on: October 22, 2016, 08:09:06 AM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Live Free or Die
MARK STEYN'S column appears in several newspapers, including the Washington Times, Philadelphia's Evening Bulletin, and the Orange County Register. In addition, he writes for The New Criterion, Maclean's in Canada, the Jerusalem Post, The Australian, and Hawke's Bay Today in New Zealand. The author of National Review's Happy Warrior column, he also blogs on National Review Online. He is the author of several books, including the best-selling America Alone: The End of The World as We Know It. Mr. Steyn teaches a two-week course in journalism at Hillsdale College during each spring semester.
The following is adapted from a lecture delivered at Hillsdale College on March 9, 2009.
MY REMARKS are titled tonight after the words of General Stark, New Hampshire's great hero of the Revolutionary War: "Live free or die!" When I first moved to New Hampshire, where this appears on our license plates, I assumed General Stark had said it before some battle or other—a bit of red meat to rally the boys for the charge; a touch of the old Henry V-at-Agincourt routine. But I soon discovered that the general had made his famous statement decades after the war, in a letter regretting that he would be unable to attend a dinner. And in a curious way I found that even more impressive. In extreme circumstances, many people can rouse themselves to rediscover the primal impulses: The brave men on Flight 93 did. They took off on what they thought was a routine business trip, and, when they realized it wasn't, they went into General Stark mode and cried "Let's roll!" But it's harder to maintain the "Live free or die!" spirit when you're facing not an immediate crisis but just a slow, remorseless, incremental, unceasing ratchet effect. "Live free or die!" sounds like a battle cry: We'll win this thing or die trying, die an honorable death. But in fact it's something far less dramatic: It's a bald statement of the reality of our lives in the prosperous West. You can live as free men, but, if you choose not to, your society will die.
My book America Alone is often assumed to be about radical Islam, firebreathing imams, the excitable young men jumping up and down in the street doing the old "Death to the Great Satan" dance. It's not. It's about us. It's about a possibly terminal manifestation of an old civilizational temptation: Indolence, as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a republic. When I ran into trouble with the so-called "human rights" commissions up in Canada, it seemed bizarre to find the progressive left making common cause with radical Islam. One half of the alliance profess to be pro-gay, pro-feminist secularists; the other half are homophobic, misogynist theocrats. Even as the cheap bus 'n' truck road-tour version of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, it made no sense. But in fact what they have in common overrides their superficially more obvious incompatibilities: Both the secular Big Government progressives and political Islam recoil from the concept of the citizen, of the free individual entrusted to operate within his own societal space, assume his responsibilities, and exploit his potential.
In most of the developed world, the state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood—health care, child care, care of the elderly—to the point where it's effectively severed its citizens from humanity's primal instincts, not least the survival instinct. Hillary Rodham Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child. It's supposedly an African proverb—there is no record of anyone in Africa ever using this proverb, but let that pass. P.J. O'Rourke summed up that book superbly: It takes a village to raise a child. The government is the village, and you're the child. Oh, and by the way, even if it did take a village to raise a child, I wouldn't want it to be an African village. If you fly over West Africa at night, the lights form one giant coastal megalopolis: Not even Africans regard the African village as a useful societal model. But nor is the European village. Europe's addiction to big government, unaffordable entitlements, cradle-to-grave welfare, and a dependence on mass immigration needed to sustain it has become an existential threat to some of the oldest nation-states in the world.
And now the last holdout, the United States, is embarking on the same grim path: After the President unveiled his budget, I heard Americans complain, oh, it's another Jimmy Carter, or LBJ's Great Society, or the new New Deal. You should be so lucky. Those nickel-and-dime comparisons barely begin to encompass the wholesale Europeanization that's underway. The 44th president's multi-trillion-dollar budget, the first of many, adds more to the national debt than all the previous 43 presidents combined, from George Washington to George Dubya. The President wants Europeanized health care, Europeanized daycare, Europeanized education, and, as the Europeans have discovered, even with Europeanized tax rates you can't make that math add up. In Sweden, state spending accounts for 54% of GDP. In America, it was 34%—ten years ago. Today, it's about 40%. In four years' time, that number will be trending very Swede-like.
But forget the money, the deficit, the debt, the big numbers with the 12 zeroes on the end of them. So-called fiscal conservatives often miss the point. The problem isn't the cost. These programs would still be wrong even if Bill Gates wrote a check to cover them each month. They're wrong because they deform the relationship between the citizen and the state. Even if there were no financial consequences, the moral and even spiritual consequences would still be fatal. That's the stage where Europe is.
America is just beginning this process. I looked at the rankings in Freedom in the 50 States published by George Mason University last month. New Hampshire came in Number One, the Freest State in the Nation, which all but certainly makes it the freest jurisdiction in the Western world. Which kind of depressed me. Because the Granite State feels less free to me than it did when I moved there, and you always hope there's somewhere else out there just in case things go belly up and you have to hit the road. And way down at the bottom in the last five places were Maryland, California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and the least free state in the Union by some distance, New York.
New York! How does the song go? "If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere!" If you can make it there, you're some kind of genius. "This is the worst fiscal downturn since the Great Depression," announced Governor Paterson a few weeks ago. So what's he doing? He's bringing in the biggest tax hike in New York history. If you can make it there, he can take it there—via state tax, sales tax, municipal tax, a doubled beer tax, a tax on clothing, a tax on cab rides, an "iTunes tax," a tax on haircuts, 137 new tax hikes in all. Call 1-800-I-HEART-NEW-YORK today and order your new package of state tax forms, for just $199.99, plus the 12% tax on tax forms and the 4% tax form application fee partially refundable upon payment of the 7.5% tax filing tax. If you can make it there, you'll certainly have no difficulty making it in Tajikistan.
