Thursday, September 20, 2018

In Praise of Irresponsibility, Part I

There is no shortage of official voices exhorting us to act responsibly. Strenuous attempts are being made to make us feel responsible for the government officials we supposedly elect (by responding to a multiple-choice question which we don’t get to ask). Financial irresponsibility—in taking on too much personal debt—is vilified (while government debt shoots for the stars with no thought to repayment). Responsible parenting is held up as a great virtue forcing us to adhere to inflated safety standards that bring up generation after generation of mollycoddled nincompoops. The authorities threaten us into reporting various minor infractions by our neighbors—spying on behalf of the government, that is—ignoring the fact that legislative bloat has made it so that each person commits an average of three felonies a day. Even insurance companies get in on this moralizing game, conditioning us to think that acting responsibly will lower the insurance premiums on our mandatory insurance—but please don’t tell anyone that if your risk is low enough you are better off insuring yourself using your own savings instead of squandering them on insurance company profits. In short, to be responsible is to not think too much, because upon examination “responsibility” reduces to “do as we say and don’t ask questions.”

What is remarkable about all of these appeals to responsibility is that by and large they are being made by people who themselves range from the blithely short-sighted to outright paragons of irresponsibility, all of them far more interested in bolstering their own power and authority than in pursuing any notion of the common good. What if a case can be made that these attempts at public moralizing are strictly manipulative attempts to steer us into a cul de sac where we can be easily slaughtered or fleeced? And if so, what would constitute a properly responsible response to such hypocritical, cynical, egotistical manipulation?

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Quidnon 2.0

This boat design project started out by setting out some very ambitious requirements:

• A houseboat that makes a comfortable tiny house big enough for a family
• A competent, seaworthy sailboat, with masts that can be put up and taken down by a single-hander with the boat in the water
• A motor boat with an outboard motor for an engine that can be installed and removed easily, positioned in an engine well to prevent cavitation, collision damage and other problems with transom-mounted outboards
• Never needs a haulout: copper-surfaced bottom resists marine growth; settles upright and can be dried out and scrubbed at low tide
• Can be beached and relaunched by rolling over logs using anchor winch
• Can be assembled quickly from a kit on a beach or a riverbank by moderately skilled people
• Uses materials that are readily available almost everywhere: plywood, softwood lumber, bolts and screws, fiberglass and epoxy, galvanized mild steel, polypropylene three-strand rope
• Designed for all climates and seasons, from frigid to torrid
• Can be constructed and maintained at minimal expense

Over the past four years since I launched this project several people have made significant contributions to it: modeling, prototyping, contributing ideas and criticisms, helping spread word of it. Taking our sweet time with it has been very helpful in preventing us from building the wrong boat.

But what would be the right boat?

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Terrorism of the Absurd

In recent months the governments of Syria and Russia have stood accused by the US and the UK governments of carrying out attacks using chemical weapons and have found themselves in a rather challenging situation. The charges against them nothing short of absurd. It is very difficult, often impossible, to formulate a rational response to an absurd accusation beyond pointing out its obvious absurdity. But that’s usually not at all helpful because the contemporary Western political actors who revel in absurdity eschew the neoclassical principle of verisimilitude and ignore rational, reasoned arguments as uninteresting. This is a calculated choice: most of their audience is too bored, ill-informed and impatient to form opinions based on facts and logic but responds well to various kinds of conditioning.

Officials charged with formulating responses to Western informational warfare have been forced to acquire new skill sets inspired by théâtre de l’absurde, for many of the recently alleged terror plots bear the hallmarks of this genre: “broad comedy, often similar to vaudeville, mixed with horrific or tragic images; characters caught in hopeless situations forced to do repetitive or meaningless actions; dialogue full of clichés, wordplay, and nonsense; plots that are cyclical or absurdly expansive; either a parody or dismissal of realism and the concept of the well-made play” [from Wikipedia]. In processing the recent British allegations, a particular British font of absurdist comedy, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, is proving invaluable. Here, the “Chemical Weapons Shop Sketch” and the “Dead Special Agent Sketch” are most apropos. A quick education in absurdist theory is turning out to be most useful in devising counterattacks.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Useless Information is Useless

Over the past week I’ve tried to do my helpful best to steer my readers away from ending up in a certain sad predicament: that of thinking that they know what they most certainly don’t know, or of thinking that they know that something is true whereas they most certainly don’t. And I am not happy with the results: people keep writing me to tell me that they most certainly know this or that, and how on Earth could I possibly think that they don’t? You see, they have read up on whatever it is on the internet, they watched several Youtube videos on the subject, and they discussed it with several complete or incomplete strangers on social media. Based on all of this research, they have formed an opinion, and that opinion is, according to them, the truth.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Great, Britain!

The Brits have just provided my previous article, The Truthers and The Fakers, with a tidy little case study: the very next day after I published it Theresa May’s government stepped into its role as one of the world’s premier Fakers and unleashed the next installment of fake news on the Skripal poisoning. We can use this as training material in learning how to spot and discard fakes.

The fake story that May has been pushing is that it is “highly likely” that the Kremlin ordered a hit on the former British spy Sergei Skripal (and his daughter) using a “Russian-made” chemical weapon called “Novichok.” In turn, from what we already knew, it is highly likely that this story is a complete and utter fake. As I explained in the previous article, it is not our job to establish what really happened. We would be unable to do so with any degree of certainty without gaining access to state secrets. But we don’t need to; all we need to do is establish with a reasonable degree of certainty that the British government’s story is a foolishly, incompetently concocted fabrication. Doing so will then allow us to properly classify the British press, which repeats this nonsense as fact, and the British public, which accepts it unquestioningly at face value. Then we can drop the erroneous appellation “great”—because great nations don’t act so stupidly.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2018

The Truthers and the Fakers

Can truth be said to exist? Most of us certainly like to think that it does, and, furthermore, that we actually know something about it. We tend to prioritize knowledge over ignorance, and bridle at the idea that some of what we consider to be knowledge may be false rather than true. This seems justified: compared to false knowledge, it is certainly true that ignorance is bliss. But there are few avenues of escape that are open to us when we are confronted with the notion that most of what we know for sure “just ain’t so.”

