Archive for December, 2014

The Imperial Collapse Playbook


[По-русски] [In italiano]

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

Now, let\’s first define our terms. By Anglo-imperialists I mean the combination of Britain and the United States. The latter took over for the former as it failed, turning it into a protectorate. Now the latter is failing too, and there are no new up-and-coming Anglo-imperialists to take over for it. But throughout this process their common playbook had remained the same: pseudoliberal pseudocapitalism for the insiders and military domination and economic exploitation for everyone else. Much more specifically, their playbook always called for a certain strategem to be executed whenever their plans to dominate and exploit any given country finally fail. On their way out, they do what they can to compromise and weaken the entity they leave behind, by inflicting a permanently oozing and festering political wound. “Poison all the wells” is the last thing on their pre-departure checklist.

• When the British got tossed out of their American Colonies, they did all they could, using a combination of import preferences and British “soft power,” to bolster the plantation economy of the American South, helping set it up as a sort of anti-United States, and the eventual result was the American Civil War.

• When the British got tossed out of Ireland, they set up Belfast as a sort of anti-Ireland, with much blood shed as a result.

• When the British got tossed out of the Middle East, they set up the State of Israel, then the US made it into its own protectorate, and it has been poisoning regional politics ever since. (Thanks to Kristina for pointing this out in the comments.)

• When the British got tossed out of India, they set up Pakistan, as a sort of anti-India, precipitating a nasty hot war, followed by a frozen conflict over Kashmir.

• When the US lost China to the Communists, they evacuated the Nationalists to Taiwan, and set it up as a sort of anti-China, and even gave it China\’s seat at the United Nations.

The goal is always the same: if they can\’t have the run of the place, they make sure that nobody else can either, by setting up a conflict scenario that nobody there can ever hope to resolve. And so if you see Anglo-imperialists going out of their way and spending lots of money to poison the political well somewhere in the world, you can be sure that they are on their way out. Simply put, they don\’t spend lots of money to set up intractable problems for themselves to solve—it\’s always done for the benefit of others.

Fast-forward to 2014, and what we saw was the Anglo-imperialist attempt to set up Ukraine as a sort of anti-Russia. They took a Slavic, mostly Russian-speaking country and spent billions (that\’s with a “b”) of dollars corrupting its politics to make the Ukrainians hate the Russians. For a good while an average Ukrainian could earn a month\’s salary simply by turning up for an anti-Russian demonstration in Kiev, and it was said that nobody in Ukraine goes to protests free of charge; it\’s all paid for by the US State Department and associated American NGOs. The result was what we saw this year: a bloody coup, and a civil war marked by numerous atrocities. Ukraine is in the midst of economic collapse with power plants out of coal and lights going off everywhere, while at the same time the Ukrainians are being drafted into the army and indoctrinated to want to go fight against “the Muscovites.”

But, if you notice, things didn\’t go quite as planned. First, Russia succeeded in making a nice little example of self-determination in the form of Crimea: if it worked for Kosovo, why can\’t it work for Crimea? Oh, the Anglo-imperialist establishment wishes to handle these things on a case-by-case basis, and in this case it doesn\’t approve? Well, that would be a double-standard, wouldn\’t it? World, please take note: when the West talks about justice and human rights, that\’s just noise.

Next, the Russians provided some amount of support, including weapons, volunteers and humanitarian aid, to Ukraine\’s eastern provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk, which declared themselves People\’s Republics and successfully fought Ukraine\’s so-called “anti-terrorist operation” to a stalemate and an imperfect, precarious cease-fire. Very significantly, Russia absolutely refused to get involved militarily, has withheld official recognition of these republics, has refused to consider breaking up Ukraine, and continues to insist on national dialogue and a peace process even as the bullets fly. According to Putin, Ukraine must be maintained as “a contiguous political space.” Thus, the Russians have responded to the Anglo-imperialists\’ setting up of an anti-Russia in the form of Ukraine by setting up an anti-Ukraine in the form of DPR and LPR, thereby shunting the Anglo-imperialist attempt to provoke a war between Ukraine and Russia into a civil war within Ukraine.

You might also notice that the Anglo-imperialists have been getting very, very angry. They have been doing everything they can to vilify Russia, comparing Putin to Hitler and so on. This is because for them it\’s all about the money, and they didn\’t get what they paid for. What the Anglo-imperialists were paying for in corrupting Ukraine\’s politics was a ring-side seat at a fight between Ukraine and Russia. And what they got instead is a two-legged stool at a bar-room brawl between Eastern and Western Ukraine. Eastern Ukraine accounts for a quarter of the Ukrainian economy, produces most of the coal that had formerly kept the lights on in the rest of the country, and contains most of the industry that had made Ukraine an industrialized nation. Western Ukraine is centered on the unhappy little rump of Galicia, where the political soil is so fertile for growing neo-Nazis. So, paying billions to watch a bunch of Ukrainians fight each other inconclusively while Russia gets to play peacemaker is not what the Anglo-imperialists wanted, and they are absolutely livid about it. If they don\’t get the war they paid for PDQ, they will simply cut their losses, pack up and leave, and then do what they always do, which is pretend that the country in question doesn\’t exist, which, the way things are going in the Ukraine, it barely will.

