Tuesday, July 16, 2019

War Profiteers and the Demise of the US Military-Industrial Complex

Within the vast bureaucratic sprawl of the Pentagon there is a group in charge of monitoring the general state of the military-industrial complex and its continued ability to fulfill the requirements of the national defense strategy. Office for acquisition and sustainment and office for industrial policy spends some $100,000 a year producing an Annual Report to Congress. It is available to the general public. It is even available to the general public in Russia, and Russian experts had a really good time poring over it.

In fact, it filled them with optimism. You see, Russia wants peace but the US seems to want war and keeps making threatening gestures against a longish list of countries that refuse to do its bidding or simply don’t share its “universal values.” But now it turns out that threats (and the increasingly toothless economic sanctions) are pretty much all that the US is still capable of dishing out—this in spite of absolutely astronomical levels of defense spending. Let’s see what the US military-industrial complex looks like through a Russian lens.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The Five Stages of Collapse in Colorado

It’s been a while since I ran a guest post, due to a lack of good candidates, but this article by user h_h from ZeroHedge caught my eye. It uses my book The Five Stages of Collapse as a jumping point and nicely outlines the case studies I used to examine each stage of collapse.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

The Silk Road and Lice

The old Silk Road was an ancient trade route that tied together the Roman Empire and China, where silk came from. It was so called because silk was at the heart of the trade. Silk went to Europe, gold and luxury goods went back. Silk was important because silk garments worn against the skin prevented body lice, and wealthy Roman citizens were ready to pay for silk with gold, because the alternative was watching their wives and concubines scratch themselves. In addition to wearing silk, the Romans built baths, along with aqueducts to supply them. The Roman delousing procedure involved getting all of your body hair plucked (ouch!), oiling yourself up, working up a sweat in pretend-wresting, then scraping your skin using a sickle-shaped implement called a strigil. Then they would soak in a hot bath, don silk undergarments, and remain itch-free until the next bath day.

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Tuesday, July 02, 2019

The Death of the Liberal Idea

Last week’s G20 gathering in Osaka was a signal event: it signaled how much the world has changed. The centerpieces of the new configuration are China, Russia and India, with the EU and Japan as eager adjuncts, and with Eurasian integration as the overarching priority. The agenda was clearly being set by Xi and Putin. May, Macron and Merkel—the European leaders not quite deserving of that title—were clearly being relegated to the outskirts; two of the three are on their way out while the one keeping his seat (for now) is looking more and more like a toyboy. The Europeans wasted their time haggling over who should head the European Commission, only to face open rebellion over their choice the moment they arrived back home.

And then there was Trump, let loose now that the Robert Mueller farce has come to its inevitable conclusion. He was running around trying to figure out which of America’s “partners” can still be thrown under the bus before the roof comes down on Pax Americana. It’s a stretch goal because he is out of ammo. He has already threatened all-out war—twice, once against North Korea, once against Iran, but, given the disasters in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, sanity caused him to keep his military Humpty-Dumpty safely seated on the wall.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

You Are Being Trolled

The world is on the brink of war, again. And again. And, yes, yet again. And then it’s not on the brink of war any more… but wait, there’s more! Of course there’s more, there always is. US aircraft carrier battle groups are steaming toward North Korea… or not. They are steaming about aimlessly, nowhere near North Korea, but in a very threatening manner. Then Trump and Kim Jong Un meet, get on great, sign a piece of paper that means nothing and part friends. Now the aircraft carriers are steaming about far less menacingly. Then Trump and Un meet again, to sign some other meaningless piece of paper, but then John Bolton shoots his mouth off and the deal is off. But Trump and Un continue to exchange love letters, so the bromance isn’t dead. In any case, war between the US and North Korea is not just unwinnable but unthinkable: South Korea’s capitol is within striking range of North Korean artillery and all US military bases in the region are within range of North Korean rockets. War with North Korea is definitely off. Executive summary: nothing happens. So, what was that all about?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Failure of Complementarity: from Multiculturalism to Devil-Worship

Over the past week there has been a spike of renewed interest in an essay I wrote a year ago, Barbarians Rampage through Europe's Cemetery, in which I described how the steady degradation of the Western countries is being speeded up by the arrival of migrants from incompatible ethnic groups. What provoked this renewed interest was a post by Paul Craig Roberts in which he described my essay as “Europe’s—and America’s— obituary.” I certainly stand by everything I wrote—no matter how many people it rubs the wrong way—but over the intervening year I have done some research that has helped me understand why exactly the Western project has gone off the rails, and it turns out that I have a lot more to say on the subject.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Eye-Rolls of Summer

There isn’t much to report that I haven’t already reported. What goes on is more of the same but the attitude seems to have changed. A new development is the Global Eye-Roll and at this rate it may turn into an Olympic sport before long.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Dismasting Made Easy

