Skypecast: Foreign Policy into 2009 (Audio Content)

Scott and I discuss economics, the global political frame, and the future into 2009.  We begin by discussing a recent fairly grim post of mine (Happy New Year!!!) and then discuss potential creative ways out of the morass.

[Click the links below, pts1 & 2 for the audio.]



Thomas Barnett post
My apocalyptic post
James Poulos’ Uncrackables
John Robbforeign-policy1

Scott’s post/embedding of the audio (if you have trouble on mine)

Some Apocalyptic Thoughts for Monday Afternoon

Warning:  This is some very disturbing analysis.  I hope I’m 100% wrong on this one.  I’ve also thought the scenario I outline below was possible for 2009 but through the end of October/early November, I thought it still somewhat remote.  I’m less confident and increasingly pesimisstic about the potential for this scenario to be very real, very much in play (more and more likely by the day it seems as of now with no wise leadership or counter-movements to help block the momentum).  So be warned.  I’m not in the business of fear-peddling or fear-hyping, but these are dark thoughts.  There are not the only ones within my brain, but I have been appalled (even fairly cynical me) by the responses across the board to this crisis and the sense that there is no Wizard behind the curtain.

I’m increasingly growing very disturbed by the way global events are proceeding.  A chain of potential explosions across the grid of the globe looks frighteningly more plausible by the day.  Meanwhile the US media is caught in wonderful tales of some pathetic Illinois Governor and a dude launching his foot wear. Here in Canada it’s about the potential of a coalition government.

All of which still assume a top-down model of power, a kind of view of the stability of large scale social organization that may all be swept away.  Reading the newspapers and frankly much of the blogosphere is becoming an increasingly useless exercise for me.  Particularly when it comes to political discussion:  left, right, libertarian, progressive, blah blah.  All of those discussions are assuming the continued existence in some form or other or our social-technological cultural foundations.

To me its increasingly as if reading the news in the ancient ziggurat/city-state culture a few months before Alexander the Great came conquering across Eurasian and installed the Hellenistic world and swept away the decaying, crumbling previous world era.  Like I said some apocalyptic thoughts.

The economic story would go like this:  the American consumer is dead and has been flogged to the breaking point of exhaustion.  Who then is going to buy all those Asian products?  Who can they sell their wares to?  The Asian economies contract leading them to stop buying the commodities across the Global South (esp. Latin America and Africa) that have led to that bubble (see the mass decrease in the price of oil recently).  Huge deflationary movements across the global simultaneously.  Much more rapidly and the fragility (i.e. non-redundancy) of the global platform system bleeds out.

As Niall Ferguson in his epic The War of the World, the great catacylsm and spasm of violence across the globe emanating from Europe during the 20th century (First War, Second War, Cold War) consisted of the inter-locking reality of the three “E”s:  empire, economics, and ethnicity.  Empire being the death of imperial systems.  See the decline of the US.  Also with all the talk of the coming Asian Century (rise of India/China), this could all be swept away by the economic meltdown.  The Asian Century that wasn’t in other words.  Still-born Asian Century.  The vacuum created by the implosion of economic and imperial systems, is filled by ethnic hatreds that flare up to the consternation and shock of many who assume a cosmopolitan order of peace and security (all fine when the economy and governance is roughly holding up).

The most likely early hot spots of ethnic hatred is the band of the Middle East (Lebanon, Iraq, Kurdistan, Iran, Syria???, through obviously Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India).  Other increased zones of violence would be Gap-status countires in the Western Hempishere (on smaller scale but still bloody).  Revived narco-fueled wars across Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador, southern Mexico.  Other ranges of violence: The Horn of Africa (another Somalia implosion on the horizon) as well as violence across the middle band (Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, and potential flare ups again in Congo).

The massive de-leveraging must continue and the question is only whether the end of the fall (which has at least 9 months, probably 12 to 24 to maybe even 36-40 to go. who the hell knows at this point) will end us worse than the build up.  Exposed, exhausted, and de-legitimized.  The space of de-legitimization to be filled by ethno-nationalistic movements across the board.

