Archive for July, 2016

The Power of “Nyet”


[O poder do “não”]
[Het vermogen van “njet”]
[Síla „Nět“]
[Le pouvoir du « Niet »]

The way things are supposed to work on this planet is like this: in the United States, the power structures (public and private) decide what they want the rest of the world to do. They communicate their wishes through official and unofficial channels, expecting automatic cooperation. If cooperation is not immediately forthcoming, they apply political, financial and economic pressure. If that still doesn’t produce the intended effect, they attempt regime change through a color revolution or a military coup, or organize and finance an insurgency leading to terrorist attacks and civil war in the recalcitrant nation. If that still doesn’t work, they bomb the country back to the stone age. This is the way it worked in the 1990s and the 2000s, but as of late a new dynamic has emerged.

In the beginning it was centered on Russia, but the phenomenon has since spread around the world and is about to engulf the United States itself. It works like this: the United States decides what it wants Russia to do and communicates its wishes, expecting automatic cooperation. Russia says “Nyet.” The United States then runs through all of the above steps up to but not including the bombing campaign, from which it is deterred by Russia’s nuclear deterrent. The answer remains “Nyet.” One could perhaps imagine that some smart person within the US power structure would pipe up and say: “Based on the evidence before us, dictating our terms to Russia doesn’t work; let’s try negotiating with Russia in good faith as equals.” And then everybody else would slap their heads and say, \”Wow! That\’s brilliant! Why didn\’t we think of that?\” But instead that person would be fired that very same day because, you see, American global hegemony is nonnegotiable. And so what happens instead is that the Americans act baffled, regroup and try again, making for quite an amusing spectacle.

The whole Edward Snowden imbroglio was particularly fun to watch. The US demanded his extradition. The Russians said: “Nyet, our constitution forbids it.” And then, hilariously, some voices in the West demanded in response that Russia change its constitution! The response, requiring no translation, was “Xa-xa-xa-xa-xa!” Less funny is the impasse over Syria: the Americans have been continuously demanding that Russia go along with their plan to overthrow Bashar Assad. The unchanging Russian response has been: “Nyet, the Syrians get to decide on their leadership, not Russia, and not the US.” Each time they hear it, the Americans scratch their heads and… try again. John Kerry was just recently in Moscow, holding a marathon “negotiating session” with Putin and Lavrov. Above is a photo of Kerry talking to Putin and Lavrov in Moscow a week or so ago and their facial expressions are hard to misread. There’s Kerry, with his back to the camera, babbling away as per usual. Lavrov’s face says: “I can’t believe I have to sit here and listen to this nonsense again.” Putin’s face says: “Oh the poor idiot, he can’t bring himself to understand that we’re just going to say ‘nyet’ again.” Kerry flew home with yet another “nyet.”

What’s worse, other countries are now getting into the act. The Americans told the Brits exactly how to vote, and yet the Brits said “nyet” and voted for Brexit. The Americans told the Europeans to accept the horrendous corporate power grab that is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the French said “nyet, it shall not pass.” The US organized yet another military coup in Turkey to replace Erdoǧan with somebody who won’t try to play nice with Russia, and the Turks said “nyet” to that too. And now, horror of horrors, there is Donald Trump saying “nyet” to all sorts of things—NATO, offshoring American jobs, letting in a flood of migrants, globalization, weapons for Ukrainian Nazis, free trade…

The corrosive psychological effect of “nyet” on the American hegemonic psyche cannot be underestimated. If you are supposed to think and act like a hegemon, but only the thinking part still works, then the result is cognitive dissonance. If your job is to bully nations around, and the nations can no longer be bullied, then your job becomes a joke, and you turn into a mental patient. The resulting madness has recently produced quite an interesting symptom: some number of US State Department staffers signed a letter, which was promptly leaked, calling for a bombing campaign against Syria in order to overthrow Bashar Assad. These are diplomats. Diplomacy is the art of avoiding war by talking. Diplomats who call for war are not being exactly… diplomatic. You could say that they are incompetent diplomats, but that wouldn’t go far enough (most of the competent diplomats left the service during the second Bush administration, many of them in disgust over having to lie about the rationale for the Iraq war). The truth is, they are sick, deranged non-diplomatic warmongers. Such is the power of this one simple Russian word that they have quite literally lost their minds.

But it would be unfair to single out the State Department. It is as if the entire American body politic has been infected by a putrid miasma. It permeates all things and makes life miserable. In spite of the mounting problems, most other things in the US are still somewhat manageable, but this one thing—the draining away of the ability to bully the whole world—ruins everything. It’s mid-summer, the nation is at the beach. The beach blanket is moth-eaten and threadbare, the beach umbrella has holes in it, the soft drinks in the cooler are laced with nasty chemicals and the summer reading is boring… and then there is a dead whale decomposing nearby, whose name is “Nyet.” It just ruins the whole ambiance!

