Streetwise Professor

July 24, 2019

Why Is It “Bombshell” Congressional Testimony Always Blows Up in the Faces of Those Who Call the Witness?

Filed under: Politics — cpirrong @ 3:03 pm

If you want to bet your life on a sure thing, put your money on “bombshell” testimony before a Congressional committee blowing up in the faces of the bloviating legislators who call the witness. Think Ollie North. Any of the Dan Burton hearings on Bill Clinton. And think Robert Mueller.

On the old show You Bet Your Life, Groucho Marx would ask a particularly hapless contestant “who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” so they would at least get one question right. Nobody asked Mueller that question today. Probably because no one was quite sure whether he could answer it correctly.

Mueller stumbled through his testimony like an extra in Walking Dead. It was beyond embarrassing, and left no doubt that he was the Special Counsel In Name Only, aka the Titular Head of the Office of Special Counsel.

Astoundingly, he claimed no knowledge of Christopher Steele or Fusion GPS. Beyond his purview, you see.

Cue Sergeant Schultz.

Meaning that Andrew Weissman or some other equally loathsome lawyer was the real driving force here.

It was sickly amusing that at the 11th hour Mueller aide Aaron Zebley was allowed to participate in the hearing. It was sickly ironic that in a hearing that focused on obstruction of justice involved a lawyer who represented one of Hillary’s aides who smashed her Blackberry to bits with a hammer.

The entire thing never even rose to the level of farce. In so doing, it demonstrated the outrageousness of the entire Mueller investigation–pardon, I mean, Weissman investigation. It never should have happened and everyone involved with it should do penance for a thousand lifetimes.

But you know they never will, which is a telling commentary on the sad state of the American republic.

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July 22, 2019

A Hollow Nation: A Cockboat in the Wake of the American Man-of-War

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 7:13 pm

In 1823, France and Spain, supported by Russia, Austria, and Prussia, threatened to reverse the independence of the revolutionary states in South America that had broken away from Spain. The British prime minister, George Canning, proposed that Britain and the United States send a joint warning to the continental powers. US Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, rejected the idea:  “It would be more candid, as well as more dignified, to avow our principles explicitly to Russia and France, than to come in as a cockboat in the wake of the British man-of-war.”

How things have changed, in nearly 200 years. Talk about reversal of fortune. The UK now is the cockboat–if that–to the US man-of-war. It now faces humiliation in the Persian Gulf, having to admit after the seizure of a British-flag tanker by Iranian Revolutionary Guards that it hasn’t the means to escort other British ships, or to deter Iran from taking yet more.

A little short of 40 years ago, the British barely had the naval wherewithal to to overcome a third-rate power, Argentina, in the Falklands. Now it cannot even stand up to a fourth-rate (if that) naval power far closer to home, and in a region that had been at the center of British interest since before Adams opined that the US must assert its own interests in the Western Hemisphere. Such are the wages of decades of indifference to one of the primary duties of government: national defense. (Britain has proved increasingly deficient in performing the other as well: maintaining the public safety.)

As a result of its lack of capability, Britain is furiously signaling its desire to tamp down tensions with Iran. Which will only spur the Iranians on.

The United States has been trying to herd its alleged allies into an effort to convoy shipping in the Gulf. But despite all their imprecations against American unilateralism, and their fine words about the transcendent importance of alliances and the vital necessity of maintaining a rules-based international order, they would rather not, thank you very much.

Hollow words. Hollow nations. They deserve only contempt, not deference.

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July 21, 2019

Zip It, Fritz

Filed under: Economics,History,Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 5:59 pm

File this under “We didn’t bomb them enough.” (Maybe I should create a new category for easy reference.)

Item One: Angela Merkel expressed “solidarity” with Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaiba, and Pressley. She then proceeded to pontificate on her views of what makes America strong.

Item Two: The CEO of Siemens called Trump “the face of racism and exclusion.

To which I say: mind you own goddam business, Fritz.