The most common avenue of escape, and also the least valid, is to indulge in a bit of ad hominem fallacy by claiming that the challenge to your treasured certainties is the wrong kind of challenge because it comes from the wrong sort of person. For example, these days, it doesn’t take much to run afoul of certain people, and to get them to label you as a “fascist racist misogynist homophobe.” Nor does it take much to cause certain other people to label you a “libtard.” And both of these groups would be only too happy to declare you to be “Putin’s troll” the moment you try to say anything vaguely positive about Russia.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A Senator Masquerading as a Gas Station

John McCain is dead, and many people are celebrating whereas they should be sad. He wasn’t a friend of mankind—he was its enemy, but a really bad one. But with such grossly incompetent enemies—who needs friends?

McCain did a great deal to destroy America. He devoted his entire lifetime to American destruction. To start with, he was quite effective as a protester against America’s genocidal war on the people of Vietnam. Other Americans just marched around ineffectually, waving banners and shouting antiwar slogans, but not McCain! His own father had a lot to do with starting that war, but McCain made up for that by destroying 26 American war planes. That’s quite something! If every American flyer crashed as many planes, countless innocent lives would have been saved.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Magical Thinking as Realpolitik

There is no denying that much of what makes us human is our irrationality. Take it away, and we become bags of chemicals ruled by electrical impulses and hormones. Some of our irrationality is simply random or downright stupid, but much of it is organized around specific schemes of reality-defying magical thinking. We have learned, over time, to keep our propensity for magical thinking somewhat under control in certain areas, but it can never be eliminated entirely. Even in such technological realms as nuclear energy, we magically think that it is possible to contrive a set of operating procedures such that nothing will ever go seriously wrong, giving us important events such as Chernobyl and Fukushima.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Suicidal Empire

There are a lot of behaviors being exhibited by those in positions of power in the US that seem disparate and odd. We watch Trump who is imposing sanctions on country after country, dreaming of eradicating his country’s structural trade deficit with the rest of the world. We watch pretty much all of US Congress falling over each other in their attempt to impose the harshest possible sanctions on Russia. People in Turkey, a key NATO country, are literally burning US dollars and smashing iPhones in a fit of pique. Confronted with a new suite of Russian and Chinese weapons systems that largely neutralize the ability of the US to dominate the world militarily, the US is setting new records in the size of its already outrageously bloated yet manifestly ineffectual defense spending. As a backdrop to this military contractor feeding frenzy, the Taliban are making steady gains in Afghanistan, now control over half the territory, and are getting ready to stamp “null and void,” in a repeat of Vietnam, on America’s longest war. A lengthening list of countries are set to ignore or compensate for US sanctions, especially sanctions against Iranian oil exports. In a signal moment, Russia’s finance minister has recently pronounced the US dollar “unreliable.” Meanwhile, US debt keeps galloping upwards, with its largest buyer being reported as a mysterious, possibly entirely nonexistent “Other.”

Thursday, August 16, 2018

When Truth Becomes the Enemy

In recent times, people around the world, especially in Russia, have been surprised to discover that Americans appear to have lost their minds. For more than a year, ever since the last presidential elections, they have been waxing hysterical over some sort of horrible Russian meddling. At first, it was supposed to be an effort to influence the outcome of the election. After an interminable investigation failed to yield any evidence, the charge was reformulated more vaguely: as interference in the American democratic process. They couldn’t explain what that means, but it sure sounded serious! And then they couldn’t substantiate any of these claims either. Time to reformat the charge again, this time claiming that “the Russians” (the term now used as a sort of racist epithet) are exploiting social media to incite violence or unrest in the US. They can’t be serious! Or can they?

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Censoring Alex Jones

Something happened recently that made me feel like a bit of an endangered species. A set of transnational internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and several others, all synchronously removed content belonging to infowars.com, which is run by Alex Jones. Such synchronicity is a sure sign of conspiracy—something that Alex Jones harps on a lot.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The Coolest Substance on Earth

It is August, and the northern hemisphere is engulfed in flames. A major conflagration in Greece caused major damage and loss of life; Portugal is ablaze once again; there are uncontained wildfires in Ontario, California and elsewhere. In France, four nuclear reactors have been forced to shut down due to high heat and low water (they are cooled by river water). In a number of regions, entire harvests of cash crops are being lost to droughts. Throughout Europe, tourists are wading into fountains in a futile attempt to keep cool. Many places in Europe, which is experiencing the longest heatwave in 45 years, have broken their all-time temperature records, while overall 2018 is slated to become the fourth hottest year on record.

Under such circumstances, there is only one thing for me to do. I want to do what I can to help everyone cool down. To this end, here is an article about a very cool substance, which I hope will make you feel cool—in more ways than one!

Thursday, August 02, 2018

A Retreat into Bad Poetry

It's been over two weeks since Putin talked to Trump in Helsinki, and the hubbub around this meeting has died down somewhat, making it possible to put together some thoughts on what on Earth that all was. Obviously, there was a lot for these two heads of state to discuss, just to keep the international situation from spinning out of control, and perhaps they did. And, equally obviously, the one thing that these two couldn’t have possibly done is prevent the political situation within the US from spinning out of control.

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Unspelled version:

A retrIt Hntu PVT pGetrh

Hts PHn GFd tU MIks sHns pUthn tOkt tU trBmp Hn RelsHNki, + Y RBPbP arWnT YHs mIthN RVS TXT TWn sBmMot, mCkhN Ht pOshPl tU pQt tqKEYd sBm yOts On MOt On Dy YVt Ol MOS. OPFhuslh, YEd MOS A lOt fOr YIS tU RETS OF stCt tU ThskBs, JBst tU kIp Y hntdnVznal shjuCzon frOm spHnhN Wt OF kontrGl, + pdRVps YC THT. +, IkMalh OPFhuslh, Y MBn yHN YVt YIS tU kQTnt RVF pOshPlh TBn HS preFEnt Y polHthkl shjuCzon MhYHn Y LU-Es frOm spHnhN Wt OF kontrGl.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Midsummer Pause

58ºN is the latitude at which we spend our summers. We are 3º south (and 120º west) of Anchorage, Alaska. Currently, the weather here is subtropical, and has been for weeks on end. A pair of shorts suffices as far as clothing (laundered daily by jumping in the river). Jumping in the river is still refreshing, although it's warm enough to spend half the day in without getting chilled.

