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

Open Thread

Use the comments to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.


Get Ready for More Shutdowns


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 19, 2021


  1. GlassHammer

    “The study finds no evidence of Omicron having lower severity than Delta, judged by either the proportion of people testing positive who report symptoms, or by the proportion of cases seeking hospital care after infection. ”

    Link to the source of the above quote:

    Others can provide counter examples but since this study found its way into multiple news feeds of mine it seemed worth sharing.

  2. NL

    There will be NO shutdowns. We will live with it, or more correctly, it will live in us as we will try to go about our ‘normal’ lives. There will be no further free money.

    The vaccer-only crowd owes the ‘comprehensive approach’ proponents and me personally an apology – but something tells me the rabid vaccers will not admit to error.

  3. Willy

    Anti-vaxxers owe the more seriously diseased an apology, especially when they take up their needed hospital space.

    Except for maybe Marcus Lamb. People who die get a get-out-of-apologizing-for-free card.

  4. NL

    Naked Capitalism linked to a nice article about a Russian article about the state of their space program:

    This sentence would be somewhat true if instead of ‘Russia’s’, we inserted ‘America’s private’:

    ‘Increasingly, Russia’s space program seeks to project its greatness in space through symbolic acts rather than technological achievements—such as the launch of a Russian movie star, sending a robot nicknamed Fedor to space, or making (entirely) hollow promises about a Moon landing in 2030. ‘

    Also true for us only on a different scale millions vs thousands:
    “Instead, the focus seems to be providing high-paying jobs for a handful of technocrats, whose salaries are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Meanwhile, the average monthly wages for technical specialists who build the country’s rockets and spacecraft range from $500 to $1,000 a month.”

    The ‘technocrats’ that the article talks about are members of the current clique that had come to power with Yeltsin. That Rogozin dude who leads the Russian space program is a Yeltsin kid and a son of high positioned Communist functionary:

    Here’s the true origin of the present “Cold War II” — the Yeltsin Russia’s ruling regime cannot compete in the world market place of technology and ideas, cannot deliver improving quality of life, their population is becoming restless, and therefore they are instigating a sanctions regime against themselves as a way to prevent us from accessing their markets and as an excuse for their own shortcomings.

  5. different clue


    Along with their Herman Cain Award, and if they didn’t have any children, their Darwin Award too.

  6. NL

    To the rabid vaccinators, anyone who is not a rabid vaccinator is an anti-vaccer. In this way they intimidate voices of caution and curry favor with the ruling class. Caution is warranted because vaccines by themselves will not solve our predicament, and furthermore relying on vaccine alone in the context of unchecked viral spread will worsen our situation and promote evolution of vaccine-beating super virulent strains, which we already see now. I wrote before about antibiotics that have been used in excess and began losing effectiveness because of rise and evolution of resistant strains. I also wrote before, and it was obvious from the beginning that upright individuals will have to contend with the virus, an incompetent and uncaring ruling class and obsequious underclass that will attack anyone who does not mouth out the “party line”.

    WSJ had an interesting article on Philip Falcone: “Mr. Falcone became a hedge-fund billionaire betting on the subprime mortgage crisis. Then investors pulled money from his firm, Harbinger Capital Partners LLC, after a stretch of spotty returns…. He and his wife, Lisa Falcone, lived large, but their wealth dwindled after other risky wagers didn’t work out… Mr. Falcone, once a hedge-fund star, owed more than $100 million as of earlier this year, according to public records detailing judgments, the federal tax lien and other debts… “Mr. Falcone has made it his mission not to pay this money,”… His critics say that like a cat with nine lives, Mr. Falcone finds ways to live lavishly and pursue new ventures despite his debts… ” — This may be the fate of most of our financial elite.

  7. different clue

    I have an irony defficiency and I am also somewhat satire-blind. So when I look at the following paragraph, which I will copy-paste here, I cannot tell if I am supposed to take this paragraph as ironical satire, or as sincere political analysis.

    And here is the paragraph . . .

