Tag: USA

Summer No. 2

Monday, 10 June, 2019

Because Summer No. 1 isn’t working out that well… so far. This painting, “Summer No. 2”, is by the artist Zhongwen Hu, who divides her time between China and the USA.

Summer No. 2


Trump’s winning week

Sunday, 7 October, 2018

It began with the USMCA, the new “NAFTA” trade deal between the USA, Canada and Mexico, which the markets loved. Then came the 3.7%, stat, confirming the lowest unemployment rate in the US since 1969, and the icing was put on the cake yesterday evening with the confirmation and swearing in of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. This is President Trump’s second Supreme Court confirmation of his administration, after putting Neil Gorsuch on the top bench last year.

They call it winning.


The binary technology universe: USA & China

Monday, 9 July, 2018

Here’s an infographic from Visual Capitalist, which “creates and curates enriched visual content focused on emerging trends in business and investing”, that’s doing the rounds.

Binary tech

And who are those Top 20 tech companies? From top, with Apple valued at $915 billion, to bottom, with Meituan-Dianping valued at $30 billion, here’s the list:

Apple (USA), Amazon (USA), Alphabet (USA), Microsoft (USA), Facebook (USA), Alibaba (China), Tencent (China), Netflix (USA), Ant Financial (China), Salesforce (USA), Booking Holdings (USA), Paypal (USA), Baidu (China), Uber (USA), JD.com (China), Didi Chuxing (China), Xiaomi (China), eBay (USA), Airbnb (USA) and Meituan-Dianping (China).

Note: The German software company, SAP, is valued at $140 billion and targeting $270 billion so its absence from the list is puzzling. Why is Salesforce in 10th position and not SAP? Let’s see what Visual Capitalist has to say.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the “No Platform” thugs

Tuesday, 6 February, 2018 0 Comments

“I am among those who have been ‘de-platformed’ for speaking critically about the political and ideological aspects of Islam that are not compatible with American values and human rights. The usual justification for disinviting us is that speaking critically of Islam is ‘hate speech’ that is ‘hurtful’ to Muslims.”

So writes Ayaan Hirsi Ali in “The ‘No Platform’ Brigade,” which is published in the Hoover Institution Journal. “The practice of de-platforming must end not just for the sake of politeness but for critical thinking,” she notes, and adds: “Free thought, free speech, and a free press were at the core of Western Civilization’s success.”

Despite the increasing intolerance of the Left and its fundamentalist Islamist allies, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not for turning: “However uncomfortable free speech about Islam may be for some people, enforcing silence on the subject will do nothing to help those who are genuinely oppressed — above all the growing number of Muslim dissidents around the world whose courageous questioning of their own faith risks death at the hands of the very Islamists whose feelings progressives are so desperate not to hurt.”

Background: Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu in 1969 and she was subjected to female genital mutilation as a child. Ayaan Hirsi Ali Initially, she was a devout Muslim, but she began to question her faith and, as she tells it, one day, while listening to a sermon on the many ways women should be obedient to their husbands, she asked, “Must our husbands obey us too?” In 1992, she fled to the Netherlands to escape a forced marriage was given asylum and, later citizenship. From 2003 to 2006, she served as an elected member of the Dutch parliament and her name gained international attention in 2004 following the murder of Theo van Gogh by Mohammed Bouyeri. Van Gogh had directed her short film Submission, about the oppression of women under Islam. The assassin left a death threat for her pinned to Van Gogh’s chest and, increasingly disillusioned with the Netherlands, she moved to the United States. She lives now with round-the-clock security because her determination to speak out against fundamentalism has made her a target for Islamic extremists.


Pursuing the undulatus asperatus

Friday, 28 July, 2017 0 Comments

“The work on this film began on March 28th and ended June 29th,” says stormchaser Mike Olbinski. He drove 28,000 miles across 10 US states and spent 27 days pursuing the storms that have been condensed into the spectacular clip he calls Pursuit. “I snapped over 90,000 time-lapse frames,” he writes. “I saw the most incredible mammatus displays, the best nighttime lightning and structure I’ve ever seen, a tornado birth caught on time-lapse and a display of undulatus asperatus that blew my mind.”


