Russia 1

An illuminating article. For us, lifelong students of Communism and the modern history of Russia, almost as full of surprises as of affirmations.

Angelo M. Codevilla writes at CRB:

What 21st-century Russia is in itself, to its neighbors, and to America flows from the fact it is no longer the Soviet Union. As the red flag came down from the Kremlin on Christmas Day 1991, Russian president Boris Yeltsin, when asked what he thought of Communism, nearly wept as he replied: “I wish it had been tried somewhere else.” Vladimir Putin, who famously said that the USSR’s collapse had been a tragedy, nevertheless shares the Russian people’s consensus that their country was Communism’s first and foremost victim, and that no one knows how long it may take to live down its dysfunctions. To its neighbors, this Russia is a rebudding tsarist empire. To Americans, it is a major adversary despite the lack of clashing geopolitical interests.

After Communism

The Revolution of 1917 was possible because socialists, in Russia and throughout the Western world, believed that “present-day society”, as Karl Marx put it, is a jumble of “contradictions”, which could be resolved only by tearing down the pillars of the house. Once that was done, history would end: man and woman, farmer and industrial worker, producer and consumer, intellectual and mechanic—heretofore at odds—would live harmoniously, freely, and prosperously ever after.

Because they really believed in this utopian dream, the socialists gave absolute power to Lenin and Stalin’s Communist Party to wreck and reorganize—to break eggs in order to make a delicious omelette. But Communism, while retaining some of Marxism’s antinomian features (e.g., war on the family and on religion), became in practice almost exclusively a justification for the party’s absolute rule. For example, the economic system adopted by the Soviet Union and by other Communist regimes owed precisely zero to Marx, but was a finely tuned instrument for keeping the party in control of wealth.

The Leninist party is gone forever in Russia because, decades after its leaders stopped believing in Marxism, and after Leonid Brezhnev had freed them from the Stalinist incubus that had kept them loyal to the center, they had learned to make the party into a racket. That, and the residual antinomian features, made Russia into a kakotopia. Russian men learned to intrigue and drink on the job rather than work. Shunning responsibility for women and children, they turned Russian society into a matriarchy, held together by grandmothers. In a thoroughly bureaucratized system, each holder of a bit of authority used it to inconvenience the others. Forcing people to tell each other things that both knew not to be true—recall that “politically correct” is a Communist expression—engendered cynicism and disrespect for truth. The endless anti-religion campaigns cut the people off from one moral system and failed to inculcate another. Alcohol drowned unhappiness, life expectancies declined, and fewer Russians were born.

Religious morality? Communism not a religious morality? Not the same religious morality in certain vital respects? All red capes waving at us bulls!  But for the sake of what’s to come, we’ll only stand and paw the ground – and give a snort or two.

The Russian people rejected Communism in the only ways that powerless people can—by passivity, by turning to anything foreign to authority, and by cynicism. Nothing being more foreign to Communism than Christianity, Russians started wearing crosses, knowing that the regime frowned on this feature of the Russia that had pre-existed Communism, and would survive it.

A louder snort. But on:

No sooner had the USSR died than Russia restored the name Saint Petersburg to Peter the Great’s “window on the West”. Even under Soviet rule, Russians had gone out of their way to outdo the West in Western cultural matters—“nekulturny” (uncultured!) was, and remains, a heavy insult in Russia. Moscow let countless priorities languish as it rebuilt in record time its massive Christ the Savior cathedral to original specifications. As the Russian Orthodox church resumed its place as a pillar of the Russia that had been Christianity’s bastion against the Mongol horde as well as against the Muslim Ottomans, golden domes soon shone throughout the land. Whatever anyone might think of the Russian Orthodox church, it anchors the country to its Christian roots.

Few Americans understood Vladimir Putin’s rise to power at the close of the 20th century as the reassertion of a bankrupt, humiliated, resentful people looking to make Russia great again. Since then, Putin has rebuilt the Russian state into a major European power with worldwide influence. Poverty and a resource-based economy notwithstanding, it is on a sounder financial basis than any Western country. Corruption is within historical limits. The leadership is appreciated by the vast majority, whose national pride and solidarity dwarf those of Western publics. Nearly all Russians approve strongly of its absorption of Crimea. Russia effectively controls Ukraine’s eastern end, and has exposed the West’s incapacity to interfere militarily in the former Soviet empire. In the Middle East, Russia is now the dominant force.

In sum, the Russian bear licks its deep wounds as it growls behind fearsome defenses.

The Neighborhood

Russia’s Westernism is neither imitation nor love of the West. It is the assertion that Russia is an indispensable part of it. The Russians saved Europe from Napoleon, and from Hitler, too. That they did the latter tyrannically, as Soviets, does not, in their minds, disqualify them from their rightful place in Europe, or justify Europeans, much less Americans, trying to limit Russia’s rightful stature. Today’s Russian rulers are not gentler or nicer than the emperor who shook off the Mongol yoke—who wasn’t known as Ivan the Nice Guy. Like their forebears they are calculating Russia’s stature in terms of the limits—primarily in Europe—set by their own present power as well as by that of their immediate neighbors.

Russian writing on international affairs focuses exclusively on the country’s role as a member of the European system. By the 2030s, if not sooner, the Russian government will have filled such territory, and established such influence, as befit its own people’s and its neighbors’ realities, and will be occupied with keeping it. More than most, Putin is painfully aware of Russia’s limits. Its declining population is less than half of America’s and a tenth of China’s. Despite efforts to boost natality, its demography is likely to recover only slowly. Nor is its culture friendly to the sort of entrepreneurship, trust, and cooperation that produces widespread wealth. What, then, are Putin’s—or any Russian leader’s—national and international objectives?

As always, Ukraine is of prime interest to Russia because it is the crux of internal and external affairs. With Ukraine, Russia is potentially a world power. Without it, it is less, at best. But Putin’s pressures, disruptions, and meddlings have shown him how limited Russia’s reach into Ukraine is, and is sure to remain. Hence, Russia’s conquest of Ukraine east of the Don River signifies much less the acquisition of a base for further conquest than the achievement of modern Russia’s natural territorial limit in Europe. The 20th century’s events forever severed Ukraine and the Baltic states from Russia; even Belarus has become less compatible with it. Modern Russia is recognizing its independence, even as the Soviet Union at the height of its power effectively recognized Finland’s. As the Russian Federation’s demographic weight shifts southeastward—and Islamism continues to gain favor there—the Russian government will have to consider whether to shift its efforts from keeping the Muslim regions within the federation to expelling and building fences against them.

As the decades pass, post-Soviet Russia will have to work harder and harder to cut the sort of figure in Europe that it did under the tsars. That figure’s size is the issue. The Russian empire’s size has varied over the centuries according to the ratios between its and its neighbors’ national vigor and power. In the past, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, the Hanseatic powers, Germany, all have shrunken or swollen Russia. Borders and spheres of influence have varied. There is no reason why this should not be so in the future. Russia will neither invade Europe nor dominate it politically because its people lack the political will, and its state the capacity, to do either. During Soviet times, this will and this capacity were the product of the national and international Communist Party apparatus, now gone forever.

A glance back at this gargantuan human structure reminds us of how grateful we should be that it now belongs to history. The Communist faction that resulted from the 1918 split in the international socialist movement—like the rump socialist faction that ended up governing Europe after 1945, but unlike the fascist one—already intended to conquer the world. (Fascism, Mussolini’s invention, recalled some of ancient Rome’s peculiar institutions and symbols—the fasces was the bundle of punishing rods carried by the consuls’ lictors—and added governing Italy through business-labor-government councils. It was not for export.) Communists worldwide came under the firm control of the Soviet Party’s international division run by formidable persons like Andrei Zhdanov and Boris Ponomarev, disposing of virtually unlimited budgets and, after 1929, of the services of countless “front organizations.” These, the party’s hands and feet and its pride and joy, reached out to every imaginable category of persons: union members, lawyers, teachers, journalists, housewives, professional women, students, non-students. Each front organization had an ostensible purpose: peace, through opposition or support of any number of causes. But supporting the “Soviet line” was the proximate purpose of all. Through tens of thousands of “witting” Communists, these fronts marshaled millions of unwitting supporters, helping to reshape Western societies. Soviet political control of Europe was eminently possible, with or without an invasion, because the Soviet domestic apparatus had marshaled Soviet society, and because its international department and front organizations had convinced sectors of European societies to welcome the prospect.

The tools that today’s Russia wields vis-à-vis Europe are limited to commerce in natural gas, and to the opportunities for bribery that this creates—witness Russian Gazprom’s employment of former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Not only do European governments not fear being invaded by Russia, they refuse to diversify their sources of natural gas, and generally oppose American sanctions imposed on Russia because of its actions in Ukraine. The notion among European ruling parties that the voters who are in the process of rejecting them for various “populist” and nationalist options, are pining for Russian-style governance or tricked by Russian wiles is a baseless attempt to sidestep the ruling parties’ own failures.

