Sandpit

A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.

To be clear, the sandpit is for regular commenters to pursue points that distract from regular discussion, including conspiracy-theoretic takes on the issues at hand. It’s not meant as a forum for visiting conspiracy theorists, or trolls posing as such.

17 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. Concept whatevers

    Since it’s my 75th birthday on Thursday, I propose to indulge myself here with something enjoyably absurd.

    Carmakers have a longstanding habit of presenting “concept cars” at motor shows that tell us more about their macho fantasies than the real progress of technology. Wokeness has eliminated the swimwear models who used to drape themselves uncomfortably over the bonnets, but the practice continues. Here is a concept EV from Citroën – you can’t really call it a car https://journal.classiccars.com/media/2021/09/Citroen_C20_16-9_60-420×420.jpeg :

    The object on top is not, as you might guess, a rejected North Korean design for a very short-range missile (“it only has to hit Seoul”) but a gym pod. Don´t ask me why. The striking thing however is the spherical wheels by Goodyear. They rally are spheres, it’s not a trick of styling. If you guessed that they work like the casters on office chairs, rotating round a central pivot, with small hub motors inside, you would be too cautious. They are perfect balls, suspended by magnetic levitation, according to Popular Mechanics. https://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/a19747/goodyear-eagle-360-spherical-tires/

    What makes them go? Enquiries to Dr. Ponder Stibbons of the High Energy Magic Department at Unseen University (Glorious Founder: the late and much lamented Terry Pratchett OBE). It should have been Lord Pratchett.

    It is unlikely that much of this will ever find its way into actual cars sold to the public, or even NASA for planetary rovers.. What is certain is that the designers had a lot of fun.

    I suggest that fun is an underrated force in human affairs and technology in particular. Humans are neotenous primates, preserving juvenile traits of curiosity and playfulness into adulthood, especially in creative people. Bright young engineers flock into interesting sectors, which currently include electric vehicles, renewables, batteries, robotics and AI. They don`t include fossil fuels or nuclear power. Eskom in South Africa has had major problems building new coal power stations, a technology that was mature a century ago. A dying industry has problems in replacing the old guys reaching retirement, not with geniuses but averagely competent young workers. This s just one of the positive feedback loops that make transitions speed up.

  2. What structural changes will occur after the COVID19 pandemic becomes just a memory? In the decades to come the economies of the world will face chronic shortages, experience financial disasters and enjoy short lived booms. All this will drive structural change. If the world unites to do something positive about global warming, these changes may be pivotal. But if countries go their own way, then these changes may be disasterious. Governments often play catch up with their implementation of macroeconomic policies. As for microeconomic reform this is often left behind during political cycles. Until there is a global consensus on acceptable limits to growth, any economy will face harsh externalities. These diseconomies of scale will impose social costs on future generations. Only immediate action can prevent future calamities. Political leaders need to understand the bleakness that may lie ahead for their countries. Only then will they join other world leaders in taking action to avert this doomsday legacy. .

  3. There’s no real evidence that COVID-19 will become a memory, certainly not in the foreseeable future.

    I think people booking cruises etc are taking a huge risk.

  4. Happy Birthday, James!! Many happy returns of the day!

    Did you ever see my email? No worries if you didn’t. Not only did it probably go in the spam file, but we’ve never actually met, so there’s no reason you’d open it. Anyhoo, it had to do with this virtual solar-related presentation at Caltech last week (ish). I couldn’t watch it, as it turns out. (Maybe I will go see if they’ve posted it.)

  5. I agree with calls for a Royal Commission into the JobKeeper scheme. For once I agree with Andrew Leigh that JK was the “biggest waste in the history of the Commonwealth”. Rear Window in the AFR estimates that total payments to firms who did not experience a 30% decline in turnover was $40b. The Treasury (grading its own homework!) claims (without evidence) that 85,000 people in such industries would have been stood down without JK so it paid $750 per week to 100% of employees in such industries. You can do the maths. That works out to be $469,130 per job saved over the six months or $938,260 annualised. The workers got only $750 per month but the employers got $17,293 weekly per job saved all of which went into profits and dividends.

