Death Blow to CETA

SUBHEAD: Enough delegates hold firm against pro-corporate Canada-European Union Trade deal.

By Lauren McCauley on 21 October 2016 for Common Dreams -

Image above: From ().

"It's time for a fundamental shift toward international agreements that put people and the planet before corporate profits. That's the message from Europe today."

Dealing what campaigners say is the final "death blow" to the pro-corporate Canada-European Union trade deal, negotiations collapsed on Friday after representatives from the Belgian region of Wallonia refused to agree to a deal that continues ignore democracy in favor of multi-national corporations.

Canada's International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland reportedly walked out of talks with the Wallonia delegation, which had ruled to maintain their veto against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) after the parties reached a stalemate over the controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system.

"We made new significant progress, especially on the agriculture issues, but difficulties remain, specifically on the symbolic issue of arbitration, which is politically extremely important," Wallonia president Paul Magnette told the regional parliament. ISDS permits companies to sue governments over perceived loss of profits due to regulations or other laws.

Magnette had told reporters Thursday that the delegation had particular concerns over "matters affecting U.S. companies in Canada which will benefit from the system."

Campaigners who have led the fight against CETA and its sister trade deals—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—rejoiced over the news, saying the planned October 27 signing ceremony now looks "improbable."

"Canada's trade minister may be 'very, very sad', but there are millions of people in Europe who will be very, very happy," said Mark Dearn, senior trade campaigner with the UK-based War on Want.

And while many were happily toasting Magnette and the Wallonia delegation, critics of the deal also emphasized the growing movement against these anti-democratic agreements that helped lead to CETA's downfall.

"This major setback for CETA is not just because of Wallonia alone," said Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "There is deep, widespread opposition to CETA and many millions of people agree with Wallonia's stance."

"Thousands across Europe and Canada spoke up and took action to make this happen," added Barlow, who is currently in Germany campaigning against CETA. "This collapse of attempts to reach a deal on CETA shows governments should listen to people instead of trying to push these deals through against the wishes of the people they're elected to represent."

As Dearn further explained, "Since talks first started on CETA back in 2009, the deal has sat alongside TTIP [referring to the U.S.-E.U. agreement] as an example of how not to do a trade deal—absolute secrecy, zero input from public interest groups, and sheer contempt for the very valid concerns of people across Europe."

"Today we have seen the European Commission's chickens come home to roost," he continued. "If the Commission fails at yet another trade deal, the fault lies wholly with its anti-democratic approach."

Speaking from the negotiations in Belgium, Sujata Dey, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians, agreed. "It's time to take a long hard look at CETA and what this breakdown means for corporate-led globalization, including for other controversial deals like the [12-nation TPP]."

"It's time for a fundamental shift toward international agreements that put people and the planet before corporate profits," she added. "That's the message from Europe today."

Friday's talks were held as a last-ditch effort to save the trade deal. After they fell apart, an emotional Freeland told reporters, "I've worked very, very hard, but I think it's impossible," referring to the impasse. "It's become evident for me, for Canada, that the European Union isn't capable now to have an international treaty even with a country that has very European values like Canada."


Hillary & the War Hawks

SUBHEAD: As Election Day nears, military hawks circle to promote new wave of wars for America.

By Lauren McCauley on 20 October 2016 for Common Dreams -

Image above: President Obama and candidate Hillary Clinton boarding Air Force One. "Tuesday 7/5/16 morning TV news said “President Obama to start campaigning with Hillary using Air Force One.” I stood their staring at the TV in a daze and needing to get to work on time … just thinking 'but we barely have any money and our Veterans need help'.” Interesting use of ALL taxpayers money because it is not just Democratic party taxpayers money being spent." From (

[IB Publisher's note: Both the Left and Right wing of American journalism see the election of Hillary Clinton as an opportunity for War Hawks in America to gain traction on more intense military confrontation on several fronts, particularly Syria, Ukrain, Iran, Yemen, South China Sea, etc. This is about the last moment to dial back on the escalation towards WWIII.]

A slew of bipartisan reports are hoping to push the former secretary of state to increased military action in the Middle East, particularly Syria.

Though the hawkish stance of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has been too often ignored this election season, new reporting on Thursday highlights how her presumed win in November will likely usher in a more aggressive, bipartisan foreign policy in the Middle East and beyond.

"The Republicans and Democrats who make up the foreign policy elite are laying the groundwork for a more assertive American foreign policy via a flurry of reports shaped by officials who are likely to play senior roles in a potential Clinton White House," the Washington Post's White House correspondent Greg Jaffe reports.

One such study, published Wednesday by the Center for American Progress (CAP)—which is run by president Neera Tanden, policy director for Clinton's presidential campaign—recommends the next administration step up its "military engagement" amid a more "proactive and long-term approach to the Middle East."

This includes, among other things: building "on the Obama administration's campaign to defeat the Islamic State and Al Qaeda militarily by deepening multilateral cooperation with regional partners and taking steps to help create a regional security framework;" as well as being "prepared to use airpower to protect U.S. partners and civilians in certain parts of Syria."

The latter recommendation is seemingly a direct regurgitation of Clinton's repeated call for a "no-fly zone" in that region—one she reiterated during Wednesday's presidential debate.

Jaffe also highlights an upcoming report by the Brookings Institution, due out in December, which has been produced by a "team of top former Clinton, Bush, and Obama administration officials," as well as one authored by a bipartisan group led by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on behalf of the Atlantic Council.

"Taken together," Jaffe reports, "the studies and reports call for more-aggressive American action to constrain Iran, rein in the chaos in the Middle East and check Russia in Europe. The studies, which reflect Clinton's stated views and the direction she is likely to take if she is elected, break most forcefully with Obama on Syria."

"Virtually all these efforts," he continues, "call for stepped up military action to deter President Bashar al-Assad's regime and Russian forces in Syria."

