Category Archives: Technology

The Eagle, the Dragon, and the Bear, by Robert Gore

Does Trump recognize the limits of US power?

Trump’s new world order comes straight from The Godfather. There are three global powers: the US, Russia, and China. None of these powers can militarily defeat either of the other two, and even an alliance among two of them would have trouble defeating the third.

Like Don Corleone, Trump is dividing up the larger territory into smaller, great-power controlled sub-territories. He is tacitly recognizing Russia and China’s dominance in their own spheres of influence, and holding them to account in their territories. The implicit agreement among the three is apparently that each power will, in their, “sphere of influence…enforce peace.”

Trump’s New World Order,” SLL 3/20/18

In one week President Trump confirmed that his first concern is the United States, that he has what may be a workable vision for its place in the world, and he loathes globalism and the globalists. A good measure of his efficacy is the outrage he generates. By that measure, that week was his finest hour…so far.

Europe won’t have a seat at Trump’s great-power table. Its welfare states are addicted to their handouts, deeply in debt, rely on uneven trade arrangements with the US, and have below-replacement birth rates. They are cowed by Soros-sponsored propaganda—Immigration is the answer!—and haven’t shut off the immigrant invasion. Refusing to spend on their own militaries, they’ve used what they save on defense to subsidize welfare spending and state bureaucracies.

They’re ignoring a lesson from history: nations that rely on other nations for their defense generally come to regret it. Instead, they’re wedded to the globalist acronyms: NATO, EU and UN. They have frittered away their power and their glory—Europe’s heritage and civilization—opting for overrun masquerading as assimilation by dogmatic and implacable foes.

Trump is all about power and despises weakness. There isn’t always strength in numbers. A confederation of weaklings doesn’t equal strength, especially when the weaklings’ premises and principles are fundamentally wrong. Strongest of the weaklings is Germany, a trade powerhouse but a US military vassal. It’s hard to say if Trump’s dislike of Angela Merkel is business—she’s one of the world’s most visible and vociferous proponent of globalism, or personal—it’s always her way or the highway. Probably both, and it looks like Germany may finally be rejecting her way on immigration.

Trump clearly relished snubbing her and her G-6 buddies, particularly boy toys Trudeau and Macron, who may actually believe his bone-crushing handshakes intimidated Trump. When you’re paying for a continent’s defense and you’re giving them a better deal on trade than they’re giving you, that’s leverage, and Trump knows it. He’s not intimidated.

US Atlanticists have used that leverage to cement Europe into the US’s confederated empire. That Trump is willing to blow off Europe suggests that he may be blowing off empire. America’s imperialists equate backing away from empire with “decline,” but such a sea change would be the exact opposite. Empires require more energy and resources to maintain than can be extracted from them. They are inevitably a road to ruin.

Nothing is as geopolitically telling as Trump leaving Europe’s most “important” heads of state early to meet with the leader of one of Asia’s most impoverished backwaters. Europe’s time has passed, the future belongs to Asia. Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia may look like the same recognition, but it was not. That pivot was designed to encircle China diplomatically, economically, and militarily. That thinking persists among much of the US military, but Trump may have something different in mind.

China has its problems. Much of its economy, especially its financial sector, is state-directed, despite the capitalistic gloss. There will be a reckoning from its debt binge. The repressive social credit system typifies the government’s immoral objective: keeping China’s people compliant but productive drones. However, enforced docility and innovation—the foundation of progress—mix as readily as oil and water, and theft of others’ innovations can’t fill the void.

Notwithstanding its issues, China is a major power and is not going to be encircled or regime changed by the US. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) it cosponsors and finances with Russia is the centerpiece of a basket of initiatives designed to further those countries’ influence and leadership within Eurasia and among emerging market countries. BRI is an apt symbol of the movement towards multipolarity, with competition shifting from the military to the economic and commercial sphere.

Trump tacitly accepts Russian and Chinese dominance in Eurasia. However, Trump doesn’t give without receiving; he’s going to extract concessions. Number one on the list is North Korea and its nuclear weapons. We’ll probably never know what has gone on behind the scenes between Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, and perhaps Vladimir Putin, but Kim may have received an offer he couldn’t refuse. Both China and Russia would be well-served by a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons and US troops. Whatever transpired, Kim came around. Trump ameliorated any potential humiliation, journeying to Kim’s neck of the woods, laying on an inspirational movie video, and flattering the North Korean leader and his country. Kim the farsighted leader may be able to reach a deal; Kim the browbeaten puppet couldn’t. If he tried, he’d probably be deposed, always a danger for dictators.

