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Belmont Club

The Post Blue World

July 28th, 2013 - 4:15 pm

Avraham Burg, writing in Haaretzargues that Israel should enter into a peace deal with whoever the Palestinians send to talk because the region is morphing into something else. Just what exactly it is morphing into Burg leaves to the imagination.

he French and British mandate agreements that shaped the Middle East are changing dramatically. The artificial Sykes-Picot borders no longer hold. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees are eroding the border between Syria and Jordan. Iraq is breaking into Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish entities, while millions of people have settled beyond its borders without permission. It seems a post-Assad Syria will follow Iraq’s path and crumble. The Libya and Sudan we once knew no longer exist, and Turkey is suddenly talking about a future Kurdistan.

All these things fall within the biggest historical framework of all: the return of the empires. The Mideast is again becoming a focal point in the global struggle among major powers that arrive with imperial baggage. They’re quarreling over spheres of influence much larger than their areas of sovereignty. The Iranian Empire aspires to export revolution and expand. Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman Empire uses economic, military and cultural means spanning from Gaza and Cairo to the heart of Africa. Russia is intervening in its backyard as in the old days, its one outlet to a warm-water port. And the United States is still present with large forces, not so much on our behalf but because it’s wary of the others.

None of Burg’s arguments amount to much more than “here goes nothing”. It is as close to the Filipino spirit of bahala na as anything you can ever read in an Israeli opinion paper. In the words of a J Street Tweet. “Burg’s remedy is to move on, leave Auschwitz behind and learn to trust the world and humanity again.”

Of the peace deal itself, the media is saying two predictable things. First, that no further progress is possible unless President Obama gets involved; and second, that President Obama is wary of his own Secretary of State’s proposal because he is afraid it may blow up in his face.

Carney, speaking to reporters before yesterday’s private meeting between Obama and Kerry at the White House, described Obama’s level of optimism about the peace process as “very cautious.” He said Kerry’s July 19 announcement is “an important development, but I don’t want to overstate it or understate it.” ….

Marwan Muasher, who oversees Middle East research at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington policy institute, said for now the White House “does not look prepared to cash in any political chits on the peace process when it feels that the chances of success are very slim.”

Down the road, Muasher said, a deal is unlikely unless Obama becomes more involved….

“We’re at a stage here that represents some positive progress but is not representative of a conclusion of anything,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

“The parties are not going to basically bridge the gap without a proactive White House policy — a willingness not just to stand by the proposals but to push or cajole the parties and offer the economic and security guarantees both parties might need,” he said.

It is as if the dog has caught the car and now now doesn’t doesn’t know what to do with it. One possible reason is from Burg’s own argument, which he doesn’t take to it’s logical conclusion. The old order is finished. And that includes everybody. The strongmen of the Middle East, not in the least its own theocratic empires. But the list of the newly kaput includes Washington and Europe as well. The dog doesn’t matter any more, at least it ain’t what it used to. Thus the “Peace Process” no longer means the same thing, even to its proponents, as formerly. How can it in a whole new world?

What is most interesting about the current decline of the West is that it is not half so bad as the catastrophes overtaking other traditional power centers. Europe is sinking faster than America. But the Arab world is sinking faster than Europe. And what matters in the ordering of power is not the absolute but the relative quantities. The Financial Post reports that Europe is counting on the Fed to keep printing money or else it sinks.

The tapering of stimulus by the U.S. Federal Reserve risks reigniting Europe’s debt crisis and pushing weak countries into a “debt-deflation spiral”, the International Monetary Fund has warned….

The report said the onset of a new tightening cycle in the US has already pushed up global bond yields, and this may have further to run. “It could lead to additional, and unhelpful pro-cyclical increases in borrowing costs within the euro area. Financial market stresses could quickly reignite,” it said. …

The report said that it may take years to unwind the credit excesses of the early EMU years. “Historically, almost all of the run-up in household debt tends to be reversed. But in the euro area, the reduction in debt-to-GDP ratios has barely started, and the boom was more pronounced.”