Daytime temperatures hover around 27ºC; tomorrow's max is forecast to be around 30ºC. There is frequently a thunderstorm and a torrential downpour in the afternoon. Everything, including weeds, is growing much faster than usual. There is a big crop of apples on the way, many of which are being blown to the ground during the afternoon thunderstorms, and picking them up and doing useful things with them is turning into a big job. The only way to deal with so many apples is to build a cider press and a still. Next year there will be Calvados.

With so much going on at the moment, there is less time for me to write, so I will make this one short and to the point. I will publish a longer post on Thursday. For those who want to read it, there will be three options:

1. Register and pledge $1/month or more via my page at Patreon. There, you will find an entire archive of articles that you may have missed out on.

But since some people don't like the idea of a monthly pledge, even a minimal one, or don't like Patreon, or are too Luddite to navigate Patreon's interface, or don't have a credit/debit card, or generally believe that high-quality web content should grow on trees, I offer two other options:

2. Learn French and wait a week or two. Almost everything I write eventually becomes available in French here. (Since 80% of English is actually derived from French, this shouldn't be a problem.)

3. Learn Unspell and read the free, unspelled versions of my paywalled articles. Unspell is even easier to learn than French, since it's actually just spoken English written down without all the spelling mistakes that have found themselves into English dictionaries over the centuries. (Since 80% of English is either misspelled or mispronounced, or both, this is a big problem.)

Meanwhile, I would also like to share with you three observations that I found particularly interesting.

1. Shale oil fields in the US are depleting at an ever-accelerating rate. The most recent drop is half a million barrels per month per day. The Red Queen Syndrome—having to run faster and faster just to stay in one place—is in full swing.


2. With oil prices now higher than they have been in quite a while, you'd expect that the US shale industry would be making money, or at least breaking even. Well, no, it's still hemorrhaging money. We still hear sporadic noises about the US shale industry becoming "more efficient than ever." But what use is efficiency if it just results in more efficient financial losses?


3. The US is currently the world's largest oil producer and has become an oil exporter. But it still isn't producing enough to satisfy its own oil addiction. It depends on oil imports for another reason: shale oil is very light. It is most useful for making gasoline, which is a small-engine fuel. It is not useful for making diesel, jet fuel or heavy oil, which is what industry runs on.

This brings up a number of questions:

• With decline rates this high and rising, how long will it take for US shale oil to crash?
• Once it crashes, what will happen to the mountain of debt it has left behind?
• Since shale oil and shale gas drilling are related, what will this do to the currently fashionable dream of competing against Gazprom in Europe?
• Trump dreams of repatriating offshored industry by imposing tariffs. But industry takes energy, and given that this is what's happening with energy, isn't he just whistling past the graveyard?

Feel free to discuss, and stand by for Tursday. Meanwhile, I have a few wheelbarrows of apples to chop and mash.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Collapse and the Good Life

Much of what I have been writing about for the past 13 years, starting with the article Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century, has been negative: the topic of the ongoing, slow but accelerating, collapse of the United States is not a happy subject. The negativity is inevitable: my goal has been to inspire my readers to transform their lives in a way that will allow them to avoid getting hurt by the collapse, and the motivation to do so is two-part. One part is negative: understanding what to move away from; the other, equally essential, is positive: what to move toward. The negative part is much simpler to spell out than the positive, because while the negative factors tend to affect everyone, although in different ways and to different extents, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone to embrace and implement.

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I understand that some people are opposed to paying $1 a month to read ClubOrlov premium content. For them, I would like to offer another option: to read the premium content in its unspelled version. (Information on how to read Unspelled English.)

kolVps + Y KQT lXf

mBj OF MOt X RVF PHn rXthN vPWt fOr Y pVst 13 LHdS, stArthN MHY Y Arthkl pGst-sGFLet lEsonS fOr A pGst-amErhkan sEnjdh, RVS PHn nEKvthF: Y tOphk OF Y ONKghN, slG PBt vksEldcthN, kolVps OF Y LunXteT stCts HS nOt A RVph sBPJekt. Y negvnHFhth HS hnEFhtaPl: mX KGl RVS PHn tU hnspXd mX rITdS tU trvnsfOrm YEd lXFS Hn A MC YVt MHl blW YEm tU vFOLT KEthN RDt PX Y kolVps, + Y mgthFCzon tU TU sG HS tU-pArt. MBn pArt HS nEKvthF: bnTdstVnThN MOt tU mUF bMC frOm; Y BYd, IkMalh esEnzl, HS pOShthF: MOt tU mUF tqMOrT. Y nEKvthF pArt HS mBj sHmpld tU spEl Wt YVn Y pOShthF, PekOS MXl Y nEKvthF fVktdS tEnT tU vfEkt EFrhMbn, olYG Hn THfdent MCS + tU THfdent ekstEnts, YEd HS nG MBn-sXS-fHts-Ol solUzon fOr EFrhMbn tU emPrCs + Hmplement.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

US Intelligence Community as a Collapse Driver

In today’s United States, the term “espionage” doesn’t get too much use outside of some specific contexts. There is still sporadic talk of industrial espionage, but with regard to Americans’ own efforts to understand the world beyond their borders, they prefer the term “intelligence.” This may be an intelligent choice, or not, depending on how you look at things.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Calling the Deep State’s Bluff

Something happened during the press conference that followed the Putin-Trump summit in Helsinki that is nothing short of remarkable. In what, based on the timing, could only have been an effort by special prosecutor Mueller and the powers behind him to sabotage the summit, immediately before the meeting Mueller issued an indictment against 12 “Russian spies”, alleging that they had hacked into an email server at the Democratic National Committee and conveyed the emails they stole to Wikileaks. The accusations are evidence-free and there is evidence to the contrary: based on the spacing of the time stamps, the emails published by Wikileaks had to have been copied very quickly directly to a flash drive by someone who had physical access to the server, not relatively slowly over an internet connection. It therefore seems likely that this indictment, just like the previous one against a Russian restauranteur and his employees, will lead to a dismissal in the courts. Like the previous indictment, it was a dirty political ploy, sacrificing international relations for the sake of domestic political advantage.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Newsflash! World War III Finally Over!

