Archive for January, 2015

Open Letter to the New Finance Minister of Greece Yanis Varoufakis


[ SYRIZA has folded some more. Now Greek pensioners pay money to the IMF so that the IMF can pay Ukraine, so that Ukraine can pay Russia\’s Gazprom. ]
[ Deleted. There is no point. SYRIZA folded and voted to extend the ridiculous sanctions against Russia. The dream was nice while it lasted. Move along, people, nothing to see here, just some more fake European \”democracy.\” ]

[ People have convinced me that SYRIZA should not be written off. Their first order of business is, quite understandably, lifting austerity imposed on the Greek people, not changing EU foreign policy. Still, my preference is not to lobby politicians, and to treat them as forces of nature, of a perverse kind. I try to adhere to Solzhenitsyn\’s maxim of \”Don\’t trust them, don\’t fear them, don\’t ask anything of them.\” ]

Interview on Global Research


Looming Economic Collapse Scenarios facing the United States: Lessons from the Soviet Collapse

They can’t really grasp the fact that everything they’ve built has stopped working, because their ideology forbids them from doing it. So that’s identical with what was going on in the Soviet Union.

The Time Machine in Australia

The massive brain rot that is observable in the US can perhaps be explained by the “fracking fluid in the drinking water” theory; but what about the rest of the English-speaking world? This is a guest post by Gary Flomenhoft that offers some clues.

I’ve been in Australia (pronounced “Straya”) for four months now. I live in Brisbane and have traveled to Melbourne, the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast, and Stradbroke island. I’ve met my share of Australians around the world over the years. They are all “how’ya going, G-Day mate, no worries,” eternal optimists, and very nice people. They all, every single one of them, say thank you to the bus driver when exiting the public bus. They are happy, they are polite, they are kind. They live thousands of miles from most of the world, and haven’t got a care. Go for a surf, eat some prawns or Moreton Bay bugs, hike in the hills, enjoy life! Obsess about cricket, Australian Football League, National Rugby League, Rugby Union, soccer, any kind of sport.

Their Prime Minister Abbot is a doofus, but entirely harmless, like a Koala. His Putin “shirt-front” turned into a friendly photo-op at the G-20, although his outraged sentiment was entirely understandable after the shoot-down of MH17 with so many Australians on board. But Abbot credulously believed the absurd propaganda spewed out by the US, instantly blaming the Russians, and imposing sanctions as a result, without a shred of evidence. If they had evidence, don’t you think they would parade it all over the press? Duh! All the actual evidence so far, including 30mm bullet holes in the cockpit, point to a Ukrainian Airforce jet shooting it down. Australians remind me of the US in the 1950’s, very naïve and innocent, but no cold war, so truly nothing to worry about. But they reminded me of something else too. I just couldn’t put my finger on it… All blond and tanned, perfect hair, perfect bodies, pure and innocent… It suddenly dawned on me! ELOI!

If you don’t remember, Eloi are the surface dwelling people in HG Wells classic story, The Time Machine portrayed in a Hollywood movie. Tell me they don’t look like Strayans! Here’s a random couple of Strayans copied off the net for comparison:

In Wells story, Eloi are the stupefied descendants of the upper class who are bred and fed on by the subterranean dwelling Morlock cannibals, descendants of the working class. Here are the Hollywood versions of Morlocks:

In the story the Eloi don’t ask any questions and line up voluntarily to be food for the Morlocks on a regular basis. So this obviously begs the question. Who are the modern day Morlocks?

Well, let’s start with someone who is shouting an unheeded and unlikely warning, former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. In his recent book Dangerous Allies, he advocates rethinking Australia’s military alliance with the US. He thinks it’s an obsolete remnant of the cold war, and time for Australians to go their own way, and seek new alliances in Asia, especially with China, Australia’s biggest trading partner, or get sucked into America’s future military hostilities with China. He should know about dangerous allies, as he participated in Governor General John Kerr’s CIA coup to oust Gough Whitlam, the sitting Prime Minister in 1975, becoming the Prime Minister himself. Fraser also vehemently supported the US genocidal war in Indochina, although now he has regrets. Better late than never…

Australians, to a person I have met so far, feel unbridled loyalty to the US for protecting Darwin from Japanese bombing in WWII, and offer unconditional loyalty in return. Just tell us which of your illegal, immoral wars to join, and we’ll be there pronto! Join the latest Christian Crusade against the jihadists in the middle east for no definable reason or benefit, and gee gosh darnit, we’ll be there in a jiffy. Enrage Islamists near and far, who launch ugly acts of revenge on the streets of Sydney and Brisbane? No problem. We’ll suffer anything for our loyal friends the yanks, or Seppos for slang. (Cocknie: Septic Tank, rhymes with Yank. Septic = Seppo) We won’t even give a thought to the consequences… Eloi! Fraser warns that the US has no friends, just interests.

So who are the Morlocks? Those would have to be the neocon psychopaths from the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) who have taken control of US foreign policy, advocating worldwide Empire, full spectrum dominance, and hegemony, like Mr. Torture Dick Cheney. But for a real Morlock that would have to be the Prince of Darkness, Richard Perle, architect of many US covert actions around the world leading to death and destruction everywhere he goes:

Don’t question the neo-con Morlocks, Australian Eloi, just do whatever they say!

