Are we turning Japanese?

I really think so.

This is a little bit technical, but a pretty compelling case that the last two decades in Japan is analogue to what is happening in the US today. 

http://www.csis.org/media/csis/events/081029_japan_koo.pdf

Japan’s experience in a post-bubble "balance sheet recession" indicates that monetary policy is nearly worthless, except for liquidity injections, becuase no one wants to borrow in a deflationary environment.  Monetary policy will remain ineffective until house prices return to a level that is less than or equal to fair value on a DCF basis.  (Which will likely overshoot on the downside, sadly.)

Fiscal policy becomes more effective, particularly goverment spending and bank capital injections.  We have been getting capital injections, and the country just voted for more spending, so perhaps we’ll fare better than our friends across the Pacific.

BTW, with Japanese stocks at levels last seen in the early 1980s, Japan probably offers the best long-term equity investment story among developed markets.  Germany, which has been in a similarly long stagnation, is probably also worth considering.

Is 2008 a realigning election? I’m thinking it probably was.

In my October 16th piece, I discussed the idea that 2008 may have been a “realigning” election that ushered in a new wave of Democratic dominance. Here are two more articles that make a compelling case that that is the case:

One from the New Republic

Another from Politico

The centers of the New Economy are all clearly on board the Democratic train, and many of Obama’s policies will be aimed squarely at the economic base of the red states. Oil, gas and coal will decline and wind, solar, ethanol and maybe nuclear will rise. Large scale agriculture will be more regulated, while small scale local farming will be nurtured. Highway spending will be reduced and public transport will rise. Imports of low-cost consumer goods will suffer relative to exports of capital goods. Military spending will likely be restricted. Formerly Republican industries like utilities, pharmaceuticals, health insurance companies, and Wall Street are basically set to become wards of the state, as, potentially, are auto manufacturers and telecommunications companies. The wholesale dismantling of the Republican power structure will make it very hard for them to recover.

In the 1960s, the GOP looked to poach the culturally conservative Jacksonian vote away from the Democrats, and it worked brilliantly under the administrations of Nixon, Reagan and Bush II. But in the process, it slowly drove away its historical base of the northern, Hamiltonian professional class voters over those same cultural issues. Now that we have entered the part of the long cycle that economic conservatism is decidedly on the decline, those voters are likely gone for good. The heavier weighting of economic issues in this election has shifted away the northern Jacksonian voters, too.

There is an interesting precedent for Obama’s coalition: that of William McKinley’s and Teddy Roosevelt’s Republican Party of the early 1900s. It combined Hamiltonians, northern Progressives and northern Jacksonians and was favored by women and minorities. This is basically Obama’s coalition.

For the GOP, the long road out likely looks like the old FDR coalition: socially conservative and economically liberal/populist. It seems weird, but the GOP, if it wants to regain an enduring majority, will need to recognize that its base is in the South, Plains and Rockies and concentrate on crafting an economic program to appeal to the middle class while abandoning its traditional ties to Wall Street and big business. The goal would be to peel the northern working class Jacksonians and minorities away from the Democrats while milking the wealth of the barons of the New Economy.

It is unlikely that such a change will occur anytime soon, however, so I’d expect the Obama coalition to endure, provided he seizes his historic opportunity.

Is the North rising again?

I think its getting safe to say its just about over.  Barack Obama, barring some major surprise, will almost certainly be the next president of the United States.  As a student of historical cycles, I’m trying to figure out what it means. 

It’s been a weird election.  For all the vitriol that has been thrown back and forth, these two candidates are actually not that far apart on policy.  The are very different on taxes, but neither was likely to see his plan passed, anyway.  They are different on health care, but both have interesting plans.  On other issues, like foreign policy, global warming, energy, immigration, even social issues, they probably would have governed relatively similarly, even if their campaign rhetoric suggested otherwise.  Remember, John Kerry asked John McCain to be his running mate, so he can’t be that far from the center.

It may be a groundbreaking election, and not just because Obama is an African-American.  That’s nice, but I never really felt that was as much of as a barrier as other people thought.  I actually believe that the average American has been ready to elect a black president for a while, it’s just that the right candidate hadn’t come along.

Instead, I think we should take note of the fact that Obama is from the North.  He is likely to be the first president elected from the North since John Kennedy in 1960.  Not only is he from the North, but he is from a big city in the North.  In addition, he is likely to win with 51% or more of the vote, a feat accomplished by only two Democrats since the Civil War, FDR and LBJ.