Note that leaving, and then pretending that a place doesn\’t exist, is something the Anglo-imperialists have been doing a lot lately. When they left Iraq, they did succeed in setting up a sort of anti-Iraq in the form of Iraqi Kurdistan, but that all blew up in their face. Their attempts to set up an anti-Syria or an anti-Libya died in their infancy, and they don\’t seem to have any plan at all with regard to Afghanistan, unless it is to repeat every single blunder the Soviets made there as carefully and completely as possible.

What\’s more, it\’s starting to look like they are about to get kicked out of Eurasia altogether. Most of the major Eurasian players—China, Russia, India, Iran, much of Central Asia—are cementing their ties around the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to which the United States isn\’t even admitted as an observer. As for the European Union, the current crop of EU politicians is very much bought and will be paid for upon retirement by the Anglo-imperialists, but the only reason they are still in power is that there are lots of older voters in Western Europe, and older people tend to cling to what they know even after it stops working—for them or, especially, for their kids. If it was up to the young people, the Anglo-imperialists would face open rebellion. In fact, the trends in voting patterns show that their departure from the region is a matter of time.

Here is a preview of possible coming attractions. On their way out, the Anglo-imperialists will of course try to set up an anti-Europe, and the obvious choice for that is Britain. Of all the European nations, it is the most heavily manipulated by their Anglo cousins from across the pond. It would take minimal effort for them to hurt Britain economically, then launch a propaganda campaign to redirect the blame for the bad economy toward the continent. They wouldn\’t even have to hire translators for their propaganda—a simple “spelling-chequer” (or whatever) would suffice. And so, to make sure that their efforts to provoke a large-scale, hugely destructive, festering conflict between Britain and Europe fail, Europe would do well to set up an anti-Britain within Britain.

And the obvious choice for an anti-Britain is of course Scotland, where the recent independence referendum failed because of… the recalcitrance of older voters. A dividing line between the Anglo empire and Eurasia running through the English Channel/La Manche would be a disaster for Europe and moving it somewhere west of Bermuda would pose a formidable challenge. On the other hand, suppose that line ran along Hadrian\’s Wall, with the traditionally combative and ornery Scots, armed with the remnants of North Sea oil and gas, aligning themselves with the Continent, while England remains an ever-so-obedient vassal of the Anglo-imperialists? That would reduce the intercontinental conflict to what Americans like to call a “pissing contest”: not worth the high price of admission. Yes, there would be some strong words between the two sides, and some shoving and shouting outside of pubs, and even some black eyes and loose teeth should diplomacy fail, but that should be the extent of the damage. That I see as the best-case outcome.

So that\’s the big picture I see heading into 2015, which I am sure will be a most tumultuous year. Not to make a prediction as to timing (don\’t worry, you won\’t ever get one out of me!) but 2015 could be the year the Anglo-imperialist franchise finally starts shutting down in obvious ways. We know it will have to shut down eventually, because failing all the time is not conducive to its survival. The bonus question is, what sort of anti-America will these parasites set up inside America before they abandon their host and scatter to their fortified compounds in undisclosed locations around the world? Or will they not even bother, and just provoke a war of all against all?

I would think that they would at least try to leverage their expensively engineered red/blue divide within the United States. This fake cultural/political divide, with all the pseudoliberal/pseudoconservative indoctrination and university- and church-based brainwashing that put it in place, cost them a pretty penny. It was engineered to produce the appearance of choice at election-time while making sure that there isn\’t any. But could it not be pressed into service in some more extreme manner? How about leveraging it to organize some sort of rabidly homophobic racist fundamentalist separatist enclave somewhere down south? Or perhaps one somewhere in the north, where zoophilia is de rigeur while heterosexual intercourse requires a special permit from a committee stocked with graduates in women\’s studies? Now, fight, you idiots! Don\’t you see how well that could work in practice? Would they waste such a nice opportunity to set up a system of controlled mayhem? I think not!

I leave all of that up to you to imagine.

Happy New Year!

Absolutely Positive now available in paper form


This book of essays was previously only available as an e-book. But since lots of people don\’t like reading books on gadgets, here it is in paperback form. It contains essays from 2-3 years back, all available for free right on this blog if you dig deep enough. But the book is much more convenient.

Table of Contents

The Five Stages of Collapse
The Collapse Party Platform
Questions for Economists
When All Your Best Employees are Going Broke
That Bastion of American Socialism
Hunger Insurance
Caution, White People
Selling Climate Change
Products and Services for the Permanently Unemployed Consumer
Industry\’s Parting Gifts
Collapse Competitively
The Great Unreasoning
Lost Leaders
Thinking in Straight Lines
Miserable Pursuits
How (not to) to Organize a Community
A Survey of Unlikely Voters
The Limits of Incompetence
Everyone Poops Debunked
Financial Totalitarianism
Dead Souls
Living on Stolen Time
Mind the Ruins
Dance of the Marionettes
The Wheel of Misfortune
Fundraising in Extremis
Making the Internet Safe for Anarchy
The Strange Logic of Dreams
Stages of Collapse Revised: \”Joined at the Wallet\”

Alice Unspelled


Number Two in the series is ready for purchase. As with all Unspelled Editions, it includes a short but profound introduction and two not very full pages of reference material on how to read Unspelled English.