Jaffe further notes that "in the rarefied world of the Washington foreign policy establishment, President Obama's departure from the White House—and the possible return of a more conventional and hawkish Hillary Clinton—is being met with quiet relief."

Or, as The Intercept journalist Zaid Jilani put it, "D.C. foreign policy elite are giddy that hawkish Barack Obama will be replaced by much more hawkish Hillary Clinton."

Indeed, Jaffe's attempt to paint Obama as "doveish" was ridiculed by journalist Glenn Greenwald and others who have worked to highlight the president's ongoing secret drone war and military operations across the Middle East and Africa.
Jaffe writes that "[t]he disagreement over Syria policy reflects a broader rift between the Obama White House and the foreign policy establishment," of which Clinton is a member.

The reporting comes in the final weeks of the presidential campaign, during which Obama has campaigned aggressively on behalf Clinton, turning his back on any of these tensions. But Jaffe quotes a "senior administration official who is involved in Middle East policy" who said of the call for a no-fly zone: "You can't pretend you can go to war against Assad and not go to war against the Russians."

To which Greenwald and Jilani quipped:

U.S. empire is essentially over

SUBHEAD: But the American foreign policy elite eagerly await an expansion of overseas wars under Hillary Clinton.

By Michael Krieger on 20 October 2016 for Liberty Blitzkrieg -

Image above: Uncle Sam rolling up his sleeves to take on Japan after beating Germany. From (

[IB Publisher's note: Both the Left and Right wing of American journalism see the election of Hillary Clinton as an opportunity for War Hawks in America to gain traction on more intense military confrontation on several fronts, particularly Syria and Ukraine. This is about the last moment to dial back on the escalation towards WWIII.] 

Your average American Hillary Clinton supporter will smugly head to the polls on November 8th, entirely self-assured of his or her vital role in the defeat of fascism in these United States.

It won’t take long for such childish delusions to be vanquished by the horror of subsequent reckless and unnecessary imperial conflagrations that will be inevitably unleashed by their savior throughout the world.

The extreme dangers faced by the planet as a result of neocon warmonger Hillary Clinton becoming President have been apparent for a very long time. Oliver Stone and many others have vocally warned about it, and I’ve covered the topic on many occasions; including in the following posts:

Oliver Stone Opines on the Dangerous Extremism of Neocon Clinton
More Troubling Evidence That Hillary Clinton Will Start WW3 – Part 1
More Troubling Evidence That Hillary Clinton Will Start WW3 – Part 2
Lifelong Democrat and Former RFK Speechwriter Supports Trump

Now, courtesy of a newly published article at The Washington Post, we are once again forced to confront this very uncomfortable reality. Here are a few of the more disturbing excerpts from today’s piece:

There is one corner of Washington where Donald Trump’s scorched-earth presidential campaign is treated as a mere distraction and where bipartisanship reigns. In the rarefied world of the Washington foreign policy establishment, President Obama’s departure from the White House — and the possible return of a more conventional and hawkish Hillary Clinton — is being met with quiet relief.

The Republicans and Democrats who make up the foreign policy elite are laying the groundwork for a more assertive American foreign policy via a flurry of reports shaped by officials who are likely to play senior roles in a potential Clinton White House.

It is not unusual for Washington’s establishment to launch major studies in the final months of an administration to correct the perceived mistakes of a president or influence his successor. But the bipartisan nature of the recent recommendations, coming at a time when the country has never been more polarized, reflect a remarkable consensus among the foreign policy elite.

This consensus is driven by broad-based backlash against a president who has repeatedly stressed the dangers of overreach and the limits of American power, especially in the Middle East. “There’s a widespread perception that not being active enough or recognizing the limits of American power has costs,” said Philip Gordon, a senior foreign policy adviser to Obama until 2015. “So the normal swing is to be more interventionist.”

Taken together, the studies and reports call for more-aggressive American action to constrain Iran, rein in the chaos in the Middle East and check Russia in Europe.
The studies, which reflect Clinton’s stated views and the direction she is likely to take if she is elected, break most forcefully with Obama on Syria. Virtually all these efforts, including a report that will be released Wednesday by the liberal Center for American Progress, call for stepped up military action to deter President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Russian forces in Syria.
This is what passes off as “liberal” these days.
The proposed military measures include calls for safe zones to protect moderate rebels from Syrian and Russian forces. Most of the studies propose limited American airstrikes with cruise missiles to punish Assad if he continues to attack civilians with barrel bombs, as is currently happening in besieged Aleppo. So far, Obama has staunchly resisted any military action against the Assad regime.

Even pinprick cruise missile strikes designed to hobble the Syrian air force or punish Assad would risk a direct confrontation with Russian forces, which are scattered throughout the key Syrian military bases that would be targeted.

“You can’t pretend you can go to war against Assad and not go to war against the Russians,” said a senior administration official who is involved in Middle East policy and was granted anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

"Inside the White House, senior administration officials regularly dismissed calls for military force from the foreign policy establishment as the product of “too much college, not enough knowledge,” writes Derek Chollet, a former top Obama administration official, in his new book “The Long Game.”

Other White House officials derisively referred to Washington’s foreign policy experts as “the Blob.”
As much as I’ve criticized Obama for his many costly foreign adventures, he is an absolute peacenik compared to Clinton. Let’s never forget that the biggest foreign policy disaster of his Presidency, the destruction of Libya, was the brainchild of his then Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“Everyone has kind of given up on the Middle East. We have been at it for 15 years, and a lot of Americans think it is hopeless,” Hadley said. “We think it is not.”
What would we do without people like Hadley around to screw things up?
“The dynamic is totally different from what I saw a decade ago” when Democratic and Republican elites were feuding over the invasion of Iraq, said Brian Katulis, a senior Middle East analyst at the Center for American Progress. Today, the focus among the foreign policy elite is on rebuilding a more muscular and more “centrist internationalism,” he said.
This is an absolute disaster waiting to happen. As I tweeted earlier today:
"We stand at a very dangerous moment. The U.S. empire is essentially over, but the emperors haven’t got the memo."


