Syria, the ugly truth is its not going to get better

Syria (like Egypt) as presently constituted simply is not viable as a country. Iraq might be viable, because it has enough oil to subsidize a largely uneducated, pre-modern population. As an economist and risk analyst (I ran Credit Strategy for Credit Suisse and all fixed income research for Bank of America), I do not believe that there is any way to stabilize either country



The Romans did it


This image shows a drill core of volcanic ash-hydrated lime mortar from the ancient port of Baiae in Pozzuloi Bay. Yellowish inclusions are pumice, dark stony fragments are lava, gray areas consist of other volcanic crystalline materials, and white spots are lime. The inset is a scanning electron microscope image of the special Al-tobermorite crystals that are key to the superior quality of Roman seawater concrete. (Credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley)

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Roman technology was very advanced, their society collapsed due to political and social forces not for a lack of tools.

Tyranny of Data, McNamara’s whiz kids to Google’s geek culture


Body count: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara briefing the press on Vietnam at the Pentagon in 1965.

Read more: From MIT Technology Review
Seems to me that McNamara epitomized the dark heart of the blue model industrialization, he was trying to make central planning work using the tools of capitalism. Big data has the the potential to make Stalinist (central planned top down industrial society) real like no tool before it. But at the same time the underlying technology will make centralization ever less attractive overall, ever less economically efficient. Some nations may fall to Big Data / Big Brother but they are not likely to become conquerors by economic or military coercion because the Maker States will be so much more resilient and efficient. Of course that assumes short sighted politicians/bureaucrats don’t take us all down some ‘consensus’ path because of short term returns that fools take as structural not ephemeral.

21st Century Opportunity > Making The New Everything…

MIT Technology Review : Business Report : The Next Wave of Manufacturing

You Must Make the New Machines // Economist Ricardo Hausmann says the U.S. has a chance to invent the manufacturing technology of tomorrow.
From MIT Technology : read more:

The basic knowledge is here, the ideas and innovation, even the entrepreneurial spirit, the problem is have we tied ourselves down with rules regulations taxes monopolies etc?



A long post on a turning point year.

Interesting that Mad Men, the iconic cable TV show about admen in that pivotal era seems to cause so much introspection.

Many reasons, many of today’s thinkers were young then, TV was really getting its legs, technology was vaulting forward but was now seen as a mixed blessing rather than untrammeled good, the almost unlimited growth of industry and regulation…or regulated industry was sputtering as the dead hands of regulation, unionization, corporatist over-reach, the limits of top down management and aging leadership (and infrastructure) began to run up against emergent back pressure from a rising Japan/Asia, Germany/Europe, Communism as an apparently proven long term competitor/threat.









US Air Force = ‘hollow force’ ?








This article on the USAirForce in The American Interest is part of a series, incomplete as of this writing, on the US Armed Forces, and the road forward in this period of draw back and draw down. The ones on the Army and Marines are worthy and insightful but don’t get to the nitty gritty level required for me at least. While this AF article could be argued to be in the same vein I think it’s stronger and that may be because the technology and mission of the AF are very tightly interwoven making it simpler to see the overall threat.

The argument is that the AF has been all but static in the past 20+ years since Desert Storm. That a combination of victors-hubris along with techno-hubris and perhaps political ineptness have left us with a hollow force at the sharp end. The AF is arguably all over its technological mission in support of communication, reconnaissance, threat detection, navigation, etc, and has been shown to be king of battle in low intensity conflict (a turnaround of epic proportions from Vietnam.) But this camouflages the fact that if we had to do Desert Storm against a foe withe the modern equivalent of Saddam’s air defenses we would suffer vastly higher casualty rates, to the point of perhaps not being able to dominate the air space to anything like the same degree, perhaps pushing us back to an earlier era’s loss ratio’s.

There is a call to back the F35 and the NGB (next gen bomber) which I agree with since all other platforms are wearing and aging out (aging out happens as old tech ( particularly electronic and electromechanical) gets impossibly expensive to support because the devices and materials used are obsolete and no longer available sometimes even illegal due to toxicity or country of origin.)

I’m not bought in on the hollowness, yet. Yes the AF / DoD bolloxed the F35 and its now causing the above wear/age issue but does it matter? The first wave B2, B1 and cruise and strike missiles from B52’s etc would take down any known threat’s air defenses long enough for the channel to be cauterized by strike aircraft and special forces…which is what happened in DS. Yes some might have ability to hang tough with fighters, for a few hours, yes some might have backup lines and reserves, but having them and using them are two very different propositions once the AF is in their backfield.

What about a peer / near peer you ask? What peer / near peer I ask? Not NorK NorK, not Iran, not Russia or China either…a limited war against either is essentially the scenario above. Anything more in those two cases and sheer area would provide a huge force multiplier on their side. Thats ignoring the fact that both are serious nuclear powers and serious world diplomatic players who we are Never Going to War With directly until nuclear weapons are off the table…though of course you have to game the doomsday scenarios…but in those cases the war can never expected to be winnable or lovable in a conventional way.