Archive for October, 2017

Firewalls on Fire


The concept of a firewall is a useful one: if there is a definite chance of something flammable catching on fire and you have to be next to it, then it’s an excellent idea to put a wall of nonflammable material between you and it. Automobiles, for instance, contain the vital ingredients of explosive fuel under pressure, electrical sparks, red-hot exhaust manifolds and humans. Putting a firewall between the car’s engine and the humans in the salon seems like a good one.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, “During 2003-2007 [in the US], the 267,600 highway vehicle [fires] reported per year caused an average of 441 civilian deaths, 1,326 civilian fire injuries, and $1.0 billion in direct property damage. On average, 31 highway vehicle fires were reported per hour. These fires killed one person a day. Overall, highway vehicles fires were involved in 17% of reported U.S. fires, 12% of U.S. fire deaths, 8% of U.S. civilian fire injuries, and 9% of the direct property damage from reported fires.” This would lead us to believe that the firewalls built into cars are no more than 67% effective; still, they seem like a good idea.

I once ended up with a used car—a generally very-hard-to-kill slant-6 Chrysler station wagon—that had been Mickey-Moused by a Middle Eastern car mechanic who apparently liked to kill people, preferably with fire. Whatever material was originally packed between the two sheet metal baffles that made up the firewall (asbestos?) was long gone, and he replaced it with… pine needles! This worked great while the needles were fresh and moist—the engine was quiet and the salon was cool—but once they dried out the engine’s roar started hurting my ears and my feet became painfully hot. I used this car for a while anyway—to haul floor sanding equipment around—then traded it away for a rusty old Fiat which a friend of mine later managed to fold in half—but that’s another story. The guy I traded it to then deposited it in my driveway, with the transmission seized, so the rear wheels wouldn’t turn—how on Earth did he do that? The flatbed driver who then hauled it off to a junkyard told me not to call him again.

And so there are two potential readings for the term “firewall”: one metaphorical, via an elision—a fire protection wall—and one literal—it’s on fire; it’s a wall; it’s a fire wall. The distinction is a useful one to those who like to kill people with fire. Most people aren’t versed in the finer points of semantics and such fine distinctions are lost on them. When someone in an expensive suit with shiny white teeth, a firm handshake and a steady gaze tells you that “Yeah, it’s a firewall (snort-chuckle-snigger-stifle-guffaw…)” this makes you feel safe rather than unsafe.

Feelings aside, the expression “being safe” also has a buit-in double entendre: it can mean both “protected” and “unthreatening.” Thus, US troops fighting in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and numerous other countries around the world are keeping you safe—protected from foreign enemies while keeping these foreign enemies safe—unthreatening to US interests. The police inside the US are also supposedly there to keep people safe—protected from domestic criminals and terrorists. And there is supposed to be a firewall between them: the police are supposed to keep the peace, not turn the “homeland” into a war zone. It bears noting that around ¾ of the casualties in the recent US military actions in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria were women, children and the elderly—uncounted tens and hundreds of thousands of them—all of them unarmed and unthreatening. Theoretically, that sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen inside the “homeland.”

But if you look carefully, that firewall is more of a “fire wall”—a wall that’s on fire. The police are armed with military weapons, including armored vehicles, heavy machine guns and mortars. And they shoot to kill with minimal provocation, just as they do in a war zone. (Quite a lot of deaf people are getting shot simply for not following orders shouted at them by police.)

Why is this particular “fire wall” on fire? Just look! Soldiers return from tours of duty during which they kill numerous unarmed civilians, including lots of women and children. Quite a few have PTSD and develop funny quirks, such as a propensity for choking out their sleeping spouses during nighttime panic attacks. Quite a few also have permanent brain damage from being repeatedly concussed by shock waves which make them unfit to serve in any capacity where the risk of injury is anything more than a paper cut. But what they often do upon their return is join local police and fire departments or work in private security. This firewall isn\’t just on fire—it has a revolving door built into it!

But most people aren’t versed in the finer points of semantics and when someone in an expensive suit with shiny white teeth, a firm handshake and a steady gaze tells them that “Yeah, we’re here to keep you safe (snort-chuckle-snigger-stifle-guffaw…)” they feel protected rather than targeted for instant deactivation.

There are many other firewalls that are either on fire or ready to burst into flames:

1. There is supposed to be a firewall between bankers and bank robbers. And yet if you watched the goings-on around the 2008 financial meltdown and thereafter, it was noticeable that the “banksters” both ran the banks and robbed the banks—both their clients and the government. They used the crisis as an opportunity to put themselves in a position to threaten the entirety of global finance with instant destruction should their conditions not be met.

2. There used to be a firewall between doctors and drug companies: the drug companies supplied the drugs and the doctors prescribed the drugs with the interests of their patients in mind. But that firewall is gone: doctors routinely receive a wide variety of incentives from drug companies to simply push the drugs to their patients. One result of this is that millions of people have been made into heroin addicts: the doctors get them hooked, and then once the prescriptions run out the addicts shift to the cheaper heroin. On that note…

3. There used to be a firewall between the government (which enforced anti-drug laws) and the drug dealers (which violated them). Now the US government is the biggest drug pusher of them all, overseeing the production of most of the world’s heroin as part of its occupation of Afghanistan. As a result of their effort, every 10th Afghani is now a drug addict. This business is quite profitable and has the additional benefit of decimating the US population through drug overdoses, obviating the need to find ways to employ it.

4. There used to be a firewall between the terrorists and those tasked with fighting terrorism, but this is no longer the case. ISIS—which is, thankfully, close to being wiped out in Syria and Iraq, but popping up in other places—was largely a US creation and armed with US weapons. Terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and in many other places are supplied from US military bases. Terrorist attacks on US soil have a strange tendency to feature perpetrators well-known to the FBI and are often specially coached for the attack by FBI agents. Meanwhile in the Ukraine (which is now a US protectorate) there is an ongoing topsy-turvy “anti-terrorist operation” in which “terrorist” Ukrainian troops shell residential districts wherein civilian “anti-terrorists” apparently reside.

5. There used to be a firewall between the US government and other governments; other governments’ agents couldn’t just walk in through the front door and tell the US government what to do. But now it turns out that the favors of the US government have been bid out in all sorts of ways: shady political donations and outright bribes have flooded in from around the world, making a joke of the principle that the government serves its people. A particularly egregious case is Israel: it is often hard to see much daylight between US and Israeli policies, with Israel in control of the agenda. Those who make too much of this fact are accused of anti-Semitism. (The term “Semitism” is a curious one: neither a racial nor an ethnographic term, it relates to a mythical character named Shem who, according to legend, lived sometime after Yahweh’s six-day stint at creationism.)

6. Perhaps most importantly, there used to be a firewall between friend and foe. Shooting at your own side, hilariously termed “friendly fire,” used to be considered a bad thing. But although US allies around the world, whom the US is supposed to be keeping “safe,” have been rather slow to notice which of the two meanings of “safe” happens to be in play, they are now sitting up and taking notice. This is why Turkey and Saudi Arabia are now negotiating the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems. You see, the weapons they purchased from the US have built-in friend-or-foe identification systems which cause them to refuse to fire at US planes and missiles, rendering them useless in case the US decides to render these countries safe-as-in-harmless. But the Russian systems just say “Target acquired; whatcha wanna do with it?” And that would make these countries feel safe-as-in-protected.

