Category Archives: politics

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride…

For some unthinkable reason, I was not invited to Technoccult’s roundtable on the future of the nation-state.  Probably because they’ve never heard of me, Wes and Edward aside, but I won’t let that get in the way of some good snark.  Besides, I can now claim to be a renegade renegade futurist, which justs adds to my edgy appeal.  Or something.

Anyway, good question.  The whole viability/decline of the state has become a very interesting question in light of the credit crunch.  And I have more than a passing interest in social organization in the past and present, in no small way due to reading John Robb for the past three years or so.

Continue reading Always the bridesmaid, never the bride…

Is George Friedman smoking crack?

Stratfor’s analysis is starting to show its bias much more:

Note the section on the US missile program in central Europe.  Unless something has changed radically, the last I heard was Obama was putting the kibosh on the project at least until the Pentagon could make the case it had to be in Europe, and in return, Russia was withdrawing its plans to put nuclear warheads in Kaliningrad, which would allow them to strike anywhere in Europe with even their smallest nuclear capable missiles.

Also on Kyrgyzstan, while the analysis is accurate, they in no way mention the cyber attack which was almost certainly undertaken by Russian proxies there – one which may have been a trial run to see how US forces coped with bandwidth poor environments.  The US military is massively dependent on using state of the art communication systems, and they did have problems in Central Asia when first moving into those bases, in 2001-2002.  Russian expertise in cyber warfare is nothing new, but running an attack which may have been designed to test US responses is.  In the Georgia/Russia spat earlier last year, the Russians were probably too busy actually attacking Georgian websites and communications to see what they could do to American bases in the country.  This time, they had an attackers advantage, in choosing the time and place.  Given Obama, just today, is reviewing cyberspace security, I would think this was much more important than Russia’s long standing objections to the US presence in its percieved sphere of intersest.

And just to confirm my suspicions, I get a new email:

In our 2009 Annual Forecast, we let Stratfor Members know that Russia is resurging–but can she really do it? The short answer is YES.

Russia needs more than economic power to mount a real resurgence–military power is an equally important aspect. So we’re introducing a special four-part series on the Russian Military.

UUUUUNNNNGGGGHHHHHHH.  Paul Kennedy is quietly weeping somewhere.  Military superpowers need to be economic powerhouses first and foremost.  Obviously, a super rich country with little population is not much of a military risk (see: Saudi Arabia), but equally a populous country with a weak economy is not nearly as much of a threat as one with a strong economy.

Russia had an economy comparable to Portugal, a thin strip of mostly barren land on the Atlantic sea, which makes the majority of its money from tourists who don’t realize they crossed the border from Spain, and from the quite frankly disgusting “firewater” drink.  Oh, and Port, of course.

And most of this was because of Russian reliance on energy resources, in particular oil and gas.  Oil prices have essentially collapsed, putting the Russian economy in dire straits.  Their weapons systems are their second main export, but with the economic crisis hitting their main clients hard as well, they cannot hope to pick up the loss of earnings there.

Russia still has a decent amount of firepower, of course.  It has the world’s biggest stockpile of nuclear weapons, for starters.  It has numerous WMD programs, including a very advanced biological weapons division.  They still maintain large numbers of missiles, both conventional and otherwise.  Its intelligence assets were primed towards Europe and America for 60+ years, and many of those assets are still around, if in a reduced capacity.  It also has its much vaunted cyber warfare capacity.

But those are costly to maintain.  Equally, Russia’s population is steadily decreasing, as is its economy.  Sooner or later, cuts will have to be made, in order to save the careers of those in the Duma and Kremlin.  And Russia is already well behind in certain technical innovations than NATO, China and Japan.  Can they sustain the economy necessary for high-tech research and their already existing military power, which is still a shadow of what the USSR possessed?  Highly unlikely.  Unless Russia can reverse its economic woes, presumably by seizing the Arctic oilfields and then orchestrating price fixing via Gazprom, its a power on the decline.  Again.


I think The Sun were having a stream of consciousness moment when writing this headline “oooh, poofters….rape…..blah Muslims….wurgh….time for a coffee”.

However, as Wired’s Danger Room points out, it is, apart from a pretty shitty piece of obvious propaganda, indicative of, shall we say, a general malaise that has set in among Al-Qaeda Prime?  AQP has tried to turn itself into a sort of “Big Vision” type of group, who go around exhorting others to actually take up the Jihad, and relying on local networks to do the dirty business.

