Facebook (FB) in trouble over hate speech

“It’s easier to inspire people to anger than other emotions…..Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money……It’s one of these unfortunate consequences, right? No one at Facebook is malevolent, but the incentives are misaligned, right? Like, Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction. And the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume…” ~ Frances Haugen, Facebook whistleblower

Afghanistan: The worst kind of cowardice

I would have expected the former Swedish prime minister to have a better appreciation of the challenges political leaders face when confronted with a choice like Afghanistan:

Carl Bildt

Colin Twiggs

The media focuses on the 12,000 casualties and more than $1 trillion spent over the past 20 years. A complete waste. Especially when you consider the end result. But the alternative is even worse: to continue spending good money after bad, wasting more lives unnecessarily in the process. Your first duty as a leader is to avoid another young soldier returning home with his/her legs blown off or with brain trauma from an IED.

Sacrifice is necessary when there is a clear and attainable end goal in mind. But the worst kind of sacrifice is the kind politicians make because they don’t want to take a hit in the ratings. That isn’t courage, it’s cowardice.

A long, long time ago I served in a counterinsurgency operation where one of my fellow 18-year olds had his legs blown off above the knee when his horse stepped on a landmine. He died several years later. I often think of him in times like this because the conflict has long since been forgotten, the outcome was inevitable and time has marched on.

No one has the right to ask young men and women to serve in those kind of circumstances. Not you, not me, nor Joe Biden.

What would Putin do?

The Communist Party of China has an unwritten contract with the 1.4 billion people living under its rule: they will tolerate living under an autocratic regime provided that the CCP delivers economic prosperity. So far the CCP has delivered in spades. A never-ending economic boom, fueled by exponential debt growth as investment in productive infrastructure grows ever more challenging.

But they are now familiar with the law of diminishing marginal returns: governments can’t just keep spending on infrastructure without falling into a debt trap. All the low-hanging fruit have been picked and new infrastructure projects offer lower and lower returns as spending programs continue.

That was probably the primary motivation for the CCP’s Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI): to source more productive infrastructure investments in international markets. But the COVID-19 pandemic brought the BRI to a shuddering halt and the CCP is unlikely to maintain its exemplary growth record — no matter how much they fudge the numbers.

Xi Jinping is faced with an impossible task: how to placate 1.4 billion people when inflation sends food prices soaring and ballooning debt precipitates a sharp rise in unemployment and falling wages. The CCP has been preparing for this very eventuality for some time. Investing billions in surveillance and social credit systems, brutal crackdowns on religious organizations and minorities, suppression of democratic forces in Hong Kong, the latest take-down of tech giants — Jack Ma’s Ant Group and Tencent Holdings — which could form a focal point for democratic opposition, and beefing up internal policing. These are not the whims of an autocratic regime but a desperate attempt at self-preservation. China’s internal security budget is even bigger than its military budget (WION).

Xi Jinping

Behind that inscrutable facade, Xi Jinping is a worried man. Even with all the technology and forces of suppression at his disposal, confronting an angry population of 1.4 billion people is a daunting task. In his darkest hours he must have asked himself the question: WHAT WOULD PUTIN DO?

Even if you don’t believe the RT hype of the bare-chested deer hunter, judo expert and chess grandmaster — a combination of Chuck Norris and Garry Kasparov — you have to give Vladimir Putin credit for surviving 20 years as the head of a murderous regime where only the strong and completely ruthless stay alive.

Vladimir Putin

What would Putin do? The answer must have hit Xi Jinping like a 500 watt light bulb: INVADE CRIMEA. Vladimir Putin enjoyed record popularity at home (if you can believe Russian opinion polls) after invading Crimea. Despite the economic hardships that the Russian people had to endure from Western sanctions. The only force more powerful than hunger is a wave of patriotic nationalism.

Now being the canny fellow that he is, Xi figured that Crimea was too far away to be much use. Luckily for him, there is a handy substitute. An island of 23.5 million inhabitants, living under a democratically-elected government, only 180 kilometers away, across the Taiwan Strait.

Conclusion

We expect the CCP to fuel a wave of nationalist fervor to distract the 1.4 billion people living under their harsh rule from the economic hardships they are about to endure. Conflict over Taiwan is an obvious choice.

At present the PLA is conducting daily incursions into Taiwanese airspace, to map ROC air defense systems and wear down defenders with “response fatigue”.

ROC Reports Incursion by 28 PLA Aircraft

The CCP would not want to interfere with the Beijing Winter Olympics but may use it as a distraction — straight out of Putin’s playbook.

Melik Kaylan at Forbes:

I can say one thing about Vladimir Putin without fear of contradiction: he cares about timing. When he’s up to no good, he loves a sleight-of-hand distraction in global headlines. In 2008 [invasion of Georgia], the Beijing summer Olympics served as cover. More recently, the Sochi Winter Olympics ended just three days before Russia marched into Crimea.

Notes

  1. The 2022 Winter Olympics — also known as Beijing 2022 — is scheduled to take place from 4 to 20 February 2022.

Memorial Day | Gettysburg Address

Abraham Lincoln

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

~ Abraham Lincoln: Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863

The Battle for Democracy

“Democracy isn’t liberal or conservative, not left or right — at least it isn’t supposed to be. Millions of Americans currently believe that democracy isn’t working, or even that it isn’t worth saving. The battle to prove them wrong isn’t over, it’s just begun.” ~ Garry Kasparov

George Orwell and the appeal of Fascism

George Orwell reviewed Hitler’s Mein Kampf in March 1940. His last paragraph is particularly revealing:

“Also he [Hitler] has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all ‘progressive’ thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarised version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet…..”

David Wood suggests that society may have eliminated many of the challenges that they faced 80 years ago but this makes us even more vulnerable today. If people don’t have real struggles to overcome, or enemies to fight, they will invent them…..

George Orwell on Hitler's Mein Kampf

Time to get on with the serious business of beating COVID-19

Conservative news channel Fox News have called the election in favor of Joe Biden.

FoxNews: 2020 election

Trump and a few die-hard supporters insist that they will mount a legal challenge to overturn the election result. Here is a quick assessment of his chances by Neal Katyal, professor of National Security Law at Georgetown University and former US Acting Solicitor General (2010-2011):

Neal Katyal

There were 128,412 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, November 7, bringing the total number of Americans infected to just under 10 million.

Daily New COVID-19 Cases reach 128,412

This has the potential to overload the health care system and shut down the economy. We need to ignore the sideshow and focus on what can be done to stop this. Before it’s too late.

Quote for the Week

Crisis does not change who you are.
Crisis reveals who you are.
~ Jakub Janda