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

Month: December 2022 Page 1 of 4

Open Thread

Use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.

How To Relax, Change & Be Free

Jiddu Krishnamurti was a lecturer and teacher for almost 50 years. He was famous, there are a lot of books transcribing his talks, and he maybe got one person enlightened.

Jiddu was the anti-guru, guru. He didn’t want to give concrete instructions, because when people follow concrete instructions they aren’t free: they’ve got a system and they’re just enacting the system.

Reading him is frustrating. I’ve read his lectures multiple times over the years, and each time understood a bit more of what he was saying.

One main point is that everyone is acting according to conditioning: religious, social, family, school, philosophical, etc… They’re in chains, and they regard those chains as themselves.

But none of that conditioning is you. You aren’t your personality, and beliefs you got from you religion, nation, schooling, family, etc… are not your beliefs.

Krishnamurti is famous for “choiceless awareness”: his only real recommendation was to watch the movement of one’s mind (which includes impulses to do things, emotions and what your body is doing) without judgment. Don’t think “I shouldn’t be like this” or “this is how things are” or “this is how it should be.”

No judgment.

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His point was that if you are tying to change, if you want be kinder, or richer or less greedy or anything, you’re acting because of conditioning. You’re pushing one set of conditioning, say Christianity, against another, say “get rich because only people with money are worthwhile”. (Or maybe you think money is bad, it doesn’t matter: that didn’t originate with you.)

You push two sets of conditioning against each other, and even if you change it’s not real, there’s usually still conflicting sets of conditioning and in any case, you were acting out of conditioning, which is not something you chose.

All of this sounds very nice, but if you don’t do the work, you don’t get it. What works is actually looking at your conditioning, which comes up as thoughts, feelings, impulses and actions. Every time you feel resistance, every time you want to do something and also don’t want to do something; every time you feel something and believe you should feel something else, you’ve two sets of conditioning in conflict.

You can feel this, and you need to feel it and, often, repeatedly perceive it happening. If you do so with judgment, say, being angry or guilty because you’re angry then you’re just adding to the conditioning and it’s just conditioning fighting against each other.

If you do it without judgment, however, what often happens is a release of the conditioning. This isn’t a theoretical release, conditioning in conflict will make your muscles tight. When release happens you will feel it: muscles will relax. In some cases you’ll be shocked, you didn’t even relize they were tight, and had been tight for years or decades.

Krishnamurti was concerned with real freedom: he wanted you to become free. You don’t have to, you can eliminate all conditioning except one set, the way certain fanatics and true-believers do, and give everything to that set, and you’ll release a ton of the tension and feel better and a lot more peaceful.

You won’t be free, though.

Find the conditioning, feel it, watch it without judgment. When I say this works, I am not speaking theoretically: it does work.

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A Map Showing The Two Main Geopolitical Blocs

Yeah, it is mostly this simple:

This is pretty much the map for UN resolutions aimed at Russia, too.

As I’ve noted before the bottom line is that if you are a developing country, China offers cheaper loans and cheaper and faster development work like ports, airports, hospitals, roads, railways, schools and even cities. If you aren’t close to them, they don’t care about your internal politics, either.

I remember reading an interview with a minister of an African state who said approximately, “every time a western minister visits us we get a lecture, every time a Chinese official visits we get a new hospital.”

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As for sanctions, well, everyone’s scared of them, and everyone in that green zone knows that they could be sanctioned at the drop of the hat and that the sanctions never go away. Even if they don’t approve of some things Russia or China does, they don’t want the precedent of more and more sanctions and they want to belong to a monetary system which won’t lock them out.

Afghanistan is a particularly “amusing” case: when the US pulled out it then sanctioned Afghanistan and froze its foreign reserves. There was an immediate famine effecting millions. Biden is a perverse evil genius: by ending a war he was able to kill FAR more people than if he’d left troops in country.

Then there is Iran, where a treaty was signed under Obama which would remove sanctions. Iran kept its side, but the US pulled out anyway under Trump, and lo! Biden did not reverse him. Even the Europeans disagreed with that one.

China simply offers a better deal now than the West, and there’s a couple centuries or more of resentment towards Europe and America and Japan. Most countries would rather be allied with China.

And that’s why this map is fairly close to what the cold war map will look like. A few “green” countries will cut deals with the West, but most will go with China and Russia. And why wouldn’t they?

