Archive for December, 2014

Chaos Patch (#39)

(Open thread + links (I’ve been in Hangzhou over the weekend so some symptoms of partial disconnection are probable))

Jim’s ‘Death of Christianity’ post is the latest installment in a series defending Restoration England. It seems to me that people are being unusually cagey about arguing this out — perhaps a little scared? The religious topic, in particular, tends to draw a high level of interest, which is significant in itself. This might the place to stir the hornets nest with the latest from Pope Francis: The Koran is a prophetic book of peace. It’s not so much the appeasement, moral equivalence, or other red-rags to the right issues that intrigue me most about this — and not even the accommodation of ‘prophecy’ to an outcome that brings it close to sarcasm — but the sheer oddity of the theology behind the remark. To be trolled by the Pope is really something (but what?). (Patheos places the quote in context — which suggests the quality of the trolling is even higher than initially evident.)

Sensible strategic advice. Law and violence. Paleo-humanism. Don’t count on the robocops. 4GW lessons. Anissimov on Brin. Supplementing this link assortment, there’s a whole bunch more from ‘|||||’ here.

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December 7, 2014admin 42 Comments »
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Ultimate Exit NY

Some chatter on various web channels about this event, which should be a great opportunity for exploring. To be clear about my participation (which has been open to confusion) — it consists of an intervention out of Cyberspace. (No chance of drinking dates in NY just yet, unfortunately.)

This is a nonlinear point, from my perspective, since the rapid development of telepresence is of obvious internal consequence to the recent intensification of Exit-oriented and neo-secessionist discussion. (Balaji S. Srinivasan brought this out very clearly in his October 2013 talk on the subject, from which this event takes its title.) Exit in depth — i.e. into the crypto-thickened ‘Net — is at the very least an important complement to more traditional notions of territorial flight. It also sustains a better purchase on the commercial principle which provides Exit with its fundamentalal model, and which can easily get lost among secessionist excitement and visions of technologically re-sculpted geographical space.

Some background to the event (and hints of choppy waters). Argument is, of course, the other side of the nonlinearity (a micro-enactment of the inclusive Democratic ideal), so it will be interesting to see whether on this occasion the controversy can remain productive in its own terms, rather than ‘merely’ stacking up the incentives to get Out.

December 6, 2014admin 5 Comments »
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Media ADHD

Richard Fernandez asks a question that has been nagging at a number of people: How did this stop being a story?

The death toll from the worst Ebola outbreak on record has reached nearly 7,000 in West Africa, according to the World Health Organisation. […] The toll of 6,928 dead showed a leap of just over 1,200 since the WHO released its previous report on Wednesday, according to a Reuters news agency report. […] The UN health agency did not provide any explanation for the abrupt increase, but the figures, published on its website, appeared to include previously unreported deaths. […] … Just over 16,000 people have been diagnosed with Ebola since the outbreak was confirmed in the forests of remote southeastern Guinea in March, according to the WHO data that covered the three hardest-hit countries. …

Is it because the epidemic has remained geographically concentrated, that’s expected to hold, and Sierra Leone (where cases are “soaring” with the “country … reporting around 400 to 500 new cases each week for several weeks”) has been written off? Or is the world media scared it had begun to bore people?

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December 5, 2014admin 16 Comments »

Oil War

This contrarian argument, on the resilience of America’s shale industry in the face of the unfolding OPEC “price war”, is the pretext to host a discussion about a topic that is at once too huge to ignore, and too byzantine to elegantly comprehend. The most obvious complication — bypassed entirely by this article — is the harsher oil geopolitics, shaped by a Saudi-Russian proxy war over developments in the Middle East (and Russian backing of the Assad regime in Damascus, most particularly). I’m not expecting people here to be so ready to leave that aside.

Clearly, though, the attempt to strangle the new tight-oil industry in its cradle is a blatantly telegraphed dimension of the present Saudi oil-pricing strategy, and one conforming to a consistent pattern. If Mullaney’s figures can be trusted, things could get intense:

… data from the state of North Dakota says the average cost per barrel in America’s top oil-producing state is only $42 — to make a 10% return for rig owners. In McKenzie County, which boasts 72 of the state’s 188 oil rigs, the average production cost is just $30, the state says. Another 27 rigs are around $29.

