Putin and American foreign policy

Who is the enemy? Damned if I any longer know. This is from Mike Whitney, described as ” a contributor to “Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion“. The title: Putin Forces Obama to Capitulate on Syria:

The Russian-led military coalition is badly beating Washington’s proxies in Syria which is why John Kerry is calling for a “Time Out”.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for an emergency summit later in the week so that leaders from Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan could discuss ways to avoid the “total destruction” of Syria. According to Kerry, “Everybody, including the Russians and the Iranians, have said there is no military solution, so we need to make an effort to find a political solution. This is a human catastrophe that now threatens the integrity of a whole group of countries around the region,” Kerry added.

Of course, it was never a “catastrophe” when the terrorists were destroying cities and villages across the country, uprooting half the population and transforming the once-unified and secure nation into an anarchic failed state. It only became a catastrophe when Vladimir Putin synchronized the Russian bombing campaign with allied forces on the ground who started wiping out hundreds of US-backed militants and recapturing critical cities across Western corridor. Now that the Russian airforce is pounding the living daylights out of jihadi ammo dumps, weapons depots and rebel strongholds, and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is tightening their grip on Aleppo, and Hezbollah is inflicting heavy casualties on Jabhat al Nusra militants and other Al Qaida-linked vermin; Kerry’s decided it’s a catastrophe. Now that the momentum of the war has shifted in favor of Syrian president Bashar al Assad, Kerry wants a “Time out”.

Keep in mind, that Putin worked tirelessly throughout the summer months to try to bring the warring parties together (including Assad’s political opposition) to see if deal could be worked out to stabilize Syria and fight ISIS. But Washington wanted no part of any Russian-led coalition. Having exhausted all the possibilities for resolving the conflict through a broader consensus, Putin decided to get directly involved by committing the Russian airforce to lead the fight against the Sunni extremists and other anti-government forces that have been tearing the country apart and paving the way for Al Qaida-linked forces to take control of the Capital. Putin’s intervention stopped the emergence of a terrorist Caliphate in Damascus. He turned the tide in the four year-long war, and delivered a body-blow to Washington’s malign strategy. Now he’s going to finish the job.

Putin is not gullible enough to fall for Kerry’s stalling tactic. He’s going to kill or capture as many of the terrorists as possible and he’s not going to let Uncle Sam get in the way.

These terrorists–over 2,000 of who are from Chechnya–pose an existential threat to Russia, as does the US plan to use Islamic extremists to advance their foreign policy objectives. Putin takes the threat seriously. He knows that if Washington’s strategy succeeds in Syria, it will be used in Iran and then again in Russia. That’s why he’s decided to dump tons of money and resources into the project. That’s why his Generals have worked out all the details and come up with a rock-solid strategy for annihilating this clatter of juvenile delinquents and for restoring Syria’s sovereign borders. And that’s why he’s not going to be waved-away by the likes of mealy-mouth John Kerry. Putin is going to see this thing through to the bitter end. He’s not going to stop for anyone or anything. Winning in Syria is a matter of national security, Russia’s national security…..

The entire US political establishment supports the removal of Assad and the breaking up of Syria. Kerry’s sudden appeal for dialogue does not represent a fundamental change in the strategy. It’s merely an attempt to buy some time for US-backed mercenaries who are feeling the full-brunt of the Russia’s bombing campaign. Putin would be well-advised to ignore Kerry’s braying and continue to prosecute his war on terror until the job is done.

That bit in bold. I didn’t know that. Is it true? Is that really what they want? Seems perfect for ISIS to me, but what do I know? But given Obama’s approach to Libya, Egypt and Israel, whatever the “US political establishment” wants, I am inclined to take the other side.

