Cyreenik Says

April 2018 issues

More surprises in Korea: Will they bring sincere surprises this time?

It has been a given since the Korean War that relations between the two Koreas are rocky. It is also a given that about every twenty years the North Koreans will support the starting of some kind of reconciliation effort. It is also a given that that effort will fail miserably because the North Koreans will then betray all the good talk they spoke to start the effort.

So... the good talk has started again. Will this effort go differently than previous efforts?

This 27 Apr 18 Economist article, Can the euphoria of the Korean summit last?, talks about the historic meeting of South Korea's Moon Jae-in and North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

From the article, "The meeting marked the first time a North Korean leader has travelled to the South since the end of the Korean war in 1953. (South Korean presidents have twice visited Pyongyang for summits, in 2000 and 2007.) There were Kodak moments galore: the first handshake, an inspection of a South Korean honour guard dressed in an assortment of primary-coloured nineteenth-century uniforms, the planting of a “peace tree”, a private afternoon chat on a bench, during which observers could see the two leaders but hear only birdsong."

What will make this time different? ...If it is going to be different?

The results of these talks will be different when the North Korean leadership supporting the Kim dynasty changes their expectations of what good ruling of North Korea is. The expectation since the Korean War is that the ruler will work to keep North Korean culture "pure" and authentically Korean. The converse is "selling out to The Man" which is what the North Koreans accuse the South Koreans of doing.

If Kim Jong Un is going to mastermind a change in those expectations, and make growing the country's prosperity more a part of the expectations, then these talks have a chance for a different outcome than the previous ones.

Have expectations changed in North Korea's leadership? This is the big question mark that the next few months will answer. This will determine how sincere this round of surprises is.

Update: Alas... More of the Kims being the Kims: Say they are making an agreement, then whine, then betray. This is now the third generation of North Korean leaders engaging in this tactic.

This 16 May 18 Economist article, North Korea reminds the world why past peace talks have failed It says it is having second thoughts about giving up nuclear weapons, talks about the current betrayal to having meaningful talks.

From the article, "Thunderstorms battered Seoul as the North announced that it was cancelling high-level talks with the South to which it had agreed barely 24 hours earlier. It also threatened to pull out of a summit between Mr Kim and Donald Trump, America’s president, scheduled to take place in Singapore on June 12th."

Instinctive thinking in action: Airline passengers being deeply afraid of flying

The Southwest airline crash this month that killed one passenger is demonstrating once again how scared of flying many airline passengers are. This deep rooted fear affects the entire industry by making the airline passenger experience so much more cumbersome than it needs to be.

This is the first fatal crash in the US in nine years but the coverage has been massive and going on for many days. If there wasn't so much instinctive fear, if this was, say, a bus crash, the coverage would have lasted a day and then everyone would have moved on. Instead this is being treated as classic airline accident drama with days of coverage.

This 19 Apr 18 WSJ article, Southwest Accident Shows Passengers Unprepared for Emergencies Misused masks highlight challenges airlines face getting passengers to listen to safety briefings and follow instructions by Patrick McGroarty and Doug Cameron, is just one example.

From the article, "Airlines are loath to criticize their customers for their behavior during unexpected and dangerous situations. But carriers and aviation safety bodies have said emergency landings and evacuations can be complicated by passengers who don’t follow steps laid out in boarding announcements and safety pamphlets."

If you have accidents only once every nine years, how much difference does this make?

Again, the problem this deep-rooted fear causes is that so many cumbersome rituals become part of the air travel experience. These rituals are in place merely to help passengers overcome their fears, they don't make the trip any faster, better or cheaper.

I don't fear flying so I find them insulting and obnoxious.

And now my future forecasting kicks in: One of the hopes I have for the 2050's is that we can use wearables to overcome this kind of fear. If we do airline travel will become as simple and convenient as bus travel. I look forward to that.

Dream changing is upon us

Recessions are times of dream changing for businesses and communities. During boom times the challenge is to do more of the same only faster, better and cheaper. When that tactic stops working, when markets want something different not more of the same, then a recession starts and the tactic becomes searching for the Next Big Thing that will power the next boom.

We may now be entering a time of dream changing.

One sign of that has been the change in the stock market from placid growth last year to wild-style daily gyrations that aren't doing much growing this year.

Another sign is that the world opinion of Bitcoin is changing. This 12 Apr 18 WSJ article, Bitcoin’s Hype Vanishes Just Like That: ‘We’re in the Boring Phase’ Daily trading volume is 70% lower than its most active days, and the virtual currency is fading from social-media feeds by Steven Russolillo, talks about how interest in Bitcoin is declining.

From the article, "The 30-year-old from Nashville told them he had bought bitcoin and litecoin last fall but recently sold most of his holdings. The discussion quickly shifted to another subject.

“Months ago, they would’ve been genuinely interested in how to invest in [cryptocurrencies], how it works, and where I [thought] the price was going,” he said. “Now it’s something that’s the brunt of jokes, like I had invested in comic books or baseball cards.”"

This 14 Apr 18 Economist article, Catching the bitcoin bug, offers a similar point of view.

From the article, "Perhaps the blockchain will turn out to be useful for other purposes—for example, recording property transactions. But it has been hard to think about such potential innovations when all the attention was focused on an ever-rising price. The crypto-fever has finally broken."

I see Bitcoin as the iconic new financial tool of this market's boom mania. If interest in that is moving on, the mania is moving on as well.

If so, it is time for a new dream, and with it a new mania. One possibility for this new dream/mania combination is worry over Brexit. If Brexit worry becomes the heart of the next dream, this will follow the pattern of the Hong Kong turnover to China in 1997.

We shall see... we shall see...

The proxy war in Iraq and Syria is finally moving on

It has taken almost two decades but the proxy war in Iraq and Syria is finally dying down. The proxy war supporters are all moving on -- their interest, attention and money are moving on to other matters.

This 31 May 18 Economist article, Fifteen years after America’s invasion, Iraq is getting back on its feet, talks about how Iraq is recovering from the Iraq war that started in 2003 and the ISIS caliphate movement that started in 2014.

From the article, "Remarkably, given its belligerent past and the region’s many conflicts, Iraq enjoys cordial relations with all its neighbours. America and Iran may be bitter rivals, but both give Iraq military and political backing. Gulf states, overcoming decades-long sectarian and security fears, have restored diplomatic relations and want to invest."

Syria has not advanced as far down this road as Iraq but there too the conflict is lessening in intensity and the proxy supporters are moving on. This 4 Apr 18 WSJ article, U.S. Military Mission in Syria ‘Coming to a Rapid End’ by Felicia Schwartz, describes current thinking in Washington. It shows attention there moving elsewhere.

From the article, "The mission in Syria is “coming to a rapid end,” the White House said Wednesday, amid calls by President Donald Trump to withdraw troops in Syria from the continuing war against Islamic State.

The White House offered no timetable for the U.S. presence in Syria but said the Trump administration along with its partners remain committed to eliminating Islamic State in the country. The White House appeared to leave what happens after Islamic State’s defeat up to others."

Note that because this is an "attention elsewhere" phenomenon the news coverage is light. Also note that the proxy fighting in the region is not completely dead, there is still lots of intensity in Yemen. And this month Assad is doing his best to keep Syria in the limelight with his chemical weapons fiascos.

All-in-all, this moving on is good news for the Middle East and the world. Getting proxies out is the way of getting peace in.



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