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

Covid and China’s Victory

One of the most clarifying things about the Covid epidemic has been which countries have been able to handle it and which haven’t.

To oversimplify, China and a few other nations have handled it well. None of the major Western powers have; certainly not the US.

In biology, there’s a distinction between natural selection and sexual selection. In sexual selection, you compete against other members of your species. In natural selection, you compete against your environment.

In nations, societies, and civilizations there is something similar: internal vs. external competition. You compete against fellow members of your society for status, wealth, and power within your society, but your society as a whole competes against other societies. There are always top dogs, hegemonic powers, and so on, and losing an inter-society culture can, at worst, lead to you being genocided and, at best, lead to long periods of poverty and subjugation. (The Irish to the English, say, for hundreds of years. Native Americans to the Europeans. Indeed, almost everyone to the Europeans, but before that there have been various hegemonic powers — including China.)

In the West, with some minor exceptions, Covid was treated as a profit event. It was a way for the richest and most powerful to become even more rich and powerful. That millions would die and millions more would be crippled (Long Covid rates seem somewhere between 10 to 20 percent depending on definitions) was secondary to the possibility of funneling more power and wealth to those who already had the most. Billionaires, just one group among elites, have seen their wealth double during the pandemic.

China, or more accurately, the Chinese Communist Party did not treat the pandemic primarily as being about internal competition. To them it was important that large numbers of citizens did not die and were not disabled.

This means that China will come out of this stronger than the West, because the economy, fundamentally and always, is people, and there’s aren’t mass-disabled and/or dead. Plus the legitimacy of the ruling class, rather than being reduced by their pandemic response, has been increased.

To the CCP, the health of their citizens is integral to maintaining their power. To the West’s elites, it is an asset to be burned down to make more money and improve their internal position.

The irony of this is that by taking care of their citizens, the CCP has both improved their external and internal positions, while the West’s elites, who can be best characterized as incompetent psychopaths capable of nothing but accumulating more internal power and wealth, have been weakened despite their gains in wealth. This is because, as a group, their power is dependent on the health of their population and on their legitimacy.

As far as I can see, Covid pretty much proves that, barring outside shocks, China has already won the hegemonic competition between itself and the US. Oh, it’ll have to play out, but the CCP governs its country basically competently, and US elites are fools who let their society’s power run down.

US military superiority, in the face of nukes and the Russia/China alliance, is insufficient to alter this fact. China has the industry, it has more competent government, and its government’s legitimacy is riding high while the legitimacy of the West is in tatters.

Given these facts, and that China has a much larger population, it’s hard to see how the US can remain in its position. Just as the end of Britain as world ruler took generations after the US actually surpassed it economically, so this will take time to be seen. However, just as, by 1900, it was essentially inevitable that the US would take over from Britain, so it now seems that the hand-off to China is inevitable, or would be in a world without climate change and ecological collapse, those being the likely external shocks that even a functioning society may not be able to overcome.

I take little pleasure in this. I dedicated a decent chunk of my life to trying to help fix the US, as a Canadian-American collapse is likely to be ugly. But it is what it is, and it must be faced squarely.



Canada’s Pathetic Preparations for US Collapse or Fascist Takeover


Open Thread


  1. Dave

    America’s elite response to Covid reminds me of Jon Schwartz’s Iron law of Institutions: people care more about their position within an institution than the institution’s position in the larger world.

  2. Mark Pontin

    True, essentially.

    But note that one potential future problem in this scenario is that China’s population is presently almost completely COVID-naive and without effective vaccine protection. If this remains the case, say, five years down the line, COVID could be weaponized against that population.

    Just as the computer revolution dominated the last half-century, the revolution in biogenetic technologies will dominate this one — and far more profoundly, because it’s going to reframe the terms of life itself. These technologies will inevitably be applied in the military sphere. Years back I said as much in an casual exchange with a Pentagon consultant at the Monterey Naval Postgraduate School and his reply was, “They already are, it’s already started.” And he had no real idea of the possibilities.

  3. gnokgnoh

    How does the analysis square with the response to the 1918 Spanish flu, which was institutionally similar to our response today, albeit without vaccines? We will need to approximately triple our death count for us to reach the level of devastation in 1918 (due to the much smaller population). The US still became the global hegemonic empire not many decades later.

    I’m not saying that the trust and confidence level in the US does not suffer due to the lack of strong action. It does, especially when we see the results in other countries. I’m saying that we have a very cantankerous population. We will likely throw the ruling party out of office this year and in 2024, in large part because of the pandemic. It’s partly stylistic and cultural. What it takes to lock down 13 million people in one city in China would be anathema here, at best.

  4. NL

    Once we have evolved to be resistant to COVID, we will become to China what the Spaniards were to the Native Americans — each of us will turn into a biological weapon.

    And gnokgnoh is correct above, although that was set in the context of two WWs in which we had no major ‘activity’ on our territory, ie, let’s see how the contenders can preserve their productive capacity. We just need to stir the pot a little bit, and it seems like the opposite side has no answer to our methods, just look what is happening in Kazakhstan.