But there is another group of Morlocks feeding on the Strayan Eloi, and another unlikely prophet warning Australians, Lynden H. LaRouche Jr. I picked up a CEC rag the other day at UQ. CEC stands for Citizen’s Electoral Council, a LaRouche publication. It was an odd mix of brilliant analysis and questionable assertions. We’ll pick out the good parts. The headline was: Australia, UK Must Join BRICS in New Economic Order! “[This] pathway is being blazed by the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, and their allies). It opens up a radically different vista: a new, just world economic order of sovereign nation states, collaborating to ensure the Common Good of all of their citizens. Such cooperation will replace the London/Wall Street \”free trade\” imperial looting system, ending governments\’ \”bail-in/bail-out\” sponsorship of its \”Too Big to Fail\” banks (p. 13); halt its sponsorship of al-Qaeda and ISIS to spread chaos worldwide (p. 4) and justify the fascist-style police states at home; and stop its drive for world war.” Pretty good advice I’d say as Australia is following Wall St. and the City of London financial model, which is likely to go down the drain anytime now. CEC warns against NATO encirclement of Russia, and advocates a “Glass-Steagall type legislation to break up the too big to fail banks into commercial and investment banks, as they were until the 1930’s era Glass-Steagall Act was abolished in the US in 1999, setting the stage for the GFC, that’s global financial crisis in Strayan-speak. CEC has a nice chart of derivatives held by Australian “Systemically Important Banks”:

They also advocate a government (not private) Australian central bank returning monetary sovereignty to Australia. Pretty good advice, I’d say.

So who are the Morlock here? We’ll get to that. But first there is one more way the financial Morlocks are eating Strayans for lunch, the cost of housing. Australians pay almost the highest of anyone in the world for real estate. Isn’t that odd in a country of 23 million people slightly smaller in area than the US that has 330 Million? As a result Strayans are in debt peonage for the rest of their lives if they are lucky enough to own anything. Banks own most of the real estate, so it turns out to be another scam for the banks. Government insists there is a housing shortage which is total nonsense. My friends at Prosper Australia have documented for seven years in a row that there are 6-46% speculative vacancies held out of use for capital gains, as well as 50% of properties being owned by absentee owners for investment, ie: capital gains since they often don’t even bother to rent them out. In addition land isn’t taxed high enough to remove the speculative gain, so an asset bubble develops that keeps driving land up and up, until it pops of course inevitably. We’re just not there yet. But keep believing that you’ll get your piece of money for nothing and chicks for free… Eloi! Here is the full explanation.

The Morlock who typifies Wall Street’s parasitic feeding off the Eloi of the world would have to be the one “doing Gods work”, which is Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs. In addition to being a Morlock, he is also a vampire-squid.

So Strayans keep feeding yourselves to the neo-con and Wall St. Morlocks. You’ve got nothing to worry about. Ignorance is bliss.

Panic in Kiev?

[En français]

The following article appeared briefly at this URL on and was quickly pulled down. Ironic? It would seem so. My translation. I bring it to you because it succinctly lays out the situation as I\’ve been able to piece it together from multiple Russian- and Ukrainian-language sources, and because you are unlikely to come across anything this truthful from cough Western media cough.

“Panic in Kiev: Ukrainian forces surrender Donbass”

International observers report of growing panic in Kiev in connection with the successful counteroffensive of the separatists near Donbass.

Over a week of fighting the partisans have delivered a heavy blow to the Ukrainian forces. The group of Ukrainian fighters in Donbas suffered huge losses, the soldiers are demoralized, the officers are confused and unable to control the situation.

Ukrainian military leadership is seriously concerned of a new encirclement near Debaltsevo, as well as in other areas.

The situation is made worse by the fact that army and national guard reserves are almost completely depleted, and plugging the gaps in defense using small formations canoot stabilize the front. Besides, the Ukrainian forces are running low on ordnance, food and medical supplies.

In turn, the partisan field commanders report 752 killed Ukrainian military personnel, 59 destroyed tanks and a large number of people taken prisoner. In view of their combat successes, the partisans are refusing to take part in any further negotiations in the format of the Minsk agreements and threaten to continue the counterattack.

Local authorities in Ukrainian-controlled districts near the front report that Ukrainian soldiers are deserting with their weapons and taking to looting the countryside in increasing numbers.

In this critical situation the military is afraid to report to president Poroshenko the real situation in the southeast of the country, hiding from him the full scale of the catastrophe.

The head of state is still convinced that the situation is under control, and hopes that in case of a real threat he will still have the chance to ask the West for help.

And then there is this video evidence: American “boots on the ground” have invaded Eastern Ukraine. How do you say “Get out of my face, please!” in Ukrainian? I guess the grunts aren\’t taught that in Basic Training… are they too busy learning how to shell civilians and then blame the other side?

Update: he is Leon Swampy, from the UK.



[Audiobook version. Thanks, Timothy!]
[In italiano. Grazie, Massimiliano!]
[En français]

Over the course of 2014 the prices the world pays for crude oil have tumbled from over $125 per barrel to around $45 per barrel now, and could easily drop further before heading much higher before collapsing again before spiking again. You get the idea. In the end, the wild whipsawing of the oil market, and the even wilder whipsawing of financial markets, currencies and the rolling bankruptcies of energy companies, then the entities that financed them, then national defaults of the countries that backed these entities, will in due course cause industrial economies to collapse. And without a functioning industrial economy crude oil would be reclassified as toxic waste. But that is still two or three decades off in the future.

In the meantime, the much lower prices of oil have priced most of the producers of unconventional oil out of the market. Recall that conventional oil (the cheap-to-produce kind that comes gushing out of vertical wells drilled not too deep down into dry ground) peaked in 2005 and has been declining ever since. The production of unconventional oil, including offshore drilling, tar sands, hydrofracturing to produce shale oil and other expensive techniques, was lavishly financed in order to make up for the shortfall. But at the moment most unconventional oil costs more to produce than it can be sold for. This means that entire countries, including Venezuela\’s heavy oil (which requires upgrading before it will flow), offshore production in the Gulf of Mexico (Mexico and US), Norway and Nigeria, Canadian tar sands and, of course, shale oil in the US. All of these producers are now burning money as well as much of the oil they produce, and if the low oil prices persist, will be forced to shut down.