Merkel has obviously let all the post-November 2016 bologna about her being the new leader of the free world go to her head. In fact, she is merely the de facto leader of the 4th Reich (who recently succeeded in installing her puppet as de jure leader), and one who has pigheadedly stuck to immigration policies that many Germans strenuously oppose: this no doubt explains her haste to chime in on an issue that is related to America’s immigration debate.

As for Siemens: where to begin? This company’s history is so sordid that its CEO (a successor to a long line of corruptocrats, and an accomplice to mass murder) should not dare to cast aspersions on anyone for anything.

Siemens was deeply enmeshed in the Nazi war economy. Its attempted justification for its conduct makes appalling reading. It attempts to distance itself from its role by claiming it didn’t make things that actually blew up, like bombs and such. It only made electronics. Which of course were vital to a technologically advanced war (e.g., vital components of V1 and V2 rockets, which did in fact blow up, causing thousands of civilian deaths).

It admits to using forced labor, but its description is extremely sanitized, and incomplete. This sentence is rich: “The fact that Siemens allowed people to work against their will during a time when the company was an integral part of the wartime economy of the national socialistic rogue regime is something that the company’s current top management and employees deeply regret.”

Allowed people to work against their will? That sentence is an oxymoron, and a disgusting one at that. And the description of the actual extent of forced labor, and the nature of the forced labor, does not do justice to the malignity of the company’s conduct, and its complicity in the Nazi regime’s atrocities. It talks benignly about moving production facilities due to Allied bombing, but manages to neglect mentioning that it operated these facilities at numerous death camps, including: Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Flossenberg, Gross Rosen, Mauthausen, Neuengamme, Ravensbruck, & Sachsenhausen.

The whole presentation is so dishonest as to make it utterly worthless as an apology, or even an acknowledgement.

That’s in the past, you might say. Well, post-WWII, the company hasn’t utilized forced labor, but has engaged in what is likely the most pervasive pattern of corruption of any large company anywhere in the world. Google “Siemens corruption” and the suggested search terms list a slew of countries: Argentina, Greece, Nigeria, Russia, China. It has paid billions in fines.

Like other German companies, it rushed to do business in Iran (the country that has pledged to finish the job German started), only to state regretfully that the Bad Orange Man made it impossible to continue to do so.

And, of course, Merkel holds Siemens in the highest standing.

Merkel’s and Siemens’ opinions about US politics and US society are gratuitously offered, and worth less. And considering the source, they have no business lecturing others. So zip it, Fritz.

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Twitter: A Shame/Honor Culture From Hell

Filed under: Politics — cpirrong @ 4:52 pm

Social scientists have identified three types of societies/cultures: shame/honor, guilt, and fear/power. They differ in the manner in which individuals regulate their conduct. In a shame/honor society, people evaluate their actions and regulate their conduct based on how it will be perceived by others: they seek to avoid being shamed by those in their society, and strive to be honored by them. In a guilt society, individuals regulate their conduct by reference to an internalized code of morals or justice: violating the tenets of this code self-induces negative affect and emotional/psychic punishment. In a fear/power society, fear of retribution by the more powerful shapes individual behavior.

A key difference between guilt societies on the one hand, and shame/honor or fear/power on the other is that in the former, the guilt mechanism affects behavior even when (or especially when) nobody else is watching, whereas in the latter, the mechanisms affect behavior only if somebody else is watching. Since trust relates to actions that cannot be monitored directly, guilt societies are more likely to be high trust than the other two. Moreover, since the enforcement mechanism in a guilt society is internal to the individual, and not dependent on external approbation or punishment, it can support a higher degree of individualism and individual autonomy.

So perhaps you are say, OK, prof–makes sense, but this is kind of out of the blue here. Well, there was a prompt, and is a purpose.

The prompt was a conversation over coffee with a Boston Baptist, a Texas Catholic (no I didn’t mix those two up), and a Turk. And no, we weren’t walking into a bar. Anyways, the Catholic said “I have to confess to telling a little white lie, and I feel guilty about it.” Well, the lie was about as innocent and harmless as you could imagine. But the mention of guilt sparked a thought: I know Arab society is of the shame/honor variety (see David Pryce-Jones, The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs), but I wasn’t sure about the Turkish, so I asked. The Turk responded that Turkey is a shame/honor society.

