Archive for the ‘CONSERVATISM’ Category

UNDERSTANDING PRESENT AMERICAN POLITICS: READING VISIONARY JAMES BURNHAM

October 14, 2018

American Greatness on December 21, 2018, recommended a number of books for those interested in understanding populism in the United States. Julius Krein, the editor of American Affairs, a quarterly journal of public policy and political thought, lauded a visionary book by James Burnham (1905 – 1987). Excerpts below:

In ”The Managerial Revolution: What Is Happening in the World” (1941), James Burnham explains the economic and intellectual history of the new “managerial” society that supplanted entrepreneurial capitalism over the course of the twentieth century. Closely connected with this economic transition is the shift from parliamentary and constitutional government toward administrative bureaucracy. Any work of this type will contain some anachronisms and mistaken predictions, but many of Burnham’s insights may seem more relevant now than at the time of writing, as the trends that he identified have only accelerated since then.

While rising “populism” receives significant attention today, our understanding of the composition and interests of the so-called “elite” is severely lacking. On one hand, “Conservatives” typically denounce the “adversary culture” and “postmodernism/relativism” of today’s intellectual elite, yet too often remain blind to the economic realities behind political and social transformations. “Progressives,” by contrast, protest rising inequality, yet ignore important differences between today’s elite and that of prior periods, specifically the separation between ownership and control that prevails in managerial arrangements and distinguishes them from classical notions of capitalism.

This failure to understand the nature of the current political and economic “elite” explains why so many politicians and intellectuals of the left and right have failed to understand voters’ dissatisfaction with the status quo. Reading Burnham is essential to correcting this misunderstanding and for developing better responses to present policy problems.

Comment: Burnham’s ”The Managerial Revolution” is a classic work in the field of elite study. He followed up in 1943 with another classic, ”The Machiavellians – Defenders of Freedom”. It was an account of a remarkable group of scholars who had studied how to preserve freedom in Western society. They were Gaetano Mosca, Georges Sorel, Robert Michels and Vilfredo Pareto. The original Machiavellian was of course the great Italian Niccoló Machiavelli. His method was the method of science applied to politics. It may be surprising to describe Machiavelli as a defender of liberty. He has incorrectly often been described as a proponent of tyranny. In reality he hated tyranny and believed that only out of the continuing clash of opposing groups could liberty flow. Liberty is the dominant ideal of the Italian master thinker. It is no wonder that the powerful throughout the ages have denounced the Florentine diplomat and writer. They can recognize an enemy who like Machiavelli will never compromise.

During the Cold War Professor Burnham was an important thinker on the threat of Soviet power and published three basic studies on American strategy in the conflict between Soviet totalitarianism and Western freedom.

Advertisements

MADAME NHU AND THE STRUGGLE FOR VIETNAM FREEDOM

May 31, 2018

One of the most recognized figures in the history of the Republic of Vietnam (Viet Nam Cong Hoa) was Tran Le Xuan, better known as Madame Nhu, the wife of Ngo Dinh Nhu, the brother of the first Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and the unofficial “First Lady” of South Vietnam. Aside from her husband, Madame Nhu herself had quite an illustrious ancestry. Her mother was Than Trong Nam Tran who was a daughter of Princess Nhu Phien who was the youngest daughter of H.I.M. Dong Khanh, the ninth Emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty.

She married Ngo Dinh Nhu and converted to Christianity, becoming a Catholic and a very public face for the young South Vietnamese government. Her husband, Ngo Dinh Nhu ran the Can Lao political movement in support of the personalist regime of Diem. Madame Nhu was, in every respect, a fiery and committed woman, which both her friends and her many enemies could agree on. She played a leading role in the moral reform President Diem instituted in South Vietnam, closing down brothels, opium dens and gambling houses. She was at the front of imposing what was known as the “campaign for public morality” on South Vietnam, which included the abolition of divorce, contraceptives and abortion. Nightclubs and ball rooms were also often targets. Even beauty pageants were halted as Madame Nhu believed they simply contributed to the objectification of women. This campaign of decency, while admirable, was met with a great deal of hostility by those who did not share Madame Nhu’s view of ethics.

