Thursday, July 09, 2020

Charting the Collapse of the American Empire


Paul Craig Roberts, who was assistant secretary to the treasury in Ronald Reagan’s administration, has announced that collapse of the US is no longer avoidable. To substantiate this conclusion, he cites a couple of Russians whose opinions he respects: Andrei Raevsky (a.k.a. The Saker) and Dmitry Orlov (that would be me). I am flattered, of course, but I have never claimed that the collapse of the US was ever avoidable. “All empires collapse eventually; no exceptions!” I kept repeating. Ever since I first started writing on this subject in 2006, I never equivocated on this point. At that time, I wrote: “The collapse of the United States seems about as unlikely now as the collapse of the Soviet Union seemed in 1985. The experience of the first collapse may be instructive to those who wish to survive the second.” Does the collapse of the US seem a lot more likely to you now than it did in 2006? If so, that’s a good sign; if not, you should eat more fish. It is rich in omega-3 which will make your brain work better.

I don’t feel any particular urge urge to chime in with Roberts and announce that the US has just now reached the point of no return because in my opinion it passed this point a long ago. I also find it rather untoward that making this determination should hinge on the opinions of a couple of Russians; Americans should decide for themselves when their empire has collapsed far enough to call its collapse a collapse. Also, I don’t want to have a hand in collapsing America because it contradicts the informal Russian policy with regard to America’s collapse, which is neatly encapsulated in the lapidary phrase ВСЁ САМИ—“everything themselves”: Americans get to do their own collapsing while Russians refuse to lift a finger to help them. In line with this policy, I aim to inform collapse, not to perform collapse.

And in line with my goal of informing collapse, I wish to provide you with the tools to decide whether, and to what extent, American Empire has collapsed. My approach treats America as an empire, and assumes that it rests on the same three pillars as every other empire since empires first appeared many thousands of years ago. These three pillars do not include such incidentals as financial wealth, economic power, military might, technological superiority, a large population or vast territorial possessions. The three pillars are composed of essential mental constructs. Bereft of these key constructs an empire folds like a cheap suit. The American Empire once had these mental constructs in abundance. I want to equip you to decide for yourself whether it has them at all any more.

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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Toppling the Statue of Liberty


In recent weeks a number of public statues throughout the US (and quite a few in Europe) have been defaced and toppled. Historical figures that have been used to define America are being erased from public memory. Statues of Christopher Columbus (a.k.a. Cristobal Colón) have been toppled in Boston, Richmond and St. Paul. Statues of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were toppled in Oregon. In New York, officials have granted approval for the removal of a statue of Teddy Roosevelt, who was a brilliant man, a most impressive figure and the most popular US president of all time. All of these historical figures are being accused of various sins, foremost among them that of being white males, and therefore by definition racist and misogynist—an accusation that is, in and of itself, purely racist and sexist.

It is contended that there exist two types of racism/sexism. The one of which white males are accused is an abomination while the one practiced by the supposed victims of white male racism/sexism is good and proper. There is clearly a double standard being applied, and the enforcement of a double standard is automatically an injustice that must be remedied. That is a principle which, if sacrificed for the sake of political expediency, inevitably leads to political collapse and civil war.

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Friday, June 19, 2020

Post-Collapse Administration

I have noticed a marked tendency to think that once the coronavirus blows over everything will go back to the way it was before—or even better, because of Elon Musk’s electric flying cars and fly-thru sex change clinics or what have you. A simple explanation for this tendency is that it is what people want to think: everyone just wants to go back to what they are used to, picking up where they left off and tickling their wild fancies any way they wish. A slightly more nuanced explanation is that the new, post-collapse reality is a mysterious, unfamiliar realm and that for many people thinking about it is too uncomfortable (if done right) or downright pointless (if it consists of cobbling together stereotypes from movies such as Mad Max and Waterworld or other such post-apocalyptic theme park attractions).

Those who wish to think that what’s happening is just a hiccough caused by a not particularly deadly virus and that this will all blow over soon enough are sure to be disappointed. Taking the US as an example, the crisis clearly started before the virus hit, as evidenced by the steady and quite noticeable slowing of the physical economy since 2018, evidenced by such boring statistics as the lack of sales of new long-haul trucks. But that was before all hell broke loose.

Since February 2020 the US lost 46 million full-time jobs, which is over a third of the overall workforce. Bloomberg forecasts that these jobs will come back no sooner than in six years—and only if in the meantime there is steady economic growth. But then the Congressional Budget Office predicts a GDP decrease of 5.6% and 10 years for it to recover (assuming that the worst is already over) so steady economic growth seems like a bit of a pipe dream. In fact, the Federal Reserve is predicting a second quarter GDP decrease of 52.8%, and so the CBO prediction is only plausible to believers in a V-shaped recovery that doesn’t seem to be happening. I, on the other hand, believe that this recession/depression/collapse has been brought to you by the letter L and the number 0.

A more reasonable expectation is that with the economy already shrunk by half another 20% of full-time jobs will need to be lost in the coming months in a wave of bankruptcies that have so far been held back by various emergency measures such as temporary unemployment benefits, moratoria on evictions and foreclosures, delays in student loan repayment, three-month tax holidays, etc. To keep the financial house of cards from pancaking the US federal debt had to go from $21 trillion to $28 trillion in a rather short period of time, and how much longer this can go on is anyone’s guess, but there seems to be consensus that it can’t go on forever. Meanwhile, data from May 2020 indicates that 26% of Americans could not feed themselves independently, and as this number continues to go up it will become increasingly impossible to ignore the fact that the cupboard is indeed bare and that the once wealthiest nation in the world is now a nation of beggars.

