Archive for October, 2015

Shrinking the Technosphere, Part IV


[Réduire la techno-sphère, Partie IV]

In the previous parts of this series, we started picking away at a very big subject: what a successful strategy for bringing about rapid social change would look like, such social change being necessary if we were to avoid the worst ravages of catastrophic climate change. This change must introduce “naturelike” technologies that would bring the technosphere back into balance with the biosphere.

To be effective, this strategy must rely on technology—but not in the usual sense of fancy gadgets or gewgaws, of which the following examples spring to mind:

• Smartphones and other such gadgets. (“Stupidpeople” no longer know how to get by without them.)
• Windmills that take plenty of coal and diesel to build and maintain, swat migratory birds out of the sky and produce energy in a form that cannot be stored effectively.
• Majestic sailing ships that transport fair trade chocolate, coffee and wine to delight effete foodies in “first world” countries.

No-no-no! The technology in question is political technology, designed to overcome the awesome force of social inertia and to cause society to move in a direction in which it initially doesn\’t want to move.

Political technology offers ways of:

1. Changing the rules of the game between participants in the political process
2. Introducing into the mass consciousness new concepts, values, opinions and convictions
3. Directly manipulating of human behavior through mass media and administrative methods

Since the term “political technology” was new to most readers, we made a detour in order to put it in context. To recap, political technologies can be used to pursue the following aims:

1. To improve everyone\’s welfare by pursuing the common good of the entire society, as it is understood by its best-educated, most intelligent, most decent and responsible members. Political technologies of this kind result in a virtuous cycle, building on previous successes to increase social cohesion, solidarity and setting the stage for great achievements. (These are the good kind.)

2. To enrich, empower and protect special interests at the expense of the rest of society. These kinds of political technologies either fail through internal contradiction, or result in a vicious cycle, in which those who benefit from them strive for ever-higher levels of selfish behavior at the expense of the rest, setting the stage for poor social outcomes, economic stagnation, mass violence and eventual civil war and political disintegration. (These are the bad kind.)

Alas, most of the readers have had exactly zero exposure to political technologies of the first kind, and so the last two posts in this series explained what the second kind look like, taking the case of the US as an example. In Part II explored how they are used to manipulate and coerce the population in the US. There are numerous examples, but the one that is most relevant to this series is this one:

Proponent: the fossil fuel lobby.
Objective: convince the US population that catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is not occurring.
Means: smear campaigns against climate scientists, injection of fake science, denigration of science as a whole, portrayal of the movement to stop catastrophic climate change as a conspiracy, etc.

This example alone is sufficient to illustrate how effective a political technology can be: we all know plenty of its victims. Even quite intelligent people often espouse the opinion that the observed climate change is the product of natural variability (it isn\’t) or that the efforts to mitigate climate change are a conspiracy of a world government (which doesn\’t exist). This clearly shows how effective political technologies are: they can warp the minds of both the stupid and the intelligent. Although they can also be used to unwarp that which has been warped, there are, unfortunately, no examples of political technologies within the US that have been used in pursuit of the common good. With regard to what passes for politics in the US it is best to avert your gaze until its glowing embers cool because you\’d be burning your eyeballs for nothing.

And so, in Part III we delved into the methods which the US has used to undermine countries around the world, because here, in response, the rest of the world has evolved successful political technologies of its own, and is in the process of neutralizing the US on the world stage. We will look at them in the next post in this series. This global immune response to US aggression, which was able to operate virtually unopposed during the years between the collapse of the USSR, laying waste to several countries around the world, and the recent failure of the US effort to destroy Syria, is significant: to work for the common good, one must first stop evil.

But before we get too far, let us look at where we are going. What is “naturelike”? Some readers proposed biomimetics, which is a newfangled rebranding of the old process of looking at nature in search of promising mechanisms: airplanes have “wings” like birds; scuba divers and snorkelers wear “fins” like fish; chairs and tables have “legs,” walls have “ears” and so on. It all started a few million years ago when some hominid picked up a pointy rock and called it a “claw” or a “fang.” No, that\’s not it at all.

Other readers chimed in to say that perhaps this is about permaculture. Now, permaculture is actually quite interesting. The term spans the range from general design principles to specific ways of dealing with the landscape, specifically to grow food. Most of the technology this involves is nonindustrial, and is thought-heavy rather than energy-heavy, which is a good combination. Permaculture probably has a role to play, if a way can be found to teach it to people who are too busy simply surviving to attend pricey courses in exotic locales.

To be “naturelike,” technologies must “restore the balance between the biosphere and the technosphere” (as Putin put it at the UN). Why is this necessary? Well, human populations that fail to do so exhibit a marked tendency to go extinct. This is something that has happened quite a lot. The Greenland Norse are often held up as a particularly stark example of such failure: they settled Greenland during a relatively short climatic period when it was green rather than white, and when it anticlimactically reverted to a barren wasteland they died out. This was unnecessary: they were survived by the native tribes, which continued to fish and hunt on the ice. But the Norse wanted to eat pork and beef, refusing to go native, for such was their culture and sense of identity.

Cultural change, of the sort that was expected of the Greenland Norse were they to survive, is very difficult. It does occur, but on its own it tends to proceed far too slowly to make a difference in a crisis. Changes that force people to change their lifestyles in ways that contradict their physical habits and their sense of identity are particularly difficult, and are often met with resentment or hostility.

For example, it would make perfect sense to introduce a few small changes in the US that would serve to substantially lessen the impact on the environment. Here are three simple examples:

1. Ban lawns. Grass can only be mowed once it has gone to seed and must be used to make hay.

2. Ban beef and pork. No more hamburgers—rabbitburgers! Everyone eats locally raised, grass-fed rabbits.

3. Mandate hitchhiking. If there is a free seat, you must stop for hitchhikers, or face a steep fine.

Of course, people would be up in arms about such measures. They would feel that their rights are being violated and their “culture” destroyed. This brings up another small but important measure:

4. Confiscate all the arms.

Note, however, that people are not the least bit up in arms about the following quite successful initiatives:

1. Force people to constantly mow their lawns, damaging their health with the very considerable air pollution from the dirty two-stroke lawn mowers, water pollution from runoff of chemical fertilizers and exposure to toxic herbicides such as Monsanto\’s carcinogenic glyphosphate (Roundup).

2. Force people to eat factory-farmed beef and pork, which is laced with growth hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals, by depriving them of any other affordable source of animal protein. Also, be sure to lace all their food and drink with high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, so that they get as fat as pigs and can\’t walk any great distance, but have to drive everywhere.

3. Force everybody to own their own car in order to be able to get around, even though most cars sit idle most of the time, and even though there is plenty of unemployed people who would be only too happy to give them lifts for a tiny fraction of what it costs to own, insure and operate a car.

These measures create a social environment that is so alienated, riddled with hostility and unhealthy that nobody feels particularly safe within it. This brings up another small but important measure:

4. Force everyone to think that they need to own a firearm (or two or three) in order to keep themselves and their families safe; then step back and watch the fireworks. Arrest those who run afoul of the many contradictory firearms laws, and sell them as slaves to private prisons—while everyone cheers, because they have been told that this makes them safer.