But the Fed is looking gun-shy. Town Hall’s John Ransom wrote: What Ben Bernanke Won’t Say: It’s Over Obama. Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker said very recently that “We must make our exit from the bond-buying program quick”. Although the ostensible reason is the economy’s improvement, that reason is somewhat egregious, since the “improvement” has been led by what CNN calls the “low wage job explosion:”

Some 58% of the jobs created during the recovery have been low-wage positions, according to a new report by the National Employment Law Project. Only 22% have been mid-wage jobs and 20% higher-wage positions. These low-wage jobs pay $13.83 an hour or less.

Within the West this is reflected in the collapse of what Europeans call the “social contract” and what American pundits call the Blue Model. The collapse of Detroit, the layoff of Chicago public school teachers are just the beginning of an inevitable trend. It is not just the external empires which are collapsing but the internal ones as well.  Hollywood is going broke.  Poll after poll shows journalism to be among the least trusted professions in America. The complete madness of the narrative has been underscored by the candidacy of Anthony Weiner and NBC’s decision to launch a miniseries on the life of Hillary Clinton.

What is holding the system up now is not unshakable legitimacy but the lack of an alternative. Once the alternatives to both the collapsing internal and external empires emerge the status quo has no means of support.  But now the vague outlines of an alternative are  coming into view.  The leading edge of the successor system can be glimpsed in the new energy opportunities and the need for higher productivity to take advantage of them. Together they will exert a push and pull which will start to rip the old order apart.

Almost without anyone noticing Canada, the US and Australia have become potential energy superpowers. The Economist writes:

Six years ago a consortium planned to pipe gas from Papua New Guinea across the Torres Strait to Queensland to fill a looming gas shortage in eastern Australia. That was before a gas revolution transformed Queensland itself. The volume of gas drilled from coal seams under the state has more than quadrupled since then …

Australia’s gas boom has prompted forecasts that it will overtake Qatar as the world’s biggest LNG exporter by 2020. But the rise of North America and east Africa as potential rivals and the soaring costs of building liquefaction plants in Australia now worry its gas investors.

Yet projects which were slated for development have been put on hold. The pot of gold has been found, but they can’t dig it out. What is holding Australia back? Why the old system. In Australia’s case it is the cost structure created in the last century.

Former Queensland treasurer and now Nimrod Resources chairman Keith DeLacy said the move was a direct consequence of both the “excessive and intrusive regulatory regime” and the re-regulation of the industrial relations system.

“Our cost structure is getting out of kilter with the rest of the world,” Mr DeLacy said.

Australian Mines and Metals Association chief executive Steve Knott said most of the $250bn worth of mega-projects in the resources industry that were under way had 10-year lead times.

“So the decision on these mega-projects were made pre-carbon tax, pre-mining tax, pre the industrial relations re-regulation that we have seen in recent years,” he said.

Mr Knott said another $400bn of potential resources projects were at risk of being delayed or abandoned because companies believed they could “see a better return on investment in other parts of the world”.

The Greens, the system and the unions. This is not too different from President Obama’s attitude toward the Keystone Pipeline:

In a New York Times interview published Saturday, President Obama came out foursquare against the Keystone XL pipeline, claiming that it would not create jobs. “Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator,” Obama said. “There is no evidence that that’s true.” He then blamed Canada for not “doing more” to prevent carbon emissions from oil sands. Obama continued, “I meant what I said; I’m going to evaluate this based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere. And there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release.”