  5. Chicago Clubs

    “Cantankerous population,” of course, being code for a population made up largely of people with the emotional maturity of toddlers.

  6. Astrid

    1.2 billion out of 1.4 billion Chinese are already fully vaccinated. You can dispute the effectiveness of their vaccine, though Sinovac seems as durable as mRNA vaccines and as effective against severe illness. We can all hope that something more effective and sterilizing comes along this year to replace all the shots currently on the market. I don’t see any disadvantage there.

    There isn’t really good evidence that pathogen select for non-lethality, particularly for pathogens that transmit before their victim is really sick. The decrease in mortality rates over time could just as likely due to more resistant genotype (sickle cell anemia genes) and phenotype (more food for healthier survivorsl in the remainder population, or behavior changes (boiling your water, using current salts for sausages) that reduces transmission.

  7. Astrid

    If a population can’t care about each other enough or themselves enough to properly wear masks in public, then we’re already doomed.

    Masking is an effective, low cost, low effort, and non-invasive protection for the whole population. Asians and asbestos removers and woodworkers have zero problem wearing them all day, everyday. Yammering on about freedom and authoritarianism and medical malarkey is just making excuses while we stupid ourselves to death.

  8. NL

    Our approach is not to interfere with nature – let nature take its course. We have never chosen to ‘baby’ our population and always permitted tough economic and social adjustments to take their course among the people — the population would have to adjust now as well to life with the virus. Imposing responsibility for the ‘weak’ (broadly defined as poor, sick, lazy, etc) onto the strong (also broadly defined) will not make the weak stronger but will render the strong to be weaker. Those who bemoan atomization and lack of social in the West forget the flip side of it — when you have an extended family of loafers who live off hard work and achievement of their relatives, you will never save anything or accomplish much — and the majority of people are loafers by nature. I see a bit of this realization in the Confucius world (see for eg the recent k drama on real estate called Wolgan Jib).

    What China is doing may seem nice and fuzzy (ie, common prosperity and share future, or something like that), but what they are really doing they are nurturing and raising a population of entitled, spoiled weaklings who will demand to be pampered and cared for in perpetuity, and when the CPC can’t deliver the ever more increasing demands of these loafers, they will turn against the CPC and deliver themselves to the West. When the Chinese discuss the fall of the Soviet Union, they come close to this realization but never fully go to the logical end of this thinking — they would notice that the Soviet citizen was enamored with the Western consumer society and say something like — well, we can’t ignore quality of life and need to deliver consumer items to the people — right… And when your material demands are satisfied, the next thing people want is “to become equal to God” — see Grimm’s the fisherman and his wife — the CPC is doomed in a generation or so.

  9. Willy

    I don’t know how well the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines perform, but I do know that American vaccines have been engineered to block conversations with God. And perhaps even to encourage demonic possession. At least that what my born-again acquaintance tells me. I sometimes wonder how many faith-based nitwits China is producing.

  10. Ian Welsh

    Have to congratulate NL on reading me, he definitely doesn’t stay inside the bubble of people who agree with his beliefs.

  11. NR

    Here’s what’s happening in China right now:

    China’s lockdown is not the pure success story you have been presenting it as, and there is literally no way that can happen in America, or really, any Western country. People have been bartering for food and have not been able to access even very basic medical care. A pregnant woman lost her baby because she was refused treatment at a hospital because of the lockdown. China has still not authorized any of the mRNA vaccines and is mostly using its own (much less effective) vaccine.

    With how transmissible Omicron is, China is going to be in lockdown pretty much forever or will eventually have to change strategies. They’ve managed to mostly keep Omicron out for now, but it seems unlikely that will last forever, though I suppose if they want to have forever lockdown, it might continue and we’ll just continue to hear more stories about cities of millions of people who literally cannot leave their homes for pretty much any reason.

  12. Mark Pontin

    I’ve posted this before because it’s hard to think of a stronger indicator of current trends. It’s a graph of current Chinese average life expectancy vs. that of the US: –

    The US is trending rapidly downwards — plummeting, in fact — while China trends upwards quite steeply and has just PASSED the US at approx. 28 degree angle. Note, too, that these trends were already fully ongoing and Covid has merely exacerbated them.

    In the big picture, this is a quarter-century of added lifespan for the average Chinese in the last 60 years. This on top of 800 million moved out of poverty. I wouldn’t say it’s quite game, set, and match to the ChiComs — after all, the US can still launch a genocidal attack against China (and suicide in the process, of course) — but it’s close to it.

  13. Astrid

    The US regime of predatory capitalism is good because it selected for the toughest? Is humanity playing by Highlander rules? Let’s see how tough your Highlander will be against any cohesive company of soldiers.

    Not to mention that there’s nothing healthy or strong about the. “winners” who win by virtue of ability to parasitize and consume whatever healthy tissues are left on the corpus.

