One hundred years ago today World War One began 1

Today is the centennial anniversary of the start of the First World War. On 28 July, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian army fired the first shots, to crush rebellious Serbia. What happened then, and why, is traced in this video. 

Blame is laid on the growth of nationalism, and even more on imperialism – the acquisition of colonies by the powers of Europe on other continents, in fierce competition with each other, Britain being far and away the  winner. The fact that at least some empires, chiefly the British, brought incalculable benefits to the lands they conquered, colonized and ruled, is touched on briefly; in our view, too briefly.

We think it is an overview worth watching, though there are points where we would place a different emphasis.

We agree with the presenters that the day World War One broke out was the day Europe began its terminal decline.

 

Libertarian conservatism 4

From time to time visitors to this website or our Facebook page query the idea – even the possibility – of there being such a thing as atheist conservatism. They are – almost always, as far as we can make out – Americans whose understanding is that the word “conservative” denotes Christian conservatism. To them, therefore, to speak of  “atheist conservatism” is to commit a contradiction in terms. Some have called it an oxymoron.

In Europe too, conservatism has a Christian coloration. Conservative political parties usually declare themselves to be Christian –  for example, the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) of Germany. But their support does not come only from Christians. And in Britain the established Church of England has been called “the Conservative Party at prayer”, but the party does not exclude members of other Christian denominations or other religions, or the non-religious.

Yet it is an American conservatism that we embrace. It is faithfulness to the Constitution, to the essential idea that the United States was intended to embody as a nation: the idea of individual liberty protected by the rule of law.

The shortest answer we give to those who accuse us of being self-contradictory is to tell them what our prime principles are:

  • individual freedom
  • a free market economy
  • small government
  • low taxes
  • strong defense

And we point out that those are core principles of American conservatism. The Constitution – southern state critics please be reminded – does not require citizens to be Christian, or religious at all.

Just as often, perhaps even more often, we are told that we cannot be both conservative and libertarian: that the two traditions are separate and even inimical to each other, to the point of being mutually exclusive. Even if that were  true (and we don’t think it is), we consider it unnecessary to take tradition into account. The issue needs to be looked at philosophically, not historically. Our conservatism, holding the firmly conservative principles we have listed, is manifestly a conservatism of liberty.

And we think it is now, more than ever before, that the libertarian view should direct the political agenda of conservatism. A heavy counterweight is needed to bring America back from its tipping over into collectivism by the Left. Individual freedom urgently needs to be saved.

What is stopping conservatives from accepting libertarianism as its future? The libertarians themselves. Frequently, their public statements reveal them to be inexcusably ignorant of world affairs. They often advocate naive isolationism. They seem to lack a sense of what matters. The legalization of drugs could be wise and necessary, but it is not worth making a hullabaloo about  when jihad is being waged against us. A person should arguably be able to marry any other person or persons – or things – that they choose, but it is much more important that America should remain the world’s sole superpower.

John Hinderaker also thinks that this should be “the libertarian moment”. And he too reproaches libertarians with an underdeveloped sense of what matters to the existence, liberty, safety, and prosperity of the nation. 

He writes at PowerLine:

Every major strand of American conservatism includes a strong libertarian streak, because the value of liberty is fundamental to just about all conservative thought. But today, especially, is said to be the libertarians’ moment. What once was a fringe movement, politically speaking, has moved front and center in our political life.

And yet, in my view, libertarians of both the capital L and small l varieties punch below their weight. They have not contributed as much as they should to the conservative movement. This is partly because libertarians tend to founder on foreign policy, where many are merely modern-day isolationists. But it is also because they have tended to focus on secondary, or tertiary, issues of domestic policy.

A couple of years ago I was invited to a gathering on behalf of Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico who then was a libertarian candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I was well disposed toward him, but when he started talking, his first subject was legalization of drugs. Now he is the CEO of a marijuana company. Rand Paul is probably the leading libertarian at the moment; he purports to take seriously the threat that someone drinking coffee in an American cafe will be struck by a drone-fired missile.

American liberty is indeed under attack, and a libertarian movement is needed more than ever. But the threat to freedom is not drug laws or drone attacks.

The principal threat is the administrative state, which increasingly hems in everything we do and depends hardly at all on the will of voters. …

Calvin Coolidge, who knew the Progressives well and understood how antithetical their vision of government is to America’s founding principles [said]:

It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter [the Constitution]. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Today we labor under an administrative state that has metastasized far beyond anything Coolidge could have imagined. It constrains our freedoms, it lays waste to our economy, it has largely rendered Congress irrelevant, and it threatens to make just about anyone a criminal, since no one can possibly keep track of all of the myriad regulations with which we are encumbered. And let’s not forget that the administrative state is run by liberals, for liberals.