But the energy bonanza will be only temporary, even if the West can muster the political will to actually cash in on it. What will characterize the last industries in the new world are enterprises that haven’t even been mooted yet. And in that respect, the biggest constraint in the developed world is the officially protected system of education. To take one example, a well known personality in the computing industry told me that we were potentially standing before a new phase in computing much larger than the Silicon Era. But he added that the problem was that the U.S. born talent pool was shrinking and atrophying. The secondary school system had become a meaningless credentialing system. This was driving development offshore and increasing dependence on foreign talent. At the very leading edge, “today’s yearly U.S. undergraduate output has has tens, not hundreds of engineers that can make the cut. The new challenges will need thousands. Today we have 10s”

The world is now fully involved in a process of massive change. Not only have the old Mustache Petes of the Middle East gone the way of the dinosaur, so too has the Blue Model. And just as the Middle East is now aflame — and East Asia is now wracked with tension — with the stresses of upheaval, so in its own way is the West doomed to suffer these pangs. President Obama may now suspect what will be increasingly true. He and whatever he represents matters less and less.

Zenpundit brilliantly characterized the state of the administration’s foreign policy in a sardonic piece, “How to Lose a War: A Primer.” He should have titled it, “How to Lose at Everything: Period:”

1. War is the Continuation of Domestic Politics;
2. Policy is the True Fog of War;
3. Strategy is a Constraint to be Avoided;
4. All Lost Wars are based on Self-Deception;
5. Isolate the War and those Fighting it from the People;
6. Complexity= Opacity and Micromanagement= Power
7. Enormous Tail, Tiny Tooth: the Worse the ROI the Better.
8. Cultivate Hatred and Contempt;
9. Protect that Which is Most Unimportant;
10. Level the Playing Field: Paralyze Your Own Tactical Advantages.

That is a description of the status quo that can hardly be bettered. Why it might even describe the “Peace Process” or Afghanistan.

It is the new opportunities and institutions that represent the post-Blue World that will become increasingly. Hard though it may be to imagine, the Middle East may very soon no longer be synonymous with petroleum nor will a lifetime government job be a guarantee of anything in particular. President Obama, in a recent misstatement, was perhaps unwittingly prescient when he called the United States and Europe “developing countries.”

He is more correct than he can imagine. The times are moving past his conception of the “arc of history” into somewhere neither he nor we can clearly see. Yet perhaps one can hazard this guess: the West will prove not a place but a state of mind and an attitude. The Gramscian Left in its attempt to destroy its civilization has not succeeded in destroying it so much as dispersing it, so that its mental outliers fall scattered not only through its original European and American homeland, but in pockets all over the world.

The truth and impulse to progress survive. The systems of tyranny eventually fall behind to be forgotten and fail.

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Top Rated Comments   
"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever."
- T. Jefferon

"If ever anyone got what they deserved -- or at least asked for -- it is the Gramscian Left."

Our host is wrong. In this world they will not get what they deserve. Also regarding his below comment that the US is safe because people have no where to run to there is an alternative. People can simply quit. Not so much in the "going Galt" sense as simply stopping their performance that keeps the wheels turning for everyone's benefit. Think of the Blogfather Wife's new book "Men On Strike." Why should that apply only to marriage?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think the US will not suffer the fate of Detroit because you could run from Detroit, but most people can't leave the US. Plus, where would you go? Europe? Qatar? The Eastern world? No. The only option for everybody, including the Europeans, is to turn and face it.

I think we are watching the first signs of the Blue Model's collapse, not in hostility to it, but manifested as indifference to it. The response to Obama by foreign enemies is to ignore him. He's a busted flush. He's like Captain Queeg making grandiose speeches to himself.

That's why Japan is peeling off. And when you think about it, the threads of the Middle East are no longer running through Washington like they used to. What will break the Blue Model's back is the first new big source of money. Nothing smashes Tammany Hall like a pot o' gold.

The trick is to hold things together so that it avoids actual physical war until the world can come to itself. The biggest danger that Obama now represents is that he might accidentally start something horrible. But if that doesn't happen, he'll simply vanish, crushed under his own enormous and useless ego.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The comment by MF and Wretch both point to one thing: that culture plays the dominant role in most people's lives. When H-1Bs bring Indians, Pakis or Arab computer scientists to the U.S., most do not adopt the values or goals of even the most debilitated Detroiter. Instead they maintain the values of the culture they came from.