And so I ask myself, could this be a watershed election that has ushered in a new Democratic, blue state era?  Or is it a blip created by special circumstances, after which the south, plains and Rocky Mountain west will regain their dominance?  I don’t know the answer, of course, and won’t until the 2016 election.  Please indulge me as I think this through.

From 1800-1860, US presidential politics was dominated by the party of the South, the Democratic Party.  The coalition was southern planters, yeomen farmers and northern Irish Catholics.  During this period, the opposition party, the Whigs, only elected two presidents, for one term each.  (Maybe you can throw John Quincy Adams in there as being a proto-Whig, too.)

From 1860-1932,  US presidential politics was dominated by the party of the North, the Republican Party.  The coalition was northern businessmen, northern protestants, and eventually, many northern industrial workers.  During this period, the Democratic Party elected only two presidents, for two terms each.

From 1932-2008, US presidential politics has been dominated by the party of the South, but in a more complicated way than in the era before 1932.  From 1932-1968, the Democrats, the party of the South, northern Catholics and northern academia, won every election but two.  Two candidates, FDR and LBJ, were able to win national landslides in a way that hadn’t occured before 1932.  It should be noted that the Democratic Party before 1968 was much different than it is today.  It was a mix of Southern segregationists, northern union workers and progressive intellectuals.  The Republican Party was much different then, too.  It was a coalition of fiscal conservatives, social progressives and moderate midwesterners.  It was more likely than the Democrats to oppose foreign interventionism and to promote desegregation.

Starting in 1964, the Republican Party saw an opening to exploit the inherent contradictions within the Democratic Party coalition and began to appeal to southern conservatives.  While the GOP got crushed in 1964, Richard Nixon won narrowly in 1968.  The GOP was then able to win large national landslides in 1972 and with Reagan in 1980 and 1984, and even with the first Bush in 1988.  On the congressional side, the Democrats were able to maintain their dominance with southern conservatives and northern liberals in the same party until the GOP won a national landslide congressional election in 1994, sweeping out a huge number of southern Democrats.

The return to regionalism began under Bush in 2000.  In that year, a bunch of northern conservative Senators from the class on ’94 were swept out of office, replaced by conventional liberals.  Cultural issues became the primary dividing line, with states like West Virginia, Louisiana and Kentucky moving firmly into the GOP camp, but with the GOP losing any chance to win states like California, Illinois, Vermont and Maine that used to be classic Republican states.

When Bush won in 2004, it looked as if the GOP had built a realigned, dominant coalition of social, economic and defense conservatives dominating the south, plains and Rocky Mountain states.  Just as Karl Rove had planned.  And who knows, if the Iraq War and the economy had gone well, and if Bush had responded strongly to Hurricane Katrina, it might have been.  With a moderate like McCain as the standard bearer, the GOP would have even stood a chance of expanding its reach into the upper midwest.

That said, it would make sense for a northern party to regain the upper hand.  The first southern era was 60 years.  The first northern era lasted 72 years.  The second southern era has lasted 76 years now, so perhaps the blue states are due.

America still number 1 – by a long shot

I’ve been getting tired of all the schadenfreude surrounding the United States’ financial crisis and all the articles pointing to America’s imminent abdication as world leader.  While I’ve been writing articles pointing to the demise of the old Wall Street, I actually think that what is going to take its place is better and will cement America’s financial hegemony.  Also, the New Economy is still dominated by American companies and American inventions. 

Europe, Japan and Russia all suffer from declining populations and have financial problems of their own.  Russia’s economic power is based on energy prices that could easily fall just as fast as they rose.  China and India, while surely enjoying a long term rise, have per capita income below Samoa and lots of internal problems.   

Even on world affairs, who is really challenging America’s preeminent position in naval, ground, air or space power?  Europe? Japan? Iran? Russia?  There is a big difference between bullying Georgia and truly challenging the US’s position as world hegemon.  Japan and India have moved strongly towards the US in the last decade.  Every Arab country save Syria and Sudan are either outright American allies or have at least decent relations.  In Europe, the leader of every major country except Spain is friendly even to the Bush administration.  China, while wary of US intentions as we surround them with allies, still has friendly relations with the US and deepening economic ties.  In addition, the US spends more on its military than the next 20 countries combined and the last I checked, the UN is still located in New York.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to write an essay about this, but thankfully, Marcus Gee at the (Canadian) Globe and Mail did it for me…check it out here.