The Lefty globalists think that? There’s a surprise! Whatever makes them think so? We see the populist movements as being unequivocally towards conservative nationalism, self-determination, personal liberty, not … neo-tsarism.

Europe’s rulers know that Russian military forces are not built to conquer the continent, because these forces lack the wherewithal for large-scale projection of power. Instead, they possess formidable capacity for what soldiers call “area denial”. This fits Russian leaders’ strategic goals, the people’s sentiments, and material constraints. The wars that today’s Russian military are built to fight are in areas that today’s Russian military sees most threatened by the U.S. and NATO, on its borders with Poland and Lithuania (where Russia crushed the Wehrmacht in 1944-45), and in Ukraine, north of Crimea. Russia’s military posture has ever been, and gives every sign of remaining, strategically defensive but operationally offensive. Now as before, when war seems imminent Russia’s operational doctrine calls for taking the initiative in a preemptive manner.

Although Russian strategy would be to surround and seal off foreign troops by air and ground, for the first time in Russia’s history, military manpower is scarce and precious. Economizing manpower is one reason why the country has fully integrated nuclear weapons in ordinary military operations, recalling nothing so much as President Dwight Eisenhower’s doctrine in the 1950s of “more bang for the buck”. To seal off the airspace, and to provide an umbrella for their ground forces, the Russians would use the S-400 air-missile defense system—the world’s best, which is now deployed around some 300 high-value locations. Strikes (or the threat thereof) by the unique Iskander short-range missile would preclude the foreign forces’ escape, as Russian troops moved in with Armata tanks, which carry the world’s best reactive armor.

Possession of perhaps the world’s best offensive and defensive strategic forces—comparable to America’s and far superior to China’s—is why Russia is confident that it can contain within limited areas the wars that it needs to fight. Because Russia has nothing to gain by military action against America or China, this arsenal is militarily useful only as insurance against anyone’s escalation of border disputes, and as the basis for Russia’s claim to be a major world player.

Priorities and Collusion

Russia loomed small in U.S. foreign policy from the time of the founding until the 1917 Bolshevik coup, because the interactions between America’s and Russia’s geopolitical and economic interests were few and mostly compatible. Given that these fundamentals have not changed, it would be best for both countries if their policies gradually returned to that long normal.

But for both countries, transcending the past century’s habits is not easy. The essential problem is that neither side’s desires, nor its calculus of ends and means, is clear to the other, or perhaps to itself. It seems that the main thing Putin or any other Russian leader might want from America is no interference as Russia tries to recreate the tsars’ empire. Thus Russia’s continuing relations with anti-U.S. regimes in Latin America can only be understood as Cold War inertia—the almost instinctive sense that what is bad for America must somehow be good for Russia. The U.S. government, for its part, while largely neglecting Russia’s involvement in the Western hemisphere, tries to limit its influence in Europe while at the same time reaching agreements concerning strategic weapons—a largely Cold War agenda. The soundness of these priorities on both sides is doubtful.

Both Russia and the U.S. fear China, and with good reason. The crushing size of contemporary China’s population and economy frightens the Russians. The fact that some Russian women marry Chinese men (disdaining Russian ones) embarrasses them and has made them more racially prejudiced than ever against the Chinese. Yet Russia aligns with China internationally and sells it advanced weapons, paid for with American money—money that China earns by trading its people’s cheap labor for America’s expensive technology. With these weapons as well as its own, China has established de facto sovereignty over the South China Sea and is pushing America out of the western Pacific. Nonetheless, the U.S. treats Russia as a major threat, including “to our democracy”. For Russia and America to work against one another to their common principal adversary’s advantage makes no geopolitical sense. But internal dynamics drive countries more than geopolitics.

Nowhere is this clearer than with the notion that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election—a charge which has roiled American public life for the past two years and counting. Interference in American life? That is what the Soviet Union was all about. By contrast, current concerns about Russia are a tempest, albeit a violent one, in a domestic American teapot.

In America, the Soviets worked less through the Communist Party than they did in Europe. Here [in America], they simply seduced and influenced people at the top of our society. Even in America prominent persons in the Democratic Party, academia, media, and intelligence services (or who would become prominent, e.g., future Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and CIA Director John Brennan), were Communists more or less openly. Far more important to the Soviets were persons convinced that Soviet and American interests were identical. Harry Hopkins, for example, who ran the U.S. government on President Franklin Roosevelt’s behalf, considered Stalin’s objectives to be so indistinguishable from America’s that the KGB considered him to be effectively Stalin’s agent. By contrast, Alger Hiss, an important State Department official, was one of many controlled Soviet agents within the U.S. government. But the compatibility between Hiss’s views and those of many in the U.S. ruling class was striking. For example, even after Soviet archives confirmed Hiss’s status as a Soviet agent, Robert McNamara, secretary of defense under Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, like many of his class, angrily insisted on Hiss’s innocence.

The comradeship of American liberals and Soviet Communists lasted to the Soviet Union’s end. In May 1983, for example, in an incident widely reported at the time and confirmed by Soviet archives, former U.S. senator John Tunney visited Moscow and, on behalf of his friend and classmate—and prospective Democratic presidential candidate—Senator Edward Kennedy, proposed to KGB director Viktor Chebrikov that Kennedy work with Soviet dictator Yuri Andropov to “arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA” because “the only real potential threats to Reagan [in the 1984 election] are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations”. Kennedy promised “to have representatives of the largest television companies in the USA contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interviews”. Collusion, anyone? Today, with the Soviet Union gone, its moral-intellectual imprint on our ruling class remains.

The contemporary notion of Russian interference, however, owes nothing to Russia. It began when, in June 2016, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) tried to explain how a trove of e-mails showing its partiality for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders got into the public domain, alleging that they had been hacked from its server by Russian agents. To this day, there is zero evidence for this, the DNC not having allowed access to that server by any law enforcement agency or independent party.

Throughout the rest of the 2016 campaign, this narrative merged with one from CIA Director John Brennan and other leaders of U.S. intelligence, who were circulating a scurrilous dossier, paid for by the Clinton campaign, that alleged Trump’s connections with Russia. The Obama Administration used the dossier as the basis for electronic and human surveillance of the Trump campaign. Together, these narratives prompted a two-year investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which found no basis for the dossier, or for a relationship between Russia and the Trump campaign. Nevertheless, the assertion of Trump’s indebtedness to Russia became the pretext for #TheResistance to the 2016 election’s result, led by the Democratic Party, most of the judiciary, the bureaucracy, and the media.

In Europe as well as in America, the establishment’s protagonists have pointed to Russia to allege that their rejection by the voters is somehow “undemocratic”. Larry Diamond in the Wall Street Journal, following Robert Kagan in the Washington Post, wrote that “in one country after another, elected leaders have gradually attacked the deep tissues of democracy—the independence [from sovereign voters] of the courts, the business community, the media, civil society, universities and sensitive state institutions like the civil service, the intelligence agencies and the police.” Voting against the establishnment, you see, is undemocratic!

What Are Our Interests?

Making impossible a rational public discussion of U.S. policy toward Russia is the very least of the damage this partisan war has wrought. American liberals believed the Soviet Union’s dissolution was impossible; conservatives flattered themselves that they caused it. Few paid attention to what happened and how. Once the Soviet Union was gone, the West in general and Americans in particular presumed to teach Russians how to live, while helping their oligarchs loot the country. Russians soon got the impression that they were being disrespected. At least as Soviets, they had been feared. The Clinton Administration was confident that Russia would become a liberal partner in the rules-based international order. At the same time Clinton tried to load onto Russia the hopes that the U.S. establishment had long entertained about global co-dominion with the Soviets. In the same moment they pushed NATO to Russia’s borders—a mess of appeasement, provocation, and insult. Long-suffering Russians, who had idolized the West during the Soviet era, came to dislike us.

As the George W. Bush Administration fumbled at the new reality, it tried to appease Russia by continuing to limit U.S. missile defenses in fact, while publicly disavowing the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; it formally objected to Russia’s dismemberment of Georgia, while effectively condoning it. The incoming Barack Obama Administration tried to go further along the same self-contradictory line by withdrawing anti-missile support from eastern Europe, and quietly promising even more restraint. But when, in 2014, Putin seized Crimea, Obama imposed serious economic sanctions and agreed to place NATO and American troops in Poland and the Baltic States. Then, for the most tactical of domestic political considerations, the Obama Administration, and hence the U.S. establishment, decided to try explaining the course and results of the 2016 U.S. election campaign as “Russia’s attack on our democracy”.

What are the American people’s interests in Eurasia, and how big are these interests? Although today’s Russia poses none of the ideological threats that the Soviet Union did—and despite the absence of geopolitical or any other clashing interests—Russia is clearly a major adversary in Europe and the Middle East. Its technical contributions to China’s military, and its general geopolitical alignment with China, are most worrisome. What, other than Soviet inertia and wounded pride, motivates the Russians? The U.S. maintains economic sanctions on Russia. To achieve precisely what? From both sides’ perspective, it is difficult to see what good can come from this continued enmity.

