Watching the Rockets

2021-07-21

Rockets are important. They are symbolically important, as the most virile, masculine, phallic manifestation of the superpower contest. To wit, the US national anthem: \”the rockets red glare… gave proof through the night… that our flag was still there.\” No rockets—no flag—no \”home of the brave.\” Rockets are strategically important: if the other side\’s rockets give it the ability to destroy your side with impunity, then your strategy is to negotiate the terms of your surrender.

They are also tactically important. Your navy would be loathe to sail into foreign waters knowing that they could be sunk without so much as a chance to fire back. It is terrible for morale to have rockets falling out of the sky and exploding sporadically among your civilian population while your military stands by helplessly.

All of this makes rockets worth watching, as I have been doing, and I couldn\’t help but notice some rather peculiar developments that portend major changes in how superpowers must interact. Suddenly—or not so suddenly if you\’ve been paying attention—we seem to be living in a slightly different world.

Here I could launch into a lengthy historical discussion of why the US went nuclear in Japan, why US plans to destroy the USSR using a nuclear first strike never came to fruition, why Reagan\’s Star Wars failed and much else—but I won\’t bother and simply assume that you know all of that. Instead, I\’ll just issue an update.

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A Case Study in National Shame

2021-07-12

The American occupation of Afghanistan is, thankfully, over, and the way it ended was remarkably fitting to an effort that was thoroughly misguided. The US pulled out in the middle of the night, not warning its allies and leaving behind a rapidly collapsing puppet state which they established and propped up for two decades at the cost of $2.26 trillion. To give you an idea of these numbers, Afghanistan\’s population is 38 million; its per capita annual income is $581. By multiplying the two together and the whole by 20 years, and we get $441.56 billion. Thus, the US spending on Afghanistan exceeded the country\’s GDP by a factor of five!

And what is there to show for it? Well, while under the control of the US (which was in many cases more notional than real) Afghanistan became responsible for 90% of the world\’s opium supply, valued at around $58.5 billion a year. Even as a corrupt scheme to use government funds to get at some dirty drug money, the Afghanistan venture has been a pitifully, pathetically ineffectual one, and that is probably why the topic hardly ever comes up. Being ruled by a mafia government may not be particularly shameful for people who have no shame, but being ruled by a mafia government that can\’t even come up with the ink is, among thieves, the ultimate dishonor.

Perhaps an even greater dishonor is in leaving behind scores of people whom the Taliban consider American collaborators: translators and other service personnel recruited and employed by the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan over the past two decades. An honorable thing to do would be to fly them out to the US and to give them places to live and pensions. A dishonorable thing to do is what the US usually does under such circumstances: abandon its allies as soon as they become unnecessary. The whole world is watching and the lesson they are learning is this: the US is in rapid, chaotic retreat, and it is manifestly unsafe to be an American ally or, worse yet, an American collaborator.

But such important topics are being studiously ignored. What is talked about instead is… cue the sound of silence. Joe Biden recently let us catch a glimpse of his internal mental void, saying, \”We went [into Afghanistan] for two reasons: to… to…\” Then he froze with a blank stare and eventually came up with two expedient explanations: getting Osama Bin Laden (who was in Pakistan, a US ally at the time, enjoying his quiet CIA retirement living next to a military college) and fighting terrorism (which is now a worse problem than ever).

From this we might conclude that US blundering into Afghanistan and staying there for two decades was a horrendous mistake and, surely, it was, but this does not explain why the mistake was made. Why are empires, especially dying ones, drawn to Afghanistan like moths to a flame? The case study below is from my book The Five Stages of Collapse. It is about the Pashtuns, but to simply just a little, the Taliban, who will, by all indications, soon will once again be in charge of the whole of Afghanistan, are ethnic Pashtuns (they have recruited a great many ethnic Tajiks in recent times, but this does not change their basic nature).

Beyond satisfying an interest in US foreign policy, the story of Afghanistan, and of Taliban in it, offers a valuable opportunity for attitude adjustment. You may not think highly of them; in turn, what they think of you is that you should shut up, get out and stay out. You may be tempted to expound to them your tender feelings about freedom, democracy, human rights, social and technological progress, environmentalism, gender equality and the reproductive rights of women. They will simply ignore all of that as idiotic, childish noise.

Chances are, your entire civilization will crumble into dust and nothing will be left of it except some rusty rebar sticking out of cracked concrete and they will still be there, same as ever. Your challenge is to learn to respect them, knowing full well that they will never, ever have any respect for you.

Case Study: The Pashtuns

Among the world’s many ungoverned spaces, there are few as long lasting and as able to withstand the relentless onslaught of empires as the Pashtun tribal areas, which straddle the porous and largely notional border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the Pakistani tribal area of Waziristan. To invaders, this is an invisible yet impregnable fortress that has withstood all attempts by centralized government authorities to impose their will. The term “ungoverned” is, as usual, misapplied here: the Pashtuns have an alternative system of governance whose rules preclude the establishment of any centralized authority. At over forty million strong, they are one of the largest ethnic groups on the planet. Their ability to resist the British, the Pakistanis, the Soviets and now the Americans/NATO makes them one of the greatest anti-imperialist success stories on our planet. What makes up the shell of such an uncrackable nut? This is an interesting question, which is why I have decided to include an exposition on the Pashtuns, the toughest nut in the whole tribal nutsack.