Palmier Encoberto
Unbeknownst to most, World War III has been raging for very close to three decades now—ever since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It was preceded by the Cold War, which ended when Mikhail Gorbachev capitulated to the West, causing the Warsaw Pact to dissolve in confusion. In spite of his capitulation, the West never abandoned its plan to destroy the Warsaw Pact along with parts of the former USSR, then conquer and dismember Russia itself. In absence of any military threat from the east, NATO, along with its parasitic twin, the European Union, has relentlessly expanded eastward, gobbling up country after country. It has by now conquered the entire Warsaw Pact plus Moldova and the three tiny Baltic statelets, and is now going after other loose bits of the former USSR: the Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia. The reason almost nobody in the West realizes that World War III has been happening all along is that the West has suffered a mental collapse as profound as the USSR’s physical collapse. Russia has recovered from its collapse; the West probably never will.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Individualism as a Risk Factor

The United States attracts a great many people. In 2017 a million and a half people immigrated to the US, most of them from India, China, Mexico, Cuba and the Philippines, in that order. In spite of outdated infrastructure, a failing educational system that ranks 17th in the world, a costly and ineffective medical system, a legal system that is an impenetrable maze and numerous other problems and shortcomings, the US is still seen as attractive—not in general, but for one specific purpose: for a chance to make some money. To a large extent, by now the rest of the world’s countries have carved up their endowments of wealth, leaving little loose change for anyone to easily grab. But in the US its very failures provide opportunities for foreign-born opportunists.

There are close to 44 million first-generation immigrants currently in the US, but taking into account all immigration over its entire history since the beginning of European colonization 98% of its population consists of immigrants and their descendants, and except for some number of notable exceptions (the slave trade; the Irish fleeing famine; the Jews fleeing the Holocaust) they were all opportunists who came for the opportunities.

Although many of them clung to their own tribes for a generation or two, forming ethnic enclaves, again, except for some number of notable exceptions (the Jews, the Armenians, etc.) after a few generations most of them became entirely “Americanized”, intermixed through intermarriage and ethnically denatured. Clearly, the opportunities they came for were individual opportunities, not opportunities for their ethnic groups as a whole, and those still living in ethnic enclaves generation after generation are the least successful. This process has resulted in a country that is extremely well stocked with opportunistic individualists.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Taking Refuge in Insanity

Reality can be harsh. “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley,” quoth Robert Burns. The more ambitious the plans, the harder the gods laugh in our faces when they come to nought. As our struggle to achieve our aims hardens into deadlock, so does our conviction that our cause is righteous, petrifying into a blind faith that is impervious to contradictory facts. Instead of reassessing our aims and reexamining our strategy we simply push harder and harder in the same direction, going by the dictum that if brute force doesn’t work then we just aren’t using enough of it.

But the seemingly impenetrable, fact-proof façade obscures a delicate and vulnerable organism sheltering behind it: every contrary word that gets through causes a wound; every grain of truth becomes an irritant. As the laughter of the gods grows louder, we shut our eyes and plug our ears, and yelloch our sacred slogans through amplifiers turned up all the way to eleven. But a time comes when the reality of our failure can no longer be ignored, and then it is time for a break—a psychotic break.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

An Immersive Experience

I generally stay away from subjects as trivial as sport. Various physical games are useful in bringing up healthy children, but professional sport is part of a system of organized distraction—entertainment. I like draw a distinction between entertainment and fun: it’s fun if you make it yourself and it requires some amount of work on your part; if you just passively sit and soak it in, it’s entertainment. Hiking up a mountain is fun; watching someone climb Mount Everest—unless you are preparing to do so yourself—is entertainment and therefore a waste of your time. I have a lot of fun observing the as of yet incomplete collapse of Western civilization, and this is not a waste of my time—or yours—because I am preparing to survive it, as should you.

But I suppose there are times when the form of organized distraction that is professional sport escapes the realm of the trivial and approaches the sublime, and it’s starting to seem that the World Cup that is currently underway in Russia is just such a happening, and it has forced me to pay attention to it—by no means just for the sake of football, although the twists and turns of this tournament have been quite curious. Nobody could have predicted that some of the strongest teams—Germany and Spain—would be eliminated before the quarter-finals, or that the latter of them would be eliminated by Russia. Russian footballers are not known for winning internationally. A popular joke goes: What does Russia want for New Year? (Christmas, which is on January 7th, is not a gift-giving occasion.) New legs for its footballers! That Russia made it into the quarter-finals is already a huge victory and a minor miracle, and there is much dancing in the streets. Akinfeev, the Russian goalkeeper to whom the team owes its victory over Spain several times over, has become a national hero and an internet meme.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Self-Deluded Animal

“I am not an animal, I am a human being!” is a famous line from the critically acclaimed 1980 David Lynch film The Elephant Man which tells the story of Joseph Merrick, a severely deformed man afflicted with the Proteus syndrome in 19th century London. It was based in part on the anthropologist Ashley Montagu's The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity (1971). The famous line then gave rise to the title of Peter Baynham’s “I Am Not An Animal,” an animated black comedy, released in 2004, about animals who escaped from a vivisectionist laboratory and attempted to survive alongside humans in the big cruel world.

Whenever humans are reduced to animal status it is the stuff of tragedy. Whenever animals impersonate humans is the stuff of comedy. There are few exceptions. Pantomime horses are not particularly tragic. Fortune telling parrots and monkeys on the streets of Moscow are perceived as tragic by certain defenders of animals’ rights. But I get the feeling that comedic possibilities are present whenever humans and animals get mixed up. Even the film depicting the tragic circumstances of Joseph Merrick’s life were co-produced by Mel Brooks of Blazing Saddles and other epic comedies. His name was struck from the credits for fear of confusing the audience into thinking that the film was a comedy.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Barbarians Rampage through Europe's Cemetery

Around the world, very few people are capable of wrapping their heads around the European reaction to the migrant crisis. On the side of the migrants, we have avid displays of barbarism, fanaticism and aggression; on the side of the Europeans, we have abject fear of appearing… intolerant. In an out-of-control situation where we would expect people to organize, protest, put up road blocks and vote en masse for nationalist parties, we are instead subjected to the ridiculous spectacle of meek, effeminate Europeans dressed up in unisex outfits chalking “No to terrorism!” on sidewalks. Most people around the world see in this an orchidaceous display of anthropological nullity. “Is Europe dead?” they wonder aloud.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Three Blind Men and the Greatest Depression

There is no shortage of collapse prognosticators that never tire of prognosticating that a financial calamity is right around the corner. I am not one of them; what I try to do is not prognosticate but explain. I take collapse to be something real—something that my readers can observe for themselves, if they care to look—and what interests me is its inner workings.

