Friday, July 12, 2019

Asymmetric De-Stabilization; Why the S.400 Missile System is So Dangerous


In the 1980s, president Ronald Reagan took the United States down the path of the strategic defense initiative known as Star Wars. It fundamentally changed the nature of strategic nuclear warfare to the point that it was an economical for the Soviet Union to continue to pursue the strategy of mutual assured destruction. It changed the world and ended the Cold War. Decades later, the descendant of one of the Soviet anti-aircraft defense missile systems from the era of the Red Menace is set to do the same to the world's air forces. 

Black Swans Rising

The S.400 is the evolution of area air defense systems only dreamt about in the days of the Cold War by the Voyska PVO Strany Air Defence Armies of the Soviet Union. This is a very capable missile system. It is a missile system that renders almost the entire inventory of older generation combat aircraft in the hands of any air force obsolete.

Fighter aircraft, command and control planes, drones and even stand off missiles are at risk from the talons of an S.400 generation class SAM. The Israelis found this out in the hard way Syria on February 10, 2018 losing a very advanced version F-16L to a storm of anti-aircraft defenses, “Dangerous Skies” Dennis Santiago, AmericaOutLoud.com, https://americaoutloud.com/dangerous-skies/.

You should realize that one-half to two-thirds of the cost of a modern combat aircraft is in avionics, the electronic systems that manage the offensive and defensive ability of the platform to operate in a hostile airspace. Most of the combat aircraft on this planet do not have sophisticated electronic warfare avionics. Even among the nations that do, the S.400 missile is still a threat for so-called fourth generation and lesser combat aircraft. As S.400 systems proliferate, and the technology to make them independently along with it, entire fleets of Air Forces will have to either be modernized or scrapped. Few nations will be able to afford the next generation of aircraft is necessary to operate in the type of hostile airspace. It will increasingly alter the danger of the skies above surface of the earth.

Power projection, Maritime patrols, Surveillance, Air Defense Interdiction Zones, Close Air Support. All these missions will undergo radical transformations wherever the footprint of shows up. I have to spare general readers the specifics because I don’t want to have to put classification stamps at the top and bottom of this article; but, for those of you with the clearances, I’m pretty sure your mind is now racing about what the engagement analytics means; not just for our Air Force, but for every air force that we’ve relied upon to multiply our influence.

Like Star Wars, the S.400 takes the world’s global stability planners through what’s called a non-linear junction in the rules of engagement. Everything changes from the probability of loss mathematics to the diplomatic leverage potential of US and allied force structure inventories.
This is not a small deal. This is an asymmetric threat; as asymmetric as SDI was. This is not a problem directed against the United States. This is a systemic threat to the structure of world order that the United States depends on. It has the consequence effect of undermining and eliminating the how we think power balances between nations and factions within nations. This is what academics call a Beta Risk event, a global stability Black Swan.

And it’s going to work because here’s the thing about asymmetric threats, once the ball gets moving, entropy rules. It’s you against inevitability. It’s almost impossible to stop.

Motives, Methods, Opportunities

Some will this as profiteering by the Russians selling second generation systems to generate cash and influence among second tier countries as Vladimir Putin’s nationalist pride fights to keep his country relevant in international affairs.

But there’s more to it than that. One nation alone, regardless of intent, can case that much damage. Even Russia. But changes in the topology international power can.

It's called hill and valley power. That's the name for the regional struggles for power among so-called second tier of nations. Traditionally the proxy vassals of greater superpowers, our world is now seeing the emergence of nation-state agency, the independent action of individual parties, as the era of hegemony fades and a 21st century of fragmented or fractal alliances begins.

It’s a formula for a very unstable world. As old regime militaries become obsolete, we will see arms races. Desperate efforts to preserve the status quo of force-based order. But it won’t work. More likely, alliances and advantages will change. So many old grudges will be put to new tests between countries. Minuet wars to settle disputes will erupt.

The United States is at a crossroads in how we deal with a complex network of nations as we prepare to bolster our alliances and economic partnerships to prepare for an anticipated era of competition for global economic domination. It is a complex puzzle to be sure as we ponder our national interests with a world experiencing cataclysmic realignment.

The Tier Two Club

A power balance earthquake is rocking Eurasia. Countries like Turkey, Iran and Russia, nations with gross domestic product's in the middle range of the spectrum, are banding together. It’s an economic-interests banding of nations that don’t’ fit the European Union cooperative model. But it’s not a Warsaw Pact collection of vassals either. These are peer states brought together by not fitting in to the New World Order; they are not one of those thousand points of light.

Still, like the European Union, what they are effectively doing is banding together to shelter in place for the coming battle of the titans between the world's two largest economies, the United States and China.

To put it mildly, US relations are strained with these Eurasian Tier Two’s.

Russia

Our relationships with the Russians have been beset with a series of disastrous resets going back to the end of the Cold War. We never instituted a 1990’s Marshall Plan to help them even after Boris Yeltsin wept openly in our grocery stores about the price his people had paid to uphold their end of the Cold War global stability bargain. We could have established a powerful northern alliance with the Russians; but we didn’t. We let their world go into free fall. Today’s Russia is a basket case of oligarchy and bankrupt districts where the government looks the other way at crimes committed that bring in precious hard cash any way they can. They are still scrounging. Life is hard today.

Vladimir Putin, a very proud man, is holding a hand of cards in a poker game that requires a lot of bluff and bravado. He's pretty good at it. But he also knows he's managing a House of Cards as fragile as the one Czars had to contend with in their time.

We’ve not make things easier. We repeatedly go back to our Red Menace prejudice about them over and over; often, purely for the convenience of using them as a foil in our domestic debates. The two countries’ relations remain dysfunction as ever. That’s a lot of incentive for Mother Russia to find another way.

Iran

We have a hostile relationship with Iran that exists in what conflict strategists called a grey zone conflict, a stage of strained relations just short of outright warfare. In this case because they’re quite honesty bat shit crazy. Between a grudge their religious leadership hasn’t be able to let go of since 732 A.D. and their fatal attraction to repeat the overextension of influence mistakes of their Persian Empire history, the Iranians have a knack for making themselves unwelcome in genteel circles. Heck, they even have a knack for putting their Tier Two Club allies into some peculiar pickles on a regular basis. Khamenei, Rouhani and Salami act more like Larry, Moe and Curly on the international scene.
It’s kind of sad because Persian culture and people are quite interesting.

Turkey

And then there’s Turkey, the other former empire. Our relationship with the Ottomans is, well, chaotic. The good news, if there is such a thing here, is that’s par for the course. Everyone else’s relationship with them is chaotic too. They are barely in still in NATO. And warily members of the Tier Two Club.

The Turks do weird things. They openly call the most stalwart US allies in the region against ISIS, the Kurds, terrorists and would subdue them like the Ottomans did the Armenians. It’s a brutally pragmatic culture that looks out for itself first and only. This is the exact kind of persona that makes the “woke” parts of America freak from deep inside their safe spaces. Of course, given the socio-political fragmentation of the United States, the Turks probably see us as just as a chaotic a counterparty.

In a more practical sense, Turkey has its own share of problems. The Turkish economy is in a period of “retrenchment of previous gains”, to quote the type of thing that Alan Greenspan would have described it. A period of ebullient borrowing by the Turkish government to fund economic expansion has put them on the edge of a Venezuela-like national debt predicament. Political turmoil stemming from it has put the Turkish Central Bank at odds with the Turkish government led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Like most leaders in his predicament, Erdogan turns to nationalism to weather the storm.

Fragmented Planet

Under normal circumstances, these three countries have little in common. But these are uncommon times. We are seeing the fragmentation of the world. It will be marked with greater disagreement between parties then in the past. That's a formula for a dangerous time. The kind of time where someone might make a mistake and accidentally start a World War. This represents a real worry for anyone interested in global stability that can perpetuate the conditions for constructive economic competition.

Note that it also comes at a time when the United Nations has become unable to perform its function of mitigating disharmony among the community of nations. The democratization of the UN whereby the General Assembly has become dominated by Tier Three nations has made it impossible for the Tier One and Two countries to have a working forum within that body. Their differences must be solved elsewhere; so far, in fractured bilateral dealings.