An equally interesting question to ask is, What compelled a succession of empires to continue to make futile attempts to crack it, throwing life and treasure at the task of conquering a rugged, fiercely independent, inaccessible and mostly worthless piece of land? Wouldn’t it be much easier to just leave the Pashtuns alone and continue using rifles against Pygmies armed with ripe fruit? The compulsion to conquer and to subjugate is by no means new, and tribes have continuously conquered and subjugated other tribes since prehistoric times, but with the emergence of global empires a new element seems to have been introduced: complete intolerance of complete independence. Every pocket of the planet, no matter how small, has to be assigned to an internationally recognized state that has been bound to other states through treaties and state-legal relations. The global political order can no longer tolerate a single white spot on the political map. Its imperative seems to be to force every single group of humans to at least sit down at the negotiating table, at which the most powerful (or so they think) always have the upper hand, and to sign legally-binding documents. The existence of any such white spot poses an existential threat to the entire system, which is why the efforts to eliminate it are often disproportionate to either its value or its threat. Like space aliens, great big empires swoop in and say, “ Take me to your leader!” And if there is no leader, and the only bit of foreign policy this particular tribe ever happens to have developed is exhaustively described by the words “go away and leave us alone,” then a misunderstanding inevitably results and things end badly for both sides. Appointing a local stooge to sign legally-binding documents on behalf of the ungoverned territory that is supposed to behave like a nation-state does not work.

It would appear that the state cannot impose its authority on an area if its underlying, local system of governance is non-hierarchical, self-enforcing and decentralized, and has a strong tradition of uniting solely for the purpose of ganging up on outside threats and an equally strong tradition of attempting to avenge all wrongful deaths (such as a family member who has been killed by an American Predator drone). This happens to be the case with the Pashtuns. Their ancient and eternal code of conduct is Pashtunwali, or “The Pashtun Way.” The reason for following Pashtunwali is to be a good Pashtun. In turn, what a good Pashtun does is follow Pashtunwali. It is self-reinforcing because any Pashtun who does not follow Pashtunwali is unable to secure the cooperation of other Pashtuns, and has very low life expectancy, because ostracism is generally equivalent to a death sentence. Among the Pashtuns, there is no such thing as the right to life; there is only the reason for not killing someone right there and then. If this seems unnecessarily harsh to you, then what did you expect? A trip to Disneyland? Needless to say, the Pashtuns cannot be seduced with offers of social progress and economic development, because that is not the purpose of Pashtunwali. The purpose of Pashtunwali is to perpetuate Pashtunwali, and at this it is apparently very, very good.

Pashtun society is classified as segmentary, a subtype of acephalous (leaderless). The main figures of authority are the elders (maliks) who serve a local tribal chief (khan), but their leadership positions remain at all times contingent on putting the tribe’s interests first. All decisionmaking is consensus-based, severely restricting the scope of united action. However, when faced with an external threat, the Pashtuns are able to appoint a dictator, and to serve that dictator with absolute obedience until the threat is extinguished.

Pashtunwali defines the following key concepts: honor (nang) demands action regardless of consequences whenever Pashtunwali is violated. It is permissible to lie and kill to protect one’s nang. Revenge (badal) demands “an eye for an eye” in case of injury or damage, but crucially allows payment of restitution to avoid bloodshed. Incarceration is considered unacceptable and unjust under any circumstances. It is seen as interfering with justice, since it complicates the process of exacting revenge and precludes the payment of restitution. This is why Afghanistan has been the scene of spectacular prison escapes, where hundreds of inmates are freed in a single military-style attack; the attackers’ goal is not just to free prisoners but also to later kill them or collect restitution from them. The law of hospitality (nanawatai) demands that any Pashtun must welcome and provide sanctuary to anyone who asks for it. As a matter of nang, the guest must be kept perfectly secure and safe from all harm while a guest. Once over the threshold and no longer a guest, he can be sniped at one’s leisure should such an action be called for. Laws against harboring fugitives, serving as accessory after the fact, impeding official investigations and so forth are meaningless and attempts to enforce them automatically result in badal.

The local Pashtun governing body is the jirga, which is convened only on special occasions. It takes its roots from Athenian democracy, although some scholars argue that it predates it. The participants arrange themselves in a circle, and everyone has the right to speak. There is no one presiding, in accordance with the principle that no one is superior in the eyes of Pashtunwali. The decision is based on a majority consensus. Those who defy the decision of the jirga open themselves up to officially sanctioned arson and murder. It is significant that the jirga does not allow representation: it is a direct rather than a representative democracy. It is also crucial that the jirga reserves the right to abnegate any agreement previously entered into, making treaty-based state-legal relations with the Pashtuns impossible. Lastly, only those who follow Pashtunwali can participate in a jirga; all outsiders are automatically excluded.

This should give you some idea of why Pashtunwali presents an intractable problem for any empire that wants to dominate the Pashtuns. Now let us briefly glance at the long and tangled historical record of such attempts.