With all of these firewalls on fire, the US can be said to be at war with everyone—both with itself and with the entire world. And with that there remains just one more firewall to catch fire: the one within the US which separates those who give orders from those who follow them. Once that happens, those who issue the orders will be rendered safe—safe as in “fully cooked.”

Top Five


After the recent marathon writing session, I am taking this Thursday off in order to finish editing and proofreading an excellent new novel by Stan Goff which I plan to publish soon.

In the meantime, I hope that you find the time to peruse the following very popular offerings from the past four years.

It bears noting that this Tuesday’s post, Putin to Western elites: You flunked!—a follow-up to my most popular post ever—has been actively squelched by Facebook (which is, after all, a service of the Western elites) but is still on course with 10000 reads just yesterday.

This, I belive, is normal and to be expected. I know that I am walking a fine line, making use of another man’s public media in nonsanctioned ways—telling people things that they aren’t supposed to know. We should count our blessings that the methods of electronic mind control are as yet imperfect.

I’ll be back next week with a review of some of the most important things you aren’t supposed to know. In the meantime, enjoy…

Post Pageviews

May 31, 2016, 67 comments


Aug 23, 2016, 51 comments


Putin to Western Elites: You Flunked!


[Tuesdays are free, Thursdays are not; please SUPPORT ME ON PATREON. Minimum pledge is $1/month. And before you ask, no, I don’t work for anyone but my own readers.]

By far the most popular article I ever published on this blog was titled Putin to Western Elites: Play-time is Over. It came out almost exactly three years ago, after that year’s Valdai Club conference, and was based on the speech Putin gave at that conference. It garnered close to 200,000 page hits—more than twice more than the next most popular one—because it pointed out something very significant: a sea change in international relations had occurred, heralding the end of America’s unipolar moment when it could dictate terms to the entire world.

Essentially, in that speech Putin signaled to Western elites that they were no longer qualified to play the game of international relations of today and had to go back to school for retraining. And now, three years later, Putin has issued them a final report card, giving them an F in every category: they have learned nothing.

The following excerpt from my article of three years ago details how the rules had changed:

Previously, the game of international politics was played as follows: politicians made public pronouncements, for the sake of maintaining a pleasant fiction of national sovereignty, but they were strictly for show and had nothing to do with the substance of international politics; in the meantime, they engaged in secret back-room negotiations, in which the actual deals were hammered out. Previously, Putin tried to play this game, expecting only that Russia be treated as an equal. But these hopes have been dashed, and at this conference he declared the game to be over, explicitly violating Western taboo by speaking directly to the people over the heads of elite clans and political leaders.

There is still a chance to construct a new world order that will avoid a world war. This new world order must of necessity include the United States—but can only do so on the same terms as everyone else: subject to international law and international agreements; refraining from all unilateral action; in full respect of the sovereignty of other nations.

Although Putin’s unfavorable appraisal applied to the West as a whole, much of his criticism was directed squarely at Washington, whose European “vassals” (his own term, uttered on another occasion) were “driven by fleeting political considerations and their desire to please—I will put it bluntly—their big brother in Washington.”

Seated between Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, and Jack Ma, the billionaire head of the Chinese giant Alibaba, Putin emphasized that the modern world is a mindbogglingly intricate and complex place, full of unsolved problems and contradictions. On the one hand, there are virtually medieval, tribal societies such as Afghanistan, with their own traditions of tribal democracy and not amenable to positive change from the outside (what Karzai termed “John Kerry’s democracy”); on the other, the ubiquity of the internet, of instantaneous global communications and rapid progress in areas such as robotics and machine learning, epitomized by Jack Ma, offered both dangers and opportunities. But Putin the stern taskmaster emphasized that “All disputes must be resolved in a civilised manner… We are firmly convinced that even the most complex knots… must be disentangled rather than cut.” This requires intricate local knowledge, the capacity for patient diplomacy and a reputation for fair dealing—all of which Washington has either sacrificed on the bonfire of its own vanity, or has never had to begin with.

That is the reason why the West’s results have been so poor: “In the modern world, it is impossible to make a strategic gain at the expense of others. Such a policy based on self-assurance, egotism and claims to exceptionalism will not bring any respect or true greatness. It will evoke natural and justified rejection and resistance. As a result, we will see the continued growth of tensions and discord instead of trying to establish together a steady and stable international order and address the technological, environmental, climate and humanitarian challenges confronting the entire human race today.” The need to solve problems is urgent, but the West’s ability to do so is absent. As a result, “Two and a half decades gone to waste, a lot of missed opportunities, and a heavy burden of mutual distrust.”

Arms control: Fail.

Turning to specifics, Putin noted that “Russia and the United States bear a special responsibility to the world as the two largest nuclear powers.” Russia and the US have signed a number of arms limitation and reduction treaties, but while Russia has scrupulously fulfilled its obligations, the US has been remiss. For example, on eliminating surplus weapons-grade plutonium,

[The Americans] started building a plant on the Savannah River Site. Its initial price tag was $4.86 billon but they spent almost $8 billion, brought construction to 70 percent and then froze the project. But, to our knowledge, the budget request for 2018 includes $270 million for the closure and mothballing of this facility. As usual, a question arises: where is the money? Probably stolen. Or they miscalculated something when planning its construction. Such things happen. They happen here all too often. But we are not interested in this, this is not our business. We are interested in what happens with uranium and plutonium. What about the disposal of plutonium? Dilution and geological storage of the plutonium is suggested. But this completely contradicts the spirit and letter of the agreement, and, most important, does not guarantee that the dilution is not reconverted into weapons-grade plutonium. All this is very unfortunate and bewildering.

To be fair, designing and building such a reactor is a tricky task; many have tried, but only Russia has succeeded. The Americans lack the knowhow, but are too proud and embarrassed to ask for help.

Ensuring political stability: Fail.

On the topic of ethnic separatism, which is currently gripping many parts of the world, Putin’s rebuke was blunt: “You should have thought about this before,” when you engineered the confiscation of Kosovo from Serbia and turned it into a NATO military base. It is no use feigning umbrage now that Crimea has budded off from the Ukraine and joined Russia, or that Eastern Ukraine is refusing to bow down before the regime in Kiev, or that Iraqi Kurdistan has voted for independence (but failed in its bid due to lack of support from anyone except Israel).

And now there is Catalonia, with a long list of similar hopes and grievances simmering elsewhere. “I cannot help but note that more thought should have gone into this earlier. What, no one was aware of these centuries-old disagreements in Europe? They were, were they not? Of course, they were. However, at one point they actually welcomed the disintegration of a number of states in Europe without hiding their joy.”

In short, it was possible to set a bad precedent, as was done with Kosovo, but it is not possible to impose a double-standard: “It turns out that some of our colleagues think there are ‘good’ fighters for independence and freedom and there are ‘separatists’ who are not entitled to defend their rights, even with the use of democratic mechanisms… [S]uch double standards – and this is a vivid example of double standards – pose serious danger to the stable development of Europe and other continents, and to the advancement of integration processes across the world.”

Economic development: Fail.

It would appear that the United States has shifted its focus from helping developing countries develop to hurting developed countries. Recently, even Germany and Austria objected loudly when the US decided to enrich its energy companies at the expense of its European allies:

At one time the apologists for globalisation were trying to convince us that universal economic interdependence was a guarantee against conflicts and geopolitical rivalry. Alas, this did not happen… Some do not even conceal that they are using political pretexts to promote their strictly commercial interests. For instance, the recent package of sanctions adopted by the US Congress is openly aimed at ousting Russia from European energy markets and compelling Europe to buy more expensive US-produced LNG although the scale of its production is still too small.

Fight against terrorism: Fail.

Putin praised Russia’s effort in Syria, and predicted that the fight against ISIS there will soon be over. However, winning a single battle is not the same as winning the war. What’s more, the West’s role in this struggle has been anything but positive:

Instead of working together to redress the situation and deal a real blow to terrorism rather than simulating a struggle against it, some of our colleagues are doing everything they can to make the chaos in this region permanent. Some still think that it is possible to manage this chaos.

During the Q&A that followed his speech, Putin elaborated that “Terrorism has deep roots in the injustice of the world, among the underprivileged peoples and religious and ethnic groups, and in the absence of basic educational systems in many countries. Absence of good basic education is one of the things that nurtures terrorism.” The West’s heavy-handed tactics, which have recently made Syrian Raqqa look like Dresden at the end of World War II and caused many thousands of civilian casualties in Iraqi Mosul, create terrorism even as they are pretending to destroy it.

Much else was said—on the situation in the Ukraine, on North Korea, on how rapidly the situation in the world is shifting and developing and on the grave danger such instability poses to the world. For that, I encourage you to read the entire speech. But what is key to understand is that the era of Russian forbearance in the face of Western slights—of “turning the other cheek”—is now definitively over. When asked whether American lack of ability to pursue arms control is sending the world back to the 1950’s, Putin retorted: “We’re not gong back to the 1950s, we are being sent back to the 1950s” but that if the Americans wish to cancel any arms control agreement, Russia’s response will be “immediate and symmetric.” I hope that some of you remember what the situation that developed in the 1950s led to: the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world came so close to nuclear annihilation that only a happy accident prevented it.

We can only hope that the junta of armchair generals with whom Trump has surrounded himself remembers that too, and that they don’t get suicidal on us. There is certainly little hope that the Washington establishment understands the gravity of the situation, enthralled as they seem in the question of whether to impeach Trump for being a misogynist and a racist, or to lock up Hillary Clinton for being a crook. Nor is there much hope for the American population at large, most of which is in rapture over new revelations about all the pretty girls Harvey Weinstein may have molested.

Asked whether Trump is unpredictable, Putin responded that “Americans are unpredictable.” All we can hope for is that the Russians, along with their many friends and allies, continue to be professional, calm, careful and measured in their responses to random American flailing, and that Americans manage to maintain the presence of mind to keep their idiotic reality show, with their reality-show-host president, from turning into a snuff film.

I now turn it over to Putin.

I am not sure how optimistic it will sound, but I am aware that you had very lively discussions over the last three days. I will try, as has now become customary, to share with you what I think about some of the issues. Please do not take it badly if I say something that has already been said as I did not follow all the discussions.

To begin with, I would like to welcome Mr Karzai, Mr Ma, Mr Toje, our colleagues and all our friends. I can see many familiar faces in the audience. Welcome everyone to the Valdai Club meeting.

By tradition, this forum focuses on discussing the most pressing global political as well as economic matters. This time, the organisers, as was just mentioned again, have come up with a fairly difficult challenge asking the participants to try to look beyond the horizon, to ponder over what the coming decades may be like for Russia and the international community.

Of course, it is impossible to foresee everything and to take into account all the opportunities and risks that we will be faced with. However, we need to understand and sense the key trends, to look for outside-the-box answers to the questions that the future is posing for us at the moment, and will surely pose more. The pace of developments is such that we must react to them constantly as well as quickly.

The world has entered an era of rapid change. Things that were only recently referred to as fantastic or unattainable have become a reality and have become part of our daily lives.

Qualitatively new processes are simultaneously unfolding across all spheres. The fast-paced public life in various countries and the technological revolution are intertwined with changes on the international arena. The competition for a place in the global hierarchy is exacerbating. However, many past recipes for global governance, overcoming conflicts as well as natural contradictions are no longer applicable, they often fail, and new ones have not been worked out yet.

Naturally, the interests of states do not always coincide, far from it. This is normal and natural. It has always been the case. The leading powers have different geopolitical strategies and perceptions of the world. This is the immutable essence of international relations, which are built on the balance between cooperation and competition.

True, when this balance is upset, when the observance and even existence of universal rules of conduct is questioned, when interests are pushed through at any cost, then disputes become unpredictable and dangerous and lead to violent conflicts.

Not a single real international problem can be resolved in such circumstances and such a framing of the issues, and so relations between countries simply degrade. The world becomes less secure. Instead of progress and democracy, free rein is given to radical elements and extremist groups that reject civilization itself and seek to plunge it into the ancient past, into chaos and barbarism.

The history of the past few years graphically illustrates all of this. It is enough to see what has happened in the Middle East, which some players have tried to reshape and reformat to their liking and to impose on it a foreign development model through externally orchestrated coups or simply by force of arms.

Instead of working together to redress the situation and deal a real blow to terrorism rather than simulating a struggle against it, some of our colleagues are doing everything they can to make the chaos in this region permanent. Some still think that it is possible to manage this chaos.

Meanwhile, there are some positive examples in recent experience. As you have probably guessed, I am referring to the experience of Syria. It shows that there is an alternative to this kind of arrogant and destructive policy. Russia is opposing terrorists together with the legitimate Syrian Government and other states of the region, and is acting on the basis of international law. I must say that these actions and this forward progress has not come easy. There is a great deal of dissension in the region. But we have fortified ourselves with patience and, weighing our every move and word, we are working with all the participants of this process with due respect for their interests.

Our efforts, the results of which were questioned by our colleagues only recently, are now – let me put it carefully – instilling us with hope. They have proved to be very important, correct, professional and timely.

Or, take another example – the clinch around the Korean Peninsula. I am sure you covered this issue extensively today as well. Yes, we unequivocally condemn the nuclear tests conducted by the DPRK and fully comply with the UN Security Council resolutions concerning North Korea. Colleagues, I want to emphasise this so that there is no discretionary interpretation. We comply with all UN Security Council resolutions.

However, this problem can, of course, only be resolved through dialogue. We should not drive North Korea into a corner, threaten force, stoop to unabashed rudeness or invective. Whether someone likes or dislikes the North Korean regime, we must not forget that the Democratic People\’s Republic of Korea is a sovereign state.

All disputes must be resolved in a civilised manner. Russia has always favoured such an approach. We are firmly convinced that even the most complex knots – be it the crisis in Syria or Libya, the Korean Peninsula or, say, Ukraine – must be disentangled rather than cut.

The situation in Spain clearly shows how fragile stability can be even in a prosperous and established state. Who could have expected, even just recently, that the discussion of the status of Catalonia, which has a long history, would result in an acute political crisis?

Russia\’s position here is known. Everything that is happening is an internal matter for Spain and must be settled based on Spanish law in accordance with democratic traditions. We are aware that the country’s leadership is taking steps towards this end.

