Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Putin's Ukrainian Judo

A terrible war is about to erupt on Russia's border with the Ukraine—or not—but there is some likelihood of a significant number of people getting killed before project Ukraine is finally over. Given that around 13 thousand people have been killed over the past seven years—the civil war in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine has gone on for that long!—this is no laughing matter. But people get desensitized to the mostly low-level warfare that has killed over ten thousand people. Just over the past couple of weeks a grandfather was shot by a Ukrainian sniper while feeding his chickens and a young boy was killed by a bomb precision-dropped on him from a Ukrainian drone.

But what's about to happen now is forecasted to be on a different scale: the Ukrainians are moving heavy armor and troops up to the line of separation while the Russians are moving theirs up to their side of the Ukrainian border, a position from which they can blast any and all Ukrainian troops straight out of the gene pool without so much as setting foot on Ukrainian territory—should they wish to do so. The Russians can justify their military involvement by the need to defend their own citizens: over the past seven years half a million residents in eastern Ukraine have applied for and been granted Russian citizenship. But how exactly can Russia defend its citizens while they are stuck in the crossfire between Russian and Ukrainian forces?

The rationale of defending its citizens led to conflict in the briefly Georgian region of South Ossetia, which started on August 8, 2008 and lasted barely a week, leaving Georgia effectively demilitarized. Russia rolled in, Georgia's troops ran off, Russia confiscated some of the more dangerous war toys and rolled out. Georgia's paper warriors and their NATO consultants and Israeli trainers were left wiping each others' tears. Any suggestion of arming and equipping the Georgians since then is met with groaning and eye-rolling. Is the upcoming event in eastern Ukraine going to be similar to the swift and relatively painless defanging of Georgia in 2008? Given that the two situations are quite different, it seems foolish to think that the approach to resolving them would be the same.

Is it different this time and is World War III is about to erupt with eastern Ukraine being used as a trigger for this conflagration? Do the various statements made at various times by Vladimir Putin provide a solid enough basis for us to guess at what will happen next? Is there a third, typically, infuriatingly Russian approach to resolving this situation, where Russia wins, nobody dies and everyone in the West is left scratching their heads?

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Thursday, April 01, 2021

Real Life

 

I am in the midst of thinking out the next big essay. In the meantime, here is a small vignette from my day-to-day life that I thought you might enjoy.

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Monday, March 15, 2021

Getting Hyperinflation Right

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Profligate money printing by the US Federal Reserve and by other Western central banks has amounted to around $10 trillion over just the last year. The amount of currency in circulation has grown to $2 trillion, breaking a record set in 1945 and showing an almost 12% increase over 2019. The US federal budget deficit stands at just about $3.5 trillion, which is over 16% of GDP—the highest it's been since World War II. Meanwhile, the US federal debt has just topped $28 trillion. Over the past year the US has overspent its revenues by a staggering 194%.

Prices are going up everywhere even as the underlying economy remains in coronavirus-inspired doldrums, specifically because consumption has been repressed, with the coronavirus as an excuse, to delay the onset of hyperinflation. And then the Chairman of the Federal Reserve steps in and calms the troubled waters by publicly claiming that "There is no reason to be afraid of hyperinflation." This sounds a lot like denial, which is the first of the five stages of grief, after which come anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Powell said "hyperinflation"; therefore, there shall be hyperinflation.

What happens to the value of money when a government prints lots of it—to spend or to simply hand out to people—is that the money becomes less valuable because there is more money per unit things to buy with it. The expectation that this trend will continue then triggers a continuous process of increasing prices, called inflation, while the resulting expectation that the rate of inflation will continue to increase triggers hyperinflation.

My view is that hyperinflation is hardly a problem at all and that, quite the opposite, it is a solution to a great many pressing problems. Here we will look at hyperinflation as nature's gentle way of solving the problems of a society that has forgotten how to live within its means. But nature needs help. Just as a radical weight loss program can go better given some input from an expert nutritionist, hyperinflation too has its best practices, which I am eager to impart.

Friday, February 26, 2021

A Conversation with Piero San Giorgio about the Great Reset and the Pandemic

 

 

Lots of questions on the magic building material I mentioned at the end. It's called arbolite. Another example of crazy Soviet engineering that deserves a second look. 5 buckets of wood chip to 2 kilos of cement, 2 kilos of stone dust (from making crushed stone), just enough water to wet it through, liquid soap enough to break surface tension, any one or several of a number of common chemicals to bind the sugars in wood that interfere with cement curing. Mix, pour, tamp down. Looks ugly (but holds plaster beautifully, preferably sawdust plaster with some lime and just a bit of cement), has thermal characteristics very close to those of solid wood, a specific weight of around 0,7 (so it floats), doesn't burn or rot, nothing will eat it, strong enough to hold up 3 floors and a roof. Not a good material for taller buildings unless a frame is used. Great filler for post-beam-and-filler (e.g., Fachwerk) architecture. Except for cement the materials are all free (better than free if you get paid to haul them away). Can be drilled and sawed easily, holds nails. Unlike brick and other types of masonry, doesn't crack and can take a ridiculous amount of distortion before failing. Sledgehammer blows produce a dull thud and make it shrug. Great stuff, highly recommended. A total redneck lifehack (don't repeat that too loudly!). Email me if you want to give it a try.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Why Trump was bound to fail

American society is at this point so polarized that the vast majority cannot see a thing—any thing—for itself. They can only see each thing from the right or from the left, and so all they can see is what it looks like from the right or the left, not what it actually is, because to see that they would have to soar above it—above politics, that is. But if I were to tell you that I can soar above politics and give you an eagle's eye view of Donald Trump's presidency, you would be quite reasonably suspicious of my own political biases, whether conscious or not. To get around this problem, what I will present is a view of Donald Trump's presidency from the vantage point of one of America's enemies—of those that America has publicly singled out as its enemies—namely, Russia. Russian analysts—the ones I particularly respect, being a very choosy connoisseur of Russian analysts—tend to see Trump as a useful idiot. They are somewhat disappointed that Trump turned out to be insufficiently useful and a bit too much of an idiot.