Empires break their teeth

The first modern empire to tangle with the Pashtuns was the British, who optimistically tried to impose the Indian Penal Code on them. When the Pashtuns refused to recognize this code as just, the result was a considerable amount of carnage. The British then abandoned attempts at imposing a system of justice and resorted to administrative means instead: their Closed Border Policy attempted to segregate the plains tribes from the hill tribes. This policy failed to stop the carnage and was abandoned after thirty years. Eventually the British were compelled to resort to accommodation by recognizing Pashtun tribal law. Then they bled profusely and departed in unseemly haste, leaving the Pashtuns to the Pakistanis, who mostly practiced accommodation as well. The Taliban movement, which is predominantly Pashtun-led, was recognized by Pakistan. Pakistan was content to allow Pashtun self-governance until September 11, 2001. Since then they have been compelled to at least make a show of imposing authority on the Pashtuns, in order to at least appear to cooperate with their American allies, although little remains of this cooperation today.

The Soviets blundered into Afghanistan in a misguided effort to defend socialism against regressive counterrevolutionary tendencies in accordance with the Brezhnev Doctrine. They made a futile attempt to eradicate ethnic and religious identities through a strategy of suppression, and succeeded, for a time, in consolidating control of urban areas while the predominantly Pashtun resistance established footholds in the hills surrounding the capital Kabul. They also relentlessly bombed the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to create a no-man’s land. In doing so, they failed on a grand scale, creating a very large refugee crisis and thus ensuring that their enemies had plenty of international support. Once, thanks to the efforts of the CIA (working closely with Osama bin Laden) the Pashtuns acquired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, the Soviets gradually lost the ability to continue the air campaign.

The Soviets’ effort to win the Pashtun hearts and minds was likewise a spectacular failure. Pashtunwali demanded revenge for the Soviets’ military actions from even the most ambivalent Pashtuns. The few elders the Soviets were able to co-opt through intimidation or bribery swiftly lost the support of their followers. The Soviets withdrew in 1988, having made zero headway, and having lost the political will to succeed. It was a costly conflict with no benefits.

The Americans (and a few NATO troops) are currently in the process of repeating the Soviet experiment, with very similar results. Here is a nice little fact to illustrate this point: on March 18, 2012, Hamid Karzai, the American-imposed President of Afghanistan and an ethnic Pashtun (but an obvious apostate from Pashtunwali) denounced the Americans as “demons” engaged in “Satanic acts.” The Americans swiftly reacted… by saying nothing and doing even less. Then they trotted out some well-spoken media robopundits who said that Afghanistan is still, potentially, “a good war.” Thus, the result of the American invasion of Afghanistan is predictable: the Americans will pretend it never happened. When forced to discuss it, they will remain delusional. But mostly it won’t be in the news, and Americans will no longer know, or care, what happens there. The US initially blundered into Afghanistan under the delusion that they would find Osama bin Laden there (while, if you believe the news, Osama was in Pakistan, living quietly next to an army college). If jet airliners start crashing into skyscrapers again, odds are some other tribe will get “bombed back to the Stone Age.”

An approach that works

It is difficult but not impossible to constructively engage the Pashtuns: during better times, the Pakistanis came closest to doing so. They freely offered the few important gifts the Pashtuns were willing to accept and appreciate. They offered the Pashtuns a sense of participation by giving them a big audience and a voice. They provided an unlimited time horizon for engaging the Pashtuns as permanent neighbors, building traditional ties and long-term relationships. These activities were informed by an understanding that attempts to impose order without legitimate authority are bound to fail, coupled with the realization that with the Pashtuns any such legitimate authority must of necessity come from within and remain autonomous and decentralized.

Part of what made such accommodation succeed is the fact that Pakistan is a weak state with limited resources. But as long as there are mighty military empires stalking the planet (not for much longer, we should hope) we should expect that one of them will periodically come along and, just like the ones that came before it, break its teeth on Pashtunwali. You might think that they’d learn from each others’ mistakes, but then here is a simple rule for you to remember: the intelligence of a hierarchically organized group of people is inversely proportional to its size, and mighty military empires are so big, and consequently so dumb, that they never, ever learn anything.

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The United Boomerang Outlet

2021-07-07

A boomerang is a throwing stick used by certain Australian aboriginals. The better-known kind is the returning boomerang: upon reliably missing its target, its flies around in a circle and back to the person who threw it, possibly whacking him upside the head for a comical effect. Most of the ones in existence are Australian souvenirs, along with the didgeridoo, which is a hollow stick that makes a funny noise. Such must been the life in Australia before the White Man descended upon it: you went out and try to hunt with a crooked stick that flies back and eventually hits you upside the head, then gave up and went home, where you sat around making funny noises with a hollow stick. To complete the technology suite, there was also the digging stick, for digging up some wild tubers when you got hungry.

Outside of a niche application of flushing out small game animals, it is a joke weapon that is rarely, if ever, offered for sale in serious hunting shops. Anthropologists working in Australia did find an old skeleton with skull and rib fractures they thought were made by a boomerang, having ruled out the didgeridoo and the digging stick for lack of a sharp edge. This led them to think that the boomerang could have been used as a weapon of murder and war. An alternative theory is that the poor person who once owned this skeleton simply had the habit of throwing his boomerang and then forgetting that he threw it. And so he just stood around gawking until it flew back and hit him.

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Biden\'s Big Ask

2021-06-20

The much talked about the US-RF summit in Geneva came and went and yet no commentator so far has ventured to ask a very simple and very necessary question: What was Biden there to ask?