And that sparked another thought. Specifically, that Twitter is a shame/honor society of the most vicious sort. And when it is not a shame/honor society, it is a fear/power society.

The mechanism of social control on Twitter is vicious shaming of those who offend the self-appointed arbiters of discourse. This mechanism induces many either to avoid Twitter altogether, or self-censor to a considerable degree. (Many of those who are shamed suffer because of inadvertent remarks that they did not recognize would result in massive attack.) The “honor” part of Twitter (and I put that term in quotes for a reason) is that people signal furiously in order to obtain approbation from the crowd.

Twitter can shame even conduct that does not occur on the platform, e.g., the poor sod who had a grocery-line confrontation with an obnoxious harridan in Georgia. By this means, Twitter extends its shame/honor dynamic into society at large.

The shame/honor enforcement mechanism in Twitter is backed up by fear/power. The power is exerted by Twitter itself, with its shadow banning, and especially in its outright banning of those who offend it.

I unabashedly say that a guilt society with internalized rules that regulate individual conduct even when no one is watching is superior to the alternatives. (This wrongthink is no doubt a trigger for Twitter shaming, but IDGAF.) Not least because this is a necessary condition for individualism, individual autonomy, and a large scope for individual freedom.

And this is why I think that Twitter (and to a considerable degree Facebook, which is more power/fear than shame/honor) are highly deleterious, especially in the United States and other western countries, which (via Christianity, primarily) are predominately guilt societies. The shame/honor dynamic that Twitter creates, and extends beyond the platform itself, is socially corrosive and undermines the mechanisms that support high-trust societies, and those that extend considerable degrees of personal freedom and autonomy.

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July 17, 2019

Have “Issues” With the Gadsden Flag?: GFY

Filed under: History,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:30 pm

Post-Charlottesville, I have often stated that the war on American history would not end with Confederate generals, or Confederate privates. Every American historical figure is at risk. Recent evidence of this was the city of Charlottesville’s decision to end its observance of Jefferson’s birthday. But almost every day some American figure or symbol is being targeted.

Around July 4th, it was the Betsy Ross flag. Now it is the iconic “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden Flag. Why? Because apparently some white supremacist somewhere has embraced it.

I guess that makes the United States Navy a white supremacist organization. From 1980 to 2002, the Navy used a variant of the rattlesnake/Don’t Tread on Me symbol on the Navy Jack flown by the oldest commissioned ship in the fleet. Since 11 September, 2002, all ships in the Navy have used this jack. I guess that also makes the United States Naval Academy (one of my alma maters) a white supremacist organization: Navy sports teams have worn rattlesnake/Don’t Tread on Me-emblazoned uniforms since 2014.

The rattlesnake symbolism was widely employed in the years before the American Revolution. The rattlesnake does not strike unless threatened: the patriots/revolutionaries who used the rattlesnake iconography were telling the British that they would not threaten them if left alone, but they would defend themselves if Britain used force against them.

The Navy connection dates back to the Revolution as well. The first contingent of Marines marched under the Gadsden Flag–a yellow banner with a coiled rattlesnake and the legend “Don’t Tread on Me”–in 1775, and the flag was adopted by the first commander-in-chief of the Navy as his pennant in that same year.*

Indeed, the Gadsden Flag is arguably more representative of the Revolutionary spirit and ethos than the Betsy Ross flag. Which is why Americans who revere the ideals of the Revolution fly it and wear its emblem on their clothing. Or display it on their refrigerators: I have a Don’t Tread on Me Navy Jack magnet on mine.

But despite its deep connection with American independence, and the ideals of liberty, it’s now beyond the pale. Because white supremacy.

But here’s the thing: the progressive left defines white supremacy, and who is a white supremacist. And they define it to include anyone who honors the ideals of the Founding, the history of the Founding, and the Founders themselves.

