Decadence, Part 3: Democracy

Decadence_Title_(Screenshot)And so we return to the series. On this one, we’re going to have to turn some filters on since we’re mostly Americans.

He focuses here rather strongly on Australia, which is fine, but Australia is not America, and most of us are Americans. Our problems are not dissimilar, but in ways Australia is the most nanny state of us all, and the amount of government meddling in lives would likely shock us. I also sense a  lessening of the old fear in the English-speaking world (by those opposed to the government, at any given time) of the old fear of “Mobocracy”.

I also notice a decided lack of respect for the base reason we formed states in the first place, to protect ourselves and our property from others, whether gangs, other states, or a flood of refugees who want us to take care of them, and turn themselves into illegal immigrants to be such.

But even if we don’t agree with all he says here, he does an excellent job of limning the issues.

Enjoy, and think.

The Top Five Events in 2014

OK, I admit it, this is a bit heavy (not to mention long) for a Saturday post but, this type of post hasn’t been seen here in quite a while, and I think Stratfor hit the nail very squarely on the head here. I’ll let you read it, and then I’ll have a few comments.

By George Friedman

‘Tis the season to make lists, and a list shall be made. We tend to see each year as extraordinary, and in some senses, each year is. But in a broader sense, 2014 was merely another year in a long chain of human triumph and misery. Wars have been waged, marvelous things have been invented, disease has broken out, and people have fallen in love. Nonetheless, lists are called for, and this is my list of the five most important events of 2014.

1: Europe’s Persistent Decline

The single most important event in 2014 was one that did not occur: Europe did not solve its longstanding economic, political and social problems. I place this as number one because regardless of its decline, Europe remains a central figure in the global system. The European Union’s economy is the largest in the world, taken collectively, and the Continent remains a center of global commerce, science and culture. Europe’s inability to solve its problems, or really to make any significant progress, may not involve armies and explosions, but it can disrupt the global system more than any other factor present in 2014.

The vast divergence of the European experience is as troubling as the general economic malaise. Experience is affected by many things, but certainly the inability to find gainful employment is a central feature of it. The huge unemployment rates in Spain, Greece and southern Europe in general profoundly affect large numbers of people. The relative prosperity of Germany and Austria diverges vastly from that of southern Europe, so much so that it calls into question the European Union’s viability.

Indeed, we have seen a rise of anti-EU parties not only in southern Europe but also in the rest of Europe as well. None have crossed the threshold to power, but many are strengthening along with the idea that the benefits of membership in a united Europe, constituted as it is, are outweighed by the costs. Greece will have an election in the coming months, and it is possible that a party favoring withdrawal from the eurozone will become a leading power. The United Kingdom’s UKIP favors withdrawal from the European Union altogether.

There is significant and growing risk that either the European Union will have to be revised dramatically to survive or it will simply fragment. The fragmentation of the European Union would shift authority formally back to myriad nation states. Europe’s experience with nationalism has been troubling, to say the least — certainly in the first part of the 20th century. And when a region as important as Europe redefines itself, the entire world will be affected.

Therefore, Europe’s failure to make meaningful progress in finding a definitive solution to a problem that began to emerge six years ago has overwhelming global significance. It also raises serious questions about whether the problem is soluble. It seems to me that if it were, it would have been solved, given the threat it poses. With each year that passes, we must be open to the possibility that this is no longer a crisis that will pass, but a new, permanent European reality. This is something we have been pointing to for years, and we see the situation as increasingly ominous because it shows no signs of improving.

2: Ukrainian and Russian Crises

Historically, tensions between Russia and the European Peninsula and the United States have generated both wars and near wars and the redrawing of the borders of both the peninsula and Russia. The Napoleonic Wars, World War I, World War II and the Cold War all ended in dramatic redefinitions of Europe’s balance of power and its map. Following from our first major event of the year, the events in Ukraine and the Russian economic crisis must rank as the second most important event.

