Saturday, 30 June 2007

Fortress Olympics - counting the cost of major event security "The scale and scope of threats arraigned against current major events is of an entirely different order to that which faced planners in 1972...The security budgets for both Beijing 2008 and London 2012 are likely to supersede that of Athens 2004, although Athens had a lower security infrastructure base to start with in comparison to a city such as London." Expanding world We believe that such events will eventually cease to be held in the west, due to political reasons and security-related fears. The ever increasing sums invested into security and surveillance are a testimony to the rising disorder and the growing distrust in western societies. It may be worthwile remembering in this context that during the final stages of the Roman Empire, individual households were belted with fortifications - an unmistakable sign that political authority was fragmented and increasingly ineffective. Today, instead of massive walls there are CCTV cameras, barbed wire, metal detectors etc.
International aid workers become targets "Caught in the crossfire, executed in cold blood or simply hounded out of violent regions, aid workers seem more under fire than ever before and their killers are rarely, if ever, brought to justice...In 2006, 85 aid workers — almost all of them local staff employed by international groups — were killed, the most since 2003, when numbers were swollen by a bomb attack on the United Nations' compound in Baghdad that killed 22 persons." Expanding world? The world becoming a more dangerous place? International organisations such as the Red Cross, médecins sans frontières, Oxfam and others can be understood as spearheads of "late" Western "soft power" (i. e. cultural). The fact that they appear to be encountering growing difficulties and outright hostility may be seen as an expression of growing international discohesion and as in accordance with the west's diminishing overall leadership.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Afghans face a loss of health care "The International Committee of the Red Cross recently said it faces a more restrictive environment than it has in two decades of work in Afghanistan. "It's not a conflict where there are clear front lines," said Franz Rauchenstein, the agency's deputy chief in Kabul." Disintegration-disorganisation coupling This is not good news, especially with regard to the ability of the world's leading power, the US to promote order and prosperity on a global scale. It looks as though America's trail of chaos (Vietnam 1975, Somalia 1994, Haiti 1994, Kosovo 1999) continues. See also: Sick, elderly Iraqis living on edge
Colombian lawmakers killed in ambush Internal disintegration low intensity conflict
EU, U.S. to share passenger data "Ambassadors from European Union nations on Friday backed a deal with the United States on the sharing of trans-Atlantic air passenger data that Washington says is needed to help fight terrorism, diplomats said." International integration Trying to roll back the 'forces of disorder'.
South Korean ship missing off Somalia "If is confirmed that the Sea Prince was seized by pirates, it would bring to five the number of foreign vessels held off the Horn of Africa nation in some of the most dangerous waters in the world." International disintegration Somalia continues to lead the world into a dark age. When the Roman Empire declined, piracy saw a rise in the Mediterranean.
Iran fuel rations spark violence "During the night, cars were set alight and petrol stations vandalised while, in the capital, a supermarket and a bank were also attacked." (On a side note) A bit of internal disintegration ocurring here. Revolutions and puclic disorder have often followed after tax hikes (announced by already unpopular governments). That said, a dark age involves a lot more than merely a revolution.
Russians test ballistic missile "Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the missile as a key component of Moscow's future nuclear forces, saying it can penetrate any prospective missile defence system." Pro international disintegration Levelling the playing field, thwarting the US' attempts at establishing a global monopoly of (nuclear) force. See also: Russia begins serial production of Topol-M missile (German)
French unemployed at 25-year low....GERMANY'S REBOUND: Unemployment Falling Fast Internal organisation It will be interesting to monitor the manifestations of the present boom. Will the salaries of ordinary people rise, will they take more holidays and have more money to purchase new kinds of consumer good, will great new industries develop? See also: Britain saving at lowest level since 1960s
Nineteen die in Rio slum battle "Clashes between police and drug traffickers in a slum in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro left 19 people dead, officials have said." Internal (dis)integration The state imposing the rule of law and order or things getting out of hand? It has to be seen what is to emerge from these bloody street battles.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Power line theft leaves South Africa in dark "Cities are being brought "to their knees" by unprecedented pilfering of copper and aluminium cables...The result has been entire suburbs plunged into darkness, thousands of train passengers stranded, and frequent chaos on the roads as traffic lights fail." Disintegration-disorganisation coupling Pilfering of copper cables has been reported in Britain, too, albeit to a less dramatic extent. The World Cup 2010 is to be held in South Africa. Such mass events, which were a hallmark of public life in the west during the last century, require a highly capable technical infrastructure and high levels of public safety. Expect difficulties having to do with our ailing infrastructure to rise over the coming decades. Also expect to see more barbed wire and security installations at railroad sheds, industrial plants, power stations, sewage works etc.
Irish Bank Notes Covered with Cocaine "But as the street price of blow continues to drop, cocaine use has begun to cut across all sectors of Irish society. Indeed, some have argued that legalization of the drug may be the only way to undermine the drug-dealing gangs." Intern(ation)al disintegration The demise of the Inca civilisation and the ancient Chinese Empire tells us that widespread cconsumption of drugs is hardly the sign of an ascending society. Besides, the war on drugs is not the only one the west is losing (the war against world poverty, the war on terror, the struggle for equal schooling opportunities...).
Europe finally unites after agreeing to treaty "European leaders yesterday hailed an agreement on the outlines of a new EU treaty to replace the ill-fated constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters two years ago." International cohesion Whatever the details of the constitutional, legal and administrative issues being discussed and approved of in Brussels - we remain sceptical - not for political but for theoretical reasons - with regards to the long-term sustainability of the European project.
1) A shared common language and identity are essential to the success of any social group. Since the emergence and consolidation of unified nation states in Europe, there has been no further linguistic convergence. Whatever the causes, this process ground to a halt a long time ago.
2) Over the last few decades, there has been a general tendency of states to fragment into smaller political units. The partition of India, the break-up of the former Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia, but also persistent secessionist desires in Italy, Belgium, the UK and in Spain come to mind.
3) Rising wealth differentials within European nations as well as continuing social atomisation and ghettoisation will exacerbate feelings of mutual distrust. While superficially, i.e. in the shape of treaties and declarations of intent, further progress may be made towards a unified Europe, the EU is fundamentally set against the tide of our times.
Muslims get place to pray in Athens "Immigrant groups on Friday opened the first formal Islamic prayer site to operate in Athens since rule by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire ended more than 170 years ago." Internal discohesion implies, amongst other things, the emergence of a multidude of values, attitudes and beliefs in a society. Cohesion may vary and is usually weaker in an urbanised mass-society than within a tribe or clan. However, since in a modern nation state millions are eligible to pensions and welfare services, cohesion can be said to be much more encompassing. Hence, one may identify two components within the process of cohesion/discohesion: the expansion of a given set of values across an increasing space and population and a dilution on the other hand. With regard to western societies, there are many indications that dilution (or, to choose a more neutral term: differentiation) has become predominant.
Clashes in Tripoli leave 10 dead Internal (dis-)integration Low intensity conflict has become an endemic feature in numerous third world and threshold countries since the end of World War II. Although you may see the use of mobile phonces and satellite television in such places, especially in rural regions, substantial progress has been brought to a standstill.
Afghans primed for mortgage revolution "The government is building 20,000 homes - a mixture of apartments, row houses and commercial property - which it plans to mortgage to people. The 2,500-acre township will be called New Kabul." Internal organisation? Evidence that life is improving in the wake of the west's intervention? A new "economic miracle" in the making? See also: Afghans religious about bodybuilding

Friday, 22 June 2007

N Korea vows to axe reactor quickly "North Korea has pledged to shut down its main nuclear reactor promptly and carry out its obligations under the February 13 deal, Christopher Hill, US chief negotiator, said on Friday after a visit to Pyongyang." International integration or internal disintegration ahead? This can be viewed as an indication that, at long last, the pressure applied by the US is bearing fruit (international integration - the US imposing its rules upon others). In accordance with a slightly different interpretation, one could speculate whether the internal conditions in North Korea itself have reached some sort of nadir and that the country's leadership is struggling for its own survival. As a result, even the highly prestigious and costly nuclear weapons programme might be axed - despite the loss of face that this implies - so that foreign gasoline and other vital products will be delivered. If this is actually the case, then the fall of the communist regime could occur fairly soon (internal disintegration).