New York, California... These are the great iconic American states, the ones we foreigners have heard of. To a penniless immigrant called Arnold Schwarzenegger, California was a land of plenty. Now Arnold is an immigrant of plenty in a penniless land: That's not an improvement. One of his predecessors as governor of California, Ronald Reagan, famously said, "We are a nation that has a government, not the other way around." In California, it's now the other way around: California is increasingly a government that has a state. And it is still in the early stages of the process. California has thirtysomething million people. The Province of Quebec has seven million people. Yet California and Quebec have roughly the same number of government workers. "There is a great deal of ruin in a nation," said Adam Smith, and America still has a long way to go. But it's better to jump off the train as you're leaving the station and it's still picking up speed than when it's roaring down the track and you realize you've got a one-way ticket on the Oblivion Express.
"Indolence," in Machiavelli's word: There are stages to the enervation of free peoples. America, which held out against the trend, is now at Stage One: The benign paternalist state promises to make all those worries about mortgages, debt, and health care disappear. Every night of the week, you can switch on the TV and see one of these ersatz "town meetings" in which freeborn citizens of the republic (I use the term loosely) petition the Sovereign to make all the bad stuff go away. "I have an urgent need," a lady in Fort Myers beseeched the President. "We need a home, our own kitchen, our own bathroom." He took her name and ordered his staff to meet with her. Hopefully, he didn't insult her by dispatching some no-name deputy assistant associate secretary of whatever instead of flying in one of the bigtime tax-avoiding cabinet honchos to nationalize a Florida bank and convert one of its branches into a desirable family residence, with a swing set hanging where the drive-thru ATM used to be.
As all of you know, Hillsdale College takes no federal or state monies. That used to make it an anomaly in American education. It's in danger of becoming an anomaly in America, period. Maybe it's time for Hillsdale College to launch the Hillsdale Insurance Agency, the Hillsdale Motor Company and the First National Bank of Hillsdale. The executive supremo at Bank of America is now saying, oh, if only he'd known what he knows now, he wouldn't have taken the government money. Apparently it comes with strings attached. Who knew? Sure, Hillsdale College did, but nobody else.
If you're a business, when government gives you 2% of your income, it has a veto on 100% of what you do. If you're an individual, the impact is even starker. Once you have government health care, it can be used to justify almost any restraint on freedom: After all, if the state has to cure you, it surely has an interest in preventing you needing treatment in the first place. That's the argument behind, for example, mandatory motorcycle helmets, or the creepy teams of government nutritionists currently going door to door in Britain and conducting a "health audit" of the contents of your refrigerator. They're not yet confiscating your Twinkies; they just want to take a census of how many you have. So you do all this for the "free" health care—and in the end you may not get the "free" health care anyway. Under Britain's National Health Service, for example, smokers in Manchester have been denied treatment for heart disease, and the obese in Suffolk are refused hip and knee replacements. Patricia Hewitt, the British Health Secretary, says that it's appropriate to decline treatment on the basis of "lifestyle choices." Smokers and the obese may look at their gay neighbor having unprotected sex with multiple partners, and wonder why his "lifestyle choices" get a pass while theirs don't. But that's the point: Tyranny is always whimsical.
And if they can't get you on grounds of your personal health, they'll do it on grounds of planetary health. Not so long ago in Britain it was proposed that each citizen should have a government-approved travel allowance. If you take one flight a year, you'll pay just the standard amount of tax on the journey. But, if you travel more frequently, if you take a second or third flight, you'll be subject to additional levies—in the interest of saving the planet for Al Gore's polar bear documentaries and that carbon-offset palace he lives in in Tennessee.
Isn't this the very definition of totalitarianism-lite? The Soviets restricted the movement of people through the bureaucratic apparatus of "exit visas." The British are proposing to do it through the bureaucratic apparatus of exit taxes—indeed, the bluntest form of regressive taxation. As with the Communists, the nomenklatura—the Prince of Wales, Al Gore, Madonna—will still be able to jet about hither and yon. What's a 20% surcharge to them? Especially as those for whom vast amounts of air travel are deemed essential—government officials, heads of NGOs, environmental activists—will no doubt be exempted from having to pay the extra amount. But the ghastly masses will have to stay home.
"Freedom of movement" used to be regarded as a bedrock freedom. The movement is still free, but there's now a government processing fee of $389.95. And the interesting thing about this proposal was that it came not from the Labour Party but the Conservative Party.
That's Stage Two of societal enervation—when the state as guarantor of all your basic needs becomes increasingly comfortable with regulating your behavior. Free peoples who were once willing to give their lives for liberty can be persuaded very quickly to relinquish their liberties for a quiet life. When President Bush talked about promoting democracy in the Middle East, there was a phrase he liked to use: "Freedom is the desire of every human heart." Really? It's unclear whether that's really the case in Gaza and the Pakistani tribal lands. But it's absolutely certain that it's not the case in Berlin and Paris, Stockholm and London, New Orleans and Buffalo. The story of the Western world since 1945 is that, invited to choose between freedom and government "security," large numbers of people vote to dump freedom every time—the freedom to make your own decisions about health care, education, property rights, and a ton of other stuff. It's ridiculous for grown men and women to say: I want to be able to choose from hundreds of cereals at the supermarket, thousands of movies from Netflix, millions of songs to play on my iPod—but I want the government to choose for me when it comes to my health care. A nation that demands the government take care of all the grown-up stuff is a nation turning into the world's wrinkliest adolescent, free only to choose its record collection.
And don't be too sure you'll get to choose your record collection in the end. That's Stage Three: When the populace has agreed to become wards of the state, it's a mere difference of degree to start regulating their thoughts. When my anglophone friends in the Province of Quebec used to complain about the lack of English signs in Quebec hospitals, my response was that, if you allow the government to be the sole provider of health care, why be surprised that they're allowed to decide the language they'll give it in? But, as I've learned during my year in the hellhole of Canadian "human rights" law, that's true in a broader sense. In the interests of "cultural protection," the Canadian state keeps foreign newspaper owners, foreign TV operators, and foreign bookstore owners out of Canada. Why shouldn't it, in return, assume the right to police the ideas disseminated through those newspapers, bookstores and TV networks it graciously agrees to permit?
