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Sunday, January 20

Something a little strange happened to me

One day back in summer while washing my hands I noticed what looked to be 'age spots' on the back of my left hand. Light brown circular unraised pigmentation scattered like freckles, largish freckles. I don't know about you but generally, I don't pay attention to the backs of my hands so I didn't know if the spots had just appeared or been there for several days. I then glanced at the back of my right hand. No spots.

I thought without interest, 'Huh.'  

Age spots aren't unusual for someone my age. So, beyond checking, whenever I remembered, to see if the right back of the hand was sprouting any spots, I paid no mind to my discovery. Nor did I ponder why age spots would appear on one hand but not the other.

Sometime later -- I can't remember exactly how long, maybe a month or two -- the battery in my wristwatch died. I removed the watch from my left wrist and made a mental note to take the watch to a jeweler to have the battery changed; I prefer to go to a particular store all the way out in Virginia for these battery changes so this is how I have ruined more than one watch because the dead battery sat in there for so long it leaked. 

Sometime later -- I can't remember exactly, maybe a week later -- I happened to look down at my hands while I was washing them.

All the age spots on the back of my left hand had vanished.

From the time I first noticed the spots until they were gone there had been no change in my routine, no change in the soap I used, and I don't use hand lotion unless it's the dead of winter and my hands start feeling like sandpaper, but this hadn't been the case during the period in question. 

The spirit of scientific inquiry be darned; no way am I going to put a wristwatch with a working battery back on my wrist to see if age spots reappear on the back of my hand. I am already doing a stint as a human lab rat. Blood pressure medication nearly put me in the hospital so then I said, 'I'll do it myself,' not having any idea at the time how much research and experimentation the DIY approach to lowering blood pressure would entail.  

Nor do I have the time or interest in looking into whether wearable digital technology can have unusual effects on the body.  

Could it have been a coincidence? Maybe. Then again it could've been God's way of saying, 'Do not wear a machine you know nothing about for hours every day for years on end, fool.'

Take your pick. I've made my choice. Whenever I get to the jewelry store in Virginia, I'll be shopping for a watch that needs to be wound once a day to work. And I think I'll be carrying the watch in my purse rather than wearing it when I go out, which was the only time I wore a watch anyhow.

But I will venture that if there is a connection between the battery and the spots, this showed up only during my Golden Years, and obviously, they weren't exactly age spots even though they looked just like age spots.         

********

Sunday, January 13

TRUMP: US TROOP EXIT FROM SYRIA IS NOW UNDERWAY

Trump Tweet posted 45 minutes ago
Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it re-forms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone ...

35 minutes ago:
... Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey. Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term U.S. policy of destroying ISIS in Syria - natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!

[END]

Who's going to create and maintain the 20-mile safe zone? From RT's translation of the Tweets, it seems Trump intends Turkey to do it. As to the location of the nearby existing base -- RT thinks it means Iraq. We'll see. 

********

Saturday, January 12

I'll return January 20

Until then, best regards to all,
Pundita 

The Tweet

On December 14, in a report headlined America's Hidden War in SyriaLiz Sly, the Washington Post's Beirut bureau chief, passed a claim that the U.S. had considerably more troops in northeast Syria than was known to the public:
Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000. Most are Special Operations forces, and their footprint is light. Their vehicles and convoys rumble by from time to time along the empty desert roads, but it is rare to see U.S. soldiers in towns and cities.
Five days after the report's publication, in the early morning of December 19, President Donald Trump made a cryptic, confounding statement on his Twitter page:
We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.
Within moments of the Tweet, chaos ensued as national leaders put frantic calls to the White House asking for clarification while their defense and intelligence agencies and journalists at top newspapers around the world tried to make sense out of the Tweet. After all, by the Pentagon's own reckoning, there were still an estimated 14,500 Islamic State fighters in Syria. What on earth was Trump implying in the Tweet? 

