The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Age of War and Revolution Page 1 of 17

Get Out If You Can. If Not, Prepare

Starting in 2009 and especially after Citizens United, I’ve been advising Americans who can get out to do so. I recognize that many people can’t: you have to “shelter in place”, but for those who are able to leave America and haven’t, well, the advice is the same, but more urgent.

The US is no longer meaningfully a Democracy. The funneling of wealth and income to oligarchs continues unabated and even accelerated during the pandemic. Official economic statistics from the US are now almost entirely fantasy based: completely unrelated to reality due to how inflation and other statistics are “calculated” and due to the over-reliance of GDP, which is no longer tracking welfare.

The massive increases in necessities like food is a very very bad sign.

The possibility of civil war is real, and so is the chance of collapse. Nothing is going to get better for the majority of Americans; everything is going to get worse.

So, at the least, if you can get a second passport, do it. If you don’t have any passport, apply for one. If you can go somewhere reasonable and make a decent living, consider it. If you’re rich enough to set up a second citizenship and home, get it done.

Where to go is difficult. If you speak Mandarin and they’ll let you in, China’s not a bad choice. Avoid the UK unless you have no other options: Britain is in terminal decline. In general Europe is in decline and the chance of the Atlantic Meridian Overturning Current (AMOC) stopping makes it questionable for those who are younger or who have children, but while Europe is going down, the welfare state still exists and will take longer to go away, so long as you choose your destination carefully. (Obviously Greece is out of the question.)

Canada is trending right hard, and is “too close” to America, but if you can’t get anywhere else and have money or skills in demand, it might work for you. This is especially true if you’re healthy, younger and comfortable on the frontier, of which there is still plenty.

The truth is that there are no longer any completely “safe” choices. But there are places where government and society are more functional and more caring, and where the destruction of the welfare state (which includes, oh, universal healthcare, functioning power and sewage) is less far along.

If you have to stay and indeed if you’re in many countries, do what you can to improve your “grid collapse resistance.” Brownouts and blackouts and failures of water systems will become worse. A couple of big camping batteries + solar recharging may keep key electrical appliances running. Find some way to store or produce water and keep some surplus food around. If you’ve got power, water and a way to boil said water, something as simple as a lot of vacuum packed rice and beans can keep you going for quite a while.

In general, take measures. Assume that things are going to keep getting worse for the rest of your life. There will be some exceptions, but there’s no way the majority of people can or will avoid these trends.

Don’t sleep on this. Back in 2009 it wasn’t urgent, but we’re now at the point where local collapse or violence is a real possibility: we don’t know when exactly, but we do know the conditions have been met. Once that happens, when is hard to predict, but bad is dead simple to predict.

Dead being the operative word.


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The Dollar Is Impregnable & The West Will Always Control International Banking (Honest)

What is geopolitical risk, you ask, and the Saudis answer:

Saudi Arabia warned it could sell off some European debt holdings in retaliation to a move by the G-7 to seize almost $300bn in frozen Russian assets, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The veiled threat was passed along from Saudi Arabia’s finance ministry earlier this year to some G-7 counterparts, as the group weighed seizing Russian assets designed to support Ukraine.

Saudi Arabia specifically signalled out the euro debt issued by France, according to Bloomberg.

Riyadh has been concerned about western efforts to seize the Kremlin’s assets for months. In April, Politico reported that Saudi Arabia, along with China and Indonesia, was privately lobbying the EU against confiscation.

Notice that Indonesia is also involved. China is less surprising, they know that freezing and even confiscation is in the cards for them when things heat up between the West and china.

China has been reducing its risk:

Edit: (Or perhaps they aren’t?)

No one wants to do business with nations that will simply take away their money. Freezing was bad, but normal. Seizure is not. Since no one seized or freezed America’s overseas assets when it invaded, say, Iraq, and no one ever seizes or freezes West European assets, it might be thought that this isn’t about “law” but about “power.” For that matter, why haven’t Israel’s overseas assets been seized?

The level of geopolitical risk from doing business in the dollar or using the Western banking system is just too high. Freezing, seizure and sanctions, plus the US applying its law extra-territorially simply because a transfer happened to go thru an American bank even though the sender and end party were both outside of America.

This abuse is long-standing, you can read accounts from the fifties, but it really picked up in the 90s. Indeed there’s an entire book, Treasury’s War, about the phenomenon.