We know that the American side asked for this meeting while the Russians merely agreed, seeing in it a risk-free chance to clear the air and perhaps restore a modicum of international cooperation on key issues such as cybersecurity. Negotiating some major new agreement with the Americans was never the plan: the Russians have decided some time ago that the American side is nedogovorosposóbnaya—non-agreement-capable. If the Americans don\’t honor the treaties they have already signed, such as the intermediate-range missile treaty or the open skies treaty, what is the point of entering into more agreements with them—for them to also not honor?

On the other hand, a tête-à-tête with Putin was by no means a risk-free endeavor for Biden. The American body public has managed to paint itself into the corner of demanding that its president be \”tough on Russia\” \”Nobody was tougher on Russia than me,\” quoth Trump recently from the sidelines. Indeed, right after his confab with Putin Biden found himself confronting screechy journalists declaring him at fault for not extracting a confession from Putin for things Putin hadn\’t done. There is an entire litany of nonsense that Biden was required to recite—the Skripal and Navalny attempted murder, election meddling, hacking attacks, etc.—all unproven and therefore all nonsense—and to all of them the Russians react with a typical Russian gesture of twisting their index fingers at their temples, indicating that the ones who spout such nonsense are non compos mentis. That was a no-win situation for Biden, and yet he took the risk. What for? What was the big prize for him?

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The Technosphere chokes on a chip

2021-06-13

The technosphere, which I defined in my 2016 book Shrinking the Technosphere as a nonhuman global emergent intelligence driven by an abstract teleology of total control, has seen its interests greatly advanced in the course of the 2020-21 coronavirus pandemic, with large parts of human populations forced to submit to control measures that made a mockery of their vaunted human rights and democratic values. This is as expected: the technosphere\’s most potent technologies are its killing technologies, and the way it goes about using them reflects its profound hatred for all living things, especially the willful and hard to control ones. But then the technosphere started to shrink—in certain locales. It is still going strong in others, but it not to early to imagine (dare I say, predict?) how it might continue shrink and what the consequences are going to be.

In my book, I described the reasons why and the methods how we should avoid becoming trapped under the inert hulk of the technosphere. I even provided a worksheet which readers could use to track their progress in freeing themselves from the technosphere\’s clutches. This was, as was to be expected, to no avail. The only how-to books in this world are cookbooks; the rest are read mainly for entertainment—first alone and, later, at cocktail parties. And the purpose of writing them is to make a bit of extra money to pay baby-sitters (at least it was in my case at the time).

To understand what seems likely to unfold, have to first delve into the technosphere\’s ontology: what does its emergent intelligence software it run on? It turns out that, seen as a network operating system, it runs partially on human brains but mostly on various microchips, with a wide assortment of optical, electromagnetic and mechanical sensors attached. Although humans still (think that) they exercise a modicum of control over the technosphere, it is the technosphere\’s natural tendency to take control away from humans even unto life-and-death decisions, as evidenced by a recent event in Libya where an unmanned military aircraft autonomously made the decision to kill someone. And exercising control requires control circuitry.

Having had successful careers as an electronics engineer and then as a software engineer, I am something of a walking, talking museum of automation technology, and can take you on a brief tour of its development. The dumbest control element is the light switch. It has no memory and it decides nothing. The next slightly less stupid control element is a toggle: it remembers whether the light is on or off and when pushed turns it off or on, respectively. This is already surprisingly far along: to build a computer, we need just a few more elements. We need a threshold switch with two buttons, which, depending on what you want, turns the light on when either button is pushed (called an \”or gate\”) or when both buttons are pushed (called an \”and gate\”). We also need a \”not\”: something that turns the light off when actuated. Finally, we need an actuator; instead of turning on a light bulb, all of these elements should be able to push each others\’ buttons. And now we are off to the races!

All of the above can be implemented out of any number of mechanical components: mechanical, pneumatic, hydraulic, but none of these were particularly practical for automating control functions. The advent of electric circuits made possible the use of electromechanical components, enabling the great breakthrough that was Strowger switch, patented in 1891. It replaced the human telephone switchboard operator: instead of turning a crank and saying \”Number 17, please!\” one simply turned the rotary dial, first to 1, then to 2, resulting in a click, a pause, and then 7 rapid-fire clicks (two-digit phone numbers were the limit at the time, limiting a telephone exchange to 99 subscribers).

This system went on for a surprisingly long time. In the mid-1970s I found myself in a hotel room in Italy that was equipped with a rotary-dial phone that had a dainty little padlock on the dial to prevent guests from dialing out. But I needed to make a phone call to Russia, so I tapped out the entire long-distance number on the hook. After all, the rotary dial just actuates an interrupt switch wired in sequence with the hook.

The evolution of control circuits went from electromechanical (based on solenoids and relays) to vacuum tube-based (consisting of vacuum tube switches and ferrite cores for forming memory cells) to discrete transistor-based, to early integrated circuits (a few hundred to a few thousand transistors on a chip) and eventually to modern large-scale integrated circuits, with a recent record set by Samsung\’s 1 terabyte eUFS (3D-stacked) V-NAND flash memory chip, with 2 trillion floating-gate MOSFETs (4 bits per transistor). Don\’t worry if you don\’t understand what this means; just remember that it\’s damned impressive—because it is. But therein lies the danger. The race to build more and more powerful chips may be heading toward a cliff.