Stratfor forecast several years ago that there would be a defining crisis in Ukraine that would be the opening to a new and extended confrontation between the European Peninsula and the United States on one side and Russia on the other. We have also forecast that while Russia has regional power, its long-term sustainability is dubious. The same internal factors that brought the Soviet Union crashing down haunt the Russian Federation. We assumed that the “little Cold War” would begin in the mid-2010s, but that Russian decline would not begin until about 2020.

We have seen the first act, and we continue to believe that the final act isn’t imminent, but it is noteworthy that Russia is reeling internally at the same time that it is trying to cope with events in Ukraine. We do not expect Russia to collapse, nor do we expect the Ukrainian crisis to evolve into a broader war. Nevertheless, it seems to me that with this crisis we have entered into a new historical phase in which a confrontation with significant historical precedents is re-emerging. The possibility of conflict is not insignificant; the possibility that the pressures on Russia, internally and externally, might not speed up the country’s own crisis cannot be discounted. Certainly the consequences of oil prices, internal economic dislocation, the volatility of the ruble and sanctions all must give us pause.

The Russians think of this as an event triggered by the United States. In the newspaper Kommersant, I was quoted as saying that the American coup in Ukraine was the most blatant in history. What I actually said was that if this was a coup, it was the most blatant in history, since the United States openly supported the demonstrators and provided aid for the various groups, and it was quite open in supporting a change in government. The fact that what I said was carefully edited is of no importance, as I am not important in this equation. It is important in that it reveals a Russian mindset that assumes that covert forces are operating against Russia. There are forces operating against it, but there is nothing particularly covert about them.

The failures of Russian intelligence services to manage the Ukrainian crisis and the weakening of the Russian economy raise serious questions about the future of Russia, since the Russian Federal Security Service is a foundation of the Russian state. And if Russia destabilizes, it is the destabilization of a nation with a massive nuclear capability. Thus, this is our second most important event.

3: The Desynchronization of the Global Economy

Europe is predicted to see little to no growth in 2015, with some areas in recession or even depression already. China has not been able to recover its growth rate since 2008 and is moving sideways at best. The United States announced a revision indicating that it grew at a rate of 5 percent in the third quarter of 2014. Japan is in deep recession. That the major economic centers of the world are completely out of synch with each other, not only statistically but also structurally, indicates that a major shift in how the world works may be underway.

The dire predictions for the U.S. economy that were floated in the wake of the 2008 crisis have not materialized. There has been neither hyperinflation nor deflation. The economy did not collapse. Rather, it has slowly but systematically climbed out of its hole in terms of both growth and unemployment. The forecast that China would shortly overtake the United States as the world’s leading economy has been delayed at least. The forecast that Europe would demonstrate that the “Anglo-Saxon” economic model is inferior to Europe’s more statist and socially sensitive approach has been disproven. And the assumption that Japan’s dysfunction would lead to massive defaults also has not happened.

The desynchronization of the international system raises questions about what globalization means, and whether it has any meaning at all. But a major crisis is occurring in economic theory. The forecasts made by many leading economists in the wake of 2008 have not come to pass. Just as Milton Friedman replaced John Maynard Keynes as the defining theorist, we are awaiting a new comprehensive explanation for how the economic world is working today, since neither Keynes nor Friedman seem sufficient any longer. A crisis in economic theory is not merely an academic affair. Investment decisions, career choices and savings plans all pivot on how we understand the economic world. At the moment, the only thing that can be said is that the world is filled with things that need explaining.

4: The Disintegration of the Sykes-Picot World

Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot were British and French diplomats who redrew the map of the region between the Mediterranean Sea and Persia after World War I. They invented countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Some of these nation-states are in turmoil. The events in Syria and Iraq resemble the events in Lebanon a generation ago: The central government collapses, and warlords representing various groups take control of fragments of the countries, with conflicts flowing across international boundaries. Thus the Iraqi crisis and the Syrian crisis have become hard to distinguish, and all of this is affecting internal Lebanese factions.