Bottom line is the UN’s path to inclusiveness failed to prevent the fractal alignments are beginning to emerge on this planet. The why, the how, the who doesn't matter anymore. The fact of the matter is that it's already happened. The world has gone through a one-way door and there is no way to step back to the other side of the looking glass.

Pivotal Importance

Turkey is, in my opinion, potentially the most destabilizing pivot point to military global stability on the planet at this moment in time. The asymmetric cascading failure will either begin in Turkey or end in Turkey. It’s important that US policy makers not treat this lightly.

I do not like or dislike the Turks. I think they are as much caught in the eye of this storm as anyone else. But it’s not lost on me that Turkey is the grand bazaar of this planet. The oldest market where goods and secrets change hands.

Two critical pieces of technology make Turkey important to every power planner on this planet. They are the S.400 surface-to-air missile system and F-35 fighter. Possession of access to these two technologies lowers the threshold of technology transfer knowledge whereby the cratering of the power of global air forces will extend to threating the viability of fifth generation stealth technology combat aircraft. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of how fast.

That bombshell will be in the hands of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. I cannot see any scenario where he will not attempt to exploit it.

The China Card

None of this is happening in a battle of the Titans vacuum. The other over $16 trillion GDP economy on this planet, China, is making great effort to be friends with everyone. They send delegations to cooperate with anybody who will let them in the door. There's even a Chinese military unit drilling with NATO to cooperate in case of a catastrophic humanitarian disaster that engulfs the planet requiring everyone to help.

This positioning strategy makes sense for China. Every stability analyst with his or her weight in salt needs to respect that Xi Jinping is not a fool in this regard. No pun intended, China can read tea leaves very well. They can see the coming changes in the power structure of the planet appearing on the horizon. They want to be the other superpower that appears on the scene for the remainder of the 21st century.

Personally, I am not entirely sure the China sees the global implications of the S.400 any better than the United States does. Their actions so far do not seem to see that they are as vulnerable to the asymmetric dismantling of the Post-Cold War global economy assumption as much as the United States is. My instinct says that the United States and China are about to discover that they have more in common for their dreams of the next world order than we have differences.

It reminds me of the first admonition that was given to me when I started working on the problems of arms control during the Cold War. I was told to remember that the Russians were our partners in ensuring the success of global stability. I was told a tumultuous and dysfunctional relationship to be sure; but, ours was nevertheless a deep bond of allies to organize the world and prevent fragmentation and chaos in the aftermath of World War 2.

Some things change, some things stay the same.

US Options

What we can’t do.

Read my lips. No one on this planet can afford to allow a systemic cascading failure of military power balances on this planet to happen. we do not have the international cohesion among the community of nations to prevent the accidental initiation of a World War. We need to understand our limitations. That goes For the United States. That goes for the Chinese. That goes for the Russians. That goes for everyone. We let this happen, trade imbalances will be the least of our problems.

What we should be doing.

First, we should be asking the Russians some very tough questions about whether their intentions are indeed the crater to capabilities of every Air Force on this planet, including their own. If that is not the case, the Russians need to begin to take an active role in managing the systemic danger that they are causing.

Second, we should be discussing with the Chinese the fact that we both want a world where we can continue to interact with each other primarily based on healthy economic competition, even if that intramural sport is somewhat rough at times. We need to come to an understanding with the Chinese that it is both our interest to make sure that our economies can do so successfully anywhere on this planet. We should engage the Chinese in a serious discussion about how we, the two largest economies on this planet, are going to contain the spread of this destabilizing threat to the global stability equation.

Third, we need to stop pussyfooting around and get serious about a US national strategy to break up the Tier Two Club before something bad happens. Considering we are playing for time against a global cascading failure, I would not leave anything off the table for consideration at the National Security Council.

Fourth, we also need a national strategy about what we are going to do as a supplier of weapon systems on this planet to mitigate the threat of destabilization facing the other nations on this earth who cannot afford to respond to what is coming. We cannot stop this alone. The who we help, how we help, what we supply to help, and the conditions under which we will help, need to be thought through systematically or we will screw this up big time.

Fifth, we need to manage the awareness and expectations of the American people so that they understand how serious this problem is and how important it is that we deal with it calmly and in unison. We blink, we lose. Just is.

It’s been a long time since we’ve put ourselves in a position to accidentally burn up the planet.

Let’s not.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Risky Business; Why Social Justice Creates Problems for Nike, CNN, Starbucks, Facebook



Within the internet, we live in our own personalized echo chambers. The dark side effect, we have become psychotically intolerant of anything outside our safe spaces. Borrowing from McLuhan, the medium has become our lifestyle. We now live on a planet that never looks up, never looks in each other’s eyes. We’ll never see the meteor coming.

Lifestyle Marketing.

It’s one of the most effective ways to sell things. The fashion, apparel, perfume, automobile, travel, sports, outdoor and other consumer industries depend on it. It’s about segmenting and beguiling human beings to transform them from disinterested parties into devoted purchasers. It’s brainwashing for financial gain. Since the days of Madison Avenue and Marshall McLuhan, America has become probably the most finely tuned consumer selling machine ever known to mankind. We have conditioned consumers to snobbishly crave products and hate alternatives not on measures of objective utility; but on how well they soothe our egos.

Many of us now have more virtual friends than real life ones. Author Julie Albright’s recent book, “Left to their Own Devices” chronicles how human value systems are changing because we have put our lives on the net; how we have become utterly alone with a tiny portal in our hands to experience the life. Humanity has become lonelier even as it has become more wired. Lifestyle marketing has achieved its apex goal, a world where humans almost entirely connect via machines designed to package and sell personal dreams.

We are entertained by the popularity of fads. A plethora of fads. Transient fads the go viral and just as quickly disappear. Fads segmented and tailored for each one of us. It’s made us hyper-tribal. Intolerant to degrees we would, until very recently, never be in person. We have become afraid to speak out of turn lest we be judged and rejected for being “incorrect”. Or vocal about our views so that we block off those who don’t soothe our fragile feelings. Either way, it’s a dysfunctional, traumatic experience to navigate. We allow ourselves to be codependent on people we’ve never met, or barely know, for affirmation. We declare everyone else to be blood enemies.

I’ve always viewed social justice to be one of those fads. Invented by academics to deconstruct theories of societal organization and analyze them, it morphed into a pop culture tool to bludgeon people. The feeling of entitlement and elitism being able to write one’s own rulebook with impunity in any way you’d like to imagine. It is the drug permeating the internet.

It is a cancer-causing drug that is killing our souls. Plurality, that tolerance respect for disparate values, ceases to have practical meaning in such prickly times. It is replaced with an ocean of hate groups, each one thinking they are the most virtuous. And underneath the noise makers, an orphaned society struggling to find its voice to call bullshit.

Artifacts of a Changing World.

This system that serves the demigod of the for-profit echo chamber may be omnipresent, but it’s still a house of cards. It’s built on a ground rule and assumption that you can exploit lifestyle marketing forever without consequence. Such grand assumptions have never been true. Every innovation has a half-life. Every belief set reaches a threshold of impracticality.

I believe we are beginning to see some of the tenets of the social justice fad weakening. I’m a bit of a student of societal artifacts. I’ve been studying for a while corporate sustainability reporting, an element of a public company’s financial filings. Investors know them as 10-K’s, 10-Q’s, 8-K’s and other documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

SEC filings are an echo chamber of sorts that gives you insight into what businesses America considers to be their “safe spaces”. Don’t be fooled into thinking every company is unique. That’s not how the so-called soft and squishy part of business works. It’s more like lemming.

The reality is that the sustainability portion of a company’s filings is more like the practice of carbon copying what lawyers and risk consultants tell you will work to put into that section, what the safest thing to say is. At any time, corporate America is likely to pretty much be saying the same thing.

It’s faddish just like any other fad. For some time, copying and pasting approved platitudes about social justice and environmental sensitivity have been considered the “safe” words.

That’s beginning to not be the case. In the Internet triggered era, such platitudes have themselves become the seeds of corporate reputational risk. As social attitudes change, and in America they change and rebalance very quickly, they lead markets to question if corporate management and governance are acting in the best interest of the company. Let’s look at some case studies,













Nike, Inc.

Nike is part of the apparel industry. It is one of the most aggressive users of lifestyle marketing to carve out market share in a highly competitive environment. Nike relies on edgy attitude to not only spot fads and trends; but to make them. They walk the fine line of whom to extoll and who to disrespect in the name of aiming for maximum sales volume.