An additional problem is the very high depletion rate of “fracked” shale oil wells in the US. Currently, the shale oil producers are pumping flat out and setting new production records, but the drilling rate is collapsing fast. Shale oil wells deplete very fast: flow rates go down by half in just a few months, and are negligible after a couple of years. Production can only be maintained through relentless drilling, and that relentless drilling has now stopped. Thus, we have just a few months of glut left. After that, the whole shale oil revolution, which some bobbleheads thought would refashion the US into a new Saudi Arabia, will be over. It won\’t help that most of the shale oil producers, who speculated wildly on drilling leases, will be going bankrupt, along with exploration and production companies and oil field service companies. The entire economy that popped up in recent years around the shale oil patch in the US, which was responsible for most of the growth in high-paying jobs, will collapse, causing the unemployment rate to spike.

It bears pointing out that the excess inventory of oil that has precipitated this price collapse is not particularly large. It all started with a concerted effort by Saudi Arabia and the US to dump oil on the international market, to drive down the price. The leadership in the US knows full well that their days as the world\’s largest oil producer are numbered in days or months, not years. They realize what a major economic hangover will result from the collapse of shale oil production. The Canadians, realizing that their tar sands adventure is likewise nearing its end, want to play along.

The game they are playing is basically a game of chicken. If everybody pumps all the oil they can regardless of the price, then at some point one of two things will happen: shale oil production will collapse, or other producers will run out of money, and their production will collapse. The question is, Which one of these will happen first? The US is betting that the low oil prices will destroy the governments of the three major oil producers that are not under their political and/or military control. These are Venezuela, Iran and, of course, Russia. These are long shots, but, having no other cards to play, the US is desperate. Is Venezuela enough of a prize? Previous attempts at regime change in Venezuela failed; why would this one succeed? Iran has learned to survive in spite of western sanctions, and maintains trade links with China, Russia and quite a few other countries to work around them. In the case of Russia, it is as yet unclear what fruit, if any, western policies against it will bear. For example, if Greece decides to opt out of the European Union in order to get around Russia\’s retaliatory sanctions against the EU, then it will become entirely unclear who has actually sanctioned whom.

Of course, toppling the governments of all three of these petro-states, destroying them economically, “privatizing” their oil resources and pumping them dry free of charge using foreign labor would be just the shot in the arm the US needs. But, if you\’ve been following along, it appears that the US doesn\’t always get what it wants, and of late hardly at all. Which recent US foreign policy gambit has actually paid off the way it was supposed to? Hmm…

And so, for now, all the oil producers are continuing to pump flat out. Some producers have the financial cushion to produce at a loss, and will do so to protect their market share. Other producers have already sunk the money into drilling the wells and have paid back enough of the loans while the oil price was high to continue producing profitably even at the lower price. Lastly, a number of producers (with Russia in the lead) can make a small profit even at $25-30 per barrel (if it weren\’t for taxes and tariffs).

Each producer has a slightly different reason to continue pumping flat out. A lot has been said about the US and Saudi Arabia colluding to drive down the price of oil. But the collusion theory can be sliced away with Occam\’s Razor, since they would be expected to behave exactly the same even without colluding.

The US is making a desperate attempt to knock over a petro-state or two or three before its shale oil runs out, with the Canadians, their tar sands now unprofitable, hitching a ride on its coat-tails, because if this attempt doesn\’t work, then it\’s lights out for the empire. But none of their recent gambits have worked. This is the winter of imperial discontent, and the empire is has been reduced to pulling pathetic little stunts that would be quite funny if they weren\’t also sinister and sad. Take, for instance, the words spoken by the US State Department\’s remote-controlled Ukrainian prime minister Yatsenyuk in Berlin recently: it turns out that the USSR invaded Nazi Germany, not the other way around! We are coming up on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany; and so there is no better time to do—what exactly? The Russians are confused. But the Germans took this howler on board and stayed mum, so score one for the empire!

Or take the Charlie Hebdo psy-ops in Paris, which, for anyone paying attention, was eerily reminiscent of the Boston Marathon bombing almost two years ago. Boston still hasn\’t got rid of all of the idiotic “Boston strong” stickers (no, Boston was not destroyed by a few firecrackers and a few amputee actors bursting bags of fake blood to pretend that they just had a leg blown off). And now Paris is festooned with eerily similar \”I am Charlie\” stickers. Killing a handful of innocents is, of course, standard procedure: few real atrocities help render the “conspiracy theory” version of the events unthinkable for anyone under imperial mind control because, you see “They are the good guys” and “good guys” don\’t do such things. But that mind control is slipping away, and even some national leaders—such as Turkey\’s Erdogan—publicly declared that the event had been staged. Also similarly, the supposed perpetrators were summarily executed by the police before anyone could find out anything about them. It\’s become quite clear by now that such events are being cooked up by the same bunch of not-terribly-creative hacks. They seem to be recycling the PowerPoints: delete Boston; insert Paris. But the French have defended their right to insult Moslems (and Christians) with impunity (but these rights are sure to be taken away when nobody is looking)—but not the inexplicably important Jews or gays, mind you, because that will get you a prison term. Score another one for the empire!

Or take last year\’s shoot-down of Malaysia\’s flight MH17 over Eastern Ukraine. The western public officials and press instantaneously blamed \”Putin-supported rebels\” with the shoot-down. When the results of the ensuing investigation lead to a different conclusion, they were made secret. But now the Russians have a Ukrainian defector in witness protection who has identified the Ukrainian pilot who shot down the airliner, using an air-to-air missile fired from a fighter jet. Since the rebels have no air force, an air-to-air missile was an unusual bit of ordnance for the Ukrainians, and was clearly loaded up just for this occasion. So we know who, how, and why; the only remaining question is, for whom; bets are, the hit was ordered from Washington. This was big news in Russia, but western media has self-censored the story out of existence and, whenever the topic is mentioned, continues to repeat the \”Putin did it\” mantra, so… score another one for empire!

But a bunch of deluded people muttering to themselves in a dark corner, while the rest of the world points at them and laughs, does not an empire make. With this level of performance, I would venture to guess that nothing the empire tries from here on will work to its satisfaction.

