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

Open Thread

As usual, feel free to use the comments to this post to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.


Do Not Ask Western Leadership to Fix Anything


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 28, 2020


  1. KT Chong

    MSNBC and NYT: Russia Paid Bounties To Kill US Troops, US Intel Says:

    Does anyone else remember back in the 1970s and 1980s when the CIA covertly — or not-so-covertly — armed, funded, trained the Mujaheddin to fight the Soviet occupation and kill Russian soldiers in Afghanistan? So, what was America doing back then? … really not so different from what Russia is currently doing to the Americans who are the OCCUPIERS now in Afghanistan.

    So, it is fair game and KARMA… what comes around goes around.

    Of course, when America did it to other people, it’s “FREEEeeedom!” When other people do it back to Americans, then it is “OMG, this so so wrong!”

  2. Z

    KT Chong,

    Agreed. IF it’s true that Russia paid bounties to kill U.S. troops, it’s completely justified.


  3. That’s assuming that Russia did pay bounties for killing US troops. There are several reasons to doubt the veracity of that claim. One is that the source is the NYT and MSNBC. Another is that the Taliban would cheerfully kill US troops without being paid bounties. Third is the relative paucity of US troops being killed by the Taliban.

    It’s sort of like saying that someone is paying a bounty to a criminal organization to rob banks.

  4. S Brennan

    KT Chong, do you ever consider the source, the motivation, Cui bono?

    MSNBC and NYT have been founts of misinformation on Russia for decades, recently they and other media outlets have kept the focus on Russia…and by so doing KEPT IT AWAY FROM CHINA why?


    My, my, my, would that be the Chinese lickspittles whose last names are, in chronological order, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Clinton, Biden? Here’s a clue….KT

    Obamas embracing George W Bush…get the picture? DNCers embrace Republican ideals/actions but, they are better at conning the masses into “voting against their own interests”

  5. Z

    First they came for the stone people …


  6. Zachary Smith

    Biden And His Ventriloquists Keep Out-Hawking Trump

    I like that word “ventriloquists”, for it’s just about perfect as a label for Semi-Senile Joe Biden. The people who run the US of A have gotten enormous tax cuts and trillions in Covid Handouts from Trump, and now they want more. Specifically, more Bush/Obama-type Foreign Wars. The Military Industrial Complex wants those wars. The Apartheid State wants them. Biden is promising to give all that, and who knows what else!

    Johnstone is also all over the story of how the Neocon York Times and the Warmongering Post are part of the Start A New War Somewhere movement with other posts on her site. The neocons at both places need only print BS from unnamed “intelligence sources” as if it was some kind of holy writ. Over and over and over again.

    The MOA site has a new post up about the evil Russkies in Afghanistan.

    To Keep Russiagate Alive ‘Officials’ Make New Claims Without Providing Evidence

    MAGA boys and girls aren’t the only ones in the US with a fishhook dangling from their lips. I know quite a few folks on the other side who get their news exclusively from the NYT and WP. And they believe every single word they find there.

  7. Trinity

    Glass, you provided me with deeper insight into what really matters in regards to the toppling of statues. Many thanks.

    Speaking of desecrations, several of the books I’ve read on Native American culture document their numerous complaints that the Europeans cut down living trees. These tribes instead gathered deadfall. One culture’s symbol (and source of spirituality/meaning) is another culture’s resource for a different type of “wealth”. Or put another way, the Europeans traded one type of wealth (a literally endless supply of wealth and meaning, carefully curated it would have continued into the future and able to provide for future generations) for “wealth” as in “I want it all right now, and to hell with the future”. And we know the desecration of indigenous lands and spiritual places for resource extraction continues right up to the present day.

    North America was sparsely populated when the Europeans arrived (evidence suggests the indigenous practiced birth control, another way of ensuring the same or better future for their children). The Europeans took control of a resource rich “almost paradise” and in a few centuries turned it into an overpopulated chemical/radioactive cesspool with a population that worships meaninglessness (the pursuit of material wealth at any cost). Look at what we are leaving for our own children.

    If the most important question today is “what should we do?” then there is much we still need to learn and I’m saying that maybe looking at how other cultures, not our own, might provide some clues as to what works and what doesn’t. We have ample, written evidence of what doesn’t work going back thousands of years, but it’s only utility is that it documents what doesn’t work. Paraphrasing Einstein again, a different kind of thinking is needed. For example, what we don’t need is arguing over capitalism vs socialism vs communism. None of them have worked, and we don’t need any more experiments to understand that.

    And changing the topic, S Brennan said it better, but the 24/7 news cycle really is a never ending parade of deliberate distractions. It’s no accident that Russia, Russia, Russia is once again designed to distract you from what really matters (such as Bernie’s recent speech on military funding in the US).