Politics aside, there’s serious mathematics in the economic calculus of a company like Nike. Inventory is just one element in a larger evaluation. For instance, to sell or junk a shoe design. If a few people in the core demographic of trendy social justice lifestyle buyers indicate they might get a little uncomfortable, is it better to take a write down loss on the shoes and parlay it into lots of free viral advertising that will make Nike’s core lifestyle purchaser’s affinity grow? For the Nike’s of the world, that’s a decision they ponder all the time.

But increasingly, it’s not a decision that doesn’t also come with business sustainability risks. Attitude can radically alter what market segments you have access to. There was a reason the Betsy Ross Flag show design made it all the way into stores. Someone at Nike did the research that said there was purchase intention there; that the market is turning.

In my opinion, Nike management chickened out. There was no danger their core market was going to abandon them. They went for the “safest word” in their version of corporate sustainability. They elected to not offend the market share they knew instead to exploring how to expand their business to address objectively found emerging areas of demand.

That’s leaving money on the table for competitors. That’s hardly ever a good thing for a company. Other lifestyle apparel companies will gain strength wherever they are not. I suggest that Nike’s board of directors should be asking some serious questions about the incident.

Quoting tongue in cheek from Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, have they crossed their “shoe event horizon”?

CNN

Cable News Network is another company that invested heavily in lifestyle marketing. At one time the world’s premier global news company, CNN made a big bet that Blue America, the world of a Democratic Party controlled national agenda was the media territory that was its path to greatness. It relinquished fair and balanced reporting, gave the right of aisle market to Rupert Murdoch’s FOX News, and put their attention into battling other left of center media outlets for dominance.

The 2016 election of Donald Trump threw a wrench into that plan. Suddenly, CNN had to make a choice whether to return to the center or hold out for two years until the mid-term election. They chose the latter and proceeded to double down on their lifestyle marketing bet.

The network put its lifestyle persona bet on things like Mueller investigation and it’s ended disastrously. The network’s ratings went into free fall. They lost 24% share in as of April 2019 and estimated additional 16% of their primetime ratings in the month of May 2019 alone. They now have an estimated 1/3 the audience of rival FOX. It’s a shadow of Ted Turner’s former empire.

It hasn’t helped CNN retain audience share that the once invincible Blue Dream of the Democratic Party has descended into it’s own chaotic nightmare that sees leadership like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Charles Schumer being challenge by Saikat Chakrabarti’s Justice Democrat harem who seem to be as good at confounding the Establishment Democrat leaders on Twitter as President Donald Trump can. Sparring with AOC? Really Nan? That’s beneath you.

And then there’s Barack Obama’s prediction of the Democratic Presidential Primary Race turning into “circular firing squad” playing out like a zombie apocalypse to the horror of orphaned centrist Democrats and the delight of Trump’s MAGA voter base.

This is about as perfect a storm as it gets.

This is wounded bird case of corporate failure that just cannot be ignored. And they’ve run into a merger with AT&T, a company that runs strictly by the numbers and is looking to economize following the acquisition of CNN’s parent Time-Warner. The word is that WarnerMedia boss John Stankey wants CNN to go down the path of developing a digital arm to rival FOX’s Digital with specializes in aggregating light news to fill the internet and yield many millions of page hits per day. Can you imagine a world where TMZ has more meat than the major outlet on the same story? You don’t have to. It’s been happening at FOX and soon it’ll be happening at CNN too.

That’s kind of a journalist’s version of a perfect storm.

Seeking redemption, I’ve also noted that the opinion section of CNN online has even begun carrying contributions that are not overtly hostile to the Trump administration, albeit with the “this op ed does not represent the opinion of the company” disclaimers prominently on display. Well, post debacle, one starts somewhere.

That is an artifact that says hell may be freezing over.

CNN are not the only ones centering up. It’s back to business by the numbers for the industry. My question is whatever possessed them into thinking dividing the country into political factions was a sustainable business model? Supernormal return for a while yes. But all overtime pay eventually ends. CNN got addicted to it. These choices are ending predictably.


Starbucks

There’s probably no business model where managing social justice expectations is more problematic than a distributed retail franchise like Starbucks. With just shy of 300,000 employees deployed at over 28,000 stores, touching humans looking up from their phones just long enough to recite mystical incantations that turn into cups of coffee is about as lifestyle retail as it gets.

Keeping the balance of peace within the interior of their store spaces has evolved into some macabre rules. Anyone can be in a Starbucks but no one can fall asleep in one. That’s a new rule to deal with homeless people coming in and hanging out in a place designed for people doing business and homework to come in and hang out while drinking coffee. You used to be able to take a nap between reading book chapters or composing article paragraphs. No more of that.

Social justice has the weirdest side effects.

Just as weird is Starbucks being a safe space that isn’t safe if a bunch of cops come in for coffee. One squeaky wheel patron causes an employee who, trying to please that person, insults other persons by preventing them from reciting their magical incantations and getting no coffee with their misspelled names on them. Then it goes viral on the internet because that’s what we do in America now whenever safe spaces collide like particles of matter and anti-matter.

Then, Starbucks corporate must send legions of trainers out to those 28,000+ locations to teach everyone a new rule that meets the universal social justice for all algorithm and, of course, to apologize to anyone that may have been slighted; in press releases so they don’t get boycotted again.

And Starbucks does send legions because unlike Nike or CNN, their business economics are about just doing whatever it takes to not pick any fights with anyone. Besides, there’s hardly enough space in one for a good fight and the merchandise display racks have breakables.

Is this just a weird version of America or what?

The microcosm of the damage social justice has created in a store the size of a two-car garage in 28,000 places everyday kind of boggles the mind when you think about it. It’s disruption without innovation. It kind of irks me and makes me want to order my coffee using the app on my phone so I never have to look up. Plus, my name will be spelled correctly on my cup because it’s a sticker.

Is this really what post-Industrial America is supposed to be like? Bizzare rules that bear little resemblance to common sense? And we’re supposed to accept this like happy sheep? Remember what I said about everything having a half-life earlier? We are stretching too many rubber bands. 

There’s something amiss about believing this is good for ordinary Americans or for America.




Facebook

Social media companies are finding out just how risky lifestyle personalization business strategies can be. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has been dragged in front of Congress to answer for the sins of an industry by a hostile government that 20 years ago didn’t want anything to do with regulating companies like these. Now, Facebook is feared because so many people have established their digital “second lives” on them. We’ve revealed our souls to a machine designed to exploit lifestyle personalization to echo chambers of one person per bubble. A universe where we are connected to each other only through the Matrix of Facebook’s omniscient engine that decides what gets through.

And we want that engine to do exactly what each of us selfishly wants. Connect us perfectly. Amplify our thoughts. Market our message. Show us only what we want to see. Make us happy. Make our experience perfect. Make anything we don’t like go away. Punish those we disagree with harshly because they don’t matter, only we, only I, matter. Make sure noise from robots and rogues is kept at bay. But not my noise. Push that into every one’s face please. Oh, and do this for free.

When you step back and breathe, it’s clear that the world doesn’t really work that way. What does amaze me is how hard Facebook works to make it come close to that as possible. Implementing technology to reduce noise in our personal echo chambers.

There are 2.38 billion active users of Facebook per month. Only 190 million of them are in the United States. The cultural echo chamber separation algorithms that Facebook uses so Americans do not see the other 2.19 billion people on the system is a lot of work just there.

And now, pushed along by the demands of social justice of every left and right persuasion, there’s the work of separating Americans from each other in our increasingly self-segregated culture. Armies of human filterers are becoming algorithmic artificial intelligence and robots tasked to make everyone happy in their disconnected loneliness.

And there’s more. I noted that there were two kinds of major earthquakes in California on 4th of July week. One was natural. A magnitude 6.4 and 7.1 earthquake centered around Ridgecrest, California just outside of what’s called the Long Valley Caldera, the site of an ancient volcano. Maybe it’s not just meteors we need to worry about.

The other, virtual world earthquake, happened on July 3, 2019. On that day, the image servers of all the properties owned by Facebook, Inc. which included Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp went dark for several hours while Mark Zuckerberg’s technology team made base object changes to the entire network. When it came back up, memes from robots, which had begun to proliferate with divisive political messages, were sparse.