That said, when three famous figures simultaneously announce that financial collapse is around the corner, I suppose we should start paying attention. To me, it doesn’t even matter if their opinions are right or wrong, if they have their facts straight, or whether they are good or bad people. That’s all quite irrelevant. What’s relevant is that if enough high-visibility individuals say that financial collapse is around the corner, then, given the reach and the force of their utterances, they no longer function as mere expressions of opinion but as speech acts that transform the state of the world—of the various mechanisms of international finance, in this case, from humming right along to getting ready to seize up.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Imperial Collapse Markers

In thinking through the (for now) gradually unfolding collapse of the American empire, the collapse of the USSR, which occurred close to three decades ago, continues to perform as a goldmine of useful examples and analogies. Certain events that occurred during the Soviet collapse can serve as useful signposts in the American one, allowing us to formulate better guesses about the timing of events that can suddenly turn a gradual collapse into a precipitous one.

When the Soviet collapse occurred, the universal reaction was “Who could have known?” Well, I knew. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a surgeon in the summer of 1990, right as I was going under the knife to get my appendix excised, waiting for the anesthesia to kick in. He asked me about what was going to happen to the Soviet republics, Armenia in particular. I told him that they would be independent in less than a year. He looked positively shocked. I was off by a couple of months. I hope to be able to call the American collapse with the same degree of precision.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

All Values are Relative

It is a bit disconcerting to discover, after studying a subject for quite a few years and writing extensively on it, that you have missed a big, vitally important piece of the picture. The subject was Communities that Abide. After studying collapse in all of its forms and phases, I decided to look into which particular types of communities are relatively immune to collapse and are able to persist (abide) over historically significant periods of time (half a dozen or so centuries) in spite of collapsing empires, wars, persecution, loss of homeland and other such vicissitudes of fortune. After a couple of months spent at a library, I came up with a short list of such communities and their features, and was able to distill these features into a set of precepts I semi-jokingly called “The XII Commandments.”

All of what I wrote still seems perfectly valid, but the message tended to bounce off people’s brains instead of sticking because of what I now see has been a major blindspot: I didn’t take care of the fact that these persistently successful communities make almost no effort at all to fit into the value systems of my readers. In fact, they go about their lives as if my readers, with their treasured values, which they often see as universal, don’t matter at all. Within the highly developed global consumer society, this is a major affront to individuals who, once their physical needs have been satisfied, if they set their sights above being amused, entertained and titillated, want to feel well-informed, well-intentioned and, in a word, superior.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

It Doesn’t Matter Who is President

Jim 'll
Let me say it again: “It doesn’t matter who is president of the United States.” I know that I’ve said it before (here, for instance) but I feel that it bears repeating. It’s a simple message, but I don’t think that it’s sinking in well enough. Although nobody seems to want to come out and argue that this message is wrong, plenty of people seem determined to ignore it. Some of them appear to take on board what I have to say but then go on talking as if it does matter who is president. It doesn’t.

It is possible to make the point that it doesn’t matter who is president by speaking in generalities: how the political system is rigged to ignore all inputs that lie outside of a narrow range of interests of a self-serving elite; how the level of political discourse within the US is far too low for a constructive discussion of any serious issue; how artificially generated partisan divisiveness is specifically designed to prevent people from finding common cause while skillfully hiding the fact that the US is not a democracy at all (as explained here). Lots of people have gone into considerably more detail than I wish to in explaining all of this, and yet if you ask “the man on the street” whether it matters who is president, it is highly likely that he will respond in the affirmative.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Keeping up with Putin

Yesterday I spent four hours watching television. This is not something I normally do because I find the entire television medium tedious, boring and a waste of time. All television programs are, in my case, a bad idea, because I dislike being programmed. In fact, I don’t even own a TV. When I need to watch something, I do so in a window on the screen of my laptop. But this was a special occasion.
What I watched was Putin’s nearly four-hour annual live Q&A marathon. People all over Russia submitted questions—over 2.3 million of them—by calling in, writing in, texting, recording videos, giving interviews to television crews. A very large team then organized the questions into general themes and prepared the most representative and best-expressed ones to be presented. A fair number of questions were asked live, on screen.

The main reason I watched the whole thing was because I had asked Putin a question, and I wanted to see if he was going to answer it. He did.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

The Death and Resurrection of a Blogger

Normally, we are happy when things go right and sad when things go wrong. Collapse seems to change that relationship. Within a collapse scenario, things going wrong is a given, the idea that something might go right is relegated to the realm of wishful thinking, and instead the focus shifts to things going wrong in a particularly profound, amusing or spellbinding fashion. Collapse causes the limits of constructive action to constrict to a tiny circle surrounded by a vast expanse of unintended consequences. Victory and defeat become redefined: we feel victorious when those most responsible for the collapse do something spectacular to thwart their own purpose while we do nothing; we feel defeated when the collapse process slows down and settles into a pattern of interminable, durable failure.

The modern-day Ukrainian state (or what’s left of it) provides us with numerous insights into the collapse process. It is a virtual laboratory of collapse. Every tier of the collapse stack is represented there, offering fertile ground for a collapse analysis of its own. Working from the bottom up:

Thursday, May 31, 2018

My interview on Europe's ARTE Vox Pop

Last month I flew to Paris for a day and recorded an interview for ARTE channel, which broadcasts in a bunch of languages all over Europe. Unfortunately, this interview is not yet available in English. Here it is auf Deutsch and en français.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Embrace, You Millions!

I once went for a walk with a friend and his girlfriend, whom I hadn’t met before. I found her to be quite a lively conversationalist, and after a while we had a nice little fire going, the two of us. We were speaking in English, and my friend, whose English wasn’t quite up to snuff at the time, felt left out. After a few unsuccessful efforts to enter into the flow of the conversation, he felt compelled, right there in the middle of the street, to drop his pants and start wailing. This caused me and his girlfriend to spontaneously embrace… and keep walking. After a few awkward moments my friend sensed that this tactic wasn’t working, stopped wailing, pulled up his pants and caught up with us, and all was well again.

Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy, popularized by its use in Ludvig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, contains the line “Seid umschlungen, Millionen!” Conventionally, it is translated into English as “You millions, I embrace you.” But I beg to differ with this interpretation; there is no “I” (“ich”) in the German and the phrase is in passive voice: “be embraced,” not “I embrace.” Be embraced by whom, then? By Schiller? Well, theoretically, yes; at around one minute per hug and working the typical 40-hour work week, it would take Schiller about a decade just to get through the first million. But it seems highly doubtful that this is what old Friedrich was suggesting. It seems quite obvious to me that what me meant was “Embrace each other, you millions!”

