Wednesday, November 06, 2019

On Systemic Corruption

The philosopher Slavoj Žižek, among others, has drawn a useful distinction between subjective violence, which takes place between individuals, and systemic violence, which is perpetuated by institutions. Žižek is a Marxist, and part of his justification for introducing this distinction is to justify revolutionary violence as a means of opposing the systemic violence of oppressive systems. This may or may not work, since revolutionary violence is often itself systemic, borne of an ideology that dictates radical change of one sort of another, while the end result of revolutionary change along Marxist lines is often a totalitarian state which raises systemic violence to a whole new level. No matter; I think the distinction is still useful.

It is useful because it makes it possible to draw a certain axis—between free action and compelled action—that runs through not just violence but every type of vileness and perfidy. Subjective violence is an instance of the former: you punch a person you don’t like as an expression of your personal opinion. Systemic violence, on the other hand, is where, for instance, depersonalized knuckle-dragging drones have no choice but to imprison parents for their children’s truancy—nothing personal, the rules are the rules. This axis runs through many aspects of individual and group behavior. Lying, for instance, can be done privately (to spare someone’s feelings or to teach a fool a lesson) or publicly (such as excluding close to 100 million long-term unemployed Americans when calculating the official unemployment rate).

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Monday, November 04, 2019

Keiser Report interview, Part II



Again, fast-forward to minute 13 if you don't want to listen to how unicorns burn money.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Art of Betrayal

The recent history with the Syrian Kurds has shown that the United States can betray absolutely anyone, regardless of personal relationships or official promises and guarantees. It’s nothing personal, you know, strictly business…

For example, what do the Ukrainians have in common with the Syrian Kurds? At first glance, their people, geography and history are completely different. But then what about the panicked tweets from former Ukrainian foreign minister Pavel Klimkin, in which he wonders in forlorn trepidation whether the US can betray the Ukraine just as it has betrayed its key ally in Syria. But what about the endlessly promised eternal friendship?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Ayatollahs Jump for Joy

At the recent United Nations General Assembly there was one person who appeared noticeably happier than the rest, especially in comparison with the rather glum Europeans. It was Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. He positively beamed with pleasure and good humor. While his speech was harsh, containing terms such as “economic terrorism” and “international piracy,” of which he accused the Washington regime, his entire demeanor belied pure joy. Along the way, he dashed Boris Johnson’s hopes of brokering a rapprochement between Iran and the Washingtonians, clearly seeing any further attempts at negotiation with them as utterly pointless.

Rouhani is certainly not alone in espousing this position, although he may be unique among national leaders in doing so openly. The Chinese have been dragging out trade negotiations without any intention to actually reach an agreement. The Russians see arms control negotiations with the Washingtonians as rather pointless, promising a symmetrical (but much cheaper) response to any US escalation.

Indeed, what’s the point in negotiating with Americans if, as experience has shown, they can later renege on whatever agreement has been reached on a moment’s notice? They do so either without any justification (as was most recently the case with the Syrian Kurds) or based on any sort of whimsy that happens to sound good to them at the time (as with the abandonment of the INF treaty between the US and Russia).

This point still seems worth repeating a few more times, although it has been made many times by numerous analysts and is becoming rather glaringly obvious. (The Russians even coined a new word to describe this condition: недоговороспособный (“nedogovorosposóbny,” literally “non-agreement-capable.”) But there is another point to be made, which most geopolitical observers so far seem to be missing, and which, by the way, explains Rouhani’s joyful mood at the UN, and which I am equally happy to make.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Greta and the Deep Green State

In recent weeks the Greta Thunberg phenomenon—the fifteen-year-old climate change campaigner— has swept the Western hemisphere, culminating with her impassioned speech at the UN. The rest of the globe, including the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter (China) has felt it beneath their dignity to react to an overwrought, psychiatrically abnormal child that appears to have been stage-managed by shady oligarchs pursuing a globalist agenda. Some people even went as far as calling this phenomenon “political pedophilia” and calling for her handlers’ prosecution. But the West, where dignity is currently in short supply, has seen major youth protests: in 156 cities, with 100,000 marching in Berlin, 60,000 in New York and four million participants total. They called for a “Green New Deal” which would eliminate all fossil fuel use by 2030. I believe it to be a sort of enforced stupidity—forcing simple and unworkable solutions to complex, unsolved problems.

I have been unsure whether I should respond to the Greta phenomenon at all. After all, she is only one in a long series of children paraded in front of the mass media as part of a political ploy. There was, for instance, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, David Suzuki’s daughter, who at age twelve spoke at a 1992 UN climate conference in Rio about the danger of holes in the ozone layer. Since then the ozone layer has pretty much stayed the same and nobody can prove whether this has much of anything to do with the Montreal Protocol. Severn went on to study at Yale and then on to a career in environmental activism and journalism, so all’s well that ends well, ozone holes notwithstanding. Perhaps Greta will do just as well, carbon emissions and global warming notwithstanding. After all, her native Sweden is rather well insulated from climatic fluctuations. The onset of the next ice age (due any millennium now) would make it unlivable for tens of thousands of years, but this is not a big worry as far as Greta’s great-great-grandchildren are concerned.