With the breakdown of nation-state systems (orange and blue in Spiral colors), comes a mass re-reddifying both in memetic coloring and potentially in real blood, merged with increased technological capacity (global platform) plus increased cognitive flexibility and complexity however merged to earlier moral/social systems. Roving bands of pirates (e.g. Somalia), terrorists (e.g. Mumbai), criminal networks (coming here already to Vancouver in preparation for the 2010 Olympics, particularly the global sex slavery/human chattel trade) counteracted by potentially increased technocratic elites holding onto whatever power they can, as civil libertiese erode due to the inability to come up with a worldwide republican security theory, class lines harden in the post-industrial societies, the social contract of the 20th century continues to break down (ask Ford, GM, Chrysler) as the Nation-State gives way to the (increainsgly predatory?) Market State.

Ferguson forget a fourth E:  Environment.  As in environmental degradation/destruction as a potential accelerant to the fire of the other three.  Something along the lines of Diamond’s Collapse scenario.

The idea that an infrastructure stimulus will jump start the US economy out of this bog seems increasingly detached from reality for me.  At the pace things are moving, if the wave swells become large enough, it isn’t going to matter, as it could all be swept away by the mega-forces aligning at the moment.

Like I said, God how I hope I’m  completely wrong on this one.

The Canadian Coalition Question

I sent this response to a friend via email re: Canadian coalition thoughts. I should have added that I thought the Gov. General’s decision to let PM Stephen Harper put the Parliament in recess (“prorouged” in the parlance) was a really big mistake. If we she was going to do that, she probably should have just refused the Coalition, refused the elections, and forced everybody back to work. Events are spinning far too fast, far too out of control, for this bush-league crap on both sides.

[Blank], I didn’t get a chance to answer your question about my thoughts on the coalition.

Some thoughts.

1. The natural governance of this country belongs to the left, minus a fracturing of the left. That has occurred in the last few years, hence the Conservatives have held (minority) power. The Liberals have always (mis)interpreted that “natural” reality (with some history behind them) as they being the natural party of the country. They are now learing that won’t always be the case in the 21st century.

2. Harper played a dumb dumb hand. He should have known that the left (and here I am including the Bloc as left-wing econ/pol) basically is pretty well ball-less, except for any moment when their ability to suck from the public teet will be taken from them. Only then will the leftites grow a pair and he is now seeing to his chagrin.

2a. Furthermore, Conservatives used to be modernist enough to believe results actually mattered. Sorry charlie, but they still do, postmodern world and all that included. You can’t govern like a majority party when you don’t get elected to one. To quote the great philosophers The Jeffersons, “fish don’t fry in the kitchen/beans don’t burn on the grill.”

2b. He is of course going back to classic right-wing “the gut politics of fear and loathing”–with his whinning about “we waz robbed” and “the socialists and the separatists are coming, the socialists and the separatists are coming!!!” Quick somebody put a couple lanterns up in the old north side of parliament. Which in essence communicates, “don’t vote us, just don’t vote the other guys.” Not exactly a winner of a strategy to say the least.

3. And here my emotional reactive side will speak. F–k all these guys. How can they be playing this level of kindergarten schoolyard politics now of all times? That’s probably an insult to kindergartens everywhere, in which case I apologize to them. This is also what happens when you put some humanitarian political-lite figurehead CBCer in for Gov. General, which should otherwise be a figurehead job but now of all times actually matters. And the person possibly least qualified to deal with it has the power. Exit/$64,000,000 Question: Who is she getting her advice from at this point?

4. Procedurally something has to be give in this country. Almost all the Anglo-American countries with paraliamentary systems are still dominated by two party rule: e.g. GB, Australia, US. But it has gotten to where this is a multi-party country. Either you rule by coalition in a multi-party democracy, you kill the other parties at the polls, or it don’t work. No cake and consumption simultaenously on this one. The only Anglo-paraliamentary system that has a tradition/culture of coalition building I can think of (off top of my head) is Israel. Obviously that scenario is complicated by the existence of Jewish/Zionist religious parties. But the basic danger of coalition building is utter fragmentation and small 9th parties, as it were, having massively dispropotionate weight since the coalition relies on them to pass something. (Opening for NDP? Greens?). Either get rid of the other parties or learn the art of coalition government.

5. While in theory I’m not opposed to coaliton governance, this is a kinda shady way to do it seems to me. Ideally, they should have run on a coalition platform. Something doesn’t feel quite right about it. But not because of the evil “SS” (socialists, separatists) coming upon us. The Liberals get handed their worst lost basically since Confederation and they get to be in power? Again, results actually matter. In a way I would say new elections, but they will be even lower turnout and further disillusion anyone from participation. Moreover, this coalition and temporary power grab could be in the medium/long term very bad for the Grits. They need a major thorough cleansing and overhaul: party platform, image, leadership, method of elections, age/gender, the whole works. They won’t do that if they get power in the interim because the right shot itself. Their leadership are arrogant fools, and they need to get a lesson in humility, or minus that as a possibility, shown the door.

