Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"World War III With China: How It Might Actually Be Fought"

"World War III With China:
How It Might Actually Be Fought"
by Alfred W. McCoy

"For the past 50 years, American leaders have been supremely confident that they could suffer military setbacks in places like Cuba or Vietnam without having their system of global hegemony, backed by the world's wealthiest economy and finest military, affected. The country was, after all, the planet's indispensible nation, as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright proclaimed in 1998 (and other presidents and politicians have insisted ever since). The U.S. enjoyed a greater  disparity of power over its would-be rivals than any empire ever, Yale historian Paul Kennedy announced in 2002. Certainly, it would remain  the sole superpower for decades to come,  Foreign Affairs magazine assured us just last year. During the 2016 campaign, candidate Donald Trump promised his supporters that  "We're gonna win with military... we are gonna win so much you may even get tired of winning." In August, while announcing his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, Trump reassured the nation: "In every generation, we have faced down evil, and we have always prevailed." In this fast-changing world, only one thing was certain: when it really counted, the United States could never lose.

No longer.

The Trump White House may still be basking in the glow of America's global supremacy but, just across the Potomac, the Pentagon has formed a more realistic view of its fading military superiority. In June, the Defense Department issued a major report titled on Risk Assessment in a Post-PrimacyWorld, finding that the U.S. military  no longer enjoys an unassailable position versus state competitors, and it no longer can automatically generate consistent and sustained local military superiority at range. This sober assessment led the Pentagon s top strategists to the jarring realization that we can lose. Increasingly, Pentagon planners find, the self-image of a matchless global leader provides a flawed foundation for forward-looking defense strategy under post-primacy conditions. This Pentagon report also warned that, like Russia, China is  engaged in a deliberate program to demonstrate the limits of U.S. authority; hence, Beijing's bid for  Pacific primacy  and its  campaign to expand its control over the South China Sea. 

China's Challenge: Indeed, military tensions between the two countries have been rising in the western Pacific since the summer of 2010. Just as Washington once used its wartime alliance with Great Britain to appropriate much of that fading empire's global power after World War II, so Beijing began using profits from its export trade with the U.S. to fund a military challenge to its dominion over the waterways of Asia and the Pacific.

Some telltale numbers suggest the nature of the future great power competition between Washington and Beijing that could determine the course of the twenty-first century. In April 2015, for instance, the Department of Agriculture reported that the U.S. economy would grow by nearly 50% over the next 15 years, while China's would expand by 300%, equaling or surpassing America s around 2030.

Similarly, in the critical race for worldwide patents, American leadership in technological innovation is clearly on the wane. In 2008, the United States still held the number two spot behind Japan in patent applications with 232,000. China was, however, closing in fast at 195,000, thanks to a blistering 400% increase since 2000. By 2014, China actually took the lead in this critical category with 801,000 patents, nearly half the world's total, compared to just 285,000 for the Americans.

With supercomputing now critical for everything from code breaking to consumer products, China's Defense Ministry outpaced the Pentagon for the first time in 2010, launching the world's fastest supercomputer, the Tianhe-1A. For the next six years, Beijing produced the fastest machine and last year finally won in a way that couldn't be more crucial: with a supercomputer that had microprocessor chips made in China. By then, it also had the most supercomputers with 167 compared to 165 for the United States and only 29 for Japan.

Over the longer term, the American education system, that critical source of future scientists and innovators, has been falling behind its competitors. In 2012, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development tested half a million 15-year-olds worldwide. Those in Shanghai came in first in math and science, while those in Massachusetts, a strong-performing U.S. state, placed 20th in science and 27th in math. By 2015, America s standing had declined to 25th in science and 39th in math.

But why, you might ask, should anybody care about a bunch of 15-year-olds with backpacks, braces, and attitude? Because by 2030, they will be the mid-career scientists and engineers determining whose computers survive a cyber attack, whose satellites evade a missile strike, and whose economy has the next best thing.

Rival Superpower Strategies: With its growing resources, Beijing has been laying claim to an arc of islands and waters from Korea to Indonesia long dominated by the U.S. Navy. In August 2010, after Washington expressed a  national interest  in the South China Sea and conducted naval exercises there to reinforce the claim, Beijing's Global Times responded angrily that  the U.S.-China wrestling match over the South China Sea issue has raised the stakes in deciding who the real future ruler of the planet will be. 

Four years later, Beijing escalated its territorial claims to these waters, building a nuclear submarine facility on Hainan Island and accelerating its dredging of seven artificial atolls for military bases in the Spratly Islands. When the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled, in 2016, that these atolls gave China no territorial claim to the surrounding seas, Beijing's Foreign Ministry dismissed the decision out of hand.