You are sailing along on a passage, on autopilot, the radar set up to wake up and do a sweep every 10 minutes or so and sound an alarm if it detects a collision course, with the entire crew (which could be just me and the ship’s cat) down below doing whatever people and cats do when they aren’t sailing. Then a squall kicks up, or a waterspout (a sort of water-borne tornado), or you royally screwed up and plotted a course that takes you under a bridge that’s too low. Suddenly, you find yourself minus the masts. This can be very dramatic, or not, depending on how the boat is designed. And since Quidnon is primarily a houseboat (that sails), drama is specifically what we don’t want.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Nuclear Meltdown at HBO

Hydrogen explosion at Fukushima Daiichi
There is no particular reason why you should be aware of this, but HBO, in collaboration with British Sky, has created a miniseries about the Chernobyl disaster. I have not watched it, but I have read multiple analyses and discussions of it by those who have, and who can also claim the Chernobyl disaster as their particular area of expertise. Based on their collective verdict, I will not watch it, because it is basically shit, and I have much better things to do with my time. So do you. The miniseries isn’t interesting; what is interesting is why and how it was made. Armed with this understanding, we will know what to look out for.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

World’s Biggest Problems Solved

Five years ago, when Angela Merkel, at the time the respected leader of the European Union’s largest economy, was interviewed on the subject of the biggest problems facing the world, she opined that they would be the following three key ones:

• Russia’s annexation of Crimea
• Ebola epidemic
• ISIS in Syria

I am happy to report that over the intervening period all three of Frau Merkel’s most important problems facing the world have been solved, and she can now retire in peace. Ironically, none of them have been solved by her, her government, her nation, the whole of the EU, or the collective West in its entirety.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Party Semantics

Having spent a good while marveling at the results of the recent elections of the European Parliament, I have come to a conclusion as to where all of this is going. In the past, there were two distinct meanings of the English word “party”:

1 a social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment;

2 a formally constituted political group, typically operating on a national basis, that contests elections and attempts to form or take part in a government.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Limits of American Destructiveness

US foreign policy has always been directed at wrecking anything that wasn’t deemed sufficiently American and replacing it with something more acceptable—especially if that something allowed wealth to flow into the US from the outside. Compromises were reserved for the USSR, but even there the Americans constantly tried to cheat. For everyone else there was just submission, which was usually tactfully disguised as a positive—a seat at the big table which offered better chances for peace, prosperity and economic and social development.

Of course, it was a simple enough matter to pierce this veil of hypocritical politeness and to point out that the US, living far beyond its means, has only managed to survive by looting the rest of the world, but anyone who dared to do so would be ostracized, sanctioned, regime-changed, invaded and destroyed—whatever it took.

The US establishment has lavished its wrath on anyone who dared to oppose it ideologically, but it reserved its most extreme forms of malice for those who dared commit the cardinal sin of attempting to sell oil for anything other than US dollars. Iraq was destroyed for this very reason, then Libya. With Syria the juggernaut bogged down and stalled out; with Iran it is unlikely to ever get started.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Ethnogenesis: The Map and the Data

Before we move on to discussing the very significant modern-day implications of Gumilëv’s theory of ethnogenesis, I want to present, in condensed, summary form, the data this theory is based on. According to this theory, the biogenetic phenomenon that underlies all of human history is triggered two or three times per millennium, seemingly randomly, and always along a band just a few hundred kilometers wide that spans just one side of the planet and follows the great circle (which is the shortest path between two points on a sphere). These bands are variously oriented and lie outside the plane of the solar system, suggesting that the bursts of mutagenic radiation come from outside the solar system. After some human population that happens to be within the narrow band gets zapped, there follows an incubation period of over a century during which the mutant gene spreads through the population; only then does the fun start.

All of this makes the subject a damned difficult one. A vulcanologist might be pleased with the frequency of two or three major events per millennium, but then would not be so pleased with the complete lack of geological evidence; all that remains is written is history and archeology. An evolutionary biologist would say that a few thousand years is too short a time frame to work with (the entire span of human history is barely 20 centuries). And how would a geneticist look for markers within the Y chromosome of men who’ve been dead for many centuries that happen to correlate with the trait of “willingness to die for an abstract cause”? But just because a theory cannot be attested based on physical evidence does not automatically invalidate it. There is another method—preponderance of circumstantial evidence—and this is where Gumilëv happens to truly shine. He assembled 20 centuries’ worth of historical and archeological data into a single map that shows who got zapped by space rays where and when, and discussed the results of each such event in great detail. Here, then is the map.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

QUIDNON: The Rudder

Rudder assembly
Quidnon’s steering has evolved quite a lot since the original concept. Now all that’s left of the original concept is the idea that the rudder should have a kick-up blade: when sailing across shallows it should gently float up instead of getting torn off or getting stuck, and when the boat settles on its bottom at low tide the rudder blade should automatically get itself out of the way. Only now has a good solution to this problem has finally been found.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Hegemon Checkmated

