Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Beyond Bush Gore 2020

 Still Alive,

Nate Hagens gives his state of the world report. I've been wondering what Nate was up to.
​  ​Increasingly I think it’s not oil nor finance, nor social disruption that is our core risk but declining returns to complexity. Historian Joseph Tainter famously studied how ancient civilizations collapsed due to the inability of resources/productivity to keep pace with complexity. In today’s world, this can be seen in myriad ways, from the unemployment software in US States being written in COBOL and FORTRAN, to APIs for majority of our medicines made in India and China... ​  ​
​  ​If you took a poll and asked people what the single biggest casualty was from the pandemic, very few people would respond with ‘oil’.  But no matter who wins the election, US oil production, including shale oil, is about to fall off a cliff, with massive consequences for society. For the setup of our modern way of life, oil is effectively our hemoglobin – and the COVID arrow hit at the heart of the industry as market prices are far below what it costs to extract oil from the ground.  Yet this is all invisible to most people as the media (and economics departments) still conflate price with cost and cost with value... ​  ​

​  ​Lost in the discussions of Republicans vs Democrats, stimulus, PPP, COVID statistics, stock market gyrations and geopolitics is perhaps the most important story of all – the state of Earth’s ecosystems and the ~10 million species we share the planet with. They are ‘downstream’ of our elections and financial/economic systems, but none of them have a vote.
​  ​I have concluded that natural systems and species futures – for better or worse – are linked to human futures – we have to ‘bend not break’ to have the best outcome for (most) Earth Systems (other than perhaps oceans and very remote species).  I believe humans are not any better or worse than we were 100 years, 1000 years or 100,000 years ago – there are just more of us so our impact is (much) larger and each and every one of us consuming much more resources than our ancestors did. Humans are good at heart but we are biological organisms following cultural goals that have expiry dates.  We have arrived at a ‘species level’ juncture and need to use systems science, reason, discourse, and leadership to navigate a glide path to intact futures.​..
​  We all have ‘conditional’ goals, those which rely on something external to us to change in order to succeed. Many of those goals will not get met because external conditions prevent them – perhaps the ‘guy who we didn’t vote for’ winning the election. The key is to also find “unconditional” goals – those which we ourselves can be 100% responsible for. That way we can feel more empowered to reach those goals, which many times can influence the conditional goals in positive ways.  Growing food, spending time with your neighbors, learning a new (useful to the future) skill, mutual aid, etc.  The key for all of us – is to meet the future halfway.