6. So if the left does come into power, Afghanistan is going to loom huge. That will of course also depend on what Obama does or doesn’t do there, and whether NATO is viable in the 21st century.

On the domestic front, The Bloc will as they always will exist solely to suck up some free cash for Quebec. Who wants to be ideological anymore? Separatism? Come on, that’s so 1970s. The NDP will attempt to pull left in a more Neo-Keynesian fashion in the current economic meltdown. I’m fairly skeptical of infrastructure build up working as a way to get over a liquidity, solvency/credit crisis, but it would be good as build up for infrastructure. If such were to be the case, there will be stories years later of boondoggles and public back-scratching about who gets what projects.

If the coalition comes in, the right could self-destruct as they descend into a frenzied mania and cannibalize their own. The whole party has really been built on Harper. If he goes down, so may go the ship. The coalition could hold for a time, but its fissures will eventually surface one way or another. If they can find someway to deal with them, and deal with the econ crisis, they will be sitting fairly pretty. If not, both the right and the left will fracture and then who the hell knows what happens. In that scenario, plus real econ disaster, look from strange plus potentially scary outcomes (right wing or left-wing protectionism and/or nationalism). And the potential for a total constitutional crisis and the de-legitmation of The Confederation.

7. Plan B (or is it C or D?) at that point becomes go local and go hard. The formation of local resilient communities that weather the transition to the post-crisis form of economics, urban landscape across a series of vectors: security, food, currency/trust,

Just some thoughts.

Canadian Politics Update

To get a little pomo for a second, here’s me (quoting me) on October 16th:

Here’s what I wrote yesterday regarding the Liberals in Canada time out of power:

What all those scenarios have in common is that the left was fractured. What that means is that Canada is built so that the Liberals will always rule the country minus a scenario in which they are totally corrupt and/or lose their left flank.

From the NyTimes this morning:

But as the election post-mortems got under way on Wednesday, some Liberals were suggesting that the only way to take on Mr. Harper may be to adopt one of his own strategies. In the same way that Mr. Harper rebuilt right-of-center politics in Canada through political party mergers, some Liberals are now considering the idea of an alliance, formal or otherwise, between their centrist party and the left-of-center New Democratic Party, which is known as the N.D.P. and is led by Jack Layton.

And look what could be taking shape before our very eyes:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has temporarily stymied a Liberal plan to bring down the government and propose a governing coalition with the New Democrats, delaying the opportunity for a no-confidence vote by one week.

Now the cynic in me can not help but point to these two issues:

1. The separatists exist only to suck up taxpayer money and are pathetic (either grow a pair or you don’t get any, that’s how it works fellas)

The Bloc Québécois would not be part of any coalition government, but has expressed support for the idea as long as the coalition provides economic help for Quebec’s forest and manufacturing sectors.

2. Politicians can not rally to do anything in this country unless their tax-payer sponsored existences are on the line:

Also at issue was a proposal to save money by cutting public subsidies for political parties, but Kory Teneycke, director of communications for the Prime Minister’s Office, said Friday that the subsidies won’t be tied to the fiscal update set for a vote on Monday.

That measure would cut the $1.95-per-vote each party gets to fund such things as staffing and research. Removal of the subsidies would harm the opposition parties more than the ruling Conservatives, who have been more successful at raising money privately.

This analysis however seems quite sharp:

Strangely, removing the political funding component of the bill actually helps the opposition maintain momentum. The Conservative argument that the attempt to bring down the government is about crass political advantage is removed. Now the three “progressive” parties can say with a straight face that this is about the government’s policy, not its dollars.

The coalition-to-be (possibly) is now going to rally hard around the notion of a fiscal stimulus….a la the US Democrats, trying to pin Harper as Bush/Reagan-like and out of touch on the economy in a worldwide mini-depression (deflationary recession period of worldwide stagflation). It could work I suppose.  But the Liberals I still believe have to think long term about governing as a party with a vision, not an ad hoc temporary power grab.

We just had the lowest turnout in recent memory in our election just 2 months ago, and the Liberals after having received their lowest percentage vote total since I believe Confederation (1860s) could be in power?  Honestly?  How does this not further corrode the political system?

