Archive for May, 2019

Party Semantics


Having spent a good while marveling at the results of the recent elections of the European Parliament, I have come to a conclusion as to where all of this is going. In the past, there were two distinct meanings of the English word “party”:

1 a social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment;

2 a formally constituted political group, typically operating on a national basis, that contests elections and attempts to form or take part in a government.

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The Limits of American Destructiveness


US foreign policy has always been directed at wrecking anything that wasn’t deemed sufficiently American and replacing it with something more acceptable—especially if that something allowed wealth to flow into the US from the outside. Compromises were reserved for the USSR, but even there the Americans constantly tried to cheat. For everyone else there was just submission, which was usually tactfully disguised as a positive—a seat at the big table which offered better chances for peace, prosperity and economic and social development.

Of course, it was a simple enough matter to pierce this veil of hypocritical politeness and to point out that the US, living far beyond its means, has only managed to survive by looting the rest of the world, but anyone who dared to do so would be ostracized, sanctioned, regime-changed, invaded and destroyed—whatever it took.

The US establishment has lavished its wrath on anyone who dared to oppose it ideologically, but it reserved its most extreme forms of malice for those who dared commit the cardinal sin of attempting to sell oil for anything other than US dollars. Iraq was destroyed for this very reason, then Libya. With Syria the juggernaut bogged down and stalled out; with Iran it is unlikely to ever get started.

Even the spineless European politicians are now forced to admit that US policies are designed to enrich certain American interests at the expense of their constituents; they understand by now that further denial would cause them further harm at the polls. Most insultingly to the American ego, US attempts at making Russia and China submit are being greeted with shrugs, titters and eye rolls. And now anybody who wants to can openly criticize the US and scheme behind its back.

How times have changed! US politicians and officials have abandoned all attempts at maintaining decorum and no longer disguise their rapacious, grasping ways. Instead of veiled threats, they now deploy big lies and fake threats. Focusing on the manufacture and dissemination of fakes, they have been attempting to use them to coerce obedience. There are the fake threats—Russian, Chinese, Iranian, North Korean, Cuban—that are used to call for discipline within NATO and for compliance with US unilateral sanctions.

There are also the fake (or false flag) events—a Boeing shot down over the Ukraine by “pro-Russian rebels”; the Skripal poisoning; fake chemical attacks in Syria preposterously blamed on the government; damaged oil tankers in UAE blamed on Iran. These fakes are being used as an an excuse to wreck everything—international security and trade agreements, the systems for insuring that these agreements are adhered to, and world trade.

Before the Americans would do their best to wreck anything that wasn’t theirs, then work to replace it with something that was theirs; but now they have nothing to offer as a replacement for what they are destroying. The only thing the US can offer China is Chinese victory in the trade war. China does not need the US, and this point is being rather loudly pounded home, not just by the Chinese government but by private companies and individuals as well.

First, there is a flood of countersanctions. In particular, a halt to the export of rare earth minerals will shut down electronics manufacturing and with it the entire US high tech sector. Then there are the bonuses to those who buy Huawei products and punishments for buying anything American, up to and including eating at McDonald’s. iPhones have been all but banned—not by the government but by peer pressure. Taking a trip to the US is now a firing offense. There is now a good chance that, caught up in this patriotic uplift, the Chinese are being prepared to make any sacrifice for the sake of outright victory in their trade war with the US.

But do the Americans still have the power to destroy? When Saddam Hussein decided to start selling oil for euros, the CIA organized a provocation that caused him to invade Kuweit as punishment for stealing Iraqi oil. This allowed the US to organize a gigantic expeditionary force with divisions from a large number of countries, including Syria and Egypt and pretty much all of NATO. After a decade of Hussein festering in place, a somewhat smaller coalition dealt him the coup de grâce, destroying Iraq in the process. The victims of the American invasion and occupation outnumber Saddam Hussein’s victims by orders of magnitude. Later, the same thing was done to Muammar Qaddafi, for similar reasons, and Libya is likely to remain as a ruin. There, some sort of minor coalition was cobbled together.

