Clown Country

John Derbyshire often says that his home country is lost. That it is far past the point of reforming itself and becoming anything like its original self. That’s probably true, but not because it has imported a Muslim ruling class. If the Brits shut off that spigot today, they remain no worse than 80% white, assuming current fertility rates. If they could muster a little national pride, they could easily get back to 90% and relegate the Muslim hordes to a despised minority status, something like the Irish travelers or the Welsh.

That’s not going to happen without a revolution, one that results in the wiping out of the British ruling class. The public is clearly turning against the lunacy of the prevailing orthodoxy, but they are saddled with a generation of lunatics, who remain firmly in charge of the institutions. The whole Tommy Robinson affair makes the point. In a country with a sane ruling elite, there would be no need to a Tommy Robinson and his situation would never happen. But, the British ruling class is full of crazy people worried about nonsense.

Too few women and people from ethnic minority groups cycle in London and more must be done to promote diversity among a largely white, male and middle class biking community, the city’s walking and cycling commissioner has said.

Grand schemes, such as the Cycle Superhighway network of partially-segregated routes linking the suburbs with the centre, are too often perceived as simply a way of getting “middle-aged men cycling faster around the city”, Will Norman acknowledged.

He said he was considering setting diversity targets for London’s cycling population to ensure progress was achieved.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups account for about 15 per cent of the city’s cycle trips – around two-thirds less than Transport for London estimates it could be.

Speaking to The Independent, Mr Norman, whose job it is to deliver on Sadiq Khan’s pledge to make walking and cycling safer and easier in the capital, said: “There is a problem with cycling and the way it is perceived of getting middle-aged men cycling faster around the city, which is not the objective at all.

“It touches on something which is a real challenge for London cycling, which is diversity.”

For starters, in a real country, there is no such thing as a “walking and cycling commissioner.” That’s a job for a retired volunteer at a charity 5K. That’s not a job that should ever exist and it is not a job that a fully grown adult would ever accept. The city’s dog catcher has a more respectable title. More important, this simpleton is yammering on about diversity as the native population is being chased off by hordes of savages that have no business in Europe. In a serious country, he would have been shot by now.

This is the heart of the matter. The Pax Americana, which has guaranteed peace in Europe for the last 75 years, has done more than pacify the continent. It has turned the political classes of Europe into children. They are not real leaders in any meaningful sense, because no matter what they do, Uncle Sam is there to make sure they never get a serious boo-boo. Because they are insulated from serious consequences, they have become the Eloi, playing dress-up and pretending to be big boys and girls.

This is why the Brexit negotiations have come to a halt. The renegotiating of Britain’s economic relationship with the Continent is difficult and complicated. No one on either side of the table is capable of doing anything other than showing up at a candlelight vigil following the latest Muslim attack. These are not serious people. Instead, they are silly people who worry about diversity on the bike path. The only way Brexit gets finalized is if Trump decides to get involved and forces the issue. Otherwise, it never happens.

The clownishness does not stop at the political class. The vaunted British security apparatus has also degraded into play-land. It’s obvious now that they were roped into helping that old fool John Brennan’s scheme to spy on the Trump campaign. There was a time when the Brits would have seen that for what it was and not got involved. Instead, they put on daddy’s old suits and played James Bond, causing a serious riff between the two countries. Notice Trump’s treatment of Theresa May versus Emmanuel Macron.

In a better age, when the king realized the court he inherited was not up for the job, he would get a new court. On the other hand, when it was clear the new king was dangerously feeble-minded, the king fell off his horse and they got a new king. In this age, when the people realize their rulers are supercilious poseurs, incapable of doing the basics of government, they are supposed to vote for new rulers. The trouble is, this is not a political problem. It is a cultural problem. Britain is ruled by a clown culture now.

There’s only one way to fix that.

Fences Make Good Neighbors

Way back during the election, when Trump was still just an annoyance in the Republican primary, the obvious way to cut him off at the pass was to co-opt his issues. This is a tried and true way for establishments to neutralize outside challengers in electoral politics. In the case of Republicans, they just needed their guys to take immigration and trade seriously. A guy like Kasich was perfect, as he had been pretty good on both issues in his career. He could have been the reasonable guy and stolen both issues.

That did not happen, of course. Instead, all of the candidates went the exact opposite direction, thinking that their ticket to the winner’s circle was to be the most over-the-top anti-Trump loon on the ballot. It was a crazy thing to watch. No matter the reason, the decision has turned out to be a big one. In the fullness of time, it will be looked upon as one of those small decisions that had world changing, downstream consequences, and not just for Americans. News brings word that Mexico is looking for a Trump of their own.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s campaign rhetoric can make him sound like a Mexican Donald Trump.

The left-leaning front-runner in Mexico’s presidential race is overtly nationalistic, pushes “Mexican people first” policies and peppers his speeches with anti-establishment slogans that thrill the working-class Mexicans who flock to his rallies.

But while his style might be distinctly Trumpian, his policy prescriptions could not be more different. Indeed, the election of the former mayor of Mexico City could be disastrous for Trump and his administration, creating an even more charged relationship between the two countries that could reduce cooperation on border security, trade and immigration.

That worries U.S. politicians and business leaders, including House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas), who was not shy about expressing his disdain for López Obrador at an event last fall hosted by the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce.