It’s time to break out of our funk.  So we’ll have a recession.  So we’ll have to save more and export more.  So we’ll have to prioritize in our foreign policy rather than try to tackle every problem ourselves.  Big deal.  We’ve been through a heck of alot worse than this in our history (the Civil War, Great Depression, World War II, the Vietnam era and 1970s).  Let’s stand up and all remember that we’re blessed to live in this great country of ours, and if you don’t realize that, you’re not paying attention.

Both candidates are wrong about Afghanistan

Policy Watch:  The election of Barack Obama vs. John McCain is ostensibly between two moderates, although on domestic policy I would define Obama as a classic liberal with a moderate temperament and McCain as more unorthodox than either moderate, liberal or conservative.

On foreign policy, however, McCain’s instincts come across as a belligerent Wilsonian, what used to be known as a "liberal hawk" but is now known as a "neoconservative".  Obama pays lip service to the "realist" foreign policy of George HW Bush (from the traditonally conservative camp), talks tough about surging troops into Afghanistan and potentially invading nuclear-armed Pakistan, yet otherwise reminds me of Jimmy Carter. 

In terms of the sweep of American history since World War II, it’s actually kind of a weird choice to have to make.  The current president Bush, while generally viewed as a extremist warmonger due to the invasion of Iraq, is actually more of a moderate than either McCain or Obama appear to be, if you look at his administration’s foreign policy in toto (not their talk, but their actions)

This is not a political blog, and I certainly don’t want to get involved in a fight about the Bush administration.  I do, however, care about geopolitics and its effect on our national interests and the world trading and security system.  I feel compelled to point out that much of the Sturm und Drang surrounding the foreign policy debate in the 2008 election is divorced from reality.  On the two big foreign policy issues of the election the two candidates will end up having the exact same policy.

The first is the War in Iraq.  They will both end up with the same policy in Iraq because we have won the war.  McCain won’t admit we’ve won, because he wants to use it to paint Obama as a wimp.  Obama won’t admit we’ve won, because half his base wants us to lose to prove George Bush wrong.  It’s example A of the classic baby boomer polarization that Obama deplores on the stump, and he’s right to, but on this one he won’t overcome it because opposition to the War in Iraq was the original thrust of his candidacy against Hillary Clinton.  Either way, US troop levels in Iraq will come down dramatically over the next two years and both candidates will leave a remnant force like we have in South Korea.

The second is the War in Afghanistan.  Both candidates want to surge more troops into Afghanistan to build up its democracy and fully defeat the remnants of the Taliban.  On this point I think both candidates are wrong.

I am one of those strange ducks that supported the War in Iraq and is ho-hum about the "Good War" in Afghanistan.  I looked at Iraq as important geopolitically, but fell more into the Joe Biden camp of overthrowing Saddam and then carving the country into three states.  I was less concerned about building a democracy there, but felt that the best chance of doing so lay in creating three mostly ethnically homogeneous states.  I understood the geopolitical logic of keeping the country intact to avoid the Shiite south becoming a vassal state of Iran, but felt that the risk/reward was less favorable than breaking the country up.

I am not a big believer in the viability of democracies in multi-ethnic nation states whose borders were drawn by european powers.  If you look at most of the hotspots since the end of the Cold War (Yugoslavia, the Caucuses, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Sudan, most African countries and, potentially soon, Pakistan) they all have borders drawn by western powers, usually designed to factionalize the internal population so their imperial masters could play them off one another.

Afghanistan, in fact, is only a country because it is the area that couldn’t be conquered by the British or Russians during the "Great Game" era of the 1800s.  Within its borders are Pashtuns (the largest ethnic group), Hazeris, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Balochis and Turkmens, among others.  There are no actual "Afghans", other than in a we-get-to-send-a-delegation-to-the-United Nations sense.  The Taliban came from the Pashtuns in the south of the country.  Our allies in the overthrow of the Taliban, the Northern Alliance, consisted of non-Pashtuns in the north. 

