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

Open Thread

Use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts. No vax/anti-vax.


US Likely To Sanction World’s Largest Drone Manufacturer


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 23 2024


  1. a good-looking, smooth-talking former democrat has a new book out – in an interview with cbn she says some very sensible things, and also expresses sentiments that will appeal to those she hopes will see her as a leader

    could she be the liberatory political figure people yearn for?

    words that rhyme with hope: cope rope dope soap nope

    see also John Lennon song titled “just gimme some truth”

  2. “Beware:
    At war
    Or at peace,
    More people die
    Of unenlightened self-interest
    Than of any other disease.”
    ― Octavia E. Butler

    “Most deadly errors arise from obsolete assumptions.” –Dune

    “We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies to investigate the effects of increased fluoride exposure and delayed neurobehavioral development.”
    “children in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low-fluoride areas”
    (Fuoride water levels of 0.7-1.2mg/L or the standard for North America. Table 1 list the studies.
    and several included fluoride at those levels)

    “This prospective, multicenter birth cohort study…”
    “41% lived in communities supplied with fluoridated municipal water.”
    “fluoride exposure during pregnancy was associated with lower IQ scores”
    “A 1-mg higher daily intake of fluoride among pregnant women was associated with a 3.66 lower IQ score”
    “laboratory studies show that it (fluoride) accumulates in brain regions…and alters proteins and neurotransmitters in the central nervous system”
    “In a longitudinal birth cohort study a 1-mg/L increase in maternal urinary fluoride concentration was associated with a 6-point lower IQ score”
    “(fluoride) was also associated with more attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder”

    “State prevalence of artificial water fluoridation in 1992 significantly positively predicted state prevalence of ADHD”
    “A multivariate regression analysis showed that after socioeconomic status was controlled each 1% increase in artificial fluoridation prevalence in 1992 was associated with approximately 67,000 to 131,000 additional ADHD diagnoses from 2003 to 2011”

    “updates on the landmark trial pitting Fluoride Action Network against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
    “A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) risk assessor admitted fluoride is neurotoxic at relatively low levels”

    The current review identified 89 human studies, 199 animal studies, and 10 major in vitro reviews
    Based on the available literature to date, the cumulative body of evidence suggests a positive association of reduced IQ scores for children and fluoride exposures relevant to current North American drinking water levels.
    Significant increasing exposure-response relationships between fluoride in drinking water and reduction in IQ scores
    The scarce human evidence demonstrated a moderate magnitude (strength) of association between fluoride and dysregulation of thyroid hormones at fluoride exposures relevant to current North American drinking water levels.

    “intelligence does enable you to deny facts you dislike. But your denial doesn’t matter.” ― Octavia E. Butler,

    “When I need to identify rebels, I look for men with principles” –Dune

  3. bruce wilder

    ISW: “ISW continues to assess that the threat of nuclear escalation is a core aspect of Russia’s ability to manipulate foreign decision-makers and is highly unlikely to result in actual nuclear escalation due to nuclear and conventional deterrence.”

    The continued contest of narratives over the Ukraine War continues to fascinate me, rather like watching a train wreck unfolding: the locomotive sounding its horns as it hurtles down the track toward the bus stalled athwart the road crossing.

    I admit my attention is focused on the meta-issues regarding narrative itself. If narrative drives politics, what drives narrative? And, what control do humans have over narrative? Which is to say, what control do we humans have over ourselves?

    ISW, for those asleep under a rock, is the Uber-Neocon Kagan family’s enterprise, funded by the Military-Industrial Complex to promote and continue the U.S. policy of perpetual war, with a particular focus on Eastern Europe and Russia. Victoria Nuland, a Kagan by marriage, shepherded U.S. Ukraine policy as a career State Department official.

    In a way, narrative frosts the policy cake we, the people, are fed and to which we uncomprehendingly consent, our consent manufactured by institutions like ISW and the State Department, Yale University, the Brookings Institution (all of which Nuland has infected during her long, malevolent career), but I digress.