To meet China's challenge on the high seas, the Pentagon began sending a succession of carrier groups on "freedom of navigation" cruises into the South China Sea. It also started shifting spare air and sea assets to a string of bases from Japan to Australia in a bid to strengthen its strategic position along the Asian littoral. Since the end of World War II, Washington has attempted to control the strategic Eurasian landmass from a network of NATO military bases in Europe and a chain of island bastions in the Pacific. Between the "axial ends" of this vast continent, Washington has, over the past 70 years, built successive layers of military power - air and naval bases during the Cold War and more recently a string of 60 drone bases stretching from Sicily to Guam.

Simultaneously, however, China has conducted what the Pentagon in 2010 called "a comprehensive transformation" of its military meant to prepare the People's Liberation Army (PLA) for extended-range power projection. With the world's most active land-based ballistic and cruise missile program, Beijing can target its nuclear forces throughout most of the world, including the continental United States. Meanwhile, accurate missiles now provide the PLA with the ability to attack ships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific Ocean. In emerging military domains, China has begun to contest U.S. dominion over cyberspace and space, with plans to dominate  the information spectrum in all dimensions of the modern battle space. 

China's army has by now developed a sophisticated cyberwarfare capacity through its Unit 61398 and allied contractors that increasingly focus "on companies involved in the critical infrastructure of the United States - its electrical power grid, gas lines, and waterworks." After identifying that unit as responsible for a series of intellectual property thefts, Washington took the unprecedented step, in 2013, of filing criminal charges against five active-duty Chinese cyber officers.

China has already made major technological advances that could prove decisive in any future war with Washington. Instead of competing across the board, Beijing, like many late adopters of technology, has strategically chosen key areas to pursue, particularly orbital satellites, which are a fulcrum for the effective weaponization of space. As early as 2012, China had already launched 14 satellites into three kinds of orbits with  more satellites in high orbits and, better anti-shielding capabilities than other systems. Four years later, Beijing announced that it was on track to  cover the whole globe with a constellation of 35 satellites by 2020, becoming second only to the United States when it comes to operational satellite systems.

Playing catch-up, China has recently achieved a bold breakthrough in secure communications. In August 2016, three years after the Pentagon abandoned its own attempt at full-scale satellite security, Beijing launched the world s first quantum satellite that transmits photons, believed to be  invulnerable to hacking, rather than relying on more easily compromised radio waves. According to one scientific report, this new technology will create a super-secure communications network, potentially linking people anywhere. China was reportedly planning to launch 20 of the satellites should the technology prove fully successful.

To check China, Washington has been building a new digital defense network of advanced cyberwarfare capabilities and air-space robotics. Between 2010 and 2012, the Pentagon extended drone operations into the exosphere, creating an arena for future warfare unlike anything that has gone before. As early as 2020, if all goes according to plan, the Pentagon will loft a triple-tier shield of unmanned drones reaching from the stratosphere to the exosphere, armed with agile missiles, linked by an expanded satellite system, and operated through robotic controls.

Weighing this balance of forces, the RAND Corporation recently released a study, "War with China", predicting that by 2025 China will likely have more, better, and longer-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles; advanced air defenses; latest generation aircraft; quieter submarines; more and better sensors; and the digital communications, processing power, and C2 [cyber security] necessary to operate an integrated kill chain. 

In the event of all-out war, RAND suggested, the United States might suffer heavy losses to its carriers, submarines, missiles, and aircraft from Chinese strategic forces, while its computer systems and satellites would be degraded thanks to  improved Chinese cyberwar and ASAT [anti-satellite] capabilities. Even though American forces would counterattack, their growing vulnerability  means Washington's victory would not be assured. In such a conflict, the think tank concluded, there might well be no  clear winner. 

Make no mistake about the weight of those words. For the first time, a top strategic think-tank, closely aligned with the U.S. military and long famous for its influential strategic analyses, was seriously contemplating a major war with China that the United States would not win.

World War III: Scenario 2030: The technology of space and cyberwarfare is so new, so untested, that even the most outlandish scenarios currently concocted by strategic planners may soon be superseded by a reality still hard to conceive. In a 2015 nuclear war exercise, the Air Force Wargaming Institute used sophisticated computer modeling to imagine  a 2030 scenario where the Air Force's fleet of B-52s, upgraded with improved standoff weapons, patrol the skies ready to strike. Simultaneously,  shiny new intercontinental ballistic missiles  stand by for launch. Then, in a bold tactical gambit, B-1 bombers with full Integrated Battle Station (IBS) upgrade slip through enemy defenses for a devastating nuclear strike.

That scenario was no doubt useful for Air Force planners, but said little about the actual future of U.S. global power. Similarly, the RAND "War with China" study only compared military capacities, without assessing the particular strategies either side might use to its advantage.

I might not have access to the Wargaming Institute s computer modeling or RAND's renowned analytical resources, but I can at least carry their work one step further by imagining a future conflict with an unfavorable outcome for the United States. As the globe's still-dominant power, Washington must spread its defenses across all military domains, making its strength, paradoxically, a source of potential weakness. As the challenger, China has the asymmetric advantage of identifying and exploiting a few strategic flaws in Washington's otherwise overwhelming military superiority.

For years, prominent Chinese defense intellectuals like Shen Dingli of Fudan University have rejected the idea of countering the U.S. with a big naval build-up and argued instead for  cyberattacks, space weapons, lasers, pulses, and other directed-energy beams. Instead of rushing to launch aircraft carriers that  will be burned by lasers fired from space, China should, Shen argued, develop advanced weapons "to make other command systems fail to work." Although decades away from matching the full might of Washington's global military, China could, through a combination of cyberwar, space warfare, and supercomputing, find ways to cripple U.S. military communications and thus blind its strategic forces. With that in mind, here's one possible scenario for World War III:

It's 11:59 p.m. on Thanksgiving Thursday in 2030. For months, tensions have been mounting between Chinese and U.S. Navy patrols in the South China Sea. Washington s attempts to use diplomacy to restrain China have proven an embarrassing failure among long-time allies - with NATO crippled by years of diffident American support, Britain now a third-tier power, Japan functionally neutral, and other international leaders cool to Washington's concerns after suffering its cyber-surveillance for so long. With the American economy diminished, Washington plays the last card in an increasingly weak hand, deploying six of its remaining eight carrier groups to the Western Pacific.

Instead of intimidating China's leaders, the move makes them more bellicose. Flying from air bases in the Spratly Islands, their jet fighters soon begin buzzing U.S. Navy ships in the South China Sea, while Chinese frigates play chicken with two of the aircraft carriers on patrol, crossing ever closer to their bows.

Then tragedy strikes. At 4:00 a.m. on a foggy October night, the massive carrier USS Gerald Ford slices through aging Frigate-536 Xuchang, sinking the Chinese ship with its entire crew of 165. Beijing demands an apology and reparations. When Washington refuses, China's fury comes fast.

At the stroke of midnight on Black Friday, as cyber-shoppers storm the portals of Best Buy for deep discounts on the latest consumer electronics from Bangladesh, Navy personnel staffing the Space Surveillance Telescope at Exmouth, Western Australia, choke on their coffees as their panoramic screens of the southern sky suddenly blip to black. Thousands of miles away at the U.S. CyberCommand's operations center in Texas, Air Force technicians detect malicious binaries that, though hacked anonymously into American weapons systems worldwide, show the distinctive digital fingerprints of China's People s Liberation Army.

In what historians will later call the Battle of Binaries, CyberCom's supercomputers launch their killer counter-codes. While a few of China's provincial servers do lose routine administrative data, Beijing's quantum satellite system, equipped with super-secure photon transmission, proves impervious to hacking. Meanwhile, an armada of bigger, faster supercomputers slaved to Shanghai's cyberwarfare Unit 61398 blasts back with impenetrable logarithms of unprecedented subtlety and sophistication, slipping into the U.S. satellite system through its antiquated microwave signals.

The first overt strike is one nobody at the Pentagon predicted. Flying at 60,000 feet above the South China Sea, several U.S. carrier-based MQ-25 Stingray drones, infected by Chinese malware, suddenly fire all the pods beneath their enormous delta wingspans, sending dozens of lethal missiles plunging harmlessly into the ocean, effectively disarming those formidable weapons.

Determined to fight fire with fire, the White House authorizes a retaliatory strike. Confident their satellite system is impenetrable, Air Force commanders in California transmit robotic codes to a flotilla of X-37B space drones, orbiting 250 miles above the Earth, to launch their Triple Terminator missiles at several of China's communication satellites. There is zero response.

In near panic, the Navy orders its Zumwalt-class destroyers to fire their RIM-174 killer missiles at seven Chinese satellites in nearby geostationary orbits. The launch codes suddenly prove inoperative.

As Beijing's viruses spread uncontrollably through the U.S. satellite architecture, the country's second-rate supercomputers fail to crack the Chinese malwares devilishly complex code. With stunning speed, GPS signals crucial to the navigation of American ships and aircraft worldwide are compromised.