What is the difference between these two sets of initiatives? Both seem like they should be quite unpopular. The first set would be beneficial, in terms of its impact on both public health and the environment, while the second is manifestly harmful. But the first is politically a nonstarter, while the second sells rather well.

The difference is that while the former set of initiatives has no political technology to back it up, the latter does, being supported by a set of laws and a quasi-religious civic ritual. The laws fine people for failing to mow their lawns, keep people from producing and distributing meat unless they own a farm, and so on. The quasi-religious civic ritual, heavily supported through advertising, involves standing on a lawn around a smoking barbecue (the altar on which rest burnt offerings of factory-farmed beef and pork) while bragging about your cars and your guns. To complete the scene, there is usually a US flag somewhere within sight, because this is what it means to be an American: to stand on a lawn, to take communion of factory-farmed meat and HFCS or aspartame-laced water, and to brag about your cars and your guns. Anything else would be un-American and is politically a nonstarter.

The political technologies that make these indefensible practices popular and even required are supported by powerful special interests: the lawn care industry, industrial agribusiness, the automotive industry, the weapons manufacturers and the prison-industrial complex. These are the parasites that are feasting on the prostrate, bloated body of the US, eating the country hollow from the inside. And there are absolutely no political technologies to oppose them, or to support initiatives that are necessary and beneficial. To find out what these look like we will again have to look outside the US, and this is what we will do next.

Interview on Keiser Report [video]


The interview starts halfway through the show.

Shrinking the Technosphere, Part III


[Réduire la techno-sphère, Partie III]

[Part I] [Part II]

Previously in this series of posts we outlined how inside the US special interests use political technologies to keep the population fooled. We also showed how these efforts will eventually fail, either through internal contradiction or because the parasites eventually end up killing the host. We will now turn our attention to political technologies used by the US against the rest of the world. This may seem like a digression from the task of addressing the question at hand—of how to bring about social change in order to avert climate catastrophe—but it is necessary.

The long list of political technologies used within the US to keep Americans fooled helped us show just how pervasive and destructive these technologies are. We are yet to see any ways to neutralize these technologies—because Americans have failed to do so. To find examples of successful ways to neutralize them, we have to look at what the US has been attempting to do to the rest of the world—and failing.

No matter how good America\’s luck has been—isolated geographic location, plentiful natural resources, the gigantic windfall of its victory in World War II, the additional windfall of the Soviet collapse—the luck was bound to run out eventually. In fact, to a large extent it already has: as a purely practical matter, it simply isn\’t possible to continue running roughshod over the entire planet if you run roughshod over your own population as well. The US has less than 5% of the world\’s population, half of whom are obese, a third on drugs and a quarter mentally ill. It leads the world in deaths from gun violence, police murders and prison population. Half the children are born into poverty and a third into broken and nonexistent families. Over a quarter of the working age population is permanently out of work. By no stretch of the imagination is this a description of a group that can rule the world..

Beyond the simple matter of all good (or, if you prefer, evil) things eventually coming to an end, the rest of the world has evolved some effective antibodies against American political technologies, and some of them may be helpful in bringing about the rapid social changes that are needed in order to avert climate catastrophe. Before the US empire is swept away in a wave of confusion and embarrassment, we may be able to extract some useful lessons from it.

We can divide the political technologies the US uses against the rest of the world into three broad categories. Although the first two may not involve overt, physical violence—at least not every time they are applied—all three categories are actually forms of warfare—hybrid warfare.

  1. International Loan Sharking
  2. The Orange Revolution Syndicate
  3. Terrorism by Proxy

John Perkins describes International Loan Sharking in his Confessions of an Economic Hit Man:

Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet\’s natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.

These efforts eventually produce a bankrupt country that is unable to service its foreign debt. Whereas in previous eras the US used gunboat diplomacy to extort payments from deadbeat countries, in a globalized economic environment this has been rendered largely unnecessary. Instead, the simple threat of refusing to provide liquidity to the country\’s banks is enough to make it capitulate. In turn, capitulation leads to the imposition of austerity: health, education, electricity, water and other public services are either cut or privatized and bought up on the cheap by foreign interests; private savings are confiscated to make symbolic payments against a ballooning foreign debt; subsidies and tariffs are changed to benefit G8 nations to the country\’s detriment, and so on. Society crumbles; young people, and anyone talented or educated, tries to emigrate, leaving behind the destitute old, the hopeless, and the social predators.

This political technology has worked a great deal of the time, most recently with Greece, Portugal and Ireland. But there are still some countries which, although integrated into the global economy, are politically able to withstand this juggernaut and insist on maintaining their sovereignty and on pursuing a set of policies independent from Washington\’s dictate. In these cases, the US deploys a different political technology, which goes under the name Orange Revolution (although the actual colors vary). This technology uses large groups of nonviolent protesters to produce social disorientation, disorganization and disintegration, to render the political elites within a country impotent, and to exploit the moment of chaos and confusion in order to install a puppet regime that can be controlled from Washington.

The methods of Orange Revolution are often touted as a nonviolent way to bring about regime change. Gene Sharp, the great theoretician of nonviolent revolution, is insistent that all protest should be nonviolent. But the concept nonviolence, comforting though it is to delicate minds, needs to be set aside—because it just plain doesn\’t exist.

Just because a crowd isn\’t throwing Molotov cocktails at police while illegally blocking access to a public building does not make it nonviolent. First, the use of a crowd for a specific purpose is already a form of force. Second, if the demonstration is illegal, and if restoring public order would require violence, then the crowd is using the threat of violence against itself as a weapon against the rule of law. Calling such a crowd nonviolent is tantamount to declaring that a man making demands while pointing a gun at his own head isn\’t being violent simply because he hasn\’t shot himself yet.

The architects of regime change insist on the use of “nonviolent” tactics specifically because they pose a much thornier problem for the authorities than an outright revolt. If the government faces an armed uprising, it knows exactly what to do: put it down. But when the youth of the nation parades around in matching T-shirts (that have been mysteriously shipped in from abroad) shouting deliberately anodyne, aspirational slogans, and the entire happening takes on the air of a festival, then the government\’s ability to maintain public order gradually melts away.

When the conditions are right, the regime changers fly in the mercenaries with the sniper rifles, carry out a public massacre, and blame it on the government. These snipers appeared in Egypt in 2011 during the effort to topple Hosni Mubarak. They also appeared in Vilnius in 1991 and in Moscow in 1993. In Tunisia in 2011 they actually got detained. They had Swedish passports and Northern European faces. They said that they were there to hunt wild boar—with sniper rifles, in Tunis. (An alternative version is that were real Swedish wild boar hunters driven to Tunis by a wild boar shortage in Sweden.)

Let us not allow ourselves to be misled: all three types of political technologies the US uses against the rest of the world are types of warfare—hybrid warfare—and “nonviolent warfare” is an oxymoron. “Nonviolence” is a misnomer; with respect to Orange Revolutions, the correct term is “delayed use of violence.”