Quoting from another movie metaphor, “A déjà vu means they’ve made a change to the Matrix.”

The question for Facebook is will this be enough to placate the hubris of Americans. That’s an unknown. Will that please everyone? No. That’s impossible. But Facebook can bend reality.

That’s not the important question.

The important question is does demanding Facebook do a better and better job of keeping us happily alone amount to the right thing for the United States national interest? Is this really where we want corporate governance of our infrastructure and our commerce to go? These companies will do what we tell them to either by themselves or by regulations. What should we tell them to do?

Ponder again the warning, we are losing plurality and the need to be tolerant of other Americans as technology makes it ever easier to never have to look up.

Without that cohesion, are we still Americans?

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Unable to Please Everyone, Theresa May Gives Up

Originally published on May 24, 2019 on America Out Loud,
https://americaoutloud.com/unable-to-please-everyone-theresa-may-gives-up/


“Is this like Brexit?” That was the question every Briton asked me and my American companions on November 8, 2016 as we sat at a bar in in London watching the television coverage of President Donald Trump’s win. We were loud, boisterous and irreverent⏤bantering about when Hilary Clinton would come out of hiding and concede. The reserved Londoners looked at us with their stiff upper lips, probably murmuring about what unruly savages we colonials were. They were in shock about this fissure in the timeline; although, not nearly as shocked as the country already beginning to descend into a cultural fragmentation grenade I would come home to a few days later.

I wasn’t sure how to answer their question that day. The United Kingdom had a few months before passed their own titanic change of direction approving Brexit, the vote to leave the European Union. They were still trying to understand what it meant and who to implement the divorce they had voted for.

To many, the European Union was more than just a socialist cooperative economic model beginning to show the stresses of many years of the richer nations supporting the poorer ones. The EU was for them the culmination of a dream of a better that began on the 8th of May 1945, Victory in Europe Day. The people of Western Europe had endured the Cold War paying the price of post-war mobilization of NATO.

In the 1970’s⏤the beginnings of a shift from swords to plowshares in the form of the European Economic Community brought an inkling of a better future to people who finally began to feel that the ghost of the Reich would not return again. And then the European Union expanded that dream to see a world beyond the end of the Cold War.

To abandon such a thing, to possibly return to the individual nation state dangers of pre-NATO Europe, to abandon the safe space of co-dependency was a not an easy thing to wrap their heads around. Being from the other side of the pond and dealing with my own rumblings about what was about to transpire in the New World, I didn’t feel like over focusing on it. So my answer then was, “I don’t know. But we’re going to find out.”

In the two and a half years hence, we’ve witness the leadership of the two premier English speaking nations of the world take very different approaches to carrying out their election mandates of 2016.

Where the US’ President Donald Trump accepted the reality that social fissures laid bare by his election and used them to navigate a treacherous maze of opportunities and pitfalls to carry out his mandate, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May sought to find a solution through painfully inclusive social justice paths seeking to smooth over the social fissures that where also emerging in her country.

May tried three times to package the Brexit mandate as a universal compromise. She failed each time. Few doubt that she meant the best for her country. But equality of outcome for conflicted constituencies within her nation in a nation-state economic divorce was never realistic. Theresa May was trying to hang on the communal dream of EU co-dependency while working on a mandate meant to turn the English Channel back into a defensive moat. It was never going to work.

Prime Minister May’s mistake was strategic. By not allowing hard Brexit divisive forces to have sway alongside soft Brexit preservationist forces that would result in an imperfect, but functional, solution, she instead led her country into an infeasible dead end. She now pays the price for that mistake.

Her successor will most likely not make the same mistake. The odds are the United Kingdom’s next Prime Minister will be more like America’s Donald Trump who is using both division and inclusion as part of his toolkit to lead.

My own opinion is that this is good fo the U.K. May didn’t have the heart to make the tough choices of establishing the self-interests of her country versus the EU in clearer terms. She tried to be nice and succeeded only in creating a self-imposed gridlock condition.

I hope the next Prime Minister does not make the same error. Victory goes to the bold. The U.K. needs to be bold. The reality is that other European Union nations are looking across the moat hoping to see a model of the future they can follow; because the true future of a healthier European Union is one where real equity and merit within it, not imaginary social justice, drives prosperity and stability. Lest the minuet fissures that have been the reality of European conflict since the Hundred Years’ War continue to spread like a the cancer. A cancer that Brexit was meant to cut out.

So how would I answer the comparative question “Is this like Brexit?”

I would say no because of how we tackled the task. The reason is not because the United States didn’t have just as strong a mandate to “Make America Great Again” as the mandate of Brexit. We did. The words are American, but the intent is the same.

It’s because we’ve been bold about pursuing our mandate. We’ve ruffled feathers standing up for ourselves not because we are hegemonistic, that we want to conquer and rule. No, it’s because we seek fairness in the world. It’s a tough love form of coexistence.

That’s the lesson in national interest here for Americans as we ponder our own future. Our dangers are the dead ends of trying to create “designer outcome” compromises; the kind that Theresa May could not achieve.

Trade War Heats Up; Will America or China Blink First?

Originally published May 10, 2019 on America Out Loud,
https://americaoutloud.com/trade-war-heats-up-will-america-or-china-blink-first/


Donald Trump and Xi Jinping have a lot to talk about the next time they meet. The two men lead the two superpower economies of the world. The United States of America and the People’s Republic of China are bound together in what geopolitical strategists current call Grey Zone conflict; a 21st century version of the 20th century’s Cold War fought in economic, political and technology space with the occasional saber rattling of military power projection bravado.

The current hot part of the Grey Zone is trade and tariffs. The US is upping the tension by imposing roughly $200 billion in new tariffs as a way to create pressure to bring the Chinese back to the bargaining table following China’s surprising reneging of a pending trade agreement sending the US a red lined draft deleting almost all of the proposals the US had negotiated with the Chinese in good faith.

The Chinese have done this negotiate then take it away tactic before. They are known to seek to exploit perceived weaknesses in the American bargaining position when the US presidential election cycle begins.

They blunted trade agreement attempts by former President Barack Obama and seem to have believed current President Donald Trump was equally vulnerable to election cycle flaccidity.

It looks like they may have read the tea leaves wrong this time. President Trump doesn’t seem to care about the 2020 election as much as he cares about tending to the business of America in 2019. I don’t know why they thought the man they nicknamed “Donald the Strong” would change his modus operandi because a “circular firing squad”, as former President Barack Obama called it, of twenty plus mediocre Democratic presidential hopefuls are canvasing every bar and stage they can stand on and stump from.

Instead, the US moved to activate tariffs creating a real increase in friction for the global manufacturing supply chain that goes between the US and Chinese economies. Adding fuel to the tension, the US signaled that President Trump is willing to pursue taxing “everything the Chinese sell us” if we must in order to get their attention.

The two countries will next return to the bargaining table with the US likely demanding that every word in the language the Chinese deleted in the last draft of the trade agreement be restored. We’ll soon see how that plays out in the coming episode of the “Art of the Deal”.

Here’s the thing, trade friction is normal.

In an ideal world, there would be free trade between nations with the balance of trade between each counter-party being perfectly equal going both ways. But it’s not an ideal world. In the real world, imbalances are normal and fixing them requires constant tending by the governments to equalize the balances between trading partners.

The trade friction between the US and China is significant. It didn’t happen overnight though. Prior to Richard Nixon opening the door to Red China in the early 1970’s, China was a minor trading partner of the US. Things began to open beginning in the late 70’s and blossomed in the 1980’s under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. But the explosion in trade volume and the path that would eventually lead to a severe trade imbalance really began in the 1990’s.

The US globalization and outsourcing of manufacturing and supply chain logistics starting in the 1990’s helped spark a vast economic boom in China that transformed Mao Zedong’s “Cultural Revolution” into Deng Xiaoping’s “To Be Rich is Glorious” vision for the centrally planned Communist nation. It would see China’s economy grow to become the equal in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with the United States of America. It has indeed been a glorious run of growth and prosperity. Entire industries transformed and grew in both the United States and China feeding on the cost of production savings of global outsourcing. The economic system became addicted to it and it benefitted from China’s infrastructure base grandly even as the US infrastructure base atrophied in strategically important industry sectors. America became a factory poor service economy and China forced its indigenous people off their lands and into factory cities for the greater glory of China. But there’s no such thing as a supernormal return that lasts forever.