By the afternoon of the 19th, after White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders had done a masterful job of putting lipstick on a pig for a passel of completely confused reporters, it was dawning on U.S. congressional leaders that James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, had been as surprised as everyone else when Trump had given him a head's up on the night of the 18th that he'd decided to remove all U.S. troops from Syria.

Bob Corker, outgoing Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was so confounded by Trump's decision and so alarmed by the chaos it touched off that he told reporters“I’ve never seen a decision like this since I’ve been here in 12 years. It is hard to imagine that any President would wake up and make this kind of decision, with little communication, with this little preparation.”

I'd say it's even harder to imagine a President having to learn from the Washington Post that the Pentagon was running its own war in the Middle East.

Does that solve the mystery of Trump's December 19 Tweet? I'll put it this way: I wasn't in the room, although I wouldn't have wanted to be in the room if an aide read out to Donald Trump choice passages from Liz Sly's report -- and I don't think James Mattis would've wanted to be in the room in that circumstance, either.

It could explain many things, but then that would mean Trump actually had four days to prepare his December 19 Tweet.

America's Hidden War in Syria
By Liz Sly
December 14, 2018
The Washington Post


[Please don't miss the photos accompanying the report.]

RAQQA, Syria — This ruined, fearful city was once the Islamic State’s capital, the showcase of its caliphate and a magnet for foreign fighters from around the globe.

Now it lies at the heart of the United States’ newest commitment to a Middle East war.

The commitment is small, a few thousand troops who were first sent to Syria three years ago to help the Syrian Kurds fight the Islamic State. President Trump indicated in March that the troops would be brought home once the battle is won, and the latest military push to eject the group from its final pocket of territory recently got underway.

In September, however, the administration switched course, saying the troops will stay in Syria pending an overall settlement to the Syrian war and with a new mission: to act as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000. Most are Special Operations forces, and their footprint is light. Their vehicles and convoys rumble by from time to time along the empty desert roads, but it is rare to see U.S. soldiers in towns and cities.

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.

A Turkish threat to invade the area last month forced the United States to scramble patrols along the border with Turkey, which has massed troops and tanks along the frontier. Turkey regards the main Kurdish militia, the YPG, which is affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party inside Turkey, as a terrorist organization and fears the consequences for its own security if the group consolidates power in Syria.

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar al-Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control. The government and Iran have been cultivating ties with local tribes, and the U.S. announcement of its intent to counter the Iranian presence in Syria may, in response, further encourage such ties.


Tribal loyalties

Away from the front lines, the calm that followed the ejection of the Islamic State from Raqqa and the surrounding territory is starting to fray. A series of mysterious bombings and assassinations in some of the areas retaken from the militants up to three years ago has set nerves on edge. Most of the attacks are claimed by the Islamic State, and a U.S. military spokesman, Col. Sean Ryan, said there is no reason to believe the Islamic State is not responsible. “We know they’re regrouping in those areas,” he said.

But there are widespread suspicions that any one of the regional powers opposed to the U.S. presence and the Kurds’ pursuit of self-governance may be seeking to destabilize the area, finding allies among disgruntled Arabs uncomfortable with the prospect of being governed long term by the Kurds.

The Kurdish forces have sought to include Arabs in their self-governance experiment but retain dominance over its structures at every level, Arabs complain.

This is a part of Syria where tribal loyalties often trump politics, and the tribes are being courted by all the regional players with an interest in ultimately controlling the area, according to Sheikh Humaidi al-Shammar, the head of the influential Shammar tribe.

At Shammar’s outsize mansion, which rises improbably from the empty desert near the Iraqi border, dozens of tribal leaders gathered one recent Friday for his customary weekly divan, sweeping into his cavernous reception room dressed in gold-trimmed robes and flanked by pistol-wielding guards.

The guests ranged, Shammar confided, from sheikhs affiliated with the Assad regime and his ruling Baath Party to representatives of the Islamic State, the Free Syrian Army rebels and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces — a spectrum of those competing for control in northeastern Syria.