For those who forget what\’s in Carroll\’s amazing works, here is the TOC:

Alice\’s Adventures
I. Down the Rabbit-Hole
II. The Pool of Tears
III. A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale
IV. The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill
V. Advice From a Caterpillar
VI. Pig and Pepper
VII. A Mad Tea-Party
VIII. The Queen\’s Croquet Ground
IX. Who Stole the Tarts?
X. Alice\’s Evidence

Through the Looking-Glass
I. Looking-Glass House
II. The Garden of Live Flowers
III. Looking-Glass Insects
IV. Tweedledum and Tweedledee
V. Wool and Water
VI. Humpty Dumpty
VII. The Lion and the Unicorn
VIII. “It\’s My Own Invention”
IX. Queen Alice
X. Shaking
XI. Waking
XII. Which Dreamed It?

First Unspelled Edition available for purchase


I am very happy to announce that the first Unspelled Edition of a children\’s classic is finally out, so please go ahead and order it. This book, being the first, took 2.5 years to produce. The second (containing both Alice\’s Adventures in Wonderland and Beyond the Looking-Glass) took 2.5 days. The third (Treasure Island) is taking about a day. The tenth, I suspect, will take less than an hour. That\’s how it works with software: it takes a long time to get all the bugs out, but once they are gone it becomes more or less a matter of pushing a button.

 I also unspelled Winnie the Pooh and All, All, All, only to realize that the copyright on it and everything else Pooh-related is owned by Disney and won\’t expire until 2026. So, either Disney gives me permission (they take up to eight weeks to give a “Yes” or a “No”) or it has to wait until 2026. Or I could get sued by Disney (since they sue everyone) and win. Don\’t laugh. You see, in the June 10, 2014 decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Authors Guild, et al. vs. HathiTrust, held that libraries need not rely on the provisions of copyright law relating specifically to access by the disabled in order to provide access to their collections for print-disabled readers. This decision allows copyrighted content to be available in Braille for the blind. By an exact analogy, it also ought to allow copyrighted content to be made available in Unspell for the dyslexics, who can likewise be characterized as “print-disabled.” In addition, Unspell qualifies as a fair use of the original content, being 1. a significant, unidirectional transformation of the original text that 2. cannot possibly be shown to be in competition with its publication in its original form; and is 3. a significant abridgement of the original text, since unspelled text contains fewer letters than the same spelled text.

But since there is a huge number of copyright-free titles available for me to unspell, why would I want to waste my time on legal battles? Quite the opposite: content owners should want to have their content published in unspelled form, in order to tap into a new market.

In any case, Project Unspell is now up and running: there is a reading primer for learning it, and at least one unspelled title available for purchase with many more in the pipeline.

Are Americans Prepared For A Soviet Style Collapse?


Last week I gave an interview to Barry at DR Escapes which is now up on Youtube. Please follow the link to listen to the interview. Barry\’s notes on it are pasted in below.

If the social and financial structure around you collapsed tomorrow, as it did for many people during the fall of the Soviet Union, are you prepared to survive and even prosper? In my latest interview with best selling author Dmitry Orlov we discuss lifestyle and how your lifestyle decisions may dramatically impact how your family will fare if times get tough.

Dmitry left Russia with his family in 1976 and settled in the Boston area to pursue an education in computer science and  linguistics.  Along the way Dmitry realized he was trapped in the traditional American pursuit of a career.  He was working day and night to make money to pay for the car and city condo and all the trappings of success.  He needed the car and condo and all the trappings of business to keep making money.  The same vicious cycle most Americans face every day.  Well Dmitry gave it all up for a life on a sailboat full of travel and freedom.
In our interview, I passed along some of your questions as well as my own to get Dmitry’s perspectives. As you probably know if you follow Dmitry or the ClubOrlov blog, Dmitry brings an interesting perspective to the whole lifestyle and survival dialog. In this interview, Dmitry shares his thoughts on why he believes that Russian citizens were far better prepared for a collapse than the typical American citizen.  His logic is sound and it definitely makes you question…. “what would my family  do in a collapse, faced with”:

  • No lights
  • No running water
  • No flushing toilets
  • No trash removal
  • No gas at the gas pumps
  • No government services
  • No public transportation

Strangely enough, quite inadvertently, the Russian citizens may have been far better off to handle such a collapse, and here is why…..

In this first part of our two part interview with Dmitry, we learn more about his experience growing up in privilege in Russia and follow his journey out of Russia to Boston.  Some of the topics Dmitry touches on in this part of the interview include:

  • Benefits of a travel perspective
  • Failures in Soviet central planning
  • Evolving to a barter economy
  • Role of small family farms
  • Advantage of generalists over specialists
  • Transition from a “job” to life on a boat

In the second part of this interview we pass along a few more of your questions in order to dig a little deeper into Dmitry’s opinions about the current status of America and why Dmitry is convinced that what Russia suffered in the Soviet collapse was a soft crash and what America is headed for can only be a catastrophic hard collapse.
In this part of the interview, Dmitry poses a realistic scenario and challenges us to think about how we would handle a collapse.

As I interviewed Dmitry, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with my lifestyle down here on the north coast of the Dominican Republic.  Many of the things that Dmitry pointed out about the conditions that supported the bounce back by the Russian citizens seem to apply here.
On the north coast we enjoy:

  • Abundant food grown on small family farms or taken from the sea
  • Virtually unlimited fresh water not dependent on extensive government infrastructure
  • A resilient population unaccustomed and not dependent on many of life’s high-tech luxuries
  • An economy that can easily fall back on barter in the face of a currency collapse

Can anybody find me… a central banker to love?