Pakistan builds third nuclear reactor for bombs: report "Satellite images show work progressing rapidly at Khusab, 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Islamabad, where the other two reactors are sited, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said in a report." Nuclear war The headline implies a further levelling of the global playing field. Once it was the United States which held a monopoly on nuclear weapons. Although America still enjoys an overwhelming lead, other nations, such as Pakistan, are enhancing their capabilities. Since political power on the international level appears as increasingly segmented, nuclear weapons are likely to be employed by state and possibly non-state actors at some stage in the future, not least by the US itself, whose edge in conventional weaponry is gradually declining. See also: France Test Launches Sea-Based Strategic Missile
Toll rising from bullets that rain down on Rio "Businesses and schools in the line of fire have been shuttered. Thousands of children are staying home. Even air travel is affected — domestic jet routes were diverted from Rio's downtown airport when shooting flared up in a slum near Copacabana beach that the planes had to fly over." Internal disintegration Today's megacities in developing countires, such as Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City may be found to be ungovernable as we move towards a dark age. Meanwhile, expect security measures to be tightened continuously in western cities.
Indian Army Commissions BrahMos Cruise Missiles "BrahMos is designed to destroy surface targets flying at an altitude as low as 10 meters (30 feet) and at a speed of Mach 2.8, which is about three times faster than the U.S.-made subsonic Tomahawk cruise missile." International disintegration Levelling the playing field. The days of effortless domination, when it was the Gatling gun against spears and blowpipes, are gone forever.
Scramjet hits Mach 10 over Australia "Aircraft flying at Mach 10 could cut travelling time between Sydney and London to as little as two hours." Innovation (failure) The news may remind us that over thirty years ago the Concorde was commissioned by Air France and British Airways. At that time, many were hoping that supersonic travel would soon become the norm.

Rate Rise Pushes Housing, Economy to `Blood Bath' "The national median home price is poised for its first annual decline since the Great Depression, and the supply of unsold homes is at a record 4.2 million, the National Association of Realtors reported." Intern(ation)al disorganisation ahead? It is impossible to foresee how many loops of organisation, i.e. economic relationships will eventually unravel due to the bursting of the "housing bubble". What seems reasonable to say from a long-term perspective is that the United States' economic potential of today can hardly compare with that of the 1950s and 60s. It looks as though the "booms" are less significant, in the sense that they do not result, in, say, higher salaries, longer holidays etc. for most ordinary people.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Swiss open world's longest land tunnel "The tunnel, which took eight years to build and cost 4.3 billion Swiss francs (US$3.5 billion; €2.6 billion), will trim the time trains need to cross between Germany and Italy from 3 1/2 hours to just under two." Pro-organisation Facilitating transport and travel in Europe.
Sanitation workers fight rising tide of trash "Across the capital, particularly west of the Tigris River, trash is piling. Trash collectors, most of whom are Shiite, refuse to work in the mainly Sunni areas of western Baghdad because of sectarian violence." Internal disintegration-disorganisation coupling Life getting worse in what was seen as an emergent nation 30 years ago.
Scrap metal thieves target churches "Thieves are stripping churches of valuable metals at the rate of more than one church a day to cash in on scrap prices kept high by heavy demand from China." Internal disintegration There is a strong aspect of discohesion to this news, too.
Guatemala mob kills suspected organ thieves "Lynch mobs have killed hundreds of people in the poor Central American country since 1996...Many experts blame the vigilante justice on exposure to violence during the war, combined with a lack of faith in the crumbling criminal justice system." Internal disintegration When people begin to take the law into their hands in a similar fashion in the wealthy nations of the West, one can be certain that the onset of the dark age proper lies not far ahead.
Robberies soar as Italy frees 15,000 inmates "The number of bank robberies has risen nationwide, official statistics say, including a staggering 102 per cent increase in Piedmont, in the north. There have also been marked increases in Veneto (85.1 per cent) and the Marche region (86.9 per cent),...When the amnesty was introduced, Italy's prison population was 62,000; its jails have a capacity of 45,000." Internal disintegration? Crime statistics are often unreliable; nevertheless, what can be said for many western countries is that prison populations have been on the rise for decades and that overcrowding has become the rule rather than the exception.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Drink and drugs fuel rise in teen sex disease "A report, published by the Government’s Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health, says that high rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are related to the culture of drinking and drug-taking among the young." An expression of internal discohesion It may appear paradoxical that the West's ageing societies exhibit an obsession with youthfulness as well as widespread contempt for the elderly. The advertising industry has recognised this and has succesfully managed to manipulate the thoughts, fears and desires of ordinary people to a considerable extent. In turn, the influence of the family and local community on the individual's behaviour has declined. Youngsters are being left to their own devices, adrift and bewildered and without an idea of what their role in society is. It is clear that in every epoch there are advantages and drawbacks. We are not advocating a return to the Victorian age, where the individual was often crushed in order to prepare him/her for his duties in his/her respective class. The question we are interested in is: How will our highly individualist, atomised societies react to a sudden and severe shock in the guise of an economic depression, macro-war etc.?