    Treasury claims that the unwarranted handouts boosted firm balance sheets (not the intention of the scheme) and that not awarding these handouts would have “muted the recovery”.

    The obvious question for Treasury is why it didn’t check the turnover of firms getting the mullah after 3 months as NZ did. As Rear Window remarks: “Doing so would’ve saved the Australian Government $20billion, enough to pay for 2 nuclear submarines or 2,500 car parks in the seat of Kooyong”.

    $40b is big money folks. Unless you believe public debt is irrelevant because interest rates are low so that any expenditure by government, even if mainly directed to the big end of town, is good news.

  6. J.W.,

    Enjoy your 75th birthday. Best wishes.

    “A dying industry has problems in replacing the old guys reaching retirement, not with geniuses but averagely competent young workers.” – J.W.

    I’ve often pondered the question of whether if human were longer-lived (say 500 years life-span) would technological and innovative progress be faster or slower? I tend to think such progress would slower. The accrued power and conservatism of compos mentis 300 year olds would be much greater than that of compos mentis 60 year old normal humans. This would retard progress, perhaps.

    Would this be a bad thing? What one calls “conservatism” another might call “wisdom”. Our technological and innovative progress has been so great we are rapidly destroying the world. That is to say production science has outstripped impact science. (That is one way to look at it.) It’s fun to make new toys and indulge our neotenous nature. It’s less fun, for most, to do painstaking, complex natural system observation and analysis to determine what our latest toys are doing to or imply for the environment and world. Three hundred year old scientists might have seen enough, as in multiple mistakes of the unforeseen consequences type, to widen or change their disciplines to take in a wider purview of human and environmental consequences. As it is, the short-lived, neotenous apes called humans blithely rush on creating more and more global rifts between human and natural systems without concerning themselves with long term consequences. The nature of monkey is irrepressible! Let us delve into that.

    Fans of the show Monkey will remember the characters and what they represent in allegorical terms.

    Tripitaka – Moral and spiritual impulses.
    Monkey – Cleverness and intellect (This may be non-obvious so we will come back to it)
    Sandy – Murderous-ness, exploitative impulses.
    Pigsy – Lust and gluttony.
    “Horse” – Actually a dragon which ate the original horse tasked to carry Tripitaka. Hmmm, just as technology ate nature, perhaps? Now, technology is tasked to carry man.

    Now back to monkey, who is explicitly related to thought in the intro;

    In the worlds before monkey primal chaos reigned,
    Heaven sought order but the phoenix can fly only when its feathers are grown.
    The four worlds formed again and yet again, as endless eons wheeled and passed.
    Time and the pure essences of heaven, the moistures of the earth,
    The powers of the sun and moon, all worked upon a certain rock,
    And it became magically fertile. That first egg was named “Thought”.
    Tathagatha Buddha, Father Buddha, said. “With our thoughts we make the world”
    Elemental forces caused the egg to hatch. From is then came a stone monkey,
    The nature of monkey was irrepressible!

    Monkey is thought; irrepressible, acrobatic, gymnastic. Thought can jump everywhere, assume any form, make things bigger or smaller, by imagining, modelling, and finally engineering (to put a modern spin on it). Scale changes are significant in Monkey’s actions. He has a circlet or golden fillet for his brow which signifies, and embodies out, the action of moral and spiritual restraint on cleverness.

    https://journeytothewestresearch.com/2017/12/16/the-purpose-and-possible-origin-of-sun-wukongs-golden-fillet/

    Monkey’s staff represents (among other things), the conquering of distance or space and time. The Buddha gives Monkey a lesson on space and time when he travels on the cloud summoned by the staff; or the staff actually transforms to the cloud. Monkey travels to the end of the universe on the cloud (of thought?) only to discover four pillars which turn out to be the fingers of Buddha’s hand. He has traveled to the end of the universe but found he has not left Buddha’s hand. We think we travel to the end of nature’s tyranny over man, but find we have not left nature’s hand.

