The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Month: May 2021 Page 1 of 3

How We’re Making Sure Covid Goes Chronic

So, you may all recall, for much of the first eight months or so of the pandemic, people would natter on about how “viruses always become less deadly.” I never bought that.

You may have noticed that Covid variants are not less deadly, but more deadly.

I was wondering about this the other day, and got my answer, courtesy of a specialist in mass murder.

In a vacuum, sure, viruses evolve towards a situation where they reproduce more, which tends toward lower lethatlity and more chronic infection. What they want, like most lifeforms, is more offspring. But this isn’t a vacuum, they’re evolving against public health measures

The first big breakout variant, the UK strain, was specifically adapted against masks. It was much more contagious, so minor mask lapses were more easily exploited. It spread more evenly, relying less on super-spreader events, and was more infectious to children, who mask poorly.

The next big breakout was the South African strain, which was part of the family of Covid strains that contain a mutation colorfully labeled “Eek” which evades antibodies, especially from natural infection or weaker vaccines, because that was/is becoming a bigger impediment than masks.

Now that MRNA vaccines are becoming the tool of choice, if the virus is allowed to continue to circulate in a partially vaccinated western population, it is only a matter of time before that becomes the biggest impediment to Covid’s success, and viruses are selected for resistance to it.

I feel a little silly not realizing this myself, as it’s Natural Selection 101.

What this means is that half-assing a workable measure only allows the virus to adapt to defeat it. If you don’t mask/shutdown/quarantine/track-and-trace properly, if vaccines aren’t quickly spread to virtually everyone, Covid adapts.

By leaving large chunks of the population effectively un-protected, we have ensured Covid’s continued evolution into forms optimized against our half-assed measures. This means everyone has to be protected and quickly, and that includes people in other countries. Just protecting your own population is not enough — especially if you half-ass it and don’t insist on compliance.

This suggests a rather bleak future for us v.s. Covid: A chronic, but still fairly deadly, disease which also gives some people long-Covid, i.e., impairment long after the initial infection.

This will allow pharma to sell booster shots every year. Pfizer wants to sell them for $150 a shot. Small and medium businesses will continue to shut and large businesses will continue to expand their market share since they can use the internet and delivery to cut around retail distribution. Those retail businesses which pretty much have to remain will continue to put workers at risk, and the same will be true of production and distribution centers, where low-paid workers must come together in large groups.

Countries which wish to opt-out of this future will have to go to hard borders with mandatory quarantines (jail sentence for skippers; track-and-trace and quick shutdowns against any break-outs). Although the main transmission vector is airborne, such countries will probably want both robots to offload freight, and then temporarily isolate shipped goods (especially anything coming in by air.)

I do hope this is all wrong and that vaccines can get Covid under control by main force, but I fear my desire for a decent future is overcoming my analytical sense when I wish for such.

In some ways, Covid has been a perfect test of humanity, which most of the “West” has failed abysmally, and we’ll discuss that more in a future article.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 30, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Long Slide Looms for World Population, With Sweeping Ramifications

[NYT, via Naked Capitalism 5-23-2021]

“1 big thing: The state of the world, according to me”

Dion Rabouin [Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-27-21]

I find this very interesting because Rabouin implies that he is conveying the elite consensus he has gathered from his contacts and sources over the past years. The elites are well aware of the socio-economic problems afflicting average people: “Because consumers don’t have cash to spend, many companies struggle to generate real profits.” Then the bottom line: “But it doesn’t seem like there’s much interest in finding an actual solution, just printing more money, adding more debt and putting more Band-Aids on the problem.”

As Ian Welsh explains in CDC Decides To Just Not Count All Covid Cases,

The people making decisions not only don’t care if you die, if you dying will make them richer or more powerful, they’ll go with the decision path that leads to you or mum or your best friend dying or winding up homeless. You aren’t nothing to them, you’re meat. A prey animal.

Welcome to late capitalism.