At this point just about anything—cars, washing machines, water heaters, internet routers…—has control circuits on it, all of them based on microchips. In turn, these microchips are made in gigantic factories costing several billion dollars to build. Because economies of scale are only achievable by concentrating production, each microchip is generally made at just one factory. To maintain a competitive advantage, microchips are not interchangeable. In turn, every device design that includes microchips (which by now most of them do) can only be built if every single microchip it uses is available. If that is not the case, then what is required is a very expensive redesign process to replace that one chip with another one. Often this is not economically feasible, meaning that production lines are simply shut down until all of the needed components become available.

We have already had warnings. A tsunami in Japan in 2011 drove up prices for certain computer memory chips, more than half of which were produced in Japan. A flood in Thailand caused a shortage of voltage regulators, halting car production lines around the world. And now, after a year of coronavirus emergency, there is a dire shortage of chips because of shutdowns at semiconductor factories around the world. So far Covid-19 has killed 3.75 million people worldwide, which is around 0.047% of the world\’s population, adding less than 5% to the normal 0.7% annual death rate. Now that multiple vaccines are available (Russia\’s Sputnik-V alone has been approved for use in over 65 countries) and protocols in place around the world for rapidly detecting limiting the spread of any new contagions, a reprise seems unlikely.

What does seem likely (and is already observable in many places around the world) is severe economic dislocation. Coronavirus-motivated shutdowns have caused supply chain disruptions around the world, specifically in the semiconductor industry, causing many production lines to be idled. And then come the knock-on effects. Stoppages on car production lines caused new car prices to increase. In turn, this forced rental car companies to charge more. In turn, this caused many tourists to reconsider their travel plans, causing rental car revenues to plummet, causing them to buy fewer new cars when production resumes, making it more difficult for automakers to recoup their losses.

The once expected V-shaped post-coronavirus recovery has failed to materialize; instead, what we are seeing is the onset of hyperinflation. For the very highly indebted governments, mostly in the West but also elsewhere, the standard remedy of fighting inflation by cutting spending while raising interest rates is no longer available because even a slight increase in interest rates will render them unable to pay the interest on their debt except by printing even more money, further driving up inflation.

But such knock-on effects are economic and financial; the worst ones will be physical, and will manifest themselves in the inability to maintain various life support systems that control the delivery of water, electricity, fuel, food, drugs and other essentials. Over the past decades systems that were previously operated based on paper schedules and manual operations (turning valves and flipping knife switches) have become automated, making them more efficient (in a limited sense) but much more fragile.

The electronic control systems are a layer cake of technologies. At its base are servers sitting in racks inside data centers and client systems with display screens and keyboards in the control rooms. On top of that hardware run operating systems. On top of operating systems run integrated development environments used to develop process automation tools. Finally, the process automation tools allow system integrators to configure control systems by graphically dragging-and-dropping and linking system components such as actuators and sensors and define rules and configuration parameters for their operation. Knock out any bit of any layer and the entire fragile, precarious Rube Goldberg stops functioning. The inability to replace any of these components when it fails with a compatible unit—be it a single sensor, a router or a server, forces at least a part of the entire system to shut down. And if that replacement cannot be found, then it remains down.

When looking around for a first casualty of collapse, the global semiconductor industry makes a strong candidate. It is very energy-hungry and extremely capital-intensive. It relies on a steady, reliable energy supply—wind and solar won\’t cut it because of their intermittency. It relies on the availability of highest-purity crystalline silicon and rare earth elements that are sourced from just a few places in the world, the main one being China. And it requires a highly disciplined and skilled workforce. The largest exporter of integrated circuits by far is China (Hong Kong and Taiwan included) followed by South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. The US is only the first in a long list of minor players in niche markets.

It seems natural to expect that, as the market conditions affecting the semiconductor industry continue to deteriorate while the demand for critical components needed to maintain vital infrastructure systems around the world continues unabated, China will be able to exert a disproportionate influence on the availability of these components. It is quite foreseeable that the Chinese Communist Party will see the semiconductor industry as strategically important and nationalize key parts of it, fashioning it into a tool of foreign policy. The United States will, of course, pretend to be doing something about this state of affairs, making for a noisy international environment, but will not be able to prevent access to semiconductor products from becoming rationed, with China in almost complete control of the arrangements.

These arrangements are likely to be enforced by China and Russia working in tandem. China is insular by nature and can in general either trade with other cultures or absorb them. The one exception in Russia, to which China now clings like a needy girlfriend. The symbiosis is a natural one: unlike China, Russia is the opposite of insular and can digest and appropriate entire foreign civilizations. This century they are Mongols; next, Germans; then the entire Russian imperial court starts speaking French; and now English is fashionable.

As Putin famously put it, \”The borders of the Russian Federation do not end anywhere.\” Unlike China, whose military is huge but untested in battle and uninterested in power projection, the Russians are a warrior culture that prides itself on its invincibility and that has made coercion to peace its specialty. Russia excels at building and operating huge energy, transportation and materials production systems which China needs and has the vast natural resources to continue operating them for centuries. Its fossil fuels will hold up for another half a century; after that, if all goes according to plan, it will switch to burning depleted uranium using its closed nuclear cycle technology, and there are a few thousand years\’ worth of it already stockpiled.

