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The Age of War and Revolution

2017 April 26
by Ian Welsh
The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole

The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole

I have labelled the next era “the age of war and revolution”, in fact, there’s even a category  for it.

I expect this for economic, geopolitical, technological and environmental reasons.

Economic

The developed world has soaring inequality and is stagnated. Real value is not being created, instead it is being cannibalized through financial games by rentiers: they take all the profits and download all the risk on to others, as the 2008/9 bailouts illustrated (the bankers are fine, no one else is.)

Deliberate austerity thru political decisions has damaged the economy. Demand has been insufficient for decades, but we are now extremely sclerotic after the response to the financial crisis was “bail out the people who caused it, make everyone else pay.” Even by the logic of capitalism, this is crazed: capitalism says “if you lose your money, you weren’t allocating it properly”.  Capitalism works, to the extent it does, because people who make good allocation decisions get more money and thus get to make more allocation decisions, while those who allocate money (really resources) badly, lose it, and can’t make as many decisions.

Bankers, who are the primary resource allocators in our society (it is not even close, they create the vast majority of all money, not governments) made such bad decisions, on aggregate, that they lost all their money.  Under capitalism that’s how it would have stayed, and other people would have taken over their function, having learned from their loss.

Since we refused to do so, the opposite lesson was learned ‘do more of this’.  And so the policies which drove us into the ground continue.

Now, like the old-fashioned white male CIS blah, blah, that I am, I am lumping a lot of the social issues under economic. That isn’t because they are entirely caused by economics, but because economics is the independent variable which is driving the rise of the “alt right” and so on.  As the economy has become worse, people have fallen back on whatever identity they already have, and found enemies. That is what people do.

Back in the mid 70s, I said to my father “I don’t see a lot of racism”. (I lived in Vancouver, flush with Chinese.)  He shook his head and said “no, because times are good. Wait till times are bad, you’ll see plenty then.” My father was a child of the Great Depression.

‘Nough said.

Alternatives to neoliberalism will continue to rise. Neoliberalism is now a zombie. It still shuffles along, eating brains, but it’s dead and the only question is how many people it will impoverish and kill before it dies. Well, and what will replace it.

I want to emphasize something here: almost all social welfare statistics track economic inequality, not absolute access to goods.  People are happy, or sick, or whatever, based on how unequal their society is, and almost nothing else, provided the society is beyond the bare subsistence level.

Inequality matters, it drives almost everything.  People who feel unequal are unhappier, stressed and sick. The data on this is conclusive, those who wish to read it, may look it up in the book “The Spirit Level”.

So it doesn’t matter if Thelma has a TV and a smartphone, what matters is that she’s scared all the time because if she loses her job she’s screwed, and as a result she has to do whatever her boss says.  She has little real freedom, save the right to become homeless.  And that fear is constantly there, even if it is subconscious.

This fear goes right through the economy, including in many who would be considered upper class (not rich, but the professionals who make 150K+/year).  Anecdotally, almost all upper class and upper middle class women seem to be on psychoactive prescription drugs, for example.

Economic problems take time to ripple thru political system because after 30 most people don’t tend to change their views. They believe what they believe, they are who they are, and while age produces real changes, it doesn’t tend to change their politics, absent absolute catastrophe.

But we are now moving to the other side of that. For decades people put up with decline, but now the youngsters, some of whom are in their early 30s, have never known anything but a failed system and a bad economy.  This political world has never worked for them, ever: they have no emotional investment in it, no habit of supporting it.

So, as we continue our economic decline; as inequality gets worse and worse, and as the coming generations move to the age where they are politically viable, the current time ends.

The next set of rulers and their supporters will try new things; new systems.  They will be willing to revolt.  The age of neoliberalism is all but over.

Geopolitical

The United States is in decline. China is now the world’s largest manufacturer, with a larger population.

Historically, declining empires (and if you don’t believe that the US is an empire, please search for a map showing all American overseas military bases and consider that the US routinely bombs countries it doesn’t like, without a declaration of war), always spawn wars and crises.  The decline of England spawned two world wars, fighting against the rising power, Germany.  (America won that.)  Spain’s decline caused great convulsions, and so on.

America arrogates a great deal of power to itself.  China building islands in what is, after all, their near sea, is China saying “we are the power here, not you. You cannot use your fleet here freely any more.”  (Well, the US still can, but not for much longer, if China doesn’t like it.)

In pre-industrial societies military power did not always (or even often) track economic capacity.  (The Chinese, twice conquered by horse nomads, are well aware of this.)  But in industrial and post-industrial societies it does. He who can make the most weapons that are good enough and match to soldiers, wins, with limited exceptions.

Which is to say, while China does not have the military the US has, yet, it now has the potential to have a bigger, stronger one. More industry, more people.

Though people are becoming less important, which leads us to…

Technology

The technology of warfare and production are both changing. I am not convinced automation has reached the tipping point people make it out as having done, the industrial revolution did the same and was handled, but rising automation into sclerotic demand and an insistence of distributing money thru jobs is one of the factors driving the economic problems we already discussed.  The more capitalists think they don’t need workers, combined with refusing to do something akin to a basic income or employ less people for more money or radically decrease the work week without decreasing wages, the greater the problem.

The change in warfare is more interesting, and deeply problematic. As many people have observed, Orwell among them, violent technology underwrites constitutions. Mass armies full of riflemen, where women must work in the factories lead very directly first male then universal sufferage. Ancient Greek City states and Swiss cantons enfranchised exactly the fighting population.

Iraq saw the rise of area denial warfare, where the state could not be defeated on the field, but could not rule.  Now we are moving to a world of drones and autonomous robots.  People will be less and less needed to fight wars.  This is not a good thing, but—

—drone and autonomous robot technology is not necessarily a tech for the powerful. In fact, I suspect this is a technology of the weak. They aren’t that hard to make and will become increasingly easier to make. Any idiot who wants to make them will eventually be able to do so.

So you wind up either will police states (which we are moving towards, with our extreme surveillance societies) or societies where anyone can be killed.  There is no way most leaders can be defended, it cannot be done.

I will not cry for this.  The ridiculous ramparts in world capitals, which did not exist 60 years ago, exist exactly because politicians no longer work for their populations.  Ages of assassination also tend to be ages where the population is better taken care of, because the best way to keep someone from committing political violence is to keep them happy. A man who is happily married, who is relatively equal, who looks forward to his life and feels he can do things that are meaningful does not build drones in his basement.

Happy people who are in loving relationships and/or enmeshed in supportive communities may commit horrific communal violence, but they don’t tend to become terrorists.

However, the point is that the tech will become more and more available, and another age of terror and assassination will arise in its wake. To avoid that we will have reorganize our societies: we can do so either by making them surveillance police states or by making people happy.

Environmental

We are facing a triple or quadruple threat. Climate change, environmental collapse, population increase and water shortages. Severe water shortages.  These factors are going to make the crises much, much worse.  Whole regions of India, China and the US will stop being agriculturally productive, due to aquifer depletion, for example.  Swathes of land will become uninhabitable without air conditioning for months at a time. Changing rainfall patterns will make other, formerly productive land, unproductive.

Environmental collapse is harder to figure in, exactly, but as ecosystems collapse we can expect that to have unexpected and often catastrophic effects. Will the seas be taken over by jellyfish? What happens when all the alpha African predators are gone?  Will honeybees wind up extinct?  What happens to Japan when global fish stocks take their final swan dive (possibly recovering 25 years later)?

Meanwhile, while most developed countries have stable or declining populations, many developing countries have seen increases of a thousand percent or more, and will increase even further.  This is especially the case in Africa, large swathes of which will be hit hardest by climate change.

All of this means that we will be undergoing a cyclical change (collapsing hegemonic power, new technology of violence, new technology of production) at the same time as we are facing environmental catastrophe with an unprecedentedly large population.

The so-called refugee crisis right now is nothing compared to those coming. Populations in the tens of millions will move within periods of just a few years.  Countries which run out of water and thus ability to feed their population are very likely to go to war (if they don’t, their own populations will likely kill the leadership). Governments will collapse just based on environmental issues; wars will be fought over them, especially over water and arable land (this is one reason I am scared for Canada. When the US wants our water and land…)

Concluding Remarks

It is quite hard to predict history in the short term, where the short term means years, or even a decade or two.  It is very hard to predict history in the long term of centuries or millennia.  But between that it is quite easy. Each ideology, each empire, each economic system has a best by date. Some last longer than others, but all end, and they do so in fairly standard order.

We are near the end of an ideological order: neoliberalism. We are near the end of war-making technological era, with the rise of robots.  We are near the end of a production technological era, with the rise of AI and bots.

Combined with environmental catastrophe (and nukes), this makes what is coming down the line much worse than the normal cyclical change.  Much, much worse.  We can create a better world, or a few better societies, out of it, to be sure, but there is probably no avoiding the Age of War and Revolution which is soon to be upon us.


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87 Responses
  1. Max Osman permalink
    April 26, 2017

    Quibble, Africa has negative population growth once you factor in the HIV crisis. Robots also make horrible replacements for flesh and blood soldiers. All in all, can’t argue.

  2. Ian Welsh permalink*
    April 26, 2017

    The tech isn’t there yet for robot soldiers, but I expect it to be in 10 to 15.

    Africa’s population is definitely still increasing, and massively. It crossed that of Europe in 1995.

  3. Kevin permalink
    April 26, 2017

    This really hits home for me. As someone in his early thirties, I feel very little commitment to American society. If a generation feels little responsibility to its society it can produce rapid change, but it can also produce selfish, nihilistic behavior that will inevitably lead to decline.

    Older generations seem to live in a happy fantasy land by comparison. It’s very confusing for me to talk to them. They are very relaxed and sanguine about society – I simplt cannot relate.

  4. April 26, 2017

    The next important conflict is US v China. It won’t be the last – partially because they waste money on small conflicts.

  5. Webstir permalink
    April 26, 2017

    Stirling:
    I disagree. The next “important” conflict will be the next “nuclear” conflict. I think China and the U.S. have at least another century of ever expanding proxy wars over resources before it finally comes to the hegemons battling it out toe to toe.

    I say the next important conflict will be the next nuclear conflict because nothing about the current state of world military affairs even has a snowballs chance in hell of changing until some nukes go off. Then, and only then, does the world have even the slightest chance to hit the “reset sanity” button.

    Will it be the usual suspects that hit the red button: Israel v. Iran; Pakistan v. India; U.S. v. N. Korea? Or will it be a non-state actor?

    tick tock tick tock …

  6. Synoia permalink
    April 26, 2017

    “The next important conflict is US v China. It won’t be the last – partially because they waste money on small conflicts.”

    It has already started. The whle US Muslim strategy appears to ferment trouble in countries with Muslims populations.

    The whole “silk road” is littered with Muslim countries. One can perceive the US as deliberately provoking Muslims to cause trouble for both the Chinese and Russian Governments.

  7. Synoia permalink
    April 26, 2017

    “The tech isn’t there yet for robot soldiers, but I expect it to be in 10 to 15.”

    Hmmmm…I’d have to see an energy audit of the robot soldiers, for the whole life cycle compare with human energy costs to make any predictions.

    No energy available, no robot. I wonder how often the have to recharge? And as we all know batteries have a habit of going flat at inconvenient times.

    I’ll put up One Billion Chinese against any Robot Army.

  8. MattF permalink
    April 26, 2017

    The Robots don’t need to bother with running around fighting in the desert or jungle or city street; they can float in orbit and zap us without us even knowing.

    They won’t look like us, they won’t be meeting us mano-a-mano, and they won’t of course have any notion of honor or mercy. We see this happening already, against the most marginalized peoples. We’ll be killed before we even know we have an enemy.

    We seem to invest in killing machines above all else (well, for actual physical stuff anyway, not “financial instruments”), so I think we can assume that we will be outmatched.

    My fear is that the likely outcome of whatever comes next is a terrible form of feudalism, with suffering masses oppressed by unfeeling machines owned by financial instruments and about 5 family clans.

    My hope is that those under-30 types DO in fact set in motion ideas and institutions that will be ready to start something new when it all starts coming apart. That the post-scarcity mind-set can take over and we can live on this giant gorgeous living spaceship as we are meant to.

    It’s embarrassing to be a human sometimes.

  9. Synoia permalink
    April 26, 2017

    “The Robots don’t need to bother with running around fighting in the desert or jungle or city street; they can float in orbit and zap us without us even knowing.”

    Yes, and they will be driven by AI, which will never make it’s own decision on who to kill /s.

    Putting a bunch of things in orbit — refer above to life cycle energy costs. A combination of lift costs plus repair costs seems to make systems in orbit impractical.

  10. DMC permalink
    April 26, 2017

    If we can just manage to transition from a carbon based energy system to renewables(solar, wind, etc.), we can dodge a number of these bullets. With extremely cheap electricity comes a solution to water shortages, arable land changes(hydroponics, or why your winter tomatoes can economically be produced in Denmark), extreme heat and cold, really everything that anyone would fight over, save someplace to actually live. And with electricity sufficiently cheap, one place would be, more or less, as good as another. Sure, freight carrying ships now burn horribly polluting bunker fuel but do they have to? If everybody on the International Law of the Sea Commission decided to bar bunker fuel and insist on propane or better fuel tomorrow, then there would be some grumbling but they’d do it because they didn’t have a choice(assuming there was any teeth in the resolution, like being considered the equivalent of pirates). It’s all about the political will to get anything done to forestall these various catastrophes. Unfortunately, that political will does seem to be in mighty short supply.

  11. Mateo permalink
    April 26, 2017

    I am waiting for someone to marry a drone with a couple sticks of dynamite

  12. cripes permalink
    April 27, 2017

    Yes, low-cost military technology has a way of finding a path into the hands of people it was intended to be used against. And to greater effect. Blow up another afghan cave? Meh.

    Scotland Yard, Pentagon, No 10 Downing? Chaos.

  13. Ian Welsh permalink*
    April 27, 2017

    Modern AI, if they are stupid enough to use it for drones, is black box tech. Even more than the unanaticipated consequences of normal coding/programming, it can go really really wrong.

  14. Mike permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @DMC: I love your ridiculous dream of ultra cheap renewable electricity. Such a shame it’s completely infeasible.

  15. Hugh permalink
    April 27, 2017

    Neoliberalism is the ideological screen for kleptocracy and both are doing fine –for now. We just had the guy who ran on hope and change and delivered eight years of unadulterated neoliberalism. And now we have the guy who ran on anger and change and is also doing his damnedest to deliver even more neoliberalism, i.e. theft without end. Even when the rest of us eventually get around to a serious revolt against our kleptocratic masters, the rich and elites, they are not going to go quietly. They will use every lie and weapon in their arsenal before they are done.

    The larger point is that much of the world we are familiar with is going to fall apart. That’s already baked in, given present trajectories (on the crises Ian mentioned), and that there is nothing around or in the foreseeable future to change or challenge those trajectories. Indeed we are seeing now the effects of this disintegration in the increasing levels of international instability and the proliferation of failed and failing states.

    Where I differ with Ian is that what I see is the failing of hegemonic power itself before these crises. There will be no transfer of it to China. Rather what we see is that while the US hegemon’s actions can accelerate instability in various parts of the world, the US cannot create stability anywhere, even if it wanted to.

    As I have written here previously, we can’t save the world, but we can still save parts of it. But even here the timeframe is quite short. We have until 2030 to get our act together and programs up and running to mitigate the worst of what is coming. That’s 13 years, and when you consider we are likely going to suffer through at least 4 years of Trump making things worse, and at the end of them still having the same political and economic system, both of which are totally unprepared, indeed do not care, about what is coming. Well, you can see the problem. Every year we lose, the crises get that much worse and that much more difficult to combat. You cannot make over an economy, industrial base, and society overnight. Four years of Trump would give us nine years remaining and yet even then we might only be at the point of beginning the struggle for the political changes we need. It all comes down to time. Much of the world has already run out of time. They just don’t know it yet. But even here in the US where we are perhaps the best positioned of anyone anywhere, time is running out for us as well. In theory, we still could accomplish the political revolution we need, and then plan and institute what we need for a sustainable society of what eventually would be a population of between one hundred and two hundred million. But in practice, we won’t. The chances we would I put at 5%.

  16. April 27, 2017

    I’m honestly surprised we haven’t started seeing a lot of assassinations. We’ve seen the mass shootings of strangers, which is in part a copycat contagion effect since Columbine. How long until those unhinged individuals start picking political targets instead of random crowds of strangers? It would be just as easy to shoot up a Senator’s field office as a movie theater…

  17. highrpm permalink
    April 27, 2017

    ai? shit, I have enough trouble as is with pit bulls and pests doing what their [dna] programmed for messing up my walks. can’t imagine amazon’s bot filled skies in 20 years. switching to fight/ flight mode in chasing after a robber. what crap the technopriests have wrought. when I get to the other side, I’m going looking for oppy and feny and break their mystical arms and legs.

  18. V. Arnoldmv permalink
    April 27, 2017

    Hugh
    50 million is tops for sustainable in the US, tops.
    In any event; you like most, cannot fathom it’s all going to hell.
    Not all at once; but rather a rolling, global collapse.
    Coming in the not too distant future for 99% of us humans; good riddance, IMO.
    E

  19. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    April 27, 2017

    highrpm, I have considered that the recent Facebook Killer could plausibly have been one of Facebook’s social engineering experiments. Either way, the fact the McDonald’s employees, slaves really, recognized him and even made sure to say over and over again what he had for his meal — twenty-piece chicken nuggets & fries (imagine the coroner having to review the contents of this guy’s stomach — just another day on the job I suppose) — is reflective of the Police State’s pursuit of Montag in Fahrenheit 451.

    That book was so prescient on so many levels. We have a society drugged up (legal prescriptions that you can drive around intoxicated on by the way) and distracted, incapable of critical thought and analysis, cheering on Police State spectacles where purposely inculcated Serial Murderers & Terrorists are pursued across the country and planet and it’s plastered on the screens that now take up the entirety of a family room wall.

    People don’t read any longer so the book burning has been accomplished by addicting them to Smart Phones that render reading archaic & irrelevant. Smart Phones, aside from being an effective implanted tracking device so the Surveillance State knows where you are & what you’re doing at all times, are good for unintelligible, inarticulate, vacuous texting & social media perusing & posting, and that’s about it. They are not liberating — they’re incarcerating.

    The Manipulators: Facebook’s Social Engineering Project

    Spreading “emotional contagion”

    The Facebook study seemed fated to stir up controversy. Its title reads like a bulletin from a dystopian future: Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion through Social Networks. But when, on June 2, the paper first appeared on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), it drew little notice or comment. It sank quietly into the swamp of academic publishing. That changed abruptly three weeks later, on June 26, when technology reporter Aviva Rutkin posted a brief account of the study on the website of New Scientist magazine. She noted that the research had been run by a Facebook employee, a social psychologist named Adam Kramer who worked in the firm’s large Data Science unit, and that it had involved more than half a million members of the social network. Smelling a scandal, other journalists rushed to the PNAS site to give the paper a look. They discovered that Facebook had not bothered to inform its members about their participation in the experiment, much less ask their consent.

    Outrage ensued, as the story pinballed through the media. “If you were still unsure how much contempt Facebook has for its users,” declared the technology news site PandoDaily, “this will make everything hideously clear.” A The New York Times writer accused Facebook of treating people like “lab rats,” while The Washington Post, in an editorial, criticized the study for “cross[ing] an ethical line.” US Senator Mark Warner called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the matter, and at least two European governments opened probes. The response from social media was furious. “Get off Facebook,” tweeted Erin Kissane, an editor at a software site. “If you work there, quit. They’re fucking awful.” Writing on Google Plus, the privacy activist Lauren Weinstein wondered whether “Facebook KILLED anyone with their emotion manipulation stunt.”

    The ethical concerns were justified. Although Facebook, as a private company, is not bound by the informed-consent guidelines of universities and government agencies, its decision to carry out psychological research on people without telling them was reprehensible. It violated the US Department of Health & Human Services’ policy for the protection of human research subjects (known as the “Common Rule”) as well as the ethics code of the American Psychological Association. Making the transgression all the more inexcusable was the company’s failure to exclude minors from the test group. The fact that the manipulation of information was carried out by the researchers’ computers rather than by the researchers themselves — a detail that Facebook offered in its defense — was beside the point. As University of Maryland law professor James Grimmelmann observed, psychological manipulation remains psychological manipulation “even when it’s carried out automatically.”

    More at link.

  20. Pelham permalink
    April 27, 2017

    I’ve often wondered why drones of various sorts haven’t been used by terrorists or revolutionaries.

    Hobbyists have been happily building radio-controlled models for more than half a century now. And there are remote-controlled jets that nearly anyone can build that fly at well over 100 mph. These are potentially terrific weapons and fully within the grasp of any moderately skilled civilian willing to lay out a few thousand dollars and the hours of basement work necessary to build one hell of an unstoppable flying machine.

  21. Peter permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @Mike

    I have to wonder where these Pollyannaish fantasies about cheap alternative power sources comes from. The Chinese have driven production costs down to where solar is cost competitive with nat gas power generation but there are still subsidies involved and wind power will probably never be cost competitive on its own without massive subsidy.

    Note; marine engines are diesel engines and can’t burn propane as fuel.

  22. realitychecker permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @ Ian

    A most excellent post, good sir, skillfully and unemotionally summarizing the ugly verities of our present time and situation.

    I might surmise that it was a source of amusement and/or angst as you witnessed your readership steadfastly refuse to even engage in a discussion about having a discussion about the need to think seriously about the fundamentals of revolution. And this is supposed to be a place for the smarter ones, right lol?

    My angst re this phenomenon goes way back. I am pretty much convinced at this point that the professional Mindfuckers have succeeded over the last seven decades in transforming the human species into something lesser, something that can neither think critically anymore, nor can find the spine or focus to overcome its relentlessly-conditioned passivity.

    It seems the mere thought that some blood might spill or some pain or risk might be experienced, as we transform the world from the status quo to nirvana, is enough to take most ‘activist’ types straight into safe space deprivation mode.

    Of course you are correct that as the established order disintegrates, there will be a dramatic increase in instability, chaos, and uncontrollable violence. Many will die, just as many will also die if the status quo is allowed to continue. Safe spaces will become less available.

    It’s just the mix of the dead, and the goals of the killers, that will differ. Why do we act as though some lives are more valuable than others? More precision of thought is much needed on this issue, since we are already pushing the limits of digestable insanity. How can we not all immediately agree that some people have done so much damage to so many others that their lives may be taken from them? Rather, we choose to place them at the top of our heap. Madness, IMO.

    This is a time to refine our ideas about exactly what is the intrinsic worth of a single human life. Some dramatically underestimate that value, some dramatically overestimate instead. We will be needing a more precise consensus going forward.

    Can we decent lefties ever get over our irrational phobia of violence? Or will we just be the first group to waltz into extinction?

    Time to think about some unpleasant things, kiddies. Even the popular culture is trying its damnedest to get you to come to grips with the idea that you might actually have to fight for your quality of life or even your survival in the times that are fast approaching.

    You will not be able to acquire the required mindsets and skillsets overnight.

  23. Tzimisce permalink
    April 27, 2017

    What’s frustrating is we have the technology to avoid many of those problems. Solar and wind are already cheap enough now, and a massive conversion to renewable would likely further drive down costs. We have vehicles that can run on electricity, it’s looking like there are some creative solutions to energy storage (storing heat generated by solar and dispersing the heat at night to drive a turbine). I wish someone would try large-scale urban farming in essentially a farm skyscraper, but oh well.

    We have the technology to drive energy costs way way down. Could probably cheaply feed the world. In a few years, 3d printing might be advanced enough to build entire buildings. I can see a world without scarcity. Yet, the prevailing mood from the ruling class and its voters is “fuck you, I got mine.”

  24. ejf permalink
    April 27, 2017

    robot soldiers are pretty close:
    http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2017/04/how-should-we-treat-our-military-robots/137335/?oref=defenseone_today_nl
    and
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVlhMGQgDkY
    Just think of all the DIY bots one could do in the back yard…

  25. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @RC said: Can we decent lefties ever get over our irrational phobia of violence?

    Not when labels like “lefties” are still being used and people consider themselves that or any other limiting label.

    Since the label is still in use though, you do not fit the description of those who consider themselves “lefties.” Not even close. Quite the contrary, actually. It’s obvious & transparent. You do fit the description of something else though. I’ll be polite and not mention what that something else is.

    It’s not a phobia of violence, it’s that Leviathan no longer requires personal Hot Violence. Cold Violence, the systematic Violence of Leviathan, has replaced personal Hot Violence so soliciting people and urging them to engage in personal Hot Violence is rather a silly & ignorant gesture. There is no reason to go back to Violence Made By Hand.

  26. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    April 27, 2017

    Technological Evolution outpacing Social Evolution is a recipe for disaster. Here we are. The cake is almost baked.

  27. realitychecker permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @ TSMB

    You are a remarkably unperceptive individual.

  28. Fox Blew permalink
    April 27, 2017

    Another great post, Ian. Thank you. You make sense to me. And making sense of the world these days is a skill. I see your respect for history. I have a feeling that is where the “answers” are. As of society, we just have to slow down a little (a lot) and become more modest. History humbles us.

  29. Anon permalink
    April 27, 2017

    Trump = Chaos Umpire. See Milton, John.

  30. Ian Welsh permalink*
    April 27, 2017

    Back in 2014 my friend Vinay Gupta (non professionally) shrunk my head. One of the important things he drummed in was “these generations are wet wood, it’s up to the kids”.

    Aka X’ers and Boomers will not revolt, if they were going to, they would have. No one can get them to.

    That’s fine, their time is passing.

    Well, really it’s not fine, because we missed a bunch of stepping off points, so now, as Stirling Newberry loved to say, we’re going to ride this bucket all the way down to Hell.

    So be it. I tried, so did many others.

  31. realitychecker permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @ Ian

    Yes, we tried; my personal efforts to open people’s eyes in this regard go all the way back to 1975, at which time our present fascist future was already pretty clear to me. It’s pretty clear the corporatists and their minions have won the war for the future.

    A happy outcome was never the most likely outcome. Survival of the fittest is a very powerful dynamic.

    So sad to see all the wasted potential.

  32. Willy permalink
    April 27, 2017

    The Gyrocopter Guy. Would it have been more effective if he’d delivered bombs instead of letters? (try to remember realitychecker, we must deal with the citizenry we have, not with the citizenry we wish we had.)

  33. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    April 27, 2017

    I might surmise that it was a source of amusement and/or angst as you witnessed your readership steadfastly refuse to even engage in a discussion about having a discussion about the need to think seriously about the fundamentals of revolution. And this is supposed to be a place for the smarter ones, right lol?

    Revolution has had its day, or I should say, more than its share of days and it has proven to be incomplete & ineffective in the long-term — a rather dead-end trap that ultimately, and always, ends up in another form of tyranny and the bloodshed and suffering ultimately are in vain.

    I choose Evolution over Revolution. It’s not round and wound we go like a hamster wheel, but rather, it’s up, up and away in our beautiful balloon. Metaphorically speaking, the Cosmos are awaiting if only we take The Balloon of Social Evolution.

    Come on, what do you say? Let’s lift ourselves out of the Social Primordial Soup and evolve together into what we should & could be.

    Up, Up & Away

    As an example of the never-ending exasperation & disappointment of Revolution, one need look no further than Cuba. I’m watching the following documentary right now, which is quite comprehensive & informative by the way, and it underscores the Sisyphean Endeavor of Cuba Libre. The Cubans have been fighting for their freedom forever and they haven’t found it yet. Why? Because Revolution, the only means they’ve used so far, doesn’t work. It must be Evolution or else learn to love the hamster wheel.

    The Cuba Libre Story

  34. realitychecker permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @ Willy

    “(try to remember realitychecker, we must deal with the citizenry we have, not with the citizenry we wish we had.)”

    Thank you for helping to keep me constantly reminded.

  35. Willy permalink
    April 27, 2017

    Butthurt aside, what about the gyrocopter guy?

  36. April 27, 2017

    Whistling past the loud explosions on the way down…

    https://symbalitics.blogspot.com/2017/04/poem.html

  37. realitychecker permalink
    April 27, 2017

    You can expand your thinking on this by checking out the Public Enemies book I have mentioned here, by Jess Money.

  38. DMC permalink
    April 27, 2017

    A bit of info for the naysayers:

    https://arstechnica.com/science/2016/09/us-renewables-dropping-in-price-growing-in-significance/

    The big winners are wind and photo/thermal but the price of photo/voltaics are also dropping steadily.

    Google “cost of renewables trends” and then look at the charts.

    “Marine engines are diesels”. And wagons are drawn by horses.

  39. Roland Chrisjohn permalink
    April 27, 2017

    Good post, but if you didn’t see racism in Vancouver in the mid-1970’s (and today) it’s because you (and your dad) couldn’t see Native peoples. This is a typical “Canadian” problem; and I can agree it will be a problem when the USA comes looking for “Canada’s” water, land, and resources. It sure was a problem when “Canadians” came looking for OUR water, land, and resources. So: “Canadians” will likely know how it feels to be looked past, entirely, when someone more powerful and more ruthless want “your” stuff.

  40. subgenius permalink
    April 27, 2017

    A bit of info for the uninformed (again, because the uninformed are almost impossible to get through to…)

    https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/post-index/

  41. anonymouse permalink
    April 27, 2017

    I’d think that pranking your own ‘personal PTB that screwed you’ is cathartic, and good practice.

    Of course, I’ve never done so myself. Oh no. I don’t have the imagination, am far too forgiving, and I need my safe space. Anyways, you’ll find that it doesn’t change things, and the anger may return after a while unless you’re mentally disciplined. But getting away with it does gives one a sense of redemptive empowerment. And the memories will give you a chuckle from time to time, especially if they’re anonymously shared.

    For example…. An expensive waterfront property at the end of a very steep downward drive lined with a tall privacy hedge presents endless opportunities for self-amusement. There are always the usual crude retaliations, but it’s more fun to be creative. It’s best to start at the bottom with the expensive cars, then with successive pranks work your way up. You’ll know you’re being effective when increasingly desperate security measures appear (easily disabled at considerable expense to the owner). Figuring out how to roll very large concrete balls off a truck (which can really get moving after 100’ of steep driveway) to smash into expensive treasures below is challenging, but rewarding if you enjoy figuring such things out. When the radio controlled security gate eventually appears at the top of the drive, so does your heavy chain, as well as the buckets full of used oil spilled onto that steep drive. Neighbors are always informed via snail mail that they’re safe and it’s not a bad idea to tell them why the asshole-victim deserves it without incriminating yourself. They’ll understand. He’s likely been an asshole to them too. When the For Sale sign appears, various stencils can be used to modify the realtor verbiage in amusing ways, and additional store and pole posted signs add a nice touch.

    Graveyard operations, total concealment, careful planning and total secrecy, as well as Navy Seal-like rehearsing are key. And be sure to only ever tell the tale many years after the fact and as anonymously as possible.

    You see, sociopaths are ubermensch, but they do have serious weaknesses. As master users and here-and-now thinkers, both their imagination and competency are usually limited. They’d much rather steal to take credit than actually do the hard work better people believe is required for achievement. As control freaks, giving them ‘an itch they cannot ever scratch’ is guaranteed to drive them nuts. With a need for dominant excitement second to none, confining them is good (see Aaron Hernandez), but can be hard to do. The victims they choose are usually among the most competent and creative, people of integrity, chosen for the simple reason that they were usually the ones who were in their way (all it takes for them to overcome the innate harm avoidance which limits, is the courage that comes from very careful planning). Finally, by bulldozing their way through life they’ve created many enemies. And you’ll notice that they take pride in having so many. After you’ve had your fun, be sure to leave “clues” pointing them in the direction of another asshole sociopath they may already be enemies with.

  42. Peter permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @Subgenus

    Your DTM link seems dated with his writing about peak oil, something that has been projected out at least decades by the growing production of tight oil reserves. Peak Demand is what some oil analysts are seeing in their charts now and it frightens them more than peak oil because it may signal the end of growth. This will require a new economic model and they don’t seem to have any idea what it might be.

  43. subgenius permalink
    April 27, 2017

    Learn math, read the breakdowns.

    It’s called physics.

    Really, this place deserves all it has coming.

  44. Lee Green permalink
    April 27, 2017

    This post seems to be a very detailed description of a Strauss & Howe “fourth turning” (http://www.fourthturning.com). It reads as if you believe this one will be worse than previous crisis events. It’ll take some doing to be worse than the Civil War or the global cataclysm of WWII, but your analysis seems very trenchant. Have you thought of it in those terms and can you comment on that?

  45. Arthur permalink
    April 27, 2017

    A few comments. I don’t believe Mr. Welsh is saying this time will be worse than any other time an empire or culture has expired. History really does show that each time is more or less the same, with obvious allowance for tech levels and whatnot. It’s really hard to imagine what will follow. It could be any number of situations and good arguments could be made for all of them. My feeling is that the United States will break up pretty much like the Roman Empire. Parts of the country will over time simply break off and move in their particular direction. Some good, or at least not bad, and some terrible.

    Finally, a note on the continuing question of violence. It does seem that a number of ‘progs’, to use Dr. Berman’s term, seem pathologically opposed to any form of violence. To me this is an absurd stance. It consider myself liberal on all issues. I also own a gun and know how to shoot. I see no contradiction in that, though I know many people who do. I would agree that the days of General Sessions leading the Son of the Confederacy against the boys from the Michigan 13th Infantry are over, the possible need for violence is not. So where does that leave us? Clearly, most thinking people are coming to the realization that all the marches in the world aren’t going to change things at the core level.

    So, what next in a world where one side really has no compunction about using violence and parts of the other side apparently don’t mind getting hit over the head with a baseball bat.

  46. realitychecker permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @ Arthur

    Oh, you must be another one of those government agents lol.

    Psychologically, it would seem that most people have a tendency (probably at its worst with the least-well-articulated personalities), to just refuse to contemplate unpleasant topics.

    Violence is unpleasant, even the contemplation of inflicting violence on another. But almost every other animal lives every moment in a state where they might have to fight for their lives without warning or mercy. How did we get so far removed from our basic nature that so many have now deemed themselves incapable of doing what is necessary if and when it becomes necessary?

  47. Peter permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @Arthur

    What I see is some people who mostly want other people to do violence on their enemies, real and imagined. The problem is that there is no real goal beyond killing the so called oppressors no plan to create a new fairer system.

    Some people do trot out Socialism as the cure but I wonder what type would be best Stalinist or Maoist or todays examples of Eurotrash Socialism with neoliberal austerity and globalism at its core.

    All I can see coming from this left tendency is more Stateism with its corruption, concentration of power and authoritarian rule with a new crop of snake-oil salesmen leading the way.

  48. subgenius permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @ Arthur

    In the past, people were able to contend with their natural environment using well-worn skills. Remind me how many in the west can operate without electricity and stores and automobiles…

  49. Ian Welsh permalink*
    April 27, 2017

    In large areas of Vancouver when I was growing up there simply were, essentially, no natives. Chinese, otoh, were verywhere. That’s just a fact. So, yeah, they were invisible.

    However, if one had asked my Dad about Indians (as they were called then) he would indeed have said that they had been very badly treated. I, being ten, had no opinion and no racism one way or the other, because no one cared enough to indoctrinate me.

    Ant-“first nations” prejudice in Canada is not mainly a big city thing, it is worse in small communities near reservations and there it is very bad indeed.

  50. Ian Welsh permalink*
    April 27, 2017

    There are decent odds of it being worse because it we are doing it into an environmental collapse, yes. That’s not a sure thing, but it’s very likely.

  51. realitychecker permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @Peter

    “What I see is some people who mostly want other people to do violence on their enemies, real and imagined. The problem is that there is no real goal beyond killing the so called oppressors no plan to create a new fairer system.”

    Well, your first sentence is soooooo far off the mark that it merits no response.

    As to the second, sometimes you just have to work on the basics before you’ve got all your intellectuals lined up in support. BUT, given how UNFAIR so much of our system is now perceived to be, starting with an emphasis on fairness and common sense couldn’t hurt, could it?

  52. Catullus permalink
    April 27, 2017

    Fantastic article.

    I remember reading the book “The Fourth Turning” by Howe & Strauss in 2006 thereabouts. That was one of the most influential books I read. I thought the last 1/5 was crap, tho but the previous 4/5 was very good. To sum up, the last turning was… WWII. Basically, a Fourth Turning or Saecular Turning occurs every 3-4 generations. The one before WWII was the Civil War for the US. Before that, 1776… The US Declaration of Independence. I am an American but some similarity is there in other nations, sometimes the timing is different.

    The very word Secular came from Saeculumn or Saecular. I find it interesting that almost no word processor or spell checker correctly recognizes the Saeculumn or Saecular words. But it is there in the Fourth Turning and what’s more, I happen to love Ancient Roman history… They had Saecular games every 75-80 years or so. The word secular came from that… Very few alive from the last turning during the next turning. The WWII veterans are almost all gone (I personally know one – 93 years old now, one of the last left) today so yes, we are in the midst of another Fourth Turning.

    I have to offer up one thing, tho… We absolutely must go off this planet. It is very risky that 100% of humanity is on this single lone planet. It is amazing we are not extinct yet! Planets get ruined all of the time (planet survives usually but many inhabitants don’t) so we are very lucky. But I doubt we will get to live in space til this Fourth Turning is done. Living in space means more variety of approaches – less risky than 100% of humanity stuck on one planet which may turn on its inhabitants at any time.

    Yes, I strongly recommend reading that book… That book caused me to realize I would likely to see the WWII equivalent… Or perhaps a French Revolution equivalent (roughly same turning period as US independence war – slightly later timing). I honestly prefer a WWIII vs an American French style Revolution. The US Civil War is still our bloodiest war…

  53. Peter permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @Ian

    I was in BC in ’72 and fished for sockeye on the Frasier with the local Indians. While I was there news came that an Indian fellow had been beaten to death by Mounties. That news changed the race relations quickly and I moved on to Calgary.

  54. Ian Welsh permalink*
    April 27, 2017

    The Mounties treated the Indians particularly badly. Still do, to the best of my knowledge.

  55. Tom permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @Pelham

    Drones are in use by everyone today and have been since 2012. FSA, ISIS, HTS, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, et al, all use drones and are employing increasingly sophisticated drones capable of dropping bombs and working on using drones to deploy ATGMs and MANPADs. Some are being used as cruise missiles as well.

    So that level has been reached.

    That said:

    Renewable energy will not save us due to thermodynamics and the massive difference between what fossil fuels can deliver in terms of energy and what renewables can.

    Technology simply won’t save us, we need a sociological solution, not a technological solution.

  56. Peter permalink
    April 27, 2017

    @Subgenie

    The math you refer to at DTM is more statistics than physics and it does support the pop solar booster with its charts and graphs. He did list an interesting fact that solar panels only produce power for about 5 hours a day and stated it would never be cheap. This is rooftop solar for the leisure class who can afford the investment and 7 year payback while their neighbors supply the subsidy.

    This and other solar booster analysis I’ve seen don’t even bother to mention the upfront CO2, pollution and other environmental costs released into the environment before one watt of power is generated. The planned growth of large scale solar power will produce another stream of heavy industrial pollution on top of what already exists.

  57. subgenius permalink
    April 28, 2017

    …then you haven’t read enough of the site.

  58. Peter permalink
    April 28, 2017

    @SG

    I looked at all the related posts and saw nothing about the environmental costs of solar panel production. I could have missed it so please point out where DTM does the complicated math to quantify what load the CO2 and other greenhouse gasses produced will add to the atmosphere. Most of the solar panels made now are produced with Chinese coal power.

  59. April 28, 2017

    Truthdig has an article on the “The Final Stage of the Machiavellian Elites Takeover of America.” A Quote by George Orwell caught my eye apropos of the discussion on revolution and violence.
    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_final_stage_of_the_machiavellian_elites_takeover_of_america_20170427

    “As George Orwell wrote in his “Second Thoughts on James Burnham”: “What Burnham is mainly concerned to show [in The Machiavellians] is that a democratic society has never existed and, so far as we can see, never will exist. Society is of its nature oligarchical, and the power of the oligarchy always rests upon force and fraud. … Power can sometimes be won and maintained without violence, but never without fraud.”

  60. realitychecker permalink
    April 28, 2017

    @ montanamaven

    Much hard truth in that quote. Thanks for bringing it.

  61. April 28, 2017

    Thanks, RC.
    So, if Orwell’s idea is true, then logically, in order to implement a new system of peace and equality, we have got to gain power by lying and cheating? Are there any examples of some crafty do-gooder ruler bribing his courtiers so that they do peaceable things? other than Glenda the Good Witch?

  62. Synoia permalink
    April 28, 2017

    To those who post on how to commit violent acts.

    Do not post such. Think clearly about the consequences to both Ian, and the others who visit here.

  63. April 28, 2017

    Sometimes, however, it is fraud against people who believe nonsense. For example, Japan and Germany in the 1930s. The problem with a Democratic Society, is that often the people want something which cannot work. For example, now – because it is logically impossible for everyone to make out like a bandit and pass along the planet intact.

  64. Peter permalink
    April 28, 2017

    @Maven

    A very important quote and good points about the slippery slope of following leaders any leaders. Most humans seem to be prone to worshiping the idea of the leader especially the Good leader such as Glenda but most any leader will do. This is where Orwell’s truth about who we get in the leadership class,who get their power from the Oligarchs, never seems to change.

    Turning over what little power citizens might have to the leadership class, who don’t represent us, has guaranteed they will continuing to seek power and work for our enemies. Power corrupts and corruption breeds repression.

    I don’t know if humans can evolve beyond this dependence on being led and stand up and rule themselves which would require hard work and dedication.

  65. realitychecker permalink
    April 28, 2017

    @ Synoia

    “Synoia permalink
    April 28, 2017

    To those who post on how to commit violent acts.

    Do not post such. Think clearly about the consequences to both Ian, and the others who visit here.”

    Hi, Synoia, I recognize you as one of the old Firedoglake insiders, gatekeepers, (I-wouldn’t-say-Cluckers lol), whatever terms suit you as fairly characterizing your history.

    As such, you can certainly verify that I tried to have this conversation for a long time when I was a member of the FDL community, and it was not permitted.

    I don’t think Ian is as comfortable with censorship, with needing permission to talk about legal topics (I took a course entitled “Protest and Revolution” in 1973, at New York University), as your friends at FDL were. And, of course, it is now much later in history, and we can all assess the data that has resulted from everybody’s choices.

    So, please tell us, exactly what can we and what can’t we type about around these issues? And EXACTLY WHAT ARE THE “CONSEQUENCES” you are warning us about?

    And please point out where anybody has violated any legal limits that you should feel so compelled to WARN us.

    Spell ’em out, and let us see whether you are the responsible one. Or just another Establishment hall monitor.

  66. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    April 28, 2017

    Peter, that was an excellent comment. Orwell was describing what it takes to attain and preserve power within hierarchical, paternalistic power structures where power is obviously concentrated at the top of the pyramid.

    Obviously, if we can miraculously evolve out of this current rut of a structure, we can establish a more constructive & empowering social system, one that is perpetually adaptive & reflexive to the various times, where the notion of concentrated power, or power at all, is anathema and unthinkable just as pedophilia is despicable, sickening and unthinkable.

    But we’re a far cry from that and violence won’t get us there. A willingness to die for it might, because to pull these weeds, the weeds that are choking any possibility of Social Evolution, by the root may take many people martyring themselves, quite literally marching themselves into the awaiting guns and tanks, before we can finally overcome those who will be killing us and detain them and deport them along with those who gave them their orders.

    But we must overcome any impulse to kill them or fight them because that is precisely what they want us to try and do and RC is here to help you walk right into that tried & true trap.

    Refusal To Comply or Just Say No is the first step. I’ve done it in my life, and let me tell you, it’s not easy. Try giving up the greased path to wealth and everything that comes with it. Your former colleagues and your extended family will ostracize you and reject you. You need a strong & loving immediate family or emotional support structure to pull it off, and thankfully I do. My wife & children understand & appreciate what I’ve done and what I’m doing. They understand the symbolic importance of it. If enough people followed my example, we can starve and deport The Rich and their enablers & courtiers and take this country, and hopefully The World, back from those who have made it an insufferable prison for the majority they lord over.

  67. realitychecker permalink
    April 28, 2017

    @ montanamaven

    Please be clear that it was only the thoughts contained in the quote itself that got my approval.

    We need to fairly consider all sorts of ideas; we clearly don’t do that now.

    I’m always on the side of the marketplace of ideas.

  68. realitychecker permalink
    April 28, 2017

    @ TSMB

    DON’T BOGART THAT JOINT, MAGIC MAN.

    You literally are saying to rely on magic somehow, sometime, coming along and doing the hard things for us.

    And since you can only think of marching into tanks, you clearly are too fucking ignorant to discuss how to fight a revolution.

    Who’s the one promoting the Establishment’s interests, again, Stevie-boy?

  69. April 28, 2017

    I do remember that David Graeber in “Debt: The First Five Thousand Years” does write about gifting societies. Tribes in the Northwest here in the now US had these societies and their chiefs competed to see who could give away the most at the end of the year. There is also the legend of the Condor people in John Perkins’ books who represented “the path of the heart” and who were interested in peaceable sustainable communities rather than the Eagle people who followed “the path of the mind” and went about conquering nature. The Eagle people have been in charge for hundreds of years. Legend has it that there could be a brief window around now when the Condor and Eagle People could unite with the Condor people taking the lead and the Eagle people trying to repair the damage they have done. But I’m not terribly optimistic. But there have been in history of these gifting societies. Graeber did a study of a modern day one on Madagascar.

  70. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    April 28, 2017

    RC said: You literally are saying to rely on magic somehow, sometime, coming along and doing the hard things for us.

    Dying is THEE most difficult thing we can do as human beings. We are biologically programmed to survive, so to give one’s life is an incredible feat — it’s contrary to our biological nature. But HOW you give it is crucial. Giving it while taking other lives is not THEE way. It’s THEIR way.

    The Magic, or what you call Magic, is what will happen when enough people are able and willing to overcome their programmed obedience & fear. That moment will be Magical. A countervailing Egregore will take shape & form that will suck the metaphorical oxygen from the dying Old Egregore that served The Rich in their tyrannical oppression of Humanity for 12,000 years or more.

    It’s at that moment The Rich, those who believe they own & rule The World, will know The Gig is up once & for all and their time of dominion on this Earth and in this Realm is over.

    A New Realm will materialize and their kind will be no more. They will humanely be allowed to live out their remaining days with one another and their former courtiers & enablers, to include EVERYONE still living who has ever been in the employ of any intelligence service alphabetized or not, on a remote island, The Island, with enough provisions to last them a year or so — then they’re on their own to figure out a way to survive the remainder of their days. They don’t deserve to live amongst decent people. They are toxic poison. Once they all perish, the Island will be properly destroyed so that their DNA can no longer commingle with and poison any other form of life ever again. They will truly be gone for good.

  71. Hugh permalink
    April 28, 2017

    Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), 395 U.S. 444, was a US Supreme Court case based on the First Amendment. It held that government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless it is directed to inciting and likely to incite imminent lawless action (the imminence doctrine). In particular, it overruled Ohio’s criminal syndicalism statute, because that statute broadly prohibited the mere advocacy of violence. As the Court wrote,

    Freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.

    In the modern panopticon, discussion of violence will get you surveilled –but you are already being surveilled anyway. And discussion of violence is not incitement to violence. Also in law, conjunctions are important, in this case the “and”. So you can advocate and incite immediate violence, but if your audience is likely to be unresponsive, and crucially unlikely to act in an imminent way, even this speech is permissible. For example, a few years back some conservative commentators advocated in print and on TV the killing of federal judges who disagreed with them. Their speech was protected because they were addressing readers and TV viewers and not a group of believers with guns and street maps sith judges’ houses marked. Importantly, their speech could have resulted in violence at some later date and still be protected.

  72. Tom W Harris permalink
    April 28, 2017

    &Hugh,

    Dead wrong. The conservative was let off because IOKIFAR (it’s OK if yer a Rapublican).

    The guy who made an obvious joke about a “burning Bush” was jailed: http://theworldlink.com/news/local/appellate-court-rejects-appeal/article_53a01988-761e-51a8-b73b-8c3912f71d18.html

  73. Hugh permalink
    April 28, 2017

    The 8th Circuit per curiam opinion in the United States of America, Appellee, v. Richard Allen Humphreys, Also Known As Israel Humphreys, Also Known As Prophet Israel Humphreys, Appellant, 352 F.3d 1175 (8th Cir. 2003):

    On March 8, 2001, Richard Allen Humphreys told others that either he or one of his followers would douse President Bush with a flammable material and throw a match on him. The Government charged Humphreys with making threats against the President of the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 871(a). A jury found him guilty. In projecting Humphreys’ sentence, the presentence report (PSR) did not recommend a four-level decrease in Humphreys’ offense level under U.S.S.G. § 2A6.1(b) (5) (2002), which authorizes a district court to decrease the offense level for threatening communications offenses by four levels if no other adjustments under § 2A6.1 apply and “the offense involved a single instance evidencing little or no deliberation.” Over Humphreys’ objection, the district court* found Humphreys did not qualify for the decrease because he made statements threatening the President in an Internet chat room on February 2, 2001. The district court sentenced Humphreys to thirty-seven months in prison.

    Humphreys appeals asserting the § 2A6.1(b) (5) decrease applies. The district court did not commit clear error in finding Humphreys’ offense did not involve “a single instance evidencing little or no deliberation” within the meaning of § 2A6.1(b) (5). Although “single instance” does not necessarily mean “single threat,” “single instance” suggests both a temporal relationship and a single purpose or scheme. United States v. Sanders, 41 F.3d 480, 484 (9th Cir. 1994); United States v. Freeman, 176 F.3d 575, 579 (1st Cir. 1999). The term suggests the reduction applies only to “defendants whose threats are the product of a single impulse, or are a single thoughtless response to a particular event.” Sanders, 41 F.3d at 484. Humphreys communicated his threat about burning Bush to different people on different occasions, specifically, in the chat room, by fax to the White House, and in person to three individuals at different times. See United States v. Fann, 41 F.3d 1218, 1219 (8th Cir. 1994) (per curiam) (“single-instance” reduction did not apply because defendant communicated threat more than once to different people using different modes of communication).

    Humphreys contends the chat room statements were not threatening and were not meant to be taken seriously. In the online chat, Humphreys stated:

    HE IS NOW, HE FEARS ME SOMETHING TERRIBLE, GORE DOES TOO BECAUSE I PRAYED FOR A TIE IN THE ELECTION AND GOT IT WHEN THE GORE PEOPLE TOLD ME THAT IF I WANTED JUSTICE I NEEDED A DIFFERENT CANDIDATE, SAID TO THEM, “SO BE IT” GOT THE TIE AND DIFFERENT CANDIDATE, NOW GOING TO ASK BUSH FOR JUSTICE, AND IF I DON’T GET IT I AM GOING TO PRAY FOR A BURNING BUSH. GET IT? SO IF YOU HEAR THAT A MAN RUNS UP AND THROWS GASOLINE AND A MATCH TO BUSH YOU WILL KNOW THAT GOD DID SPEAK THROUGH THE BURNING BUSH. LOL

    Even if “LOL” indicates Humphreys was “laughing out loud,” as he contends, the district court did not commit clear error in finding Humphreys’ chat room statement threatened the President. Humphreys knowingly and willfully made the statement and a reasonable person could view it as a serious expression of intent to inflict bodily harm. See Freeman, 176 F.3d at 578 (defining threat under § 875(c)).

    Because the district court did not commit clear error in denying the § 2A6.1(b) (5) decrease, we affirm Humphreys’ sentence. We recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that Humphreys serve his term in the Federal Medical Center, however. The record shows Humphreys suffers from a bipolar disorder and has had several periods of hospitalization because of his delusions. His symptoms are treatable with medication. Hopefully, medication over a significant period of years will result in his being able to live outside the prison confines, free of delusions and the type of behavior he exhibited here.

    Note that the Court held that “Humphreys knowingly and willfully made the statement and a reasonable person could view it as a serious expression of intent to inflict bodily harm.” I should note too that an opinion of the 8th Circuit does not overrule a precedent of the Supreme Court. But in fact the 8th Circuit opinion does not contravene Brandenberg. The Court found that Humphreys’ statement represented a “serious”, which would encompass imminent, intent to commit a lawless action.

    There are no bright lines at what point talk about violence even talk which will likely lead to violence passes over to action to commit violence/lawless acts. I think in the case of Humphreys his mental instability weighed against him.

  74. Peter permalink
    April 28, 2017

    @RC

    I shouldn’t have seemed to include you in my critique of people who advocate and want to lead people, from behind, in violence. Your call for discussions about violence is not advocacy for violence or seeking power for yourself.

    Many people fear discussing any subject related to aggressive activities aimed at the State and for good reasons. Inverted totalitarianism does work and people will self-censor or warn others about the liabilities generated by free thought.

    My view is that the PTB are better prepared than ever before for any organized or spontaneous outbursts of violence and will use them to tighten its grip. Using violence for change in a society of advanced and continuous violence seems redundant, they would probably make a reality show from it.

    I read new scifi to see what younger and some older writers are seeing beyond head thumping and catastrophe in possible futures. The last I read had 30 billion people living on Earth with half working and half on Basic. This was possible because the greedy capitalists had penetrated into space and flourished along with the help harvesting the incredible wealth waiting there.

    The Saudis and other oil rich ME powers are already planning to invest in the first serious attempts to assess and mine near earth asteroids. A future with a civilization of dispersed power and influence throughout the solar system offers some hope while stagnation and collapse isolated on Earth doesn’t.

  75. Hugh permalink
    April 28, 2017

    Just for completeness. I should add that the governing law in Humphreys is 18 § 875 Intersate Communications (c).

    Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

  76. different clue permalink
    April 29, 2017

    What should people do and where should they do it?

    People ( individually and/or in semi-like-minded groups) will work hardest at what they believe in the most, both goal and method. So people who want to do something about something should figure out what they think is the most important thing to do something about, and the most effective way to do something about it from their own standpoint, and go do that. Reasonably self-secure people can accept other reasonably self-secure people doing their own different things in different ways . . . without feeling jealous of all that unbossed manpower and without feeling a greedy need to missionize to all those other people about why one’s own special goals and methods have to be everbody else’s special goals and methods.

    As to “where” . . . who can say? Which places will stay nice to live in? Which places will be unpleasantly survivable? Which places will become ecologically uninhabitable? I have my own guesses, but I don’t know if they are better than anyone else’s.

    I suspect that the inland part of the NorthWest which is called the American Redoubt by some . . . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Redoubt . . . will become extremely socially dangerous and combustible if millions of Americans come to believe in The Coming Collapse. Because if millions of Americans decide to become Serious Collapseniks ( Dmitri Orlov’s word for it), then the Bitter EndTimers and the Last Standers among them will all start swarming into the American Redoubt. Anyone currently living there will find themselves sharing their nice region with more and more unstable and borderline crazy people.

    So what kind of places might be semi-peaceful survival-in-place zones? Places which are deeply unfashionable and which have been neglected and bypassed. Perhaps places like Rabbit Bay, Michigan or Blodgett Mills, New York, for example.

  77. Willy permalink
    April 29, 2017

    @ Synoia
    Ideas of any kind or quality can inspire other better ideas. I’d think anything from fraternity pranks to Jack Goldstone is allowed here. And I doubt that the men in sunglasses would bother to drive their little black sedans all the way up to Canada.

  78. realitychecker permalink
    April 29, 2017

    @TSMB

    You say:

    “Obviously, if we can miraculously evolve out of this current rut of a structure, we can establish a more constructive & empowering social system, one that is perpetually adaptive & reflexive to the various times, where the notion of concentrated power, or power at all, is anathema and unthinkable just as pedophilia is despicable, sickening and unthinkable.

    But we’re a far cry from that and violence won’t get us there. A willingness to die for it might, because to pull these weeds, the weeds that are choking any possibility of Social Evolution, by the root may take many people martyring themselves, quite literally marching themselves into the awaiting guns and tanks, before we can finally overcome those who will be killing us and detain them and deport them along with those who gave them their orders.

    But we must overcome any impulse to kill them or fight them because that is precisely what they want us to try and do and RC is here to help you walk right into that tried & true trap.

    Refusal To Comply or Just Say No is the first step. I’ve done it in my life, and let me tell you, it’s not easy. Try giving up the greased path to wealth and everything that comes with it. Your former colleagues and your extended family will ostracize you and reject you. You need a strong & loving immediate family or emotional support structure to pull it off, and thankfully I do. My wife & children understand & appreciate what I’ve done and what I’m doing. They understand the symbolic importance of it. If enough people followed my example, we can starve and deport The Rich and their enablers & courtiers and take this country, and hopefully The World, back from those who have made it an insufferable prison for the majority they lord over.”

    PLUS:

    “RC said: You literally are saying to rely on magic somehow, sometime, coming along and doing the hard things for us.

    Dying is THEE most difficult thing we can do as human beings. We are biologically programmed to survive, so to give one’s life is an incredible feat — it’s contrary to our biological nature. But HOW you give it is crucial. Giving it while taking other lives is not THEE way. It’s THEIR way.

    The Magic, or what you call Magic, is what will happen when enough people are able and willing to overcome their programmed obedience & fear. That moment will be Magical. A countervailing Egregore will take shape & form that will suck the metaphorical oxygen from the dying Old Egregore that served The Rich in their tyrannical oppression of Humanity for 12,000 years or more.

    It’s at that moment The Rich, those who believe they own & rule The World, will know The Gig is up once & for all and their time of dominion on this Earth and in this Realm is over.

    A New Realm will materialize and their kind will be no more. They will humanely be allowed to live out their remaining days with one another and their former courtiers & enablers, to include EVERYONE still living who has ever been in the employ of any intelligence service alphabetized or not, on a remote island, The Island, with enough provisions to last them a year or so — then they’re on their own to figure out a way to survive the remainder of their days. They don’t deserve to live amongst decent people. They are toxic poison. Once they all perish, the Island will be properly destroyed so that their DNA can no longer commingle with and poison any other form of life ever again. They will truly be gone for good.”

    Thank you for finally and completely outing yourself as one who should never be taken seriously on any serious subject. Man, I wouldn’t trust you to manage my vegetable garden.

    It’s especially amazing that you think the PTB will kill us for trying to fight them, but WILL NOT want to kill us if we say we are ONLY going to take away all their property and leave them to die on a desert island.

    You typify that special brand of genius that the left produces so effortlessly. All you have to do is imagine something, and it magically becomes reality. Nice little combination of grandiosity and wish fulfillment fantasy you’ve got going on there. I’m sure you will have great success with that approach. Just don’t run out of those really good drugs, OK?

    (I may have to frame your comments reproduced above, just to make sure I never forget who you really are and give you even one moment of credibility.)

  79. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    April 29, 2017

    Hugh said: Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

    Oh, Hugh, you’re a scary lawyer dude, aren’t you? Go ahead, fine me for writing science fiction fantasy, which is what my last comment is. It’s a fictional vision of the future and the basis for a best-selling book that maybe will be turned into a movie. The Island. Would you like me to write the Prologue for you. I could probably complete it in a day or two if you & your colleagues are interested.

    So, we have Hugh, with his incredible breadth of understanding of the law, combing through it to find a way, via precedent, to exonerate his colleague RC for his violence-inciting entrapment scheme, and along the way, finding another passage that taunts me with a fine for offering a fictional account of the future whereby an awakened citizenry, as a reaction to violent repression at the behest of The Rich, takes back Humanity’s heritage & potential. And you people are supposed to reflect The Resistance? Exactly. It’s all the evidence you need to realize there can and never will be any resistance whatsoever until such machinations are recognized clearly for what they are.

    With that aside, I’m not a violent person, but RC, any time you’re ready, I’ll take you on. No guns or weapons of any sort. Just you and me and our will to live, and our duel precludes us using any violence against one another. I guarantee you I’d beat your ass hands down without ever laying a hand on you. You can’t bring your friends either and they can’t come to your aid in any way. Just you and me — mano y mano, except the hands are metaphor. No electrodes, no waterboard, and no KUBARK manual either. Just your pure, unadulterated guile and will to live is all that’s required, and as is your trademark and the trademark of all your colleagues, you will be mitigated from using The Genius of the Crowd. Without all your duplicitous & extra-legal tools, you are nothing. I will blow you over with merely a slight exhalation as I would any of your cowardly colleagues.

    What do you say? Deal? We can put it on Pay-Per-View and the proceeds can go to a charity of our choice. You can give your part of it to saving fetuses from the murdering hands of butchering abortionists. I’ll give mine to Trump because, as an alleged famous person once said, “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

    I’m betting the part of my sci-fi fantasy narrative that got Hugh’s knickers in a twist is the inclusion of the alphabet agencies in the deportation. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE, who works for intelligence in any capacity is an unequivocal coward and a traitor to ALL Humanity. Is there a fine for saying that too, Hugh, or possible imprisonment? If not, there should be, right? If there is, I’m sure you know or will find out for us soon enough so you can use it to try and smack me down.

    The Rich cannot do what The Rich do without their ass-sucking, ass-wiping, soul-sucking minions, their army of Sméagols, engendering & ensuring fragmentation and factionalizing of The Masses.