Once a solid majority of the population becomes destitute, what will become of the world’s greatest superpower, the indispensable nation, that shining beacon of freedom and democracy and embodiment of the can-do spirit with liberty and justice for all? On the ground, there are sure to be lots of dumpsters on fire, lots of shops looted, boarded up and out of business, various sections of downtowns becoming police no-go zones (if police are still to be found anywhere) presided over by heavily armed thugs. After all the statues of white imperialist exploiters and oppressors of yore are toppled and all the white people forced to kneel before some very nice people who hail from the ghetto, there is sure to come a moment (at least for those who at that point are still capable of some semblance of rational thought) to ask an obvious question: What, if anything, comes next?

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Sunday, June 14, 2020

Repent&Pay™ Considered Harmful

The entire world watches in dismay as the whites in the US genuflect in supplication before the putative descendants of African slaves, accepting their collective guilt and their collective punishment.

Throughout history, tribute has been considered a more civilized, less violent and more reliable end efficient alternative to occupation, rapine and plunder. Vanquished races were often quite happy to pay their conquerers an annual share of their wealth for the sake of being left unmolested and perhaps even protected from other invaders, and being allowed to keep some semblance of their former dignity intact. Relationships based on tribute sometimes improved over time. A famous example is the Golden Horde, which ruled Russia for a few centuries. It started with rapine and plunder, proceeded to relations based on tribute and eventually developed into a relatively copacetic arrangement based on mutual recognition and respect, where Genghis Khan’s descendants ruling from the capital of the Golden Horde on the Volga near the Caspian Sea issued writs (called “yaklyk”) which legitimized the rule of Russian princes over their various domains, including the Great Prince, which with Ivan the Terrible became the Czar and with Peter the Great the Emperor. Mongol rule protected Russia from the predations of the Catholics and, consequently, spared it the agonies of the Reformation, allowing it to develop into a separate Christian Orthodox civilization which abides to this day.

Tribute still plays a major role in today’s world, but it is uncertain for how much longer. Countries which use the US dollar in international and sometimes also in domestic trade implicitly acquiesce to the authority of the United States. They know full well that should they transgress against their masters in Washington their access to the US dollar will be cut off and their economies will languish. The US dollar remains for now as a relict of former neocolonial times (while just about everybody is ready to conclude that the US empire is in an advanced state of decay and is rapidly nearing its end). Meanwhile, a related but diametrically opposed phenomenon has been on the ascent: the demand for the payment of reparations based on the admission of collective guilt based on a system I will call Repent&Pay™.

Let’s ask some purely rhetorical and completely ridiculous questions. Where the Mongols guilty of invading Russia, and, if so, should Mongolia admit its historical guilt and Repent&Pay™ for the hundreds of years of oppression its ancestors visited on Russia? But wait, they weren’t the only ones to invade Russia. Poland needs to repent and pay for their invasion of Moscow which ended in 1612. And the French are guilty of invading Russia just 200 years later, in 1812. There were other foreign interventionists, including the US, during Russia’s civil war following the revolution of 2017. Finally, there was the German invasion of 1941-1945; shouldn’t the Germans (and their collaborators in other nations) Repent&Pay™ for it too? But wait, we are only getting started…

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Monday, June 08, 2020

Dances with Guns

Those who consider the protests and looting that have been occurring in the US, and in US-aligned countries over the past week or so have been frustrated in their effort to come up with a convincing rationale for them. The quest for justice spurred on by a particularly picturesque heart attack death of a certain violent criminal and drug dealer after being choked out by a policeman is certainly one, but it doesn’t motivate the subsequent violence or the looting. The theory that the Democrats and the Deep State are fomenting unrest in order to prevent Trump from winning a second term is a nice one, but what’s missing is any cogent explanation of why an economically devastated country would be more likely to vote for senile old Biden than for an amusingly random yet implacably forthright Trump, who called for the restoration of law and order by any means necessary including the introduction of Iraqi occupation-style military patrols but was thwarted by liberal Democratic governors, congressmen and even the Pentagon. By the time the election rolls around, many people would perhaps be ready to concede that the restoration of law and order by any means necessary is just the thing to vote for.

As with the coronavirus hysteria, where virtually every developed and semi-developed nation imposed arbitrary travel restrictions, ruinous business shutdowns and various futile quarantines and safety-themed public masquerades in response to a new respiratory virus that is less lethal than some recent seasonal influenzas and is selective in killing only those very old or very sick, who would soon die in any case, the reasons for taking these actions were in each instance quite different from those that were publicly stated. Specifically, the rationale that shutdowns and lockdowns would save lives is hollow given the number of lives lost because of ruined livelihoods, the various pathologies caused or exacerbated by the lockdowns and the social isolation and loss of access to regular medical care as hospitals scrambled to battle the new phantom menace.