Today’s triangular U.S.-Russia-China calculus is not comparable to the Soviet-Chinese military confrontation of the 1970s and ’80s, when both the U.S. and China feared Soviet missiles, and the U.S. best served its own interests by implicitly extending its nuclear umbrella over China. Today, the problems between Russia and China stem from basic disparities that U.S. policy obscures by treating Russia as, if anything, more of a threat than China. The best that the U.S. can do for itself is to say nothing, and do nothing, that obscures these disparities. Without backhanded U.S. support for close Russo-Chinese relations, the two countries would quickly become each other’s principal enemies.

Ongoing U.S. anxiety about negotiations with Russia over weaponry is nothing but a legacy of the Cold War and a refusal to pay attention to a century of experience, teaching that arms control agreements limit only those who wish to limit themselves. Russia violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by developing the Iskander missile; the U.S. was right to withdraw from the agreement, but mistaken in ever expecting another country not to arm itself as it thinks best. In that regard, Americans should not listen to, never mind accommodate in any way, Russia’s (or any other country’s) objections to U.S. missile defenses. These are in our clear and overriding interest. Defending America as best we can—against missiles that might come to us from anywhere, for any reason—is supremely our business.

What then are America’s legitimate, realizable demands on Russia?

Putin’s Russia, by its 2015-18 intervention in Syria and its management of Turkey, achieved the tsars’ historic desire for a warm water port. Although the former conquest is firm, keeping Turkey friendly to Russia must ever be troublesome. Absent a friendly Turkey, Russia’s renewed control of Crimea and even the Syrian bases will be of very limited worth for any but defensive purposes. Whatever else might be said of its role in the Middle East, Russia has brought more stable balance to local forces than ever in this young century. Only with difficulty will American statesmen regret that our old adversary now deals with some of the problems that bedeviled us for a half-century.

The U.S. would be more secure geopolitically were Russia merely one of several European powers. But it has always been an empire, whose size has varied with time. An independent Ukraine has always been the greatest practical limitation on Russia’s imperial ambitions. That is very much a U.S. interest, but is beyond our capacity to secure.

U.S. relations with Russia regarding Ukraine are analogous to U.S. relations with Europe 200 years ago. Our overriding interest then was to prevent the Europeans from holding any major part of the Western hemisphere. By stating America’s intention to guard its hemispheric interests while forswearing meddling in European affairs, the U.S. encouraged them to face that reality. Today’s Russia realizes it cannot control Ukraine except for its Russian part, nor the Baltics, never mind the Visegrád states. The U.S. could lead Russia to be comfortable with that reality by reassuring it that we will not use our normal relations with Ukraine or with any of Russia’s neighbors to try to define Russia’s limits in Europe. We should realize that our setting such limits is beyond America’s capacity, and that it undercuts the basis for fruitful relations.

The U.S. prefers the Baltic States, and especially Ukraine, to be independent. But we know, and should sincerely convey to Russia, that their independence depends on themselves, and that we regard it as counterproductive to make them into American pawns or even to give the impression that they could be. Ukraine’s independence—and hence Russia’s acceptance of it as inevitable—depends on Ukraine retrenching into its Western identity, rejecting the borders that Stalin and Khrushchev had fixed for it, and standing firmly on its own feet—as, for example, by asserting its Orthodox church’s independence from Russia’s.

Wise U.S. policy would remove sanctions that previous administrations placed on Russia on behalf of Ukraine. Fruitless strife has been these sanctions’ only result. For example, they emboldened Ukraine to suppose it had U.S. support for presuming it had the same right to navigation in the Sea of Azov, passing under a Russian bridge, as it does in the Atlantic Ocean.

But in accord with the Monroe Doctrine, we should be willing to wage economic war on Russia—outright and destructive—on America’s own behalf, were the Russians to continue supporting anti-U.S. regimes in the Western hemisphere. If you want economic peace with America, we would say, stop interfering in our backyard. We Americans, for our part, are perfectly willing to stop interfering in your backyard.

In sum, nothing should be geopolitically clearer than that the natural policy for both America and Russia is not to go looking for opportunities to get in each other’s way.

The man who got it right – has gone 17

Being strong supporters of President Trump, we are not happy making moan about his dismissal of John Bolton as his national security adviser. But make moan we do.

For one very important thing, John Bolton has always been right about how to deal with terrorist organizations like the Taliban, and terrorist regimes like Iran’s: they should never be negotiated with because to do so is to legitimize them. Now it seems that it is over this issue (inter alia, presumably) that the President and Bolton have parted company. (If proof were needed that in this matter Bolton is right, the Iranian government cheered the news of Bolton’s departure.)

Mark Steyn appreciates John Bolton as much as we do.

He writes  (in part … read it all for the wit, the sheer fun):

I first met the new National Security Advisor a decade and a half or so back, in a roomful of European prime ministers and foreign ministers. He delivered a line that stunned the joint:

‘International law does not trump the US Constitution.’

I was standing next to the Finnish Prime Minister, Paavo Lipponen, who had a genuinely puzzled looked on his face and eventually inquired of me: “He is making a joke, no?”

No. Since then, I’ve interviewed him at Fox a couple of times and passed him in the green room on many others. …

I first wrote about him fourteen years ago, after Bush nominated him as UN Ambassador. This is from The Spectator of March 19th 2005 – and my remarks about “the code-speak consensus of the global elite” are relevant, I think, to what drove Trump’s rise – as Mr Bolton was surely aware:

If you’re going to play the oldest established permanent floating transnational crap game for laughs, you might as well pick an act with plenty of material. What I love about John Bolton, America’s new ambassador to the UN, is the sheer volume of ‘damaging’ material. Usually, the Democrats and media have to riffle through decades of dreary platitudes to come up with one potentially exploitable infelicitous soundbite. But with Bolton the damaging quotes are hanging off the trees and dropping straight into your bucket. Five minutes’ casual trawling through the back catalogue and your cup runneth over:

The UN building?

If you lost ten storeys, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.’

Reform of the Security Council?

If I were redoing the Security Council, I’d have one permanent member … the United States.’

The International Criminal Court?

Fuzzy-minded romanticism … not just naive but dangerous.’

International law in general?

It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law.’

Offering incentives to rogue states?

I don’t do carrots.’

But he does do shtick. I happen to agree with all the above statements, but I can see why the international community might be minded to throw its hands up and shriek, ‘Quelle horreur!’ It’s not just the rest of the world. Most of the American media are equally stunned. …

In a roomful of Euro-grandees, [Bolton] was perfectly relaxed … [He] thwacked every ball they served back down their gullets with amazing precision. …He seemed to relish their hostility. At one event, a startled British cabinet minister said to me afterwards, ‘He doesn’t mean all that, does he?’

But he does. And that’s why the Bolton flap is very revealing about conventional wisdom on transnationalism. Diplomats are supposed to be ‘diplomatic’. Why is that? Well, as the late Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson used to say, diplomacy is the art of letting the other fellow have your way. In other words, you were polite, discreet, circumspect, etc., as a means to an end. Not any more.

None of John Bolton’s detractors is worried that his bluntness will jeopardise the administration’s policy goals. Quite the contrary. They’re concerned that the administration has policy goals — that it isn’t yet willing to subordinate its national interest to the polite transnational pieties. In that sense, our understanding of ‘diplomacy’ has become corrupted: it’s no longer the language through which nation states treat with one another so much as the code-speak consensus of a global elite.

For much of the civilised world the transnational pabulum has become an end in itself, and one largely unmoored from anything so tiresome as reality. It doesn’t matter whether there is any global warming or, if there is, whether Kyoto will do anything about it or, if you ratify Kyoto, whether you bother to comply with it: all that matters is that you sign on to the transnational articles of faith. The same thinking applies to the ICC, and Darfur, and the Oil-for-Fraud programme, and anything else involving the UN. …

The normal Western deference to the [UN] has grossly over-inflated its ‘legitimacy’ and ‘moral authority’. That’s what John Bolton had in mind with his observations about international law:

It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so — because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States.’

Just so. When George Bush Sr. went through the UN to assemble his coalition for the first Gulf war, it might have been a ‘diplomatic triumph’ but it was also the biggest single contributing factor to the received wisdom in the decade and a half since that only the UN has the international legitimacy to sanction war — to the point where, on the eve of Iraq’s liberation, the Church of England decided that a ‘just war’ could only be one approved by the Security Council. That in turn amplifies the UN’s claim to sole global legitimacy in a thousand other areas, big and small — the environment, guns, smoking, taxation.