The way a lot of otherwise intelligent and well-informed commentators are sounding, a war between the US and Iran could break out at any point. Their evidence in favor of this view consists of some US aircraft carriers that are supposedly en route to the Persian Gulf, which Iran threatened to blockade if attacked. To do so, Iran wouldn’t actually have to do anything kinetic; it would suffice for it to threaten to attack some oil tankers for their insurance coverage to be voided, preventing them from loading cargo or setting sail. That would block deliveries of close to two-thirds of all the crude oil that’s shipped by sea and cause a truly staggering amount of economic damage—so staggering that the oil-fired economies of the oil-importing nations (and even some of the oil-exporting ones) may never recover.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

How Mutants Make History

We all tend to be fooled by perspective: foreshortening causes objects close to us to appear relatively larger to objects farther away. This is also true of history: our view tends to be obstructed by recent events, making us accept as the immutable order of creation patterns that may be no more than a temporary, transient aberration. It doesn’t help that history is generally just a bunch of stories, mostly about notable people and important events, and not at all the sort of highly processed, abstracted data that would allow us to see immutable patterns. Yet these patterns do exist, they can be perceived by looking back over several thousand years of archeological record and recorded history, and they tell us a great deal about what is happening now and what the future is likely to hold. And the most striking feature of all this is that history is made by mutant humans whereas normal humans generally subsist in whatever fashion nature and their local environment allows without leaving much of a trace.

Historians and archeologists are a pompous lot and tend to prattle on about civilizations and cultures, but if we take all of their work together and crunch it down to numbers we discover that most of the time and in most places there is really not much of a civilization to write about and cultures are mostly static things that go around in circles, and only once in a while something notable happens: the emergence of a new culture or civilization. All of a sudden a tiny group of Mongolian tribesmen conquers half of Eurasia by organizing nomadic tribesmen into a great military, or a tiny group of Taiwanese tribesmen colonizes numerous islands in the Pacific Ocean in outrigger sailing canoes. Other tribes build pyramids (Giza, Teotihuacan, Chichen Itza) or temple complexes (Angkor Wat), or dig giant canal systems that cause deserts to bloom. But such events are few and far between and no historian can tell you what triggers them or what determines their timing. But there is a clear answer and it is, in a word, mutants.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Podcast: America Faded

The United States is facing collapse. The U.S. is in massive debt, and wholly relies on its global military presence to maintain the dominance of the dollar — a situation in which we have to ask the question: how long before that, too, fails? Decades of United States global hegemony is being successfully countered by other global powers, namely Russia, although in a very different fashion from how the United States has traditionally exerted geopolitical influence up to the present moment. Why, and how, has this happened? Dmitry lays out the interrelating factors that are contributing to America’s faltering influence on the global stage, even as the U.S. Empire becomes increasingly belligerent towards other nations, whether ally or foe, as it seeks to maintain its place at the top of the global economic and political order. I ask Dmitry to go over the faltering shale oil industry and energy production in the United States; the failed attempt by the U.S. government, under the leadership and direction of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, to instigate a coup in Venezuela; the forced expulsion of WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (and possible extradition to the U.S.); Russia’s growing economic prominence and geopolitical influence in relation to the United States; the history of the Ukraine’s deep and complicated relationship with the USSR, and more recently the United States; and the overwhelming social collapse we are witnessing in the United States, manifesting in widespread drug addiction, mental illness, political division, and hypernationalism.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

QUIDNON: The Centerboard


Although the Quidnon blog has been quiescent for the past three months, there has been some good progress on completing the design, and I can now report these results and see what comments, ideas and suggestions emerge. It takes time to come up with simple and cheap solutions to complex and potentially expensive problems.

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Tuesday, May 07, 2019

America, You Are Fired!

Some ironies are just too precious to pass by. The 2016 US presidential elections gave us Donald Trump, a reality TV star whose famous tag line from his show “The Apprentice” was “You are fired!” Focus on this tag line; it is all that is important to this story. Some Trump Derangement Disorder sufferers might disagree. This is because they are laboring under certain misapprehensions: that the US is a democracy; or that it matters who is president. It isn’t and it doesn’t. By this point, the choice of president matters as much as the choice of conductor for the band that plays aboard a ship as it vanishes beneath the waves.

I have made these points continuously since before Trump got into office. Whether or not you think that Trump was actually elected, he did get in somehow, and there are reasons to believe that this had something to do with his wonderfully refreshing “You are fired!” tag line. It’s a fair guess that what motivated people to vote for him was their ardent wish that somebody would come along and fire all of the miscreants that infest Washington, DC and surrounding areas. Alas, that he couldn’t do. Figurehead leaders are never granted the authority to dismantle the political establishments that install them. But that is not to say that it can’t be done at all.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Saker Interview

The Saker: How would you assess the current situation in the Ukraine in terms of social, economic and political collapse?

Dmitry Orlov: The Ukraine has never been viable as an independent, sovereign state and so its ongoing disintegration is to be expected. The applicability of the concept of collapse is predicated on the existence of an intact, stand-alone entity capable of collapse, and with the Ukraine this is definitely not the case. Never in its history has it been able to stand alone as a stable, self-sufficient, sovereign entity. As soon as it gained independence, it just fell over. Just as the Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), it had reached its peak of economic and social development just as the USSR was about to collapse, and it has been degenerating and losing population ever since. Thus, the right model for discussing it is not one of sudden collapse but of steady degeneration and decay.

