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

Month: June 2023 Page 1 of 3

Quick Takes 4: Covid Mental Illness, IMF Admits Greed Sometimes Bad, & More

The sheer desperation of the US to halt China’s rise is on display with the news that America blacklisted fourty-four flight schools for teaching Chinese pilots.

Ain’t gonna work, sunshine, and it makes you look like petty fools. Also this whole extraterritorial law thing is now beyond tiresome and pissing everyone off. Ain’t anyone but your lackeys who doesn’t want this to end and to see America in the graveyard of empires.


In the sort of lovely Covid news we’ve become used to, it seems that about one-third of everyone who gets Covid gets short or long term mental issues:

delirium, agitation, altered consciousness, hypoxic encephalopathy encephalitis, dysexecutive syndrome, cerebrovascular complications (e.g., stroke), hypoxic encephalopathy, convulsions, neuromuscular dysfunction, demyelinating processes, or parkinsonism through several pathophysiological mechanisms.

Meanwhile, it seems Japan may have entered its’ ninth Covid wave. But remember, children, the WHO told us the emergency is over. Which is, I suppose, true. “The world burning down is now normal and not an emergency. Continue about your business, citizens.”


As long as we’re talking about the world burning down, it seems that tropical forests shrunk by 10% in 2022 – not just the Amazon, but Congo and so on. Chow down on those burgers, you might as well benefit from destroying the world!

And remember all that news you’ve been reading about how renewables are taking over the world! Well it seems that coal use is the highest its been since 2014 and fossil fuels still provide 84% of the world’s energy, because we keep increasing how much energy we use faster than expanded renewables can keep up.

It makes me so happy to see how seriously we’re taking climate change.


Everyone favorite foreign policy realist, Mearsheimer, now has a substack. His first piece is on how the Ukraine war will end (or, sort of, not) and who will win. I find myself in agreement with almost all of it, though this doesn’t mean I agree with Mearsheimer on everything else.

Measheimer notes, as I have, that everyone in the war considers this existential or nearly, and thus no one is willing to go to peace. End of the day, though, it’s an attrition war and Russia is winning it.


The IMF, rather amazingly, has published figures showing what everyone with half a brain and and an ounce of honesty was reporting two years ago, at least, that the largest contributor to inflation is companies taking huge profits. This is important because it indicates even part of the elite has decided that it’s too much: it matters that the IMF is saying it, but the actual content is a yawner.

On the other hand, they did make a pretty chart, so here it is.


Meanwhile, Delaware continues to lead in the important civil rights area of corporate personhood. All people should, after all, have the vote, and it’s simply unfair when they don’t, so Delaware has a bill to let LLCs vote in a municipal election pending. All right minding liberty lovers will no doubt support this extension of rights to society’s most discriminated-against people.


And that, dear readers, is the end of today’s Quick Takes. Remember that this blog is powered by me and I am powered by your donations and subscriptions, which I exchange for kibble, a roof over my head, a computer and some internet stuff which allows me to write. So if you want to give, that would be, well, nice, especially since some large donors decided that my writing that rape is always bad, mmmkay and that Israel is a shitty apartheid state and that supporting an apartheid state makes you bad, was a good reason to stop giving.

(Which is understandable and I don’t blame them, people who support rape and ethnic cleansing obviously don’t like being told these things are, y’know, evil. Though I’ll say that I didn’t expect the whole “how dare you say rape is always bad” freakout. Seemed pretty “mom and apple pie are good” when I was writing it, though I do applaud the level of self-acceptance required to admit you’re sometimes OK with rape.)

Oh, like everyone asking for your cash, subscriptions are great (though I almost never subscribe to anything, so I get it if you’d rather one-time it.) Also, if you’re skint, don’t give. I don’t want money from people who are having trouble paying the rent, affording food or buying medicine.

If you’re a billionaire, or even a deci-millionaire, feel free to give till it still doesn’t hurt. I promise I’ll use at least some of your money to help overthrow your class!

How Over Is Covid?

The official Covid mortality numbers are down, and pretty significantly, in most countries. But we also aren’t testing as much and  most countries aren’t collating and releasing figures as much either.

For now, however, we have excess mortality numbers.  So, a guy named Diego Bassani produced these two excess mortality charts for Canada.