“I do not want to see President [López] Obrador take office next year,” McCaul said, adding he fears the Trump administration could increase those chances if it mishandles talks on revamping the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

We live in a time when every event will be cast as bad news for Trump, every Trump move will be bad news for us and all the good news will be pitched as bad news in the long run. This was the pattern in the Reagan years.The booming economy was always bracketed by stories about the homeless and stories about middle-aged men working at fast food joints. That’s what we see here. Mexico electing a nationalist may or may not be bad news for Mexico, but it is unquestionably good news for Trump and America.

The one card the globalists have to play against the nationalists is that globalism promotes peace and cooperation among national elites. The rulers of European countries meet over cocktails and wildly expensive appetizers, rather than on the battlefield. Cooperation, between Mexican elites and American elites, means cordial relations between the two countries on issues like trade, drugs and migration. If every country is going for nationalists leaders all of a sudden, the globalists no longer have that card to play.

In the case of Mexico, their elites are so corrupt they make our elites look like good government idealists by comparison. As Steve Sailer is fond of pointing out, Mexico has been run by an organized crime family for generations. The Bush family is monstrous, but they are nowhere near as toxic as the Salinas family. That said, populism in that part of the world tends to mean crazy Marxists and deranged academics, who also happen to be Marxists. Making Mexico Venezuela is the most likely result of populism.

Still, the right answer for Americans is for our rulers to put pressure on Mexican elites to stem the flow of drugs and migrants into America. The dirty little secret is that the migrants coming over the border are not Mexicans. These are Central Americans given safe passage and aid by the Mexican government. The same is true of the drug trade, which is a key source of revenue for the Mexican ruling class. It’s not an accident that Mexican Donald Trump is promising to amnesty drug war criminals.

The bigger issue though is a tough talking Mexican president would crystallize support in America for a hard line with Mexico. Americans may have doubts about Trump, but they will rally to his side in a dispute with a foreign leader. With a booming economy, fear of economic repercussions lose their bite. That and good times give American presidents more room to maneuver on the world stage. The last thing the Mexican ruling class needs right now is a head of state who is going to be a foil to Donald Trump.

The truth is, the Mexican ruling class needs to be on good terms with America. If the cost of doing that is reining in their criminal element, that’s good for the people of both countries. Mexico does not have to be Afghanistan, where warlords run the countryside, living off criminal enterprises. If Trump’s rhetoric helps put pressure on the Mexican political system, forcing a degree of responsible government on them, that’s good for Mexicans and Americans. if not, then we just need to build a big wall on the border.

The Norks

Is North Korea about to collapse?

That’s the question Don Surber asks in this post last week. He is looking at the recent defections of soldiers and civilians. We have at least one soldier, an elite soldier no less, who simply walked across the border unmolested. Maybe this happens from time to time, but the impression from news reports is that the Norks guard that border ferociously. The Norks have special units that do nothing but roam the border looking for anyone trying to flee. Here’s a recent video of them shooting a guy trying to escape.

Surber is looking at these recent incidents where North Koreans have managed to escapade unmolested and compares it to the last days of the Soviet empire. There’s also the fact that the one soldier was from an elite unit. That seems unusual. There was also the solider that escaped and was found to be infested with parasites, suggesting the regime is struggling to care for even the soldiers that protects it. The Kim regime can only survive if it has the absolute loyalty of the military, so they have to make sure they are fed.

I think we can also wonder if the recent Chinese cooperation may be another signal that all is not well in the hermit kingdom. It’s reasonable to assume that the Chinese know the most of any outsiders about what is going on inside the country. The assumption in the West is that they were willing to prop up the Norks, in order to avoid dealing with the collapse. Maybe they have decided that Kim’s days are numbered, no matter what they do, so they are now looking to turn the inevitable into an opportunity.

American military intelligence probably knows a great deal about what is happening inside North Korea, but it is tightly held information. As a result, the public defense experts have no idea what’s happening. Trump’s dramatic ramp up of pressure is reminiscent of what we did with the Russians in the 1980’s. Reagan’s great insight, and it was truly his insight, was that the Russians simply could not compete with the West, if we got our act together economically. That proved to be correct. The Russians were spent as an empire.

Maybe that is what Trump is sensing. A generation ago, standard operating procedure in the US was to try and negotiate with the Russians. It was done on the assumption that the Soviets were strong. Reagan’s insight was that they were weak, so he abandoned appeasement. Trump seems to be going down the same path with the Norks. He has said that negotiations are a waste of time. That would explain the build up of assets in the region, along with the moves to cut off the North’s access to hard currency.

It’s all speculation, but we can tease out some things from what we do know about the Norks. Countries have a finite amount of resources. Some portion are used for the necessities of maintaining society. Some portion are used for defense. Some other portion is used by the ruling class to maintain their positions. Similarly, the ruling class will use some portion of their available capital to expand their position, both internally and externally. A country is not a closed system, but about 90% of its resources are internal.

It is assumed that the Norks have a lot of human capital, relative to rogue regimes in the Arab world. This is based on the unspoken assumption that Asians are smart, while Arabs are dumb. The Norks have split the atom and developed respectable missile technology, which is more than Saddam was able to do and more than the Persians have mustered to this point. The Norks have also shown themselves to be very resourceful in gaining access to the global arms market and the global drug trade. The Kim regime is clever.