The Ukraine’s territory was stuck together by the Bolsheviks—first by Lenin, then by Stalin, then by Khrushchev. It was Lenin who lumped in its eastern regions (Donetsk and Lugansk specifically) who previously were part of Russia proper. Stalin then added eastern lands, which were at various times Polish, Austro-Hungarian or Romanian. Finally, Khrushchev tossed in Russian Crimea in a move that was unconstitutional at the time, since no public referendum had been held in Crimea to decide this question as was required by the Soviet constitution.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Ukrainian Election Redux

A presidential election was recently held in the troubled land known as the Ukraine. Some people are waxing hopeful that thanks to having a new president the Ukraine can now finally be put on the mend, get serious about fighting corruption and reverse its slide into destitution and crime. Others see this as an optimization, of sorts, of the existing oligarchic order: instead of having an oligarch (Poroshenko) as president, it is cheaper to have an oligarch’s personal pet (Zelensky) as president, because why should a self-respecting oligarch (Kolomoisky) have to bother with elections.

The Ukraine is interesting for me because it makes such a wonderful case study in collapse: it has been collapsing ever since it gained independence from the USSR. It’s a curious case, because its peculiar congenital disorder has rendered it morbid, and without an external life support system such as the USSR (which is, thankfully, over) or the European Union (good luck with that!) all the Ukrainians are ever likely to do is cannibalize their country until nothing of it is left. Rather than collapse as an event (after which recovery is theoretically possible) what we have in the Ukraine is collapse on rails—an inexorable, systematic hollowing-out and pauperization.

Still, I believe that this last presidential election marks a turning point of sorts for the Ukraine. We should fully expect a great deal of continuity: the oligarchic rule, the widespread corruption, the population loss, the mass impoverishment and the infrastructure decay. Although things that can’t go on forever don’t, in this case they can probably go on for a while yet. But due to the force of external events we should also expect certain discontinuities to occur sooner rather than later.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Martyrdom of St. Julian

News of the arrest and imprisonment of Julian Assange has probably reached you by now, but, just in case, here is a recap. Julian Assange is an Australian journalist; as such, he is a towering giant among a tiny cluster of midgets. Google “great Australian journalists” and you get him and a bunch of people nobody has ever heard of, many of them already dead.

He is a towering figure outside of Australia as well. While other Western journalists run around trying to please their owners, sell advertising space, or struggle to avoid getting banned by the all-seeing eye of social media corporations, Assange has been both principled and fearless. Through his media outlet Wikileaks he has laid bare the dirty secrets of the US State Department and the war crimes of the Pentagon, corporate malfeasance and political corruption, hanging out for all to see the dirty laundry of many powerful and influential people. This made him a cause célèbre: Time Magazine pronounced him Man of the Year and he received human rights awards, standing in the same pantheon as Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. But such are the vicissitudes of fortune that now he is being martyred—a sufferer for the truth, unjustly accused and persecuted by a doomed race of inveterate liars.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Five Stages of Collapse of The [Western] Roman Empire

This is a guest post by Hugo Bardi. He has applied my collapse taxonomy to the collapse of Western Roman Empire, and his analysis shows that the canonical collapse cascade of financial–commercial–political–social–cultural collapse did operate as expected in yet another, particularly famous case. But it does raise a question that has great significance for our time. Hugo’s analysis is accurate when it comes specifically to Old Rome and its collapse except for a crucial detail. Old Rome didn’t just collapse; it was abandoned; then, two centuries later, it disappeared. I’ll include some comments about this at the end of Hugo’s article.



Dmitry Orlov wrote "The Five Stages of Collapse" as an article in 2008 and as a book in 2013. It was an original idea for that time that of comparing the fall of the Soviet Union with that of the United States. Being an American citizen born in Russia, Orlov could compare the two Empires in detail and note the many similarities that led both to follow the same trajectory, even though the cycle of the American Empire is not over, yet.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Respecting the Other

One of my old friends' father was at one time something of a Cold Warrior: he did something or other for the US defense establishment—nuclear submarine-related, if I recall correctly. This work activity apparently led him to develop a particularly virulent form of Russophobia; not so much a phobia as a pronounced loathing of all things Russian. According to my friend, her father would compulsively talk about Russia in overly negative terms. He would also sneeze a lot (allergies, perhaps), and she said that it was often difficult for her to distinguish his sneezes from his use of the word "Russia" as an expletive. But perhaps she was trying to draw a distinction without a difference: her father was allergic to Russia, his allergy caused him to sneeze a lot and also to develop a touch of Tourette's, thus his sneezes came out sounding like "Russia!"