First, age 15-64.


Second, 0-14.

Compare the 2020 line for adults and children, then the 2021. In 2020 we protected kids, in 2021 we gave up and threw them to the wolves. I said at the time that the idea that kids were going to be just fine if we sent them back to school wholesale without ventilating and filtering schools was nonsense, and it was.

Anyway, it sure doesn’t look like Covid is over, does it?

And really, why would we think it would be over since we didn’t do anything to end it except say it was over and stop most of what was done to slow it down, from masking and isolation to widespread vaccination?

I rather suspect most governments are gaslighting their populations. Lying. And step by step they will lie more by changing the excess death baseline (the UK is already on this) and so on.

“No, this is how it’s always been.”

Of course, not all deaths are directly Covid, but the excess are mostly because of Covid. If you get cancer and the hospitals are slammed and you don’t get care for months then die, it won’t show as “Covid”, but it’s because of Covid, or rather our response. In Canada I keep seeing stories about overworked hospitals and how emergency departments are having to shut down for the weekend or whatever. That basically never happened pre-Covid.

Covid’s here. It’s still killing and Long Covid is still stalking the land. And we’re just pretending, like some “New Emperor’s Clothes” that it isn’t

I don’t see how adding a semi-permanent pandemic and mass disabling to climate change and environmental collapse is anything but bad and complete malpractice by our ruling class, even given that they are the enemies of all humanity except themselves, since it’s going to hit them too.

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What’s The Good Future Look Like In Environmental Collapse?

There are a few possible answers to this question, but one comes out of a conversation I just had with a friend. He observed that replies suggest westerners don’t like the idea of arcologies:

My answer? “No. Well, it doesn’t really matter. Soon enough it will be “Arcologies, bitches, or you all die.”

A bit of exaggeration for effect, but what people don’t get about climate change is that the real problem isn’t “it’s getting hotter” but ecological collapse and that these numbers are looking closer and closer than the standard models suggested. (Which regular readers will know is what I’ve said for years.)

It’s all about tipping points and self-reinforcing “doom-loops”.

So, there will be war, revolution, lots of violence, massive famines, huge refugee crises and so on. This will all happen sooner than people really expect.

Any solution set is going to require a lot of re-wilding. And that means, at the least, the end of suburbs and exurbs and probably the end of most farms as we know them. We are going to have to figure out how to make very high density farming work, whether that’s highly curated food forests and regenerative agriculture, or its vertical farms and massive vertical greenhouses, or it’s underwater farms (high pressure atmospheres leads to extremely fast growth). Or, more realistically all of these and more.

As for humans, a lucky few, maybe one or two percent will get to live in the new wilderness in exchange for taking care of it and everyone else is going to get crammed into high density. Well, that or we reduce the population to about a billion people, a process which will involve a lot of blood.

If people want out of the high density, they will simply have to prove that they increase biodiversity. If they make there be more animals and plants and bugs and microbes and so on with their presence, they can be wherever that is true. If not, arcologies or very high density urban.

There’s a bunch of other stuff, like the end to planned obsolesence. Creating something that is meant to break and isn’t biodegradable and made from actual renewable resources will have to be treated like we do serial killers today, minus the romanticization.

But basically, you can’t live with nature if you don’t strengthen the ecology. Otherwise, into the arcology.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 25, 2023

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

In Delaware, Corporations Are Dangerously Close to Acquiring the Right to Vote 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2023]

As GOP states across the country aim to limit voter participation, Delaware’s Democratic-controlled legislature has been considering a bill to allow the expansion of the franchise to businesses. The Republican legislation would explicitly permit the city of Seaford, Delaware, “to authorize artificial entities, limited liability corporations’ partnerships and trusts to vote in municipal elections.”

The legislature has until June 30, when the legislative session ends, to vote on the bill.

With hundreds of thousands of corporations officially headquartered in a small Wilmington warehouse, Delaware has long been known for its business fealty. The state’s new legislation would allow corporations to upend the balance of power in Seaford, a small eight thousand–person city twenty miles north of Salisbury, Maryland. Just 340 people voted in the most recent election on April 15 — and the bill would potentially provide as many as 234 votes to businesses in the community.

