Thursday, November 23, 2017

What Doesn't Work

Back in the days when I was still trying to do the corporate thing, I regularly found myself in a bit of a tight spot simply by failing to keep my mouth shut. I seem to carry some sort of gene that makes me naturally irrepressible. I can keep my mouth shut for only so long before I have to blurt out what I really think, and in a corporate setting, where thinking isn’t really allowed, this causes no end of trouble. It didn’t matter that I often turned out to be right. It didn’t matter what I thought; it only mattered that I thought.

Of all the thoughts you aren’t allowed to think, perhaps the most offensive one is adequately expressed by a single short phrase: “That’s not gonna work.” Suppose there is a meeting to unveil a great new initiative, with PowerPoint presentations complete with fancy graphics, org charts, timelines, proposed budgets, yadda-yadda, and everything is going great until this curmudgeonly Russian opens his mouth and says “That’s not gonna work.” And when it is patiently explained to him (doing one’s best to hide one’s extreme irritation) that it absolutely has to work because Senior Management would like it to, that furthermore it is his job to make it work and that failure is not an option, he opens his mouth again and says “That’s not gonna work either.” And then it’s time to avoid acting flustered while ignoring him and to think up some face-saving excuse to adjourn the meeting early and regroup.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The New Subnormal

I just published Stan Goff’s new antiwar novel Smitten Gate. Although it is made of pulp, weighs less than a pound and flies only as fast as you can throw it, its payload is guaranteed to penetrate even the thickest action-hero-wannabe skull. Please order a copy.

After a four-week period which I mostly spent heads-down on getting this book into print I looked up and noticed that the world has changed. The trick of looking away, then looking back is often a good one if you are interested in how situations evolve. And here I looked back at what has been happening in the US, specifically, over the past few weeks, and thought, Which interesting new stage of collapse is this?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Great American Antiwar Novel

Smitten Gate
A few weeks ago an amazing project fell into my lap: an author contacted me to let me know that he is releasing his first novel on Kindle, unedited, having given up on finding a publisher for it. I took a look at his manuscript and discovered that it was a diamond in the rough. The prose was choppy, with major and minor affronts to English grammar, and following no particular style guide at all—but it had plenty of potential! And so I took on the project of transforming it into a polished literary gem and getting it into print.

It is an American antiwar novel. It is written by someone who had a long career in the US military, knows it extremely well and is remarkably able to set the scene and paint the characters. Amazingly for someone who has so far only written nonfiction, he suffers from none of the pathologies that afflict nonfiction authors who foray into fiction. He does not explain or describe—he portrays and he channels. Not only do his dialogues ring true—there was hardly a false note anywhere—but he also reads minds, telepathically inviting the reader into the minds of his characters.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The October Revolution and You

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution of 1917. It caused a lot of death and destruction, which I won’t go into because you can read all about it elsewhere. It also caused a great outpouring of new art, literature, architecture and culture in general, putting the previously somewhat stodgy Russia securely in the world’s avant-garde. It also resulted in a tremendous surge of industrialization, rapidly transforming a previously mostly agrarian, though gradually industrializing nation into a global industrial powerhouse (at great human cost). But perhaps most importantly, the revolution destroyed all of the previously dominant institutions of privilege based on heredity, class and wealth and replaced them with an egalitarian social model centered on the working class.

And it demonstrated (as much through propaganda as by actual example) how this new model was more competitive: while the West wallowed in the Great Depression, the USSR surged ahead both economically and socially. For all of its many failings, the USSR did serve as a shining city on the hill to the downtrodden millions around the world, including in the USA, fomenting rebellion, so that even there the one-percent ownership class eventually had to stop and think. Reluctantly, they decided to stop trying to destroy organized labor movements, introduced state old-age pensions (misnamed “Social Security”) and declared a euphemistic “war on poverty.” And with that a “middle class” was created—so called because it was literally in the middle, having risen out of poverty but still safely walled off from the one-percent ownership class. But as we shall see this effect was temporary.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

How not to Write a Bestseller

Would you like to be a bestselling author? I know I would! So would many of you, I surmise.

After all, you are all readers, and if you are even slightly ambitious and read lots and lots of books it seems like a matter of time before you begin to think to yourself: “You know, maybe I could do that too!”

