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

Open Thread

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A Basic Buddhist Meditation Synthesis


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 6, 2023


  1. mago

    Batting zero for zero these days.

  2. Ian Welsh

    Less comments, for sure. About three regular commenters have left or mostly left. I was concerned, so I checked traffic, but it’s about at the middle of the normal range. I have to remind myself that comments are not a proxy for readership (if they were, I wouldn’t have gone to pre-approval and banned a pile of trolls.)

    Still, I do miss a couple of the regulars. Ah well.

  3. NR

    Ian, I posted this before but I think you were dealing with illness at the time and I’m not sure if you saw it. I think it would be of interest to you so I’ll share it again just in case.

    The gist is that researchers found that people who live in societies where strangers are caring and helpful have kinder hallucinations than people who live in societies where strangers are hostile. This is fascinating to me because it’s an example of how social structures and behavior can affect us at even a neurological level.

  4. Ian Welsh

    Makes sense to me NR.

    Blind people, who are almost always treated with kindness, apparently have much nicer dreams on average than sighted people.

    If you live in fear, of course it affects your hallucinations and dreams and brain and so on. Be weird if it didn’t.

  5. NR

    I hadn’t heard that about blind people’s dreams, that’s interesting. This is probably a similar phenomenon in some respects, though the researchers thought that the focus on individuality in the West versus the more collective attitudes in India and Africa might also have played a factor.

  6. Z

    Note that the West is treading carefully with respect to Niger as they ought to because there is a substantial chance for domestic blowback if they directly intervene.

    The most recent, and some of the most violent, protests in France involved African immigrants and if footage of French forces fighting against Africans arises it will only further inflame the situation.

    It may not go over well in the U.S. either if the U.S. begins firing on Africans. It pulls at the scabs of racial dissension in the country and reinforces the well-founded belief by African-Americans that the U.S. has historically exploited Africa and Africans.

    So, of course the West will try to bribe and blackmail Africans to do their dirty work. This will eventually lead to all West financial, NGOs, and other business interests being expelled from many African countries.

    And that’s why Putin is a hero in Africa: he has blazed the way to a different financial system that the West can’t control and abuse, a path to freedom instead of subjugation. Russia isn’t the only country involved in BRICS obviously, China was a critical component for instance, but Putin has stood up to the U.S.’s military machine as well which has been the muscle behind the West’s corrupt and extractive dollar-dominated financial system.

    The U.S. and France have been asked by the coup government of Niger to leave the country but so far neither have left and don’t appear to be willing to do so. I believe they were given 30 days by Niger’s new government. At least they can claim that there is a thin layer of logical veneer to their resistance since the current government of Niger isn’t a product of the U.S.’s Trump-or-Biden quality of “democracy”. In Syria though, another country that the U.S. is occupying, and openly stealing their oil and food, they don’t even have that mist to hide behind.

    Maybe the biggest blunder of the Robfather Rubin II Administration, often errantly referred to as the Obama Administration, will turn out to be the destruction of Libya. That vicious decision that was approved by The Head PR Man for the Point Zero One Percent Obama, prodded on by the Blood Red Queen Hillary, produced a ton of refugees that landed in Europe and, as we enter the Age of Terrorism fueled in no small part by the largess of weapons that the U.S. has sent to War Pimp Zelensky’s corrupt regime, it has the potential to create an internal, asymmetric war in Europe that can dangerously destabilize European governments and society.

    Prigozhin, fresh and pressed from The “Coup”, is making noise again and his merry band of mercenaries is growing their presence in Niger. I suppose Vlad forgave him. If Prigozhin shows up in Niger he will become a primary target of the West since he probably bilked the CIA out of billions for his faux coup.

    What Prigozhin did, by the way, even if he did extract billions from the CIA for his theatrical role as King Kong Prigozhin stomping his way down the main highway to Moscow swatting down Russian military aircraft along the way and twittering about it, was nothing short of heroic, in my view. Sure, he probably got a good chuckle out of screwing over the CIA, but he also made a patriotic sacrifice because those billions from the CIA are just digits in his bank account at this point but he substantially decreased his life expectancy and his freedom. Don’t expect him to take selfies in the French Riviera, for instance. He certainly won’t be welcome in Tel Aviv either. Saint Petersburg is about as good as it is going to get for him, which is pretty damn good from what I understand, but even there he will have to be very careful as Dugina’s daughter and Prigozhin’s pal, who got offed by the explosive statue a while back, have gotten murdered in Russia by the West’s well compensated Ukrainian stooges.


  7. Willy

    A troll is impervious to reason, and not somebody we disagree with.

    I get agreeing to disagree. I get how it’s entertaining to keep score over some complex multi-variable issue where the viewpoint is probably just personal projection of whatever it is that works for that particular person. I get how people can get territorial or feel a personal loss of tribal status when successfully challenged. I get being bored and needing some excitement. I get how somebody might be trying to avoid some unpleasant meatspace task and procrastinate by telling themselves that defeating a rival on some blog is more important. I try to get how embracing a controversial idea can make one feel unique, special and important.

