Archive for the ‘World’ Category

The Islamic Vortex (Map-2)

This will be needed when we get back to the topic (eventually):

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July 24, 2014admin 5 Comments »
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Quote notes (#93)

A convincing big-picture overview from SoBL:

The Russians and Chinese have slowly been building the infrastructure for a non-dollar system as well as amassing gold. The tough thing is selling this system to others. Couching it in terms immediately for an end to the Ukrainian problem, which anyone in the know started the moment the Ukrainians wanted to sign one deal with the Russians, allows it to frame the Russians and unaligned nations as victims of US foreign policy aggression. This is a pretty easy sell to a world that has seen the US move from missionaries a century ago to airborne robots that bomb supposed targets today. It can also be an easy sell to big players in the dollar recycling system like the Saudis.

Unreported by big US media as Secretary of State John Kerry flew around the Middle East being rebuffed and insulted, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to discuss the Middle East. The Saudis asked Bandar to step down recently, and this rapprochement between Russia and the Saudis feels light years away from Bandar’s threats to Putin last summer. To be a fly on the wall for Lavrov’s visit. This is after al-Faisal visited Sochi on June 3rd to meet with Lavrov and Putin. The Saudis spoke of a need to maintain the territorial integrity of Syria and the integrity of Iraq as a peoples. The Saudis could be more concerned with their regime stability now and do not trust the US. They are not a homogenous nation and witnessed what the US did with the Arab Spring. The Russians (and Chinese) might be able to offer the type of security the regime wants. Keep in mind the Saudis sent billions to the Egyptian military junta and the Russians are making friendly with them while the US still chastises the military leaders for being harsh with the Muslim Brotherhood.

June 30, 2014admin 28 Comments »
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Quote notes (#91)

Panda-hugger Martin Jacques on the global tide:

A month ago, China overtook the US to become the largest economy in the world by one measure. By 2030 it is projected that the Chinese economy will be twice as large as America’s and larger than the European Union and America combined, accounting for one third of global GDP. This is the world that is coming into being, that we must learn to adapt to and thrive in. It is a far cry from the comfort zone we are used to, a globe dominated by the West and Japan: in the Seventies, between them they were responsible for two thirds of global GDP; by 2030 it will be a mere one third

During the preponderant part of the modern period, China’s civilizational competences were oriented to keeping the Pandora’s box of runaway modernization firmly sealed. Western intervention put an end to that, and the escape is now almost certainly irreversible. That is why, in broad outline, Jacques’ prognosis is correct. An accommodation to fate is in order.

(‘Doom’ — as tagged — means no more than fate, as we have begun to explain, or at least to explore.)

June 23, 2014admin 25 Comments »
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Played

Has Obama Administration geostrategy been based upon a cunning (and secret) plan? Richard Fernandez makes the case that a covert American attempt to subvert radical Islam crested with the September 11, 2012, Benghazi fiasco. Employing a mix of infiltration, drone assassination (to clear promotion paths), and calculated regime sacrifices (Egypt, Syria), the objective was to reforge an international Jihad under covert US control. When the take-over plan went south, nothing could be publicly admitted. Cascading failure has continued in the shadows ever since, jutting into media consciousness as a succession of disconnected — even inexplicable — foreign policy setbacks.

The curious thing about September 11, 2012 — the day of the Benghazhi attack — is that for some reason it marks the decline of the Obama presidency as clearly as a milepost. We are told by the papers that nothing much happened on that day. A riot in a far-away country. A few people killed. And yet … it may be coincidental, but from that day the administration’s foreign policy seemed inexplicably hexed. The Arab Spring ground to a halt. The secretary of State “resigned.” The CIA director was cast out in disgrace. Not long after, Obama had to withdraw his red line in Syria. Al-Qaeda, whose eulogy he had pronounced, appeared with disturbing force throughout Africa, South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. Almost as if on cue, Russia made an unexpected return to the world stage, first in Syria, then in the Iranian nuclear negotiations.

Benghazi

Fernandez digs much deeper than Carney, but this is still worth adding.

May 14, 2014admin 12 Comments »
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Quote notes (#79)

Robert Kaplan explains ‘Why East Asia Alienates Intellectuals’:

… East Asia is a rebuke in major respects to the humanist project. It is prosperous and successful, with the latest postmodern infrastructure and technology; yet at a macro political level it is consumed less by universalist ideals than by old-fashioned ethnic nationalism. China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines and so on are deeply conscious of their own ethnic identities, which carry within them clashing claims of sovereignty in the South and East China Seas, as well as elsewhere. East Asia shows how exclusivist mindsets need not be confined to poor, post-communist populations or poverty-stricken peoples with tribal or sectarian differences. East Asia is a flagrant example that sustained capitalist development need not necessarily lead to universal values.

