Wednesday, April 6, 2016

April 6, 2016 -- A Quick Run Around the Web

A nuclear EMP would involve a device exploding at high altitudes above the Earth's surface. The detonation would create a series of shocks that would threaten unprotected electronics (such as personal electronics and communications lines) and long-line network systems (including electric transmissions, communications lines, and both oil and natural gas pipelines). Such damage would be serious and deadly.

    However, the nations capable of launching a nuclear EMP device that could seriously degrade our critical infrastructure are unlikely to, either because they are our allies (e.g., France, Israel, and the United Kingdom) or because they have too much to lose from retaliation (e.g., China). Rogue states with nuclear weapons, like North Korea, lack the technology necessary to miniaturize the weapon, mount it on a missile, and fire it accurately enough to cause a widespread EMP catastrophe.

      Finally, although it's possible for terrorist or criminal groups to acquire nuclear weapons, they lack the organization necessary to operate and detonate it, let alone the technological know-how to miniaturize and launch it 30,000 feet into the air.

        The more likely source of an EMP event is the sun itself. Solar events are not merely theoretical: In the Solar Storm of 1859, or the Carrington Event, a coronal mass ejection emitted so much energy that it coupled with telegraph wires, causing forest fires, lighting paper on fire, and destroying the newly-laid intercontinental telegraph line that ran under the Atlantic Ocean.

          That was over 150 years ago, when the world did not rely on electrical systems. In 2010, Lloyds of London and Atmospheric and Environmental Research published a report indicating that a Carrington Event-level solar EMP today would cause extended blackouts for 20-40 million Americans and cost, at a conservative estimate, $600 billion to $2.6 trillion. (By comparison, Hurricane Katrina caused approximately $125 billion in total economic losses.)
          • "Kurdish Muslims abandoning Islam for Zoroastrianism in Disgust at ISIL/ Daesh?"--Informed Comment. "For the first time in over a thousand years, locals in a rural part of Sulaymaniyah province conducted an ancient ceremony on May 1, whereby followers put on a special belt that signifies they are ready to serve the religion and observe its tenets. It would be akin to a baptism in the Christian faith." Flash in the pan, or something more?
          • "Foreign policy in the age of the Fifth Wave"--The Fifth Wave. The fifth wave is a term that the author uses to describe the dissemination of information is through so many different media channels (mostly the internet) that it is no longer controllable by the elite or a state. The result is a crises of legitimacy as the flaws and mistakes of the elite/state are exposed to public view, and showing up as false the narrative that supports popular legitimacy. The author writes:
            Secrecy is gone.  In the age of Edward Snowden and Wikileaks, negotiations with foreign governments must be conducted before a surly domestic public.  Every point yielded brings an avalanche of criticism – but so does failure to conclude a deal.  The situation resembles that of the heroes of Star Wars, who are stuck between the crushing walls of a compactor.  Governments escape from this dangerous predicament by seeking isolation from their publics or dealing in bad faith.
              In the old system, revolutionary regimes turned foreign policy into a propaganda weapon.  Today, relations between perfectly conservative governments must often be conducted on a propaganda footing.
                The legitimacy of the government in the eyes of the public is gone.  The old social contract depended on a silent, passive public.  That time is over.  The public, which now commands the strategic heights over the information landscape, looks on government and sees only failure, and interprets failure in terms of elite conspiracy and corruption.  On foreign and domestic policy alike, nothing can be hidden and nothing is forgiven.
                  The ruling elites are demoralized and unwilling to lead where no one will follow.  Their natural instinct is to pretend to “do something” while maintaining a defensive crouch.  The French government’s “war” against the Islamic State and the US government’s unsigned “agreement” with Iran exemplify this pattern.  In both cases, theater has trumped reality, and worst-case scenarios have been pushed to the future, to become someone else’s headache, rather than being dealt with now.
                    The traumatic crack-up with the elites has driven the public to levels of hostility and negation that border on nihilism.  Governments will be tempted to follow the same dangerous path in foreign affairs:  targeting enemies for the public to rally against.  Vladimir Putin has done so with Ukraine, Adbel Fattah al-Sisi with the Muslim Brotherhood:  the two men are hard authoritarians responsible for broken economies, yet both are immensely popular – at least as of the present moment.
                    While the author doesn't address this issue, it seems that the elites and the state (the federal government) have already decided on nihilism when it comes to domestic policy--they would rather destroy the nation than abandon their transnational empires. According to the political and media elites: Benghazi was the fault of a lone videographer; Congressional deadlock is the fault of the "Tea Party"; Trump supporters are "racists"; defense of traditional marriage is a form of "homophobia." The elites and the state are, in effect, yelling at the public to "shut up." 
                    The author goes on:
                      The forces of negation have driven ruling elites to seek shelter in transnational and international organizations that serve as scapegoats for failure.  Elites have also tried to restore their broken authority by striking poses of moral superiority, as in the immigration question, or by pretending to stand between the public and doomsday, as with climate change.  The public is having none of it.  The flight of national governments into transnational hiding-places has ignited a powerful and contrary movement among the governed.  The war-bands at the vanguard of this movement have been labeled “nationalist” – but this too is a misleading term.

                        Groups like the Sweden Democrats and UKIP are uninterested in the greater glory of the nation.  They have no wish to see Sweden or Britain cut a more heroic figure in the world.  Instead they stand firmly against.  They are against the EU.  They are against immigrants.  Above all, they are against their national elites, whose pious vacillations they perceive to be self-serving and public-destroying.
                        The author believes that the public have nothing to offer up to replace the current political order. I disagree, but that is a subject of a later post.
                        • Related: "Big Leak, Big Corruption, Deep Rot"--The American Interest. A brief article from a couple days ago about the documents leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specializes in creating offshore companies to help politicians and other elites hide their money, avoid taxes, and otherwise conceal their illicit gains. This will probably be bigger than Wikileaks or Snowden's release of documents.
                        In particular, a study of 93 cultures across Asia, Oceana and Africa, has found the practices helped establish authority and set up class-based systems.
                          Human sacrifice was once widespread throughout these Austronesian cultures, which used it as the ultimate punishment, for funerals and to consecrate new boats.
                            Sacrificial victims were typically of low social status, such as slaves, while instigators were of high social status, such as priests and chiefs, installing a sense of fear in the lower classes.

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