    But I don’t get the relentless ideologue, the one who insists on putting you into some box they themselves have prepared for you, as if it’s an unconscious effort to try and bury you in it. Maybe those things I just mentioned are the cause. But there’s a suspicious, probably paranoid part of me that thinks they’re being paid or part of a brainwashed cult or something. The more I learn about plutocratic funding of reactionary influencer organizations, ranging from Prager U to Fox News, the more I get suspicious whenever somebody will not reason and refuses to offer up ideas for solutions to some problem of the day.

  8. Willy

    The insane lament of American elites.

    A client got mad at me when I was building a large shed for him because I didn’t use purlins on the roof. The rafters were spaced with more than enough support for 3/4 plywood under asphalt shingles. I told him I’d never seen purlins used on any roof with 16” rafter spacing. He told me he was an engineering PhD and to just do what he said. I later saw that inside his garage was what looked like purlins but was actually skip sheathing under plywood, evidence that his old garage had once had a cedar shake roof. I think he’d used that as his go-to example and his entire personal experience with anything involving roofing was that. Plus he was an engineering PhD.

    While completing that shed which he’d started, I noticed that he’d used pin nails and glue for the structure. Pin nails and glue is what you use for small crafts like bird houses and desktop cubbies. So I discretely reinforced wherever I could with 16p nails, HD galvanized. He got mad about that too, explaining yet again that he’s an engineering PhD.

    I was tempted to tell him he was suffering from the general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament, while pointing my pinky to my mouth. But I hadn’t gotten paid yet.

    I’d catch him lying to me. He tried bullying me but I’d just walk off the job. He eventually moved to Texas, his version of a conservative’s utopia.

    I think this is how a university legacy winds up. They constantly tell everybody under their employ that they’re a PhD, while any rolling of eyes and snickering goes unnoticed. I just looked him up. He hooked up with a politically connected frat buddy in Houston and reinvented himself as some kind of corporate investment financial expert. I think he’ll likely be an insider trading specialist. Maybe he’ll even get rich like his idol, Donald Trump.

  9. bruce wilder

    People are more neurologically complex than the model of conscious mind = brain = computer admits.

    I reflect back on my life and all the ways and instances where my experiences have revealed an “unconscious” life ongoing and deep scars sustained beneath all that I consciously intend or recall and I marvel and wonder.

    We have a shared understanding of very little of what we are and a shared fear of what we do not understand.

  10. Trinity

    ‘In Mesopotamia and Egypt, “much money and thought were lavished on the building of magnificent temples for the gods and on palaces and tombs of kings,” observed Sir John Marshall, who supervised the excavation of two of the five main cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, “but the rest of the people seemingly had to content themselves with insignificant dwellings of mud.” In the Indus Valley, “the picture is reversed and the finest structures were those erected for the convenience of the citizens. Temples, palaces, and tombs there may of course have been, but if so, they are either still undiscovered or so like other edifices as not to be readily distinguishable from them.”’

  11. Willy

    I have time so I’ll piggyback off my “insane lament”.

    Back when the Animal House movie had its 20-year release anniversary, an opinionist at the Washington Times thought he knew the politics of the primary characters and those two rival houses. Yeah I know Animal House has no politics but this is the Washington Times I’m talking about.

    The opinionist proclaimed the Deltas were conservatives and the Omegas liberals. So you’re saying our party-hardy fun-loving heroes were supposed to be personal responsibility reap-what-you-sow God-fearing patriots, while the “thank you sir may I have another” corporate system assholes were bleeding heart liberals? Riiight. I discarded the piece as kooky, from somebody desperately trying to Bernays his political brand as being cool.

    25 years later, I’m realizing that maybe that author was being completely honest, albeit unwittingly so. I watched the film again decades after I’d forgotten it. As much fun as the Deltas were having in college, they were all on the fast track to failure. At least out in the real world. No matter how many honest warnings they got about 0.2 grade point averages, these man-children were determined to ruin their futures. Yet somehow, according to the captions seen at the end of the movie, they all wound up as successful national editors and doctors and politicians.

    Today, I’ll be damned if I know very many loud-n-proud conservatives who truly deserve their success for reasons involving actual meritocracy. The ones I know are system gamers, living off some sugar daddy or corporate lobby dole or machinating their way through life in their “it’s all who you know” world. I think this is the kind of conservatism which that Washington Times author was unwittingly alluding to.

  12. Trinity

    Or, if you are bored and don’t like the link above, or you are like me and waiting for the Week-end Wrap Up, compare and contrast these two different sides of an argument:

  13. Chuck Mire

    A neuroscientist warns: We’re watching the largest and most dangerous ‘cult’ in American history:

    Trump’s the MAGA Messiah who is being persecuted for his followers:

  14. Willy

    Regarding the Indus Civilization, I’d look for weapons: type, quality, quantity, as compared to any neighboring civilizations they’d be rubbing up against. Any evidence of major wars? Much of human technology has come from warfare.