    ” Here’s the true origin of the present “Cold War II” — the Yeltsin Russia’s ruling regime cannot compete in the world market place of technology and ideas, cannot deliver improving quality of life, their population is becoming restless, and therefore they are instigating a sanctions regime against themselves as a way to prevent us from accessing their markets and as an excuse for their own shortcomings. “

  8. GlassHammer

    On the topic of supply chain woes:

    “The decline in ships waiting just offshore of Los Angeles/Long Beach continues to be touted as a sign that port congestion is easing — despite the fact that the true number of waiting ships has not actually declined.”

    Link to the source of the quote above:

  9. Astrid


    So Russia is pursuing an industrial policy similar to what the Americans had in the 19th and early 20th century? This is bad how?

    It’s kinda hard to take this provocation argument seriously when Russia spends literally less than 10% as much as the US on their military and hasn’t annexed anything other than the Crimean, and that only because the alternative was losing their Black Sea port to the Americans. Or are there other unreported provocations that I’m not seeing? Unless you’re saying that ever saying “no” to the Americans constitutes provocation.

    However competent or incompetent the Russian spaceflight program is, they were until very recently selling rockets to NASA to support manned space flight. Not that it matters. My personal view is that manned space flight is a dead end. There may have been a window for serious manned space exploration 50 years ago but it was squandered. And now we as a society can’t even run a proper quarantine or prevent scam phone calls. So it really doesn’t matter who “wins” the space race, nobody is leaving Earth and the space junk they produce will accelerate the end of useful meteorology and GPS satellites.

  10. Ché Pasa

    Can somebody name the members of the “vaccines only” club? I haven’t seen any except in the fantasies of anti-vaxxers and some in the media.

    To my knowledge, public officials on all sides of the aisle have advocated multiple strategies including vaccines to try to control the virus and its many variants. I know of none that have advocated “vaccines only.”

    Their statements have not been necessarily consistent nor particularly coherent — which has been a problem from the outset of the pandemic. Their policies have been fragmented, disruptive, and sadly too often counterproductive and/or ineffective. This is a consequence of hollowing out a formerly strong public health ethic in order to satisfy a bizarre ideology that posits “no such thing as society”, everyone for themselves, devil take the hindmost.

    But even so, there is no “vaxx only” club I know of. So who are they?

    Also, on the Sabbath Gasbag Shows, I noticed defeat was the apparent attitude of Fauci and quite a few other commentators tasked with opinionating on the news of the day.


  11. NL

    “Can somebody name the members of the “vaccines only” club?” — Biden & Co. Even now, from what I read, they will come out for more boosters + home testing or something. Home tests may be nice but do nothing without quarantine and paid leave. Where are respirators — flood the country with N95, have fitting stations everywhere — this would be cheaper than the vaccines because no patents are involved. I wrote about providing N95 to workers in the unit where I work. Compliance is about 50:50, after the holidays we will do proper fitting tests. ‘Biden’ — mandate employers to provide N95s in addition to mandating boosters! No – not gonna happen. It will be so-called pharmacological intervention only.

    I am about to read through the changes in the NFL COVID screening procedures. Seems like NFL will shift to screen symptoms. NFL has done awesome job playing football in the midst of the pandemic — literally. ‘Biden’ — I have an idea put the NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills in charge handing the pandemic in the whole country. — Not gonna happen.

    Boris Johnson on the other end at least said if you can work from home work from home. Nothing like this on this end…

    And I’d rather not point finger at the posters here. You know who you are.

    But of course, no one will admit to being wrong, incompetent and not having an independent opinion. Everyone will say how of course they meant nothing but good for all of us and were merely misunderstood or Oops, whocould’veknown that, etc, etc, etc, BS up to the ears and above…

    Here’s NFL protocols:
    Effective immediately, all 32 NFL teams will be placed in intensive COVID-19 protocols until the conclusion of Week 15. This means the reimposition of mandatory mask wearing in team facilities, social distancing, grab-and-go meal service in team cafeterias, all-virtual meetings, limits on the number of people allowed in weight rooms and restrictions on activities outside the facility.

    There are now three ways for a vaccinated player to return under the new protocols:

    • Two PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests that are either negative or produce a CT value of 35 or greater.

    • One PCR test that is either negative or produces a CT value of 35 or greater, and a negative Mesa test result taken with 24 hours of the PCR test. (Mesa tests usually return results in less than an hour.)

    • Two negative Mesa tests.

  12. bruce wilder

    Che Pasa:

    Their statements have not been necessarily consistent nor particularly coherent — which has been a problem from the outset of the pandemic. Their policies have been fragmented, disruptive, and sadly too often counterproductive and/or ineffective.

    Yep. That “incoherence” includes strong narrative reliance on the vaccines being things they are not: “safe”, “effective” and sterilizing, while continually failing to make logical sense of mechanical/hygienic measures — masks, ventilation, quarantine, isolation, outdoors activity.

    Loss of legitimacy comes from a prolonged experience of rank incompetence, but I do not see that public health is any different from any other field of public concern and policy.

  13. different clue

    @Che’ Pasa,

    The US government and its health authorities, as well as WHO, have been mainly vax-only. Both WHO and CDC suppress knowledge of the aerial transmission nature of covid and both deliberately dislead the public away from full awareness of aerial transmission by disleading the public with irrelevant sterility-performance displays like ” handwashing” and “surfaces” and “plexiglass” and “fomites”. The US government refuses to make universal taxpayer-funded testing available to all people at all times in all places. The US government refuses to institute totally taxpayer-subsidised total quarantines for people testing positive. The governmental authorities stealth-lie about the mRNA para-vaccinoids stopping the spread of covid and sterilizing the recipients against being infectable.

    This is a poorly-disguised vaccinoid-only policy. The peddlers of the “no such policy exists” narrative are unworthy of serious consideration on this issue.

  14. p. cerbone

    Here’s some cash for the Covid pandemic, which will “promote the general welfare” and provide healthcare for all to that end.

    Where is Joke Manchin and his ilk on this $29T spending .

    “The Fed had infused a cumulative $29 trillion over more than two years to teetering banks – some of which it had failed miserably to supervise. In the case of Citigroup, the bank was actually insolvent and the Fed was not legally allowed to make loans to it. That didn’t stop the Fed from propping up Citigroup to the tune of more than $2.5 trillion in secret, cumulative loans from December 2007 through at least July 2010.”

    Noted in:

  15. NL


    My point is that our and their space programs are struggling – partly for the same reasons – and resorting to the same smoke and mirrors trickery to impress the population with their ‘technological progress’. My second point is, let’s not overdo it with admiration for the present Russian regime — they are Gorbachev’s and Yeltsin’s corrupt oligarchs and – if we accept the KGB coup hypothesis – former secret service officers and communist functionaries who abandoned the values of the system that had elevated them to power and grabbed public and state assets for themselves. Russia to them is a plantation from which they extract resources to afford a life in England, which they consider a civilized country in comparison with their ‘homeland’. I wrote before somewhere that Russia is stuck between its own racism toward Asia (and specifically Chinese) and our racism to them. The CCP leadership seems to understand the above to some extent. I read somewhere about a Chinese CCP produced documentary that presents their investigation into the collapse of Soviet Union. The conclusion of the documentary was that the Soviet leadership abandoned Soviet Union and that was the single reason for the Soviet regime collapse. The fate of Soviet Union now serves as a warning to the CCP politburo what will happen if they abandon their values.

