Thursday, May 17, 2018

Marine Russian Stove: Heat Storage

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

Continue reading...

Cultural Collapse is in the Lead

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

Read full article...

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Color Revolution in a Teacup

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

Friday, May 11, 2018

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Announcing: Collapse Chronicles Volume Five

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

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

Friday, May 04, 2018

The World May End for the Stupidest of Reasons

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

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

A United Korea—50 Disunited States

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

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

American Meddling

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

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

End of the Era of Naval Empires

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Fake News Triumph

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please listen to the interview.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Groundhog Day in Syria, Take 2

Originally published on Apr 11, 2017

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

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

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Where is Russian Counterpropaganda?

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

Read the article...

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Importance of Looking Dangerous

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

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

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Provocations and Creative Imagination

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

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

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Kemerovo and the Circles of Ugliness

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Killing Diplomacy

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

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

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Migrants Wanted—for What?

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

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

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

Read more...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Dry Run for Russian Democracy

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

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

False Flags for Newbies

Britain is in a media frenzy over the recent poisoning of the former Russian intelligence service colonel turned British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England. British PM Theresa May demanded that Russia explain itself, claiming that they were poisoned using a nerve agent called “Novichok” (Russian for “Newbie”) that was a product of Soviet biological weapons research. It is no longer produced and the destruction of its stockpiles has been verified by international observers. However, its formula is in the public domain and it can be synthesized by any properly equipped chemical lab, such as Britain's own Porton Down, which, incidentally, is just an 18-minute drive from Salisbury.

May provided no evidence to back up her claims of Russian complicity in the attempted murder. Russia's Foreign Ministry has requested that Britain turn over all available evidence to back up its accusation of chemical weapons use (under the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention Britain must do so within 10 days) but Britain has refused. Therefore, Russia's FM Sergei Lavrov has announced that Russia will not be responding to such baseless allegations.

An important key to spotting a false flag is that the “knowledge” of who is to blame becomes available before any evidence is in. For example, in the case of the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines MH-17 over Eastern Ukraine, everyone in the West was convinced that “pro-Russian separatists” were to blame even before the means could be established. To this date, it isn’t understood how they could have done it given the equipment they had at their disposal. In this case, Russia was accused almost immediately, while British FM Boris Johnson was quick to volunteer that Britain should not send its team to the World Cup in Russia this summer, disclosing the real reason behind the assassination attempt.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Better Nukes for a Safer Planet

A lot of people seem to have lost the thread when it comes to nuclear weapons. They think that nuclear weapons are like other weapons, and are designed to be used in war. But this is pure mental inertia. According to all the evidence available, nuclear weapons are anti-weapons, designed to prevent weapons, nuclear or otherwise, from being used. In essence, if used correctly, nuclear weapons are war suppression devices. Of course, if used incorrectly, they pose a grave risk to all life on Earth. There are other risks to all life on Earth as well, such as runaway global warming from unconstrained burning of hydrocarbons; perhaps we need to invent a weapon or two to prevent that as well.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Marine Russian Stove, Take 2

Thanks to all the feedback I received for the previous iteration of the design, it is much improved.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Make Russia Great Again Through Negligence

After a year and a half of silence, accompanied by much media noise, from the Mueller investigation into Trump the Terrible’s collusion with the Russians (and their lord and master the Dread Pirate Putin) in order to steal the election from innocent young Hillary “twinkle-toes” Clinton, Mueller finally laid an egg. He indicted 13 Russians for identity theft and wire fraud. He alleges that they bought some stolen personal info (Social Security numbers, names, birth dates, etc.) on the internet, used these to set up PayPal and Facebook accounts, and then used these to buy Facebook ads in an effort to undermine the American people’s faith in the wholesome goodness of their democracy.

There is no evidence that anyone in the Trump campaign or administration knew that this was happening. There is no evidence that any of the 13 Russians had anything to do with Putin or the Russian government. There is no evidence that anything they did had any measurable effect on the outcome of the election.