Despite the fact that it is antithetical to the Constitution and to American traditions, there is little opposition to the administrative state as such. Conventional politicians suggest that regulations can be made less irrational and less burdensome – a good idea, certainly – but hardly anyone questions the fundamental concept of Congress delegating its powers to unelected and mostly unaccountable agencies that are charged with managing just about every aspect of our lives. Nearly everyone considers the administrative state, as such, to be inevitable.

Why don’t libertarians stake out a “radical” position on domestic policy? Why not argue, not just for a moderation in the inevitable drift toward a more and more powerful administrative state, but for a return to the Constitution’s central principle – the very first words of Article I – that “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…”, a Congress that is accountable to the people.

A battle is being fought for the liberties of the American people and, frankly, it isn’t going well. The fight has little or nothing to do with drugs and drones. If libertarians are serious about preserving and expanding liberty, they should join the fight that matters. A libertarian movement that focuses on a rollback of the administrative state would be “radical,” but it also would put libertarians in the vanguard, not on the fringe, of American conservatism.

Moments in the lives of dictators 3

 

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Obama in Denver

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Obama in Berlin

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Hitler at Nuremberg

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Hitler’s Nuremberg Rally

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Mussolini in Rome

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Banners of Mao in Beijing

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Banners of Stalin and Lenin in Moscow

The darkness of this world (9) 1

Today we have posted essay number 9, Faust (Two), in the series titled The Darkness of This World. (Find it under Pages in our margin.)

Here is part of it. We hope you won’t neglect the footnotes (not added here). They are laden with information –  colored by the authors’ personal judgments and prejudices.

Faust (Two)

To understand what happened in Europe in the twentieth century, the wars, the barbaric cruelty, the murder of tens of millions in cold blood; to diagnose the sickness that beset every country on the mainland of the continent, Germany most severely; to know why European man is dying a long slow death on his own heath, it is helpful to read the great German writer Thomas Mann.

In his novel Doctor Faustus, first published in 1947, the Faust figure is a German musician named Adrian Leverkühn. On leaving school in the early 20th century, young Adrian enrolls at the University of Halle as a theology student, but soon abandons his studies to devote himself to composing music.

Fearing that he is not gifted enough to fulfill his ambition, he conceives a terrible plan. He deliberately catches syphilis by insisting on having intercourse with a prostitute who has the disease, in the hope and faith that he will catch it and so become insane – because he believes madness is necessary to genius. This is his conscious bargain with evil, the selling of his soul to the Devil, in exchange for power to compose great music. When in due course the disease does reach his brain, he imagines he has a conversation with the Devil by which the contract is confirmed. The Devil will grant him twenty-four years from the day of their dialogue, years of “great time, mad time”, to create the astonishing works he can produce now that his faculty of reason has become deranged. He will know “the heights and the depths” of life, and so be filled with knowledge of the truth – the “truth” of subjective experience.

Thought and reason, the Devil explains, are impediments to the creation of great Art. Leverkühn’s art will be intuitive, “Dionysian”; springing from the instincts, from feeling, from the heart, not from the rational mind. The Devil assures him that all genius is demonic. “There is no ingenium that has nothing to do with hell,” he says. What makes Art great is “enthusiasm unparalysed by thought or reason”.[5] Art is “made genuine by disease”, and “creative, genius-giving disease [is] a thousand times dearer to life than plodding healthiness”. Art, instinctive art – so the Devil instructs the mind he is corrupting – is anti-bourgeois, anti-civilization. It is a religion – a demonic religion. (What used to be religion, the Prince of Darkness says, “is over except for the Devil. The bourgeoisie dispenses with it.” And elsewhere the fictional narrator of the story – a Catholic – observes: ‘Theology, confronted with that spirit of the philosophy of life which is irrationalism, is in danger, by its very nature, of becoming demonology.”)

So art is a disease of the artist, and of civilization. As both it is highly valuable, this dark force many times declares or insinuates, speaking either as himself when he chats with the brain-sick Leverkühn, or through the mouths of certain persons among the composer’s teachers, friends and acquaintances. These persons, more devilish than Adrian Leverkühn himself ever becomes, are weak men, erudite sensitive aesthetes, sickly or deformed, one of them “slightly” consumptive. They consciously “elevate culture as a substitute for religion”. Most of them are admirers of Leverkühn’s works – and also of National Socialism, with which they soon become passionately enamored. What they call “the blood and beauty” of brutal mass murder excites them intensely. A poet among them praises “obedience, violence, blood, and world-plunder”. To listen to them is to understand how Hitler’s Reich was made possible and why it quite easily became a reality.  …

Posted under Articles, Ethics, Germany, Gnosticism, History, Literature, Philosophy, Religion general, Theology by Jillian Becker on Sunday, April 27, 2014

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The darkness of this world (8) 1

Today we have posted essay number 8, Faust (One), in the series titled The Darkness of This World. (Find it under Pages in our margin.)