Trump vs. Media: 100 Days of Trust and Mistrust

Saturday, 29 April, 2017 0 Comments

American adults trust President Trump more than the national political media, according to a poll released yesterday. Thirty-seven percent trust the White House against 29 percent who believe the political media in the Morning Consult survey (PDF). Thirty-four percent are unsure or have no opinion.

Morning Consult found that nearly half say the national political media is tougher on Trump than past presidential administrations. Forty-eight percent said America’s political journalists are harder on Trump, compared with 16 percent who say they are easier. Twenty-three percent say they are “about the same,” while 13 percent have no opinion.

Yesterday’s results found a slight majority who say the national political media is “out of touch with everyday Americans.” Twenty-eight percent said it “understands the challenges everyday Americans are facing,” and 21 percent were undecided.

Morning Consult conducted its survey of 2,006 US adults via online interviews from 25 to 26 April. It has a margin of error of two percentage points.


Mr Tillerson goes to Moscow

Tuesday, 11 April, 2017 0 Comments

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits Moscow today and will there meet his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. What makes the trip particularly noteworthy is that it comes after the US strike on Moscow’s Middle East proxy and armaments purchaser, Syria. President Trump has sent an unmistakable message that he is holding President Putin accountable for Bashar al-Assad and red lines mean red lines from now on for the new administration in Washington.

The oleaginous Lavrov learned his trade by in the days of Hafiz al-Assad, father of the current tyrant, and one wonders if Tillerson has prepped for his meeting by reading Assad: The Struggle for the Middle East by the late Patrick Seale. First published in 1988, it has lost little of its relevance despite the passing of time. Indeed, given what’s now going on in Syria, its 552 pages remain ultra- relevant. Despite, or perhaps because of his anti-Israel prejudice, Patrick Seale was an influential commentator on events in the Arab world and he possessed a deep understanding of the Arab mind and how it works. On page 412 of Assad: The Struggle for the Middle East, Seale displays his skills as an observer and writer when describing the cunning of Hafiz al-Assad. Snippet:

Assad “Over the years, Assad had developed a negotiating technique which he frequently used with foreign guests, and [Robert] McFarlane [national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1985] was no exception. He would begin by exchanging a few pleasantries. Then he might ask, ‘How is the weather in your country?’ A Western guest would usually reply to the effect that at home it was colder than in Syria , giving Assad his opportunity. ‘Indeed’, he would say, ‘it’s warm here because the United Sates is stoking the fire!’ There were two sorts of climate in the world, he would explain, one given by God, the other by the United States, and step by step he would make his point that the tension, crises and wars in the area must all be laid at Washington’s door. An American visitor would feel compelled to defend himself, starting the meeting at a disadvantage.

Assad’s next stratagem was to be extraordinarily digressive and argumentative. If the name of God were mentioned, this might set him off on a long discourse about Islam, Judaism and Christianity before he could be brought back to the matter in hand. Negotiating sessions would last for hours. More than one envoy who suffered this treatment came to the conclusion that Asad raised all sorts of irrelevant subjects simply to tire his visitors the better to control them. At the end of a wearisome session the temptation was to accept what he had to say simply to escape.”

Like father, like son when it comes to cruelty and cynicism, but Bashar al-Assad remains unable to read the writing on the wall, despite his training in London as an ophthalmologist. Maybe Rex Tillerson can help his patrons see things more clearly.


Barbarians And The Civilized

Friday, 10 March, 2017 0 Comments

That’s the title of a stimulating essay by the French writer Pascal Bruckner in the Winter 2017 issue of City Journal. It’s a continuation of the ideas he developed in his 2006 book La Tyrannie de la Pénitence: Essai sur le Masochisme Occidental (The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism), which was memorable for statements such as, “Europe relieves itself of the crime of the Shoah by blaming Israel, it relieves itself of the sin of colonialism by blaming the United States.”

In “Barbarians and the Civilized”, Pascal Bruckner argues that “The civilized man must constantly look barbarism in the face, to remember where he comes from, what he has escaped — and what he could become again.” Snippet:

“Today, being civilized means knowing that we are potentially barbarian. Woe to the brutes who think they’re civilized and close themselves in the infernal tourniquet of their certitudes. It would be good to inject in others the poison that has long gnawed away at us: shame. A little guilty conscience in Teheran, Riyadh, Karachi, Moscow, Beijing, Havana, Caracas, Algiers, Harare, and Islamabad would do these governments and their peoples considerable good. The finest gift that Europe could give the world would be the spirit of critical examination that it discovered and that has saved it from many perils. It is the best remedy against arbitrary violence and the violation of human rights.”