The most successful beneficiaries of the global economy, the US and China have become conjoined twin 21st century economic superpowers very much the same way the US and the Soviet Union were conjoined twin military superpowers in the late 20th century. But both countries are now reaching inevitable growth plateaus. Both countries are beginning to adapt to reality.

The US has realized that it outsourced too much. America now needs to shift the locus of production back onshore to create job capacity for a population about to experience a massive technological change due to the arrival of artificial intelligence and robotics changing the nature of how work is done. It’s a simple formula. There will be fewer workers needed per business entity or process. To compensate for this, the US needs to increase the number of business entities and processes within its borders in balance with its domestic workforce size. Count that any way you want to; we need jobs for the bodies.

The Chinese plateau is that it needs to wean itself of an excessive dependency being the world’s largest export economy in a world where all their first and second world customers, not only the United States, will be adapting to the coming AI and robot workforce revolution.

China is, to be blunt, the world’s largest factory reduction in force waiting to happen. They need to reduce their exposure. They need to restructure the design of their economy, probably even their culture and governance, so it is not as dependent on the outside world’s need for goods to be internally rich and glorious.

Desperately seeking balance.

Economic negotiations have been ongoing to rebalance the costs and incentives to improve the trade balance positions between the US and China for years. People have worried about the consequence effects of becoming addicted to outsourcing since it began. The two countries struggle in parallel trying to create a way to evolve from a house of cards to an equilibrium that is sustainable and perpetual.

While American and Chinese leadership negotiate, it turns out, there is a narrower set of self-interests in the domestic socio-economic realities of both nations that retards their ability to find that equilibrium.

In the US, many industry sectors have calibrated their economics such that they are dependent on outsourced manufacturing of both finished goods as well as components and subassemblies. Distributed supply chain manufacturing was one of the great achievements of globalization and it has turned many US industry sectors into industrial outsourcing drug addicts.

Wall Street has a heart attack anytime this river of industrial cocaine hints at slowing down or being cut off. No one in the US wants to make the capital investment to replace what can be ordered over the internet from China. Capitalism is entirely myopic and short sighted.

US markets see only the now of the next earnings report. But that’s not going to stop the day the American labor force takes a cold shower. The machines and bots are still coming.

It’s, to use an old term, an inconvenient truth. No one other than Trump really wants to face it. It’s impossible to even discuss something this difficult in DC because Congress is so busy playing political games about hating the president it’s completely ignoring the national interest. There are even some Congress who want the country to fall into the losing side of a trade war thinking maybe the turmoil is good for their political fortune. Really? Since when is plunging a country into a depression a good thing?

If you think we have problems, a trade war is far worse for the Chinese. They have the same professional class myopic greed and addiction to an outsourcing business model planet economy too. It’s been very, very glorious. The Roman concept of Momento Mori applies here; the legend of the slave Auriga whispering in the ear of the victorious Roman general on his chariot that “glory is fleeting”.

Historically, the Chinese are in a quandary they’ve been in many times over their 10,000-year history. Simply put. What happens when the aspirations of your professional class depart from the existential needs of your peasant base? Chinese dynasties, including the present communist one, have struggled with this repeatedly and the solutions have mostly not been “nice”.

For the Chinese, the Xiaoping glory period of high growth is rapidly reaching a limit line. China’s leadership knows this probably more acutely than anyone else on the planet. They know they stand at a difficult precipice.

They must either seek a peaceful equilibrium with the league of nations as trading partners taking account of the realities of what technology is about to do to everyone, a path leads to working with the community of nations constructively. Or, the Chinese must begin to prepare to become Asia’s next pretender to the throne of hegemonic owner of Greater East Asia to manufacture artificial prosperity by force. It’s a decision point that is coming for the Chinese and it is something the world needs to be dealing with head on and helping the Chinese make the right choice.

My observation? The hegemon option is a really, really bad idea for China. The People’s Liberation Army is good but it’s military might is best used as a projection of power for negotiating leverage vs. in actual imperial conquest. Basically, it’s not going to work. China shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking it’s better than Japan was at such an endeavor. Chinese hyper patriotism is an admirable thing for the pride of the Chinese people in themselves and their achievements. It’s also a slippery stone on the path to the dangers of Bushido. The Japanese lost by the way. To the United States of America. Just saying.

Going operations analyst for a paragraph, the conflict calculus prognosis in any form of protracted economic conflict between the US and China, once fully engaged, is the same. The odds heavily favor the Americans. All conflicts are about one’s financial staying power. While both the US and China have $16 trillion GDP’s, the GDP per capita available for sustaining so-called Grey Zone conflict, meaning at a high state of open animosity on the ragged edge of war and peace, overwhelmingly favors the US at 300 million mouths to feed on a $16T base vs. Chinas 1.4 billion people sustainment load.

An economic war will stress the Chinese cultural-political system 4 ½ times more per day of conflict than it will America.

That is a simple siege warfare cost multiplied by time formula as old as conflict itself. It determines who’s house of cards will crumble first. It’s icky. Everyone will lose. Don’t do it.

Something Better to “Get to Yes” About.

As I step back from the noise of the moment, I’m struck by the realization that there actually is a straightforward and sensible outcome that both Donald Trump and Xi Jinping need to work towards.

The US needs to get to a trade level and mix that brings back onshore enough industry to sustain the quality of life of its population.

The US and China both need to redesign their foreign trade models so that they work together to target a long run 1-to-1 balance of trade such that most favored nation status with as close to friction free tariffless interaction becomes sustainable between the two counterparties.

For the US to achieve its aims, it needs to mobilize domestically to recapitalize what was excessively outsourced while continuing to interact with the global supply chain fairly. The US clearly cannot do this while the political climate of America is fractious. Until then, America has no unified national direction. That means, election year acrimony be damned, President Trump needs to find a way to bring selfish political tribes together, at least on this issue, to the point that the US begins to work on matters of national interest, even if as a very reluctant team. If this doesn’t happen, China will win.

For the Chinese to achieve their aims, they need to similarly reorganize their culture and politics to develop a stable domestic economy that is internally self-sustaining and balances interaction with the global supply chain fairly. I suspect that to do this will be more problematic for China. The Chinese will likely have to explore alternative national designs such as creating interdependent regions within their country much like the US has natural regions of separation that allows it to have internal cycles that smooth things over time. The single nation centrally controlled model they have now is probably too difficult to sustain. If China cannot do this, then America will win.

If the two countries can begin to discuss these things constructively, the world wins.

To be honest, an uncomfortable tariff skirmish might be just the thing to get both countries scared enough to start thinking about the 21st century more productively.

So be it.

Is the U.S. In Danger of Blowing the World’s Chance for Change?

Originally published May 6, 2019 on America Out Loud,


Rocket Man is back. Kim Jung Un’s North Korea has started test firing missiles again. This follows a failed Vietnam summit with U.S. president Donald Trump in Korea where the “Getting to Yes” strategy of that had been drawing the hermit nation’s leader into the open was hit with the cold water of a positional impasse over the de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

A disappointed Un went through a predictable process of being spurned. He went to China and found that the Chinese have their own issues and agendas with the United States; that he’s a side show in a far grander game between two $16 trillion GDP behemoths balancing vastly differing domestic challenges while negotiating bi-lateral economic matters unique to the interests of the only true economic superpowers on the planet. Un went to Russia, the other military superpower and discovered little relief from Vladimir Putin’s tiny $1.2 trillion GDP was forthcoming. Putin knows he’s a guppy in an economic world war and is right to opt out of that fight. Kim Jung Un realized he is once again alone and isolated. When in doubt, you do what you know.

Following the Summit, the U.S. returned to a tougher Neocon stance of sanctions under the new leadership of John Bolton. Donald Trump’s world leadership signature “Art of the Deal” approach that to international policy all but disappeared.

It’s all about sanctions now. The U.S. is playing tough guy all over the planet again with predictable results; a hardening of battle lines and a lessening chance that the change the international landscape of the planet breakthroughs of the Trump rebellion will survive the establishment empire’s striking back.

