Book review of John Michael Greer’s Twilight’s Last Gleaming

Twilights-Last-Gleaming-cover

The author and writer John Michael Greer has written a superb novel called Twilight’s Last Gleaming which is set in the near future. In this fictional but frighteningly realistic future reports come in of a huge oil discovery of the coast of Tanzania. What happens next is a chain reaction of events, grippingly written by Greer, as the Americans step in to remove the pro-Chinese Tanzanian government and get their hands on the prized oil reserves.

Unfortunately for the Americans it doesn’t go to plan. The Chinese take advantage of the Achilles heel of the American military, its dependence on its vulnerable aircraft carrier fleet, to devastating effect which leads to the defeat of the American military.

Without giving too much of the story away, what follows next is a political and economic crisis within the American heartland which shatters any lingering respect for the governing class in Washington among the general public.

Events considered unthinkable rapidly become very real as the future existence of the United States itself becomes a matter of debate. The parallels with the current US presidential election are striking, as the governing elite have repeatedly dismissed the political chances of Donald Trump, who has succeeded against all the odds to become the Republican candidate. The unthinkable seems to be happening with greater regularity in our politics these days.

Greer has written a masterpiece of fictional writing which explores the massive challenges facing the United States and the possibility of a military clash with a rising Chinese power at some point next decade. The prospects of a Chinese victory in such a clash are far higher than the military planners in Washington would want to admit.

If you find the themes outlined in my post “Winter is coming” fascinating, then I would strongly recommend that you buy Greer’s novel, as it is a great introduction to the looming world of Scarcity Industrialism we are entering into.

Book review of John Michael Greer’s Twilight’s Last Gleaming

Probabilistic update analysis on my 2016 predictions

Probabilistic analysis is the calculation of the probability of a certain prediction coming true within a set time frame. I intend to do the same with the predictions I set out at the beginning of the year with the intention of being able, at the end of the year, to give myself an overall success score on my forecasting.

I also intend to use this opportunity to update the reader on my current thoughts on each of the predictions outlined;

  • Donald Trump will become the GOP candidate and will defeat Hilary Clinton in the Presidential election.

Donald Trump GOP candidate – 95% probabilistic chance

Donald Trump winning GE – 70% probabilistic chance

The first part of this prediction that Donald Trump will become the GOP candidate has already come to pass. Because of this, I can only be as honest as possible with the probabilistic ratio at the time that I wrote down that prediction. I was always convinced that Donald Trump would do very well in the primary season and overcome any competition from the crowded field of Republican candidates.

I also think that on a balance of probability Donald Trump will still go on to defeat Hilary Clinton at the general election in November. Trump has adapted his campaign and more importantly his tone since the Khangate debacle with a softer, more rounded and presidential approach. The national security round table meeting at Trump Towers, the tour of the victims of the flooding and the series of key speeches on economy and foreign policy all indicate to me that Trump has listened to his advisers and has responded accordingly.

The appointment of the Breibart News executive Steve Bannon has been widely misunderstood by the Pundocracy.  Bannon will sharpen, develop and enhance the anti-establishment, economically populist and “change agent” message of the Donald versus a status quo Hilary Clinton. Trumps outreach to African-American voters fits into this broader rallying of 75% of Americans who feel that America is going the wrong way and are looking for a candidate who can challenge the status quo in Washington. If Trump can harness the latent populist forces in the electorate to his advantage he will go on to defeat Clinton.

Although it is clear that Trump is behind Clinton in the polls, for a number of reasons, I consider the current polls unduly flattering to Clinton. Why is it that the online polls tend to be better for Trump than the phone polling samples? I suspect that the online polls are capturing some of the Shy Trump phenomenon which is a definite if unquantifiable factor at play in the electorate. I have attempted to place the Shy Trump Supporters factor at 4% of the electorate but this is at best an educated guess.