Here are some extracts from it:

Post-Enlightenment Romanticism was an escape from the reality of “this world”, and a belief that there could be a better world realized in Art, or in a future brought about by political action. …

The Romantic Movement was seeded in France with the revolutionary idealism of Rousseau, and flowered first in England as resistance to the iron reality of the Industrial Revolution, but found its natural home in Germany. There God died, but the Devil lived on.

The death of God was announced by the German philosopher Nietzsche in 1882, but when had it occurred? God was still alive, tussling with the Devil for the souls of men when the first part of Goethe’s play Faust was published in 1808, so the event must have come about, quietly, sometime in the intervening seventy-four years.

The legend of Faust and his pact with the Devil had arisen in Germany soon after the Reformation began there [in 1517], and about two hundred years before the Enlightenment seriously weakened the power of the Churches. …

The legendary Faust is a man who chooses to sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for power, honor, wealth, fame; delight of the senses and satisfaction of the appetites, especially lust; and knowledge (of both the scientific and the intuitive sorts), for the duration of his life on earth, usually twenty-four years from the day of the compact. As his splendid life goes on, he wonders at moments if he could repent and be saved. He is exhorted by well-wishers to turn to God for mercy. But he chooses to renew his fatal pact. When he dies he goes to hell …

There was a real historical Dr Faust, “magician, necromancer, sodomist, astrologer and palm reader”, living in Germany in the early sixteenth century, and it was on his character, skills and escapades that the legend was based.

His birth name was Georgius Sabellicus. In 1505 he was helped by a certain Franz von Sickengen – who interested himself in mysticism and the magic arts – to obtain the post of schoolmaster in the Rhineland-Palatinate town of Kreuznach. Exposed as having forced boys of his classroom to perform “acts of lewdness”, Sabellicus disappeared from the school and the town. Two years later, as “Johannes Faust”, he was granted the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Theology by the University of Heidelberg. He came top of his class of fifteen, so either he was a brainy fellow, or he had already sold his soul to the Devil.

The graduate called himself “the Second Magus”, signaling that he was the successor to Simon Magus, the 1st century Gnostic teacher of St Paul’s day, written about scornfully in the New Testament and condemned by the Catholic Church as “the father of all heresies”.  (See our post, The father of all heresies, February 21, 2010.)

He stayed in Heidelberg for some years and acquired a dubious reputation as a man of extraordinary powers.

While most commentary on him both in his lifetime and for a few years after his death (which was probably in or about 1540) portrayed him as no more than a braggart, a fraud, and a petty thief, some took him more seriously. An agreement made between himself and the Devil soon became an essential ingredient of his legend. It was related in tones of thrilled horror that he had referred to Satan as his “Schwäger”, his brother-in-law. A demon spirit who takes the form of Helen of Troy occurs in almost all the versions of the story. (She had been Simon Magus’s consort. Though he had found her in a brothel in Tyre, he taught that she had been incarnated in one of her lives as Helen, “the most beautiful woman in the world”, and had descended again from the highest heaven to help him with his mission of redeeming mankind.)

The idea that supernatural powers could be bestowed on a man by the Devil, but had to be paid for with the man’s soul, probably arose from the anathematizing accounts by the Catholic church fathers of the Gnostic cults. Because the Gnostics did not worship the Creator God of the bible but another god whom they “knew” by the gift of intuitive knowledge (the Gnosis); because many of them declared the Creator God to be evil; and because the worship of their god took the form of drugged orgies, perverted sex (anal and oral in order to avoid conception), and the deliberate flouting of biblical commandments, they were considered by Catholics to be devil-worshippers, and their rites Satanic. Their doctrines and practices were deplored in the pulpits of Christendom, embellished with fearful details and scary myths, not only to condemn them and warn the awestruck laity against them, but because the clergy was genuinely full of superstitious terror of the Devil. For centuries Gnostic ritual was considered by Christian theologians to be devil-worship. The Catholic Church succeeded in wiping out Gnosticism in the Middle Ages, using the instrument of the Inquisition. (See our post The heretics of Languedoc, May 1, 2011.)

When the centuries of Church power were brought to an end by the Enlightenment, and Christianity itself took a beating, Faust and the Devil not only survived but flourished.

The Industrial Revolution made it possible as never before for individuals not born to riches and power to acquire them. To those who understood economics it was not an inexplicable phenomenon. But to those who wanted as little to do with the racket and dirt of industry as possible, who were nostalgic for the past, and who continued to believe in the supernatural though the priests had been shouted down by Reason, it was uncanny, magical; and ever-present envy had no trouble diagnosing the cause as demonic. So with the Devil living on in the psyche of Christian Europe long after God had died, Dr. Faust had a new lease of life. …

Posted under Articles, Christianity, education, Ethics, Europe, Germany, Gnosticism, History, Literature, Religion general, Theology by Jillian Becker on Sunday, April 20, 2014

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Obama’s shattering success 3

In just five years, Barack Obama has succeeded in crippling the American economy and shattering the world order under the Pax Americana.