“The Dragon Lady” as she came to be called, was also a passionate anti-communist and was determined that women should play a leading role in defending their country from Communist infiltration. She formed a corps of women warriors and there is a famous photograph of her at their training ground, firing a .38 pistol for the first time. That event sums up a great deal of her character. Having never used a firearm before she was startled by the noise of the first shot. Laughing it off, she vowed that she would not flinch again and fired the remaining five rounds as though she were an expert. She also fostered a renewal of commemorations for the Trung Sisters, the heroic co-Queens of early Viet Nam who fought against Chinese occupation.

Madame Nhu was, like the rest of the Diem clan and most Vietnamese of her background, extremely devoted to her family. In her eyes, her husband was the heart of the Diem regime and could do no wrong. Commenting on the American effort to remove Ngo Dinh Nhu, she said that Diem refused because he knew that, as she said, “my husband could do without him, but he, he could not do without my husband”. She was also patriotic.

After being removed from power, Diem was assassinated along with his brother Nhu. Madame Nhu was, at that time, on a tour of the United States giving speeches in support of Vietnam’s war against Communism. When hearing of the event and the rumored involvement of the United States she said, “Whoever has the Americans as allies does not need enemies”. She went on to predict a dark future for her country, which was sadly to prove all too acurate. With Diem gone, the U.S. was firmly in control of the Vietnam conflict and Madame Nhu retired from public life to Italy.

Comment: The struggle for Vietnam freedom continues both outside and inside Vietnam. Madame Nhu was a patriotic leader of South Vietnam and should be more widely recognized as such.

NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI, JAMES BURNHAM AND SINGAPORE

May 31, 2018

It has been said the Lee Quan Yew’s Singapore is a city state built on the principles of Niccoló Machiavelli’s political science formulas. Below is a look at the great Italian’s conception of history in the view of the American theorist James Burnham (1905 – 1987):

1

”Political life, according to Machiavelli, is never static, but in continual change. There is no way of avoiding this change…The process of change is repetitive, and roughly cyclical. That is to say , the pattern of change occurs again and again in history (so that studying the past, we learn also about the present and future); and this pattern comprises a more or less recognizable cycle.”

James Burnham, Machiavellians – The Defenders of Freedom, first ed. 1943., p. 70.

2

”The recurring pattern of change expresses the more or less permanent core of human nature as it functions politically. The instability of all governments and political forms follows in part from the limitless human appetite for power.”

(pp. 71-72)

3

”Machiavelli assign a major function in political affairs to what he calls ’Fortune’…From the passages it becomes clear what Machiavelli means by ’Fortune’. Fortune is all those causes of historical change that are beyond the deliberate, rational control of men.”

(pp. 72-73)

4

”Machiavelli believes that religion is essential to the well-being of a state. In discussing religion, as in discussing human nature, Machiavelli confines himself to political function”.

(p. 75)

”What kind of government did Machiavelli think best?…Machiavelli’s writings, taken in their
entirety, leave no doubt about the answer. Machiavelli thinks that the best kind of government is a republic, what he called a ’commonwealth’…If a republic is the best form government, it does not follow that a republic is possible at every moment and for all things.”

(pp 77-78)

5

As protectors of liberty, Machiavelli has no confidence in individual men as such; driven by unlimited ambition, deceiving even themselves, they are always corrupted by power. But individuals can, to some extent and for a while, be disciplined within the established framework of wise laws. [If liberty is to be preserved] no person and no magistrate may be permitted to be above the law.”

(p.79)

6

”Liberty, then – not rhetorical liberty of an impossible and misconceived utopia, but such concrete liberty as is, when they are fortunate, within the grasp of real men, with their real limitations – is the dominant ideal of Machiavelli, and his final norm of judgement. Tyranny is liberty’s opposite, and no man has been a clearer foe of tyranny. No man clearer, and few more eloquent.”

(p. 81)

THREE EURASIAN EMPIRES CHALLENGING THE WEST

April 7, 2018

China is the leading predator state on the world island (Eurasia and Africa). Its rise is not peaceful. Instead it is a predator state. The first step is the militarization of islands in the South China Sea. Other predator empires on the world island are Russia and Iran/Persia. Historical examples of predator empires are Napoleonic France, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Typical for these empires is territorial aggression – grabbing territory and resources. They claim that nearby territories (both land and maritime) have been ”stolen” from them. They are guided by a philosophy of grievance or victimization by historical injustices. China is a typical example of this tendency. Recently Russia has been claiming territory in Eastern Europe, occupied Crimea and areas in eastern Ukraine. The question now is if Moscow will claim and re-occupy for instance Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Georgia.