The problem of under-regulation

I’m at a Writing Retreat where I hope to finish off my “Classical Criticisms of Keynesian Theory”. And as it happened, this piece of writing by Tom Butler-Bowden arrived just last night. If you don’t know Butler-Bowden and his 50 Classics Series you really should. He started with self-help books, moved onto philosophy and politics in his last two and next will be Economics and Wealth Creation. He analyses and explains in about half a dozen pages the central message of each of these books, and I have to say that his ability is uncanny. On all the authors I know I have never had a quibble about his insight and balance so I feel I can trust him on the others. This is on what it takes to move from an idea to actually finishing a project. I won’t give away anything by telling you that what it requires is concentrated WORK.

The epiphany problem

My initial motivation to write was a desire to understand what made people successful. The earlier books in particular, covering self-help, success and psychology, were the public result of a private investigation into possible ‘secrets’ which, if followed, would virtually guarantee that one’s wishes would become reality. From this project came two things:

1) A distrust of inspiration.
2) An appreciation of time in achievement.

Being inspired is the starting point of anything great, and the moment of inspiration itself is highly pleasurable. But such intellectual highs don’t help us get things done. This ‘epiphany problem’ is becoming better appreciated now, and I enjoyed a recent blog by Peter Shallard on the subject.

Peter mentions Allan Wheelis, a psychoanalyst who noted that there was a point in the 20th century when Freudian therapy no longer seemed to work. The therapy had not changed, so why exactly did it stop working? Wheelis argued that what had changed was people’s capacity for self-control. Freud’s early patients had come of age in the late Victorian era, a time when people were arguably more self-reliant and disciplined, and if Freud told them to make some change, they jolly well did so. But as the 20th century progressed, the capacity for self-regulation and self-discipline waned, just as our exposure to ‘inspiration’ increased. The result: more epiphanies, and less ability to turn them into measurable change.

BaumeisterWillpower

Shallard refers to Roy Baumeister, the social psychologist and author of Willpower (2012), who describes self-regulation failure as “the major social pathology of our time.” In less intellectual terms, and speaking to his entrepreneur audience, Shallard writes:

“If you’re someone who feels like you’re going crazy experiencing breakthrough after breakthrough, but you’re STILL not getting the results in life and business that you know you’re capable of… well, you might have a Self-Regulation problem. More epiphanies won’t help you. Building your self control muscles will.”

Most days I work in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. People are working on lengthy dissertations on Virgil’s poetry, or researching Descartes’ mind-body problem, or getting to the nub of Augustine’s City of God. There is good Wi-Fi in the building, but I’m always struck how little time people seem to spend checking Facebook, or catching up with the news, or shopping on Amazon. When they have decided they are going to work on something, they do it. This ability to self-regulate, I would venture, has played an important part in getting them to a top university and increasing their chances in life. You may be very talented or smart, you may have perfect material conditions to pursue a goal, but none of this counts if you are not able to control your behavior and work habits to an extent that you can get things done.

By the way, I am not claiming to be great at self-control myself; there are so many things that take our attention these days and I can easily waste a morning on trifles! But at least I know that epiphanies don’t last, and that ultimately what gets achieved is thanks to work. The world is full of good ideas, what is rarer is good execution.

My Dad, bless him – it would have been his 98th birthday today – used to tell me the same thing by quoting Thomas Edison: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. It’s the same with all ideas that turn into profitable enterprise. It’s not the idea of itself but the commercialisation that makes it happen. Ideas are dime a dozen, but the ability to turn ideas into products that can be profitably produced is something else again.

Alan Kohler on central banks and Keynesian economics

This is Alan Kohler explaining why “Central Banks Are Destroying The World”. There’s no doubt they are doing everything they can, and there are not a lot of people around who will say this in public. But I mention his comments since it is nice to see myself mentioned in despatches.

These days our “patrician overlords” are central bankers, benignly manipulating our behaviour (“aggregate demand” they call it) by adjusting the price and availability of the thing we all so crave – credit.

The question for this week is: what should they, and you, do instead? Bearing in mind the old joke that if you wanted to get to Dublin, you wouldn’t start from here.