That said, we know that most of the population is living with barely enough to eat and the bare minimum of health care. So much so that the North Koreans are shorter than the South Koreans. We know from Western history, that as nutrition improved in the West, Europeans got taller. People also got smarter. The Flynn Effect is most likely a result of nutrition and health care. The Norks are probably experiencing a reverse of this, where starvation and poor sanitation are lowering the average IQ of the population.

Then there is the math of every extraction regime. North Korea is closer to a feudal society than a modern country. Every level of society sees the excess from its labor siphoned off by the layer above it. This not only stifles productivity and innovation, it encourages corruption at all levels. This was the experience in the Soviet Union, where trust in institutions fell to zero. That was the joke among Soviet workers. The government would pretend to pay the workers and the workers pretended to work.

The point here is that the sum of human capital in North Korea is probably an order of magnitude less than many assume. They have a large enough smart fraction to build crude nuclear bombs and launch some long range missiles into the sea. They don’t have enough of a smart fraction to do that, feed their people and provide the basics of health care. Throw in the fact that Kim may have been forced to kill off many of the regime’s best people in order to solidify control, and North Korea could be very weak right now.

In fact, the saber rattling may be an attempt to get South Korea and China to put pressure on the US, in order to get some food and medical relief. That has worked with past presidents. Clinton, Bush and Obama were all willing to cut a deal. Trump calling the bluff may be why the Nork solider was allowed to just walk across the border to the South. He is carrying antibodies for anthrax, suggesting he has been exposed to it. That could be intended to send a message that the Norks have it and will use it in a war.

It’s impossible to know the true state of affairs in North Korea. One feature of all authoritarian regimes is a high degree of secrecy and deception. The same skills used to lie to the people, are used by the political factions inside the regime to lie to one another and to the outside world. The one thing low trust societies are good at producing is gifted liars. Still, the fundamental math of society strongly suggest the Norks are much weaker than they wish the world to know. That may explain the shift in US policy under Trump.

Zimbabwe

Emmerson Mnangagwa has taken over Zimbabwe, by outmaneuvering the 93-year old Robert Mugabe and promising immunity for Mugabe and his family. By the standards of Africa, the transition has been smooth and orderly. Mnangagwa is taking over without having to fight a civil war and he will not be killing his political opponents. The Mugabe faction has aged off and the remaining elements are willing to take a payoff to retire from politics. It has been one of the more peaceful transfers of power in African history

Zimbabwe is of interest here, because of its history, but also because it has been a great case study of what happens under African rule. When the country was born, following the Lancaster House Agreement and subsequent elections, Zimbabwe was one of the wealthier countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This was despite a long 15-year civil war between white Rhodesia and two black guerrilla movements, both backed by the Soviet Block and independent black nations. The new nation was born with a lot of advantages.

Zimbabwe’s first president, after independence, was a guy named Canaan Banana, no kidding, but he was just a puppet. Robert Mugabe’s ZANU party had won the nation’s first election, making him Prime Minister and Head of Government. His first act was to send the Fifth Brigade, a North Korean-trained military unit, into Matabeleland, the home of the main opposition party. This unit slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians accused of supporting dissidents, which meant supporting the wrong side in the election.

In the first ten years of independence, Zimbabwe’s economy grew steadily worse as Mugaba grabbed land from white farmers and stole anything that he could steal. The decline in the economy and the spread of HIV, resulted in civil unrest and strikes by the civil service. The answer to this was repression and more land grabs. The interesting thing about the land reform efforts is they were pretty much the opposite of what the nation needed, but they were exactly what Mugabe needed. It helped him keep power.

Of course, no summary of Mugabe’s policies can skip past his debasing of the currency in an effort to inflate away the nation’s debts. As is always the case, this produced a vicious cycle, where each round of money printing warranted another round of money printing. In a few years locals were carrying around billion dollar banknotes. By the end of the last decade, the largest note was 100 trillion Zimbabwean dollars. They were useless, as locals used American dollars, but they did make for funny gag gifts and novelty items.

The new regime in Zimbabwe takes over a busted country. In constant dollars, per capita GDP is a third of what it was at independence. The agricultural sector is flat on its back and even mining, which is run by European firms, struggles due to the violence and general chaos. Mnangagwa takes over promising a new era and he says that rebuilding Zimbabwe is the top priority. More important, he is hinting at political reforms to bring in all of the factions of the country, including the remaining whites and exiled non-blacks.

That last bit is a main point of interest. The best way to describe Mugabe’s treatment of whites is as a decades long act of revenge. The best way to describe Mugabe’s rule was as a decades long proof that Ian Smith and his supporters in the West, we right all along about the realities of African politics. The fact that white farmers are being asked to return, and many are returning, is the first flicker of hope for the country in two generations. It means that the country may not be forever condemned to squalor.

It’s easy to be overly optimistic about Africa, as the Africans have an uncanny habit of finding the bad option and then making it even worse. There’s also the fact that Emmerson Mnangagwa is not exactly a break with the past. He is a ZANU party insider, who was an integral part of implementing Mugabe’s policies. He is not called the “crocodile” because he is a sentimental lover of a free and open society. People who get too close to Mnangagwa, like people get too close to crocodiles, usually come to bad ends.

Even so, Zimbabwe has a lot going for it. Like Botswana, it is not fractured into a bunch of different tribes. The Shona are about 70% of the population and the Ndebele are about 20%, with a distinct homeland. Also like Botswana, it has a lot of natural wealth and the willing support of neighboring countries, like Botswana and South Africa. If the government re-institutes property rights, it would see a flood of English speaking companies and tourists, coming in to spend money and invest in the economy.