Americans feel the grave economic effects of his domestic policies more immediately and urgently, but it is the shattering of the world order that will ultimately change their lives for the worse.

President Vladimir Putin found that “he could  annex Crimea without firing a single bullet”. He has good reason to think that “he will later be able to do the same with the rest of Ukraine”. But he will probably “wait until the situation worsens and the impotence of the United States and Europe becomes even more obvious”.

That is part of the picture of the crumbling world order, described here by Professor Guy Millière (of the University of Paris), at Gatestone.

[Putin] apparently considers that he has in front of him a weak and declining America. And the general demeanor of the present U.S. administration tends to prove him right. The United States seem in full retreat. U.S. military budgets continue to fall. For the last five years, Barack Obama spoke of “ending” the wars in which the U.S. was involved, and he depends on Russia’s cooperation for further negotiations with Iran, for dismantling chemical weapons in Syria, and for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Putin doubtless thinks that Obama will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. Sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States are insignificant, and Putin has every reason to think they will not increase. …

[He] evidently considers Europe even weaker than America. The way European leaders speak and act shows that he is not wrong. For decades, Western European countries relied on the U.S. defense umbrella; none of them today has an army capable of doing more than extremely limited operations. Their foreign policy positions converge with the Obama administration positions. They all have deep economic and financial links with Russia and cannot break these links. The UK needs the Russian capital invested in the City of London. France cannot cancel its Russian warship contract without having to close its shipyards in Saint Nazaire, and without being confronted with major social conflicts. Germany could not survive long without Russian oil and natural gas. Overall, Russia provides thirty percent of the natural gas consumed in Western Europe. Putin apparently thinks that Europe will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. …

Either the West will stand up to Putin, and it will have to do it fast, or Putin will win. Obviously, Europe will not stand up. Polls indicate that Americans are turning sharply toward isolationism.

Showing his view of the situation, Obama recently said that Russia is nothing but a “regional power”, acting “out of weakness”.

What is Russia’s “region”?

Russia covers ten time zones and has borders with Europe, the Muslim Middle East, China, North Korea, and Alaska.

Yes, Russia has a common border with the United States. The US is in its region.  

If massing troops on the borders of Ukraine and annexing Crimea are signs of “weakness,” by its evident impotence, America appears even weaker.

Will Putin be content with annexing Crimea, or even the whole of Ukraine?

Several plebiscites have been held since 2006 in Transnistria, a strip of land between Ukraine and Moldova, and each of them has indicated a willingness to join Russia. Estonia includes a large Russian minority, and Russian leaders in Moscow speak of the need to “protect” the Russian population of Estonia.

Estonia is a member of NATO. If Russia were to attack it, NATO, according to Article 5 of its charter, should defend it with prompt military action. But would it?  NATO’s military power is America’s military power. Under Obama,what chance is there that America would go to war in Europe?

The world order built after the Second World War was shaped by America. For almost five decades, its goal was to contain Soviet expansion. In the late 1980s, the Soviet empire collapsed, and another phase began: an arrangement in which America would keep the peace and assure the survival of liberty.

America has apparently abrogated that responsibility.

And if Russia is not deterred, other powers will be encouraged to advance their interests abroad by force.

Rogue leaders around the world are watching and drawing their own conclusions.

[The Iranian Ayatollah] Khamenei sees no reason to stop saying that America is the “Great Satan” and that Israel has to be wiped off the map. China sees no reason to hide its intention to occupy the Senkaku/Diyaoyu Islands. Last week, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un fired six missiles into the sea of Japan. [President] Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela reaffirmed its alliance with Russia and positioned Russian missiles in Caracas.

Guy Millière predicts that the chaos will increase and speed up. He sees disaster coming fast.

If we do not see the Ukraine as a warning signal, we could quickly discover that life could now easily enter the state of nature in Hobbes’s Leviathan: [solitary, poor,] nasty, brutish and short.

How will it be? 23

Contrary to Marxian dogma, no historical development is inevitable. And all actions have unintended consequences. So prophecy is a risky enterprise.

But we have to calculate the probable outcomes of what we do.

Daniel Greenfield has prophesied - plausibly, we think – what will happen when America ceases to be the predominant power in the world.

International organizations will be good for little except sucking up the last drops of wealth and prestige of the United States. It will be a chaotic place with everyone out for themselves. …

There will be three post-ideological powers, no longer global in scope, and one worldwide ideological alliance.