Beto O’Rourke gave away the game: “The country was founded on white supremacy.” The obvious implication is that anything associated with the Founding is stained by the original sin of white supremacism. Therefore, anyone associated with the Founding is a white supremacist, as is anyone who believes that the Founding was on the whole a great boon not just for the American people, but for the world. And anyone who wears symbols associated with the Founding must be a white supremacist too.

So here is my response.

You have “issues” with the Gadsden Flag? Go fuck yourself.

You have “issues” with the Betsy Ross flag? Go fuck yourself.

You have “issues” with my “Come and Take It” shirt? Go fuck yourself.

I could go on. But you get the idea.

Perhaps you consider this intemperate and confrontational. I agree! It is intemperate and confrontational by intent. Just like the Gadsden Flag.

David French and his ilk argue that we must engage in civil discussion with the progressive left. This is a delusional attempt at appeasement: the Woken SS will never be appeased. They will pocket any concession you make today (well, Thomas Jefferson did own slaves, after all, so I guess we should consign him to the Memory Hole) and then proceed without even a thank you to their next target. And they will do so until every last vestige of the American past is similarly damned to oblivion and extirpated from our collective memory.

As O’Rourke’s remark reveals (and he has company, believe me), these people fundamentally hate and despise the Founding principles–and principals–of this country. There is no room for compromise here. There is no common ground. This is a fundamental conflict of visions.

This is about power and control. This is about them trying to shut people like me down and to shut people like me up–and if you read this blog, probably people like you too. And when somebody tries to shut me down or shut me up, I tell them to go fuck themselves.

If they’re lucky.

*The Navy Jack is probably a misrepresentation of the actual flag flown over the first ships of the Continental Navy. There is no doubt that Commodore Hopkins’ fleet flew a flag with the rattlesnake/Don’t Tread on Me symbols, but it was the Gadsden Flag, given to Hopkins by Gadsden himself. The uncoiled rattlesnake on a banner with 13 alternating red and white stripes was depicted in a 1776 British print of Hopkins, engraved by someone who had never seen either Hopkins or his ships. This print was used as the basis for a modern representation in the 1880s. John Adams and Benjamin referred to a South Carolina ships with a rattlesnake over 13 stripes.

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July 15, 2019

President Pavlov and His Tweets, AKA The Matador

Filed under: Politics — cpirrong @ 7:44 pm

About 6AM this morning I emailed a friend saying that Trump tweeted at AOC, Ilhan Omar, et al to “go back” whence they came (hell?) in order to “force all the Dems to embrace these clowns after they had been trying to get them into line. ”

But very few figured this out. They were too intent on being outraged and outrageously demonstrating their outrageous outrage to consider whether there was method behind what they perceived as yet more Trump madness.

Gradually, a few got clued in. Notably David Axelrod:

Is it just me, or is there some grudging admiration there? Axelrod, after all is a master at cold, hard strategy, e.g., getting Obama’s Senate election opponents’ divorce records unsealed.

But some, notably those on the right, remained stubbornly clueless:

Yo! Moron! That was exactly the point! He forced the Democrats to unify behind four lunatic leftists who are as popular among the general populace as root canals or the clap, at the very moment–the precise moment–that Pelosi and others who pass for adults in the Democratic Party were trying to yank them from center stage in order to present a more moderate face to the public, precisely because they realized that “the Squad” is electoral poison outside of Wokistan.

To the astonishment of many, Trump doubled down this afternoon, and rather than kowtow to the outrage, stoked it by saying that Omar et al hate America, and if so, they should leave.

But then Trump had to spoil it all, and announce to the world (via Twitter) that getting the Democrats and the media to rush to the defense of AOC and Omar and Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley was precisely what he intended all along:


Suckas. You done got played. Again. When are you ever going to learn? That’s right–nevah.