[Final update: the ruble seems to have stabilized, for now, and China has declared its support for the Russian economy, but the problem with devaluing currencies is by no means limited to Russia. In the meantime, Russia has stopped grain exports, so we should expect Arab Spring 2.0, because Russia is where couscous comes from. Also, I hear Krugman has declared that the world is not only flat but only a bubble; I wouldn\’t know since I don\’t pay attention to him, so please stop asking me.]

[Early morning update: in case you had any doubts, the intervention didn\’t work. Ruble and oil are continuing to plunge amid increasing financial market turmoil throughout the world.]

[Last minute update: the repo rate has been just hiked to an eyewatering 17%! At the same time, the percentage of bullshit in the rationale given was lowered significantly: it is to prevent further ruble devaluation. Simply put (perhaps too simply), ruble liquidity for currency speculation has just dried up. At the same time, the central bank is backing long-term investments in industry at a far more reasonable 6.5% rate. Will this be enough to stop the slide?]

On December 11 Russia\’s central bank hiked its rate by one percent, from 9.5% to 10.5%. The rationale offered by the bank\’s governor Elvira Nabiullina was that this would stop the slide in the value of the ruble. But nobody laughed.

So a more laughable rationale was offered: the rate hike would help contain inflation. Here\’s why that\’s funny: suppose I am a Russian manufacturer making widgets and now have to borrow at 10.5% instead of 9.5%. I will price my widgets correspondingly higher in order to pay the higher interest. That\’s price inflation. Then my workers will start complaining and threatening to defect, and I will have to give them raises; that\’s wage inflation. That\’s if my widgets are life-saving and people have no choice but to buy them; if my widgets are discretionary and I hike prices, people would simply buy fewer of them, so instead of taking the loan and increasing production I convert my savings into dollars or euros, close up shop and leave the country, telling everyone that I\’ve had enough of this Russian central bank nonsense. But what if that\’s exactly what the bureaucrats at Russia\’s central bank want to see happen? Hmm…

The rate hike didn\’t stop the ruble\’s slide, for some very obvious reasons. First, a minor one: the very fact of the hike signaled the expectation that the ruble\’s slide will continue. In fact, there has been a consistent pattern of Russia\’s central bank mouthpieces acting as the ruble\’s worst enemies in signaling that they expect it to drop. Second, the major one: speculators, including powerful insiders such as German Gref, president of Sberbank, are dong all they can to push the ruble down while betting that it will go down even more as people try to rescue their savings by selling their rubles.  While most regular Russians go to Sberbank to pay their utility bills and municipal fees, a few highly irregular Russians (and a few foreigners among them) go to Sberbank to sit in posh offices in front of trading terminals and gamble away the regular Russians\’ savings. The regular Russians are rather upset about this state of affairs, and 70% of them state in opinion polls that they consider currency manipulation to be a crime and want the criminals stopped and punished. Mr. Gref begs to differ and even expressed some political ambitions; is he going to be the next Michael Khodorkovsky?

“We know who the speculators are,” said Putin during his recent state of the nation speech, as the camera zoomed in on Elvira Nabiullina, who blushed and probably peed her panties a tiny bit (I know I would have if I were her). In spite of the Stalinesque overtones, at the moment Putin is pushing on a string. You see, once you staff the central bank with economic liberals trained to follow the dictates of the IMF, and do nothing to shut the revolving door between the central bank and other big banks (after all, if the Wall Street boys can do it, why can\’t the Russians?) then why wouldn\’t they rob their own people every chance they get, then attempt to use their ill-gotten gains to subvert the political system—just like the Americans have done?

Some people are starting to loudly criticize Putin for his inaction; but what can he do? Ideologically, he is a statist, and has done a good job of shoring up Russian sovereignty, clawing back control of natural resources from foreign interests and curtailing foreign manipulation of Russian politics. But he is also an economic liberal who believes in market mechanisms and the free flow of capital. He can\’t go after the bankers on the basis of ideology alone, because what ideological differences are there? And so, once again, he is being patient, letting the bankers burn the old “wooden” ruble all the way to the ground, and their own career prospects in the process. And then he will step in and solve the ensuing political problem, as a political problem rather than as a financial one.

This strategy carries a very substantial opportunity cost. After all, if the central bank acted on behalf of regular Russians and their employers, it could take some very impressive and effective steps. For instance, it could buy out western-held Russian debt and declare force majeur on its repayment until financial sanctions against Russia are lifted. It could drop its interest rate for specifically targeted domestic industries—those involved in import replacement. And, most obviously, it could very effectively curtail the activities of well-connected financial insiders aimed at destroying the value of the ruble. Putin said he knows who they are. I hope that they are wearing adult diapers. I wouldn\’t be at all surprised if they get Khodorkovskied before too long.

This conversion of an insoluble financial problem into a mundane political problem may take a bit of time, but once it has run its course the longer-term prognosis is still reasonably good. Russia has very low government debt, huge gold reserves, and in spite of the much lower price of oil its energy exports are still profitable. You see, at the wellhead Russian oil costs much less than shale oil in the US, or Canadian tar sands, or Norwegian off-shore oil, and so the Russian oil industry can survive a period of low oil prices, whereas these other producers may no longer be around by the time the price of oil recovers. Because the ruble has dropped even more than oil, the Russian treasury is going to be flush with tax receipts, and won\’t have to try to finance a budget deficit. The 18% or so of revenue that the Russian treasury gets from energy exports is significant, but even more significant are the remaining 82%, much of which come from payroll taxes (some of the lowest in Europe, by the way). And therein lies a bigger danger: that because of loss of access to western sources of financing due to the sanctions, coupled with central bank shenanigans with hiking rates instead of dropping them, Russia\’s domestic economy will experience a severe downturn.