    The rest are medicated to keep them from harming themselves or others, distracted with video games and tv and social media, or coping through whataboutism (don’t call it that when pointing out the sins of liberals) of Trumpies, Antifa, or MSM generated stories of China doing something badly (as if a nation of 1.4 billion people wouldn’t have bad shit happen to some of them, damn the statistical indicators showing improving prosperity and happiness in the overall population).

    The Chinese are copying the playbook of the English (partial, as the English never properly cared for its poor during it’s ascent), Americans, Germans, and the Japanese in their industrialization playbook. Build a cohesive and healthy citizenry, a strong industrial base, and a military capable of defending its interests. Countries and people make mistakes and experience setback all the time. What matters is whether they are learning from and growing from the setbacks, or if they’re in thrall of disaster capitalism and amplify the setback.

  14. NL

    I am not disagreeing per se. That China won for now is most obvious in the life expectancy trends for 2021: China’s life expectancy is still growing, while ours is declining, and it may be that 2021 was the first year when their and our life expectancy lines crossed. I think we have very difficult decades in front of us, our lives will be poorer, sicker and shorter. We will struggle.

    But I guess what I am also trying to say is that China’s win over us is akin to our win over the Soviet Union in that the outcome was not really a result of the sparring but had been baked in the cake of our ways of life. Anyone with ‘eyes’ to see knew from the first day of this pandemic that we will be riding it out through adjustments in the population rather than through some sort of public top-to-bottom measures — giving the poor some financial allowance (through the welfare state), supporting investments of the propertied classes (through FED market support) and leaving everyone to deal with it (whatever this ‘it’ may be) has been our standard operating procedure for many decades now. For the CPC, the pandemic became a great opportunity to show off its ability to impose and regulate the country top-to-bottom. What I also am trying to say is that our win over the Soviet Union had the seed of our current situation and our current loss, China’s current win has a seed of their future calamity and upcoming loss – our propertied classes have become overconfident, while the general population in China will become spoiled and overpampered.

    I am looking for a paradigm for our present period and can’t really find one. History does not end, but on the other hand, extrapolating in a straight line from our current predicament will not be insightful either. Things will change in an unexpected manner, e.g., historically in the West, worker shortages like the type we may begin to see now caused reappearance of slavery in some form or another (let’s not forget that we have not been the only once with slavery; Spaniards and Muslim had it too; Spaniards in Peru had a curious slavery system where slaves from Africa where overlords of essentially slaves from China on small islands mining guano – bird poop). Where is the population growing fast? — the Middle East, Africa — well, there you have it, back to the future…

  15. someofparts

    China is a nation. The U.S. is a crime scene.

  16. someofparts

    from GM in NC comments –

    There was only ever one option and it is to do exactly what the Chinese did in Wuhan and have been doing ever since.

    If your country is not doing that, then we enter the socioeconomic and political sphere, in which there are two possibilities:

    1. Your country is incapable of doing what has to be done. In which case it is a failed state, by definition — it is failing at its most basic duty of protecting the life and well-being of its citizens.

    2. The ruling class of your country does not want to do what has to be done. In which case that ruling class is guilty of premeditated mass murder on a scale never seen since WWII.

    I don’t see how that gets resolved without the population understanding that and launching a counter-program of physical extermination of the ruling class 1917-style. The population has the advantage of raw numbers, but it is hopelessly misinformed and divided.

    The following countries completely eliminated the virus, many of them multiple times:

    China, Taiwan, Australia, NZ, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Hong Kong, Montenegro, and several others in Eastern Europe got it down to 5-6 cases a day.

    Again, that was before vaccines.

    In 2021 we had vaccines, and what happened?

    All of those countries except for China and Taiwan abandoned containment, which has resulted in a lot of deaths in many of them, and they are just getting started. NZ has not yet experienced it, but will inevitably have the opportunity to enjoy the experience unless it reverts back to elimination.

    We don’t know how exactly the decision making went in most of those cases, except for NZ and a little bit in AU — in NZ the scientists all of a sudden were left out of the loop and the government announced it is abandoning elimination. Clearly against their advice

  17. Astrid

    The US trajectory after 1990 (others say 1980, 1970, or even 1945) was not inevitable. A more equitable, humanist, and collaborative world was possible and was seen at the time as the more likely outcome. The Western PTB made choices to move away from that better world.

    While the odds for human civilization seems very stacked against at the moment, we shouldn’t assume that other very different cultures (Russian, Islamic, LatAm, Asian, and African) couldn’t make very different choices. Don’t assume that a Eurocentric view (including motivations and interests) of the world as an inevitable outcome of the human condition. Other views may lead to outcomes may that are nasty in their ways, but could be very different.

  18. Ché Pasa

    Periodically, the prospect of a “1917 Solution” to our persistent Covid and associated problems crops up. I’m so old, I remember when it was the “1789 Solution.” But whatever. The point is that more and more people are apparently waking to the realization that the only way out of our dilemma is the elimination of our parasitic, bloodthirsty and psychotic elites.