The comparisons to Botswana are important. It is the one nation in sub-Saharan Africa that has not been a disaster. It has a per-capita GDP of $28,000. More important, it has a highly diverse economy, so the median is higher than the rest of Africa. It has also enjoyed relatively peaceful politics, holding elections and avoiding civil war, revolts and genocide. It also has one of the lowest violent crime rates on the Continent. The murder rate is a fifth of Baltimore. By the standards of Africa, Botswana is a paradise.

Why should anyone care?

Well, the most important graph in the world is going to make everyone care in the coming decades. While it is unreasonable to think that most of African countries can sustain a modern economy, some of them can be much better than they are now. That would mean better civil control and more responsible government. They may never be Athens, but they can be assets in dealing with the more dysfunctional Africa societies. At the minimum, there can be a few less African countries dependent on the white world for survival.

The Road To War?

The base assumption of the armchair generals and foreign policy experts is that war on the Korean peninsula is suicide for all involved. The South Koreans know that the North Koreans have the capacity to inflict massive damage to South Korean cities. The North Koreans know that any war with the South brings in American air and sea power, which means the end of the Kim regime. Even assuming the Chinese step in to prevent a North defeat, the end result is monstrous for all concerned. As a result, we have a standoff.

That all sounds good, until you read something like this in the National Interest. Gordon Chang’s analysis may be way off base, but you cannot ignore the fact that Washington keeps pounding the war drums. It really does not matter if people outside Washington are listening. What matters is that official Washington seems to be gearing up for war. The Trump administration has been slowly building up offensive assets in the region. We now have three carrier groups operating within striking distance of North Korea.

Maybe it is all a bluff, but why would Washington bluff, if they accept the various war narratives popular with the foreign policy experts? If the North Koreans are sure that the South does not want a war, why would they think that Washington is doing anything other than bluffing? The whole point of saber rattling is so the other side thinks there is at least some chance that the guy rattling the saber is serious. More important, the guy with the saber needs to think he is serious too. Otherwise, you get Obama’s red lines.

There’s also the unknowns. In this case, no one really knows what South Korean and US military intelligence knows about the North Korean military. It is a safe bet that that the US has had spy satellites parked over North Korea for a long time. It’s also a safe bet that the South Koreans have been cultivating sources in the North Korean military. None of this information is made available to the so-called experts and armchair generals. In other words, Washington may be responding to things entirely unknown to the public.

One thing that is known is that North Korea knows they cannot win a war against the South. The proof of that is how they have organized their military. Those artillery pieces on the border are a one-shot threat. They get about 72 hours to inflict as much damage as possible, until US air power takes them out. If they play this card, they forgo their opportunity to send their infantry and armor south. Instead, the North will have to wage a defensive war, hoping the South elects a negotiated end rather than an invasion.

This means their best card to play in this game just about guarantees their destruction, either from a land invasion or an extended air campaign. It would certainly end the Kim family dynasty. That makes the threat significantly less credible. The US can pressure China or make a deal with China, to get help putting the screws to the Kim regime, knowing that the Koreans only have a doomsday card to play. In other words, the doomsday card prevents a US invasion, but does not prevent economic war.

Of course, it’s possible that the math has changed for the Chinese. Right now is peak China economically and demographically. Now is the best chance they will have to resolve their Korean problem. A decade from now, when China has an aging population and the North Koreans have the ability to strike Beijing, the Americans may not be interested in helping with this problem. The best time to address tough problems is when you have the resources to address them. There is no better time than now for China.

There’s also the Trump factor. Previous presidents have been willing to accept the options presented to them by the foreign policy establishment. Trump is psychologically incapable of accepting the options presented to him for anything. Everyone who has done deals with him says the same thing. Trump thrives under pressure, so he puts everyone under pressure. He’s sure he can wheel and deal with anyone under pressure, so that’s how he changes the negotiating table. He creates uncertainty and puts everyone under the gun.

That seems to be what he is trying to do with Asia. On the one hand, he is encouraging Japan to build out their military and take a more active role in policing the region. This puts enormous pressure on China. He’s helping the South Koreans get ready for war, which puts pressure on the North and on their relationship with China. All of a sudden, the US is doing things very different in Asia. Trump’s willingness to change course on a dime, adds an air of unpredictability to him, which always makes Asian leaders nervous.

No one outside the Trump inner circle knows what’s in the works, but the steady buildup of offensive assets in the region is not just saber rattling. To send a message, you send a carrier group and hold some joint exercises with the South Koreans. Maybe after a North Korean missile launch, you pass some more sanctions and give a bellicose speech. What Trump is doing looks a lot like the preparation for a decapitation strike or maybe a sustained air campaign to cripple the North Korean regime. It looks like war prep.

The Disaggregation

Living at the end of a great historical cycle, we take for granted that the way things are currently organized, is the way they have always been organized. Ours is the natural order of things. One reason we think this is that we can only really know our age. We can read about prior epochs, but we cannot truly know what it was like to be alive in those times. It will always feel alien to us. The other reason is that a product of our epoch is the linear theory of history. All of the events of the past led to this point in time.

The linear thinking of our age is why a guy like Francis Fukuyama could write a book titled The End of History and not be laughed out of the room. The truth is, the West has gone through a number of cycles, that had a beginning, middle and end. The feudal period is the easiest example. It was born out of the ruins of Rome, flourished through the middle ages and then collapsed in the Enlightenment. The period between the scientific revolution and the French Revolution, was the great transition from old epoch to the new.