    My topic is, what control do we humans, individually or collectively, have over Narrative. Political debate and discourse, I submit, are contests over narrative, that is, over which narrative will prevail in giving a meaning to behavior or events.

    In a trial at law, a jury may vote on whether a homicide was murder and whether a specific individual is guilty (a meaning) of that murder, after lawyers and a judge have fought over what facts in evidence the jury may consider and what the jury may be taught are prevailing legal principles applying to such a case. I give this example to remind you that in some circumstances we expect structured thinking to allow groups of people to deliberate together and choose to adopt a narrative as, in some sense, “true” or “just” or “wise”. Choosing or endorsing a narrative is a judgment of facts, applying principles of discrimination regarding what is credible and what is moral or prudent.

    The apparent free-for-all of broadcast public discourse over national or international issues can also be considered as a contest over narrative and therefore meaning. It is not structured formally in the way litigation is. But narrative is used in professionally crafted propaganda to motivate and guide collective “thinking” and obtain consent to state policy in matters of war and peace. Crafting such propaganda is what ISW does — quite successfully, as a large portion of western news reports on the progress of the Ukraine War are based on and sourced from ISW’s assessments.

    The deeper puzzlement to me in this process of endless talk and argument is, when do we humans choose the policy we will justify with a narrative story. Is it “turtles all the way down”? That is, an endless regress of stories? That is what I mean by looking for the social or intellectual controls on narrative. Where are the brakes on that on-rushing locomotive? Are there any?

    With regard to the Ukraine War, a common refrain has turned on the expectation that the contest of arms would somehow settle the issue. Or some issue at least. The Russophiles at the beginning of the February 2022 invasion thought Russian arms would prevail in short order, the abundant evidence of shortcomings in Russian numbers, logistics and capabilities notwithstanding. Many still think Russia is moving slowly but inexorably toward an endgame where it will dictate terms. The Europeans were quick to turn on the cultural Russia-hate, and imposing sanctions in the expectation that Russia’s economy — the proverbial gas station with nukes — would collapse.

    It troubles me that there seems to have been so little concern among the quick-take artists and professional tellers of tales with establishing facts and letting facts constrain the choice of narratives.

    Narratives unconstrained by fact are apparently a result desired by most state actors. Few wars have gone forward without extensive censorship, but the Ukraine War is an information black hole, lit only by obscure Telegram channels and daily reports from the opposing Ministries of Defense, neither of which usually acknowledge anything they could possibly know from their own sources, such as their own losses or casualties. And, of course, the ISW can claim a role for itself, compiling reports from Telegram to give the illusion of integrity to their activity fomenting war as a source of business opportunity.

    We do not know — that is, we are not allowed to know for certain — that the U.S. sabotaged the Nordstream pipelines connecting Russia to Germany. That supposedly not-knowing is a hugely important constraint on the contest of narratives. Think about how it protects the flank of those contending that NATO is not threatening Russia.

    I am old enough to remember both Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War. Both of those political events, momentous really, turned on calling “bullshit” on narratives pushed hard by powerful actors. Not everyone was entirely happy about having to change their minds and resentment would figure subsequently in politics. I do not remember anyone paying a political price for lying about WMD in Iraq. Iran-Contra was a scandal in the Reagan Administration because people generally could recognize how stupid the secret policy pursued illegally was, but it was a near-thing, that recognition of stupid — I remember open discussions in University forums where many students just could not grasp the fundamental stupidity at the core of a scheme to make enemies overpay for weapons in order to finance a gang of murderous thugs.

    Trump, bless his black heart, took out Jeb Bush by pointing out that brother Georgie didn’t exactly “keep us safe”. Trump was also guilty of pointing out that U.S. policy was largely responsible for “creating” ISIS and its brief reign of terror in Iraq that Obama took so much credit for extinguishing. Trump has also claimed he could end the war in Ukraine in “24 hours” by negotiating with Putin seriously. (OK, I substituted “seriously” for something more blustery and Trumpy). I mention Trump not to endorse him, but to illustrate how bizarrely marginalized rational, fact-based dissent from the prevailing narratives of U.S. foreign policy have become.