Across the Pacific, Navy deck officers scramble for their sextants, struggling to recall long-ago navigation classes at Annapolis. Steering by sun and stars, carrier squadrons abandon their stations off the China coast and steam for the safety of Hawaii.

An angry American president orders a retaliatory strike on a secondary Chinese target, Longpo Naval Base on Hainan Island. Within minutes, the commander of Andersen Air Base on Guam launches a battery of super-secret X-51 Waverider hypersonic missiles that soar to 70,000 feet and then streak across the Pacific at 4,000 miles per hour - far faster than any Chinese fighter or air-to-air missile. Inside the White House situation room the silence is stifling as everyone counts down the 30 short minutes before the tactical nuclear warheads are to slam into Longpo's hardened submarine pens, shutting down Chinese naval operations in the South China Sea. Midflight, the missiles suddenly nose-dive into the Pacific.

In a bunker buried deep beneath Tiananmen Square, President Xi Jinping's handpicked successor, Li Keqiang, even more nationalistic than his mentor, is outraged that Washington would attempt a tactical nuclear strike on Chinese soil. When China's State Council wavers at the thought of open war, the president quotes the ancient strategist Sun Tzu:  "Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win." Amid applause and laughter, the vote is unanimous. War it is!

Almost immediately, Beijing escalates from secret cyberattacks to overt acts. Dozens of China's next-generation SC-19 missiles lift off for strikes on key American communications satellites, scoring a high ratio of kinetic kills on these hulking units. Suddenly, Washington loses secure communications with hundreds of military bases. U.S. fighter squadrons worldwide are grounded. Dozens of F-35 pilots already airborne are blinded as their helmet-mounted avionic displays go black, forcing them down to 10,000 feet for a clear view of the countryside. Without any electronic navigation, they must follow highways and landmarks back to base like bus drivers in the sky.

Midflight on regular patrols around the Eurasian landmass, two-dozen RQ-180 surveillance drones suddenly become unresponsive to satellite-transmitted commands. They fly aimlessly toward the horizon, crashing when their fuel is exhausted. With surprising speed, the United States loses control of what its Air Force has long called the ultimate high ground. 

With intelligence flooding the Kremlin about crippled American capacity, Moscow, still a close Chinese ally, sends a dozen Severodvinsk-class nuclear submarines beyond the Arctic Circle bound for permanent, provocative patrols between New York and Newport News. Simultaneously, a half-dozen Grigorovich-class missile frigates from Russia's Black Sea fleet, escorted by an undisclosed number of attack submarines, steam for the western Mediterranean to shadow the U.S. Sixth fleet.

Within a matter of hours, Washington's strategic grip on the axial ends of Eurasia - the keystone to its global dominion for the past 85 years - is broken. In quick succession, the building blocks in the fragile architecture of U.S. global power start to fall.

Every weapon begets its own nemesis. Just as musketeers upended mounted knights, tanks smashed trench works, and dive bombers sank battleships, so China's superior cybercapability had blinded America's communication satellites that were the sinews of its once-formidable military apparatus, giving Beijing a stunning victory in this war of robotic militaries. Without a single combat casualty on either side, the superpower that had dominated the planet for nearly a century is defeated in World War III."

"Why Donald Trump Is President"

"Why Donald Trump Is President"
by Bill Bonner

"Autumn has come. And come hard. It is rainy and chilly. No more coffee in the morning sun. No more dinners on warm evenings out on the porch. For the next three months, there will be more night than day, more darkness than light, more failure, we predict, than success. Yesterday, we let out the two kittens we took with us from our recent stay on Île d’Yeu. This morning, only one showed up for breakfast. And today, with this gloomy background, we dig deeper into what a dear reader called the ‘Bonner Doctrine’.

Big, fat flop: Last week, we looked at the basic financial elements, which can be summed up as follows:

Real prosperity requires real work and real resources, not phony tricks and fake money. We still earn our bread from ‘the sweat of thy face’. The rest is detail.

As you know, the 21st century has been a big, fat flop. After rising by about 2% a year in the three decades up to the mid-1980s, real incomes stopped growing at all. After you factor for inflation, the average American earns scarcely a penny more than he did in 1999. And many men - especially in ‘flyover country’ - earn much less.

Why? Look to thy face: There are only so many hours and only so many resources available. Waste them, and you’ll grow poorer. Government regulation, welfare, Medicaid, military spending, war, time spent on Twitter and Facebook, opioid use - all are up dramatically.

Meanwhile, saving, capital investment, hours worked, new businesses started - all have fallen sharply. The personal savings rate is only half what it was in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Net investment in capital - money spent on expanding businesses and growing productivity - is one-third lower than its average over the past century.