    Trouble is, the only ones fully on board with that idea, indeed eager to act, are the rightist paras who have long lists of “libs” to liquidate on behalf of a fascist elite ascendancy. You don’t solve the problem by liquidating one faction of the elites while enabling the other faction to do as it will. That’s part of how we get into these kinds of pickles in the first place, but that’s where we are, and that’s where we seem determined to be going come what may.

    I must be living in some kind of bubble, though. Masking is still routine when out and about in public in my rural area, despite an overwhelming Trumpist voter base. More and more folks that I see are sporting spanking new N95s (yay). The would be Trumpist insurrectionists number in the tens, and they are mostly marginal (a friend calls them “pinche tweakers”). They are armed — well, pretty much everybody is — but I doubt they could follow a list if they had one. Anyway…

    I was at the main pulmonary specialty clinic in town yesterday. It wasn’t crowded, it was very calm. No sense of frazzled panic. I asked staff, “Have you all been badly affected by this new Covid variant?” She said, “No, not really.” My pulmonologist, who had been really frazzled during the summer, seemed almost perfectly calm and at ease. “Are you overwhelmed with pulmonary patients?” “No. We’re staying busy, but overall, things are under control.” “I hope it stays that way.” “So do we.”

    This contrasts absolutely with NC’s so-called “IM Doc” who says he or she is overwhelmed and desperate. Sickness everywhere, staff out, overwhelmed, overwhelmed, overwhelmed. Nothing to be done. We’re all gonna die.

    There was a long, long line of cars at the testing site not far from the clinic, so people are actually getting tested though it may take hours. There were only a few take-home test kits at the pharmacy I visited, and strict limits on the number you can buy at one time, but at least there were some. I saw no N95s on the retail shelves, but there were surgical masks in small quantities at high prices.

    Vaccination rates are still low in my county but they are rising slowly. Covid spread here is very low, too. It’s something of a chore to get vaccinated here, so that’s part of the reason for low uptake of vaccine. But not the only one.

    It would be nice if China were seen as modeling correct pandemic control protocols, but for some reason, that’s beyond the ken of our overlords, and so long as it is…

  19. Astrid


    Covid Waves hit different places at different times in different ways. IM doc said that he was dealing with only a fraction of the patient load maybe a week ago. He’s also a generalist whereas you were seeing a specialist who wouldn’t be responsible for Covid patients, I’m not sure why you think the comparison of the two is helpful in any way.

    Yves has published several posts worn by IM doc and repeatedly confirmed that he is who he say he is. He might exaggerate or be biased, but it is highly unlikely that he’s lying about his credentials or what’s happening in his work environment.

    I don’t know about public masking compliance in my neck of the woods as I haven’t been out and about for 2 months now. But I have been monitoring pricing and availability of 9205 Aura masks on Amazon. They had kept at about $1.40 each for a box of 20 and $0.85 each for a case of 440. This week the box of 20 option is no longer available and price for case of 440 is now at $1.25 each. So people are presumably upgrading and masking more. My gifts of 9205 masks this holiday season appear gratefully received by their vaccinated and mostly boosted PMC recipients. Most seem surprised by the generosity of the gifts as they still think they’re difficult and expensive to obtain. They’re surprised that brand name, American made N95s are available for under a buck apiece.

  20. different clue

    I read comments from IM Doc on Naked Capitalism. And I read Che Pasas description of those comments and their basic thrust. And so can anyone else, if they want to.

    And if they do, they can decide for themselves whether Che Pasas’s characterization of IM Doc’s comments is accurate or not.

  21. someofparts

    Astrid – Just this week I ordered a copy of this book –

    These observations are from the top review of the book –

    The way I see it, this book is tackling two necessarily interrelated projects at the same time. First, it marshals mountains of evidence from all over the world and all periods of time to make the argument that from the very beginning—ca. 300,000 years ago—human beings have lived together in an astonishing variety of arrangements and that none of those arrangements has any single point of origin, or single scalar or economic correlate

    And so the second project Graeber and Wengrow take on with this book is to reconstruct how we came to be so intellectually shackled as to think that many of the ways people have organized themselves are not only unusual or hard to achieve or whatever—but actually not even possible at all

  22. someofparts

    Che Pasa –

    Trouble is, the only ones fully on board with that idea, indeed eager to act, are the rightist paras who have long lists of “libs” to liquidate on behalf of a fascist elite ascendancy. You don’t solve the problem by liquidating one faction of the elites while enabling the other faction to do as it will. That’s part of how we get into these kinds of pickles in the first place, but that’s where we are, and that’s where we seem determined to be going come what may.

    This passage, and the rest of the post, are thoughtful and wise. Thanks.

  23. Ché Pasa




    A pulmonologist is a physician who specializes in the respiratory system. From the windpipe to the lungs, if your complaint involves the lungs or any part of the respiratory system, a pulmonologist is the doc you want to solve the problem. Pulmonology is a medical field of study within internal medicine.

    I saw my pulmonologist yesterday. At the pulmonolgy specialty clinic. I see a pulmonologist because of a chronic respiratory condition that is being treated with immunesuppressants and other medications. I am at very high risk for Covid.