In the case of Catalonia, we saw the European Union and a number of other states unanimously condemn the supporters of independence.

You know, in this regard, I cannot help but note that more thought should have gone into this earlier. What, no one was aware of these centuries-old disagreements in Europe? They were, were they not? Of course, they were. However, at one point they actually welcomed the disintegration of a number of states in Europe without hiding their joy.

Why were they so unthinking, driven by fleeting political considerations and their desire to please – I will put it bluntly – their big brother in Washington, in providing their unconditional support to the secession of Kosovo, thus provoking similar processes in other regions of Europe and the world?

You may remember that when Crimea also declared its independence, and then – following the referendum – its decision to become part of Russia, this was not welcomed for some reason. Now we have Catalonia. There is a similar issue in another region, Kurdistan. Perhaps this list is far from exhaustive. But we have to ask ourselves, what are we going to do? What should we think about it?

It turns out that some of our colleagues think there are “good” fighters for independence and freedom and there are “separatists” who are not entitled to defend their rights, even with the use of democratic mechanisms.

As we always say in similar cases, such double standards – and this is a vivid example of double standards – pose serious danger to the stable development of Europe and other continents, and to the advancement of integration processes across the world.

At one time the apologists for globalisation were trying to convince us that universal economic interdependence was a guarantee against conflicts and geopolitical rivalry. Alas, this did not happen. Moreover, the nature of the contradictions grew more complicated, becoming multilayer and nonlinear.

Indeed, while interconnectedness is a restraining and stabilising factor, we are also witnessing an increasing number of examples of politics crudely interfering with economic, market relations. Quite recently there were warnings that this was unacceptable, counterproductive and must be prevented. Now those who made such warnings are doing all this themselves. Some do not even conceal that they are using political pretexts to promote their strictly commercial interests. For instance, the recent package of sanctions adopted by the US Congress is openly aimed at ousting Russia from European energy markets and compelling Europe to buy more expensive US-produced LNG although the scale of its production is still too small.

Attempts are being made to create obstacles in the way of our efforts to forge new energy routes – South Stream and Nord Stream – even though diversifying logistics is economically efficient, beneficial for Europe and promotes its security.

Let me repeat: it is only natural that each state has its own political, economic and other interests. The question is the means by which they are protected and promoted.

In the modern world, it is impossible to make a strategic gain at the expense of others. Such a policy based on self-assurance, egotism and claims to exceptionalism will not bring any respect or true greatness. It will evoke natural and justified rejection and resistance. As a result, we will see the continued growth of tensions and discord instead of trying to establish together a steady and stable international order and address the technological, environmental, climate and humanitarian challenges confronting the entire human race today.


Scientific and technological progress, robotic automation and digitalisation are already leading to profound economic, social, cultural changes, and changes in values as well. We are now presented with previously inconceivable prospects and opportunities. But at the same time we will have to find answers to plenty of questions as well. What place will people occupy in the “humans–machines–nature” triangle? What actions will be taken by states that fail to provide conditions for normal life due to changes in climate and environment? How will employment be maintained in the era of automation? How will the Hippocratic oath be interpreted once doctors possess capabilities akin to all-powerful wizards? And will human intelligence finally lose the ability to control artificial intelligence? Will artificial intelligence become a separate entity, independent from us?

Previously, when assessing the role and influence of countries, we spoke about the importance of the geopolitical factor, the size of a country’s territory, its military power and natural resources. Of course, these factors still are of major importance today. But now there is also another factor – the scientific and technological factor, which, without a doubt, is of great importance as well, and its importance will only increase over time.

In fact, this factor has always been important, but now it will have game-changing potential, and very soon it will have a major impact in the areas of politics and security. Thus, the scientific and technological factor will become a factor of universal and political importance.

It is also obvious that even the very latest technology will not be able to ensure sustainable development on its own. A harmonious future is impossible without social responsibility, without freedom and justice, without respect for traditional ethical values and human dignity. Otherwise, instead of becoming a world of prosperity and new opportunities, this “brave new world” will turn into a world of totalitarianism, castes, conflicts and greater divisions.

Today growing inequality is already building up into feelings of injustice and deprivation in millions of people and whole nations. And the result is radicalisation, a desire to change things in any way possible, up to and including violence.

By the way, this has already happened in many countries, and in Russia, our country, as well. Successful technological, industrial breakthroughs were followed by dramatic upheavals and revolutionary disruptions. It all happened because the country failed to address social discord and overcome the clear anachronisms in society in time.

Revolution is always the result of an accountability deficit in both those who would like to conserve, to freeze in place the outdated order of things that clearly needs to be changed, and those who aspire to speed the changes up, resorting to civil conflict and destructive resistance.

Today, as we turn to the lessons of a century ago, namely, the Russian Revolution of 1917, we see how ambiguous its results were, how closely the negative and, we must acknowledge, the positive consequences of those events are intertwined. Let us ask ourselves: was it not possible to follow an evolutionary path rather than go through a revolution? Could we not have evolved by way of gradual and consistent forward movement rather than at a cost of destroying our statehood and the ruthless fracturing of millions of human lives.

However, the largely utopian social model and ideology, which the newly formed state tried to implement initially following the 1917 revolution, was a powerful driver of transformations across the globe (this is quite clear and must also be acknowledged), caused a major revaluation of development models, and gave rise to rivalry and competition, the benefits of which, I would say, were mostly reaped by the West.

I am referring not only to the geopolitical victories following the Cold War. Many Western achievements of the 20th century were in answer to the challenge posed by the Soviet Union. I am talking about raising living standards, forming a strong middle class, reforming the labour market and the social sphere, promoting education, guaranteeing human rights, including the rights of minorities and women, overcoming racial segregation, which, as you may recall, was a shameful practice in many countries, including the United States, a few short decades ago.

Following the radical changes that took place in our country and globally at the turn of the 1990s, a really unique chance arose to open a truly new chapter in history. I mean the period after the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

Unfortunately, after dividing up the geopolitical heritage of the Soviet Union, our Western partners became convinced of the justness of their cause and declared themselves the victors of the Cold War, as I just mentioned, and started openly interfering in the affairs of sovereign states, and exporting democracy just like the Soviet leadership had tried to export the socialist revolution to the rest of the world in its time.

We were confronted with the redistribution of spheres of influence and NATO expansion. Overconfidence invariably leads to mistakes. The outcome was unfortunate. Two and a half decades gone to waste, a lot of missed opportunities, and a heavy burden of mutual distrust. The global imbalance has only intensified as a result.

We do hear declarations about being committed to resolving global issues, but, in fact, what we see is more and more examples of selfishness. All the international institutions designed to harmonise interests and formulate a joint agenda are being eroded, and basic multilateral international treaties and critically important bilateral agreements are being devalued.

I was told, just a few hours ago, that the US President said something on social media about Russia-US cooperation in the important area of nuclear cooperation. True, this is the most important sphere of interaction between Russia and the United States, bearing in mind that Russia and the United States bear a special responsibility to the world as the two largest nuclear powers.

However, I would like to use this opportunity to speak in more detail about what happened in recent decades in this crucial area, to provide a more complete picture. It will take two minutes at most.