    @different clue
    On the third point I probably went a bit overboard. My point is why all of a sudden Russia comes up with all these demands now? Why now? What, they just now discovered that we follow ‘real politic’. What, did we just do something now that we have not been doing since the Soviet Union collapse and before? The first ‘color’ revolution in Ukraine was in 2004. They ‘slept’ before, during and after it, and then waited for the second ‘color’ revolution 10 years later. And when the second revolution took place, they grabbed Crimea and that was it. The Crimean grab was well-prepared, so they knew what was coming, yet they did nothing to prevent us from installing a client. Belarus would have been ours if not for the Lukashenko regime. And Lukashenko does not want to be with Russia, but between his regime survival and a union with Russia, he had to choose the latter. Now, Russian protestations that they are not amassing forces at the Ukrainian boarder run hollow in light of the demands that they just advanced — so, they got our attention by staging an invasionary force and then put out demands. We did not bite. Our response was ‘go for it’ – they will not go for it. The Russian regime cares only about preserving itself, while annexing Ukraine will require lots of effort and investment that they are not willing to spend. So, let me paraphrase myself – the Russia regime is responsible for the latest escalation of the Cold War, which was dictated by the needs of internal Russian politics.

    I happen to think that people, especially Western people, will explore space. This instinct – innate drive – if you will is part of our DNA. One day will put all together just right and take off…

  16. Ché Pasa

    ‘Defeat’ among the gasbags on Sunday was palpable: not just over the extreme and swift spread of the virus variant, but over the apparently final nail in the coffin of the BBB Thing (thanks Manchin!) and the now inevitable slouch into fascism.

    Only a dictator can save us now, and it can’t be Trump. If he tries to restore himself to the throne, he will be squashed like a bug.

    While we are supposed to fear our fascist future, I think a lot of Americans don’t. In fact they long for it. This is particularly so among the petit bourgeoisie — the active/violent elements in the aborted coup. Why? Because they want as order that will — they think — assure their prosperity until everything goes to shit and once it does, they need to believe they will survive more or less intact; bugger anyone and everyone else.

    Fascist rule that they facilitate or install comforts them.

    But they know they are a distinct and shrinking minority. The rest of us might still have a say. If we do, it won’t be through our elected representatives…


    MSNBC (3 days ago):

    Cases of the coronavirus are up 24 percent, and cases of the Omicron variant have been reported in at least 39 states. MSNBC’s Dr. Jason Johnson is joined by Dr. Uché Blackstock and Kurt Bardella to discuss the Trump administration’s efforts to “undermine” the initial coronavirus response in the U.S. and the responsibility the administration bears for the current situation in the country.

    Remind me who has been President for the last 11 months. And nothing fundamentally has changed, eh?

    I looked at “the study” linked by GlassHammer. No offense intended to GlassHammer, as some of the details, if true, were quite alarming. But, “if true” raises the question of whom do I trust? I feel the weight of misinformation/disinformation/tendentious narratives/simple carelessness about facts and logic very heavily. How do I process any of the flood of commentary and “studies”?

    I worry that so much of the public discourse is taking place in counter-factual imagination even when not lost in completely misleading, super-confident assertions, that no one is left with an opportunity for reflection or critical thinking. The “study” referenced by GlassHammer is “modelling” by a group at Imperial College London that has great PR (hence the multiple news feeds), but I have no idea what their record of performance really is. (I can google and get a bunch of dismissive commentary from right-wing sites, but how “informative” is any of that — there’s a set of right-wing talking points re: Imperial College London modelling is about all I get out of it.)

    Pseudo-Leftish mainstream sites like Vox and Mrs Steve Jobs’ Atlantic have articles cheerily warning us all that, vaccinated-or-not, there’s a high probability of contracting Omicron as The Wave passes thru Europe and North America. Like Boy Scouts of yore, we are advised to “Be Prepared” — which mainly seems to come down to having worked out in advance some mix of ways to get tested (likely multiple times to be sure) to confirm your likely self-diagnosis that this “bad cold” or “flu” is, in fact, the One Omicron. No real advice on self-care — apparently, “horse paste” is out; prophylactic Vitamin D or Zinc forgotten and, of course, even if no one is in Che Pasa’s Vax Only Club, still after two years, there’s no regimen of care known to the PMC, just PMC-approved complex and expensive sorting out of inconclusive tests and isolating at home. (Advice to people who are poor enough to live with significant others and roommates without spare bedrooms and without the budget for nonsense testing is not published by the likes of Vox or The Atlantic.) News you can use is passé.