And perhaps you could.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Firewalls on Fire

The concept of a firewall is a useful one: if there is a definite chance of something flammable catching on fire and you have to be next to it, then it’s an excellent idea to put a wall of nonflammable material between you and it. Automobiles, for instance, contain the vital ingredients of explosive fuel under pressure, electrical sparks, red-hot exhaust manifolds and humans. Putting a firewall between the car’s engine and the humans in the salon seems like a good one.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, “During 2003-2007 [in the US], the 267,600 highway vehicle [fires] reported per year caused an average of 441 civilian deaths, 1,326 civilian fire injuries, and $1.0 billion in direct property damage. On average, 31 highway vehicle fires were reported per hour. These fires killed one person a day. Overall, highway vehicles fires were involved in 17% of reported U.S. fires, 12% of U.S. fire deaths, 8% of U.S. civilian fire injuries, and 9% of the direct property damage from reported fires.” This would lead us to believe that the firewalls built into cars are no more than 67% effective; still, they seem like a good idea.

I once ended up with a used car—a generally very-hard-to-kill slant-6 Chrysler station wagon—that had been Mickey-Moused by a Middle Eastern car mechanic who apparently liked to kill people, preferably with fire. Whatever material was originally packed between the two sheet metal baffles that made up the firewall (asbestos?) was long gone, and he replaced it with… pine needles! This worked great while the needles were fresh and moist—the engine was quiet and the salon was cool—but once they dried out the engine’s roar started hurting my ears and my feet became painfully hot. I used this car for a while anyway—to haul floor sanding equipment around—then traded it away for a rusty old Fiat which a friend of mine later managed to fold in half—but that’s another story. The guy I traded it to then deposited it in my driveway, with the transmission seized, so the rear wheels wouldn’t turn—how on Earth did he do that? The flatbed driver who then hauled it off to a junkyard told me not to call him again.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Top Five

After the recent marathon writing session, I am taking this Thursday off in order to finish editing and proofreading an excellent new novel by Stan Goff which I plan to publish soon.

In the meantime, I hope that you find the time to peruse the following very popular offerings from the past four years.

It bears noting that this Tuesday’s post, Putin to Western elites: You flunked!—a follow-up to my most popular post ever—has been actively squelched by Facebook (which is, after all, a service of the Western elites) but is still on course with 10000 reads just yesterday.

This, I belive, is normal and to be expected. I know that I am walking a fine line, making use of another man’s public media in nonsanctioned ways—telling people things that they aren’t supposed to know. We should count our blessings that the methods of electronic mind control are as yet imperfect.

I’ll be back next week with a review of some of the most important things you aren’t supposed to know. In the meantime, enjoy...

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Putin to Western Elites: You Flunked!

[Tuesdays are free, Thursdays are not; please SUPPORT ME ON PATREON. Minimum pledge is $1/month. And before you ask, no, I don’t work for anyone but my own readers.]

By far the most popular article I ever published on this blog was titled Putin to Western Elites: Play-time is Over. It came out almost exactly three years ago, after that year’s Valdai Club conference, and was based on the speech Putin gave at that conference. It garnered close to 200,000 page hits—more than twice more than the next most popular one—because it pointed out something very significant: a sea change in international relations had occurred, heralding the end of America’s unipolar moment when it could dictate terms to the entire world.

Essentially, in that speech Putin signaled to Western elites that they were no longer qualified to play the game of international relations of today and had to go back to school for retraining. And now, three years later, Putin has issued them a final report card, giving them an F in every category: they have learned nothing.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Shape of the Future

I like to flatter myself that the main reason so many people have beaten a path to my blog and keep buying my books is that for over a decade I have consistently guessed correctly at the shape of the future; not all the time, but enough of the time to make people want to pay attention. I try to be very careful in my prognostications. I never predict relatively trivial events such as stock market crashes, shifts in the composition of national governments and other incidents that only happen on paper or on a whim. Instead, I try to focus on aspects of physical reality—flows of energy in particular—that constrain the shape of the future. I also don’t make prediction with regard to timing: whether something will happen is often a question that has an answer; when something will happen is often a question for which no method of finding an answer exists. Bearing that in mind (so that you are not disappointed) I am going to go out on a limb and make a few predictions about the general shape of the future that will materialize over the course of a single human lifetime, and perhaps quite a bit faster.

I believe that the general shape of the future can be guessed at by focusing on the following four factors: weather, energy, population and geopolitics. Let’s look at each one.