zenpundit.com

Solstice greetings

June 22nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — season’s greetings on the northern hemisphere’s longest day .. ]
.

While the last rays of today’s sun are sinking off the coast of California to the west of me, here’s the crucial shot of that same sun’s dawn rays rising at Stonehenge, on the Salisbury Plain, UK:

**

Behind the thin crust of modernity our Neolithic past remains, and behind the Great Britain of Empire, the Industrial Revolution and Blake‘s Satanic Mills, stands Albion — the UK’s spiritual potential and true form. Stonehenge is thus the spiritual heart beating behind all the rubble that remains as Brexit crumbles both Britain and itself into nonsense, failure and ruin..

On this auspicious, longest day, we wish Zenpundit readers and our world renewed good fortune this difficult year..

Guest Post: Hays on From Matamoros to Managua

June 20th, 2018

[mark safranski / “zen“]

See the source image

“Jack Hays“. Mr. Hays has considerable experience in a number of political and policy positions inside government and out and shares with the ZP readership our appreciation for history, strategy and other things further afield. Mr. Hays also has extensive time south of the border. He wrote this brief essay elsewhere and gave permission to share it.

From Matamoros to Managua live just under 170 million people. Their societies are coming apart. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily poor — especially in Mexico — though they frequently are. It does mean that for various reasons, be it the stresses of global trends, misgovernance, societal pathologies, historical causes, or beyond, their institutions are failing. It is likely no accident that this comes to pass in the generation after the era of autocratic parties and strong men. The succeeding era of democracy and pluralism is both liberating and rapacious: for many it has exchanged the danger of being killed by the state for the danger of being killed by nearly anyone. What arises in the aftermath is therefore exceptionally violent. It is not unfamiliar in human history: even at the most glorious moment of the Siglo de Oro, everyday Spanish life was also exceptionally violent. But that isn’t the right comparison: what you see in, say, northern Mexico or urban Honduras is less 16th-century Spain than 17th-century Germany — or 21st-century Damascus. It is a terrifying and brutal existence, and people quite rationally flee.

They especially flee when they are trying to protect children they love.

There is nothing — nothing short of murder — that deters flight and migration in those conditions. Therefore, there being still some things we won’t try, the questions arises: what will we try? If we aren’t going to take them in, what do we do?
What are you willing to have America do to stabilize these societies? The probable answer probably includes things like open or preferential trade. It probably includes aggressive engagement with local politics. It probably includes forcible imposition of our own law-enforcement institutions upon theirs. It may even include the use, in some form, of the United States military. None of this is speculative. All of it has happened before. All of it also ended in mostly the same way: there was a desultory clash of arms, the United States demanded certain things of local sovereigns, and events resolved when someone assumed autocratic control of the southern reaches.

None of this is consonant with our postwar models of American behavior. Yes, we are the country that conquered Panama in 1989; we are also the country that was turned away by a mob from Haitian shores in 1994. We are also the country that doggedly tries to inculcate democratic civic norms in places like Afghanistan when a monarch or a warlord would quite suffice. We have an aversion to nation-building and then we do a great deal of it badly.

But nation-building is precisely what is needed from Matamoros to Mexico. It is for their sake, and ours. The task is gigantic, and before the real crisis is upon us — which will involve millions on the move, not mere thousands — we still have time to undertake it. But we think it is about ourselves, we think they can govern themselves, we imagine we have anything more compelling to pressure them with than the things they fled in San Pedro Sula, in Ciudad Mier, in San Salvador, in a thousand over violent corners of an ancient and bloody land. We are wrong on all counts.

We act, or action is forced upon us. So what are you willing to do?

Metaphors, more ii

June 18th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — continuing from Metaphors, more — which has become seriously overloaded and is listing to port ]
.

This one’s from Cass R. Sunstein, It Can Happen Here, in the LRB:

What matters are “we anonymous others” who are not just “pawns in the chess game,” because the “most powerful dictators, ministers, and generals are powerless against the simultaneous mass decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large.”

That’s worth reading and (critically) pondering in its entirety — partly because Sunsttein’s a writer worth pondering (I was particularluy taken with his exploration of Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures), but also because the comparison of developments leading up to Nazi Germany and events here in Trumpian USA is both a significant topic and one that is all too easily and often marred by hyperbole, and therefore demands deliberative elucidation in long form, rather than brash assertiveness or denial in short.

**

Okay, now here’s a doozy.

I’m more used to questioning “prophetic” explanations of earthquakes and the like as literal acts of God, but some seismologists in Mexico have an altogether more engaging explanation:

Did Mexico’s Revelry in World Cup Win Over Germany Cause an Earthquake?