This being my last Axios Markets newsletter, I figured I’d break from tradition and tell you what I really think. I’m not anyone important, but I read a lot of reports and I talk to a lot of smart people, so I’ve learned a thing or two.

I believe our country is in trouble. And it’s not about a loss of morality or religion or liberals or conservatives or the current president or the last president. It’s about a fundamental problem we have as a nation — a reckless imbalance of wealth. The people at the top have too much and the people at the bottom don’t have enough.

This is not a philosophical matter of doing what’s “right.” It’s a practical matter of doing what’s necessary to uphold and maintain a consumption-based economy…. We’re living in a world now where the wealthy have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it…. Those who aren’t asset holders haven’t even benefited from the risk-asset inflation that’s accompanied housing, medical and education price inflation for the past decade because wage inflation hasn’t even come close….

This problem isn’t new. We’ve been lurching toward this imbalance for years as corporations busted unions, moved jobs offshore and muscled out independent small businesses, aided by politicians who rewarded them with tax breaks and no-bid contracts for doing it….

  • Retailers can’t raise prices, so it is almost entirely a race to the bottom — nearly half of all new retail store openings announced so far this year are from Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar.
  • The obvious exception being luxury brands, which are selling products to the wealthy who have more money than they know what to do with.

New companies today almost universally either lose money, free-ride by offering a service that makes some other service cheaper, or sell something to large corporations or the government.

#BigFacts: Because consumers don’t have cash to spend, many companies struggle to generate real profits.

  • However, because interest rates are so low, if a company is big enough it can just keep issuing bonds to keep itself afloat.
  • That’s why nearly a quarter of the largest public U.S. companies today are zombies — firms that don’t even make enough money to pay the interest on their debt.

….But it doesn’t seem like there’s much interest in finding an actual solution, just printing more money, adding more debt and putting more Band-Aids on the problem.

U.S. aluminum tariffs have led to investment, jobs -think tank study”

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-25-21]

“U.S. tariffs on aluminum imports imposed by former president Donald Trump and continued by President Joe Biden have led to increased output, employment and capital investment by domestic producers, a new study from a left-leaning think tank showed on Tuesday. The Economic Policy Institute said the 10% aluminum tariffs, imposed in March 2018 under the “Section 232″ national security section of a Cold War-era trade law, have led to $6 billion in 57 downstream aluminum product manufacturing projects that will employ over 4,500 additional workers.”

Of course, the “free trade” ideologues are promoting the Reason Foundation paper that argues only eight percent of the “extra” cost of tariffs are being paid by the Chinese exporters, and the remaining 92 percent are being imposed on American consumers. Any simple review of actual economic history [pdf] shows that tariffs and preferences for domestic manufacturing have been the only means for a country to industrialize. Which is why mainstream neoliberal economists are not taught actual economic history. 

Austerity’s Hidden Purpose

Yanis Varoufakis [Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 5-26-2021]

But if austerity is such a bad idea, sapping our economies of energy, why is it so popular among the powerful? …. But suppose for a moment, and for argument’s sake, that everyone agreed that printing another trillion dollars to finance a basic income for the poor would boost neither inflation nor interest rates. The rich and powerful would still oppose it, owing to the debilitating fear that they would end up like Peel in Australia: monied but bereft of the power to compel the less monied…. their most important interest is not to conserve economic potential. It is to preserve the power of the few to compel the many.

Signs of economic immiseration:

Open Thread

Use the comments to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.

How Finance Sharks Destroy Industries: Chicago Tribune Edition

This isn’t going to be a long one. The way today’s private-equity and other takeover artists work is simple: They buy up a company, and then load it up with debt to pay for having bought it. They generally take healthy companies (ToysRUs was running a profit), then once it’s taken over, they slash and cut. The business will often go bankrupt — if it doesn’t, it operates as a shadow of its former self; its products are worse, it has fewer employees, and so on.