But now the US finds that it urgently needs to knock out Iran because otherwise it will be too late. It is time to form a new coalition and Mike Pompeo has started racing around Eurasia. First off, he offended the Germans by canceling his state visit with Angela Merkel on a moment’s notice and without offering a reason. Instead, he flew to Baghdad—a perfect location for launching an attack on Iran, except that the Iraqi response was a message of solidarity with Iran, willingness to mediate the US-Iranian dispute, and consideration of a ban on US troops on Iraqi soil.

And so Mike flew to Sochi, where he met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and, briefly, with Putin. Most likely, Putin told him where he can stuff his war plans, and so Mike canceled his planned trip to Moscow, to avoid having Sergei Lavrov wipe his feet on him again. And so Mike flew on to Europe, where he got a quick “no” on Iran from EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini and an outright refusal to meet from the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Great Britain. And so Mike flew back to Washington. You can’t tell anything by looking at his smirking fat mug, but I am sure that he was crying on the inside.

US actions around the world can now be compiled into two lists. The first list is of what the US has succeeded or may yet succeed in wrecking. The second list is of what the US wants to or has been trying to wreck but won\’t be able to. There is no third list of what the US has managed to wreck and then make whole again. The challenge for the whole world is to move as many items as possible from the first list to the second list. There are many ways of going about doing this that do have a chance of working and one that doesn’t: negotiating with Americans. Because they lie and cheat and aren’t worth talking to.

Ethnogenesis: The Map and the Data


Before we move on to discussing the very significant modern-day implications of Gumilëv’s theory of ethnogenesis, I want to present, in condensed, summary form, the data this theory is based on. According to this theory, the biogenetic phenomenon that underlies all of human history is triggered two or three times per millennium, seemingly randomly, and always along a band just a few hundred kilometers wide that spans just one side of the planet and follows the great circle (which is the shortest path between two points on a sphere). These bands are variously oriented and lie outside the plane of the solar system, suggesting that the bursts of mutagenic radiation come from outside the solar system. After some human population that happens to be within the narrow band gets zapped, there follows an incubation period of over a century during which the mutant gene spreads through the population; only then does the fun start.

All of this makes the subject a damned difficult one. A vulcanologist might be pleased with the frequency of two or three major events per millennium, but then would not be so pleased with the complete lack of geological evidence; all that remains is written is history and archeology. An evolutionary biologist would say that a few thousand years is too short a time frame to work with (the entire span of human history is barely 20 centuries). And how would a geneticist look for markers within the Y chromosome of men who’ve been dead for many centuries that happen to correlate with the trait of “willingness to die for an abstract cause”? But just because a theory cannot be attested based on physical evidence does not automatically invalidate it. There is another method—preponderance of circumstantial evidence—and this is where Gumilëv happens to truly shine. He assembled 20 centuries’ worth of historical and archeological data into a single map that shows who got zapped by space rays where and when, and discussed the results of each such event in great detail. Here, then is the map.

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QUIDNON: The Rudder

Rudder assembly

Quidnon’s steering has evolved quite a lot since the original concept. Now all that’s left of the original concept is the idea that the rudder should have a kick-up blade: when sailing across shallows it should gently float up instead of getting torn off or getting stuck, and when the boat settles on its bottom at low tide the rudder blade should automatically get itself out of the way. Only now has a good solution to this problem has finally been found.


A Hegemon Checkmated


The way a lot of otherwise intelligent and well-informed commentators are sounding, a war between the US and Iran could break out at any point. Their evidence in favor of this view consists of some US aircraft carriers that are supposedly en route to the Persian Gulf, which Iran threatened to blockade if attacked. To do so, Iran wouldn’t actually have to do anything kinetic; it would suffice for it to threaten to attack some oil tankers for their insurance coverage to be voided, preventing them from loading cargo or setting sail. That would block deliveries of close to two-thirds of all the crude oil that’s shipped by sea and cause a truly staggering amount of economic damage—so staggering that the oil-fired economies of the oil-importing nations (and even some of the oil-exporting ones) may never recover.