Under Bolton, it’s all about compromising our enemies using economic sanctions as our spear for asymmetric warfare. At a recent conference on technology held at the FDIC, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin noted that as much as fifty-percent of his days now can be spent on sanctions. That tells me we have weaponized our economy straying far afield of the free market principles that make America great domestically and internationally.

It has rankled our allies and adversaries alike. Germany’s Andrea Merkel welcomed former president Barack Obama who basically told the European Union that he’s not sure America’s opposition party, the Democrats, have anything in the way of a useful alternative to offer.

Obama described his party’s condition akin to a circular firing squad more intent in infighting than cohesion at this junction. I doubt that offered much comfort to the Germans or any of the other socialist leaning governments in the EU.

Sanction-based international policy by the US seems to be increasing the desperation of countries like Iran whose rhetoric is becoming increasingly belligerent, albeit nonsensical. I mean how many times can you look at a side story on TV about an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general threatening to attack everything in the waters off Chah Bahar and Bandar Abbas if the US closes the Gulf, which we aren’t. What we are doing is working with other countries using our economic muscle to increase oil production elsewhere on the planet to crowd our Iranian and Venezuelan oil. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf State Sunni kingdoms, who have little love for Iran’s Shia Crescent ambitions, are more than happy to support the US in a classic the enemy of my enemy is my friend bedfellow arrangement. Meanwhile, Iran’s general’s wonder when they’ll be declared an international terrorist cell this enabling the now fully weaponized Treasury Department of Steve Mnuchin to launch a frontal assault on their bank accounts.

This is a weird world scenario where the dangers of someone going off half-cocked making a mistake are highly amplified. That’s always been the danger of establishment thinking in D.C. and it’s clearly returning to the conduct of U.S. international policy.

For instance, Venezuela’s Juan Guaido is attempting to draw the United States into taking overt action to overthrow Nicolas Maduro. This is like reading a chronicle of the Bay of Pigs all over again. Like then, the United States has little real incentive to involve itself in a shooting war between political factions in a sovereign nation to inherit a devastated economy and take on a minimum two-decade nation building project. Didn’t we just get out of one of those PTSD nightmares?

So what next?

I really think President Trump should trust his broken field innovation instincts again. It’s ok to upset the Establishment Mr. President. I offer the following observations.

First. With regards to North Korea, it’s never too late to launch a new series of incentives to bring Kim Jung Un back to the table. I believe the stick we applied at the Vietnam Summit setting the strong expectation that full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was the predicate for future progress was rightfully necessary. But we knew internal factions inside North Korea dissonant and we were remiss in failing to anticipate it by having a basket full of diplomatic carrot incentives ready to go even as the summit was faltering to work the problem of preventing the North Korean from going hermit. We’ve lost time and momentum that we didn’t have to. The National Security Council should be directed to come up with a comprehensive strategy to recapture that momentum that isn’t based on positional bargaining principles.

The same applies to managing places like Iran and Venezuela. Yes sir, the leadership of these rogue nations is questionable. All self-serving dictatorships are. But sanctions alone that offer no pathway out of the predicament won’t work either. Pride, even misguided pride, is a factor in global stability. These are proud and misguided people. They will apply themselves in misguided ways such as cheating on sanctions and hurting their own people to make a point of their belligerence to us. And they will find cracks in the world enough to survive almost any sanctioning regime we come up with. America is one of the lousiest empires to ever attempt siege warfare. That’s reality. We need to be more innovative.

Your administration was elected because we needed these changes in how things were done. The world needed these changes. Now is not the time to go conventional. If we do, the dream of making America great again will be lost.

And finally, we need to keep working with the Chinese. It’s tedious but the economic war between us is the world’s new Cold War. It’s fought with tariffs, trade agreements, import quotas, intellectual property as force elements instead of missile counts. But like it was with the Soviets, the global stability of the planet depends on two counter-parties working to get it right. We are much more partners in what we can do for the planet than we both realize. But the planet is depending of both of us figuring it out. We should devote ourselves to doing so.

Restoring Reason After the Mueller Anti-Climax

Originally published April 15, 2019 on America Out Loud
https://americaoutloud.com/restoring-reason-after-the-mueller-anti-climax/#prettyPhoto


What interesting times we live in. The anti-climax of the Mueller investigation continues to play out as we await the arrival of the redacted report. I am amazed at how quickly the house of cards that awaited the smoke to emerge from the political canon pointed at President Trump is evaporating.

The consequences of the betrayal of the left by the establishment left and their media allies are just beginning. The disenfranchised army of orphaned Democrats is just beginning to react. By summer, we shall see where this anger leads. I don’t think it will be pointed at the White House.

To be sure, there are vestiges of the evil Empire that continue to struggle to survive, ever more feebly. In Congress, the Schiff and Nadler committees pretend to carry on even as the evidence grows that there is nothing to carry-on about. The leaks coming from Congress are ever more obvious these days. They are now concentrated coming from the politicians. Comically so if one judges efficacy by looking at the memes on social media. I mean, since when is topping how you put your foot in your mouth yesterday the next day a good thing? Establishment or New Progressive? Racing to the bottom isn’t serving the Nation.

Previously, just as many leaks were coming from agency sources, three letter ones in particular. I get the distinct impression that these are now being reined in.

The consequences to one’s government service career for being an Alinsky radical inside the castle keep are becoming too great. That’s good. Bureaucrats are supposed to serve their mission and stay in their lanes while on the clock.

The news media too behaves more and more. The landscape of the mainstream media is changing before our eyes as audiences abandon the programming that misled them. It’s like being gut punched by someone who pretended to be your best friend.

The profitability Trump headlining the news cycle as a way the beguile the confirmation biases of target audience segments is fading. The raw truth audiences were fed stories not because they were true, but because that’s what kept people watching is coming out loud and clear. I always said that CNN needed President Trump more than he needed CNN. That’s certain proving the be the case as ratings adjust to reality. I have confidence that the economics of being a for-profit business are about take brutal effect; in some cases, they already have.

The country is clearly ready to move on. I think the Democrats risk losing everything if they don’t move along with the country. They may not be able to because they now have too many factions inside their tents to have any hope of cohesion in messaging the American people. As the old saying goes “divided we fall” may have to be the fate of that party until it learns to purge its fringe, find its center again, and be interesting enough to bring the walk away orphaned people they chose to abandon back in, if ever.

A Midterm Pendulum Swinging to Trump?

The country’s “moving on” manifesting as a Trump backlash against the Establishment is clearly emerging.

Attorney General William Barr is beginning to examine the other side of the conspiracy coin. He should! The people who cried wolf that there was collusion in the Trump camp always worried me as the kind of people who were reflecting actions of their own in the mirror as they antagonized their foes. That always struck me as a little bit weird with me. In my experience, when someone accuses others that angrily they are usually describing things that they have done; that they are covering up their own actions.

I think it is right to ask to what degree the establishment of Washington DC including elected officials and bureaucratic officials particularly in the Cabinet agencies were party to, duped by, or derelict in these matters. I believe it is important for the national interest of the United States to ferret these people and the institutional behaviors they perpetrated out into the open so a proper vetting of our government apparatus can take place. We could use a good spring cleaning of our own house.

I am particularly pleased that Julian Assange is finally going to have his day in court. Removing the shroud of mystery so that what he knew becomes something everyone knows will be, despite the price he will have to pay as an individual, a cathartic revelation for the people of America. I’ll be keen to see how much they try to suppress and hide what he has to say under veils of secrecy, redaction and gag orders. Personally, let all the poisons that lie in the mud hatch out sounds good to me.

Reason Begets More Reason

I am pleased to observe that the beltway swamp is not the only place this phenomenon of reason is emerging in the United States. It’s too easy to become obsessed with one aspect of the American story to the detriment of seeing other things that appearing to remind us that we are a great country capable of tackling many things. Here are a couple that attracted my attention thanks more to social media than the mainstream media.

The malarkey of the so-called “Green New Deal” was poignantly challenged by an article by National Public Radio discussing evidence that the banning of plastic grocery bags is actually more harmful for the environment because it causes people to buy thicker plastic garbage bags to you use to pick up their dog poop and take out their cat litter.

Bear in mind that NPR had been one of the biggest proponents of pushing the concept of using reusable grocery bags for many years. Their article confessed the truth that one would have to use such a bag thousands of times beyond its useful life of one of these bags in order to negate the carbon footprint offset of manufacturing one such bag vs. plastic grocery bags. Finally, apparently the damage to forests from using paper bags is far higher than the environmental damage from manufacturing plastic ones.