Faced with such major difficulties, the technosphere has not given up. Without filing a change of address form, it has quietly relocated and is now busy telecommuting between Moscow and Beijing. Those frisky boys at Davos and their James Bond villain wannabe Klaus Schwab are yet to get used to this turn of events. Putin and Xi have pretty much said this to their faces at their last virtual confab, but I don\’t think that the news has quite sunk in with them yet; let\’s give it time. The Germans seem to be quicker on the uptake than the rest, having understood that without Russian natural gas they would be nothing. The Americans seem to be the slowest; at this rate, it may take forever for the penny to drop. They may go down into the gurgling void all the while exclaiming that their Atlantis is not sinking!

Please buy my latest book, The Arctic Fox Cometh.

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Interview with Kevin Lynn of the Center for Populist Urban Politics

2021-06-12

 

Kevin and I take a detailed look at my latest book, The Arctic Fox Cometh.

Putin fully agrees with me

2021-06-05
\”The United States are making sure-footed strides directly along the path of the Soviet Union.\”
 
It\’s been 16 years since I published my article \”Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century.\” It was based on realizations I made a decade earlier, back in 1996, upon returning to the States after observing the aftermath of the Soviet collapse. Since then I have been focused on what I saw as the main causes of collapse in both the Soviet and in the American case: exorbitant debt, problems in the energy sector and unreformable political systems mired in corruption, their elites delusional in their feelings of omnipotence. And now comes a truly eerie analogy: the powder keg that detonated under the USSR was ethnic nationalism and separatism; and the powder keg that is currently detonating under the US is \”woke\” (anti-)racism: another brand of ethnic fascism but with American characteristics.

That article opened with the following paragraph:

A decade and a half ago the world went from bipolar to unipolar, because one of the poles fell apart: The S.U. is no more. The other pole – symmetrically named the U.S. – has not fallen apart – yet, but there are ominous rumblings on the horizon. The collapse of the United States seems about as unlikely now as the collapse of the Soviet Union seemed in 1985.
At the time my message was perceived as being provocative but very far from the political mainstream thinking of the time. But the world has since caught up with me. The following quotes (translation mine) are from Vladimir Putin\’s address and the currently running St. Petersburg World Economic Forum.

Мы слышим угрозы, продолжающиеся из Конгресса, еще откуда-то. Все это делается в ходе внутриполитических процессов США. Вот люди, которые это делают, они исходят, видимо, из того, что мощь, экономическая, США, военная мощь, политическая, такова, что это не страшно, что это мы переживем, они думают

We are hearing threats coming out of US Congress and elsewhere. This is happening in the course of internal political processes within the USA. The people who make these threats are assuming, it would seem, that the power of the USA, its economic, military and political power, is such that this isn\’t serious, that they will survive this. That\’s what they think.

Вы знаете, в чем проблема, я вам расскажу как бывший гражданин бывшего Советского Союза. В чем проблема империй – им кажется, что они такие могущественные, что они могут позволить себе небольшие погрешности и ошибки. Этих купим, этих напугаем, с этими договоримся, этим дадим бусы, этим погрозим военными кораблями. И это решит проблемы. Но количество проблем нарастает. Наступает момент, когда с ними уже не справиться. И Соединенные Штаты уверенной поступью, уверенной походкой, твердым шагом идут прямо по пути Советского Союза.

But I\’ll tell you what the problem is, as a former citizen of the Soviet Union. The problem of empires is that they imagine themselves to be so powerful that they can allow themselves small miscalculations and errors. Some they\’ll bribe, some they\’ll scare, some they\’ll make a deal with, some they\’ll give glass beads, some they\’ll frighten with warships—and this will fix problems. But the number of problems continues to grow. There comes a moment when they can no longer cope with them. The United States are making sure-footed strides directly along the path of the Soviet Union.

It is one thing for such thoughts to be expressed by a little-known blogger; it is quite another for them to be voiced by the long-standing leader of a world superpower at a very prestigious and well-attended international forum. Those of you who have not been paying attention, or have but see the collapse of the USA as a somewhat whimsical, futuristic notion, need to pinch themselves.

If there is anything at all that you can do to prepare, your time is short. This is not a drill.

The Arctic Fox is at your door. 

The Order of the Arctic Fox

2021-06-03

 

Why the Arctic Fox?

And wherefore cometh he?

There arise occasions in the course of human affairs that cannot be properly characterized without resorting to the strongest possible language. In situations when nothing can be made to work and all has come undone the term “collapse” tends to get a lot of use, but it is too abstract and too technical to do justice to the visceral experience of the event. It comes from the Latin col-labi—to slip together—but the exclamation “Goodness gracious, we slipped together!” just doesn\’t resonate.

What one is more likely to hear is something more along the lines of “Holy shit, we are totally fucked!” or some other string of obscene expletives, and this rather spoils the solemnity of the occasion. What is called for is a way to ennoble our suffering, not to cheapen it with vulgar expressions.

The connection between the sacred (that which is holy) and the sacral (that which is related to the pelvis and its varied functions) is a most intimate one. Both derive from sacrum, which is an anatomical term: it is the triangular bone in the lower back formed from fused vertebrae and situated between the two hipbones of the pelvis. The word is a Latin translation—os sacrum—of the Greek term—hieron osteon (holy bone)—for the Ancient Greeks believed the sacrum to be the seat of the soul. There may be something to this belief: when we suddenly realize that we may be about to die and as our soul makes emergency preparations to leave the body, we tend to experience a pronounced tingling sensation centered on the sacrum. The entire pelvis also tends to become affected: the anal sphincter relaxes, sometimes resulting in something vernacularly referred to as “losing one’s shit,” and, in men, the scrotum tightens and the testicles retract.

