Thursday, March 19, 2015

Has Britain initiated the beginning of the end of US hegemony?

Often  what future historians will see as the most significant event of a period is buried under many other stories at the time it happens. Right now the battle against the Islamic State or the negotiations with Iran, the reelection of Netanyahu, or even the story of murderous millionaire occupy the front pages, but I would bet that in only a few years, Britain's defying the USA and joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will be seen as much more important. 

The following snippets will give you a pretty clear "story arc" of the British move.
The US has expressed concern over the UK's bid to become a founding member of a Chinese-backed development bank. The UK is the first big Western economy to apply for membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).(...) the US sees the Chinese effort as a ploy to dilute US control of the banking system, and has persuaded regional allies such as Australia, South Korea and Japan to stay out of the bank.(...) "We think that it's in the UK's national interest," said Mr Cameron's spokesperson. BBC

America’s sensitivity to the creation of banks such as AIIB is understandable. Rivalry between Washington and Beijing for global economic influence is intensifying. Since the end of the second world war, the US has been the dominant voice, partly thanks to the creation of the Washington-based World Bank and International Monetary Fund. China is now challenging the Bretton Woods set-up by creating financial bodies to help it gain greater political influence in the Asia-Pacific region and other parts of the world.(...) The US may want to stop the growth of these bodies. But its lacklustre stewardship of the Washington-based international financial institutions is one of the reasons rivals are proliferating. Financial Times

France, Germany and Italy have all agreed to follow Britain’s lead and join a China-led international development bank, according to European officials, delivering a blow to US efforts to keep leading western countries out of the new institution.(...) Australia, a key US ally in the Asia-Pacific region which had come under pressure from Washington to stay out of the new bank, has also said that it will now rethink that position.(...) South Korean media have reported that Seoul will also now rethink its decision not to join the AIIB. Japan, the US ally in the region that is most worried by China’s growing influence, is not expected to become a member. Financial Times
Why is this so important?

To simplify: American hegemonic power is based on a tripod of arms, economy and narrative (media, academia etc.). The two most unquestionably powerful are arms and economy.

America, as we are constantly being told, has the most powerful armed forces in the history of the world. But somehow, except for Panama and Grenada, America's wars don't seem to turn out that well. The last two, Afghanistan and Iraq, have turned out so badly and so fatigued American public opinion that we are forced to ask Madeline Albright's famous question, "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?"

This takes us to the economy where America's power has at its heart the dollar. The greenback is the currency in which most of the world's commerce takes place... very, very simply put, the USA can very cheaply print as many dollars as it wants whenever it wants and everybody else has to use them to buy the things they need. Too good to be true? The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank could mean the end of that.

This excellent snippet from Thailand's "The Nation" will give you an idea of how much trouble the AIIB could mean for US power and the average American's pocketbook:
Once the AIIB gets off the ground, it will become an international financial institution to be reckoned with, offering financing for infrastructure projects in yuan-denominated loans. This is the underlying reason for Washington's concern over the creation of the AIIB. Allowing the yuan to flourish will hit the international standing of the US dollar as the world's reserve currency of choice. China, Russia and other BRICS countries are moving away from the dollar, preferring to trade among themselves in their own currencies. Not only will this reduce foreign exchange risks associated with the dollar, it will also promote the use of their own currencies. Washington cannot afford to let a new international foreign exchange regime come into being. With a budget deficit of $1 trillion a year, the US needs to finance its debt with borrowing. If the dollar's credibility is questionable, fewer and fewer countries and funds will be willing to become the US's creditors by buying up US bonds. The dollar will be dumped. Interest rates will rise, hurting the economy and the financial markets. The chain reaction will bring another round of financial crisis.(...) we have come to a point where the US can no longer dictate global events on its own terms. The fact that its allies are deserting to join the AIIB reflects the waning of Washington's influence. Its allies realize they will miss the boat if they fail to join the AIIB, because the growth opportunities are in Asia - not in Europe or the US, where structural problems have yet to be addressed.
And to top it off, using the AIIB, China will be able to finance the infrastructure that will unite Asia, Africa and Europe and very possibly isolate the USA with The New Silk Road.

In short: in only a few years the Communist Party of China, without firing a shot, has used the very tools of capitalism to reduce the power of the lords of modern capitalism.