Case in point: Liberal friend of mine rented a very nice apartment in Berkeley, CA. She could afford it 'cause she was teaching pagan religion at a major grad school there. She got to be very friendly with the building owner who was from India and had come over to work in Hi-Tech, then got into real estate. A smart cookie, right?

Well, lo and behold, turns out he had four teenage girls living with him that he had bought as household women (i.e., sex slaves) in India! Seems this is not uncommon in the Indian subculture he hailed from. My liberal white female professor friend had met them all and visited with them in his place and never suspected nada. When the police raided his place and took him away, she was flabbergasted. His Indian subculture values had not changed on bit, despite the fact that he was a brilliant tech player and real estate investor.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (36)
All Comments   (36)
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I think we are going to see the rise of what some call Robber Barons. With people demanding products and government simultaneously trying to prevent said products from coming to market as well as displaying a consistent ability to cross thead a bowling ball, something's got to give.
People will not die of starvation in the dark and the cold because of principles established by the Denizens of DC. And the people down at the pointy end of government will either learn to look the other way or find their homes cold and dark as well.

A recent FNC interview pointed up the severity of the problem. A family got Forest Service permission to unplug a government built drainage ditch that was flooding their property. The EPA charged that they hed defiled a wetlands. They went to court and the government lost the case. Afterwards, the EPA said they did not care what the courts said; they were fining the property owners $38K a day if they built a home on the site.

How much of this goes on before government workers start mysteriously disappearing? And if the Robber Baron responsible happens to be the only one who provides food and fuel, what are they going to do?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Excuse me...

Robber Barons = Public Sector Union Bosses...

Crony Capitalists.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I work in the Oil Patch, and I can see part of the future.

Whatever else it may look like, it will flow from beneath a drilling rig.

If you're a youngster in college studying some Liberal Arts degree, GET OUT, NOW!

Take 8 months and go learn to weld...and then practice-practice-practice!

If you're willing to travel, you will have employment for life.
We can always use a good welder...a Liberal Arts major? Not so much.

As a reminder, the founders and exploiters of the Computer Age were notable for their lack of formal college education,(Bill Gates most visibly). I am old enough to remember the mid and late 1970's, when every convict in the penitentiary was studying Computer Programming.

Silicon Valley and those who pioneered it largely bypassed the Subsidized Education Complex.

What you can do is always more important than what your credentials are.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment


They looked so fine on the showroom floor, waxed to a spit shine finish, sleek and new, with easy trade in terms. Just a little freedom given up, and you could own a brand spanking new Blue Model car that would take you anywhere you wanted to go, so long as you wanted to go where the Blue Model car wanted to take you. The bargain was irresistible and everyone who had one was prosperous and happy, until the inevitable day the repo man appeared.

The salesman smiled, his words rang true
As he whispered soft and low
“This model here, the shiny blue
Is how you want to go
It falters not or needs repair
It’s built to never fail
It runs on just pure country air
And this one’s now on sale.”
With millions sold the shiny blues
Ran slick as advertised
Until the day the repo crews
Took back from the surprised
Blue Model folks who thought the laws
That stood the time-long test
Did not apply to them because
The salesmen all knew best
And so it was the rusting hulls
Lay scattered and forlorn
Amid vast fields of whitened skulls
Each one a sucker born

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Recognizing that our esteemed host and many regular BCers are IT professionals, I would whisper in your ears "IT AIN'T ALL THAT!!!" (Ok it was a little louder than a whisper).

IT can use a distributed work force. Construction, for example, cannot. Farming less so. You can't eat a bit, byte or baud.

I am spending time and energy developing a version of the Mirco-business concept, small almost cottage industry. Computers, for more than the basic non-network based word processing and spreadsheets are a distraction.

Bottom line, get over yourselves....some day you will be a buggy whip too.