Iran is presently seeking to destabilize the Middle East in search of greater influence. Behind this might also be a wish for territorial expansion.

China is involved in a border conflict with India and has a history of controlling tributary states. Some of these were Nepal, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia but also Mongolia and Korea. The doctrine of Confucius stated that the ruler of China was the Son of Heaven. His example drew ”barbarians” from neighbouring states to Chinese civilization. The foreigners admired the superior culture of China and its civilization. Chinese influence and control was the ”tribute system” which comprised all interstate relations. Trade was used for control and it was also an elaborate ritual. Tribute missions were dispatched to the Chinese capital. It was both a sign of subjugation and a profitable privilege.

One sign that the United States is presently taking a tougher stand against China’s and Russia’s attempt to grab resources is that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is becoming more risk-averse since 2017. Chinese and Russian companies and investors now face more roadblocks. However, most of the deals that CFIUS has sought to block since 2017 have not been announced.

Among the companies that have disclosed they have withdrawn their CFIUS applications and canceled their deals are U.S. electronics maker Inseego Corp, which tried to sell its MiFi mobile hotspot business to Chinese smartphone maker TCL Industries Holdings, and Texas oil producer ExL Petroleum Management LLC, which sought to sell its assets to Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s L1 Energy.

By comparison, in the entirety of 2014, the last year for which CFIUS has released official data, nine deals were withdrawn after CFIUS began an investigation.

CFIUS has likely reviewed a record-setting 250 to 300 transactions in 2017, according to Anne Salladin, a CFIUS expert with the law firm Stroock and Stroock and Lavan LLP – up sharply from 147 deals in 2014

The European Union Commission has suggested that EU introduces a similar institution to CFIUS.

Another predatory aspect of China policy is the attempt to buy influence in harbors near to what is by the U.S. Navy defined as ”world maritime chokepoints. Among the most important of these in the Indo-Pacific are the Korean Straits, Makassar Strait between Sulawesi and Borneo, the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra and the Strait of Malacca between the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. Further west are the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb.

Furthermore China cheats in the international trading arena. It uses illegal trade subsidies. Counterfeiting is rampant. The currency manipulation is extensive. The unfair trade practices include lax environmental, health and safety standards.

The U.S. China Commission has urged congress to define in legislation currency manipulation as an illegal export. Such manipulation should be added to other prohibited subsidies. American and European leaders should openly condemn China’s commercial use of its UN veto. It must act responsibly to enjoy the benefits of the international marketplace.

China and Russia have since the Cold War reasserted their influence regionally and globally. Their military capabilities are designed to deny America access in times of crisis and to contest the ability of the United States to operate freely in critical commercial zones during peacetime. In short, they are contesting the American geopolitical advantages and trying to change the international order in their favor. The latest US National Security Strategy document of December 2017 says that China and Russia seek to shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests. In short they want a state-driven world economic model.

It is time to protect and defend the West against the three predator empires in Eurasia. To do this the United States should to a greater extent retain overmatch. This should be recognized in a positive way by Canada, Europe, Israel and Australia.

PROTECTING THE UNITED STATES AND THE REST OF THE WEST

April 4, 2018

Washington Times on April 3, 2018 published a commentary by Jed Babbin, a former US deputy undersecretary of defense, on a new foreign policy agenda for the United States. Excerpts below:

There are at least four policy matters that could comprise an initial agenda for Mr. John Bolton, each of which would significantly assist the president in bolstering our national security.

In August 2016 Mr. Trump,…, said, “Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of Radical Islam.”

Mr. Trump was right and strategically so. Radical Islamic terrorism is motivated by a religiously-based ideology. It can only be won by the defeat of that evil ideology.

[Mr. Bolton] will be able to assemble the best psychological warfare…to craft and commence the campaign. He will be able to guide the president and other government leaders, to play their critical roles in defeating the Islamist ideology.