    My pulmonologist has primarily treated Covid patients since the beginning of the pandemic. My rheumatologist has seen too many of his patients die in ICUs because of Covid.

    The contrast between IM Doc’s report of the catastrophe s/he’s been witnessing with what I was told and saw with my own eyes yesterday is startling. Covid case rates in New Mexico are high and rising, but hospitalizations are considerably lower than at last year’s peak. Right now the hospitals are coping. Doctors, nurses and staff have been able to catch their breath, do self-care, be with their families, etc. Tests and supplies and vaccines and treatments are available and are being utilized, and at least compared to last year and the year before, the situation in New Mexico (so far, knock wood) is managable and being managed. The situation wherever IM Doc may be sounds totally out of control.

    What is going well-ish here despite resistance and but not going well at all in IM Doc’s location? How representative is the catastrophic model? How representative is the more or less managed model?

    As we cast blame all over the place, these questions among so many others seem hardly to be considered. And they may be more important than who should be first against the wall when the Revolution comes.

  24. Joe Reeves

    It’s hard to know what information is legit and who’s opinion is worth considering, perhaps even more so when it comes to China. I’m one of the last people who will defend what America does and how it does it and Europe for that matter too (seems inconsequential which is hard to believe and some view it as Western Asia), but there are lots of murmurings that China ain’t close to what many think it is. That it has significant problems (very bad demographics, massive unpayable debts and other bad economics along with a fed up though repressed populace) and that Xi is asserting himself and the CCP more to cover up weakness and incompetence that’s coming to a boil. I live in Asia and it’s purely an anecdote of a decent sample size but I can’t find anyone anywhere that says anything good about China, while grudgingly acknowledging they throw money around which many others need. Many in this region have been propagandized from movies, tv & music about what America is but I think the better goodwill people have towards the west compared to China is worth something. And yes, I recognize how naive I sound with that sentiment.

  25. Astrid


    IM Doc said that he’s handling a 5x increase in Covid patients compared to a few weeks ago, with several staff down due to Covid further straining his ability to provide patient care.
    He didn’t say anything about their current physical condition and many likely hasn’t advanced to the stage of needing specialists, and even assuming that your specialist consults with a hospital system, the clinic’s staff would not necessarily know the conditions in the hospitals.

    Furthermore, Omicron is known to affect the upper respiratory and GI tract more, and is less likely to advance to the lung compared to Delta and Alpha, so pulmonologist may be less needed compared to other specialists, especially for the first 2-3 weeks of infection. IM Doc is also in a wealthy enclave where people travel more and over longer distances for holidays, so many may have brought it in from coastal Omicron hotspots. So it makes sense that they would rise and crest faster than your remote, poor and thus less well traveled location.

    What is the basis of your doubt about his account?

    IM Doc’s reporting lines up with what I hear from friends and coworkers and what I read in r/nursing and r/collapse. People who were not directly affected at all are now hearing many of their vaccinated friends coming down with it and 10x or greater volume of alerts from their kids’schools. I would have caught it if we went to celebrate Christmas with my in-laws as originally planned (despite everyone getting boosters and “being careful”). Several in-laws have strongly presented and medicated autoimmune issues but seems okay so far.

    It’s finally penetrated my well-to-do PMC bubble, where people were previously only concerned about the quality of their kids’remote schooling, vaccine side effects, restaurant and social restrictions, vacation travel being off kilter, and trouble with home renovation/repairs. Now it coming for them and their families. I have no idea if it will motivated them or their children into action. Their actions on climate change is pitiful despite being a well understood existential challenge to their kids.

  26. As much as I want to cheer a “revolutionary” politics — for many reasons that go way beyond COVID-19 — I am not sure I want to get on the bandwagon of “correct” COVID-19 control and accusing diffuse elites of intentional mass murder.

    It is an interesting mix of ideas and notions that come into a comments thread like this. Graeber’s anarchy thru the ages surprises me; maybe it is being introduced ironically and I am not getting the joke.

    Graeber has a point, I suppose, in that the application of scientific knowledge as “technology” and the social control of production processes by vast, technically-informed hierarchies is very recent and short-lived, being a by-product of exploiting fossil fuels in the industrial revolution(s) that first stirred in the 18th (17th?) century. For people living it every day, we do not seem to understand much about “control”. Consider the importance of testing. The capacity to control anything is all about feedback from monitoring and measuring.

    Trump infamously at one point in his idiot way argued against population testing (testing people more-or-less randomly and not on clinical suspicion) and liberals ridiculed him, as is their wont. Then, Biden came along, pledged to follow the science, and the CDC adamantly refused to track “breakthru” cases or much of anything else — their informatics capacity is bizarrely limited.

    Do people just not get the most basic requirements of implementing any kind of “control” regime? I see people arguing on Twitter about whether the CDC’s recommendation of isolation for as little as 5 days and without a test before ending isolation makes a lick of sense. (It doesn’t, but plenty of people seem determined to defend the indefensible.)

