As Trump stresses ‘America First’, China plays the world leader

I find it hard to argue with this conclusion, but I didn’t see it coming.

” ‘If anyone were to say China is playing a leadership role in the world I would say it’s not China rushing to the front but rather the front runners have stepped back leaving the place to China,’ said Zhang Jun, director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s international economics department.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-china-analysis-idUSKBN1590KJ

The Liberal Democratic World Order Is Falling Apart – Democracy is for suckers

A short post by Errol Mendes, Professor, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, University of Ottawa. My take-away: democracy is for suckers.
Prof. Mendes proposes three ways for liberal democracies to fight the tide or authoritarianism:

  • “First, they must use all their powers of political, economic, and social persuasion to shine a bright light on the “post-truth” fabrications fuelling [sic] the new authoritarianism;
  • “Second, they must examine their own glasshouses to see how the so-called Washington Consensus liberal order has produced too many losers, too many corporate robber barons, while creating a level of social inequality, job loss, and poverty that begs the title “neo-feudal.”
  • “Finally, progressive leaders, parties, and governments must use the human rights agenda to promote the lives and interests of all.”
Very quaint.  We’re doomed.

http://www.cips-cepi.ca/2017/01/13/the-liberal-democratic-world-order-is-falling-apart/

Source: The Liberal Democratic World Order Is Falling Apart – Centre for International Policy Studies

How Delaware kept America safe for corporate secrecy | Reuters

This lengthy article describes how on politician from the State of Delaware has thwarted national and international programs to prevent bad guys from laundering money in the U.S.

Here’s what the good guys tried to do:

  • In 2006, the Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, a group of some three dozen nations formed to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, noted “significant shortcomings” in the United States. The group declared Washington “non-compliant” in four of 40 categories for anti-money-laundering compliance. Among the failures: Authorities could not obtain timely information about a company’s real owners, FATF said.The task force demanded that the United States fix the problem. For Washington, which was pressing allies to crack down on terror financing, it was an embarrassing critique.
  • The same year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Congress’s auditing arm, concluded that federal law made it too easy for individuals to anonymously form companies. Delaware was a favored destination for such companies, the report said.
  • As anti-secrecy momentum built, Senator Levin and then-Senator Barack Obama joined forces with Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota to make it tougher to register new companies without identifying the owners.

Thanks to the continuing efforts (described in the article) of Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock none of these initiatives has succeeded.

Source: Special Report: How Delaware kept America safe for corporate secrecy | Reuters

Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister on Daesh and the KKK

​The American-educated Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister delivers a canned speech on the Middle East and on Saudi internal affairs. Ho hum. What I liked was his response (starting about 12′ 30″) to a question about Islam’s alleged intolerance of other religions, as exemplified by Daesh/ISIS.​ In effect, he says that you could learn as much about Islam from ISIS as you could learn about Christianity from the Ku Klux Klan.

http://www.c-span.org/video/?404642-4/saudi-foreign-affairs-minister-remarks-munich-security-conference

Hawking, Musk, Wozniak warn of military artificial intelligence arms race – Trending – CBC News

It’s naive of these guys to call for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons.
Countries who adhere to the ban​ would do everything they could to develop proto-autonomous weapons – right up to the fuzzy gray line of what’s proscribed, capable of plug-n-play activation on a moment’s notice.
Countries who don’t adhere to the ban will call the rest of us, “suckers”.
There are some very thoughtful, humorous and stupid comments on this forum https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9955435
“[Similar bans have] worked for things like chemical and biological warfare.”
“I think the Kurds and some Syrians would beg to differ.”

(Stephen Hawking is looking good, by the way.  I think he’s put on a bit of weight.)

Hawking, Musk, Wozniak warn of military artificial intelligence arms race – Trending – CBC News.

The Future of War – Ian Morris

I listened to this twice – it’s pretty dense. It’s premise is inspiring – we’re getting better (fewer fatalities due to violence).  But the forecast is scary.