This is interesting but not too important; Trump's presidency is over, Trump's (second!) impeachment trial is over, and waiting for the outcome of future criminal cases alleging that Trump led an insurrection is like waiting for the cat to catch the last mouse. But Trump's movement, his followers and supporters, have not gone anywhere, and given the non-negligible likelihood that the Biden administration will turn out to be a much larger disaster than Trump's was, we may yet live to see a Trump 2.0 and a Trump 3.0 and so on, none of which, according to my favorite Russian analysis, will work any better for a whole set of well understood reasons. Do you want to know what they are? Well, then, read on!

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Monday, February 08, 2021

The Great Reset as a Suicide Pact

The recent virtual meeting of the world's richest at Davos made quite a bit of noise. In the run-up to it the perennial fluffer of plutocratic egos Klaus Schwab published a very short book about what he's been calling The Great Reset. It has given rise to catchy slogans such as "You’ll own nothing... and you’ll be happy about it." One of the people invited to speak at this meeting was Vladimir Putin. What he said put people in a state of shock. "But what about Europe?!" Schwab cried out plaintively as soon as Putin finished speaking. "Mr. Putin, will Russia save Europe?!" "Possibly," said Putin. Of the assembled worthies, 80 immediately signed up for a closed conference with Putin to find out how to get in on that. After taking all of this in and letting it simmer in my brain-pan for a couple of weeks, I believe I now understand what the Great Reset is: it is an oligarchic suicide pact. Please allow me to explain...

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Saturday, January 30, 2021

A Beautiful Plan

It looked great on paper. Get Joe Biden into office, get Janet Yellen to print many more trillions of dollars, inflate the Everything Bubble to astronomic proportions and then... pop it, of course, but in a delicately choreographed manner so that those who are well connected and in the know head for the exits first and make a killing while everyone else ends up sleeping in cardboard boxes on median strips under highway overpasses. What did you think they were going to do, make America great again? That bit of populist demagogy was a bit too transparently bogus even for The Donald. He just wanted to sell some hats.

In any case, back to the plan. It was a beautiful plan, and it could have worked out just great for Biden's presidential coffin and all who sail in her, except for one tiny problem... 

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Thursday, January 28, 2021

How American Propaganda helps Russian Propaganda

Which kind of propaganda do you prefer, the Russian kind or the American kind? Since neither can be said to be the actual unbiased truth (the term "propaganda" is a dead giveaway) and since it seems important for you to know the actual unbiased truth (please tell me why) you may like neither. But it's one of those situations where you have to choose because telling the actual unvarnished truth in a sufficiently detailed and factual way would surely put you to sleep. By now I have learned how to keep an audience awake, and it's by telling a story—a narrative, if you will. And a story, to be interesting, has to have a main protagonist and one or more antagonists. That's just how our monkey brains are wired, so don't blame me!

Speaking of brains, American propaganda seems a bit brain-dead: it is sedative, somniferous, somnolent and stupefying (that's a poetic device called alliteration, by the way). Just look at these silly headlines (slightly edited for effect):

• "Evil Russian dictator poisons leading Russian opposition candidate with chemical weapon"

• "Evil Russian dictator arrests leading Russian opposition candidate"

• "Millions of Russians protest against arrest of leading Russian opposition candidate"

• "Americans ready to impose more sanctions on Russia for the poisoning and arrest of leading Russian opposition candidate to stop a German-Russian consortium from completing an economically necessary natural gas pipeline to Germany" (Oops! One of these things is not like the others!)

Please allow me to explain to you why this American propaganda onslaught is having the opposite of its intended effect.

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Friday, January 22, 2021

Voices from the Grave by Microsoft

In my 2016 book Shrinking the Technosphere, I wrote:

...[A] movement will develop to virtualize people in their entirety, their heads included, by replacing them with computer simulations. At first this will be done to keep your loved ones seemingly alive once they have passed away, but later people of child-bearing age will decide that having virtual, simulated children is much less troublesome than having physical ones, what with all of the expense of giving them neural implants and later having their bodies amputated. People in their advanced years, fearing the onset of dementia, will opt to have their brains digitized ahead of time to avoid embarrassing themselves on social media.

And this will set in motion the final, inexorable trend in which actual, physical humans will be replaced with computer simulations of them. By then computing power will have progressed to the point where the simulations will bear an uncanny resemblance to the supposed original, being able to text things like “OMG!” and “LOL!” and exchange selfies of their simulated duckfaces in front of simulated tourist locations just like the originals once did.

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Petrochemical Pandemic

I wonder, at what point will it become obvious to a critical fraction of people that the problem being addressed by shutdowns, lockdowns, curfews and various other supposedly epidemic control measures, which are really consumption suppression measures, is not epidemiological but petrochemical, driven by the need to curtail the consumption of oil in a systematic and symmetrical manner? After all, this has become obvious to me already. Can it really be that I am alone? Please allow me to clue you in.

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