    I know this has been a rant, and I apologize for venting, but there’s also a serious sense of despair, from this long-time news junkie, that there’s so much tribal crap and so little in the way of journalistic capital (let alone “ethics”) that it is becoming impossible to be generally “well-informed”. There’s rarely anyone modeling even a fake “good judgment” about events or developments — most pundits seem to depend on pretending they themselves as well as their audience have the memory of a mayfly and the logical reason of a stopped clock.

  18. My last two comments, which dealt with the vaccine, were censored.

    It’s one thing to be constantly slimed by know-nothing (except wikipedia) ‘luminaries’, like hugh and Plague Species. When the host disrespects you, though, even if he’s not obnoxious, it’s another matter.

    Barring an apology from Ian, and the appearance of my comments, but in this, more recent post, I’m out of here.

    Good luck to anybody seeking useful information about covid, the vaccines, or any other scientific matter. In spite of censorship by the tech giants, they are still leaving large pockets of scientific dissent and truth out there. Twitter, in particular, almost looks like it didn’t get the memo. This is not a science blog, though I and other commenters tried to fill in some of the enormous gaps left by Ian’s myopic “epidemiology 101” ideas.

    “Follow the money” is a useful guide as to who is telling the truth, though not the only one. Pay attention, also, to who avoids debates, who avoids transparency and references. And, of course, who fails the laugh test. Evolutionary biologist Brett Weinstein, and his significant other, have lately openly laughed at the shifting narrative of the “vaccinate ourselves out of a pandemic” crowd.

  19. Ian Welsh

    Those two comments will not be appearing. I wish Metamars all the best on such forums and blogs as he continues to use.

  20. Ché Pasa

    Again, vaccines are part of — not the whole of — Covid policy strategy. There are other elements in that strategy. The strategy is frankly incoherent, but pretty much the only public officials who were “vaxx-only” were in the Trump regime. The vaccines were their crowning achievement, remember?

    Meanwhile, there’s a big push for people to get vaccinated, and there are big interests making big bucks from it. It’s was designed that way. Not ideal, not by a long shot, but it suits the ideology of the personal/private as opposed to the public/social interest.

    There is no right way to handle this now permanent pandemic under the circumstances, because it can’t be controlled or eliminated under the profit model. Every crisis is another profit opportunity, so the financial incentive is to keep it going for as long as possible.

    I was out trying to find masks the other day. You can’t, not around here. The best I was able to find — actually the only ones — were poorly made disposable surgical masks in packs of 10 or 20 for $8 or $10. No N95s or anything like them.

    This unavailability of course ensures prices will stay high and a sort of black market will develop (has developed). In order to be assured of getting masks that might protect you somewhat from the virus, you have to know someone, pay significant money, and wait. If you can’t do that, you will go without. I’m seeing more and more older people in my area going unmasked these days. They are in part going without masks because they’ve become so hard to get. Again. And of course they hear the same rat-a-tat-tat propaganda that masks don’t work or they make you sick, or whatever the latest story is. So why bother?

    And so it goes. Do vitamins enhance immune response? Often yes. This isn’t in dispute. Take vitamin D3, B12, C, zinc and all the rest. They won’t necessarily prevent you from getting the virus, and they sure won’t cure you if you do get it, but they won’t usually hurt you either.

    What about the alternative medications (insert list here)? They seem to have some effect that seems to vary substantially between individuals — worthy of more study but maybe not right now — but they are not shown to be either prophylactic or cures on their own. In some cases they may be harmful.

    As for ventilation, yes. It’s needed. Improvements are needed. There’s no argument about it. Improvements are not happening enough in part because of expense, lack of understanding of what kind of improvements are necessary, lack of workers, on and on, and apparently most importantly a lack of profit certainty. Who is going to take on this massive task? Right now essentially no one.