What transpires in the course of an Orange Revolution is typically as follows:

Phase 1: Groundwork. The action is instigated by a small, ideologically and politically unified, networked group of elite individuals sponsored by Washington\’s NGOs, think tanks and the US State Department. Their goal is to appear to the government as “the voice of the people” and to the people as “the legitimate authorities.” They use methods of information warfare: hunger strikes, small demonstrations, speeches by dissidents and symbolic clashes with police in which the protesters play the victim. To hide the fact that they are a small, closed clique of outsiders and foreigners in Washington\’s pay that has conspired to overthrow the government, they merge into large popular groups of citizens, infiltrate legitimate protest movements, and inject their specific slogans alongside popular public demands. Once they achieve a “virtual majority” and accumulate enough followers to march them out for a photo shoot so that Western media outlets can champion them as a popular protest movement, they move on to…

Phase 2: Destruction of Public Order. During this phase, the goal is to achieve maximum social disruption through nonviolent means. Streets and public squares are occupied by almost perfectly peaceful crowds of young people chanting moderate, popular slogans. They start by holding officially sanctioned demonstrations, then start probing the limits by changing the route or by holding meetings longer than scheduled. They start using ploys such a sit-down demonstration accompanied by the announcement of an indefinite hunger strike. While doing this, they actively propagandize the riot police, demanding that they be “one with the people” and trying to force them to become complicit in their at first minor transgressions against public order. As this process runs its course, public order gradually disintegrates.

During this phase, it is important that the protesters do not engage in any sort of meaningful political dialogue, because such dialogue may lead to a national consensus on important issues, which the government could then champion, restoring its legitimacy in the eyes of the people while sapping the protest movement of its power. The regime changers pursue the opposite strategy: of delegitimizing the government by proliferating all sorts of councils and committees that are then held up as democratic, and therefore legitimate, alternatives to the government.

The time of elections is a particularly opportune moment for the regime changers to exploit by claiming that there has been fraud at the polls and by using the social organizations they have infiltrated as fronts in order to claim to be speaking on behalf of the true majority. The White Ribbon Revolution in Bolotnaya (“Swamp”) Square in Moscow on May 6, 2012, right before Putin was to be reinaugurated as president, went nowhere; in that instance, the regime changers broke their teeth, and their local operatives in the “opposition movement” are now some of the most widely despised people in Russia. (Hilariously, the little white ribbons, which were shipped into Russia from somewhere just in time for this action, had also been worn by Nazi collaborators during World War II—something many Russians knew while the foreign puppetmasters behind the fake protests clearly didn\’t.) But almost the same technology did work later during the Euromaidan Revolution in Kiev in February of 2014.

When those tasked with protecting what\’s left of public order become sufficiently worn down to react forcefully when the situation calls for it, the stage is set for…

Phase 3: The Occupation. During this phase, which, if effective, is quite short, the protesters storm and occupy a symbolically important public building. This is a very traditional revolutionary tactic, going back to the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, or the storming of the Winter Palace on November 7, 1917. If the preparations were successful, by this point the government is too internally conflicted to act, the defenders of public order are too demoralized to follow their orders, or both. In some cases, as in Serbia, in Georgia and in Kyrgyzstan, this is all it took to move on to phase 5. The highly organized people behind the supposedly spontaneous blitz now declare themselves as the legitimate government, and demand that the real government obey them and step down. However, sometimes it doesn\’t work, in which case there is always…

Phase 4: The Massacre. Mercenaries with sniper rifles are flown in and ushered into the upper floors of public buildings overlooking city squares where rallies and demonstrations are being held. By this time the defenders of public order are sufficiently demoralized by their inaction in the face of increasingly brazen challenges from the protesters that a few of them can be easily corrupted by large bribes from the foreign sponsors of the regime change operation. They accept the money and depart from the scene, leaving doors unlocked or even handing over the keys. The mercenaries go to work and kill a hundred or so people. Western media immediately express outrage, pinning the responsibility for the massacre on the government, and demanding that it resign. The protesters are incited to immediately echo these slogans and a groundswell of misplaced outrage sweeps the government out of power, setting the stage for…

Phase 5: Regime Change. The new government, hand-picked by the US embassy and the US State Department, assumes power, and is immediately given recognition and support by Washington.

This strategy can be quite successful—to a point. As we shall see, society can and sometimes does develop effective antibodies against it. It is notable that just about any government—from the most democratic to the most autocratic—is susceptible to it, the only real exceptions being absolute monarchs who can make heads roll the moment someone starts speaking out of turn, or those rulers who derive their legitimacy from a divine right that cannot be questioned without committing sacrilege.

The government has no good tactical options. It cannot declare the mass of protesters outside the law, because they are, after all, its citizens, and most of them are not even directly guilty of any administrative transgressions. But if it is to restore public order, it must crack down on the demonstrators. If it cracks down early, then it looks heavy-handed and authoritarian, handing ammunition to the protest movement. If it cracks down at the height of the protests, then it causes a lot of unnecessary casualties, turning much of the population against itself. And if it attempts to crack down when it\’s too late, then it only ends up looking even weaker, accelerating its own demise.

But the government does have an excellent strategic option, provided it lays the groundwork for it beforehand. The problem with opposing this sort of supposedly nonviolent, externally driven regime change operation is that it cannot be effectively opposed by a government. But it can be quite effectively opposed and disrupted by a relatively small group of empowered individuals acting directly and autonomously on behalf of the people. This is the topic we will take up next.

We will not discuss the third method of regime change—Terrorism by Proxy—because, frankly, it doesn\’t work. It is yet to result in the installation of a stable puppet regime in any of the countries where it has been tried. It failed in Afghanistan: after the Soviets finally withdraw, the country became a failed state. America\’s pet terrorists, termed al Qaeda, were then used as decoys to justify invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, but the decoys came to life and threatened to destabilize the region. The latest group of America\’s pet terrorists, ISIS, who, as of this writing, are so impressed by the Russian bombing campaign against them that they are busy shaving off their beards and running away, has become a huge embarrassment for the US. Terrorism by Proxy does reliably produce failed states, and although some may claim that this is a reasonable foreign policy end-goal, it is very hard to argue that it is in any sense optimal.

In a sense, this is a requiem for these three political technologies.

The first one—International Loan Sharking—is not going to work too well going forward. Developing countries can now borrow from China\’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, in which they can become shareholders. Countries around the world are unloading their dollar reserves and entering into bilateral trade arrangements that circumvent the dollar system. With its own finances in disarray, the US is no longer able to function as the purveyor of financial stability.

The Orange Revolutions have also largely run their course, because the political technology for neutralizing them is by now quite far along. The latest large-scale effort—in the Ukraine in 2014—has resulted in a failed state. Subsequent efforts in Hong Kong and in Armenia fizzled.

Lastly, Terrorism by Proxy not only never worked correctly, but is now poised to prove hugely embarrassing for the Washington establishment. The Russians, with Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi help, are swiftly rubbing out America\’s pet terrorists with equanimity and poise, while their erstwhile puppetmasters in Washington are visibly demoralized and spouting preposterous nonsense. But there are still some important lessons to be extracted from all this—and we should extract them before it all gets covered by a thick layer of dust.

Shrinking the Technosphere, Part II


[Part I]

[Réduire la techno-sphère, Partie II]

Political technologies have three main goals:

1. Changing the rules of the game between participants in the political process.
2. Introducing into the mass consciousness new concepts, values, opinions and convictions.
3. Direct manipulation of human behavior through mass media and administrative methods.