No offense to the citizens of Afghanistan, but it is also one of the most backward countries in the world.  I can’t quite understand why people think it is a waste of time to nation-build in Iraq, a relatively advanced country with the potential to be quite weathy, but are excited to do so in Afghanistan, a mountainous and rugged country that resisted the British, czarist Russia and the Soviet Union, all of which tried alot harder to subdue the country than NATO ever would.

Our national interest in Afghanistan lies only with keeping the remaining al Qaeda terrorists in the region off-balance enough that they can’t operate with impunity and plan attacks.  Right now, even though some of them are alive, the old al Qaeda hierarchy in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been heavily degraded.  It would be easier to plot and execute an attack on the US from Germany than from Afghanistan, and neither would be very easy.  If the goal is to co-opt the Pashtun into politcs, then perhaps carve out a separate Pashtunistan in the south with its capital in Kandahar, and leave the remaining grab bag as "Afghanistan" in the north, with its capital in Kabul.  Sure, the Taliban might come back to power, but if they are forced to actually govern and don’t have the excuse of needing to fight the Northern Alliance, they are far more likely to be internally-focused rather than wasting their time thinking about plotting attacks on the US, halfway around the world.  Besides, the Bush Doctrine would remain operative…start allowing terrorists sanctuary again, and you will get punished.

Anyway, it appears as if we are going to spend more blood and treasure in this quest and there is going to be little debate about it.  The Democrats want to prove that Bush was wrong to divert the War on Terror into Iraq, and McCain just seems to always be itching for a fight.  By defining the mission up, we are decreasing the odds of success while diverting spare resources from potentially more important uses. 

Like positioning to prevent Russia from retaking Georgia and the Ukraine, for example.  Or a tax cut.

Two good recent essays on the subject:

Bartle Breese Bull writing an opinion piece in the New York Times; and

Leon Hadar in The American Conservative.

Stratfor on a New Geopolitical Era

With all the gloom-and-doom out there, it’s refreshing to read something that put things into a more optomistic, and I belive proper, perspective.  Stratfor, in the article posted in its entirety below, explains that not only are we an the verge of a peace deal between Syria and Israel, and that we are likely to see a deal between the US and Iran that dramatically lowers tensions, and that with that the Iraq War will be over and won, and that Al Qaeda has been effectively neutralized for awhile now…but that we are likely on the verge of a whole new Geopolitical Era.  And while they don’t explicitly state what that era is, given the circumstances it appears that the idea of Pax Americana may actually be alive and well.

By the way, for those of you who don’t know about Stratfor, they provide geopolitical intellegence information for a subscription fee.  I am a longtime subscriber and it is great.  I recommend it to anyone with an interest in foreign affairs.  They tend to be right way more often than they are wrong.

Strategic Forecasting, Inc.

—————————

THE NEW ERA

By Peter Zeihan

As students of geopolitics, we at Stratfor tend not to get overexcited when this or that plan for regional peace is tabled. Many of the world’s conflicts are geographic in nature, and changes in government or policy only rarely supersede the hard topography that we see as the dominant sculptor of the international system. Island states tend to exist in tension with their continental neighbors. Two countries linked by flat arable land will struggle until one emerges dominant. Land-based empires will clash with maritime cultures, and so on.

Petit vs. Grand Geopolitic

But the grand geopolitic — the framework which rules the interactions of regions with one another — is not the only rule in play. There is also the petit geopolitic that occurs among minor players within a region. Think of the grand geopolitic as the rise and fall of massive powers — the onslaught of the Golden Horde, the imperial clash between England and France, the U.S.-Soviet Cold War. By contrast, think of the petit geopolitic as the smaller powers that swim alongside or within the larger trends — Serbia versus Croatia, Vietnam versus Cambodia, Nicaragua versus Honduras. The same geographic rules apply, just on a smaller scale, with the added complexity of the grand geopolitic as backdrop.

The Middle East is a region rife with petit geopolitics. Since the failure of the Ottoman Empire, the region has not hosted an indigenous grand player. Instead, the region serves as a battleground for extra-regional grand powers, all attempting to grind down the local (petit) players to better achieve their own aims. Normally, Stratfor looks at the region in that light: an endless parade of small players and local noise in an environment where most trends worth watching are those implanted and shaped by outside forces. No peace deals are easy, but in the Middle East they require agreement not just from local powers, but also from those grand players beyond the region. The result is, well, the Middle East we all know.

All the more notable, then, that a peace deal — and a locally crafted one at that — has moved from the realm of the improbable to not merely the possible, but perhaps even the imminent.