Well, there’s no doubt in my mind that “they” – the Fed, ECB and Bank of Japan – need to start raising interest rates pronto, and stop worrying about inflation being too low. It’s caused by technology reducing costs and debt suppressing consumption and investment – not by a shortage of demand that can be reversed by monetary policy. Specifically they should allow the market to set interest rates, just as the market sets most other prices. But these are not, to say the least, mainstream opinions.

As an old friend of mine, Steve Kates of RMIT University, wrote in his book Free Market Economics:

“Today, there is no aspect of an economy’s structure that governments do not believe themselves capable of making a positive contribution towards. … Such actions are not undertaken with a sense of dread at the possible unintended consequences. They are undertaken with a confidence that is simply unwarranted…”

“To believe that some central agency can plan ahead for entire economy is one of the major fallacies often associated with economic cranks. No single person, no central body, no government agency can ever know anything remotely like what needs to be known if an economy is to produce the goods and services the community wants, never mind being able to innovate or adjust to new circumstances.”

In my view, those “goods and services” include credit. Our patrician overlords at the central banks believe themselves capable of determining how much of it we need and at what price.

The Keynesian economic central planners went into hiding after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and the failure and corruption of Soviet style Marxism became evident. After that, and after the recession of 1991, the world had 10 years of spectacular growth due, in part, to interest rates being left to find their own level. However after the tech crash of 2000, the real Fed funds rate was taken negative – what Keynes called “the euthanasia of the rentier” – on the basis that wealth creation through rising assets prices would lead to economic growth.

Charles Gave of GaveKal Research calls this “one of the stupidest ideas ever put forward in economics”. It led to an explosion in debt and speculation on housing, which led, in turn, to the 2008 credit crisis, and Great Recession.

Instead of learning from this mistake, the central bankers then went all the way – reducing nominal rates to zero and keeping them there for six years.

To a large extent the current thinking is based on the proposition that we face “secular stagnation” a phrase rediscovered by former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers (it was originally coined by Alvin Hansen in 1938, in a book called “Full Recovery or Stagnation?”).

Those promoting this idea today don’t remember that it’s the same incorrect argument that was floated towards the end of the 1930s, and they don’t believe that if left to its own devices the economy would go back to normal. Instead they think the world’s entrepreneurs, business people and consumers would somehow remain comatose if central bankers et al didn’t poke at them to wake up. Central bankers have never run a business themselves but are totally confident in their ability to goad businesses and consumers into action and then distributing the proceeds.

These are the misguided vanities of what Lewis Lapham calls our patrician overlords. Economic growth is failing to recover because central bank actions have increased the stock of debt, which is weighing on the world’s economy like a heavy blanket. It needs to be cleared, through being priced correctly and borrowers and lenders recognising their losses. In other words, the free market must apply.

As Steve Kates wrote: “The problem lies in the belief that that the natural state for an economy is for it to be growing with unemployment low, when the reality is that the natural state for an economy is that it is adjusting to new circumstances during every moment of every day.”

The greatest of all Keynesian disasters was to promote the idea that economists have any idea on what to do to make economies grow. As it happens, our growth over the past sixty years has been in spite of our economists, but I think the economic cranks are now in such control that they are pushing our economies backwards at unprecedented rates.

Living in a postmodern world

This is an article described as “reflections on the election of Justin Trudeau and the ‘idiotized’ culture” whose title is The Triumph of Drivel. It is specifically about Justin Trudeau, but having endured Barack Obama since 2008 and now Malcolm, I can only say I have got used to it as a phenomenon of our times. And what sort of phenomenon is that?

Perhaps I should explain what I mean by “drivel.” I could write “lies,” but these are only possible to those who have criteria for the truth. Drivel is what people talk who have no such criteria. The fact that what they’re saying may be true, or untrue, is of no significance to them. It is enough that it sounds plausible. The truthful man knows when he is lying; the postmodern man neither knows nor cares. He can believe himself “good,” as drivellers will do, because truth doesn’t come into it.

