Tuesday, March 31, 2015

License to Kill

Jakub Rozalski
The story is the same every time: some nation, due to a confluence of lucky circumstances, becomes powerful—much more powerful than the rest—and, for a time, is dominant. But the lucky circumstances, which often amount to no more than a few advantageous quirks of geology, be it Welsh coal or West Texas oil, in due course come to an end. In the meantime, the erstwhile superpower becomes corrupted by its own power.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Financial Feudalism

Once upon a time—and a fairly long time it was—most of the thickly settled parts of the world had something called feudalism. It was a way of organizing society hierarchically. Typically, at the very top there was a sovereign (king, prince, emperor, pharaoh, along with some high priests). Below the sovereign were several ranks of noblemen, with hereditary titles. Below the noblemen were commoners, who likewise inherited their stations in life, be it by being bound to a piece of land upon which they toiled, or by being granted the right to engage in a certain type of production or trade, in case of craftsmen and merchants. Everybody was locked into position through permanent relationships of allegiance, tribute and customary duties: tribute and customary duties flowed up through the ranks, while favors, privileges and protection flowed down.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Rage of the Cultural Elites

Yoshitoshi Kanemaki
A certain unhappy incident happened to my aunt in the summer of 1966. The Cultural Revolution—a political movement initiated by Mao Zedong—was beginning to engulf the country. That same year many American college students were protesting against the Vietnam War and Leonid Brezhnev was keeping his seat warm as the General Secretary of CPSU, having replaced the somewhat volatile Nikita Khrushchev two years earlier. My aunt was then a freshman studying literature at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A significant new development

The unspelled edition of King James Bible is now available:

No longer do you have to sputter and stall when when you encounter Biblical names such as Gittahhepher or Maalehhacrabim or Ramathaimzophim, but glide through them in style, like the best seminary graduate! They are being made available in two volumes because, given the constraints of print-on-demand technology, they didn't fit into one. But there is a positive side-effect: the New Testament is large type, just like all of the unspelled children's books.

For all those people who learn to read primarily in order to be able to read the Bible, this is a godsend. Why should they waste years memorizing ancient English spellings, like the difference between “prophesy” and “prophecy,” when they could be reading the Bible instead.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Chaos: Practice and Applications

Luciano Podcaminsky
[En español]

The term “chaos” has been popping up a lot lately in the increasingly collapse-prone world in which we find ourselves. Pepe Escobar has even published a book on it. Titled Empire of Chaos, it describes a scenario “where a[n American] plutocracy progressively projects its own internal disintegration upon the whole world.” Escobar's chaos is tailor-made; its purpose is “to prevent an economic integration of Eurasia that would leave the U.S. a non-hegemon, or worse still, an outsider.”

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Financial collapse leads to war

Scanning the headlines in the western mainstream press, and then peering behind the one-way mirror to compare that to the actual goings-on, one can't but get the impression that America's propagandists, and all those who follow in their wake, are struggling with all their might to concoct rationales for military action of one sort or another, be it supplying weapons to the largely defunct Ukrainian military, or staging parades of US military hardware and troops in the almost completely Russian town of Narva, in Estonia, a few hundred meters away from the Russian border, or putting US “advisers” in harm's way in parts of Iraq mostly controlled by Islamic militants.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Amherst Cauldron

Finishing school for Nazis
[This is a guest post by Albert.]

We have been fortunate to be outside the United States for these past three months, and able to take our news unfogged by the media cabal. The parallel universe occupied by US news is especially poignant when viewing something like the situation in the Ukraine. Lately we have been watching a rebel counteroffensive that had surrounded and slowly exterminated the NATO puppet army in the Donbass region, around the railway hub at Debaltsevo, in a military maneuver called “the cauldron.” It was executed by volunteer foot-soldiers who, armed with small arms and trophy mortars and rockets, scored a massive victory against attacking battalions of Empire's tanks and heavy artillery backed by NATO drones and AWACs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


David Herbert
[Audiobook version]

This blog is dedicated to the idea of presenting the big picture—the biggest possible—of what is going on in the world. The abiding areas of interest that make up the big picture have included the following:

1. The terminal decay and eventual collapse of industrial civilization as the fossil fuels that power it become more and more expensive to produce in the needed quantities, of lower and lower resource quality and net energy and, eventually, in ever-shorter supply.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Masters of Parallel Universes

Surajit Dutta
Much as we may dislike the fact, the results from quantum physics are unequivocal: parallel universes do exist. Schrödinger's cat is both alive and dead, at the same time, while it exists as a probability distribution, which is resolved into either a live cat or a dead one by the act of opening the box and observing it. But until the observation is made, both parallel universes can be said to exist, and there is no way for us to know which one of them we inhabit.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Article on Unspell published by The Atlantic

[Good article, wrong headline. Blame the editors.]
[Update: headline fixed promptly after some words.]
[Update: here it is on Facebook (with the wrong headline).]

Johnny in Topeka can’t read, but Janne in Helsinki is effortlessly finishing his storybooks. Such a disparity may be expected by now, but the reason might come as a surprise: It probably has much less to do with teaching style and quality than with language. Simply put, written English is great for puns but terrible for learning to read or write. It’s like making children from around the world complete an obstacle course to fully participate in society but requiring the English-speaking participants to wear blindfolds.

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