Political technologies pursue these tactical goals in accordance with higher, strategic imperatives, and it is only the noble nature of these higher imperatives that can justify the use of such high-handed, nondemocratic means. Yes, the ends justify the means—once in a while. It is better to save humanity and the natural world through nondemocratic means than to let it go extinct while adhering to strictly democratic ones.

But often the imperatives are far less than noble. They can be separated into two kinds:

1. To improve everyone\’s welfare by pursuing the common good of the entire society, as it is understood by its best-educated, most intelligent, most decent and responsible members. Political technologies of this kind result in a virtuous cycle, building on previous successes to increase social cohesion, solidarity and setting the stage for great achievements. (These are the good kind.)

2. To enrich, empower and protect special interests at the expense of the rest of society. These kinds of political technologies either fail through internal contradiction, or result in a vicious cycle, in which those who benefit from them strive for ever-higher levels of selfish behavior at the expense of the rest, setting the stage for poor social outcomes, economic stagnation, mass violence and eventual civil war and political disintegration. (These are the bad kind.)

Let\’s take the United States as an example The United States currently has more than its fair share of the latter sort. Let\’s briefly review a dozen of the most important ones.

1. The fossil fuel lobby. Objective: convince the US population that catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is not occurring. Means: smear campaigns against climate scientists, injection of fake science, denigration of science as a whole, portrayal of the movement to stop catastrophic climate change as a conspiracy, etc. Shows some signs of failing through internal contradiction, as parts of South Carolina—a self-styled “conservative” state—go underwater in a so-called “thousand-year flood” (soon to be renamed a “hundred-year flood,” then “ten-year flood” and, finally, a “blub-blub-blub” flood). Unlike North Carolina, Florida (another “blub-blub-blub” state) and Wisconsin, South Carolina hasn\’t banned the use of the term “climate change” by state workers; not that anyone has heard them use it in any case. When political technologists start banning the use of words, you know that they are becoming desperate. At a meta-polittechnological level, when a polittechnology shows signs of failing through internal contradiction, it is often best to let things run their course. After all, what does it matter whether officials in the Carolinas or in Florida use the term “climate change” or the term “blub-blub-blub”?

2. The arms manufacturers. Objective: convince the US population that private gun ownership makes people safer, is effective in preventing government tyranny, and is a right to be defended at all costs. This too is showing some signs of failure through internal contradiction, as the number of mass shootings in the US shoots up. But the level of brainwash here is rather high, and the US authorities may find themselves forced to resort to direct manipulation to bring the situation under control (or so they would hope). This may involve some sort of mass standoff between the government and the “gun nuts,” in which the gun nuts are described as terrorists, outlawed and, in a demonstration exercise, instantaneously wiped out by the army, the navy and the air force. But this would only bring out the next layer of internal contradiction: in decisively demonstrating that owning a gun does not make one safer, and that guns are useless in preventing tyranny, the government would be forced to tacitly admit that it is, in fact a tyranny, at war with its own people. And this would undermine a number of other political technologies on which the government depends for its political survival.

3. The two-party political system, along with the lobbyists and its corporate, big-money and foreign sponsors. Objective: keep the people believing that the US is a democracy and that people have a choice. On the one hand, this technology seems to be working. A lot of the people voted for Obama (some of them twice!) and then had a difficult time facing up to the fact that he is an impostor, barely different from his predecessor, and that everything he had said to get their vote was just hopeful noise. And now a lot of these same people are ready to vote again—for some other democratic career politician making similar kinds of hopeful noise. On the other hand, this piece of political technology seems to be in rather sad shape. The party machinery seems unable to produce viable candidates. The Republicans are internally in disarray and seem especially vulnerable to being upstaged by outsiders like Trump. Moreover, most of the voters no longer identify with either party—an unnerving development for political technologists in charge of herding them toward one of the political spectrum or the other.

4. The defense contractors and the national defense establishment. Objective: justify exorbitant defense budgets by claiming that they keep the nation safe by thwarting evildoers or some such nonsense. The US has a very expensive defense establishment, but a very ineffectual one. Case in point: as the hostilities in Syria threaten to escalate, the US orders the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt out of the Persian Gulf, leaving it without a US aircraft carrier there for the first time in 6 years. The reason is simple: although very expensive and impressive looking, American aircraft carriers are only effective against very weak and disorganized adversaries. When it comes to major powers such as Russia, China and Iran they are no more than sitting ducks, being defenseless against attacks by supersonic cruise missiles and supercavitating torpedoes, which the Americans simply don\’t have. Such obvious signs of weakness (and there are many others) undermine the claim that defense dollars are money well spent. After a time, the message is bound to sink in that the US defense establishment produces useless military boondoggles and baseless, dreamed-up intelligence reports, resulting in a serious internal contradiction. Couple the relative impotence of American high-tech weaponry against similarly equipped adversaries with the inability or unwillingness to deploy ground troops (after the great “successes” in the meat grinders of Iraq and Afghanistan) and you have an erstwhile superpower whose ability to project force is rather circumscribed. Why, then, does it cost so much? Defeat can be had for a lot less money. A sign of desperation is the latest US initiative to drop palettes of small arms ammunition and hand grenades into the deserts of Northern Syria, hoping that some “moderate” (LOL) terrorist would find them and use them against the Syrian government.

The list goes on but, for the sake of brevity, and as an exercise for the reader, I will let the reader fill in the details about the remaining examples of bad political technologies that are found in the US. The information is not hard to find. Ask yourself whether these technologies will fail through internal contradiction, by triggering a wider conflict, or by causing widespread degeneracy in the population they afflict.

5. The medical industry. Objective: keep people convinced that private health insurance is necessary, that exorbitant medical costs are justified, that socialized medicine is somehow evil, and that they are getting good quality medical care in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

6. The higher education industry. Objective: keep people convinced that higher education in the US is a good value in spite of its exorbitant costs, the student debt crisis, and the fact that over half of recent university and college graduates have been unable to find professional employment.

7. The prison-industrial complex. Objective: keep people convinced that imprisoning a higher percentage of the population than did Stalin, mostly for nonviolent, victimless crimes, somehow keeps people safe, in spite of there being absolutely no evidence of that.

8. The automotive industry. Objective: keep people convinced that the private automobile is the hallmark of personal freedom while denigrating public transportation, in spite of the fact that if you factor in all of the costs and the externalities of private cars and translate them into the working hours it takes to pay for them, driving a car turns out to be slower than walking.

9. The agribusiness industry. Objective: keep people convinced that a diet made up of cheap, chemical-laden, industrially produced food is somehow acceptable in spite of the high levels of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other ailments in which it results.

10. The financial industry. Objective: keep people convinced that their money is safe even as it disappears into an ever-expanding black hole of unrepayable debt.