As global competition moves from military to economic, Trump is also going to make sure he tilts, as much as possible, the rules of that competition back towards the US. There are the existing trade arrangements with Europe, Canada, and Mexico that he’s willing to blow up, presumably to obtain better arrangements.

China is in a league of its own when it comes to gaming trade, and it’s getting the Trump treatment as well. Much of the Chinese “advantage” stems from Chinese overcapacity, fueled by below market interest rates in China and around the globe. Trump can’t do much about that “advantage.” The low-interest regime will eventually crash and burn, but it’s going to take a depression to clear overcapacity in China and elsewhere.

Innovation and intellectual property are America’s one indisputable comparative economic advantage. It will be a tough nut, but Trump is bent on curbing China’s acquisitions, by fair means and foul, of US know how. If he succeeds it will slow, but not stop, the Chinese economic juggernaut. It has millions of smart, well-educated, industrious people who will continue to fuel indigenous innovation (notwithstanding state-enforced docility).

Three realities confronted Trump when he assumed office. The US empire is unsustainable, so too is the trajectory of its spending and debt, and the government is fundamentally corrupt. It would be foolish to bet Trump doesn’t understand these issues and the linkages between them.

“Trump’s New World Order”

If Trump has recognized that first reality and is implementing Don Corleone’s spheres of influence concept, he may get some breathing room to address the intractable second and third realities: the trajectory of US spending and debt, and the fundamentally corrupt government. On the debt, all the breathing room in the world isn’t going to save him. The US keeps adding to principal, which is compounding at rising rates. Cutting imperial expenditures would help some, although transfer payments are the biggest enchilada. To make even the first step on the thousand mile journey to solvency, however, the US government will have to run a bona fide surplus for many years. That prospect is not on the horizon.

As for corruption, thousands of articles by bloggers and commentators, including SLL, may have less instructional value for the populace at large than one simple demonstration: most of America’s rulers and its captive media are speaking out against a peace initiative, not on the merits of the initiative itself, but because Donald Trump was one of its initiators. That tells those Americans who are paying attention all they need to know about their rulers and their captive media. Whether they do anything about it is another question.

You Should Be Laughing At Them!

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Despite ‘New, Tough Sanctions’, US Takes Delivery Of Russian Rocket Engines, by Tyler Durden

This is an odd situation that has persisted for years: the US gets rocket engines from Russia. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

The Trump administration and the U.S. Department of the Treasury last week slapped sanctions on several Russian companies and billionaires for allegedly supporting Russia’s military and intelligence agencies in fueling more cyber attacks and other malicious activities.

Despite the newest round of tough U.S. sanctions, Russia will supply two batches of rocket engines to the U.S. Air Force in 2018, Chief Developer of Energomash Scientific and Production Association [the engines’ developer] Pyotr Lyovochkin told TASS on Friday.

“Currently, the production of commercial engines at Energomash is proceeding in compliance with the contracts signed. The dispatch of the first batch of RD-180 and RD-181 engines to the United States is planned for the second quarter of 2018,” the chief developer said.

“And the next batch of these engines will be supplied to the customer at the end of the year,” he added, without specifying the number of engines.

The Atlas III and Atlas V rockets, manufactured by the Convair Division of General Dynamics, along with Antares rockets are the cheapest and most viable solution for the U.S. Air Force in launching heavy payloads into high orbits.

Atlas V’s Business End with Russian RD-180 Engine – (Source: NASA) 

The new “enhanced” Antares at the Horizontal Integration Facility at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport with RD-181 Engine. (Source: Jared Haworth/SpaceFlight Insider)

Unbeknownst too many, the Atlas family of rockets and Antares rely on Russian rocket engines for the first stage. This has become a dangerous national security threat, as the Air Force has become Russian dependent on RD-180 and RD-181 rocket engines. The Air Force’s contract with Energomash extends into the second half of 2019.

The issue about using Russian rocket engines was raised at a recent Air Force budget hearing by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

“Congress has consistently supported funding to rapidly transition from our current dependence on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine for national security space launches while maintaining assured access to space as a matter of U.S. policy,” Shelby said.

He then directed a question to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson: “Is the Air Force on track to successfully transition the RD-180 rocket engine by the end of 2022?”

Wilson responded: “Yes, sir. We are.” Shelby: “So you feel good about that?” Wilson: “Yes, sir. I do.”