The media chattering heads and the establishment politicos are at this point painfully aware of this problem, and their predictable reaction is to blame it on what they perceive as its ultimate source: Russia, conveniently personified by Putin. “If you aren’t voting for Clinton, you are voting for Putin” is one recently minted political trope. Another is that Trump is Putin’s agent. Any public figure that declines to take a pro-establishment stance is automatically labeled “Putin’s useful idiot.” Taken at face value, such claims are preposterous. But there is a deeper explanation for them: what ties them all together is the power of “nyet.” A vote for Sanders is a “nyet” vote: the Democratic establishment produced a candidate and told people to vote for her, and most of the young people said “nyet.” Same thing with Trump: the Republican establishment trotted out its Seven Dwarfs and told people to vote for any one of them, and yet most of the disenfranchised working-class white people said “nyet” and voted for Snow White the outsider.

It is a hopeful sign that people throughout the Washington-dominated world are discovering the power of “nyet.” The establishment may still look spiffy on the outside, but under the shiny new paint there hides a rotten hull, with water coming in though every open seam. A sufficiently resounding “nyet” will probably be enough to cause it to founder, suddenly making room for some very necessary changes. When that happens, please remember to thank Russia… or, if you insist, Putin.

Interview on Keiser Report Summer Solutions Series


Max Keiser, Stacy Herbert and I discuss two books which I recently published—150-Strong and Bureaucratic Insanity—as well my efforts to prevent World War III.

On Women, Boats and Plumbing


…It is dangerous to generalize, and there are some exceptionally handy women, but there is also a preponderance of anecdotal evidence that the vast majority of women who live aboard boats limit their participation in dealing with plumbing issues to making announcements and asking questions.

The announcements can be quite emphatic, ranging from “There is no water!” or “There is salt water coming out of the tap!” to “I am going to the gym, because I want to take a normal shower!” and “I can’t stand this any more!” The questions can be quite challenging as well: “Why is the plumbing breaking down all the time?”, “Why can’t it be made to work reliably?” and “Why can’t we live like normal people?” As you may rightly surmise, plumbing emergencies occupy a spot at the top of the list of things that negatively affect domestic tranquility among liveaboard couples.

When an onboard plumbing emergency arises, the male part of the seasteading team takes out the tools, plunges his hands into a cramped locker filled with a tangle of hoses, promptly cuts himself on a hose clamp and starts using foul language. He would much rather work on something—anything—else, but he knows that if he can’t fix the plumbing problem quickly and definitively, his stock will plummet in value. Now, fixing the problem is generally quite possible—plumbing isn’t exactly brain surgery—but there are several adverse factors:

Continue reading…

A Turkey of a Coup


A lot of words have already been said in the past few days about the Turkish coup that couldn’t fly, but strangely enough some rather obvious things went unmentioned, so I’ll try to fill in a few gaps. Specifically, a lot of the things that have been said range from feeble-minded to utterly preposterous. If this is propaganda, then it sounds like very bad, weak propaganda. Still, there is no shortage of people endlessly repeating these talking points, whether because they get paid to or because they don’t know better. They are the ones I want to address.

Idiotic Theory #1: Erdoǧan staged his own coup in order to consolidate his power.

Prior to the putsch, Erdoǧan went on vacation, which is traditionally the best time to overthrow a leader. For example, Gorbachev’s tenure as “president” of USSR was ended by a putsch in August 1991 while he was on vacation. People who are busy staging a putsch to consolidate their power don’t go on vacations; they are too busy plotting and orchestrating.

Erdoǧan attempted to fly back, only to find that he couldn’t land at İstanbul Atatürk, then found himself chased by hostile F-16s. According to social networks then flew toward Europe and requested political asylum in Germany, which was refused (although this part of the story looks like typical psych-ops). At some point it dawned on him that most of the army and virtually all of the people in Turkey were on his side, and so he called upon them to take to the streets in defense of the legitimate government. He did this using an improvised public communications technique that was almost a mockery of itself: his face on a cell phone held in front of a television camera. What followed wasn’t some peaceful, timid demonstration in support of the status quo but gonzo political action, complete with civilians laying down in front of tanks and getting crushed, followed by other civilians jumping on top of tanks and slitting the drivers’ throats. The putsch crumbled.

The optics of all of this are hard to misread. He went on vacation; he tried to flee; he begged his people for help over a cell phone. He ended up looking like a very weak and confused leader in a region where leaders either look strong or they don’t stay leaders for long. Do you still think that he planned all this? I don\’t.

Idiotic Theory #2: Erdogan is wildly unpredictable and crazy.