The State That May Let Corporations Vote In Elections

Matthew Cunningham-Cook, June 20, 2023 [The Lever]

No, We Haven’t Lived with Diseases for Millions of Years. 

Jessica Wildfire [via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2023]

You hear this a lot: Apparently humans have lived with germs and diseases for millions of years. There’s no need for masks or vaccines. Nobody needs clean air. Natural immunity works just fine.

It’s wrong.

It couldn’t be more wrong.

We’ve never been able to live with diseases, not like we do now. Most westerners have no idea. Before medicine, life looked different.

You couldn’t even drink the water.

As an article in Scientific American points out, “water was unsafe to drink for most of human history.” According to Paul Lukacs, humans had to drink wine. It wasn’t fun, either. Ancient texts describe wine as “wretched, horrible, vinegary, foul.” The only thing worse was plain water. You often had no idea if it was safe to drink. For thousands of years, humans opted for beer and wine instead. There was just enough alcohol to kill germs….

Scientists and historians from all disciplines agree on this point: For most of our history, our lives were short. Average life expectancy remained well below 50 for millennia. We didn’t get eaten by tigers.

We got eaten by plagues.

When you look at the last 2,000 years across the world, you see the same thing. About half of all children died before reaching adulthood. Scientists confirm this trend all the way back to the stone age. As Oxford scholar Max Roser says, “Whether in Ancient Rome, in hunter-gatherer societies, in the pre-Columbian Americas, in Medieval Japan or Medieval England, in the European Renaissance, or in Imperial China, every second child died.”

Epidemics have upended countless civilizations, from Rome to the Akkadian Empire. These societies didn’t just live with it. Death and grief played a central role in their cultures, because it happened all the time. It was a different world that most people today can’t wrap their heads around.

They didn’t shrug it off.

They chased answers.

History is full of doctors and scientists who devoted their entire lives trying to treat and cure diseases that plagued us. It’s also full of quacks and charlatans who made fortunes by selling fake miracle cures. There’s a reason why historical novels and movies feature apothecaries and snake oil salesmen. Almost everyone was sick or scared of getting sick and dying….

Diseases have always hit the poor worse than everyone else. Throughout history, the rich have invested in sanitation for themselves first while leaving everyone else behind and blaming them for their own deaths….

[TW: The role of government in fighting disease is central, One indication is to scan the list of Nobel Laureates affiliated with or funded by the USA National Institutes of Health.

“To date, 169 scientists either at NIH or whose research is supported by NIH funds have been the sole or shared recipients of 101 Nobel Prizes.”

And, then there is the fight for clean water supplies.
Chronology of American Waterworks from 1649 to 1865
Chronology of American Waterworks from 1866 to 1880 ]

Prigozhin Launches A Coup Effort (And It’s Over)

Update 3: It’s over. Prigozhin has turned around. He only had one slim chance once he didn’t get defections from them military.

Putin, if he has any sense, needs to get this clown back into prison and disband Wagner or at the very least stop the convincts to mercs pipeline. However it looks like the deal may be that Shoigu gets canned and Prigozhin doesn’t go to prison, in which case Putin has made a significant mistake. (At least if he keeps the deal.)


Well, it’s on. This is why you don’t use mercenaries, let alone mercenaries who are convicts, or trust scum like Prigozhin.

Remember that Prigozhin is to the right of Putin, which is where the threat was always going to come from.

The issue here is just how much of the Russian army will side with Putin. If it’s anything substantial, he wins. If not,  he’s done unless he can occupy the Kremlin. This is why Prigozhin emphasized not enough weapons, etc… it was a stab in the back narrative: “Putin won’t let us win the war.”

Putin played around with the war, unwilling to go all in and used Wagner as a prison to frontlines pipeline. That was a mistake.

We’ll see if it’s a fatal one. This is entirely a matter of morale—what the military will do.

If Putin wins, he will be stronger than before the coup, just as Erdogan was, because he will be able to use it to purge opponents.

Update: I’m not seeing reports of mass desertions to Prigozhin. If’ that’s the case, his odds are slim.

Prigozhin is rushing for Moscow. He needs to occupy the Kremlin and declare victory. If he doesn’t, he’s probably finished in a day or two.

My money is on Putin.