Modernization without ethnomasochism isn’t something the Cathedral wants to understand.

May 5, 2014admin 21 Comments »
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Meanwhile, in India …

… there’s something happening that might even be bigger than Project Idaho.

With two weeks left to go before electoral results are in, the world’s largest democracy seems set to veer hard right, to an extent unprecedented in its modern history. There’s a leftish but informative briefing on the ideological stakes at Quartz.

NRx has nothing to teach me about hats.

NRx has nothing to teach me about hats.

NRx tends to be quite insular, often out of semi-articulate principle, so nobody (other than enemies) seems to have paid much attention to this yet. That’s odd, upon reflection, because the Modi BJP seems to be juggling Trichotomy issues of a familiar kind within its Hindutva platform, which glues together a quasi-stable raft of religious, ethno-nationalist, and capitalistic elements into an explicitly reactionary-modernizing coalition. When the 21st century is allotted to Asia, it’s for a reason. The West’s vague premonitions are urgent practicalities there.

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May 4, 2014admin 22 Comments »
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Religious Clades

Peter A. Taylor relayed this magnificent cladogram of world religions:

d8ecc07e906127bf0fd4623504b7eca8 (Click on image to enlarge.)

If there’s such a thing as a comprehensive cultural map of the world, it’s woven on to something very like this. No opportunity to comment on it right now — but I’m confident it will spark some responses.

April 29, 2014admin 35 Comments »
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Quote notes (#74)

Richard Fernandez on current geopolitical mind-games:

Putin is daring [Obama] to over-extend; to tread upon the European ice, which he knows in his heart will cave in under Obama. Fighting an all out sanctions battle would force Obama to rely on the EU, which Putin calculates will abandon him. In the resulting debacle, not only would NATO be shattered, Obama would be too. [… ]

One reason why Putin has made a special effort to humiliate the president is that his profilers may have pegged Obama as suffering from narcissistic personality disorder. Putin the secret policeman must be thinking: how do you get a narcissist to melt down? Answer: by personally and publicly shaming him, thereby provoking a narcissistic rage.

That rage can take either of two forms: a reckless act or a withdrawal into a fantasy in which the narcissist remains invincible in some universe of his own.

Either would suit Putin.

Related from Fernandez here, and here. For those who can’t get enough of that ‘back to the 1930s‘ feeling there’s WRM (sensible but lost) and Paul Johnson (lost), but both picking up on the real rhythm.  It’s a mess (and it’s going to get a lot worse).

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April 17, 2014admin 17 Comments »
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Scrap snaps (#1)

The Mogao Caves are located in a harsh place. (Click on images to enlarge.)

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The caves shown are in the northern cluster, whose exterior features have not been defaced by reinforced concrete. The southern group has been externally ruined by Zhou Enlai (although he seems to have meant well), but its interiors are the great treasures of the site, and some are open to the public, by guided tour. Some images of southern cave interiors (reconstructions) to follow.

April 12, 2014admin 3 Comments »
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Expected Unknowns

Nouriel Roubini has a short article up at Project Syndicate on The Changing Face of Global Risk, replacing the top six dangers of recent years with an equal number of new ones. There’s nothing remarkably implausible about it, but neither is it irresistibly convincing.

This type of forecast, were it reliable, would be of inestimable value. To some considerable degree it is simply inescapable, since there must always be default expectations (of the kind occasionally formalized as Bayesian priors). When specific probability-weighted predictions are not made, future-sensitive agents do not fall back upon poised skepticism — such Pyrrhonism is a philosophico-mystical attainment of extreme rarity. Instead, presumed outcomes are projected out of sheer inertia, whether as perpetuation of the status quo, or the mechanical extrapolation of existing trends. It takes only a moment of reflection to recognize that such tacit forecasts are at least as precarious as their more elaborate alternatives. Their only recommendation is an irrational mental economy, which would find in the least-effort of cognition some analogy with the superficially equivalent (but in this case informative) principle in nature.

Large-scale forecasting cannot be eschewed, but there are obvious reasons why it cannot be greatly trusted. It has no definite methods (relying for its credibility on hazy reputational capital). Its objects are complex, chaotic, and — once again — poorly defined. It has a restricted time frame, appropriate to gradually emerging developments constrained (to some degree) by historical precedent, but necessarily inadequate to radical innovation and to sudden, rapidly evolving events. The combination of these various blindnesses with a high-impact chance event produces the nightmare of the forecasters — (Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s) black swan.

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April 3, 2014admin 11 Comments »
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