With all the political and financial instability sweeping the world, it\’s hard to make detailed predictions of any sort, but I will venture to issue just one little health warning: Russia\’s central bankers, along with their friends and colleagues in the financial industry, are poised to experience an extreme lack of love from their own people.

Defeat is Victory

John Holcroft

[In italiano]

On the wall of George Orwell\’s Ministry of Truth from his novel 1984 there were three slogans:


It occurred to me that these apply just a little bit too well to the way the Washington, DC establishment operates.

War certainly is peace: just look at how peaceful Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Syria and the Ukraine have become thanks to their peacemaking efforts. The only departures from absolute peacefulness which might be taking place there have to do with the fact that there are some people still alive there. This should resolve itself on its own, especially in the Ukraine, where the people now face the prospect of surviving a cold winter without heat or electricity.

Freedom is indeed slavery: to enjoy their “freedom,” Americans spend most of their lives working off debt, be it a mortgage, medical debt incurred due to an illness, or student loans. Alternatively, they can also enjoy it by rotting in jail. They also work longer hours with less time off and worse benefits than in any other developed country, and their wages haven\’t increased in two generations.

And what keeps it all happening is the fact that ignorance is indeed strength; if it wasn\’t for the Americans\’ overwhelming, willful ignorance of both their own affairs and the world at large, they would have rebelled by now, and the whole house of cards would have come tumbling down.

But there is a fourth slogan they need to add to the wall of Washington\’s Ministry of Truth. It is this:


The preposterous nature of the first three slogans can be finessed away in various ways. It\’s awkward to claim that American involvements in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Syria or the Ukraine have produced “peace,” exactly, but various lying officials and assorted national teletubbies still find it possible to claim that they somehow averted worse (totally made-up) dangers like Iraqi/Syrian “weapons of mass destruction.” What they have produced is endless war financed by runaway debt which is leading to economic ruin. But ignorance helps a lot here.

Likewise, it is possible, though a bit awkward, to claim that slavery is freedom—because, you see, once you have discharged your duties as a slave, can go home and read whatever crazy nonsense you want on some blog or other. This is of course silly; you can stuff your head with whatever “knowledge” you like, but if you try acting on it you will quickly discover that you aren\’t allowed to. “Back in line, slave!” You can also take the opposite tack and claim that freedom is for layabouts while we the productive people have to rush from one scheduled activity to another, and herd our children around in the same manner, avoiding “unstructured time” like a plague, and that this is not at all like slavery. Not at all. Not even close. Nobody tells me what to do! (Looks down at smartphone to see what\’s next on today\’s to-do list).

With ignorance, you don\’t even have to make the case: ignorant people are some of the most knowledgeable people on earth—according to them. I see that all the time in the hundreds of blog comments I delete; ones that start with “Surely you must know that [something I don\’t know]” or “By now it should be clear to everyone that [something unclear]” are particularly amusing. On some days I find such ignorance almost overpowering, and so ignorance is indeed strength.

But it is very hard to claim that defeat is victory, and herein lies a great challenge for the Washington, DC establishment. When they are victorious, your leaders get to have their way with the world; when they are defeated, the world has its way with them. This is something that is hard to hide: your leaders say what it is they want to do; and then they either succeed at it or fail. When they fail, they still try to call it a success, but if you look at their original statements of purpose, and then the results, and the two don\’t match at all, then it looks just a bit like a defeat-ish sort of thingy no matter how they writhe and squirm and twist. This is a good thing, because with all the propaganda the Ministry of Truth puts out, it is hard for the average person to ascertain the nature of the “facts on the ground.” But when it comes to victory vs. defeat, you can usually take it straight from the horse\’s rectum. Yes, the Ministry\’s public relations consultants can still claim that “we forced the enemy to give us a free deep-tissue massage of our glutei maximi,” but a precocious 8th-grader can still decode that to “We got our asses kicked.”

So, allow me to enumerate some American victories. Or should I say defeats? Your choice; the two are the same.