Update 2: Still not seeing any signs of significant defections from the military and the regional governors and generals are siding with Putin.

Prigozhin needs to rush to Moscow and declare victory. If he does, he might win. If not, he’s toast.

Putin’s question is if he has a loyal force in the military that will fire who aren’t on the frontline facing Ukraine. The military is not going against him, but will they defend him? And, as is his modus operandi, I suspect he’s being too cautious about the use of force.

Pax Americana Is A Zombie

On May 16th 2022 I wrote an article on who would win and lose from the Ukraine war. Summarizing, the big loser was obviously Ukraine. Even if they “win” they’ve lost millions of population who are never coming back and odds are they’re going to lose a chunk of their country on top of that.

Europe loses because of the economic effects: industry fleeing Europe to the US. They get some increased unity, but in a world where Europe is already in decline, this is a loss.

Russia I said would be about a draw: they’ll get some land, but Sweden and Finland joining NATO and the EU firmly set in place as US satrapies isn’t good for them.

The US—, well, I’ll quote myself.

The final major effect for the US is that freezing Russian reserves and encouraging the massive level of sanctions, is seen by most of the world as evidence it’s not safe to keep money in the US lead banking system, or even to trade with them. This has accelerated de-dollarization and I suspect will be seen as the precipitating event of losing reserve status for the American dollar. The world will split into two financial blocs, one centered around China-Russia, the other around the US-EU. The US receives huge benefits from reserve status and from being at the center of the world financial system, and as with Britain after WWI, it will suffer mightily when it loses this position.

My evaluation is that what the US will likely gain from the Ukraine war is less than it has or will lose: dollar hegemony and being the financial center of the world are a big deal, and confirming Russia as a junior Chinese ally makes their main geopolitical rival far stronger.

It’s clear this is happening. Multiple nations joining the BRICS; ASEAN creating its own trading currency; oil being sold in Yuan, and so on.

The US and the West in general had a BIG GUN. That big gun was going all out on sanctions, using their central position in the world monetary and trade system as a weapon. The US had been using this position coercively ever since WWII, but it really ramped up under Clinton and each President thereafter doubled down. Nations were genuinely scared of this power, seeing what it did Iran and Cuba and Venezuela and so on.

But the world changed. China became the most powerful manufacturing power. Russia recovered somewhat and became a huge net resource producer, including of food. The late USSR couldn’t feed itself, Russia can. China became the main trading partner for almost every nation in South America and Africa. The US declared China its main enemy, and China looked at the US and saw it was vulnerable to a blockade.

And so the sanctions failed, because China and most of the non-Western world, including India, didn’t cooperate.

The BIG GUN had been fired. The one everyone was scared of. And not only didn’t it work, the blowback damaged Europe.

It did damage Russia somewhat, but by not taking Russia out it showed that one could leave the system without being destroyed. And so that’s what’s happening.

Meanwhile, as inflation (largely from Covid, but much from the war) shuddered through the West, the US raised interest rates massively. This caused all the countries who owed money in US dollars extreme harm.

Being exposed to the US dollar was clearly a liability. A big one. Going off the dollar used to seem insurmountable but Russia had gone off it and while it lost a bit of GDP, basically done OK, because China and other countries supported it.

And if Russia could do it, well, so could other nations.

And so they are.

As for America, it reminds me of a 60 year old who still thinks he’s 40 and in training. “I can take him!” This isn’t the America of 1950, or 1990 or even 2000. This is a weak America, visibly become weaker.

Nobody likes America. Not even the Brits (outside their elites, who like America the way a poodle likes its owner.) Everybody was terrified of America.

Now a lot of them are only scared. And when you’re only scared, not terrified, you take action to protect yourself against whomever you’re scared by.

So, I have to say that I’m moving America from the “slight loss” column over to the big loss. It’ll take longer than Ukraine to be obvious, but the train is in motion and it isn’t stopping. Pax Americana is a zombie; it’s still shuffling along, but it’s functionally dead and only waiting for decay to reduce it to a shambling heap.

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Believing You Should Be Happy

For most of my life I was pretty miserable. There were good reasons for that: alcoholic parents, serious illness and rather a lot of poverty, among other things.

So I started meditating. That helped, after a while (quite a while, though many people get faster results.)