To continue reading: Despite ‘New, Tough Sanctions’, US Takes Delivery Of Russian Rocket Engines

Making “Investments” in EVs, by Eric Peters

The car industry is all gung ho on electric vehicles…if they can get the government to subsidize them, because their customers aren’t quite as gung ho. From Eric Peters at theburningplatform.com:

The verbiage is interesting. As the country relies ever more on force to coerce, it resorts to soft language to hide what is going on.

For example, this news story about what the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers – which is the lobby for the car industry – is up to. The Alliance published an open letter to nine governors of states it wants to emulate California’s policy of coercively – legislatively – force-feeding electric cars down the throats of a largely uninterested and unwilling buying public.

It’s not put that way in the letter, of course. Nor the news articles about it – the journalists who write them having learned to parrot the oleaginous verbiage of coercion, whether consciously or not.

The open letter – and the news stories – talk about “encouraging the governors to follow California’s lead” and the need to “commit resources” and make “investments” in electric cars – because of course the free market isn’t interested in committing its resources or making such investments. So what is actually meant by the verbiage is that the car industry – speaking as one through its lobbying arm – wants to see laws and regulations like those in force in California imposed by force (how else are laws ad regulations imposed?)  in other states.

The reasoning is perfectly understandable.

California is the only electric car “market” – and it is only a “market” because California has artificially created one, via the force and coercion of the California General Assembly and regulatory apparat, including the infamous California Air Resources Board. They have issued various fatwas mandating that electric cars be manufactured and “sold” – even if at a loss. The car companies have thus been forced to commit lots of their resources toward the making of electric cars (or the buying of offsetting “credits” from that electric car carny, Elon Musk) even if they can’t make any money making them.

To continue reading: Making “Investments” in EVs

Humans Need Not Apply: AI to Take Over Customer Service Jobs, by Don Quijones

Virtual customer service agents may soon be not only smarter than humans, but friendlier and more empathetic. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

“With Amelia, we graduate into automating the knowledge worker, the customer service agent.”

The last ten years have been a rough time for many bank employees in Spain. The country’s lenders have laid off89,500 workers on the back of narrowing margins, industry consolidation, mass closures of branches and gathering digitization. In 2008, when the financial crisis struck, Spain was home to some 278,000 banking professionals; today there are just 195,000. Another 3,000 redundancies are expected in the coming months, as Santander and Bankia plan to further streamline their businesses, pushing the total number of layoffs close to 95,000.

The job losses are unlikely to end there. In fact, they could accelerate, especially if a potential new threat to traditional branch and front-office jobs materializes: artificial intelligence (AI). As Finextra reports, BBVA, Spain’s second largest banking group, is on the verge of enlisting AI “agent” Amelia, developed by New York-based IPsoft, for many of its customer support functions:

BBVA has become the latest bank to employ Amelia, calling in the virtual assistant’s creator IPsoft to help develop AI-powered digital customer support services. The technology has already been trialled at BBVA’s call centre in Mexico to address customer complaints and enquiries. Now it will be extended to other markets and areas, as the bank seeks to digitise sales, advisory and support services.

Amelia is capable of detecting and adapting to caller’s emotions, as well as making decisions in real time, and can even suggest improvements to the processes for which ‘she’ has been trained.

Javier Díaz, CEO, IPsoft for Spain and Latin America, says: “Amelia is the result of 20 years of research during which we have tried to emulate the way the human brain works.”

It appears to be working. Amelia’s marquee clients already include around 20 Fortune 100 firms. The company is also in the process of developing pre-trained, limited-function mini-Amelias for small and medium-size businesses.

To continue reading: Humans Need Not Apply: AI to Take Over Customer Service Jobs

Berkeley Scholar Admits “Climate Change Has Run Its Course”, by Stephen Hayward

Climate change may or may not be real, and if it is, it may or may not be man made, but as an issue that moves the masses, it’s fizzled. From Stephen Hayward at The Wall Street Journal via zerohedge.com:

Blasphemy!!

Its descent into social-justice identity politics is the last gasp of a cause that has lost its vitality…

Climate change is over. No, I’m not saying the climate will not change in the future, or that human influence on the climate is negligible. I mean simply that climate change is no longer a pre-eminent policy issue. All that remains is boilerplate rhetoric from the political class, frivolous nuisance lawsuits, and bureaucratic mandates on behalf of special-interest renewable-energy rent seekers.

Judged by deeds rather than words, most national governments are backing away from forced-marched decarbonization. You can date the arc of climate change as a policy priority from 1988, when highly publicized congressional hearings first elevated the issue, to 2018. President Trump’s ostentatious withdrawal from the Paris Agreement merely ratified a trend long becoming evident.