When Maclean's magazine and I were hauled up in 2007 for the crime of "flagrant Islamophobia," it quickly became very clear that, for members of a profession that brags about its "courage" incessantly (far more than, say, firemen do), an awful lot of journalists are quite content to be the eunuchs in the politically correct harem. A distressing number of Western journalists see no conflict between attending lunches for World Press Freedom Day every month and agreeing to be micro-regulated by the state. The big problem for those of us arguing for classical liberalism is that in modern Canada there's hardly anything left that isn't on the state dripfeed to one degree or another: Too many of the institutions healthy societies traditionally look to as outposts of independent thought—churches, private schools, literature, the arts, the media—either have an ambiguous relationship with government or are downright dependent on it. Up north, "intellectual freedom" means the relevant film-funding agency—Cinedole Canada or whatever it's called—gives you a check to enable you to continue making so-called "bold, brave, transgressive" films that discombobulate state power not a whit.
And then comes Stage Four, in which dissenting ideas and even words are labeled as "hatred." In effect, the language itself becomes a means of control. Despite the smiley-face banalities, the tyranny becomes more naked: In Britain, a land with rampant property crime, undercover constables nevertheless find time to dine at curry restaurants on Friday nights to monitor adjoining tables lest someone in private conversation should make a racist remark. An author interviewed on BBC Radio expressed, very mildly and politely, some concerns about gay adoption and was investigated by Scotland Yard's Community Safety Unit for Homophobic, Racist and Domestic Incidents. A Daily Telegraph columnist is arrested and detained in a jail cell over a joke in a speech. A Dutch legislator is invited to speak at the Palace of Westminster by a member of the House of Lords, but is banned by the government, arrested on arrival at Heathrow and deported.
America, Britain, and even Canada are not peripheral nations: They're the three anglophone members of the G7. They're three of a handful of countries that were on the right side of all the great conflicts of the last century. But individual liberty flickers dimmer in each of them. The massive expansion of government under the laughable euphemism of "stimulus" (Stage One) comes with a quid pro quo down the line (Stage Two): Once you accept you're a child in the government nursery, why shouldn't Nanny tell you what to do? And then—Stage Three—what to think? And—Stage Four—what you're forbidden to think . . . .
Which brings us to the final stage: As I said at the beginning, Big Government isn't about the money. It's more profound than that. A couple of years back Paul Krugman wrote a column in The New York Times asserting that, while parochial American conservatives drone on about "family values," the Europeans live it, enacting policies that are more "family friendly." On the Continent, claims the professor, "government regulations actually allow people to make a desirable tradeoff-to modestly lower income in return for more time with friends and family."
As befits a distinguished economist, Professor Krugman failed to notice that for a continent of "family friendly" policies, Europe is remarkably short of families. While America's fertility rate is more or less at replacement level—2.1—seventeen European nations are at what demographers call "lowest-low" fertility—1.3 or less—a rate from which no society in human history has ever recovered. Germans, Spaniards, Italians and Greeks have upside-down family trees: four grandparents have two children and one grandchild. How can an economist analyze "family friendly" policies without noticing that the upshot of these policies is that nobody has any families?
As for all that extra time, what happened? Europeans work fewer hours than Americans, they don't have to pay for their own health care, they're post-Christian so they don't go to church, they don't marry and they don't have kids to take to school and basketball and the 4-H stand at the county fair. So what do they do with all the time?
Forget for the moment Europe's lack of world-beating companies: They regard capitalism as an Anglo-American fetish, and they mostly despise it. But what about the things Europeans supposedly value? With so much free time, where is the great European art? Where are Europe's men of science? At American universities. Meanwhile, Continental governments pour fortunes into prestigious white elephants of Euro-identity, like the Airbus A380, capable of carrying 500, 800, a thousand passengers at a time, if only somebody somewhere would order the darn thing, which they might consider doing once all the airports have built new runways to handle it.
"Give people plenty and security, and they will fall into spiritual torpor," wrote Charles Murray in In Our Hands. "When life becomes an extended picnic, with nothing of importance to do, ideas of greatness become an irritant. Such is the nature of the Europe syndrome."
The key word here is "give." When the state "gives" you plenty—when it takes care of your health, takes cares of your kids, takes care of your elderly parents, takes care of every primary responsibility of adulthood—it's not surprising that the citizenry cease to function as adults: Life becomes a kind of extended adolescence—literally so for those Germans who've mastered the knack of staying in education till they're 34 and taking early retirement at 42. Hilaire Belloc, incidentally, foresaw this very clearly in his book The Servile State in 1912. He understood that the long-term cost of a welfare society is the infantilization of the population.
Genteel decline can be very agreeable—initially: You still have terrific restaurants, beautiful buildings, a great opera house. And once the pressure's off it's nice to linger at the sidewalk table, have a second café au lait and a pain au chocolat, and watch the world go by. At the Munich Security Conference in February, President Sarkozy demanded of his fellow Continentals, "Does Europe want peace, or do we want to be left in peace?" To pose the question is to answer it. Alas, it only works for a generation or two. And it's hard to come up with a wake-up call for a society as dedicated as latterday Europe to the belief that life is about sleeping in.
As Gerald Ford liked to say when trying to ingratiate himself with conservative audiences, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have." And that's true. But there's an intermediate stage: A government big enough to give you everything you want isn't big enough to get you to give any of it back. That's the position European governments find themselves in. Their citizens have become hooked on unaffordable levels of social programs which in the end will put those countries out of business. Just to get the Social Security debate in perspective, projected public pension liabilities are expected to rise by 2040 to about 6.8% of GDP in the U.S. In Greece, the figure is 25%—i.e., total societal collapse. So what? shrug the voters. Not my problem. I want my benefits. The crisis isn't the lack of money, but the lack of citizens—in the meaningful sense of that word.
Every Democrat running for election tells you they want to do this or that "for the children." If America really wanted to do something "for the children," it could try not to make the same mistake as most of the rest of the Western world and avoid bequeathing the next generation a leviathan of bloated bureaucracy and unsustainable entitlements that turns the entire nation into a giant Ponzi scheme. That's the real "war on children" (to use another Democrat catchphrase)—and every time you bulk up the budget you make it less and less likely they'll win it.