The other question mark is whether the poling agencies are capturing the voters who never normally vote in general elections but intend to in this presidential election. These “once in a generation” voters may have only last voted in November 1980 when Ronald Reagan roared to power on the back of an unprecedented surge of support from blue collar voters. The Brexit referendum saw a surge in turnout from working class sections of the populace who never normally vote in a general election and were missed by the polling agencies who predicted a narrow Remain vote.

My conclusion is that if Trump carries on the path he is following he will be on course to win on 8 November 2016.

2) Britain will vote (just) to leave the EU

Britain voting to leave the EU – 60% probabilistic chance

I bet only a small amount of money on a Leave victory because I always thought it would be a very close result although my gut instinct always felt that Leave would win. Because of this, my probabilistic chance of Brexit was never a strong one, with 60% my forecasting probability prior to the referendum day.

3) Civil unrest in Germany major cities by migrants

Civil unrest in Germany cities by migrants – 50% probabilistic chance

Although we have seen isolated and regular attacks on migrant centres, particularly in the former East Germany, no major outbreak of violence has erupted across Germany, yet, between migrants and far right protesters. There are clearly rising tensions, fuelled by the horrific “summer of terror”, between migrants and locals but so far peace has reigned.

I would place the possibility of major civil unrest at a 50:50 probability as the social pre-conditions are in place but whether the power keg will explode this year remains open. Should violent protests erupt, I would not be surprised if it starts in the economically impoverished towns and cities of the former East Germany, where anti-refugee sentiment is very strong.

4) An attempt will be made to remove Angela Merkel from office

Attempt to remove Angela Merkel from office – 55% probabilistic chance

The Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer has been a fierce critic of Merkel’s open door policy towards refugees and has threatened to break with party unity and run a separate campaign in next year’s elections. Should Seehofer actually go through with this threat, the pressure on Merkel to withdraw from running for the re-election as chancellor would be overwhelming. It would be a de facto coup d’état against Chancellor Merkel.

The reason I don’t consider this a high probability event is the remarkable Teflon abilities of Merkel to survive repeated political crisis’s which would have sunk other politicians. It is possible that a massive ISIS terror attack this autumn might finally destroy her political authority and embolden her conservative critics to move against her.

Whether Frau Merkel’s luck finally runs out this year remains to be seen.

5) ISIS will launch a multiple urban European terror attack

European 9/11 – 75% probabilistic chance

To a certain extent, the attacks by ISIS terrorists in France and Germany this summer are remarkably in line with my prediction of orchestrated terror attacks in different West European states. The Nice terror attack, shortly afterwards followed by the axe attack on a Bavarian train and the suicide bomb attack in Ansbach were closely coordinated attacks within a short time horizon.

There are important differences, as I anticipated simultaneous attacks on a much bigger and more horrifying scale than what we have seen during the “summer of terror” so far. The security experts refer to it as a “European 9/11”.

It is with regret to say that I still think that there is a high possibility that such a multifaceted attack will come later this year.

30.08.16 – Following feedback, I would like to add the following comments on my predictions;

  • The time frame for all of my predictions are set to expire on 31 December 2016.
  • Regarding a “European 9/11”, I would clarify that this would involve major terrorist attacks (with at least 50 people dead and more injured) in at least two European states within the same day.
  • With respect to my prediction of civil unrest in Germany, for this prediction to be triggered, there would be major riots/civil unrest in at least 5 German towns within a 2 week timeframe.
Probabilistic update analysis on my 2016 predictions

The Donald Trump enigma and the future of Trumpism

Why don’t we enter a time machine back to 25 July 2015? Donald Trump, the joke candidate, has recently announced his presidential campaign which is expected to politically self-implode well before the primary election season starts in 2016. If you had informed a well heeled member of the Washington Pundocracy that Donald Trump would storm the Republican primaries, winning an unprecedented 13 million votes, he would have looked at you as if you were insane.