The Future Hiding in Plain Sight

SUBHEAD: Current Pentagon threat assessments for 2035 are fixated on present with no sense of real future dangers.

By John Michael Greer on 19 October 2016 for the Archdruid Report

Image above: Warband culture in in film Mad Max Fury Road". From (

Carl Jung used to argue that meaningful coincidences—in his jargon, synchronicity—were as important as cause and effect in shaping the details of human life. Whether that’s true in the broadest sense, I’ll certainly vouch for the fact that they’re a constant presence in The Archdruid Report. Time and again, just as I sit down to write a post on some theme, somebody sends me a bit of data that casts unexpected light on that very theme.

Last week was a case in point. Regular readers will recall that the theme of last week’s post was the way that pop-culture depictions of deep time implicitly erase the future by presenting accounts of Earth’s long history that begin billions of years ago and end right now.

I was brooding over that theme a little more than a week ago, chasing down details of the prehistoric past and the post-historic future, when one of my readers forwarded me a copy of the latest Joint Operating Environment report by the Pentagon—JOE-35, to use the standard jargon.

The JOE-35 attempts to predict the shape of the international environment in which US military operations will take place in 2035, and mostly succeeds in providing a world-class example of the same blindness to the future I discussed in my post.

The report can be downloaded in PDF form here and is worth reading in full. It covers quite a bit of ground, and a thorough response to it would be more the size of a short book than a weekly blog post. The point I want to discuss this week is its identification of six primary “contexts for conflict” that will shape the military environment of the 2030s:

ONE: Violent Ideological Competition. 
Irreconcilable ideas communicated and promoted by identity networks through violence.” That is, states and non-state actors alike will pursue their goals by spreading ideologies hostile to US interests and encouraging violent acts to promote those ideologies.

TWO: Threatened U.S. Territory and Sovereignty. 
Encroachment, erosion, or disregard of U.S. sovereignty and the freedom of its citizens from coercion.” That is, states and non-state actors will attempt to carry out violent acts against US citizens and territory.

THREE:  Antagonistic Geopolitical Balancing.
Increasingly ambitious adversaries maximizing their own influence while actively limiting U.S. influence.” That is, rival powers will pursue their own interests in conflict with those of the United States.

FOUR: Disrupted Global Commons. 
Denial or compulsion in spaces and places available to all but owned by none.” That is, the US will no longer be able to count on unimpeded access to the oceans, the air, space, and the electromagnetic spectrum in the pursuit of its interests.

FIVE: A Contest for Cyberspace. 
A struggle to define and credibly protect sovereignty in cyberspace.” That is, US cyberwarfare measures will increasingly face effective defenses and US cyberspace assets will increasingly face effective hostile incursions.

SIX: Shattered and Reordered Regions.
States unable to cope with internal political fractures, environmental stressors, or deliberate external interference.” That is, states will continue to be overwhelmed by the increasingly harsh pressures on national survival in today’s world, and the failed states and stateless zones that will spawn insurgencies and non-state actors hostile to the US.

Apparently nobody at the Pentagon noticed one distinctly odd thing about this outline of the future context of American military operations: it’s not an outline of the future at all. It’s an outline of the present. Every one of these trends is a major factor shaping political and military action around the world right now.

JOE-35 therefore assumes, first, that each of these trends will remain locked in place without significant change for the next twenty years, and second, that no new trends of comparable importance will emerge to reshape the strategic landscape between now and 2035. History suggests that both of these are very, very risky assumptions for a great power to make.

It so happens that I have a fair number of readers who serve in the US armed forces just now, and a somewhat larger number who serve in the armed forces of other countries more or less allied with the United States.

I may have readers serving with the armed forces of Russia or China as well, but they haven’t announced themselves—and I suspect, for what it’s worth, that they’re already well acquainted with the points I intend to make.

With those readers in mind, I’d like to suggest a revision to JOE-35, which will take into account the fact that history can’t be expected to stop in its tracks for the next twenty years, just because we want it to. Once that’s included in the analysis, at least five contexts of conflict not mentioned by JOE-35 stand out from the background:

ONE: A crisis of legitimacy in the United States. 
Half a century ago, most Americans assumed as a matter of course that the United States had the world’s best, fairest, and most democratic system of government; only a small minority questioned the basic legitimacy of the institutions of government or believed they would be better off under a different system.

Since the late 1970s, however, federal policies that subsidized automation and the offshoring of industrial jobs, and tacitly permitted mass illegal immigration to force down wages, have plunged the once-proud American working class into impoverishment and immiseration.

While the wealthiest 20% or so of Americans have prospered since then, the other 80% of the population has experienced ongoing declines in standards of living.

The political impact of these policies has been amplified by a culture of contempt toward working class Americans on the part of the affluent minority, and an insistence that any attempt to discuss economic and social impacts of automation, offshoring of jobs, and mass illegal immigration must be dismissed out of hand as mere Luddism, racism, and xenophobia.

As a direct consequence, a great many working class Americans—in 1965, by and large, the sector of the public most loyal to American institutions—have lost faith in the US system of government.

This shift in values has massive military as well as political implications, since working class Americans are much more likely than others to own guns, to have served in the military, and to see political violence as a potential option.

Thus a domestic insurgency in the United States is a real possibility at this point. Since, as already noted, working class Americans are disproportionately likely to serve in the military, planning for a domestic insurgency in the United States will have to face the possibility that such an insurgency will include veterans familiar with current counterinsurgency doctrine.

It will also have to cope with the risk that National Guard and regular armed forces personnel sent to suppress such an insurgency will go over to the insurgent side, transforming the insurgency into a civil war.

As some wag has pointed out, the US military is very good at fighting insurgencies but not so good at defeating them, and the fate of Eastern Bloc nations after the fall of the Soviet Union shows just how fast a government can unravel once its military personnel turn against it.