• Thanks to the trillion or so spent on the war effort, the 1.5 million Iraqi casualties, and the 5,000 dead US soldiers, there is no longer any al Qaeda in Iraq now (just like there was under Saddam Hussein) and the country is free and democratic.
• Thanks to many years of continuous effort which cost well over half a trillion dollars and the lives of 3500 or so coalition soldiers, the Taleban in Afghanistan have been vanquished and the country is now at peace.
• The Syrian regime has been overthrown and Syria is now peaceful and democratic, and not at all a war-torn basket case that has produced over a million refugees, a large part of it ruled by Islamic militants that are too radical even for al Qaeda.
• Overall, the problem of Islamic extremism has been dealt with once for all, and George W. Bush\’s “Islamofascists” (remember that term?) are but a vague memory. ISIS or ISIL or the Islamic State are something else entirely, plus us bombing them sporadically at great expense has “degraded” them a tiny bit… maybe.
• Thanks to a perfectly legal and very necessary US-managed coup, Ukraine is on its way to being a stable and prosperous member of the EU and NATO, and the freedom-loving Ukrainians are no longer at all dependent on Russian gas, coal and nuclear fuel for being able to merely survive the winter of 2014-15, or on Russian good will to send in humanitarian relief convoys, house and feed the refugees from their civil war, or broker their peace agreements with each other.
• In accordance with our grand geopolitical strategy for eternal world domination, we successfully kicked Russia out of Crimea and are busy building a huge NATO military base there to make sure that Russia never becomes a great world power again but is forced to comply with our every whim.
• Thanks to our relentless diplomatic efforts, Russia is now completely isolated, which is why it can\’t be constantly signing gigantic trade agreements with countries around the world or championing the cause of non-western nations who don\’t like being pushed around by the west and have no desire to westernize.
• Our sanctions have really hurt Russia, and not at all the EU which didn\’t lose a huge export market and is not at all at risk of losing access to Russia\’s natural gas which it doesn\’t need anyway. Nor did they provide any sort of a huge protectionist benefit to Russia\’s domestic producers, or a big new export market to our economic rivals.
• Regime change in Moscow is a white ribbon\’s throw away, and our expensively nurtured political pets inside Russia are more popular than ever and are feeling all sorts of love from the Russian people. After all, fewer than 90% of Russians respect and support Putin for the great things he has achieved for them, so our stooges like Khodorkovsky or Kasparov should have no problem getting at least 1% in the next presidential elections, sending them straight into the Kremlin.
• Thanks to our relentless political pressure, Putin is now a chastised man, ready to be reasonable and bend to our will, and not at all saying things like “This will never happen!” in an internationally televised annual address to his nation\’s elected leaders. In any case, nobody listens to his speeches because our national media doesn\’t need cover them because they are so long and boring.

…and, last but not least…

• America is the world\’s indispensable nation, world\’s (second) greatest economic power (but rising fast), and American leadership is respected throughout the world. When President Obama said so in a recent speech he gave in China, the audience did not at all laugh out loud right in his face, roll their eyes, make faces or move their heads side to side slowly while frowning.

How can you avoid recognizing the importance of such things, and the fact that they spell DEFEAT? Easy! Ignorance to the rescue! Ignorance is not just strength—it is the most awesome force in the universe. Consider this: knowledge is always limited and specific, but ignorance is infinite and completely general; knowledge is hard to convey, and travels no faster than the speed of light, but ignorance is instantaneous at all points in the known and unknown universe, including alternate universes and dimensions of whose existence we are entirely ignorant. In short, there is a limit to how much you can know, but there is no limit at all to how much you don\’t know but think you do!

Here is something that you probably think you know. The American empire is an “empire of chaos.” Yes, it sort of fails somehow to achieve peace, prosperity, democracy, stability, avert humanitarian crises, or stop lots of horrible crimes. But it does achieve chaos. What\’s more, it achieves a wunnerful new type of chaos just invented, called “controlled chaos.” It\’s much better than the old kind; sort of like “clean coal”—which you can rub all over yourself, go ahead, try it! Yes, there are naysayers out there that say things like “You reap what you sow, and if you sow chaos, you shall reap chaos.” I guess they just don\’t like chaos. To each his own. Whatever. 

Want more? Consider this. If you live in the US, you probably celebrated Thanksgiving a little while ago, by gorging yourself on turkey and stuffing with cranberry sauce, and maybe some pumpkin pie. You think you know that this holiday is related to the Pilgrims, who first celebrated Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Massachusetts, but I am sure you don\’t remember the exact year. But I am sure you think that these Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving by feasting with the natives. You might even tell your children this story, and think that you are teaching them a bit of history rather than expanding their field of ignorance.

Now, here are some points of fact. The Pilgrims weren\’t Pilgrims at all, but colonists. They were re-branded as “Pilgrims” in the 19th century. Believe me, nobody ever went on a pilgrimage to Plymouth, Massachusetts! These colonists ended up there because, being incompetent sailors, they missed Boston Harbor by half a day\’s sail, and ended up in Plymouth Harbor, which is as exposed, shoal and as useless today as it was then. They did not celebrate Thanksgiving; being weird religious zealots, they didn\’t even celebrate Christmas. Despite fake “evidence” from “social media” of the period, they certainly didn\’t feast with the locals, who by that time spoke pretty good English and traded with the world. The locals thought these colonists were a bizarre religious cult (which indeed they were), that they were lousy and smelly (they never washed and had no idea about saunas or sweat lodges) and had repulsive personal habits (such as carrying their snot around with them wrapped in a rag). They were also quite hopeless at hunting or fishing, and survived by plundering the locals\’ kitchen gardens, then starved. To top it off, the “national” holiday was first created by Abraham Lincoln during the height of the Civil War, which (this you must surely know!) was much, much later. And he didn\’t call it “Thanksgiving”; he called it “Day of Atonement” for the horrible crimes Americans were committing against each other at the time.

But that\’s before the Frozen Turkey Marketing Association had a go at adjusting that story. It was a plan as simple as it is brilliant: they overdose you on Tryptophan, then, next day, while you are still groggy, they send you out into an over-hyped shopping frenzy and, sure enough,  you will be rack up some high-interest debt, which it will take you well into the next year to pay off. Plow some of that interest back into turkeys and holiday hype, and you have a national industry—one that drives people into debt buying imported products they don\’t need (remember, if doesn\’t say “Made in China” then it\’s probably fake) until everybody is broke.

With a history that fake, the American Ministry of Truth may yet manage to project it into the future as well. They may produce a level of ignorance so astonishingly high that Americans at large won\’t know that they have been defeated, thinking that the torrential downpour of the world\’s rancid slops raining down on their heads is God\’s rain, and being thankful for it. Unless, that is, enough Americans wake up and start making the word DEFEAT part of the national vocabulary. This is not a exceptional nation, not an indispensable nation, but a defeated one. Defeated by their own hands, mind you, because nobody particularly went out of their way to defeat them. They showed up to get beaten, over and over again, until they got what they came for.