    Westerners tend to misinterpret passages like the “Monkey Song” above and passages in Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” for that matter. In Eastern writing “Heaven” does not mean a religious or spiritual heaven. It literally means the atmosphere and all its phenomena. When Sun Tzu enjoins the commander to read the heavens before military action he literally means they should check the skies for weather and what it brings including its effects on the terrain. Thus the passage;

    “Time and the pure essences of heaven, the moistures of the earth,
    The powers of the sun and moon, all worked upon a certain rock,”

    must be read literally. The pure essences or heaven are the moistures of the atmosphere (which do not carry salts for example), the moistures of the earth are lakes, rivers, ground-waters and seas. The powers of the sun and moon are those we notice materially like light, warmth and perhaps even gravitational effect. The passage is allegorical and monist in principle. Thought arose in this world from the connected collection and interaction of natural forces (today we would add “in the emergent and evolutionary senses”).

    Buddha is understood allegorically at the higher philosophical levels. At popular levels, people may start taking allegories literally and believing that the gods and demons are real but, as in Hinduism, the higher philosophical understanding is that the entire pantheon is human created, in order to anthropomorphize, and have fun with, the insoluble complexities related to being and nothingess. “With our thoughts we make the world.” We make our imaginative pantheon too. This is the only consistent reading of advanced Buddhist thought.

    I believe, though I have not researched this yet, that advanced Hindu and Bhuddist philosophy really advance that “we make the world” means we make our image and interpretation of the world, not that we make the world literally and materially. After all, in the modern “pop culture” song “Monkey” (words above) he world IS posited to exist primordially and to have given rise (eventually) to thought itself at a much later time.

    Getting back to the topic, more or less, how do we become wiser and stop trashing the world? We can hope that technical wisdom emerges in evolutionary fashion (social and biological) by the loss of bad technologies (coal burning) and the rise of better and more sustainable technologies by a process somewhat mimicking natural selection. Perhaps we can supplement that with more communal memory. We have to remember the bad stuff, what it did and abjure it forever. Storytelling is perhaps one avenue for this. Maybe we need the Charles Dickens of neoliberalism. We already have the Mary Shelley of “Frankenstein” and “The Last Man”.

  7. Happy 75th James!

    Tosats ala Stalin, will be of a “a light Crimean wine”, not the devil, Vodka! Although, at another banquet “the goodwill forged in that night of heavy drinking solidified the grand alliance that ultimately defeated the Nazis”.

    “The Vodka Effect

    “Happy New Year: A short history of booze diplomacy.

    “By now, you may have at least seen a headline or two about the dismissal of Maj. Gen. Michael Carey—the man responsible for America’s intercontinental nuclear arsenal—for “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.” Perhaps you read the New York Daily News’s juicy coverage of his “epic drunken bender in Moscow,” including swaying through Red Square, cavorting with “somewhat suspect women” into the late hours and awkward attempts to fist-bump tour guides at Russia’s holiest monastery. 

    “When it comes to diplomacy, the banquet can be a professional hazard—one confronted by generations of foreign dignitaries well before Major General Carey.

    “The official investigation into the Carey affair gives some insight into just where things went wrong. On the afternoon of July 16, the Russian delegation treated their American counterparts to a sumptuous, multi-course lunch banquet that included nine rounds of vodka toasts. Another, “more formal and ornate” banquet the following day included at least 25 rounds of vodka toasts. Apparently the major general did not handle them well. “You know, you did the traditional drinks and if you moderate yourself, you were good to go. But the general, it looked like it hit him pretty hard,” said one witness quoted in the report, recalling, “he did look like he had quite a few.” When it was Carey’s turn to raise his glass at the first dinner, he not only inarticulately praised the “lovely ladies” of Russia, but also raised the thorniest of contemporary issues in East-West diplomacy—Syria and Edward Snowden—“which were not well received” by the Russian hosts.

    “When interviewed, members of the American delegation were asked whether the Russians pressured them to drink. One definitively answered: “No, it was not being pushed at all, and the Russian side did not imbibe heavily… they were sipping their shot glasses.” Another explained, “one could even put a hand over the shot glass and the servers would not refill it with vodka, and nothing was said.” Even the head of the Russian delegation was reportedly toasting with water, claiming “I’m in charge so I need to be sober today.”

    “Yet when asked whether he felt pressure to drink, Carey replied, “absolutely. I mean that’s, that’s the deal when you go to a Russian toasting event you’re into the toasts.” Carey admitted that he’d had about a half-dozen shots on some toasts, and finished his glass on others, before declining to answer whether he was intoxicated upon leaving the banquet to continue his escapades in Moscow.

    ““Most important,” Nixon wrote in his last article before his death in 1994, “the U.S. should be candid with Russia when our views do not coincide. We are great world powers and our interests will inevitably clash, but the greatest mistake we can make is to try to drown down differences in champagne and vodka toasts at ‘feel-good’ summit meetings.”

    “The great dictator [Stalin] chuckled, revealing that his own cup held only a light Crimean wine, the same color as the “devilish vodka” he made everyone else drink. Japanese foreign minister Yosuke Matsuoka had a similar banquet experience two years later, resulting in a similar pact of non-aggression.”

    …” There he found Churchill, Stalin, and Molotov continuing their feast in high spirits, with countless bottles of alcohol littering the floor. “What Stalin made me drink seemed pretty savage,” Cadogan recounted. “Winston, who by that time was complaining of a slight headache, seemed wisely to be confining himself to a comparatively innocuous effervescent Caucasian red wine.” Still, according to Cadogan, the goodwill forged in that night of heavy drinking solidified the grand alliance that ultimately defeated the Nazis.”…

    By Mark Lawrence Schrad – assistant professor of political science at Villanova University and author of the new book;
    Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State.
    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2013/12/vodka-russia-foreign-policy-101613/
    *

    “Politiclap: Today’s Casual Game For Today

    “Each player tries to maintain their faction’s rhythm.

    > Politiclap: Competitive mode: one player is the juror and decides when a pattern is lost, declaring the winners.

    > Politiclap: Third party mode: one player is tasked with disrupting both factions’ rhythms.
    https://www.deepfun.com/politiclap-todays-casual-game-for-today/

  8. KT2,

    Our “dear leaders” were pisspots. That is probably why they did so any stupid things. Alcohol (after the first glass) tends to promote callousness, insensitivity, violence and finally insensibility. It’s not an accident that some of the most violent and callous leaders in history had regular recourse to it. The ones that didn’t generally had recourse to these other drugs, singly or in combinations, once such drugs were invented/discovered;

    1. Amphetamines and methamphetamines;
    2. Cocaine;
    3. Opiates;
    4. Barbiturates; and perhaps even
    5. Steroids and hormones.

    Of course, we can add in nicotine and caffeine though these are fairly benign except for the cancers from smoking and vaping.

  9. Harry Clarke,

    I too agree with calls for a Royal Commission into the JobKeeper scheme. Something we CAN agree on, eh what?

    However, I doubt it will ever happen. From my perspective, I see capitalism, as late stage neoliberal capitalism, as terminally corrupt. It is now a gangster and fraudster system from top to bottom. I would add that this is always where capitalism ends up at the end of each one of its cycles. The corruption reaches an unsustainable level and breaks down in revolutions and/or wars. Corruption is intrinsic to capitalism and maybe not only to capitalism. Perhaps corruption is intrinsic to humanity itself. No matter what system we create, even a system intended to deal with extant corruption, it soon becomes corrupt itself in turn.

    However, capitalism clearly lets human corruption run particularly rampant and always ends up as oligarchic capitalism. Even the state capitalism of China is oligarchic in nature. If we can’t develop a radically new and better system somewhere in the world (and maybe we just aren’t capable of that) then civilization collapses and humanity most likely goes extinct. That’s the way it’s all heading, IMHO.

    So for sure I join calls for certain things to be set right. I just don’t get my hopes up anymore.

  10. Iconoclast, We often agree but it on this occasion maybe we don’t. The Treasury under Ken Henry was one of the best parts of the Australian bureaucracy. What has happened to it these days? A major task of Treasury is to take care of the taxpayer piggy bank. Careful, prudent etc. I don’t think the misfortunes of JobKeeper were due to a corrupt oligarchy handing out favors to big business. I just think it was poor policy. The point of a Royal Commission would be to work out what went wrong and to make sure we don’t do this again. We talk these days about billions and trillions of dollars and lose track of the fact that this is real money which, if spent by government, must be repaid by the private sector – by workers and businesses. We have Royal Commissions these days for every purpose under the sun. How about one devoted to this foolish transfer of $40b to those who didn’t need a leg-up.