If you went on to say that in 12 months time, the Republican Party would have formally nominated Donald J Trump as their official candidate at their convention and that the respected political analyst Nate Silver was predicting that Donald Trump would defeat Hilary Clinton if the election was held on 25 July 2016, he would have laughed uproariously. The thing is that all of the above is true.

The reason I have posited such a scenario is to remind the readers just what an extraordinary achievement Donald Trump has accomplished by becoming the GOP nominee. The experts have dismissed his chances at every stage of the presidential election cycle which is worth remembering when discussing the latest predictions of his political demise.

To use a motoring analogy, Donald Trump accelerated out of the Cleveland Convention with a clear run towards the finishing line as he passed the crippled but dogged Clinton car. Instead of pressing the floor down and heading down the motorway, Trump suddenly swerved left and crashed straight into a truck being driven by the Khan’s. I refer of course to the incident when Trump started a twitter war against the Khan family which escalated after he insulted the mother of a dead American Muslim war hero (“Khangate”). Trump’s poll ratings have since collapsed.

The usual suspects within the Pundocracy are gleefully reporting that Trump is finished. There is no doubt that Trump has made a massive error of judgement and has been damaged by the whole Khangate affair. How he responds to the crisis is critical to whether he can recover and go on to win on 8 November.

Across the Western world, social democracy is dying and populist parties are on the rise.  The political sweet spot right now is populist centre-right politics that responds to the multitude of crises impacting our Western societies. Traditional centre-right parties who have dismissed “populist” concerns on immigration, refugees, growing income inequality and the antics of the financial elite have been hammered in the election booth to the benefit of the populists. Where centre-right politicians have succeeded is in utilising the language of anti-establishment populism and responding to and adjusting their policies in the wake of wider public concern on immigration, border security and economic insecurity.  Although it is early days the new Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has cleverly adapted to the new politics of populism.

Donald Trump is a political outsider who has aggressively used political populism to takeover the Republican Party. What Trump needs to do if he is to win over Middle America is to convince the electorate that he is a serious, credible and substantive candidate with governing centre-right solutions to the many problems facing the United States. The general election pivot away from aggressive populism into that centre-right space will be sufficient to win over enough independent voters to win the general election.

The enigma of Donald Trump is whether he is capable or willing to undertake such a shift in his approach, strategy and style with only three months to go before the election. The majority of Americans despise Hilary Clinton and are desperate to elect a change candidate which will move America away from the failed status quo politics of the last generation. Just as the Leave campaign succeeded in winning over Middle England, against the odds, Trump requires the same political magic over the coming months.

What happens if Trump fails to make that transition to the political sweet spot of populist centre-right politics in time? Hilary Clinton would likely win the general election but it would be a pyrrhic victory. Half the population would despise her and there would be little popular support for her aggressive neo-conservative foreign policy. Nor would Trumpism disappear. The combination of economic nationalism, anti-establishment politics and a neo-isolationist foreign policy has huge political potential. Donald Trump’s son and Rudy Giuliani both made superb speeches at the Cleveland Convention laced with the politics of Trumpism. A Clinton presidency would be a final, bitter and drawn out 4 years of failed and discredited business as usual politics before a Trumpist candidate swept the board in 2020.

Overall, it remains to be seen whether Trump will adapt to the collapsing polls and restructure his campaign post-Khangate. Trump does have a track record of responding to failing poll numbers, which he tracks closely, and responding accordingly. I have written before on how Trump successfully revamped his campaign after a series of self-induced errors which culminated in a disastrous defeat in the Wisconsin primary election. In that sense, the bigger the short-term drop in the polls the better for the long-term prospects of the Trump campaign.

Should Trump successfully make that move into the populist centre-right space discussed earlier, the Khangate affair will be considered by future historians as merely a bump in the road to the White House.

Only one thing can prevent a Trump presidency which is Donald Trump. The presidential ball is firmly in his court.

The Donald Trump enigma and the future of Trumpism