The United States, Russia and China are post-ideological states. Russia and China have abandoned Communism. The United States is even abandoning nationalism; to say nothing of capitalism, democracy or freedom. Its rulers cling to scraps of global leftist ideology that isolate them from their own people.

Russia and China are run by powerful corrupt elites who emerged from the old Communist order to build economic oligarchies enforced by the ruthless use of force. The United States is increasingly run by an oligarchy of ideological bureaucrats, corrupt technocrats and leftist academics that has a distant resemblance to the USSR and the PRC; but its long march through the institutions hasn’t turned fully totalitarian yet. That may be less than a generation away.

Russia, China and the United States are all demographically unstable. Russia and the United States are both on track to become majority-minority countries. China’s demographic disaster will be the outcome of its one child policies, gender abortion and its war on the countryside. The United States will probably weather its demographic problems better than Russia or China, because the former faces a fatal Muslim demographic takeover and the latter a conflict that will tear its society apart, but like Russia and China, the demographic crisis in the United States will be exacerbated by the lack of common bonds to see it through a period of social stress.

Russia and China will fall back into their own history, collapse and isolationism for China, barbarian rule for Russia. The United States has no such history to fall back on and its elites have abandoned any meaningful national identity that doesn’t rely on pop culture and liberal pieties.

There is little to unify Russia or China … The KGB oligarchs of Russia and the Communist princes of China are as globalist as any Eurocrat. They have few national commitments. Their goals are wealth and power for their families and associates.

Unfortunately there is even less to unify the United States after the left embraced multiculturalism at the expense of exceptionalism. The erosion of everything from free speech to the free market has reduced the American Dream from individual opportunity to vulgar exhibitionism. Uncontrolled immigration has imported masses of hostile populations everywhere from Nashville to Minneapolis radically changing quintessentially American cultures and replacing them with balkanized minority coalitions who have little in common except a mutual hostility against the United States.

In contrast to the cultural vulnerabilities of the three powers, Islam, the defining global ideological alliance, lacks a superstate as the center of its empire, though it has many state bases, but enjoys the allegiance of a worldwide population larger than any of the three powers. Demographic projections continue to favor the growth of Islam over China, Russia and the United States.

It would be a mistake however to think that China, Russia and the United States are in a conflict with Islam. While Islam is in a conflict with them, each of the three powers divides Muslims into three groups; those Muslims that are within the “empire”, part of China, Russia’s Eurasian Union or the United States, those that are outside the “empire” but allied to it, e.g. Syria for Russia, Saudi Arabia for the United States and Pakistan for China, and those that are its separatist or terrorist enemies.

Instead of coming to terms with a global struggle with Islam, each power largely concentrates on fighting Muslim separatist or terrorist groups that destabilize its sphere of influence while arming, funding and supporting those Muslim separatist and terrorist groups that destabilize rival powers.

It is therefore simplistic to act as if America, Russia and China have a common interest in fighting Islam. While that may be true, that is not how the leaders of the three powers see it. Putin fights some Islamists while incorporating others into his allied clergy and helping still others go nuclear. The United States bombs the Taliban, but would never consider bombing their paymasters in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

Muslim terrorists operate in all three powers, but are dismissed as unrepresentative aberrations. That is wishful thinking, but empires are shaped to fight their own kind. Islam, like Communism, is something different. It is an ideology and post-ideological powers … are poorly adapted to fighting it. Instead many of their elites secretly admire its dedication. …

Like a hyena trotting after prey, Islam is a cultural carrion eater consuming the skills and knowledge of superior civilizations to sustain its warlordism …

The collapse of the Pax Americana under Obama has freed up Russia and China to begin their campaigns of territorial expansionism. Obama’s failure to deter Russia in Ukraine will encourage China to use force as a solution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea. These events will wake the world from the dream of the Pax Americana in which American power kept the peace in much of the developed world.

The end of the Pax Americana also means the end of international law. Instead of a post-American world ushering in a stable multilateral order … no single power will predominate, but … any country or militia that can seize a piece of land or a natural resource will go ahead and do so. …

The First World may wake up to discover that it is once again living under Third World rules.

Those most immediately affected by the decline of the United States will be the Asian and European countries that outsourced their defense to the United States after WW2. Japan has a limited time in which to turn around its economy, demographics and military to be able to face down China.