First, let’s look at this bit of evidence. In my view, the sight of US aircraft carriers anywhere near a well-armed potential adversary such as Iran, or China, or Russia, is a crystal-clear indication that there isn’t going to be any sort of military escalation. The math here is simple. In order to be effective in action, a US aircraft carrier has to be within 500 km of the targets its aircraft are going to bomb. That’s the typical round-trip range of the aircraft without mid-air refueling. But if said aircraft carrier approaches any closer than 1000 km of said potential adversary, it can be sunk using an entire array of modern weapons against which it has no defenses. Obviously, under such circumstances, the command of the carrier will avoid doing anything at all provocative while doing all it can to telegraph its complete lack of hostile intent.

Some claim (based on no evidence at all) that the US would actually want to have one of its aircraft carriers sunk, to use as an excuse for an escalation. But how exactly would it escalate? By having some more of its aircraft carriers sunk? Add to this the fact that the US no longer seems to build aircraft carriers. Its last effort, the Gerald R. Ford, aptly named after the “dim bulb” president, is undergoing endless repairs in the hopes that it will some day become useful for something. Add to this the fact that the US no longer has the money to build such gigantic war toys: the way things have been going, in just a few years the entire federal budget is going to be swallowed up by interest payments on the federal debt.

Apparently, it is extremely difficult for Americans to face the fact that there is a long and growing list of things they can no longer get done:

• The US can no longer get color revolutions right. The Ukraine is an out-of-control embarrassment where half the population is ready to vote for Putin while some very nasty Jewish oligarchs have pretty much bought themselves a Jewish president. And if the example of the Ukraine is tragic—it is now the poorest country in Europe—the example of Venezuela is a bit of a farce. There, a US-trained stooge by the name of Juan Guaidó has been parading around pretending to be president since April Fool’s day. These days, US talk of “regime change” only causes eye-rolls and groans.

• The US can no longer stage false flag attacks and make them stick. The fake chemical weapons attack in Syria’s Douma, which served as an excuse for Donald Trump’s last useless bombing of Syria (in which a bunch of Tomahawk cruise missiles got dropped in the sea and a bunch more got shot down by Syrian air defenses) was definitely proven to have been a fake. And the last such attempt, at causing a bit of damage to oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and attempting to blame it on the Iranians, didn’t get much traction at all, being too preposterous.

• The US can no longer pull out troops. Its troops are stuck in Afghanistan, where they no longer have any sort of mission at all now that the Taliban are once again victorious. In order to pull out they have to come up with some sort of face-saving agreement, but here there are two problems: first, they don’t know how to negotiate such an agreement; second, nobody wants to negotiate with them. And so their strategy is “fester in place.” This is very bad, because there is a chance of it evolving into “abandon in place”—stop resupplying the troops when the money runs out. Other than saving face and making the retreat look anything other than a shameful rout, there are some practical considerations to pulling out all of the equipment. There is too much of it to pull out by air. It got there via Russia, but begging Russia for help again would be too humiliating. It could perhaps be retrieved via Pakistan, but US-Pakistani relations are in terrible shape. But leaving all of the equipment in place would produce a rather shockingly well-equipped Taliban, causing an international scandal. Last, best choice is to destroy all of the equipment in place, but this would produce terrible optics both at home and abroad. But Afghanistan is just the tip of the iceberg: there are over 1000 US military bases around the world that have to be dismantled and abandoned because, as I already mentioned, in just a few short years the US will have a national defense budget of exactly $0, the entire federal budget having been swallowed up by interest payments on the national debt.

• The US can no longer fight trade wars. The one with China has gone spectacularly badly. All along, the Chinese strategy has been to bide for time, never agreeing to any sort of deal, while feverishly figuring out how to replace the US in its truly massive international trade. At every step of the way, the US has been there to help China while hurting its own interests. There is too much here to dig into, so here are just three highlights. First, US farmers are driven into bankruptcy because their GMO-contaminated soya is being replaced by ecologically clean Russian soya (GMOs are illegal in Russia) with major health benefits for the Chinese. Second, the sanctions against Huawei, which makes half the smartphones and much else, have cut off the US from the next major advance in network technology. And since Google’s recent decision not to support future versions of Huawei phones or to provide updates to current ones, smartphones will no longer run Android, cutting the US out of most of the smartphone market. Third, the next batch of Chinese countersanctions—a ban on rare earths exports—will put paid to US hopes for being able to maintain production for alternative energy technologies, electric cars, semiconductors and much else. Finally, Americans will end up paying for their folly in thinking that they can still stand up to the Chinese economically through much higher interest rates: China will continue to sell from its hoard of over $1 trillion in US federal debt, driving up the interest rate the US has to pay in order to continue to borrow more and more all the time (which it has to in order to avoid defaulting on its existing debt).