Trump is like Dr. Pavlov, ringing the bell for his dogs, except that Trump uses Twitter rather than a bell. His foes are so conditioned to respond with sputtering, drooling, foaming outrage to his tweets that they don’t stop to think. To think about how he has played them in the past. About how they reacted viscerally, only to find that their reaction was exactly what he had intended. To consider whether he might be baiting them into doing exactly what he intends.

Another metaphor: Trump is the matador who gets the enraged bulls to rush the red cape, only to see him step aside and plunge another blade into their backs.

Trump is undoubtedly an narcissist, and perhaps that is why he is able to read and manipulate his adversaries so well. For they are narcissists too, convinced of their own superiority and his utter inferiority and depravity. This makes them an easy mark for his provocations.

No doubt Trump is behaviorally conditioned as well. He gets positive reinforcement from the extreme negative reaction his tweets elicit from his enemies. Which means that he will continue this until said enemies wise up and stop rising up to take the bait. Which means he will continue it for the foreseeable future, for they will never wise up. They revel in their outrage, even though it is counterproductive.

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July 11, 2019

Putin Stands Aloof While Rosneft and Transneft Duke It Out

Filed under: Economics,Energy,Politics,Russia — cpirrong @ 6:50 pm

Totalitarian and authoritarian regimes are noted for their vicious internecine battles between the lords of various economic fiefdoms: Nazi Germany presents a classic example (and perhaps a good thing too, because these battles crippled German war industry). Not-quite-totalitarian Russia is seeing such a battle today, over the fallout from the Druzhba pipeline fiasco. Pipeline operator Transneft and oil producer and refiner Rosneft are at it hammer and tong over the issue:

Russian state-owned pipeline monopoly Transneft launched a broadside at Rosneft on Monday, publicly criticising the oil producer for dragging its feet over oil quality controls and making unsubstantiated damages claims.
Transneft said that Rosneft had been unwilling to help resolve a contaminated oil crisis in the Russian Druzhba export pipeline which began in late April and that the oil producer was seeking compensation from it without any grounds.
Rosneft did not immediately responded to a request for comment.

For his part, Putin is steering clear:

The dispute between Rosneft and Transneft (TRNF_p.MM) is not a matter for Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene in because it is a corporate matter, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

As if Putin never got involved in corporate matters before. Hell, this is supposed to be his job. As I have pointed out for well over a decade, Putin’s primary function in the Russian “natural state” has been to be the balancer, the adjudicator of conflicts within the Russian economic elite, and the distributor of rents among them.

So why is he standing aloof? His power has eroded to the point that he can’t dictate or even negotiate a settlement? Or does he actually quite like economic titans bashing out each other’s brains, thereby distracting them from scheming against him?

I’m guessing the latter. After some more weeks or even months of Tokarev and Sechin bashing one another, he’ll swoop in and graciously broker a solution.

An aside on Transneft’s criticism of Rosneft dragging its feet on “oil quality controls.” To me that is an implicit accusation that the massive contamination wasn’t caused by a handful of mopes currently enjoying the hospitality of a Russian prison, but was the result of something Rosneft did (or didn’t do). Given the volumes involved, that’s quite plausible.

And if true, it would make Sechin’s demand for compensation, and his praise for the operators of Rosneft’s German refinery, truly awesome examples of chutzpah. But we all know that chutzpah is one thing Sechin is expert at. Or should I say the one thing?

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Don’t Believe Me: Believe the Hand Up the @AOC Sockpuppet

Filed under: Economics,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:26 pm

Back in March, I opined that the Green New Deal was a Trojan Horse for a grandiose plan to remake the economy on socialist/communist lines:

But whenever Bordoff asked a question about energy, or climate policy, Gunn-Wright couldn’t even feign interest. Her responses were in the vein of “whatever”, and then she launched into impassioned monologues about what really interested her–a laundry list of progressive dreams from health care to child care to labor policy.


What’s clear from Gunn-Wright’s performance is that “climate change” is merely a Trojan Horse for a hard-core leftist agenda. The plan is to use climate alarmism to stampede voters into electing hard-left politicians who, once ensconced in power, will implement what good (I use that term ironically) socialists have been drooling to implement for decades–since before the original New Deal.

