock our humane sensibilities may have received from the cruelties which appear to especially characterize this sanguinary and fiercely conducted war, have in the least shaken the determination of the Government to honestly fulfill every international obligation, yet it is to be earnestly hoped on every ground that the devastation of armed conflict may speedily be stayed and order and quiet restored to the distracted island, bringing in their train the activity and thrift of peaceful pursuits.
(Those were the days. God bless YouTube. Sergio Mendes was a genius. At some point he said to himself: “OK, I am a great musician, and I know what the world wants to hear, what it’s hungry for, which is cool, jazz-tinged, Brazilian-flavored pop. I can already see those hit records and hear the cheering crowds … . But this is the age of TV, and I’m kind of homely.” (Smacks forehead) “I know, I will get two really cute girl singers with really great voices, put them in miniskirts, and put ‘em out front.” The rest is history. Thanks, Sergio. Love ya, babe.)
A kindergarten teacher in Mexico seeks to protect her students and calm their fears as narco-cartel fighters conduct a raging gun battle outside the window of her school. The woman has nerves of iron.
But hey…..Mexico can’t have an “insurgency” because the narcos don’t have “political” goals. Or a unified political goal. Or because there are still good vacation deals there at all-inclusive resorts. Or….Or…Or…. whatever flimsy rationale helps policy makers continue to punt the war next door.
Altars to Santa Muerte, “Saint Death” to the poor and the narcocultos
SWJ has been en fuego the last few days and this is the first of several that I recommend that readers give close attention.
Dr. Robert J. Bunker and Lt. John Sullivan are indicating that the canary in the coal mine phase of Mexico’s narco-insurgency has passed. Mexican society is entering a new and more dangerous period of accelerating cultural devolution. Narco-insurgent violence has shifted from the economically motivated and brutally instrumental of organized crime syndicates everywhere to culturally totemic and ghastly ceremonials out of tribal prehistory:
Commenters on the earlier post having raised several good points, I decided to write a follow-up rather than attempt to provide individual responses.
I should first say something general about technological advance and prediction horizons. Due to the immense effects of nanomachinery, as hazardous as near-future speculation may be, it becomes extraordinarily difficult more than about 20 years out. What interests me in this context is what can be done with “bulk technology” before the transition to nanotech, and how many of the developments forecast by Drexler et al may occur relatively gradually and in unlikely places, rather than swiftly and obviously emanating from North America or some other high-technology region. Jim notes the potential of the combination of desktop fabricators and satellite links. I believe that few people on Earth will see more change in the next generation than young Haitians. Read the rest of this entry »
Last month I went to Haiti to help out with an IT project in Petit-Goâve, a medium-sized town about seventy kilometers west-southwest of Port-au-Prince, on the northern shore of the Tiburon Peninsula, opposite Île de la Gonâve on the Canal de Sud. The project’s objective is to create, or rather restore, a computer lab at “College” Harry Brakeman (actually a primary and secondary school, hereafter “CHB”), and provide greatly improved internet access, via wireless links, at five sites (including CHB) in Petit-Goâve owned by L’Eglise Methodiste d’Haiti (EMH). The epicenter of one of the larger aftershocks of the January 2010 earthquake was directly beneath Petit-Goâve.
Numerous ongoing projects for the EMH throughout Haiti are being funded by United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and staffed by United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM), but my personal involvement is not occurring as a result of direct involvement with any of those organizations. I have for many years been attending an informal Friday lunch group that for the past decade or so has included Clif Guy, who is the CIO of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, generally known as “COR” throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area, in which it is by several measures the largest single church – big enough to have its own IT department (larger than most church staffs altogether) and a CIO.
In mid-January I returned from a solitary and somewhat monastic sojourn in New Mexico and the trans-Pecos region of Texas to 1) get back to work at Sprint; 2) bury my just-deceased 18-year-old cat; and 3) talk to Clif about opportunities in Haiti, which he had mentioned several times over the previous year. Two months of frantic preparation later, which included among many other tasks the filling out of a “Mission Trip Notification of Death” to specify the disposition of my corpse, I was landing at Toussaint Louverture International Airport. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Charles Cameron on 21st February 2011 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit, with thanks to Lex for the nudge ]
I was impressed by him in London in the early sixties.
Okay, I was young and impressionable. But others have noticed him more recently, too: Hugo Chavez accused him of being a conspirator with the CIA, and the Iranians thought he, George Soros and John McCain were in cahoots.
Gene Sharp has been in the news quite a bit recently [1, 2, 3, 4], because he pretty literally wrote the book on non-violent resistance.