Late Sunday morning, seismic sensors in Mexico City detected what was reported to be a small earthquake. But it was triggered in an “artificial manner,” according to the group monitoring the gauges.

“Possibly because of mass jumping,” said the group, the Institute of Geologic and Atmospheric Investigations in Mexico, which said that at least two of its sensors picked up the activity.

The cause of that mass jumping? Moments before, the Mexican men’s national soccer team had scored a goal against powerhouse Germany in their group-stage match in the World Cup in Moscow.

I’ve heard of the idea that soldiers marching across a bridge might cause it to collapse — but an entire earthquake? I stand impressed..

**

Ourob, New Yorker:

The Reputation-Laundering Firm That Ruined Its Own Reputation

Bell Pottinger’s work in South Africa included the covert dissemination of articles, cartoons, blog posts, and tweets implying that the Guptas’ opponents were upholding a racist system. As the brothers’ influence over Zuma’s government fell under increasing scrutiny, Bell Pottinger’s tactics were exposed. More details of the Oakbay account became public, including revelations about the inflammatory economic-emancipation campaign. Soon, one of the world’s savviest reputation-management companies became embroiled in a reputational scandal. Bell Pottinger could not contain the uproar, and, in September, 2017, it collapsed.

**

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan:

[Coming 8/31] When CIA analyst Jack Ryan stumbles upon a suspicious series of bank transfers his search for answers pulls him from the safety of his desk job and catapults him into a deadly game of cat and mouse throughout Europe and the Middle East, with a rising terrorist figurehead preparing for a massive attack against the US and her allies.

Ah, yes, “a deadly game of cat and mouse”.

**

I’ll add more good or odd ones as they occur..

Unintended consequences, the collection

June 18th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — what you don’t see can blindside you ]
.

Unintended consequences are the clearest indicators we have of just how much more complex the world is than we imagine it to be. They are therefore of great interest.

A short while back, WaPo had a piece that overtly referenced unintended consequences: Unintended consequences: Inside the fallout of America’s crackdown on opioids.

I’m going to take that as the starting point for another of my collections. When I find a clear case of an unintended cnsequence, I’ll add it to this post or in the comments session..

**

One major group of unintended consequences news items clusttered around the revision of redistricting rules in an attempt (at least purportedly) to curb the abuse of partisan power in gerrymandering, an ancient American political tradition practiced by both (all?) partties —

Overby & Cosgrove‘s 1996 Unintended Consequences? Racial Redistricting and the Representation of Minority Interests would appear to be a much quoted starting point, followed by Rose Institute’s 2008 Unintended Consequences of Texas Gerrymandering.

But the general principle is evident: course corrections don’t always set you back on track — or as the Taoist fellow might say, any map you can draw is liable to lead you astray — maps are fallible wrt terrain, wrt reality!

Case in point: The meandering path of the Mississippi, now here, now there — with oxbows!

Travelers, mappers and modelers, beware!

**

Oh, and BTW, I woke from the anaesthetic that accompanied my triple heart bypass to find.. Trump was president. That consequence was unintended by me at least, no matter hwat Mr Putin may have decided.

Prophecy revisited — any good?

June 18th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — prophecy, prediction, and the news cycle ]
.

Prophecies can be news — in this case, the almost-prediction is in a piece by religion-savvy reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey in WaPo:

**

Nope.

Okay, we guess wrong — and sometimes when we guess wrong, we do CYA maneuvers to avoid admitting it. Hal Lindsey has been updating his 1970 bestseller The Late, Great Planet Earth, with its nudge in the direction of a 1980s rapture for some time — with royalties increasing every time the likely (but no man knoweth) date of Armageddon is delayed, ca-ching!

Lindsey also predicted that the European Economic Community, which preceded the European Union, was destined (according to Biblical prophecy) to become a “United States of Europe”, which in turn he says is destined to become a “Revived Roman Empire” ruled by the Antichrist. Lindsey wrote that he had concluded, since there was no apparent mention of America in the books of Daniel or Revelation, that America would not be a major geopolitical power by the time the tribulations of the end times arrived..

so this is just a brief reminder that prophecies, predictions &c can easily make news when they are made, but fail to make the news when things don’t work out as expected (see our unintended consequences pages for related materials).

Well, is Kim Jong-Un still among the living? Has Trump exercised restraint with all those hellfire missiles at his disposal — and a notoriously fractious temperament?

Thank God, I suppose.

**

I’ll collect further examples of failed prophecies and predictiosn here.


Switch to our mobile site