Conservatives often talk about "small government," which, in a sense, is framing the issue in leftist terms: they're for big government. But small government gives you big freedoms—and big government leaves you with very little freedom. The bailout and the stimulus and the budget and the trillion-dollar deficits are not merely massive transfers from the most dynamic and productive sector to the least dynamic and productive. When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher—and you make it very difficult ever to change back. Americans face a choice: They can rediscover the animating principles of the American idea—of limited government, a self-reliant citizenry, and the opportunities to exploit your talents to the fullest—or they can join most of the rest of the Western world in terminal decline. To rekindle the spark of liberty once it dies is very difficult. The inertia, the ennui, the fatalism is more pathetic than the demographic decline and fiscal profligacy of the social democratic state, because it's subtler and less tangible. But once in a while it swims into very sharp focus. Here is the writer Oscar van den Boogaard from an interview with the Belgian paper De Standaard. Mr. van den Boogaard, a Dutch gay "humanist" (which is pretty much the trifecta of Eurocool), was reflecting on the accelerating Islamification of the Continent and concluding that the jig was up for the Europe he loved. "I am not a warrior, but who is?" he shrugged. "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it." In the famous Kubler-Ross five stages of grief, Mr. van den Boogard is past denial, anger, bargaining and depression, and has arrived at a kind of acceptance.
"I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it." Sorry, doesn't work—not for long. Back in New Hampshire, General Stark knew that. Mr. van den Boogard's words are an epitaph for Europe. Whereas New Hampshire's motto—"Live free or die!"—is still the greatest rallying cry for this state or any other. About a year ago, there was a picture in the papers of Iranian students demonstrating in Tehran and waving placards. And what they'd written on those placards was: "Live free or die!" They understand the power of those words; so should we.
on: October 22, 2016, 07:56:36 AM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
By Rodger Baker
Stratfor strives to provide impartial geopolitical analysis and forecasts that identify critical trends in global and regional affairs, explaining the world's complexities in a simple but not simplistic manner. Through the years we have always sought to adhere to these core underlying principles, with mixed success. Remaining "unbiased" in part means staying out of politics, avoiding policy prescriptions (or proscriptions), and addressing issues not from a good/bad or right/wrong approach but rather from a view of effective/ineffective. It means at times stepping away from the emotions of issues, examining deeper compulsions and constraints, and observing how leaders and global actors modify their behavior based on the shifting circumstances in which they find themselves.
It is a difficult endeavor and one that draws various accusations from our readers. We are accused of seeing the world through Cold Warrior lenses, of not caring about human rights and human dignity, of promoting some form of old-school realpolitik. At times, this underpinning philosophy draws equal accusations of being liberal shills, of being too centered on the United States, and of justifying the behavior of dictatorial or repressive regimes. At our best, we garner equal quantities of impassioned responses from all sides of an issue. Criticism is not something we shy from, particularly if our mandate is to ease back the curtains of perception and reveal, as best as possible, the underlying realities of a very complex world system.
For a company accused of being too focused on the United States, we also often receive criticism from our readers for failing to write enough about it. It has been noted more than once that we largely steer clear of covering U.S. politics or even presidential elections. In the grand scheme of geopolitics, over time the role of individuals is largely washed out — to be overly simplistic, the individuals rarely matter. This is, of course, not true, but it is a way to look beyond the subjective desires of leaders and instead to examine the objective realities they face, the circumstances that shape and constrain their options, the structure of the system in which they work, and the upbringing and background that color the way they see and interpret information and make decisions.
In some ways one could argue that, on a broad global scale, the difference in individual presidents, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama to whoever succeeds him, has only minimal implications. Bush did not enter the White House with the intent to invade Afghanistan (it is highly unlikely that any U.S. president could conceive of a worse place for a maritime power to find itself). Obama did not enter the White House intending to be engaged in a conflict in Syria. One could perhaps argue that Franklin Roosevelt did intend to enter the war in Europe. But his initial comments, along with those of Woodrow Wilson ahead of U.S. involvement in World War I, gave little sense that this was the direction in which he was headed. Wilson sought to focus on domestic political issues; Roosevelt led an increasingly isolationist nation. World events placed stark choices before them. Bush had September 11. The Syrian civil war, the overall fight against terrorism and the rebalancing of the Middle East placed Syria on Obama's agenda, despite his grand proclamations of a Pacific pivot, which even at the end of his presidency looks a whole lot more modest than envisioned.
Geopolitics can help us understand the implications and pressures on different states, and the way those may limit or compel certain responses. But geopolitics is predictive of broad trends, not of final decisions. We strongly reject the idea of geopolitical determinism, but we also reject the idea that politics is somehow so fundamentally different from other fields that the human agent is supreme. Few completely reject Adam Smith's assertion of an invisible hand in economics; we argue that geopolitics helps us identify elements of a hidden hand in international politics. The narrower the time frame, the more discrete the geography and the more immediate the decision, the less geopolitics explains. But there are other analytical and collection tools to help account for that. Given our broad mandate to use geopolitics to explain the flow of the world system, rather than looking at individuals as unrestrained decision-makers, we seek to understand the circumstances and environment in which they operate. We don't call elections, but we do seek to identify the forces that shape the processes and the realities that will face the officials who rise to power, through whatever means.
Bias, Intentional or Otherwise
So more immediately, we are asked why we do not address the current U.S. presidential election. The first answer is that the contest is not yet at the election stage. We are watching the intraparty competition play out on the way to the nomination. This is politics at its most basic level: a component of a geopolitical approach, but only a component. Perhaps there is room at this stage to read from the primaries some of the broader undercurrents shaping society that will continue to play a role once a president is elected. But frankly, the market is saturated with assessments of the minutiae of day-to-day campaigning. If we are to help our readers understand the world system, there is only so much that we could add to that daily flow of information, assertions and assessments of the current campaigners — and little at this stage yet rises to broader significance.
Perhaps more directly, we do not cover the U.S. election at the same day-to-day depth as the general news media or political commentators not only because we are not political commentators but also because, for the most part, our staff lives in the United States. And this is where the risk of bias materializes. We are designed to be a neutral, nonpartisan service. On U.S. politics (as opposed to policy), it is hard to maintain that nonpartisan approach. Just by living here, we have a stake in the outcome of the analysis that could taint our perceptions. This is not insurmountable — one does not avoid bias by denying its existence but rather by recognizing openly and honestly what that bias is.
Bias is not always intentional. Intentional bias is the easiest to overcome, since it is the most obvious. On the other hand, subconscious bias requires more intense searching to discover. Bias is a natural result of numerous factors: Upbringing, family life, personal experiences, faith, education, friends and location all shape the individual and the way the individual sees things. We often argue here that one piece of information in five hands is of greater value than five pieces of information in one hand, thanks to the variety of perspectives that can be brought to bear. This is why Stratfor's analytical staff is multinational in composition. Techniques such as acknowledging and identifying bias, using alternative viewpoints in the analytical process, and clearly laying out assumptions as differentiated from facts all serve to help overcome bias. Perhaps the best individuals we could use to cover the U.S. election, then, would be foreign nationals living abroad, able to observe the process through less invested eyes.
A Dispassionate View
If we were to apply our process to the U.S. election, as divested of outcome and involvement as we are with other countries, it would perhaps be jarring to our U.S. readership (and perhaps our foreign readership as well). We would discuss the struggles within the opposition conservative party. With no viable centrist candidate, it is instead torn between a strong right-wing fringe candidate with a reputation among his own party in Congress for being uncooperative and an outsider businessman/media star who has openly donated to both parties in years past and who favors provocative statements (perhaps even intentionally provocative, given his extensive media experience). We would talk about the clashes within the ruling liberal party between an establishment candidate, the spouse of a former president and potentially the first woman to assume the U.S. presidency, and an avowed socialist who, despite his age, has drawn heavily on youth support.
We would look at a nation that is still recovering from a massive economic downturn, one that rocked the world. A country where the financial institutions that contributed to the crisis not only appear to have avoided punishment but also are once again thriving, exacerbating the gap between the status of economic recovery overall and the public's perception of economic stability. It is a country that, not necessarily seeing a strong economic recovery for the middle class or blue-collar labor, is now turning against immigration (once again — this has been a fairly typical cycle since nearly the nation's foundation).
It is a country that has been heavily engaged in overseas conflict for well over a decade, where support for the seemingly interminable, distant war is flagging. A country not only facing an imprecisely defined opponent (is terrorism a thing, an ideology or a group of people?) but also seeing the resurgence of peer rivals (Russia and perhaps China). It is a country dealing with a fracturing Europe, long the center of a global alliance structure. A country coming to grips with the unrequested, but no less real, shift of the global center of gravity from the North Atlantic to the North American continent. It is a country that appears to have a global responsibility but that, after years of extensive involvement, has come to question that duty.
It is a country with a changing population that, like those in Japan, South Korea and even China, is grappling with the changed significance of a college education. Meanwhile, a large segment of the population is soon heading for retirement. It is a country undergoing a new round of internal debates over just what social justice means in the "American" context; each expansion in the concepts of freedom and personal rights is considered by some as advancement and by others as further deviation from a known "ideal." It is a country that, consistent with its relative security, has the leisure to debate morality but also to question whether equality and individual freedom are achievable or even desirable at their extremes.
In short, it is a country that, on the largest scale, is now emerging as the center of the global system. On a narrower scale, it is a country ending a cycle of heavy international military engagement and shifting back toward, if not isolationism, at least the pursuit of (or reliance on) a balance-of-power strategy to manage the world system without policing it. It is a country that is coming out of a major economic crisis and seeing its labor market change with shifting technology. Although the shifts have led to new business methods and economic activity, they have also brought job losses in some sectors. It is a country that, like many other places in the world, is struggling with national identity at a time when globalization appears relevant and desirable.
What we see, then, is not yet the U.S. election, but instead the stage for that election. The process is less about the candidates than about the system that has allowed these individuals, as opposed to others, to rise to prominence. We see not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders, or even John Kasich. Instead, we see the way these individuals — the systems in which they operate and the undercurrents of society — lead to this broader debate on a national level. What any of them will do as president will be a much different story. We can see the space into which they will emerge and how that might constrain their options. But a president does not exist in a vacuum. There is a Cabinet, a Congress, the courts, a society and the international system. It is not that the individual doesn't matter but rather that the individual will exist in a space that he or she largely does not control. Looking at the candidates, then, if we were to get partisan at all, it would be to find the ones most able to adapt and to act in a rapidly changing environment.
on: October 22, 2016, 07:01:16 AM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Techie question: Does our recent diminishment of control of the internet to some international body lessen our ability to defend ourselves in the event of cyberattacks such as these/cyberwar?
Hackers Used New Weapons to Disrupt Major Websites Across U.S.
By NICOLE PERLROTHOCT. 21, 2016
A map of the areas experiencing problems, as of Friday afternoon, according to downdetector.com.
SAN FRANCISCO — Major websites were inaccessible to people across wide swaths of the United States on Friday after a company that manages crucial parts of the internet’s infrastructure said it was under attack.
Users reported sporadic problems reaching several websites, including Twitter, Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb, Reddit, Etsy, SoundCloud and The New York Times.
The company, Dyn, whose servers monitor and reroute internet traffic, said it began experiencing what security experts called a distributed denial-of-service attack just after 7 a.m. Reports that many sites were inaccessible started on the East Coast, but spread westward in three waves as the day wore on and into the evening.
And in a troubling development, the attack appears to have relied on hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices like cameras, baby monitors and home routers that have been infected — without their owners’ knowledge — with software that allows hackers to command them to flood a target with overwhelming traffic.
A spokeswoman said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security were looking into the incident and all potential causes, including criminal activity and a nation-state attack.
Kyle York, Dyn’s chief strategist, said his company and others that host the core parts of the internet’s infrastructure were targets for a growing number of more powerful attacks.