Clearly Harper’s plan was buffoonish with only a minority government.  He may be past his prime already–his election call was wrong, the arts comment he made as well as the hardline punishment stance for juveniles both of which killed his chances for a majority in Quebec, and now this.

The Liberals, whether in a coalition with ministries for the NDP or not, could come back but boy oh boy would they be headed for a fiscal and governmental crash.  The only thing worse than a fractured left out of power might be a fractured left in power.

Skypecast: Integral Politics (Audio Content)


Click the link above for a discussion of integral politics between Scott and I–the first in what we are hoping will be a series.  We had a technical glitch or two (per our usual) but is I believe worth the listen [I’m of course biased on this subject :)]

A whole mess ‘o links for those interested:

Ken Wilber:  (Basic Summary of his Model).  Video Introduction to Politics through his Philosophical Lens.
Ha Joon Chang (The Economic Developmental Piece):  Here and here.
Thomas Barnett (The Brief):  Here, here, here, and here.  Barnett’s map here:

Spiral Dynamics:  Here and Pt. 1 of an 8 part series of shorts that show each level of development (all 8 are on youtube).

Rick Mercer on Grits

Looks like Mercer agrees with Payne and I (or we with him or all of us with intelligent watchers) on the pathetic state of The Liberal Party in Canada–and their arrogance as the primary obstacle to their winning:

Published in: on October 24, 2008 at 6:40 pm  Comments (1)  
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Skypecast: Canadian Post-Election Analysis (Audio Content)



Scott and I got back together after a bit of a hiatus–it was good to get back–and discuss the results of the Canadian elections. Click the two links above for our conversation.

The analysis grows out of our respective articles at Culture11 which compared how Canadian conservatives may or may not provide a blueprint for the GOP to regain power.  Scott’s article hereMine here.  I nabbed the Canadian Flag pic’d above that accompanied our articles (and that I really dug with the blue on the Maple Leaf).**

We had a slight technical glitch, which was fun, you’ll hear.

Also towards the end as we are discussing conservative commentators, (I think) I referred to Kathleen Lopez, when I meant Kathryn Jean Lopez (K-Lo) from The Corner, author of the following brilliant kernel of wisdom:

Palin didn’t need Greek columns. People react to her because they believe she represents what the Greeks established.

So while I slipped on her name, I stand by my categorization of her work.

**For the Americans, in Canada (like Britain), the left is red and the right is blue, the reverse of the US.

Sarkozy a separatis: au contraire

For you Canadians out there, I think is a big deal–or just plain old fans of Confederation:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave a ringing endorsement of Canadian unity Friday, ushering in a new era in France’s relations with Canada that strikes a blow to the Quebec sovereignty movement.

In the first speech ever delivered by a French President in the Quebec National Assembly, Mr. Sarkozy said the days when France was always asked to choose between Canada and Quebec are over.

“We [Quebec and France] are equal partners … and we don’t have to exclude anyone. Our relationship is consistent with the place that France occupies in the European Union. You don’t ask us to choose Quebec or the European Union. And our relationship is consistent with the friendship that ties France with Canada,” Mr. Sarkozy said.

Published in: on October 18, 2008 at 8:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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Canadian Liberal Party

Here’s what I wrote yesterday regarding the Liberals in Canada time out of power:

What all those scenarios have in common is that the left was fractured. What that means is that Canada is built so that the Liberals will always rule the country minus a scenario in which they are totally corrupt and/or lose their left flank.

From the NyTimes this morning:

But as the election post-mortems got under way on Wednesday, some Liberals were suggesting that the only way to take on Mr. Harper may be to adopt one of his own strategies. In the same way that Mr. Harper rebuilt right-of-center politics in Canada through political party mergers, some Liberals are now considering the idea of an alliance, formal or otherwise, between their centrist party and the left-of-center New Democratic Party, which is known as the N.D.P. and is led by Jack Layton.

The sting of the corruption scandal still exists. And in a connected way, Stephane Dion has to be thrown out and younger leadership installed.

Published in: on October 16, 2008 at 8:22 am  Comments (1)  
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Did Bill Bennett Just Endorse Me and Scott?

Bill Bennett writes:

We haven’t spent enough time here speaking about Stephen Harper and it’s a bit odd, frankly, now that I think about it…We ought to promote Stephen Harper more in this country, and learn from him.

You don’t say.  I have this feeling someone just wrote something on that very topic.  Oh yeah now I remember. Maybe here and here. [same site even].

Published in: on October 15, 2008 at 4:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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