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

Open Thread

Feel free to use the comments to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.


Apparently Biden WANTS To Lose The Election


Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death


  1. We’re doomed.

    3 days ago I heard a Tucker Carlson segment on Sweden and lockdowns, where he interviews Alex Berenson, who is a journalist educated in history and economics. While the format is far superior to politically oriented shows where they have a bunch of people talking/yelling over each other, I was still left with the feeling of having been given an Hors d’oeuvre, when what I want is a full meal. Carlson asked Berenson about the higher death rates in Sweden, compared to other Nordic countries, and Berenson didn’t even mention the “dried tinder” effect (relative availability of older, vulnerable people, because of different death rates from recent flu seasons). Well, some statisticians, in a paper discussed recently by Ivor Cummins, rated the “dried tinder” effect as explaining 25-50% of the difference – more than any other factor.

    And who know how much trust we can put in these statisticians?

    I’d heard a pretty good debate on climate change, between groups of scientists, a few years back, on the intelligence squared youtube channel. (Partly it was good because the moderator was on the ball, and tried to keep people from ducking questions and points, which is sort of the norm on main stream media political shows.) It wasn’t long enough to do justice to all the areas of controversy in climate science (even given the situation where they’re debating in front of laymen, so of course they can’t dig down to a level where lack of expertise on the part of the listeners is a limiting factor); but, at an hour and a half, it was a much more serious attempt to de-mystify an issue that, we’re told by many, is an existential crisis. An hour and a half isn’t too much to ask for (for starters), for an issue that’s claimed to be killing civilization AND creating a great extinction, now, is it?

    So, optimistically thinking intelligence squared would have addressed the lockdown issue, I checked their website. Searching for “lockdown” only resulted in 1 hit: “BJ Fogg and Carl Miller on Understanding Human Behaviour in the Time of Corona How is lockdown changing the way we think and feel?”

    Oh, say now, there’s an angle more important than considering whether, and for how long, lockdowns can be justified, as acts of intelligent and rational public policy! You know, cost vs. benefit, all that traditional stuff we’d expect of policy professionals. I then tried searching for “Sweden”, and got no results, whatsoever.

    I notice that the intelligence squared website now ‘boasts’ the following in it’s banner section “Exclusive media partner The New York Times”. I don’t remember any such partnership when I saw their climate change debate video. Is this something new? If it is new, it could explain why there’s also not been any more good debates on climate change.

    Finally, I search for hydroxychloroquine at, but there are no hits, either.

    While I’m glad that there are people like Chris Martenson and Ivor Cummins who are willing to delve into details about current covid-19 related issues, the lack of debate, that was so well done, at one time, on intelligence squared, should have its place, also. And a prominent place, at that, though given the overall level of dysfunction and corruption of civic life, in the US, I’d gladly settle for a youtube channel.

    The public is left wanting of the basics for responsible citizenship. For those of us who only listen to mainstream media sources, we have to guess who is the bigger liar, on any particular issue – the Tucker Carlsons, or the Anderson Coopers? What if, on any particular issue, BOTH are either lying by omission, or BOTH so superficial they may as well have been; how is a thinking citizen supposed to make up their mind, rationally?

    The plutocrats that run the show don’t seem to care about the lack of serious debate, between experts, on public policy. Because they certainly have the money to address this deficit. Compare that with the trillions of dollars that covid-19 has cost us….

    We’re doomed, as long as we stay on the present course. We are in multiple, intellectual veal pens.

  2. bruce wilder

    Indeed, we are in those veal pens, metamars. I thought Stirling’s post was on point: you cannot have “a debate” as you put it, if the ideas or assumptions allowed into the shared space do not allow people who are inclined to take a contrary position to actually spin out and elaborate a credible, substantive opposition argument. They might still take a contrary position, but it will be smoke and noise all around.

    I suppose it is a case of stupid begats stupid, though it often begins, I think, with the gatekeeping of privileged, credentialled elites occupying insulated echo chambers and then continues with a lot of shouting and virtue-signalling and name-calling, to cover the narcissism and lack of judgment. The absence of basic respect in rhetoric and rationale serves the purpose of closing off the possibility of intelligent argument entering any political dispute.

