Las Vegas is a curious city. It is a town built for gambling by gamblers, and if gambling is part of the human condition, Las Vegas is the most distilled version. Gambling is about hope, about luck, about aspiration, however unlikely, to win that big prize.
Indeed, today all our political campaigns centre around the message of aspiration. However, this message of bettering your life has been at the heart of some of the most pernicious regimes over past decades. Aspiration for a more equal society, aspiration for a growing economy, aspiration for extreme wealth, aspiration for change. The aspiration candidate is one who offers to make lives better, and communists, fascists as well as social democrats have played that tune.
Where casinos succeed is in selling aspiration while having effective management in controlling risk and expectations, as not every customer can be a winner. The same cannot be said in politics. Currently in global politics there are several gambles in progress, some economic and financial, the others political. Our political leadership in past generations seemed to have balanced risk and reward and erred on the side of caution.
Today, this is not the case as our leaders seem to fail to grasp that risk has downside as well as upside.
Obama: Trusting the Gambler to Play Fair
I have written previously on game theory and the Iranian negotiations. It seems that the deal worked out by the US and Iranian Governments is not so much a fully comprehensive treaty, but the framework for a bet.
On one side we have the USA offering to ease sanctions on Iran and allow them to get on with building a nuclear capacity, trusting them not to build a weapon.
This is like giving a known card cheat free chips and a pack of cards and asking them to deal to themselves. Moreover, the casino will not monitor the security cameras routinely, but when they do, it will be the cheater’s family that will do so. If the cheater stays in the casino for a given time, they can walk away with their winnings.
The government‘s case is that the only alternative to the above scenario is that the card cheat would find a way to cheat anyway, so you might as well let them do it under your roof.
This logic is clearly flawed, however the response to the debate has been chilling; if you are opposed to the deal, you are acting against the best “interests” of America. You are shut down. An enemy voice. A dissenter. A warmonger.
Conflict with Iran is inevitable. It may be military, may be ideological or may be in trade, but the governing philosophies and ideologies of the USA and Iran are not aligned. It is not correct nor helpful to single out for criticism anyone who who states this obvious fact.
Wanting to find peace and a diplomatic solution to conflict is aspirational, but it it isn’t always possible.
Labour: Bringing Down The House
Much as been written and debates about the 2015 Labour defeat. I have watched and read as much as anyone and am not at all surprised by the rise of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour election process.
The British left has always fascinated me since I was a student, where I would develop strategies to counter the leftist radical groups, such as the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Action and Socialist Organiser. As a campaigner for a fair, free, meritocratic and just society, I would look at some of their policy positions and obsessions (in particular on the Middle East) and would try and understand what parallel universe these people lived in. The groups were mired with conspiracy theories and were operated like cults.
The checks on the influence of these groups; who already run the Trade Union movement and have adopted key positions in the Labour party and public sector bodies in true entryist fashion, were the rules of the UK Labour Party, which included centralised power in the hands of the MPs and a dispersed electoral base.
Ed Miliband, who looks increasingly like the worst political leader in the history of UK politics, gambled and failed many times. Each bet was a losing one. He was a loser and when eventually betting and losing the house, he walked away.
His legacy is a Bennite Manifesto for political change in the Labour Party. History has a selection of unwitting ‘morons’ who had good intentions but bad decision making. Ed Miliband was ether incompetent beyond belief or an engaged subversive in allowing radical groups control and influence in the party. This is a huge gamble for the Labour Party, perhaps the most extreme political bet in the past 100 years.
Jeremy Corbyn is the aspirational candidate in the Labour election and will be the aspiration candidate if he makes the general election. He has already galvanised the Labour Party, bringing on a new wave of support which will change the direction of the Party for decades to come. But he cannot deliver his message without destroying Britain.
Corbyn may make it to Prime Minister, he may not, but at this juncture it seems likely an entryist radical may take control of a major political party for the first time in history. It may be that the radical left could build a coalition to win an election in the UK, stealing votes from the SNP, UKIP and Labour.
Now, some may say that I am being slightly overboard here and this may not be such a bad thing to have a leftist leader framing the debate or even winning an election, but when a society becomes ambivalent on the subject of anti-Semitism this is history’s alarm bell. That “I am not an anti-Semite, some of my friends might be” is Corbyn’s position.
Watch this space.
ISIS: Hoping their luck will run out.
Since the Nazis, there has been no greater evil in the world than ISIS today.
“How did we let this happen?” and “Never Again” are much quoted afterthoughts from the Holocaust. What made that genocide unique was that it was industrial in its conception and delivery. This is true today in Iraq and Syria in ISIS held areas.
The brutality and barbarity knows no bounds. We KNOW of the mass executions, the beheading, the drowning, the burning, the shooting, the random murder of non-believers, gays and those who do not accept the ISIS philosophy but how many thousands of deaths do we not know?
I weep for the Yazidi, the ancient sect that has been systematically destroyed, the children raped, murdered and traded as slaves, and although there has been global condemnation the lack of military response to this real time avoidable genocide is a moral crime against humanity.
But ISIS has supporters. Those who reject liberal society and embrace the truth of radical Islam. These people are no different than anyone else in that they aspire. Their aspiration is historical, religious and to a restate a modern Caliphate.
The global response to ISIS has been like the casinos view of a gambler; they them keep on playing and eventually the gambler’s luck will run out, their play will revert to the mean and they will begin to lose. Except that ISIS sometimes wins, sometimes loses, but throughout the larger campaign, the slaughter continues. Daily. Hourly.
I read an article in the Times that ISIS was bound to fail as they have pinned their economy to the gold standard! How can a terrorist group have an economic strategy? How can it possibly have come to this?
ISIS are coming to Europe. They are coming fast. They deserve all the opprobrium we can muster. Our response to evil is pathetic.
It looks like our leaders are gambling with our world and making bad bets. When there is no casino to regulate behaviour, the gaming floor can turn to anarchy quickly. I am fearful.