Yet the assumption behind much of the criticism of Bolton … is that, regardless of his government’s foreign policy, a UN ambassador has to be at some level a UN booster. Twenty years ago, the then Secretary of State George Schultz used to welcome the Reagan administration’s ambassadorial appointments to his office and invite each chap to identify his country on the map. The guy who’d just landed the embassy in Chad would invariably point to Chad. ‘No,’ Schultz would say, ‘this is your country’ — and point to the United States. Nobody would expect a US ambassador to the Soviet Union to be a big booster for the Soviets. …

A slyer argument is that yes, the UN’s in a terrible state, what with the Oil-for-Fraud and the Congolese moppets and the flop response to Darfur and the tsunami, but that’s all the more reason why America needs an ambassador able to build consensus for much-needed reforms. The problem with that seductive line is that most of the proposed reforms are likely to make things worse. Again, Bolton is right to be dismissive about restructuring the [UN] Security Council. Even as the Second World War victory parade preserved in aspic, it makes little sense.

I can find only one example of a senior UN figure having the guts to call a member state a ‘totalitarian regime’. It was former secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali … and he was talking about America.

A Secretary-General of the United Nations dared to name a member country as a totalitarian regime, and the country he named was the United States!

John Bolton’s sin isn’t that he’s ‘undiplomatic’, but that he’s correct.

This ship of state has lost a great navigator.

Never forget the failure 4

We rightly celebrate heroism today on the anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11/2001 at the same time as we mourn.

It was a day of pride as well as grief. But it was also a day of failure and shame.

Whose failure? Whose shame?

Brandon J. Weichart writes at American Greatness:

The September 11, 2001 attacks were the result of an unmitigated intelligence failure. No, 9/11 was not an “inside job”, as many conspiracy theorists believe. Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network were responsible. But, the 9/11 plot did not happen in a vacuum.

In reality, America’s elephantine national security state had known of bin Laden and his network years before the horrific events of 9/11. Some of the most powerful people in the national security state routinely downplayed and ignored the threat al-Qaeda posed to the United States before 19 hijackers murdered 2,911 people in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

More troubling, though, is the fact that many of the same people who downplayed or ignored the threat of 9/11 and al-Qaeda were also intimately involved in nearly every foreign policy disaster of the last 18 years—from the Iraq War blunder to the inexcusable plot to frame President Donald Trump as a Russian agent.

The enduring failures of the national security state—from its inability to anticipate 9/11 in spite of clear warning signs, to advocating boneheaded Mideast policies—can be plotted in the career paths of individual members of the so-called deep state.

Consider John Brennan. Here is a man who was a self-described Communist when he joined the CIA in the Reagan Administration, at the height of Cold War against the Soviet Union. A supposed expert in U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East, as well as a fluent Arabic speaker, Brennan eventually rose to the rank of CIA station chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (where he may or may not have converted to Islam).

While there, Brennan apparently developed a powerful case of “clientitis” (a term for when U.S. foreign policy experts become so involved in their regions of focus that they start substituting for U.S. national interests those of the countries they are observing).

Brennan routinely ignored calls from his colleagues to pressure his Saudi counterparts to hand over more information on bin Laden and the rising al-Qaeda terrorist network in the 1990s (al-Qaeda was, first and foremost, a political and religious movement consisting of and controlled mostly by Saudi nationals).

Things got so bad with Brennan that when the Clinton Administration considered using force either to kill or capture bin Laden in the 1990s, Brennan led the effort to stop it. Had Clinton followed through with his earlier promises of bringing bin Laden to justice, instead of listening to compromised bureaucrats like Brennan, 9/11 might have been avoided. Of course, it did not help that Clinton’s own CIA director, George Tenet, backed Brennan’s opposition to the proposed bin Laden raid.

When George W. Bush took office, inexplicably he chose to keep Tenet on as the director of central intelligence. Tenet, in turn, kept incompetents like Brennan in place (while either marginalizing or forcing out those few intelligence officials who actually took the al-Qaeda threat seriously, such as Richard Clarke and Michael Scheurer, the original head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit).

Sadly, Brennan would go on to enjoy a long career, even after 9/11. This is as much a failure of the permanent bureaucracy (which is supposedly a meritocracy) as it is of the political establishment for leaving people like Brennan atop the sprawling intelligence community and not demanding answers for how such “wise men” could have missed 9/11. In a bygone era, after enduring a catastrophic professional disaster, men like John Brennan would have been forced to resign.

Instead, Brennan got a promotion. Barack Obama elevated him to CIA director in his second term. Brennan’s short-sightedness and incompetence eventually calcified into outright hostility for the very democratic ideals that he was purportedly defending. For instance, when the American people began questioning the authority that our opaque intelligence services had assumed in the dark days following the 9/11 attacks, Brennan used the potent power of the CIA to spy on members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who were charged with investigating reports that detainees in CIA custody may have been subjected to abuse.

Then, as the coup de grace to his otherwise disturbing career, Brennan oversaw one of the greatest abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). He, along with several other fellow travelers in the national security state, concocted a counterintelligence investigation into Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

The investigation was based on innuendo and lies that Brennan knowingly (and wantonly) perpetuated, which claimed that Trump and key members of his presidential campaign were aided and abetted by the Kremlin to swing the 2016 presidential election in his favor. Other Obama national security officials, including former Undersecretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas, proudly proclaimed in 2017 that this cabal had “buried” the details of the investigation deep in the federal bureaucracy, so as to prevent Trump from using the power of his office to end the investigation.

Where was this zeal in the 1990s, when it came to an actual threat like al-Qaeda?

The trajectory of Brennan’s career is a perfect snapshot for the growth—and compounding failures—of the U.S. national security state since 9/11. Many of the same people who refused to accept that al-Qaeda was a threat, or who advanced equally disastrous policies in the Middle East, are the same individuals who launched a frightening covert, rolling, administrative coup against a duly elected president. Not only is our deep state painfully incompetent but it is also clearly corrupt.

How might the last 18 years have turned out if ignoramuses like Brennan, who downplayed al-Qaeda’s threat to the United States in the 1990s, and who had refused to pressure our Saudi “allies” into being more forthcoming with information about Osama bin Laden, had been fired for failing to anticipate 9/11? Instead of being fired, though, these bumbling bureaucrats were given more power and money to run roughshod over our democracy in the name of protecting us. They had no clue how to protect us before 9/11—and they were certainly clueless about how to protect us after that terrible day.

When Americans say, “We will never forget 9/11,” they should add: “Or how U.S. intelligence failed us!”

Will the guilty men and women ever be made to pay a price for their betrayal?

At the very least, may their names live in ignominy.

Stuck with the windmill 1

There are plotters of the man-made global warming (“Chicken Little”) scare who know it is not true. They pretend it is true to force our submission to their “saving” rule. That is their motive and their aim. From time to time they admit it. They play us for fools. We will surely have to surrender to them, they reckon, for a cause so compelling – the saving of our planet from “burning up”. They are not hard to understand. They want power. They are organizers of populations. Herders of the human species. Super busybodies.

In addition, there are the untold millions of gulls who believe them. Who are convinced that the planet really is “burning up” and we must do what THEY say if we are to save our home in the cosmos.

It seems a lot of them really believe that if they give money to Al Gore; drive a Prius; stop eating meat; stop flying in aircraft; put solar panels on their roofs; vote for THEIR candidate in all elections; shiver in winter rather than use central heating; boil in summer rather than use air-conditioning; attend warmist protest rallies; put stickers on their cars announcing their virtuous faith in the warmist cult; curse President Trump for not signing a magic “accord” signed by other government leaders in Paris; and so on an on, they are actually doing things that will help to save the planet from “burning up”.

All the Democratic candidates for the presidency are adherents of this extra-weird faith; whether disingenuously because they know it is not true, or ingenuously because they believe it is, who knows?

We quote from some recent articles challenging and debunking the absurd belief.

Paul Driessen writes at Townhall:

CNN just hosted a seven-hour climate bore-athon. That climate cataclysms are real, imminent and indeed already devastating our planet is an article of faith. So host Wolf Blitzer and ten Democrat presidential wannabes vied to make the most extravagant claims about how bad things are and who would spend the most taxpayer money and impose the most Green New Deal rules to restrict our freedoms and transform our energy, economy, agriculture and transportation, in the name of preventing further cataclysms.

Bankrupt the country, in fact.

Cory Booker opened the bidding at $3 trillion. Kamala Harris and Julian Castro raised it to $10 trillion, and Bernie Sanders upped it to $16 trillion. Then they got down to the business of which personal choices and living standards would be rolled back the furthest. Among the proposals:

Ban all commercial air travel, except for ruling and privileged classes. Change our dietary guidelines or ban beef outright. “Massively” increase taxes, to “make polluters pay” for emitting greenhouse gases. Eliminate onshore drilling, offshore drilling, fracking, coal-fired power plants and internal combustion engines. No pipelines. No new nuclear power plants. Ensure “climate justice”.

Whatever that is.

The first bucket of icy cold reality is that we simply do not face a climate emergency. Computer models certainly predict all kinds of catastrophes. But both the models and increasingly hysterical assertions of planetary doom are completely out of synch with reality.

The second, even colder bucket of reality is that the wind and sun may be free, renewable, sustainable. and eco-friendly. But the technologies and raw materials required to harness this widely dispersed, intermittent, weather dependent energy to benefit humanity absolutely are not. In fact, they are far more environmentally harmful than any of the fossil fuel energy sources they would supposedly replace.