But since earlier last year, when the focus shifted to the US elections, and with the victory of Barack Obama in particuar, they’ve been on the back foot.  Euphoria at Bush leaving, a guy with relatively sane policies and a guy with a background that includes at least one mostly Muslim country mean he has a lot of leverage, and people are willing to hear him out.  No-one was willing to hear a born again Christian who was part of the Texas oil set and hobnobbed with the Arab dictatorships out.  Especially after he bombed and occupied a country on erroneous (read: non-existant) evidence.  And the whole torture and contempt of human rights stuff didn’t help either.

Regardless of if Obama will have better Middle East policies or not, he is clearly better thought of than the previous guy.  People turn to terrorism through lack of seemingly viable options.  So when the guy in charge is trying to be a mediator instead of a commander, people think they have a shot at getting their points across.

Al-Qaeda is losing the media war.  Sun headlines aside, people think they have a choice now, that there are multiple options and a possible path to reconciliation.  Most people do not seek to join terrorist organizations when there are peaceful alternatives with a shot at getting what they want.  I suspect that will be the next opening in Obama’s strategic communication offensive, at least if he is smart.  Courting peaceful Islamist groups will defuse a large number of tensions if he can prevail on Arab leaders to listen to their requests and proposals.

And if that does happen, expect Al-Qaeda’s war to turn suddenly to “traitors within the Islamist ranks”.  They need to make sure they are seen as the only legitimate voice of oppressed Muslims the world over, and their best chance for success.  Any threats to that image must be taken care of, after all.

Fundie Telephone Game

And now I shall present to you a dramatic reading that I have entitled Fundie Telephone Game. Please enjoy.

CONGRESS: Hey! Because of that whole church/state thing colleges can’t use bailout money to repair any religious building. LOL, SORRY!

Jay Sekulow, ACLJ: ZOMG!!1 Congress is totally discriminating against Christians. Religious organizations deserve the right to use those buildings. You can’t take that away from them!!


OneNewsNow (while lashing self): Persecution!!!

CONGRESS: Hai, guyz! Did you even read the thing?

Sen. James DeMint: Democrats hate Christianity and eat babbys!

CONGRESS: I thought you was one of us…


CONGRESS: *facepalm*

And scene!

Reaping a whirlwind of trouble, and why smuggling is the new boom industry

This Financial Times blog outlies the reasons why Gordon Brown’s British Jobs for British Workers probably qualifies as the most stupid thing one could promise, especially when there was a financial downturn on the cards.  To whit:

In the UK, prime minister Gordon Brown is reaping the protectionist storm he sowed with his infamous protectionist and xenophobic call for “British jobs for British workers”.  What was he thinking?  Follow the logic: ‘British jobs for British workers’,’Scottish jobs for Scottish workers’ (along with ‘It’s Scotland’s oil’), ‘Welsh jobs for Welsh workers’ and ‘English jobs for English workers’.  Why not London jobs for London Workers, or London jobs for native-born London workers, or even London jobs for white Christian native-born London workers?

How divisive can you get?  British workers are demonstrating against workers from elsewhere in the EU – Italian and Portuguese workers are currently at the centre of a rather disgusting series of altercations at UK oil refineries, gas terminals and power stations, following a dispute at Total’s oil refinery at Killinghome in Lincolnshire, where an Italian engineering company was bringing its own staff from Portugal and Italy for a egnineering construction project.

This is already being exploited by fascist organizations such as the BNP, notably through their front organization British Wildcats – if you doubt this is the case then the Ministry of Truth details the evidence.

In addition to providing propaganda to fascists, gratis no less, the other main beneficiary of protectionism will be those operating in the black market.  John Robb outlines the details, basically stating that it just increases the range of goods such groups can provide and thus improving their economic standing.  Or, if you like, the Law of Eristic Calculation.  Not to mention that stoking such nationalism, at the expense of foreign countries, will only hamper efforts to cut down on such markets.

So yeah, nice going Gordo.  I’ve always wanted to live in a third world country, complete with pointless ethnic strife, a booming illegal industry, corruption, a lowered standard of living and de facto IMF control via “economic structural adjustments”.  No, really.

Conservatives and punks

This seems to be a meme that is emanating out of various stale and tired orifices, that because conservative parties are nominally in the opposition right now, they are therefore rebellious punk type figures who appeal to the modern day yoof.

Example one: Michael Gove, who hilariously tries to claim that having his tea and candles without perfume means this label applies to him.

Example two: Just to prove idiocy strikes without concern as to nationality or borders, Doug TenNapel, over at Breibart’s hilarious (for all the wrong reasons) anti-Hollywood blog assures us that since now Obama is the establishment, Republicans are anti-establishment and not just a currently embittered and infighting faction of privileged pricks (h/t to D Aristophanes)

Its almost like they’re having a mid-life crisis or something.

The Arctic Scramble

While the eyes of conspiracy theorists are permamently fixed on the Middle East and Central Asia as the Last Great Battleground for easy access to oil, it looks like both NATO and Russia are capable of hiring slightly more intelligent people.