Several landmark bilateral agreements were signed in the 1990s. The first one, the Nunn-Lugar programme, was signed on June 17, 1992. The second one, the HEU-LEU programme, was signed on February 18, 1993. Highly enriched uranium was converted into low-enriched uranium, hence HEU-LEU.

The projects under the first agreement focused on upgrading control systems, accounting and physical protection of nuclear materials, dismantling and scrapping submarines and radioisotope thermoelectric generators. The Americans have made – and please pay attention here, this is not secret information, simply few are aware of it – 620 verification visits to Russia to check our compliance with the agreements. They visited the holiest of holies of the Russian nuclear weapons complex, namely, the enterprises engaged in developing nuclear warheads and ammunition, and weapons-grade plutonium and uranium. The United States gained access to all top-secret facilities in Russia. Also, the agreement was almost unilateral in nature.

Under the second agreement, the Americans made 170 more visits to our enrichment plants, touring their most restricted areas, such as mixing units and storage facilities. The world’s most powerful nuclear enrichment plant – the Urals Electrochemical Combine – even had a permanent American observation post. Permanent jobs were created directly at the workshops of this combine where the American specialists went to work every day. The rooms they were sitting in at these top-secret Russian facilities had American flags, as is always the case.

In addition, a list was drawn up of 100 American specialists from 10 different US organisations who were entitled to conduct additional inspections at any time and without any warning. All this lasted for 10 years. Under this agreement, 500 tonnes of weapons-grade uranium were removed from military circulation in Russia, which is equivalent to about 20,000 nuclear warheads.

The HEU-LEU programme has become one of the most effective measures of true disarmament in the history of humankind – I say this with full confidence. Each step on the Russian side was closely monitored by American specialists, at a time when the United States limited itself to much more modest reductions of its nuclear arsenal, and did so on a purely goodwill basis.

Our specialists also visited enterprises of the US nuclear arms complex but only at their invitation and under conditions set by the US side.

As you see, the Russian side demonstrated absolutely unprecedented openness and trust. Incidentally – and we will probably talk about this later – it is also common knowledge what we received from this: total neglect of our national interests, support for separatism in the Caucasus, military action that circumvented the UN Security Council, such as the bombing of Yugoslavia and Belgrade, the introduction of troops into Iraq and so on. Well, this is easy to understand: once the condition of the nuclear complex, the armed forces and the economy had been seen, international law appeared to be unnecessary.

In the 2000s our cooperation with the United States entered a new stage of truly equitable partnership. It was marked by the singing of a number of strategic treaties and agreements on peaceful uses of nuclear energy, which is known in the US as the 123 Agreement. But to all intents and purposes, the US side unilaterally halted work within its framework in 2014.

The situation around the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) of August 20 (signed in Moscow) and September 1 (in Washington) is perplexing and alarming. In accordance with the protocol to this agreement, the sides were supposed to take reciprocal steps to irreversibly convert weapons-grade plutonium into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel and burn it in nuclear plants, so that it could not be used for military purposes. Any changes in this method were only allowed by consent of the sides. This is written in the agreement and protocols to it.

What did Russia do? We developed this fuel, built a plant for mass production and, as we pledged in the agreement, built a BN-800 plant that allowed us to safely burn this fuel. I would like to emphasise that Russia fulfilled all of its commitments.

What did our American partners do? They started building a plant on the Savannah River Site. Its initial price tag was $4.86 billon but they spent almost $8 billion, brought construction to 70 percent and then froze the project. But, to our knowledge, the budget request for 2018 includes $270 million for the closure and mothballing of this facility. As usual, a question arises: where is the money? Probably stolen. Or they miscalculated something when planning its construction. Such things happen. They happen here all too often. But we are not interested in this, this is not our business. We are interested in what happens with uranium and plutonium. What about the disposal of plutonium? Dilution and geological storage of the plutonium is suggested. But this completely contradicts the spirit and letter of the agreement, and, most important, does not guarantee that the dilution is not reconverted into weapons-grade plutonium. All this is very unfortunate and bewildering.

Next. Russia ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty more than 17 years ago. The USA has not done so yet.

A critical mass of problems is building up in global security. As is known, in 2002 the United States pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. And despite being initiators of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and international security, they initiated that agreement themselves, they are failing to meet their commitments. They remain as of today the only and largest holder of this form of weapon of mass destruction. Moreover, the USA has pushed back the deadline for eliminating their chemical weapons from 2007 to as far as 2023. It does not look proper for a nation that claims to be a champion of non-proliferation and control.

In Russia, on the contrary, the process was completed on September 27 of this year. By doing so our country has made a significant contribution to enhancing international security. By the way, the western media preferred to keep quiet, not to notice it, though there was one fleeting mention somewhere in Canada, but that was it, then silence. This chemical weapons arsenal, which the Soviet Union had stockpiled, would have been enough to destroy life on the planet multiple times over.

I believe that it is time to abandon an obsolete agenda. I am referring to what was. Without a doubt, we should be looking forward, we have to stop looking back. I am talking about this so as to understand the origins of the current situation that is taking shape.

It is high time for a frank discussion among the global community rather than just a group of the chosen, allegedly the most worthy and advanced. Representatives of different continents, cultural and historical traditions, political and economic systems. In a changing world, we cannot afford to be inflexible, closed off, or unable to respond clearly and quickly. Responsibility for the future – this is what should unite us, especially in times like the current ones when everything is changing rapidly.

Never before has humankind possessed such power as it does now. The power over nature, space, communications, and its own existence. However, this power is diffuse: its elements are in the hands of states, corporations, public and religious associations, and even individual citizens. Clearly, harnessing all these elements in a single, effective and manageable architecture is not an easy task. It will take hard, painstaking work to achieve this. And Russia, I will note, is willing to take part in it together with any partners who are interested.

Colleagues, how do we see the future of the international order and the global governance system? For example, in 2045, when the UN will mark its centennial anniversary? Its creation has become a symbol of the fact that humanity, in spite of everything, is capable of developing common rules of conduct and following them. Whenever these rules were not followed, it inevitably resulted in crises and other negative consequences.

However, in recent decades, there have been several attempts to belittle the role of this organisation, to discredit it, or simply to assume control over it. All these attempts predictably failed, or reached a dead end. In our opinion, the UN, with its universal legitimacy, must remain the centre of the international system. Our common goal is to raise its authority and effectiveness. There is no alternative to the UN today.

With regard to the right of veto in the Security Council, which is also sometimes challenged, you may recall that this mechanism was designed and created in order to avoid direct confrontation of the most powerful states, as a guarantee against arbitrariness and recklessness, so that no single country, even the most influential country, could give the appearance of legitimacy to its aggressive actions.

Of course, let us face it, the experts are here, and they know that the UN has legitimised the actions of individual participants in international affairs after the fact. Well, at least that is something, but it will not lead to any good, either.

Reforms are needed, the UN system needs improvement, but reforms can only be gradual, evolutionary and, of course, they must be supported by the overwhelming majority of the participants in the international process within the organisation itself, by broad consensus.

The guarantee of the UN effectiveness lies in its representative nature. The absolute majority of the world’s sovereign states are represented in it. The fundamental principles of the UN should be preserved for years and decades to come, since there is no other entity that is capable of reflecting the entire gamut of international politics.