    But you are right on one thing. It won’t happen. There will be plenty of arse-covering on this one. The Treasury are already tried to whitewash the whole thing – it built up balance sheets, stopped firms from sacking workers to gain JobKeeper benefits. etc. And saved jobs at nearly $1m annual cost per job saved.

  11. I plan to write more about JobKeeper. But I don’t think this is a case for a Royal Commission. It was a straightforward, though hugely expensive, policy error, reflecting a combination of rushed decisions and pro-business bias. Getting a retired judge to go over the email trail is not going to tell us anything we didn’t already know.

  12. Harry said “There will be plenty of arse-covering on this one.”. No need of a Rotal Commission to simply state:-
    “the once-great [Treasury] department is now as alive to the forces of PR as it is to those of economics.” – AFR Rear Window.

    I find it deeply ironic, the day I post about PR, advertising – pre and post arse covering and deflection and “scientific manipulation of mass opinion through advertising” –  the AFR agrees – in rear window, not the front page: 

    “That’s public relations sorcery, right there.”
    “JobKeeper wasted $40 billion, not $27 billion, but who’s counting?

    “Joe Aston said “The Commonwealth Treasury’s Insights into the first six months of JobKeeper was dumped on Monday, of course, being “Freedom Day” in the major media market of New South Wales. That’s public relations sorcery, right there. Fully three years into its bondage to Josh Frydenberg, the once-great department is now as alive to the forces of PR as it is to those of economics.

    “Team Frydenberg was correct to assume the nation’s economics journalists would either be in Sydney getting a haircut or in Canberra driven to distraction by the Instagram posts of their friends in Sydney getting a haircut.”
    https://www.afr.com/rear-window/jobkeeper-wasted-40-billion-not-27-billion-but-who-s-counting-20211012-p58zeq

    “Insights from the first six months of JobKeeper
    Date: 11 October 2021
    Author: The Treasury
    https://treasury.gov.au/publication/p2021-211978
    *

    Michael West likes the front window view, not the AFR rear window view;
    In “Pandora Papers: is the world’s biggest leak the world’s biggest cover-up?
    …” It has been leaked to the ICIJ alone which in turn leaks bits of it, presumably a very small part of it, to its “global media partners”.

    “In Australia, these are Nine Entertainment’s AFR, Guardian and ABC who are themselves keeping most of it a secret. This from Guardian Australia:

    ““Australians who appear in the data include senior figures from the finance and property industries. The Guardian has chosen not to identify them.”…
    https://www.michaelwest.com.au/pandora-papers-is-the-worlds-biggest-leak-the-worlds-biggest-cover-up/

    “Witch hunt: The Fin’s crusade to destroy CPA boss Alex Malley

    “CPA appears to be the only peak body with an “Events” budget and an “A” in its name which attracts hard-hitting coverage from the Fin. You name it – BCA, MCA, APPEA, ABA – if it is an industry PR outfit which espouses lower taxes for rich people and lower wages for poor people, the Fin will be there bashing out its press releases, touting its campaigns from page one.”
    https://www.michaelwest.com.au/witch-hunt-the-fins-campaign-to-destroy-cpa-boss-alex-malley/
    *

    And I posted re media omissions, PR & “scientific manipulation of mass opinion through advertising” 2 days ago:
    “In this media age, the professional and scientific manipulation of mass opinion through advertising and PR is, with a single possible exception, the greatest evil visited on the world in the whole of the Twentieth Century.”
    https://johnquiggin.com/2021/10/10/the-financial-sector-after-the-pandemic/#comment-246169

  13. Happy birthday to you, James Wimberley!
    May your personal ‘new year’ provide you with whatever you wish for.
    Ernestine Gross

  14. Since we are going to be “living with COVID” soon, I think it’s about time we lived with everything else. I propose we reintroduce/introduce smallpox, polio, the plague, TB, Zika, Ebola, Yellow fever, Cholera, Typhoid, Lassa Fever, Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), Rift Valley Fever Virus, MERS, SARS1, Nipah, Hendra Virus and Hanta virus, at least. We ought to be consistent. Since we are totally giving up on public health and NPI (non-pharmaceutical intervention) disease control we ought to let them all flourish and kill / disable as many people as we can, as we struggle to contain them solely by vaccinations. This is the best way to rapidly destroy our society other than by climate change at which we are also doing extremely well.