Europe was able to turn inward without having to make the hard choices and its elites were even able to drag the United States into implementing their vision internationally. But that is coming to an end. …

The European Union may implode in the coming years, but whether it does or does not, Western Europe will continue to be defined by the quarrels between the UK, France and Germany. The various other players have never been anything other than places to put factories, launder money or import cheap labor from. …

Europe, unlike the United States, has not been known for its altruism, and its nations face a crippling combination of problems. Europe suffers from Japanese birth rates, Russian demographics, Chinese corruption and American economics (though it would be more accurate to say that America suffers from EU economics.) Despite its size and population, Europe does not have an optimistic future. …

Russia will not stop with Ukraine and NATO will dissolve, officially or unofficially. It may stay around and limit itself to providing humanitarian aid internationally while expelling Poland and any countries that Russia is likely to want to add to its collection. …

The budding Russian empire will find that fighting a new wave of Muslim insurgencies in formerly peaceful republics will consume too much of its time and energy. The soldiers who will march on the scattered pieces of the old red empire will be Muslims and the Eurasian Union will become a Muslim empire with a handful of churches. Like Rome, its fall will come at the hands of its own barbarians.

Iraq and Afghanistan will not prove to be as psychologically devastating to Americans as Vietnam, but they will help discourage further deployments overseas. Severe military budget cuts and a campaign against the warrior culture will leave the military in no shape for anything except peacekeeping missions.

The United States will face escalating domestic unrest, less from militias than from gangs, terrorism and the economic collapse of entire cities. It will no longer be in a position to act abroad.

None of this has to happen, but it will if the same bad decisions continue to be made.

If eight years of Obama are topped by eight years of Hillary, this is where we will end up.

The writer points out that if the civilized world fails to resolve its “economic, demographic and military crises … the civilization in which we have grown up and which we have known all our lives will die and a long interregnum of darkness will follow in its wake”.

Yes, that’s all too probable, and profoundly horrible.

But it may be that an entirely different kind of civilization will emerge. That technologies – already in the womb of time – will set the individual freer than he could ever possibly have been before. That governments will lose power. That social elites without technological skills will lose credibility. That law-making will be done by new procedures, and the nature of law and the manner of its enforcement will change to fit new ideas of how liberty may be protected. That religion – so outworn and squalid a thing, a mere relic of an ignorant past – will wither away, perceived at last to be worse than useless.

There now, we ourselves have ventured beyond speculation and touched on prophecy. And because prophecy cannot be accurate, we are not likely to be right. But by the same token, we may not be entirely wrong.

Voting to be poorer 4

A majority of those who live in the Crimea have voted to join Russia.

They will likely be the poorer for their decision.

If what remains of Ukraine were to become – as many Ukrainians wish it would – more integrated with the West, it would likely be much better off.

Here is a table, from Wikipedia, comparing average monthly wages. For us, it contains some surprises, eg that Austria (at $3,437) has a higher average wage than the US (at $3,263), and that Germany ($2,720) has a lower national wage than Ireland (at $2,997).

The average wage in the Russian Federation, at $1,215, is lower than that of bankrupt Greece, at $2,300.

It’s a rough figure based on data from 72 countries, omitting some of the world’s poorest nations. All figures are adjusted to reflect variations in the cost of living from one country to another. [PPP = Purchasing Power Parity] 

rank Country Monthly average wage $PPP
1 Luxembourg $4,089
2 Norway $3,678
3 Austria $3,437
4 United States $3,263
5 United Kingdom $3,065
6 Belgium $3,035
7 Sweden $3,023
8 Ireland $2,997
9 Finland $2,925
10 South Korea $2,903
11 France $2,886
12 Canada $2,724
13 Germany $2,720
14 Singapore $2,616
15 Australia $2,610
16 Cyprus $2,605
17 Japan $2,522
18 Italy $2,445
19 Iceland $2,431
20 Spain $2,352
21 Greece $2,300
22 New Zealand $2,283
23 South Africa $1,838
24 Malta $1,808
25 Israel $1,804
26 Czech Republic $1,786
27 Croatia $1,756
28 Turkey $1,731
29 Qatar $1,690
30 Hong Kong $1,545
31 Poland $1,536
32 Slovakia $1,385
33 Hungary $1,374
34 Republic of Macedonia $1,345
35 Bosnia & Herzegovina $1,338
36 Estonia $1,267
37 Russian Federation $1,215
38 Jamaica $1,135
39 Lithuania $1,109
40 Argentina $1,108
41 Latvia $1,098
42 Serbia $1,058
43 Chile $1,021
44 Botswana $996
45 Malaysia $961
46 Belarus $959
47 Romania $954
48 Bahrain $917
49 Panama $831
50 Mauritius $783
51 Brazil $778
52 Macau $758
53 Kazakhstan $753
54 Bulgaria $750
55 Colombia $692
56 Ukraine $686
57 China $656
58 Mexico $609
59 Georgia $603
60 Azerbaijan $596
61 Egypt $548
62 Thailand $489
63 Armenia $471
64 Dominican Republic $462
65 Moldova $438
66 Mongolia $415
67 Syria $364
68 Kyrgyzstan $336
69 India $295
70 Philippines $279
71 Pakistan $255
72 Tajikistan $227

Other tables on the page give OECD statistics, and official national statistics. They demonstrate that the US and western Europe – including almost all the EU’s eastern European affiliates – plus Japan, Israel and South Korea, are doing best; better than Russia and very much better than China and India.

