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.

8 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. “Let Them Eat Plague!”

    That’s the title of this fairly long essay.

    It’s worth reading I think although it does bog down at one or two points. An early problem is that it’s the kind of Marxist analysis which can’t find any fault with a nominally Marxist country. China is not Marxist at all any more, so the writer really should not trouble ’emself on that score.

    For me, the surrender of China to COVID-19 marks the final global triumph of capitalism. Capitalism’s (neoliberal) model has triumphed everywhere. Boosters of capitalism will be triumphalist about this but it marks no end of history. It marks an acceleration of history. With no political-economic brakes or obstacles left, capital will make, or rather unmake, the world as it wishes and do so extremely rapidly.

    One of our local boosters of endless infection by a BSL 3 pathogen stated that you “can’t hurt the economy” (by taking any serious measures to contain SARS2). The corollary of this is that “you can hurt people”. This will be the accelerating outcome going forward.

    I’ve read Raina MacIntyre’s book “Dark Winter” and wondered whether it might have been better titled “Dark Genetics” or “Genetic Winter”. A parallel to “nuclear winter” is intended in the title. We have the power now. We could destroy ourselves with a genetic winter just as easily as we could destroy ourselves with a nuclear winter.

    One of Prof. MacIntyre’s lines of argument is that serious lab accidents and accidental releases of pathogens have been too frequent in the cold war and post cold war era. Indeed, she also cites several case of Western governments deliberately experimenting by releasing supposedly benign biological agents on their own populations in order to ascertain the potential for the dispersion of biological agents in general. Some of these agents turned out to be not so benign. People did die, as in San Francisco’s Operation Sea-Spray.

    Prof. MacIntyre writes about the unwillingness to look forensically, in addition to epidemiologically, at pathogen outbreaks where terrorism or bio-weapons research involving both deliberate and accidental release could be implicated. She then moves on to the issue of cover-ups. There is much more to the discussion, including the issue of the kind of evidence that could indicate a lab leak. I won’t precis her book here. Suffice it to say that there are masses of circumstantial evidence that SARS2 was engineered by gain of function research in the Wuhan lab, funded, aided and abetted by US money and US researchers. There is also massive circumstantial evidence (my term and interpretation) that there has been a concerted international cover-up. As with other lab leaks of the past, if we live another 20 years or so, we may well learn the truth. It can take that long for the truth to come out. It has taken that long in the past.

    But back to “Let Them Eat Plague!”. The author speaks of the kind of conspiracy it takes to generate such events as this capitulation to a very-likely human-engineered and accidentally lab-leaked virus.

    “It’s not your “fault” if you aren’t a virologist, immunologist, epidemiologist, or evolutionary biologist. It’s the job of experts and trusted voices to convey the truth and give you guidance. Not only have they failed at this, they have engaged in an active disinformation campaign dedicated to making the pandemic “disappear”. This has not been the result of a classic caricature of conspiracy — some tiny council of elites, gathered in the shadows to craft policy out of whole cloth. What we’re actually witnessing is the quiet collusion of class interest. This form of conspiracy is a feature of cultural hegemony, and it has aligned itself in direct opposition to public health and scientific reality. A “conspiracy” of this sort takes place in full view of the public. Every actor within it has openly telegraphed motivations that we are all taught to see as acceptable: keeping the current economic system intact at all costs.” –
    “Comrade Dremel”.

    On this point, the archaically named Comrade Dremel is correct. This is how conspiracies work in this system and it is how people naively consent, cooperate and conspire in their own destruction.

  2. JQ published a piece yesterday (Jan 22) titled Mitigated disaster: How can we respond to a world of cascading disasters?

    It included (bold text my emphasis):

    Those policies aren’t adequate, but they are a long way from the ‘Business as Usual’ scenarios we were looking at not long ago. On current policies, the best estimate is that we will ultimately see 2-3 degrees of warming. That would be disastrous in all sorts of ways. But it’s not that long ago that we were thinking about 4 degrees of warming, which would be catastrophic.