 Sun Tzu would be proud. DS

Friday, March 13, 2015

Google wants (us?) to live forever

"Don't be evil" was the formal corporate motto (or slogan) of Google

“The famous Google mantra of ‘Don’t be evil’ is not entirely what it seems.”

“Evil is what Sergey [Brin] says is evil.”
“If you ask me today, is it possible to live to be 500? The answer is yes,” Bill Maris says one January afternoon in Mountain View, California. The president and managing partner of Google Ventures just turned 40, but he looks more like a 19-year-old college kid at midterm. He’s wearing sneakers and a gray denim shirt over a T-shirt; it looks like he hasn’t shaved in a few days. Bloomberg
When I first read about Google's plans for life eternal I thought I'd write a "think piece" about it, but then on researching the thing, I saw that many had trod the path before me. As I read though page after page I saw that Google was not alone, that Silicon Valley was filled with Forbes List billionaires putting oodles of money into research hoping to live forever.  

Reading on, it suddenly struck me that that I had seen this before... Then I remembered where... Aldous Huxley classic, "After Many a Summer Dies the Swan". 

Sergey Brin wants to become the Fifth Earl of Gonister!

Here is a quote from Wikipedia's summary of Huxley's masterpiece:
Written soon after Huxley left England and settled in California, the novel is Huxley's examination of American culture, particularly what he saw as its narcissism, superficiality, and obsession with youth.
Looked at with the eyes of Huxley, I began to think that today's Silicon Valley is nearly beyond parody and then a friend sent me this wonderful send up of the "sharing apps":

Getting serious for a moment, it seems truly "evil" that these Silicon Valley billionaires cannot see that the true health problem today is not eternal life or even a cure for cancer: it is the existence of many millions of human beings who do not have access to even the most rudimentary health care or sanitation. 

I am not asking these mega-geeks to "have a heart", I am asking them not to be stupid. In today's interconnected world which they have done so much to interconnect and which they want to interconnect infinitely, a virus that breeds in some filthy, overpopulated, third world slum, with no doctors and no toilets (near an international airport, naturally) can undergo a metamorphosis into an airborne, killer flu from one day to the next and be in San Jose in a matter of hours.

How can people who are supposed to be intelligent be so stupid? Maybe their intelligence is like "Rain Man" memorizing telephone books. DS

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Binyamin Netanyahu is Sheldon Adelson's puppet

Adelson and Netanyahu
There is a lot of talk about Binyamin Netanyahu these days, but Bibi is just a figurehead, the real operator in this whole story is the American casino billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, who is going about proving beyond any reasonable doubt (if anybody still doubted it) that the American political system is for sale. In fact, he has been doing the same thing in Israel.

Since in his mind, Israel and the USA seem to be of one flesh, it might be interesting to visit Sheldon Adelson's view of democracy in Israel:
“I don’t think the Bible says anything about democracy. I think God didn’t say anything about democracy,” Adelson said. “God talked about all the good things in life. He didn’t talk about Israel remaining as a democratic state, otherwise Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state — so what?” The Jewish Daily Forward
What does Adelson's money buy for Israel in Washington? Nothing but the best.
Among foreign leaders, nobody has been invited to address Congress more often than Netanyahu. He now stands equal at the top of the table along with Winston Churchill. Behind Netanyahu trail Nelson Mandela and Yitzhak Rabin. That’s a pretty devastating commentary on the state of contemporary American political culture and the very notion of leadership. Roger Cohen - New York Times
The results of Adelson's meddling could have disastrous results for both Israel and the USA and many Israelis are fully aware of this and very disturbed by the prospect and so are many American Jewish people too.
If anyone ever decides to make a movie of 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,' the opening scene is already done. An Israeli prime minister bewitching hundreds of American Congress members who cheer him on as if he is their Caesar and they are his legions; a few short miles away, meanwhile, the leader of the free world and sole superpower sits in the White House, helplessly seething, pretending to be otherwise engaged, while his aides studiously ignore his very public humiliation.(...) They see a brash Jewish leader, backed by battalions of loyal AIPAC lobbyists and one casino magnate with billions of dollars to spare, thumbing his nose at the U.S. president and openly trying to derail his efforts to achieve a nuclear deal with Tehran, which most of the world supports. Netanyahu’s success, the conventional wisdom goes, could ultimately lead to war.  (...) And if the U.S. and Iran find themselves in an escalating conflict that leads to armed confrontation, Netanyahu, Israel and the Jewish people will find themselves in the dock, cast in a central role in a new chapter in the Protocols of the elders of Zion, but one which will be much harder to refute. As a student of Jewish history, this seems to be Netanyahu’s most reckless gamble of all.  Chemi Shalev - Haaretz
Iran may or may not be the existential threat to Israel that Netanyahu insists it is. But a lessening of U.S. support for Israel certainly would be. With an indifferent America, Israel would become a lonely, frightening place. Its chief export would not be high tech, but people looking to get out — Jews once more on the go. This is hardly the settlements policy that Netanyahu intends. Richard Cohen - Washington Post

