Saturday, February 22, 2014

Shock over Ukraine

Pawel Kuczyński
[Update: I am pushing this live a few days early, because the Ukrainian situation is evolving so rapidly. One political corpse (Yanukovych) is out; apparently he has fled to Russia. Another political corpse (Tymoshenko) has been hastily rehabilitated and is ready to be put on the ballot for elections in May. Question is, Will there still be a country for her to (pretend to) run? Financial reserves are down to a few days, federal structures are being dismantled throughout the country, regional governors are fleeing, and a default on some €60 billion of Ukrainian bonds, many held by Russian banks, seems likely. Could this be just the kind of financial contagion needed to finally pop the ridiculous US equities bubble? At least two Ukrainian provinces are openly talking secession; one (Crimea) wants to immediately join Russian Federation. A question for US State Dept. flunkies and EU functionaries: What does that do to your geopolitical calculus? At risk are five nuclear power plants and a lot of Russian gas that transits Ukraine on its way west. Ukraine is shaping up to be a lot like Yugoslavia, except with more than twice as many people, lots of crazed street fighters who think they now own the place, and a role critical to European energy security. If you aren't in shock about this, then you haven't been paying attention.]

I've been receiving a lot of emails asking me what I thought was happening in Ukraine. It took me a while to formulate an opinion, but what I now think is happening is this: a complete and utter failure of politics on every level.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Good Life: Mobility, Anonymity, Freedom

The recent advanced in networked mobile computing has made it rather unnecessary for a large class of people—ones who use computers for work—to maintain a fixed abode: it is now possible to do all the same things, via the Internet, from any place in the world that has a wifi signal.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

“American” exceptionalism

Olivia Locher
The term “American exceptionalism” has been receiving more than its fair share of play recently. It was pressed into service in the vapid banter that passes for political discourse in the US, with the Republicans accusing Obama of not believing in it. More recently, it surfaced as a term in international relations, when Russian president V. Putin chastised the US for believing it in a NY Times editorial, equating it with chauvinism and lack of respect for the rule of international law. It seems that it is Putin's dream to extend his cherished concept of “dictatorship of the law” to encompass even the US.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

How To Time Collapses

Douglas Smith
[In italiano] [日本語で] Over the past half a decade I've made a number of detailed predictions about collapse: how it is likely to unfold, what its various manifestations are likely to be, and how it will affect various groups and categories of people. But I have remained purposefully vague about the timing of collapse and its various stages, being careful to always append “give or take half a decade” to my dire prognostications. I wasn't withholding information or being coy; I really had no way of calculating when collapse will happen—until five days ago, when, out of the blue, I received the following email from Ugo Bardi: