Tuesday, March 13, 2018

False Flags for Newbies

Britain is in a media frenzy over the recent poisoning of the former Russian intelligence service colonel turned British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England. British PM Theresa May demanded that Russia explain itself, claiming that they were poisoned using a nerve agent called “Novichok” (Russian for “Newbie”) that was a product of Soviet biological weapons research. It is no longer produced and the destruction of its stockpiles has been verified by international observers. However, its formula is in the public domain and it can be synthesized by any properly equipped chemical lab, such as Britain's own Porton Down, which, incidentally, is just an 18-minute drive from Salisbury.

May provided no evidence to back up her claims of Russian complicity in the attempted murder. Russia's Foreign Ministry has requested that Britain turn over all available evidence to back up its accusation of chemical weapons use (under the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention Britain must do so within 10 days) but Britain has refused. Therefore, Russia's FM Sergei Lavrov has announced that Russia will not be responding to such baseless allegations.

An important key to spotting a false flag is that the “knowledge” of who is to blame becomes available before any evidence is in. For example, in the case of the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines MH-17 over Eastern Ukraine, everyone in the West was convinced that “pro-Russian separatists” were to blame even before the means could be established. To this date, it isn’t understood how they could have done it given the equipment they had at their disposal. In this case, Russia was accused almost immediately, while British FM Boris Johnson was quick to volunteer that Britain should not send its team to the World Cup in Russia this summer, disclosing the real reason behind the assassination attempt.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Better Nukes for a Safer Planet

A lot of people seem to have lost the thread when it comes to nuclear weapons. They think that nuclear weapons are like other weapons, and are designed to be used in war. But this is pure mental inertia. According to all the evidence available, nuclear weapons are anti-weapons, designed to prevent weapons, nuclear or otherwise, from being used. In essence, if used correctly, nuclear weapons are war suppression devices. Of course, if used incorrectly, they pose a grave risk to all life on Earth. There are other risks to all life on Earth as well, such as runaway global warming from unconstrained burning of hydrocarbons; perhaps we need to invent a weapon or two to prevent that as well.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Marine Russian Stove, Take 2

Thanks to all the feedback I received for the previous iteration of the design, it is much improved.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Make Russia Great Again Through Negligence

After a year and a half of silence, accompanied by much media noise, from the Mueller investigation into Trump the Terrible’s collusion with the Russians (and their lord and master the Dread Pirate Putin) in order to steal the election from innocent young Hillary “twinkle-toes” Clinton, Mueller finally laid an egg. He indicted 13 Russians for identity theft and wire fraud. He alleges that they bought some stolen personal info (Social Security numbers, names, birth dates, etc.) on the internet, used these to set up PayPal and Facebook accounts, and then used these to buy Facebook ads in an effort to undermine the American people’s faith in the wholesome goodness of their democracy.

There is no evidence that anyone in the Trump campaign or administration knew that this was happening. There is no evidence that any of the 13 Russians had anything to do with Putin or the Russian government. There is no evidence that anything they did had any measurable effect on the outcome of the election.

There is, however, ample evidence that this indictment will go nowhere.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Competitive Lying

No one has ever claimed that it is upstanding, sportsmanlike behavior to tell lies. Outside of some very special occupations—spy, special agent, etc.—lying is almost always a manifestation of failure. Even in its relatively innocuous forms, such as braggadocio and puffery, showboating and grandstanding, it is a poor substitute for having a favorable truth to tell. Then there are the various types of dissimulation, misdirection, concealment and omission; whether motivated by the wish to spare someone’s feelings or to avoid a scandal, the decision to lie is rarely a happy one. Finally, there are those who produce and circulate false and misleading information. When society functions normally, such people are caught, sooner or later, their reputations are ruined, their careers are terminated and the damage they caused is repaired. In a normally functioning society, enough of its members have a solid grasp of facts, are able to reason logically, and have sufficient faith in journalistic and other professional ethics, in the impartiality of public officials, and in the scientific method, to allow them to believe that truth does exist and that they are capable of obtaining it.

But such normal, stolid, matter-of-fact forms of social behavior seem a bit boring, perhaps even fuddy-duddyish, and are unlikely to hold the attention of modern smartphone-addicted whipper-snappers. Wouldn’t it be a lot more popular, modern and fun if the manufacturing of lies for financial and political gain become an accepted form of public behavior?

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Marine Russian Stove

During the decade or so we have spent living aboard, we went through a succession of methods to keep the cabin warm during the cold months. On our first journey south, we cast off from Boston in mid-October, the day before the marina would have kicked us out because we hadn’t signed a contract for winter dockage. We progressed south rather more slowly than we had expected, and made it as far as Charleston in early December. There we decided to overwinter, and proceeded further south three months later. When we first set off, all we had on board was an electric space heater, plus a propane heater powered by 1 lb. camp stove canisters. We went through a large pile of these. The electric space heater only worked when we were tied up at the dock and plugged in to shore power. While under way, we tried to keep warm by burning propane. But propane generates a lot of moisture as it burns, causing the entire cabin—the clothing, the bedding, everything—to become dank, robbing the body of heat, while the moisture in the air condensed on the underside of the cabin top, causing it to literally rain inside the cabin. (There are few things more disagreeable than an intermittent cold drip on your head as you are trying to sleep.)

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Thursday, February 08, 2018

The “-ism” to End All “-isms”

Once upon a time, in what many people now reminisce about as “the good old days,” there were just two reigning ideologies: capitalism and communism. Capitalists believed in the sanctity of private property rights, the magic ability of money to be the measure of all things, and in the mystical invisible hand of the marketplace for finding optimal solutions to economic problems. Communists believed in the power of communal property, the ability of rational, objective scientific methods to be the measure all things, and in the power of central planning for finding optimal solutions to economic problems. Both of them fail, eventually, and have done so at various times. Capitalism’s great failure was the Great Depression; communism’s great failure was the collapse of the USSR.

There are some patterns within this general framework of failure. When communism fails (as in the USSR, and, in economic rather than in political terms, in China, Vietnam and elsewhere) it reverts to capitalism (while trying to retain a few communist elements). And when capitalism fails, the capitalists go to war, and the result is fascism.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Specifically Useful or Generally Useless?

Would you like to take a break from watching financial markets crash, US security and law enforcement agencies destroy their reputations while perjuring themselves and Trump making a fool of everyone including himself? I know it's a lot to ask. A joint financial/political collapse extravaganza complete with scratch-and-sniff cards is not one to miss. But in case you can bare to look away, or just need a break, here's a blog post about the gradually progressing design of Quidnon—a houseboat that sails.

I once made a cockpit awning. It was a fiberglass-over-plywood affair. Not only was it a cockpit awning, but it also could have been pressed into service as a mediocre paddleboard, a bus shelter for small children and/or midgets, a roof for a tiny gazebo, a protest sign, a miniature frog pond and, of course, a planter. It turned out to be a universally useful/useless piece of crap, depending on how you looked at it.

It started well. I used 1/16-inch Luan for the top and narrow slats of 1/2-inch for the frame, which I cut to gentle curves that made the top into a cold-molded conic section with just a tiny bit of spherical distortion for added stiffness. I filleted the inside joints, sealed the plywood with epoxy, fiberglassed and faired the top… and then I tossed it. Actually, I gave it to some artists, thinking they might use it for some sort of art installation. It didn’t make that good a cockpit awning: too heavy, too difficult to mount securely, plus it added too much windage aft. I didn’t think it would survive a hurricane (unlike the hard dodger I made earlier, which survived passing close to the eye of Hurricane Matthew with no damage).

I did most of the work on sawhorses on the floating dock at the marina. All of the other marina denizens, who mostly just sat on their boats and got drunk, were rather enthusiastic, and a few even tossed some business my way, fixing stuff on their boats. But the marina staff were less enthusiastic, talked about made-up “customer complaints” and eventually exiled me, together with my sawhorses and tools, to a windless, gravel-paved back lot, where I worked roasting in the sun. The hostile work environment probably had something to do with the project’s ultimate failure, but mostly I blame myself, for not spending enough time on the design phase.

There are plenty of designs that are specifically useful for their stated purpose, but are otherwise completely useless. In this category are special-purpose tools, like the egg slicer or the lemon juicer. Yes, they make short work of slicing hard-boiled eggs or juicing lemons, but beyond that they just add clutter. In a pinch, both can be used to prop open doors and windows, and the egg slicer makes a tiny out-of-tune harp, in case you are ever in need of a really pathetic sound effect. But that’s it.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

How to Fix the US National Defense Doctrine

On January 19, 2018 General James “Mad Dog” Mattis held forth publicly on America’s new and improved National Defense Strategy. He mouthed quite a lot of words, but the executive summary is actually just two points:

1. The War on Terror is no longer a thing. Since terrorism is now a much worse problem around the world than it was when the War on Terror was first announced after 9/11, it certainly hasn’t been won. Another problem is the prodigious amount of treasure, life and limb that has been squandered on this worse-than-futile pursuit. But Americans are now going to do what they always do after a military misadventure: declare victory, go home, and cower behind two oceans hoping that their misadventure doesn’t follow them home. America’s new message to all the numerous victims of terrorism is “Suck it up.”

2. America’s new enemy is Chinarussia—a very large Eurasian country. The US depends on Chinarussia for a great many things and can’t possibly afford to go to war with it, but what’s a poor bankrupt country to do when nothing works? Previously, the US was able to successfully play China and Russia against each other (after Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon were given an opening by the very foolish Nikita Khrushchev, who alienated Mao Zedong with his attack on Joseph Stalin’s legacy). But now “Divide and conquer” is no longer a thing either; the new thing is “unite your enemies while making them laugh.” Uniting China and Russia took quite a bit of American effort and is more or less a fait accompli. Making them laugh was even harder, but I feel that Mattis did a good job.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Men: What Are They Good For?

What are the key male functions for surviving just about any collapse scenario? I believe that they come down to just five, which I will call Fixer, Pathfinder, Protector, Provider and Chief.

Link to article.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

What Color is Your Wrecking Ball?

There is at present a great deal of dissatisfaction with the performance of the embattled US President. To start with, he had the wrong supporters: too few radical feminists; too many white heterosexual males whose toxic masculinity is a major problem according to the radical feminists. Then, of course, he only got elected thanks to the nefarious meddling by the world’s largest organized crime syndicate called Russia, led by none other than the dread pirate Putin. (The Russians are so utterly clever that not a single shred of conclusive evidence of their meddling could be unearthed in spite of a year of steadfast effort by a fantastically competent special investigator). Then (and this only gets worse) it turns out that another sort of nefarious meddling was afoot: the Department of Justice and the FBI, under the direction of Barak Obama, did everything they could to exonerate Hillary Clinton from her numerous crimes while doing their best to dig up dirt on Trump. But this is also all Trump’s fault: how could he fail commit some impeachable offense—for them to find?

Not only is Trump a Manchurian candidate put in place by Putin and/or elected by a bunch of retrogrades and undesirables. Not only did he make horribly populist campaign promises—like bringing back offshored American jobs; like keeping out illegal immigrants who also steal American jobs; like bringing US troops back home from the many hellholes that the US military has been busily creating around the world; like renegotiating trade deals to favor Americans rather than foreigners; like restoring good relations with Russia; like “making America great again” (however unlikely that may sound). Worst of all, he has failed to deliver on any of these promises! Instead, the little that’s happened under his watch so far that can be said to be positive is a further progression of financial bubbles, with stocks and bonds both looking like hundred-foot palm trees growing in buckets (what will happen to them when a gust of wind comes along?). This makes Trump no different from any of his predecessors (which one of them actually fulfilled his campaign promises?). But somehow a US president lying like he’s running for office, then ignoring his promises once elected, just like any other US president, is no longer good enough for some people.

But it gets even worse than that…

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gender Hysteria and its Discontents

I have launched into this series of essays to focus on a particularly fraught and tense moment in US history. The US and Canada and, to a lesser extent, Western Europe, are having a nervous breakdown and are in the grip of gender hysteria. Suddenly, everybody is eager to play the victim of sexual abuse of one sort or another, while a new victim class—white heterosexual males—is singled out for a particularly sinister form of abuse: any attempt they make to defend themselves causes them to be lambasted as racist homophobic sexist fascists. The extreme irony of the fact that this mode of attack itself proceeds under the banner of racist (anti-white) heterophobic (anti-heterosexual) sexist (anti-male) fascism (kangaroo-court law) is entirely lost on its perpetrators.