Saudi Arabia is generally displeased with the US, because the US has been failing at its job of policing the neighborhood and generally keeping a lid on things. Afghanistan is reverting to Talebanistan, Iraq has ceded territory to ISIS and now only controls the territory of the bronze age kingdoms of Akkad and Sumer, Libya is in a state of civil war, Egypt has been “democratized” into a military dictatorship, Turkey (a NATO member and a EU candidate member) is now trading primarily with Russia, the mission to topple Syria\’s Assad is in shambles, the US “partners” in Yemen have just been overthrown by Shiite militiamen, and now there is ISIS, initially organized and trained by the US, threatening to destroy the House of Saud. Add to that that the US-Saudi joint venture to destabilize Russia by formenting terrorism in Northern Caucasus has completely failed. It couldn\’t organize even a single terrorist action to disrupt the Sochi Olympics. (Saudi Arabia\’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan lost his job over that fiasco.) And so the Saudis are pumping flat out not so much to help the US as for other, more obvious reasons: to drive out high-priced producers (US included) and to maintain their market share. They are also sitting on a stockpile of US dollars, which they want to put to good use while they are still worth something.

Russia is pumping the usual amount because there is really no reason to stop and plenty of reasons to continue. Russia is a low-price producer, and can wait out the US. It is also sitting on a large stockpile of dollars, which might as well get used up while they are still worth something. Russia\’s greatest asset is not its oil but the patience of its people: they understand that they will go through a difficult patch as they scramble to replace imports (from the west especially) with domestic production and other sources. They can afford to take a loss; they will make it all back once the price of oil recovers.

Because it will recover. The fix for low oil prices is… low oil prices. Past some point high-priced producers will naturally stop producing, the excess inventory will get burned up, and the price will recover. Not only will it recover, but it will probably spike, because a country littered with the corpses of bankrupt oil companies is not one that is likely to jump right back into producing lots of oil while, on the other hand, beyond a few uses of fossil fuels that are discretionary, demand is quite inelastic. And an oil price spike will cause another round of demand destruction, because the consumers, devastated by the bankruptcies and the job losses from the collapse of the oil patch, will soon be bankrupted by the higher price. And that will cause the price of oil to collapse again.

And so on until the last industrialist dies. His cause of death will be listed as “whiplash”: the “shaken industrialist syndrome,” if you will. Oil prices too high/low in rapid alternation will have caused his neck to snap. Some artisans will collect a bit of oil from some slowly oozing old wells, refine it using clay pots heated with wood, and use it to power an antique hearse that will take the planet\’s last industrialist to the industrialist boneyard.

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Peculiarities of Russian National Character


[Em português] [V slovenčine] [По-русски] [En français] [čeština] [In italiano]

Ancient Slavic god Zimnik: a squat old man, long hair the color of snow, wears a white coat, always barefoot. Carries an iron staff, one swing with which instantly freezes everything solid. Can summon snowstorms, ice storms and blizzards. Goes around taking whatever he likes, especially children who misbehave.

Recent events, such as the overthrow of the government in Ukraine, the secession of Crimea and its decision to join the Russian Federation, the subsequent military campaign against civilians in Eastern Ukraine, western sanctions against Russia, and, most recently, the attack on the ruble, have caused a certain phase transition to occur within Russian society, which, I believe, is very poorly, if at all, understood in the west. This lack of understanding puts Europe at a significant disadvantage in being able to negotiate an end to this crisis.

Whereas prior to these events the Russians were rather content to consider themselves “just another European country,” they have now remembered that they are a distinct civilization, with different civilizational roots (Byzantium rather than Rome)—one that has been subject to concerted western efforts to destroy it once or twice a century, be it by Sweden, Poland, France, Germany, or some combination of the above. This has conditioned the Russian character in a specific set of ways which, if not adequately understood, is likely to lead to disaster for Europe and the world.

Lest you think that Byzantium is some minor cultural influence on Russia, it is, in fact, rather key. Byzantine cultural influences, which came along with Orthodox Christianity, first through Crimea (the birthplace of Christianity in Russia), then through the Russian capital Kiev (the same Kiev that is now the capital of Ukraine), allowed Russia to leapfrog across a millennium or so of cultural development. Such influences include the opaque and ponderously bureaucratic nature of Russian governance, which the westerners, who love transparency (if only in others) find so unnerving, along with many other things. Russians sometimes like to call Moscow the Third Rome—third after Rome itself and Constantinople—and this is not an entirely empty claim. But this is not to say that Russian civilization is derivative; yes, it has managed to absorb the entire classical heritage, viewed through a distinctly eastern lens, but its vast northern environment has transformed that heritage into something radically different.

Since this subject is of overwhelming complexity, I will focus on just four factors, which I find essential for understanding the transformation we are currently witnessing.

1. Taking offense

Western nations have emerged in an environment of limited resources and relentless population pressure, and this has to a large degree determined the way in which they respond when they are offended. For quite a long time, while centralized authority was weak, conflicts were settled through bloody conflict, and even a minor affront could cause former friends to become instant adversaries and draw their swords. This is because it was an environment in which standing your ground was key to survival.

In contrast, Russia emerged as a nation in an environment of almost infinite, although mostly quite diffuse, resources. It also drew from the bounty of the trade route that led from the Vikings to the Greeks, which was so active that Arab geographers believed that there was a saltwater strait linking the Black Sea with the Baltic, whereas the route consisted of rivers with a considerable amount of portage. In this environment, it was important to avoid conflict, and people who would draw their swords at a single misspoken word were unlikely to do well in it.

Thus, a very different conflict resolution strategy has emerged, which survives to this day. If you insult, aggrieve or otherwise harm a Russian, you are unlikely to get a fight (unless it happens to be a demonstrative beating held in a public setting, or a calculated settling of scores through violence). Instead, more likely than not, the Russian will simply tell you to go to hell, and then refuse to have anything further to do with you. If physical proximity makes this difficult, the Russian will consider relocating, moving in any direction that happens to be away from you. So common is this speech act in practice that it has been abbreviated to a monosyllabic utterance: “Пшёл!” (“Pshol!”) and can be referred to simply as “послать” (literally, “to send”). In an environment where there is an almost infinite amount of free land to settle, such a strategy makes perfect sense. Russians live like settled people, but when they have to move, they move like nomads, whose main method of conflict resolution is voluntary relocation.