Today, new centres of influence and growth models are emerging, civilisational alliances, and political and economic associations are taking shape. This diversity does not lend itself to unification. So, we must strive to harmonise cooperation. Regional organisations in Eurasia, America, Africa, the Asia-Pacific region should act under the auspices of the United Nations and coordinate their work.

However, each association has the right to function according to its own ideas and principles that correspond to its cultural, historical and geographical specifics. It is important to combine global interdependence and openness with preserving the unique identity of each nation and each region. We must respect sovereignty as the basis underlying the entire system of international relations.

Colleagues, no matter what amazing heights technology can reach, history is, of course, made by humans. History is made by people, with all their strengths and weaknesses, great achievements and mistakes. We can have only a shared future. There can be no separate futures for us, at least, not in the modern world. So, the responsibility for ensuring that this world is conflict-free and prosperous lies with the entire international community.

As you may be aware, the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students is taking place in Sochi. Young people from dozens of countries are interacting with their peers and discussing matters that concern them. They are not hampered by cultural, national or political differences, and they are all dreaming about the future. They believe that their lives, the lives of younger generations will be better, fairer and safer. Our responsibility today is to do our best to make sure that these hopes come true.

Thank you very much for your attention.

The Shape of the Future


I like to flatter myself that the main reason so many people have beaten a path to my blog and keep buying my books is that for over a decade I have consistently guessed correctly at the shape of the future; not all the time, but enough of the time to make people want to pay attention. I try to be very careful in my prognostications. I never predict relatively trivial events such as stock market crashes, shifts in the composition of national governments and other incidents that only happen on paper or on a whim. Instead, I try to focus on aspects of physical reality—flows of energy in particular—that constrain the shape of the future. I also don’t make prediction with regard to timing: whether something will happen is often a question that has an answer; when something will happen is often a question for which no method of finding an answer exists. Bearing that in mind (so that you are not disappointed) I am going to go out on a limb and make a few predictions about the general shape of the future that will materialize over the course of a single human lifetime, and perhaps quite a bit faster.

I believe that the general shape of the future can be guessed at by focusing on the following four factors: weather, energy, population and geopolitics. Let’s look at each one.

The Limits of Gullibility


The derogatory term “conspiracy theory” automatically gets thrown at anyone with the temerity to question the veracity of stories broadcast by American mainstream media sources: refuse to believe what they are feeding you, and you are automatically branded a “conspiracy theorist.” But what if you refuse to theorize, to impugn, to ascribe, to insinuate or to offer alternative versions, and simply point out that what is being alleged to be true simply isn’t the least bit likely? Of course, anything is possible; for example, it is possible that every single person who reads this article will instantly get hiccoughs. But it just isn’t the least bit likely. If someone were to tell you that everyone who read this article did in fact come down with a case of hiccoughs, I believe that you would be perfectly justified to say “that’s just too unlikely to be true” and leave it at that, without being scorned as a “conspiracy theorist” and without being goaded into providing some sort of alternative account because you are under no obligation to make sense out of anyone else’s nonsense.

The recent massacre in Las Vegas provides a good testing ground for this approach.

There are lots of bizarre details in the official account that cry out for careful analysis, but we won’t bother doing any of—because it’s not our job. Instead, we’ll simply look at eyewitness testimony and ask ourselves a simple question: How likely is it that all these people came up with what they said on their own?

Here is a list of links to videos of people who say that they witnessed the massacre.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59

If you watch them, you will find that all of these 59 people had spontaneously and instantaneously formed the same impression of what was happening, and subsequently expressed it in identical terms: all of them thought that what they heard was “fireworks” or “firecrackers” and most of them used the words “pop-pop-pop” to describe the noise. There are a couple of facts to take into account.

First, these people were at an outdoor country music concert, and at such events the sound level is typically over 100dB, while the shooter was supposed to have been some 300m away, and the noise from the muzzle (150dB at close range) would have been attenuated by the distance to well below 100dB. Thus, the sound of the distant gunfire wouldn’t have stood out enough over the background noise to be instantly noticeable to everyone.

Second, automatic gunfire doesn’t sound at all like fireworks. Here’s what typical automatic gunfire sounds like. And here’s what fireworks typically sound like. How likely is it that 59 people simultaneously, instantaneously thought that one sounded just like the other? At the risk of being labeled as “conspiracy theorists,” let us propose an alternative: somebody put words in their mouths—somebody incompetent, who didn’t even bother to check whether the words made any sense.

In addition to the endless variations on the theme of “Like firecrackers going off, pop-pop-pop!” we have numerous people spontaneously opining that “There was blood everywhere” and that “It was like a war zone”:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

There was “blood everywhere” at Sunrise Hospital, a relatively modest Level II trauma center, which received 214 patients, approximately two-thirds of whom had suffered gunshot wounds. There, Renae Huening, a trauma nurse, followed “a trail of blood” from the parking lot to the hospital, where the overwhelming “[smell of] iron” accosted her senses. She soon found herself “slipping and sliding” in pools of blood until she was “covered” with it. Jacqueline Rodriguez, a nursing aid, raced to work to find “a trail of blood from the ambulance bay all the way in.” Dr. Dan Inglish was stunned by what he saw: “People were bleeding everywhere…” Jessica Weisberger, an 8-year veteran of the emergency room, struggled for words: “Everything seemed to be… either had blood or… I mean everywhere.” Dorita Sondereker, the Director of Emergency Services at Sunrise Hospital, recalled “blood everywhere, and honestly, I want to say bodies on stretchers everywhere.” Amber Ratto, a paramedic, reiterated that there was “blood just soaking the hallways, everywhere.” Dr. Michael Seiff observed “blood everywhere… blood all over the floor… the stench of blood and bodies whisking by in either direction on stretchers.” Jon Dimaya, a nurse, empathized with the housekeeping staff, which desperately tried to keep the flood of blood at bay: “I must have bumped into every one of them cleaning the floor every minute,” he remembered; “It was stained in blood the whole time.” Dr. Christopher Fisher described wounds that were “literally everywhere,” and a scene reminiscent of “a war zone…[with] blood in the hallways.” Technician Tom Kaiser was shocked by the “copious amounts of blood” while Dr. Allen McIntyre put it as plainly as he could: “There was blood everywhere.”
It was much the same at University Medical Center, which treated 104 patients. “There were blood trails from the ambulance bay into the hospital corridors and into the units; it was like a war zone,” said CEO Mason Van Houweling. “It was like a war zone,” offered Dr. Jay Coates, a senior trauma surgeon; “[There] was a trauma bay full of at least 70 people and patients stacked everywhere.” Robert Smith, a cardiovascular tech, confirmed the awful scene: “There was blood on the ground in the car park… trails of blood about 20 feet from the entrance.” Inside, Dr. Dale Carrison recalled an environment of “controlled chaos, a combat medical hospital… blood everyplace.”