And this is what all the economists and similar pundits who go on about how the dollar can’t be replaced don’t understand: that they are right that the costs of replacing the dollar are significant; that it’s hard, and that it’s not really worth it.

Except it is worth it, because if the cost of trade and money transfers goes up slightly under a non-dollar regime, and even a slight increase is massive when multiplied by the number and amount of transactions, it’s still worth it because of the massive reduction in geopolitical risk. And nattering on about how the Yuan can’t be used because the Chinese can’t accept the costs of using the Yuan is stupid: that’s not what the BRICS are trying to do: the idea is to create a central, multinational currency, and to simply use local currencies whenever possible, while avoiding the Western banking system entirely.

Everyone knows that the dollar and the Western banking system are guns, and that everyone who uses the dollar and the Western banking system are under those guns and can be hit at any moment if D.C. or Brussels desires it.

When this was hardly ever done, it was a risk worth taking. When China was the main industrial power who you could buy almost everything you wanted from, and the West was the only option for most technological goods, well, you had no choice.

But now nations see a way out from under the guns, and they’re going to take it, even if it costs them, because the potential cost of not doing so is catastrophic.


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Don’t Call It Degrowth, Call It the “No Bullshit Society”

Or perhaps the leisure society, or the choice society.

As Mark Pontin pointed out, manufacturing is increasingly automated, with one Chinese factory reducing workers by 90%. This is the future and not just in manufacturing.

Whenever you point this out, people panic, scared of the jobs going away, but that’s ridiculous.

If we can produce more with less workers that should be a good thing, not a bad one.

The problem is our insistence on distributing the good, or at least acceptable life thru jobs, a holdover from pre-Industrial revolution times, when every worker was often needed.

That isn’t true any more, and we should be automating and reducing the work week: first to four days, then to three. Get rid of bullshit jobs and harmful jobs, which is probably half the jobs out there (almost all of Wall Street & the City are harmful jobs) and you might be able to get down to two day work weeks.

Focus AI and automation not on taking away work people love to do like artistic and intellectual jobs, and focus them on hard or degrading labour. Move heavily to true rapid transit, and get rid of cars. Make all manufactured products (or almost all) built to last, modular and designed for repair, so that we only have to make things a few times per human lifetime.

Reduce work. Let people find other, meaningful things to do with their lives. The worship of work, meaning crap you wouldn’t do if you didn’t have to, is a relatively recent thing, coming mostly out of the Protestant revolution: virtually no one before that believed that work was a good thing: it was necessary, but the good life was about art, learning, athletics, civic involvement and so on.

To create this sort of world we need to take “getting rich” off the table. You can get wealthy: say have four or five times as much as the median, but not rich. Focus competition towards status and prestige, and towards living a good life and contributing towards others.

And there will still be important things to do which require humans, not the least of which is fixing the environment. There will always be meaningful labour to do: action that matters, just not drudgery so that rich people can play “who has the most” games.

What’s so frustrating about human society is that it could be so much better, and we have almost everything we need to get their. But we’re stuck in path dependence and power games, unable to imagine or build the good world our technology makes possible.

What people want isn’t “growth” its better lives. Make a credible promise of better lives, and deliver and no one but psychopaths and greedaholics will look back.

Forget degrowth: let’s waste a ton less, build a ton less and live a ton better. It’s more than possible.

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UK’S Reform Party Is Poised To Destroy the Consersvatives, and Deserves To

The latest polls show Reform, led by Nigel Farage neck and neck, or slightly ahead of the Tories.

I took some time to read their manifesto and it’s pretty bloody awful.

BUT, and it’s a big but, there’s some stuff Reform is promising that no one else is offering. For example:

  • lower rents through reduced migration
  • free tuition for STEM degrees
  • lifting income tax allowance to £20,000

Farage talks about the housing crisis all the time, and these specific policies are laser-targeted at younger people.

Farage wants to stop all non-essential immigration. Britain is like Canada, there’s vastly more immigration than there is housing being created and rents and house prices have sky-rocketed. (A detailed post on that soon.) Tuition averages about $6,000 pounds a year and young adults tend to be poor and have little income.

He also wants to reduce estate taxes, go all-in on anti-trans policies, get rid of clean energy and so on. He’s still a conservative loon.

But he’s offering what neither Labour nor the Conservatives are, or can.