11. Organized religion. Objective: keep people convinced that kowtowing to a big white man in the sky, who might send you to hell in spite of the fact that he loves you, and who, in spite of being all-powerful, always needs your money, takes precedence over using your own reason and relying on facts to find your own way in the world. Cause simple-minded people to insist that a worked-over story of the Egyptian god Horus, stuck together with bits of the Gilgamesh Epic and other ancient myths, is the word of God and the absolute literal truth. Keep alive the fiction that religious people are somehow more moral or more ethical than nonreligious people.

12. The legal system. Objective: keep people convinced that the legal system somehow produces justice instead of selling positive outcomes to the highest bidder, that feeding a huge army of well-paid lawyers is somehow worth the money, and that obeying a codex of laws so voluminous and so convoluted that is completely incomprehensible to the average person, and most lawyers, is what it means to be a good citizen.

As you see, the US has quite a parasite load of bad political technologies. Each special interest group can hire some political technologists to put together a system for them that will assure them of a disproportionately large piece of the pie to the detriment of everyone else.

This is bad enough, but bad political technologies cause an additional problem: they debilitate the minds of those they afflict. Their main objective is to keep people convinced of things that are false. Once they succeed, these people become personally invested in these falsehoods, come to identify with them, and regard any information that contradicts them either as a personal affront or, at the very least, as a source of unwelcome cognitive dissonance. This makes them impervious to good political technologies—ones that seek to convince them of things that are true and of approaches that do in fact work, and steer them in the direction of doing what is necessary. They are what Andy Borowitz called “fact-resistant humans.”

Because of its high parasite load of bad political technologies, the population of the US may not be worth the trouble when it comes to putting together good political technologies, such as the one to prevent catastrophic climate change. A lot of these bad political technologies are poised to fail, either through internal contradiction, or because of their deleterious effects on the people held in their spell, so it makes sense to wait.

Also, the problem of the US being a major polluter and climate disrupter may resolve itself: the US stands to suffer immensely from climate change, with the west coast and the southwest running out of water, the south decimated by heat waves and the eastern seaboard disappearing under the waves. Keep in mind that it amounts to less than 5 percent of the world\’s population—a significant number, but not significant enough to hold up the rest of the planet.

Trying to negotiate with the US when it comes to preventing catastrophic climate change is starting to seem like a waste of time. Why should the 95 percent wait for the 5 percent to dig a deep enough hole for themselves? But what wouldn\’t be a waste of time? This is the question we will take up next.

Shrinking the Technosphere, Part I


[Réduire la techno-sphère, Partie I]

On September 28, while addressing the UN General Assembly, Putin proposed “implementing naturelike technologies, which will make it possible to restore the balance between the biosphere and the technosphere.” It is necessary to do so to combat catastrophic global climate change, because, according to Putin, CO2 emissions cuts, even if implemented successfully, would be a mere postponement rather than a solution.

I hadn\’t heard the phrase “implementing naturelike technologies” before, so I Googled it and Yandexed it, and came up with nothing more than Putin\’s speech at the UN. He coined the phrase. As with the other phrases he\’s coined, such as “sovereign democracy” and “dictatorship of the law,” it is a game-changer. With him, these aren\’t words thrown on the wind. In each of these cases, the phrase laid the foundation of a new philosophy of governance, complete with a new set of policies.

In the case of “sovereign democracy,” it meant methodically excluding all foreign influences on Russia\’s political system, a process that culminated recently when Russia, in tandem with China, banned Western NGOs, which were previously making futile attempts to destabilize Russia and China politically. Other countries that find themselves having trouble with the Orange Revolution Syndicate can now follow their best practices.

In the case of “dictatorship of the law,” it meant either explicitly legalizing and absorbing into the system, or explicitly outlawing and destroying, every type of illegal or semi-legal social formation, first by focusing on the criminal gangs and protection rackets that proliferated in Russia during the wild 1990s, and now expanding into the international sphere, where Russia is now working to destroy the products of illegal Western activities, such as ISIS, along with other US-trained, US-armed, Saudi-funded terrorist groups. “Dictatorship of the law” means that no-one is above the law, not even the CIA or the Pentagon.

This being a given, it makes sense to carefully parse the phrase, in hopes of gaining a better of understanding of what is meant, and this particular phrase is harder to parse than the previous two, because the Russian original, “внедрение природоподобных технологий”, is laden with meanings that English does not directly convey.

“Внедрéние” (vnedrénie) can be translated in any number of ways: implementation; introduction; implantation; inoculation, implantation (of views, ideas); entrenchment (esp. of culture); enacting; advent; launch; incorporation; adoption; inculcation, instillation; indoctrination. Translating it as “implementation” does not do it justice. It is derived from the word “нéдра” (nédra) which means “the nether regions” and is etymologically connected to the Old English word “neðera” through a common Indo-European root. In Russian, it can refer to all sorts of unfathomable depths, from the nether regions of the Earth (where oil and gas are found) to the nether regions of human psyche, as in the phrase “недра подсознательного” (the nether-regions of the subconscious). Translating it with the tinny, technical-sounding word “implementation” does not do it justice. It can very well mean “implantation” or “indoctrination.”

The word “природоподóбный” (priródo-podóbnyi) translates directly as “naturelike,” although in Russian it has less of an overtone of accidental resemblance and more of an overtone of active conformance or assimilation. It is of recent coinage, and can be found in a few techno-grandiose articles by Russian academics in which they promote vaporous initiatives for driving the development of nanotechnology or quantum microelectronics by simulating evolutionary processes, or some such. The gist of it seems to be that once widgets get too complex for humans to design, we might as well let them evolve like bacteria in a Petri dish.

Based on what Putin said next, we can be sure that this is not what he had in mind: “We need qualitatively different approaches. The discussion should involve principally new, naturelike technologies, which do not injure the environment but exist in harmony with it and will allow us to restore the balance between the biosphere and the technosphere which mankind has disturbed.” It seems that he meant that people should conform to nature in daily life rather than try to simulate nature in a laboratory setting.

But what did he mean by “technologies”? Did he mean that we need a new generation of eco-friendly gewgaws and gizmos that are slightly more energy-efficient than the current crop? Again, let\’s see what got lost in translation. In Russian, the word “tekhnológii” does not directly imply industrial technology, and can relate to any art or craft. Since it is obvious that industrial technology is not particularly “naturelike,” it stands to reason that he meant some other type of technology, and one type immediately leaps to mind: political technologies. In Russian, it is written as one word, polittekhnologii, and it is a common one. At its best, it is the art of shifting the common political and cultural mindset in some favorable or productive direction.

Putin is a consummate political technologist. His current domestic approval rating stands at 89%; the remaining 11% disapprove of him because they wish him to take a more hard-line stance against the West. It makes sense, therefore, to examine his proposal from the point of view of political technology, jettisoning the notion that what he meant by “technology” is some sort of new, slightly more eco-friendly industrial plant and equipment. If his initiative succeeds in making 89% of the world\’s population speak out in favor of rapidly adopting naturelike, ecosystem-compatible lifestyles, while the remaining 11% stand in opposition because they believe the adoption rate isn\’t high enough, then perhaps climate catastrophe will be averted—or at least its worst-case scenario, which is human extinction.

In the next part of this series, we will learn what political technology is, what sorts of political technologies we can see used all around us. Then we will move on to addressing the main questions: What does it mean for us to become naturelike, and, finally, How can we invent or evolve political technologies to bring about this transformation while there is still time (if we are lucky).