    I watch the policy-making by the Ivy League trained political operatives of the Biden Administration and the reporting on same by the Ivy League trained child-journalists of mainstream media and have to wonder at the level of group-think and general idiocy. They seem to be attracted like moths to the flame by the worst crazy-making narratives. Who thought it was a good idea to trot out senile Biden to shame the unvaccinated?

    I know “stupid or malevolent?” has been around for a long-time, but I am wondering if “stupid” is not a major factor preventing the “revolution”. If the U.S. is the idiocracy it appears to be, maybe instead of turtles, it is idiots all the way down.

  27. bruce wilder

    I guess what I am trying to say is that the absence of what euphemistically might be called “democratic accountability” has caused the American polity to become ineffectual stewards of government, but the incompetence of the American people at politics is now an important factor — maybe an important means ? — in preventing democratic governance.

    I do not know enough about how Chinese politics works to have any judgement. If it was the thorough-going authoritarian regime it sometimes appears to be, as power has been centralized into the hands of Emperor Xi, I would be inclined to think that it would become sclerotic and corrupt in short order, but that does not seem to have happened yet — or Xi’s centralizing is a response to the feared first symptoms of that tendency as revealed in the economic phase shift now underway.

    America faces its own economic phase shift, and as far as I can tell, most of the idiots on elite levels have little awareness, while (mostly uninformed) pessimism pervades the lower levels. Maybe revolutions can be perpetrated by peoples deep in Dunning-Krueger levels of overconfidence, and that’s why they often go so badly.

  28. Stirling Newberry

    China has reeled off a tremendous victory with COVID, but at the same time has reeled off a tremendous defeat in real estate. in the developed core countries it is largely the reverse: COVID has been a disaster while the real estate sector has made tremendous profits for everyone except the buyers, who hope that inflation stays rampant which will reduce the net amount that they pay for their houses.

    the reason for this conundrum is that in China the state is the primary entity that determines where the profit goes to whereas in the developed core of countries it is the billionaires. thus when they are should be a concern for the populace not becoming infected, the state wins; however, if the concern is for continuing to make the economy run, then the private market is the winner.

    What this really means is that China is too far in the state-dominated theory and the developed core is too far in the private-dominated theory. Moreover, both China and the developed core are incompetent in their rigidly holding to their theory, which means that a number of ordinary people are going to die or be left with no profit.

    In both cases, the leaders of the two theories are going to bend over and get it good and hard.

  29. Trinity

    Bruce, I understand where you are going, but this part: “Do people just not get the most basic requirements of implementing any kind of “control” regime? ”

    They certainly control the money stream(s), with track and trace of even small deposits, while turning a blind eye to other “money events”. So, I can’t think they are also stupid about covid, or any of the other (let’s be honest) regimes. I like the word “regime” to describe the current system and its many moving parts/subsystems.

    And the American polity may be politically illiterate, but even if they were not, they have no power to effect change, except at the local level. As you say, there is little to no accountability at most levels, including the levels that control the most (in a political sense). And I would argue (but without proof) that the most politically literate are the farthest right, given that they discuss and review the issues more than any other group, as a cohesive group. And because they, more than any other political group, feel (and are deliberately made to feel) empowered. They have a purpose. A really fucked up one, but that’s one more than the rest of us have. I’m not sure, however, that this makes them any more effective than the rest of us. Wishful thinking, maybe.

  30. Trinity

    Clarification: my wishful thinking is that the farthest right remains ineffective. They are also being lied to, and this also makes them (hopefully) ineffective.

  31. Ché Pasa

    I guess the biggest hospital in NM, in the biggest city in NM, to which the pulmonology clinic is attached, is by definition rural and poor and unaffected by… what?

    Good to know! After all, this is New Mexico, and even some friends who fly in from their coastal urban enclaves look out from their planes and exclaim: “There’s nothing down there!” 😉

    I’m not saying — at all — that things are wonderful here. They aren’t. I went to the ER with a head injury last July and left after an hour because there was no triage going on, there were at least thirty people waiting when I got there (one elderly woman said she hadn’t been triaged after waiting four hours) at least three patients were in custody, there was some kind of altercation in back, and more and more people were arriving — at least a dozen more during the time I waited. In other words, it was futile for me to stay. I was told it’s been that way in ERs for quite a while, not just because of Covid, but Covid hasn’t made anything easier.

    As for Covid, despite resistance to reasonable protocols, it seems — for now — that the Delta-Omicron situation has not deteriorated to the point reported by IM Doc (and I have seen similar catastrophic reports from various locations, mostly urban, but I have no way to assess them because I don’t see it happening here.) There is no official attitude here to “let ‘er rip”, vaccination rate is 67% double dosed climbing verrrrry slowly, most people I see whether in town (ie: The Big City) or in my rural enclave are masked when in public, people keep their distance almost automatically nowadays without coercion or prompting, businesses and schools are open (not necessarily wisely), there are shortages of various groceries and supplies, deliveries continue to be unreliable… so on and so forth. In other words, situation “normal”— all fucked up.

