Trump: The Bludgeoned NY Avatar

Trump

1q

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Cameron & the Brexit

Brexit

brexit1

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Solzhenitsyn & Limits of Positivism

A significant and perhaps irreversible process I believe, threatens to advance substantially in the twenty-first century is humanities hazardous crossing from a natural existence into a technosphere. Technical progress, which for centuries grew by devouring nature, now proceeds at the expense of culture and man himself. Having always in the past been a participant, or even a maker of history, man is today furiously swept along by technical progress, whose stormy successes are contributing to a numbing of the person. Our capacity for concentration and deep inner contemplation, which we are already forfeiting, is being overwhelmed by a tidal wave of inordinate superficial information. This avalanche leaves less and less room for spirituality, so that many have lost it altogether; less and less room for love not confined to sexual attraction alone. More and more, man is being transformed from a cultural historical type to a technogenic type. This deep seated shift threatens humanity with the loss of its very self.”

Helen Alvare has the solution, in a return to sacramental life.  She revealed the following recently, “At the end of the second millennium of Christianity, it is impossible to ignore a sea change in the way human beings understand life.  They no longer see it as always in relation to God.”

Fixing that relation is the purpose of liturgical life itself.  Sunday’s coming. . .

 

 

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The Afghan Modern Nation State: Prospectus

Ever since The Great Game ended, Afghan politics has been dominated by an internal struggle between rival ethnic factions in an attempt to create the social, political and institutional trappings of a nation state.  That writ has always been elusive; given the blood and treasure the U.S. and numerous NATO members have dropped inside the graveyard of Empires, I think it pertinent to evaluate the traction U.S. Commanders have gained in their application of counterinsurgency doctrine.

As it stands now, Afghanistan cannot stand without permanent U.S. support.  This is dismal, especially given how much ‘capital’ the Americans and others have deployed.  But a deeper look at Afghanistan’s social, geopolitical components reveals a dynamism that is promising.

The Afghan President Ashram Ghani and his Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah constitute a new beginning for Afghanistan.  The problem is that this arrangement isn’t working, the entire constituted government remains paralyzed.  As of this writing, this arrangement, although the best of all alternatives in resolution of the 2014 elections cannot produce any effective writ inside Afghanistan.  The split between the President and his Chief Executive reflects Afghanistan’s split between ethnic Pashtuns, embodying the old dominant political class of Afghanistan constituting nearly 50% of the entire population and Tajiks (the ethnic class of the Chief Executive), Tajiks represent nearly 25%.  The animosity between these ethnic groups has been aggravated since 2001 when the U.S. supported a Tajik dominated Northern Alliance in the toppling of the Taliban (talib is a seminary student) in Kabul.  This split continues to shape the modern trajectory of the Afghan nation state. However, their are numerous other divisions that cannot be reconciled to the egalitarian premise of Islam; the Hazaras, Uzbeks animosity between competing warlords commanding poppy, foreign aid and loyalty.  General Rashid Dostum remains the leader of the northern Uzbeks, an ethnic group whose geopolitical, ideology affinity resonates with India as it aggravates Islamabad.  Atta Mohammed of the northern Tajiks and Ismail Khan in Herat.  None of this touches on the longstanding animosity between Kabul’s relatively liberal intelligence and its deeply conservative, archaic brethren throughout the Afghan countryside.  Its simply total paralysis.

If you ask Congressman or Senator in D.C. their is not way to reconcile this reality to the nearly $5 million in annual aid given to Kabul.  As both General John Campbell and Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford have revealed, the U.S. needs a permanent commitment in Afghanistan.