More defensible rationales can be offered for the steps taken by various countries. As I had explained here, https://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2020/05/gaslighting-coronavirus.html China, then Russia took this crisis as an opportunity to mobilize against a US bioterror attack (all those biowarfare labs the Pentagon has built all over the planet couldn’t be for nothing at all) thereby making such an attack less likely to be effective against their own populations and more likely to boomerang on the Americans themselves. In the US, the extreme, economically destructive measures could be rationalized as partisan attempts to dethrone Trump by making him appear indecisive and feckless in the face of a dire threat. Other indecisive and feckless national leaders could be said to have meekly followed the advice of the World Health Organization, which is mostly owned by the vaccine mogul Bill Gates, formerly of Microsoft, who was very interested in locking down the entire planet and making everyone buy an expensive and unnecessary vaccine—against a virus that happens to be a reasonably safe and effective inoculant against itself. This plan doesn’t appear to be working. A few days ago, as I watched the evening news on Russia’s Channel 1, I was startled to see a 10-second clip of Bill Gates, spliced in à propos of nothing, in which he appeared to be podcasting from his lair aboard Starship Microclusterfuck while blasting off toward Andromeda, during which he glowered and croaked out the news that of course his new (nonexistent) coronavirus vaccine would have to be made available to everyone.

But what is the single explanation for all of these different responses? I believe that the coronavirus hysteria was a crisis response unleashed by the technosphere, which I define as a global emergent machine-like intelligence composed of unwitting human moving parts that mindlessly pursues an abstract teleology of total control. In this instance it is being forced to confront the immanent demise of the fracking industry in the US, the consequent looming global energy shortage and the definitive end of global economic growth which is, in turn, required in order for global capitalism to function. In response, it attempted to salvage what it could of the global economy by splitting it up into separate technological zones, some of which could then be cut off from energy flows and allowed to wither. In desperation, it latched onto the coronavirus scare as a means to lock down national borders, disrupt supply chains and to force nations and groups of nations to self-isolate from each other and within themselves.

And what is the single explanation for the protests, riots and looting currently happening all across the US? I believe I can offer one here as well. Most surprisingly, it is, of all things, a matter of theatrical genre.

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Fate of Eastern Europe

People in the West tend to be overly concerned with the goings on in China. But they really don’t need to worry; China will do just fine without them. Indeed, even as the US registers a 50% GDP decline in the second quarter of 2020, China is back to economic growth. People in the West also tend to be overly concerned about the Middle East, mostly because that is where a lot of their oil comes from. But they really don’t need to worry about it either, or about where their oil comes from; what they should worry about is being able to pay for it with worthless money they are printing into existence. They also tend to worry about the Middle East because that’s where the tiny but pugnacious state of Israel is situated. They don’t need to worry about it either; there is a very nice, underpopulated Jewish Autonomous Region within the Russian Federation, on the border with China, to which Israelis will be able to evacuate once US financial and military support for Israel dries up. It is the only autonomous region left within the Russian Federation, kept separate, instead of being merged in with the much larger Khabarovsk region, for just such an eventuality. Instead, what the West should worry about is the great ark of incipient instability just to the east of it, extending from the Baltic to the Black sea and all the way up to the Great Wall of Russia.

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Monday, May 25, 2020

Transcript: Geopolitics and Empire Interview

Dmitry Orlov returns to the Geopolitics & Empire podcast for the third time.

He is a well-known Russian-American writer, blogger and author. His works include The Five Stages of Collapse; Shrinking the Technosphere, and many others that you can find at ClubOrlov.blogspot.com.

We will be discussing the ensuing [impending] global economic collapse which he warned about many years ago. We’ll also get his thoughts on the geopolitical situation, all in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

Let me just remind listeners to subscribe to all our channels on social media. Share, Like, leave us a podcast rating and review, and please do bookmark and please do subscribe to our new channels on Bitchute and Brighteon because YouTube is censoring everyone and anyone who questions the narrative these days.

You can also leave us a donation on Bitcoin, PayPal, Patreon or our new SubscribeStar. I also urge listeners to subscribe to our email list that includes our weekly interview and collection of news headlines.

So now on to Dmitry. How are you doing these days?

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Friday, May 22, 2020

Interview on Geopolitics and Empire

Dmitry Orlov gives his view on the pandemic and ensuing economic collapse. He looks at the dire situation facing the U.S., its dollar status, and the disintegration of the political system. He talks about his changed view on the climate movement and its liberal dogma. He gives his take on China, Russia, Putin after 2024, and the potential for military conflict. Finally, he provides an outline for what people should be doing to prepare as the crisis gets underway.

Listen [on SoundCloud] [on YouTube]

Friday, May 15, 2020

The Coronavirus of Kindness

[Em português: O Coronavírus da bondade]

What will happen with the terrible-horrible-awful not-so-novel-any-more coronavirus from Hell? My guess is that SARS-Cov-2 (its official name) will go the way of SARS-Cov-1 which I can’t possibly blame anyone for not remembering. These two viruses are 80% identical and both are thought to have originated in bats. But they behave differently. No. 1 causes symptoms to appear soon after infection and although it doesn’t spread as ferociously as No. 2, it kills a lot more of the people it infects. No. 2 is so contagious that at this point containing it seems an unlikely prospect anywhere in the world, and even strenuous efforts to slow its spread haven’t made much of a difference.