    For those who haven’t guessed it yet, the above is sarcasm. The rank idiocy of our approach astounds me. We really have entered the second age of ignorance. Experts who I respected last year have now caved in to the neoliberal claptrap about “opening up” and “living with covid”. This is astonishing to me though perhaps it shouldn’t be. The neoliberal or late stage capitalism method of creating fait accomplis on the ground by sabotaging all other possibilities is once again in full swing. Once a possibility is thoroughly sabotaged the new reality is presented as TINA (There Is No Alternative). Of course there are no alternatives when every other nascent alternative is sabotaged at birth.

    It astonishes me (though it shouldn’t) that most people cannot see through this method. It is the standard modus operandi of capitalism to destroy all other possibilities and then present capitalism with its attendent destruction of climate, environment and human health as the only possibility. Again and again, everyone falls in line like a mob of sheep, even in the end the experts and the intellectuals.

    A plague on all their houses! Oh, hang on, I don’t have to call down a plague upon them. They are doing an excellent job of that themselves. If we wanted any final proof that humanity will destroy themselves this is it. There appears to be not one person in a thousand who really understands what is happening and yet it is as plain as can be.

    Well, I guess we have a real world experiment now just as the new winners of the economics Nobel? prize have advocated (the assessment of real world experiments, not the unleashing of viral plagues). The real world experiment is China versus the rest. The West has unleashed the new plague of COVID-19. The West has doubled down on infecting itself as fast as possible and then fighting it with one tool, namely vaccination. The third world had no choice at all. No choice to keep it out and no choice to get vaccinated. China has decided on eradication in one country even if that means disconnection from global capitalism and state capitalism in one country. I doubt China will ever become a socialist nation but that’s another and probably irrelevant argument. After all, capitalism always strangles socialism at birth.

    China is continuing to use every tool in the toolkit. We have decided we can fix everything with a monkey-wrench. Not quite a fair metaphor. The modern mRNA vaccines are very good. But without other measures they are still a Hail Mary, all-your-eggs-in-one basket kind of approach. I still predict disaster. There are many ways this can still go very bad. And it is very likely will. This is a punctuated equilibrium evolutionary event with exponentially horrendous possibilities. Eradication was and still is the correct policy. All those so-called experts who have gone over to the dark side of capitulation to another of capitalism’s sabotage exercises have completely lost my respect.

  15. This COVID-19 pandemic is a neoliberal pandemic. It originated, spread and took forms engendered by neoliberal political economy. The course of a human pandemic depends on both the characteristics of the pathogen itself and on the conformation of the socioeconomic system with which it interacts. There are multiple iterative feed-backs across this “topography” which complexly determine the course of a pandemic. A functional statist or mixed economy could have suppressed and largely eradicated the COVID-19 pathogen within its jurisdiction. A World Health Organization permitted to make epidemiological decisions unconstrained by neoliberal (and state capitalist) imperatives could have prevented its early global pandemic spread.

    To date, one dirigist system has prevented full pandemic spread within its boundaries, namely China, if we accept that China’s reported figures are accurate. Other systems, including Australia, did so for a long while and then succumbed to various factors both natural and ideological.

    First, let us look briefly at the origins, spread and forms of the pandemic. All of these have been heavily influenced by political economy or socioeconomics. Even though the origin is still contested it is clear that each origin possibility, natural zoonosis or experimentation and lab leak, implies political economy and socioeconomic elements. Natural zoonosis, if it occurred, is made far more likely as a result of the endless human encroachment of modern systems (agriculture, settlement, production and transport) into the wilds and/or into indigenously managed wilds and then in the taking of products out of the (degrading and destroyed) wilds. Experimentation and lab leak, if that occurred, implies dangerous research, civil and/or military, without regard for adequate safeguards and indeed without proper assessments of potential risk / benefit ratios affecting entire populations, even and especially, the poor. In these cases, narrow money calculations and/or narrow strategic calculations, by the elites for the elites, are the sole criteria for decisions.