This response to grievance as something permanent is a major facet of Russian culture, and westerners who do not understand it are unlikely to achieve an outcome they would like, or even understand. To a westerner, an insult can be resolved by saying something like “I am sorry!” To a Russian that\’s pretty much just noise, especially if it is being emitted by somebody who has already been told to go to hell. A verbal apology that is not backed up by something tangible is one of these rules of politeness, which to the Russians are something of a luxury. Until a couple of decades ago, the standard Russian apology was “извиняюсь” (“izviniáius\’”), which can be translated literally as “I excuse myself.” Russia is now a much more polite country, but the basic cultural pattern remains in place.

Although purely verbal apologies are worthless, restitution is not. Setting things right may involve parting with a prized possession, or making a significant new pledge, or announcing an important change of direction. The point is, these all involve taking pivotal actions, not just words, because beyond a certain point words can only make the situation worse, taking it from the “Go to hell” stage to the even less copacetic “Let me show you the way” stage.

2. Dealing with invaders

Russia has a long history of being invaded from every direction, but especially from the west, and Russian culture has evolved a certain mindset which is difficult for outsiders to comprehend. First of all, it is important to realize that when Russians fight off an invasion (and having the CIA and the US State Department run Ukraine with the help of Ukrainian Nazis qualifies as an invasion) they are not fighting for territory, at least not directly. Rather, they are fighting for Russia as a concept. And the concept states that Russia has been invaded numerous times, but never successfully. In the Russian mindset, invading Russia successfully involves killing just about every Russian, and, as they are fond of saying, “They can\’t kill us all.” (“Нас всех не убьёшь.”) Population can be restored over time (it was down 22 million at the end of World War II) but the concept, once lost, would be lost forever. It may sound nonsensical to a westerner to hear Russians call their country “a country of princes, poets and saints,” but that\’s what it is—it is a state of mind. Russia doesn\’t have a history—it is its history.

Because the Russians fight for the concept of Russia rather than for any given chunk of Russian territory, they are always rather willing to retreat—at first. When Napoleon invaded Russia, fully planning to plunder his way across the countryside, he found the entire countryside torched by the retreating Russians. When he finally occupied Moscow, it too went up in flames. Napoleon camped out for a bit, but eventually, realizing that there was nothing more to be done (attack Siberia?) and that his army would starve and die of exposure if they remained, he beat a hasty and shameful retreat, eventually abandoning his men to their fate. As they retreated, another facet of Russian cultural heritage came to the fore: every peasant from every village that got torched as the Russians retreated was in the forefront as the Russians advanced, itching for a chance to take a pot shot at a French soldier.

Similarly, the German invasion during World War II was at first able to make rapid advances, taking a lot of territory, while the Russians equally swiftly retreated and evacuated their populations, relocating entire factories and other institutions to Siberia and resettling families in the interior of the country. Then the German advance stopped, reversed, and eventually turned into a rout. The standard pattern repeated itself, with the Russian army breaking the invader\’s will while most of the locals that found themselves under occupation withheld cooperation, organized as partisans and inflicted maximum possible damage on the retreating invader.

Murmansk, 68°58′45″, pop. 300,000
January 12: first sunrise in 40 days
Length of day: 38 minutes

Another Russian adaptation for dealing with invaders is to rely on the Russian climate to do the job. A standard way of ridding a Russian village house of vermin is simply to not heat it; a few days at 40 below or better and the cockroaches, bedbugs, lice, nits, weevils, mice, rats are all dead. It works with invaders too. Russia is the world\’s most northern country. Canada is far north, but most of its population is spread along its southern border, and it has no major cities above the Arctic Circle, while Russia has two. Life in Russia in some ways resembles life in outer space or on the open ocean: impossible without life support. The Russian winter is simply not survivable without cooperation from the locals, and so all they have to do to wipe out an invader is withhold cooperation. And if you think that an invader can secure cooperation by shooting a few locals to scare the rest, see above under “Taking offense.”

3. Dealing with foreign powers

Russia owns almost the entire northern portion of the Eurasian continent, which comprises something like 1/6 of the Earth\’s dry surface. That, by Earth standards, is a lot of territory. This is not an aberration or an accident of history: throughout their history, the Russians were absolutely driven to provide for their collective security by gaining as much territory as possible. If you are wondering what motivated them to undertake such a quest, see “Dealing with invaders” above.

If you think that foreign powers repeatedly attempted to invade and conquer Russia in order to gain access to its vast natural resources, then you are wrong: the access was always there for the asking. The Russians are not exactly known for refusing to sell their natural resources—even to their potential enemies. No, what Russia\’s enemies wanted was to be able to tap into Russia\’s resources free of charge. To them, Russia\’s existence was an inconvenience, which they attempted to eliminate through violence.

What they achieved instead was a higher price for themselves, once their invasion attempt failed. The calculus is simple: the foreigners want Russia\’s resources; to defend them, Russia needs a strong, centralized state with a big, powerful military; ergo, the foreigners should be made to pay, to support Russia\’s state and military. Consequently, most of the Russian state\’s financial needs are addressed through export tariffs, on oil and natural gas especially, rather than by taxing the Russian population. After all, the Russian population is taxed heavily enough by having to fight off periodic invasions; why tax them more? Thus, the Russian state is a customs state: it uses customs duties and tariffs to extract funds from the enemies who would destroy it and use these funds to defend itself. Since there is no replacement for Russia\’s natural resources, the more hostile the outside world acts toward Russia, the more it will end up paying for Russia\’s national defense.