There is, however, ample evidence that this indictment will go nowhere.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Competitive Lying

No one has ever claimed that it is upstanding, sportsmanlike behavior to tell lies. Outside of some very special occupations—spy, special agent, etc.—lying is almost always a manifestation of failure. Even in its relatively innocuous forms, such as braggadocio and puffery, showboating and grandstanding, it is a poor substitute for having a favorable truth to tell. Then there are the various types of dissimulation, misdirection, concealment and omission; whether motivated by the wish to spare someone’s feelings or to avoid a scandal, the decision to lie is rarely a happy one. Finally, there are those who produce and circulate false and misleading information. When society functions normally, such people are caught, sooner or later, their reputations are ruined, their careers are terminated and the damage they caused is repaired. In a normally functioning society, enough of its members have a solid grasp of facts, are able to reason logically, and have sufficient faith in journalistic and other professional ethics, in the impartiality of public officials, and in the scientific method, to allow them to believe that truth does exist and that they are capable of obtaining it.

But such normal, stolid, matter-of-fact forms of social behavior seem a bit boring, perhaps even fuddy-duddyish, and are unlikely to hold the attention of modern smartphone-addicted whipper-snappers. Wouldn’t it be a lot more popular, modern and fun if the manufacturing of lies for financial and political gain become an accepted form of public behavior?

Continue reading...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Marine Russian Stove

During the decade or so we have spent living aboard, we went through a succession of methods to keep the cabin warm during the cold months. On our first journey south, we cast off from Boston in mid-October, the day before the marina would have kicked us out because we hadn’t signed a contract for winter dockage. We progressed south rather more slowly than we had expected, and made it as far as Charleston in early December. There we decided to overwinter, and proceeded further south three months later. When we first set off, all we had on board was an electric space heater, plus a propane heater powered by 1 lb. camp stove canisters. We went through a large pile of these. The electric space heater only worked when we were tied up at the dock and plugged in to shore power. While under way, we tried to keep warm by burning propane. But propane generates a lot of moisture as it burns, causing the entire cabin—the clothing, the bedding, everything—to become dank, robbing the body of heat, while the moisture in the air condensed on the underside of the cabin top, causing it to literally rain inside the cabin. (There are few things more disagreeable than an intermittent cold drip on your head as you are trying to sleep.)

Continue reading...

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The “-ism” to End All “-isms”

Once upon a time, in what many people now reminisce about as “the good old days,” there were just two reigning ideologies: capitalism and communism. Capitalists believed in the sanctity of private property rights, the magic ability of money to be the measure of all things, and in the mystical invisible hand of the marketplace for finding optimal solutions to economic problems. Communists believed in the power of communal property, the ability of rational, objective scientific methods to be the measure all things, and in the power of central planning for finding optimal solutions to economic problems. Both of them fail, eventually, and have done so at various times. Capitalism’s great failure was the Great Depression; communism’s great failure was the collapse of the USSR.

There are some patterns within this general framework of failure. When communism fails (as in the USSR, and, in economic rather than in political terms, in China, Vietnam and elsewhere) it reverts to capitalism (while trying to retain a few communist elements). And when capitalism fails, the capitalists go to war, and the result is fascism.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Specifically Useful or Generally Useless?

Would you like to take a break from watching financial markets crash, US security and law enforcement agencies destroy their reputations while perjuring themselves and Trump making a fool of everyone including himself? I know it's a lot to ask. A joint financial/political collapse extravaganza complete with scratch-and-sniff cards is not one to miss. But in case you can bare to look away, or just need a break, here's a blog post about the gradually progressing design of Quidnon—a houseboat that sails.

I once made a cockpit awning. It was a fiberglass-over-plywood affair. Not only was it a cockpit awning, but it also could have been pressed into service as a mediocre paddleboard, a bus shelter for small children and/or midgets, a roof for a tiny gazebo, a protest sign, a miniature frog pond and, of course, a planter. It turned out to be a universally useful/useless piece of crap, depending on how you looked at it.

It started well. I used 1/16-inch Luan for the top and narrow slats of 1/2-inch for the frame, which I cut to gentle curves that made the top into a cold-molded conic section with just a tiny bit of spherical distortion for added stiffness. I filleted the inside joints, sealed the plywood with epoxy, fiberglassed and faired the top… and then I tossed it. Actually, I gave it to some artists, thinking they might use it for some sort of art installation. It didn’t make that good a cockpit awning: too heavy, too difficult to mount securely, plus it added too much windage aft. I didn’t think it would survive a hurricane (unlike the hard dodger I made earlier, which survived passing close to the eye of Hurricane Matthew with no damage).

