Thursday, May 17, 2018

Marine Russian Stove: Heat Storage

This is the next in a series of posts devoted to solving the problem of fitting a traditional Russian stove aboard a boat. Previous installments can be read here, here and here. It is interesting to see how the concept evolved based on feedback from the readers, following the same pattern that the entire Quidnon project has taken, where half-baked ideas eventually turn into fully baked ones based on good ideas contributed by knowledgeable, experienced people.

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Cultural Collapse is in the Lead

“...That is what I see happening in the USA and, to various extents, in different parts of the European Union: an attempt to undermine and destroy cohesive society and common culture ahead of the coming financial, commercial and political collapse. It may seem like an odd thing to strive for, but consider this: if society and culture are destroyed ahead of time, then when collapse comes there is no intact community of humans left to observe it and understand what is happening. With everyone’s reasoning abilities sufficiently hampered, it will be trivial to diffuse blame when the rest of the collapse sequence occurs, to get the people to blame themselves or to scapegoat each other, or to simply ignore it because most of the people have bigger problems than collapse, be it their dysfunctional families, their various addictions, their religious zealotry or their extremist politics...”

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Color Revolution in a Teacup

Our concept of success changes as we age. When we are young but not quite mature, we are able to engage in all sorts of ridiculous exploits. Later, when we are no longer young, just a successful trip to the outhouse turns out to be enough of a celebratory cause. Same goes for aging empires. When young, they trash large, important countries, but then help rebuild them. Later, they confine themselves to just trashing them. Even later, they attempt to trash small, weak countries, and fail even at that. Eventually such failures become too small to notice. Have you noticed what just happened in Armenia? Exactly.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The US pulled out of Iran Nuclear Deal because it’s too broke

Here’s a perspective on Trump’s decision to pull out of JCPOA, a.k.a. the Iran Nuclear Deal, that definitely doesn’t get enough airtime. It’s all about money. Following the Iranian revolution of 1978-79, Jimmy Carter froze Iran’s assets in the US. Ever since then, the US has been holding on to between $100 and $120 billion in Iranian assets, which have been accruing rent and interest. After the JCPOA, which stipulated the lifting of sanctions on Iran, Washington has been doing its best to drag its feet on releasing these assets, but they would have had to be returned to Iran sooner or later… unless the US pulled out of the deal, which it just did.

It is very important to note that these frozen Iranian assets are US dollar-denominated. And what would be the first thing that the Iranians would do upon regaining control of them? Why, of course, they would convert them out of US dollars. This is a requirement written into Iranian law: no US dollars allowed, and nobody in Iran has the power to change that even if they wanted to. According to the Iranians, US officials have pleaded with the Iranians not to liquidate their dollar-denominated assets, but that the Iranians told them that nobody has the authority to change this law.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Announcing: Collapse Chronicles Volume Five

Another year, another book of essays… This one covers the period from September 2017 through April 2018 and includes essays that remain hidden behind Patreon’s paywall.

Periodically publishing a paper book of essays used to be a good plan: Amazon’s royalties for self-published books used to be around 70% of the sale price. But now Amazon has decided to keep 70% for itself while number of people in the English-speaking world who read books on serious topics is continuing to shrink. Selling reasonably priced books now nets me only half as much as publishing a weekly essay on Patreon.com for subscribers only. Perhaps it is time for Club Orlov Press to diversify away from books and toward other pressable things such as cider or sunflower oil...

Friday, May 04, 2018

The World May End for the Stupidest of Reasons

We humans like to believe that things happen for a reason and hate to think that something very important—like the end of the world—might happen for no reason at all. And what we should hate most of all is the idea that the world might end for a really stupid reason—so stupid it hurts. And yet that is exactly what may happen. It’s a long story, so let’s begin.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

A United Korea—50 Disunited States

What follows is the introduction to the Korean edition of my book, Reinventing Collapse. Now that North and South Korea are finally achieving peace and there is talk of reunification, it is a good time to revisit it. My thesis—that superpower collapses trigger both reunifications and quests for independence—still seems to hold water.

Over the course of the Cold War, the two superpowers – USA and USSR – built up an inventory of unresolved conflicts, which they, by tacit agreement, placed in deep freeze for the duration of their combined existence. In some cases, ethnically homogeneous entities were split up along artificial political boundaries, while in other cases disparate ethnic groups were held together by force within a single artificial political boundary. Once the USSR collapsed, the multi-ethnic entities – Georgia, Moldova and Czechoslovakia – did their best to break apart, while the partitioned ones did their best to try to reunify. While some of these frozen conflicts—most notably Germany—needed both superpowers to remain refrigerated, one particular example—Korea—remained well-preserved even after the the collapse of the USSR, with the North providing its own, self-sufficient source of refrigeration.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

American Meddling

Ever since November 2016 a fair portion of the chattering classes in the US have been chattering about “Russian meddling” in the presidential election. The details keep changing, but the story stays the same: big bad Russia has somehow corrupted American democracy… as if American democracy wasn’t corrupted to begin with. Did the DNC not rig the primaries in favor of Clinton? Was the FBI not ordered by Obama to stop investigating Clinton for mishandling state secrets? Was Clinton not handed debate questions prior to a debate? Did she not receive campaign contributions from shady foreign oligarchs? And did she not, technically speaking, win the election, sclerotic electoral college weirdness aside? It seems that “Russian meddling,” if real, would be pretty far down the list of things that are wrong with American democracy; on the scale of emergencies, “house on fire” generally rates higher than “squirrels in the attic,” wouldn’t you say?

Perhaps you disagree with this assessment. In that case, there is another consideration for you to take on board.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

End of the Era of Naval Empires

[Since last Thursday, this article has gone viral on Russia Insider and beyond (1, 2). Apparently, many people think that my spelling out the end of US global military superiority is significant. Based on this robust response, I decided to release it from behind the firewall.]

For the past 500 years European nations—Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain, France and, briefly, Germany—were able to plunder much of the planet by projecting their naval power overseas. Since much of the world’s population lives along the coasts, and much of it trades over water, armed ships that arrived suddenly out of nowhere were able to put local populations at their mercy. The armadas could plunder, impose tribute, punish the disobedient, and then use that plunder and tribute to build more ships, enlarging the scope of their naval empires. This allowed a small region with few natural resources and few native advantages beyond extreme belligerence and bloodlust and a wealth of communicable diseases to dominate the globe for half a millennium.

The ultimate inheritor of this naval imperial project is the United States, which, with the new addition of air power, and with its large aircraft carrier fleet and huge network of military bases throughout the planet, is supposedly able to impose Pax Americana on the entire world. Or, rather, was able to do so—during the brief period between the collapse of the USSR and the emergence of Russia and China as new global powers and their development of new anti-ship and antiaircraft technologies. But now this imperial project is at an end.