But don’t take my word for it! Heed the hand up the AOC sockpuppet, Saikat Chakrabarti:

“The interesting thing about the Green New Deal is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all,” Chakrabarti said, according to the Post. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing? Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

Pretty much what I said.

Chakrabarti, by the way, is known for wearing t-shirts bearing the image of one Subhas Chandra Bose. A charmer, he was. Escaping from India, he traveled to Germany, where he raised a force of Indian POWs to fight for the Nazis, only to be disappointed when his new buddy Hitler invaded his old buddy Stalin’s USSR.

He then took a U-boat (U-180) (you can’t make up this stuff!) to Japan, and then spearheaded the recruiting of the Indian National Army that fought alongside the Japanese in Burma.

As the war ground down, 12 days after Hiroshima, Bose was tragically (well, not really) killed in the crash of a Japanese plane on Formosa.

Such is the role model of AOC’s ventriloquist. In his mind, British colonialism was so bad that it made acceptable and defensible canoodling with three of the four greatest mass murdering regimes of the 20th century (Bose died, alas, before he could have collected the set and conspired with Mao). Just think what he would be willing to do to rid the world of evil capitalist regimes, like the US.

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June 28, 2019

The Doublethink Party

Filed under: Politics — cpirrong @ 3:30 pm

George Orwell described “doublethink” thus: “to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic” and “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”   With the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination getting underway, we are seeing numerous examples of doublethink in action. So much so, that it is more than fair to call the Democratic Party the Doublethink Party.

This is most evident when it comes to immigration. On the one hand, leftist (i.e., mainstream) Democrats lament that Central American countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are so wretched, poor, violent, and oppressive that it is our moral duty to admit any migrant from those countries (and others equally benighted). Indeed, during last night’s Democratic candidate debate, Kamala Harris gave an impassioned plea, saying that conditions in these countries were so brutally awful that it was perfectly understandable that a mother would subject her child to a high probability of rape, and a non-trivial probability probability of death, by paying a human trafficker (a “coyote”) to get her to the United States.

Boy, those countries must be real shitholes if it is worthwhile to pay such a price to escape them, right?

But you know, metaphysically, that the same people will call you a racist, or worse, if you make the simple declaration: “those countries are shitholes.” You know that, because that’s exactly what happened when Trump referred to immigration from “shithole countries.”

That’s 99.9 percent pure doublethink.

Another immigration-related example. No doubt you’ve heard the shrieking over the terrible conditions in which asylum seekers, children in particular, are held. Sleeping on the floor. No toothbrushes.

But the same people–yeah, I’m looking at you, oh bucktoothed bug-eyed one–fought tooth and nail against a bill funding the detention centers, and said it was totally righteous for employees of a company contracted to supply beds for the centers to walk out in protest.

Again, doublethink in its almost purest form.

Doublethink is so pervasive on the immigration issue that it is beyond certain that the Democratic Party position on the issue, and the position of every Democratic Party presidential candidate, is open borders. If a country’s corruption, violence, poverty, and oppressiveness imposes a moral duty on the US to allow anyone from those countries to claim asylum in the US, since every country south of the Rio Grande is corrupt, violent, poor, and oppressive, per the Democrat’s logic everyone from those countries has a right to enter the US. Indeed, immigrants from African and Middle Eastern nations (again uniformly corrupt, violent, poor, and oppressive) have been transiting to the US via Mexico. Meaning that they have a right to come here too.

And of course, even if the US adopted that policy, the “logic” in the Democrat’s position would be that’s not enough: we should actually provide the means for them to come here. If you doubt that, note that every Democratic presidential candidate supports free medical care for immigrants.

I am of a mixed mind on this. On the one hand, the position seems so stark raving insane that it will be political suicide for the Democrats to run on it. On the other hand, if they win . . . . Meaning that although encouraging this insanity has a positive expected value, the downside risk is severe. Especially as immigration is only one issue on which the Democratic Party is now starkers.