He has the best chance of breaking the Labour/Conservative duopoly that Britain has seen in generations for the same reason LaPen is surging, Brexit happened & Trump is viable: the status quo sucks for most people and they want radical change. Since radical change to the left was stopped with Corbyn’s defeat and the Starmer’s purge of the left from Labout, it’s now the right’s turn.

Like an animal in a leg-trap who chews its own leg off to escape, people in pain who see their lives getting worse and no hope of improvement will take a chance on something radical. Sometimes, as with Javier in Argentina, that something radical is extremely stupid, but at a certain point people will try anything.

For a lot of people in Britain, as in France and Argentina and America, the risk is worth it.

As with Corbyn, the press is now turning hard against Reform. Any change from the neoliberal status quo will be opposed with their full weight. It worked against Corbyn, but at some point it will stop working.

Reform won’t win the election, but they don’t need to. They need to replace the Tories as the second party, either in this election or the next. Once they are part of the duopoly, power is only a matter of time.

Let us hope the left learns from this and raises its own challenge to Labour, replacing it, because Reform’s policies, overall, are horrid.

Neoliberalism is dying in country after country, who and what replaces it matters.

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US Likely To Sanction World’s Largest Drone Manufacturer

And, it’s Chinese, of course.

The United States House of Representatives passed a ban on the future sale of DJI drones in the U.S. on Friday, making the DJI ban more likely than not. The “Countering CCP Drones Act” is part of the United States’ 2025 National Defense Authorization Act (FY25 NDAA), a major piece of yearly legislation allotting defense spending for the coming year.

Drone maker DJI is based in China and controls over 70% of the world’s drone market share, a combination that threatens U.S. lawmakers

But…

DJI has 90% market share of the U.S. hobby market, 70% market share of the industrial market and over 80% market share of the first responder market. And their main competitor is Autel Robotics which… is also a Chinese company

(my emphasis)

As I noted years ago, what’s going to happen, er, is happening, is the world splitting into two trade blocs. Problem is the Western bloc is smaller, economically and in terms of land mass, than the one led by China and Russia, which includes a big chunk of Africa and South America, in addition, and which is growing.

Now bans and tariffs aren’t automatically bad. They can give space to domestic industry to compete. China’s “overcapacity” is the result of a lower cost structure and, in many areas, fierce competition. There are twenty-two significant drone manufacturers on this list, for example, and there are hundreds more.

To compete, the US needs to create a competitive market again, and it needs to reduce its cost structure. The simplest ways to do that would be to reduce housing and medical costs; to enforce anti-trust laws vigorously and to reduce barriers to entry for new businesses.

But part of the problem is simple: the US market is no longer as big as the one China has access to. For a long time, access to the American market was what mattered, but that’s no longer the case. The US, and the West in general, has to catch up, and they have to do so in an environment where they are the underdogs. This reality doesn’t seem to have penetrated thru to policy makers—if it had, they wouldn’t still think that sanction after sanction does significant damage to China or Russia, or almost anyone else.

But, with an oligarchy and a commitment to neoliberal “crush wages and workers and embrace austerity” ideology, the West is damaging its internal demand and markets at the same time as it needs those markets to catch up.

The USSR lost to the West for fairly simple reasons, and the main was that the West had more industrial base and more population. Now the shoe is on the other foot. It’s not likely to work out better for us than it did for the Soviets.

If You Believe Either Biden Or Trump Will Halt Decline You’re A Fool

There are those, even some smart people whom I otherwise respect, who think that Trump is a way to halt and reverse American decline.

This is delusional.

 

As for Biden, his claims to success are based on statistics that only a toddler or an economist would believe reflect reality, leaving aside the fact that he’s overseeing the loss of the US dollar as the primary trade currency, which will hurt the US worse than an Israeli shoving a red hot metal rod up a Palestinian civilian’s ass.

I’m on team tariff. I think they’re often a good thing. But tariffs alone cannot fix the US economy. America has too many economic pathologies. Without crushing the rich, dropping housing prices, making Private Equity illegal, forbidding share buybacks, ending stock options for executives, massive anti-trust enforcement and huge number of other policies, the US cannot take advantage of being hidden behind tariffs, especially when China is now producing more scientific and engineering advances than America.

People want hope. They need it. And they will find it, or what passes for it. We saw that with Obama, the ultimate neoliberal wannabe, who immunized bankers from their crimes and helped them steal millions of houses with fraudulent documents, then expanded fracking and bragged about, not just giving up the last chance to slow or stop climate change, but actually lighting gas on fire to speed it up.