I am unsure of the efficacy of odes in persuading people to embrace, but I do have a single data point which indicates that dropping one’s pants can be quite efficacious. And now I appear to have found another.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Why Russia Doesn't Strike Back

A lot of commentators noticed a curious fact: during the May 9 parade in the Red Square in Moscow, Putin appeared in the presence of Israeli prime minister Netanyahu. Around that same time, the Israeli air force was firing rockets at Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria (lots of which the Syrian air defenses shot down) and the Syrians were firing back at Israeli positions on the Golan Heights (which are occupied Syrian territory, so it didn’t count as an attack on Israel proper). Why didn’t Russia rise to the defense of its ally Syria? Moreover, there was talk of selling Russia’s very powerful S-300 air defense system to Syria, and that offer was subsequently withdrawn. Is this really how an ally behaves?

Or take another example...

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Moving to Russia?

Quite a lot of people, particularly in the US, constantly discuss leaving the country for some place more promising now that the American dream has turned into a full-blown nightmare. And although Russia doesn’t figure prominently on the list of countries to move to, perhaps it should. Russia is almost unique in that it is not overpopulated and has all the natural resources, including energy, for many generations to come. It is also politically stable, remarkably well defended, and in spite of much disinfo about how bad its economy is (which turns out to be mostly wishful thinking by those who want Russia to fail) it is actually developing quite nicely.

The problem with going to Russia to live is that there are only a couple of ways to do so legally, and they are all rather complicated and involved, with lots of bureaucratic hoops to jump through. I am not a legal expert, and I am providing this information on an as-is basis with no guarantees. Don't attempt any of this before consulting with someone who is an expert in these matters.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Marine Russian Stove: Heat Storage

This is the next in a series of posts devoted to solving the problem of fitting a traditional Russian stove aboard a boat. Previous installments can be read here, here and here. It is interesting to see how the concept evolved based on feedback from the readers, following the same pattern that the entire Quidnon project has taken, where half-baked ideas eventually turn into fully baked ones based on good ideas contributed by knowledgeable, experienced people.

Continue reading...

Cultural Collapse is in the Lead

“...That is what I see happening in the USA and, to various extents, in different parts of the European Union: an attempt to undermine and destroy cohesive society and common culture ahead of the coming financial, commercial and political collapse. It may seem like an odd thing to strive for, but consider this: if society and culture are destroyed ahead of time, then when collapse comes there is no intact community of humans left to observe it and understand what is happening. With everyone’s reasoning abilities sufficiently hampered, it will be trivial to diffuse blame when the rest of the collapse sequence occurs, to get the people to blame themselves or to scapegoat each other, or to simply ignore it because most of the people have bigger problems than collapse, be it their dysfunctional families, their various addictions, their religious zealotry or their extremist politics...”

Read full article...

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Color Revolution in a Teacup

Our concept of success changes as we age. When we are young but not quite mature, we are able to engage in all sorts of ridiculous exploits. Later, when we are no longer young, just a successful trip to the outhouse turns out to be enough of a celebratory cause. Same goes for aging empires. When young, they trash large, important countries, but then help rebuild them. Later, they confine themselves to just trashing them. Even later, they attempt to trash small, weak countries, and fail even at that. Eventually such failures become too small to notice. Have you noticed what just happened in Armenia? Exactly.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The US pulled out of Iran Nuclear Deal because it’s too broke

Here’s a perspective on Trump’s decision to pull out of JCPOA, a.k.a. the Iran Nuclear Deal, that definitely doesn’t get enough airtime. It’s all about money. Following the Iranian revolution of 1978-79, Jimmy Carter froze Iran’s assets in the US. Ever since then, the US has been holding on to between $100 and $120 billion in Iranian assets, which have been accruing rent and interest. After the JCPOA, which stipulated the lifting of sanctions on Iran, Washington has been doing its best to drag its feet on releasing these assets, but they would have had to be returned to Iran sooner or later… unless the US pulled out of the deal, which it just did.

It is very important to note that these frozen Iranian assets are US dollar-denominated. And what would be the first thing that the Iranians would do upon regaining control of them? Why, of course, they would convert them out of US dollars. This is a requirement written into Iranian law: no US dollars allowed, and nobody in Iran has the power to change that even if they wanted to. According to the Iranians, US officials have pleaded with the Iranians not to liquidate their dollar-denominated assets, but that the Iranians told them that nobody has the authority to change this law.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Announcing: Collapse Chronicles Volume Five

Another year, another book of essays… This one covers the period from September 2017 through April 2018 and includes essays that remain hidden behind Patreon’s paywall.

Periodically publishing a paper book of essays used to be a good plan: Amazon’s royalties for self-published books used to be around 70% of the sale price. But now Amazon has decided to keep 70% for itself while number of people in the English-speaking world who read books on serious topics is continuing to shrink. Selling reasonably priced books now nets me only half as much as publishing a weekly essay on Patreon.com for subscribers only. Perhaps it is time for Club Orlov Press to diversify away from books and toward other pressable things such as cider or sunflower oil...

Friday, May 04, 2018

The World May End for the Stupidest of Reasons

We humans like to believe that things happen for a reason and hate to think that something very important—like the end of the world—might happen for no reason at all. And what we should hate most of all is the idea that the world might end for a really stupid reason—so stupid it hurts. And yet that is exactly what may happen. It’s a long story, so let’s begin.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

A United Korea—50 Disunited States

What follows is the introduction to the Korean edition of my book, Reinventing Collapse. Now that North and South Korea are finally achieving peace and there is talk of reunification, it is a good time to revisit it. My thesis—that superpower collapses trigger both reunifications and quests for independence—still seems to hold water.