I did most of the work on sawhorses on the floating dock at the marina. All of the other marina denizens, who mostly just sat on their boats and got drunk, were rather enthusiastic, and a few even tossed some business my way, fixing stuff on their boats. But the marina staff were less enthusiastic, talked about made-up “customer complaints” and eventually exiled me, together with my sawhorses and tools, to a windless, gravel-paved back lot, where I worked roasting in the sun. The hostile work environment probably had something to do with the project’s ultimate failure, but mostly I blame myself, for not spending enough time on the design phase.

There are plenty of designs that are specifically useful for their stated purpose, but are otherwise completely useless. In this category are special-purpose tools, like the egg slicer or the lemon juicer. Yes, they make short work of slicing hard-boiled eggs or juicing lemons, but beyond that they just add clutter. In a pinch, both can be used to prop open doors and windows, and the egg slicer makes a tiny out-of-tune harp, in case you are ever in need of a really pathetic sound effect. But that’s it.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

How to Fix the US National Defense Doctrine

On January 19, 2018 General James “Mad Dog” Mattis held forth publicly on America’s new and improved National Defense Strategy. He mouthed quite a lot of words, but the executive summary is actually just two points:

1. The War on Terror is no longer a thing. Since terrorism is now a much worse problem around the world than it was when the War on Terror was first announced after 9/11, it certainly hasn’t been won. Another problem is the prodigious amount of treasure, life and limb that has been squandered on this worse-than-futile pursuit. But Americans are now going to do what they always do after a military misadventure: declare victory, go home, and cower behind two oceans hoping that their misadventure doesn’t follow them home. America’s new message to all the numerous victims of terrorism is “Suck it up.”

2. America’s new enemy is Chinarussia—a very large Eurasian country. The US depends on Chinarussia for a great many things and can’t possibly afford to go to war with it, but what’s a poor bankrupt country to do when nothing works? Previously, the US was able to successfully play China and Russia against each other (after Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon were given an opening by the very foolish Nikita Khrushchev, who alienated Mao Zedong with his attack on Joseph Stalin’s legacy). But now “Divide and conquer” is no longer a thing either; the new thing is “unite your enemies while making them laugh.” Uniting China and Russia took quite a bit of American effort and is more or less a fait accompli. Making them laugh was even harder, but I feel that Mattis did a good job.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Men: What Are They Good For?

What are the key male functions for surviving just about any collapse scenario? I believe that they come down to just five, which I will call Fixer, Pathfinder, Protector, Provider and Chief.

Link to article.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

What Color is Your Wrecking Ball?

There is at present a great deal of dissatisfaction with the performance of the embattled US President. To start with, he had the wrong supporters: too few radical feminists; too many white heterosexual males whose toxic masculinity is a major problem according to the radical feminists. Then, of course, he only got elected thanks to the nefarious meddling by the world’s largest organized crime syndicate called Russia, led by none other than the dread pirate Putin. (The Russians are so utterly clever that not a single shred of conclusive evidence of their meddling could be unearthed in spite of a year of steadfast effort by a fantastically competent special investigator). Then (and this only gets worse) it turns out that another sort of nefarious meddling was afoot: the Department of Justice and the FBI, under the direction of Barak Obama, did everything they could to exonerate Hillary Clinton from her numerous crimes while doing their best to dig up dirt on Trump. But this is also all Trump’s fault: how could he fail commit some impeachable offense—for them to find?

Not only is Trump a Manchurian candidate put in place by Putin and/or elected by a bunch of retrogrades and undesirables. Not only did he make horribly populist campaign promises—like bringing back offshored American jobs; like keeping out illegal immigrants who also steal American jobs; like bringing US troops back home from the many hellholes that the US military has been busily creating around the world; like renegotiating trade deals to favor Americans rather than foreigners; like restoring good relations with Russia; like “making America great again” (however unlikely that may sound). Worst of all, he has failed to deliver on any of these promises! Instead, the little that’s happened under his watch so far that can be said to be positive is a further progression of financial bubbles, with stocks and bonds both looking like hundred-foot palm trees growing in buckets (what will happen to them when a gust of wind comes along?). This makes Trump no different from any of his predecessors (which one of them actually fulfilled his campaign promises?). But somehow a US president lying like he’s running for office, then ignoring his promises once elected, just like any other US president, is no longer good enough for some people.