Instead of putting more capital into the capitalist system, Wall Street suits used the Fed’s cheap money to take it out. Since the beginning of the century, about $4 trillion worth of shares has been removed from the stock market. Companies borrowed to buy back shares and cancel them or to finance leveraged buyouts (LBOs), mergers, special dividends, and so forth. Corporate insiders and shareholders got bonuses, fees, capital gains, and dividends. The company - see Toys ‘R’ Us - was left holding the bag, with its capital impaired by debt.

Punky growth: In 1950, nine out of 10 working-age American men had jobs. Today, only seven out of 10 do. By our estimate, that’s about 15 million adult men who are diddling around on the internet rather than adding to wealth. But wait… It gets worse. The composition of the workforce changed, too. Breadwinner jobs declined; part-time jobs in the low-paid service sector - waiters, bartenders, auto washers, etc. - increased. Even in the thriving tech sector, so far this century, the number of full-time jobs has fallen 25%. Meanwhile, the nation added four million barkeeps and other part-timers.

With so much money and time taken out of the capitalist economy, is it really any wonder that real economic growth has been so punky? GDP figures show growth of about half the rate of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. But those figures are distorted by the feds. Look instead at unadulterated sales figures. There, you see the real story: Since the beginning of the 21st century, growth in real sales has been running at about only one-third the rate of the previous century.

That is the big picture, as we see it. The feds - with their fake money, phony interest rates, wanton borrowing, imbecile boondoggles, and dumb meddling - have hobbled the economy. It can’t soar. It can’t fly. It can barely even walk!

Mass diversion: That brings us to politics… If politics is to blame for this morass, we need to take a closer look. Perhaps a reformer could make a change?

Let’s try to formulate another ‘doctrine’.

1. Wealth is created by voluntary win-win transactions.
2. But the government is armed. It insists on involuntary, win-lose deals.
3. All governments, no matter what you call them, are dominated by insiders. The few exploit the many, finding ways to make win-lose deals work for them at the expense of everyone else.
4. Over time, the power and wealth of the insiders (aka the Deep State) grow relative to the rest of the society.
5. More and more win-lose deals mean fewer win-win deals. (Time and resources are limited.)
6. Because the power and wealth of the Deep State depend on these win-lose deals, and because the government is controlled by these insiders, reform is very difficult.

People grumble. But few understand what is going on. Instead, they are easily distracted by debates over monuments, kneeling athletes, red versus blue, celebrity newscasters, and so on. And that’s why Mr Donald J Trump is the president. For this system to continue, someone needs to divert the masses with petty squabbles, while the insiders pick their pockets.”

Monday, September 25, 2017

Musical Interlude: 2002, “A Year And A Day”

2002, “A Year And A Day”

"A Look to the Heavens"

"What created this gigantic hole? The vast emission nebula N44 in our neighboring galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud has a large, 250 light-year hole and astronomers are trying to figure out why. 
Click image for larger size.
One possibility is particle winds expelled by massive stars in the bubble's interior that are pushing out the glowing gas. This answer was found to be inconsistent with measured wind velocities, however. Another possibility is that the expanding shells of old supernovas have sculpted the unusual space cavern. An unexpected clue of hot X-ray emitting gas was recently been detected escaping the N44 superbubble. The featured image was taken in three very specific colors by the huge 8-meter Gemini South Telescope on Cerro Pachon in Chile."

"Never Despair"

"Never Despair"
by Sam Smith

"Empires and cultures are not permanent and while thinking about the possibility that ours is collapsing may seem a dismal exercise it is far less so than enduring the frustrations, failures, damage and human casualties involved in constantly butting up against reality like a boozer who insists he is not drunk attempting to drive home. Peter Ustinov in 'Romanoff and Juliet' says at one point: "I'm an optimist: I know how bad the world is. You're a pessimist: you're always finding out." Or as GK Chesterton put it, "We must learn to love life without ever trusting it."

Happiness, courage and passion in a bad time can only be based on myth as long as reality does not intrude. Once it does, our indifference to it will serve us no better than it does the joy riding teenager whose assumption of immortality comes into contact with a tree. But this does not mean that one must live in despair. An ability to confront and transcend - rather than deny, adjust to, replace, recover from, or succumb to - the universe in which you find yourself is among the things that permits freedom and courage.

To view our times as decadent and dangerous, to mistrust the government, to imagine that those in power are not concerned with our best interests is not paranoid but perceptive; to be depressed, angry or confused about such things is not delusional but a sign of consciousness. Yet our culture suggests otherwise.