One of the things that came up is that bad emotions are, well, bad. By “bad” I mean, emotions that are unpleasant. There’s a lot of advice around emotions, and negative emotions aren’t 100% evil or anything. Anger tells you something is unacceptable; hatred that someone is a long term threat and so on. Now emotions aren’t always right, you can be angry inappropriately. You can hate people who aren’t a threat (Nazis hating Jews) or who are only a threat because of how you treat them (Israeli Zionists and Palestinians), and so on.

Still, a negative emotion in the affective sense; in the unpleasant sense is bad in the same way that pain is bad. Sometimes pain is useful because it tells you to do something or stop doing something, and sometimes it’s just pain: there’s nothing you or anyone else can do about it and it’s pointless.

This realization, really grinding it in, is important. That the emotion itself is unpleasant and, as importantly, that you don’t want to have it.

Most of us wander around thinking “I should be angry”, “I should be sad”, “I should hate”, under certain circumstances. Someone said something mean or cut us off in traffic or hurt us and we are angry. But if the emotion of being angry is unpleasant, all we’re doing is compounding our suffering.

But then the next thought comes up, “if I don’t get mad, I won’t protect myself.”

And this can be true. Sometimes we need the unpleasantness to spur us to action, to tell someone they shouldn’t hurt us, or to remove ourselves from a bad situation.

But it doesn’t have to be. The old saying “I don’t get mad, I get even” rather covers it. If you’ll take action to fix the problem without the emotion, then at most you need the emotion briefly to tell you something is wrong, and then you don’t need it any more.

And if you have firm rules about what is acceptable or not, you may not even need the emotion. “My boss made me work overtime then didn’t pay me, that’s unacceptable and I will find a way to stop it.”

Much of why we have certain emotions is because we think we should have them. If you think  you should be angry or sad or scared or whatever, it’s very hard not to be.

One way to get past this is pure self-concern. Just look at the emotion, and realize “this emotion is unpleasant. I don’t like feeling this way.” Do that often enough, and you’ll start feeling the emotion less often, and it will go away sooner when it does arise.

But to do this you have to believe the emotion isn’t necessary for your well-being, because if you feel it is, your mind will keep bringing it up.

You aren’t here to suffer, whatever some religions may say, and it’s OK to do what you can to suffer less.

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Jewish, Israeli & Zionist Are Three Different Things

There are few people I despise more than those who conflate being anti-zionist with being anti-semitic.

Anyone who does this is a write off to me. Worthy of no respect; moral or intellectual. I only hope they are being paid well to be both evil and intellectually dishonest.

“We are going to emigrate to Palestine until we are the majority, then use force to steal Palestinian homes” is not defensible in any terms except “the strong do what they will, the weak suffer what they must.”

And no one who is Jewish should want to live in such a world.

Some Jews are Zionists, but not all Jews are Zionists. This is fairly basic.

One can be against the Zionist project and not be against the Jewish people. It is evil of Israel to wrap themselves in Jewishness, and push their crimes onto people who had nothing to do with them.

Some Jews are Zionists, but not all Jews are Zionists. This is fairly basic. One can be against the Zionist project and not be against the Jewish people. It is evil of Israel to wrap themselves in Jewishness, and push their crimes onto people who had nothing to do with them.

In the long run, the crimes of Israel, because Israelis wrap them in “Jewishness” do more damage to Jews than perhaps even to Palestinians.

Being Jewish and being Israeli and being Zionist are three different things.

Conflating them is wrong.

There isn’t much of a real opposition left in Israel; of people who genuinely oppose stealing other people’s homes. But they exist. That’s why being Israeli /= being Zionist.

Being Zionist means believing you have a right to take other people’s homes. Being Israeli is citizenship

This is similar to the fact that both Russia and the US have done a lot of evil shit, but that doesn’t mean all Russians or Americans are evil, just the ones who support doing evil shit.

Likewise, there were Germans who opposed the Nazis. They were not evil. They were good.

You don’t get to choose if you’re German, or Jewish, or American, or Russian. You do get to choose whether you’re a Nazi, a Zionist, a Neocon or a Stalinist.

You get to decide whether you support doing evil or oppose it.

Apartheid is evil. Are you for it, or against it?

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