Alas, Bibi is Churchill when it comes to isolating Iran, but he is AWOL when it comes to risking his own political future to make it happen. I have a problem with that. I still don’t know if I will support this Iran deal, but I also have a problem with my own Congress howling in support of a flawed foreign leader trying to scuttle the negotiations by my own government before they’re done. Rubs me the wrong way. Thomas Friedman - New York Times
How are Adelson's obsessions, vanity and dollars potentially more even harmful than, say, the Koch brothers' obsessions, vanity and dollars?

The answer is ISIS.

Everything is building up to this: ISIS's greatest wish is too draw the US armed forces back into a ground war in the Middle East. The ISIS is mobilizing, radicalizing and even more important, giving military training to hundreds of citizens of the European Union (who can enter the USA without a visa) and dozens of American citizens too. This means that within months, weeks, days, hours, anyone of these men or women could walk into a shopping mall  or Wal-Mart in the deepest flyover America and blow him or herself up, along with dozens of peaceful shoppers... And there might be several such instances in the space of a few hours in different regions. It is not difficult to imagine the ensuing paranoia, rage and hostility. 

Hysteria is modern America's default reaction to almost anything, it is hard to imagine how a series of well executed suicide bombings would play out and what lasting effect they might have on American life and institutions... any country seen to have brought it on in any way might face the full force of all the hysterical, paranoia, rage and hostility that might be out of control for quite some time.

Obviously in any US ground war against ISIS, any Israeli intervention against the jihadis would be worse than useless, just as it would have been in the first Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein invaded Iraq. If Israel intervened militarily to help the USA kill Sunni Muslims, it would instantly turn the ISIS into heroes for most of the world's Sunni Muslims. The only country that could reliably help the USA with the heavy lifting would be, (some say already is) Shiite Iran.

Sheldon Adelson and his puppet Netanyahu are simply playing with fire. DS

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

That's a nice Silicon Valley you've got there, shame if something happened to it

Make them an offer they can't refuse
The Google Self-Driving Car is a project by Google that involves developing technology for autonomous cars, mainly electric cars. The software powering Google's cars is called Google Chauffeur. (...)The project is currently being led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, former director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of Google Street View. Thrun's team at Stanford created the robotic vehicle Stanley which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and its US$2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense.(...) On December 22, 2014, Google unveiled a fully functioning prototype of their driverless car and planned to test it on San Francisco Bay Area roads beginning in 2015. Wikipedia 
If I were looking for the best example of the social/political tone-deafness, the lack E.I., of IT folk, it would be the "Google Self-Driving Car". 

To me it is perfectly obvious that the name "Self-Driving Car" is a red herring, because I don't think that there is much of a market for a driverless car, simply because Americans love to drive their cars, it is one of the last places where they can enjoy the sensation of freedom and control. 

What I think that industry, specifically the transport industry might be very interested in is "Self-Driving Trucks" (buses, taxis, etc.). Eliminating truck drivers means that big companies, like Wal-Mart wouldn't have to deal with pesky unions like the Teamster's union...  Without truck drivers, there would be no Teamster's union. Wouldn't that be great? I mean they have all sorts of nasty Mafia connections, don't they? If we eliminated the truck drivers, we wouldn't have to worry about the Mafia anymore, would we?

Whaddaya, whaddaya... ya outta ya fuckin' mind?

No, really, does Google understand exactly who they are trying to put out of business? To put it more bluntly, do Larry Page and Sergey Brin have an algorithm that can locate Jimmy Hoffa's body on Google Maps? DS

Saturday, February 14, 2015

21rst Century Populism: the New "Us" Against the Same Old "Them"

Mark Bittman published a very important article last week in the New York Times, entitled, "What is the Purpose of Society?".  Important, because in just a few words he gets to the very heart of political action.