But if all this is true, then why not despair? The simple answer is this: despair is the suicide of imagination. Whatever reality presses upon us, there still remains the possibility of imagining something better, and in this dream remains the frontier of our humanity and its possibilities To despair is to voluntarily close a door that has not yet shut. The task is to bear knowledge without it destroying ourselves, to challenge the wrong without ending up on its casualty list. "You don't have to change the world," the writer Colman McCarthy has argued. "Just keep the world from changing you."

Oddly, those who instinctively understand this best are often those who seem to have the least reason to do so - survivors of abuse, oppression, and isolation who somehow discover not so much how to beat the odds, but how to wriggle around them. They have, without formal instruction, learned two of the most fundamental lessons of psychiatry and philosophy:

You are not responsible for that into which you were born.
You are responsible for doing something about it.

These individuals move through life like a skilled mariner in a storm rather than as a victim at a sacrifice. Relatively unburdened by pointless and debilitating guilt about the past, uninterested in the endless regurgitation of the unalterable, they free themselves to concentrate upon the present and the future. They face the gale as a sturdy combatant rather than as cowering supplicant."

"The Best Method..."

 Click image for larger size.

"When dealing with the insane,
the best method is to pretend to be sane."
- Hermann Hesse

Click image for larger size, which you may then 
fill in and frame if you're so inclined, as I did...
 - CP

"Fighting the Cowardice of Cynicism"

"Fighting the Cowardice of Cynicism"
by Maria Popova

“There is nothing quite so tragic as a young cynic, because it means the person has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing,” Maya Angelou wrote in contemplating courage in the face of evil. In the decades since, cynicism has become a cultural currency as deadly as blood diamonds, as vacant of integrity and long-term payoff as Enron. Over the years, I have written about, spoken about, and even given a commencement address about the perilous laziness of cynicism and the ever-swelling urgency of not only resisting it but actively fighting it - defiance which Leonard Bernstein considered an essential countercultural act of courage.

Today, as our social and political realities swirl into barely bearable maelstroms of complexity, making a retreat into self-protective cynicism increasingly tempting, such courage is all the harder and all the more heroic. That’s what English writer Caitlin Moran examines in a stirring passage from "How to Build a Girl" (public library) - a novel that quenches questions springing from the same source as her insightful memoir-of-sorts "How To Be a Woman."

Moran writes: "When cynicism becomes the default language, playfulness and invention become impossible. Cynicism scours through a culture like bleach, wiping out millions of small, seedling ideas. Cynicism means your automatic answer becomes “No.” Cynicism means you presume everything will end in disappointment. And this is, ultimately, why anyone becomes cynical. Because they are scared of disappointment. Because they are scared someone will take advantage of them. Because they are fearful their innocence will be used against them - that when they run around gleefully trying to cram the whole world in their mouth, someone will try to poison them."

In a sentiment that calls to mind Descartes’s abiding ideas about the relationship between fear and hope, Moran writes: "Cynicism is, ultimately, fear. Cynicism makes contact with your skin, and a thick black carapace begins to grow - like insect armor. This armor will protect your heart, from disappointment - but it leaves you almost unable to walk. You cannot dance in this armor. Cynicism keeps you pinned to the spot, in the same posture, forever."

A century and a half after Van Gogh reflected on fear and risk-taking, arguing that “however meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth… steps in and does something,” Moran echoes Angelou and adds: "The deepest irony about the young being cynical is that they are the ones that need to move, and dance, and trust the most. They need to cartwheel though a freshly burst galaxy of still-forming but glowing ideas, never scared to say “Yes! Why not!” - or their generation’s culture will be nothing but the blandest, and most aggressive, or most defended of old tropes."

When people are cynical, and snarky, they shoot down their own future. When you keep saying “No,” all that’s left is what other people said “Yes” to before you were born. Really, “No” is no choice at all.

Complement with Rebecca Solnit on resisting the defeatism of easy despair, Jonathan Lear on radical hope, and Toni Morrison on rising above fear in troubled times."

The Daily "Near You?"

Ft. Worth, Texas, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

"As Far As We Can Go..."

“The development of our cerebral cortex has been the greatest achievement of the evolutionary processes. Big deal. While allowing us the thrills of intellect or the pangs of self-consciousness, it is all too often overruled by our inner, instinctive brain - the one that tells us to react, not reflect, to run, rather than ruminate. Maybe we have gone as far as we can go and the next advance, whatever that may be, will be made by beings we create ourselves, using our own technology. Life forms we can design and program not to be ultimately governed and constricted by the rules of survival. Or perhaps that step forward had already been achieved on another planet by organisms that had a billion years head start on us. If these beings ever visited us, would we recognize what we were seeing? And upon catching sight of us, would they react in anything but horror at seeing such mindless, primitive, hideous creatures?”
- “Fox Mulder,” "The X-Files"

X22 Report, “Russia Is Now Calling On The US To Leave Syria”

X22 Report, “Russia Is Now Calling On The US To Leave Syria”
Related followup report:
X22 Report, “The Economic Mirage That The Central Bank Created Is Disappearing”

"On Your Own Terms..."