It’s not unlike the carbon cost of making an electric car vs. nursing your old clunker along a few more years. Kind of makes you wonder about why that “cash for clunkers” thing from several years ago doesn’t it?

Can you imagine such a story in the era of Establishment Entitlement America? Or Global Economic Elitism? I think it is good people are beginning to question blindly following the environmental fad of the moment without considering the potential negative consequences of those initiatives.

I think asking tougher questions of environmental activists is a much better way to protect the environment than trying every half-baked idea that comes along and fixing the mess later. And yes, I would like a straw with that please.

I mean if you ever bothered to read the details of Paris Climate Accord that the United States rejected you would have seen that it was a formula that was doomed to failure. The approach relied on eliminating mobility, limiting food sources, and ultimately, reducing population. The Paris 2050 mid-century plan was either dangerously naïve or diabolically genocidal.

The US Progressive activist plan is a basket case compared to the Paris one. We can do better. We should do better.

Then there’s that pesky Second Amendment

As New Zealand decided that its citizens cannot not be trusted with firearms, in America US District Judge Roger Benitez declared California’s 20-year old ban on firearms magazines holding more than 10 rounds unconstitutional. Downplayed in the mainstream media even as it exploded on social media, for a week between the judge’s decision striking down two California’s laws and a Voter Referendum and the same issuing a stay to a desperate State of California to attempt to mount an appeal, ordinary gun owning Americans in the state of California bought nearly the entire inventory available for sale throughout the United States taking advantage of a one week window to acquire them legally. People called freedom week in California. It’s over and the process is back in the hands of the Courts to grind on slowly; but it was a breath of fresh air for red blooded Americans in a very blue state.

Judge Benitez wrote a scathing defense of the Second Amendment of the US Bill of Rights attacking nearly every gun control argument ever posed on the issue in his decision beginning with three cases of women defending themselves, two of whom ran out of ammunition while under attack. It’s an interesting case that, should California pursue an appeal, could overturn similar laws in nine other states; the other forty-one states in the Union have no such restrictions. It brings a gun control debate that has long relied on skirting around the constitutionality issue out in the open. Tactically, this is not exactly what the people who dream of a USA that looks like New Zealand were daydreaming about the week before Havana born Benitez issued his ruling.

The phenomenon speaks volumes about just how powerful the US Constitution and Bill of Rights continue to be in this country. It appeared literally as a bolt out of the blue, a reminder that the Founder’s vision is still alive.

It is something that every American who believes that this country should be great again should take note of. It remains vital that all of us, we ordinary Americans, support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic, so help us God. It is a ruler that gives us all fair and equal measure. That is what it takes to make our nation a healthier place where debate is rational, and pluralism is tolerant … for all.

Monday, March 25, 2019

After Mueller, Time to Tell the Resistance to Let It Go; Using Alinsky Against Itself

Photo Credit: USP News

I've been saying for months that nothing would come of the Mueller investigation. At long last, we have a report that says exactly that. There’s no smoking gun; that would have surfaced a long time ago if it existed. There are no major Indictments; and many abandoned minor ones. Mostly, in the grand scheme of things, it’s much to do about nothing. About the only thing the Mueller investigation did prove is that President Donald Trump had some oddball personalities who orbited him. What man of means doesn’t?

Mr. Muller was certainly methodical and thorough. Thorough to the point that there aren't really any stones left worth turning. Despite what some people may hope, there’s nothing worth looking into further. And don’t give me any of that Southern District of New York double speak. Any investigation that squeezes stool pigeon after stool pigeon granting immunity to obtain accusations is another dead end. The wait for the shoe to drop game is over. The fat lady is singing.

I suspect Mr. Mueller wanted it that way. To have a conclusion that an Attorney General would have overwhelming guidance to either pursue an indictment or let it go. In this case, US Attorney General William Barr quickly determined the conclusion is the latter.

And so once again, two years after the November election of 2016, acrimony once again begins by those who cannot believe they have lost again. For me, as soon as I saw the breaking headlines come across the wire feed in my phone, I quickly made the decision that it would be a good day to just ignore television and skip over anything that wasn’t a picture of cats or food on social media.

Bye Felicia. Mic Drop Time

I’m mentally done with this episode. I have better things to concern myself with besides looking in the rear view mirror. I am much more inclined to focus on the future.

Things like how Trump and Bolton will get Korean Peninsula de-nuclearization back on track for instance. The Vietnam Summit did not go well. I sense dissonance between the two American architects, one looking to deal flexibly and the other looking to bargain positionally. The US two headed snake problem very much plays to the advantage of the Chinese and North Koreans while we continue to dawdle.

With no Trump-Russia collusion conclusion, maybe the long overdue process of finding constructive ways the US and Russia can work together that should have started on January 1, 2017 can finally get back on track. There’s certainly a need. ISIS as a military force in Syria is gone but the even more complex task of keeping Assad’s Alawites, the Iranians, the Turks, and the Kurds from plunging into chaos is certainly an area where the US and Russia have much to discuss. That and the US needs to recognize that the only other $16 Trillion GDP economy on this planet is seeking influence with Russia while we aren’t.

That is not very smart playbook for US national interests. The so-called “Resistance” has harmed these processes and the end of Mueller gives us a tiny window of opportunity to get back in our wheelhouse. We won't win on the world stage unless we have a national agenda united behind our Executive Branch and that means telling Congress to move along. Every one of our global adversaries knows this. Every one of our global adversaries hopes we don't remember how important it is. A distracted America is a loser America.

Establishment Elites and Social Justice Warriors

Sadly, we have forces within our country that want us to lose even more than our international adversaries. We have a political establishment class dedicated to gridlocking the United States until the 2020 election. These are the haves of our nation, the elites, the betters, the money, the power mongers, the yellow journalists, the ones who would tell us how to lead our lives.

We ordinary Americans are the have nots. We are the orphans from political parties gone mad with internal factional fighting that has little to do with us and more to do with the circus theater they use to distract us. Vladimir Lenin used to say that one percent of truth is the perfect amount of cover to sell a 99% lie. That's certainly true today when one looks at the world or of mainstream media news where fair and balanced reporting has been replaced by opinion punditry that cares only about packaging the message to maximize capturing the confirmation bias of target audiences. These too are the haves of our times running rough shod over us have nots.

Thank goodness for the discord of the internet with its infinitely segmented social media, a forest of independent websites and podcast networks, and robotic web crawling search engines. Otherwise, alternative views would never be heard. At least for now. Or haven’t you noticed that the Establishment, at the behest of academia’s elites, is trying to clamp down in the internet? The forces of control are predictably tireless.

Changing the Game

What chance to ordinary Americans stand to take back control? We who are the silent orphans from the political parties who can’t stomach the vitriol of politics because, like refugees from political strife the world over, we are deep down tolerant and caring people who don’t things it’s cool to turn our guns on our neighbors. What rules of change management to we pursue to rein in the haves of our times? Melt the wax in their wings? Pour water on their feet of clay? Bring their egos back down to size? How to we be revolutionary Americans again?

Just remember this throughout what follows. Don’t just force the enemy to live within their rules. Force them to live within our rules. And then, break the rules. Because Americans do that.

Let’s try a thought experiment together. What if we, the silent majority stopped being silent? What if we turned the rules of radicalism used by those who have been trying to control us against them?

Saul Alinsky, author of "Rules for Radicals"

When Saul Alinsky wrote his rules for radicals, he clearly stated these were tools for the have nots to take power back from the haves. In 21st century American, the have nots are the ordinary Americans. Therefore, we should be using these rules. So let’s give it a try turning Alinsky philosophy against itself shall we?

By the Numbers

Alinsky #1: Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.

Santiago #1: Know your enemy’s facts. Power is not about believing what your enemy wants you to think. Power is about knowing where the enemy is advantaged, disadvantaged and just plain full of it.

Alinsky #2: Never go outside the experience of your people.

Santiago #2: Teach your people to have the insight and expertise to deal with what is going on. Educate your fellow Americans until we’ve negated whatever experience advantage our enemies have, or think they have.

Alinsky #3: Wherever possible go outside of the experience of the enemy.