Economists attack Iran policies "Inflation is said to be at unprecedented levels and that is visible in the shops where many housewives can no longer afford meat or fruit." Internal disorganisation Iran is in for a major political crisis, possibly leading to the expression of secessionist desires in parts of the country. The prediction is based on the observation that the number of political units and borders has increased over the last few decades.
Nine killed by gunmen in Pakistan...Bomb explodes on Philippine bus...Seven troops die in Thai bombing Internal disintegration low intensity conflict has become common in many threshold countries since the end of WW II. It is difficult to view these societies - despite their young populations - as pillars of stability in the foreseeable future and as bastions against a possible dark age.
Cheap alcohol wiping out Russians "The research suggests that despite Russia's economic resurgence in the past decade, it still faces social and health problems, especially in provincial areas." Internal disorganisation The economic reality beyond that of the Moscow stock market, where the success of the oil and gas magnates and weapons manufacturers are depicted, looks bleak. Russia still belongs to the first class carriages in the train heading towards a dark age.
Home of the autobahn losing car buyers "The average age of a car registered in Germany is eight years, the highest since the Association of German Automakers began statistics." Innovation failure You do not have to be a member of some automobile lobby to argue that this trend may be taken as a rough indication of overall societal stagnation. It would be a different matter if Germans were beginning to zip around in hyper-modern, cheap aircraft which would be making cars redundant. Obviously, that's not what's happening.
Palestinians in Gaza nearing civil war "With the violence, the streets of Gazan cities were once again empty of pedestrians and cars. People ventured out to buy food, but only if the markets were in or next to their buildings, and parents fretted that their children might be missing key exams." Internal disintegration One of the main problems in the Middle East is the large (excess) number of young men with time on their hands. See also: Anti-Syrian MP mourned in Lebanon .

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Europe's Invisible Illegals "What's unquestionably real are the numbers: Pakistanis and other South Asian Muslims are entering Europe at record levels. The reasons are many, and cumulative. Driven by poverty at home and sometimes by political oppression, they are drawn to the Continent by the prospect of jobs and freedom and the safe harbor offered by established Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities." "Barbarian" invasion Irrespective of the profound differences between the Roman Empire and the Europe of today, there are structural similarities between the mass migration then and now. While levels of cohesion at the communal level may be higher amongst immigrants, this should not distract us from the fact that their home countries are generally - and perhaps not unlike the Germanic tribes in Roman times - facing much more serious problems having to do with state break-up, economic hardship and crime than the West itself. The bottom line: The adjective "barbarian" is used by us in quotation marks to denote this said differential and not intended as a dismissive remark against non-western civilisations.
US warns Turkey not to invade Iraq "There is an intense internal debate in Turkey about whether Ankara should push across the border to root out guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), based inside the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq." International disintegration ahead? Large sections of the Middle East are rapidly plunging into conditions which can be desribed as the shallow-waters of a dark age. They are characterised by the absence of a complex economy, the inexistence of an efficient and strong central government and by continual warring between different societal factions. Despite the presence of mobile phones and Mercedes cars in the streets, the larger societal current seems to be shifting into the direction of more simple and violent mode of coexistence. See also: "Spengler's" analysis of Iran's dire economic situation (Asia Times online)
Student debts break £3 billion "The figures cast a shadow on the thousands of A-level entrants hoping to start university in the autumn. By the time they graduate, they will face debts of about £30,000, which most will still be paying off into their mid-thirties." Internal disorganisation Life becoming harder. See also: House prices 'will soar to ten times salaries'
Teenagers feel strain of being French "Three successive studies of around 15,000 children reveal that, among young people aged from 12 to 18, 9 per cent of boys and 22 per cent of girls show signs of depression and anxiety - three times the total in 1993...Stress at school or at home is also increasingly leading to binge-drinking in France.." Internal discohesion taking its toll? At any rate, not the signs of a healthy society.
U.S. warship can't stop pirates off Somalia "Saturday's incident underscores growing U.S. military involvement in the Horn of Africa, not just against suspected al Qaeda targets but also against an increasingly violent pirate trade waters off Somalia's coast." International integration or disintegration? Which way will the tide turn?
Gangs of Iraq: military quietly enlisting thousands of active gang members "According to a Chicago Sun-Times article last year, Gangster Disciple graffiti has been spotted all over Iraq. The gang’s initials and main symbol, the six-pointed star, have been tagged on concrete blast barriers, armored vehicles, and even remote firebase guard shacks." Internal discohesion The militaries of the developed world will not escape the process which is moving western societies towards a dark age. The hiring of mercenaries and declining loyalty towards the army are indications that cohesion is diminishing, which in turn doesn't bode well for the army's efficiency at performing its mission.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

In Vermont, nascent secession movement gains traction "Disillusioned by what they call an empire about to fall, a small cadre of writers and academics hopes to...persuade state lawmakers to declare independence, returning Vermont to the status it held from 1777 to 1791." Internal disintegration ahead? We believe that economic difficulties will at some point significantly reinforce what today are comparatively feeble sentiments of discontent with the central government in western societies.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Seven new laws for every day of Blair as PM "The legislatively hyperactive Blair premiership has seen an average of 2,685 new laws introduced each year - a 22 per cent increase on the previous decade under the Tories." Internal disorganisation The problem is not a new one and by no means confined to Mr Blair's period in office. Rather, governments of all political hues have produced, in varying degrees, the same result - "big government". For centuries now, bureaucracies in the West have been growing faster than the respective populations. No measure whatsoever has been able to stop this process and economic productivity inevitably suffers. There is no doubt that some point of reckonning lies ahead in the future. The longer it will be postponed the more severe the eventual crisis of confidence will be, when the gap between capabilities and amibitions has been exposed.
Attacks on U.S. Troops in Iraq Grow in Lethality, Complexity "U.S. deaths have risen sharply in some of Baghdad's outlying regions, such as Diyala province, where Sunni and Shiite groups have escalated sectarian violence and fought back hard against American forces moving into their safe havens." Intern(ation)al disintegration Iraq can be viewed as a test of the resolve of the world's mightiest nation. Should the US eventually fail to provide a meaningful degree of stability in Iraq, then this can be taken as an indication that we are moving in the direction of a more disorderly world.
Murders, robberies drive up U.S. violent crime rate "More murders and robberies in 2006 sent U.S. violent crimes higher for the second straight year, the FBI said on Monday, with the increase blamed on gangs, youth violence, gun crimes and fewer police on beats." Internal disintegration Crime statistics tend to be rather unreliable. Still, the news is all the more sobbering in view of the fact that the US holds one of the world's largest prison populations.
Thai bomb blast kills 11 soldiers "The attack is one of the worst in the region in recent years. Another seven people were killed in a separate incident in Songkhla province, when gunmen fired at local Muslims at a mosque, reports say." Internal disintegration Low intensity conflict rearing its ugly head. More LIC news: Policemen die in 'rebel' attack...'Casualties' in Sri Lanka clashes...More killed in Rajasthan violence...Suicide blast kills Turk soldiers
Grenade attack on Somali convoy...Pirates 'kill' hostage in Somalia...Six Russians kidnapped in Nigeria Internal disintegration African dark age
Politicians Call For Crackdown on Violent G-8 Protesters "Police said that more than 2,000 violent extremists took part in the protests and admitted that the number of officers on the ground was not enough to cope with such large numbers of rioters." Internal disintegration

Friday, 1 June 2007

Cold forces Argentine energy cuts "Argentina has been rationing gas supplies as cold weather blamed for some 17 deaths continues to strain the country's energy system...The strain on the country's energy infrastructure was exacerbated by technical problems at two nuclear power stations." A bit of internal disorganisation ocurring here. We expect more such news for other Western nations as investment investment in infrastructure will become insufficient.