Furthermore, since the crisis of legitimacy is driven by policies backed by a bipartisan consensus, military planners can only deal with the symptoms of a challenge whose causes are beyond their control.

TWO: The marginalization of the United States in the global arena.
Twenty years ago the United States was the world’s sole superpower, having triumphed over the Soviet Union, established a rapprochement with China, and marginalized such hostile Islamic powers as Iran.

Those advantages did not survive two decades of overbearing and unreliable US policy, which not only failed to cement the gains of previous decades but succeeded in driving Russia and China, despite their divergent interests and long history of conflict, into an alliance against the United States.

Future scholars will likely consider this to be the worst foreign policy misstep in our nation’s history.

Iran’s alignment with the Sino-Russian alliance and, more recently, overtures from the Philippines and Egypt, track the continuation of this trend, as do the establishment of Chinese naval bases across the Indian Ocean from Myanmar to the Horn of Africa, and most recently, Russian moves to reestablish overseas bases in Syria, Egypt, Vietnam, and Cuba.

Russia and China are able to approach foreign alliances on the basis of a rational calculus of mutual interest, rather than the dogmatic insistence on national exceptionalism that guides so much of US foreign policy today. This allows them to offer other nations, including putative US allies, better deals than the US is willing to concede.

As a direct result, barring a radical change in its foreign policy, the United States in 2035 will be marginalized by a new global order centered on Beijing and Moscow, denied access to markets and resources by trade agreements hostile to its interests, and will have to struggle to maintain influence even over its “near abroad.” It is unwise to assume, as some current strategists do, that China’s current economic problems will slow that process.

Some European leaders in the 1930s, Adolf Hitler among them, assumed that the comparable boom-bust cycle the United States experienced in the 1920s and 1930s meant that the US would be a negligible factor in the European balance of power in the 1940s. I think we all know how that turned out.

Here again, barring a drastic change in US foreign policy, military planners will be forced to deal with the consequences of unwelcome shifts without being able to affect the causes of those shifts.

Careful planning can, however, redirect resources away from global commitments that will not survive the process of marginalization, and toward securing the “near abroad” of the United States and withdrawing assets to the continental US to keep them from being compromised by former allies.

THREE: The rise of “monkey-wrenching” warfare.
The United States has the most technologically complex military in the history of war. While this is normally considered an advantage, it brings with it no shortage of liabilities.

The most important of these is the vulnerability of complex technological systems to “monkey-wrenching”—that is, strategies and tactics targeting technological weak points in order to degrade the capacities of a technologically superior force.

 The more complex a technology is, as a rule, the wider the range of monkey-wrenching attacks that can interfere with it; the more integrated a technology is with other technologies, the more drastic the potential impacts of such attacks.

The complexity and integration of US military technology make it a monkey-wrencher’s dream target, and current plans for increased complexity and integration will only heighten the risks.

The risks created by the emergence of monkey-wrenching warfare are heightened by an attitude that has deep roots in the culture of US military procurement: the unquestioned assumption that innovation is always improvement.

This assumption has played a central role in producing weapons systems such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is so heavily burdened with assorted innovations that it has a much shorter effective range, a much smaller payload, and much higher maintenance costs than competing Russian and Chinese fighters.

In effect, the designers of the F-35 were so busy making it innovative that they forgot to make it work. The same thing can be said about many other highly innovative but dubiously effective US military technologies.

Problems caused by excessive innovation can to some extent be anticipated and countered by US military planners. What makes monkey-wrenching attacks by hostile states and non-state actors so serious a threat is that it may not be possible to predict them in advance.

While US intelligence assets should certainly make every effort to identify monkey-wrenching technologies and tactics before they are used, US forces must be aware that at any moment, critical technologies may be put out of operation or turned to the enemy’s advantage without warning.

Rigorous training in responding to technological failure, and redundant systems that can operate independently of existing networks, may provide some protection against monkeywrenching, but the risk remains grave.

FOUR: The genesis of warband culture in failed states. 
While JOE-35 rightly identifies the collapse of weak states into failed-state conditions as a significant military threat, a lack of attention to the lessons of history leads its authors to neglect the most serious risk posed by the collapse of states in a time of general economic retrenchment and cultural crisis.

That risk is the emergence of warband culture—a set of cultural norms that dominate the terminal periods of most recorded civilizations and the dark ages that follow them, and play a central role in the historical transformation to dark age conditions.

Historians use the term “warband” to describe a force of young men whose only trade is violence, gathered around a charismatic leader and supporting itself by pillage.

While warbands tend to come into being whenever public order collapses or has not yet been imposed, the rise of a self-sustaining warband culture requires a prolonged period of disorder in which governments either do not exist or cannot establish their legitimacy in the eyes of the governed, and warbands become accepted as the de facto governments of territories of various size.

Once this happens, the warbands inevitably begin to move outward; the ethos and the economics of the warband alike require access to plunder, and this can best be obtained by invading regions not yet reduced to failed-state conditions, thus spreading the state of affairs that fosters warband culture in the first place.

Most civilizations have had to contend with warbands in their last years, and the record of attempts to quell them by military force is not good. At best, a given massing of warbands can be defeated and driven back into whatever stateless area provides them with their home base; a decade or two later, they can be counted on to return in force.

Systematic attempts to depopulate their home base simply drive them into other areas, causing the collapse of public order there.

Once warband culture establishes itself solidly on the fringes of a civilization, history suggests, the entire civilized area will eventually be reduced to failed-state conditions by warband incursions, leading to a dark age. Nothing guarantees that the modern industrial world is immune from this same process.

The spread of failed states around the periphery of the industrial world is thus an existential thread not only to the United States but to the entire project of modern civilization.

What makes this a critical issue is that US foreign policy and military actions have repeatedly created failed states in which warband culture can flourish: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Ukraine are only the most visible examples. Elements of US policy toward Mexico—for example, the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning scheme—show worrisome movement in the same direction.