    Every aspect of controlling this pandemic is driven by and hamstrung by the ideologies of individualism, profit, and denial of public interest.

  21. Willy

    Well, smearing horse paste on my burgers sure makes me feel like a rebel.

    “Follow the money” is a useful guide as to who is telling the truth, though not the only one. Pay attention, also, to who avoids debates, who avoids transparency and references.

    Sure. I think of big tobacco paying to try and hide behind “the science” and big oil paying to try and hide the science.

    Always seeing academic types as being “more evil” than MBA types just doesn’t pass the common sense test. Hell, on a personal level practically everybody I knew who went on to do advanced research or work in some academic specialty field were pretty much the introverted studious geek type. OTOH, the MBAs were far more likely to be party hardy socializers with greedy materialistic asshole tendencies.

    I got a Johnsons jab and with the new information will probably go with the better of another as the booster. And I’m sure that won’t be the end of it. Come to think of it, ivermectin doesn’t go well with burgers. Maybe apple pie instead.

  22. NL

    Hi Ché,

    I disagree Che, Tuesday we will see another official who is vaccines only. You know who I am talking about…

    I posted here time and time again. I buy N95 from Uline in bulk 300 respirators (15 cartons) at a time. It works out to less than a $1 per day for a fresh respirator everyday per person. The link is right here: . Where I live, Uline delivers in 1-2 days direct from their warehouse.

    These Uline respirators are a ‘manly’ man’s respirators. They are itchy and rough but are a very tight fit on my face and I can endure. Working without taking time for sickness is important to me (+ I perform mentally very challenging tasks and can not lose any IQ points to COVID even if I otherwise have no severe symptoms). If you are not into that, these Korean DOBU respirators are the softest thing you will ever find:

    They are as soft as a plush toy but a bit too small for me.

    We have tested close to a dozen of brands of respirators (blowing between ~3K to purchase samples), and most were wanting in one aspect or another. LG health Patriot Mask ( just has this nasty plastic smell that I can’t stand but otherwise is rather sort and well-fitting. Some are willing to overlook the smell (or air the respirator for a couple of days before using it).

    I have a shelf on the inside side of my home door where I keep boxes of respirators. Before I step out I put one on always. On the outside side of my home door, I have a trash bag, when I come back, I put the respirator I have on in the trash bag. Always and everyday, by now it is an instinct, a reflex, like putting pants on. I also have special glasses but I wear those only in transit. I do not take the respirator off outside of home — never, so no eating in restaurants, no lunch, I also discourage and shut down any parties at work.
    If you have any question, please let me know.

  23. different clue

    It takes a lot to get banned here. One has to really work at it. The last time I remember someone getting banned here was “Peter” and he had to smear himself with napalm and set himself on fire at High Noon to achieve it.

  24. Ian Welsh

    Nobody’s been banned recently. But I now review all comments before the post, and I’m far more likely to not let a comment thru than I was to delete it after it was already posted.

    I really didn’t want to do full comment moderation, but if I have to do it, well, I’ll do it. I doubt I’ll go back to um-moderated comments, it just didn’t work.

  25. different clue

    Here is an interesting article about renewable energy rollout and ramp-up for the Winter Olympics in China. It is from the Bangkok Post.

    Here is the link.

  26. different clue

    I remember about a year ago suggesting that the history of civilization is the story of man’s effort to live like the social insects.

    And I have just found an article over at Naked Capitalism which suggests I was righter than I knew. The article notes that the average size of the human brain underwent a measurable shrinkage 3,000 years ago from what it had become up to that point. And the scientists puzzling over that shrinkage ( which sort of coincided with the deepening and entrenchment and complexification of civilization) looked at actual ants to see if ants could reveal the secret of why the human brain shrank.

    The civilization process is so profoundly social-insectifying that man’s brain itself tried ( and succeeded just a tiny bit) to become a little more insectoid than the brains of our High Classical Cro-Magnon ancestors.

    Here is the link.

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