Saturday, November 21
Monday, October 26
Matthew Duss, writing for Foreign Affairs on October 22, lays out his case for establishing a commission to investigate the sins of America over the course of the Global War on Terror and recommend remedial actions so that America never does anything like GWOT ever again. (U.S. Foreign Policy Never Recovered From the War on Terror: "Only a Reckoning With the Disastrous Legacy of 9/11 Can Heal the United States.")
The catch is that to follow what he wants of a GWOT commission is like following a description of Russiagate, which maybe five Americans can understand (I'm not one of the five), or the Tale of Benghazi, which is so confusing that the public (those 5 or 10 still game for solving the mystery) is still trying to figure out what happened that fateful night, and why.
So many tangled tales have arisen since 9/11 that it's the tangles, not any specific situations, which hallmark not only the long war but also all the major incidents of the early part of this century. Indeed the best description for this era is Red Herring.
A commission of the kind Matthew Duss envisions would only add to the tangle, with the entire enterprise collapsing in a tangle of counter-accusations.
A simpler way to approach the problem would be to look at the genesis of U.S. military actions that eventually got lumped in with GWOT but at the start had virtually nothing to do with it. Libya and Syria fill the bill. Straighten out the story of those 'wars,' then use that as a lens to study U.S. actions across the spectrum of GWOT.
To get the ball rolling across the mounds of red herring, I recommend Libya, the Obama Administration, and the Muslim Brotherhood (Part 1) and Libya, the Obama Administration, and the Muslim Brotherhood (Part 2) by Vincent Amoroso for The Best of Africa.
Note the date of publication -- January 2020. Yes, this year. The basic story has been known for a long time to interested members of public but it took an awful lot of work and patience to fit the pieces together in a way that wasn't hopelessly confusing to a general reader. Often it would be years before an intelligence agency would cough up a bit of the story, to be fit with other bits.
Yet when it's all said and done, when all the pieces finally drop, we will be staring not at the United States of America but at a logo.
That, dear reader, will never happen.
Thursday, October 8
"Settle your issues with Iran, leave Yemen out": Houthi to Saudi Arabia and US
October 7, 2020
BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:20 A.M.) – The leader of the Ansarallah Movement, Muhammad Ali Al-Houthi, called on Saudi Arabia and the United States to “settle their accounts” with Iran, instead of targeting the Yemenis.
Houthi said in an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel:
"Saudi Arabia operates in the Arabian Peninsula as an American state that submits to Trump. The American president fixes the price that Saudi Arabia pays. The United States gives directions.
“We are not a terrorist group and fundamentally we do not recognize this term. The United States attaches the sign of terrorists to those who oppose its policies. Even the demonstrators on American streets have been described as terrorists by Trump. I ask myself why is this happening now? What is the red threat that we passed?"
Houthi continued, in response to a question about Western intelligence reports about the increasing use of Iranian missiles and drones by the Houthis:
“Why are Saudi Arabia and the United States fighting a war against us? On the pretext of our support from Iran? If we are funded by Iran, please, bomb Iran, the financing party. No, slaughter the Yemenis!"
This is exactly what we said to the Saudis and the Americans. If you have accounts with the Iranians, then settle them with the Iranians,” he added.
Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has led the Arab coalition, which has been waging intense military operations in Yemen in support of the Yemeni government loyal to President Abd Rubbah Mansour Hadi."
Thanks, Sputnik for catching her hard at work.
Monday, September 21
Mr. Xi’s “clean plate” campaign strikes at the heart of dining culture in China. Custom dictates that ordering extra dishes and leaving food behind are ways to demonstrate generosity toward one’s relatives, clients, business partners and important guests.
Such habits have contributed to an estimated 17 million to 18 million tons of food being discarded annually, an amount that could feed 30 million to 50 million people for a year, according to a study by the Chinese Academy of Science and the World Wildlife Fund.
Mr. Xi’s call is as much a warning against the dangers of profligacy as it is a reflection of the generational shift in values that has emerged as living standards rise.
[...]Many among the country’s younger generation, such as Samantha Pan, a 21-year-old student in Guangzhou, embrace being free from having to worry about saving food for a rainy day, and hold little regard for the state’s moral exhortations.