    The foundation of the Ukraine War was a blindly determined effort by the U.S. and its allies in the E.U. and NATO to aggressively press Russia economically and geopolitically past the point of provoking war. But, the politics of it now is stuck in the mud of narrative tropes of Chamberlain at Munich and defending a “rules-based international order” that is anything but. We are on a runaway freight train headed to nuclear war with no way to get off this narrative track.


  4. anon

    Yes, Everyone Really Is Sick a Lot More Often After Covid

    Many articles that discuss this topic fail to focus on long Covid and how it weakens the immune system.

  5. different clue

    A good first step in guiding more people to thinking about the role of “narrative” in individual, little group, big group and overall collective thinking is to introduce them to the word “narrative”. And then introduce them to what the word “narrative” means in this context.

    And then maybe even introduce them to concepts like “controlling the narrative”, ” narrative design engineering”, “battle of the network narratives”, etc.

    Then maybe some of those people will be ready to “hack their own narratives” etc.

    But they can’t do any of that till they know what a “narrative” is. And to know that, they firstest of allest need to know that the word “narrative” itself actually exists as a word.

  6. mago

    Ukraine. Russia. Nuland and Kagan. Narrative control. Damned if I know. The power plays and multi generational grudges and resentments against the Slavs/Russkies escape my comprehension.
    Wtf is it with these people and the corrupt institutions they create and inhabit?
    Rhetorical question.
    As far as the Ukrainian conflict, who knows? Guessing the Ukies are toast, but a victorious Russia will be dealing with the aftermath for a long long time, assuming climate extremes and/or nuclear detonations don’t preempt the show for most everyone and everything on this orb.

    So, I witnessed some interesting underworld dynamics during my residency in Costa Rica—a corridor for coke smuggling and a place of legalized prostitution. That’s surface detail.

    The drug and weapon money laundering through real estate and hospitality businesses is off the charts.

    In one beach town I inhabited the Russian mafia took over a couple of food and lodging operations. Not nice people. Neither were the Ukies I encountered, btw.
    In another regional beach town exists a Jewish mafia enclave, armed to the teeth with blood dripping from the fangs, and you don’t want to go near their shit.
    Then you have your Mexican cartels running flesh and drugs while the colombianos remain a force as well.

    Oh, and then there are the spooks and mercenaries and state department types with their manipulations and intrigues. Creepy people. Straight out of a Star Wars bar.

    There’s a multilayered mountain of intrigue, suffer and tragedy happening in outward appearing paradises all over the world.
    Killing fields.
    “Trouble everywhere and the world has gone astray.”
    Can’t control that no matter how influential your narrative/propaganda machine may be.
    Pray for whirled peas.

  7. someofparts


    Well, some of the things this writer has to say in this post suggest answers to that question.

    “Our present rulers are psychologically unfitted to deal with difficult and intractable problems, because nothing in their life has prepared them for doing so. … it’s that they have never really had to struggle for anything.”

    “And then … They find that somebody is telling [them] they can’t have something they want, like Ukraine. The result is an epic temper tantrum, the anger and revolt of the privileged who have never been denied anything before”

    There’s much more in the post, which is nuanced and thoughtful.

    I worked a long, nauseatingly unpleasant decade in local government. The things the blogger in this post lays out line up with my own dreadful experience working for the state. The offensive nonsense I see and hear from our rulers at the national level make me surmise that the astonishing dysfunction I reluctantly witnessed in state government goes all the way to the top at the federal level.

  8. VietnamVet

    The world is a runway freight train rushing down the tracks, horns blaring, with no brakes headed towards nuclear war.

    In 2014, the Obama/Biden Administration, vetted and approved by Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, decided to go to war with Russia so that connected corporations could profit from military sales and facilitate business access to Eurasia resources. This is because the West is now an Empire and creates its own reality. Democracy, government by and for the people, destroyed. Russia driven into the arms of China.