“The number and types of attacks, the duration of attacks and the complexity of these attacks are all on the rise,” Mr. York said.
Security researchers have long warned that the increasing number of devices being hooked up to the internet, the so-called Internet of Things, would present an enormous security issue. And the assault on Friday, security researchers say, is only a glimpse of how those devices can be used for online attacks.
Dyn, based in Manchester, N.H., said it had fended off the assault by 9:30 a.m. But by 11:52 a.m., Dyn said it was again under attack. After fending off the second wave of attacks, Dyn said at 5 p.m. that it was again facing a flood of traffic.
A distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS, occurs when hackers flood the servers that run a target’s site with internet traffic until it stumbles or collapses under the load. Such attacks are common, but there is evidence that they are becoming more powerful, more sophisticated and increasingly aimed at core internet infrastructure providers.
Going after companies like Dyn can cause far more damage than aiming at a single website.
Dyn is one of many outfits that host the Domain Name System, or DNS, which functions as a switchboard for the internet. The DNS translates user-friendly web addresses like fbi.gov into numerical addresses that allow computers to speak to one another. Without the DNS servers operated by internet service providers, the internet could not operate.
In this case, the attack was aimed at the Dyn infrastructure that supports internet connections. While the attack did not affect the websites themselves, it blocked or slowed users trying to gain access to those sites.
Mr. York, the Dyn strategist, said in an interview during a lull in the attacks that the assaults on its servers were complex.
“This was not your everyday DDoS attack,” Mr. York said. “The nature and source of the attack is still under investigation.”
A notice from Dyn on its website about the outage.
Later in the day, Dave Allen, the general counsel at Dyn, said tens of millions of internet addresses, or so-called I.P. addresses, were being used to send a fire hose of internet traffic at the company’s servers. He confirmed that a large portion of that traffic was coming from internet-connected devices that had been co-opted by type of malware, called Mirai.
Dale Drew, chief security officer at Level 3, an internet service provider, found evidence that roughly 10 percent of all devices co-opted by Mirai were being used to attack Dyn’s servers. Just one week ago, Level 3 found that 493,000 devices had been infected with Mirai malware, nearly double the number infected last month.
Mr. Allen added that Dyn was collaborating with law enforcement and other internet service providers to deal with the attacks.
In a recent report, Verisign, a registrar for many internet sites that has a unique perspective into this type of attack activity, reported a 75 percent increase in such attacks from April through June of this year, compared with the same period last year.
The attacks were not only more frequent, they were bigger and more sophisticated. The typical attack more than doubled in size. What is more, the attackers were simultaneously using different methods to attack the company’s servers, making them harder to stop.
The most frequent targets were businesses that provide internet infrastructure services like Dyn.
“DNS has often been neglected in terms of its security and availability,” Richard Meeus, vice president for technology at Nsfocus, a network security firm, wrote in an email. “It is treated as if it will always be there in the same way that water comes out of the tap.”
Last month, Bruce Schneier, a security expert and blogger, wrote on the Lawfare blog that someone had been probing the defenses of companies that run crucial pieces of the internet.
“These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well the companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down,” Mr. Schneier wrote. “We don’t know who is doing this, but it feels like a large nation-state. China and Russia would be my first guesses.”
It is too early to determine who was behind Friday’s attacks, but it is this type of attack that has election officials concerned. They are worried that an attack could keep citizens from submitting votes.
Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia allow internet voting for overseas military and civilians. Alaska allows any Alaskan citizen to do so. Barbara Simons, the co-author of the book “Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?” and a member of the board of advisers to the Election Assistance Commission, the federal body that oversees voting technology standards, said she had been losing sleep over just this prospect.
“A DDoS attack could certainly impact these votes and make a big difference in swing states,” Dr. Simons said on Friday. “This is a strong argument for why we should not allow voters to send their voted ballots over the internet.”
This month the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, and the Department of Homeland Security accused Russia of hacking the Democratic National Committee, apparently in an effort to affect the presidential election. There has been speculation about whether President Obama has ordered the National Security Agency to conduct a retaliatory attack and the potential backlash this might cause from Russia.
Gillian M. Christensen, deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency was investigating “all potential causes” of the attack.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on the NBC News program “Meet the Press” this month that the United States was prepared to respond to Russia’s election attacks in kind. “We’re sending a message,” Mr. Biden said. “We have the capacity to do it.”
But technology providers in the United States could suffer blowback. As Dyn fell under recurring attacks on Friday, Mr. York, the chief strategist, said such assaults were the reason so many companies are pushing at least parts of their infrastructure to cloud computing networks, to decentralize their systems and make them harder to attack.
“It’s a total wild, wild west out there,” Mr. York said.
on: October 22, 2016, 06:44:29 AM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
If Donald loses, the question arises-- does someone else succeed him to lead the movement, and if so, who? Here Pravda on the Hudson offers its take:
Mr. Gingrich’s ‘Big Trump’
By TERESA TRITCHOCT. 21, 2016
Newt Gingrich listens as Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally earlier this year. Credit Ty Wright for The New York Times
It’s no big surprise that Newt Gingrich is still a gung-ho adviser to the Trump campaign. Mr. Gingrich has long espoused political views similar to Donald Trump’s.
But there is more to the alliance than a meeting of the minds. Mr. Gingrich understands that Mr. Trump appears to be losing not because his message has failed to resonate with Americans but because he is a poor messenger.
“I don’t defend him [Trump] when he wanders off,” Mr. Gingrich recently told ABC News. But “there’s a big Trump and there’s a little Trump,” he said, explaining that the big Trump is the one who has created issues that make “the establishment” very uncomfortable.
“The big Trump,” he said, “is a historic figure.”
With statements like that, Mr. Gingrich is positioning himself as the keeper of the Trump-campaign themes and, by extension, as the politician best able to mobilize Trump supporters going forward.
In the 1990s, Mr. Gingrich spearheaded the antigovernment movement. As House speaker from 1995 to 1999, he invoked racial stereotypes about African-Americans during debates over welfare reform. During his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, he repeatedly called President Obama the “food stamp president.”