Shammar has allied his tribe with the United States and the Kurds, and he has contributed fighters from his small Sanadid militia to battles against the Islamic State. But, he said, he has many concerns: namely, that the U.S. talk of countering Iran will suck the region into a new conflict and that the area’s Arabs will be cut out of any deal that is eventually reached with the Kurds.

“Everything is uncertain. We are part of a global game now, and it is out of our hands,” he said.

His son Bandar, who leads the Shammar militia, said the tribe supports some form of new arrangement for the Kurds in Syria “because they are our brothers and they sacrificed a lot,” he said.

“The main concern of the Arab population is that one ethnicity, the Kurds, is going to build a state for Kurds and impose their authority on the others,” he said. “The coalition created the SDF to be multi­ethnic, but really people see it is not like this. It is a solo actor which authorizes everything and controls everything.”

‘It’s a matter of time’

Kurdish leaders say they are working hard to convince the Arab community that their plan for governing will include it. Education sessions are being held in Arab areas to try to bring Arabs around to the views of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed Turkish Kurdish leader who inspired the YPG’s ideology, said Saleh Muslim, a senior official with the Democratic Union Party, the political wing of the YPG.

“We are very sincere about living together,” he said. “It’s a matter of time. Maybe we need three or four years to make it stable.”

Whether the Kurds have three or four years is unclear. U.S. officials hope the American presence will bring leverage in negotiations over an eventual settlement to end the Syrian war, with the aim of securing some form of autonomy for their Kurdish allies as well as rolling back Iranian influence.

But there is no such settlement in sight, and there may not be one. Assad has prevailed against the rebellion elsewhere in Syria and has shown no inclination to make concessions. The expectation among many residents, Kurds and Arabs alike, is that the government will eventually restore its authority over the area.

After Trump said the troops would soon be withdrawn, many here began planning for that eventuality, including the Kurds, who launched talks with Damascus for a direct, bilateral settlement. The talks went nowhere, and now the Americans are staying — but Kurdish officials say they are keeping open channels of communication in case Trump changes his mind again.

“Everything is very complicated and no one knows which way to turn. We don’t know who is against whom and who is with whom,” said Amjad Othman, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Council.

All the challenges and complexities of northeastern Syria seemed to be concentrated in the small, strategic town of Manbij. Located beside the Euphrates River, it was liberated from the Islamic State by Kurdish forces over three years ago. Now, to the north, lies territory controlled by Turkish troops and their Free Syrian Army allies, and to the south by the Syrian government and its allies, Russia and Iran.

[map]

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/world/syria/us-troops-in-syria/img/1800/SYRIAstatusDEC10_18.jpg

In the middle are the Americans. It is one of the few places where the U.S. military has a conspicuous presence. There are three small U.S. bases in and around the town, supporting an American effort to keep apart Turkey and the Kurdish-affiliated Manbij Military Council, according to officials with the council. So far, diplomacy has worked to tamp down the tensions, and the U.S. and Turkish militaries recently began conducting joint patrols along the front line.

But attacks, carried out by assassins riding motorcycles and planting roadside bombs, are occurring with increasing frequency behind the front lines. Local officials believe groups affiliated with the Syrian government and Iran are behind some of these, according to Mohammed Mustafa Ali, who goes by the name Abu Adil and is the head of the Manbij Military Council. “We are surrounded by enemies, and they all want to come here,” he said.

A city still in ruins

Frustrations are building, meanwhile, with the acute lack of funding for reconstruction, impeding the effort to win hearts and minds in Arab non-Kurdish areas, Kurdish officials say. Earlier this year, Trump cut the $200 million that had been earmarked for essential repairs to the worst damaged areas. Though that sum has been replaced by donations from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, it is a fraction of the billions of dollars required.

It is in Raqqa, the biggest city in the part of Syria where U.S. troops are based, that the frustration is most keenly felt. The city was devastated by the U.S.-led airstrikes that accompanied the SDF’s four-month offensive to drive out the Islamic State, and a year later the city is still in ruins.