What had caused him to develop such a jaundiced view of Russia? The reason is easy to guess: his work activity on behalf of the government forced him to focus closely on what his superiors labeled as "the Russian threat." Unfolded a bit, it would no doubt turn out that what Russia threatened was Americans' self-generated fiction of overwhelming military superiority. Unlike the United States, which had developed any number of plans to destroy the Soviet Union (of which nothing ever came due to said lack of overwhelming military superiority) the Soviet Union had never developed any such plans. And this was utterly infuriating to certain people in the US. Was this truly necessary, or was this an accident?

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Introduction to the Ethnosphere of the Earth

The way humans relate to the rest of the animal kingdom seems a bit artificial and strained. Some would insist that they are not animals (while behaving like other animals in almost every possible way). Others wander in search of their spirit animal and worship nature (of which they are barely a part, being kept alive by the services of a perfectly unnatural technosphere). The way humans relate to each other is a bit fraught as well.

Some believe that humanity is all of a piece and that it would be racist to make any distinctions at all (even against those who would gang-rape and kill you for sport, roast you on a spit and eat you, or cut off your clitoris with a pair of scissors). Others believe that they are different and better than the rest, based artificial distinctions and incidental symbols such as a flag, an anthem, an official language and some historical documents, slogans and statues.

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Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Is the USS Ship of Fools Taking on Water?

It certainly appears to be doing so, and the rate is accelerating. Having spent the last three weeks at an undisclosed location away from the internet has allowed me to observe the increase in its rate of sinkage. There was wifi at the airport and I downloaded three weeks' worth of articles, which I read on the long flight back to civilization. What I read came as a bit of a shock, especially after three weeks of nothing but surf, sea birds, crabs scampering about and lots of happy, friendly people who couldn't possibly care any less about the US.

For some time people have been telling me that I should watch the movie Idiocracy because it shows what the US is turning into. Well, I am not sure that a move about idiocy can avoid being idiotic, so I'll pass, but there is a definite increase in the level of stupidity displayed by those who are part of the US establishment. This shouldn't come as a surprise; after all, why would anyone possessed of wisdom and integrity want to have anything to do with it by this time? Points of extreme stupidity—so stupid it hurts to watch—are all around us at the moment. Let me point out a few important ones.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Imperial Collapse Playbook

First published on December 30, 2014

Some people enjoy having the Big Picture laid out in front of them—the biggest possible—on what is happening in the world at large, and I am happy to oblige. The largest development of 2014 is, very broadly, this: the Anglo-imperialists are finally being forced out of Eurasia. How can we tell? Well, here is the Big Picture—the biggest I could find. I found it thanks to Nikolai Starikov and a recent article of his.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Care and Feeding of a Financial Black Hole

First published on June 30, 2015

A while ago I had the pleasure of hearing Sergey Glazyev—economist, politician, member of the Academy of Sciences, adviser to Pres. Putin—say something that very much confirmed my own thinking. He said that anyone who knows mathematics can see that the United States is on the verge of collapse because its debt has gone exponential. These aren't words that an American or a European politician can utter in public, and perhaps not even whisper to their significant other while lying in bed, because the American eavesdroppers might overhear them, and then the politician in question would get the Dominique Strauss-Kahn treatment (whose illustrious career ended when on a visit to the US he was falsely accused of rape and arrested). And so no European (never mind American) politician can state the obvious, no matter how obvious it is.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

It's really very simple

First published on July 26, 2015

There are times when a loud cry of “The emperor has no clothes!” can be most copacetic. And so, let me point out something quite simple, yet very important.

The old world order, to which we became accustomed over the course of the 1990s and the 2000s, its crises and its problems detailed in numerous authoritative publications on both sides of the Atlantic—it is no more. It is not out sick and it is not on vacation. It is deceased. It has passed on, gone to meet its maker, bought the farm, kicked the bucket and joined the choir invisible. It is an ex-world order.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Power of “Nyet”

First published on July 17, 2016

The way things are supposed to work on this planet is like this: in the United States, the power structures (public and private) decide what they want the rest of the world to do. They communicate their wishes through official and unofficial channels, expecting automatic cooperation. If cooperation is not immediately forthcoming, they apply political, financial and economic pressure. If that still doesn’t produce the intended effect, they attempt regime change through a color revolution or a military coup, or organize and finance an insurgency leading to terrorist attacks and civil war in the recalcitrant nation. If that still doesn’t work, they bomb the country back to the stone age. This is the way it worked in the 1990s and the 2000s, but as of late a new dynamic has emerged.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A Thousand Balls of Flame

First published on August 23, 2016

In light of recent developments, a slight update is needed here. First, Russia has demonstrated its latest weaponry, which is both cheap and effective and largely neutralizes anything the US is able to throw at it. Most recently, Putin announced the new Zirkon delivery system which flies at speeds above Mach 20 and cannot be intercepted by any means, either existing or imaginable. Putin also announced that in case the US attacks Russia, Russia will counterattack not just the launch sites but the sites where the decision to attack Russia will be made. "Question is, can they [the Americans] do the math?" he asked. The answer is no: all I've heard from the US since then has been preposterous talk about a "new arms race." There is no recognition at all that the arms race is over and that Russia won it. So I did the math myself, and have discovered a very simple, obvious fact: if the US launches a first strike against Russia, its leaders will not be around to find out whether any of their missiles or bombs got through and reached their targets within Russia; they will all be dead well before then. But there is no reason for Americans to fear Russia, for Russia will not attack. Instead, they should fear their own leaders, who may be insane and ignorant enough to attempt a preemptive strike against Russia—and fail. What can Americans usefully do in this situation? Unfortunately, there is but a single, very short answer: repent—just in case their leaders do the suicidal thing, for if that happens they won't get any warning.

