22nd June 2012: Australian Dollar Burn Out?

Global Markets


Should the Fed open a brokerage account? (Businessweek).


The Drezner-Bergsten interview on the international political economy (Foreign Policy).


Australian Markets


The Australian dollar and the commodities boom: “it looks to be in the throes of burning itself out.” (Market Anthropology).


Australians evade 2007-09 global financial crisis (but not 2011-12 Eurozone debt crisis). (Bloomberg).




Twitter systemic risk (The Atlantic Monthly; Wired).


Twitter mischief plagues Mexico’s election (Technology Review).




Should the United States lift a ban on domestic propaganda? (Reason).


Romney’s Bain pioneered outsourcing (Washington Post).




Test, learn, adapt: policymaking and randomised scientific trials (UK Cabinet Office).




The growing, for-profit detention industry (Mother Jones).


A history of Wall Street market research (Minyanville).


The scam Wall Street brokers learned from the Mafia (Rolling Stone).

12th April 2012: Charli Carpenter on Transnational Politics & IT


Foreign Policy‘s Dan Drezner praises this International Studies Association 2012 presentation by Charli Carpenter:


To be blunt, however, if this is the standard to which future international relations teaching pedagogy will be held… then the future is going to kick my ass.


Web 2.0-savvy academics will already be familiar with tools like Camtasia Studio and Apple’s Final Cut Pro video editing software. Carpenter does a great job in highlighting how Web 2.0 technologies are changing IR teaching and scholarly communication. However, if she was an Australian academic, Carpenter’s video would be marginalised by the Australian Research Council‘s emphasis on journal articles: it might be eligible under the ‘creative works’ category.

28th February 2012: Wikileaks & Stratfor’s Emails

Stratfor in December 2011


Yesterday the activist site Wikileaks prepared to publish 5 million emails from the Austin-based private intelligence firm Stratfor. Anonymous hacked Stratfor on 24th December 2011 and gained access to client passwords, databases, and internal emails. Wikileaks claims the emails: “reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods.”


The leak prompted some hilarious and insightful responses from political pundits. “That @Wikileaks thinks publishing @Stratfor emails matters is a big compliment for Stratfor, biggest sign yet that Wikileaks is clueless,” tweeted Dan Drezner, and then he wrote a Stratfor/Wikileaks critique. “Statfor is on the mild end of the scary shadow CIA/stodgy think tank spectrum,” observed Dan Murphy for The Christian Science Monitor. “A friend who works in intelligence once joked that Stratfor is just The Economist a week later and several hundred times more expensive,” noted The Atlantic‘s Max Fisher.


I briefly subscribed to Stratfor so am probably on the leaked email/credit card list. I found many of Stratfor’s weekly reports to inflate threats. I got Friedman’s first book America’s Secret War during the book buy-up for my PhD but found it to be sensationalistic. Several Stratfor analysts contacted me whilst I edited the alternative news site Disinformation and claimed to be ex-psychological operations people.


I seriously considered developing a private intelligence capability on two occasions.


The first time was at Disinformation in 2000, I pitched a subscriber service to publisher Gary Baddeley that would do for the nascent conspiracy industry what Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood does for the United States entertainment industry. I also had in mind the subscriber services that do 5-8 page summaries of business books. Baddeley wasn’t interested and the nascent conspiracy industry evaporated after the September 11 attacks.


During my postgraduate studies I studied under David Wright-Neville, Andrew Newman and Philip Gregory, and wrote essays on Ulrich Beck‘s world risk society (PDF); Rupert Murdoch’s use of game theory (PDF); considered the developments circa 2002 for news publishers (PDF); explored the collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management (PDF); outlined the post-September 11 changes to intelligence services (PDF); and evaluated DARPA’s Terrorism Information Awareness system (PDF).


The second time was at the Smart Internet Technology CRC (SITCRC): I scoped out a project for Canberra firm The Distillery and looked at the major international and Australian firms that provided market intelligence on information technology trends. I proposed a market intelligence capability for the Smart Services CRC successful bid that would use strategic foresight and strategic intelligence methods. However, this remained scoped out work only for the unfinished Disruptive Internet project, although I did trial the methods in a public blog for a month. I left the CRC in March 2007 due to infra-team conflict.


During preparation for my PhD studies I considered several topics. One was on design patterns and counter-terrorism. A second idea was ‘The Markets for Political Risk: An Analytic View’ modelled on the research of Deborah Avant (The Market For Force) and Andrew Lo (Hedge Funds: An Analytic Perspective). I outlined the historical precursors to Stratfor (RAND, Royal Dutch/Shell, and Kissinger & Associates); found six market segments; considered risk arbitrage, securitisation and trading applications; and began to develop contagion/rumour models. I noted that Friedman “may cultivate ’boutique mystique’ as reputational capital.” In 2009, I began reading the hedge fund and trading literature, and decided it was easier to develop a personal capability for market arbitrage and trading (reflected on during an October 2011 visit to Tokyo’s Stock Exchange). In March 2011, I began a part-time PhD on the strategic culture debate and counter-terrorism studies (2011 initial proposal PDF).


Stratfor’s chief executive officer George Friedman is scheduled to speak at SXSW Interactive 2012 in Austin. I’ll definitely be attending.

13th February 2012: Dan Drezner on the New Al Qaeda

Foreign Policy‘s Dan Drezner on the new Al Qaeda and threat escalation:


That said, I’m going to continue to insist that the United States faces a much less threatening threat environment now than it did fifty years ago.


I reached a similar conclusion here using Richard Ned Lebow‘s counterfactual method. As did John Mueller, and Adam Curtis in his documentary The Power of Nightmares (2004). September 11 could have been much worse.

10th January 2012: Grand Strategy YouTube Clips

I missed University of Chicago professor Dan Drezner’s call for YouTube clips on American grand strategy, blogged here. My suggested clip is the confrontation with the android Ash from Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979):




I wrote Drezner:

The full, original scene reveals that ‘layered’ grand strategy has strategic priorities, compartmentalised intelligence and operational plans — and expendable people. This excerpt on the Wayland-Yutani company’s plans to ‘weaponise’ the alien xenomorph has dialogue worthy of Machiavelli or Kissinger-style realpolitik.


The scene illustrates the uncertainty of new weapons development and the tension between advisers and policymakers documented in Bruce Kuklick’s book Blind Oracles: From Kennan to Kissinger (Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 2007).


The trailer for Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus (2012) suggests a failure to heed Sun Tzu’s advice on understanding enemies and using strategic intelligence rather than force:



For more clip suggestions, see my Spiral Dynamics Field Manual for Film Scanning (2003) and Spiral Dynamics of Cinema Studies (1998).


The Lowy Institute also responded to Drezner’s list of grand strategy clips.