He begins with the most basic problem imaginable: food:
The world of food and agriculture symbolizes most of what’s gone wrong in the United States. But because food is plentiful for most people, and the damage that conventional agriculture does isn’t readily evident to everyone, it’s important that we look deeper, beyond food, to the structure that underlies most decisions: the political economy.(...) Think about it this way: There are two kinds of operating systems, hard and soft. A clock is a hard system. We know what it’s for, we know when it isn’t working, and we know that 10 clock experts would agree on how to fix it — and could do so. Soft systems, like agriculture and economics, are more complex. We don’t all agree on goals, and we don’t agree on whether things are working or in need of repair. For example, is contemporary American agriculture a system for nourishing people and providing a livelihood for farmers? Or is it one for denuding the nation’s topsoil while poisoning land, water, workers and consumers and enriching corporations? Our collective actions would indicate that our principles favor the latter; that has to change. Mark Bittman - New York Times
Toward the end of his article comes a paragraph which, in my opinion  could be the political strategy that "connects the dots" between many heterogeneous groups and issues in a way that might finally articulate a serious progressive challenge to today's floundering "conservative revolution".
It’s clear to most everyone, regardless of politics, that the big issues — labor, race, food, immigration, education and so on — must be “fixed,” and that fixing any one of these will help with the others. But this kind of change must begin with an agreement about principles, specifically principles of human rights and well-being rather than principles of making a favorable business climate.
I find this striking because it connects with what Podemos, the wildly successful, out of the blue, political movement that is shaking the foundations of Spain's establishment is saying these days.
Podemos originated in the aftermath of the 2011–12 Spanish protests against inequality and corruption. It is a left-wing populist party that seeks to address the problems of inequality, unemployment and economic malaise that followed in the wake of the European debt crisis. (...) Podemos is currently the 2nd largest Spanish party by number of members; it became the 3rd largest party within the first 20 days it allowed membership, with 100,000 signing up in that period, and currently has more than 344,000 members. Wikipedia 
Basically their message is that today's problems are not so much a question of "left versus right", but more a question of "up versus down"; "down" being defined as "la gente", a less political buzzword for the people than "el pueblo". This is a demographic smorgasbord that ranges all over the political system but who are united, perhaps unknowingly, in their mutual suffering, the common adversary of all of them being "La casta" (the "caste"), defined as a tiny minority of amazingly wealthy and powerful corporations and individuals who control and manipulate the financial, political and mainstream information systems to their benefit and to the detriment of the vast majority of their fellow citizens.

Finally we are talking about finding a common denominator shared throughout most of the population. Those suffering could include anyone from a civil servant trying to fix the climate or guarantee the purity of what Americans eat or a small, "main street" businessman smothered by the "big boxes", all the way to someone flipping burgers in McDonald's, and every imaginable minority: all could feel oppressed by the system as it stands.

The "casta", then, is the common adversary of all "la gente", the people, that is to say, everybody that is not super-rich and powerful.

In American terms it would sound something like "everybody against the one percent".

What sort of mentality are "we the people" facing? Let's ask Bloomberg:
It's not necessarily natural to act selfishly. Decades of research suggest that humans are hard-wired to reciprocate kind deeds because doing so offers an evolutionary advantage. Yet being at work seems to strip people of a desire to help people. "Organizations are more future-oriented," Pfeffer says. "They emphasize calculation, rather than morality and duty." He and Belmi cite prior research showing how companies have increasingly walked back promised pension benefits, cut retirees' medical insurance benefits, and laid off staff in the absence of financial strains. Even though research suggests the obvious—that being stingy about reciprocation can make employees less productive and more likely to quit—companies still seem to have no qualms about screwing over workers. Bloomberg Business
Clearly then, contrary to much that "they" would like "us" to believe, (understatement warning) the corporate model cannot serve the well being of the community as a whole.

As Mark Bittman says,
Shouldn’t adequate shelter, clothing, food and health care be universal? Isn’t everyone owed a society that works toward guaranteeing the well-being of its citizens? Shouldn’t we prioritize avoiding self-destruction?
You could say it louder perhaps, but I doubt if you could say it more clearly. DS

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

A European "Red Spring"?