Cockpit design: a picture plus a few thousand words


As I mentioned before, nothing focuses the mind on cockpit design like spending 150 hours in the cockpit of a sailboat more or less in one continuous stretch. Previously, I outlined my conclusions from this experience in prose, but this time I have an actual 3D rendering of my proposed design, with all the details filled in.

And nothing focuses the mind on the need to finish designing and build a houseboat that sails more than what is currently unfolding in South Carolina, which I just recently sailed through. Last week, Charleston, where I had spent a week, had fairly deep water running over the streets. Next week it will be Georgetown\’s turn; the entire town, where I had spent a few days too, is going to have to be evacuated. “You are lucky to be on a boat!” people keep telling me. Indeed, I am! But it\’s not exactly the right boat; it\’s a pretty good boat, but it\’s not QUIDNON.

What\’s been happening in South Carolina is but a preview of coming attractions. People are still calling it “a thousand-year flood,” not realizing that the next 10 years will bear little resemblance to the last 1000. Interesting things happen to the normal curve when you move the mean: what used to be uncommon can become commonplace rather suddenly. This is exactly what rapid global warming is doing: moving the mean. We are already most of the way a to 2ºC temperature rise, and heading toward 6ºC. It is about time we all got used to it.

We already pretty much know that the entire Eastern Seaboard of the US, where half of its population lives and where most of the infrastructure is, is going to be underwater and uninhabitable roughly by mid-century. Well before then access to potable water, the electric grid, piped natural gas, passable roads and structurally sound bridges and other trappings of civilization will become problematic for a growing percentage of population. This is because the money needed to rebuild the infrastructure after each cataclysm will not exist.

A lot of these people will wish that they were living on a QUIDNON, with its big water tanks, propane lockers, its own electricity, a bulletproof copper-clad bottom and, most importantly, the ability to float and to move about using the wind and the currents. And this thought has given me the impetus to finish the design. Here is the picture, which I hope is worth a thousand words, and worth even more with a few thousand words added.

Read more »

Book Review: The Sea Gypsy Philosopher


The Sea Gypsy Philosopher: Uncommon Essays from a Thoughtful Wanderer
By Ray Jason
164 pp. Club Orlov Press – May 2015. $12.00.

by Frank Kaminski, Mud City Press

The author of this singularly beguiling book has been so many things and visited so many places. Growing up in the Philadelphia area in the 1940s and \’50s, he developed an avid interest in philosophy, English-language haiku and political science, eventually earning a bachelor\’s degree in this latter subject. He went on to serve in Vietnam, after which he pioneered the street performance scene in \’70s San Francisco, as that city’s first professional street juggler. The `90s saw Jason take up life on a sailboat wandering the seas, a life he continues to ardently pursue to this day. Though he’s sailed nearly enough miles to have circled the Earth one and a half times, he’s discovered a favorite spot in the Caribbean that he calls the “Archipelago of Bliss.” Among the activities that fill his days there are writing, juggling, foraging, getting to know his neighbors (human and animal) and encouraging his many followers to join him on his unconventional path.

As one might guess from the above description, Jason is a thinker of a truly fascinating sort. He goes by the self-deprecating moniker “sea gypsy philosopher,” and his book of the same name presents a vivid portrait of his extraordinary way of life using the descriptive powers of narrative writing and poetry. It also explores the intellectual underpinnings of the sea gypsy way and provides tips to those who wish to emulate it. For Jason, this lifestyle is partly about rejecting the consumerist ideals that rule the lives of most people in the industrial world. On another level, it’s a means of preparing for the ecological and economic disasters coming to us courtesy of consumerism. Should mayhem happen to erupt nearby Jason—whether due to disease, resource shortages or marauders—he’s able to simply sail away from it, a luxury few others have.

First-time visitors to Jason’s 30-foot sloop Aventura can’t believe he manages to eke out his sublime existence in a mere 140 square feet of space. And Jason, for his part, relishes their disbelief. There’s almost always an awkward pause as his visitor first surveys the spartan setting, followed by the worried question, “Ray? Where’s all your stuff?” Then Jason, who prides himself on happily getting by with roughly the same amount of space as Henry David Thoreau had in his cabin at Walden Pond, will say, “This is my stuff, and there’s too damn much of it!”

For two and a half decades now, Aventura has served Jason well as both a home and a “magic carpet” transporting him to wondrous new lands. Jason has logged more than 35,000 miles on his trusty boat during that time, most of them single-handedly. He’s long since made a habit of going long stretches without having to obtain food, water and other provisions from ashore. A rainwater collection system delivers his water for drinking and showering, and a solar water heater permits him to have warm showers. He has a small PV-powered fridge but prefers not to use it much, instead relying mostly on nonperishable food items and some vegetables he grows on the boat. Jason is always careful not to claim that he’s living a totally self-reliant life at sea, however, since his cupboards contain plenty of store-bought fare such as canned soup, bacon and butter. Nonetheless, it’s clear that in a post-collapse situation he would be able to adapt with minimal adjustments.

His ideas about what constitutes a life well lived are heavily influenced by three passages he has encountered in the course of his reading life, from the works of Socrates, Thoreau and Walt Whitman. Perhaps the most profound of these is the pronouncement, attributed to Socrates in Plato\’s Apology, that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”1 Jason feels this should be an empowering quote for any nonconformist, encouraging him or her to question the value of time spent shopping at the mall, keeping up on celebrity gossip or engaging in other trivial distractions perpetrated by pop culture, and to see how that time might be better spent.

The essays in The Sea Gypsy Philosopher, which started out as posts on Jason’s popular eponymous blog, often begin with revealing vignettes drawn from his own experiences. In one of these, the anguished look he once saw on a young Indio woman’s face as she gazed longingly at Aventura—wishing, he surmises, that she too could see the world—is the catalyst for a diatribe against female oppression. In another, Jason prefaces an anti-war lamentation by describing how he once heard a couple of guys in a nearby speedboat refer to the deafening sound of two U.S. military jets flying overhead as “the sound of freedom.” He is angered by this remark, knowing from his firsthand experience of war during Vietnam that the shriek of U.S. fighter planes hardly sounds like freedom to the people of a country being attacked by America. The essay that follows is his retort to the speedboaters.

Jason uses the term “Malignant Overlords” to describe those at the center of power and influence. In his view, these individuals are an irredeemably corrupt cadre of psychopaths and sociopaths whose lust for ever greater power will never be satisfied. They’re fully aware of the impending economic meltdown and may actually be engineering it. The reason they’re going to such lengths to install a militarized police and surveillance state in America (even equipping school districts with armored personnel carriers!) is to protect themselves against the desperate, pillaging hordes sure to appear during the collapse. Though the powers-that-be may purport to be our leaders, Jason insists they’re really our rulers.