  80. realitychecker permalink
    April 29, 2017

    @ Peter

    It seemed you might have been referring to me; glad to see that you were not, because all I am seeking is a grown-up discussion of the situation and the possibilities, a long long long way off from even knowing what I think the best path is, much less from being close to advocating any particular action. But I am deeply offended by and contemptuous of those who say we cannot even talk about these things.

    @ Hugh

    Yes, I think you have the law correctly stated as being the Brandenburg formulation. And Supe decisions are not overruled by circuit court decisions, but, even so, I would say that the facts in that 8th Circuit Humphreys case do not really conform to an imminence finding, and the mental instability factor may be the correct explanation for that result; in any event, it is not an overruling of Brandenburg.

    I think it is very telling that many, if not most, do not even understand the distinction between permitted adult discussion of current realities, and advocacy of imminent revolutionary violence.

    How readily we give our freedoms away. (sigh)

    Just to make it really clear for the very obtuse:

    There are two separate questions involved here. The first is WHETHER and, if so, WHEN it is morally and/or practically appropriate to resist one’s government if consent of the governed is violated as a governing principle, and have we reached or approached that point yet.

    The second question is could a revolution succeed if attempted. This requires an understanding of the available tactics (which IMO must always focus on spontaneous individual guerilla tactics to have any hope of success or effectiveness). Those who can’t even bring themselves to think like a guerilla for the purposes of discussion really should recognize their limitations and listen to the more knowledgeable. Again, my opinion.

    But, IN ANY EVENT, for the love of logic and rationality, can we just all “get it” that part of the resolution of the first question MUST depend on the cost-benefit analysis of attempting a revolution, and that cannot be intelligently addressed without having some clarity about what guerilla tactics are and how they work. So, for those who can only imagine us mass-marching into tanks and cannon fire, please just STFU on this issue, even just the first question part of it, because if you don’t even comprehend your true range of options, you are not in a position to decide whether action should or should not be taken. Hoe could you be?

    This discussion is legal as long as we keep it intellectual, philosophical, hypothetical, and frame it as an inquiry. That is all I have ever asked for, since I don’t want anyone to get into trouble, but also because I still don’t have a final answer to the two questions myself; it seems to me that that is exactly the situation where rational free persons would want to have this discussion and have it as informed adults.

  81. realitychecker permalink
    April 29, 2017

    @ TSMB

    “The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    April 29, 2017

    Hugh said: Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

    Oh, Hugh, you’re a scary lawyer dude, aren’t you? Go ahead, fine me for writing science fiction fantasy, which is what my last comment is. It’s a fictional vision of the future and the basis for a best-selling book that maybe will be turned into a movie. The Island. Would you like me to write the Prologue for you. I could probably complete it in a day or two if you & your colleagues are interested.

    So, we have Hugh, with his incredible breadth of understanding of the law, combing through it to find a way, via precedent, to exonerate his colleague RC for his violence-inciting entrapment scheme, and along the way, finding another passage that taunts me with a fine for offering a fictional account of the future whereby an awakened citizenry, as a reaction to violent repression at the behest of The Rich, takes back Humanity’s heritage & potential. And you people are supposed to reflect The Resistance? Exactly. It’s all the evidence you need to realize there can and never will be any resistance whatsoever until such machinations are recognized clearly for what they are.

    With that aside, I’m not a violent person, but RC, any time you’re ready, I’ll take you on. No guns or weapons of any sort. Just you and me and our will to live, and our duel precludes us using any violence against one another. I guarantee you I’d beat your ass hands down without ever laying a hand on you. You can’t bring your friends either and they can’t come to your aid in any way. Just you and me — mano y mano, except the hands are metaphor. No electrodes, no waterboard, and no KUBARK manual either. Just your pure, unadulterated guile and will to live is all that’s required, and as is your trademark and the trademark of all your colleagues, you will be mitigated from using The Genius of the Crowd. Without all your duplicitous & extra-legal tools, you are nothing. I will blow you over with merely a slight exhalation as I would any of your cowardly colleagues.

    What do you say? Deal? We can put it on Pay-Per-View and the proceeds can go to a charity of our choice. You can give your part of it to saving fetuses from the murdering hands of butchering abortionists. I’ll give mine to Trump because, as an alleged famous person once said, “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

    I’m betting the part of my sci-fi fantasy narrative that got Hugh’s knickers in a twist is the inclusion of the alphabet agencies in the deportation. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE, who works for intelligence in any capacity is an unequivocal coward and a traitor to ALL Humanity. Is there a fine for saying that too, Hugh, or possible imprisonment? If not, there should be, right? If there is, I’m sure you know or will find out for us soon enough so you can use it to try and smack me down.

    The Rich cannot do what The Rich do without their ass-sucking, ass-wiping, soul-sucking minions, their army of Sméagols, engendering & ensuring fragmentation and factionalizing of The Masses.”

    Wow, an actual psychotic break, in real time; don’t see that every day.. I can’t believe you are actually raising children with such a damaged mind. But at least you have forever removed any questions about whether you should be listened to as a thoughtful voice. Now, please get help.

  82. James Wheeler permalink
    April 29, 2017

    Excellent article Ian.

    I wonder if you have read the blog and books of John Greer, who writes on similar topics?

    http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2017/01/how-great-fall-can-be.html

    Greer also thinks that the US empire is heading towards a collapse and our wider industrial civilization is heading towards a catabolic collapse over the next 100 or so years.

  83. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    April 29, 2017

    RC said: Wow, an actual psychotic break, in real time; don’t see that every day.

    Sure we do. In fact, we see it all day every day. Turn the television on and you’ll see non-stop Breaking News coverage of a Batshit Insane Press analyzing a Batshit Insane POTUS. All day every day now.

    For example, contemplating (and threatening it) the sacrifice of perhaps a million or more South Koreans and then telling them they have to pay for your provocations that will result in their blood sacrifice because you like throwing rocks at toddlers in their playpens is a classic example of a psychotic break. Your POTUS is Batshit Insane and he holds the fate of all Humanity in the palms of his manicured, uncalloused, privileged & protected (by the likes of you & your ilk), tiny, tiny, little hands.

    He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands

  84. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    April 29, 2017

    Any True Resistance knows it has to focus its efforts on the pillars of support. How are The Rich, Rich and how do they stay Rich. The first deals with structural, legal issues that serve as the cement. The second are the personnel who dutifully shield & enable The Rich. As an example of Resisting the second, come together and create a list, a book if you will, of names of those who protect & enable The Rich — the ones who will persecute you and kill you if you refuse to comply with The Rich’s demands to serve them. They must be identified and called out and confronted on a daily, hourly or every minute and second basis. Ostracize them. Sneer at them. Metaphorically brand them. Don’t let them metaphorically breath. Within legal limits, metaphorically get up in their faces. Exhaust them. Make the psychical penalty they have to pay for engaging in evil many times greater than any benefit they will ever receive from The Rich they serve so dutifully & zealously. That’s just a start and it’s non-violent and perfectly legal, but so long as you pretend this isn’t at the heart of it and what is absolutely necessary, then you will never and can never foment an effective resistance.

  85. Ian Welsh permalink*
    April 29, 2017

    I have a read a fair bit of Greer, though not all, and not most of his books. (He’s on the blogroll.)

    Greer, to my mind, is a little too dismissive of catastrophism and too sure of cyclicism. It is never really the end till it is, and the end always comes. Obviously cycles are safer bets, they’re more frequent, but casual dismissal of end-events is unwise.

    Even if one thinks humans are not likely to go extinct this time, it is not only possible, it is inevitable, the question is only when.

    Greer’s thinking is heavily influenced by magical theory, and particularly druidic theory, which is all about cycles. It’s a useful antidote for linear and end-time thinking, to be sure, but has its own issues, which, if Greer is aware of, I haven’t read from him.

    That said, as I note, one doesn’t have to think extinction is right now the most likely event to think that global environmental collapse at the same time as a global culture collapsing is different in scale from prior cyclical historical collapses.

    So, I think Greer is a very very good thinker, almost required reading, while also believing he, like all thinkers, has some areas he is less impressive at.

  86. Willy permalink
    April 29, 2017

    If anybody knows sure fire ways to keep common childhood bullies in check, then I’d think we’d be on our way to a viable ideas for keeping global bullies in check.

    It should be easy. Theoretically, victims and bystanders would gang up on the bully, disabling them. Or, an authority would be counted on to always step in to stop and punish them. But we live in a world of smart bullies who use whatever method they have at their disposal to disable both bystander and authority (lies, charm, rationalizations, self-interest, implied threats, general machinations…).

    I don’t believe that shaming bystanders or authority works. But getting them to believe in their ability to change things might. Quite obviously, the lies, charm, rationalizations, self-interest, implied threats, general machinations… of the bullies would have to first be countered. And I don’t think these things are a one way ticket.

  87. Roland Chrisjohn permalink
    April 30, 2017

    I suppose it would take quite a bit to convince the average Canadian that he/she is flagrantly racist against Native peoples; certainly more space than I have here. But it certainly isn’t/wasn’t confined to rural Canada, in the 1970’s or today.

Comments are closed.