So, what can the US still do? The answer, I think, is obvious: the US is still perfectly capable of causing humanitarian disasters. Yemen, where a civil war is being perpetuated using US weapons and with the participation of US military advisers, is perhaps the worst case. There is also the Rukhban refugee camp in Syria, near the US military base at At Tanf, where US-supported Islamist radicals are using displaced Syrians as a human shield. There are the economic sanctions against Venezuela, which are causing considerable discomfort for the people there. To be fair, the US is causing humanitarian disasters on its own territory as well: if you look at the burgeoning homeless populations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and elsewhere in the US, or explore the statistics on suicide, drug addiction and overdose deaths, or take on board the fact that over 100 million working-age people in the US are out of work, it becomes clear that the US isn’t just failing around the world but also hemorrhaging internally.

This may all sound depressing, but in fact there is something here to celebrate. It has happened numerous times throughout history that major military conflicts erupted when empires collapsed, causing horrific loss of life. But what we are observing now is something quite different: for the US, major military conflict has become unthinkable while none of the other major world powers is particularly eager to start a war and is all about economic development and cooperation. This is something for us to be quietly happy about: the erstwhile global hegemon is going down without much of a fight at all as the rest of the world moves on. Of course, you might still feel depressed about the way things within the US are going from bad to worse, but here a bit of attitude adjustment can be of great help. It’s a very special technique that people have employed for ages whenever they faced such circumstances. It’s called “not giving a shit.”

How Mutants Make History


We all tend to be fooled by perspective: foreshortening causes objects close to us to appear relatively larger to objects farther away. This is also true of history: our view tends to be obstructed by recent events, making us accept as the immutable order of creation patterns that may be no more than a temporary, transient aberration. It doesn’t help that history is generally just a bunch of stories, mostly about notable people and important events, and not at all the sort of highly processed, abstracted data that would allow us to see immutable patterns. Yet these patterns do exist, they can be perceived by looking back over several thousand years of archeological record and recorded history, and they tell us a great deal about what is happening now and what the future is likely to hold. And the most striking feature of all this is that history is made by mutant humans whereas normal humans generally subsist in whatever fashion nature and their local environment allows without leaving much of a trace.

Historians and archeologists are a pompous lot and tend to prattle on about civilizations and cultures, but if we take all of their work together and crunch it down to numbers we discover that most of the time and in most places there is really not much of a civilization to write about and cultures are mostly static things that go around in circles, and only once in a while something notable happens: the emergence of a new culture or civilization. All of a sudden a tiny group of Mongolian tribesmen conquers half of Eurasia by organizing nomadic tribesmen into a great military, or a tiny group of Taiwanese tribesmen colonizes numerous islands in the Pacific Ocean in outrigger sailing canoes. Other tribes build pyramids (Giza, Teotihuacan, Chichen Itza) or temple complexes (Angkor Wat), or dig giant canal systems that cause deserts to bloom. But such events are few and far between and no historian can tell you what triggers them or what determines their timing. But there is a clear answer and it is, in a word, mutants.

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Podcast: America Faded


The United States is facing collapse. The U.S. is in massive debt, and wholly relies on its global military presence to maintain the dominance of the dollar — a situation in which we have to ask the question: how long before that, too, fails? Decades of United States global hegemony is being successfully countered by other global powers, namely Russia, although in a very different fashion from how the United States has traditionally exerted geopolitical influence up to the present moment. Why, and how, has this happened? Dmitry lays out the interrelating factors that are contributing to America’s faltering influence on the global stage, even as the U.S. Empire becomes increasingly belligerent towards other nations, whether ally or foe, as it seeks to maintain its place at the top of the global economic and political order. I ask Dmitry to go over the faltering shale oil industry and energy production in the United States; the failed attempt by the U.S. government, under the leadership and direction of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, to instigate a coup in Venezuela; the forced expulsion of WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (and possible extradition to the U.S.); Russia’s growing economic prominence and geopolitical influence in relation to the United States; the history of the Ukraine’s deep and complicated relationship with the USSR, and more recently the United States; and the overwhelming social collapse we are witnessing in the United States, manifesting in widespread drug addiction, mental illness, political division, and hypernationalism.

