If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.” – Juan Ramón Jiménez

The greatest achievement of capitalism was the incredible technological achievements over a short period of time, as well as the lifting out of poverty of millions throughout the world. Its biggest shortcoming is to alienate people, making them dependent to their gadgets and oblivious to the reality of their lives. If religion and then TV were the opium of the masses, stunning them and controlling the lives of the poor, today’s smart-phones are numbing down an even greater number of people.

Unknowingly, we’ve all gave up hope for a better future, replacing it by desires for higher material gains. Our vocabulary was stripped out of political and moral judgements to integrate the supposedly neutral market mechanism, which made us forget that economical models are first and foremost political ones. The result is our inability to put forward a new model, an alternative vision to the cold logic of numbers and the resulting self-cannibalism.

In the Western world, the right has moved away from its traditional ideology toward more extreme interpretations of freedom, based on market mechanisms (which are ultimately against freedom given that they alienate a majority to the benefit of a minority). On the other hand, the left has gave up its fierce critic of unchecked capitalism and is instead a badly packaged mix of free market and social programs, a second-rate version of the period between the 1950’s and 1980’s. Given the madness or mediocrity of both sides, the public is looking at the extremes, who put the problems in the face of societies but usually offer no credible solutions.

Our societies are thus giving up politics altogether and democracy has been reduced to voting once every 5 years, a punctual event upon which our whole attention is devoted. After the short euphoria -and whatever the result- the elected official will soon face fierce criticism and a collapse in confidence. Meantime, the political void is being filled by corporate interests, who have very different visions for societies.

 Since the beginning of the Great Financial Crisis, the world is waiting for a recovery that will probably never come within the next 5~10 years. Looking around us, we all feel that we will have to change the current models, but are unable and probably somehow unwilling to act. We’re in transition.

Science, General Knowledge & Environment

HALF the world’s wild animals have disappeared in 40 years: Humankind held responsible for plummet in figures as report reveals the US needs 3.9 planets to sustain current lifestyle – (Hat tip Lolo) – No comments.

Nuclear Plants Across Emerging Nations Defy Japan Concern – “We see most of the constructions in the growing economies, in the parts of the world where you see strong economic growth. In many developed countries there is a large degree of policy uncertainty concerning nuclear.

Deep Inside the Wild World of China’s Fracking Boom – “China’s early fracking operations face many risks, but the incentives to keep drilling are too good to pass up. Based on early sampling, Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Liebreich estimates that China is currently extracting shale gas at roughly twice the cost of the United States.

The Man Who Changed the Face of Shanghai – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “The Cathay exemplified this. Outside, it’s so simple, clean and streamlined. Inside, it’s fanciful and buoyant. It gave society a venue to play in. It still gives people from around the globe an opportunity to have a fantastic time in one of the world’s most exciting cities.

History & Geopolitics

Conversation: Modi’s U.S. Visit Masks Domestic Constraints – [Video] – “Stratfor’s Advisor for South Asian Affairs Kamran Bokhari and Managing Editor Ben Sheen discuss the recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington and the future of U.S.-India relations.

Conversation: U.S.-Led Bombing Raid Commences in Syria – [Video] – “Stratfor Managing Editor Ben Sheen and Military Analyst Sim Tack discuss the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Syria and the challenge of containing Islamic State.

The war on Isis defies logic – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “The broader problem is that, over the past decade, the west has exhausted all the options when it comes to reshaping the Middle East.” Ground forces in Iraq, air forces in Libya, doing nothing in Syria.

Divisions Could Weaken U.S.-Led Coalition in Iraq and Syria – “The division of the coalition into two separate areas does not necessarily limit its military capabilities, but it does pose serious risks to its cohesion and, by extension, its ability to sustain effective operations over Syria in particular.

Turkey Must Tread Carefully Against Islamic State – “This influence, especially among Sunni locals in not just Iraq but also Syria, will be critical if Turkey is going to be able to manage the jihadist threat long after the United States declares mission accomplished and moves on.

Turkey, the Kurds and Iraq: The Prize and Peril of Kirkuk – “From Ankara’s point of view, the extension of a Turkish sphere of influence into neighboring Muslim lands is the antidote to weakening Iraqi and Syrian states.

Germany Fights on Two Fronts to Preserve the Eurozone – “But the German government understands that high unemployment and low economic growth in Europe are leading to a rise in anti-euro and anti-establishment parties. The rise of the National Front in France is the clearest example of this trend.

Conversation: Defying Ban, Far-Right Groups Meet in Hungary – [Video] – “Stratfor’s Economy Analyst Mark Fleming-Williams and Eurasia Analyst Lili Bayer discuss the recent meeting of international far-right groups in Hungary.

Xi Jinping embraces old guard as Hong Kong challenges party rule – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “As Hong Kong erupts, Mr Xi is trying to head off dissent within his own ranks by pulling back the attack dogs and reassuring the old guard, many of whom have been shaken by his assaults on their networks and families.

Hong Kong crisis exposes impossible contradiction of China’s economic growth – “A report by China’s Development Research Centre in 2012 warned that the economic leap forward will fail, leaving China stuck in the “middle income trap”, unless Beijing embraces the whole package of modern free thinking. What it meant was democracy.

Chinese Investment Patterns: A Compass Preview – [Video] – “Stratfor Deputy Editor Cole Altom and Analyst John Minnich discuss changes in Chinese investment as outlined in an upcoming issue of Compass, Stratfor’s premium product for global businesses.

Finance & Economics

The Rule of Law is Vastly Under-Priced – “…it appears as if  modern-day super-beneficiaries  have privatized the benefits of the rule of law, while more or less continuously diminishing their [mostly fiscal] responsibilities to finance it. THAT, in itself, says volumes about how much they collectively value the entente, or how ignorant they are in respect to its very existence.

Why inequality is such a drag on economies – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “As the US Supreme Court seeks to bend the constitution to the will of plutocrats, the peril is to the politically egalitarian premises of the republic. Enormous divergences in wealth and power have hollowed out republics before now. They could well do so in our age.

Is Rising Inequality Inevitable? – “In the wake of increased debates over rising inequality, particularly income inequality, many economists take the point of view that high levels of disparity are a state of nature. But that’s a terribly uninformed way to look at the question. Economies of any complexity are not natural; even modern capitalism comes in many forms.

Albert Edwards warns of return of the Ice Age – “Investors are beginning to realise that contrary to their confident actions and assurances, the Fed and the ECB have failed to prevent a dreaded replay of Japan’s deflationary template a decade earlier in the West.

Commodity super cycle going bust – “That gives you the rather sad combination of falling demand, increasing supply and a monetary headwind given most commodities are priced in US dollars, the complete inverse of the super cycle conditions that have prevailed through much of the post-millennial period.

Hong Kong crisis due to property bubble? – “It has to be remembered that HK no longer holds the upper hand in terms of economic power – only contributing 3% of Chinese GDP compared to 18% at the handover in 1997 – but that hasn’t stopped a flood of Chinese mainlanders coming in to buy property, crowding out the locals.

Picture of the day:

IRQ Shiia Fighters

Written by Carlito

About Carlito Riego

"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi