Generation without representation

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.


“Millennials Outnumber Baby Boomers and Are Far More Diverse, Census Bureau Reports”

Millennials, or America’s youth born between 1982 and 2000, now number 83.1 million and represent more than one quarter of the nation’s population. Their size exceeds that of the 75.4 million baby boomers, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates released today [June 25, 2015].

The nation’s 65-and-older population grew from 44.7 million in 2013 to 46.2 million in 2014. This group…now contains the oldest four years of the baby boom generation (born between 1946 and 1964).


Arming ISIS accidentally

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.


Ever wondered how ISIS and the early insurgency in Iraq got so many decent weapons so fast? It wasn’t just by capturing them after big surrenders by the Iraq Army.

Here’s Al Jazeera English, quoting an Amnesty International report on how the United States carelessly created the conditions necessary to arm ISIS fully:

“From 2003 to 2007, the US and other coalition members transferred more than one million infantry weapons and pistols with millions of rounds of ammunition to the Iraqi armed forces, despite the fact that the army was poorly structured, corrupt and ill-disciplined”.
“Hundreds of thousands of those weapons went missing and are still unaccounted for. During this period, illicit markets flourished, as did covert supplies from Iran, making arms and ammunition readily available to armed groups operating in Iraq.”

Yet another reason to be so wary of Western efforts to arm various groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, or anywhere else in the world right now.

No politics without choices

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.


From an article in The Economist from July 2015, on bailouts, monetary versus fiscal policy for stimulus, and the tendency of politicians to try to offload key decisions onto “non-partisan” technocrats:

Voters may also want inconsistent things: lower taxes, higher spending and a balanced budget at the same time. Politicians ought to make those tough choices. To the extent that they pass the buck to technocrats, or to international bodies making backroom deals, politicians lose control of their own destiny. Indeed, the feeling that their elected leaders are not in control may be one reason why voters in some countries are so angry, and are turning to parties outside the mainstream.


Previously from Arsenal For Democracy on this topic:

A world without politics would be bad
Drawbacks of Technocracy, Part 1: Europe’s Political Crisis
Drawbacks of Technocracy, Part 2: Blue-ribbon America
The EU’s ill-conceived TTIP technocracy strikes again
On technocracy in democracies

Burkina Faso completes 13 month transition

Previously from Arsenal For Democracy: Burkina Faso political transition coverage.


Just over a year after protesters burned down Burkina Faso’s parliament and ejected the president of 27 years, a free presidential election has, at last, been held. It went off without much of a hitch in the first round (which will be the only round this time). Here’s how it played out in the end…

The basics (France24):

Provisional results from Sunday’s election showed [Former Prime Minister] Roch Marc Kaboré won 53.5 percent of the vote to defeat former Finance Minister Zéphirin Diabré, who scored 29.7 percent, and 12 other candidates, the electoral commission said. Turnout was about 60 percent.

The good (The Economist):

Early signs are that this will be the first peaceful transfer of power since independence.

The less good:

Yet others have pointed to the ubiquity of the CDP old guard at the top despite the ruling. Mr Kaboré was a close ally of Mr Compaoré until only nine months before the latter’s overthrow and was widely regarded as the continuity candidate, despite pledging to bring about “real change”. His main presidential rival, Zéphirin Diabré, also held several ministerial posts before defecting in 2010.

“The CDP is everywhere,” says one foreign election observer. The ranks of both Mr Kaboré’s new party, the Movement of People for Progress (MPP), and Mr Diabré’s Union for Progress and Change (UPC), contain many former CDP members, and the UPC, despite three years as the country’s official opposition, enjoyed the unofficial support of what remains of Mr Compaoré’s former party in the presidential vote.
[T]here is little ideological difference between the two [leading parties in the legislature]. “All that’s changed is the name of the party,” says Daniel Eizenga, an expert on Burkinabé politics at the University of Florida.

I’m cautiously more optimistic than this, although it certainly poses risks. Why? Because as I argued last month when the voting kicked off, it’s sort of inevitable when there is single-party/one-man rule for decades that its successors will come from that background. Anyone who goes into public service ends up working for the regime at some point.

Thoughtful action, not just any action

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

“Frankie Boyle on the fallout from Paris: ‘This is the worst time for society to go on psychopathic autopilot’” – The Guardian:

In times of crisis, we are made to feel we should scrutinise our government’s actions less closely, when surely that’s when we should pay closest attention. There’s a feeling that after an atrocity history and context become less relevant, when surely these are actually the worst times for a society to go on psychopathic autopilot. Our attitudes are fostered by a society built on ideas of dominance, where the solution to crises are force and action, rather than reflection and compromise.

If that sounds unbearably drippy, just humour me for a second and imagine a country where the response to Paris involved an urgent debate about how to make public spaces safer and marginalised groups less vulnerable to radicalisation. Do you honestly feel safer with a debate centred around when we can turn some desert town 3,000 miles away into a sheet of glass? Of course, it’s not as if the west hasn’t learned any lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan. This time round, no one’s said out loud that we’re going to win.

See also:
Op-Ed | France and the West: Inconvenient Questions


Which awful jihadists will be our new pretend friend in Syria?

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

Gareth Porter explains how the U.S. is about to be forced by its own allies to accept certain anti-democratic terrorist groups over other anti-democratic terrorist groups in Syria, unless it (sensibly) revises its policy there quite dramatically:

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has revealed that the next phase [of the Vienna talks] will turn on bargaining among the international sponsors of anti-Assad groups about who would be allowed to join a new government.

Those decisions, in turn, would depend on which of the groups are deemed by the foreign sponsors of those very groups to be “terrorists” and which are deemed acceptable.

As Hammond acknowledges, the Saudis are certainly not going to agree to call Ahrar al-Sham or other extremist jihadist groups allied with it – or perhaps even al-Nusra – “terrorists”.

They may have to give up al-Nusra Front, which has expressed support for the Islamic State terrorist assault on Paris. But they rest they are likely to continue to back.

Unless Obama is prepared to face a rupture in the U.S. alliance with the Sunni Gulf Sheikdoms over the issue, the result will be that the same anti-democratic groups committed to overthrowing the remnants of the old order by force will be invited by the United States and its Gulf allies to take key positions in the post-Assad government.


Pictured: Destroyed Syrian Army tanks, August 2012, after the Battle of Azaz. (Credit: Christiaan Triebert via Wikipedia)

Pictured: Destroyed Syrian Army tanks, August 2012, after the Battle of Azaz. (Credit: Christiaan Triebert via Wikipedia)

Baseline goals

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.


“Bernie Sanders invokes FDR in explaining socialism as ‘foundation of middle class'” – LA Times:

“The next time you hear me attacked as a socialist,” Sanders said, “remember this: I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own means of production. But I do believe the middle class and working class of this country who produce the wealth of this country deserve a decent standard of living, and their incomes should go up and not down.”