Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Wednesday Potpourri

First, a few words from Europe. Especially from France. In particular, from the eminent clergyman and foreign policy maven, Cardinal Richelieu.

Since the cardinal has now been deceased for nearly four centuries, David Goldman had to channel him, apparently by conducting a seance.

Goldman asks the cardinal to elucidate the current state of European politics. At a moment when European leaders have been severely humbled by recent elections to the European Parliament, what lies in France’s future.

He opens by asking about the Ukraine war, event that has seemed to revivify the French president:

“But why is Ukraine so important to Macron, Eminence? Why risk his reputation playing a weak hand?”

“Irrelevant!” thundered the Cardinal. “France has become irrelevant! It will become a purveyor of overpriced handbags to the nouveau riche of China and a theme park for Chinese tourists! Its grandeur is gone but the self-importance of the past still infects the imagination of the elite of France!”

“But why irrelevant?” I pressed.

“The elite of France know that when Ukraine can no longer fight, they will find themselves in a world in which their services no longer are required. There is not a single industry in which France excels. It has less than half the level of industrial automation of China, Japan or Germany.

“It makes mediocre cars and exports a sixth of what the German auto industry sells.  It cannot compete with the Chinese. As the Eurasian landmass tilts towards China, Germany will pivot to the East, leaving France as the mendicant rump of a fading European Community.”

“Eminence, I am deeply confused. What does this have to do with sending French soldiers to Ukraine?”

Now, the cardinal addresses Goldman by his pseudonym, Spengler:

“You are as dense as always, Spengler. Must I spell it out for you? If Ukraine is humiliated, Germany will return to buying Russian gas once again and open the door to China, just as the Hungarians have done. It will hitch a ride on China’s grand initiative toward the Global South, its auto companies will continue to integrate with their Chinese counterparts, its engineering giants will build factories in China for German investors, and its Mittelstand will export its products to markets prepared by Chinese infrastructure.”

“They voted against Macron because his credibility already has been reduced to zero!” thundered the Cardinal. “The French don’t want to fight in Ukraine. They cannot win a war whose loss will humiliate them. They have neither the men nor the weapons to make a difference in Ukraine. It is an empty, impotent, silly gesture. If Napoleon I was tragedy and Napoleon III was farce, Macron is the cartoon version. The French can forgive fraud, concupiscence, arrogance and even defeat but they cannot stomach Canard Donald as their leader.”

At the least, you agree that you have not heard this analysis elsewhere.

Second, Goldman was on something of a roll, because he explained in Newsweek that China is taking control of Middle Eastern politics. Have you read that anywhere else?

China provides the Gulf monarchies with AI-controlled solar energy, Cloud computing, 5G broadband, and transportation infrastructure. The Saudis and Emiratis probably are Huawei's largest foreign market for 5G infrastructure, despite urgent U.S. warnings against doing business with the Chinese national champion. For our part, we don't sell telecom infrastructure, because we stopped making it a generation ago.

Whereas Tommy Friedman thinks that the Israeli government should offer profuse thanks to Joe Biden for trying to save Hamas, and whereas Friedman envisions a world in which the leaders of Hamas emerge from their caves and take control of the territory, Goldman has a slightly different analysis:

That is why all roads in the Muslim world lead to Beijing.

Even worse, the United States, is hobbling Israel's military response to Hamas, to the point of withholding ammunition from the IDF. The Pentagon vetoed Israel's plan to flood the Hamas tunnels with seawater, an alternative that would have reduced collateral damage among Gazan civilians, as Erik Prince revealed in Asia Times.

A Trump victory in November would restore American support for Israel and—if Trump makes good on his promise to end the Ukraine war—reduce the threat from the Iranian flank. That would be the best outcome.

But China's influence in the region will grow no matter what the U.S. does, because its dominant position in broadband, transport, and energy infrastructure enables it to meet Eurasia's development needs.

Third, if you are not in a sufficiently bad mood, we turn to Niall Ferguson-- or should we call him Sir Niall-- in The Free Press.

Reflecting on the new Cold War, that would be Cold War II, Ferguson offers this hypothesis-- in the struggle between America and China, we are replicating the struggle between America and the Soviet Union. The only thing, he suggests, is that in the new Cold War, America has taken the role of the Soviet Union and China is acting like America.

Puff on that one a bit. Consider his description of today’s America:

A bogus ideology that hardly anyone really believes in, but everyone has to parrot unless they want to be labeled dissidents—sorry, I mean deplorables? Check. A population that no longer regards patriotism, religion, having children, or community involvement as important? Check. How about a massive disaster that lays bare the utter incompetence and mendacity that pervades every level of government? For Chernobyl, read Covid. And, while I make no claims to legal expertise, I think I recognize Soviet justice when I see—in a New York courtroom—the legal system being abused in the hope not just of imprisoning but also of discrediting the leader of the political opposition.