The old-style politician told knowing lies. The new-style politician doesn’t know what “lies” are. He uses the term rhetorically, against anything he doesn’t want to hear. The old-style politician would back down when confronted with the truth. The new-style politician doesn’t know what you are talking about. He assumes you are only trash-talking him.

So let us listen to how Malcolm describes events as they have transpired:

“This is the government of Australia, it’s not the Tony Abbott government, it’s not the Malcolm Turnbull government, we can be prime ministers but we are here to serve others,” he said. He also said he had learnt from his own downfall that it was vital for a leader to be collaborative and consultative.

“The one thing I have learnt and learnt this not just from my own experience but also from others (is) the absolutely critical importance of recognising that this is an exercise in collaboration. I’m not the president, I’m the Prime Minister. I am first among equals,” he said in a clear reference to the complaints about Mr Abbott not involving his colleagues enough in decision making.

Ridiculous. Just words with no sincerity. He can’t even fake it, he’s such a phoney, but those folks at The Australian just lap it up. So I return to the conclusion of the original article I quoted:

“The people” believe in drivel, too, as they have just proved. As I’ve mentioned before, a growing percentage of the general voting population has been morally and intellectually debilitated — “idiotized” is my preferred term — by postmodern media and education, and by spiritual neglect within (often broken) postmodern homes. Large vested interests can lead them by the nose, even while they imagine themselves victims of conspiracy.

Postmodern media! The folks of Europe have just discovered how the reality they live in has nothing much in common with what they read in the papers, see on the news or hear from their political leaders. Idiotized may do, but it is a form of political insanity for which no solution that I can think of now exists.

AND FURTHERMORE: That Barack Obama is delusional is truly the only explanation I can think of for his behaviour. He is leading America into a cesspit of social disorder, both nationally and across the world. His only friends are the deep left and the media. I would hardly be the first to describe him as a narcissist. Continuing this theme, the following was picked up via Andrew Bolt, an article by Paddy Manning in the SMH titled: Bad blood and bastardry: how Malcolm Turnbull became opposition leader. This is the passage I find so absorbing, but the lead-up in the article to Brendan Nelson’s comment quoted below is quite astonishing. I remember none of the events, but what I do remember is that Peter Costello gave away the leadership of the Liberal Party in 2007 because he could not bear having to deal with Malcolm. This might be why:

A doctor by profession, Nelson told journalist Peter Hartcher he genuinely believed Turnbull had a “narcissistic personality disorder … He says the most appalling things and can’t understand why people get upset. He has no empathy.”

In the modern world, with the media structured as it is with its far left perspective, this may be the only kind of personality type that can survive the never-ending negativity. The most personally decent man to ascend to become Prime Minister in a very long time, Tony Abbott was driven from office by the media left along with the left in general for whom personal values count for nothing against their own agenda. Malcolm, however, will do just fine.

Our very own Justin Trudeau

That Malcolm is an economic illiterate has always been evident, but if you are looking for more proof, there is this (picked up at Andrew Bolt):

He wants to trigger a big surge in Australian spending on infrastructure by changing the way the federal government has always operated.

He cheerfully admits that this is “an argument I lost in the Howard government” as minister responsible for water…

It’s now urgent with the economy slowing as the mining boom recedes. Infrastructure investment will partly take up “the slack”, he says…

“I think the Commonwealth should take a more active role,” he tells Fairfax Media. “We should be prepared to actually invest as opposed to simply making grants…”

Economics is supposed to be his long suit but he remains more clueless than the most clueless Keynesian. You might have hoped that the experience with the NBN would have tempered his enthusiasm for Commonwealth-directed expenditures, but apparently not. Losing billions is fine, since in this weird approach to economic prosperity, its the spending that gives you the growth. How stupid do you have to be not to see that spending represents the cost of the project. It is the revenue you get later that is the benefit. And having watched Malcolm for the last month or so, it is true that as short a suit as his economic credentials are, economics is his longest suit. Both Canada and Australia have traded in common sense for a fashion statement, and we are both going to regret this for a very long time to come.

What difference at this time does it make?