    We have now reached the point where our “democratic” governments and all major political parties are captured by big business. Our governments enact the policies big business wants. Thus we tend to corporate/oligarchic governance with elected governments acting as proxies for big business interests. This is our late stage capitalist (neoliberal) governance system. Small business owners, as the petty bourgeoisie (petty capitalists), aspire to to become fully-fledged capitalists themselves. They support this system too, and like rich capitalists, they seek endless handouts from the government to offset the risks of doing business.

    The pandemic was permitted to spread globally by the failures to lock-down and quarantine very early to ensure eradication. The costs of this would have been less, both to business and to human populations than the two chronic alternatives we now see of “let it rip” or of endless yo-yoing lock-downs.

    Both big and small business have consistently lobbied to stay open. Early on, they (especially but not only global air travel interests) resisted any early shutdowns or limits on business as usual. This ensured the initial near global spread of the pandemic. Since then, big and small business have resisted the idea of any lock-downs or quarantine requirements as an impediment to business. Populations, scientists, medical people and enlightened left economists (of various persuasions) have in some jurisdictions advocated differently and had some considerable impact on government decisions at federal or state level to suppress the virus.

    The neoliberals could not accept this. Society and the economy had to open up to permit elite business profits to continue to be generated at the greatest possible rate. The health of the population and the number of possible quality life years lost by poorer, older and health-compromised people would have to be sacrificed for this goal. If enough “useful fools” from the petty bourgeoisie and the anti-science redneck reactionary cohorts could be recruited to this goal as a noisy and sometimes demonstrating minority then this program could be rammed through. Public health was deliberately sabotaged in a number of ways from the top down by neoliberal forces and from the bottom up by reactionary grassroots watered by fake facts and ignorance and staked up with entitlement and belligerence.

    We have to pay special attention to the neoliberal or late stage capitalist method of creating fait accomplis on the ground by sabotaging all other possibilities. Once a possibility is thoroughly sabotaged the new reality is presented as TINA (There Is No Alternative). Of course, there ARE no alternatives when every other nascent alternative is sabotaged at birth. Early suppression and eradication of SARS-Cov-2 WAS possible. Under systems other than thoroughgoing neloliberalim it clearly is possible. China succeeded. Australia succeeded for a surprisingly long time despite all the Federal government sabotage: some from incompetence and some clearly deliberate, meaning respectively the late, rushed vaccine rollout and the refusal to fund proper quarantine or reduce the porousness of the borders to virus incuursions. It is the standard modus operandi of late stage capitalism to destroy all other possibilities and then present capitalism with its attendant destruction of climate, environment and human health as the only possibility, as TINA. This is based on the sabotage of other possibilities and then on the presentation of the fait accomplis on the ground as “proofs” that there is no alternative to the current system.

  16. First things first, another rather late happy birthday.

    Now off to ranting. German culture has a rather strange strict articifical distinction between work (in the neoliberal do a job to earn money sense) and leisure. Naturally work needs to come first. That had rather sad consequences for all covid containment measures. At no point, even at the point where private meatings were restricted to one non changeing household member, schools were down and all restaurants/shops were closed was there any restriction on business activity. Even remote work was hardly mandated. Things like mask, distance, number of people in a room etc mandates always had an almost comedic light touch compared to the ones applied to the private sphare. Fortunately many major employers shut down mainly due to lack of demand, partially due to lack of supplies from nations that did restrict business during the first, in some ways most critical wave.

    Right now, there are hardly any restrictions left in the private/leisure sphere either – except one – you have to be vaccinated or cured. Most of the time a test will also do for the mad quarter of the population.

    Where is this going you might ask? No not towards more serious culture analysis. It´s all just a buildup to one of the most absurd practical applications of that work above all thinking (Bavarian version):

    Self help groups, like all non work groups outside private homes, require participants to be vaccinated, tested or cured.

    Unless there is a professional moderator: In that case, not only is the professional excluded from the mandate (as was the case for anyone working at a leisure site until yesterday, they came to reason regarding that recently). No! If it´s a self helf group with a professional moderator, there is no mandate at all, neither for the moderator nor for the participants. Makes perfect sense doesn´t it?

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