This is important in itself. The question is how far the collapse of the post-World War I system will go. Will the national governments reassert themselves in a decisive way, or will the fragmentation continue? Will this process of disintegration spread to other heirs of Sykes and Picot? This question is more important than the emergence of the Islamic State. Radical Islamism is a factor in the region, and it will assert itself in various organizational forms. What is significant is that while a force, the Islamic State is in no position to overwhelm other factions, just as they cannot overwhelm it. Thus it is not the Islamic State, but the fragmentation and the crippling of national governments, that matters. Syrian President Bashar al Assad is just a warlord now, and the government in Baghdad is struggling to be more than just another faction.

Were the dynamics of the oil markets today the same as they were in 1973, this would rank higher. But the decline in consumption by China and the rise of massive new sources of oil reduce the importance of what happens in this region. It still matters, but not nearly as much as it did. What is perhaps the most important question is whether this presages the rise of Turkey, which is the only force historically capable of stabilizing the region. I expect that to happen in due course. But it is not clear that Turkey can take this role yet, even if it wished to.

5: The Births of Asher and Mira

I was given two new grandchildren this year. For me, this must be listed as one of the five major events of 2014. I am aware that it is less significant to others, but I not only want to announce them, I also want to point out an important truth. The tree of life continues to grow new branches inexorably, even in the face of history, adversity and suffering. The broad forces of history and geopolitics shape our lives, but we live our lives in the small things. As much as I care about the other four matters — and I do — I care much more for the birth and lives of Asher and Mira and my other grandchild, Ari.

Life is experience in the context of history. It is lived in intimate contact with things that history would not notice and that geopolitics would not see as significant. “There are more things … than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” Hamlet said to his friend Horatio. Indeed, and their names are Asher, Mira and Ari. This must not be forgotten.

Have a happy New Year’s, and may God grant you peace and joy in your lives, in spite of the hand of history and geopolitics.

Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

The Top Five Events in 2014 is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

And my take on these:

1. I’ve been saying for as long as I’ve been writing this blog (actually longer) that Europe is dying. Since I have many UK readers, this is the background as to why I would likely support UKIP, out here in the colonies is a vast reservoir of liking, sympathy, and yes love for Mummy, most of us would very much like it if you were to regain your heritage and come grow with us. It worked well for the Tudors, and I think it would work even better for us all today. As Winston Churchill said, “The same language, the same hymns, and, more or less, the same ideals.”  As William Wordsworth said in 1807,

We must be free or die, who speak the tongue

That Shakespeare spoke, the faith and morals held.

Your elites have had their fling with the Europeans again, it’s time to come home, where you are loved and appreciated. Freedom matters, guys, too many of our people are buried around the world not to remember our heritage.

2. Russia has bitten off far more than it can chew, I think and will choke. What happens then is anyone’s guess. It a lot like 1979 all over again but Russia is a lot less stable than the USSR was, and a lot more uninhibited. You’ve noted I’m sure that the petroleum glut has reduced Russia’s GDP by up to 50%, and American production in government fields is still down by about 17% from its peak. If we drill on government lands and Saudi Arabia, who wants to hurt Iran, keeps producing, what happens? I don’t know and I doubt anyone really does.

3. We’re not in particularly good shape ourselves, but compared to the rest of the world, US, UK, Canada and the rest of Oceania, are pulling away, although not as fast as we did in the nineteenth century. I don’t know enough in this field to offer predictions but, again we’re “better together”, as we heard a lot of last year. If we can bring India along, we have a world beater started.

4. I don’t think the Sykes-Picot world will be coming back, we’ best be thinking about what happens next. And remember that Middle Eastern oil is becoming less important by the week. What happens when the Saudi’s go broke?

5. And finally, Congratulation to Mr. Friedman and his family. He’s right, whatever happens life goes on.

Passing the Torch

E3747The other day Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the Israeli Knesset. It was an outstanding speech, (the video is below) and it expressed Canada’s support for Israel emphatically.