But No. 2 has its good side: it kills a tiny percentage of the people it infects and in its lethality it is similar to other, familiar flu viruses. In fact, now that the coronavirus pandemic has reached a plateau or is declining throughout much of the world, it looks as if No. 2 won’t significantly affect statistics on mortality except perhaps in Belgium, San Marino and Andorra. After adjusting for population growth and an aging population in many countries, mortality is currently lower than it had been throughout most of the recent years. In spite of these differences, No. 1 and No. 2 have two major similarities: first, both were relentlessly hyped; and second, as I believe the near future will show, both will have disappeared without a trace.

But then there is one major difference between No. 1 and No. 2. Whereas No. 1 was just a bad boy virus—a minor nuisance that resulted in just 700 deaths (a little less than 0.000001% of humanity)—a solid case can be made that No. 2, in spite of already having killed 0.003% of humanity and on track to kill 0.001% more, is a good virus—so good that I am tempted to call it God’s gift to humanity. To quote from Goethe’s Faust, No. 2 might say, in its own defense: “I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.” Since this may seem shocking, please let me explain exactly what I mean by that.

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Friday, May 01, 2020

Gaslighting the Coronavirus

For the past few days I have been holding back on commenting on current events, all of which revolve around the new coronavirus panic, and doing as much research as I could because the substance of what’s happening has been unclear to me.

• Why shut down the global economy because of a virus that isn’t particularly dangerous and has only been responsible for just over 1% of the deaths so far this year and has only affected 0.04% of the population and has killed off a mere 0.0028% of it?

• Why quarantine healthy people instead of just the old and the sick? (In Sweden, to take a typical example, 90% of the fatal cases were among those older than 70.)

• Why shut down schools and confine children indoors if they don’t even get sick from this virus?

• Why tell people to remain indoors when lack of sunlight, exercise and exposure to a wide variety of antigens leads to weakened immune systems and higher rates of infection?

• Why struggle to create a vaccine and vaccinate everyone when this virus happens to be a safe, effective and freely available inoculant against itself for the vast majority of healthy people?

• Why emphasize artificial lung ventilation when (in New York, for example) 80% of the patients who are hooked up to ALV machines die?

• Why tell everyone to wear face masks when they only stop 95% of virus particles (at best) and so delay the amount of time it takes to get infected from 10 seconds to as much as three minutes?

After some research and some thought I have been able to arrive at a single answer to all of these questions. But first, let’s examine some of them.

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Friday, April 17, 2020

Update 1

Update to the update: It looks like it was a mistake and they revised it back to 2174. The  model is back on track. Our model is an effective instant bullshit detector.
 
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All of today’s delta of 5.2% came from a single-day doubling in US COVID-19 deaths. This chart shows only US deaths as reported daily.


This data doesn't fit any model except the one where US medics and coroners write COVID-19 on death certificates without bothering to verify that the novel coronavirus is the cause of death. This is the result of a political rather than a medical or a scientific decision. Garbage data isn't worth modeling: garbage-in, garbage-out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

A Simple Model of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Take a Petri dish, fill it with agar, put a drop of bacteria sample in it, close it and put it in a warm place. The bacteria will grow explosively at first but then growth will slow down and eventually stop completely once the bacteria have consumed all the nutrients the agar can provide. Mathematically this process can be characterized quite accurately using the logistic function:


The logistic function also works well for characterizing pandemics, since the underlying process is similar. Rate of growth of bacteria depends on the number of bacteria and slows down as nutrients run out; rate of spread of infection depends on the number of infected individuals and slows down as the number of individuals left to infect declines.

Mathematical models can be arbitrarily complicated and, as an immediate consequence, arbitrarily wrong. It is possible to fit a polynomial to just about any data just by adding enough terms to it, but the predictive value of such an exercise is pretty much nil. The logistic model is simple. It uses just three parameters: midpoint, maximum and growth rate. And it models real, physical phenomena that are ubiquitous in nature: exponential growth and exponential saturation.

In modeling the coronavirus pandemic, we had to add a fourth parameter: a small offset. This is because the Chinese data, for whatever set of reasons, is difficult to treat as part of the world model. In mid-February the coronavirus jumped petri dishes, if you will. After that point the petri dish became the entire planet.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Hermitix Podcast: Coronavirus, Economics and Culture

YouTube link

Supporting Hermitix:

Due to the ongoing Coronavirus epidemic my future employment is uncertain at best. As such I believe it’s finally time that I turn Hermitix into everything it can be. I have updated the Patreon page with new and unique rewards alongside adding in 3 clear stretch goals. The purpose of these stretch goals is to allow me to pursue the continuation of Hermitix as a full-time job.

The first goal is a mere $1000 per month, this is the smallest amount I can live off. I will work on Hermitix as much as did when I was a joiner, 44 hours per week. The quality will not diminish and the quantity will be raised. Full-time Hermitix will commence 2 months after reaching the first stretch goal, allowing me ample time to get my affairs in order and produce a backlog of content.

Becoming a Patron today not only allows for the indefinite continuation of Hermitix, but also allows you to become part of something much larger. The rewards for becoming a Patron include: Discord access, eBooks, Paperbacks, Merchandise and Influence.