Now, defeat has proven to be a great learning experience to many countries that then went on to be quite successful: Germany (on second try), Japan, Russia after the Cold War… Of course, the first step in that learning process is to admit defeat. But if you don\’t want to do that, that\’s OK, because there is always ignorance to give you all the strength you need.

Minimum Viable Sociopathy

There are absolutely NO Nazis fighting for Ukraine!
If you agree, then just gouge out your eyes!
(Note NATO and Nazi flags side by side.
Isn\’t that just cute?)

I seem to be doing a lot of hyperproductive things lately: explaining to people how to kill the foul beast of Empire, revolutionizing the way English literacy is taught to both native English speakers and the rest… Somebody just emailed me to tell me that I have become “one of those significant commentators.” Yikes! If I keep going this way, then I will run the risk of making a Significant Contribution to Society (SCS). And that would be a mistake; not just for me, but for anyone.

Plus I\’d be spending most of my time deleting blog comments from imbeciles. It\’s the blogging equivalent of scraping bugs off your windshield. (It\’s about 1% thoughtful comments from actual readers, and 99% senseless blather from idiotic trolls. I am serious. Very sad. But I liked the one I got the other day from a Ukrainian who said that his people will drown all the Russians in their (Ukrainians\’) own blood. That was cute, but I deleted it anyway because it\’s hate speech.

But allow me to explain about SCS and what the title of this blog post means.

As Venkatesh Rao explains so well over at his Ribbonfarm, a person faces two opposing risks in grappling with the vicissitudes of earthly existence: the risk of achieving nothing, and the risk of achieving something that\’s not on strategy. Let me summarize his argument.

If you simply wander aimlessly through life, breathing oxygen and eating and excreting organic matter, then you will still get somewhere. Statistically, a blind-drunk sailor who walks out of a bar will, on average, while stumbling along on his way to nowhere in particular, cover the distance of √n steps for every n steps he takes. This is known as a random walk, or Brownian motion, which is fine for molecules at anything above 0ºK, and perhaps for drunken sailors too, but most of us sentient beings want our lives to have a bit of meaning. And if the progress of our lives starts looking too much like a random walk, then we tend to start asking ourselves difficult questions, like “What\’s it all about?” and drinking too much. And that causes our walk to get even closer to random. And therein lies a great danger, because this sort of downward spiral inevitably ends with somebody else telling you “What\’s it all about” and what it is you have to do, supposedly for your own good, though it hardly ever is.

There is also the opposite danger. If you keep your eyes fixed on your goal and make a concerted effort to make n steps of progress in its direction for every n steps you take, then you will quickly happen upon a wall with a gate in it, and a guard at that gate will demand to see your permit, degree, qualification or certificate before letting you pass through that gate. And the process of you getting that permit, degree, qualification or certificate will end with somebody else telling you what your goal ought to be. The goal is, universally, to accumulate things: dollars or stripes on your uniform or publications and citations, or earwax. Details don\’t matter, but what matters is that these things never have much of anything at all to do with your original goal. And although many people rationalize that such things are necessities, or means to an end, it is very hard to convince yourself that expending all your energies in lifelong pursuit of earwax so that you can get back to your original goal—what was it again?—is at all reasonable. These, then, are your two options: march (almost) in place, or accept somebody else\’s marching orders—and march off to spend your whole life collecting earwax.

But Venkatesh, being one smart cookie, offers us a third option. You see, there is some threshold for the amount of forward progress in any given direction you can make before you are likely to encounter a wall. If on average a random walk results in √n steps for every n steps taken, then you can experimentally discover some threshold δ such that for every n steps you can safely make √n+δ steps\’ worth of progress in any direction you choose without getting on anyone\’s radar. Venkatesh expresses these two constrains using the following simple formula:

n < C ≤  √n + δ

where C is one\’s Contribution to Society. Those who stay within the bounds expressed by this formula practice what he calls Minimum Viable Sociopathy (MVS). This is a tremendously powerful concept, because it shows how you can do pretty much whatever you want. You just have to do enough different things, and each one half-assedly enough, so that none of them runs the danger of making a Significant Contribution to Society (SCS), and getting noticed and potentially struck down by those who jealously guard their prerogatives to determine which contributions are valid and which are not. All you have to do is set your sights just a tiny bit lower than one would normally expect, and you should be safe.

What this means in practice, for me at least, is that as soon as it starts looking like I am heading in the direction of acquiring a specific job title or job description, or getting involved in something that might require registration, certification or licensing, then I need to backtrack or head in a different direction for a bit, until everybody loses interest. In doing so I sometimes forgo some opportunities for an increased income, but that is the price of freedom.

For example, you probably expect that I will next talk about collapse of the USSA, or Ukraine, or how the English language ought to be taught, or give you a bit of philosophy like I just did. That\’s a good guess, but instead I will talk about something else entirely.