Israel and Syria are looking to bury the hatchet, somewhere in the Golan Heights most likely, and they are doing so for their own reasons. Israel has secured deals with Egypt and Jordan already, and the Palestinians — by splitting internally — have defeated themselves as a strategic threat. A deal with Syria would make Israel the most secure it has been in millennia.

Syria, poor and ruled by its insecure Alawite minority, needs a basis of legitimacy that resonates with the dominant Sunni population better than its current game plan: issuing a shrill shriek whenever the name "Israel" is mentioned. The Alawites believe there is no guarantee of support better than cash, and their largest and most reliable source of cash is in Lebanon. Getting Lebanon requires an end to Damascus’ regional isolation, and the agreement of Israel.

The outline of the deal, then, is surprisingly simple: Israel gains military security from a peace deal in exchange for supporting Syrian primacy in Lebanon. The only local loser would be the entity that poses an economic challenge (in Lebanon) to Syria, and a military challenge (in Lebanon) to Israel — to wit, Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, understandably, is more than a little perturbed by the prospect of this tightening noose. Syria is redirecting the flow of Sunni militants from Iraq to Lebanon, likely for use against Hezbollah. Damascus also is working with the exiled leadership of the Palestinian group Hamas as a gesture of goodwill to Israel. The French — looking for a post-de Gaulle diplomatic victory — are re-engaging the Syrians and, to get Damascus on board, are dangling everything from aid and trade deals with Europe to that long-sought stamp of international approval. Oil-rich Sunni Arab states, sensing an opportunity to weaken Shiite Hezbollah, are flooding petrodollars in bribes — that is, investments — into Syria to underwrite a deal with Israel.

While the deal is not yet a fait accompli, the pieces are falling into place quite rapidly. Normally we would not be so optimistic, but the hard decisions — on Israel surrendering the Golan Heights and Syria laying preparations for cutting Hezbollah down to size — have already been made. On July 11 the leaders of Israel and Syria will be attending the same event in Paris, and if the French know anything about flair, a handshake may well be on the agenda.

It isn’t exactly pretty — and certainly isn’t tidy — but peace really does appear to be breaking out in the Middle East.

A Spoiler-Free Environment

Remember, the deal must please not just the petit players, but the grand ones as well. At this point, those with any interest in disrupting the flow of events normally would step in and do what they could to rock the boat. That, however, is not happening this time around. All of the normal cast members in the Middle Eastern drama are either unwilling to play that game at present, or are otherwise occupied.

The country with the most to lose is Iran. A Syria at formal peace with Israel is a Syria that has minimal need for an alliance with Iran, as well as a Syria that has every interest in destroying Hezbollah’s military capabilities. (Never forget that while Hezbollah is Syrian-operated, it is Iranian-founded and -funded.) But using Hezbollah to scupper the Israeli-Syrian talks would come with a cost, and we are not simply highlighting a possible military confrontation between Israel and Iran.

Iran is involved in negotiations far more complex and profound than anything that currently occupies Israel and Syria. Tehran and Washington are attempting to forge an understanding about the future of Iraq. The United States wants an Iraq sufficiently strong to restore the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and thus prevent any Iranian military incursion into the oil fields of the Arabian Peninsula. Iran wants an Iraq that is sufficiently weak that it will never again be able to launch an attack on Persia. Such unflinching national interests are proving difficult to reconcile, but do not confuse "difficult" with "impossible" — the positions are not mutually exclusive. After all, while both want influence, neither demands domination.

Remarkable progress has been made during the past six months. The two sides have cooperated in bringing down violence in Iraq, now at its lowest level since the aftermath of the 2003 invasion itself. Washington and Tehran also have attacked the problems of rogue Shiite militias from both ends, most notably with the neutering of Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia, the Medhi Army. Meanwhile, that ever-enlarging pot of Sunni Arab oil money has been just as active in Baghdad in drawing various groups to the table as it has been in Damascus. Thus, while the U.S.-Iranian understanding is not final, formal or imminent, it is taking shape with remarkable speed. There are many ways it still could be derailed, but none would be so effective as Iran using Hezbollah to launch another war with Israel.