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QUIDNON: The Centerboard


Although the Quidnon blog has been quiescent for the past three months, there has been some good progress on completing the design, and I can now report these results and see what comments, ideas and suggestions emerge. It takes time to come up with simple and cheap solutions to complex and potentially expensive problems.


America, You Are Fired!


Some ironies are just too precious to pass by. The 2016 US presidential elections gave us Donald Trump, a reality TV star whose famous tag line from his show “The Apprentice” was “You are fired!” Focus on this tag line; it is all that is important to this story. Some Trump Derangement Disorder sufferers might disagree. This is because they are laboring under certain misapprehensions: that the US is a democracy; or that it matters who is president. It isn’t and it doesn’t. By this point, the choice of president matters as much as the choice of conductor for the band that plays aboard a ship as it vanishes beneath the waves.

I have made these points continuously since before Trump got into office. Whether or not you think that Trump was actually elected, he did get in somehow, and there are reasons to believe that this had something to do with his wonderfully refreshing “You are fired!” tag line. It’s a fair guess that what motivated people to vote for him was their ardent wish that somebody would come along and fire all of the miscreants that infest Washington, DC and surrounding areas. Alas, that he couldn’t do. Figurehead leaders are never granted the authority to dismantle the political establishments that install them. But that is not to say that it can’t be done at all.

What happened instead was that the political establishment spent two years thrashing about in search of a reason to say “You are fired!” to Trump but has been unable to find one, and so Trump remains in office, although to say that he “remains in power” would be to invite sardonic laughter from anyone who knows what real political power smells like. Trump is but a prisoner in the White House, just like his predecessor was. Ironically, the quest for Trump’s impeachment has been fruitless as far as firing him, but most fruitful in terms of enhancing his ability to not only fire lots of establishment figures but perhaps even send them to jail—with the help of the Justice Department—and his character traits of extreme rancor, spitefulness and vindictiveness should be most conducive toward that end, making for a fun spectacle. His numerous enemies and detractors may yet look back wistfully on the halcyon days when they could lambaste him with impunity.

The quest to stop Trump started well before the election, with Obama and the Clintons collaborating on misusing federal resources to dig up dirt on Trump; specifically, evidence of “Russian collusion”… and they couldn’t find any. They did manage to find some “Russian meddling” (in the form of Facebook clickbait ads) but the evidence they dug up was too ridiculous to show in court. Too bad they didn’t look for Ukrainian collusion and meddling, or Israeli collusion and meddling, or Saudi collusion and meddling, because then they would have found plenty—enough to not only knock Hillary Clinton out of the running but also to lock her up. It would have been a constructive, useful exercise for them to go look for Ukrainian political meddling, but as I’ve explained before the American modus operandi is quite the opposite, and it compelled them to go after Russia instead.

In any case, the complete failure of Mueller’s team to find anything actionable against Trump has left him grasping at straws, and the one straw he seized upon was the vague possibility of accusing Trump of obstructing justice, based on 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2), which specifies that someone is guilty of obstruction as follows: “…obstructs, influences or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so.” Apparently, a neuron snapped inside poor Mueller’s head making him think that his own investigation was an “official proceeding,” although if you look up this term you’ll find that it relates to things happening inside courtrooms, with one or more judges presiding, and to launch such a proceeding requires evidence that a crime has been committed. If there is no crime, then there is no proceeding, and nothing to obstruct, influence or impede.