  8. Zachary Smith

    I knew The Leader’s Tulsa rally was driven by racism and appeals to White Thuggery, but an author at the Counterpunch site informed me it was worse than I knew. The piece refers to Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, but since the book is in my growing pile of still-to-be-read volumes I hadn’t made the connections highlighted by the link story.

    Trump’s Tulsa Travesty: the Missing Connection

    Ugly stuff all around.

  9. Zachary Smith

    Pepe Escobar has written a piece titled “Why Iran Won’t be Broken”.

    “Iran after the revolution was all about social justice. It set up a very elaborate health care network, similar to Cuba’s, but with more funding. A large hospital network. When the coronavirus hit, the US was even preventing Iran to get test kits. …. Iran is now producing everything it needs, tests, face masks. None of the hospitals are full.”

    The story tells how the US has almost throttled Iranian oil exports. This has caused the development of other sectors – Iran is starting to manufacture things. Though they can’t sell much oil anymore, they can still give it away, and that explains the recent news of several supertankers carrying gasoline to Venezuela. The Imperium has squeezed Venezuela to such a degree I doubt Iran got any money for the shipment, but I’d wager there was a lot of satisfaction gained from poking the Neocons in DC in the eye.

  10. Zachary Smith

    Trinity, I’d like to see the sources of a couple of your claims. So far as I know, Native American timber work was limited mainly by their technology. Stone axes aren’t nearly as good as ones made of steel. Boats, houses, and temples require good-sized trees. It’s my understanding the Great Houses of the Southwest required many hundreds of logs transported from many dozens of miles away. Because they didn’t have any domesticated draft animals, their agriculture was often Slash and Burn, then planting with digging sticks.

    As for the small populations, recall that by the time colonization of the east coast began, European diseases had been circulating for over a hundred years. The natives were nearly wiped out by these waves of epidemics.

    Stone Age Native Americans were just like everyone else in the world. Romantic tales to the contrary are almost certainly nonsense.

  11. Joan

    @Trinity, I just wanted to point out that Columbus et al introduced several diseases to the Native population including influenza, smallpox, malaria, measles and yellow fever. This is what wiped out the Native population in the Americas and resulted in only 5-10% or so of the population being left by the time North American settlement by Europeans was really getting started. I just poked around to see what the estimated population was before the bottleneck but couldn’t find an exact number. I would guess it was at least in the low millions.

    Anyway, my point is this: the Native mass die-off caused a mini Ice Age in Europe. Why? The trees grew back when the humans died.

    The pre-Columbus Natives chopped down live trees and cleared forests to build cities. There are ruins of villages underneath the Amazon that show the rain forest has been cleared for human settlement before. I’m sure it varied from tribe to tribe, and some tribes certainly were better stewards of the land (I’m thinking of the tribe that would do controlled burns in Yosemite).

    I just wanted to add to the mix that the Native Americans significantly changed their landscape as well. Otherwise, I agree with what you had to say.

  12. KT Chong

    In case you haven’t seen it, this is gold…

    America is number one:

  13. Zachary Smith

    … every single one of you are going to get punished — BY GOD …

    Florida! There are nice people everywhere, but that state has an unusual number of fruitcakes.

    Idle O/T thought – Trump is going to get K.O.ed if he stays in the election. Will he stay? The odds are high that he’ll be allowed to do as Bush the Dumber did – leave with zero consequences to himself. Will he risk it? Whipping up some kind of pressing need to resign (fake covid infection?) would allow Pence to have his moment in the sun, and to pardon The Leader for everything. Everything!

  14. Tom

    Sums up the current insanity in the country. BLM is doomed like Occupy Wall Street as it isn’t building a broad enough base of supporters and is aimless and being subverted against the wrong targets.

    The elites won’t be broken till the heartland abandons them. They won’t do that unless the Left is pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-illegal immigrants. They have the electoral votes to stymie any change and won’t break ranks till their non-negotiable stances are met. More importantly they have the guns and the resources to fight a civil war.

    On the whole they feel like Hostages to the Republicans much as Urbanites feel like Hostages to the Democrats. Both parties’ elites use that to their advantage to maintain the status quo.

    As things stand, BLM is too random and unfocused, has alienated the middle and upper class Blacks and lower-class Whites whose support is critical for their cause.

    America’s fate is a second civil war with no clear sides and a complete free for all. So be it.

  15. Zachary Smith

    I’ve been a juror in an actual trial exactly one time in my life. Guilt and innocence weren’t the issues, but rather how much the defendants would pay for their misbehavior which had caused the plaintiff to be hospitalized. I pressed for a higher rather than lower number – if for no other reason than to discourage future misbehavior of this sort. A potential future court case or cases could well come down to a similar kind of juror thinking.