    Proxy WW3 started in Ukraine and Gaza is headed toward Taiwan. Today’s Elite are just as incompetent and arrogant as a century before in WWI except today they are armed with the Gods’ “Destroyer of Worlds”.

    The only way to disembark is to lose everything. Humans will do what they normally do to stay alive and earn a paycheck until they can’t anymore. Clearly, getting a cut of the 16 billion dollars being spent on the 2024 elections is more important than some writing on the internet about Doomsday or electing a competent President.

  9. Daniil Adamov

    bruce wilder, what do you mean by “aggressively pressing Russia economically… past the point of provoking war”? There were the sanctions, but escalating the conflict in Ukraine could never have done anything to fix that, nor surely was it expected to. Or do you mean the particular pressure on Crimea?

    Also, while I’d agree the US block did a lot to provoke war generally, I’m not sure that we had to take the bait. Ultimately that was the Russian government’s call. One might argue that it was a necessary preemptive attack; honestly, I don’t know either way. I don’t think some unbearable pressure forced it, though. The simple possibility of Ukraine attacking the People’s Republics first, in February 2022 or at some other point, seems like the likeliest reason to me. But that, in my view, has less to do with geopolitics and more with prestige (letting the enemy take out a sympathetic ally would not have been unendurable, but would’ve cost the government a lot nonetheless).

  10. Revelo

    @Bruce Wilder, re Ukraine: Because USA cannot remain hegemon unless Russia is taken down, and those in power value power very very highly, especially hegemon level power. Little people in USA and Europe intuitively recognize what big people value highly, just like dogs recognize what their master values, and so bark furiously at master’s enemies. Hence the foaming at the mouth Russophobia since 2014 and especially 2022.

    Logic is simple. China was correctly seen by USA leaders as inevitably eclipsing USA in economic and scientific/technology power because of larger population and more industrious culture, and that economic/technology power would then allow China to challenge USA in military and world political power. Russia would then be kingmaker, alternating between supporting USA and China so as to keep the two balanced in power and extract maximum concessions from each. USA leaders were appalled at the humiliation this would imply. USA would be forced to treat Russia as a near equal and be punished by reduction to second place world power if USA refused to show respect to Russia and hence Russia allied with China. Only way to avoid this humiliation was to somehow regime change or break up Russia so it could be reduced to USA vassal, similar to France, which is also a nuclear power and was formerly more independent from USA in foreign policy. With Russia as part of the USA alliance, China would be surrounded on all sides and thus could be controlled regardless of its growing economic/technology power, and so USA hegemony could be maintained indefinitely.

    Plan to gain control over Russia is failing but the final result will be no worse than if the plan had never been attempted. It was a long shot, but why not? given that the Ukrainians were stupid enough to volunteer to be the proxy. That’s the hard part, finding a dumny to be the kamikaze pilot, but Ukrainian descendants of Galician Nazis boldly stepped up and offered to take the job, and do it cheap too. By “final result” I mean what I wrote earlier: USA hegemony ends, USA and China compete for supremacy, Russia is kingmaker and puts its finger on the scale to keep USA and China evenly balanced. Initially, of course, Russia will side with China in conflict over Taiwan, to get revenge on USA, but later Russia may pull back slightly if China gets too big.

    Side benefit of the plan is that much of European heavy industry is being moved to USA and Europe is otherwise being crippled in economic power, so threat of powerful United States of Europe is ended for foreseeable future. Militarized and more united EU is just as big a threat to USA hegemony as China: France provides nuclear weapons and UN security Council seat, EU has bigger population than USA, EU economy similar sized to USA, Europe has strong science and technology tradition, EU has closer access and more historical ties to Mideast and African natural resources than USA. Militarized EU allied with Russia is thus as threatening to USA hegemony as China allied with Russia. Instead of China versus USA with Russia as kingmaker, it would be 3 way competition for supremacy (USA, China, EU) with Russia as powerful free agent (and eventually India and other rising powers as powerful free agents).