Although I’ve focused on immigration doublethink, this Orwellian mindset is not limited to that issue. Not at all!

One more example–I could spend all day and many days to follow adding other ones. Donald Trump is routinely lambasted for his unilateralism. But when he says things like the US should not be unilaterally responsible for securing oil flows out of the Persian/Arab Gulf, the lamabasters freak out on him for turning his back on American policy that dates back to the halcyon days of the Carter administration. I guess the “logic” is that the United States is obligated to provide security services that everyone (including rivals like China) free rides on, and is also obligated to be nice to the free riders and say only nice things about them.

One closing thought. I’ve used the word “logic” several times (in scare quotes!), but this is one way in which Orwell’s definition of Doublethink doesn’t do justice to its modern practitioners. Recall that Orwell said that doublethink “use[s] logic against logic.” But postmodernists and deconstructivists and leftists generally strenuously oppose privileging logic. To them, logic is an instrument of oppression, a weapon of the white patriarchy wielded against women, LGTBQ, “people of color,” and most of all, the intersectional (i.e., those who can check more than one of the above boxes). Orwell anticipated that logic would be twisted. He did not anticipate what has actually transpired: logic has been denied.

The objective is the same, however. Orwell portrayed Doublethink as an instrument of power and control. Since logic is a constraint on the will to power, it must be destroyed. Nothing good can come of that: indeed, many evils will follow in its train.

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June 24, 2019

Vova Phones It In

Filed under: Economics,Energy,Politics,Russia — cpirrong @ 3:13 pm

Vladimir Putin held his annual marathon phone-in session last week. Although Vova was taking the calls, he was the one who was clearly phoning it in. By all accounts his performance was bored and listless, and largely unresponsive to the economic and environmental (as in garbage disposal) concerns expressed by many callers.

Putin’s answers to questions regarding declining living standards bordered on the pathetic, and definitely revealed he has no answers and can offer no serious succor. The best he could do is to tell Russians that things aren’t as bad today as they were in the 90s.

If the key to success is setting low expectations, Putin certainly succeeded! Perhaps the only current world leader who is doing worse than Russia’s in the 90s is Maduro.

As for explanations, the best Putin could offer was sanctions, and low oil prices. The sanctions excuse is somewhat amusing, given that Putin had previously claimed that sanctions not only wouldn’t hurt/weren’t hurting Russia, they would actually rejuvenate the Russian economy by encouraging the development of import-substituting industries. Insofar as oil prices are concerned, Putin’s answer only underlines the failure of Russia under his watch to develop outside the resource extraction sectors.

None of this should be surprising, and I have predicted such a trajectory. Maximum Leaders get old. They get tired. They get bored. They run out of new ideas and don’t have the energy or inclination to generate them. They begin to prefer a quiet life and to abhor change and innovation. Even they get captured by vested interests who strongly favor maintaining the status quo. Moreover, authoritarian leaders like Putin inevitably become progressively more isolated and out-of-touch because they are surrounded by sycophants, and deprived of feedback from elections, a free press, and open debate.

We are witnessing the senescence of Putin, and Putinism. The most grave concern–for Russians mainly, but for the rest of the world too–is that another inherent feature of authoritarian systems like the one in Russia is that the current leader has no interest in creating a system of succession: indeed, he has an interest in NOT creating one. As he continues to age, or if he dies suddenly, the battle to succeed him will intensify, and inevitably destabilize Russia (with spillover effects around the world).

This brings to mind two closing thoughts.

First, if you think Putin is bad, you should shudder at the type who will prevail in the struggle to succeed him. (Such person will almost certainly emerge from the shadows of the security services or their allies, and you will likely not have heard of him.)

Second, for years Putin’s political hole card has been “I have given you stability.” But ironically, his creation of an increasingly ossified system creates the conditions for a resurgence of instability–perhaps as bad as the 90s–upon his demise, or even his enfeeblement.

So it is more accurate to say that Putin has perhaps delayed instability, and guaranteed that the instability will be all the more intense when it inevitably reappears.

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