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A New Age Of Vertical Integration

There was a time when companies preferred vertical integration: they wanted to own their supply chain. Then, for a long time, the mantra was to concentrate on one’s core business and let other specialists take care of all the non-core parts of your business.


This is no longer viable business practice. In a period of civilization collapse supply chains become unreliable: you may not be able to get what you want or you may not be able to get it at a price you can afford.

Supply chains will become more unreliable as time goes on. Leaving aside the fact that logistics companies make out like bandits during periods of supply constraints and thus have little incentive to fix the problem, climate change, environmental collapse and the new era of cold and hot war will make supplies more and more unreliable and scarce.

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The more something matters, the more this will be true: many countries couldn’t get vaccines, no matter what, and countries which created them gave them to themselves and their allies first. When water, food, minerals and energy becomes scarce, countries and companies will prioritize themselves first, their allies second and everyone else not at all. Strong countries, faced with famine, will not export food they need, and weak countries will be forced to export resources they need even if it means death and deprivation for their people.

If you need something, you better make it yourself, or be in lockstep with a company or country who needs you as much as you need them.

The smaller you are, the worse this will get. Amid the shortages of the pandemic small and medium enterprises, including stores were largely cut off: the biggest customers got served first and everyone else got the scraps.

A reliable supply chain and predictable politics are necessary for ages where companies and countries specialize. Eras of war and decline and collapse are eres of vertical integration and keeping ones suppliers close. The extreme version of this was feudalism: make or grow everything you have locally, because you can’t count on anything more than a day’s travel.

Most areas of the developed world won’t wind up that bad for some time yet, but that’s the extreme end of the road we’re on. Hopefully we’ll never get there, but wise countries and companies will no longer rely on widespread supply chains they have no control over.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 25, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-23-2022]



Merry Christmas

I hope you’re having a good one, and if you aren’t, consider my thoughts with you, for they are.

Open Thread

Rather delayed today. Used to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.


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The Decline Of Facebook (Meta)

Back in August of this year Cheryl Sandberg stepped down as Chief Operating Officer of Meta, . I’d been keeping a lazy eye of Facebook and Meta for a while: the organization felt sick to me, not in terms of ethics, but in terms of health. Sandberg jumping was a sign: the most important insider other than the founder and CEO leaving.

Then, this week:

Facebook is going down, is my guess. There’s irony to this, Facebook built it’s HQ where Sun Microsystem’s HQ was and Sandberg and Zuckerberg were fond of saying that they did so to remind people that Facebook would have to stay on the ball or go down.

Facebooks new virtual world is crap and is doing abysmal numbers. Their audience growth is anemic, and they’ve had some periods of negative growth in the last couple years, though it’s minor. Young people aren’t interested in Facebook. Their VR goggles are excellent, but not showing a profit.

Every social internet company (this includes Google search) which manages to get large enough numbers to achieve audience capture; where you have to be there because everyone is there; starts excessive fiddling with their algo.

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In Google’s first years its search results really were excellent. But once almost everyone used Google, they started fiddling the algo to increase revenue as much as possible, rather than optimizing for good search (so far, they’re fine, but it’ll be what brings them down.) Social media does the same thing with their algos — instead of just showing people the content they signed up for by following someone, they start boosting some content, de-emphazising other content and shoving content in front of users faces they didn’t ask for, and not just some advertising.

This degrades the utility of joining them: you aren’t actually getting the feed you signed up for: content from the people and orgs you explicitly said you wanted to see, in chronological order.

Everyone does this. They start of mostly clean, like twitter, then they optimize and tweak until they damage the experience. By optimizing for profit “now” they damage their profit potential going forward.

This isn’t necessarily a huge problem for the decision makers: Sandberg and Zuckerberg, absent profound stupidity or civilization collapse, are never not going to be rich.

But it is how companies destroy themselves. Something similar happened to General Electric when Jack Welch decided to optimize for short term profit over long term and gutted the most important industrial producer in America. He was praised to the heavens for it at the time and died rich in 2020, but he also turned GE into a second tier company after it was one of the 10 most important companies in America for about a century.

Every time a company tries to optimize profits over providing a good service or product a price is paid. Make into your corporate culture to do so, and you gut the firm.

Facebook had some real utility (finding people you had lost contact with and staying in contact), but it doesn’t even really offer that any more because of the crud load-up.

No one will really miss it. Some other place will offer what it used to. Or maybe it’ll stagger along for a few decades, a shadow of its former self.

But it’s in grave danger now, and it’s simple to tell, because the people in the know who can leave, are.


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