Unless these policies are reversed, the world of 2035 may face conditions like those that have ended civilization more than once in the past.

FIVE: The end of the Holocene environmental optimum. 
All things considered, the period since the final melting of the great ice sheets some six millennia ago has been extremely propitious for the project of human civilization. Compared to previous epochs, the global climate has been relatively stable, and sea levels have changed only slowly.

Furthermore, the globe six thousand years ago was stocked with an impressive array of natural resources, and the capacity of its natural systems to absorb sudden shocks had not been challenged on a global level for some sixty-five million years.

None of those conditions remains the case today. Ongoing dumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is rapidly destabilizing the global climate, and triggering ice sheet melting in Greenland and Antarctica that promises to send sea levels up sharply in the decades and centuries ahead.

Many other modes of pollution are disrupting natural systems in a galaxy of ways, triggering dramatic environmental changes.

Meanwhile breakneck extraction is rapidly depleting the accessible stocks of hundreds of different nonrenewable resources, each of them essential to some aspect of contemporary industrial society, and the capacity of natural systems to cope with the cascading burdens placed upon them by human action has already reached the breaking point in many areas.

The end of the Holocene environmental optimum—the era of relative ecological stability in which human civilization has flourished—is likely to be a prolonged process. By 2035, however, current estimates suggest that the initial round of impacts will be well under way.

Shifting climate belts causing agricultural failure, rising sea levels imposing drastic economic burdens on coastal communities and the nations to which they belong, rising real costs for resource extraction driving price spikes and demand destruction, and increasingly intractable conflicts pitting states, non-state actors, and refugee populations against one another for remaining supplies of fuel, raw materials, topsoil, food, and water.

US military planners will need to take increasingly hostile environmental conditions into account. They will also need to prepare for mass movements of refugees out of areas of flooding, famine, and other forms of environmental disruption, on a scale exceeding current refugee flows by orders of magnitude.

Finally, since the economic impact of these shifts on the United States will affect the nation’s ability to provide necessary resources for its military, plans for coping with cascading environmental crises will have to take into account the likelihood that the resources needed to do so may be in short supply.

Those are the five contexts for conflict I foresee. What makes them even more challenging than they would otherwise be, of course, is that none of them occur in a vacuum, and each potentially feeds into the others.

Thus, for example, it would be in the national interest of Russia and/or China to help fund and supply a domestic insurgency in the United States (contexts ONE and TWO); emergent warbands may well be able to equip themselves with the necessary gear to engage in monkeywrenching attacks against US forces sent to contain them (contexts FOUR and THREE); disruptions driven by environmental change will likely help foster the process of warband formation (contexts FIVE and FOUR), and so on.

That’s the future hiding in plain sight: the implications of US policies in the present and recent past, taken to their logical conclusions.

The fact that current Pentagon assessments of the future remain so tightly fixed on the phenomena of the present, with no sense of where those phenomena lead, gives me little hope that any of these bitter outcomes will be avoided.


For Purely Technical Reasons

SUBHEAD: The electric car offers elites a way of setting themselves apart from the gasoline-burning riffraff. 

By Dmitry Orlov on 18 October 2016 for Club Orlov -

Image above: The golf cart parking places are all full at the Lake Sumter Landing Town Center at The Villages, a gated retirement community in Florida. Photo by Stephen M. Dowell. From (

It is tempting for us to think that our technological choices—whether we choose to live in a city, a suburb or out in the country; whether we want to drive a pick-up truck, a gasoline-electric hybrid or ride a bicycle; whether we take a train, drive long distances or fly—are determined by our tastes.

We may flatter ourselves that we are in control, and that our choices are reflective of our enlightened, environmentally conscious values. This view rests on a foundation of circular reasoning: we behave in enlightened ways because we are enlightened, and we are enlightened because, to wit, we behave in enlightened ways.

As to why what we consider enlightened is in fact enlightened rather than a question of possibly questionable personal taste—that is not to be discussed: de gustibus non est disputandum.

But there is an alternative viewpoint, which seems more realistic in many ways, because it rests on a foundation of physical, technical specifics rather than fickle and arbitrary consumer preference, whim or taste.

From this viewpoint, our technology and associated lifestyle choices are dictated by the technical requirements of their underlying technologies, both physical (the operation of the energy industry, the transportation industry, etc.) and political (the operation of political machines that segregate society by net worth and income, relegating wage-earners to a global disenfranchised underclass).

A few years ago I found out that I needed to replace the diesel engine on my boat (the old one blew up definitively) and looked at a number of options, one of which was to replace it with an electric motor and a large bank of batteries.

The electric option was touted as being quiet, non-polluting, and having just enough range to get in and out of the marina and to get back to dock if the wind died during a typical daysail. It turned out to be more than twice as expensive as a replacement diesel engine.

As to what one might do to take such a boat any great distance (that involves many hours of motoring) the solution is to… add a diesel engine hooked up to a very large alternator, at triple the cost of just replacing the diesel. And so I just replaced the diesel.

Diesel engines have a lot of positive qualities: they can run continuously for tens of thousands of hours; they can be rebuilt many times just by replacing the bearings, the cylinder sleeves, the piston rings and the valves; they are exceptionally reliable; the fuel they use is energy-dense.

For these reasons, they are found throughout freight and construction industries and are used for small-scale power generation. They can be very large: the larger ships have engines that are as big as houses, with ladders welded to their cylinder walls, so that servicemen can climb down into them to service them after the cylinder head and the piston assembly are pulled out using an overhead shop crane.

Small diesel engines make a lot less sense, and the silliest of them are the ones found on small yachts. There are many aspects of their design that make them silly, but there is also an overriding reason: they use the wrong fuel.

You see, diesel is a precious commodity, used in the transportation industry (by trucks, locomotives and ships), and in construction equipment, with no alternative that is feasible. A cousin of diesel fuel is jet fuel—another petroleum distillate—that is used to power jet engines, again, with no alternative that is feasible.

And then there is a fuel that is only really useful as a small engine fuel: gasoline, that is. Gasoline engines beyond a certain size become much more trouble than they are worth.

Each barrel of crude oil can be distilled and refined into a certain amount of diesel and jet fuel, a certain amount of gasoline, some tar and some far less useful substances such as naphtha. The diesel is spoken for, because it literally moves the world; but if enough small engines cannot be found to burn all the gasoline that is produced, it becomes a waste product and has to be flared off at the oil refinery, at a loss.

Indeed, prior to Henry Ford coming up with the brilliant plan to build cars cheap enough for his workers to afford, gasoline was dumped into rivers just to get rid of it, because while everyone burned kerosene (a distillate, like jet fuel and diesel) in lamps, cars remained playthings of the rich, and there simply wasn’t a market for any great quantities of gasoline.

Therefore, it became very important to find ways to sell gasoline, by finding enough uses for it, no matter how superfluous they happened to be.

And although some people think that the private automobile is a symbol of luxury and freedom and feel the thrill of the open road, the reason they think that is because these ideas were implanted in their heads by the people who were tasked with finding a market for gasoline.

Alongside cars, great effort was put into marketing all sorts of other small engines: for lawn mowers, jet skis, motorcycles, ATVs, boat outboard motors… The only semi-industrial use of gasoline is in chainsaws, small generators and air compressors, service and delivery vehicles, and outboard engines.

And so people were sold on the idea of driving their own car, whether they needed to or not, and spending lots of time stuck in traffic—all so that they would pay for gasoline. By causing all that excess traffic congestion, they also created the need to widen roads and highways, generating demand for another borderline useless petroleum product: road tar.

And since there was a problem with cramming all these cars into cities (where cars are generally not needed if the cities are laid out using proper urban design, with sufficient numbers of tram, light rail and subway lines, etc.) the solution was to move everybody out to the suburbs.

And so the reason half of the US population now lives in suburbia and drives has nothing to do with their needs, and everything to do with the need to sell them gasoline.

Some people may react negatively to the idea that their suburban castle and their magic chariot are all just part of a plan to make them spend much of their life paying for the right to dispose of toxic waste in unsafe ways.

Rest assured, their pre-programmed negative reaction is part of the plan. Every effort has been made to program people to think that this waste disposal job—carried out at one's own expense—is, in fact, something that should be considered a sign of success.

The most efficient way to motivate a slave to perform is to convince him that he is free. To this end, driving is celebrated in music and film and portrayed as a way of life.

Calling it what it is—being a slave to a machine—is bound to cause cognitive dissonance, all the more so because driving a lot destroys one's mind: in the immortal words of a character from the movie Repo Man, ”The more you drive, the less intelligent you become.”

In this respect, most of the people living in the US are far past the point of no return, and it is pointless to attempt to impart to them any ideas that are discordant with the dead-end lifestyle into which they have been unconsciously coerced.

Getting back to electric vehicles, such as what my boat would have ended up if I were gullible and made of money: they are obviously a defective idea.

Their range is limited, they take longer to charge than it takes to fill a gas tank, and they use expensive and dangerous lithium-ion batteries that need periodic replacement.

There is not enough lithium available to continue making batteries for laptops and smartphones (which periodically burst into flames), never mind providing for a giant expansion of battery-building to support lots of electric cars.

Perhaps most importantly, they shrink the market for gasoline. So, what’s the reason behind the push?

It certainly isn’t part of any particular effort to electrify transportation in general, because no electric solution exists for ships or planes, and electrifying rail freight is an impossibly expensive proposition.

It certainly isn’t part of an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions, because most of the ways electricity is currently generated is by burning coal and natural gas—and will be, while supplies last, because electricity is hard to store, and no matter how many solar arrays and wind farms are installed something will be needed to power the electric grid on overcast, windless days.

No, the push for electric cars is motivated by a different sort of technology—political technology. You see, the oil age is drawing to a close. Last year the oil companies only discovered 1 barrel of oil for every 10 barrels they produced; at the turn of the century it was closer to one for every four.

At the same time, most of the easy-to-get-at oil has already been produced, and now it takes 1 barrel’s worth of energy to produce something like 10 barrels, whereas at the dawn of the age of oil it was closer to 1 for every 100 barrels.

Such a low level of net energy production is turning out to be insufficient to maintain an industrial civilization, and as a result economic growth has largely stalled out.

And although large investments in oil production have succeeded in keeping large volumes of oil flowing, for now, this is turning out to be an ineffective way to invest money, with many energy companies, once so profitable, now unable to pay the interest on their debt.

And even though constant injections of free money are currently keeping developed economies from cratering into bankruptcy, it has been clear for some time that each additional dollar of debt produces significantly less than a dollar’s worth of economic growth. Growing debt within a growing economy can be very nice; but if the economy isn’t growing as fast, it’s fatal.

As the oil age winds down, personal transportation, in the form of the automobile, is bound to once again become a plaything of the very rich.

But then, when it comes to electric cars, it already is! And I don’t mean Tesla: the most commonly used electric vehicle worldwide is the golf cart.

And who uses golf carts? Members of golf clubs; guests at resorts; residents of posh gated communities; employees at corporate and academic campuses… And what do all these people have in common? They are all members of the salaried elite; they are definitely not members of the wage-earning class.

To them, the electric car offers a way of preserving a semblance of the status quo for themselves while setting themselves apart (in their own minds) from all of the gasoline-burning riffraff.

Let the great unwashed in the flyover states, with their pickup trucks complete with gun racks, burn what’s left of the gasoline while overdosing on synthetic opiates while the salaried elites and individuals of high net worth, ensconced in their campuses and gated communities, will create a different future for themselves, replete with wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars (until they all get shot by all those they have disenfranchised).

Elites lost consent of the governed

SUBHEAD: The Great Divide in America is between the ruling Elite and the governed they have strip-mined.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 20 October 2016 for Of Two Minds -

Image above: Illustration of an uprising of peasants revolting against overlords. From (

Brimming with hubris and self-importance, the ruling Elite and mainstream media cannot believe they have lost the consent of the governed.

Every ruling Elite needs the consent of the governed: even autocracies, dictatorships and corporatocracies ultimately rule with the consent, however grudging, of the governed.

The American ruling Elite has lost the consent of the governed. This reality is being masked by the mainstream media, mouthpiece of the ruling class, which is ceaselessly promoting two false narratives:
  1. The "great divide" in American politics is between left and right, Democrat or Republican.

  2. The ruling Elite has delivered "prosperity" not just to the privileged few but to the unprivileged many they govern.
Both of these assertions are false. The Great Divide in America is between the ruling Elite and the governed that the Elite has strip-mined.

The ruling Elite is privileged and protected, the governed are unprivileged and unprotected. That's the divide that counts and the divide that is finally becoming visible to the marginalized, unprivileged class of debt-serfs.

The "prosperity" of the 21st century has flowed solely to the ruling Elite and its army of technocrat toadies, factotums, flunkies, apparatchiks and apologists.

The Elite's army of technocrats and its media apologists have engineered and promoted an endless spew of ginned-up phony statistics (the super-low unemployment rate, etc.) to create the illusion of "growth" and "prosperity" that benefit everyone rather than just the top 5%.

The media is 100% committed to promoting these two false narratives because the jig is up once the bottom 95% wake up to the reality that the ruling Elite has been stripmining them for decades.

As I have tirelessly explained, the U.S. economy is not just neoliberal (the code word for maximizing private gain by any means available, including theft, fraud, embezzlement, political fixing, price-fixing, and so on)--it is neofeudal, meaning that it is structurally an updated version of Medieval feudalism in which a top layer of financial-political nobility owns the engines of wealth and governs the marginalized debt-serfs who toil to pay student loans, auto loans, credit cards, mortgages and taxes--all of which benefit the financiers and political grifters.

The media is in a self-referential frenzy to convince us the decision of the century is between unrivaled political grifter Hillary Clinton and financier-cowboy Donald Trump. Both belong to the privileged ruling Elite: both have access to cheap credit, insider information (information asymmetry) and political influence.

The cold truth is the ruling Elite has shredded the social contract by skimming the income/wealth of the unprivileged.

The fake-"progressive" pandering apologists of the ruling Elite--Robert Reich, Paul Krugman and the rest of the Keynesian Cargo Cultists--turn a blind eye to the suppression of dissent and the looting the bottom 95% because they have cushy, protected positions as tenured faculty (or equivalent).

They cheerlead for more state-funded bread and circuses for the marginalized rather than demand an end to exploitive privileges of the sort they themselves enjoy.

Consider just three of the unsustainably costly broken systems that enrich the privileged Elite by strip-mining the unprivileged: healthcare (a.k.a. sickcare because sickness is profitable, prevention is unprofitable), higher education and Imperial over-reach (the National Security State and its partner the privately owned Military-Industrial Complex).

While the unprivileged and unprotected watch their healthcare premiums and co-pays soar year after year, the CEOs of various sickcare cartels skim off tens of millions of dollars annually in pay and stock options.

The system works great if you get a $20 million paycheck. If you get a 30% increase in monthly premiums for fewer actual healthcare services--the system is broken.

Creepy Cashless Society

SUBHEAD: Money may be a shared illusion, but cash abolitionists are in a hallucination all their own.

By Elaine Ou on 14 October 2016 for Bloomberg News -

Image above: US one-hundred dollar bills.  From (

It's fun to imagine a world without cash.

Liberated from the burden of physical currency, consumers could make purchases from the convenience of a mobile device.

Every transaction would come equipped with fraud protection, reward points and a digital record of its time and location. Comprehensive tracking could help the Internal Revenue Service reclaim billions of tax dollars lost to unreported income, like the $80 I made selling a used refrigerator on Craigslist. Drug dealers, helpless without an anonymous medium of exchange, would acquire wholesome professions. El Chapo might become a claims adjuster.

My musings about a cashless utopia were inspired by an article in the New Yorker this month by Nathan Heller.

A new book, "The Curse of Cash," by Kenneth Rogoff, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, doesn't go that far, but argues that big bills should be phased out, with coins perhaps replacing small bills someday as the alternative to electronic payments. Other economists have made the case for an outright ban on physical currency.

But this universe is missing one of the fundamental aspects of human civilization. A world without paper money is a world without money.

Money belongs to its current holder.  It doesn’t matter if a banknote was lost or stolen at some point in the past. Money is current; that’s why it’s called currency! A bank deposit, however, grants custody of money to the bank. An account balance is not actually money, but a claim on money.

This is an important distinction. A claim is only as good as its enforceability, and in a cashless society every transaction must pass through a financial gatekeeper. Banks, being private institutions, have the right to refuse transactions at their discretion.

We can’t expect every payment to be given due process.

This means that politically unpopular organizations could easily be deprived of economic access.  Past attempts to curb money laundering have already inadvertently cut off financial services for legitimate individuals, businesses, and charities. The removal of paper currency would undoubtedly leave similar collateral damage.

The crime-fighting case against cash is overstated. Last year, a risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing conducted by the U.K. government found that regulated institutions such as banks (like HSBC) and accountancy service providers (like the Panamanian tax-shelter specialist Mossack Fonseca ) posed the highest risk of facilitating the illicit storage or movement of funds.

Cash came in a close third, but if we’re going to cite unlawful transactions as a rationale for banning cash, it only makes sense to ban banks and accounting firms first.

According to a national U.K. risk assessment on money laundering Banks and accounting firms are more utilized for money laundering than cash.

The one benefit of replacing cash with claims on cash is that a claim can be discounted, canceled or seized. That doesn’t sound terribly beneficial to most people, but this attribute is attractive to a growing contingent that wants to send interest rates into negative territory.

