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Sunday, July 26, 2020

Cooperative Survival

Friends and Neighbors,

 I'm sorry to address mask-wearing again. It seems to me to be a modest, necessary public health measure, which is starting to reduce Texas COVID cases since Governor Abbot finally "ordered" it (without legal penalty for non-compliance). The psychology of not fining and arresting people for not masking appears sound, if one actually wants high compliance. 
 There is plenty of mask resentment already. Texas does not need to waste precious energy, and resources. 
 Austin Texas is a highly-masked city. I compare Austin HEB grocery stores to Lockhart HEB and Yoakum HEB. 
Austin HEBs have been 100% masked for months. Lockhart, an hour's drive from Austin, lagged way behind, but is probably up to 85% or so now. Nobody is refused entry.
 Yoakum, the most rural, has been the slowest to mask, but is now up to about 50%. All HEB employees and old women appear to be 100%. Old men may be 80%. Younger men, pretty low masking. Younger women are increasingly masked, maybe 65%.
 The main areas where masking helps are enclosed spaces, with numerous people, since particles float in the air for a half hour after being invisibly exhaled, especially when speaking. That would be classrooms, of course. 
I'm glad the bars and strip clubs are shut, even if the Governor is getting sued. 
 It's sure appropriate to be unmasked when walking and biking in suburban neighborhoods. Most people give space graciously, in my experience. 
A few are hypersensitive, wear masks, and rush to the opposite side of the street complaining loudly at those not wearing. It's understandable. Risk-of-exposure gradients are a subtle concept for most people.
 Young people appearing fairly carefree is a false appearance. I read that they worry a lot bout COVID. On the other hand, they have strong biological drives, which vie against their cognitive-dissonance. 
It is increasingly the feeling in this cohort that "I'd like to just get it and be done with it".
 It is rare for people under 30 to die. Few will be severely ill. It happens. It's low-frequency.

SARS-CoV-2 infection has multiple stages:
Nasopharyngeal, where it stops for most people, a "cold".
Pulmonary, which is what caught global attention,
Gastrointestinal, which fooled the Chinese hospitals and contributed to spread at first.
Disseminated through the bloodstream, which causes organ damage in vascular organs like Lungs, kidneys, heart, brain, even retinal.
Persistent, which we don't even know the mechanisms of. Is it just all that damage to small vessels and the tissues they support, oris there chronic viral persistence in the "long haulers"?

 Take 5000 units (largest dose on shelf) vitamin-D daily. Take twice that for a couple of months if you are just starting. Low vitamin D greatly hampers immune function against this virus. Normal blood level is 30-100. Optimum appears to be 60+.

 Thanks for looking. Having said all of that, Jenny is gradually, but not steadily, recovering from her extensive surgery 10 days ago. I'm nursing Jenny back to wholeness. This is a long process.

 The main thing on my mind as a topic is the threat to the power elites, posed by citizen-cooperation, outside of their direct command and control. 
 This is a long term Catch-22 for the elites, since they need society to cooperatively create an economy to feed them.
In the short term, elites need to maintain their power and privilege, at the cost of everything else. That short term means the economy cannot adjust when it needs to. Our economy badly needed to adjust in 2008, but it just kept the same course, promised the moon. Power elites made sure stock valuations kept rising, and dividends got paid, while the production-economy got bled.
 We are cognitively trapped in the world we have known, the world in our heads, where we can predict things day to day, but our cognitive models are not the real world. All of us have great reluctance to broach the subject of complete societal change (to less wealth) with others. There is a whole lot of criticism and shunning of people who are accused of saying the wrong thing these days. It's harsh. It shuts down discussion immediately. I see this at my own work, among physicians in public health. It's pervasive. 
 We cannot question the belief systems which bind our social groups together. 
Everything is already contained in a belief system. 
Know your belief system or be taught your error through public denunciation!

 The tide will begin to turn when we give up on competing social orthodoxies, to work together for practical necessity.
Working together for common good, cooperation, is our most successful human trait over the eons. 
 In times of plenty, societies may be driven down other trails, but at the end of any such historical experiment, when the support system for the society fails, people either cooperate to find solutions, or slaughter each other,,, eventually followed by survivors cooperating to find solutions.