Note that this policy is directed at foreign powers, not at foreign-born people. Over the centuries, Russia has absorbed numerous immigrants: from Germany during the 30 years\’ war; from France after the French revolution. More recent influxes have been from Vietnam, Korea, China and Central Asia. Last year Russia absorbed more immigrants than any other country except for the United States, which is dealing with an influx from countries on its southern border, whose populations its policies have done much to impoverish. Moreover, the Russians are absorbing this major influx, which includes close to a million from war-torn Ukraine, without much complaint. Russia is a nation of immigrants to a greater extent than most others, and is more of a melting pot than the United States.

4. Thanks, but we have our own

One more interesting Russian cultural trait is that Russians have always felt compelled to excel in all categories, from ballet and figure-skating to hockey and football to space flight and microchip manufacturing. You may think of champagne as a trademark French product, but last I checked “Советское шампанское” (“Soviet champagne”) was still selling briskly around New Year\’s Eve, and not only in Russia but in Russian shops in the US because, you see, the French stuff may be nice, but it just doesn\’t taste sufficiently Russian. For just about every thing you can imagine there is a Russian version of it, which the Russians often feel is better, and sometimes can claim they invented in the first place (the radio, for instance, was invented by Popov, not by Marconi). There are exceptions (tropical fruit is one example) and they are allowed provided they come from a “brotherly nation” such as Cuba. That was the pattern during the Soviet times, and it appears to be coming back to some extent now.

During the late Brezhnev/Andropov/Gorbachev “stagnation” period Russian innovation indeed stagnated, along with everything else, and Russia lost ground against the west technologically (but not culturally). After the Soviet collapse Russians became eager for western imports, and this was quite normal considering that Russia wasn\’t producing much of anything at the time. Then, during the 1990s, there came the era of western compradors, who dumped imported products on Russia with the long-term goal of completely wiping out domestic industry and making Russia into a pure raw materials supplier, at which point it would be defenseless against an embargo and easily forced to surrender its sovereignty. This would be an invasion by non-military means, against which Russia would find itself defenseless.

This process ran quite far before it hit a couple of major snags. First, Russian manufacturing and non-hydrocarbon exports rebounded, doubling several times in the course of a decade. The surge included grain exports, weapons, and high-tech. Second, Russia found lots of better, cheaper, friendlier trading partners around the world. Still, Russia\’s trade with the west, and with the EU specifically, is by no means insignificant. Third, the Russian defense industry has been able to maintain its standards, and its independence from imports. (This can hardly be said about the defense firms in the west, which depend on Russian titanium exports.)

And now there has come the perfect storm for the compradors: the ruble has partially devalued in response to lower oil prices, pricing out imports and helping domestic producers; sanctions have undermined Russia\’s confidence in the reliability of the west as suppliers; and the conflict over Crimea has boosted the Russians\’ confidence in their own abilities. The Russian government is seizing this opportunity to champion companies that can quickly effect import replacement for imports from the west. Russia\’s central bank has been charged with financing them at interest rates that make import replacement even more attractive.

Some people have been drawing comparisons between the period we are in now and the last time oil prices dropped—all the way to $10/barrel—in some measure precipitating the Soviet collapse. But this analogy is false. At the time, the Soviet Union was economically stagnant and dependent on western credit to secure grain imports, without which it wouldn\’t have been able to raise enough livestock to feed its population. It was led by the feckless and malleable Gorbachev—an appeaser, a capitulator, and a world-class windbag whose wife loved to go shopping in London. The Russian people despised him and referred to him as “Mishka the Marked,” thanks to his birthmark. And now Russia is resurgent, is one of the world\’s largest grain exporters, and is being led by the defiant and implacable President Putin who enjoys an approval rating of over 80%. In comparing pre-collapse USSR to Russia today, commentators and analysts showcase their ignorance.


This part almost writes itself. It\’s a recipe for disaster, so I\’ll write it out as a recipe.

1. Take a nation of people who respond to offense by damning you to hell, and refusing to having anything more to do with you, rather than fighting. Make sure that this is a nation whose natural resources are essential for keeping your lights on and your houses heated, for making your passenger airliners and your jet fighters, and for a great many other things. Keep in mind, a quarter of the light bulbs in the US light up thanks to Russian nuclear fuel, whereas a cutoff of Russian gas to Europe would be a cataclysm of the first order.

2. Make them feel that they are being invaded by installing a government that is hostile to them in a territory that they consider part of their historical homeland. The only truly non-Russian part of the Ukraine is Galicia, which parted company many centuries ago and which, most Russians will tell you, “You can take to hell with you.” If you like your neo-Nazis, you can keep your neo-Nazis. Also keep in mind how the Russians deal with invaders: they freeze them out.

3. Impose economic and financial sanctions on Russia. Watch in dismay as your exporters start losing money when in instant retaliation Russia blocks your agricultural exports. Keep in mind that this is a country that, thanks to surviving a long string of invasion attempts, traditionally relies on potentially hostile foreign states to finance its defense against them. If they fail to do so, then it will resort to other ways of deterring them, such as freezing them out. “No gas for NATO members” seems like a catchy slogan. Hope and pray that it doesn\’t catch on in Moscow.

4. Mount an attack on their national currency, causing it to lose part of its value on par with a lower price of oil. Watch in dismay as Russian officials laugh all the way to the central bank because the lower ruble has caused state revenues to remain unchanged in spite of lower oil prices, erasing a potential budget deficit. Watch in dismay as your exporters go bankrupt because their exports are priced out of the Russian market. Keep in mind, Russia has no national debt to speak of, runs a negligible budget deficit, has plentiful foreign currency reserves and ample gold reserves. Also keep in mind that your banks have loaned hundreds of billions of dollars to Russian businesses (which you have just deprived of access to your banking system by imposing sanctions). Hope and pray that Russia doesn\’t put a freeze on debt repayments to western banks until the sanctions are lifted, since that would blow up your banks.

5. Watch in dismay as Russia signs major natural gas export deals with everyone except you. Is there going to be enough gas left for you when they are done? Well, it appears that this no longer a concern for the Russians, because you have offended them, and, being who they are, they told you to go to hell (don\’t forget to take Galicia with you) and will now deal with other, friendlier countries.