This is now being done to the Chicago Tribune Newspaper.

I don’t think a lot of commentary is necessary. This should be illegal. You should not be able to stiff the company you bought with a huge loan to pay off the expenses you incurred buying it out (while you also pay yourself bonuses in the tens of millions).

Just make it illegal. It has destroyed innumerable companies, and the overall affect is to reduce employment and economic activity. It’s nothing but damage to the economy at this point. Private equity doesn’t take over badly-run companies and make them better now (if it ever did, which is questionable), it just damages or destroys companies so that the people who take them over can have a third super-yacht and a tenth vacation home, and in many cases, be invited to the island run by whoever has replaced Epstein.

These people literally act as parasites. Make what they do illegal, and find a way to take back their stolen wealth.

(The more people subscribe or donate the more I write and the happier I am. So please consider doing so if you like my writing.)

CDC Decides to Just Not Count All Covid Cases

If you’re vaccinated, you can still get Covid, but… (courtesy of my favorite Dalek.)

Now, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stopped investigating breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people unless they become so sick that they are hospitalized or die.

Now, this may seem reasonable, but people with breakthrough Covid can give it to other people, and they can get Long Covid from it.

And, yeah, you can still die.

Earlier this year, the agency was monitoring all cases. Through the end of April, when some 101 million Americans had been vaccinated, the CDC had received 10,262 reports of breakthrough infections from 46 states and territories, a number that was very likely “a substantial undercount,” according to a CDC report issued on Tuesday….(my emphasis)

Some 995 people were known to have been hospitalized, and 160 had died, though not always because of Covid-19, the new study said. The median age of those who died was 82.

So, we’re not going to count cases unless they wind up in the hospital, but the people with Covid are still infectious and can still die (looks like about a 1.5 percent chance, based on the numbers above).

This, along with the decision to stop recommending masks for people who are fully vaccinated (which, yeah, people who don’t believe in vaccination will lie about) smacks of “the pandemic is all but over, nothing to see here.”

“If we don’t measure it, it doesn’t exist!”

Neither the CDC, nor the WHO have covered themselves in glory during this pandemic. In fact, they have burned credibility like it’s ten cent oil, and they want to set the world on fire. They said masks didn’t help, then they changed their minds. They resisted evidence that the virus was airborne vigorously, and as a result, didn’t emphasize proper ventilation. They were wrong about schools, where, yes, children and teachers do get infected and pass it on.

What should have be a disease we stomped into the ground is now likely to become chronic (also because of refusal to share vaccine manufacturing information), which will, it must be admitted, earn Pharma tens of billions of dollars every year, so I guess that’s a win. And who really needed old people, or people who are immune-compromised? Think of all the saved money on pensions and healthcare for people who are mostly worth more dead than alive to governments and corporations. (Especially since the kids of old people can spend their money. It doesn’t require mom or dad or grandpa or grandma to be alive.)

Back in the Bush era, a joke I liked was: “Stupid or evil?”

“Why not both?”

It sure is fun to be ruled by incompetent psychopaths.

Over in Britain, the government is now trying to deny that they started off with a herd immunity strategy: “Let almost everyone get it and who cares if grandma dies?” But anyone with a memory span of more than year remembers that they did.

Psychopaths. The rich get richer if Covid isn’t stopped. The richest people in the world have seen massive increases in their wealth and income because of Covid. Life is fucking marvelous and Covid has been a blessing.

Understand this in your bones. The people making decisions not only don’t care if you die, if you dying will make them richer or more powerful, they’ll go with the decision path that leads to you or your mum or your best friend dying or winding up homeless. You are nothing to them, you’re meat. A prey animal.

Welcome to late-stage capitalism.

(The more people subscribe or donate the more I write and the happier I am. So please consider doing so if you like my writing.)