The young leaders of the Egyptian revolt that toppled Mubarak studied tactics with members of the Serbian Otpor youth resistance who topped Milosevic, Otpor studied tactics in the writings of Gene Sharp, specifically his 90-page pamphlet From Dictatorship to Democracy [download as .pdf]. Sharp wrote that handbook for use in Burma, where it was apparently translated at the request of Aung San Suu Kyi — who once cautioned her readers that that phrase they kept hearing wasn’t “jeans shirt”, it was “Gene Sharp”.
And before that, he’d penned his masterful 900-page, three-volume work, The Politics of Nonviolent Action…
I told you he was impressive.
From Dictatorship to Democracy is now available in Amharic, Arabic, Azeri, Belarusian, Burmese, Chin (Burma), Jing-paw (Burma), Karen (Burma), Mon (Burma), Chinese (Simplified Mandarin), Chinese (Traditional Mandarin), English, Farsi, French, Indonesian, Khmer (Cambodia), Kyrgyz, Pashto, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Tibetan, Tigrigna, and Vietnamese.
…may not be the most glamorous segments of the world economy. But, in a very real sense, they underlie everything else.
Colombia, in partnership with China, is looking at a potential land-bridge railroad which could serve as an alternative to the Panama Canal. Ships arriving at a coastal terminus would offload their cargoes to the railroad, which would carry them 137 miles overland, and the process would be reversed at the other end.
The benefits of this “dry canal” for Atlantic-to-Pacific connection, and vice-versa, seem a bit questionable given the costs and delays of offloading and onloading containers and other freight–unless, of course, the Panama Canal reaches an extreme state of congestion and/or the canal fees are substantially increased. It appears, however, that one major motivating factor behind the project has to do with COAL. Columbia has substantial quantities of high-quality and easily-worked coal near the Caribbean end of the proposed route.
“Progressives” and establishment liberals have praised China’s progress in “green technology,” suggesting that the future energy supply for that country will come from solar, wind, and helpful leprechauns turning cranks while being supervised by wise unicorns. But if China’s leadership is serious about investing in a project like the Colombian land-bridge, then it’s pretty clear that they see a long-term future for coal as an energy source–clean or otherwise.
And I doubt it has escaped their attention that achieving/maintaining low electricity prices establishes a powerful competitive advantage in a whole range of manufacturing industries.
For a long time I assumed Obama was a communist. How else to explain his support for the Honduran Chavista Manuel Zelaya? Ideological sympathy on Obama’s part seemed the simplest explanation.
However, documents from WikiLeaks suggest an even worse possibility, namely that the whole sorry affair was driven by incompetence at a level that’s astonishing even by the low standards of the Obama administration. Were they really so eager to appease Chavez? That’s crazy even if Obama is personally sympathetic to Chavez. It was easily predictable that Chavez would pocket any concessions and go for more and that’s what happened. And now an emboldened Chavez appears to have invited Iran to install ballistic missiles in Venezuela, and we do nothing. We are cruising toward another Cuban Missile Crisis but with weaker leadership on our side, adversaries who are less stable than the Soviets were, and erstwhile allies scared off by our fecklessness. How much trouble might have been prevented if we had taken a firm line in support of the elected Honduran government and warned Chavez to stay out?
If we’re lucky Obama will be out of office before the inevitable crisis occurs.
That crisis will consume much international attention next year, though a more important spread of Middle Eastern conflict to the Americas – the partnership between Iran and Venezuela – will likely be ignored until it is too late to resolve by any means short of war.
Conventional wisdom holds that narco gang and drug cartel violence in Mexico is primarily secular in nature. This viewpoint has been recently challenged by the activities of the La Familia cartel and some Los Zetas, Gulfo, and other cartel adherents of the cult of Santa Muerte (Saint Death) by means of religious tenets of ‘divine justice’ and instances of tortured victims and ritual human sacrifice offered up to a dark deity, respectively. Severed heads thrown onto a disco floor in Michoacan in 2005 and burnt skull imprints in a clearing in a ranch in the Yucatán Peninsula in 2008 only serve to highlight the number of such incidents which have now taken place. Whereas the infamous ‘black cauldron’ incident in Matamoros in 1989, where American college student Mark Kilroy’s brain was found in a ritual nganga belonging to a local narco gang, was the rare exception, such spiritual-like activities have now become far more frequent.
These activities only serve to further elaborate concerns amongst scholars, including Sullivan, Elkus, Brands, Manwaring, and the authors, over societal warfare breaking out across the Americas. This warfare- manifesting itself in ‘criminal insurgencies’ derived from groups of gang, cartel, and mercenary networks- promotes new forms of state organization drawn from criminally based social and political norms and behaviors. These include a value system derived from illicit narcotics use, killing for sport and pleasure, human trafficking and slavery, dysfunctional perspectives on women and family life, and a habitual orientation to violence and total disregard for modern civil society and democratic freedoms. This harkens back to Peter’s thoughts concerning the emergence of a ‘new warrior class’ and, before that, van Creveld’s ‘non-trinitarian warfare’ projections.