Please support Hermitix at:
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Friday, April 10, 2020

Coronavirus Crisis: Danger and Opportunity

“There is a lot happening in the world all at once right now. The entire planet is rapidly reconfiguring itself. The world is begging for a new post-capitalist, post-industrial order to be born…”—a quote from Orlov’s latest book The Meat Generation, published before the current crisis kicked off. The large scale, hierarchically-organised, and centrally controlled systems in energy, industry, transport, health, banking, politics–and more–upon which our modern societies depend, have once again proven dangerously unstable and inadequate when faced with serious challenges.

In the case of the current coronavirus meltdown, the real crisis has been the fear, panic, and craven capitulation with which so many have blindly reacted. Theories and speculation abound as to where all of this is taking us and just what a post-coronavirus future may hold. Based on events thus far, however, the wholesale compromise and loss of freedoms of speech, association, assembly, and travel, and the right to choose in health care, appears entirely possible. Whatever happens, a comprehensive return to ‘business as usual’ seems highly unlikely. The planet is indeed being reconfigured, in ways that are only just beginning to make themselves known.

(Stream/download audio)

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Flunking The Coronavirus Test

With all the ink being spilled over the topic of SARS-Cov-19 and COVID-19 and its various ramifications and effects, you might think that there is little to add. However, I am yet to see an article on the coronavirus as a test—not in the sense of a test for the presence of the virus or antibodies to it, but it as a test of us, as individuals, families, communities and entire nations. Already we see its effects range from relatively benign to unmitigated disaster. As always, to blame the test for one’s failure to pass it is to invite laughter at one’s own expense.

Those likely to flunk a test may prefer to refuse to take it. But refusing to take the coronavirus test is hardly an option. According to many epidemiologists, around 80% of the world’s population will eventually be exposed to this virus. A Machiavellian prince ruling over a primitive society that doesn’t have even a rudimentary public health care system could simply ignore it. Then, based on the presently available, inconclusive numbers, somewhere around 4% of the population will die, but the majority of them will be either old, sick or both. The prince would welcome this, thinking that old and sick people are a burden, so good riddance! He might even try to make some political hay out of the situation: since the virus has a foreign source, those it infects are also somehow foreign, or foreign-influenced, and therefore traitors who deserve this affliction as a sort of supernatural punishment. Referring to SARS-CoV-19 as “the Chinese virus” is very much along these lines.

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Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Clay Machine Gun

“…[M]any thousands of years ago, long before Buddha Dīpankara and Buddha Shakyamuni came into the world, there lived Buddha Anāgāma. He didn’t waste time on explanations and just pointed at things with the pinkie of his left hand. Immediately their true nature was revealed. He would point at a mountain, and it would disappear. He would point at a river, and it too would vanish. It’s a long story, but the way it ended was this: he pointed his left pinkie at himself, and vanished. All that was left of him was his left pinkie, which his students hid in a lump of clay. The clay machine gun is that very lump of clay with the Buddha’s pinkie inside. A very long time ago there lived a man in India who tried to turn this lump of clay into the most terrible weapon on earth. But as soon as he drilled a hole in the clay, the pinkie pointed at him, and he vanished. Since then the pinkie has been kept in a locked chest and moved from place to place until it was lost in one of the Mongolian lamaseries…”

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CBRN: Surviving Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Events

The English-language edition of this very important book by Piero San Giorgio and Chris Millenium has just been released. Below is the preface to it, which I was happy to provide. Please spread the word of this book far and wide. It is a book that can save many lives.



We live in a dangerous world, and it is constantly being made even more dangerous by technological developments, many of which bring with them unintended consequences which technology is often powerless to remedy. It is made even more dangerous by our inability to sense the dangers: our senses are poorly adapted to detecting chemical contaminants, and we are utterly helpless when it comes to sensing radioactivity or radioactive contamination. As far as the threat of microscopic pathogens, the ability of our immune systems to fight them off has been compromised, paradoxically, by good hygiene and the use of antibacterial soaps and antibiotics.

These dangers are multiplied by other risks our world faces, now and in the future. The continued safety of a great many of our industrial technologies—the ones that handle radioactive, toxic and virulent substances and organisms—rests on the presupposition of continued social stability. In the case of long-lived radionuclides such as uranium and plutonium, the period of social stability that would be required to keep them secure and isolated from the environment needs to span thousands of years, yet history teaches us that human civilizations don't ever last that long. When a civilization collapses, what normally follows is a dark age, during which populations crash, learning and even basic literacy become rare, population centers are abandoned and the few survivors discover for themselves how to subsist at a much more primitive level that does not include high technology.

When will this happen? Well, don't look now, but we are living through a time when nation-states are becoming defunct at an ever-increasing rate, when millions of refugees are roaming the planet, and when the financial systems that underpin the continued existence of the entire project of global industrial civilization are in such a state of disrepair that central banks are forced to resort to truly bizarre tricks, such as the imposition of negative interest rates coupled with boundless emission of money. What cannot continue forever generally doesn't, and we should not ignore the distinct possibility that we or our children will have to live through a period of great uncertainty, confusion and chaos.

But whatever should happen, all of us wish to lead happy, healthy, sane, fulfilling lives, and wish the same for our children. None of this will be possible unless we have peace of mind. But knowing that the prospects for our continued well-being are uncertain, we are filled with anxiety. Some of this anxiety results from learned helplessness and willful ignorance: we have been trained to trust the experts with ensuring our well-being and not try to second-guess them too much. But where will these experts be if the cities succumb to mob rule and become too unsafe to go near? To overcome our anxiety, we need to learn what the risks are, and be prepared to address them.

