Saturday, May 08, 2021

My Political Credo

Given the high level of political polarization in the US and, increasingly, in Western Europe, it seems rather important to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. Some inquiring minds may wish to know what my political stance is: am I perhaps a Trumper or a Bidenoid? Am I a communist or a fascist? It is no use telling people that I am none of the above. People automatically assume that if you are not one thing, then you must be the other. Luckily, I do have a principled political credo. It's not even individually mine; I share it with my colleague Sergei Vasilyev and probably a whole lot of other reasonable-minded people who will gladly accept it as their own once they have read it. And so, without further ado, here is my (and Sergei's) political credo.

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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Putin, Kipling and the Russian Man's Burden

In his speech, of 21.04.2021 Putin made a very sharp cultural reference which, if unfolded, offers some major insights as to current events and what is likely to unfold.

First, some background. In February of 2021 Josep Borrell, EU's chief diplomat, made a trip to Moscow which was roundly declared a disaster. While in Moscow, Borrell demanded that Russia release Alexei Navalny, who had just serving out his sentence for a previous fraud conviction. In return, Borrell was shown a video montage of human rights atrocities perpetuated by European police against demonstrators in a number of EU countries and was told that such behavior was unacceptable, implying that the EU was in no position to lecture Russia on human rights.

His trip coincided with the expulsion of a group of European diplomats who had interfered in Russia's internal affairs by becoming involved in political protests there, this being inconsistent with their diplomatic status. Thereafter, minister Sergei Lavrov declared that although relations with the EU are almost dead, Russia will continue to develop its relations with individual European nations. Then, a little less than two months later, several European countries, all of them formerly part of the East Bloc but now part of NATO, started expelling Russian diplomats on a thought-up pretext.

And then came Putin's speech of 21.04.2021, which contained the following passage: "We want to maintain good relations with everyone who participates in the international dialogue. But we see what is happening in real life. As I said, every now and then they are picking on Russia, for no reason. And of course, all sorts of petty Tabaquis are running around them like Tabaqui ran around Sheer Khan – everything is like in Kipling's book – howling along in order to make their sovereign happy. Kipling was a great writer." Upon hearing these words, much of the Federal Assembly he was addressing smiled and laughed. Putin's arrow found its target.

What does this all mean?

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Friday, April 23, 2021

Putin's Latest Warning

Putin picked the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, in the 21st year of his illustrious reign as an auspicious date on which to give his annual address to Russia's Federal Assembly. You can read it yourself here. What follows is my own opinion as to what it means.

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/65418

Here's a very short summary:

1. The "war" of 2020 is over and Russia has won
2. Russia is going to be very busy making life better for its people
3. Anyone who tries to interfere with Russia will regret it.

Now, let me unfold this for you.

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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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