6. Continue to watch in dismay as Russia actively looks for ways to sever most of the trade links with you, finding suppliers in other parts of the world or organizing production for import replacement.

But now comes a surprise—an underreported one, to say the least. Russia has just offered the EU a deal. If the EU refuses to join the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US (which, by the way, would hurt it economically) then it can join the Customs Union with Russia. Why freeze yourselves out when we can all freeze out Washington instead? This is the restitution Russia would accept for the EU\’s offensive behavior with regard to the Ukraine and the sanctions. Coming from a customs state, it is a most generous offer. A lot went into making it: the recognition that the EU poses no military threat to Russia and not much of an economic one either; the fact that the European countries are all very cute and tiny and lovable, and make tasty cheeses and sausages; the understanding that their current crop of national politicians is feckless and beholden to Washington, and that they need a big push in order to understand where their nations\’ true interests lie… Will the EU accept this offer, or will they accept Galicia as a new member and “freeze out”?

Interview on the Lifeboat Hour

In the latest episode, I am interviewed by Carolyn Baker, who took over after the tragic loss of Mike Ruppert.

On the Charlie Hebdo Carnage



The killing of the staff at the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo by Moslem assailants who said that they wanted to die as martyrs, and the subsequent killing of the assailants, together with their hostages, by the French police, could not have failed to produce strong emotions. For instance, my friend Bruno had this to say. I don\’t entirely disagree, especially about the undue haste of the French police, but I do want to make a few points about methods.

No matter how difficult it is, what\’s needed in such a situation, at least on the level of those aspiring to any sort of social adequacy, is a dispassionate look, with an eye toward what would qualify as a political fix that can win the peace, rather than some combination of police/military/judicial action that is virtually guaranteed to lose the war, by making the situation worse. You see, police/military/judicial action is only effective when the enemy could potentially admit defeat, surrender and make amends. When the enemy wishes to be martyred, police/military/judicial action is akin to combating alcoholism with bottles of booze.

What Bruno proposed—capture, torture, public humiliation, public execution—worked very well for Jesus Christ. Here we are over 2000 years later, and he is still the world\’s best-known, most widely celebrated martyr. If, by the standards of one of the world\’s greatest religions, poking fun at prophet Mohammed is a sin, and if the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo can be said to have died for that sin, then that, by a rather simple calculus, does qualify them as martyrs, even in the Christian tradition.

I was not a reader of Charlie Hebdo, and so I don\’t know whether they properly satirized the American invasion of Iraq, the seeding of Basra, Fallujah and other parts of Iraq with depleted uranium munitions causing a large number of cancers and birth defects, the wholesale slaughter of Iraqi civilians, or the use of torture at Abu Ghraib and other US-run detention centers. Or whether they shined a comic light on the utter futility of the NATO war in Afghanistan, whose only result seems to be a speedy return to status quo ante as soon as the troops pull out. I think there are gems of comedy there: the Americans are still sending in advisers—as if they ever knew what to do there themselves! I hope they did satirize these events; if they didn\’t, but on the other hand saw it fit to poke fun at Islam, then that would seems a tiny bit lopsided to me, but I hope to stand corrected.

Nor do I know if Charlie Hebdo properly savaged the Israelis for their various practices, such as shelling UN-run schools because there might be “terrorists” lurking among the women and children, or for the Israeli military propaganda along the lines of “shoot pregnant Palestinian women and kill two for the price of one.” Is there humor in such things? I don\’t know. Nor is there humor in the Qur‘an, or in any of the acts ascribed to prophet Mohammed. And yet the satirical geniuses at Charlie Hebdo found some there. So why does Israel get the kid glove treatment? Again, I hope to stand corrected, but if that\’s the case, then there is a bit of lopsidedness there as well.

There is also the tiny matter of taste. I know that the French are not alien to the idea of mauvais goût. And given what has been happening in many Islamic countries around the world—from outright invasions and bombings to drone strikes, to US-funded political corruption and régime change, to sanctions maintained over decades, to many acts of discrimination in the western countries to which circumstances force the refugees from the destroyed countries to flee—it seems like poking fun at their religion using cartoons, however gently, is akin to joking about rope in the house of the hanged. By analogy, consider writing such oeuvres as “Auschwitz, the operetta.” Or how about a song-and-dance troupe composed of non-Jews, called “The Not Ready for Holocaust Players”? Would that be in bad taste? You bet! Of course, none of these particular expressions of mauvais goût are likely to happen, because people in the west are deathly afraid of being labeled anti-Semites. On the other hand, they are not yet particularly afraid of being shot in the head by furious Moslems. Why the disconnect, I wonder? The instinct of self-preservation does not seem fully engaged yet.

I want to keep this to below 1000 words, so I will close simply by noting what the solution may look like. The only solution I see is a duopoly, where Moslems and non-Moslems run their respective segments of society according to different sets of rules. Some rules they must have in common, such as a ban on incendiary, extremist speech. The prohibition against “shouting fire in a crowded theater” applies to such arrangements.

Examples of such arrangements being successful include the Republic of Tatarstan (Russian Federation) where Orthodox Christianity and (majority) Islam coexist peacefully, and mixed marriages can offer a choice of religions to the children they produce. Another example is the Republic of Chechnya (also Russian Federation) which, having fought a bloody separatist conflict financed by the Saudis and the US, can now successfully combat Islamic terrorism on its own, without involving federal authorities. Russia is now a dual Christian/Islamic federation; if current demographic trends continue, then at some point it will become an Islamic/Christian federation. So be it. If peace is maintained, nobody will notice or care. France can embrace the same choice, forming Les Républiques Françaises, and probably will, because what choice does it have—other than losing the war?