There’s a great deal more to be discovered from the figures. They reward examination. (Eg the average gross monthly wage in Cuba is $19!)

But our concern at present is with Russia and Ukraine. We are not above outbursts of Schadenfreude, and we expect to find occasion to indulge in it when the Ukrainians who voted to join Russia complain about their comparative poverty. We confess that we look forward to it.

Posted under Commentary, Economics, Germany, Greece, Russia, United States by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, March 18, 2014

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Of Gore and Blood 2

… and how well the world can do without them.

This is from Global Research, January 19, 2014, by Andrew McKillop:

Think of Al Gore and his associates like David Blood as the Bernie Madoff of the environmental movement. They created a market which has been disintegrating from day one, including a total collapse of the Chicago Climate Exchange, but not before the principle players cashed in their shares and abandoned that ship.

It’s an epic story of modern day high priests and sooth sayers, political hubris and pseudo-scientific largess on a scale never before seen in history.

But their story is far from over. Get ready for the epic climbdown.

For Al Gore and his investor fund partner David Blood, their current thrust is more like dancing in the dark than out of the box thinking, due to “warmists” and “peakists” now having to fight on several fronts at the same time. Writing in the Wall Street Journal and similar outlets several times in 2013, they soldiered forward with the claim that “fossil carbon assets” are headed for a bust, and “green energy” can only soar. Along with Britain’s Lord Stern, the former World Bank chief economist and author of the Stern Report on “fighting” global warming, they say all fossil fuels are so dangerous for the world’s climate they must be completely phased out by 2050 or before.

Investing in these fossil carbon assets is therefore, they say, a guaranteed disaster.

Gore and Blood however know well through operating their climate-energy hedge fund, Generation Investment Management, that the “carbon finance” business, especially emissions credits and related financial assets, has already suffered a bust. The world’s only mandatory credits trading scheme – in Europe – is struggling to keep itself afloat. Reasons why Europe’s ETS [Emissions Trading System] is now on political life support, and may be scrapped, include massive over-issue of credits by European governments and the European central authorities, outright fraud and re-issue of already used credits, uncertainty concerning the future value of credits, and other factors such as the intrinsic worthlessness of “hot air credits”.

In a winter during which Niagara Falls partly froze over, for only the second or third time in more than 100 years, the whine that global warming is alive, well, and menacing, becomes difficult to gurgle with a straight face, but it has been so profitable to proponents like Gore that we can understand why they are loath to invent a new Doom Thing. Their twin fight against climate-damaging and rapidly depleting oil, gas and coal reserves also has major real world logic problems.

Massive over-issue of ETS tradable paper was operated not only to make warmists happy, but also to please the carbon market maker banks and climate hedge funds, who rapidly broke any link between this asset creation binge and its real world base or “underlying asset” – of actual European CO2 emissions – which have heavily declined in most EU countries since 2008, except by supreme irony in Green Germany, presently constrained to rapidly increase its coal-fired power production. …

The morph of the ETS system from potentially or possibly useful, to dysfunctional and totally perverse, took no more than about 6 or 7 years from its start in 2005. Today’s credit prices are so low they are no incentive to not emit CO2 …

Global warming, about 7 years ago, was certainly the next big thing. At the time, the No Limits warmist stance was that CO2 emissions – unless we completely stop them – will cause planetary disaster by sometime in the 2045-2099 period, so tailpipe or smokestack emissions must be taxed to extinction. …

Lord Stern claims the “surplus and unusable” financial assets of fossil energy stocks and resources held by major corporations total about two-thirds of all present corporate fossil energy stocks and their declared fossil energy resources, representing several trillion dollars  of worthless “stranded value”. The argument by Gore, Blood and Stern goes on to claim investors have made a fundamental error by failing to understand there is not a calculable risk of global fossil fuel reserves becoming worthless – but an absolute certainty. Investors have made a fundamental investing error by only treating it as a risk and they will pay the consequences as the industries they invested in collapse, possibly in less than 10 years time. …  

Gore and Blood say that investors are foolishly delaying the inevitable move away from, and total abandonment of all fossil fuels. … Lord Stern’s theory of “stranded assets” … was “pure warmist” – global temperatures will radically grow.

Science has already backed off from that kind of assertion. [Even the latest IPCC report]  says 10-year warming is presently at 0.09 degC, meaning that warming of 2 degC will need well over 200 years.