​Michael Hudson​ looks at another economic model of "money" to serve the needs of society.
​  ​When Polanyi called money a fictitious commodity, he was rejecting the idea of making it scarce by limiting its supply to that of gold, mimicking commodities as if money were part of a barter system. It also gave creditors overwhelming power over the rest of the economy, especially over its labor and land by pushing wage levels and crop prices below basic break-even needs when governments were deprived of the ability to create credit to employ labor. He criticized Ricardo for having ‘indoctrinated nineteenth-century England with the conviction that the term ‘money’ meant a medium of exchange,’ with bank notes readily convertible into gold (ibid: 196). That policy led to deflation, given gold’s limited supply. Falling prices and wages penalized debtors when countries returned to gold convertibility after wartime inflations. That occurred in Britain after 1815, and in the United States after the 1870s when it sought to roll back prices so that the price of gold – and hence, wages and commodity prices – would be driven back down to their pre-Civil War level. The result was prolonged economic depression, causing land and other property to be transferred from debtors to creditors.​..​
  ‘Land, labor and money are obviously not commodities,’ he explained. Labor is life, and ‘land is only another name for nature​.​​.​..
​  ​Polanyi’s preferred alternative was to make money serve social aims by making it a public creation of law. Such token money has no inherent cost of production, ‘but comes into being through the mechanism of banking or state finance,’ and thus is not a commodity with an ultimate labor cost of production: ‘actual money, finally, is merely a token of purchasing power which, as a rule, is not produced at all but comes into being through the mechanism of banking or state finance’ (Ibid: 72).
​  ​Polanyi’s Austrian adversaries argued that public money creation, social spending programs, regulations and subsidies distorted the supposedly efficient ‘natural’ economy of price-setting markets. In practice this meant low wages and a transfer of land to the wealthy. Unregulated market forces and gain seeking led the social system to be run for the purely financial aim of ‘maximum money gains,’ subjecting land, labor and money to pro-creditor bias instead of favoring the population’s indebted majority. It was to prevent this economic polarization and austerity, Polanyi claimed, that ‘Regulation and markets … grew up together.’ Trade and incomes were regulated for most of history, thanks to the fact that, ‘As a rule, the economic system was absorbed in the social system.’ (ibid: 68)​...
​  To allow the market mechanism to be the sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment, indeed, even of the amount and use of purchasing power, would result in the demolition of society. … the market administration of purchasing power would periodically liquidate business enterprise, for shortages and surfeits of money would prove as disastrous to business as floods and droughts in primitive society. (Ibid: 73)​...
​  Mutual aid and its associated constraints on profiteering were preconditions for survival. Chiefs were expected to be openhanded, protecting the weak and needy.​..
 ​ ​Polanyi summarized his hope that society would cure itself from having disembedded markets from their social context by restoring ‘shapes reminiscent of the economic organization of earlier times.’ Society needed to re-embed market structures for goods and services by administering key prices and incomes in a new redistributive economy. Such redistribution ‘presupposes the presence of an allocative center in the community,’ a palace or temple in earlier times, democratic government offices in today’s world.​..
 ​ ​Royal Clean Slate proclamations of ‘justice and equity’ annulled the backlog of grain taxes and other agrarian debts, liberated bondservants and restored land forfeited by smallholders. (I provide a history of such acts in ‘… and forgive them their debts’: Lending, Forfeiture and Redemption, From Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year [ISLET 2018]). This preserved a free citizenry to serve in the army and provide corvée labor instead of falling into permanent debt bondage to non-official creditors.​..
  Societies would have succumbed to bondage and monopolization of the land millennia ago they had viewed ‘free markets’ to mean the sanctity of personal debts being paid. Rome was the first major society not to cancel agrarian and personal debts. For its oligarchy, the ‘sanctity of property’ meant a license to foreclose on the self-support land and other property of debtors.​..
 ​ ​Mainstream economists treat credit (and implicitly, arrears as well as loans) as always being productive and helpful, not as extractive and socially destabilizing. They depict government intervention to annul debts as leading to economic crisis, not as saving populations from impoverishment and disorder. This doctrinaire approach ignores the fact that, in practice, the ‘security of debt’ meant making ancient debtors falling into arrears liable to lose their land and personal liberty. This meant insecurity of their property rights. That is the real crisis.​..
​  Depicting credit and the financial business plan as having only positive economic effects produces a travesty of history. Viewing debt and its interest charges simply as a bargain between individuals fails to recognize how the economy-wide debt burden tends to grow beyond the ability to be paid.​..​
​  ​Throughout history debt has been the major lever privatizing land and reducing populations to bondage. Mesopotamia managed to delay this polarizing dynamic by subordinating creditor rights to the aim of dynastic survival. But classical Greece and Rome lacked the tradition of royal Clean Slates. That was the great turning point. Livy, Plutarch and Diodorus described how debt disenfranchised the Roman population.​..
 ‘Free market’ advocates pick up the thread of Western civilization ‘in the middle,’ only after credit, debt and property relations became disembedded and decontextualized from the checks and balances that sustained the Near Eastern takeoff. It is as if the Bronze Age agrarian debt cancellations were a blind alley...
​  ​The distinctive feature of Western economies is privatization of credit, land natural and public infrastructure. That is the real detour from earlier millennia. Archaic societies treated land required for subsistence as a basic right for their citizenry... 
​  ​We can now see that there is no assurance that societies automatically evolve onward and upward. Such determinism focuses on potential – what economies could achieve if they use all knowledge to best advantage. Warlords, creditors, landlords and monopolists have deprived populations of the fruits of technological potential throughout history.​..
 Polanyi’s contribution to social history demonstrates the need to regulate finance, land and labour markets in an overall social context in order to maintain prosperity instead of impoverishment.​..
​  ​The financial takeover of government policy reflects a business plan of asset stripping and economy wide austerity.