No, the poor fellow just made a lot of mistakes. The modern world is very complicated, and he is just a national politician, not some geopolitical genius extraordinaire. He tried to work with the EU. Then, when Brexit happened, he realized that the EU is now a dead union walking. He tried to work with NATO; then he realized that NATO is a suicide pact that’s trying to provoke a suicidal war with Russia, with Turkey the inevitable loser. Here’s a really simple alternative theory: maybe he was just doing his best, which hasn’t been very good.

There is plenty more evidence of that. Erdoǧan has played all of his cards wrong:

• He did not stand in the way of the US and others supporting ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria, a.k.a. Al Nusra, allowing Turkey to serve as a conduit for stolen Syrian and Iraqi oil which ISIS exported to Israel and elsewhere, and allowing weapons and jihadists to flow the other way. He also allowed his own son to profit from this shady business. Enriching your enemy is generally a bad plan.

• He did not hinder those who organized the European “refugee” crisis (George Soros et al.) only to realize, after several horrible terrorist attacks, that he had allowed thousands of terrorists to infiltrate Turkey just like they did the EU. Trying to curry favor with the EU (with the idea of joining it) while at the same time helping to undermine it by flooding it with terrorists, and destabilizing your own country in the process, was also a bad plan.

• He responded in exactly the wrong way to the unprovoked NATO shoot-down of a Russian plane over Syria, which resulted in painful Russian sanctions against Turkish agricultural exports, construction companies and tourist industry. Then he realized that he had made a bad mistake, made a sudden about-face and apologized to Russia. But by then he had squandered much of the hard-won good will of the Russian people. (Russia and Turkey had fought many wars, and Russians, like elephants, never forget.) Wrecking relations with a neighboring country, on which your country depends to keep your people employed and the lights on, is a very bad plan indeed.

All of this also made him look very, very weak.

On the other hand, the Turks are a strong people. Their army—at least the part of it that staged the coup—is a… NATO army, good at taking their uniforms off in public and running away (see photo), but the Turkish people can apparently handle the situation on their own. They clearly did not want to end up living under a pro-Western military dictatorship, like Egypt. Do you notice how little news there is coming from Egypt, in spite of all the terrible human rights abuses taking place there? That is because Egypt has been back under Western control ever since the democratically elected Moslem Brotherhood had been overthrown by the military. It doesn’t matter to the West that Egypt is no longer a democracy, or that human rights have pretty much gone missing there.

But this does seem to matter a great deal to the Turks! The only part of this that has been hard to predict is how long it would take Erdoǧan to actually understand what’s happening and to start responding adequately to the demands of the situation.

Idiotic Theory #3: Erdoǧan is a “new Hitler”

First, see above; Erdoǧan is weak. (Was Hitler weak?) But in spite of being weak, and in spite of making a lot of tactical errors, he is a popular leader pursing a correct overall strategy. He has taken the country in the direction in which the wind is blowing throughout much of the world anyway—away from failed Western liberal stage-managed democracy and toward resurgent populist conservative authoritarianism à la Moslem Brotherhood, or United Russia, or the National Front in France, or Donald Trump in the US, or any of the other popular movements that are poised to be voted into power in many parts of the world over the coming years. What Turkey needs in order to fight off the mutually supportive combination of Moslem Extremists and Globalizing Corporatists (ME+GC) is a stronger leader, not a weaker one.

Second, when various mouthpieces in the West start calling somebody “Hitler”—watch out for “regime change”! But their regime change machine seems to have stopped working a while ago. They tried it on Putin; that fizzled. They tried it on the Ukraine; that’s the last time it worked. They’ve been trying it on Assad for five years; he is still there. Now they are going to try it on poor embattled Erdoǧan? Let’s hope it doesn’t work on him either. The US and NATO had a good long run destroying one country after another—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, the Ukraine, Syria, Yemen—but there’s hope that this wave of destruction is finally over. Let us hope that they do not succeed in turning Turkey into a failed state along with all the others.

Third, the stated reason for calling Erdoǧan terrible names is that he is antidemocratic. Here, a couple of observations are in order. Lack of democracy is never a problem as far as the West is concerned: look at Egypt. If the people insist on electing someone the West doesn’t like—forget about democracy! Live under a military dictatorship until you have learned your lesson! Then, have you noticed just how badly Western-style representative democracy tends to function in ancient, tribal societies throughout the Middle East? Well, it turns out that democracy doesn’t work in these societies, and that popular authoritarianism is a much better way to go—unless what you want to produce is a failed state and a refugee crisis.

Erdoǧan is no Hitler. He may not seem like the most fabulous national leader ever, but if you look around, he actually doesn\’t look that bad in comparison. Look at the US, whose Black President has driven blacks to start assassinating policemen. Or look at Greece, which went from the birthplace of democracy to the deathplace of democracy in one easy referendum followed by instant capitulation. Or France, with its François “get used to terrorism” Hollande who pays thousands of euros a week just to keep his balls shaven. Or Brexitania, which dumped PM Fooked-A-Pig only to replace him with dug-up Margaret Thatcher. And then there\’s the Ukraine, with its alcoholic president Porky, parliamentary crotch-grabbing maneuvers and a Speaker who needs a speech therapist… No, Erdoǧan is looking pretty good, actually. Be happy, Turks, you got a winner!

* * *
Since its founding as a modern nation-state on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey has remained at a crossroads between the east and the west. In recent decades, while the European project was showing some promise, Turkey looked west; now that the European project is in shambles, it is time for it to face east again. The idea of Turkey’s ascension to the EU is dead already. Now what Turkey needs to do is to extricate itself from the ridiculous, incompetent suicide pact that is NATO and make new security arrangements within a broader Eurasian context. (John Kerry recently said something about kicking Turkey out of NATO for being antidemocratic; that sounds very much like “You can’t fire me; I quit!”)

Then Turkey has to deal with the nasty contingent variously known as Wahhabists, Salafists, Takfiris and Jihadists. (If you don’t know who they are, you can call them “Moslem Extremists” (ME) but don’t just call them “Moslems” or you’ll sound ignorant.) And then of course there are the Globalizing Corporatists (GC), who are always looking for opportunities to dismember a country by “privatizing” it and carting it off piece by piece, and who have to be kept at bay until their global financial scheme finally blows up. ME+GC is a nasty combination, and this will not be an easy task. I hope that the Turks are up to it.

QUIDNON—Progress Report


Much of the design work has been completed over the past few months. The 3D model, drafted in Rhino 3D, is largely complete. Construction techniques, including materials selection, joinery techniques and order of assembly have been largely worked out. The cockpit design, the deck arches, the tiller linkage, tanks and lockers and many other details have been worked out in detail.

Read more…

Dark Age Cometh

Grigori Maiofis

The world has fallen behind itself.

It turns out the processes of secularization and technological progress have raced ahead of civilization’s collective consciousness.

People were summoned to explore the heavens, they were promised universal prosperity, a world without borders, gender equality, and a third gender, and a fourth, and a fifth, and watermelons that taste like raccoons, and raccoons with the hair of mermaids. But people wanted a hug, warm tea, summers in the country, and to spend time with their relatives.

The idea of globalization has turned out to have been privatized by large capital, which needs a market of 300 million consumers, 500 million, a billion…

But the people just want somebody to buy their rutabagas, and that’s it.

“But thanks to globalization, everyone gets to develop—the little homesteads, the individual entrepreneurs, the hired hands…”

Sure, yeah. Sounds good. Pardon me while I hit the snooze button one more time.

“But we must open our borders to all those who are suffering and wandering forlornly. As a nation, we were formed of those who came here from all sorts of different parts of the world…”

How very true! Hey, look, there is this dude with funny hair saying that we can build a wall and live behind it! Wouldn’t that be nice? It would be safe and secure, living behind a wall, warm and comfy.

That’s why The Game of Thrones is such a popular success. There, the world changes rapidly within a constant set of constraints established once and for all. In that world there is no militant atheism. That world was created once, and then everything happens within its borders.

Meanwhile, our contemporary world changes in dastardly ways as far as the people are concerned. Investments lose value, pensions are cancelled… Let’s just hope that there isn’t a war, that goes without saying.

And every day television tells us whom we should love. One day it’s Israel, the next day it’s Britain, or Hillary Clinton. But people just want to love themselves, and those around them.

The stress of all this is simply unbearable. The world, which consists of people, can’t cope with this postmodernism, and so it is quietly crawling back into its conservative lair. The idea of building a wall is clear to all. Yes, it’s a populist daydream. But it is easy to understand, and expressed in human language. Global competitiveness and market share, on the other hand, is the sound a woodpecker doing it with a dead tree.

You can’t fool people, at least not over the long term. People sense where there is true humanity, and where it’s just dogs barking at the moon.

Right now humanity is like a cement airplane that’s been fitted with the most powerful engines in the world. It was washed and waxed, fueled it up, throttled up—and the engines sheared off and flew away in different directions. And the airplane rolled down the airstrip for a bit, stopped and went to sleep.

It is dreaming of the open sky, and a bird’s eye view of the Earth, and a world without borders, and the eternal brotherhood of all peoples, and a common currency, and various other things that are pleasant only in your asleep.

A Dark Age cometh. It may not be particularly dark, but it is sure to be endless.

Dmitry Samoylov
Original post