    Then I’d look to see if the common culture of the Indus civilization revolved around eliminating “demon seeds”. I’d think if you had a culture which was anchored by a religion or other equally generationally dominating cultural construct, which targets and neuters the ‘insanely selfish conqueror’ type as being unacceptably detrimental to society, you’d have a more humanely rational and egalitarian society. (cases in point for the outsized influence a free-range Dark Triad can have on their society at large: Julius Caeser, Genghis Khan and Donald Trump)

    The only real positive benefit of the ‘insanely selfish conqueror’ would be to function as a sort of warlord figurehead which tribal warriors might rally around. You’d need such a position if your own civilization was under existential threat from invaders.
    If there were no external threats, then I’d think there’d have to be a sustainable cultural reason for a long-lasting egalitarian culture, given the unquenchable thirst Dark Triad types have for wealth and power.

    Was Indus Valley a female-dominated society supported by religion? Speaking of female-dominated primate societies, while chimps are constantly plotting and fighting, bonobos spend most of their time… er, loving each other.

  15. Z

    The most dangerous cult in the world are the MAGAers? This while the the demo-zombies cheer on the production team of Weekend at Biden’s that stands up the Lead Stiff to continually escalate a war with a nuclear power which potentially threatens all of humanity?

    Mind you that I am also absolutely befuddled how Team MAGA can muster up any enthusiasm for their carnival barker Donald T in 2024 after the selfishness and cowardice he displayed for four years in doing almost nothing of what he promised them especially since he even punked out in the end when one would think he had little left to lose and still didn’t pardon Assange, Snowden, or the January 6th cosplay insurrectionists who supported him.

    But cheering on the Adderall addicted idiots who are stirring up a potential nuclear war by manipulating some 80-year old fool who is half out on his feet by playing to his enormous ego and faux tough guy persona certainly takes the strychnine-laced cake over supporting some clown who at least didn’t initiate any new wars during his reign of error.


  16. Willy

    As far as Trump cultists go, they might need a place to go to, to get those emotional needs met.

    In the movie Ticket to Heaven, our brainwashed hero gets kidnapped away from his cult by his family with the help of a deprogrammer. The closing scene shows lots of hugging and crying by all when our newly deprogrammed hero realizes that his family is gonna give him all the love he’ll ever need, replacing his old batshit cult for that kind of stuff.

    Now maybe it’s just me personally, but I’m rarely in a mood to hug and cry with Proud Boys or religious nitwits or some other kind of conspiracy theory idiot. Maybe I can change. But that’d mean that I’d then have to be deprogrammed and given hugs and tears and loving support from some kind of family, so I might be better be able to handle these nutjobs.

    Maybe somebody else has better ideas.

  17. B. Good


    “But I don’t get the relentless ideologue, the one who insists on putting you into some box they themselves have prepared for you, as if it’s an unconscious effort to try and bury you in it. Maybe those things I just mentioned are the cause. But there’s a suspicious, probably paranoid part of me that thinks they’re being paid or part of a brainwashed cult or something.”

    I get the feeling there are people online trying to influence the opinions of others by less than open means, and also think there is sufficient evidence of it all over that it’s easy to say this is in fact happening.

    What I don’t get is thinking this is exclusively a reactionary/conservative/Republican thing. To me that is the more startling than existence of the thing itself: willfully blinding oneself and saying “only the other side does it.”

  18. Z

    “The Most Dangerous Cult in American History” is one whose leader does nothing of what they want, and which he promised them to do, except not initiate any new wars.

    Sounds scary …


  19. Willy

    “But I don’t get the relentless ideologue…

    We’ve had climate change deniers working this place for long whiles. It didn’t matter what science Ian quoted, or what new development happened such as the Northwest Passage opening up to cruise ships, or arctic methane blows, or that the ten hottest years ever recorded had basically been the last ten years… the denier would disregard any and all of that and tried putting me into their brainwashed-ignorant box, along with I assume, so many scientists and meteorologists and cruise ship companies who all must be in the business of brainwashing ignorance. He seemed far too relentless to not be getting paid.

    What I don’t get is thinking this is exclusively a reactionary/conservative/Republican thing

    Not at all. We had a liberal on here who got personal with me after I expressed my stance against undocumented workers. They’d wanted to put me into their racist box. I said no, but I’ll jump into your Cesar Chavez box if you have one available. Who knows, maybe that person was being paid by Cargill?

    We also had a self-proclaimed Communist who fully support Putin (not a Communist) against Ukraine/NATO (I know and like Ukainians, distrust NATO as an arm of neoliberal weapons plutocrats). In that episode, I didn’t think that immorality should always be countered with even more immorality, because I believe the end game is called “war”. As we know very few plutocrats die in war as compared to regular folk. According to polls, supporting Putin is a very unpopular position for both “sides” of American politics. I warned that calling oneself a communist and then cheering for Putin, Xi, Khamenei… might not sell well. You’ll be uncool right from the get-go. Like trying to sell vaccuum cleaners door-to-door wearing a paper bag over your head. For those faux pas, a number of boxes were laid out for me which they tried to chase me into. For a time, I suspected they were some kind of conservative disinformation agent bent on sowing FUD against leftism and between leftists.

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