May 172020
 


Gerry Cranham They all fall in the round I call 1963

 

There was this comment at the Automatic Earth yesterday that got me thinking. It was sort of wrapped in a bit of -more- innuendo about health officials not getting the results they were looking for in COVID19 numbers, as if the whole virus event is some goal-seeked conspiracy. You’ll be familiar with it by now.

I said back in the day that measures like lockdowns can’t last long, because people are social animals. You would just have hoped that when they were finally, far too late, decided upon, that countries, states, communities, would have made the best of them. But it’s been, and more importantly will be, an awful mess, other than in a few places.

And I did say that too, that the so-called leadership in the world today is good at declaring a lockdown, albeit too late, but not at anything else, not at timing it, not at executing it, let alone at managing the way out of it in reopening societies. It is all so predictable.

But people have been solidly dug into their trenches now, after 2 months, and they’ve done so much reading, and watching pundits, that they’re no longer looking for news, they’re looking for opinions, ones that match their own darkest notions. We’ve come to the point that if there’s nothing suspicious going on, then that’s mighty suspicious.

 

And there’s plenty of such opinions, and plenty among them that lay the blame for freedoms and livelihoods lost somewhere, anywhere. So yeah, in that sense it’s time to reopen, the mental health sense. But not, unfortunately, in the physical health sense. The virus is still prevalent in most communities and many a community will pay a steep price.

But nobody is aware of it, it seems, because nobody really knows what will happen. They’ve only all heard the clamoring for a return to normal. That there will be no return to normal is something nobody wants to tell them. How many people do you think know there’s never been a vaccine for a coronavirus? How many people know that there is no need for a vaccine?

Everyone’s been told to wait for a vaccine, which suits Big Pharma, which gets billions for something they don’t even need to deliver, just try, and it suits the politicians who can all say there’s nothing they can do to prevent more suffering until the magic pill shows up. They can say they opened up because there was so much pressure on them.

But yes, that comment. It made me think that perhaps people don’t understand viruses very well, and also that it’s a very good lead for a description of how they “function”.

 

Is this a fiercely contagious pathogen or not? If it’s so contagious, then it isn’t particularly lethal. If it’s incredibly lethal, then it isn’t so contagious.

 

First of all, remember a virus doesn’t think or plan or have a strategy, none of that. If conditions are right a virus will multiply. And while doing so, it will mutate. These things happen in virustime, counted in time sequences as infinitesimal as the size of a virus itself. And one in a billion or so a mutation will stick for more than two nanoseconds, because it offers an advantage to the virus.

That’s how it gets to spread from, first, animal hosts within the same species, and then, in very rare circumstances, to other species, like humans. And even then it’s exceedingly rare that a virus could do harm to a human being. The odds of that happening are maybe one in a trillion or something, I doubt anyone could tell you, including virologists.

The virus “wants” one thing: to multiply. Just like any other being, including us. And being both very lethal and very contagious doesn’t help it do that (not that it’s trying). Earlier well-known coronaviruses like SARS and MERS got that balance wrong. Because that’s what it is: a trade off between lethality and contagiousness. Neither can be too high.

SARS is noted by the WHO for a case fatality rate (CFR) of 9.6%. At that percentage, with the lethality and contagiousness it had/has, the virus lacks the time to jump from old host to new host, especially when existing and potential hosts are being isolated. MERS had a 34% CFR, and obviously didn’t prevail long.

MERS never even really left Saudi Arabia (and appears to have never achieved human-to-human transmission). SARS did get to other countries, I remember especially Canada, but that whole epidemic was over in 7 months.

 

You need the right amount of contagiousness combined with the right amount of lethality in order to have a pandemic. Jump from host to host, but not too fast, because in no time every potential host would be infected and develop antibodies (herd immunity). And not too lethal, because not enough “old hosts” would be left to infect enough “new hosts”.

The present SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus appears to have struck a delicate balance. People may say it’s not all that contagious, and it’s not so lethal, but it’s those qualities that enabled it to be a pandemic. One thing it hasn’t achieved yet is becoming endemic, and we would be wise to keep it that way. But the odds that we will have a vaccine before we can do that are slim.

Where to go from here is very opaque. People shout out for the world to be opened, but all they will get is a small part of that world. Mass events, bars, restaurants, subways, planes, and so much more, can no longer function the way they did. As long as the virus is out there, it may be ‘only’ modestly contagious and lethal, but enough that people will be willing to avoid many things that were considered normal before 2020.

That will lead to huge changes in society, enormous amounts of jobs that will not return. If we fail to adapt to those things as badly as we failed in our lockdowns, the changes can only become even larger, even deeper, until there may be little left that we still readily recognize.

There are still very few, if any, countries where everyone is tested for SARS-CoV-2. We will need to test everyone at least once a week, and twice on Sundays. And isolate whoever tests positive. It didn’t need to come to this, but we all screwed up something awful, except for a very small number of countries and societies.

 

Get ready for the next round; there is no other way out. And if we let the virus become endemic, and it returns in waves of every year or so, the testing regimen will have to continue too. Until there is a vaccine, but that may never come. Or we reach herd immunity, but that is merely a fickle concept used mostly for cattle and may never come either. Or only at the cost of millions of lives.

We need to prevent the virus from “finding” new hosts. It is that easy. And there are ways to do it. But they don’t rhyme with “I won’t give up my freedom for your safety”. If that’s the route we take, we’re all going to live in very small and separated worlds. And what does “freedom” mean anymore then?