As it stands now, the militancy of the Pashtuns and its patronage system residing on both sides of the Durand Line reveal a strategic conviction that they can wait for the American’s to leave.  Why is this significant?  U.S. C.O.I.N. (counter-insurgency) specialists have long since believed that the Afghan Taliban must be brought into any political or policy agreement residing in Kabul.  Any peace settlement would partially overcome the numerated fault lines that torment Afghanistan since its inception as a nation state in the 1890’s.  This means a unity of federalism that would preserve a state while diminishing social, ethnic, sectarian conflicts between the writ of the nation state and reactionary regional conflict and tribalism; between State led institutions like the army, education and health care and religious animosity; a comity between cities and countryside, between social conservatives and urban elites.  Historically, this was previously achieved by trade, having Kabul remaining a patron of either Persia, South Central west Asia or Mughal Empires in northwest India.  Afghanistan never stood alone, it always sought out private relations with dominant regional power brokers.  Poppy strengthens the very decentralized order that fuels conflict.  For Afghanistan to win, it will need to do what Emir Abdur Rahman did in the creation of Afghanistan, find a partner (Britain) and become a useful proxy for British arms with generous financial subsidies.  Contemporary times may place New Delhi in this position to the detriment of U.S. bilateral relations with Islamabad.

What may prove more useful is the dominant role of digital technology within the very decentralized works of Afghanistan’s poppy culture to fuel the writ of the nation state.  Is Hayek’s concept of spontaneous order relevant here, or are we permanently hinged to Carlyle’s notion of the great man theory of political economy.   The fact of the matter is that we must understand the components of Afghanistan outside the Great Game Paradigm, we must find the moral agency of historical causation within the Afghan social order itself to build the nation state.

Can the rival, overlapping claims of loyalty permanently thwart western geopolitical objectives?  How can Afghanistan’s nearly permanently weakened state of human capital be challenged toward growth.

The answer may not be discerned within Islam.

The Taliban hold the most promise of providing that leadership, but western policy planners cannot abide having the Taliban hold a position of strength within Afghanistan because they’ve always sought to serve Pakistan’s geopolitical objectives of strategic depth in its relations with New Delhi.

The key to a successful Afghanistan resides in a competent Army.

For this to take hold, Afghanistan needs a financial base to service the growth of its capitalization projects.  Poppy will not do.

As of now, it remains U.S. aid.  This is the only glue holding the entire edifice together, for the only viable armed regime that successfully created an armed force matching Afghanistan’s limited resource base (as opposed to foreign aid) was the Taliban.  They possessed neither extravagant salaries and homes, nor needed to permanently field large numbers in conflict, nor did they acquire heavy weaponry tied to elaborate, expensive command systems.

U.S. C.O.I.N. operators have sought to capitalize on this insight by creating the Quadrilateral Coordination Group between U.S., China & Pakistan.  By introducing more players seeking stability, the limited resource base of the Afghan political economy may grow.  Having the Islamic State reside in Afghanistan has not helped, however, ironically, it may thwart a stimulative growth agenda to help create a national or regional basis for a peace settlement.

Why is this unlikely?

If the U.S. leaves the Afghan project, India, Iran, Pakistan, China, Central Asian nation states, Russia  and China will align interests in a way that damages both the U.S. and any regional ally.

So where does the U.S. stand strategically?

We must continue to do the following until we find White House leadership to field competent statecraft compelling Islamabad to change its relation with Kabul.  U.S. policy should continue the following:  a permanent ceasefire that would solidify U.S. commitment, the Pashtun aim of total restoration of Taliban control over Afghanistan will NOT happen, that Pakistan spend capital to change its relation with Pashtun proxies on both sides of Durand, and finally; a peace deal that would change Taliban regional calculus about is social, political ambitions while opening it toward sharing a national Afghan identity.

Absent this, we’re stuck with low intensity conflict drawing major regional nation states like India, China & Pakistan into permanent conflict.

 

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Paul Tillich: Faith, Belief & Knowledge

The most ordinary misinterpretation of faith is to consider it an act of knowledge that has a low degree of evidence. . . If this meant, one is speaking of belief rather than faith. . . Almost all the struggles between faith and knowledge are rooted in the wrong understanding of faith as a type of knowledge which has a low degree of evidence but is supported by religious authority.  One of the worse errors of of theology is to make statements which intentionally or unintentionally contradict the structure of reality.  Such an attitude is an expression not of faith but of the confusion of faith with belief.”

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Reflections on Sacrifice

Sometimes truth comes riding into history on the back of an error.”  Reinhold Niebuhr

From Aristotle we can learn how to unleash our wonderment upon life; to cherish all the understanding yet achieved by man. . .