“This type of initiative is very boring and useless,” Ms. Pan said in a telephone interview. “I am entitled to order as much food as I want. If I just happen to love wasting food, it’s still my freedom.”
As we can see from Ms Pan's ringing defense of her freedom to waste food, not all of China is racing to tighten its belt. Yet China is now facing severe food insecurity, as detailed by the updated Times report and one from The Hill, Another famine coming? China struggles to meet basic food demands.
As with so many other kinds of crises that have arisen in this young century, the only viable course of action is for individuals to change their thinking.
Change or die; that's what the crystal ball is telling me.
Tuesday, September 8
Well, here is my opinion of Beijing:
Substitute "land" for "lady" in the lyrics, and there is America, the British Empire wannabe, to a T. These days you have to be crazy to join any American 'coalition of the willing'
Wednesday, September 2
Monday, August 24
I can tell you in one sentence what's wrong with America. But then you'd have to understand the sentence.
What's wrong is that when statistical data interpretation rules societies, disaster results. That's the truth, the whole truth about what's wrong with today's USA; everything else is blither spewed by superficial thinkers.
The fastest way to understand what I've told you is to gather your attention and plow through a lengthy, tortured article by Gwynn Guilford,, who spent six years in China researching their economy and trying to explain it for hedge funds. In her 2018 writing for Quartz, The epic mistake about manufacturing that’s cost Americans millions of jobs, she sets out to explain the thinking that led a majority of economists to misinterpret the statistics they used to interpret the American manufacturing sector. To call what they did a mistake, even an epic one, hardly conveys the disaster that resulted.
Here are a few passages from the writing:
... Manufacturers’ embrace of automation was supposedly a good thing. Sure, some factory workers lost their jobs. But increased productivity boosted living standards, and as manufacturing work vanished, new jobs in construction and other services took its place. This was more of a shift than a loss, explained Bradford DeLong, economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
So when Trump won the presidential election, the true-blue data believers dismissed his victory as the triumph of rhetoric over fact. His supporters had succumbed to a nativist tale with cartoon villains like “cheating China” and a shadowy cabal of Rust Belt-razing “globalists.”
But it turns out that Trump’s story of US manufacturing decline was much closer to being right than the story of technological progress being spun in Washington, New York, and Cambridge.
Thanks to a painstaking analysis by a handful of economists, it’s become clear that the data that underpin the dominant narrative—or more precisely, the way most economists interpreted the data—were way off-base. Foreign competition, not automation, was behind the stunning loss in factory jobs. And that means America’s manufacturing sector is in far worse shape than the media, politicians, and even most academics realize.
Here I'll skip over several paragraphs to get to this part:
In other words, the method statisticians use to account for these advances can make it seem like US firms are producing and selling more computers than they actually are. And when the computers data are aggregated with the other subsectors, the adjustment makes it seem like the whole of American manufacturing is churning out more goods than it actually is.
Misreading the manufacturing statistics
It’s this adjustment that is the crux of economists’ misinterpretation of the health of manufacturing. There’s nothing wrong with accounting for product quality. But most economists and policymakers have failed to take into account how adjusting for quality improvements in a relatively small subsector skews the manufacturing output data.
Later in the writing Guilford observes:
Two decades of ill-founded policymaking radically restructured the US economy, and reshuffled the social order too. The America that resulted is more unequal and more polarized than it’s been in decades, if not nearly a century.
In effect, US policymakers put diplomacy before industrial development at home, offering the massive American consumer market as a carrot to encourage other countries to open up their economies to multinational investment. Then, thanks to the popular narrative that automation was responsible for job losses in manufacturing, American leaders tended to dismiss the threat of foreign competition to a thriving manufacturing industry and minimize its importance to the overall health of the US economy.
Guilford stays away from the larger inference, but the tortured tale she unravels speaks for itself. We -- the American society as a whole, not only economists -- have reached a stage where we are simply overwhelmed by our attempts to interpret the shifting and changing statistics we wring from masses of collected data.
We are in over our heads. The awful state of American society reflects this.