True Blue

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December 5, 2016 by AK

Oh to be young, handsome, educated, and to win the crown like a changeling prince returning from thralldom in a company of friends to claim his due. They descended from a yacht – a yacht! – one December morning, sixty years ago, and a dozen survivors took refuge in the woody mountains of the East, like a stranded party of geologists.

Many a bearded intellectual on both sides of the iron curtain has dreamed of roaming that saw blade to bliss. Prince Bluebeard was charming like no other revolutionary, like no reactionary, no independence fighter of the century. If he was truly a purebred Spaniard, the grandson of Galician peasants, his victory was a reversal of Franco’s – twenty years later, across the Atlantic. Don’t ask for whom the bells are tintinnabulating.

How else can I try to explain Fidel Castro’s lasting hold on the imagination of people of diverse backgrounds and origins? Today is the 60th anniversary of the day when the Granma insurgents, who had landed three days earlier, were attacked by government troops. Survivors soon reached Sierra Maestra, guerrillas’ ideal terrain.


“What falleth, that shall one also push”

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December 4, 2016 by AK

Almost two months ago, in October 2016, I wrote that Russian oil companies could reduce their daily oil output by slowing down production growth at newly launched fields and by reinvesting less in mature fields, increasing their decline rate to a number high enough to translate into a decrease in the national output.

Now that Russia has confirmed that it is ready to reduce oil production by 0.3 mmbpd from the current rate of 11.2 mmbpd, letting mature fields decline faster than planned, through lower reinvestment seems the most plausible route for Russian oil firms. As Reuters reported in October, the latest round of Russian growth, from an average of 10.9 mmbpd in January through July to 11.2 mmbpd in October, mostly (but not entirely) resulted from new fields being put into operation. These greenfield projects appear to be supported by tax incentives, in contrast to most mature fields (see fig. 19 in this report). For an oil producer, it makes sense to cut down on output not by idling wells, but by drilling fewer new wells and performing fewer workovers on the existing well stock (see fig. 23).

In other words, the “cut” seems very much a matter of decline rate management – provided, of course, that all the major Russian producers agree, or are forced by the government to agree, on coordinated action to ensure that Russia fulfills its promise to OPEC. Although some producers responded to the price dips of 2008-9 and 2014-6 by allocating capital away from declining fields not eligible for preferential taxation, others did not and may not be prepared to do so. Besides, Russian companies, like their US counterparts, are improving efficiency at drilling, fracking and various workover activities, and the tax system is gradually changing, so choices made by oil producers in 2014 may not make sense in 2017 and vice versa.

Assuming full corporate compliance, I would guess the “cut” – a reduction in the daily production rate – will not be achieved overnight or even over several weeks, but rather over several months. When Russia said it would “cut” in the first half of 2017, the “soft” time frame probably reflected this complication, rather than merely a wait-and-see approach or other lack of commitment.


“Institutions of direct democracy”

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December 1, 2016 by AK

TASS reports on Putin’s annual address to the Russian parliament (the Duma and the Federation Council):

The policy of developing the political system and institutions of direct democracy, as well as enhancing the elections’ competitiveness will be continued, the president notes.

I can’t think of “institutions of direct democracy” in our time apart from referendums and village assemblies. Hopefully he wasn’t talking about a referendum to abolish term limits for his office and/or declare him Pater Patriae.

One could argue that a plebiscite is a one-time event, not an institution, but in Germany, especially in Bavaria, local issues are often resolved by local referendums. In Moscow city, a referendum on parking fees or street redesign would surely be welcome.


Economic power to the multitudes

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November 30, 2016 by AK

Robert Shiller is one of the few premier-league economists I have seen and heard in person. That’s not the reason why I’m quoting him though:

Those on the downside of rising economic inequality generally do not want government policies that look like handouts… Redistribution feels demeaning. It feels like being labeled a failure. It feels unstable…

The desperately poor may accept handouts, because they feel they have to. For those who consider themselves at least middle class, however, anything that smacks of a handout is not desired. Instead, they want their economic power back. They want to be in control of their economic lives.

But how can they regain control without wrecking the economy or acquiring skills and mindsets impossible to acquire after the passage of youth?


Three comments on “White-Collar Supremacy”

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November 27, 2016 by AK

Three comments out of seven hundred responses to the NYT opinion piece by Kelly J. Baker I mentioned earlier.