A good indicator of why climate change as an issue is over can be found early in the text of the Paris Agreement. The “nonbinding” pact declares that climate action must include concern for “gender equality, empowerment of women, and intergenerational equity” as well as “the importance for some of the concept of ‘climate justice.’ ” Another is Sarah Myhre’s address at the most recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union, in which she proclaimed that climate change cannot fully be addressed without also grappling with the misogyny and social injustice that have perpetuated the problem for decades.

The descent of climate change into the abyss of social-justice identity politics represents the last gasp of a cause that has lost its vitality. Climate alarm is like a car alarm – a blaring noise people are tuning out.

This outcome was predictable. Political scientist Anthony Downs described the downward trajectory of many political movements in an article for the Public Interest, “Up and Down With Ecology: The ‘Issue-Attention Cycle,’ ” published in 1972, long before the climate-change campaign began. Observing the movements that had arisen to address issues like crime, poverty and even the U.S.-Soviet space race, Mr. Downs discerned a five-stage cycle through which political issues pass regularly.

To continue reading: Berkeley Scholar Admits “Climate Change Has Run Its Course”

Democratic Congressman: “Looks Like Zuckerberg Lied To Congress”, by Tyler Durden

This probably won’t effect Mark Zuckerberg’s rumored plans to run for office. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Responding to a report in the New York Times which revealed Facebook gave at least 60 major device manufacturers unprecedented access to user data, Democratic Congressman David Cicilline (RI) tweeted on Sunday: “Sure looks like Zuckerberg lied to Congress about whether users have “complete control” over who sees our data on Facebook,” adding “This needs to be investigated and the people responsible need to be held accountable.

The Times reported Sunday evening that Facebook gave at least 60 major device manufacturers access to user data over the last decade – including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung – as part of a data-sharing partnership program which allowed the companies to integrate various features such as messaging and “like” buttons into their products.

The agreement has allowed manufacturers to access information on relationship status, calendar events, political affiliations and religion, among other things. An Apple spokesman, for example, said that the company relied on private access to Facebook data to allow users to post on the social network without opening the Facebook app, among other things.

Even more disturbing, the manufacturers were able to access the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, despite Facebook declaring they would not let outside companies access user data. The catch? The NYT explains.

Facebook’s view that the device makers are not outsiders lets the partners go even further, The Times found: They can obtain data about a user’s Facebook friends, even those who have denied Facebook permission to share information with any third parties.

In interviews, several former Facebook software engineers and security experts said they were surprised at the ability to override sharing restrictions. –NYT

It’s like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission,” said Ashkan Soltani, a research and privacy consultant and former chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

To continue reading: Democratic Congressman: “Looks Like Zuckerberg Lied To Congress”

 

Contaminated Fukushima Water Storage Tanks “Close To Capacity”, TEPCO Admits, by Tyler Durden

Japan is nowhere close to “containing” the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

The Tokyo Electric Power Company is running out of container space to store water contaminated by tritium outside the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and it’s also running out of room for building more tanks, according to Yomiuri Shimbum, a Japanese newspaper, which is creating an intractable problem for the utility, which has been tasked with supervising the cleanup of Fukushima.

The Japanese government has been desperately trying to accelerate the cleanup ahead of the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo – and it’s a miracle it hasn’t run into this issue sooner. TEPCO is still struggling with how to dispose of the tritium-tainted water. Options discussed have included dumping it into the ocean, but that proposal has angered local fishing communities.

At some point, TEPCO and the government will need to make a difficult decision. Until then, ground water will continue to seep into the ruined reactor, where it becomes contaminated. Afterward, TEPCO can treat the contaminated water to purify it, but they can’t remove the tritium, which is why the supply of water contaminated with tritium continues to grow.

As one government official pointed out, Japan can’t simply store the radioactive water forever. As of now, the company should be able to store water until 2020.

Efforts have been made to increase storage capacity by constructing bigger tanks when the time comes for replacing the current ones. But a senior official of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said, “Operation of tanks is close to its capacity.”

TEPCO plans to secure 1.37 million tons of storage capacity by the end of 2020, but it has not yet decided on a plan for after 2021. Akira Ono, chief decommissioning officer of TEPCO, said, “It is impossible to continue to store [treated water] forever.”

To continue reading: Contaminated Fukushima Water Storage Tanks “Close To Capacity”, TEPCO Admits