Man, I was really hoping to make it to Egypt one last time before I started critiquing the Sisi regime. Oh well! This regime could have as much as a decade to go, so no pyramids for me for the foreseeable. I feel like Egypt’s dictatorship forced my hand a little bit, by threatening to invade Libya to back up one of the region’s most pointless strong men, Khalifa Haftar. It’s a shame. I do hear mixed things about Egypt under Sisi. Some claim the economy has turned around, though I don’t see much proof of it. Some claim that he brings stability, but it looks to me like the sort of stability the Shah of Iran provided in the 1970s.
If your regime is based savage repression, as Sisi’s very much is, it tends to lead to bad decisions. I believe that this threatened intervention in Libya is potentially one of those very bad decisions. Today’s video lays out why Libya is a conflict that Egypt should avoid getting more involved in.
It’s amazing to me how much of the Security/geopolitics conversations happens around stuff that will never matter. The Pentagon and their pet think tanks and congresspeople are pushing the “New Cold War” with China because they know that it will keep the money rolling in. But it really doesn’t make sense. All the defense related crap we are buying will be superseded or sunk within the first month or so of an actual shooting war with China. Nobody really knows what such a war would look like, but it’s obvious to me that most of the trillions we spend on weapons will be wasted.
What I have done this week, and with last week’s video, is try to talk about areas of competition that actually matter. Diplomacy, Business, and the degree to which the rest of the world is still willing to put up with US hegemony are vastly more important factors in the resolution of this competition than almost anything that will happen in the South China sea. It’s the management of these other competition spaces that will determine whether war with China happens in the 2030s, the 2130s, or not at all. The Big Tech companies are another one of those great benefits, like the peace dividend at the end of the cold war, that we in the United States may be in the process of wasting. We should maybe spend a billion or two thinking about these companies strategically, among the trillions we’ll spend on useless weapons platforms. Today’s video is a place to start.
Today’s video hints at something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. We all know China’s great internet firewall as a source of great repression. But China’s maintenance of a separate national internet has also left it weirdly independent of the US tech giants that rule the internet everywhere else.
China has worked hard to co-opt the newest of the Tech behemoths, Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX. General Motors and other foreign car companies battled for decades to build up their competitive position in China. Musk was building a massive factory in China under favorable terms before he sold his millionth (100,000th?) car. China was wise to try to get this guy on their side, but as today’s video explains, it’s unlikely to work out well for them in the long term…
I’d like to make more videos in this vein, thinking through the outside power of tech companies and what it means for geopolitics, but that depends on how this video does. If you like it, share it around…
This video was a depressing one to make. Throughout my time in Turkey, President Erdogan threatened to close the Haghia Sophia Museum and turn it into a Mosque. Now he’s finally done it. It’s possible to argue that he did it because he feels internally insecure, or because he feels internationally secure. Maybe it’s both.
I mixed the personal and the historical in this one in a way that I’m not entirely sure worked. It’s a news story I felt I had to address, but what I really think I’m trying to say with this video is pretty simple: It makes me sad.
The past month of protest and progress in the United States has been inspiring. The Establishment, Fox and Democratic, has expended a ton of energy on getting people scared of things like Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, and Police Abolition slogans. They haven’t managed to slow the momentum. The failure of CHAZ has actually been helpful, getting people to focus in on the possible again. All over the country, previously impossible looking things have been happening. There is certain to be back-sliding, but excellent progress has been made…
What I would like to see, and what today’s video argues for, is a shift in focus to what US white supremacy means abroad as well as domestically. Black lives matter. But so do Yemeni lives. The Yemeni catastrophe would not be possible if the US public gave a damn about Yemeni lives. Today’s video is an attempt to get people to care.
Today’s video covers the India-China border dispute, which has gotten significantly more serious over the past 48 hours. I don’t have much to contribute to what’s happening on the ground, even the real reporters are having difficulty figuring that out. But the fact that China is embroiled in this lethal border dispute indicates a serious problem for the country.