Russia is ready to respond to any provocation, but the last thing the Russians want is another war. And that, if you like good news, is the best news you are going to hear.

A whiff of World War III hangs in the air. In the US, Cold War 2.0 is on, and the anti-Russian rhetoric emanating from the Clinton campaign, echoed by the mass media, hearkens back to McCarthyism and the red scare. In response, many people are starting to think that Armageddon might be nigh—an all-out nuclear exchange, followed by nuclear winter and human extinction. It seems that many people in the US like to think that way. Goodness gracious!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Military Defeat as a Financial Collapse Trigger

First published on September 19, 2017

Back in 2007 I wrote Reinventing Collapse, in which I compared the collapse of the USSR to the forthcoming collapse of the USA. I wrote the following:

“Let us imagine that collapsing a modern military-industrial superpower is like making soup: chop up some ingredients, apply heat and stir. The ingredients I like to put in my superpower collapse soup are: a severe and chronic shortfall in the production of crude oil (that magic addictive elixir of industrial economies), a severe and worsening foreign trade deficit, a runaway military budget and ballooning foreign debt. The heat and agitation can be provided most efficaciously by a humiliating military defeat and widespread fear of looming catastrophe.” (p. 2)

A decade later these ingredients are all in place, with a few minor quibbles. The shortfall of oil is in the case of the US not the shortfall of physical oil but of money: against the backdrop of terminal decline of conventional oil in the US, the only meaningful supply increase has come from fracking, but it has been financially ruinous. Nobody has made any money from selling fracked oil: it is too expensive.

Meanwhile, the trade deficit has been setting new records, defense spending has continued its upward creep and the levels of debt are at this point nothing short of stratospheric but continuing to rise. Fear of catastrophe is supplied by hurricanes that have just put significant parts of Texas and Florida under water, unprecedented forest fires in the West, ominous rumblings from the Yellowstone supervolcano and the understanding that an entire foamy mess of financial bubbles could pop at any time. The one ingredient we are missing is a humiliating military defeat.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Imperial Collapse Markers

First published on June 19, 2018

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.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Hiatus

After a dozen years of virtually uninterrupted weekly blogging Club Orlov is taking a month-long break. I have scheduled reruns of the most popular blog posts from the past five years, which will auto-magically appear on Club Orlov every Tuesday and Thursday. Since I will spend the rest of March at an undisclosed location with spotty cell phone signal and no internet access, I won't be around to moderate comments and delete spam, and so I will leave comments off. I will return in April, refreshed and ready to push forward in several new directions. Thank you for your support, and I hope to see you here when I return.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Why do Capitalists hate Socialism?

Do capitalists hate socialism? If you read some capitalist publications—which are pretty much all of the privately owned ones, plus all the government-financed ones unless the government happens to be a socialist government—you inevitably walk away with the thought that socialism is somehow bad. The reasons given for this vary: socialism produces inferior economic results; socialism creates moral hazards; socialism eventually fails. None of these are convincing. Capitalism is quite capable of producing inferior economic results too and, looking around the planet, does so with some regularity. Capitalism creates one single moral hazard—putting money and property ahead of people—which is greater and more socially corrosive than all of the ones created by socialism. And although socialist regimes do eventually collapse, so do all the capitalist ones because nothing lasts forever. These are clearly not the real reasons. What is the real reason?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

How Bad Can Things Possibly Get?

In my travels I sometimes revisit places where I have had some acquaintances, and it is always tempting to look them up and pay them a visit along the way even if I am quite sure that they have in the meantime degenerated to a point where they are no longer suitable as company. One of my distant relatives has always stressed the point that “Things can always be worse,” and this idea seems to have infected my mind like a brain parasite. Instead of simply accepting it as axiomatic, I have sent myself on dangerous missions just to confirm that for any negative integer n there is always an n–1. But then I am hardly alone: morbid curiosity is both common and popular. Many people like to learn about things that are really bad, and when they do they ask: “Just how bad are they?”

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Putin now thinks Western Elites are Swine

An article I published close to five years ago, “Putin to Western elites: Play-time is over,” turned out to be the most popular thing I’ve written so far, having garnered over 200,000 reads over the intervening years. In it I wrote about Putin’s speech at the 2014 Valdai Club conference. In that speech he defined the new rules by which Russia conducts its foreign policy: out in the open, in full public view, as a sovereign nation among other sovereign nations, asserting its national interests and demanding to be treated as an equal. Yet again, Western elites failed to listen to him. Instead of mutually beneficial cooperation they continued to speak the language of empty accusations and counterproductive yet toothless sanctions. And so, in yesterday’s address to Russia’s National Assembly Putin sounded note of complete and utter disdain and contempt for his “Western partners,” as he has usually called them. This time he called them “swine.”