    I don’t know exactly how they did it, but USA leaders somehow managed to get the Europeans to consent meekly to castration. Or maybe volunteer is the right word rather than consent. Nobody expects Ukrainian descendants of Galicians Nazis to be anything but stupid at seeing the big picture, but I’m surprised at the Europeans not seeing what is happening.

  11. bruce wilder reports:

    Farage was challenged on a social media post he sent as Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, which said the conflict “was a consequence of EU and NATO expansion.”
    Asked whether he stood by those views Friday, Farage said he had been warning for decades about the increasing scope of both the military alliance and the EU.
    “We have provoked this war,” Farage said. “Of course, it’s his [Putin’s] fault. He’s used what we’ve done.”
    His comments have sparked a wave of criticism aside from Sunak and Starmer, including from Labour defense spokesman John Healey, who said the comments “reveal the true face of Nigel Farage: a Putin apologist who should never be trusted with our nation’s security.”

    I do not know that I can add anything by highlighting any of the curiosities in this political news report: that this is Farage, the political gadfly of the UK right, who is being challenged by the unanimity of Sunak and Starmer is remarkable enough on its face.

  12. Willy

    Actually, Dubya did keep us safe. I mean from other international bastards that is. But not from ourselves. Not so much ourselves.

    And so I think of the young Russian men. Maybe the young Russian men were sitting around pondering over what they could do to improve their own lives, so often economically poor and vodka pointless. “Do I need to fight the Russian Oligarch Man? Do I need to fight the Western Neoliberal Oligarch Man? How about that Проклятый Chinese Mercantile Man? Maybe the NATO Hegemony Power Man? Hey I know. I’ll go fight the everyday Ukrainian man.”

    Now before anybody goes off on how American men (especially the social media addled incel) improve their own lives by mass-shooting soft-target innocents, let me remind you all about the power of the money. And the power of the power too I suppose. Those guys sure do seem skilled at the art of “chaos creates cash”.

    You follow the money, the power, and the chaos so you can get to the why, I always say.

    You can see what a conflicted mess Usain foreign policy is by observing the general DC political news. It sure does seem like more of a battling between narratives, and less a thoughtful drive toward some best-fit public service truth. I mean, who cares about the little Russian man and their little American incel comrade?

    Some do blame the ivory tower of power set. During peacetime they do seem to get so bored with all that constant fawning from their own yesmen, that they’ll get those same yesmen to squabble amongst themselves for their own amusement. But at the end of the day, they always seem to wind up deciding that being an international chaos bastard is the surest way to feel truly alive.

  13. bruce wilder

    @ Daniil Adamov

    From Putin’s point of view, it must have felt like a desperate gamble taken as a last resort, because he had lost every previous round of struggle since at least 2007, when he made plain his concerns about European security at Munich. The “middle-income trap” in which Russia had been kept would have been a big part of his frustration, since he has focused his 24 years in power on rebuilding the Russian economy. Nordstream is not a sideshow for either side, but right at the core of what is being fought over.

    Again from Putin’s point of view, his regime *is* the Russian state and the threat to overthrow or undermine his regime is an existential threat to Russia on a par with the situation in the 1930’s.

    It does not get much attention in the West, but Russia’s de-militarization and creating the domestic conditions for reversing that course had to play a part in Putin’s calculations. Putin had tried to focus his very limited allocation of resources to the military to the development of wonder weapons and to leverage Wagner and Chechnya and Cossack militia and the like, but he knew first-hand the parlous state of the Navy and the limited capabilities applied in Syria.

    Political sentiments in Russia have been a factor as well. The steady exodus of young professionals to the West was a political problem as well as an economic one that he calculated that he could not stem without a galvanizing event.

    The extreme hostility shown all things Russian since 2022 must have shifted opinion inside Russia more decisively than he could have hoped. It would be interesting to know more about the new exile communities abroad.

  14. Daniil Adamov

    @bruce wilder, thank you for your response.