China has missed an extraordinary opportunity. Now that I think of it, so have the Russians, the Chinese, and anybody else who has been set up as an enemy of the United States. Before this year he still had his defenders, but in June of 2020 there are few people who dispute that Donald Trump is the dumbest, weakest, and easiest to bribe president in US history. Yet after three and a half years of Trump’s time in power none of these legendarily so threatening actors have managed to do much at all to advance their interests. China, supposedly the country ready to supplant us, has managed to dig itself a massive hole geopolitically and financially. It’ almost as if we’re spending too much money on our military…
Having finished today’s video I’m almost wondering if it’s too conservative. My sense of what police abolition means is what happened in Camden, New Jersey. Everybody on the old force was fired, the union was broken ( it later reformed), and the new, better police force has a fraction as many abuse claims AND crime has fallen precipitously. But I see on the twitter that people are envisioning all kinds of more radical futures. New corps of non-police officials could be charged with looking after the mentally ill. The money spent on policing could be devoted to any number of different aims, from the plausible to the ridiculous…
People are thinking in much bigger terms than just better, less present policing. It’s weird to find myself in the cautious mainstream on criminal justice… and I love it! It’s a sign of just how far the conversation has moved since my first videos on the drug war back in 2011. Back then many of my friends thought I was nuts. Now I’m being outpaced by people who could plausibly have political power in a few cities across this country. It’s a sign of how quickly things have changed for the better. These are, perhaps surprisingly, very optimistic times here in the United States of America.
What an incredibly frustrating week. Today’s video might have bumped up against the pace of events a bit, but I’m still pretty happy with it. The peril of the amount of time it takes to produce a video. When I wrote this last Thursday and Friday, it was still possible to imagine that things might calm down after the arrest of Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s murder. That was not meant to be. What I don’t feel bad about is how focused this video is on the problem of policing in this country. Last night downtown New York City was destroyed, while most of the over 10,000 police making overtime were busy beating up largely peaceful protesters over in Brooklyn. It’s becoming clear to me at least that this country’s police are more interested in their budgets and their rights than they are in keeping our city safe. I’d like to be wrong about that. We’ll see. More to come.
This morning I was struck by another one of the reasons that the British Empire still has such a positive reputation (in some circles). When we focus on the British interaction with a group of people, we tend to focus on the end. It’s the struggle for independence that matters for the national stories of all the formerly subjugated countries. Of course, these stories are still in living memory for many, which also contributes to their popularity. But beyond that, nobody wants to look like a victim. Newly independent countries understandably want to focus on their victorious heroes rather than their defeated and brutalized ancestors from centuries past.
The British certainly committed many atrocities as their empire fell apart. Jallianwalla Bagh and the suppression of the Mau Mau are just two instances that leap to mind. But the more popular image is one of haplessness. The humiliation of Suez, the pretentious pointlessness of Mountbatten. The things that Britain is most blamed for at the end, like the Israel Palestine situation, and horrors of Indian partition, are stories about British neglect and poverty, not British greed and destruction. You can almost (not quite) find yourself pitying the British as their carefully crafted systems of control fall apart.
If you look at the other end of the Imperial story, there is nothing British to sympathize with. In country after country we see the people who live there struggle and fail, against differing degrees of brutality, as universally hypocritical Englishmen proclaim their civilizing values and cash their checks. Today’s video attempts to surface just one of those hundreds (thousands?) of stories, by telling the neglected tale of the British subjugation of Egypt.
My second Egypt video is taking longer than I thought, so for today’s video we’re going pure response. Late last week, and affable comedy channel entitled Awaken with JP dived deep into the Coronavirus Conspiracy waters with a video called: “What It’s Like to Believe Everything the Media Tells You“. It’s a very cleverly executed video, that never mentions the Coronavirus in it’s meta-data, and carefully approaches the topic in a comedic, sarcastic way, that’s really hard to pin down as misinformation.
When you watch it carefully though, it becomes clear that the underpinnings of the video are deeply conspiratorial. It indulges in, and furthers a range of strategies the Trump campaign is currently using to explain away the president’s responsibility for the crisis. JP has been rewarded for this well crafted piece of media. It’s been seen over 3 million times, instantly becoming the third most popular video on his over five year old channel. I’m a little jealous of course, but I think it’s also worth calling him to account. Which is what today’s video attempts to do.