Back at the site of the massacre, Jeff Buchanan, deputy fire chief for Clark County, could not believe “all the smatterings of blood, the blood footprints, the pooling of bodily fluids.\” Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who toured the site on Monday, concurred that \”there were bloodstains everywhere.” Nor did simply running away from the site allow one to avoid seeing lots of blood everywhere: Maria Beth Stanfeld retreated to MGM after seeing “blood on people’s clothes,” only to find that “they cut the elevator off because there was blood all over the elevator.” Taylor Winston, an ex-Marine attending the concert, decided to commandeer a vehicle to transport the wounded. After finding keys inside the first vehicle he checked, he went into action, evacuating 30 wounded to Desert Springs Hospital in just two trips. He later reflected: “It was overwhelming how much blood was everywhere.” Army veteran Rod Ledbetter likewise fell back on his training, but still struggled with what he saw: “There was blood everywhere: Excalibur, Luxor, on the Strip, on the street.” Tara Spangler, sitting in a restaurant across the street from Mandalay Bay, could see the panicked crowd coming toward her: “There was just blood everywhere, and it wasn\’t even their blood.”

Nikita Ronolo was standing next to a man who suffered a fatal headshot: “[He] just dropped to the floor, blood everywhere… and I had blood on my dress.” After witnessing a man take a round in the chin, Taylor Benge looked down and saw that: “My jeans are covered in someone’s blood, my t-shirt is covered in someone’s blood, my sister’s whole leg [is] covered in blood!” Sara Lake was shielded from the barrage of bullets by a complete stranger who was subsequently shot in the head: “I was covered in his blood,” Sara later recalled. Lani Langton saw “bloody people just everywhere… I just had a lot of other people’s blood over me, so people thought I was shot.” For veteran LAPD officer John Kline, the horror of the night brought to mind “a war zone…there were people covered in blood.” Bill Shermett, who survived the ordeal with his girlfriend, tried to convey the experience: “You see people shot everywhere, blood all over everyone. It\’s not like on TV. When you see people bleeding everywhere, this is some real shit!”

And so we have 28 people who saw “blood everywhere,” with a substantial number of them also opining that “it was like a war zone.” Some of these were bystanders who may have never seen any large quantity of blood, others medical professionals or combat veterans who have seen their share of it. And yet their impressions were identical, and couched in similar terms. How likely is it that all of these people simultaneously, instantaneously formed the same impression and expressed it in nearly identical terms? Also to keep in mind: gunshot wounds do not always bleed profusely, and they rarely bleed after the initial 10 minutes, because after that the nearby blood vessels constrict by spasm. Also, bleeding is by far the simplest effect of a gunshot injury to treat: all you have to do is apply direct pressure to entry end exit wounds—for about 10 minutes.

In addition to not particularly believable eyewitness testimony, there are also the not particularly believable official statistics. The final numbers, announced early the next day, came to exactly 59 dead and 527 wounded, and they haven\’t been updated since. Of the wounded, not a single person has subsequently died. It appears that the only two options were instant death or swift recovery. Large victim populations, such as this one, tend to form normal distributions: some die right away, some linger for a while; some make a fast recovery, some require multiple rounds of surgery, a few remain handicapped for life and a few more persist in a coma. A bimodal distribution such as the one we are being asked to believe is possible but extremely improbable.

In addition, we have some particularly preposterous bits of evidence: interviews with the wounded that are quite amusing, such as people who were supposedly shot through the lungs or with bullets lodged in their spines looking as fresh as daisies and cheerfully answering questions for the camera. And then there is this character, who was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos and said that his friend got shot in the chest three times. Apparently, Stephen Paddock was a superhuman rifleman. Think about it: he was 500m away and 32 floors up and yet he managed to hit a single person in the chest three times! Even a trained sniper coolly and carefully placing single shots would be very unlikely to achieve such a result. All three chest shots managed to miss all the vital organs, because here is the victim two days later, smiling and ready to return home to North Pole, Alaska. (Who writes this crap anyway?) If you will believe that Paddock hit somebody in the chest three times with automatic fire but failed to kill him, then you will probably believe anything! But perhaps most tellingly, if you watch the video, you will notice something called “duping delight”: The pleasure of being able to manipulate someone, often made visible to others by flashing a smile at an inappropriate moment. Also, all the sideways glances are “tells” that this person is lying. All it takes is one bad liar, and the entire house of cards starts to wobble.

The truth of this matter may never become known while speculations about it abound. Note, however, that I have refused to engage in speculative theorizing; instead, I chose to point out the obvious: what we are being asked to believe happened is so utterly unlikely that it deserves to be dismissed out of hand, along with everyone who dares to insult our intelligence in this manner. In the end, only one question remains: How gullible are you?

In case the answer is “extremely gullible,” I’ll throw in this gem: a video of a guy who got shot in the back of the head. The bullet went in under the scalp and came out after traveling under the skin for three inches. The back of his skull didn’t get shaved or taped up; apparently, it just instantly healed by itself. Nor was there any trauma to the skull or the brain alleged to have been installed therein. You better believe it!

The Magic Bullshit Decoder


Unbeknownst to most, their brains are a battleground. Those lower down on the intellectual food chain are programmed more or less directly, through a method close to operant conditioning, to engage in status signaling in order to demonstrate their fitness to their peers, mostly by purchasing certain consumer products, while those higher up are manipulated mostly through underhanded uses of language, using a variety of methods, into buying into a fictional narrative and proving their fitness to their peers through virtue signaling. The lower-brow methods of public manipulation, based on television and advertising, have have already been discussed ad nauseam. Not so with the numerous misdirections and fake-outs involving the misuse language: nobody seems to be involved in keeping track of all the major and minor transgressions against our ability to think clearly. Language is what we reason and communicate with, and when the very words we use are twisted and deformed our ability to think suffers also.

Let me walk you through how that’s done.

World\'s Largest Playground

Lake Baikal

Quite a number of people in the world have taken up a nomadic lifestyle by living aboard boats. Instead of cooperatively running in the rat race, they have escaped and now work some vague and sketchy internet-based job while sailing around the islands of the Caribbean or around the Mediterranean, with the Greek islands a particular favorite. Other favorite cruising grounds, for those who don’t much care for the open ocean, include the canals of England or Canal du Midi in France. The Inside Passage which runs up the coast of British Columbia from Washington state to Alaska is another favored playground. The Intracoastal Waterway that runs along the Eastern Seaboard (and is lovingly called “the ditch”) is said to start in Boston, Massachusetts, but can really only be said to exist between Norfolk, Virginia and Brownsville, Texas, on the Mexican border. The more adventurous go through Panama Canal and go island-hopping among Pacific atolls. There are many others. But there is one truly gigantic cruising ground that is charted, dredged, has plenty to see and plenty to do, but remains almost entirely unexplored.

Continue reading…

Please Be Very Afraid


…By Their Fruits


If you exist within the by now almost hermetically sealed-off mindscape of Western mainstream media, and if you also happen to like knowing the truth, then life must seem increasingly unfair to you—because you can’t win. For decades now the modus operandi has been as follows. Regardless of which party has the majority in Congress or controls the presidency, the same unchanging national (and increasingly transnational) elite ensconced in Washington sets the agenda and pushes it through using any means necessary, whether legal, illegal or blatantly criminal (increasingly the latter as national bankruptcy looms and desperation sets in). Their operatives make sure that there is no real investigation of what happened. All Western media reports that contradict the official mendacious narrative are quashed. Any independent efforts to investigate and to find out the truth are denigrated as “conspiracy theories”—a derogatory term coined by the CIA for exactly this purpose. Any non-Western media sources that dare to contradict the official mendacious narrative are ignored, subjected to ad hominem attacks and all manner of false allegations and, if all else fails, banned outright (as is currently happening with the satellite TV channel Russia Today).