    In Tulsa, Trump Campaign Subverted Social Distancing One Sticker at a Time

    Yes, the MAGA suckers signed a disclaimer form that they wouldn’t sue the Trumpies if they became sick. But this impossibly irresponsible action would – in my opinion – negate that agreement.

    Suppose I want to skydive. Or to climb a rough mountain trail to a high point with a beautiful view. Naturally I’d expect somebody would want me to sign some sort of document where I acknowledged the risk I was taking. That is, the risk I THOUGHT I was staking.

    Suppose the skydive company has employed somebody to alter the parachutes by making many small cuts in them so as to give me more of a death-defying thrill. Suppose the Hiking Company secretly greased a few of the rocks at some of the trickier spots on the trail.

    As a juror in either case I’m going to mentally toss any legal documents into the trash bin, and the only remaining issue in my mind will be the size of the penalty I’m going to inflict on the defendants.

    IMO Trump had better hope none of those MAGA boys and girls at Tulsa get COVID and die. Even with an Oklahoma jury, the sky might be the limit in the way of money penalties.

  16. Mark Pontin

    Trinity wrote: “North America was sparsely populated when the Europeans arrived (evidence suggests the indigenous practiced birth control, another way of ensuring the same or better future for their children)”

    Ignorant bull.

    The evidence indicates a massive die-off on the order as much as 92 percent of the then-existing indigenous population of the Americas as a result of the pathogens imported by the Europeans (and the few Africans with them) and by their animals (pigs) and fowl (chickens). It’s even possible that some of the cities of Mesoamerica at that time were bigger than London and Paris.

  17. Mark Pontin

    Ah. I see Joan beat me to it.

  18. Portio

    I see lots of anti-facial recognition actions by corporations and gov’t. Here’s an example:

    Recently ibm said it would still selling facial recognition tech.

    This seems like a distraction: avoid facial recognition so the public fears surveillance less, while using other tech that works just as well. Do you know what that other tech might be? I can find lists of ways humans can be identified like thermally or by their gait, but I’m curious if anyone knows what the next best type of id’ing tech is, or what’s behind these public avoidance of facial recognition.

  19. Cirze

    Who’s believed ANYTHING MSNBC or the NY Times has said in decades?

  20. Dan

    On another note, there was a rather succinct rebuttal of MMT in the comments to the latest Michael Hudson piece on NC.:

    Hudson on the Hammurabic era:

    This would have caused a serious fiscal problem for rulers. If victims of a crop failure or other economic interruption had to pay their creditors with their labour and crop surplus, this labor and crop tax wouldn’t be available to pay the palace its normal claims for taxes and corvée labour duties to build infrastructure or even serve in the army. Social balance and continuity would have been destroyed – from within.

    So in Hammurabi’s day, taxes *did* fund government operations, thus the rapacity of the creditor class was reined in by the fact that if their claims overwhelmed hoi polloi’s ability to earn a living and generate a surplus to remit to the government, there was only one place for the latter to get its money, namely from the Fat Cats.

    Contrast with today, and the MMT “taxes don’t fund government spending” tenet. OK, great, so government can continue to operate and (supposedly) do good stuff like provide infrastructure and social welfare even when taxes fall short of the demands for same.

    But it seems to me that Hudson’s description of the pre-Roman era points out a truly dark side to that freedom, as practiced by actual humans: a government which can create as much fiat as it likes is free to do things like wage war without limits and, when the same creditor class whose vast capital allows it to effectively make the rules by which government operates has squeezed the pips in form of the bottom 90-whatever-percent to the extent that they can no longer fund the operations of government and pay off their private debts, is liable to say “so what? we can just print to make up the shortfall”, and worse, use the same fiat-conjuration power to enrich the creditor class when the pips can no pay their debts to it, either.

    In other words, while the MMTers focus on the wonderfulness of being able to conjure up fiat to do Good Stuff, in the real world it is much more likely to fund Bad Things, in form of imperial violence and ever-worsening inequality. As Yogi Berra said, “in theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they’re different.”

    For most governments the resulting excesses would fairly quickly end in hyperinflationary ruin, but when one owns the One Currency to Rule Them All, one enjoys the exorbitant privilege of effectively getting one’s creditors to fund one’s excesses.

  21. Jeremy

    A chance to watch the extraordinary sad tale of the destruction and privatisation of the UK NHS. Please watch and share widely:

    The Great NHS Heist

  22. Chuck Mire

    The Dunning-Kruger Effect Explains Why Society Is So Screwed-Up

    “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” -Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

  23. Trinity

    No one knows exactly how many Native Americans existed in North America prior to Columbus, there are only estimates, for obvious reasons. Absolutely no one thinks it was as high as 350,000,000, or even close to the current population.