    One thing I do not doubt is that Putin won the battle inside Russia, at least for a few years. The last doubts I had about this died with Prigozhin, but if that even was a coup attempt it was always a long shot. I’m not sure that opinions have actually shifted that much; most people who hated Putin and “the Regime” hate them still, while the majority that supported them for one reason or another may have been encouraged in doing so, but that is transient and limited. Yet the liberals have been thoroughly crushed: some moved abroad (and so effectively removed themselves from the political scene back home), some got arrested for speech crimes and most were just left in a position of utter and obvious powerlessness. More importantly, the West-leaning parts of the elite have likewise either fled and lost most of their influence (Chubais) or completely changed their tune (Medvedev). Not that those pro-Western groups were a particularly great threat to Putin before, but they might have had a shot at clawing back some power after he goes. Now, I don’t think so, because they no longer have much to offer to anyone. Normalising relations with the West may be seen as desirable by some, but I think most realise it is a pipe dream. That, I think, reflects a change in facts rather than being just a matter of opinion. The new exile communities, insofar as they stabilise (some people have come back already, but some probably won’t), reflect this understanding. That may be the most important change, and from my perspective it’s not without useful aspects. I wish it didn’t take a bloody war to get there, though.

    By the way, whether it will stem the brain drain in the long run remains to be seen. The exiles themselves don’t report much hostility. Maybe they’re good at not noticing it, but then again it always seemed overstated to me: a few attention-grabbing cases don’t necessarily say much about society as a whole. It helps that the diaspora is focused on countries with a long history of Russian exiles and/or on the near abroad; both already have substantial likeminded Russian populations. But while it is an economic problem, politically I think it may be an acceptable solution for the government. See also the exiles of Venezuela. If they’re hiding over there, they’re not making trouble here.

  15. bruce wilder


    A good first step in guiding more people to thinking about the role of “narrative” in individual, little group, big group and overall collective thinking is to introduce them to the word “narrative”.

    In the early days of the blogosphere, when so much of the emergent conversation was about “narratives” in one form or another, there were a number of writers with great insight. The early Digby at Hullabaloo was great on the deep psychology driven by subliminal language and meme choices. Atrios of Eschaton had a cutting cynicism that cut thru a lot of nonsense. Somerby of the Daily Howler and his critiques of mainstream media “scripts”. Billmon, the immortal barfly! Even DailyKos had things to say about campaign messaging and the role of political consultants that were interesting.

    It all went flat as so many people signed up for Red v Blue team sports and gaslighting. No one seemed to care about Blair and Cheney’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. When Obama greenlit Russiagate, it was very hard to get many people to exercise any skepticism. Red v Blue team sports include having very long laundry lists of what the Other Side believes that simply isn’t factually true.

    Censorship and lying and bullying and propaganda are tried and true tools of power with the volume on the propaganda knob turned past 11 by the communication revolution. But, I don’t have much faith in Caitlin Johnstone’s campaign to free us from the Matrix.

  16. bruce wilder

    I should add that I don’t say any of that from a standpoint of feeling at all superior.

    I am as credulous as they come. The only thing in my favor is a horror of being manipulated. My first impulse toward a remedy for bondage to narrative is to insist on needing a “true” narrative. And, when that impulse comes upon me, I think of a story told by a family I know about their matriarch.

    The circumstance was that a long-time part-time housekeeper employed by the matriarch was in trouble with the law, maybe immigration — I don’t remember any details — and the matriarch wanted to support the housekeeper, protect her and solve her problem. So, she gathered her adult children and their spouses for a dinner and after dinner, gathered them to talk. She explained the background, and when she was ready to enlist them in a solution, she took a deep breath and addressed them saying, “First, we need a true story . . .”

    The anecdote is legend.

  17. different clue

    It occurs to me that a lot of people actually know what “narrative” is. But they use the word “storyline” for it.

    So maybe intellectual narrative-analysts should change their word to storyline and become intellectual storyline-analysts.

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