“sjaco” from northern Nevada:

Ok, I guess I get what the author is getting at. Over 60 million people voted for Trump lets call that set T. Of the set of T a small subset of maybe 100 or 200 are racists, lets call that set R. What the author, and the NYT in general is saying is that if one is a member of T then that one is also a member of R.

Hard to argue with this. The Washington Post reports that 275 people showed up for Richard Spencer’s pathetic gathering in Washington, D.C.

“Dougal E” from Texas writes:

There are millions of people in this country who think there should be a revolution and that the masses should seize the means of production and establish a socialist state. Why is it that the New York Times never profiles them?

Spencer is an idiot who is allowing himself to be used by left-wing media in exchange for the notoriety of being a right-wing lunatic. The two-sides, i.e. mainstream media and white nationalists deserve each other. Trump wants nothing to do with them. He welcomed their votes because they understood the need to reform our system of immigration and that’s all. That is the sensible position. Open borders is not working as a way to allow new immigrants into the country.

This is not so well put, perhaps, but the comment reminds the reader that opposition to mass immigration has been critical to Trump’s popularity. I don’t know what percent of immigration restrictionists are motivated by racism, and to what degree. It is possible, however, to be skeptical about immigration even while admitting the virtues of potential immigrants.

A member of group A can rate the average member of group B above the average member of group A on her own scale of values (roughly speaking, “on average they are better people than us“) yet still oppose members of B settling in large numbers in the areas where A is the majority population. She could argue that would lead to overcrowding and/or intergroup conflict and/or fierce competition for limited resources and opportunities (access to education and health care, for one). Or she could simply say, “They are good people but I’d rather not let them in. Just because.”

Next, “Mark Plus” from Mayer, Arizona:

People still don’t get it. The Alt Right presents a challenge to our elites’ childish utopianism about race, immigration, feminism and sexual degeneracy, in that it emphasizes that you can’t make the tragedy of the human condition go away through politics. We have inequality, hierarchy and patriarchy because of the obdurate reality of man’s nature, and not because some mean white men hold power and enforce arbitrary rules.

This is a deeply conservative view: “you can’t make the tragedy of the human condition go away through politics.” I cannot disagree with this core idea, but I cannot agree with the overall anthropological argument: our human nature being imperfect, we can still take the edge off the ugliness and suffering inflicted on ourselves and other people by our hereditary sickness. I dislike judgmental terms like “sexual degeneracy” and don’t think that patriarchy is a necessary condition for a well-ordered society.

However, hierarchies and inequality arise more or less naturally at the first attempt at specialization. The New York Times and the Washington Post are staunch defenders of hierarchy in the business of reporting news. The big fight is over which hierarchies are good and righteous and which are evil and oppressive. Abolishing them all is hardly on the table.


Don’t forget Grillo

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November 26, 2016 by AK

Professor Jan-Werner Müller from Princeton claims in the London Review of Books:

But the peculiarity of Trump is that he seems the equivalent of Grillo and Silvio Berlusconi merged into one person.

I don’t think he is, but Müller’s view is an enormous improvement on the Trump as Berlusconi trope. If one is keen on painting Trump as America’s answer to/version of Europe’s anti-establishment populism, one should not ignore Grillo. He’s a comedian by trade, but not a comical figure on the political scene.


Goddard is Stoddard with Grant’s G

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November 25, 2016 by AK

Kelly J. Baker writes in an opinion piece in the New York Times (on the merits of which I’d rather not comment):

Madison Grant, a lawyer, eugenicist and the author of “The Passing of the Great Race,” wrote that the American “stock” would be jeopardized by these particular European immigrants…

…in “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald reflected the way the ideas of Grant and other scientific racists worked their way into mainstream thought.

“Have you read ‘The Rise of the Colored Empires’ by this man Goddard?” Tom Buchanan asks, in a thinly masked allusion to Grant.

By all signs, it’s an allusion to The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy by Lothrop Stoddard, published in 1920 or 1921. The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, is set in 1922. Everything fits.

However, the “G” in “Goddard” might have come from Grant. His opus magnum, The Passing of the Great Race, appeared earlier, in 1916. Grant wrote a preface to Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color.


A little too late

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November 24, 2016 by AK

They should have done it in 2014:

Lawmakers [MEPs] voted on November 23 in favor of a motion condemning Russian state media outlets like the television channel RT and the news agency Sputnik for disseminating “absolutely fake” news.