For Stern, Gore and Blood the timeframe is vastly shorter, and they regularly cite the IEA’s carbon-conscious-calculator, which in fact directly draws on the Stern Report of 2006, and claims that two-thirds of all global fossil fuel reserves “will never be used”. Because they must never be used …

Why should they perform an “epic climbdown” (which we’d be delighted to see them do, but expect them to avoid somehow or other)? Because they could not be more wrong about fossil fuels, according to this October 2013 report in Scientific American:

Fossil fuels continued to dominate the global energy sector in 2012 …

Coal, natural gas and oil accounted for 87 percent of the world’s primary energy consumption last year …

Coal is expected to surpass oil as the most consumed primary energy source in the world … China alone accounted for more than half the world’s total coal consumption, mostly for electric power generation.

But natural gas is also seeing significant gains, both in the United States and in countries like Japan, which are shifting their energy portfolios away from nuclear power. …

For the first time in 2012, global gas production exceeded 3 billion metric tons, marking the third consecutive year of both rising production and consumption, according to the report. With the exception of 2009, when the Great Recession resulted in lower energy demand for all fuels, natural gas use has been steadily rising since 1970, according to the report.

Oil, too, has seen a surge in production in the United States … even though globally, oil use accounted for a slightly smaller share of total energy consumption, from 33.4 to 33.1 percent. In 2012, the United States produced oil at record levels and is expected to overtake Russia this year as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas combined, according to the report.

Consequently, the [United States] is importing decreasing amounts of these two fossil fuels, while using rising levels of its natural gas for power generation …

Although oil may be losing some share of the world’s total primary energy consumption, it is still expected to be the dominant fuel for transportation globally and will continue to grow in absolute numbers going forward. The United States, for example, increased oil production by 13.9 percent last year, its highest recorded increase ever …

And even though natural gas, biofuels and electric vehicles are growing in popularity in many isolated parts around the world, the world’s growing appetite for transportation fuels will likely keep oil as a dominant primary energy resource for the foreseeable future.

Posted under Climate, Commentary, Energy, Environmentalism, Germany, United States by Jillian Becker on Friday, January 31, 2014

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Reality heaps coals of fire on Green heads 6

Obama wants wind, sun, and algae to provide the energy needed by the nation. He hates coal. Coal mines are being closed, or operating under ever more onerous regulations and restrictions.

But – as Steven Hayward of PowerLine reports , quoting various sources -

If you draw back a bit and take a look around the world, what you find is that the fastest growing source of energy continues to be: Coal.

China approved the construction of more than 100 million tonnes of new coal production capacity in 2013 – six times more than a year earlier and equal to 10 percent of U.S. annual usage – flying in the face of plans to tackle choking air pollution. The scale of the increase, which only includes major mines, reflects Beijing’s aim to put 860 million tonnes of new coal production capacity into operation over the five years to 2015, more than the entire annual output of India.

Germany too is mining more coal. Much more.

Some windless and cloudy days last month rendered Germany almost entirely dependent on old-fashioned fossil fuels and nuclear to provide their electricity …

Germany’s wind and solar power production came to an almost complete standstill in early December. More than 23,000 wind turbines stood still. One million photovoltaic systems stopped work nearly completely. For a whole week coal, nuclear and gas power plants had to generate an estimated 95 percent of Germany’s electricity supply.

But what will happen when Germany shuts down all its nukes because they fear a tsunami from the North Sea? They’re going to build more coal plants:

Germany’s energy transition has also been a transition to coal: Despite multi-billion subsidies for renewable energy sources, power generation from brown coal (lignite) has climbed to its highest level in Germany since 1990. It is especially coal-fired power plants that are replacing the eight nuclear power plants that were shutdown, while less CO2-intensive, but more expensive gas-fired power plants are currently barely competitive. Energy expert Patrick Graichen speaks of Germany’s “energy transition paradox”: the development of solar and wind farms, yet rising carbon dioxide-emissions.

Europe as a whole is turning, or returning, to coal.

Europe’s appetite for cheaper electricity is reviving mines that produce the dirtiest type of coal  

Across the continent’s mining belt, from Germany to Poland and the Czech Republic, utilities …  are expanding open-pit mines that produce lignite. The moist, brown form of the fossil fuel packs less energy and more carbon than more frequently burned hard coal.

The projects go against the grain of European Union rules limiting emissions and pushing cleaner energy. Alarmed at power prices [that are] about double U.S. levels, policy makers are allowing the expansion of coal mines that were scaled back in the past two decades …

And in the US, coal – loved or hated – still fuels the nation:

Coal remains the biggest source of fuel for generating electricity in the U.S. and coal exports are growing fast. Demand is being stoked by the rise of power-hungry middle classes in emerging economies, led by China and India. By the end of this decade, coal is expected to surpass oil as the world’s dominant fuel source

The moral of the story is, as Steven Hayward says: “Reality intrudes on green dreams.”

Or, in the words of another familiar but too often ignored aphorism: “You can’t buck the market.”

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