Biofuels. US ethanol quotas currently gobble up over 40% of America’s corn – grown on cropland nearly the size of Iowa, to displace about 10% of America’s gasoline. Corn ethanol also requires vast quantities of water, pesticides, fertilizers, natural gas, gasoline and diesel, to produce and transport a fuel that drives up food prices, adversely affects food aid and nutrition in poor nations, damages small engines, and gets one-third fewer miles per gallon than gasoline.

Replacing 100% of US gasoline with ethanol would require some 360 million acres of corn. That’s seven times the land mass of Utah. But eliminating fossil fuel production means we’d also have to replace the oil and natural gas feed stocks required for pharmaceuticals, wind turbine blades, solar panel films, paints, synthetic fibers, fertilizers, and plastics for cell phones, computers, eyeglasses, car bodies and countless other products. That would mean planting corn on almost 14 times the area of Utah.

Solar powerSolar panels on Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base generate a minuscule 15 megawatts of electricity, about 40% of the year, from 72,000 panels on 140 acres. Arizona’s Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant generates 760 times more electricity, from less land, 90-95% of the time.

Generating Palo Verde’s electricity output using Nellis technology would require acreage ten times larger than Washington, DC. And the solar panels would still provide electricity only 40% of the year.

Generating the 3.9 billion megawatt-hours that Americans consumed in 2018 would require blanketing over ten million acres with solar panels. That’s half of South Carolina – a lot of wildlife habitat and scenic land. And we’d still get that electricity only when sufficient sun is shining.

Wind powerMandated, subsidized wind energy also requires millions of acres for turbines and new transmission lines, and billions of tons of concrete, steel, copper, rare earth metals and fiberglass.

Like solar panels, wind turbines produce intermittent, unreliable electricity that costs much more than coal, gas or nuclear electricity – once subsidies are removed – and must be backed up by fossil fuel generators that have to go from standby to full-power many times a day, very inefficiently, every time the wind stops blowing. Turbine blades kill numerous raptors, other birds and bats every year – a million or more every year in the USA alone. Their light flicker and infrasonic noise impair human health.

Modern coal and gas-fired power plants can generate 600 megawatts some 95% of the time from less than 300 acres. Indiana’s Fowler Ridge wind farm also generates 600 megawatts – from 350 towering turbines, located on more than 50,000 acres, and less than 30% of the year.

Now let’s suppose we’re going to use wind power to replace those 3.9 billion megawatt-hours of US electricity consumption. Let’s also suppose we’re going to get rid of all those coal and gas-fired backup power plants – and use wind turbines to generate enough extra electricity every windy day to charge batteries for just seven straight windless days.

That would require a lot of extra wind turbines, as we are forced to go into lower and lower quality wind locations. Instead of generating full nameplate power maybe one-third of the year, on average, they will do so only around 16% of the year. Instead of the 58,000 turbines we have now, the United States would need some 14 million turbines, each one 400 feet tall, each one capable of generating 1.8 megawatts at full capacity, when the wind is blowing at the proper speed.

Assuming a barely sufficient 15 acres apiece, those monster turbines would require some 225 million acres! That’s well over twice the land area of California – without including transmission lines! Their bird-butchering blades would wipe out raptors, other birds and bats in vast regions of the USA.

Eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, geese and other high-flying birds and bats would virtually disappear from our skies. Insects and vermin would proliferate.

Seems the entire ecosystem would be severely disrupted.

Manufacturing those wind turbines would require something on the order of 4 billion tons of steel, copper and alloys for the towers and turbines; 8 billion tons of steel and concrete for the foundations; 4 million tons of rare earth metals for motors, magnets and other components; 1 billion tons of petroleum-based composites for the nacelle covers and turbine blades; and massive quantities of rock and gravel for millions of miles of access roads to the turbines. Connecting our wind farms and cities with high-voltage transmission lines would require still more raw materials – and more millions of acres.

All these materials must be mined, processed, smelted, manufactured into finished products, and shipped all over the world. They would require removing hundreds of billions of tons of earth and rock overburden – and crushing tens of billions of tons of ore – at hundreds of new mines and quarries.

Every step in this entire process would require massive amounts of fossil fuels, because wind turbines and solar panels cannot operate earth moving and mining equipment – or produce consistently high enough heat to melt silica, iron, copper, rare earth or other materials.

Not once did any of CNN’s hosts or Green New Deal candidates so much as mention any of this. To them, “renewable” energy will just happen, like manna from Gaia, or beamed down from the Starship Enterprise.

They should no longer be allowed to dodge these issues, to go from assuming the climate is in crisis, to assuming “reliable, affordable, renewable, sustainable, eco-friendly” alternatives to fossil fuel (and nuclear) energy will just magically appear, or can just be willed or subsidized into existence.

Citizens, newscasters, debate hosts and legislators who are more firmly grounded in reality need to confront Green New Dealers with hard questions and icy cold facts – and keep repeating them until the candidates provide real answers. No more dissembling, obfuscation or incantations permitted.

And the frail equipment we build in the hope that, if we put it out there, sun and wind will kindly come along and use it to move us and warm us, does not last long.

John Hinderaker writes at PowerLine:

Wind turbines only last for around 20 years, so many of them are now wearing out. That raises serious questions about disposal of defunct wind turbine parts. The turbines’ giant blades are not recyclable, so they must be dumped in landfills. The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports on one South Dakota landfill that is saying no mas to wind turbine blades:

The Argus Leader reports that more than 100 wind turbine blades measuring 120 ft long have been dumped in a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, landfill, but there’s a problem: the massive blades are taking up too much room, according to local City officials. …

A wind farm near Albert Lea, Minn., brought dozens of their old turbine blades to the Sioux Falls dump this summer.

But City Hall says it won’t take anymore unless owners take more steps to make the massive fiberglass pieces less space consuming.

The wind energy industry isn’t immune to cyclical replacement, with turbine blades needing to be replaced after a decade or two in use. That has wind energy producers looking for places to accept the blades on their turbines that need to be replaced.

For at least one wind-farm in south central Minnesota, it found the Sioux Falls Regional Sanitary Landfill to be a suitable facility to take its aged-out turbine blades.

But nothing disilusions the faithful. They go on believing that the earth is warming so fast that the ice-caps are melting, and over and over again they set out to “prove” it.

They never do.

James Delingpole writes at Breitbart:

Yet another greenie expedition to the Arctic to raise awareness of ‘global warming’ has been scuppered by unexpected large quantities of ice. This brings to a total of six the number of Ship of Fools expeditions where weather reality has made a mockery of climate theory.

According to Maritime Bulletin:

Arctic tours ship MS MALMO with 16 passengers on board got stuck in ice on Sep 3 off Longyearbyen, Svalbard Archipelago, halfway between Norway and North Pole. The ship is on Arctic tour with Climate Change documentary film team, and tourists, concerned with Climate Change and melting Arctic ice. All 16 Climate Change warriors were evacuated by helicopter in challenging conditions, all are safe. 7 crew remains on board, waiting for Coast Guard ship assistance.

The reporter, Erofey Schkvarkin clearly has a sense of humour. He adds:

Something is very wrong with Arctic ice, instead of melting as ordered by UN/IPCC, it captured the ship with Climate Change Warriors. …

Here is the Ship of Fools list of shame

Ship of Fools 1 [December, 2013] Australian climate researcher Chris Turkey and a crew of climate alarmists on a mission to demonstrate just how much Antarctic ice has been affected by global warming get stuck in unexpectedly thick ice and have to be rescued by helicopter.

Ship of Fools II [September, 2016] Arctic expedition led by veteran explorer David Hempleman-Adams to raise awareness of “permanent irreversible change in the sea ice landscape of the Arctic” caused by global warming is ruined by unexpectedly large quantities of ice.

Ship of Fools III [June, 2017] Global warming research study in Canada cancelled because of ice. “It became clear to me very quickly that these weren’t just heavy ice conditions, these were unprecedented ice conditions” claims the lead scientist, blaming it on “climate change fully in action” and calling it “a wake up call for all of us in this country.”

Ship of Fools IV [September, 2017]Arctic Mission sailing expedition to North Pole to raise awareness of global warming has to turn back after yachts find their passage blocked by large quantities of unexpected frozen white substance.

Ship of Fools V [August, 2018] Scientists, students, filmmakers from University of Rhode Island’s Inner Space Center on a mission to “document climate change effects” in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago have to be rescued after the ship is damaged after grounding on unexpected hard, bluey-white substance floating on the sea.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Recycling: a cult of spurious virtue 10

Recycling is largely a waste of time, money, and energy.

Apart from metals and one or two other things, nothing is worth recycling.

Our guess is that some people like doing it because it makes them feel good, which is nice for them.

But what if recycling is in most cases worse than useless?