At that point many people also involuntarily utter sacrilegious profanities (there’s sacrum again!) which freely combine references to sex, defecation, genitalia, motherhood and God. Across many languages much use is made of vulgar terms for female genitalia: they form a sacred portal through which all human (and even some divine) life enters this world, and this makes references to them particularly potent in this context.

The holy and the obscene are really one and the same; swearing is a form of prayer and the female pelvis is the altar to which we spontaneously direct our prayers when we suddenly find ourselves in extremis. One often hears that there are no atheists to be found aboard a foundering ship but a lot of cursing/praying to be heard; are these two in some sense not the same?

The need to be vivid and evocative yet polite when referring to financial, commercial, political, social and cultural collapse forces people to resort to euphemisms. One nation that has a recent and profound of experience of collapse is Russia, having lost an estimated ten million people to alcoholism, violence, emigration and despair in the wake of the collapse of the USSR during the 1990s.

Referring to collapse, the Russians tend to make references to “the white furry animal,” thereby indirectly referring to the arctic fox, Vulpes lagopus. The Russian word for it is песец (peséts). It is a polite substitute for the term пиздец (pizdéts), which is reasonably well conveyed by the English exclamation “Holy shit, we are totally fucked!” It is in turn derived from the word пизда (pizdá), which is a vulgar term for female genitalia.

Take this white fluffy animal into your heart, and you will no longer have to wanly banter about collapse; instead, you can now harness the full depth of the sacred and the profane and refer to it as “the advent of the arctic fox” or, if you want to be coy and use a euphemism, you can instead obliquely mention “a certain furry animal.” Those in the know will appreciate this bit of finesse while those who have no idea… well, what of them?

Witnesses to the advent of the arctic fox need a sacred symbol, which I am happy to provide. In keeping with the light-hearted, whimsical nature of the subject, it is a talisman that symbolizes Golgotha, with four crosses rather than the usual three. One cross is, perforce, for Jesus Christ. At the center is the symbol of Death, which Christ vanquished through His resurrection. Two more crosses are for St. Petrov and St. Boshirov, the intrepid time-traveling GRU agents who will have had been crucified together with Jesus, cleverly disguised as the two thieves. And the fourth cross is for your own good self: on it you will be crucified during the advent of the arctic fox but will, with any luck, be reborn into a new life once the arctic fox departs.

 

Please order your copy of The Arctic Fox Cometh, available locally wherever Amazon.com has a foothold (now including Australia).

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Brave Soldiers Petrov and Boshirov at the Arsenal in Vrbetice, Czechia

2021-05-26

Text of the investigative report by J. Hašek, Bellingcat

His excellency said: \”Petrov and Boshirov, you are scoundrels! But since you want to serve, go and learn to work with guncotton. It will do you good.\”

And so brave soldiers Petrov and Boshirov went to work at the arsenal, learning to pack guncotton into artillery shells. It\’s a tricky business: you could get blasted up in the air at any time, and then it\’s curtains!

But brave soldiers Petrov and Boshirov did not shy away from this work. Quite contented, they spent their days in a separate barrack, sitting between casks of dynamite, ecrasite and guncotton, packing artillery shells with these frightening substances and singing battle hymns.

After some rousing battle hymns there followed heartfelt songs about dumplings the size of a person\’s head, which Petrov and Boshirov swallowed with indescribable pleasure.

And so they lived, happy with their lot, one on one with guncotton, in a separate barrack at the arsenal. But then one day an inspection came, to check whether all was well in the barracks.

Approaching the barrack in which brave soldiers Petrov and Boshirov were learning to handle guncotton, the inspectors saw large clouds of tobacco smoke created by the pipes Petrov and Boshirov were smoking and understood that these two were brave warriors indeed.

When they saw their superiors, Petrov and Boshirov stood up and, in accordance with regulations, took the pipes out of their mouths and set them aside, but not too far—just within reach, and right next to an open steel cask full of guncotton. Then they stood to attention and reported:

\”We have the honor to report that there have been no incidents, all is in order.\”

There are moments in a person\’s life when everything depends on maintaining one\’s composure. The guncotton was already becoming wreathed in rivulets of tobacco smoke. The colonel was the first to think of something. He said:

\”Petrov and Boshirov, I order you to continue smoking!\”

This was very clever of him, since it was much better for the pipes to reside in Petrov\’s and Boshirov\’s mouths than near the guncotton.

\”Yes, Sir, colonel!\” Petrov and Boshirov responded, snapping to attention. They were very highly disciplined.

\”And now, on the double to the brig!\”

\”So sorry, Sir, but we are assigned to guard duty until 1800 hours, when we are relieved. Somebody has to guard the guncotton at all times or there may be trouble!\”

The inspectors hastily trotted off to the guardhouse and sent a patrol to fetch Petrov and Boshirov.

The patrol marched off without any great enthusiasm.