To flesh this out a bit, think about the natural trajectory of human organization. The trend has always been for larger and larger organizational units. First settlements were a few tribes making up a few hundred people. The first settlements were small, but grew into villages and then towns. The more successful became cities and eventually, the political units we call city-states. The first empires were collections of city-states, but in Europe, that model never scaled up very well, which is why counties were the maximum unit.

This is one of great forces in human history, the natural tendency for human societies to “level up” by getting bigger, taking over neighboring societies. The Han Chinese are a great example of this phenomenon. The Huaxia ethnic group is believed to be the ancestors of the Han, who formed into a tribe and slowly dominated the neighboring tribes. They moved north and south, eventually occupying most of what we think of as China today. Put another way, a bunch of small tribes combined into one big tribe.

We see a bit of this at the end of our epoch. The great industrial wars of the 20th century made war for territory unacceptable. Borders were drawn and respected. Changes to borders were to be negotiated. Then the idea of eliminating borders entirely became the default position of elites. Europe was to combined into a single political unit. Asia would slowly combine into a mighty economic unit. North America was to be the glue, binding it all together. Human organization would be global and managed.

Just as the Bronze Age empires collapsed with the coming of the great migrations and the Iron Age, our commercial empires are showing signs of stress. That’s because of the other great force in human history. Disaggregation is when a large entity breaks into its constituent parts. The simplest example is a big company splitting into a bunch of specialized little companies. Men have gotten very rich figuring out how to break apart large companies into many smaller, more valuable little companies.

In history, the most obvious example is the Roman Empire. The Romans managed to stitch together people from the Levant to Britain, but the cost of holding it together exhausted them and it broke apart into more logical units. First the Britons, then the various German tribes broke free of Rome. Eventually, the Western Empire collapsed into its tribal parts. Even the Italian peninsular broke into its parts. The end of the Western Roman Empire was also the end of a great historic epoch.

Today, the signs of disaggregation are appearing in all over Europe. The Catalonian revolt is one good example. It has deep historic roots, going back to the Roman Empire, but it is boiling over now for a reason. The same is true of the Visegrad Group. There is more history in those lands than the rest of Europe, but that’s not why they are in dissent from the rest of Europe. The reason for the break ups is that the underlying logic of these great combinations no longer makes any sense. The EU is a solution to a problem of the past.

From the Enlightenment through the end of the Cold War, the great debates were about how whites would deal with whites. How would whites organize their lands politically? How would whites describe and maintain borders between groups of whites? How would whites manage commerce in their own lands and between other groups of whites? These were the great questions. The answer was social democracy, separate borders for separate peoples and regulated markets for goods and services.

The end of an historical epoch is not just when the great questions of that epoch are answered. The end comes when new questions arise that the old answers cannot address. The EU is proving to be less than worthless in the face of mass migration from the south. The Yankee Imperium over America has no answers for the demographic challenges facing the white population. It’s why the arrangements of the old era are showing stress and beginning to break.

In the European world, large countries and supra-national organizations are solutions to past problems. The new problems, like how Europe will deal with 4 billion Africans to their south, demand new solutions. If the current social arrangements don’t address the coming problems, then those arrangement will fall apart and be replaced by new ones. That first means tearing down the old arrangements to make way for the new. The era of disaggregation will be about the old organization units breaking into their parts.

Lessons From The Bear

For the last few years, the American ruling class has been obsessed with Russia. The Bear Scare in DC over Trump’s alleged ties to Putin is just one ridiculous element to the obsession.  At some level, even the dullards in the media know it is nonsense, but the Cloud People are convinced that the public shares their hatred of the Russians. China and Israel are much more involved in our elections, but they are not suitable bogeymen, in the minds of our betters. To them, the Russians are the scariest of scary monsters.

The Russia-Trump story is just a sideshow, of course. The neocon insistence that we start World War 3 over Ukraine is much more representative of the ruling elite’s hatred for the Russians. Steve Sailer has done yeoman’s work documenting the neocon warmonger’s efforts to stoke the fires of Russophobia. It’s not just the neocons. The Left has gone down a similar path, accusing Putin of being the new Hitler and claiming he has plans to invade Europe. The public face of the ruling elite is sure that Putin is very bad.

Of course, this enmity toward Putin has had the strange effect of endearing him to many nationalists in America, especially the younger ones. Their minds are not tainted by memories of the Cold War and the Soviet Union. Putin just looks like a strong leader, who embodies many of the qualities the alt-right types admire. Then you have old paleocons like Pat Buchanan defending Putin, mostly because of old scars from warring with the neocons in the olden thymes. This just encourages the neocons to hate Putin even more.

Guys like Steve Sailer try to pin the cause of this irrational hatred for Putin and the Russians on ancient ethnic grudges. It is true that all of the high profile Putin haters fit a certain ethnic profile. They also look a lot like the crew that tumbles out of the anti-Trump clown car whenever is screeches to a halt. It is not unfair to accuse these folks of being haunted by the hoof beats of Tzar Alexander’s men. The neocons were, after all, the ideological force behind the Right’s Cold War strategy for a reason.