"If the sun is shining, stand in it- yes, yes, yes. Happy times are great, but happy times pass- they have to- because time passes. The pursuit of happiness is more elusive; it is life-long, and it is not goal-centered. What you are pursuing is meaning- a meaningful life... There are times when it will go so wrong that you will be barely alive, and times when you realize that being barely alive, on your own terms, is better than living a bloated half-life on someone else's terms."
- Jeanette Winterson

"Syria - U.S. CentCom Declares War On Russia"

"Syria - U.S. CentCom Declares War On Russia"
by Moon of Alabama

"Yesterday three high ranking Russian officers were killed in an "ISIS attack" in eastern-Syrian. It is likely that they were killed by U.S. special forces or insurgents under U.S. special forces control. The incident will be understood as a declaration of war.

The U.S. Central Command in the Middle East wants the oil fields in east-Syria under control of its proxy forces to set up and control a U.S. aligned Kurdish mini-state in the area. The Syrian government, allied with Russia, needs the revenues of the oil fields to rebuild the country.
Click image for larger size.
Last week the Russians issued sharply worded statements against U.S. coordination with al-Qaeda terrorists in Idleb province and warned of further escalation.

Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense accused the U.S. military in east-Syria of direct collaboration with the Islamic State: "US Army special units provide free passage for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) through the battle formations of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, the ministry said in a statement. “Facing no resistance of the ISIS militants, the SDF units are advancing along the left shore of the Euphrates towards Deir ez-Zor,” the statement reads. The newly released images “clearly show that US special ops are stationed at the outposts previously set up by ISIS militants.” “Despite that the US strongholds being located in the ISIS areas, no screening patrol has been organized at them,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said.

This map marks the currently relevant conflict area - (U.S. proxies - yellow, SAA - red, ISIS - black):
Click image for larger size.
The accusations are plausible. Large parts of ISIS in Deir Ezzor consist of local tribal forces from eastern-Syria. U.S. special envoy Brett McGurk recently met tribal leaders who had earlier pledged allegiance to ISIS. Deals were made. As we wrote: "The U.S. diplomat tasked with the job, Brett McGurk, recently met with local tribal dignitaries of the area. Pictures of the meeting were published. Several people pointed out that the very same dignitaries were earlier pictured swearing allegiance to the Islamic State. Just like during the "Anbar Awaking" in its war on Iraq the U.S. is bribing the local radicals to temporarily change over to its side. This will help the U.S. to claim that it defeated ISIS. But as soon as the payments stop the very same forces will revert back to their old game. The local criminal Ahmad Abu Khawla, who had earlier fought for ISIS, was suddenly installed as commander of a newly invented "Deir Ezzor Military Council", set up under U.S. special force control."

Last night a Russian three-star general and two colonels were killed in a mortar attack while they visited a Syrian army headquarter in Deir Ezzor: "Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov, of the Russian armed forces, has been killed after coming under shelling from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants near Deir ez-Zor, the Russian Defense Ministry has announced. In its statement, the ministry said that Asapov was at a command outpost manned by Syrian troops, assisting commanders in the liberation of the city of Deir ez-Zor. Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov is the highest-ranking Russian officer to be killed in the Syrian campaign. He was a commander of the 5th Army in Russia’s Eastern Military District, one of the four strategic commands in the Russian Armed Forces. The army is based in Russia’s Far East, in the city of Ussuriysk, some 98 km (61 miles) from Vladivostok."

For three years ISIS had besieged Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor city and its airport. It had not once managed to successfully attack the Syrian headquarter or to kill high ranking officers. Now, as U.S. proxy forces "advised" by U.S. special forces, have taken position north of Deir Ezzor, "ISIS" suddenly has the intelligence data and precision mortar capabilities to kill a bunch of visiting Russian officers? That is not plausible. No one in Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran or Moscow will believe that.

The Russian military, as usual, reacts calmly and officially attributes the attack to ISIS. Doing so avoids pressure to immediately react to the attack. (The U.S. will falsely interpret this as a face-saving Russian retreat.)  But no one in Moscow will believe that the incident is independent of other recent maneuvers by the U.S. forces and independent of the earlier accusations the Russian military made against the U.S. forces.