Small Farm Future: Business-as-Usual-Porn; We Need to Talk About Collapse
  I want to imagine myself metaphorically out on the ice with Inuit hunters as Hugh Brody was, with no food, no game in evidence, and many days journey from safety, with only a tired dog team, my knowledge of the terrain, my hunting skills and my fortitude in my favour.
  Of course, in reality I’m not out on the ice but on a small farm near the edge of a small town in a small country that’s thoroughly imbued with the culture of global capitalism. I can try to imagine a cultural awakening fit for my time and place, but to write it down on the page will make it thinner and more fugitive than it needs to be in practice. The words I’d write on the page would probably include things like autonomy, self-reliance, community, land, skill, care, craft, work, health, nature, play, creation, love and argument. You can write those words for most cultures. But I think they’ll soon mean different things in our culture than they do now. The trick is going to be building out quickly from the place where we now are, creating culture in practice, but letting go of a lot that we now take for granted, or insist upon. We need to build a new culture that’s calmly open and alive to the possibilities and dangers of the present and the journey ahead, not angrily insistent upon the virtues of the path that took us to where we now stand.  So I don’t think it’s worth spending too much time debating on paper (or online) the detailed shape and content of that new culture. I think it’s better to shape it in practice, by doing what we can as peacemakers, storytellers, educators, healers or agents of the practical arts to breathe local life into it. But I do think it’s worth spending time debating the political and historical circumstances in which that shaping can take off and propagate.

Charles Hugh Smith, Why the Unraveling Will Accelerate
Sclerotic, hidebound institutions optimized for linear stability and permanent growth are simply not designed to adapt to non-linear change and disruption of permanent growth. Systems stripped of buffers are fragile, systems stripped of feedback are fragile, systems that optimize doing more of what's failed spectacularly are fragile, systems that are little more than fractals of incompetence are fragile, systems that rely on the artifice of denial and fantasy are fragile.
Fragile systems break. This is why the unraveling is accelerating.

A Soviet citizen, imprisoned for his intellectual innovation, described the break-up of the USSR, in accurate detail, including regions and sequences, 30 years before it took place. His main failure was that he laid out a 24 year timeline. He died in a car crash in a storm. 
Surprisingly, it turns out that his investigations and insights are transferable to modern day America!
Where is the breaking point? How long can a political system seek to remake itself before triggering one of two reactions—a devastating backlash from those most threatened by change or a realization by the change makers that their goals can no longer be realized within the institutions and ideologies of the present order? Here, Amalrik warned, great powers’ proclivity for self-delusion and self-isolation puts them at a particular disadvantage. They set themselves apart from the world, learning little from the accumulated stock of human experience. They imagine themselves immune to the ills affecting other places and systems. This same predisposition might trickle down through society. The various social strata could come to feel isolated from their regime and separated from one another.  Thanks for this, too , Charles.​

​We Are On Our Own In The Post COVID World, Chris Martenson (maybe even sooner, John)
This chart says that the very highest income earners have a lower effective tax rate than anybody else in the nation.  Billionaire Warren Buffett famously pays a lower rate than his secretary. Goldman Sachs bankers are taxed more favorably than their Uber drivers. Again, this isn’t happening by accident.
And it reveals that, despite the fiction of fairness and freedom, America’s true values and priorities are aimed at funneling more and more of its wealth to in the pockets of an elite few.
​And to further clarify (though "civil war' remains completely undefined)
In an unpublished paper submitted for peer review, Professor Goldstone, who is a sociologist, and Peter Turchin, an expert on the mathematical modelling of historical societies, have concluded that the US is "headed for another civil war".  
​This is extremely weird,  A Federal Judge says the state "lacks standing" to question the Federal goons (not "army"; not "police") complete violation of the rights of Oregonians to well-established due-process under the law, which is guaranteed in the constitution, and well established for police and American military engagements with citizens.​
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman rejected an effort by Oregon’s attorney general to restrict federal law enforcement agencies as they police protests in downtown Portland.  Oregon asked a judge to make federal officers identify themselves and their agency before arresting or detaining a person and to prohibit arrests that lack probable cause.
In his 14-page ruling, Mosman said the state lacked standing to bring the case, in part because Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum failed to show the interests of the state of Oregon itself had been harmed.