    Lockdowns are certainly a case in point. Discussion quickly goes to seemingly absolute moral imperatives, with little respect given the costs and difficulties, never mind the practical effectiveness. The absolutely critical need for massively-scaled quick-turnaround testing to support targeted interventions is slighted in these arguments, which for lack of reason lose focus.

    I fully credit that the world has committed itself to a civilization-threatening ecological collapse thru ovrrpopulation and fossil fuel use over the next century, but the way we talk about “climate change” like the way we talk about “inequality” is creating the idiotocracy. The insistence on labeling with euphemisms is a first clue that the powers that be in charge the corporate Media do not intend to inform the citizenry.

    The soi disant good guys sounding the alarm on climate change love to declare “the debate is over.” Also, not a good sign. The reaction to the Michael Moore sponsored Planet of the Humans has been instructive concerning the willingness to talk substantively and intelligently and critically.

  3. bruce wilder

    The detour on the other thread onto criticizing the “Russia has a weak and tiny economy” trope was interesting. A couple of commenters made good points about the reality of Russian economic power and capability.

    That we should even have such an argument is a byproduct of the enforced stupidity of the Russiagate narrative/disinformation campaign. That all reporting on and commentary on political news is infused with disinformation of this sort is having a corrosive effect on our ability as ordinary people to be generally informed.

    It really is not terribly accurate or informative to use GDP as an index of economic “size” or capability, whether adjusted by PPP estimates or not. If I had to rank-order Russia, I would say it is roughly equivalent to Germany in its overall “weight”, but with upside prospects due to its vast natural resources and large highly-educated population. A constitutional crisis is likely when Putin retires in four years (and he will go, willing or not), but the Russians under Putin, as other commenters noted, have successfully pursued a coherent economic policy of leveraging their gas and economic isolation, building out infrastructure and building capabilities. Russia, for having such a vast territory, is very highly urbanized. Central Moscow is unbelievably rich and the city is building infrastructure at a furious rate. Incomes in second city Saint Petersburg are more nearly normal for eastern Europe, maybe half the Moscow standard — that is a huge disparity, but the Russian Federation encompasses some very poor areas. Still, nothing prominent is shabby.

    From an American perspective, one has to ask, how and why so much of U.S. foreign policy is oriented to Russia? It seems like creating a problem that does not exist. The Russian “interference” complained of by the likes of Clapper and Brennan consists mostly in RT and Sputnik — news and public affairs programs that give platforms to Americans of moderately progressive, mildly critical views. Preventing epistemic closure is practically an act of war apparently.

  4. bruce wilder

    Stephen F. Cohen, a prominent scholar of Soviet and Russian politics, passed away a few days ago.

  5. S Brennan

    Stephen Cohen’s death, a voice for sanity, is a tragic loss for the USA.

    I learned much from Mr Cohen, sir, you never betrayed yourself, you kept your integrity, God Bless Stephen Cohen’s soul.

    Best Wishes to Mr Cohen’s family, I am so sorry for your loss.

  6. S Brennan

    Now that the sun in the northern hemisphere is fading…

    Maybe it’s not Trump, maybe it’s a disease, whether it’s synthetic or natural, maybe it needs to be addressed outside of the political cycle…yes…no?

  7. I haven’t seen any of the movies mentioned in ““Return To Eden” by Marijn Poels, Now Free Online”, from, but “Paradogma” is (apparently) in the same meta vein of the state of debate. Maybe I’ll watch it tonight, if youtube hasn’t censored it.

    From the article:

    “In 2017 his notorious first part “The Uncertainty Has Settled” appeared. In it, Poels discussed various scientific assumptions about climate change and also visited climate critics. This film left him with hundreds of hate mails and threats from activists. In many places the film was refused and taken out of cinemas under political pressure. That’s why he decided to produce his second part “Paradogma” where he investigated the toxic state of the current public debate and made themes such as polarisation, conformism and intolerance visible.”

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