There ensued a sort of bureaucratic danse macabre. Normally, the Attorney General has the authority to provide guidance on such questions, and AG Jeff Sessions could have told Mueller that 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) is only relevant to court proceedings and that would have been it. But Sessions had the unfortunate luck of having had a casual chat with the amiable and roly-poly Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. By virtue of this little chat Sessions contaminated his precious bodily fluids (just breathing the same air as a Russian can be politically fatal, you know) and was forced to recuse himself from Mueller’s investigation. Trump’s legal team then reached out to William Barr, a former AG, and asked him to chime in. Barr wrote a memo clarifying the issue and sent it to deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who remained as second-in-command at the Justice Department after Sessions’ recusal, and who should have read it, understood it and acted on it, terminating Mueller’s investigation, but somehow he didn’t.

The denouement of this bureaucratic danse macabre played out as follows. After the midterm elections Trump said “You’re fired!” to Jeff Sessions and William Barr was confirmed as AG. Barr then said “You’re fired!” to both Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller for being unpardonably dense. Barr also made it clear that he plans to leave no stone unturned in investigating this fantastic instance of misuse of official resources and prosecutorial misconduct. This will be fun to watch, if you have nothing more important to pay attention to, but I suspect that the phrase “You’re fired!” will continue to bounce around the halls of Washington like a rubber grenade for a good long time. There are, however, things to pay attention to that are far more important.

There is a lot happening in the world all at once right now. The entire planet is rapidly reconfiguring itself. The world is begging for a new, post-capitalist, post-industrial order to be born, but the overabundance of natural resources that have made previous such revolutions possible (coal for the age of steam, oil for the current oil age) simply no longer exist. All that remains is optimizations, enhancements and reconfigurations of the existing order of things, cutting out that which is most harmful and most dysfunctional. To this end, Western European nations are attempting to reclaim the sovereignty they ceded to the United States and the European Union while Eurasia is coming together to form a massive economic and security conglomerate centered on China and Russia. Both are playing for time, because redirecting trade and financial flows away from the US is quite a process.

The world’s central banks are doing their best to get rid of their US dollar reserves and to buy gold, which, as of this April, they are allowed to consider a risk-free financial asset. Many people now expect gold to go up as a result, but that expectation is based on an illusion. Think of gold as a lighthouse and of fiat currencies as sinking ships: those aboard them may look around and decide that the lighthouse is going up, but that’s just an optical illusion. The purchasing power of fiat currencies is sure to fall (some more than others). The purchasing power of gold will seem to increase, but that will also be an illusion: it will appear to rise against the backdrop of crashing markets, in real estate and physical plant especially. But overall the purchasing power of gold will drop too, because the future purchasing power of any financial asset is determined by just one thing: energy, fossil fuel energy in particular, and energy from crude oil above all. Without energy, nothing within an economy moves, unless it is an agrarian economy based on fodder and animal muscle power.

A particularly interesting piece to the gold story is that it may turn out that much of the gold supposedly stored in the US may in fact be missing. Since Nixon closed the “gold window” in 1971, ending the convertibility of US dollar for gold bullion, and until recently the US dollar has been able to retain its position as a global reserve currency by an act of sheer financial levitation, but that bit of magic may have actually been sleight of hand: behind-the-scenes gold sales to the largest US creditors. When various countries, Germany in particular, have attempted to repatriate their gold, which they had entrusted to the US, they were rebuffed, and when they did succeed, the gold that was returned wasn’t the same gold, and it took a long time. The US hunger for gold has forced it to conduct rather unseemly heists, stealing the gold reserves of Iraq, Libya and the Ukraine. Thus, when the time comes for the US to defend its currency by employing its hoard of gold, it may turn out that the cupboard is bare.

Gold is becoming increasingly important, but energy is more important still, and always will be. After being pushed into the background for a few years, questions of energy supply and energy security are once again becoming front and center. Peak Oil turns out to not be dead after all; it was just postponed by a few years by virtue of the US burning through a huge pile of retirement savings while exploiting shale oil. But now most of the sweet spots have been tapped already and diminishing returns on continued frantic drilling are being added to the fracking industry’s permanently dismal financial returns. In the meantime, Russia has built several natural gas liquefaction plants, a new oil pipeline to China and two new gas pipelines to Turkey and Germany, and to Western Europe beyond, which will circumvent the Ukraine, reducing its value as a geopolitical asset to zero.

A desperate ploy by the US to seize control of Venezuela’s oil fields has backfired in a most embarrassing fashion; there, recent developments have brought up an important question: What if the US threw a color revolution but nobody came? As I had predicted would happen six years ago in my book The Five Stages of Collapse the Color Revolution Syndicate has steadily lost its mojo. In spite of all the bluster by various Washington foreign policy has-beens, a US military intervention in Venezuela is unthinkable: Venezuela’s Russian S-300 air defense systems effectively make it a no-fly zone for US planes. Meanwhile, the US, having cut itself off from Venezuela’s oil using its own sanctions, has been forced to resort to importing Russian oil. (For now, but not for much longer, the US has a glut of low-quality light crude from fracking, but it’s useless for making diesel and other distillates unless it is blended with heavier grades of crude, which have to be imported.)

Meanwhile, Russia and Belarus have been staging a noisy lover’s quarrel over Russian oil exports to Europe, much of which go through a Belarussian pipeline. Russia and Belarus—or Byelorussia, or White Russia—are not exactly distinct entities in most ways, and when they fight the bystanders should discount the foul language and instead look out for flying pots and cutlery. The result of this family spat is that White Russia will no longer supply the Ukraine with products distilled from Russian oil. Another odd development is that the Russian oil being piped to White Russia, and from thence to the EU, has become mysteriously contaminated and the flow has been stopped until the situation is resolved, causing a bit of a panic in Europe. The US volunteered to unseal its Strategic Petroleum Reserve to compensate, but then, in another bizarre twist, some of that oil too has turned out to have gone foul. More foul yet, the US has imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, threatening anyone who imports Iranian oil, bringing up another important question: What is the US imposes unilateral sanctions on the whole world, and everybody just yawns?

Financially ruinous and generally nonsensical schemes such as tar sands, shale oil and industrial-scale photovoltaics, wind generation and electric cars will only accelerate the process of sorting nations into energy haves and energy have-nots, with the have-nots wiping themselves out sooner rather than later. Leaving aside various fictional and notional schemes (nuclear fusion, space mirrors, etc.) and focusing just on the technologies that already exist, there is only one way to maintain industrial civilization, and that is nuclear, based on Uranium 235 (which is scarce) and Plutonium 239 produced from Uranium 238 (of which there is enough to last for thousands of years) using fast neutron reactors. If you don’t like this choice, then your other choice is to go completely agrarian, with significantly reduced population densities and no urban centers of any size.

And if you do like this choice, then you have few alternatives other than to go with the world’s main purveyor of nuclear technology (VVER-series light water reactors, BN-series fast neutron breeder reactors and closed nuclear fuel cycle technology) which happens to be Russia’s state-owned conglomerate Rosatom. It owns over a third of the world nuclear energy market and has a portfolio of international projects stretching far into the future that includes as much as 80% of the reactors that are going to be built. The US hasn’t been able to complete a nuclear reactor in decades, the Europeans managed to get just one new reactor on line (in China) while Japan’s nuclear program has been in disarray ever since Fukushima and Toshiba’s financially disastrous acquisition of Westinghouse. The only other contenders are South Korea and China. Again, if you don’t like nuclear—for whatever reason—then you can always just buy yourself some pasture and some hayfields and start breeding donkeys.

This may seem like shocking news to someone who’s been exposed solely to mass media in the US and other Anglophone countries or in the EU. Well, it may be shocking, but it’s definitely not news: none of these developments is particularly new, and none of them is unforeseen. The high level of denial of all of the above issues in Washington, which has been ground zero in a powerful explosion of unreality, and in Western media generally, is also unsurprising; nor is it helpful. Upon finding these things out for yourself, you may be tempted to shout about them from rooftops. This, I dare say, would be inadvisable. The proper thing to do with people who insist on remaining in denial is to humor them, to run out the clock on any games they try to play with you, and then to politely bid them adieu. Indeed, this is what we are seeing: nobody particularly wants to negotiate with US officials but they do so anyway because, as every crisis negotiator knows, it is essential to keep talking, even if simply to stall for time. While they are talking the hostages—to Wall Street, to the Pentagon, to US Treasury and Federal Reserve—are quietly being evacuated. Time is running out for the US, and once it has run out, what we will hear, in a supreme twist of irony, is the whole world telling the US: “You’re fired!”