In addition to denouncing the Malignant Overlords, Jason also categorically condemns war. He was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War during college—a fact he credits with first putting him on the Overlords’ “S list”—and he subsequently saw the awfulness of war firsthand when he was drafted into the Navy. His sparing accounts of the horrors he witnessed are powerful, as is his description of the “beaten down and regretful and frightened” air of so many soldiers he\’s met. Jason’s two main takeaway points about war are that it never achieves its outcome and it wouldn\’t be tolerated if the media showed its true grisliness. He has no easy answers as to how war could be abolished, however, knowing full well that it’s \”idealistic and foolhardy\” to expect the masses to be able to counter the will of the war-profiteering elite with their sheer numbers.

Among the other institutions of modern industrial society that Jason justifiably skewers are television, the Nobel prizes for peace and economics, monotheistic religions and nuclear deterrence. His criticism of television comes in the form of a letter to a reality TV show producer who contacted him about appearing in a program on “larger-than-life self-reliant sailors.” My favorite line from the letter: “Reality TV is to reality what Velveeta is to cheese.” As for Jason’s positions on the above-mentioned Nobel prizes, he coins the witticism “Nobel Peace Prize Deception” to describe the Peace Prize selection process; and his advice to the committee for the economics prize is to start “reward[ing] research and theories that are understandable and also valuable to the society as a whole.\” Jason also embraces polytheism as an alternative to the “terrorist organizations” that so many monotheistic churches represent. Lastly, he proposes that we use the resources currently spent on nuclear armament to address climate change.

Jason\’s notions as to how best to survive the transition to a deindustrial future make up a sizeable portion of this book. He\’s skeptical about the viability of most initiatives aimed at building collapse-proof communities because of their vulnerability to marauders, a weakness he’s confident his approach doesn’t have. He points out that if, during one of his stays ashore, he catches wind of nearby marauders, he can simply evade them on his boat and take up residence somewhere else. It will, of course, be objected that taking to the sea introduces the risk of piracy; but Jason anticipates this criticism and rebuts it convincingly. He reasons that pirates usually target large ships with loads of potential booty, rather than small craft such as Aventura, and that when they do strike, the news quickly hits the radio nets, alerting others to the danger.

So firmly does Jason believe in his plan for surviving collapse that he has codified it into a program for others to follow. He envisions vibrant communities of forward-looking people disconnecting from life on land to form “sea gypsy tribes,” and to this end he provides detailed guidance on creating such a tribe. Jason’s advice covers a wealth of topics, including learning to sail, buying and outfitting a boat and becoming more self-reliant.

What I like most about this book is its painterly attention to detail in describing the extraordinary—yet for Jason everyday—sights to be seen from aboard Aventura. Jason sets the scene for one essay by telling of “a cove so serene that the birds seemed to fly at half speed in order to preserve the tranquility.\” In another piece, he recalls a magnificent moment spent savoring a shimmering “moon bow” in the night sky along with several dolphins: “Bands of luminous silver, opaque white and misty lavender arched across the eastern horizon.” No less compelling is his recollection of one ominous, stormy night: “The sky was as dark and nasty as the soul of a Dostoyevsky villain. Huge, powerful clouds that resembled charcoal dipped in molten lead were blasting down the mountainside towards Aventura.”

My sole quarrel with this book is that two of Jason’s favorite quotations are quoted somewhat inaccurately. The first of these is Whitman\’s dictum “Resist much, obey little,”2 which in Jason’s text reads “Question much—obey little!” Jason also credits Thoreau with writing, “A man is rich in direct proportion to the number of things that he can live without,” when in fact Thoreau wrote, \”A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”3 I have a feeling that Jason’s intent was to paraphrase these quotes rather than reprinting them verbatim—but if so, he should have indicated that he was paraphrasing and left off the quote marks. Thus, while I enjoyed Jason’s book a great deal on the whole, these discrepancies blunted the edge of my passion.

The Sea Gypsy Philosopher is the first title to be released by Club Orlov Press, a small publishing company recently started by beloved peak oil author Dmitry Orlov. Jason and Orlov are longtime friends, as well as kindred spirits in writing, sailing and helping others prepare for the challenging times ahead. Together they’ve brought us an arresting book about an enchanting way of life that just may prove to be many people’s ticket to not just surviving, but thriving, in the coming age. I certainly plan on keeping an eye out for future offerings from both Jason and Club Orlov Press.


1 Plato, “Apology – 38a,” in Plato in Twelve Volumes, vol. 1, translated by Harold North Fowler; introduction by W.R.M. Lamb (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1966).
2 Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass: comprising all the poems written by Walt Whitman: following the arrangement of the edition of 1891-\’2 (New York: Modern Library, 1892), 9.
3 Henry David Thoreau, Walden (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Company, 1910), 106.

The World\'s Silliest Empire


[L’Empire le plus stupide de l’Histoire]

I couldn\’t help but notice that over the past few weeks the Empire has become extremely silly—so silly that I believe it deserves the title of the World\’s Silliest Empire. One could claim that it has been silly before, but recent developments seem to signal a quantum leap in its silliness level.

The first bit of extreme silliness surfaced when Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of the United States Central Command, told a Senate panel that only a very small number of Syrian fighters trained by the United States remained in the fight—perhaps as few as five. The tab for training and equipping them was $500 million. That\’s $100 million per fighter, but that\’s OK, because it\’s all good as long as the military contractors are getting paid. Things got even sillier when it later turned out that even these few fighters got car-jacked by ISIS/al Qaeda in Syria (whatever they are currently calling themselves) and got their vehicles and weapons taken away from them.

Gen. Austin

General Austin\’s previous role as as Lt. General Casey in Tim Burton\’s film Mars Attacks! It was already a very silly role, but his current role is a definite career advancement, both in terms of rank and in terms of silliness level.

Lt. Gen. Casey
Mars Attacks!

The next silly moment arrived at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, where Obama, who went on for 30 minutes instead of the allotted 15 (does Mr. Silly President know how to read a clock?) managed to use up all of this time and say absolutely nothing that made any sense to anyone.

But it was Putin\’s speech that laid out the Empire\’s silliness for all to see when he scolded the US for making a bloody mess of the Middle East with its ham-handed interventions. The oft-repeated quote is “Do you understand what you have done?” but that\’s not quite right. The Russian «Вы хоть понимаете теперь, чего вы натворили?» can be more accurately translated as “How can you even now fail to understand what a mess you have made?” Words matter: this is not how one talks to a superpower before an assembly of the world\’s leaders; this is how one scolds a stupid and wayward child. In the eyes of the whole world, this made the Empire look rather silly.

What happened next is that Russia announced the start of its bombing campaign against all manner of terrorists in Syria (and perhaps Iraq too; the Iraqi request is in Putin\’s in-box). What\’s notable about this bombing campaign is that it is entirely legal. The legitimate, elected government of Syria asked Russia for help; the campaign was approved by the Russian legislature. On the other hand, the bombing campaign that the US has been conducting in Syria is entirely illegal. There are exactly two ways to legally bomb the territory of another country: 1. an invitation from that country\’s government and 2. a UN Security Council resolution. The US has not obtained either of them.