“On the surface your idea seems deeply counterintuitive, warfare and all of the destruction that comes with it, you think is one of the great engines of human progress.”

Here’s the website for the audiofile and the itune link for the identical podcast.

https://soundcloud.com/thenextdebate/future-war-ian-morris

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/future-war-ian-morris/id976386877?i=346315508&mt=2

 

Change of heart re: Greece

A couple of weeks I ago I thought the Greeks deserved the catastrophe that is approaching them. After all, they’ve brought it upon themselves through decades of living beyond their means and electing irresponsible leaders.

Now that it’s time to settle the accounts, I think the terms that the Germans and French are demanding are too strict; they’re trying to save the Euro and correct decades of mismanagement (in Greece) with some gut-wrenching strictures.

My main concern is with the human suffering that the strictures or Grexit will impose. The EU, the Brits, the US, and Canada should get read to help Greek civilians get access to food and medicine.  They won’t be able to afford enough of either if they have to pay with drachmas.

My secondary concern is the potential for civil war/military coup. Human suffering will dramatically increase political unrest and encourage the Colonels and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.

My tertiary concern is that if the West doesn’t step in to help the Greeks the Russians will, gladly, in return for cooperation on defense (naval bases) and energy programs (pipelines).

Garry Kasparov on Vladimir Putin

I like this G&M article is an edited transcript of an interview with Garry Kasparov on the subject of Vladimir Putin’s past and future tactics.  Here’s a couple of excerpts:

If you are in power for 15 years and you made clear you would like to stay for the rest of your life, you have to convince people that you have something to offer. The shaky Russian economy is no longer a reason. Hence there’s a need for more drastic actions to justify his claim for power: Vladimir the Great, the collector of Russian lands, unifier of a divided empire … I don’t see how he can backpedal because a dictator can afford many things except one, weakness. The moment he shows weakness he’s no longer all powerful, invincible leader who cannot be challenged. He has to push forward with his agenda … there’s no way back.

Dictators of Putin’s magnitude are always testing waters. They can always smell weakness and, if they see the room for them to advance, they do it. So the question a dictator of Putin’s calibre asks is not why, he asks why not? This is the way Putin thinks. He plays by the rules only if he finds it’s convenient and profitable. But the moment that he finds that brute force is more beneficial, he immediately switches to this algorithm. The West needs to send a much stronger message back to his inner circle, to the Russian ruling class, that there will be a steep price for what is happening – everybody will pay, not only Putin. Only then will Putin think twice about this actions.

On a side note, Russia’s central bank increased it’s lending rate on Halloween, in an unsuccessful attempt to step the outflow of rubles – unsuccessful because the exchange rate bounced up for a nano-second and then went back to the old rate. The hike in domestic interest rates is an indication that the sanctions and the drop in the price of oil may be having an effect. So what will Putin do next?–dadhttp://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/why-garry-kasparov-wont-be-going-to-russia-anytime-soon/article21414892/

via Inbox – mike.bedford.1@gmail.com – Gmail.

Obama orders U.S. air strikes in Syria against Islamic State | Reuters

I was watching the Blue Jays hammer the Cubs while the C-in-C was addressing the nation, so I missed the details of his speech but this item from the Reuters summary caught my eye:

In a significant move that could help rally Gulf Arab states behind the U.S.-led coalition, key ally Saudi Arabia will host inside its territory a U.S. training effort for Syrian rebels, senior U.S. officials said. The effort is dependent on the U.S. Congress approving $500 million to train and arm the rebels.

$500 million to train the rebels?  Where’s he going to train them?  Harvard?  MIT?

I think many of the wannabe rebels are already going to schools here.  I wonder if the proposed training includes airfare.

But it’s academic.  Congress will never approve the expenditure.

Color me surprised. Both houses approved the expenditure.  It wasn’t even close.

via Obama orders U.S. air strikes in Syria against Islamic State | Reuters.