I was going to lead off with something else this month but the happy news of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s death popped up and, dear reader, I couldn’t restrain my delight. I am so happy the old fart is dead and should you think that that is less than respectful, I wish to share some of his quotes with you:
In the technotronic society the trend would seem to be towards the aggregation of the individual support of millions of uncoordinated citizens, easily within the reach of magnetic and attractive personalities effectively exploiting the latest communications techniques to manipulate emotions and control reason.
With the more endowed nations constrained by their own higher technological capacity for self-destruction as well as by self interest, war may have become a luxury that only the poor peoples of this world can afford.
It’s easier to kill a million people than it is to control a million people.
Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.
And if that last one sounds very close to what the neoconservative Project for the New American Century was spouting in its document “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” (that is, the need for “a catastrophic and catalyzing event–like a new Pearl Harbor”) then I think we can safely say it was no coincidence.
Where we come across our first element of cognitive dissonance is the realisation that our pal Zbig wasn’t the familiar of some half-crazed, trigger-happy Republican president but of “gee shucks” Democrat James Earl Carter, Jr., known more colloquially to the world as Jimmy Carter. Once out of the White House, Carter could magnanimously declare Israel an apartheid state (which it is), but during his term as the 39th President of the United States, he was exactly the kind of ruthless warmonger that gets the American public’s heart all a flutter.
If you really want to lay 9/11 at someone’s feet, Carter is a good bet for letting his attack dog run riot and form al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The reason was to draw the Soviets into their own “Vietnam”. Osama bin Laden was lauded as a “warrior” back in 1993 in an article in the Independent by Robert Fisk. An excerpt goes like this:
Osama Bin Laden sat in his gold-fringed robe, guarded by the loyal Arab mujahedin who fought alongside him in Afghanistan. Bearded, taciturn figures – unarmed, but never more than a few yards from the man who recruited them, trained them and then dispatched them to destroy the Soviet army – they watched unsmiling as the Sudanese villagers of Almatig lined up to thank the Saudi businessman who is about to complete the highway linking their homes to Khartoum for the first time in history.
When the history of the Afghan resistance movement is written, Mr Bin Laden’s own contribution to the mujahedin – and the indirect result of his training and assistance – may turn out to be a turning- point in the recent history of militant fundamentalism; even if, today, he tries to minimise his role. ‘When the invasion of Afghanistan started, I was enraged and went there at once – I arrived within days, before the end of 1979,’ he said. ‘Yes, I fought there, but my fellow Muslims did much more than I. Many of them died and I am still alive.’
Although Bin Laden then goes on to prove that he’s not a very good Muslim by saying:
‘Personally neither I nor my brothers saw evidence of American help.’
I wish to close this segment with two remarks on Brzezinski.
One, thank goodness Zbig’s children are no chip off the ole block. His elder son, Ian, is by all means the most ambitious and he only rose to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy. I think that only Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, holds a more useless position. Zbig’s younger son, Mark, was US Ambassador to Sweden, a sinecure just above being Ambassador to Shangri-la, I suppose. His daughter, Mika, is a TV news presenter. Of course they’re trying to make Central European expertise hay while the sun shines but, with pater gone, they’ll also fade into the flocked wallpaper in much the same way as Anne Applebaum has.
Two, Zbig died when he was 89. This is a good ole age, but not good enough. David Rockefeller, for example, died just three months shy of his 102nd birthday. Queen Elizabeth II is still alive at 91. George Soros, who I consider one of the oligarch overlord B-listers, is a relatively sprightly 86. Bill Gates may look 92 but he’s really only 61, just in case you didn’t know. George HW Bush, the man who I think was the first to blurt out the phrase “New World Order” is still alive at 92. And my personal favourite war criminal of all time, Henry Kissinger, is still alive at 94. If we group by age, we have something that looks like this: the A-listers, 101 (dead), 91, 92 and 94 (still alive). Among the B-listers, Zbig at 89 (dead), 86 and 61 (still alive).
All I can think is that, despite his toadying and open contempt for the world’s population, ole Zbig wasn’t quite good enough to get continuous access to the geriatric drugs and young people’s blood that keep the world’s true supervillains alive. And personally, as I said before, I don’t think Soros is a heavy hitter either, so I’m expecting him to shuffle off into oblivion within the next four or so years. If he lives to 95, I’ll be proven wrong. If that’s the case, I’ll promote him to A-list scumbag and send an apologetic tweet for underestimating him. We’ll see.
And let’s talk about scumbags. As an outside observer, the United States has become a lot more interesting over recent years. For one, it seems to have lost its moral centre. The values that used to be lauded, if not executed in reality, such as democracy, freedom of values and personal rights, have been eroded in spectacular fashion since 9/11. Concomitant with that are pieces of advice that tell young people that they don’t need to go to university. Peter Thiel, cofounder of Paypal, even paid college students to drop out of courses, saying to ABC News that:
“We ended up picking 24 people to try to get them to work on very specific projects that would push the frontiers of science and tech in areas ranging from biomedicine to computers to robotics…”
because nothing, of course, says frontier-pushing in biomedicine more than being unable to tell the difference between a burette and a gas syringe. None of the founders of the giant tech businesses of today, we’re told, finished a degree and look at where they are now! I’ll address that point at the end of this post.
Unfortunately for Thiel, time has passed since his initial grandiose statements, prompting the question: where are Thiel’s super-dropouts now, considering he’s had six years (and US$100K each) to mentor them? According to Forbes magazine, not very far along:
But three years later, there don’t seem to be any Thiel startups to be amazed at. The few successes lauded seem to be a mirage—or just plain silly. After all, is a “caffeine spray”, which Thiel Fellow Ben Yu developed with venture capitalist Deven Soni, a world-changing innovation that will “take civilization to the next level”? I don’t think so.