Since Le Sanglot de l’Homme blanc (The White Man’s Tears), Pascal Bruckner has fought valiantly against the anti-Western and pro-Third-World sentimentalism of the Left in the West. His Resistance continues.


The Google Lunar XPrize: shooting for the moon

Thursday, 26 January, 2017 0 Comments

Ten days after the death of Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, the Google Lunar XPrize has revealed the names of the five teams going forward to the final stage of its competition. To claim the award of $20 million, the winner must launch by 31 December and their lander has to move at least 500 metres across the surface of the moon, and transmit images and high-definition video back to Earth.

The five finalists are:

  • Synergy Moon, an international venture aiming for cost-effective space exploration
  • SpaceIL, a non-profit operation based in Israel
  • Moon Express, a lunar-resources company based in the US
  • Team Indus, a for-profit lunar company from India
  • Hakuto, a Japanese venture operated by ispace, a private lunar exploration company

Notably absent is Part Time Scientists, a team based in Germany that announced it had secured a launch contract last year. And the really big surprise is the nonappearance of the long-time front-runner US-based Astrobotic. It said it was withdrawing because rushing to make the XPrize deadline conflicted with the company’s goal of building a long-term business. Astrobotic hopes to launch its first mission in 2019.

SpaceIL and Team Indus have signed launch deals with the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the Indian Space Research Organization’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, respectively, and Hakuto will share the trip with Team Indus. Moon Express and Synergy Moon will launch with Rocket Lab USA and Interorbital Systems.

XPrize


Storytelling the year 2035

Wednesday, 25 January, 2017 0 Comments

Did anyone ask the “experts” 10 or 20 years ago to predict who’d be inaugurated as US President in 2017? We know what the pollsters said on 8 November and we know how that turned out. Still, there’s an insatiable demand for a glimpse of the future, no matter how far-fetched, and there’s a tidy industry devoted to churning out the visions. Consider two new studies: the National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends: Paradox of Progress” and the Atlantic Council’s “Global Risks 2035: The Search for the New Normal.” Both look at the year 2035.

Each of them offers a somewhat similar views of a world in which the United States is more insular, while China, Russia and Iran have become more aggressive regional powers. Technology continues to innovate but economic growth is uneven. In 2035, people are flooding from the land into megacities of 10 million or more, growing the number of such metropolises from 30 now to 41 in 2030.

For its scenarios, the Atlantic Council presents a variety of fictional situations written in part by August Cole, author of Ghost Fleet, a near-future military thriller published last year about an America-China conflict in the Pacific. Cole drew upon the Atlantic Council’s The Art of the Future Project, which uses fictional depictions of the future “to inform official perspectives on emerging international security issues.” Example: “Fingers on the Scale,” a short story by Mike Matson about an app that allows parents to boost their children’s academic achievements, and which is on the homescreen of all rulers of despotic nations. To prevent nasty countries from developing the intellectual calibre of their elites, however, the CIA steps in to limit the abilities of the despots’ offspring. Langley saves the West again!

The future is always just around the corner, which means lots of people in Washington and Brussels can now make a nice living creating infographics about what might come after the present. August Cole is saying, though, that storytelling can be just as useful as trend-line graphs for forecasting. And, if those don’t satisfy, there are the stars. In the 1980s, the Reagan White House turned to Joan Quigley for astrological advice.

Ghost Fleet


Trump Day

Friday, 20 January, 2017 2 Comments

The Trump transition ends this morning and the Trump presidency begins this afternoon. How will it go? No one knows because leadership is so often determined by what British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan called “Events, dear boy, events.” Still, even if the coming four years disappoint friend and foe alike, Americans should be grateful to Donald Trump for one thing: ending dynastic politics, at least until 2020.

If Hillary Clinton had won last November, four of the last five US presidents would have come from two families: Bush and Clinton. In early 2016, so many of the then “respected” pundits predicted that the White House race would come down to another Clinton v. Bush run off and cynical Europeans took great delight in claiming this regular swapping of the top job between two connected families exposed the rot at the heart of American democracy. They were right. The election of Donald Trump has put an end to that. We wish him well in the difficult days ahead.

The White House