As Rogoff explains, negative-interest-rate policy is an important tool for central banks to restore macroeconomic stability.

During times of slow economic growth, a lower cost of borrowing gives companies an incentive to invest and consumers to spend. Physical currency gets in the way of negative-interest-rate policy because people who don’t want to accrue negative interest can simply store their cash in a safe.

By confining the national currency to regulated account holdings, the government can impose a tax on savings in the name of monetary policy.

Now if there’s one thing the population is good at, it’s tax avoidance.

That’s a good part of why we’re having this conversation in the first place. If interest rates fall too far below zero, it’s possible that citizens would find an alternative form of cash. Drug traffickers certainly would.

Money has been repeatedly reinvented throughout history, as shells, cigarettes and cryptographic code. Humans are resourceful.

Rogoff acknowledges this risk, and states that the removal of paper money will only be effective "provided the government is vigilant about playing Whac-a-mole as alternative transaction media come into being."

This sounds a lot like a policy employed in 13th-century China, where the use of gold or silver as a medium of exchange was punishable by death. Such is not the hallmark of a free society, but neither is the abolition of cash.

A cashless economy violates the basic laws under which currency has operated since before the Industrial Revolution. The justification for giving up a fundamental freedom is that it would clear the way for an experimental policy designed to place a tax on currency. Money may be a shared illusion, but cash abolitionists are in a hallucination all their own.

(Corrects description of Kenneth Rogoff's book in third paragraph of article published Oct. 14.)

  1. From Henry Dunning Macleod’s The Theory of Credit:
    In Miller v. Race (1 Burr., 452), confirming Anonymous (1 Lord Raymond, 738), the Court of King's Bench decided that Bank Notes have the Credit and Currency of Money to all intents and purposes. "An action would lie against the finder; that no one disputes, but not after the Note had been paid away in Currency. An action would not lie against the defendant, because he took it in the course of Currency: and, therefore, it could not be followed into his hands. It never shall be followed into the hands of a person who bona fide took it in the course of Currency. A Bank Note is constantly and universally both at home and abroad, treated as Money, as cash: and it is necessary for the purposes of commerce, that their Currency should be established and maintained."

  2. WikiLeaks, for one example. Legal marijuana-related businesses, for another.

  3. Mossack Fonseca is a law firm and a one-stop shelter shop with services including tax and accounting advice. The U.K. National Risk Assessment characterizes its accountancy category as follows:

    “This includes not only accountancy firms, but also firms which offer a range of services including accountancy services, such as large financial institutions. Businesses providing accountancy services may also offer trust or company services, or other services covered under the regulations.”


The Perpetual Electronic Lineup

SOURCE: Russ Pascatore (
SUBHEAD: As an adult American chances are better than 50% your in the FBI facial recognition database.

By David Kravits on 18 October 2016 for Ars Technica -

Image above: Sample of "new' Hawaii driver's license introduced in 2010 to meet federal regulations permitting it to be used for security clearance situations like boarding an airplane, an international identity check or for the federal facial recognition database. From (

Half of American adults are in a face-recognition database, according to a Georgetown University study released Tuesday. That means there's about 117 million adults in a law enforcement facial-recognition database, the study by Georgetown's Center on Privacy & Technology says.

"We are not aware of any agency that requires warrants for searches or limits them to serious crimes," the study says.

The report (PDF), titled "The Perpetual Line-up: Unregulated Police Face Recognition in America," shows that one-fourth of the nation's law enforcement agencies have access to face-recognition databases, and their use by those agencies is virtually unregulated.

"Innocent people don't belong in criminal databases," said Alvaro Bedoya, the executive director of the Center on Privacy & Technology and co-author of the study.

"By using face recognition to scan the faces on 26 states' driver's license and ID photos, police and the FBI have basically enrolled half of all adults in a massive virtual line-up. This has never been done for fingerprints or DNA. It's uncharted and frankly dangerous territory."

Where do the mug shots come from?

For starters, about 16 states allow the FBI to use facial recognition to compare faces of suspected criminals to their driver's licenses or ID photos, according to the study. "In this line-up," the study says, "it's not a human that points to the suspect—it's an algorithm."

The study says 26 states or more allow police agencies to "run or request searches" against their databases or driver's licenses and ID photos. This equates to "roughly one in two American adults has their photos searched this way," according to the study. Many local police agencies also insert mug shots of people they arrest into searchable, biometric databases, according to the report.

According to the report, researchers obtained documents stating that at least five "major police departments," including those in Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles, "either claimed to run real-time face recognition off of street cameras, bought technology that can do so, or expressed an interest in buying it."

The Georgetown report's release comes three months after the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the FBI has access to as many as 411.9 million images as part of its face-recognition database.

The bulk of those images are photographs of people who have committed no crime. That study, which provided examples of crimes solved by using the database, noted that the FBI database was used in investigations involving credit card and identity fraud, bank robberies, violent crime, and other felonies.

Meanwhile, the Georgetown study also said that police departments have little oversight of their databases and don't audit them for misuse:
Maryland's system, which includes the license photos of over two million residents, was launched in 2011. It has never been audited. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office system is almost 15 years old and may be the most frequently used system in the country. When asked if his office audits searches for misuse, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri replied, “No, not really.” Despite assurances to Congress, the FBI has not audited use of its face recognition system, either. Only nine of 52 agencies (17%) indicated that they log and audit their officers' face recognition searches for improper use. Of those, only one agency, the Michigan State Police, provided documentation showing that their audit regime was actually functional.
Clare Garvie, the report's lead author, sent records requests to 100 police departments. Only half of them acknowledged using facial recognition. Many of the agencies allow police to search for someone regardless of whether he or she is suspected of a crime.

"With only a few exceptions, there are no laws governing police use of the technology, no standards ensuring its accuracy, and no systems checking for bias" Garvie said. "It's a Wild West."