Over the course of the Cold War, the two superpowers – USA and USSR – built up an inventory of unresolved conflicts, which they, by tacit agreement, placed in deep freeze for the duration of their combined existence. In some cases, ethnically homogeneous entities were split up along artificial political boundaries, while in other cases disparate ethnic groups were held together by force within a single artificial political boundary. Once the USSR collapsed, the multi-ethnic entities – Georgia, Moldova and Czechoslovakia – did their best to break apart, while the partitioned ones did their best to try to reunify. While some of these frozen conflicts—most notably Germany—needed both superpowers to remain refrigerated, one particular example—Korea—remained well-preserved even after the the collapse of the USSR, with the North providing its own, self-sufficient source of refrigeration.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

American Meddling

Ever since November 2016 a fair portion of the chattering classes in the US have been chattering about “Russian meddling” in the presidential election. The details keep changing, but the story stays the same: big bad Russia has somehow corrupted American democracy… as if American democracy wasn’t corrupted to begin with. Did the DNC not rig the primaries in favor of Clinton? Was the FBI not ordered by Obama to stop investigating Clinton for mishandling state secrets? Was Clinton not handed debate questions prior to a debate? Did she not receive campaign contributions from shady foreign oligarchs? And did she not, technically speaking, win the election, sclerotic electoral college weirdness aside? It seems that “Russian meddling,” if real, would be pretty far down the list of things that are wrong with American democracy; on the scale of emergencies, “house on fire” generally rates higher than “squirrels in the attic,” wouldn’t you say?

Perhaps you disagree with this assessment. In that case, there is another consideration for you to take on board.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

End of the Era of Naval Empires

[Since last Thursday, this article has gone viral on Russia Insider and beyond (1, 2). Apparently, many people think that my spelling out the end of US global military superiority is significant. Based on this robust response, I decided to release it from behind the firewall.]

For the past 500 years European nations—Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain, France and, briefly, Germany—were able to plunder much of the planet by projecting their naval power overseas. Since much of the world’s population lives along the coasts, and much of it trades over water, armed ships that arrived suddenly out of nowhere were able to put local populations at their mercy. The armadas could plunder, impose tribute, punish the disobedient, and then use that plunder and tribute to build more ships, enlarging the scope of their naval empires. This allowed a small region with few natural resources and few native advantages beyond extreme belligerence and bloodlust and a wealth of communicable diseases to dominate the globe for half a millennium.

The ultimate inheritor of this naval imperial project is the United States, which, with the new addition of air power, and with its large aircraft carrier fleet and huge network of military bases throughout the planet, is supposedly able to impose Pax Americana on the entire world. Or, rather, was able to do so—during the brief period between the collapse of the USSR and the emergence of Russia and China as new global powers and their development of new anti-ship and antiaircraft technologies. But now this imperial project is at an end.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Fake News Triumph

On April 14, 2018 the US fired a barrage of 103 cruise missiles at targets in Syria; 71 were intercepted; only 32 reached their targets but caused inconsequential damage. The cost of just the missiles was around $185 million. The US claimed that it was punishing the Syrian government for attacking civilians with chemical weapons, based on some obviously faked videos and zero actual forensic evidence of chemical weapons use and ignoring the fact that Syria has been internationally certified as free of chemical weapons.

On April 7, 2017 the US fired a barrage of 59 cruise missiles at targets in Syria; 36 were intercepted; only 23 reached their targets but caused inconsequential damage. The cost of just the missiles was around $100 million. The US claimed that it was punishing the Syrian government for attacking civilians with chemical weapons, based on some obviously faked videos and zero actual forensic evidence of chemical weapons use and ignoring the fact that Syria has been internationally certified as free of chemical weapons.

Taking these two strikes to mean that this is going to be an annual event, these two data points allow us to make the following projections based on the annual increase in the number of missiles launched at Syria and the annual improvement in the Syrian air defense systems to shoot them down.

Last Born In The Wilderness Interview #113: America Faded: Syria, Russia, & The Decline Of The American Empire

This interview was recorded Sunday April 15, less than two days after the events discussed in this episode. In it we discuss the recent missile strikes by the US military in Syria, the Trump Administration, as well as the broader US military establishment's true intentions and objectives behind the strike, as well as what other major world powers (Russia in particular) are doing in response to this attack.

Dmitry presents this whole event within a broader geopolitical trend: the American Empire is fading. America's influence in the Middle East, in particular, has begun to dissipate, with Russia and other regional players aligning themselves outside of American control and influence. These nations have begun to nudge the United States out of its once dominant role on the international stage, and the response to this missile strike in Syria fits neatly within this trend.

Please listen to the interview.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Groundhog Day in Syria, Take 2

Originally published on Apr 11, 2017

I'll publish a fuller update on this the 2nd annual Groundhog Day in Syria once all the results are in. The way it looks now is as follows:

• US/UK lobbed twice as many missiles as last year.
• Just as last year, most of the missiles fell in the sea or got shot down by Syrian air defenses (using Soviet-era weapons).
• One of the more significant targets was, once again, a military airfield; however, this time all of the missiles that targeted it were intercepted.
• Russian facilities and air defense sectors in Syria were not targeted.
• The US had apparently begged and pleaded with the Russians not to retaliate, and had received some assurances, allowing them to leave their sitting ducks precious naval assets in eastern Mediterranean, within easy reach of Russian missiles.
• The pretext was another certifiably fake chemical weapons provocation in Gouta, which was about to be inspected and certified as fake by experts from Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; hence the rush to shoot first (and refuse to ask questions later).
• This year's attack, being a virtual repeat of last years, is even more pathetic and idiotic, and more evidence that the US and the UK are being run by mental defectives. Plus it has a distinct whiff of desperation and sour grapes: the US has lost Syria.

Meanwhile, here's last year's appraisal. It really seems close enough as is; just some figures will need minor adjustment.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Where is Russian Counterpropaganda?

"...If you were to go and see for yourself... you would reach the inevitable conclusion that Russia is a normal country. Your experiences there would allow you to judge that it is quite rich, rather prosperous, and socially and politically stable. And yet when you travel back to Europe, the US, Canada, or any of the other countries dominated by Western media companies and consortia, you will be told that Russia is strange, evil, ruled by a ruthless dictator and hell-bent on expanding its territory and threatening its neighbors. Why is there this disconnect, and what is the major impetus to demonize Russia? And why isn’t there a parallel effort by Russia to demonize the West?"

Read the article...

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Importance of Looking Dangerous

It’s a hard job being a global hegemon and the world’s sole superpower. You have to keep the entire planet in line. Every country needs to be taught its place, and kept there, by force if need be. Now and again a country or two has to be conquered or destroyed, just to teach others a lesson. Plus you have to relentlessly meddle in other countries’ politics, rigging elections so that only US-friendly candidates can win, run regime change operations and organize colored revolutions. Stop doing this, and some countries will start ignoring you. And then the rest will quickly realize that you are losing control and go their separate ways while ignoring you.