Signs of life are returning, with shops and markets reopening in some neighborhoods. About half the population has returned, squeezing into the least damaged buildings, sometimes living without walls and windows. Most roads have been cleared of piles of rubble that were left by the bombardments, but blocks on end are wrecked and uninhabitable. The water was restored in September, but there is still no electricity.

Without more financial support, there is a risk that Raqqa will “devolve into the same vulnerability ISIS found when it first arrived, a ‘fractured city ripe for extremist takeover and exploitation,’ ” a report by the Pentagon’s inspector general said last month, quoting a State Department official.

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

He spoke wistfully of life under the Islamic State, when, he said, the streets were safe. His business was good because foreign fighters flocked to him to get themselves decked out in the Afghan-style outfits of baggy pants and tunics that were favored by the Islamic State.

Now the city is half empty and customers are few.

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

And there is graffiti, often appearing overnight, a sinister reminder that the Islamic State is trying to stage a comeback.

“Remaining in spite of you,” said the writing scrawled in black paint on the collapsed wall of a destroyed building on one recent morning, a reference to the Islamic State’s slogan, “Remaining and Expanding.”

The paint was fresh. 


[END REPORT]

********

Friday, January 11

Plague of locusts descends on Mecca

It's been going on for a few days now and it's a big enough story to have gotten RT's attention. The report includes video and photos from various Twitterites. The caption, in Arabic, for the following photo is:
In the name of God the Merciful, we sent them flood, locusts, lice, frogs and blood verses of the hinges Vstkbroa and were criminals people

Google's Arabic might leave something to be desired, but I think there were floods in Saudi Arabia just a few days ago, so with the locusts, all that's missing is the frogs, lice, and blood. 

From the RT report, kudos to the Mecca sanitation department, which has been working overtime to clean up the locusts, but I do question the spraying of massive amounts of insecticides down water drains.   

********

Syrian State News Agency: Air defense intercepted most Israeli missiles fired toward Damascus

SANA has confirmed the breaking news that Sputnik reported a short time ago:

Syrian Air defenses intercept hostile missiles launched by Israeli warplanes, down most of them
January 12, 2019SANA 

(DAMASCUS) A military source affirmed that the Syrian Air defenses intercepted on Friday night hostile missiles launched by the Israeli warplanes and downed most of them.

The source said that “ at 11:15 before midnight Israeli warplanes coming from Al-Jalil area launched many missiles towards Damascus area and our air defenses intercepted them and downed most of them.”

He added that damages of the aggression were limited to an ammunition warehouse in Damascus airport.

[END REPORT]

********

"Syrian Air Defences Respond to Enemy Attack, Down Several Targets - Reports" BREAKING NEWS - UPDATED 6:20 PM ET

Sputnik breaking news  00:48 - 12.01.2019 . Details to follow

[END REPORT]
*****

6:15 PM ET

Sputnik has updated their initial report, as follows. Note the file photo of an S-300 firing, and the caption (scroll across the photo) accompanying the update, which suggests, at least, that Syrian air defense deployed the Russian S-300 in the shootdowns. We'll learn more details later. For now:.     


(updated 01:28 - 12.01.2019)

Syrian air defenses have responded to an Israeli airstrike over Damascus and managed to shoot down several targets, local media reported.

According to Ikhbariya broadcaster, several targets have been shot down during an enemy attack over Damascus, Syria.

A military source told Syrian SANA news agency later that Israeli jets fired several missiles towards the vicinity of Damascus, most of the missiles were downed.

According to the source, the airstrikes caused damage to a warehouse at Damascus International Airport.

A source in Syrian Ministry of Transport confirmed to SANA later that the Damascus International Airport traffic was not affected by the strikes.

Previously, a Sputnik correspondent reported that Sounds of explosions were heard in Syria's capital of Damascus, noting that it was yet unclear what caused them.

The sounds of blasts were first heard at 11:30 p.m. (21:30 GMT) on Friday and they continued into Saturday.