Podemos Demonstration - Puerta del Sol, Madrid, 1-31
If it was conventional wisdom that a bunch of unelected bankers looking out for rich people were the reason everyone was out of work, politicians would be forced to explain to angry voters why we had this crazy system and might actually consider doing something about it. The late Aaron Swartz
"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Albert Einstein 
The economic slump in much of the EU has encouraged the rise of populist parties of the right and left. The sense of insecurity on which the populists feed has been further encouraged by the spillover from the conflict in the Middle East — whether in the form of terrorism or mass illegal migration. Gideon Rachman - Financial Times

We must end austerity so as not to let fear kill democracy. Unless the forces of progress and democracy change Europe, it will be Marine Le Pen and her far-right allies that change it for us. Alexis Tsipras - Financial Times 
Tens of thousands of people have massed in central Madrid for a rally organised by radical Spanish leftists Podemos. The "March for Change" is one of the party's first outdoor mass rallies, as it looks to build on the recent victory of its close allies Syriza in Greece. Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias told the crowd a "wind of change" was starting to blow through Europe. Podemos has surged ahead in opinion polls, and has vowed to write off part of Spain's debt if it comes to power.(...) Several of Madrid's main avenues became a sea of people and purple, the party's colour, he says, after its supporters travelled from all over Spain.(...) Broadcaster TVE reported that hundreds of thousands were at the demonstration, but there was no official tally. BBC News
Before we get started, it would be useful to remember that the founding "parents" of the "conservative revolution" or "neo-liberalism" as it is known in Europe, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, both died of Alzheimer´s disease... This might not be the cause of the ongoing disaster, but it sure is a nifty metaphor for the situation we are in.
 
Regular readers of this blog know that one of my favorite hobby horses is criticizing the blockheadedness of post Cold War politicians who seem to have totally lost their fear of popular wrath.


Those who are cheerfully going about the work of dismantling the welfare state seem blissfully unaware that the welfare state was created by men as, or even more conservative then themselves, (Bismark, for example) in order to avoid revolutionary social movements which would destabilize and jeopardize the entire economic system and society itself. This was a strategy that was so eminently successful that it practically has destroyed revolutionary praxis. 

In my opinion endeavoring to dismantle the welfare state at the collapse of the Soviet Union is similar to a person who has successfully survived an operation for lung cancer and endured the ensuing chemotherapy and then, finding himself now in  remission, decides that it is ok for him to go back to smoking, the very thing that caused his cancer in the first place: idiotic.

It occurs to me that this tunnel vision, expressed in the obsession of  placating the financial markets, a vision which  ignores popular anger, is the result of the rise and predominance of the FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) economy and the diminishing influence of manufacturing and agriculture.

The financial sector works with platonic mathematical models: money in the abstract moves with the speed of light. Fortunes that buy admiration, sex and luxury are made by simply tapping the key of a computer in a cubicle or on a trading floor.  All very clean and a bit autistic.

Reality, unfortunately, in as much as it touches living organisms, is never that clean and neat.

Thus farmers and manufacturers understand how the world of living creatures works better than financiers do.

They understand better, because both farmers and manufacturers exploit living creatures for profit and, leaving ethical question aside, to do this they need to have what farmers call "stock sense": an understanding of the animal off of which they make their living. It is this "stock sense", for example, that leads German manufacturers to have union representatives sitting on their boards of directors

Politics is not about numbers, it is about human beings. Numbers are rational and humans are animals that are  rational enough to get themselves into terrible trouble, but not really rational enough to extricate themselves from the trouble they can create. That might be the signature of our species and the epitaph of our planet.  DS

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Like 9-11, the Paris massacre is not about "Us"



Just as in the aftermath of 9-11, the endless commentary following the Charlie Hebdo massacre all seem to be reworkings of George W. Bush's "why do they hate us?" speech with its long list of our democratic virtues and the perpetrators' lack of the same:
They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
The western commentators then and now, just as Bush himself did, mostly ignore the elementary, basic, central, core truth in next paragraph of his speech:
They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
That is really what this is all about. What Al Qaeda and ISIS want is quite simple and our role in their getting it is merely instrumental.

Coming from a culture as self referential as ours it is very difficult to get our minds around the idea that neither Al Qaeda or ISIS care a fig about our "values" as lived in our countries, they care about their values as lived in their countries... This is not about "us", it is about "them" and our values and our power are to be exploited to change those "existing governments".