From Voltaire we can learn how to restore the fiery furnaces even in old age; to rekindle the feeling of outrage at bigotry and injustice; to start the wheels of intellectual action rolling so fast they shock the conscience of a nation with clarity and power. . .

From Nietzche we can learn about the ironies of having your most eloquent phrases timely ripped from context and misused to further the very causes you spent your life fighting. . .

From Schopenhauer we can learn something of the courage required to face life when your inner machinery has been tangled and twisted, but you know you must continue to live, meaningfully, usefully and honestly as possible. . .

From Augustine of Taagaste & Kierkegaard we can learn how to accept the burning guilt of being human, all too human, to transform the pain of the human condition into service for others. . .

From Francis Bacon & Niccolo Machiavelli  we learn from the agony of life in exile, of being permanently severed from your life’s work, your friends, your livelihood, being challenged to cope creatively with years of solitude; of being forced to learn to live with yourself. . .

From Aquinas & Albertus Magnus we learn something of the superhuman discipline required to order vast stores of human knowledge; to record with great personal strength, all you know as a legacy to your faith. . .

From Plato & Einstein we can come to appreciate the adventures of the mind, the soaring flights into excitement that remain beyond immediate perception. . .

From Galileo we learn something about mustering the courage of our convictions against the pressures of conformity; and, with the knowledge that evidence remains on our side, win through to personal victory by means of your own courage and stubbornness. . .

From Wittgenstein we learn what it means to think our own thoughts, to press against entire formal institutions that reject your work. . .

From Spinoza we learn how to live with final and total rejection by those we hold dear, in the preservation of our own personal, hard fought independence and integrity; avoiding vindictiveness, yet witnessing those more formidable than us, ostracize you from your own hard won achievement. . .

Only a life the corresponds to the demands of our Creator is worthy of such sacrifice. . .

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Human Capital & The Challenge of OUR Time

Abraham Maslow spent his life discerning interior trends that motivate the human person toward a unity not seen in other mammals; a unity of personality, toward spontaneous expressiveness, toward full responsibility, toward full individuality; an unrepeatable identity. Of seeing truth rather than being blind, toward creativity, toward being good; for Maslow, the entire enterprise of being human is so constructed that he presses toward fuller and fuller being.

There is a single ultimate value for mankind, a far goal toward which all men strive. This is called variously by different authors self-actualization, self-realization, integration, psychological health, individuation, autonomy, creativity, productivity, but they all agree that this amounts to realizing the potentialities of the human person as ‘human’, that is to say, in becoming fully human, everything a person can become.

If Maslow is correct in discerning an interior structure of humanness then Thomism is its proper name. This teleology would stand in direct contradistinction to Macbeth:

Life is but a walking shadow; a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

It is this development of human capital that the dangerous moralizing of the ‘Collective’ prevents. And it was the American Founding that was to vanquish the sons of anarchy from the discovery of the new world.

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The Recession, Low Oil & Renewal

Recent news that OPEC has frozen its oil output is significant, for it means that its original strategy of flooding the world with oil to maintain market share in the hope of bankrupting both Russia and U.S. frackers has failed.

OPEC petro-monarchies are pegged to an appreciating dollar with severely restricted abilities regarding structural diversification.  This insight isn’t new, but the fiscal, social conditions that OPEC is operating in make it very difficult for it to gain any traction against Iran, Russia, U.S. frackers and indigenous political discontent that has enveloped the Saudi periphery.  It is this geopolitical insight that has pushed the Saudi’s to corral OPEC into freezing production.

The Saudi’s blinked.

In my view, they should have seen this coming.  The Saudi’s wrongly believed they could send the price of oil over a cliff and wait for better conditions.  But then the Iranians started to move westward encircling the Saudi’s while Russia landed on the north eastern border of the Mediterranean pushing east.  The noose has captured the House of Saud by surprise.  It shouldn’t have.

The truth of the matter is that western oil dependencies like the U.S. have discovered new sources of political renewal that have strengthened its position relative to OPEC.  The petro-monarchies are politically weak, static, un-diversified, lacking an industrial base from which to finance competing sources of engagement.  Their capital base is thin and exposed.