[END REPORT]

Thursday, January 10

A little more attention to human ecology

After thinking about my January 6 post (The Revolution Is Not Being Televised) a Pundita reader told me that the U.S. isn't the only country in this era that's had more college graduates than jobs, so why didn't this cause a crisis in those countries? Because one way to describe the modern era is "Exporting Unemployed College Graduates."

It's not only college graduates that were exported in large numbers to work in other countries. Around the world, impossibly corrupt regimes staved off reforms by 'encouraging' large numbers of the poorest nationals to work in other countries, from whence those immigrants or 'guest workers' sent huge amounts of money to relatives back home. The amounts skyrocketed when (with government encouragement) the expat workers started using electronic money transfers -- EFTs -- to send the money.

A fair number of Americans work abroad but I used the examples of pre-revolutionary Iran and the Germanic kingdoms in the early 1800s because as with America in the Great Recession, large numbers of jobless college graduates couldn't find work in other countries. 

The need to provide decent-paying jobs for graduates and in professions that befit their education level is a large problem in this era; allowing it go unaddressed in any country invites at best social unrest as we have in the United States and at worst armed revolutions that topple governments.

However, more Americans need to acknowledge that many good professions require only technical training and not a college degree.  

College education in America was transformed into a major industry when white-collar businesses demanded that job applicants for anything above menial tasks possess a college degree. The stipulation was a cost-saving way of pre-determining whether the applicant had the baseline literacy and numeracy to understand instructions and fit into a corporate work environment. 

Yet the stipulation has been very hard on human nature. The best time for higher learning is after a person has acquired considerable life experience outside his parental home and primary schooling. To reverse this natural order of things is to invite the kind of horror described by an American professor of history emerita and human rights activist, Dana Frank, when she first met with Washington, D.C.'s foreign policy establishment.

From Jacobin's review of Frank's book,  The Long Honduran Night: Resistance, Terror, and the United States in the Aftermath of the Coup:
She is disturbed to learn that “much of the foreign policy of the United States Congress is developed by twenty-six-year olds who, however well-trained or well-meaning, is each responsible for U.S. relations with the entire world.”
Actually, the situation is even worse than Professor Frank realized from her encounters. Moving along, the point is that American colleges are turning out graduates whose intellects can be quite developed but who possess not one jot of common sense.

Much attention has been given to Earth's ecology, but the modern era has run roughshod over human ecology. Here I recall that King Bhumibol Aduljyadej once told the Thai people that it was time to take a careful step backward. 

A careful step back is infinitely preferable to a society stepping forward over a cliff, which is what happens when large numbers of people are pushed to ignore their own nature.  

*********

Tuesday, January 8

Unless all Middle Eastern countries hang together they will hang separately

Here's why:

1. November 24, 2018, Accuweather:


Heavy rain, deadly flooding to continue across the Middle East into Sunday
... While November is often the beginning of the wet season, the rain has been more frequent and heavier than normal across Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Iran so far this month.  ... Rounds of heavy rain and thunderstorms through Sunday will total 25-75 mm (1-3 inches). The region averages around only 100-125 mm (4-5 inches) per year. Hardest-hit parts of Kuwait, southeastern Iraq, and southwestern Iran could get up to 150 mm (6 inches). ... 
2. 

You're looking at a NASA photo of a dust/sandstorm in September 2015 that struck across Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus. It was a very strange storm because of its intensity, place of origin, and the time of year it struck. 

Now what jumps up and shouts at us is that the disturbances shown in the two illustrations were not limited to one nation in the Middle East. Why is that? Because Nature paid no mind to Mr Sykes and Mr Picot, that's why. Nature pays no attention to human boundaries.  

The countries in the Middle East share a particular weather region, and it's the weather, and the geographies it interacts with, that define a region -- and call the shots in this world. 

However, human activities can have an impact on micro-climates and micro-geographies, and here I'm not talking about human-made 'greenhouse' gases. The impacts can create knock-on effects that accumulate and then converge, setting off a disaster before anyone understands what caused it. 

We've been seeing in a lot of convergences in this era that can encompass an entire region. That's chiefly because we've been making mistakes on a grand scale -- sometimes a global scale -- for about the past century and now the consequences are piling up.