Nominally the U.S. and Russia are both in Syria to fight the Islamic State. The Russian troops are legitimately there, having been invited by the Syrian government. The U.S. forces have no legal justification for their presence. So far open hostilities between the two sides had been avoided. But as the U.S. now obviously sets out to split Syria apart, openly cooperates with terrorists and does not even refrain from killing Russian officers, the gloves will have to come off.

U.S. Central Command has declared war on the Russian contingent in Syria. A high ranking Russian general was killed. This inevitably requires a reaction. The response does not necessarily have to come from Russian forces.  Moscow has many capable allies in the area. The response does not necessarily have to come in Syria.

"Accidents" and "incidents", like an "ISIS mortar attacks", or unintentional bombing of troop concentration of the other side, can happen on both sides of the front. Cars can blow up, bridges can collapse. Any U.S. officer or civilian official in the larger Middle East should be aware that they too are now targets."

"How It Really Is"

"#Take the Knee”

"#Take the Knee”
by James Howard Kunstler

There’s a lot to complain about in this deranged republic - if it even still is one - but the burdens of being a multimillionaire football player would not be at the top of my list. Personally, I find it a little peculiar that we have to play the national anthem before any sporting event. All it really shows is how insecure we are as a nation that we have to display our love of country in this obsessive manner. Same with congressmen and their stupid flag lapel pins, or the flag in front of Denny’s chain restaurants. Are eaters of the “lumberjack slam” so disoriented when they leave the place that they need to be reminded what country they’re in? “Oh, look hon, we're in the USA after all…”

What burns my ass is seeing baseball players in camo uniforms, as if they were an extension of the US military. What’s up with that? Is San Diego suddenly a theater of war? And why do US soldiers need to wear camo uniforms when shopping for eyeglasses? There used to be a distinction between battle dress and what you wore the rest of the time, even during a world war. And why on earth is it necessary to fly Air Force fighter jets over the stadium before the Super Bowl? Who authorizes the spend for that? Who are we trying to scare?

Of course, this new gale of ill-feeling stirred up by our intemperate president, the Golden Golem of Greatness, is driven by the oceanic currents of racial animus that are drowning the country more ruinously than the recent spate of hurricanes. The #Take the Knee campaign was already there, and getting hotter, even before Mr. Trump chimed in. At least he didn’t issue the usual sort of vapid nostrum about “diversity” and all of us getting along. In his blunt, blundering way, he may force the nation to clarify exactly what the beef is.

Surely it’s not about the woes of professional athletes. They are representing the grievances of a different realm in black America, perhaps the places they came from, the city ghettos or the rural backwaters of Dixieland, or maybe even boring black suburbs like Prince George County, Maryland. And the lingering question, to be equally blunt, is: how much is non-black America keeping black America down?

I say non-black because there are plenty of other ethnic groups in the mix besides the dwindling majority of “white folks.” I daresay there is as much, perhaps more real animus between Asian-Americans and black Americans than between white and black. But Asian-Americans did not enslave black Africans, so they’re off-the-hook for that original sin.

Mostly what Asian newcomers do is demonstrate that it’s possible to succeed economically and educationally in this country even if you start out with a culture and language completely alien to American ways. This is especially noticeable in places of exacting achievement like Silicon Valley. If anything, Asians complain that they do so well in school that the universities have to tamp down their admission numbers to give other ethnic groups a chance.

There seems to be so much psychological displacement in the feelings between black and white America that it is next to impossible to sort out what to do next. White Dem-Progs (formerly “liberals”) appear to be so consumed with anxious consternation over the outcome of the long civil rights struggle that they are ready to commit a sort of hara-kiri to atone for their unforgivable cis-whiteness. To some extent, they have attempted to compensate by campaigning for an ever-growing list of other “marginalized” groups in the hopes of showing some positive results for social change - it’s just easier to get significant numbers of homosexuals into the corporate executive suites than to get blacks in there - but the Dem-Progs are still left with the grinding reality of a large, dysfunctional black underclass. They certainly can’t admit that their own contrived “remedies,” such as subsidizing out-of-wedlock births, has anything to do with it, or the devastating effect of “Multiculturalism” on some sort of unifying common culture based on values that everybody can agree on.

Similarly, black America displaces their oppositionality to whatever remains of a national common culture into the memes of “systemic racism and injustice.” It has evolved insidiously in their own culture since the 1960s, probably (I believe) as a reaction to the anxiety provoked by the civil rights legislation of 1964-65. It’s really about behavior, especially in school. Are you interested in speaking English? Believe me, that would help a lot in this society. Consider this: Ella Fitzgerald was not singing black or white back in the day. She was just singing.”