    Per the Hansen et. al. pre-print paper titled Global warming in the pipeline, submitted 8 Dec 2022 to Oxford Open Climate Change and publicly available at arXiv, included (bold text my emphasis):

    Improved knowledge of glacial-to-interglacial global temperature change implies that fast-feedback equilibrium climate sensitivity is at least ~4°C for doubled CO2 (2xCO2), with likely range 3.5-5.5°C. Greenhouse gas (GHG) climate forcing is 4.1 W/m2 larger in 2021 than in 1750, equivalent to 2xCO2 forcing. Global warming in the pipeline is greater than prior estimates. Eventual global warming due to today’s GHG forcing alone — after slow feedbacks operate — is about 10°C. Human-made aerosols are a major climate forcing, mainly via their effect on clouds. We infer from paleoclimate data that aerosol cooling offset GHG warming for several millennia as civilization developed. A hinge-point in global warming occurred in 1970 as increased GHG warming outpaced aerosol cooling, leading to global warming of 0.18°C per decade. Aerosol cooling is larger than estimated in the current IPCC report, but it has declined since 2010 because of aerosol reductions in China and shipping. Without unprecedented global actions to reduce GHG growth, 2010 could be another hinge point, with global warming in following decades 50-100% greater than in the prior 40 years. The enormity of consequences of warming in the pipeline demands a new approach addressing legacy and future emissions.

    Figure 6 indicates to me that the cooling effect of aerosols (primarily human-induced from the burning of fossil fuels) in the atmosphere has kept the global mean surface temperature of the order of 0.7 to 1.0 °C lower than it would have been if there were no aerosols in the atmosphere. By decarbonising, humanity will be exposed to a rapid temperature increase as the cooling effect of aerosols diminishes. This is the ‘Faustian Bargain’ humanity has committed to that Hansen alludes to.

    The Earth System is already at around +1.2 °C warming level (relative to the 1880-1920 global mean surface temperature). Per the Hansen et. al. pre-print, that means we are already committed (excluding slow feedbacks) to breach the +2 °C warming threshold at the current GHG concentration level, likely on our current GHG emissions trajectory in the 2040s (per Figure 19).

    In the longer-term, including the slow feedbacks (over centuries to millennia timescales), the warming level will be significantly higher – about +10 °C for a doubling of atmospheric CO₂ concentration, per Hansen et. al. pre-print paper.

    I think it would be foolish to bet that Hansen & colleagues are significantly wrong on this issue.

    Three stages are required to mitigate the climate emergency:
    i. Deep and rapid decarbonisation of civilisation ASAP – no more new fossil fuel developments AND a rapid phase-out of the utilisation of existing fossil fuel infrastructure;
    ii. ‘Negative emissions’ or atmospheric carbon drawdown to safely get greenhouse gas concentration levels back to well below 350 ppm (CO₂-equivalent); and
    iii. Maintain arctic summer sea ice cover.

    There are no ifs or buts here – the Laws of Physics are non-negotiable.
    I’d suggest a modest step in the right direction is still failing – we/humanity need to do what’s required, or face civilisation collapse before 2100!

  3. Finally, a mainstream media report which tells the current disturbing truth about our national covid-19 predicament and puts forward positive, helpful and hopeful suggestions on what can can be done.

    I’ve also noted Geoff’s excellent post above about climate change. I will reply if and when I can add anything both useful and hopeful to enlarge on what Geoff has written.

  4. A meditation by Dr Deepti Gurdasani, followed by a few comments of my own.

    “I find it odd how much value society puts on academic qualifications, and knowledge – while diversity of lived experience (e.g. adversity, caring for others, illness) is completely devalued, or even used to dismiss a person’s credibility.

    I feel that lived experience is often the most valuable & hardest to teach someone else. Those who’ve seen diverse experiences in life- be it adversity, marginalisation, illness, trauma – often have perspectives that aren’t easily captured in ‘academic knowledge’.