And there is the life of this planet, which can be very hard on human life. One day we're going about our business, not bothering so much as a flea, then BAM! one quake of the earth can wipe out a large number of us in the wink of an eye.

There's nothing much we can do about situations beyond our control but there's plenty we can do to correct mistakes of our own making. When the mistakes spill across nations in a single region, this is the time for people in those nations to think and act regionally.

Speaking of region-wide mistakes that can be corrected, here's one.  

You say the Middle East's temperature is rising? Turn off all the air conditioning there for 48 hours then call me in the morning. Few scientific studies have been done on the impact on local weather of hot air exhaust from air conditioners, but if you plow through this study, How much can air conditioning increase air temperatures for a city like Paris, France? published in 2012 by the Royal Meteorology Society, you'll see the impact can be between 1 and 2 degrees in varying areas of Paris, which had nowhere near the amount of air conditioning used in Middle Eastern cities. But the most troubling finding in the study was that the temperature rise happened at night, for reasons the scientists explain.  

The scientists were only studying temperature differences, not lowering of humidity caused by the exhaust from air conditioners. although that would be a crucial question for the aridest parts of the Middle East.  

I'll interject that the heat from air conditioner exhaust is distinct from heat generated by the 'urban island' effect and has nothing to do with carbon emissions associated with air conditioners.

If you say they don't dare shut off the air conditioning in the Middle East for two days -- well, I don't know exactly how many days it would have to be off before they'd notice a difference. But they'd have to shut everything down if they completely ran out of electricity and they could be on track for that. See The Lights Are Going Out in the Middle East. (May 2017, The New Yorker). But yes, there's no way they'd willingly do it. 

There is a way to capture the exhaust from the air conditioners and, if my memory serves, turn it into energy although don't quote me on that until I review my notes from last year. Yet this won't be done on a scale large enough to make a real difference until governments in the region get together and fund a study on the impact of microclimates across the Middle East from air conditioner exhaust. Then the governments could again work together on projects that prevent the exhaust from going into the atmosphere.

This is one project that could stand to benefit the entire region of the Middle East. I see plenty of other such projects if Middle Easterners start thinking for their whole region. 

********   

Sunday, January 6

The Revolution is Not Being Televised

How The Ball Of Yarn Got Rolling:
There goes the neighborhood

Socialism, in its original conception, had nothing to do with 'leftism' or Communism. As Pundita readers may recall, some years ago I stumbled across the original meaning of socialism during my quest to track down the genesis of the term 'police state.'  

It turned out that socialism, in its original conception, was simply the inclusion of more people in a society in the government. It was the brainchild of aristocrats in the Germanic kingdoms who saw the rise of industrialization and recognized that a modern government had to be more inclusive but for this more in the society had to be literate. So their idea was to take numbers of people off the farms and educate them and then put them to work in government.

Universities began cranking out many graduates but the system of socializing government was so popular and so profitable for the universities, soon things got out of hand. The governments couldn't make enough jobs for any more than a fraction of the graduates. The rest were left destitute but because of their college education they not only knew how to read and write, they also knew how to work a printing press. Three guesses what happened next. [laughing] Yes, the Revolutions of the 1840s. These were accompanied by the rise of the police state and the rise of Communism, and on and on.

The Shah of Iran made the very same mistake. The wheel was again created right here in the USA only with a twist. Scoundrels talked credulous American parents and their college-age children into believing that all they had to do was go into steep debt to finance a college education and presto! the graduates would step into good-paying jobs.

So that was how millions of American college graduates ended up serving coffee, driving taxis or living, jobless, in their parents' basements. The twist was that these destitute American college graduates were saddled with so much debt that they might never hope to pay it off in their lifetimes. 

Now there were contributing factors in the 1840s revolutions and the Islamic one in Iran. Nearby kingdoms at odds with the Germanic ones used the unrest fomented by jobless college graduates to make even more trouble in the Germanic regions (thus, the biggest impetus for the rise of the Germanic police state). And some of the Shah's policies had angered the Iranian business community, which then joined with jobless Iranian college graduates to foment revolution.