But the speech had other ramifications as well. I think it marked Canada’s (and Australia’s, see below) accession to the leadership of the free world. We here in America and the Britain as well have dropped the ball rather badly in the last few years, and we have left others to pick up after us. To their credit they are doing an admirable job.Tom Wilson writing in Commentary magazine also noticed and said this:

Rightly, Harper spoke of Israel’s accomplishments, defending unequivocally its right to exist as a Jewish state and denouncing in no uncertain terms the new anti-Semitism that masquerades as anti-Zionism–or as Harper put it, “the old hatred has been translated into more sophisticated language for use in polite society. People who would never say they hate and blame the Jews for their own failings or the problems of the world, instead declare their hatred of Israel and blame the only Jewish state for the problems of the Middle East.”

Ironically, when Prime Minister Harper came to rebutting the apartheid charge leveled against Israel, two of the Arab Knesset members present began to loudly interrupt him, before then promptly storming out–their very position in the Knesset, of course, serving to refute the accusation that they apparently felt so strongly about insisting upon. This sense of obligation to speak out against such lies and bigotry clearly stems from the prime minister’s wider worldview.

Harper declared unapologetically that we live in a world where “moral relativism runs rampant” and that “in the garden of such moral relativism, the seeds of much more sinister notions can be easily planted.” For, as Harper noted, “Those who, often begin by hating the Jews…history shows us, end up hating anyone who is not them.”

That’s important, and that’s the kind of leadership that world has come to expect from America, and yes from Britain. Neither country is providing it any longer, but friends of ours, and more importantly friends of freedom are. Here’s PM Harper

Similarly, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has also proven to be unswerving in her support. Like Canada, and in truth like Britain and the US used to be, their support is not absolute, it is won by the love of freedom, and playing by the rules. Again from Tom Wilson

Bishop stated that she thought the international community should refrain from calling settlements illegal, remarking, “I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal,” and arguing, “I don’t think it’s helpful to prejudge the settlement issue if you’re trying to get a negotiated solution. And by deeming the activity as a war crime, it’s unlikely to engender a negotiated solution.”

Foreign Minister Bishop has likewise been unwavering in her opposition to boycotts, seeing to it that funding from the Australian government does not reach organizations calling for them. Of the BDS movement Bishop exclaimed, “It’s anti-Semitic. It identifies Israel out of all other nations as being worthy of a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign? Hypocritical beyond belief.”

Bishop stands out as an almost lone voice on a number of these issues, yet in doing so she echoes the Canadian prime minister’s attitude when he stated that his country will “stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is convenient or popular.”

 Look at that, real principles, just like we used to have.

You know, freedom in the world has been linked to the English-speaking people ever since the enlightenment, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. The thing is, Canada and Australia both know exactly what they are doing, they have been in the trenches, receiving far less of the glory than they deserve, for a full hundred years with us. And yet, they still, have the guts to lead the eternal battle. I hope we have the sense to support them


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Respect and Gen Y: What’s Age Got To Do With It?

At a job interview

At a job interview (Photo credit: Arroz y Asado)


This is an article by a young woman, Kayla Cruz, who is teaching leadership in college, and I really like it. She says something here that far too many young people forget, to demand respect for yourself.


OK, I admit I have some difficulty with her formulation, in my world respect is something you earn. But part of that is that I’ve been around long enough that I’m not threatened by people coming up behind me. It’s a small but important distinction


I’m one of those bosses who likes to shove responsibility down as far as possible, and help people grow. Why? It makes my life easier if I don’t have to babysit you. I doubt I’m alone, either, this is the model that works in the real world. Sure, I realize you’re not going to come out of High School/ Trade School/ College knowing everything it’s taken me 40+ years to learn but, if you have a reasonable level of intelligence, a desire to learn, and decent work habits, you’ll go far in my organization.