Charles also sent this pre-publication, an online publication, "Rethinking Humanity", which is 89 pages, of which I have read the introduction, which seems promising. This book propounds different predictive modeling for society, used successfully by the Authors for about 15 years, and which seems sound, at first glance. Thanks Again, Charles.

The current contender for Best-place-to-catch-Coronavirus seems to be slaughterhouses, big closed refrigerators (COVID thrives at cooler temperatures in the nose and throat), where the same viral particles from people working hard, all day long, in close proximity, assure a really good viral cloud stays aaiborn and viable for everybody to inhale. 
Lesson: Be outdoors, moderately removed from others, in warm air and sunshine, to avoid breathing clouds of virus.

Gardening Outdoors


  1. Thanks for the reminder to wear masks. My wife has been working hard at making masks off various prototypes on the internet. The tradeoff as I see it is between stopping particles vs. being able to breathe. We are working on that. We noticed that larger cities nearby that have had significant number of covid cases have pretty universal adoption of masks. Locally, where there have only been about 4 cases, people seem to be reluctant to wear masks, though some of them do voluntarily but businesses are not making masks mandatory or limiting occupancy in their stores as they do in the larger towns.

  2. Thanks for the link to the ebook, Rethinking Humanity.
    I'm guessing the authors are looking for funding for their think tank from industry giants like Bayer/Monsanto.
    Here's a quote from their book on how they propose to replace our current extractive industries with new creative industries that make stuff out of almost free inputs to create limitless goods right there in your own home town. Well, who wouldn't want that?

    "This new production system is based on increasing returns and near-infinite supply, as opposed to the diminishing returns and scarce, geographically-constrained supply of the Extraction Age. A creation-based system can produce near-infinite outputs once the infrastructure is built – limitless quantities of organic materials (food, clothing, and materials) produced from the genetic information held in single cells and the plentiful flows of energy produced from the sun, with just a few further inputs. Such a system produces only what is needed, without the need to grow whole plants or animals or dig up huge quantities of raw materials to break down into useful outputs. Stocks of non-organic materials (e.g. metals) and capital will be needed to seed the system, but everything else can be created and sourced locally."

    No more need for farming. You will be able to make your own food right in your garage out of air and water and genetically engineered stuff you can download for free off the internet.
    It's good to know there's people out there thinking this stuff up. Used to be called Science Fiction.

  3. That was my impression too, Wolfgang. I stopped reading (part;y because of the grey-on-blonde font setting that too many blogsters think is elegant or restrained or something. Reading your quote, my impression is confirmed. Entropy? What's that? It's a shame, because they employ (and thereby sully) valid anlystical models to lead to that abrupt leap off the logical cliff.

  4. Oh, my! It was looking good in the introduction.
    This quote you excerpted, Wolfgang, is important, in that it says that the answer to infinite growth, with finite resources, is INSUBSTANTIALITY, which is fine if you become the aether, as we all will, or already are, but then, why do you need profits and money and business models?
    "This new production system is based on increasing returns and near-infinite supply, as opposed to the diminishing returns and scarce, geographically-constrained supply of the Extraction Age. A creation-based system can produce near-infinite outputs once the infrastructure is built – limitless quantities of organic materials (food, clothing, and materials) produced from the genetic information held in single cells and the plentiful flows of energy produced from the sun, with just a few further inputs. Such a system produces only what is needed, without the need to grow whole plants or animals or dig up huge quantities of raw materials to break down into useful outputs. Stocks of non-organic materials (e.g. metals) and capital will be needed to seed the system, but everything else can be created and sourced locally."
    As for me, I am going to keep growing vegetables the old-fashioned way, and cooking with natural gas, while it remains available.
    These guys talking about infinite production through getting E.coli, a fecal bacterium, to synthesize whatever you want, after teaching it to imbibe chlorophyll to turn sunlight to work, may not have heard of the "Photosynthetic ceiling". There is only so much sunlight that hits the surface of planet earth, and a lot of it is necessary to support plant life and ocean life, and there are lots of inefficiencies in "collecting" it, and it takes minerals and fossil fuels to create collection-systems. Maybe they are pitching this to the right kind of suckers, but we're not the droids they're looking for...