There are also contributing factors to the unrest among many college graduates and their families in the United States in the recessionary and post-recessionary periods. This led many of them to push the Democratic Party toward Stalinist Communism masquer0ading as 'socialism.' But the biggest factor had been building in the USA long before the college debt scam and Great Recession. The factor is simply that a large number of Americans can't afford to have children in this era. 

The Bottom Line For Societies

Child-rearing adults need a reasonably stable means of supporting themselves; without that, the society has more problems than you can shake a stick at, and it can't last; it will either evolve or descend into chaos and revolution. 

Over the past half-century, the United States went from being the land of lifetime employment in big businesses to a land of very uncertain income from small businesses. This has meant that many young Americans not only can't afford to raise children they don't dare procreate. Not unless they want to face the prospect that their children will be raised, in effect, as wards of the state -- raised on government welfare payments -- and on unemployment checks. 

These Americans are not impressed when they see 312,000 new jobs were created in the USA in December. They know many of the jobs are so low-paying they can't support a family, or can be taken over by a robot at any minute, or can disappear when a business has to cut back on production.    

Which is to say the lives of many American small business owners and their employees are governed by business quarterly reports. This means that many child-rearing American workers can't plan much further ahead than the next business quarter. It is a system that punishes humans for having children -- for being human. 

Given this overturning of the natural order, the chief factor preventing armed revolution in the USA is that its governments -- federal, state, and local --  and their contractors employ many Americans of working age, including many victims of the college-education debt scam.  

Today the federal government alone has about 800,000 full-time employees. Not surprisingly many of those employees government contractors would vote for Stalin himself for President if he campaigned on the promise never to cut any federal jobs or departments.

In summary, the need for job security not employment per se is the biggest driver of the current push for larger government in America, even among Americans who hate welfare. These Americans aren't looking for handouts. They want a steady income, one they can plan on continuing long enough to raise a family.

The catch is that big government itself depends on a relatively stable business environment, which is now deader than a doornail. The era that allowed for the prospering of the Germanic kingdoms has been replaced by dog-eat-dog global business competition. This has turned even the most liberal of democratic governments into versions of the deacon in the 1970 satire film, "Cotton Comes to Harlem." But whether liberal or authoritarian all central governments are now rip-off artists as if they had a choice, and that's not even talking about central banks fiddling with the 'economy.'

Thank You We Can Do It Ourselves

Now whenever you see so much mess everywhere you look, this is a Sign of a system failure. But the flip side of a system failure of this magnitude is another system being born.

That is exactly what is happening, and it's been happening since a fairly large number of literate people got really good at doing research on the internet. All these people are talking to each other all across the world via the internet, and so How-To tips for doing things yourself, whether it's curing a medical condition without help from a physician or managing a community problem without government assistance, are flying thick and fast. 

This epochal DIY shift is not showing up yet on the TV nightly news, except in bits and pieces that give no indication of its magnitude. For the magnitude, you need to be very skilled at internet research. [laughing] So the Black Power sloganeers and Gil Scott-Heron were right when they intoned in the early 1970s "The revolution will not be televised," only they couldn't have imagined back then -- no one could've imagined -- how the revolution would really take shape and what it would mean. It's not about Black power; it's about all people in the American society getting a handle on managing their own lives.  

Communitarianism

But what's the DIY solution to the problem of highly uncertain employment for parents? It's basically the same solution that's been in effect ever since humans organized themselves into tribes. The English word for it in this era is "communitarianism;" here's a dictionary definition I pulled from Google:
a theory or system of social organization based on small self-governing communities.
an ideology that emphasizes the responsibility of the individual to the community and the social importance of the family unit.
There are two types of community organizing. One type is exemplified by the Americans Barack Obama and Saul Alinsky; it's basically organizing a community to get the government to do something. The other type, exemplified by Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the American Paul Glover, is organizing a community to do something for itself.