The ideological fight will take many years, perhaps decades, to win but there is no prospect of defeating this enemy unless it is won.

The next big item on Mr. Bolton’s agenda should be Mr. Obama’s 2015 nuclear weapons deal with Iran. Mr. Bolton, from the outset highly critical of the deal, can be expected to press the president to do the right thing and cancel the deal in May.

[The new national security advisor] steps into his new job at an opportune moment to address a third item on his agenda. The president is supposed to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the next few weeks. Mr. Bolton will be able to advise the president on the pitfalls of any proposed agreement with Mr. Kim. When the meeting ends, as it almost certainly will with no agreement other than to talk again, he will be able to convince the president to do far more than has been done to improve our defenses against ballistic missile attacks.

One of the ways to improve our ballistic missile defenses is a space-based system called “Brilliant Pebbles” first unveiled in the 1990s. It is a system of small interceptor missiles, linked to our satellite missile tracking systems, which — even with 1990s technology — would have made America almost penetration-proof against such attacks. Modern technology would make the system even more effective depriving many adversaries, not just North Korea, of a “first strike” capability.

The fourth item on Mr. Bolton’s agenda should be to recommence sending captured terrorists to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Gitmo, isolated and secure, is a place where terrorists can be interrogated at length. Such interrogations, which take place over months and even years, have proven to be a consistent source of actionable intelligence.

Under the law of war, we can hold prisoners until the conflict is over. It has never been demonstrated that Gitmo benefits terrorist recruitment, but so what if it does? Gitmo — and the fact that no prisoners are tortured there, a fact that is verified by frequent inspections by international groups — is another weapon we should use in the ideological war.

Comment: In addition to the war against terrorism the West is at present facing three major imperial challengers: China, Iran/Persia and Russia. Of Mr Babbin’s policy recommendations two deal with the war on terrorism, one with Iran and one with the threat of missile attacks by North Korea, China and Russia. The two latter recommendations are helpful in the case of the challenges the West is today facing from empires in the rimland of Eurasia and the Russian heartland.

US WILL WIN TRADE WAR WITH CHINA SAYS EXPERT

April 3, 2018

Daily Beast on March 26, 2018 published an article by leading China expert Gordon G. Chang. Chang said that China would risk the falling apart of their economy and political system if opposing the United States. Excerpts below:

…President Donald Trump has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from various countries, including China, pursuant to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

…he has signed a memorandum that will soon lead, pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, to the levying of tariffs on perhaps $60 billion of Chinese goods. At the same time, he directed the Treasury Department to consider the imposition of curbs on Chinese investment.

It certainly looks like a trade war is brewing. China’s Ministry of Commerce [has] announced tariffs of 15 percent and 25 percent on almost $3 billion of American products in 128 categories, retaliation for Trump’s Section 232 tariffs.

At the same time, Chinese officials have been making threats, especially promising to not buy American agricultural products or to reduce purchases of U.S. Treasury debt.

[USA holds the winning cards.] First, [China] is growing more dependent on access to the American market. In 2016, a stunning 68.0 percent of China’s overall merchandise trade surplus related to sales to the U.S. In 2017, that figure increased to 88.8 percent. Trade-surplus countries, as history shows, generally suffer more in trade wars.

Beijing, therefore, is generally vulnerable to being pushed around by Washington.

Second, the American economy is far bigger than the Chinese one. Beijing claimed gross domestic product of $12.84 trillion in 2017. America’s economy, by way of contrast, clocked in at $19.39 trillion last year.

China’s GDP numbers are surely overstated because, especially during the last two years, the country’s growth was less than half that reported by the official National Bureau of Statistics. America’s larger economy is, at the moment, in fact growing at a faster clip than China’s.

Third, the American economy, for all its faults, is stable, and China’s, by most accounts, is on the verge of a debt crisis. China’s debt-to-GDP ratio looks like it is somewhere, depending on the amount of so-called hidden debt, between 350 percent and 400 percent.

Chinese concern about the state of the economy led to extraordinary capital flight in 2015 and 2016, with net capital outflow probably reaching $2.1 trillion in the two-year period. Only the imposition of draconian capital-control measures beginning in the fall of 2016 stopped the outbound torrent of capital.