If oil-price chicken is going to be exploring these depths, there’s going to be some exceptional pain among the world’s principal producers. Russia is being economically cornered in a way that is disturbingly reminiscent of policy towards Japan pre-WWII, when oil geopolitics was notoriously translated into military desperation. Venezuela will collapse. Iran is also under obvious pressure.

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December 4, 2014admin 47 Comments »
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The Islamic Vortex (Note-3a)

This blog has doubtless generated rafts of unreliable predictions. The one that has been nagging, however — ever since Scott Alexander called me out on it in the comment thread there — was advanced in the most recent sub-episode of this series. Quote: “Baghdad will almost certainly have fallen by the end of the year, or early next.” Even if the time horizon for this event is stretched out to the end of March 2015, I have very low confidence in it being realized. The analysis upon which it was based was crucially flawed. I’m getting my crow-eating in early (and even if — by some improbably twist of fortune — ISIS is in control of Baghdad by late March next year, it won’t be any kind of vindication for the narrative I was previously spinning.)

Where did I go wrong (in my own eyes)? Fundamentally, by hugely over-estimating the intelligence of ISIS. The collapse of this inflated opinion is captured by a single word: Kurds.

Just a few months ago, ISIS enjoyed a strategic situation of extraordinary potential. It represented the most militant — and thus authentic — strain of Arab Sunni Jihad, ensuring exceptional morale, flows of volunteers from across the Sunni Muslim world, and funding from the gulf oil-states, based upon impregnable legitimacy. It was able to recruit freely from the only constituency within Iraq with any military competence — the embittered remnants of Saddam’s armed forces, recycled through the insurgency against the American occupation, and then profoundly alienated by the sectarian politics of the new Shia regime. It was also able to draw upon a large, fanatically motivated, Syrian Sunni population, brutalized and hardened by the war against the (Alawite, or quasi-Shia) Assad regime in that country. Both enemy states were radically anathematized throughout the Sunni world, deeply demoralized, incompetent, and patently incapable of asserting their authority throughout their respective countries. In consequence, a re-integrated insurgent Sunni Mesopotamia had arisen, with such historical momentum that it served as a concrete source of inspiration for energetic holy war, and a natural base for the eschatalogically-promised reborn Caliphate.

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December 3, 2014admin 31 Comments »
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Moron bites (#2)

Time for another of these. The rule, remember, is that the instance picked upon has to exemplify a laughably mindless meme. Like this:

Politically incorrect research, however solidly established, is especially singled out for this treatment. Some approved (i.e. Leftist) authority somewhere has provided the excuse to dismiss awkward findings, so that the painful stimulus can be suppressed, and — just to be safe — even the pretext for suppressing it is best forgotten, leaving only the permission to be undisturbed in public circulation. All crime-think has been ‘well refuted’ (sociologically a priori) as far as these people are concerned. “It’s been well refuted” means exactly “wouldn’t it be nice if this didn’t exist?” (or “nice people have told us we don’t need to worry about that”).

Refuted where?

Amused yet?

ADDED: A banquet of ‘well refuted’ science at Slate.

December 2, 2014admin 47 Comments »

Quote note (#135)

From Erasmus, Moriae Encomium, which can be found here, but adopted in this case as translated by Sir Edmund Whittaker (in his A History of the Theories of Aether and Electricty, Volume I, p.3):

There are innumerable niceties concerning notions, relations, instants, formalities, quiddities, and haecceities, which no-one can pry into, unless he has eyes that can penetrate the thickest darkness, and there can see things that have no existence whatever.

Appealing enough, already, in its light-footed philosophical modernism, it becomes utterly sublime when tackled — inversely — by the method of ‘hyper-literal anagogy’. It then suggests a Miltonic recovery of ancient philosophy, undertaken — with blind irony — by modernity itself.

December 1, 2014admin No Comments »
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Does this look like something that’s about to die?


(This is among the few topics that puts my reverence for the Moldgod under serious strain.)

More here:

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December 1, 2014admin 28 Comments »