China and Russia both would like to see the Middle East off balance — if not on fire in the case of Russia — although it is hardly because they enjoy the bloodshed. Currently, the United States has the bulk of its ground forces loaded down with Afghan and Iraqi operations. So long as that remains the case — so long as Iran and the United States do not have a meeting of the minds — the United States lacks the military capability to deploy any large-scale ground forces anywhere else in the world. In the past, Moscow and Beijing have used weapons sales or energy deals to bolster Iran’s position, thus delaying any embryonic deal with Washington.

But such impediments are not being seeded now.

Rising inflation in China has turned the traditional question of the country’s shaky financial system on its head. Mass employment in China is made possible not by a sound economic structure, but by de facto subsidization via ultra-cheap loans. But such massive availability of credit has artificially spiked demand, for 1.3 billion people no less, creating an inflation nightmare that is difficult to solve. Cut the loans to rein in demand and inflation, and you cut business and with it employment. Chinese governments have been toppled by less. Beijing is desperate to keep one step ahead of either an inflationary spiral or a credit meltdown — and wants nothing more than for the Olympics to go off as hitch-free as possible. Tinkering with the Middle East is the furthest thing from Beijing’s preoccupied mind.

Meanwhile, Russia is still growing through its leadership "transition," with the Kremlin power clans still going for each other’s throats. Their war for control of the defense and energy industries still rages, their war for control of the justice and legal systems is only now beginning to rage, and their efforts to curtail the powers of some of Russia’s more independent-minded republics such as Tatarstan has not yet begun to rage. Between a much-needed resettling, and some smacking of out-of-control egos, Russia still needs weeks (or months?) to get its own house in order. The Kremlin can still make small gestures — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chatted briefly by phone July 7 with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the topic of the nuclear power plant that Russia is building for Iran at Bushehr — but for the most part, the Middle East will have to wait for another day.

But by the time Beijing or Moscow have the freedom of movement to do anything, the Middle East may well be as "solved" as it can be.

The New Era

For those of us at Stratfor who have become rather inured to the agonies of the Middle East, such a sustained stream of constructive, positive news is somewhat unnerving. One gets the feeling that if the progress could hold up for just a touch longer, not only would there be an Israeli-Syrian deal and a U.S.-Iranian understanding, the world itself would change. Those of us here who are old enough to remember haven’t sensed such a fateful moment since the weeks before the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989. And — odd though it may sound — we have been waiting for just such a moment for some time. Certainly since before 9/11.

Stratfor views the world as working in cycles. Powers or coalitions of powers form and do battle across the world. Their struggles define the eras through which humanity evolves, and those struggles tend to end in a military conflict that lays the groundwork for the next era. The Germans defeated Imperial France in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, giving rise to the German era. That era lasted until a coalition of powers crushed Germany in World Wars I and II. That victorious coalition split into the two sides of the Cold War until the West triumphed in 1989.

New eras do not form spontaneously. There is a brief — historically speaking — period between the sweeping away of the rules of the old era and the installation of the rules of the new. These interregnums tend to be very dangerous affairs, as the victorious powers attempt to entrench their victory as new powers rise to the fore — and as many petit powers, suddenly out from under the thumb of any grand power, try to carve out a niche for themselves.

The post-World War I interregnum witnessed the complete upending of Asian and European security structures. The post-World War II interregnum brought about the Korean War as China’s rise slammed into America’s efforts to entrench its power. The post-Cold War interregnum produced Yugoslav wars, a variety of conflicts in the former Soviet Union (most notably in Chechnya), the rise of al Qaeda, the jihadist conflict and the Iraq war.

All these conflicts are now well past their critical phases, and in most cases are already sewn up. All of the pieces of Yugoslavia are on the road to EU membership. Russia’s borderlands — while hardly bastions of glee — have settled. Terrorism may be very much alive, but al Qaeda as a strategic threat is very much not. Even the Iraq war is winding to a conclusion. Put simply, the Cold War interregnum is coming to a close and a new era is dawning.

Copyright 2008 Strategic Forecasting, Inc.

Non-story alert re: Army deserters

Policy watch: MSNBC is running a story about army desertions being "up 80%" since the start of the Iraq War to 9 in 1,000.  (Compared with a peak of 50 in 1,000 during Vietnam.)  So they’re telling me that desertions haven’t even doubled 3 years after the start of a controversial war when compared to a time directly after our nation was subject to a major terrorist attack.  That doesn’t sound like a big jump to me, considering, but hey, you can use statistics for just about any spin you want.