The second type holds the key to buffering parents against the uncertainties of employment.

The community-based system of self-governing is not here yet but it's on the way, and this is unstoppable. Humanity is finally taking in stride the social upheavals set in motion by the Industrial Revolution and learning how to translate the time-honored way of governing into one that works for this age. The key, as King Bhumibol recognized, was networking: not just one small community but ones plugged into others in a region. 

In other words, lateral government rather than pyramidal. It's the only way to manage governance in the age of mega-populations, and now it's do-able. 

If it's not on the telly has anyone told the Establishment a revolution is going on? You bet the ones who supervise the status quo see what's coming. So it will be a bumpy ride but nothing we can't handle. 

[smiling] Happy New Year, everyone.     

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Why are many Americans easily defrauded?

It's because Americans were conditioned over more than two generations to disrespect their money. This happened principally because of the unrelenting promotion of debt-financing. When the financial practice was applied to individuals, as happened when American farmers in the early 20th century took on personal debt to finance capital expenditures for mechanized farm equipment, this set in motion a nightmare that greatly deepened the 1930s Depression in America and flooded its cities with penniless dispossessed farmers looking for work in factories. 

The nightmare continued during the post-WW2 period with the use of 'revolving' credit for household and other personal purchases. By the time scam-artists sold the financing of a college education through taking on steep personal debt, parents and college-age children in the American Middle Class were easy marks. By then, Americans were used to throwing their hard-earned money away on debt-financed expenditures. And they'd accepted the scam artists' assurances that good-paying jobs would await the debt-ridden college graduates -- assurances that collapsed as the Great Recession set in and the true cost of supporting themselves in today's USA sank in with the graduates.

Debt-financing for purchases should only be undertaken by for-profit business corporations, which limits risk for the individual. And debt-financing for anything other than business profits is a perversion of capitalism. 

I'll cut a story by noting that if individuals have respect for their money, they will be prepared to go to great lengths to avoid paying interest on borrowed money -- and even then, they'll be very aware that they are taking a great risk by borrowing at all -- as the markets in repossessed cars and homes testify. The awareness vanished in America along with respect for money. 

One consequence was the proliferation of Pyramid schemes and other fraudulent 'get rich' schemes where Americans not only threw all their savings into the schemes but also took on high-interest debt so they could throw even more money into them. 

Things got completely out of control when Americans started using their credit cards to purchase attendance at seminars costing thousands of dollars that held out the promise of getting rich by one guaranteed method or another.

Such is the case with the latest Get Rich scheme, which Alana Semuels recounts in detail for the January 2 issue of The Atlantic: How to Lose Tens of Thousands of Dollars on Amazon: "A growing number of self-proclaimed experts promise they can teach anyone how to make a passive income selling cheap Chinese goods in the internet's largest store. Not everyone’s getting rich quick."

The seminars are not fraudulent in the legal sense, and some who use the tutorials can make a profit from what they learn. But when you consider, as Semuels points out, that all the information taught at the seminars is easily available for free on the internet, the kind of people who fork over thousands of bucks for the seminars are not the types best suited to make money through a highly competitive and complicated business that can require a lot of hard work to get established.

And so, on top of losing the money they invest in the seminar, many attendees lose all the money they invest in starting their reselling business on Amazon -- and then some, if they've gone into credit-card debt to pay for the seminar and help finance the resale business startup.

As Semuels notes, trying to get rich quick is an old American tradition, which arose in an era when many Americans did respect money. Toward the end of her report, she takes a stab at explaining why Americans have always had a weakness for Get Rich schemes. But lack of respect for money explains why many Americans in this era are suckers for Get Rich schemes that stand up and shout they're highly deceptive or outright frauds. Those Americans are already used to throwing away money.

For those who'd say the U.S. society would collapse if Americans stopped using debt financing for personal purchases -- this is saying society would collapse if the majority of adults stopped throwing money away. The status quo would collapse, but this would mean Americans were finally ready to emerge from a nightmare.

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