But then I thought that all’s not necessarily well with Greta, who appeared distraught, if not to say emotionally disturbed, in her monomaniacal focus on an issue she I am sure doesn’t understand (because nobody does). This sort of obsession is contagious, and if left unchecked could lead to mass psychosis among young people. Those of us who have achieved a modicum of wisdom and perspective have a responsibility to talk to young people and to try to counteract the hysterical influences of those who would lead them astray for their own political ends. And so I decided to write an open letter to Greta (open to all Club Orlov members, and, of course, to Greta, should she wish to join).

Dear Greta,

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Monday, September 30, 2019

Look who’s not laughing!

International politics is a daunting subject for many. Understanding what is happening requires knowledge of history, firsthand experience with various countries and cultures, some understanding of foreign languages (since the information that’s available in English tends to be incomplete and slanted in a particular direction) and much else. But there is another approach that can produce good results even for a seven-year-old: reading facial expressions and body language of world leaders.

When everything is routine, world leaders generally manage to remain poker-faced or (in the case of American politicians) grinning stupidly with a vacant-eyed stare. But when things get interesting all sorts of ticks and grimaces and strange gestures and postures start showing up. And when you see one of the “world leaders” (in quotes because I use the term facetiously) looking like his entire life is flashing before his eyes at a joint press conference, you can be sure that something very funky is going down.

To wit: here is the Ukraine’s new, popularly elected president, Vladimir Zelensky, appearing next to Donald Trump and looking for all the world as if he really doesn’t want to be there. A bright seven-year-old will tell you that much (I checked) but we adults wish to know more. And so I will oblige and fill you in on some of the salient details.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Sergei Lavrov: “World at a Crossroads and a System of International Relations for the Future”

Sergei Lavrov is a world-class diplomatic heavyweight and Russia's foreign minister. As the saying goes, if you don't deal with Lavrov, you'll end up dealing with Sergei Shoigu, defense minister. This speech is important in the context of the borderline nonexistent relations between Russia and the United States. It explains why that is and orders ways out. The question is, are American government officials capable of accepting reality and acquiescing to the fact that the world has changed and that they are no longer the ones calling the shots.



These days, the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly opens up. So does a new international “political season”.

The session begins at a highly symbolic historical moment. Next year we will celebrate two great and interconnected anniversaries – the 75th Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic and Second World Wars, and the establishment of the UN.

Reflecting on the spiritual and moral significance of these landmark events, one needs to bear in mind the enormous political meaning of the Victory that ended one of the most brutal wars in the history of mankind.

The defeat of fascism in 1945 had fundamentally affected the further course of world history and created conditions for establishing a post-war world order. The UN Charter became its bearing frame and a key source of international law to this day. The UN-centric system still preserves its sustainability and has a great degree of resilience. It actually is kind of a safety net that ensures peaceful development of mankind amid largely natural divergence of interests and rivalries among leading powers. The War-time experience of ideology-free cooperation of states with different socioeconomic and political systems is still highly relevant.

It is regrettable that these obvious truths are being deliberately silenced or ignored by certain influential forces in the West. Moreover, some have intensified attempts at privatizing the Victory, expunging from memory the Soviet Union’s role in the defeat of Nazism, condemning to oblivion the Red Army’s feat of sacrifice and liberation, forgetting the many millions of Soviet citizens who perished during the War, wiping out from history the consequences of the ruinous policy of appeasement. From this perspective, it is easy to grasp the essence of the concept of expounding the equality of the totalitarian regimes. Its purpose is not just to belittle the Soviet contribution to the Victory, but also to retrospectively strip our country of its historic role as an architect and guarantor of the post-war world order, and label it a “revisionist power” that is posing a threat to the well-being of the so-called free world.

Trouble at the Asset Detox

Remember the term “toxic assets”? Google Trends shows a huge spike for this search term in March of 2009 and then… nothing. We don’t call them “toxic assets” any more, we just call them “assets” now, please don’t talk back and just listen. There are some things you just have to accept as facts.

For instance, the size of the US sovereign debt doesn’t matter. For instance, Americans can print all the money they want. For instance, interest rates are set by the Federal Reserve and can always be set low enough so that interest payments on the federal debt can always be made. For instance, the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency—always was and always will be.

That’s why the US federal debt will NEVER be defaulted on no matter how huge it gets. These are articles of faith in the US financial system. You want your swipey-card to continue working at the supermarket, don’t you? If so, go on believing! Not only that, but keep clapping… because if you don’t, this is what will happen and children everywhere will burst into tears.

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