But it gets even worse than that…

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gender Hysteria and its Discontents

I have launched into this series of essays to focus on a particularly fraught and tense moment in US history. The US and Canada and, to a lesser extent, Western Europe, are having a nervous breakdown and are in the grip of gender hysteria. Suddenly, everybody is eager to play the victim of sexual abuse of one sort or another, while a new victim class—white heterosexual males—is singled out for a particularly sinister form of abuse: any attempt they make to defend themselves causes them to be lambasted as racist homophobic sexist fascists. The extreme irony of the fact that this mode of attack itself proceeds under the banner of racist (anti-white) heterophobic (anti-heterosexual) sexist (anti-male) fascism (kangaroo-court law) is entirely lost on its perpetrators.

But there is much more irony in it than that.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sanctions, Shmanctions!

Russian icebreaker/LNG tanker
Christophe de Margerie
Whatever pagan deity happens to be in charge of weather this winter seems to be playing a joke on the Americans. You don’t believe in global warming? Fine, why don’t we have Muscovites enjoy the rare sight of pussy willows in bloom in January while letting you freeze? The result has been brutal. Not only have the very low temperatures, in a region where some people seem to believe that a baseball cap qualifies as winter headgear, exacerbated an already very bad flu season (the standard flu vaccine is only 10% effective against this year’s strain) but they have caused natural gas prices to spike up to $6.4 per cubic meter, testing a four-year-old record and breaking above the price in Asia.

The Russians do believe in global warming. It has opened up Arctic sea lanes to year-round navigation, supported by Russia’s new icebreaker fleet. They provide shortcuts to world’s sea freight while getting around strategic chokepoints such as the Straits of Malacca, the Suez Canal and the Straits of Gibraltar. The Russians have also taken advantage of the warming Arctic to open the region to oil and gas exploration and production. Late last year the ambitious new Yamal liquefied natural gas project opened to great fanfare. An entire new city was built above the Arctic circle. Putin himself flew in and gave the order to start pumping. A new fleet of ice-capable LNG tankers is being readied to take the gas to customers anywhere in the world.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Collapse Needs a Few Good Men, Part I

It is currently fashionable to deemphasize the importance of biology. Perhaps once upon a time humans lived alongside other animals, subject to all of the same vagaries of nature, but now we have the technology: birth control, in vitro fertilization, cesarean deliveries, intensive care for premature births and so on. An attempt to make the point that we are, in the end, just a bunch of animals, and that civilization is a temporary condition, is unlikely to be well received. A particularly fraught and heavily contested aspect of biological determinism has to do with sexual differences. As a matter of official ideology, we are now required to believe that men and women have exactly the same capabilities, and anybody who says anything different is judged guilty of “perpetuating gender stereotypes”—an act which, as one white male Google employee recently discovered, is now regarded as cause for immediate termination.

However, as technological civilization nears its end of life due to depletion of nonrenewable natural resources and increasingly devastating environmental disruptions, the realities of the typical collapse cascade of financial-commercial-political-social-cultural collapse are exceedingly likely to be such that sexual differences will once again become obvious and very important while gender studies and feminist theory gently fade into oblivion. In attempting to gauge which social and cultural adaptations are likely to be the most conducive to surviving collapse, a back-to-basics approach seems justified. In the old days, women have had to rely on men for a great many things, and a spinster’s or a widow’s lot was most often unenviable. Most modern women would find the prospect of having to return to such times nothing short of appalling. But their recent political victories of gender equality are safeguarded by a political realm that is subject to collapse, and their economic independence is made possible by an economic realm which is likewise subject to collapse. What will they have to fall back on?

If we admit that, in almost any conceivable collapse scenario, women would once again have to rely on men, a question arises: Which men? The modern economically independent, liberated woman has a greatly reduced need of a male consort: a timely donation of sperm is all that is actually required; companionship, romance, and help with raising children are desirable but optional. And with a greatly reduced need comes a greatly reduced sense of responsibility: the modern man’s response is to focus on his own needs rather than those of women, choosing to remain egotistical and childlike. What sorts of transformative events would have to take place in order for men to once again accept the traditional full burden of male responsibility? Is such a transformation even possible? And, if not, are we willing to concede the point that in a collapse scenario modern societies will go extinct while traditional societies (which modern societies consider backward) will muddle through?

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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Unspell is back!

That’s right, Unspell is back! Right around the time of the last presidential election in the US, the web site broke. I didn’t think that too many people cared, but I was wrong, and enough of them have nagged me to make me want to fix it, which I just did. The person who was responsible for the breakage was, of course, none other than President Donald J. Trump of the yooge button. It’s a juicy bit of gossip...