They said the Kremlin was using “a wide range of tools and instruments”, including think tanks, multilingual TV stations, “pseudo news agencies”, and social media to spread fake information, challenge democratic values, and divide Europe.

During the first year of the Donbass conflict, it was covered by reporters working for publications of different political colors. Their work contrasted favorably with the questionable output of Russian media. The credibility advantage was on the Western side and should have been pointed out and praised.

Since then, mainstream media in the UK, EU, and US has been accused, with some evidence, of taking sides with the political establishment against the Leavers [while the Sun, the DM, and the DT were clamoring for Brexit], anti-immigrationists, and Trumpists. It does not help that the MET who acted as rapporteur for the anti-RT resolution is a member of Poland’s Law and Justice party, which has taken control of state media.

One wonders if demand for truthful reporting is not exaggerated. Perhaps most people would rather consume comforting lies.


Look at the mainstream

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November 24, 2016 by AK

I have just learned of yet another Russian cable TV channel, courtesy of John Schindler:

Then there’s Tsargrad TV, which is Russia’s version of Fox News, if Fox News were run by hardline Russian Orthodox believers.

If “Fox News” stands for “a network with a nationwide audience delivering news with a bias bordering on propaganda,” then Russia has First Channel, Russia-1, and NTV. A channel few people have heard of simply does not qualify, despite its pretentious name (Tsargrad, “Caesar-City,” the old Slavic name for Constantinople, the Second Rome). Its owner is not a major-league operator either.

On a separate note, a devout, traditional Eastern Orthodox believer would probably avoid running a TV channel.

Update (Nov. 27). John Schindler’s reference to Fox News was not entirely unfounded: Jack Hanick (who wrote an opinion piece in 2015 for The Observer, owned by Jared Kushner, where Schindler is now a columnist) had worked as a producer at Fox and helped set up Tsargrad TV in 2015-16.


The Bund and the bat

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November 23, 2016 by AK

Apologies for quoting from the Daily Mail. Occasionally it does render a valuable public service:

The national editor of Politico’s weekly news magazine resigned his position on Tuesday after he came under fire for advocating baseball-bat attacks on a white supremacist leader – and publishing the address of the man’s two homes.

It happens. Politico is a partisan operation, so no wonder it’s staffed by partisans. The editor in question, Michael Hirsh, also wrote:

‘He lives part of the time next door to me … Our grandfathers brought baseball bats to Bund meetings. Want to join me?’

An interesting pedigree. Eric Dezenhall, “an author and damage control expert based in Washington, D.C…. the CEO of Dezenhall Resources, a nationally recognized high-stakes communications firm,” had an article in the American Spectator in 2011 focusing on “the very real collaboration between Jewish mob boss Meyer Lansky and U.S. Naval Intelligence”:

With the help of men like his [Lansky’s] childhood friend, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, cutthroats like Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro, Allie “Tick Tock” Tannenbaum, and Seymour “Blue Jaw” Magoon, Jewish racketeers had been breaking up Bund rallies in the Yorkville section of Manhattan using guns, knives, and baseball bats. The mob hastened the Bund’s demise by introducing mortal risks to its leadership.

When Commander Haffenden sought Lansky’s help in preventing potential German sabotage at US ports (“The Navy understood that the mafia controlled the waterfront”), the mobster agreed to help “because ‘it’s patriotism’.” And to some degree, patriotism it must have been. Perhaps the most amazing fact about Lansky is that he tried to enlist after Pearl Harbor but was rejected as too old and too short. But some other players from the underworld did join the army and serve in the War:

One of Meyer’s men, Doc Stacher of Newark, served in the Army. Cleveland boss Moe Dalitz entered the Army a private and came out a captain. Minneapolis killer Davie Berman and Chicago’s Charlie Barron were rebuffed, but enlisted in the Canadian army using fake names.

Real men of business are not walking cutouts, but I still doubt Michael Hirsh holds up Meyer Lansky’s associates for role models. But then, does it matter? More interesting is the near-perfect contrast between the two historical Bunds: the Nazi-leaning German-American Bund and the Jewish social-democratic party once active in Russia, Poland and Lithuania. The Jewish Labor Bund is seldom discussed these days. Its story has no happy ending; its legacy is underappreciated.


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