The best-known Thiel Fellow is Dale Stephens. What’s his greatest achievement? It’s that he got a book deal to talk about what he achieved by dropping out of school: getting a book deal. Stephens may have gained fame and fortune by persuading other children not to go to school, but it does not better the world.
And then there was the disastrous Airy Labs. According to TechCrunch, it wasn’t Thiel Fellow Andrew Hsu who ran the company—it was his father, mother, and brother. No surprise. How can a child with no basic education and no business experience be expected to manage 20 employees and millions of dollars?
Sadly, for the vast majority of college dropouts, the opportunities are sparse. They won’t earn nearly as much as their friends who had the perseverance to finish what they had started. And if they do become entrepreneurs, the companies they start will be far less successful than those started by degree holders.
Ouch burn, as my son would say.
That doesn’t stop the hype, of course. You hear all the crowing (you don’t need an education, drop out and turn into a millionaire), but none of the consequences. And as if that isn’t bad enough, you also get complete bastards behind companies like Uber. And Snapchat. And Secret. And Genius. And Tinder. And Crunchfund. Read Sarah Lacy’s article about the “Great Big Silicon Valley Asshole Game” at Pando for all the gory details.
And we have another company to add to that illustrious list. UploadVR, another Silicon Valley startup which, according to a lawsuit brought against them in mid-May as reported in El Reg:
had a toxic environment in which the management and staff encouraged marijuana use and microdosing with LSD, told lurid tales of sexual experiences, harassed female staff, and had a “kink room” where staff members could go and have sex during the day.
“Avi Horowitz, the expansion manager of UploadVR, would frequently comment about how attractive one of the female employees was, in Plaintiff’s presence,” the lawsuit reads. “He would talk about how he ‘had a boner’ and had to go to the bathroom to ‘rub one out’ so he could focus, meaning that he was going to the restroom to masturbate.”
Oh Silicon Valley has always been a little tone-deaf, but not like this. And the problem is, these men are getting rewarded for their behaviour. And by using the apps and technology that they develop, we’re empowering them. And it’s not just that. Nothing succeeds like success, so you have hundreds, if not thousands, of disenfranchised young people trying to make a buck however they can, wherever and whenever they can. Take a business call while in labour? No problem. Catch a gig in the middle of having sex? Why not?
This runaway capitalism has got to stop. We’re being spun a line, a long line that leads all the way back to the unsustainable and incorrect economic theories of the world’s central banks (basically, their models run on the basic assumption of unlimited growth for eternity), and unless we find a way to stop this madness, future generations will suffer even more than we are already. Our planet and our children are worth more than this.
I told you I would comment on the wünderkind of the tech world and how dropouts managed to become multi-billionaires within a decade. It’s this: if a company—any company—defies economic reason and continues to expand and prosper in the face of contrary reality, know that they are being funded by deep-pocketed mentors to further an agenda. Such mentors may be states, they may be affiliated state actors, they may even be conglomerates of shady oligarchs. One thing they are not is transparent. Of course they succeed; they can’t not succeed. That’s the entire plan.
And lastly, I have to say something about France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, especially noting his attitude towards Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Macron’s little handshake wrestle with Trump was little more than it seemed, a small boy attempting to act big. And considering that it was Donald Trump he decided to play this little game with, it shows that Macron himself knows he can’t match even The Orange One.
With this in mind, what are we to make of his press conference with Putin? From watching the nonverbals, I get the feeling that Macron knows he’s out of his depth but is desperately attempting to project a bigger silhouette by parroting such disgraced outlets as CNN, NATO and the United States government. After seeing him in action in various G-7 reports and photo ops, I think that Emmanuel would like nothing better than being Justin Trudeau’s butt boy. If it’s true that the French people didn’t so much vote for Manny as vote against le Pen, I think they made a grave mistake.
With le Pen, the public had a better chance of driving her towards compromise. She is a politician who comes from a family of politicians and is pragmatic enough to know how far to push things, and what she can, and can’t, get away with. The French tactics of political disobedience are legendary, after all. But against Macron, the French public are–to my mind–completely impotent. Macron is no politician, and let me be the first to compare him to an amalgam of emperors from Ancient Rome. Nero, for example, became emperor at the tender age of 17 and was, at first, ruled by his mother, although Agrippina’s hold on power became more tenuous as time passed. Nero also had great confidence in his own looks and personality, performing before the Roman public for them to laud him. There were marriages to men as well as women. As for Caligula, time will tell if we can see in Macron the traits that made Caligula so notorious: the sense of boredom that translates to acts of rash ruthlessness, exorbitant spending on his own pet projects, and a willful blindness to the limits of his presidential (sorry, imperial) power.
In essence, le Pen may have cared for how her image was interpreted on the political stage, Macron does not. He is too young, too inexperienced, too vain, and too spoilt. It’s my opinion that the French people miscalculated badly in their 2017 presidential elections.
That’s it for me for the first of June. I’ll touch base with you again on the fifteenth of the month. Take care.
Copyright © KS Augustin, 2017
* If you’d like to hear this post rather than read it, please consider supporting me on Patreon where my blog posts will be available as audio. It won’t be an exact copy of what you’ve read and may include some other trivia, but it’ll be pretty close. Even a dollar a month would be gratefully received.
If a regular subscription is out of the question (and I understand how that can be) a small donation would nonetheless be greatly appreciated (see the Donation button on the sidebar at my blog). I’ll be trying to hit big issues in ways that may not be obvious twice a month, on the first and fifteenth, and every cent helps.