At least, those intelligent enough to realize that sitting under the Arctic circle are massive oil reserves, so far claimed by no-one.  And as the economic crisis continues to deepen, both are considering sending in military forces to show everyone who really owns the oil and gas hidden under the ice.

Russia is especially worried.  Their much inflated and hysterically claimed resurgence only came about due to stable political leadership, ie; Putin, along with the strategic use of Russian oil and gas reserves to improve the economy and rebuild its military power.  With the current economic crisis, consumption is down and oil prices have plummeted, putting Russia in a very precarious position.  Economic growth is not assured and Russia’s economy has not really diversified in recent years, arms sales aside.

NATO claims that global warming means sea routes previously closed would open again, and that military forces in the region could act as a stablizing factor to ensure possible rivalries don’t get out of hand.  And while this is true, we’d be fools to consider that the Russian interest in massive energy resources is not also a facor.

It is tempting to put a Cold War pun here, but I will refrain.  But I do wonder how China, Japan and other rising powers (such as India) would react to renewed tension in the Arctic circle.  Concentrating such a crisis away from Eastern Europe, the Far East or South Asia may have interesting repurcussions on previously stable alliances.

Keep an eye on this one.  It’s going to be a slow burner.

I coulda cleaned up on this…if I had any money to bet

Iceland’s coalition government just fell into squabbling over…well, pretty much everything, it seems, but mostly whose economic policy sucks more and who should really run the country.

That sounds so familiar.

Anyway, yes.  This has been in the works for a while now.  The collapse of the Icelandic government should come as no surprise.  When 10% of your GDP gets wiped off, people get pissed.  There is a lesson in that, I think.

Keep an eye on the Baltic states and Hungary too.  Oh, and Italy.  The Italian government is pretty brutal, for a democracy, but all that means is that people are going to be even more pissed off and violent when they finally decide to act.

The new face of radicalism: flash picnics

No, I’m not making this up.

In exactly a week’s time, in a supermarket somewhere in or around Paris, a couple of dozen young French activists are going to choose an aisle, unfold tables, put on some music and, taking what they want from the shelves, start a little picnic. The group “L’Appel et la Pioche” (The call and the pick axe) will have struck again – fruit and veg, dairy or the fish counter will have been transformed into a flash protest against global capitalism, rampant consumerism, bank bail-outs, poor housing, expensive food, profit margins and pretty much everything else that is wrong in the world.

The “supermarket picnic” will go on for as long as it can – before the security guards throw the activists out or the police arrive. Shoppers will be invited to join in, either bringing what they want from the shelves or just taking something lifted lightly from among the crisps, sweets or quality fruit already on the tables.

“L’Appel et la Pioche” have struck four times so far and have no intention of stopping what they claim is a highly effective new way of protesting.

“Everyone is bored of demonstrations. And handing out tracts at 6am at a market is neither effective nor fun,” said Leïla Chaïbi, 26, the leader of the group. “This is fun, festive, non-threatening and attracts the media. It’s the perfect way of getting our message across.”

Linked to a new left-wing political party committed to a renewal of politics and activism, Chaïbi’s group represents more than just a radical fringe and has been gaining nationwide attention.

Secret transcript of Obama re-taking Presidential oath leaked to Verwirrung!

Friends, I believe we have made a terrible, terrible mistake.

Roberts put on his black robe and wizard’s hat.

Roberts: “Are you ready to take the oath?”

Obama: Oh, I like to play dress up.

Roberts: Me too baby.

Obama: I kiss you softly on your chest.

Roberts: I cast Lvl. 3 Eroticism. You turn into a real beautiful woman.

Obama: Hey…

Roberts: I meditate to regain my mana, before casting Lvl. 8 Cock of the Infinite.

Obama: Funny I still don’t see it.

Roberts: I spend my mana reserves to cast Mighty F*ck of the Beyondness.

Obama: You are the worst Chief Justice ever. This is ridiculous.

Roberts: Don’t f*ck with me bitch, I’m the mightiest legal scholar of the lands.

Roberts: I steal yo soul and cast Lightning Lvl. 1,000,000 Your body explodes into a fine bloody mist, because you are only a Lvl. 2 President.

Obama: Don’t ever message me again you piece of ****.

Roberts: Robots are trying to drill my brain but my lightning shield inflicts DOA attack, leaving the robots as flaming piles of metal.

Roberts: King Arthur congratulates me for destroying Dr. Robotnik’s evil army of Robot Socialist Republics. The cold war ends. Reagan steals my accomplishments and makes like it was cause of him.

Roberts: You still there baby? I think it’s getting hard now.

Roberts: Baby?