  5. Now I've read the executive summary. These guys are the BEST BULLSHITTERS EVER!
    I think this "Age Of Freedom" they speak of was first foretold by Janis Joplin (though Kris Kristofferson wrote the lyrics). "Freedom's just another word for NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE..."
    Here is the close of their executive summary, which is selling the freedom of subsistence farming to Goldman Sachs execs, best I can tell. What Nerve!

    "Dark ages do not occur for lack of sunshine, but for lack of
    leadership. The established centers of power, the U.S., Europe, or
    China, handicapped by incumbent mindsets, beliefs, interests,
    and institutions, are unlikely to lead. In a globally competitive
    world, smaller, hungrier, more adaptable communities, cities, or
    states such as Israel, Mumbai, Dubai, Singapore, Lagos, Shanghai,
    California, or Seattle are more likely to develop a winning
    Organizing System. They will appear, just like their predecessors,
    as if from nowhere, with capabilities far beyond those of
    incumbent leaders. Everyone else could get trampled before
    they have time to understand what is happening.
    The intervening decade will be turbulent, destabilized both by
    technology disruptions that upend the foundations of the global
    economy and by system shocks from pandemics, geopolitical
    conflict, natural disasters, financial crises, and social unrest that
    could lead to dramatic tipping points for humanity including mass
    migrations and even war. In the face of each new crisis we will
    be tempted to look backward rather than forward, to mistake
    ideology and dogma for reason and wisdom, to turn on each
    other instead of trusting one another.
    If we hold strong, we can emerge together to create the wealthiest,
    healthiest, most extraordinary civilization in history. If we do not,
    we will join the ranks of every other failed civilization for future
    historians to puzzle over. Our children will either thank us for
    bringing them an Age of Freedom, or curse us for condemning
    them to another dark age. The choice is ours."

  6. Yeah. The earlier portions use excellent logic in describing our follies up to this point. Then it indulges its own follies.

    For some reason, this song seems apt:

    1. I've almost finished reading the whole thing to figure out what flim-flam they are marketing to whom. It looks like they are marketing to current information technology elites, by saying that everything is information, and "manipulation" of it, while ignoring the massive energy costs involved in their projects. They are pushing government out of any ownership of electric grids, and to outlaw hooking new buildings up for gas heating and cooking. They war of monopolies running prices up, in a way to whet the lips of those who would do just that.
      This is some rally BADASS FLIM-FLAM. This looks to be written in 2 styles, one is analytic, and one is intellectualized scammer, targeting the catch-prase technocrats without systemic comprehension of energy cost and raw-materials limits. The orders of efficiency implied here are completely imaginary, but little phrases are thrown in for fun, like "the system would ultimately be limited only by the laws of physics". That sounds smart, but it poops in the face of those ignorant enough to swallow it in passing. What effrontery!

      "Here is a heuristic to help.
      » The building blocks of the new production system will be the bit
      (and later qbit), photon, electron, molecule, and DNA (or gene).
      These building blocks are available and plentiful everywhere and
      can be recombined in infinite ways to create new products and
      services at essentially zero cost. Information technology will
      dominate the system of production, but information needs to be
      embodied in matter and energy. Building blocks that are more
      powerful, lighter, and faster are superior to those that are less (or
      similarly) powerful, slower, and heavier. Bits and photons will
      disrupt electrons, which will disrupt atoms and molecules.
      Photons are more powerful but orders-of-magnitude lighter and
      faster than electrons, which are as powerful but orders-ofmagnitude lighter and faster than atoms. Similarly, when creating
      molecules (food, materials, and medicines), manipulating DNA at
      the micro-organism level allows for the faster production of
      molecules, with a far lighter production infrastructure and higher
      degree of precision and accuracy than manipulating a macroorganism. The following are examples of a bits, photons,
      electrons, atoms, molecules, and DNA (BPEAMD) heuristic:"