2015: Grounds for Optimism


[По-русски] [In italiano]

This may seem like an odd line of reasoning to pursue given what everyone else seems to be saying. Some are thinking that 2015 will be a repeat of 2014 with a few incremental changes (always a safe bet, but makes for boring reading) while others are warning of the potential for a nuclear confrontation between the US and Russia (always a possibility, on par with an asteroid strike or a supernova in our galactic vicinity). But this is all more of the same. The interesting question to ask is, How has the ground shifted in 2014, if indeed it has?

To my mind, the really interesting development of 2014 is that the world as a whole (with a few minor exceptions) has become quite lucid on the topic of what the United States, as a global empire, is and stands for. It is now very commonly and completely understood that:

1. The United States is an evil empire, attempting not so much to rule the world as to disrupt it to its short-term advantage.

2. The United States is failing, as an empire and as a country, and no amount of fraud, mayhem, torture and murder is going to save it.

3. The United States is still quite powerful and can cause massive damage on its way down. This damage must be contained, while plans are drawn up for an international arrangement that will arise upon its demise.

Looking back on 2013 and before, such sentiments were already being expressed, but on the fringes and quietly. The difference is that in 2014 they became commonplace knowledge, and their expressions thundered from presidential podiums. What\’s more, there just isn\’t that much of a counterargument being voiced. I don\’t hear a single voice out there arguing that the US is a benevolent force that is on the up-and-up, would never hurt a fly and is the permanent center of the universe. Yes, some people can still think that, but it\’s hard to see value in such “thought.”

There are still a few holdouts: the UK, Canada and Australia especially. But even there the true picture is being distorted because of their Murdockified national media. Judging from what I hear from the people there, they are almost uniformly nauseated by the subservient pro-US antics of their national leaders. As for the EU, the image of political uniformity presented by Brussels is largely a fiction. In the core countries of Western Europe, business leaders are almost uniformly in favor of close cooperation with Russia and against sanctions. Along the fringe, entire countries appear to be on the verge of switching sides. Hungary—never a friend of Russia—now seems more pro-Russian than ever. Bulgaria, which has had a love/hate attitude toward Russia for centuries now, seems to be edging back closer to love. Even the Poles are scratching their heads and wondering if close cooperation with the US is in their national interest.

Another major shift I have observed is that a significant percentage of the thinking people in the US no longer trusts their national media. There is a certain pattern to the kinds of messages that can go viral and spread wildly via tweets and social media. Fringe messages must, by definition, stay on the fringe. And yet last year something snapped: a few times I ran a story in an attempt to plug a gaping hole in the US mass media\’s coverage of events in the Ukraine, and the response was overwhelming, with hundreds of thousands of new readers showing up. What\’s more, a lot of them have kept coming back for more. I take this to mean that what I have to say, while by no means mainstream, is no longer on the fringe, and that bloggers have an increasingly important role in helping plug the giant holes in national media coverage.

Of course, the national media still has an important role to play. For instance, I have no idea how big Kim Kardashian\’s derrière is—but I hear it\’s big in the media. Can it sing? And so if you are looking for authoritative information on that important subject, then American national media is your friend. But for most non-ass-related things, it seems to me that the Americans who run the nation\’s political and media circuses broke a fundamental rule, which they apparently forgot, because it was first expressed by an American by the name of Abe Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” In case somebody out there in the media realm is tired of playing it safe and printing stuff that\’s only fit for wiping your Kardashian with, here are a some points for you to try to refute:

1. Economic inequality has to increase continuously, until the whole thing crashes, because that is the only way to continue propping the financial bubble while the real, physical, productive economy is actually shrinking. The rich can\’t possibly spend all of their money in the real economy. Instead, the poor things have to content themselves with investing in various luxury items, which they can\’t use all the same time, and so most of them sit and slowly decay. Or they put their money into paper wealth of various kinds—and that, of course, is very good for the financial bubble. In any event, if you have a financial bubble you need to prop up no matter what, in the face of serious physical limitations on land, energy, fresh water, high-grade ores and other essential industrial feedstocks, then your best bet is to do the reverse-Robin-Hood thing and go rob the poor and give to the rich.

2. Worldwide chaos must be driven up because that\’s the only way the US military can justify its existence. It is a very expensive military, but not a particularly effective one. (Just the new F-35 fighter cost over a trillion to develop—and yet it is a complete dud of a project and may never even go into production.) But in spite of this lavish spending the US military is incapable of scoring a decisive victory in just about any conflict, against any adversary, no matter how weak and impoverished, and their end result is always some sort of ongoing low-grade conflict that can flare up again at any time. Nevertheless, it can still threaten the weak and the poor, and use these threats to its financial advantage. But the only way to make these threats effective is to destroy some country on a semi-regular basis: “Nice country you got there! We\’d hate to see it go the way of Libya.” A military confrontation with any of the real military powers—Russia, China, India, even Iran—is, of course, entirely out of the question, because a single humiliating military defeat for the US (which is inevitable given its track record against smaller, weaker adversaries) would be sufficient to undermine the entire program of US militarism.

3. As another American (Dwight Eisenhower) once put it: “If you can\’t solve a problem, enlarge it.” But it stands to reason that you do have to solve a problem once in a while; you can\’t just go on enlarging every problem you see ad infinitum. Now, what problems has the US solved lately? Anything good happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria or Ukraine? No, worse than ever. How about financial reform in the wake of the narrowly averted collapse in 2008? No, and there is another big one coming up in the form of the fracas in the fracking patch due to low oil prices. Anything good to report on health care reform? No, it\’s more ridiculously bloated and expensive than ever. Student debt repayable now? No, not by a long shot. How about an effort to reduce carbon emissions, to postpone (no longer to avoid!) the eastern seaboard, where half of everything is, going underwater? No, not a glimmer of hope. Problems with runaway public debt or unfunded government liabilities solved? No, there have been no efforts in that direction at all. Is the country still on course for national bankruptcy and collapse? All systems check, go with throttle up!

Now, your mileage may vary, but I have discovered that a surprising number of people around the world (though not especially in the US) is now very much clued into these things. And that is something that makes me feel optimistic about 2015.