On approaching the barrack in which Petrov and Boshirov sat smoking their pipes, the corporal shouted:

\”Petrov and Boshirov, you scoundrels, throw your pipes out the window and come out!\”

\”So sorry, Sir, but we cannot. The colonel ordered us to continue smoking. And so we will continue smoking even if you chop us into bits.\”

\”Come out, you bastards!\”

\”No, we won\’t. It\’s only 1600 and we are due to be relieved at 1800. Until then we have to be by the guncotton, to avoid trouble. We have to be very strict about…\”

They didn\’t get to finish. Perhaps you\’ve heard of the horrible catastrophe that happened at the arsenal in Vrbetice after which a day of mourning was declared throughout Czechia? In about three-quarters of a second the entire arsenal went up in the air.

It all started at the barrack in which brave soldiers Petrov and Boshirov were learning to handle guncotton. An entire burial mound formed at that spot, composed of logs, boards and metal scrap which flew in from everywhere around in order to properly honor the fearless soldiers Petrov and Boshirov who were not afraid of guncotton.

For three days and three nights sappers worked at the site, sorting heads, bodies, arms and legs, so that the Lord at the Final Judgment would have an easier time figuring out the ranks of the deceased, in order to distribute medals accordingly. It made for a very challenging puzzle.

On the third night they penetrated the very depths of this mountain of wood and metal, and suddenly heard the sounds of a rousing battle hymn. By torchlight they started to excavate in the direction from which the singing was coming. They soon came upon a small cave formed by metal scrap and logs. In its corner sat Petrov and Boshirov. They removed their pipes from their mouths, stood to attention and reported:

\”Honored to report, there have been no incidents, everything is in order!\”

They were dragged out of this chaos and, placed before an officer, reported once again:

\”Honored to report, there have been no incidents, everything is in order. Requesting to be relieved, since our watch is over. We also request to be paid for the time we spent sitting under the ruins.

These two brave men had been the only survivors.

That evening a little celebration was held at the officers\’ club. Brave soldiers Petrov and Boshirov, surrounded by the officers, downed one shot of schnapps after another, their kindly faces lit up with intense pleasure.

The next day they were promoted to corporals and decorated with large, shiny medals. Marching about the army compound with their medals and stars on their epaulettes, they chanced upon His Excellency, who shuddered when he saw their respectful, kindly faces.

\”That\’s quite a number you pulled, you cutthroats!\”

\”Honored to report, we now know how to handle guncotton!\” said Petrov and Boshirov smiling. And they proudly marched off in search of their regiment.

That same day the officer on duty read out to the soldiers an order from the War Ministry about the organization of an air force, asking for volunteers. Brave soldiers Petrov and Boshirov stepped forward and announced:

\”Honored to report, we have already been up in the air once, know what that\’s like, and would like to serve the Emperor in this capacity.\”

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The Arctic Fox Cometh [new book]

2021-05-24

I am happy to announce that my newest book of essays is finally ready to order. It contains a choice selection of essays which I have written over the past year and a half, carefully edited and proofread and typeset in easy to read 12-point type on ecologically benign paper in a tastefully designed paperback tome of 300 pages. Thousands of my faithful subscribers on Patreon and SubscribeStar have already been given access to these essays as soon as I wrote them. And now I am very glad to be able to offer them to the whole wide world.

Description:

We don’t know when it will come.
We don’t know what it will be like.
But we do know that it will come
and that we won’t like it
at all.

There arise occasions in the course of human affairs that cannot be properly characterized without resorting to the strongest possible language. In situations when nothing can be made to work and all has come undone the term “collapse” tends to get a lot of use, but it is too abstract and too technical to do justice to the visceral experience of the event. The need to be vivid and evocative yet polite when referring to financial, commercial, political, social and cultural collapse forces people to resort to euphemisms. Referring to collapse, the Russians tend to make references to “the white furry animal,” thereby indirectly referring to the arctic fox, Vulpes lagopus. Take this white fluffy animal into your heart, and you will no longer have to wanly banter about collapse; instead, you can now harness the full depth of the sacred and the profane and refer to it as “the advent of the arctic fox” or, if you want to be coy and use a euphemism, you can instead obliquely mention “a certain furry animal.”

Contents:

Why the Arctic Fox?

My Political Credo

Putin, Kipling and the Russian Man’s Burden

Putin’s Latest Warning

Real Life

Real Life—The Redux

Getting Hyperinflation Right

Why Trump was bound to fail

The Great Reset as a Suicide Pact

A Beautiful Plan

How American Propaganda helps Russian Propaganda

Voices from the Grave by Microsoft

The Petrochemical Pandemic

Genghis Khan does America

How the World has Changed Lately

World Satanic Society Year-End Report

The Stupidest News Story of the Year

Lunar Soil Revisited

Are Americans Rational?

“Watch this!”

Nefarious Objectives

The Novichok Spa Treatment

Harder, Faster, Deeper!

How to vote for Satan

The Virtuous Collapse Sequence

Charting the Collapse of the American Empire

Beheading the Statue of Liberty

Post-Collapse Administration

Repent&Pay™ Considered Harmful

The Great Wall of Russia

The Coronavirus of Kindness

Gaslighting the Coronavirus

The Clay Machine Gun

Bat-eating Troglodytes of Wuhan

The Global Warming Apocalyptic Cult

2020: New Decade, New Rules

Predictions for the 2020s

ORDER LINK

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