This book describes those risks which we are the least able to address using our commonsense, our perceptions and our instincts. They are the domain of technical experts, and without some special know-how and some specialized equipment we are completely helpless before them. Never mind being able to address them, in most cases we are not even able to detect their presence! But by working through this book, and by making a small investment in safety and detection equipment—which may be too much for a family, but is quite possible at the scale of even a small community—we can conquer our anxiety and regain the ability to lead fulfilling lives.

The threats are many, but perhaps the largest threat of all is simple human panic. When people are falling ill and nobody knows the reason, society can fall apart quite suddenly. But panic can be prevented if a few people have the information and can tell the others what is happening and what they should do or not do. You too can become one of these few people.

And so, don't panic—read this book!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Bat-eating Troglodytes of Wuhan

[Warning: Anyone who makes racist remarks about bat-eating troglodytes shall be banned.]

The year was 2040, and the global coronavirus pandemic was in its 20th year. A young couple was on a date, walking together. They did not hold hands, embrace or kiss but maintained a distance of at least one meter between them and wore eye protection and face masks, as prescribed by law. It had been a long time since they were able to meet, because one or the other of them had a cough, or sniffles—a seasonal allergy, or perhaps a slight cold—and such symptoms made it necessary for them to exist in complete seclusion, their food and other necessities delivered by robots. Pale and weak after their lengthy period of isolation, they strolled and squinted in the bright sunlight, in the recently sanitized, secure space of the promenade, in full view of security cameras, and listened to the shrill high-pitched squeaks emitted by a loudspeaker system that were intended to scare away bats. They were at all times being chaperoned by AI software which sounded an alarm whenever they came too close to each other or, God forbid, actually touched.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

COVID-19

Since I've been asked (repeatedly) to comment on this topic, I will, but since I am not a public health expert I will keep it short and stick to what I know for certain.

As of this morning there have been 93 cases of individuals with COVID-19; five of them have recovered; 109939 individuals have been tested out of a total population of 145 million. That's 0.00006% of the population infected out of 0.075% tested. Most of those who have become infected with it experienced mild flu-like symptoms, or none at all. Zero patients have died.

The response has been quite thorough, with the goal of preventing an epidemic. Schools and many public venues are closed. Border crossings are closed. Citizens being repatriated from COVID-19 affected countries on charter flights all land at a single high-security airport terminal and are being tested and quarantined. Everyone affected who cannot work is given automatic paid sick leave. That's in Russia.

Overall, what people need to understand is that for most of them getting infected with this particular coronavirus (which is one out of many in circulation) would be a nonevent. This one is present in bats (which don't get sick from it) and was most likely spread to humans through accidental contact with bat guano.

Based on the experience in China, which has by now largely conquered this epidemic, some people—especially the elderly, the chronically ill and those who smoke—may develop shortness of breath, in which case putting them on oxygen can help. Out of these, some develop complications such as respiratory failure and sepsis and die within hours (without treatment) or days (with treatment). In them the virus impairs the immune response within the lungs, which then become infected with bacteria and/or fungi that are normally present elsewhere within their bodies or within their environment. Placing such patients in intensive care is a desperate measure that doesn't necessarily save them.

Of course, if you happen to live in a country that was about to collapse anyway, this coronavirus could very easily do it in, but so could any other cough or sneeze. The first stage of collapse, out of a total of five stages, is called...

FINANCIAL COLLAPSE.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, running out and stocking up on toilet paper in response to a coronavirus threat is a symptom of an entirely different disease which can very well turn out to be fatal. Most curiously, it seems to affect the cerebral cortex via the rectum.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

When the Pot Boils Over

[Quando a panela ferve]

“A watched pot never boils,” an old saying goes. But does a watched empire never collapse? Hardly! All empires collapse eventually—no exceptions. Once an empire starts heading toward collapse, the watching can take quite a bit of time, especially if no new, rising empire is ready to take over. The event to watch for is when one collapse-related event immediately triggers the next, and the next. This tells us that a self-reinforcing collapse feedback loop has taken shape and that the process of collapse is picking up momentum—no longer driven by long-term trends but by an internal logic of its own, although certainly helped along by external shocks, some more significant than others.

A particularly significant shock to the system arrived just last week, on March 6, 2020. The system in question is the petrodollar system which has allowed the US to suck resources out of the rest of the world, keeping itself fed, clothed and fueled up simply by issuing debt. Why specifically focus of oil? In his excellent report “Oil from a Critical Raw Material Perspective” Simon Michaux writes: “Today, approximately 90% of the supply chain of all industrially manufactured products depend on the availability of oil-derived products, or oil-derived services.” Without oil nothing gets made and nothing moves. But oil is a finite, nonrenewable resource, and that’s the Achilles’ heel of an empire built primarily on controlling the international market for crude oil by issuing debt.