The U.S. isn’t growing.  We’ve got slowing output, slumping indices, declining corporate earnings and zero capital investment with rising inventories.  Yet the American’s see light at the end the tunnel.  With an election favoring a GOP rival with fracking surging upon private property; the U.S. Republic senses renewed direction.  This dynamic of surging political autonomy lead by technologically driven horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing upon private property has destroyed OPCE’s monolithic institutions that govern price signals.  Exhausted, the Arab’s have sought accommodation with Russia in the hope of leveraging a pause.

The old Keynesian bias of building massive debt laden industries with business models fit to exploit scarcity has sutured the Arab’s to failure.  Disruptive innovation is now hinged upon a scale that inverts previous concepts of ‘mass’.  Abundance from inversion isn’t something Arab civilization can compete with.  They’ve folded.  We can only hold this lead with tax reform.  As of this writing, non-investment-grade bond markets are vulnerable.  Energy defaults throughout America are expected, and junk bond spreads have widened.  Wait, it gets worse.  Energy company earnings have collapsed, the S&P 500 energy sector has fallen too.  But so have kleptocracies like Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria and others.

The Chinese economy has decided to break its link with the greenback because the foreign exchange value of an appreciating dollar damages Beijing prospect for manuverbility.  Remember, a nation devalues to only save public finances.  A float should be expected soon, but the damage to world supply chains is permanent.

Here’s the good news:  all favorable trends are merging toward the U.S.

We begin in November!!

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Mao: An Exhausted China

It has taken decades, but authors throughout the United States are finally beginning to assess the stark reality of Mao’s revolutionary appeal, his archaic mien; a deeply irresponsible leader who sought the unification of China so as to compete with mechanized, industrial nations that were overcoming China as evidenced in Mao’s insights throughout the early 20th century.

China Under Mao:  A revolution derailed is finally out from Harvard University Press by Dr. Andrew G. Walder, a professor of Sociology at Stanford University.  A deeply moving tribute to the disaster that became of China under Mao’s rule and its subsequent reversal under Deng.

Any book that seeks to detail the atrocities of both the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward will need to reconcile such gross behavior to its social, political impact.  The truth isn’t difficult to comprehend; Mao’s policies of forcing militant socialism, of seeking to impose ruthless anarchy so as to create a more equitable, more malleable individual, bereft of family or nominal stability, served the interests of a monolithic state only.

Their have been other accounts written by Roderick Macfarquhar & Michael Schoenhals published as Mao’s Last Revolution or, Tombstone:  the great Chinese famine by Yang Jisheng.  Both accounts detail astonishing gross genocidal behavior that animated ‘the achievements‘ of Mao.  All at the expense of China.

An exhausted, depleted and ruined China sought reversal after the demise of Mao.  A failed tyrant.  Damn the man.

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The Failure of Nominal Leadership in Beijing

Market volatility has its origin in two distinct sources, one is the change in Beijing’s exchange rate regime, another is the Federal Reserves unwinding.  This will be messy.

Chinese leadership will not demonstrate the requisite fortitude so as to liberalize its capital, current account.  Period.

Mull that one over for a minute.

The Chinese love institutionalized opacity.  It has served their interests for decades, they’re going to find a way forward without liberalization.  Why?  The boys in Beijing cannot stomach operating like a first world economy.  Transparency will not happen, because it isn’t useful to the regime.

China remains the world’s second largest economy and it has sought refuge in linking its nominal exchange rate and growth to the U.S. Dollar.  Its entire Central Bank has enjoyed operating passively for decades.  Now, with U.S. appreciation and the unwinding of our own mess, the Chinese have decided that inflation is the way to go. To Beijing, the link with the U.S. dollar must be less tenable, if only to partially threaten the Reserve status of the dollar.

Chinese technocrats are learning that nominal growth cannot be conjured.

Here’s the origin of China’s massive capital outflow:  Chinese firms with high debt have an incentive to get out of yuan.  The middle income trap is real and its sources lie in the indigenous social dynamics of Chinese political economy.  Don’t worry, they’re not alone.  Mexico, Russia, Indonesia and numerous other regimes have not navigated gradual overt changes out of authoritarian regimes.

The culture of Adam Smith’s invisible hand cannot be sutured on.

Currency devaluation.

Currency devaluation.

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