(Sarc off. I really believe that IT has passed both its technical and practical inflection points. Yeah, I hear all about the latest whiz bang, but is it really any more than having tons of cheap RAM for lots of silly and meaningless Fad Apps.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever."
- T. Jefferon

"If ever anyone got what they deserved -- or at least asked for -- it is the Gramscian Left."

Our host is wrong. In this world they will not get what they deserve. Also regarding his below comment that the US is safe because people have no where to run to there is an alternative. People can simply quit. Not so much in the "going Galt" sense as simply stopping their performance that keeps the wheels turning for everyone's benefit. Think of the Blogfather Wife's new book "Men On Strike." Why should that apply only to marriage?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
a well known personality in the computing industry told me that we were potentially standing before a new phase in computing much larger than the Silicon Era.

So we're on the verge of practical quantum computing?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"This iconic picture of firefighters raising the stars and stripes in the rubble of Ground Zero was nearly excluded from the 9/11 Memorial Museum — because it was “rah-rah” American, a new book says.

Michael Shulan, the museum’s creative director, was among staffers who considered the Tom Franklin photograph too kitschy and “rah-rah America,” according to “Battle for Ground Zero” (St. Martin’s Press) by Elizabeth Greenspan, out next month"

When things fall part they should remember this: nothing brought the down the status quo but their own self-hatred. They just kept dissing the goose that laid the golden egg until that redoubtable bird finally believed them and stopped laying. If ever anyone got what they deserved -- or at least asked for -- it is the Gramscian Left.

Of course they didn't really mean it. It was all for show. They were dishonest in everything, even in what they craved. Maybe the lesson is: be careful what you ask for, as you may actually get it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If one is negotiating with a country governed by a state that acts in a manner diametrically opposed to the interests of the people, it would normally be wise to keep one's distance. Making a treaty that snookers the other side may seem advantageous, but in the long run that treaty will be discarded and you will be resented for taking advantage of a country with insane leadership.

One can blame leaders. One can blame those who put those leaders into power. However, the risks of making a deal with a government that betrays its own people are severe. The reason why America's enemies may be keeping their distance from Obama could be that they don't want to be dragged down with Obama.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Please allow me one small grip for mankind -- the so-called "Blue" model of Meade & other plants is really the "Red" model; the Red of the Scarlet Banner, the Red of the old Soviet flag, the Red of the Chinese Communist flag, the Red of the UK's socialist Labour Party. It is the Red model that has failed.

Look, all intelligent people agree that the Red model is unsustainable, as is the Fascist model to which western democracy has evolved. The big question is -- When will it fail? Get that one right, and we can be rich! (Or at least, alive). One could make a case for late 2013, but also for 2033. High uncertainty!

It is also interesting to see Australian commentators begin to mention "regulation" as one of the issues which is condemning their domestic Red model to failure. Certainly, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that links the start of US decline to the explosion of "environmental" (har! har!) regulation in the early 1970s. The good thing is that regulations can be reversed, or in the extreme, ignored once the regulatory apparatus runs out of money.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Who came up with the whole conservatives is red, communist is blue thing anyway?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Some guys doing a nation-wide county map for I think it was the 2000 election? Didn't want to assign the Democrats red, so there it went.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And I thought some clever reporter realized the implications of the 1989 collapse of the USSR, and hurriedly tried to 'brand' the good guys as bad guys. Remember, blue was always the friendly color in wargames etc. At least I had the time of the change correct--it drives me nuts though, the Reds should be red.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Reds.

That's how Nazis became 'right-wing.'

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes, Mad Fiddler, the international nature of the programming workforce adds an interesting twist to the disintegration of the Blue model. An industry that disintermediates its own employees and even itself. As the Blue model nation states disintegrate a certain kind of business will migrate to cyberspace and locate itself such that it has to contribute as little as possible to the Blue model governments struggling to shore up their welfare state. But there are limits to virtualization. You can't put cows in the cloud, but you can move much industrial production to robotland.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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