Mr. Gingrich played to birther movement sentiments in 2010 when he said that Mr. Obama exhibited “Kenyan, anticolonial behavior.”
And now, he is extolling the virtues of “big Trump.” There is a pattern here, and it does not bode well for American politics.
on: October 22, 2016, 06:16:22 AM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Cooperation as a Means to All Ends in the South China Sea
September 26, 2016 | 09:30 GMT Print
Beijing understands that constant conflict with its neighbors works against its desire to maintain good relations with them -- a particularly important aspect to its emerging global policy. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Despite China's rejection of the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the South China Sea dispute, Beijing is adopting a more conciliatory posture over its territorial claims, at least in the short term.|
The shifting status quo in the South China Sea may give claimant states, especially China, second thoughts about entering into joint development deals.
Any meaningful joint arrangements will hinge on Beijing's strategic intentions, although domestic pressure in respective states will also play a key role.
South China Sea claimant states are adjusting to the new status quo in the region. The arbitration ruling the Philippines won over China in July gave it and other claimants rare leverage over Beijing, but China's rejection of the decision has diminished the possibility of legal intervention over maritime disputes in which it is embroiled. Beijing must also contend, however, with an increasingly complex set of circumstances in the waters — with greater potential for involvement by outside powers and potentially more hostile relations with nations on its periphery.
The ruling's potential to disrupt relations in the South China Sea may help to explain the generally lower-key rhetoric and conciliatory gestures by actors on all sides in the region over the past two months. China and other claimant states all appear willing to seize the opportunity to move some stagnant agendas forward, at least for now. Their gestures include an agreement between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to finalize a framework for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea before mid-2017 and a host of accommodating trilateral arrangements among China and new leaders in the Philippines and Vietnam.
Fish: The Overlooked Destabilizer in the South China Sea
Despite the region's focus on minerals and oil, fish are a more important factor in the maritime disputes surrounding a rising China. Read more…
Some regional joint development proposals, moreover, have re-emerged. Shortly after the court ruling, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a high-profile white paper that, in addition to reiterating its positions and sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, said Beijing's openness to joint development in the waters had not changed. That position was reinforced shortly after when former Philippine President Fidel Ramos, the special envoy for current President Rodrigo Duterte, was invited to visit with Chinese policy experts, who raised the possibility of jointly developing fishing farms in the disputed waters, including around Scarborough Shoal. Separately, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc that both countries should actively push forward with joint exploration of waters beyond the Gulf of Tonkin — in other words, in the South China Sea — where both signed a comprehensive delimitation agreement in 2000. In addition, China and Japan appear ready to resume a long-stalled dialogue on natural gas exploration in the East China Sea.
Taken individually, these proposals are unremarkable. Joint development is a well-trodden path in East Asia. Mutually agreed joint-development mechanisms have a proven record of easing maritime tensions in the face of overlapping claims elsewhere. Therefore, it is seen by many, including the claimant governments of Southeast Asia, as a potential option to calm the waters in the South China Sea with its vast traditional fishing grounds and its rich oil and natural gas potential. But early attempts at joint development, notably an arrangement among China, Vietnam and the Philippines in 2005 for seismic surveys, failed largely because of domestic sentiment in the Philippines. And over the years, suspicions about Beijing's strategic intent, coupled with its unceasing territorial expansion and escalation of maritime tensions, thwarted any potential dialogue — let alone joint arrangement — in the South China Sea that involves China. In recent years, Beijing has put pursuing such joint arrangements on a back burner. Thus, the recent refashioning of these proposals from Beijing provides an opportunity both to understand the strategic intent behind these arrangements and to assess their application under the new paradigm in the South China Sea.
Pragmatic Policy or Stalling Strategy?
Setting aside disputes and pursuing joint development of natural resources have been central components of China's maritime policy since the late 1970s. The concept was promoted by Deng Xiaoping as he opened the country's economy and promoted domestic reform. Seeking to ease external pressures on the country, he embraced the practicality of joint economic development in the East and South China seas.
Most of those who lay claim to territory in the South China Sea have similarly endorsed joint development as a way to acquire undersea resources. (Notably, only a handful of oil and natural gas blocks in the disputed areas of the sea have proved commercially viable, and the financial risks and technological demands required for energy exploration in those areas have made it impossible for many claimants to do so without foreign partners.) But while Beijing has been pursuing joint development opportunities since the 1990s, in practice, other claimants generally believe those opportunities disproportionately benefit Beijing. Suspicions of its strategic objectives have repeatedly caused those arrangements to fail.
A major stumbling block to such agreements has been an insistence by the Chinese government that its claims of sovereignty over disputed territories in any deal would have to be recognized for it to go forward. In other words, a joint development deal with China would require the other party to recognize Chinese territorial claims in disputed areas, making the arrangements politically difficult to accept. Disagreement over sovereignty recognition resulted in repeated disruptions of initial joint exploration arrangements, including the one made in 2011 between the Philippines and China's state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. around Reed Bank, near the Spratly Islands. Suspicion of Beijing's intent has remained a central concern for Vietnam and the Philippines even though they would profit from such deals.
Offers by China for joint development often come in areas within the exclusive economic zones of other claimant states. Those offers can be interpreted as a ploy by China to expand its territory into areas that it otherwise would have no legitimate claim to under international law. For example, Vietnam has objected to a decision by China to open up nine areas for joint development to foreign partners near the Vietnamese-controlled Vanguard Bank (about 160 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coast) in a disputed part of the Spratly Islands. Vietnam views that offer as essentially a Chinese claim of: "What is mine is mine, what is yours is mine, and we are willing to share." Part of the reason for the murky boundary status stems from the ambiguity of Chinese sovereignty claims in the South China Sea under the nine-dash line, which has resulted in a largely undefined boundary between areas with overlapping claims. Any joint development deals struck before agreements over the disputed areas are ironed out could amount to legitimizing China's nine-dash line claims. In 2011, Manila proposed a mechanism to separate disputed and non-disputed areas in the South China Sea and promote joint cooperation in the disputed zone. Beijing, however, viewed that proposal as a serious challenge to its sovereignty claims, and its opposition kept the proposal from generating momentum within ASEAN.