That makes for a fun narrative and good way to taunt some of the more unhinged types like Bill Kristol and Max Boot, but it does not explain why the political class is uniformly anti-Russian. John McCain is nuts, but he is not looking under his bed for Cossacks at night. The same goes for most of the permanent war party in Washington. They would much prefer to be killing Muslims, but they have found it necessary to spend a lot of time going on about the threat of Putin and the Russian menace.

Another possibility is a much less mystical one. Instead of epigenetic fear of a pogrom, perhaps the source of this great fear is much higher, in the billionaire class that rules the nation through the political parties. After the fall of the Soviet Empire, Western bankers rushed in to loot Russia and her former client states. Eventually, the locals rallied and a class of oligarchs rose up to seize control the assets and build their own power bases outside the state. Then Putin came along and broke the backs of the oligarchs.

If you are a Sergey Brin, for example, the one thing that keeps you up at night is the thought of the state reasserting its authority over the oligarchs. Not that Trump is going to throw Mark Zuckerberg into prison or have Tim Cook sent to Siberia. The possibility of a modern Teddy Roosevelt, riding a populist message, promising to bring the billionaires to heel, is a realistic threat. Incentivizing the political class to demonize such talk is one way to hedge against that possibility. In that regard, Russian makes for a useful enemy.

It also makes Putin, and to a lesser degree the Visegrad Group, dangerous example. It’s not just their nationalism that bugs our oligarchs. Its that these countries cling to the outdated notion of state power being supreme. Our oligarchs, as we see with Big Tech’s efforts to subvert free speech, think the idea of the state is outdated. Instead, the new managerial state is supranational and subordinate to the people who finance it. The managerial state is to serve the oligarchs, not the people over whom it rules.

It’s probably why the political class made such a huge deal out of Putin cracking down on homosexual agitators and feminist nutters. They were looking for a way to undermine his moral authority. In a better age, politicians would accuse enemies of preferring the company of men. In this degraded age, politicians accuse their enemies of being sexually normal. Regardless, the point is to make the bad guys appear villainous and outside the bounds of human decency. Our politicians are the model our rulers prefer.

The least talked about aspect to all of this is that the West, particularly America, is probable less internally stable than Russian and the Visegrad Group. You don’t hear about widespread protests or dissident movements in Russia. The people of the Visegrad are pretty happy with their nationalistic politicians. They like having a patriotic ruling class. It is the West where we see the increasing use of coercion and top-down subversion, in the form of immigration, in order to keep the plates spinning.

The trouble for our oligarchs is that people will be loyal to a man or a cause. They will not be loyal to a committee. That’s why there are no monuments to committees. There are plenty of statues of great men and shrines to the gods. That’s the lesson the old eastern bloc countries learned. They were ruled by committees for a long time. To maintain order, it required men with guns and willingness to use them. The people of the East learned that a man on horse is a better choice than ten men behind desks.

That’s a lesson we’re about to learn in the West.

The Forever War

The Imperial Government is a lot like a super tanker. It moves slowly, but it is so huge it is nearly impossible to stop and impossible to steer. The best a capable leader can do is nudge it slightly off its current path, a slight course correction, or maybe re-arrange some of the things on the deck. Otherwise, the sheer momentum of the thing makes piloting it impossible. Generations of bad ideas have been loaded into the super tanker that is the American Empire. Only a giant rip in the hull will stop it from plodding along.

That’s what we’re seeing with Trump. He was full of big talk about ratcheting back US commitments around the world, particularly in pointless sinkholes like Afghanistan, where we have been killing people for going on a generation. If you wanted to be precise and date our involvement to when we first put advisers on the ground, We have been in Afghanistan for 37 years now. Operation Cyclone was started under Carter and became the program the Reagan administration used to unseat the Soviet Union.

Now Trump is promising to make sure we are there for a 40th anniversary.

President Trump unveiled his plan for Afghanistan after seven months of deliberation Monday evening, announcing tweaks around the edges of the current strategy instead of a different approach.
He announced five “core pillars” to the approach: getting rid of any timelines for how long U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan; using all elements of power, including diplomatic and economic; getting tougher on Pakistan; getting India to help more with economic development; and expanding authorities for U.S. forces to fight terrorists.

What the president did not announce was how many more U.S. troops would head to Afghanistan, which he decided earlier this year to leave up to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to determine.

He did, however, say the U.S. would no longer talk about troop levels or drawdown dates, making it unclear whether troop increases would be announced. There are currently about 8,400 U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and the president has reportedly approved of a plan to send about 4,000 more.

The obvious pointlessness of this endeavor is finally admitted. Trump layered on a thick coating of his usual bullshit when announcing this, but the truth is, no one knows why we’re there anymore or what we are trying to accomplish. We’re just going to remain there doing stuff because the generals now running American foreign policy like being in Afghanistan playing warlord. They got Trump to sign off on looser rules of engagement, so they can have some more fun shooting the locals, but otherwise it is more of the same.

That’s the thing we’re seeing that no one seems to be discussing. The civilian arm of the government is no longer in control of American military policy. In the Bush years, it was obvious that Cheney ran the show, with a bunch of generals and former generals, but at least Cheney was a civilian. Obama was just a figurehead in all aspects, but there were still a few civilians in the military policy loop. Trump has turned it all over to dazzling mediocrities like Mattis and Kelly.

The other aspect of this is the decision to hide from the public the details of what is going in Afghanistan. No more troop levels, no more timelines and no more answering questions about what in the hell we are doing there. You see, in the managerial state, you are no longer a citizen with the right to ask questions of your government and they are no longer obligated to explain things to you. It’s above your pay grade. But hey, you’re empowered and encouraged to fulfill your potential in an inclusive, welcoming environment!

