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The US Has Lost Global Power, and Is Now Just Faking It

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Orlov is one of our favorite essayists on Russia and all sorts of other things. He moved to the US as a child, and lives in the Boston area.

He is one of the better-known thinkers The New Yorker has dubbed ‘The Dystopians’ in an excellent 2009 profile, along with James Howard Kunstler, another regular contributor to RI (archive). These theorists believe that modern society is headed for a jarring and painful crack-up.

He is best known for his 2011 book comparing Soviet and American collapse (he thinks America’s will be worse). He is a prolific author on a wide array of subjects, and you can see his work by searching him on Amazon.

He has a large following on the web, and on Patreon, and we urge you to support him there, as Russia Insider does.

His current project is organizing the production of affordable house boats for living on. He lives on a boat himself.

If you haven’t discovered his work yet, please take a look at his archive of articles on RI. They are a real treasure, full of invaluable insight into both the US and Russia and how they are related.


It’s a hard job being a global hegemon and the world’s sole superpower.

You have to keep the entire planet in line. Every country needs to be taught its place, and kept there, by force if need be. Now and again a country or two has to be conquered or destroyed, just to teach others a lesson. Plus you have to relentlessly meddle in other countries’ politics, rigging elections so that only US-friendly candidates can win, run regime change operations and organize colored revolutions. Stop doing this, and some countries will start ignoring you. And then the rest will quickly realize that you are losing control and go their separate ways while ignoring you.

Is the United States still the world’s greatest power, in control of the entire planet, or has that moment in history already come and gone? We are constantly hearing how the situation is becoming dire: relations between the US and NATO countries and Russia are going from bad to worse; there is a trade war going on with China; North Korea remains an intractable problem and an embarrassment.

Many people maintain that we are very close to a world war. But does “very close” actually mean anything? It is quite possible to stand for hours with your toes hanging over the edge of a cliff and never jump. Suicide is a big decision: big even for a person, much bigger for a large country.

On March 1, 2018 president Putin unveiled Russia’s new weapons systems against which the United States is defenseless and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Previously, the plan was to surround Russia with military bases and missile batteries, then launch a preemptive first strike, destroying its ability to retaliate and forcing it to capitulate.

This plan has now conclusively failed, and a US/NATO attack on Russia is once again assured to be an act of suicide. Worse than that, even limited military confrontations are now mostly unthinkable, because Russia can now inflict unacceptable damage on US/NATO forces from a safe distance and without putting any of its own assets at risk. If Russia won’t attack and the US/NATO can’t attack, then how likely is a war?

The new weapons systems have made it possible to start ignoring the US. It is still important to maintain a credible military posture, but politically the US is no longer in control, and neither are the global institutions on which it has relied. Instead, what we are seeing is the reemergence of nation states, and even of empires.

The political future of Syria is being decided by Russia, Turkey and Iran, with no useful input from the United States at all. Significantly, whereas Russia and Iran are in categories of their own as far as the US is concerned, Turkey has been a US ally and the second-largest armed force in NATO. The fact that Turkey is no longer eager to please the Americans is quite telling.

Except during the strange and tumultuous twentieth century during which the US briefly flashed across the world stage, these three countries went by different names, which all ended in “empire”: the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire. Of these three, the Russian and the Ottoman empires were heirs to the Holy Roman Empire, whose eastern half, with its capital Constantinople, went on for centuries after Rome had turned into a depopulated ruin and a dark age had descended on Europe.

After Constantinople fell to the Turks and Islam took over the region, the center of Orthodox Christianity migrated north to Moscow. Now add China, or the Chinese Empire if you like, which is now aligned with Russia, and complete the picture: all of the greatest and most ancient Eurasian empires have come back and are talking and cooperating, while the has-been upstart on the other side of the planet isn’t even invited.

Given this situation, what is the US to do? It has three choices. The first is to start a major war, thus committing national suicide (while taking other countries with it). It lacks the political will to make this decision, although it could blunder into a major war by accident.

The second choice is to basically just fold: give up trying to project power around the world, retreat into its own borders and lick its wounds. It lacks the political will to do this as well; all that remains in the realm of possibility is to pretend that everything is still fine for as long as possible.

But how is it possible to pretend that everything is still fine even as everything is falling apart? The answer is to start faking it. If the US manages to convince enough people, at home and around the world, that it is still dangerous, then it will be able to hide its increasing enfeeblement for a while longer. It may no longer be capable of achieving any of its aims, but it is still very much capable of mass murder, as was recently demonstrated by the US “coalition” bombings of Mosul and Raqqa, which now lay in ruins. Similar wanton acts of mass murder have been committed America’s Saudi-Arabian proxy in Yemen, and by their Ukrainian proxies in the Donbass.

But even the opportunities to commit mindless mass murder with impunity are now becoming fewer and farther between, forcing the US to resort to more boutique acts of violence. To justify these acts, the US (and much of Europe) curtains itself off from the rest of the world using an elaborately constructed wall of complete nonsense.

A favorite trope has to do with dreamed-up chemical weapons as the main frightener. Take a look at the recent Israeli rocket attack on Syria. It was justified using obviously fake video footage produced by the White Helmets—a group known for staging fake terror events. At this point, they don’t even care how fake their product looks: this time around, they didn’t bother editing out the clapper (used to sync up video with sound). The setting was obviously a movie set, but production values were rather missing. Instead, we had actors, some wearing white helmets, but no protective gear whatsoever, dumping buckets of water over shivering children. How is that even supposed to make any sense?

And then note that the rockets (five which got shot down by the Syrians, with only three making it through) came from Israel. Why Israel? Because the Russians had warned the US that they knew the fake chemical weapons provocation was being organized as a pretext to launch a rocket attack, and that they were going to shoot not just at the rockets but also at those who launch them. Therefore, Americans decided that it would be too risky to launch the attack from navy ships, and instead asked the Israelis to do the honor of lobbing a few missiles at a remote airbase in Syria, correctly thinking that the Russians wouldn’t immediately retaliate against Israel if no Russians would hurt, and knowing that there would be no Russians at that airbase during their attack. This is, on the one hand, quite pathetic, but on the other it shows that the Americans are still capable of a modicum of rational thought.

This, then is the strange period of history we are going through. The US is lying nonstop (since truth is not on its side) while pretending to still be dangerous by committing wanton acts of mass murder (small-scale ones, which it can be sure to carry out with impunity).

Meanwhile, both national suicide (via large-scale war) and the decision to shut down the whole imperial project both remain politically impossible. How long this strange, unstable period of murderous nonsense can persist isn’t known—your guess is as good as mine—but it obviously can’t go on for ages.

Give it a few years, or less.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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