    Since IM Doc’s first appearance at NC, I’ve thought the character was “Yves'” (Susan’s) alter-ego. I have no personal knowledge of whether the character is what Susan says or not. But I’ve had enough experience around medical professionals my whole life to recognize something “off” about IM Doc’s reporting. Consequently, I’m skeptical.

    But then, I’m just some random person on the internet… 😛

  32. Ian Welsh

    I’ve seen other reports of overwhelmed systems. I would guess it varies by region, which is how it’s generally been during surges.

  33. different clue

    There is a commenter at Naked Capitalism called Rev Kev who from everything he says, lives in Australia.

    He reports that Western Australia still have near zero covid, because the Premier of Western Australia is hard-ass about keeping Western Australia’s border closed against NotWestern Australia. If that is true, and if Western Australia can support its Premier in keeping Western Australia sealed off against NotWestern Australia, then Western Australia may yet survive as an example of a Western Free-ish society successfully containing and suppressing covid within its own borders.

    All the rest of NotWestern Australis, including the Australian Federal National Government ( or whatever it is called) will take the spiteful hateful zombie cannibal view of Western Australia’s anti-covid success, and do everything they can to forcibly infect Western Australia and destroy Western Australia’s health down to the NotWestern Australian common denominator.

    Western Australia may have to be prepared to use violence and sabotage to destroy every overland link between Western Australia and NotWestern Austraila in order to keep the NotWestern Australian covid zombies out of Western Australia. Enough long-run success lasting long enough might even inspire the survivors in NotWestern Australia to overthrow their pro-covid OverLords and adopt Western Australian ways and means against Not Australia. (If Australia is any more of a self-governing democratic society than America is.)

  34. Astrid


    Hooray for you that you personally had a good experience. I had two coworkers who went to the ER in the last month, one for broken leg and the other to attend to his very elderly father. Both reported waiting about 10 hours before getting seen to and chaotic conditions from prosperous parts of NC and FL.

    I got my bones to pick with Susan Webber’s analysis but if you’re going with fabulism, I’ll remain unconvinced barring something a lot stronger than your 2 visits. I’m sorry that I extrapolated too much based on what you previously said about your home base, but stand by what I said about Omicron cresting at different times in different places.

  35. Astrid

    For my own sale, I hope China doesn’t collapse because I have some sense of what it will actually do to the West. US deindustrialization means pretty much everything we need, outside of some narrow carve outs in energy, bulk goods, and certain MIC sensitive items, goes through China for at least some of the parts. Even the stuff that’s produced in the US often rely on parts and packaging produced elsewhere, as we see long hauler trucks unable to move due to a single back ordered emissions part. There might be some residual capacity in Europe and Japan/Korea to make up some of the difference, but it would be the “not mild” Covid make the logistical disruptions we’ve seen so far look like a sniffle. If China can’t control Covid and has its own “January Omicron” moment, plan on living like a Syrian or Venezuelan under US sanctions for the next year. Except with worse government and populace.

    BTW, I don’t think Evergrande had much to do with the dip in real estate prices (which has fallen, probably about 15% from peak in Shanghai). Much more likely due to a central government announcement to “balanced development” and announcement of property tax based on ownership in large cities. Unlike prior efforts to rein in real estate prices, the government isn’t walking back their determination once growth indicators dampen.

    Even though the current implementations will likely have zero or minimal impact on owner-occupants, everyone knows the days of sitting on an empty investment flat and watching it appreciate double digits year over year is coming to an end. Good thing too unless one thinks real estate costing 50x a family’s gross income is a sustainable thing. Plus nominally all the real estate reverts back to the State in 50 years, which will start in about 20 years.

    Why does the Western chattering class have so much misery and hatred in their hearts that they can no longer wish for good things for themselves and must resort to inventing horrible things for the “others” in Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and China? Or conservatives when something bad happens in Portland and liberals on the Herman Cain awards. Was the last days of Rome also do filled with such petty and pointless nastiness?

  36. Lex

    The problem with the Covid response, and I will only speak on the US because I don’t have enough information for any other nation, is not in the details of implantation. Incident/emergency responses have to factor in multiple impacts from response measures. Reducing the isolation time is not, by definition, bad. Even if the reasoning is to keep economic activity functioning.

    The problem is in that ER decisions need to be made within a matrix that should be transparent. And communication of decisions/actions needs to be clear and consistent. The US has failed miserably at process so all the results tend to be shit. And the US only wants “solution” with essentially no cost and/or silver bullets. That’s unrealistic and dangerous. ER is always difficult decisions and addressing the effects of those decisions.

  37. Ché Pasa

    Apparently (from the Sabbath Gasbag Shows) Florida is now claiming the successful Covid Infection Management mantle.

    Ie: who gets it, where and when, and the results of infection are… (they say) managed in Florida better than anywhere else. And so far as we can tell, it is becoming (? or has it always been?) the US standard.

    Death panels anyone?