Even the military has not escaped the corrosive effects of managerialism. This war is a managerial state war, where no one ever asks hard questions of their managers or even thinks much about it.  Decisions are made, meetings are held, action plans are drawn up and someone does a presentation to a committee. People get to put their participation on their resume. They get to put down that they were on a committee that conjured a program with a ridiculous name like “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

Some people console themselves with the belief that eventually the empire will be bled dry and our rulers will have no choice but to pull back. The trouble with that is our rulers can go on pillaging the middle class to finance this stuff for a long time. There’s nothing the people can do about it, short of open revolt. No matter which party they put in charge, the polices remain the same. Trump was supposed to be the warning shot, but instead he is turning into another kibble thrown into the maw of the managerial state.

America is now committed to being in Afghanistan for a few more years, bringing our engagement to at least four decades. The Brits hung around the place for roughly 90 years. The First Afghan War started in 1839 and the last British expats were evacuated in 1929 after a tribal uprising. Afghanistan had become independent in 1919, but the Brits hung around to “help.” Given that American rulers are much dumber than the old British colonials, it is safe to say that this is America’s forever war.

 

 

Is It Time To Worry About North Korea?

News brings word that the North Koreans finally had a successful missile test, launching what some think was an ICBM, 600 miles into the sea. As is always the case with these stories, the news will be mostly wrong and the “experts” will be saying whatever pays them the most money. All that is known is that it was their most successful missile test to this point. Whether it means more is hard to know, but it could be big.

The North Koreans seem to think it is a big deal. They wheeled out a famous granny to announce the news on state TV. Professional North Korea watchers put a lot of emphasis on this sort of symbolism, but it could simply be counter-signalling. The Norks know the habits of the US media better than Americans, so you can be sure they do things like this, knowing it will trigger a predictable response from the so-called experts in the media.

Whatever the real internal thinking in Pyongyang, they are making an effort to let the world know it was a big breakthrough and they are ebullient about it. National pride is to be expected, but in the context of North Korea, their boasting is assumed to be something more than just a little flag waving. The question no one can answer is whether the boasting is for internal consumption or directed at their neighbors in Asia, including the US.

It would be good news if the Norks were simply poking a finger in the eye of the US and China by continuing on with a pointless missile program. That’s a manageable problem as it would suggest the regime is stable and coherent. There is no good result for the regime in a war with the US. If the Norks are sane and stable, then they will understand this and eventually settle for some sort of cash payment to settle down and play nice for a while.

On the other hand, if this act is aimed at internal elements, then it could suggest the regime is not stable or not acting rationally. No one really knows if Kim Jong-un is mentally stable. Many of the things he has done can be interpreted as either the result of immaturity or insanity. It is rare for a family dynasty to make it past two generations before producing a lunatic or a loser. This Kim was not the first option, so no one knows.

One indication that things may not be good inside the regime is the death of the American student, Otto Warmbier. The kid was either killed on purpose or killed by accident. If it was on purpose, it was done in such a ham-handed way to suggest the shot callers are either amateurs or careless. If it was an accident, it could mean the regime is not in full control of the state apparatus. Kim’s old man would not have made this sort of mistake.

The prior Kim would have had the show trial, but with an eye on using the hostage as a bargaining chip. A nice Jewish boy from a small town is a very good bargaining chip. In prior cases, the regime would grab a US citizen of Korean decent and then release them in a few months. The whole point of the game was usually to get someone back we had grabbed as a spy or that the South Koreans were holding for espionage.

The Warmbier case was bungled from the start and then was bungled further when they killed him in prison. No one believes it was an accident. The US is downplaying the obvious, but Trump now has a bloody shirt to wave around if things get ugly and he decides to pre-emptively attack the Norks. As Derb pointed out the other day, the US cannot tolerate anyone killing our people. Otto Warmbier must be avenged.

This is a massive blunder by the Norks, and coupled with his missile tests, it strongly suggests that either Kim is a nut or he is reckless. If he is a modern day Caligula, then he will not get better at diplomacy. He will get more provocative and unstable and eventually do something that requires action from the US. Imagine a missile test where it lands on Japan or Taiwan. That’s not too far fetched even under ideal conditions.

There is a worse possibility. The killing of Warmbier could be the result of intrigue and turmoil within the regime. These provocative tests are part of an effort by the Kim faction to assert authority over the other factions. Authoritarian regimes are always subject to factionalism and palace intrigue. Strong rulers have subtle ways of dealing with trouble makers, while weak rulers rely of ostentatious displays to intimidate threats.

The good news is that unlike the Middle East, the US has had eyes and ears on the Norks for a long time. In all probability, we have been able to monitor their internal communications for decades. There’s also the fact that the Chinese have an interest in maintaining peace on their border and keeping on good terms with Trump. As much as the swells like to call Trump an oaf, his saber rattling over trade is a great lever in this case.

There’s also the fact that Trump is not surrounded by warmongers looking for a reason to pick a fight. The provocations by the North Koreans can be ignored for now, but also dealt with by more subtle means. The Norks need access to the global banking system and that’s controlled by the US. It’s hard to sell weapons and drugs when you have to do all your dealings in cash. The Bush administration figured this out 20 years ago.