In this regard, Beijing has been, on balance, selling American Treasury obligations since the middle of 2014 in order to defend its currency, the renminbi, and this has not caused any noticeable effect on the ability of the U.S. to finance deficits.

In addition to ignoring the fundamental balance of power between China and the U.S., experts in recent days have been making specific arguments that are particularly unconvincing.

[A false argument is] when American retailers, politicians, and others contend that Trump’s tariffs will punish Americans, who have become accustomed to buying cheap goods.

Yet China, as its promoters have told us for a half-decade, is no longer the lowest-cost producer of many items. Take… [the]example of apparel. At the beginning of this century, about 90 percent of apparel sold at Walmarts was made in China. By the end of 2012, that balance between China and the rest of the world essentially reversed.

Trump’s tariffs on apparel or other items, even if they make Chinese goods more expensive or unavailable, will not result in significant cost increases beyond a month or two. Americans will soon be buying their low-cost items from other producers, which are already, if I may use the phrase, beating the pants off China.

…consumption is ultimately not the driver of growth in China. The ultimate driver remains investment. Consumption in China falls whenever Beijing reduces the flow of state-directed investment. And because of debt concerns, Chinese technocrats are losing the ability to create growth by investing.

For decades, Chinese leaders have staked their legitimacy primarily on the continual delivery of prosperity. Trump not only threatens the Chinese economy but also the Communist Party’s political system. That gives China’s leaders great incentive to hold back retaliatory moves.

Boeing executives and American soybean producers are right to be nervous [about Chinese moves], but they surely know how global markets work. If China does not buy soybeans from the American heartland and purchases them from Brazil instead, American producers will sell soy to Brazil’s customers.

There are only so many soybeans in the world at the moment, and the same principle generally holds for commercial aircraft. Airlines and leasing companies are unlikely to wait years longer because Airbus’ production has been diverted to China to fill orders that would have gone to Boeing. In most cases, Airbus customers will opt for Boeing craft to fill needs.

In short, Trump holds the high cards when it comes to China, and, unlike his predecessors, he knows it.

MR. TRUMP’S REALIST FOREIGN POLICY IS SECURING THE WEST

March 29, 2018

Washington Times on March 28, 2018 published a commentary by Lt. Colonel L. Scott Lingamfelter on the necessary shift in United States foreign policy. Excerpts below:

Mr. Trump [early on] understood the importance of Saudi Arabia in not only reshaping the Middle East but in dealing with the emerging threat Iran poses to regional and world peace. Indeed, Mr. Trump is a practitioner of realpolitik. In that regard, his selection of former Ambassador John Bolton, who adheres to that philosophy,…represents a profound fulcrum shift in the crafting and orchestration of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy agenda.

Mr. Bolton’s arrival could not be timelier. Here some context would be illustrative. Consider the diametrically opposed foreign policy views of Mr. Trump and his predecessor, Barrack Obama. President Obama drew “redlines” in Syria as a warning to Damascus to refrain from chemical warfare, a threat he failed to keep. Mr. Trump attacked the Syrian regime with 60 cruise missiles for using those chemical weapons, even while having dessert with the president of China.

Mr. Obama was caught off-guard by the rise of ISIS. Mr. Trump destroyed them mercilessly. Mr. Obama placed U.S. and world security at risk by agreeing to a horribly constructed Iranian nuclear deal. Mr. Trump is poised to abrogate it. Mr. Obama continued the legacy of effete diplomatic efforts to contain North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions. Mr. Trump is moving to end it. Mr. Trump’s practical view of the world stands in stark contrast to the disoriented approach by Mr. Obama.

Indeed, the distinction between these men is further apparent in the difference between the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy (NSS) Document, the road map for achieving…vital national interests,…Under Mr. Obama, the NSS read like a community organizer’s handbook. His NSS was filled with lofty nostrums about leadership, keeping “pressure” on the war on terror (as opposed to destroying it), and of course, climate change.

…Mr. Trump has taken a decidedly realpolitik view more appropriate for the challenges before us. His strategy is based on four pillars: (1) Protect the homeland, the American people, and the American way of life, (2) Promote American prosperity, (3) Preserve peace through strength, and (4) Advance American influence.

Mr. Bolton’s clear-eyed view of the world will be additive to the president’s instincts to see things as they are, not as he would wish them to be, which is why Mr. Trump has tapped him for the job. The former U.N. ambassador knows firsthand the nature of today’s international actors — some who are quite malevolent — in the multi-polar world we live in.

Mr. Bolton will be a wise and patient counselor in helping the president realize the foreign policy objectives that are clearly articulated in his NSS.

Indeed, Mr. Bolton’s arrival is a fulcrum shift…And there is much to do. The war on terror, the nuclear threat from both North Korea and Iran, the revolution in Syria and the military ambitions of China all pose profound challenges to the vital interests of the United States. None may be more exigent than a resurgent Russia in the hands of Vladimir Putin.

Here the weight of Mr. Bolton’s expertise is precisely what is needed to help the president navigate very turbulent waters.

Comment: Lt. Colonel Lingamfelter in the article above well describes the importance of a realist view in foreign policy.

Russia in the heartland of Eurasia and China as well as Iran/Persia are the present challengers to the United States and the rest of the West.

Russia under Putin has a strong military and the Russian president has shown willingness to use that force against neighbour Ukraine.

The goal of China is to surpass the United States as world leading power and with that the risk of military aggression in the South China Sea and in the rest of the Pacific. Both China and Russia have a tradition of centralized political authority based on what Karl Wittfogel (1896 – 1988) in his important book “Oriental Despotism” described as “hydraulic bureaucratic despotism” based on irrigation in agriculture. This tradition of despotism was brought to Russia by the Tartars in the Middle Ages and continued in Czarist Russia and now under Putin’s rule.

Iran (Persia) is a classical challenger to the West. Much of the present chaos in the Middle East is a result of Iranian intervention. Like in other cultures in the area Iran accepts and even values conflict, conspiracy and war. Muslim rulers have for a long time and are still relying on psychological warfare, espionage and subversion in the search to weaken the influence of Western civilization. Iran is supporting terrorist organizations in Lebanon and Gaza and is a constant threat to mainly Israel but also the rest of the West.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION STRENGTHENING EUROPEAN DEFENSE AGAINST RUSSIA

March 28, 2018

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan according to Washington Times on March 27, 2018, told legislators in central Europe on March 26 that the U.S. and its allies “will not tolerate” Russia’s efforts to destabilize democracies, as he promoted a more robust U.S. military presence in Europe. Excerpts below:

A day after the U.S. and at least 21 other countries expelled more than 130 Russian diplomats, Mr. Ryan told the parliament in the Czech Republic that Russia “meddles in democratic elections throughout Europe, as it did in the United States.”

“More furtively, it spreads disinformation, and engages in cyber attacks,” Mr. Ryan said in remarks prepared for delivery. “We must see this for what it is: an attempt to sow discord among our peoples, divide allies, and destabilize democratic institutions. We cannot and we will not tolerate it.”

The Czech Republic …was under the control of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, also has expelled Russian operatives.

Mr. Ryan noted that Mr. Trump last week signed a spending bill that added about $1.4 billion this year for the European Deterrence Initiative, created to reassure allies in Eastern European and deter Russia from further incursions after its illegal annexation of Crimea.

“It includes beginning the build-up of a division’s worth of equipment being prepositioned over five locations on this continent,” Mr. Ryan said. “We want you to see that America is committed to an enduring presence in Europe.”

The EDI funding would grow by another $1.7 billion in fiscal 2019, to $6.5 billion according to the Pentagon’s budget request.

Mr. Ryan said the Czech people “are no strangers to Russian influence, whether in the guise of oppression or subversion.”

“Solidarity on this frontier of freedom is more important than ever. It is everything, really,” he said.

“All of the nations that once suffered under Soviet rule have a common interest in building security and prosperity,” Mr. Ryan said. “And we look forward to seeing you take on a larger share of the defense responsibility. This is not simply about meeting a benchmark. It is about expanding our capabilities to address evolving threats.”

THE STEADY DECLINE OF SOCIAL DEMOCRACY IN EUROPE

March 27, 2018

American Enterprise Institute, Washington DC, in an article published on March 23, 2018, commented on the ongoing decline of the Left in Europe using Netherlands as an example. Excerpts below:

The Netherlands held local elections on [in March 2018] in most of the country…

Let’s have a quick look at the local election results… The Labor Party (PvdA), traditionally the second-largest force in Dutch politics, continued its decline by underperforming relative to its disappointing 2014 results. Coupled with the shellacking it received in last year’s general-election vote, when it became the seventh-largest party in Parliament, it is hard to still think of the PvdA as a major political party.

[Its voters] have been taken over by the resurgent Green Left as the major player on the left. This fits a broad, continent-wide pattern of traditional social-democratic parties losing significant ground (France, Germany, Italy, Spain), practically disappearing (Greece), or taking a sharp turn toward the populist left (Great Britain).

Comment: As usual Sweden is an exception with the Labor Party (SAP) receiving between 25 and 30 percent in opinion polls in advance of national elections in September 2018. It remains the largest politicial party. SAP is governing in Sweden with the Green Left (MP), which according to recent polls will not make it to parliament in September (under 4 percent of the votes). Denmark, Finland and Norway all have center-right governments.

NEWT GINGRICH ON TECHNOLOGIES THAT WILL CHANGE OUR WORLD

March 26, 2018

On March 25, 2018, Newt Gingrich, speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999, on Fox News reported on a visit to an American university. He was hosted by Dr. Kiron Skinner at Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh. Carnegie Mellon has a top level artificial intelligence (AI) program. Mr. Gingrich, a futurist of some note himself, wanted to learn more about technical developments that might evolve into something important in the future. Excerpts below:

…in 1965, as an undergraduate student at Emory University, I began working with Pete Jensen at what would later become the Rich Computer Center at Georgia Tech. Pete was one of the great pioneers of computing and in a few years introduced me to ideas…which evolved over the next half century into the Internet and modern computing. My own activities had been dramatically enriched by Pete’s ideas and teaching.

…(later) I had been privileged to work with Alvin and Heidi Toffler as their thinking evolved from their bestselling book, “Future Shock,” to their even more important book, “The Third Wave.” The observations and insights they developed for “The Third Wave” are still valid over three decades later. They gave me an entirely different perspective on the scale of change our civilization was going through. The Tofflers and their work were very influential in the thinking that led to the Contract with America in 1994.

Starting in 2001, I began looking at nanoscale science and technology, quantum computing and the revolution these two systems would bring about – a revolution that is still only in its infancy.

Around 2007, I began talking with oil and gas experts about the revolutionary breakthroughs in fracking, and their inevitable impact on our ability to produce oil and gas. In 2008 that led me, in collaboration with my former colleague Vince Haley and Sean Hannity, to launch “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less.”

My wife Callista and I also made a documentary, “We Have the Power.”

Influenced by the growth of fracking, in 2012 I wrote the book, “$2.50 a Gallon.”

…in Pittsburgh, I saw another powerful glimmering of technologies that will change our world. The ability to develop intelligent systems that can learn and adjust is rapidly evolving. These systems will give us new capabilities and new insights in ways we have never imagined.

In a few brief hours at Carnegie Mellon, I saw a voice analysis system that could be combined with cellphone technology to enable remote medical analysis of virtually everyone on the planet. It would create an extraordinary new approach to early diagnostics and constant monitoring at an astonishingly low cost.

I watched a robotic assistant reduce the invasiveness of heart surgery so that instead of patients taking 14 days to recover, they could leave the hospital after one day.

And the potential for 3-D printing and robotics, combined with reusable rockets, will totally change how we think about space. This is just astonishing.

Artificial intelligence will displace many traditional service jobs, while also creating new jobs. The challenge will be helping adults make the transition from outdated skills to the new, higher-paying and more interesting skills made possible by artificial intelligence.

Of course, during this development, we must constantly work to improve these systems to make sure they are safe.

We must learn from and continuously work to prevent tragic accidents…

It is also clear that we have to invest heavily in artificial intelligence if we are going to maintain our competitive and national security advantages in the face of massive Chinese investment in the artificial intelligence field. We already know Chinese companies are working to build a huge fleet of self-driving vehicles. You can bet they will use and apply everything they learn in this endeavor in their military programs.

As I learn more over the next few months I will report on additional exciting new developments.

The future is going to be amazing,..There is much more to come.