  38. Soredemos

    @Ché Pasa

    ‘The pulmonary specialty clinic in my town wasn’t overwhelmed, so a covid surge can’t be real.’

    You can’t be serious with this. Aside from the fact that ‘I don’t see it locally, so it doesn’t exist’ is a terrible approach (‘it’s snowing outside, thus climate change isn’t real!’), why would a specialty clinic be the place inundated with covid cases? Try asking at the nearest hospital, or even a GP office.

  39. Soredemos

    @Joe Reeves

    “It’s hard to know what information is legit and who’s opinion is worth considering”

    Not in regards to covid. It’s actually very easy to find the people worth listening to (start with the aerosol specialists who have been ignored since the start of the pandemic).

    Also, on Asian goodwill towards America. I invite any of them to visit downtown Portland Oregon for a dose of real America. If anything, the suburbs are worse. Montavilla is a fucking wasteland. Half the business signs are burned out. Five cars with homeless people living in them behind my hotel, all of them with plastic taped over bits of broken window. One with ‘will suck dick 4 $5’ graffitied on the hood. One of them only had three wheels. As I left the hotel, a desperate women wanted me to either give her a ride or let her use my phone to call someone, because her abusive boyfriend was lurking outside in the parking lot.

    That’s actual America, outside of the bougie and rich enclaves.

  40. Ché Pasa


    ‘The pulmonary specialty clinic in my town wasn’t overwhelmed, so a covid surge can’t be real.’

    As I’m sure you know, that’s not even close to what I said or meant.

    What I’ve been trying to point out is that there are some places where the virus is apparently raging, where hospitals, doctors, nurses and staff are overwhelmed (again), and there are places — such as where I was being treated — that are not.

    The questions I asked repeatedly are: Why the difference, and what are the lessons to be learned?

    A pulmonary clinic attached directly to the largest hospital in the state (they’re in the same building), in the largest city in the state, staffed by doctors on the front lines of Covid treatment* might be a good place to find out some of the answers. That’s where I was.

    *The pulmonologist I see has been primarily treating Covid patients since the beginning of the pandemic. There is one clinic a week for non-Covid patients who are not hospitalized.

    Staff and my pulmonologist informed me that they are not (yet) overwhelmed. Case rates are high with Omicron but hospitalizations, serious illness and deaths are considerably lower than at previous peaks. That’s a good thing. Why, though? Why are hospitalizations, serious illness and deaths so much higher in some other places? What is causing the difference?

    Is it truly a case of “a pandemic of the unvaccinated?” Maybe. But the overall vaccination rate here is not that much higher than the rest of the country, and in some areas of NM it’s much lower.

    I noticed at the hospital — where the clinic is located — that some of the more rigorous Covid protocols had been dropped. There were cursory questions about symptoms, mask requirements for entry (they gave me a surgical mask because the ear-strap on mine had broken), “social distance” — ie: no more than 6 in an elevator (ha!), and that was about it. Some staff were not wearing masks properly — and one I saw wasn’t wearing a mask at all. A few were double masked, and some had N95s, but most didn’t.

    I don’t have personal knowledge of the ER at that hospital, but I was at an overwhelmed ER last July that I left after an hour of not being seen, of no one being triaged, and of more and more sick or injured people filing in packing the place to overflowing. I was told by the doctor I saw the next day at an Urgent Care clinic that ERs were pretty much all that way now, and you were taking your life in your hands if you went to an ER. I doubt anything has changed for the better.

    (Sorry Ian if it seems I’m repeating myself.)

  41. Soredemos

    @Ché Pasa

    Except that isn’t the point you were making, at all. Your point was clearly that, quote, ‘NC’s so-called “IM Doc”’ was lying.

    ‘So-called’. Jesus…

  42. Joe Reeves

    @ Soredemos,
    I know America has been falling apart for a long time now. While I was living there I thought it was very obvious (if I can see it, others should be able to as well) yet either no one else I knew could see it (that inch-deep phony cheerfulness and looking on the bright-side of things nonsense pervades), didn’t care as long as they and theirs were okay or were so apathetic that anything could be done to improve things. And somehow I was called cynical by many of these people.
    My comment about Asian people having more goodwill towards America than China is not because they know much of anything but the idea of what they think America is has permeated much of the world while in Asia people seem to know the history of China and its potential dangers along with I hate to say it, the chinese people just aren’t well liked. Akin to the “ugly Americans” of the past.

  43. Astrid


    There are plenty of uncouth Chinese tourists, but my working theory it’s that the Chinese diaspora in Asia and SEA functions like Jews in Europe and East Indians in former British colonies. Financially successful, insular, visibly different, and with suspect connections. Every society needs their hated but needed outsiders and the Chinese fill that role well. This suits both the local governments and the West very well. Just look what Malaysia and Indonesia did to their ethnic Chinese populations in the 1960s, well before China could dominate anyone anywhere.

    I am not sure there’s anything the Chinese government can do in the short term to change that. Perhaps growing soft power and decline of the West will help in the long run.

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