Category Archives: History

Nothing lasts forever

In December of 2010, a Tunisian street vendor by the name of Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi stood in front of the governor’s office in the rural town of Sidi Bouzid, doused himself with gasoline, and set himself on fire to protest the severe economic conditions suffered by himself and much of the local population. Outraged by the events that led to this act, thousands of people staged public protests that quickly spread throughout the region, engulfing not only Tunisia, but nearly the entire Middle East and parts of North Africa. At the time of this writing, some three years later, the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen have been forced from power, with major protests and civil unrest still occurring in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Algeria, amongst others. It is yet to be seen which of these governments will survive the coming year.
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On War, Part 8

The partnership between a people and their government is not a fiction. The fiction is that a government will honor that partnership devoid of active participation by the people. In absence of active participation, any government will naturally assume it has ultimate authority, and it will eventually degenerate into one of the various authoritarian variants. Democracy, therefore, exists only through the will of the people, and it survives or dies based upon their determination to defend it.
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On War, Part 7

When one considers war, it is most often with regard to the actions of the state against its enemies, and these enemies are almost always represented as nations or groups external to the state and its people; that is, the “us vs. them” conflict of one country or tribe against another. However, war can also be turned internally, initially in the form of civil disobedience, progressing up the turmoil curve through rioting and radicalism, and ending with revolution and civil war.
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On War, Part 6

It was inevitable, after the long, grinding quagmire of the post-9/11 Iraq War, that it would be compared to the quagmire of Vietnam. Of course, there are many differences: one occurred in Indochina, the other in the Mid-East; they occurred in different generations and under different political circumstances; one involved use of the draft, the other did not, with resulting differences in the scale and depth of public resistance; the access to information by the public was substantially different, as the Internet obviously did not exist in the Vietnam era; and, most notably, the fact that the planners of the Iraq War had something that the planners of the Vietnam conflict did not: the example of the Vietnam War. Yet, for all their differences, the most important comparisons are where they are remarkably the same: specifically, the disturbing degree to which propaganda and doctrine served to almost completely remove the decision makers from reality, with predictable results.
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On War, Part 5

It is undeniable that the ability of a government to control and manipulate information – whether through the propaganda machine or outright lies – is intrinsic to the process of preparing a society to embrace war. For when left to their own devices, and provided with the ability to make reasoned decisions in the presence of unaltered information, the vast majority of the masses have historically proven very unsupportive of aggression when their own lives may be at stake.
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Absolute power corrupts

For once, Peggy Noonan makes an exceptionally lucid and compelling argument (with a modicum of debunking by Charles Pierce), with respect to the ever-growing “surveillance state” and the often false choice between our security as a nation, and the civil rights upon which it was arguably founded. But I think this is less about technology, and more about human nature; specifically the historically well-documented corrosive effects of absolute power.
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That 21st Century Retirement Plan

With the looming disaster of the nation’s 401k experiment seeping into the national awareness, and the fact that half of those under the age of 30 have zero confidence that Social Security and Medicare will be around when they reach the ever rising age for stepping down, one may wonder what retirement is going to look like in the 21st century.
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Filed under Climate Change, History, Riding the Curve, Solutions