In a 2013 article, ListVerse set out 10 ways in which recycling positively hurts the environment. We paraphrase the list:

Contamination: if there are impurities or toxins on the original material—say lead paint from an aluminum spray can—they’ll usually make it through the recycling process and end up buried in the new product, which might turn out to be, say, a soda can. The worst part is that sometimes we don’t know when something’s contaminated—until it’s too late. For example, we’re just realizing that hundreds of buildings in Taiwan made from recycled steel have been giving people gamma radiation poisoning for the past twelve years.

The recycling process itself produces a lot of pollutants—from the exhaust billowing out of recycling trucks to energy used at recycling plants. In 2009 there were about 179,000 waste collection vehicles on the road—that’s both recycling and garbage collection. The exhaust from each one of those vehicles contains over three dozen airborne toxins. Both garbage trucks and recycling trucks run on fossil fuels, and they both produce exhaust. By adding more trucks to the fleet, no matter what their purpose, we’re increasing air pollution. And that’s not even considering the recycling facilities. One recycling plant in Washington state produces more toxic emissions than any other factory in the region. And the next three biggest polluters in the area? Yeah, they’re also recycling plants.

When paper is recycled, it’s all mixed together into a pulp. That pulp is washed, cleaned, and then pressed into new paper sheets. During that process, wastes like paper fibers, inks, cleaning chemicals, and dyes are filtered out into one giant pudding known as paper sludge. The sludge is then either burned or sent to a landfill, where it can leach dozens of toxic chemicals and heavy metals into groundwater. Eighty-seven percent of new paper now comes from trees that are raised for the sole purpose of paper production. The US harvests about fifteen million acres of forest each year, but they’re planting twenty-two million – every year we have seven million more acres of forest. More recycling will actually reduce the demand for those forests.

There are about seven types of plastic that you’ll find in day to day life, and only two of them are recyclable. Anything else placed in a recycling bin will be collected, processed, and sorted, and then thrown straight into a landfill. Even trying to recycle some things—for example the plastic that electronics are packaged in—wastes all those resources.  Take plastic shopping bags as an example of the waste of recycling. It costs $4,000 to recycle one ton of plastic bags, but a ton of recycled bags only sells for $32! As a result, about 300,000 tons of them end up in a landfill every year.

It would seem to make sense to try to recycle used oil back into something useful. But more often than not, recycling creates even more toxic chemicals in the process. Most small scale oil treatment centers use something known as the acid-clay process. This gets impurities out of the oil, but leaves you with a toxic sludge containing all of those impurities, plus dangerous chemicals like hydrochloric acid. So what do they do with that toxic waste? They burn it, sending chemicals like nitric oxide and sulfur dioxide into the air. And that’s pretty much the official method, even though it’s about as effective at fighting pollution as saving a person from drowning by throwing them in a lake.

Even the recycling of metals is not always the economic good it would seem to be:

Demand for most recyclable products is growing way too fast to keep up with anything that recycling can—at the moment—provide. Aluminum is especially difficult, since demand for it grows at nearly ten percent every year. That means we’re still going to mine for new aluminum, especially since recycled aluminum isn’t suitable for certain things. For example, recycled soda cans can’t give you the quality you need to build an airplane, or even to use in electronic circuits. Even if the cans go back to being cans, it’s not enough. Here’s some math: The average American drinks 2.5 cans of soda per day. That’s about 778 million cans. If 100,000 cans are recycled every minute (they are), we’re still about 600 million cans short. And that’s just in one day.

And then there’s glass, which comes from sand, the most abundant resource on the planet. The process for recycling glass is more detrimental than the process for creating virgin glass.

One of the recent trends in recycling right now is all-in-one recycling. All the paper, plastic, glass, and metal waste goes into one recycle bin, which is sorted at the factory. The argument is that it requires fewer trucks to pick it all up. But the trade off is even worse—all that extra sorting requires millions of dollars worth of new equipment, and the pollution is just transferred over to the factories that have to build it.

And Daniel J. Mitchell, a Cato Institute libertarian with whom we sometimes – as now – agree, writes (in part) at Townhall Finance:

While it’s very good to have a clean environment, many environmentalists don’t understand cost-benefit analysis. As such, they make our lives less pleasant – inferior light bulbs, substandard toilets, inadequate washing machines, crummy dishwashers, dribbling showers, and dysfunctional gas cans – for little if any benefit. We can add recycling to that list.

To be sure, all the hassle and time of sorting our garbage might be an acceptable cost if something was being achieved. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Not even close.

For recycling to be a socially commendable activity, it has to pass one of two tests: the profit test, or the net environmental-savings test. If something passes the profit test, it’s likely already being done. People are already recycling gold or other commodities from the waste stream, if the costs of doing so are less than the amount for which the resource can be sold.

The real question arises with mandatory recycling programs — people recycle because they will be fined if they don’t, not because they expect to make money. If you add up the time being wasted on recycling rituals, it’s even more expensive to ask each household to do it. The difference is that this is an implicit tax, a donation required of citizens, and doesn’t cost money from the public budget. But time is the least renewable of all resources. For recycling to make any sense, it must cost less to dispose of recycled material than to put the stuff in a landfill. But we have plenty of landfill space, in most of the country. And much of the heaviest material we want to recycle, particularly glass, is chemically inert and will not decompose in a landfill. Landfilling glass does no environmental harm.

So, is [any] recycling useful?  Aluminum cans and corrugated cardboard, if they can be collected clean and at scale, are highly recyclable. But for most other things, recycling harms the environment. If you care about the environment, you should put your bottles and other glass in the regular garbage, every time.

Hundreds of cities have repealed recycling mandates because they simply don’t make sense. … It’s time to admit the recycling mania is a giant placebo. It makes people feel good, but the idea that it improves the condition of humans or the planet is highly dubious.

Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America: a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources. Americans became racked with garbage guilt. … Politicians across the country enacted laws mandating recycling and setting arbitrary goals typically requiring that at least 40 percent of trash be recycled, often even more — 50 percent in New York and California, 60 percent in New Jersey, 70 percent in Rhode Island. The Federal Government and dozens of states passed laws that required public agencies, newspapers and other companies to purchase recycled materials.

America today has a good deal more landfill space available than it did 10 years ago. … If Americans keep generating garbage at current rates for 1,000 years, and if all their garbage is put in a landfill 100 yards deep, by the year 3000 this national garbage heap will fill a square piece of land 35 miles on each side. This doesn’t seem a huge imposition in a country the size of America. …The millennial landfill would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the range land now available for grazing in the continental United States.

Many experts and public officials acknowledge that America could simply bury its garbage, but they object to this option because it diverts trash from recycling programs. Recycling, which was originally justified as the only solution to a desperate national problem, has become a goal in itself. The leaders of the recycling movement raise money and attract new members through their campaigns to outlaw “waste” and prevent landfills from opening. They get financing from public and private sources (including the recycling industry) to research and promote recycling. By turning garbage into a political issue, environmentalists have created jobs for themselves as lawyers, lobbyists, researchers, educators and moral guardians.

The bottom line is that most recycling programs impose a fiscal and personal cost on people for very meager environmental benefits. Indeed, the benefits are often negative once indirect costs are added to the equation.

We rest our case.

Posted under Economics by Jillian Becker on Friday, September 6, 2019

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Genocide as art 2

The Left has ruined art as it has ruined everything – music, literature, architecture, universities, government, the press, science, travel, civility …

Here is Leftist (ie. racist) Art ennobling the human race and enhancing civilization with advocacy of genocide:

Jim Hayek writes at American Truth Today:

San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) is a large museum next to the Moscone Convention Center downtown. This non-profit is funded by the City of San Francisco, the National Endowment for the Arts, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the James Irvine Foundation. From July 23 to August 25, YBCA screened Jonathan Garcia’s movie Why Don’t We Murder More White People? It was on an endless loop and each cycle lasted 11 minutes and 17 seconds, and is now on Youtube. Mr. Garcia produced this video as a year-long YBCA fellow, for which he got a stipend and an honorarium. YBCA identifies him as: “Community Engagement & Inclusion Associate, Chief-of-Staff of the SOCIAL CLUB, author”.

Most of the video is of non-whites complaining about whites. They say such things as:

“I’m angry at white people most of the time.”

“It’s like, just part of like whiteness to be abusive and violent.”

“Whiteness invades my life and my mind.”

“You could be violent, and through that perpetuate whiteness. You could not look at your whiteness and be perpetuating that violence, still. Like, you could do nothing and still be violent.”

Some of the speakers encourage violence:

“I think if you’re not supporting people of color and to end white supremacy, and you’re neutral, or you are that person that’s perpetrating it, then you shouldn’t—I think you deserve harm.”

“I think that harm is radical. But I think sometimes radical is needed.”

“And, sometimes I feel like non-violence is not the best route.”

The video assumes that white people are a kind of plague; the only question is what to do about them. Some of the speakers do not call for violence, but they never say killing whites would be immoral. They have other reasons for hesitating to kill whites:

“I’m not gonna harm a white person, I’m not gonna murder a white person, ’cause I’m scared.”

“I think the reason we don’t murder more white people is because they are protected, in a sense.”

“You don’t wanna be violent ’cause that’ll make you look bad or something. Or like, make you and your community look bad. But, whiteness is violence.

“I think that we don’t murder white people because there is a thought process around, ‘White is Right’,”

Some of the speakers make a distinction between killing white people and destroying “whitenes”:

“‘Why don’t we kill more white people?’ is because it’s not going to solve any issues . . . . What we have to eradicate is whiteness. You know, this whole notion of ‘white genocide’.  We don’t want to kill white people. We want to kill whiteness.”

“Whiteness should be, definitely, harmed and like, destroyed.”

These short commentaries are interspersed with staged shots of a white hand grabbing a non-white man’s head from the top and turning it back and forth. There are also shots of a non-white man wearing a whiteface mask as he plays chess or pulls a rope (an image of lynching?) out of his laundry. At one point, there is a voiceless caption over the man in whiteface: “Whiteness is the root of all trauma.”

Presumably, these peculiar scenes are what makes this an “art film”, to be screened at an art center.

The exhibit panel at YBCA introducing the video noted that “we continue to watch the death of black and brown people become normalized in parallel with the ruse of white supremacy”.

Ruse? Surely a misprint considering the context?  I think “rise” was meant. But many a true word is spoken by a typo!

It wouldn’t be fair to expect anyone at the art center to know that Roland Fryer, the youngest black man to receive tenure at Harvard, published a 2016 study showing that blacks and Hispanics are slightly less likely to be shot by the police than whites. Nor would they have heard that another recent study concluded: “We find no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings, and White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers.” This is “art”, after all; the facts need not concern us.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts would never showcase a video of whites talking about non-whites—except, perhaps, to lavish praise on them. Deborah Cullinan, CEO of YBCA, declined my request to screen a video of the white perspective on race.

YBCA describes Miss Cullinan as “one of the nation’s leading thinkers on the pivotal role arts organizations can play in shaping our social and political landscape, and has spent years mobilizing communities through arts and culture”. What does she hope to “mobilize communities” to do by screening a video about murdering whites?

Do such “thinkers” want a race war?

How did such idiots (which is what they actually are) get into these positions of authority?

Why is this “art” not recognized instantly by everyone as racism – extreme racism?

If this isn’t racism, what is?

If this isn’t “hate speech”, what is?

Idiocy has no skin color.

Posted under Art, Race by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, September 4, 2019

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Gone with the wind 1

Wind and solar energy?

Forget it.

Posted under Energy, Videos by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, September 4, 2019

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Tell them (reprise) 3

The United Socialist States of America?

Is it really possible that the United States of America will vote to become a socialist country? Is the Democratic Party now irredeemably a socialist party? If so, does it as such have a real chance of winning the House, the Senate and the Presidency?

Victor David Hanson writes at Townhall:

A recent Harris poll showed that about half of so-called millennials would like to live in a socialist country. …

But they have no idea what socialism is. Professor Hanson gives several reason why millennials are attracted to what they think it is, including this:

Schools and colleges have replaced the empirical study of economics, history and politics with race, class and gender indoctrination.

Few young activists … know the 20th century history of … Cambodian dictator Pol Pot, Soviet Union strongman Joseph Stalin and Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong [who] each killed millions of their own people.

Today’s students romanticize Che Guevara and Fidel Castro because they are clueless about their bloody careers. The Castro government for over a half-century was responsible for the murders of thousands of Cubans and Latin Americans in efforts to solidify Cuban “socialism” throughout Latin America.

When our schools and colleges do not teach unbiased economics and history, then millions of youth have no idea why the United States, Great Britain, Germany and Japan became wealthy and stable by embracing free-market capitalism and constitutional government. Few learn why naturally rich nations such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela — or entire regions such as Central America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia — have traditionally lagged far behind due to years of destructive central planning, socialist economics and coerced communist government.

The handmaiden of failed socialist regimes has always been ignorance of the past and present. And that is never truer than among today’s American college-degreed (but otherwise economically and historically illiterate) youth.

What can be done to counter the propaganda of the Left which is winning so many with its false promises?

The offering is parceled so prettily: economic equality, guaranteed jobs, free health care, free education. But take off the wrapping, and the contents are poverty, dreariness, staleness,  hopelessness at best, agony and violent death at worst.

Here is our answer, taken almost verbatim from the article titled Tell Them (under Pages in our margin), first posted in mid October 2016, shortly before the election that fortunately brought Donald Trump to the presidency:

Why do millions of Americans “think” that economic equality is morally desirable?

Why are tens of millions content to live on state support without attempting to improve their standard of living by their own efforts?

Why do millions of university students in America admire intellectuals who hate America, such as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and make an icon out of the sadistic mass-murderer Che Guevara?

Why? Because they’ve been told to. They’ve been told that good people do and “think” these things. They want to be good. They believe what they’ve been taught.

The same answer applies to: Why Muslim women believe they must put up with being sexually mutilated and enslaved to men. Why multitudes the world over believe that there was a nation called Palestinians who were driven off their land by aggressive usurping Jews. Why Christians believe that a man who died long ago lives on as one part of a three-part god. Why Muslims and Christians imagine that when you are dead you are still alive in another place. Why Jews believe that their benign and omnipotent God has some unknowable but just purpose in having six million of them enslaved, starved, tortured and murdered by Nazis.

They believe these things because they were taught them. All this was drummed into them. They were raised to know that that is how it ought to be. 

Few if any ideas are easy to spread. To get an idea accepted by large numbers of people takes patience, persistence, conviction, tireless energy on the part of those who want to spread it. The idea need not make good sense, be reasonable, come with proofs that it will work as its advocates say it will. It doesn’t even have to appeal strongly to the emotions. It just needs to become what “everybody” accepts.

If you want your idea to prevail over others, this is what it takes. First the conviction that it is right and everyone should know it. Next, a decision to spread it. Then energy, persistence, patience – and eventually force.

What made Christianity catch on? It wasn’t the life-style – poor, austere, hard, humble. Even the promise of eternal life was not a reliable recommendation as anyone’s eternity could as easily be endless agony as endless bliss (it was and is a 50-50 tossup). The theology was so hard to make sense of that the Church itself to this day has not settled it. And the morality it demanded was against human nature. So what made it succeed? Energy, persistence, patience, indoctrination, force.

See how long it took. From the time St Paul invented “Jesus Christ” to the time the emperor of Rome (Constantine) accepted the new god and the doctrines that had accreted to him, thus making it fashionable to be Christian (just a few decades before force was applied and it became compulsory), nearly three hundred years had passed. Three hundred years of persistent, patient, energetic proselytizing. Even then, it was not securely implanted in the minds of the subjects. One Emperor – Julian – came along and actually tried to reverse the trend by suppressing Christianity and re-instating paganism. He didn’t have enough time. He died in battle, his successors went back to favoring Christianity, and the Emperor Theodosius decreed that Christianity was to be the religion of the state. With him the final phase of force arrived.

Marxist Communism took less time to get a real grip on the minds of multitudes. Means of communications had speeded up considerably between the 4th and the 19th centuries, but still it took half a century (if one arbitrarily dates it from the first publication of Marx’s Das Kapital in 1867 to the success of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917). And still the same method had to be employed: energetic, patient, persistent proselytizingMuch repetition was required. The fever of enthusiasm had to be caught by two generations of intellectuals before the infection became a pandemic. Then came force. 

The creed must become the norm. So pervasive must the doctrine be that anybody who does not subscribe to it wholeheartedly will appear egregious; an oddball, a rebel, a danger to everyone else and even to himself. The orthodoxy must be accepted without question as good, so anyone who opposes it is ipso facto a bad person.

By the late 20th century communications had become even faster, so the New Left, rising in 1968, could achieve the peaks of power in Europe in less than thirty years, and  in America in forty years. It started as a weak revolutionary movement which brought nothing good with it to Western Europe and America, but much that was bad: recreational drugs, AIDS, and terrorism as self-expression. New Leftists complained that they had too much freedom, too much choice, that tolerance of their politics was repressive. And this irrational case was widely accepted, even while, on the other side of the iron curtain, a young man burnt himself to death to protest against the lack of freedom, choice, and tolerance.

The New Left movement was ignorant, blind, puerile, unreasonable, sadistic – yet it became, it has become, the prevailing belief-system of the greater part of the Western world, and at present in almost all “free” countries the standard ideology (or religion) of the state, no matter what political party is in power. How?

The plan was made. The plan was put into execution. Gramsci supplied the phrase for the overall strategy: “The Long March through the Institutions”.   It wasn’t enough that the New Leftists should protest, should threaten and carry out violent attacks, should shout and write and display their slogans. They must take over the institutions of power, everyone of them: the smallest citizens’ groupings – such as library committees – were not too small. But none were too big. Town councils had to be infiltrated and eventually dominated; then newspapers, radio and TV channels; boards of education very importantly; the schools, the universities; the civil service; the law courts; a major political party; then the country’s legislative body, and eventually the pinnacles of power, prime ministerships, presidencies. Police forces and the military were formidable challenges. The tactic was first to discredit them and pressure them from outside by means of public opinion guided by the converted press; then to infiltrate them; finally bend them from within to conform to the doctrine and advance the cause.