The president’s annual address to the National Assembly is a rather big deal. Russia’s National Assembly is quite unlike that of, say, Venezuela, which really just consists of some obscure nonentity named Juan recording Youtube videos in his apartment. In Russia, the gathering is a who’s-who of Russian politics, including cabinet ministers, Kremlin staffers, the parliament (State Duma), regional governors, business leaders and political experts, along with a huge crowd of journalists. One thing that stood out at this year’s address was the very high level of tension in the hall: the atmosphere seemed charged with electricity.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Death of Free Speech leads to Fascism

Freedom of speech is rather important. If people do not feel free to express their thoughts, then all they can do is endlessly repeat what has been said before, creating an echo chamber which no new understandings can ever penetrate. What they repeat may have been a tissue of lies from the outset, or it may have been true or relevant once, but will become outdated and, essentially, as good as a lie.

Lies beget ignorance. Ignorance begets fear. Fear begets hatred. And hatred begets violence. The ability to speak our minds and to listen to others—even those who are said to be our enemies—is what separates us from wild beasts. Deprive us of this right, and sure as rain we degenerate into subhumans who claw at the ground, howl at the moon and gnaw on raw human flesh… or something like that.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Modern Russian Governance Explained

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this translation of a very important article that describes the nature of modern Russian governance. It is written by one of Vladimir Putin’s close advisors who is a political expert of considerable stature. It has been widely (though rather toothlessly) reviled in Western press (as well wannabe-Western Russian liberal press) but without quoting the source, which I have only yesterday translated into English. The author definitely hit a nerve by demolishing the Western democratic system of “checks and scoundrels” with its illusion of choice and its ever-vigilant deep state.

Putin’s Lasting State

Vladislav Surkov

http://www.ng.ru/ideas/2019-02-11/5_7503_surkov.html?print=Y
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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Future of Energy is Bright, Part III: Radiophobia

Over the past few months I have been immersing myself in nuclear technology in order to understand its implications for the future of energy. It is an important topic because the future of energy is the future of civilization: if a replacement for fossil fuel energy cannot be found, then there will be no more civilization. Going back to burning firewood will just mean that there will be no more trees either. If you think that wind generators and solar panels are the answer, these can’t be built or maintained without fossil fuels.

This is a rather difficult topic to discuss because of all the confusion sown by various “deniers”: peak oil deniers, climate change deniers, debt bomb deniers… There are also vain hopes being sown by technophiles who think that the advent of nuclear fusion is just around the corner or who dream about giant mirrors in space, the hydrogen economy or some other form of nonexistent technology. To make this topic easier to discuss, I will make certain assumptions. I will assume that nonexistent technology… doesn’t exist, so there is nothing to discuss. Please take your fusion reactors, thorium reactors, space mirrors and magic perpetual motion engines elsewhere. I am only interested in existing, proven technologies that can be scaled up.

Friday, February 08, 2019

QUIDNON: Frame Joinery Redux

Although most of the problems with hull structure have already been solved, there remained one problem that stood in the way of completing the design: how to join together the frame. It consists of 4x4 softwood (fir) timbers (3.5x3.5 finished size) combined into a box structure that reinforces the bottom the deck, the bow and the transom and provides support for mast steps. After working out a design that included a dozen different steel brackets that had to be custom-fabricated at considerable expense, I realized that I don’t like it at all: too complicated and too expensive. And so, as usual, I sat back and waited for some new ideas to filter in from the ether.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2019

RIP INF Treaty: Russia’s Victory, America’s Waterloo

On March 1, 2018 the world learned of Russia’s new weapons systems, said to be based on new physical principles. Addressing the Federal Assembly, Putin explained how they came to be: in 2002 the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. At the time, the Russians declared that they will be forced to respond, and were basically told “Do whatever you want.”

And so they did, developing new weapons that no anti-ballistic missile system can ever hope to stop. The new Russian weapons include one that is already on combat duty (Kinzhal), one that is being readied for mass production (Avangard) and several that are currently being tested (Poseidon, Burevestnik, Peresvet, Sarmat). Their characteristics, briefly, are as follows:

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Why must Venezuela be destroyed?

¿Por qué Venezuela debe ser destruida?

Warum muss Venezuela zerstört werden?

Pourquoi le Venezuela doit-il être détruit ?

Last week Trump, his VP Mike Pence, US State Dept. director Mike Pompeo and Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, plus a bunch of Central American countries that are pretty much US colonies and don’t have foreign policies of their own, synchronously announced that Venezuela has a new president: a virtual non-entity named Juan Guaidó, who was never even a candidate for that office, but who was sorta-kinda trained for this job in the US. Guaidó appeared at a rally in Caracas, flanked by a tiny claque of highly compensated sycophants. He looked very frightened as he self-appointed himself president of Venezuela and set about discharging his presidential duties by immediately going into hiding.