If that happens to be the prevailing method of communicating with the public (as I am convinced, and as you should convince yourself by doing some research if you are not), then what chance do any of us stand of finding out the truth to our satisfaction? Typically, we expect to be presented with a few, possibly somewhat contradictory, versions of events and, after some probing and deliberation, render a verdict and socialize it among ourselves to reach a consensus which then becomes another brick within the edifice of our consensual reality. These are high-priority tasks, because maintaining a sense of consensual reality is important: it allows us to distinguish the sane from the insane, and it makes it possible for us to tell our young people, whose minds are too immature to let them reach their own conclusions without being driven toward unfounded or extremist views, what is safe for them to think. If we are deprived of our ability to maintain a sense of consensual reality, then we lose face before our peers (and our children) and our self-respect suffers because we no longer feel socially adequate.

But what choices are there?

If we swallow the official lies we are being told, knowing full well that they are lies, then we feel like fools. If we refuse to swallow them, then we either have to accept some alternative interpretation or narrative as real in spite of lacking all the facts we need to prove the case—because nobody is going to give them to us—and risk ostracism and marginalization, or we have to take an agnostic stance and declare that while we are not privy to the truth, we know enough to declare that the official story is a tissue of lies. The first two of these are both clearly losing moves while the last is a refusal to play and therefore a forfeit; thus, all three are defeats. There are no winning moves here.

But it’s even worse than that; not only do we lack a winning strategy, but we also happen to be on a losing team that doesn’t know how to play and loves to be played. As Ron Unz, the publisher of, recently put it, “I’ve sometimes joked with people that if ownership and control of our television stations and other major media outlets suddenly changed, the new information regime would require only a few weeks of concerted effort to totally invert all of our most famous ‘conspiracy theories’ in the minds of the gullible American public. The notion that nineteen Arabs armed with box-cutters hijacked several jetliners, easily evaded our NORAD air defenses, and reduced several landmark buildings to rubble would soon be universally ridiculed as the most preposterous ‘conspiracy theory’ ever to have gone straight from the comic books into the minds of the mentally ill, easily surpassing the absurd ‘lone gunman’ theory of the JFK assassination.”

Take the example of the ill-fated US invasion of Iraq: 4,801 servicemen dead, 1,455,590 dead Iraqis, a once prosperous country destroyed and turned into a terrorist playground with a weak central government that is aligned with Iran, buying weapons from Russia and increasingly hostile toward the US. The war was sold to the public in the US using a technique called “proof by juxtaposition” which works like this: keep showing a picture of Bob next to a giant pile of corpses and eventually everyone comes to believe that Bob is a mass murderer, never mind the fact that Bob only killed maybe half a dozen people, and all but one in self-defense or by accident. This is what was done with Saddam Hussein (who, by the way, was Osama bin Laden’s arch-enemy, who, in turn, had worked for the CIA). By 2003 70% of Americans had been made to believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center.

“Proof by juxtaposition” works well for the TV-addled zombies in the US, but for the rest of the world, as represented by the UN Security Council, a stronger tissue of lies had to be woven—using forged “intelligence” of Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction.” The world blinked and failed to veto a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. The putative weapons were never found and the intelligence that was used to convince the world of their existence turned out to have been fabricated.

This is actually a very big deal, because a reputation for telling the truth can only be lost exactly once, and from then on the use of the phrase “US intelligence sources” became synonymous with “a conspiracy of barefaced liars.” In turn, the standard response to proposals based on “US intelligence” became something along the lines of “go jump in the lake.” But it took a while for the penny to drop; the last country the US will have ever gained UN’s permission to attack using false intelligence (of a humanitarian disaster) was Libya. Dmitry Medvedev, who was taking a turn as Russia’s president at the time, was still attempting to ingratiate himself with the West and failed to block the resolution—a decision he later regretted. The delay in processing the fact that all trust is gone, and the additional death and destruction that resulted from it, are deplorable, but now the verdict is in, and it is not subject to appeal. If this last paragraph comes off sounding a bit angry, then that’s probably appropriate; all those wrongful deaths justified using made-up “facts” ought to be on somebody’s conscience—let’s hope not yours or mine.

Getting back to the original question: how can we play this game to win? Based on the above, the base assumption that, whatever the issue, the dominant, official Western narrative is a tissue of lies, is a good one. Whatever message Washington and Western mass media are trying to push, a perfectly valid response is to point out all the times they have lied in the past, and to pose a simple question: When did they stop lying? Since it is very hard to come up with a reasoned answer to this question, the resolution is to treat all Western governments and media as suspect.

If the official narrative is to be disregarded, then an opening is created for alternative narratives. These can be of at least three kinds. There are the straw men set up specifically to be torched, along with all those who fall for them: if they can’t convince you of False Narrative A, then they try to convince you of False Narrative B (which seems attractive to you because it makes them look bad) so that they can label you as a “conspiracy theorist” and run you off the road and into a ditch. Then there is False Narrative C: counternarratives crafted by other nation-states—geopolitical adversaries (like Russia, China and Iran) or pariah states (such as Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea). Here, you risk being labeled as peddler of foreign influence (if you fall for them) or become stuck in a mental no man’s land (if you don’t).

In each case, you can try to make sense of the situation by asking the question, Cui bono? With Falsehood A, the beneficiary is the US elites, oligarchs, deep state, etc. Same with False Narrative B, except within a “they win or you lose” pattern. Same again with False Narrative C, except that here “they” are foreign liars rather than domestic ones. But even if you know who is lying to you and why, you still can’t win, in the sense of getting at the truth.

But you can win—by looking at the results. What you are looking for is a consistent pattern of failure. You see, those who lie to others also tend to lie to themselves. Out of any large group of people, only a few high-performing sociopaths can consistently lie to others while remaining truthful and honest within their own minds; for everyone else the experience of being immersed in a cesspool of lies is spiritually corrosive, emotionally debilitating and so demoralizing that they are unlikely to adequately perform their duties. I have downed many a beer with both enlisted men and officers who have been through tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and listened carefully to their tales of woe. Rarely did any of their official indoctrination survive contact with “the enemy.” Most unfortunately, the emotional damage caused by this experience is often permanent.

Beyond the emotional impact of lies, there is the practical effect of impaired judgment in those in command. Lies beget other lies, and pretty soon unbiased intelligence-gathering, rational analysis and proper mission planning become impossible. The guaranteed, repeatable result is a fiasco. Look at Kosovo: a failed narco-state run by a mafia. Look at Afghanistan: the Taliban are back and better than ever, and the heroin business is booming. Look at Iraq: a playground for terrorists and aligned with Iran. Look at Libya: a destroyed country that is a playground for Islamic militants and a transshipment point for Europe-bound migrants. Look at Syria: the Syrians and the Russians have largely reconquered it from the US-armed, US-trained terrorists. Look at the Ukraine: it has splintered, the best part of its population has fled to Russia, and it now makes a compelling case study for all five stages of collapse. Look for counterexamples to this pattern: you are unlikely to find any.

Those who march into battle under the banner of Truth are far more likely to prevail than those who sally forth with their loins girded with the fig leaf of public deceit. You may not be able to decipher the writing on the banner, but you can certainly tell when the winds of autumn blow away the fig leaf; then, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” [Matthew 7:16]