Meanwhile books, films, articles, lessons, lectures, systems of reward, prizes must all promote the cause. It took decades, but it succeeded. Even in America now there have been at least two generations raised on New Left doctrine through schools, universities, books, films, the press, and TV.

How otherwise could the free Western world, whose policies and armies opposed the oppressing, enslaving Communist Eastern world, have been successfully converted to the very doctrine that oppressed, enslaved, tortured and mass murdered? It didn’t take reason. It didn’t take persuasion. The idea was no more innately and manifestly true and good than the idea of Christianity. But as in the case of spreading Christianity –  that weird, obscure, muddled, sorrowful, other-worldly new religion – it took conviction, decision, planning, energy, persistence, repetition, on the part of its missionaries. And finally force.

Only Leftist doctrine – government control of the economy, government provision of welfare, confiscatory and punitive taxation – is politically correct now in America. Collectivist thinking is the norm. Good people vote left. (When, in 2008, a Californian woman came upon a stall set up on a main street to canvass votes for the Republican presidential candidate John McCain, she called the police, and was astonished to learn that to solicit public support for the anti-collectivist Republican Party was not illegal.) Again, as with Christianity, the allegiance to the doctrine has little or nothing to do with its ideas. Most adherents could not explain what the ideas are. But they know that good people find them good, that good people vote for them. And that is all they need to know. Who doesn’t want to think of himself as a good person?

But the question of how did this become the case has not been fully answered. There is another aspect to the story. In order for one doctrine to succeed, it is necessary for other, counter doctrines to fail.

And the success of Leftism now – would it have happened if the conservative Right had been paying attention? Remember that old saying that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”? Well, the Right was not being vigilant. It didn’t bother to argue against political correctness. It disregarded the cynical shenanigans going on in the United Nations as if it were nothing but a zoo housing many clamorous beasts who were safely confined and could in no way threaten American life, liberty or happiness. If it was made to feel now and then the bullying, deceitful, sly, sometimes violent tactics of the Left, it shrugged them off. Conservatives went on being civil and preferring honesty when the world’s mood had changed to favoring lies and abuse. They put their confidence in the fact that America had been founded as the political embodiment of the idea of personal freedom; had demonstrated to the world – forever, they believed – that freedom brought prosperity and might and stunning innovation. They assumed that the rightness of individual liberty, the capitalist system, and government by the people had been established forever. So strong and free a country could afford to be tolerant. Let some wild, immature, misguided persons preach despotism (Communism, Socialism, Progressivism, Greenism, whatever), the system was strong enough to be hospitable to alien ideas, and to allow dissent or even rebellion. Tested, it would prove itself inviolable. It could not only withstand opposition, it could absorb it and dissolve it. No special effort was required. American history was on the side of those who would defend freedom and the Constitution. The separation of powers would protect them. The free press would dilute propaganda. Open enquiry in the academies would ensure that all points of view were argued and the most rational, the most humane, would persuade serious scholars. But they were wrong.

In their complacency, conservatives did not even notice the Long March. They could not mark its stations of success. Even now there are deluded Republicans who have not absorbed the fact that most Americans like collectivism; that they don’t object to electoral fraud; that they accept a failing economy; that many would rather live on government handouts than become rich; that being rich has become a morally bad thing; that it’s okay for foreign powers to develop weapons that can kill vast numbers of Americans; that the press does not report what is happening in the world but only what it wants to happen; that courts of law are willing to prefer foreign law to the Constitution; that it doesn’t matter if American representatives abroad are attacked and murdered; that freedom has become a term worthy only of contempt; that American history is a trail of shame; that a cruel religion – Islam – is being allowed to seep through the body politic, and is protected and advanced by the government itself.

But now millions of conservatives are waking up and are asking, how did this happen? It happened because people patiently, energetically, persistently planned it and made it happen.

What can we do about it, they ask themselves and each other.

What they have to do about it is change the minds of the people. First they must be sure that they want the free republic the founders established; that they want to maintain free markets; that they don’t want a welfare state; that they do want to preserve national defenses; that they want indoctrination in the schools to stop; that they want to forbid the application of foreign law; that they do not want to go on funding an institution – the UN – that consistently works against their interests. Then they must decide that their political philosophy is right, uniquely right, and must be implemented at any and all costs. Then they must start teaching it. With energy, persistence, patience and fiery enthusiasm. It will take time. But that is the only way. Teach, preach, argue, use every method that works. Give up the idea that it’s better to be gentlemanly than to sink to using the methods of the opposition; that if you do as they do you will have betrayed the very values that you are fighting for. So let them win? No! They have made the fight low and dirty. Get down in the dirt and fight it.

How badly does the conservative right want to win and hold on to power in America? How important is it to them that they should?

If it is as important to you, Conservatives, as it needs to be, tell the voters, tell the children that the free market is the only means of creating general prosperity, and why. Tell them that central planning of an economy cannot work, and why. Tell them why competition is good for everyone, producers and consumers alike.

Tell them what profit is and why it is essential for ensuring abundance.

Tell them that only where people are free can there be discovery and innovation, improvement in everyone’s daily life, better technology, the advance of civilization. Explain why. Show them the proofs of history.

Tell them the truth about life in the Third World. Not politically correct sentimental drivel, but the actual awful facts about life in most other countries.

Tell them why impartial judgment is the only means to justice; why all sane adult citizens must be treated equally by the law; why people must be judged by their actions, not their intentions or feelings.

Tell them why government should be kept small and its powers limited. Tell them what the essential tasks of government are: protection of the nation, of the individual, of liberty, of the rule of law itself. And why governments should not be allowed more power and money than it needs to fulfill its few essential functions.

Shout down the shouters. Tell Muslims what is wrong with their creed and why American secularism is better. Don’t allow them to build a protective wall around themselves to shut out criticism of their absurd and savage beliefs.

Tolerate only the tolerant and tolerable.

It will take time. Start now. Tell them.

 

Welfare overload, violent chaos: the Cloward-Piven plan 4

Time to look again at the Cloward-Piven strategy to wreck the lives of all Americans. It is becoming more popular than ever on the Left.

We repeat part of our earlier (November 18, 2012) post explaining what the strategy is.

This comes from Family Security Matters, by Frank Salvato:

In 1966, two Columbia University sociologists, Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, collaborated on a theory  … referred to as the “Cloward-Piven Strategy”. People who are familiar with the likes of Saul Alinsky and William Ayers are familiar with the strategy, as are the full complement of the Progressive Movement.

In a nutshell, the underlying principle of the Cloward-Piven Strategy is to so overload the entitlement system – to add so many to the entitlement rolls, that the country’s economic system collapses, unleashing chaos and violence in the streets, thus effecting radical Leftist political change in government. … To facilitate the fall of Capitalism by “overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse”.  …

In a 1970 New York Times interview, Cloward is quoted as saying that poor people can only advance when “the rest of society is afraid of them”. He then theorized that activists should refrain from demanding that government provide more for the poverty stricken and, instead, should strive to pack as many people on the welfare (read: entitlement) rolls as possible, creating a demand that could not be met, facilitating the destruction of the welfare system and massive financial crisis. As a byproduct, rebellion would be ignited amongst the people; chaos would rule the streets and governments would be damaged beyond repair, many falling to history making it possible for new radicals to assume the roles of oligarchs, ushering in new systems of government and the dismantling of the Capitalist system in particular.

Both Cloward and Piven understood that it would take pushing the American citizenry to the point of anarchy, to the point of the populace effecting violent chaos in the streets, for there to emerge an opportunity to damage our Republican form of government and our Capitalist system to the point where people would accept radical political as well as economic change. Cloward and Piven, using the philosophy of Saul Alinsky (who, by-the-by, was their inspiration in fomenting their “strategy”), knew that they would have to achieve chaos, so as to introduce the Progressive political ideology – the ideology of Democratic Socialism – to the masses as a saving grace. 

We’d say, “as a saving system” – but in fact, a doom.

“Democratic Socialism” – remember – is a cover name for Communism.

Is the triumph of Saul Alinsky, Richard Andrew Cloward, Frances Fox Piven and Barack Obama now near at hand?

Barack Obama did what he could to promote the plan during his two disastrous terms as president.

California is planning to extend entitlements such as health care to the illegal aliens who are pouring into the state. They are encouraged by the state to enter the country illegally and are protected from deportation in its sanctuary cities.

All the Democratic Party candidates for the 2020 presidential election support government provided health care for everyone living in the country legally or illegally.

None of them condemns Antifa violence in the streets.

So is the terrible triumph of Saul Alinsky, Richard Andrew Cloward, Frances Fox Piven and Barack Obama now near at hand?

Most probably – if the Democrats win Congress and the presidency in the 2020 elections. 

(We do not think they will. We predict the re-election of President Trump, quite possibly with a landslide victory.)