 ​Another DIA document from Oct 2012 (also released in May 2015), reported that Gaddafi’s vast arsenal was being shipped from Benghazi to two Syrian ports under the control of the Syrian rebel groups.
​  ​Essentially, the DIA documents were reporting that the Obama Administration was supporting Islamist extremism, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

​  ​When the watchdog group Judicial Watch received the series of DIA reports through Freedom of Information Act lawsuits (FOIA) in May 2015, the State Department, the Administration and various media outlets trashed the reports as insignificant and unreliable.
​  ​There was just one problem; Lt. Gen. Flynn was backing up the reliability of the released DIA reports.
​  ​Lt. Gen. Flynn as Director of the DIA from July 2012 – Aug. 2014, was responsible for acquiring accurate intelligence on ISIS’s and other extremist operations within the Middle East, but did not have any authority in shaping U.S. military policy in response to the Intel the DIA was acquiring.
​  ​In a July 2015 interview with Al-Jazeera, Flynn went so far as to state that the rise of ISIS was the result of a “willful decision,” not an intelligence failure, by the Obama Administration.​..
​  ​Flynn was essentially stating (in the 47 minute interview) that the United States was fully aware that weapons trafficking from Benghazi to the Syrian rebels was occurring. In fact, the secret flow of arms from Libya to the Syrian opposition, via Turkey was CIA sponsored and had been underway shortly after Gaddafi’s death in Oct 2011. The operation was largely run out of a covert CIA annex in Benghazi, with State Department acquiescence.​..
 ​ ​Flynn was taken out before he had a chance to even step into his office, prevented from doing any sort of overhaul with the intelligence bureaus and Joint Chiefs of Staff, which was most certainly going to happen. Instead Flynn was forced to resign on Feb. 13th, 2017 after incessant media attacks undermining the entire Trump Administration, accusing them of working for the Russians against the welfare of the American people.​..
 ​ ​The question thus stands; in whose best interest is it that no peace be permitted to occur in the Middle East and that U.S.-Russian relations remain verboten? And is such an interest a friend or foe to the American people?

​New Yorker article on how COVID-19 "hacks the immune system" is well written. Here is the core of it:
​  ​TenOever’s team quickly discovered that sars-CoV-2 was uncannily good at disrupting cellular programming. A typical virus replaces less than one per cent of the software in the cells it infects. With sars-CoV-2, tenOever said, about sixty per cent of the RNA in an infected cell is of viral origin—“which is the highest I’ve ever seen. Polio comes close.” Among other things, the virus rewires the alarm system that cells use to warn others about infection. Normally, as part of what is known as the “innate” immune response—so called because it is genetically hardwired, and not tailored to a specific pathogen—a cell sends out two kinds of signals. One signal, carried by molecules called interferons, travels to neighboring cells, telling them to build defenses that slow viral spread. Another signal, transmitted through molecules called cytokines, gets a message to the circulatory system’s epithelial lining. The white blood cells summoned by this second signal don’t just eat invaders and infected cells; they also gather up their dismembered protein parts. Elsewhere in the immune system, these fragments are used to create virus-specific antibodies, as part of a sophisticated “adaptive” response that can take six or seven days to develop.
​  ​Usually, the viruses that humans care about are successful because they shut down both of these signalling programs. The coronavirus is different. “It seems to block only one of those two arms,” tenOever told me. It inhibits the interferon response but does nothing about the cytokines; it evades the local defenses but allows the cells it infects to call for reinforcements. White blood cells are powerful weapons: they arrive on an inflammatory tide, destroying cells on every side, clogging up passages with the wreckage. They are meant to be used selectively, on invaders that have been contained in a small area. With the coronavirus, they are deployed too widely—a carpet bombing, rather than a surgical strike. As they do their work, inflammation distends the lungs, and debris fills them like a fog.

​The Panbio SARS-CoV-2 Point of Care rapid test device is 100% specific and 80% sensitive, compared to nasal PCR swab.
None of the 20% that it "missed" grew virus in cell-culture, so were clinically-false-positives, which could not cause infection (likely viral debris).​
Can we please get everybody immediate rapid testing and treatment on demand this winter?

P​reparing For Winter​

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