What happened last Friday is that the Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak declined to extend Russia’s agreement with OPEC, in effect since November 30, 2016, to limit production, keeping the price of oil from crashing while allowing shale oil producers in the US to increase production and, theoretically, take market share away from OPEC and Russia… except that neither OPEC nor Russia have enough spare capacity to significantly increase their market share in any case. This agreement will remain in effect until the end of March, and in response oil futures crashed immediately following the announcement, with the Brent benchmark currently priced at just $36.87/barrel, whereas at the end of last year it stood at nearly $70/barrel. Leading the way, Saudi Arabia announced that it is doing away with all voluntary constraints on production while granting discounts to its most important customers. Why do Russia’s and Saudi Arabia’s decisions indicate the beginning of the end of the petrodollar? The answer to this question is well in hand but isn’t particularly widely known—yet—and, given how reticent and bashful Western media has become in divulging unwelcome news, perhaps never will be.

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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Custom Hardware

A couple of months into the second decade of the 21st century a coronavirus pandemic is sweeping the planet causing tourism and commerce to shrivel up and crashing financial markets (which have been long overdue for a crash in any case). Soon supply line disruptions will cause assembly lines around the world to grind to a halt for lack of parts. As the pandemic runs its course, it is likely to sweep away an entire cohort of elderly smokers. Meanwhile, Americans are getting ready to choose between a capitalist who doesn’t know how to make capitalism work for the masses and a socialist who doesn’t know how to make socialism work for anyone. In such times, what is a collapse-oriented blogger to do?

First things first: eat a hearty bowl of borscht loaded with shredded beef, garnished with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped scallion, dill and garlic and served with rye bread. And once that’s done, it is time to attend to some long-neglected sailboat design tasks.

Three years ago I bravely published a post titled “The Final Sheeting Arrangement.” I was filled with optimism at the time. After much experimentation I had discovered a simple way to keep Quidnon’s Junk sails sheeted perfectly flat. I had tested it out on a 1:12 scale model and verified that it worked very well indeed. But soon after I published it my friend and very experienced Junk rig operator Dave Zeiger blew my boat straight out of the water by pointing out a major problem with my design: it would not keep the sails anywhere near flat once they have been reefed. I accepted his critique with equanimity and, since I had no solution to offer, kept quiet about it for three years, during which, luckily, not a single person endeavored to build a single Quidnon, and so this unsolved problem hasn’t hurt anyone.

But now I believe I have finally found a solution. With this problem solved, the Quidnon project can finally move past the head-scratching phase and on to the next phase, which will involve grinding out a large number of mechanical drawings, assembly diagrams and other documentation without which no boat can ever get built. Here, then, is my plan, which I will call “The Final-Final Sheeting Arrangement.”

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Friday, February 21, 2020

The Global Warming Apocalyptic Cult

[Note: this article is much longer than my usual—almost 8000 words. I have been working assiduously on it for over a month, and that explains why my postings have been so sparse lately. It’s behind a firewall because I don’t want any trouble from cult members.]

Do you want to save the planet? Do you feel that this requires everyone to stop burning fossil fuels, and does doing so necessarily involve paving the land with solar panels and lining the beaches and the mountain ridges with giant wind generators? How about putting a tax on carbon dioxide emissions and taxing people for the carbon dioxide they emit? Do you believe that “99.9% of climate scientists agree...” logically implies that they are necessarily right? And what makes you think that humans are capable of saving planets when they can’t even figure out what to do with their garbage?

If this sort of thinking triggers you and causes you to imagine that I am some sort of “climate change denialist,” then, unless you are emotionally fragile and prone to hysterical fits, you should still make an effort and continue reading, because you may have, through no fault of your own, have found yourself inducted into the Global Warming Apocalyptic Cult. The first step in freeing yourself from the clutches of an apocalyptic cult is realizing that you are an apocalyptic cult member. Part of the process involves learning how the cult functions: where the cult gets its power; why people fall into its clutches and, perhaps most importantly, who is paying for it and who is getting rich from it. Having your illusions shattered may be painful at first, but you are sure to feel better later—unless you immediately find something equally beyond your control to worry about and get busy with that.

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Saturday, February 08, 2020

A Most Convenient Virus

I prefer to write on things I know about, but once in a while an opportunity presents itself for me to comment on some aspect of widespread mistrust and confusion while resting on a solid foundation of my professional curiosity. This is the case of the 2019-nCoV novel coronavirus. A lot of the elements of the coronavirus story just don’t add up, and that’s what I want to explore. At the outset, I want to make it clear that I am no expert on these matters. Is 2019-nCoV a genetically engineered biological weapon or is it a naturally evolved strain of a virus that is endemic in China’s bat population? This we don’t know, but it is interesting to look at the plausibility of each of these scenarios and also to consider whether what we are observing could be a combination of a little of each.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Peak Free Oil

Back in my halcyon days of youth I went to some anti-war demonstrations, not to protest against the first Gulf War, since I could already see that such protest would turn out to be futile, but to pick up women. Sure, I shouted “No war for oil!” as loud as I could, but that was just my mating call. Even in those salad days of yore I was already smart enough to know that “No war for oil!” was a spectacularly stupid thing for us to be shouting. “We want to die!” would have been equally dumb. What would North Americans, with their own reserves badly depleted, but with their car-dependent suburban sprawl still sprawling, do without oil stolen from some unlucky country? Crawl slowly toward the nearest gas station and expire from exhaustion along the way? But we aren’t dead just yet, so let’s crawl back down the memory lane and see how this situation came about, then crawl back to see where we are today.