    My sources are:
    Forbes, Jack D. “Columbus and other Cannibals”
    Deloria, Jr., Vine “God is Red”

    And I have to say, some of your responses illustrate my point. A different type of thinking is needed. Arguing exact numbers for something that was never counted and no longer exists is literally an academic problem.

    The problem of generalization (the logical fallacies) continues. I never said ALL tribes. Just like cities, as Joan noted, they all varied in their spiritual practices and practical activities, usually geographic in nature. We work with what is at hand, and the diversity of landscapes in both Americas is well understood. And Mark, you make my point for me: some of those “large cities” did not make good decisions, and ended up killing themselves. Our current situation is also a result of centuries of poor decisions. I wasn’t talking about the Maya, but since Mark brought them up. NASA has a great article about their demise: “they did it to themselves.” One day in the future, someone may say the same about us.

  24. Z

    The Left is tearing apart the social fabric of the United States one statue at a time.

    As bad as it already is, just imagine how horrible it will be if they’re able to impose Medicare-For-All, Student Debt Forgiveness, a Living Wage, and a Green New Deal on us …


  25. Stirling S Newberry

    The horrors – happiness might break out.

  26. Stirling S Newberry

    “The Lancet Mattachine”

    Cytokine Storms
    large portion
    of astronomers
    combatant erotic
    Franklin Edward commenting
    on the PhD Harvard
    stars slip away
    Square unromantic
    printed weekly
    for the ghost wuhan
    inland city
    Qua Outland village
    clear urgent
    overreactions immune
    the Lancet published 5
    response pandemic
    translate public consumption
    misconduct public office
    cloud-based improbable.
    Mattachine radical medical embrace
    The chant Gregorian:
    system resist rebel
    And then as now.

  27. bruce wilder

    Re: Dunning-Krueger Effect

    There is a dangerous class bias implicit in many attempts to invoke the Dunning-Krueger Effect as a hook to explain why alleged ignoramuses are rebelling against authority.

    The problem — the anomaly to be explained — is why ordinary and ordinarily ignorant people distrust authority and the explanation ought to encompass why authority is so often worthy of distrust.

    For many Americans, Trump shouting “fake news” means they should place faith in the NY Times or MSNBC because they do not want to be on Mt Stupid with Trump voters.

    The NY Times and MSNBC are not trustworthy though. Nothing to do with Dunning-Krueger, as far as I can tell, though a lot of journalists at leading outlets like the NY Times are inexperienced, privileged graduates of Ivy League schools and that combination, too, carries a lot of unfounded confidence.

  28. bruce wilder

    NASA has a great article about their demise: “they did it to themselves.” One day in the future, someone may say the same about us.

    The Maya were an example of what some historians have called, hydraulic civilization, cultures that responded to local geographic challenges / opportunities with systems of water and agricultural management that in turn required elaborate political hierarchy. Success resulted in population growth and monumental architecture. Stress, compounded by problems of overpopulation and agricultural overproduction, were eventually more than the political hierarchy could handle: collapse.

    So, yes, we, too, are doing it to ourselves with overpopulation and environmentally destructive overproduction (e.g. fossil fuels that add carbon to the carbon cycle).

    We have something previous civilizations did not have: the engine of a large scientific and technical capacity, but it is probably doing more harm than good in various ways. We can, for example, deploy technical innovations at enormous scale well ahead of building an adequate understanding of consequences: a fad for hair spray punching a hole in the ozone for example.

    The central problem is that political hierarchy can greatly improve material conditions at least for a time, but it is impotent apparently in doing what is necessary to constrain the growth, biologic and economic, that would be necessary to survive the accumulation of its own waste.

  29. Arthur

    It really doesn’t matter how many Indians were here when Columbus arrived. Bottom line: We all live on land stolen from those nations whatever the number. One problem I have with the current marches is that that fact is not addressed. . .or at least not addressed enough. I see the white suburbanites proudly marching and saying all the right things and then heading home to cocktails and BBQs are land grandpa stole with nary a concern. And make no mistake, when our grandparents came over from wherever they settled on land someone stole and then sold to them. To be sure, maybe the original theft was a generation or two previous. But that doesn’t erase the historical fact.

    Now, the reality is we are all here now. Maybe a better future will come. Sadly, most unlikely. But we should at least look at all our history, not just one sub-set.

    And a last thought on the statues. For the most part on think it’s PC run amok and will not be helpful in the long run. However, tearing down offending statutes is hardly new. Our friends the ancient Romans did it with glee. And those zany Egyptians would scratch an offending name off the walls if deemed necessary. If said person returned to favor they would return the name to its place of honor.

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