China's Tactical Advantages
Intentionally or not, the stalled progress on joint development deals — along with its ambiguous maritime claims — has given Beijing a much-desired result: time. Beijing's strategy of not asserting its claims too strongly before the 1990s allowed it to reduce potential conflicts that would result from overlapping claims, allowing its economy and military to develop. As China grew more powerful, its naval and maritime enforcement, along with its technological capabilities for island building and deep-sea exploration, dramatically shifted the status quo in the South China Sea. And these evolutions have naturally shaped Beijing's approach to any joint development mechanism.
China's technological and military abilities give it a tactical advantage when pushing its claims in the South China Sea. That means China can take unilateral measures to pressure other claimants, leaving Vietnam and the Philippines, the most vocal opponents of Chinese claims, with limited options for unilateral development. Because they have little capability to develop the sea's resources independently, they have to seek foreign assistance. In addition, however, to the uncertain prospects of oil and natural gas exploration in the South China Sea, military and economic pressure from China has also deterred foreign companies from entering agreements with those nations in the disputed areas. Meanwhile, as demonstrated in the case of Scarborough Shoal, Beijing's advanced coast guard vessels and armed fishing fleets have effectively stopped Philippine fishermen from plying their trade in their traditional grounds since 2012. In short, Beijing is forcing other claimants to accommodate or at least tolerate China's maritime boundary assertions before it will consider any meaningful arrangements — if that ever happens.
Resolving Conflicting Imperatives
Many policymakers in Beijing believe the policy has had mixed results for its foreign policy agenda. Claimant states — most notably Vietnam and the Philippines, and to a lesser extent Indonesia and Malaysia — have responded to Beijing's maritime aggression by expanding their naval and security capabilities and by seeking cooperation from external powers, such as the United States, Japan and India, for defense, energy and political support. This has resulted in a much broader international intervention and has justified moves by those powers to counter China. Beijing has meanwhile come to understand that constant conflict with its neighbors works against its desire to maintain good relations with them — a particularly important aspect of its emerging global policy.
At this point, Beijing probably understands the risks and repercussions of claiming the entire South China Sea — or pressing its claims based on the nine-dash line. In fact, there appears to be at least partial agreement among decision-makers that Beijing's "strategic ambiguity" over its maritime claim — combined with its ungrounded nine-dash line, lack of a clearly defined sovereignty claim and defiance of international law — has reached a limit. Over the past two years, official rhetoric from Beijing has repeatedly repudiated that the nine-dash line is the basis for the country's sovereignty claim. At the same time, its policymakers are in the process of reinterpreting its sovereignty claim and attempting to more closely adhere to international law.
It is unlikely that Beijing will ever ease its assertive behavior in the South China Sea. Rather, the new maritime status quo — coupled with the court ruling — may allow Beijing to rethink what strategies best fit its interests, even if those strategies take years to develop and result in even greater maritime disruption. But at the very least, its imperatives to avoid outright military confrontations, circumvent further "interference" from international players and to refrain from antagonizing all of its ASEAN neighbors at once makes its current course of behavior counterproductive.
Joint Development: a Possible Way Out?
To many claimant countries, developing maritime resources in disputed areas of the South China Sea has become more of a crucial economic imperative than ever. With its near-shore oil and natural gas blocks long past their peak productivity, Vietnam needs new energy sources to satisfy its domestic economy and provide export revenue to pay for its growing demand for imported refined oil products. The Philippines has some natural gas production but imports virtually all of its crude oil. The oil and natural gas potential in the South China Sea, particularly around Reed Bank and its commercially viable proven reserves of natural gas, is too high to ignore. Though China has similar needs — it depends heavily on oil and faces a growing need for natural gas — developing the sea's resources meets Beijing's strategic interests far more than its economic ones. In addition, the regional reliance on the sea's fish stocks — and the fluidity of fishing — makes exclusive development of that resource impossible. As more claimants desire to develop the sea's resources and as Beijing rethinks its strategies, both might give joint development ventures more attention.
Even though there has not been a joint arrangement in the South China Sea involving China, it will remain an option. Beijing has repeatedly expressed the hope that its relatively successful joint development and delimitation package with Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin can serve as a model for future arrangements in the South China Sea. According to the International Crisis Group, Beijing and Hanoi have carried out several rounds of consultations on possible cooperation in the South China Sea based on the Tonkin model, though no progress has been made. Meanwhile, Beijing has shown greater flexibility with claimants that it sees as cooperative as they pursue their own joint development deals. For example, it made little response to the joint oil and natural gas exploration agreement between Malaysia and Brunei in 2015, despite the fact that the development falls in an area that China also claims. The difference in China's reaction likely reflects the fact that Malaysia and Brunei tend not to trumpet their differences with China, but it could also point to how much flexibility Beijing has in its sovereignty claims.
In theory, joint development arrangements could allow Beijing to justify its dominance of the South China Sea and expand outreach in areas in which it has no legal claim in a more cooperative manner, all while allowing claimants to acquire the resources they want. But before any meaningful arrangements can be made, there are several obstacles to overcome.
Chief among them is the question of whether Beijing is willing to dampen its sovereignty claims now that it has established its tactical advantages in the South China Sea. But such a move may run afoul of domestic nationalist sentiment, which would see any joint arrangement as a surrender of sovereignty, thereby challenging the core of the government's legitimacy. Similar obstacles can be found in Vietnam and the Philippines, where years of assertive behavior by China have hardened the public's attitudes against accepting any arrangement with Beijing. In fact, in the Philippines, such sentiment, combined with a public perception of government misbehavior and corruption, was a key reason that Manila pulled out from the 2005 trilateral arrangement on seismic surveys. Meanwhile, the Philippine Constitution dictates that Philippine entities must retain 60 percent capital and ownership when it comes to joint exploration with foreign companies — a condition that Beijing can hardly accept unless both sides are willing to caveat their stances.