Types of Enlightenment #1: World As Self

In the West, this is probably the most common definition of enlightenment: You experience yourself as everything in the world, including people. Among others, this is the traditional definition for Hermetic Mages, though they don’t call it enlightenment. It is also the most common definition of enlightenment in Hindu folk tradition (though full Hinduism has many.) If someone says “non-dual” this is what they’re talking about.

This type of enlightenment is based on the simple fact that we never experience the world directly, but only through symbols created by our consciousness. You don’t see a tree, you see a symbol of a tree. You don’t know your body as it actually is, but only feelings from the body and reflections. You never experience another person as they experience themselves (their consciousness), but only see their bodies and actions — though we may get some hints of their inner experience through the various mechanisms of empathy.

But even with empathy, what we experience is ourselves, trying to mimic another’s state.

Human consciousness, which is all we ever know, is hopelessly symbolic. It is nothing but symbols for a world we will never feel directly. You cannot directly experience anything that is not you.

In this style of enlightenment, what changes is that you no longer feel an inner or outer; everything is you and it is felt to be you. This often occurs in stages, we have a hard time feeling animals and especially humans as ourselves, and they are generally the last to be integrated.

Unlike some other forms of enlightenment, this one is entirely theoretical to me: I’ve never had even a glimpse of it. But those who have, describe it as immensely enjoyable and freeing.

It is also in some ways a more truthful way of seeing the world, including yourself. A world may or may not exist, but you live in your consciousness and, in this style of enlightenment, you know that you are consciousness. This is the style of mysticism where the mystic talks about being the sun, the moon, the reeds in the river, the wind on flesh, and so on.

Getting this sort of enlightenment, or a glimpse of it, usually requires specific types of meditation. You can find some of them in this series of guided meditations from Michael Taft (to teach you how to do them on your own).

I’ll continue this series with other definitions of enlightenment such as “the end of suffering” and the Indian Jiva Mukti, which is the breaking of conditioning and thus the enlightenment of freedom (it also breaks the bonds of karma/fate/wyrd and so on, which is a lot less esoteric than it sounds; karma needs to no mystical mumbo-jumbo to explain). Tune in next time for more.

(The more people subscribe or donate the more I write and the happier

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 23, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

Predatory Capitalism in the Time of COVID19

‘Government Money That’s Gone Into Vaccine Development Is Being Privatized by a Handful of Companies’

[FAIR, via Naked Capitalism 5-16-2021]

It Was The Government That Produced COVID-19 Vaccine Success

[Health Affairs Blog, via Naked Capitalism 5-16-2021]

“Who owns the covid vaccines?”

Cory Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-17-2021]

““Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” The true mRNA vaccines theft isn’t entrepreneur-inventors who face robbery by the public sector — rather, those “entrepreneurs” have enjoyed billions in public subsidies, and now insist they owe nothing in return….. Pharma’s claim that it doesn’t owe us anything in return makes no sense, even by the companies’ own logic. They say that markets produce wonders because they reward canny risk-taking with vast fortunes. By that logic, the public — who assumed the majority of the risk in developing vaccines — are the angel investors in this high-tech unicorn, and the pharma companies are the VCs who came in with some late capital to help scale up a sure thing.”

America Is Failing Its Moral Test on Vaccines
New York Times Editorial Board, May 14, 2021, via Naked Capitalism 5-16-2021]

The H.I.V. advocacy group PrEP4All estimates that for $4 billion — less than the country is spending per day on coronavirus response efforts — the federal government could build enough manufacturing capacity to vaccinate the entire planet against the coronavirus. It will cost much more to actually make the needed doses, of course. The nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizen estimates that a $25 billion governmentwide initiative would produce around eight billion doses of mRNA vaccine, or enough to vaccinate half the planet. That’s far less than the trillions that could be lost if the economy contracts further as the pandemic persists.

Cashing in on Our Homes: Billionaire Landlords Profit as Millions Face Eviction

Open Thread

Use the comments to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts. In particular, please do not discuss the Israel/Palestine issue here.

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