His whereabouts remained unknown until much later, when he surfaced at a press conference, at which he gave a wishy-washy non-answer to the question of whether he had been pressured to declare himself president or had done so of his own volition. There is much to this story that is at once tragic and comic, so let’s take it apart piece by piece. Then we’ll move on to answering the question of Why Venezuela must be destroyed (from the US establishment’s perspective).

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Shut it all down!

Unless you have been hiding in a cave for the past few months, you have probably heard that for the past month or so close to a million employees of the US federal government haven’t been getting paid. Some still show up for work while others have decided to join the gig economy and do odd jobs instead. Nonessential personnel have been placed on furlough. It is quite a curious fact that the federal government employs close to a million people who aren’t essential. If the shutdown lasts long enough for them to get real, essential jobs in the private sector, all will surely benefit.

The government has been shut down because the Democrats do not want to approve money for Trump’s wall on the Mexican border. The Democrats are on the record being in favor of a fence, but calling it a wall is anathema to them. You’d think that Trump could agree to temporarily call it a fence, just to get the funding approved, and then go back to calling it a wall later, once it’s been built, but perhaps there just isn’t room in his… parsimonious vocabulary for two such similar terms. And now, in a major escalation, Trump is being prevented from giving his annual state of the union speech before congress. But perhaps that is exactly how it should be: What “union” is still there for him to talk about?

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Future of Energy is Bright, Part II

To pick up where we last left off, running an industrial economy requires a source of cheap and stable electricity. Electricity provided by wind and solar is intermittent and therefore does not fit the bill. Electricity from coal, diesel and natural gas does work but causes environmental damage, plus these fossil fuels are mostly past peak, are increasingly expensive to produce, and won’t last for much longer in any case. Hydroelectric is a good choice, but all the sweet spots for it have already been tapped. Boutique resources such as biomass, micro-hydro, tidal energy and what have you are insufficient to power an industrial economy. This leaves nuclear energy, but nuclear energy has some major problems.

Thus, there are no good solutions, but this may not be a problem because, you see, without a stable source of cheap electricity there won’t be an industrial economy, and without an industrial economy there will be neither supply of nor demand for any of the above. There will still be demand for firewood, to be met by you wandering up and down a stretch of abandoned highway collecting dry tree branches for your campfire, on which to cook some rodents you caught with a forked stick.

If you find this scenario unappealing and wish to look for other options, there is little choice but to look more closely at nuclear energy. Yes, it has some major problems, but what if these problems have solutions? You haven’t thought of that, have you? But that’s not as outlandish an idea as you might imagine. Huge teams of brilliant scientists and engineers working diligently for decades do sometimes come up with solutions to even the most difficult problems. Clearly, it would be foolish to simply assume that all major problems will be solved, but I believe that it does make sense to try to stay informed about the actual progress that has been made, if only to satisfy your intellectual curiosity, should you have any.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Five Stages of Collapse, 2019 Update

Collapse, at each stage, is a historical process that takes time to run its course as the system adapts to changing circumstances, compensates for its weaknesses and finds ways to continue functioning at some level. But what changes rather suddenly is faith or, to put it in more businesslike terms, sentiment. A large segment of the population or an entire political class within a country or the entire world can function based on a certain set of assumptions for much longer than the situation warrants but then over a very short period of time switch to a different set of assumptions. All that sustains the status quo beyond that point is institutional inertia. It imposes limits on how fast systems can change without collapsing entirely. Beyond that point, people will tolerate the older practices only until replacements for them can be found.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Is The US Still A Superpower?

Some believe that the USA is a superpower. They cite GPD figures, military spending, the ability to coerce various US vassals to accede to US/Israeli demands at the United Nations. They also point to its ability to force other nations to abide by its unilateral sanctions even though they are ineffective at best, generally counterproductive and tend to hurt US allies. Are these not the hallmarks or true superpowerdom?

Let us see... If the US were a superhero endowed with various superpowers, what would they be?

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Tuesday, January 08, 2019

National Bankruptcy as a Board Game

Most people are familiar with the game Monopoly. Its goal is to teach capitalist kiddies a valuable lesson about capitalism; namely, that in running a business it isn’t useful to shoot for some happy modicum of accommodation with your competitors or to strive for a sustainable steady state. Instead, what you need to do to survive (never mind win) is to grow as quickly as possible and eat up your competitors alive, or you’ll get eaten up yourself. That’s not just a game; that’s exactly how capitalism actually works, and if that doesn’t work for you (it doesn’t for most people) then that’s exactly how capitalism doesn’t work.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

The Year the Planet Flipped Over

End of the year is a good time to draw some conclusions as to what has changed, what has worked and what has failed. This past year was in many ways remarkable because of a large number of irreversible, transformative events. In some ways, in 2019 we will be dealing with a significantly different planet. Let us look at what has succeeded and what has failed.

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