Santiago #3: We hold this truth to be self-evident, that all Americans are equal. Always strive to level the playing field. Educate the enemy as much as you educate yourself. Make them know that their denial is what causes them to be disadvantaged, ostracized and losers.

Alinsky #4: Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.

Santiago #4: Make the enemy live up to a common book of rules that are based on tolerance and respect among equal Americans.

Alinsky #5: Ridicule is man's most potent weapon.

Santiago #5: Politically incorrect ridicule is an even more potent weapon.

Alinsky #6: A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.

Santiago #6: A great tactic is one based on truth.

Alinsky #7: A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.

Santiago #7: A clear vision and strategy defeats any tactic of the moment. Great visions, like the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights can be passed from generation to generation. Never forget that the United States is one of the youngest cultures on planet Earth. More important, at this point in time, we are also the oldest continuous government on planet Earth. Think about that for a minute. And then be proud, very proud.

Alinsky #8: Keep the pressure on.

Santiago #8: Pressure my behind. No one can make you feel inferior without your permission. Or maybe Saul forgot to read Eleanor. Don’t let someone else’s pressure cooker and need to eat Xanax as a food group affect you. Find the elegance in the truth of the moment. Savor the tranquility of your clarity. Let the desperate enemy burn themselves our as you watch and smile knowingly.

Alinsky #9: The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.

Santiago #9: Nothing is terrifying when you know what’s going on. And everything becomes almost trivial when you take the time to look at things from multiple viewpoints to really understand how and why one person is triggered by something one way and another person responds a completely different way. Then, nothing phases you.

Alinsky #10: The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.

Santiago #10: Alinsky repeats himself. He said the same thing cogently enough in his rule #8. That he had to repeat himself is something I’ve always interpreted as a self-admission that he knows he is in the wrong. I now invoke rule #5 and ridicule him thusly and impolitically just because I don’t like jacuzzi revolutionaries. Bite me Saul. So there.

Alinsky #11: If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside.

Santiago #11: This is probably the most important counter rule to remember. Bullshit, no matter how loud or eloquent, is still bullshit. Every American should know how to detect it. No American should ever feel shame in politely pointing it out when detected. This is how you disarm the enemy and make them impotent. This is how we will win.

Alinsky #12: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.

Santiago #12: Advantage is the most fleeting asset in warfare. All warfare goes from one cycle of engagement to the next. One battle is not a campaign. At each engagement, always begin to turn the enemy’s strength into his next bowl of weak sauce. The objective is to move the enemy to more and more untenable positions until they eventually abandon their agenda on their own because it just doesn’t work anymore. Remember, you are part of an American majority. Share what you learn with your fellow minded Americans. An enemy swarmed by a multitude dies a death of a thousand cuts quicker. Just saying.

Alinsky #13: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

Santiago #13: Learn to fight con artistry. Don’t be that sucker born every minute. Understand the game being attempted on you. If you aren’t sure, develop trusted resources to find out. Do find the weaknesses in the persona of the attacker and exploit it to throw them off their game. It’s ok to be impolitic about it; remember, they are attacking you. You’re just defending yourself.

Freeze on your own terms. Alinsky adopts a classic military tactic called fire and maneuver that allows the enemy to search for your soft spot. But subterfuge is perfectly legitimate in such matters. Suckering a social justice warrior into an argumentative trap where you turn the tables and freeze them on your own terms is perfectly acceptable in political contests.

On the last point of Alinsky’s, pick your target, I finally agree with him. You are allowed to pick your fights. You are allowed to refuse to discuss something stupid with an enemy that isn’t making sense. You’re not crazy, they are.

I hope you found some if this useful. Here’s all of us ordinary Americans and the common values we share. God bless the United States of America.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Privilege with Prejudice

Originally posted at, https://americaoutloud.com/privilege-with-prejudice/

Source: Associated Press
America is rocked by yet another scandal. The latest one by privileged parents bribing a corruptible college recruiting system. As criminal activity goes, it's pretty hard to top federal racketeering. Yet that is what this latest rendition of American affluenza seems to be. Privilege clearly has no philosophical boundary in America given that most of the accused in this case seem to have liberal tendencies. It raises the question of just how far the elite class in this country is willing to go to achieve their aims by any means necessary.

It is something that should worry every ordinary American. Those of us lowly citizens relegated to watch our betters make decisions on our behalf. We may argue that this is not so to our hearts content on the circus that is social media; but the reality is but the elites are getting away with it.

Next to the story about the scandal over college admission bribery In the Wall Street Journal is a parallel story about the thriving industry of legal manipulations by the elite to place their children into colleges. There are 17,000 college admission assistance service businesses in this country. No! What blows my mind is that WSJ article illustrates that the main thing wrong as far as academia is concerned is that this group of people charged by the federal government did not play by their rules of bribery.

There is something fundamentally wrong about our value system highlighted by cases like this. The days of asking what you can do for your country are no more. it's not even about what your country can do for you. Now, it's about what you can get away with. We idolize those who figure out how to cheat the system.

In the real world, celebrities, major office holders, heads of corporations, and professional athletes are few and far between. Regardless of that status, everyone is still, in the end, an ordinary American.

These days, that's no longer enough to be proud about. Today, if you're not an influencer, you're a nothing. Stepping back and thinking about it, it's a macabre version of China’s social scoring system that seeks to rate how good of a citizen you are in that country. In our system, we seem out to prove who has the biggest of any of the three orifices of our bodies.

And it’s extracting a terrible cost. In an America where emotions are amplified by an electronically enhanced sense of confirmation bias, it has turned us into a mean society. Our funniest jokes are demeaning. Our first reactions are snarky at best, indignant on average, cruel far too often. Trolling is considered a skill to be proud of. We are a nation of spineless keyboard warriors who wouldn't last a minute in a real fight. The loudest among us speak with platitudes of promise for their ideals that go hand in hand with declarations of animus for those with whom they disagree even slightly. Pluralism is dead. Tolerance is weakness. To be American is to self-segregate and demand, “Me first!”

Researchers who study social media point out a category of people whose lives have revolved around creating images of success online that are juxtaposed with clinical depression in the real world because no one can live up to their artificial self-images 100% of the time. Cell phones are the leading cause of PTSD particularly among younger Americans.

Punditry has become an art form not of increasing the clarity of the explanation of topics. Instead, it's become a game to extend the hyperbole of nonsensical arguments as far as possible. Whether it's mainstream media, social media commentary or blogging, the name of the game is justifying one's biases; objectively, really stupid biases.

How else to explain something as bizarre as the latest cool kid phenomenon of changing the boundaries of the discussion around anti-Semitism? I mean really folks; that's just stupid. That's the kind of thing that leads to genocide happening again. In America, the concepts of “Never Again” and “Never Forget” are being evaporated and the so-called Establishment is going along with it like a bunch of permissive parents who will tolerate the worst behaviors of their spoiled brat children. That's not going to stop them from one day taking power and murdering people they don't like.

And increasingly, they seem not to like anyone. The cancer of the deconstructionist academics who invented political correctness to breakdown the rules of American Society, to make it malleable enough to reshape it in the image of the political theories of their preference, have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. No literally! I mean beyond anything they ever thought.

Look at what happened to 1960’s dream of an equal America turning into white women being the newest privileged villain of social justice warfare. Talk about matricide. The equal rights movement was pioneered by white women. This entire phenomenon is best explained by looking at social justice as a bunch of spoiled children becoming unlikable teenage punks.

Like all trendy things, the day of reckoning is coming for all of it. It's certainly come for the people that were just indicted for bribing the college admission system. Conspiracy and racketeering are serious transgressions against society. The consequences are justly harsh. If these people are smart, they will plead guilty early. They will hope the court is lenient. They should serve their time humbly. Ponder the cost of their hubris. After that, they can begin to pick the pieces of their lives up and, hopefully, spend the rest of their lives asking what they can do for their country.

Someday this “dorm kegger” of malformed notions of the narcissistic powerful dictating to the people in the “cheap seats” will coalesce back to the rules of a complex society based on plurality, tolerance and coexistence. The idea that privilege gives you the right to beat people you don't agree with into submission always ends the same way. Wings of wax always melt; feet of clay always crumble.

In America, it's the ordinary people that still matter the most. None of us is more special than another; that’s what makes us special.