Once upon a time the USA was a remarkably oily nation, with prolific oil wells such as the renowned Spindletop in East Texas. Juvenile USAnians competed against each other on who could burn the most rubber while getting the shittiest gas mileage. I caught the tail end of that failed experiment: my first car was a monstrous, hulking land yacht: a ’68 Chevrolet Caprice. In 1970 a phenomenon called Peak Oil arrived in the US, oil production fell and drastic steps became necessary. One of them was to convert from a “take our dollars or our gold” scheme to a “take our dollars or else” scheme: if you don’t like dollars, we also have bombs. Another was to start going directly after the oil wherever in the world it is found and trying to take it without paying for it. But all things, good and bad, must come to an end eventually, and free oil is no exception. In fact, what we may be witnessing at the moment is a phenomenon I wish to call Peak Free Oil.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Life After Putin

Two days ago Vladimir Putin delivered his annual address before the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, and since then I have received a flurry of emails and comments from people asking me to explain what he meant. I don’t want to make assumptions about the depth of your interest in Russian affairs, and so, to save you time, let me start by providing a very short executive summary: Putin will step down as president after his current term, which will end in 2024 unless an early election is held, but the system he has put in place will stay in place. Essentially, life after Putin will be more Putin under a different name. If that’s all you care about, you can stop reading now.

To delve deeper, we need to draw a distinction between Putin the man and the system of governance he has built over the past 20 years. There is always plenty to complain about, but overall it has been quite effective. During Putin’s period in power, Russia has solved the problems of separatism and domestic terrorism, reigned in the predatory oligarchy, paid off virtually all of its foreign debts including ones it inherited from the USSR, grew its economy by a factor of six (vs. China’s five and USA’s one), regained Crimea (which had been part of Russia since 1783), rebuilt its armed forces to a point where international security is no longer a major concern, and achieved an overall level of societal well-being that is unparalleled in all of Russian history.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

New Decade, New Rules


[Nueva década, nuevas reglas]
Decadal boundaries are arbitrary things untethered to any physical phenomena other than the usual boring changing of the seasons. But just two weeks into the new decade the atmosphere seems different from the past decade, and it has been difficult for me just to keep up with the sweeping changes that are taking place, never mind analyze them. Yet write I must, because not only is the mass media completely useless at best and harmful at worst, but also even the more enlightened and independent-minded commentators seem mired in paradigms that are out of date and reliant on invalidated political and economic assumptions. This prompts me to step into the breach and try to set things straight.

Here is a quick list of what’s new so far this decade:

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Donnie Walks off the Reservation

Until now, Donnie Trump, Putin’s man in Washington, has been more or less doing as he has been told. Since he is due to be reelected later this year, now is a good time to evaluate his performance so far, and I am sure that his Kremlin report card shows his overall grade as “acceptable.” Here are some of his most notable achievements, listed in no particular order:

• He has steered trade negotiations with China into a cul de sac where the Chinese basically do whatever they want while the US pays them ever more for the privilege of importing their products. So far, his “art of the deal” has only driven up Chinese imports, along with the trade deficit, and there is no reason to think that this will change.

• He has pushed the already wobbly Federal Reserve into another cul de sac: it can’t raise interest rates without bankrupting lots of US companies and crashing the stock market, and it can’t lower them without triggering a bond crisis and crashing the US dollar.

• His erratic pronouncements on the uselessness of NATO have turned them into a self-fulfilling prophesy, to a point where Turkey is now a NATO member in name only while the Ukraine, which has stupidly written the goal of NATO membership directly into its constitution, is now reduced to crying over spilled ink.

• He has cleverly used the Syrian Kurds to demonstrate to the world the value of US friendship by throwing them under Syrian tanks at a moment’s notice while giving them the option to surrender to the dread Syrian dictator Bashar Assad (which they did).

• He has cleverly subverted his own slogan “Make America Great Again,” reinterpreting “America” to just mean “the stock market”—which is indeed great, at the moment, but can become not at all great moments after somebody somewhere flips the wrong switch.

• He has masterfully played to the ancient horrors that haunt the US constitution, driving a wedge between the liberal and populous Blue states and the mostly empty conservative Red ones, where the Reds get the Senate, the Executive and the Supreme Court, the popular vote be damned, while the Blues get the consolation prize of a madhouse House of Representatives.

• And throughout, Donnie has been able to maintain plausible deniability, like a good Russian agent should, causing his political enemies to make fools of themselves and develop aneurisms while passing toothless impeachment resolutions.

Given this legacy of success, Donnie can easily coast to reelection, then sit pretty for another four years, watching the country burn, tweeting sporadically to clean up on insider trading (legal if you are Prezz) and playing plenty of golf.

But lately there has been trouble in paradise.

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Friday, January 03, 2020

Predictions for the 2020s

While many commentators see it fit to publish their predictions for the year ahead, I find a single year to be too fine-grained for any meaningful forecast. For me, plus or minus five years is about the right size of the error bars to place on any prediction with regard to timing, making it possible to time any major change to within a couple of decades. And it just so happens that another decade has gone by since I published my last set of predictions for the United States in the 2010s and it is therefore time to come up with a new set, for the 2020s.

My last set of predictions worked out moderately well. Although in some cases the process has not run its course, the trends are all unmistakable and the processes I outlined should be expected to continue and in some cases to run to completion within the new decade. But this time around I will attempt to make more specific predictions.