If these attacks cause anti-Muslim sentiment in western countries, so much the better... France's Marine Le Pen and Germany's Pegida movement are some of radical Islam's most valuable western assets as they prove to the masses of "Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan" the Islamist message that their unelected rulers are collaborators with the enemies of their religion and culture.

Thus, we in the west are only tools, levers, in their struggle to take power away from rulers such as the Saudi royal family, who Islamist activists see as apostate, libertine, puppets and tools of western kafirs (unbelievers), and then taking power from them, create a Islam-wide caliphate with its capital in the holy city of Mecca toward which devout Muslims pray five times a day.
As the birthplace of Muhammad and the site of Muhammad's first revelation of the Quran (specifically, a cave 3 km (2 mi) from Mecca), Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in the religion of Islam and a pilgrimage to it known as the Hajj is obligatory for all able Muslims. Mecca is home to the Kaaba, by majority description Islam's holiest site, as well as being the direction of Muslim prayer. Mecca was long ruled by Muhammad's descendants, the sharifs, acting either as independent rulers or as vassals to larger polities. It was absorbed into Saudi Arabia in 1925. Wikipedia
At bottom both 9-11 and the Paris massacre are both examples of what 19th century anarchists called  the "propaganda of the deed" and "we" are not the target audience, the people of Saudi Arabia are.

As I wrote in a previous post a few days ago:
Saudi Arabia is the home of Mecca and Medina. No Islamic Caliphate could pretend to represent all Muslims without controlling the two holiest sites of Islam. Obviously conquering Saudi Arabia would have to be ISIS's final goal as it has always has been Al-Qaeda's... and there is wide, popular support for their views in the country.
Since Osama bin Laden was killed, and more importantly since ISIS has been able to carve out something alarmingly like a sovereign state in Syria and Iraq, Al Qaeda was looking rather washed up.

With the attack in Paris and at the cost of only three of their "mujahedin", they have been able to push ISIS clear out of the headlines worldwide and regain some of their previous relevance... western media are only the echo chamber. And there are quite a few eager to listen. There are probably many people in Saudi Arabia, who are applauding the Charlie Hebdo killings and they and not westerners are Al Qaeda's real audience.
There is a broad category of Saudis who agree with the extreme interpretations of religion and the call to jihad espoused by Osama bin Laden, and they're also in agreement with Bin Laden's political perspective — accusing the Saudi royals of being puppets of the West, attacking the U.S. for support of Israel and its invasion of Iraq, opposing the U.S. troop presence in the region. There is a significant section of Saudi public opinion that is supportive of Bin Laden. Time
All that stands between the Islamist and power in Saudi Arabia are the Saudi royal family and again, as I said in my previous post, the gerontocratic Saudi royal family is at a critical juncture:
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is suffering from a lung infection and has been breathing with the aid of a tube, Saudi officials have said. The monarch, who is said to be aged about 90, was admitted to hospital on Wednesday for medical checks. King Abdullah, who came to the throne in 2005, has suffered frequent bouts of ill health in recent years. His age and condition has led to increasing focus on the issue of the Saudi royal succession. Crown Prince Salman, who is in his late 70s, is next in line to succeed the king, though questions remain over who will follow. BBC News
Here are a couple of clippings to give you a clear idea of what is at stake for the world economy of having the world's largest oil producer in the same country as Mecca and Medina:
Saudi Arabia has 16% of the world's proved oil reserves, is the largest exporter of total petroleum liquids in the world, and maintains the world's largest crude oil production capacity. U.S. Energy Information Administration

Light crude oil receives a higher price than heavy crude oil on commodity markets because it produces a higher percentage of gasoline and diesel fuel when converted into products by an oil refinery.(...)The largest oil field in the world, Saudi Arabia's Ghawar field, produces light crude oils Wikipedia
If Islamists took over Saudi Arabia and, for example, mined the oil fields, making western military intervention impossible, then ceased pumping oil... it would be hard to imagine the knock-on effects to the world economy and to world peace.

Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr once famously said that "shouting fire in a crowded theater" couldn't be considered "free speech". This is certainly not an invitation to government censorship, but rather an invitation to our using some simple common sense at perhaps the most critical juncture in the 21rst century to date.  DS