It doesn’t make any difference at all because 40% of the United States will vote for her no matter what, plus 90% of all voting residents of American cemeteries, plus 100% of undocumented migrants who are not legally entitled to vote but demand the franchise. Not to mention those who vote more than once who make up around 5-10% of the total vote count. Nor should we forget that important hacker-minority who are able to rewire voting machines who account for another important demographic. Plus the 80% of journalists who will tell you every day that no one is more deserving of the trust of the American people, especially given the high quality of service to the country she has shown in all of her previous lines of work. I don’t know why this Gowdy chap was being so mean to her, but what else can you expect from a Republican? In the second video below, the Democrat chair was much more solicitous of her condition when she had her pre-presidential coughing fit before the cameras.

That she is heading to the Democrat nomination in spite of everything imaginable standing in her way other than a form of partisanship no one could have imagined say going back to the 1990s is undeniable. You can be sure that the prevailing interests driving this outcome are not those of illegal migrants or minority groups but they are the interests of someone. Who they are? Why do they want her? How they are pulling the ropes? In relation to all of this I have no idea but their ability to control events is impressive.

Fantasy v Reality

Fantasy world

Let them in and let them earn from the idiots at The Economist:

By moving to Europe, with its predictable laws and efficient companies, they can become several times more productive, and their wages rise accordingly.

Sceptics may retort that the cultural impact of migration is profoundly unsettling, and that Europe is neither willing nor able to absorb big inflows. Europeans recoil when they see crowds of unassimilated, jobless immigrants, as in parts of Paris or Malmo. And they fear Islamist terrorism, especially after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the disarming of a gun-wielding Moroccan on a French train last week.

Not all who express such fears are bigots. And it is clear that monitoring of jihadist groups needs to be stepped up. But the answer to the broader question—how can Europe assimilate migrants better?—can be summarised in three words: let them work. This formula does well in London, New York and Vancouver. Jobs keep young men out of trouble. In the workplace, migrants have to rub along with locals and learn their customs, and vice versa. Which is why policies that keep newcomers idle are so destructive, from Britain’s restrictions on asylum-seekers working to Sweden’s rigid labour laws that make it uneconomic to hire the unskilled. A more open Europe with more flexible labour markets could turn the refugee crisis into an opportunity, just as America did with successive waves of refugees in the 20th century, including plenty from Europe. Let them in, and let them earn.

And what’s the plan if they don’t work and don’t earn? Send them home? Let them starve? Live on welfare? Your addresses at The Economist should all be taken down and refugee centres opened across the road from where each and every one of you live.

Real World

migrants to europe

Aside from not knowing any European language, remind me what skills these people have that can be put to work.

From A Lurker on this thread

Global warming – that is, its absence – properly displayed

temperatures in fahrenheit

The diagram is from Steve Hayward at Powerline which he includes in a post he titles, The Only Global Warming Chart You Need From Now On. A tad over-optimistic about the AGW crowd actually paying attention to facts and data, but it really is quite an interesting perspective. He writes:

What if you display the same data with the axis starting not just from zero, but from the lower bound of the actual experienced temperature range of the earth? I had never thought of this until an acquaintance sent it along today.

A little hard to get worked up about this, isn’t it? In fact you can barely spot the warming. No wonder you need a college education to believe in the alarmist version of climate change. No wonder the data (click here for original NASA data if you want to replicate it yourself) is never displayed this way in any of the official climate reports.

If this chart were published on the front page of newspapers the climate change crusaders would be out of business instantly.

Alas, it is the people who decide what goes onto the front pages who are most enthralled by climate change. They won’t report anything that fosters a more judicious consideration of the facts because not only do they not believe any of this on principle, they are also unwilling even to discuss any of it in an open forum with those who actually could take them on – Ian Plimer say. For myself, I would prefer that there really were facts to go with the scare than that we should live at such a time when something as obviously untrue as this is so widely believed, and especially by those who are supposedly well educated and are, in theory, trained to take a more sceptical look at issues such as this.