Unspeller Russian Edition

Русскоязычное издание

Предисловие к русскоязычному изданию

У английского слова «spell» есть два значения: «заклинание» и «правописание»—понятия, казалось бы, малосовместимые. Но в случае английского они, как ни странно, полностью совпадают: каждое новое англий­ское слово действительно «заколдовывается» в момент его воз­никновения. Его написание фиксируется, и уже не меняется никогда, как бы не менялось на протяжении веков его произношение. Правил право­писания в англиском вообще нет. (Когда-то было одно: слова не могут кон­чаться на букву «v»—но и оно отмерло.) Результат этого процесса таков: чтобы выучить английский, надо отдельно зазубрить как каждое отдельное слово пишется, и как оно произносится. А это уже не заклятие, а про­клятие, потому как такой уровень зубрёжки не по зубам для боль­шинства представителей чело­вечества, независимо от их прочих дарований.

И вот каковы печальные последствия трудностей английского право­писания: ни один язык на свете не пре­подаётся так много, как английский—и с такими плохими результатами. Каждый год по всему миру более миллиарда студентов посещает занятия английского, но лишь не­значи­тель­ный процент из них научается адекват­но и компетентно читать, писать или говорить по-английски. Для очень мнгоих уроки английского оказы­ваются бес­смыслен­ной тратой времени. А ведь английский язык сравни­тельно простой, с мини­мальным количеством грам­матики и с небольшим набором звуков, чей международный лексикон за­имствован в основном из французского и латыни. Потому-то он и стал так расхож. И если мы пред­почитаем пользоваться английским общаясь даже с нашими западными партнёр­ами, чьи языки мы могли бы выучить сравни­тельно легко, то для переговоров с нашими всё более важными вос­точ­ными партнерами знание разговорного английского требуется и подавно. То, что существует языко­вая нейтральная полоса для переговоров—это безусловный плюс: ведь мало кто захочет потратить полжизни на то, чтобы выучить китай­ский, корей­ский, японский, вьетнамский, а заодно уж и фарси с арабским.

Главное, что затрудняет изучение английского, это то, как он пишется. Английский «спеллинг» достаточно мешает жить и тем, для кого английский—родной. Уровень малограмотности в англоязычных странах достигает 50%, и с безграмот­ностью там борятся так же рьяно, и так же тщетно, как с коррупцией, преступностью и социальным неравенством. Многие жители этих стран живут в постоянном страхе опозориться из-за низкого уровня знания собственного родного языка. Многие просто отказы­ваются что-либо читать или писать, зря надеясь, что им помогут и всё растолкуют устно. Около 80% заключенных в США без­грамотны. О их реабилитации не приходится и мечтать, так как они не способны заполнить простейшую анкету по трудо­устройству. Но элиты англоязычных стран хорошо зара­батывают на этом проклятье, обращая неграмотность населения себе в выгоду и, по-видимому, считая, что тёмное население—это послушное население, а потому не следует питать иллюзии, что сами англо-саксы по­пытаются провести необходимую реформу орфографии.

Освоению английского языка мешает и то, что в разных странах и прослойках на­селе­ния английский звучит очень по-разному. Поголовно все—и коренное население, а не только иностранцы—говорят по-английски с тем или иным акцентом, и часто пони­мают друг друга лишь с большим трудом. За­нимаясь с англоязычным препо­давателем вы всего лишь пере­нимаете его местный говор, а если у вас несколько учителей, и все они из разных стран, то в голове у вас неизбежно возни­кнет путаница. Норматив­ное английское произношение отсутствует так же, как и правила орфографии. Выпускники Оксфорда считают, что их английский звучит идеально, однако другие великобританцы считают, что те кричат, как ослы, хотя сами они не столько говорят, сколько кряхтят и булькают, так что их вообще мало кто может понять.

Потому-то и возник проект «Анспелл». Это новая орфография англий­ского языка, в которой написание подавляющего большинства слов соот­ветствует их универсальной фоно­логической структуре—единой и неза­висимой от акцента. При достаточно пристальном и детальном рас­смотрении оказалось, что на фонологическом уровне английский язык по всему миру един. Разумеется, именно на этом уровне его и следует учить, но для этого сперва потребовалось выявить и записать его единую фоно­логическую структуру. Для этого использовался особый, упро­щенный набор символов, исключающий возможность возникновения путаницы с традиционным написанием. «Анспелл» изобрел специалист, идеально под­готовленный к такого рода работе: инженер и лингвист с американским высшим образо­ванием, программист, плюс автор ряда популярных книг и массы статей и выступлений на английском. В основу проекта он заложил программу, автоматически преобразующую текст «со спеллигом» в текст «без спеллинга». «Анспелл» рассчитан так, чтобы свести до абсолютного минимума необходимость учить что-либо, что не является частью живого, устного языка, а потому всю систему можно выучить за несколько часов, после чего вы обретёте способность адекватно читать вслух любые таким образом преобразованные тексты.

Unspeller Japanese Edition

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p { margin-bottom: 0.1in; line-height: 120%; }アンスペル英語教育法

英語ほど世界中で多く勉強されている言語はないのですが、言い換えれば、それほど身に付かないということなのです。毎年、世界中で10億人以上の人々が英語の授業を取っていますが、そのうち、ある程度の自信を持って、つまり、言語能力を備えて、読み書きや英会話ができるレベルの英語を習得するのは、かろうじて10人につき1人くらいです。残りの人たちはどうかといえば、英語の勉強が完全に時間の無駄なのです。 これは不必要なことです。というのは、英語は本当にとても簡単な言語だからです。たとえば、中国語、ロシア語、アラビア語よりもはるかに簡単です。これこそ英語がとても役に立つ理由なのです。英語を学ぶ際の課題を難しくしていることはただ一つのこと、つまり、英語の書き方にあります。