The thing is you will screw up, if I’m doing my job correctly, it may cost a bit of money, but the effects will be limited, and then we’ll talk about it and see how to do it better, and we’ve (hopefully) both learned something.


I believe it is my job to bring you along, praising you to my superiors when justified and taking the blame for your mistakes, both of which I will do, if you do your part. It is summed up very neatly: Always make new mistakes.


One thing I have noticed with the young people coming up today is that, they seem to have little confidence in their own judgement, and maybe a lack of self-confidence. I think this is a by-product of modern education. If everybody succeeds and no one fails, how can you make a judgement, which in my world is essential. Granted my world, electricity, is quite unforgiving, it’s either right or wrong, and sometimes the answers come back literally in the form of life or death, but keeping your risk manageable is my job, which is why you should listen to us old-timers, we’ve seen a lot.



Alright… so in an effort to find the right topics to discuss and the right stories to share with these students, I’ve had to reflect a lot on my experiences in the workplace.

And well…that hasn’t been fun.

It hasn’t been fun because I’ve realized something.

I’ve realized that although there are a lot of things that I can teach these students, there’s no way that I can control the hardships that they’ll continue to face as young professionals.

There’s no way that I’ll be able to rid them of the label that they’ll often be given:



Know your worth.

Be professional.

Do good work.

And always make sure to stand up for yourself.

Because if you don’t demand that respect for yourself, no one else will.


Read it all Respect and Gen Y: What’s Age Got To Do With It?. It’s a super article, as are her other articles. She’s good, very good. Respect her.


But remember this too: In the last analysis, most of us will give you the respect you earn, no more, no less. Act accordingly.


Bill Gates Workplace Rules

Bill Gates Workplace Rules



From the E-mail- Hah, best answer of the week

Stupid question, excellent response!
For those that don’t know him, Major General Peter Cosgrove is an Australian.
General Cosgrove was interviewed on the radio recently.
Read his reply to the lady who interviewed him concerning guns and children.

Regardless of how you feel about gun laws you have to love this! This is one of the best comeback lines of all time.
In a portion of an ABC radio interview between a female broadcaster and General Cosgrove who was about to sponsor a Boy Scout Troop visiting his military Headquarters.

So, General Cosgrove, what things are you going to teach these young boys when they visit your base?

We’re going to teach them climbing, canoeing, archery and shooting.

Shooting! That’s a bit irresponsible, isn’t it?

I don’t see why, they’ll be properly supervised on the rifle range.

Don’t you admit that this is a terribly dangerous activity to be teaching children?

I don’t see how. We will be teaching them proper rifle discipline before they even touch a firearm.

But you’re equipping them to become violent killers.

Well, Ma’am, you’re equipped to be a prostitute, but you’re not one, are you?

The radiocast went silent for 46 seconds and when it returned, this interview was over.


Restoring Confidence| Cagle Post, Michael Reagan

I’ve very little to add to this except to reiterate that when the people have no confidence in the government, it is most likely because the government deserves no ones confidence.

Making Sense, by Michael Reagan

Help us, we’re falling and we can’t get up again.

Once upon a time — in 1988 and 1998 to be exact — the United States was the best country for a baby to be born and raised in, at least according to The Economist magazine.

But the 2013 edition of the magazine’s “where-to-be-born” index has us down at No. 16 — tied with Germany and one spot ahead of the United Arab Emirates.

Switzerland, Australia, Norway, Sweden and Denmark — nice countries but not exactly world famous as destinations for millions of people seeking opportunity — are ranked 1 through 5.

The Economist’s annual ranking tries to quantify what country “will provide the best opportunities for a healthy, safe and prosperous life in the years ahead.”

It crunches and weighs the numbers for 11 indicators — everything from geography and demography to GDP per capita, the cost of living and future economic growth prospects. And, unfortunately for the United States, it weighs government debt.

The Economist doesn’t factor a debt-related reason America will likely continue to slide in these rankings — no one today has any confidence in our political leaders to solve our economic problems.

Continue reading Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Restoring Confidence.


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