Fourth, a committee of the French Senate rejected the use of puberty blockers and other so-called gender affirming surgery. Its authors pointed out that more and more countries were rejecting such treatments, beginning with Great Britain.

Now wanting to conform, however, the German parliament, the Bundestag, led by its leftist chancellor, took a step towards transmania.

The Reduxx site reported:

The German Parliament, or Bundestag, passed one of the world’s most far-reaching sex self-determination policies on April 12, despite protests from women’s rights campaigners. The Self-Determination Act (SBGG) establishes ‘gender identity’ as a protected characteristic and allows parents to change the sex marker on their children’s documents from birth.

Supported by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party coalition and promoted and supported by the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the SBGG also creates the potential for citizens to be fined up to €10,000 (approx. $10,800 USD) for revealing a person’s given name and birth sex without their permission – an action that trans activists staunchly oppose and refer to as ‘deadnaming.’

Fifth, American college students do not know how to write. Minor detail, you will think, considering how good they are at video games. But still, if they cannot write and probably cannot read either, they are going to have trouble navigating the world.

Campus Reform has the story:

K-12 public education has failed to prepare incoming college students how to write at the public level. 

In a desperate attempt to catch high school graduates up to speed, many universities are providing remedial writing classes to college students. 

About 68% of those starting at two-year public institutions and 40% of students enrolled in public four-year universities took at least one remedial writing class between 2003 to 2009, according to an original report from the Department of Education.

Average math and reading test scores dropped significantly from 2019 to 2021, according to a 2022 study by two Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA). It seems likely that the 2016 figures would be much worse if they were resampled in 2023, after the COVID-19 pandemic….

The remediation statistics from the NWEA study indicate that many incoming and current college students are not prepared for university-level coursework. As such, numerous institutions are offering remedial writing courses aimed at preparing incoming freshmen on how to write at the college level.

Sixth, meanwhile back in the office, those consultants who jumped on the notion of remote work, and who proclaimed that the era of the office was over, are now facing the fallout from their silly notions.

Apparently, they have just discovered, the Wall Street Journal tells us, that remote workers are finding it more difficult to coordinate their schedules and to interact with each other.

There is a name for all of the time we spend on the job puzzling out who’s on Zoom, who’s coming from down the hall and who’s messaging from three time zones away: the “coordination tax.”

The term used to refer to the logistical challenges of a growing enterprise. Now it is gaining traction among executives and workplace consultants to describe the increasing amounts of time workers spend getting in sync since millions began toggling between work-from-home arrangements and the office.

Seventh, by now everyone believes that social media and other assorted techno gadgets are ruining the minds of American young people. 

Jonathan Haidt explained it in a new book and everyone seems to have bought the theory. Even the Surgeon General agrees. Now he wants there to be warning labels on social media sites. 

Naturally, I have expressed some skepticism about this.  Normally, when everyone believes something, it ends up not being true.

Now, the Washington Post has thrown some doubt on this new opinion.

There is evidence that adverse mental health symptoms among kids and teens have risen sharply, beginning during the global financial crisis in 2007 and skyrocketing at the beginning of the pandemic. But research into social media’s role has produced conflicting takeaways.

While many studies have found that social media use is correlated with dips in well-being, many others have found the opposite. One problem may be that terms such as “social media use” and “mental health” have been defined broadly and inconsistently, according to analyses of existing studies. Whatever the reason, it’s challenging for researchers to find causal relationships (meaning A causes B) between social media and mental health without closely controlling children’s behavior.

The Post article tries to be fair and balanced:

So when we ask whether social media is a community hub for LGBTQ+ youths or a rabbit hole of warped information, the answer can be “both.” Bigger factors may be a teen’s existing vulnerabilities and what they’re actually doing on social media apps, American Psychological Association Chief Science Officer Mitchell Prinstein has said.

Some studies have found that kids and teens who already struggle with their mental or emotional health are more likely to come away from social media feeling anxious or depressed. It’s hard to determine whether social media is causing depressive symptoms. One 2018 study found that while time on social media didn’t correlate with depression, young women with depression tended to spend more time on the apps.

Of course, this is the point. The children who are most apt to get caught in social media are already troubled. One might say that social media does not cure them, and one might say that it should be controlled. Still, making it the cause seems not to be the most constructive gesture.

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1 comment:

David Foster said...

"There is not a single industry in which France excels"....France is the headquarters location of Airbus. The country has also excelled in the use o nuclear power for electricity generation.