But there is much more irony in it than that.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sanctions, Shmanctions!

Russian icebreaker/LNG tanker
Christophe de Margerie
Whatever pagan deity happens to be in charge of weather this winter seems to be playing a joke on the Americans. You don’t believe in global warming? Fine, why don’t we have Muscovites enjoy the rare sight of pussy willows in bloom in January while letting you freeze? The result has been brutal. Not only have the very low temperatures, in a region where some people seem to believe that a baseball cap qualifies as winter headgear, exacerbated an already very bad flu season (the standard flu vaccine is only 10% effective against this year’s strain) but they have caused natural gas prices to spike up to $6.4 per cubic meter, testing a four-year-old record and breaking above the price in Asia.

The Russians do believe in global warming. It has opened up Arctic sea lanes to year-round navigation, supported by Russia’s new icebreaker fleet. They provide shortcuts to world’s sea freight while getting around strategic chokepoints such as the Straits of Malacca, the Suez Canal and the Straits of Gibraltar. The Russians have also taken advantage of the warming Arctic to open the region to oil and gas exploration and production. Late last year the ambitious new Yamal liquefied natural gas project opened to great fanfare. An entire new city was built above the Arctic circle. Putin himself flew in and gave the order to start pumping. A new fleet of ice-capable LNG tankers is being readied to take the gas to customers anywhere in the world.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Collapse Needs a Few Good Men, Part I

It is currently fashionable to deemphasize the importance of biology. Perhaps once upon a time humans lived alongside other animals, subject to all of the same vagaries of nature, but now we have the technology: birth control, in vitro fertilization, cesarean deliveries, intensive care for premature births and so on. An attempt to make the point that we are, in the end, just a bunch of animals, and that civilization is a temporary condition, is unlikely to be well received. A particularly fraught and heavily contested aspect of biological determinism has to do with sexual differences. As a matter of official ideology, we are now required to believe that men and women have exactly the same capabilities, and anybody who says anything different is judged guilty of “perpetuating gender stereotypes”—an act which, as one white male Google employee recently discovered, is now regarded as cause for immediate termination.

However, as technological civilization nears its end of life due to depletion of nonrenewable natural resources and increasingly devastating environmental disruptions, the realities of the typical collapse cascade of financial-commercial-political-social-cultural collapse are exceedingly likely to be such that sexual differences will once again become obvious and very important while gender studies and feminist theory gently fade into oblivion. In attempting to gauge which social and cultural adaptations are likely to be the most conducive to surviving collapse, a back-to-basics approach seems justified. In the old days, women have had to rely on men for a great many things, and a spinster’s or a widow’s lot was most often unenviable. Most modern women would find the prospect of having to return to such times nothing short of appalling. But their recent political victories of gender equality are safeguarded by a political realm that is subject to collapse, and their economic independence is made possible by an economic realm which is likewise subject to collapse. What will they have to fall back on?

If we admit that, in almost any conceivable collapse scenario, women would once again have to rely on men, a question arises: Which men? The modern economically independent, liberated woman has a greatly reduced need of a male consort: a timely donation of sperm is all that is actually required; companionship, romance, and help with raising children are desirable but optional. And with a greatly reduced need comes a greatly reduced sense of responsibility: the modern man’s response is to focus on his own needs rather than those of women, choosing to remain egotistical and childlike. What sorts of transformative events would have to take place in order for men to once again accept the traditional full burden of male responsibility? Is such a transformation even possible? And, if not, are we willing to concede the point that in a collapse scenario modern societies will go extinct while traditional societies (which modern societies consider backward) will muddle through?

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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Unspell is back!

That’s right, Unspell is back! Right around the time of the last presidential election in the US, the web site broke. I didn’t think that too many people cared, but I was wrong, and enough of them have nagged me to make me want to fix it, which I just did. The person who was responsible for the breakage was, of course, none other than President Donald J. Trump of the yooge button. It’s a juicy bit of gossip...