Even so, having a nuclear armed lunatic is never a good result. Even if Kim is not an Asian Caligula, general instability can be very dangerous. Regardless of the cause, the Warmbier case strongly suggests that the current regime in North Korea lacks the professionalism and skill of prior regimes. If they can bungle a simple job like grabbing a hostage and then negotiating his release, they can bungle anything.

Iceland

Iceland is one of the weirdest places on earth. In fact, it may be the weirdest, at least that is what many Icelanders will tell you. Some of their weirdness is made up for the tourists, but some of it is made up for their own entertainment. The belief in elves and “hidden people” seems to be mostly for local amusement. The Icelandic Phallological Museum, on the other hand, is harder, so to speak, to explain. But, when you live on a volcanic rock in the North Atlantic, indulging in weirdness is probably to be expected.

The little island republic came to world attention back in the financial collapse when they went bankrupt. Iceland had managed to become a hedge fund with a fishing village attached to it. Michael Lewis wrote a fascinating and humorous piece on them back in 2009. When I was over there last summer, I mentioned this to locals a few times and they had never heard of it. When I mentioned some of the colorful anecdotes from it, they laughed at me like I was an idiot, so Lewis may have been liberal with the truth.

In addition to the Dungeons & Dragons vibe to the place, Iceland is interesting for biological reasons. It is a small and extremely homogeneous population located on an isolated island. That means it makes for a good place to tease out things about the human genome. The genetics company deCode is located in Reykjavik and has been doing a lot of interesting work for decades. The willingness of the population to participate in this research makes it a great laboratory for this type of work.

Another topic of interest is how the people have organized themselves over the last 1,000 years since settlement. Unlike most places on earth, human settlement on the island is very recent and it has been written down. We can only guess about the waves of humans that settled in the Ruhr Valley or along the Thames, but we have written records about who settled Iceland and how they developed their society. It is, in this regard, an interesting anthropological study.

A Norwegian chieftain named Ingólfur Arnarson is usually considered to have been the first permanent settler in Iceland. His legend says he threw two carved pillars overboard as he neared the island, vowing to settle wherever they landed. He then sailed along the coast until the pillars were found. There he settled with his family around 874 and named the place Reykjavík, which means “Bay of Smokes” due to the geothermal steam rising from the earth. As is always the case, historians are not sure if this entirely true.

Eventually, Ingólfur was followed by other Norse chieftains, who brought their families and slaves, settling all the inhabitable areas of the island in the next decades. The Chieftains were Norwegian, while their slaves were Irish and Scottish, according to the Icelandic sagas and Landnámabók, which is a written history of the settlement. This tracks with the findings of modern genetics. That’s what makes Iceland so useful, We have written records and archaeological findings, that are validated by genetic data.

There are two theories for why the Norse fled Norway and settled on a volcanic rock in the middle of the North Atlantic. Legend says it was due to people fleeing the harsh rule of the Norwegian king Harald the Fair-haired. Norway was undergoing a consolidation of power under one powerful family and the losers were heading off for new lands. It is also possible that the western fjords of Norway were simply overcrowded in this period. The general theory for the rise of the Vikings is simple over population.

Once there was enough people to farm the land and create an economy, they set about organizing themselves. In 930, the ruling chiefs established an assembly called the Alþingi that convened each summer. The representative chieftains made laws, settled disputes and appointed juries to judge lawsuits. Because writing down laws could lead to the use of force to interfere with an individual or individual’s property, the laws were instead memorized by an elected Lawspeaker until the next assembly.

Since there was no central executive power, it meant the laws were enforced by the people on an ad hoc basis. A land dispute, for example, would require hiring some third party to act as the judge. Violence against people or property would require the people temporarily banding together to address the problem. This is the sort of arrangement that results in blood-feuds. Consequently,  the writers of the Icelanders´ sagas had plenty of material. Trial by combat was a real thing when it came to disputes.

Iceland did pretty well into the 13th century when the growing power of a few families led to a break down in the system. Rather than adjudicate disputes the old fashioned way, for example, it was easier to go to the head of one of the powerful families for relief. Inevitably, the ruling families began to resolved things, like land disputes, in a way that benefited them over other rival families. This led to other powerful families doing the same in order to check the power of their rivals and soon Iceland was dominated by a few chieftains.

The start of the 13th century known by the very cool name Sturlungaöld, which means “The Age of the Sturlungs.” Sturla Þórðarson and his sons were one of two clans waging war for domination of the the island. This clan eventually won the support of the king of Norway who was looking to exploit the conflict. Sturla Sighvatsson became a vassal of Haakon IV of Norway in 1235, thus allowing the Norwegian king to exercise authority over the island, by backing the Sturlungs against their rivals.

In 1262 Iceland signed the Old Covenant establishing a union with the Norwegian monarchy. It was a nice run as a transactional society, but they ran into the problem of how to deal with inequality once their society was able to amass excess wealth. The rich were not satisfied with being rich, they also wanted power, which means authority over others. It is the natural human impulse and the ad hoc system of governance was unable to respond to this internal challenge. The result was domination by a few.

Of course, they also had the problem of how to deal with powerful neighbors looking to dominate the island. Norway could use a combination of force and political meddling to create the sort of conditions they could exploit. An iron law of the human condition, and of nature, is that the strong come to dominate the weak. In the case of Iceland, Norway was the strong neighbor determined to dominate the island. They were not going to be talked out of it so Iceland eventually fell under her dominion.