Then Obama bragged about how much he had increased oil and gas production. Bragged.

No one is coming to save you if you are American, or, indeed Western. LePen will me a garbage fire. Starmer is one of the most mendacious neoliberal politicians of the past 50 years, an impressive feat.

If you want to do politics, you have to stop pretending that you can fix the major parties, and go third party. Yes, it’s a long shot, but it’s your only shot.

More realistically, national politics isn’t going to save your ass. You’re going to have to do it yourself, ideally with the help of other citizens. Perhaps thru a church, perhaps through a neighbourhood association, perhaps through a maker group: whatever, find a way to get like minded non-idiots together and support each other and start making the necessary changes so that you, your family and your friends have a better chance of getting thru the bad times.

It’s up to you. Climate change will not be stopped. My bet is that it is now into self-reinforcing growth. If it isn’t yet, it will be. The West’s hegemony is collapsing. As I have written repeatedly, Europe is going back to what it was for most of its history: a peripheral shithole on the edge of the Asian continent. The US is losing its empire and when it no longer had dollar privilege or a military that other countries are in terror of, Americans will find out the cost of sending their industrial base to China because if you can’t make it, other countries are going to demand a pound of flesh to send it to you.

Hell is coming and both Biden and Trump lead there, just by slightly different routes.

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If Bosses Want At-Will Firing This Is What Is Required (The Good Society)

One of the great complaints of bosses and corporations is that they can’t fire people whenever they want to. Employee protections were one of the great victories of the 20th century and the union movement, though far more in Europe than in America, except in the Federal civil services.

But bosses do have a point: being able to get rid of employees without fuss isn’t unreasonable: they’re hired to do a job, and if you don’t like how they’re doing it, firing them makes sense.

At first glance the problem is that often such power is abused, in too many ways to recount.

But the real problem is that without a job, people suffer: they have less, they may wind up homeless, in the US they’re essentially cut off from medical care and so on.

In a society where you would have a decent life whether employed or not, it wouldn’t matter if at employment was “at-will.”

We still live in a surplus society. If we were to get rid of planned obsolesence, massively reduce pollution, and work hard at public services like frequent and reliable public transit, free post-secondary education and plenty of third place gathering spots, we could have even more of a surplus: or rather, use much less and stop destroying the environment, so that we would stay a surplus society. Making people work when what they do isn’t actually necessary, is a “bullshit job” or actually does great harm, like almost all of the financial industry, is stupid, and doesn’t increase human welfare.

So the compromise is guaranteeing everyone in society a good life: housing, transit, health care and recreation. Again, we can do this, we have the surplus, and if we got rid of 40% of work, well, we’d have a society which would actually produce more welfare, because that work is useless of harmful.

And in a guaranteed good life society, very few people are going to want to spend their lives figuring out how to serve ads better, or other nonsense. They will want meaningful work: work which is enjoyable or which makes the world a better place. They will tend to self-select for jobs which really do benefit others, especially if, at the same time, we cap wealth at something like 10x median, and income at 3x what’s guaranteed. (Which also means those who want wealth will have to improve the baseline guaranteed wealth.)

At that point, if bosses want to fire people at will, who cares? It doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s more likely that bosses who offer work that isn’t meaningful or enjoyable, or both, won’t be able to get workers.

And that, my friends, is what a good surplus society looks like.

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Did The Houthis Hit The USS Eisenhower May 31st?

Well, the Houthis said they did. And it would seem unlikely, except that immediately after the Eisenhower withdrew north at top speed.

Aircraft carries are incredibly difficult to take out, but it wouldn’t be difficult to mess up the flight deck and at a guess, that’s probably what happened.

On top of that “it’s been five days since the Ike’s regular twice-a-day cargo deliveries via C-2 transport have taken place.

I don’t know if the Eisenhower got hit, but—its actions are rather suspicious.

If the Houthis can get in even a slight hit, or scare off an aircraft carrier, what do you think China, Russia, Iran or even Hezbollah could do?

Put me on team “aircraft carriers are floating ducks in the modern missile environment.” And since the US Navy is built around aircraft carriers, well…

The thing is that everyone who was likely to fight a war against America knew that the US’s big gun was aircraft carriers and they’ve spent thirty years figuring out how to defeat them.

America is a maritime Empire and it can’t even defend trade against a bunch of tribesmen.

 

Now it can’t even keep an aircraft carrier on station to try and protect traffic.

Another nail in the coffin of American Empire.

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