Is the United States still the world’s greatest power, in control of the entire planet, or has that moment in history already come and gone? We are constantly hearing how the situation is becoming dire: relations between the US and NATO countries and Russia are going from bad to worse; there is a trade war going on with China; North Korea remains an intractable problem and an embarrassment. Many people maintain that we are very close to a world war. But does “very close” actually mean anything? It is quite possible to stand for hours with your toes hanging over the edge of a cliff and never jump. Suicide is a big decision: big even for a person, much bigger for a large country.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Provocations and Creative Imagination

Those charged with staging provocations often seem to lack creative imagination. As a result, terrorist incidents tend to have a certain groundhog day quality. For example, there is a big explosion (or lots of gunfire), or a fireball, a scene either torched or soaked with blood… and then we find… a passport or a driver’s license belonging to the alleged perpetrator, in mint condition! And the perpetrator turns out ot be extremely well known to the authorities!

Obviously, the provocateurs are loathe to admit that their expensively designed provocations have become hackneyed and banal, and toss around for new ideas. Thus, the latest attack on the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was apparently cribbed from the US/British TV show “Strike Back” (because the provocateurs have no ideas of their own and don’t read books, but they do watch TV). Both featured a certain made-up weapon of mass destruction called “Novichok” (Russian for “newbie”). Apparently, it is not very effective; if Novichok were a flea powder, the instructions would read: “Catch a flea, flip it over on its back, tickle it until it laughs, sprinkle some powder in its mouth and then watch it to make sure it doesn’t spit it out.” A proper chemical WMD should be able to wipe out a whole city; this one just sickens a couple of people (one of whom—Yulia—is apparently on the mend). What will those terrible Russians (and Putin personally) come up with next? A WMD that makes enemy forces sneeze uncontrollably?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Kemerovo and the Circles of Ugliness

You may have heard of the tragic event I am about to describe, or not. If you have heard about it in English, then, chances are, what you have heard is part of a programmatic anti-Russian hatchet job. Normally, I would be reluctant to write about it; it is generally best to make celebrations public and tragedies private. But in this case a great number of people, at different levels, have attempted to profit and to extract benefits from this tragedy, generating a gigantic cloud of black smoke far greater than that generated by the event itself.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Killing Diplomacy

There is the famous aphorism by Karl von Clausewitz: “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” This may be true, in many cases, but it is rarely a happy outcome. Not everybody likes politics, but when given a choice between politics and war, most sane people will readily choose politics, which, even when brimming with vitriol and riddled with corruption, normally remains sublethal. In relations between countries, politics is known as diplomacy, and it is a formal art that relies on a specific set of instruments to keep countries out of war. These include maintaining channels of communication to build trust and respect, exercises to seek common ground, and efforts to define win-win scenarios to which all sides would eagerly agree, including instruments for enforcing agreements.

Diplomacy is a professional endeavor, much like medicine, engineering and law, and requires a similarly high level of specialized education. Unlike these other professions, the successful exercise of diplomacy demands much greater attention to questions of demeanor: a diplomat must be affable, personable, approachable, decorous, scrupulous, levelheaded… in a word, diplomatic. Of course, in order to maintain good, healthy relations with a country, it is also essential that a diplomat fluently speak its language, understand its culture and know its history. Especially important is a very detailed knowledge of the history of a country’s diplomatic relations with one’s own country, for the sake of maintaining continuity, which in turn makes it possible to build on what has been achieved previously. Complete knowledge of all treaties, conventions and agreements previously entered into is, obviously, a must.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Migrants Wanted—for What?

In their stirring rendition of “In the Year 2525” (based on the 1969 tune by Zager and Evans) Laibach predicted: “Rivers of people flow like blood.” But there is no reason for us to wait that long; it is happening already, and has been happening for some time. Already in 2017 over a quarter of a billion people were displaced from their native lands, wondering the globe in search of refuge. Much of this had to do with the increase in failed states. Back in 2013, I wrote:

“The World Bank publishes a list of nations lacking effective sovereignty. In 1996 there were eleven entries; in 2006 there were twenty-six. Not a year goes by that another nation-state does not get shunted to the weak/defunct track: last year it was Libya; this year, Syria. How far behind is Greece?... It is too early to tell whether the increase in nonviable nation-states is linear or exponential, but a simple projection shows that if this trend continues to accelerate at the same rate there will be zero viable nation-states left by 2030 or so.” [p. 150, The Five Stages of Collapse, New Society Publishers, 2013]

Since then, Syria has recovered somewhat, and refugees are going back to Damascus, while Libya is still in chaos. In the meantime, Yemen has definitely joined the defunct column, thanks to Saudi/US bombing and blockade. And the Ukraine is definitely nearing failed-statedom, with a majority of its population either fleeing or living in poverty and with armed groups of nationalist thugs running rampant. Under the careful tutelage of the US government, its Central American protectorates of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador remain crime-riddled basket cases, generating a steady flow of migrants, and anyone in the US who points out that perhaps doing something about the huge population of homeless people (especially in California) should take priority over helping strangers from faraway lands get shouted down as racist-fascist-whatever. Venezuela is in full-blown collapse under the weight of US sanctions, while propaganda mouthpieces in the US claim that its problem is socialism. But the rapid progression nation-states toward failed-statedom has slowed down somewhat since 2014, and I think I know why.

Read more...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Dry Run for Russian Democracy

Warning: the first part of this essay may sound like a jubilant hymn to Russia and a paean to Vladimir Putin. Rest assured that I am not expressing opinions here; these are the facts. It just so happens that these facts accentuate the positive. But I have no wish to eliminate the negative, and will get to all of that in due course.

On March 18 Russia held presidential elections. Everybody (with a brain) fully expected Putin to win, but hardly anyone expected him to win this big, or with this high a turnout: 67.47% of the eligible voters turned up at the polls; of them, 76.67%76.69% voted for Putin. In case you are still wondering whether Crimea is part of Russia (trust me, it is) the turnout there was 71.53%, of whom 92% voted for Putin. And in the once separatist republic of Chechnya the turnout was 91.54%. Record turnouts were also observed outside of Russia, among the very large Russian diaspora. Over half of all Russians voted for Putin.