Why is this important? Because the UN, with its Security Council, was instituted to prevent war, by making it difficult for nations to engage each other militarily without all sorts of international economic and political repercussions. After World War II it was thought that wars are rather nasty and that something should be done to prevent them. But the US feels that this is rather unnecessary. When a Russian correspondent (Gayane Chichakyan from RT) asked the White House press secretary under what legal authority the US was bombing Syria, he at first pretended to not understand the question, then babbled incoherently, looking rather silly. You see, the US likes to fight wars (or rather, its military contractors like to fight wars, because that\’s how they make money, and they happen to own a big piece of the US government). But the US can\’t win any wars, and that makes its entire war effort rather silly (in a murderous sort of way).

In spite of American recalcitrance, the UN does in fact prevent wars. Recently it prevented the US from mounting a “limited strike against the Assad regime in response to the brazen use of chemical weapons” (or so said Obama during his UN speech). This was helped by a deft bit of Russian diplomacy, in the course of which Syria voluntarily gave up its chemical weapons stockpiles. Undeterred by diplomacy, the US squeezed off a couple of cruise missiles in the general direction of Syria, but the Russians promptly shot them out of the sky, triggering a major rethink at the Pentagon and, of course, making the US look rather silly.

But once you make a fool of yourself, why stop? Indeed, Obama shows no intention of stopping. Just about the entire audience at the UN General Assembly knew that the Syrian government\’s chemical attack on its own people never happened. The chemicals were provided by the Saudis and were unwittingly used by the Syrian rebels on themselves. Lying, when everybody knows that you are lying, and knows that you know that you are lying: what could possibly be sillier?

Ok, how about continuously prattling on about “freedom and democracy”—in the Middle East, after throwing the whole region into chaos through their brain-dead interventions? The only voice of reason in the US seems to be that of Donald Trump, who recently declared that the Middle East was more stable under Saddam Hussein, Moammar Khaddafi and Bashar al Assad. Indeed it was. The fact that the only non-silly politician left in the US is Trump—that bloviating moneybag—sets a rather high bar for silliness for the country as a whole.

Prattling on about “freedom and democracy” in the Middle East is also silly because the entire region is tribal—has been tribal for a few thousand years, and will be tribal for a few thousand more. In each locale, some tribe is on top. If the idea is to carve it up into sovereign territorial units (none of which qualifies as a nation, because each one ends up being multinational) then each territorial unit ends up being ruled by some tribe while others grumble. Blunder in and exploit their grumbling to bring about “regime change”—and the whole place invariably burns down.

A case in point is Israel: it\’s got the top dog tribe—the Jews, and they can shoot or bomb anybody else with impunity. It is considered “democratic” because the Jews get to vote, which is very nice for the Jews. The Alawites in Syria get to vote too—and vote for Bashar al Assad—so why isn\’t that good enough? Because of American hypocrisy and double standards.

It\’s like that right down the line. Saudi Arabia is owned by one tribe—the House of Saud, and everybody else is disenfranchised. Iraq used to be run by the Sunnis from Saddam Hussein\’s tribe, but the Americans dislodged them, and now what remains of it is ruled by the Shia from the south of the country while the Sunnis ran off and joined ISIS. This can all seem like super-simple stuff, but not for the Americans, because it runs counter to their ideology, which dictates that the world must be remade in America\’s image. And so they keep trying to do this (or keep pretending to be trying, because results don\’t matter as long as their military contractors get paid) and don\’t seem to care one bit that this is making them look very silly.

And so the typical pattern has been this: the US bombs a country to smithereens, mounts a ground invasion, sets up a puppet regime and, promptly or not so promptly, pulls out. The puppet regime falls apart, and then you have either ungovernable chaos or some new, especially nasty form of dictatorship, or a little of each: a failed state, like Libya, and Yemen, and much of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. It doesn\’t much matter that this is the result (as long as the military contractors are getting paid) because America\’s motto seems to be \”Look Silly and Carry On.\” Wreck a country—and it\’s on to the next bombing campaign.

But this is where it all gets meta-silly: in Syria they can\’t even achieve that. The Americans have been bombing ISIS for a year now; meanwhile, ISIS has gotten stronger and occupied more territory. But they haven\’t gotten around to overthrowing Assad; instead, the ISIS boys have been busy prancing around the desert in black head rags and white basketball shoes taking selfies, blowing up archaeological sites, enslaving women and beheading anyone they don\’t like.

But now it appears that the Russians have achieved in five days of bombing what the Americans couldn\’t in a year and the ISIS boys are running away to Jordan; others want to go to Germany and ask for asylum. This has made the Americans upset, because, you see, the Russians were bombing “their” terrorists—the ones the Americans recruited, armed and trained… and then bombed? I know, silly—but true. The Russians will have none of that, because their approach is, if it looks like a terrorist and quacks like a terrorist, then it is a terrorist, so let\’s bomb it.

But it is understandable that this approach is unpopular with the Americans: here they were carefully pumping the place full of weapons and equipment, and bombing carefully around the edges so as not to blow up any of it, and the Russians just blunder in and blow it all up! The Saudis are absolutely livid, because it was they who paid for much of it. Plus the terrorists are their own Wahhabi-Takfiri brethren—the ones who like to declare various other Muslims that they don\’t happen to like to be infidels, in direct violation of their own Sharia law. Does that remind you of anyone? Anyone silly?

But it doesn\’t appear that the US can do anything to stop the Russians, or the Chinese who also want to get a piece of ISIS to stuff and mount, or the Iranians and the Hezbollah fighters who are ready to march in and mop up what remains of ISIS once the bombing missions destroy all the war materiel it has amassed. And so it\’s time for Americans to start an information war by accusing the Russians of causing civilian casualties.

Of course, being Americans, they have to prosecute this information war in the silliest way possible. First, you trot out your claims of civilian casualties before the Russians fly a single sortie. Oops! Then you stuff the social media with fake pictures of wounded children produced beforehand by performers in white helmets paid for by George Soros. And then, when asked for evidence, you refuse to provide any.

So far so good, but let\’s get even sillier. Immediately after screaming loudly about Russians causing civilian casualties, the Americans blow up a hospital in Afghanistan that was run by Médecins sans Frontières, in spite of being informed of its location both before and during the bombing. “Don\’t kill civilians… like this!” Could it get any sillier than that? Of course it can: the US can start blatantly, nakedly lying about the event: “There were Taleban fighters hiding in that hospital!”—no, there weren\’t; “The Afghans told us to bomb that hospital!”—no, they didn\’t. Bombing that hospital was an actual war crime—so says the UN. Are are the Russians now going to listen to criticism from war criminals? Don\’t be silly!

It\’s really hard to tell, but anything seems possible now. For example, the US no longer seems to have a foreign policy: the White House says one thing, the State Department another, the Pentagon a third, Samantha Power at the UN pursues a foreign policy of her own using Twitter, and Senator John McCain wants to arm Syrian rebels to shoot down Russian planes. (All five of them? John, don\’t be silly!) In response to all this confusion, America\’s political puppets in the European Union are starting to twitch uncontrollably and go off-script, because the nerve center in Washington is no longer sending them clear signals.

How is this all going to end? Well, since we are all just being silly, let me make a humble suggestion: the US should bomb everything inside the Beltway in Washington, plus a few counties in Virginia. That should significantly degrade the country\’s capability for being extremely silly. And if that doesn\’t work—so what? After all, it is clear that results don\’t matter. As long as the military contractors are getting paid, it\’s all good.