    This is precisely why clinicians who listen to patients know that often symptoms don’t present as medical textbooks say, and patterns that you see can be different from what classical teaching is. That’s why you can’t be a good clinician just by reading medical textbooks.

    So let’s stop devaluing people’s lived experience. I find that often people who haven’t experienced any adversity or cared for someone who has are the least knowledgeable about the world. There’s really no substitute for lived experience- but you can learn if you listen.

    But that means redefining value systems that dismiss life experience as making one ‘biased’ rather than enriching ones perspectives on life and the world around us. You’re far more likely to be biased when you haven’t experienced much of what you think you know about…

    Academia encourages overconfidence in credentials & certain types of evidence, dismissing anything lived experience brings as being ‘qualitative’ and therefore ‘inferior’… but it isn’t. Lived experience is vital to understand – because after all it is the experience of living.

    How can one practice medicine or be a scientist without caring about the human experience – be it of illness, response to treatment, poverty, racism, misogyny, disability, transphobia? Surely, that is what we’re trying to improve, so why do we devalue it so much?” – Dr. Deepti Gurdasani.

    Asked why she included the title Dr. with her name, Deepti Gurdasani replied:

    ” … I had my credentials (and credibility) questioned for years until I included it. Misogyny and racism are rife.”

    Her point is not that a doctorate is nothing. Equally, her point is that a doctorate is not everything. A doctorate plus wide lived experience, plus ethics, plus the ability to listen to other lived experiences can indeed be a lot. A lack of ethics, in particular, turns a sharp brain into a murderous weapon. We have seen as much during the genesis and promulgation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    We ought to consider Orgel’s 2nd rule well, “Evolution is cleverer than you are.” This rule does not tell us that evolution is conscious, purposive or designing. It tells us that the products of evolution are far more intrinsically “ingenious” or complex than anything humans could ever design. The products of cosmological emergence to date are also far more complex and endlessly novel than anything humans can or will ever imagine. We are indeed, individually and collectively, just subset(s) of the cosmos set itself.

    All of this ought to teach us humility in considering our own intelligence, imaginativeness and inventiveness, plus any lifetime successes we might have had. These qualities and outcomes themselves are all products of emergent and evolutionary forces. We did not and we do not make ourselves. The detectable cosmos did and does this, including its fundamental laws operating within us and without us. This finally ought to tell us that the widest gap between persons in intelligence (I mean roughly in the normal to genius range) is far less than the gap between total achieved human genius and knowledge and the outright complexity and imponderable nature of the cosmos itself. Our main problems individually and collectively are our hubris, our wanton greed and our blind destructiveness. First, we should do the least harm humanly possible.

  5. 2nd, maybe, “How Should We Teach Kids to ‘Pay It Forward’?

    “In Lewis Hyde’s classic anthropological treatise The Gift from 1983, he famously refers to the ceremonial gifting of Kula rings among people who lived scattered across a vast island chain off Papua New Guinea. The rings were passed between trusted friends along with gossip and visiting, making their way through the islands and thereby keeping the communities in contact with each other. It was a marker of status to be given a ring, and so it became one to pass it on. Holding onto a ring for too long was frowned upon; their purpose was to be passed. I thought of the Kula rings recently when reading about a group of single moms who passed $50 back and forthbetween them through lean times. This is the kind of charity that can hold people together.

    “A lot of sharing child care works the same way. Exchanging sleepovers and dinners is how families come to rely on each other over time; it’s through the accrual of small favors back and forth that a sense of mutual reliance solidifies. Encouraging kids to borrow favorite books and toys from each other is another way to get the concept going.

    “Paying it forward was never meant to function as a “surprise!” to strangers. It was meant to create a ripple of good feeling that affirms the goodness of a group to itself.


  6. Sadly, all we are paying forward at the moment are climate change and COVID-19. These are litmus tests of our morality.

    “Lose Your Health” –

    “Oops, there goes morality, up goes mortality,
    IG-nore reality, all the fatality,
    But don’t close the rows and the flows where all the money goes,
    Up to the billionaires, pumping up the squillionaires.” – Eminus. (Parody)

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