It’s obviously much easier to join the crowd and claim Bill Gates wants to force vaccinate us all, and the elites want to enslave us; and no doubt there’s a few psychos with crazy dreams. But maybe just maybe this is, or should be, more about us, about what we do, what powers we have, and what we do with those.

If the elites, or whoever else, wants to use the virus to make you their bitch, don’t let them. But do you really believe that letting a virus with just the right mix of lethal and contagious, run wild and undetected in your society, is the way to achieve that? Or might it be better to wear a face mask in public for a bit and get tested, or test yourself, until the virus is gone?

If you choose door number one, don’t you agree that you should blame yourself for that choice, not the so-called elites? Maybe you should take responsibility for your own lives, not blame whatever goes wrong on others. Maybe that’s a higher degree of freedom than saying we can’t do anything about it anyway, so let 50 million people die as long as I am free to go to McDonalds.

And you would be playing into Bill Gates’s hands to boot if you do that, provided you believe that he wants to depopulate the planet. How’s that work, he’s your bogeyman, him and the elites, and therefore you give them what they want? They want to depopulate, so you say sure, let the virus roam, while you could prevent it from doing that?

You might want to look up “freedom” in a dictionary.

 

 

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Thank you.

 

 

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Sep 282017
 
 September 28, 2017  Posted by at 1:52 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Koyaanisqatsi

 

The film Koyaanisqatsi was released in 1982. The title means ‘life out of balance’ in the language of the Hopi, a Native American tribe who live(d) mainly in what is now north-east Arizona. It is directed by Godfrey Reggio with music by Philip Glass and cinematography by Ron Fricke. There are no actors, and no dialogue. Philip Glass’s music underlies a series of film fragments that contrast the beauty of American nature with the noise and pollution mankind has added to it. Wikipedia:

The film consists primarily of slow motion and time-lapse footage of cities and many natural landscapes across the United States. The visual tone poem contains neither dialogue nor a vocalized narration: its tone is set by the juxtaposition of images and music. Reggio explained the lack of dialogue by stating “it’s not for lack of love of the language that these films have no words. It’s because, from my point of view, our language is in a state of vast humiliation. It no longer describes the world in which we live.”

Due to its initial success, Reggio and Glass made two sequels to the film, Powaqqatsi (1988), meaning “parasitic way of life” or “life in transition”, and Naqoyqatsi (2002) which means “life as war”, “civilized violence” and “a life of killing each other”. If you haven’t seen them, they come highly recommended.

 

 

Koyaanisqatsi is an fitting term to describe not only our world in general, but also our economies. They are severely out of balance, and getting more so every day. But economies, like nature, need at least a minimum in balance. If that disappears, this lack of balance will tip them over. It is somewhat strange that this is not being recognized, and not even discussed.

It’s as if people think that when almost all wealth goes to a select very few, an economy can still continue to function. It can’t. The rich getting continually richer means the poor getting poorer (as overall growth is slow or non-existent), until the latter reach a point where they can no longer afford even basic necessities. That’s when parts of an economy will start dying, in the same vein that parts of a living body, an organism, die off when the supply of blood, nutrients and oxygen is cut off.

For an economy to function, it needs money to flow through it the same way a body needs blood to flow. If all the money gets increasingly concentrated in just a small area, the economy stagnates. We measure the flow of money as velocity:

 

 

If that graph would describe a human body, it would be in an ambulance on the way to ER. The only times velocity of money have been as low as today was during a Great Depression and a World War.

The ever richer rich cannot spend enough to keep things moving. They can buy stocks and bonds and houses, but they can’t buy all the groceries and clothing that the poor and middle class no longer can. But it’s those things that keep the economy humming along.

An economy as unbalanced as the one we presently have is bound to perish. The rich are killing their own economies by trying to get richer all the time. And they have no idea that’s what happens. It’s sort of baked into their understanding of what capitalism is. Or neo-liberalism if you want.

We should look upon, and handle, our economies and societies as living, and vibrant, systems, but we’re miles away from any such understanding. Our education systems are gross failures when it comes to this, and our media, owned by the rich, support anything that will make them richer. Even though that is suicidal for everyone involved. We are a tragic species in many more ways than one.

This has nothing to do with political views, with socialism or communism or any ism, it’s a simple empirical observation. It’s not about ‘everyone deserves their fair share’, but about if they don’t get their share, no economy will be left to hand out any shares even to the rich. If the rich want to get richer, they will need a functioning economy to get there.

In other words, someone will have to call a halt, or at least a pause, to the pace at which they’re getting richer, or their quest for riches will become self-defeating. Literally every single human being can grasp this, but hardly anyone even considers it. At their peril.

Here’s just a small example from CNBC, there are thousands just like it:

The Top 1% Of Americans Now Control 38% Of The Wealth

America’s top 1% now control 38.6% of the nation’s wealth, a historic high, according to a new Federal Reserve Report. The Federal Reserve’s Surveys of Consumer Finance shows that Americans throughout the income and wealth ladder posted gains between 2013 and 2016. But the wealthy gained the most, driven largely by gains in the stock market and asset values. The top 1% saw their share of wealth rise to 38.6% in 2016 from 36.3% in 2013.

The next highest 9% of families fell slightly, and the share of wealth held by the bottom 90% of Americans has been falling steadily for 25 years, hitting 22.8% in 2016 from 33.2% in 1989. The top income earners also saw the biggest gains. The top 1% saw their share of income rise to a new high of 23.8% from 20.3% in 2013. The income shares of the bottom 90% fell to 49.7% in 2016.

Now, you may think: 38%, how bad is that?, and you may be forgiven for thinking that way. After all, you’re in a majority there. To understand the severity of what’s happening, you need to look at the trends:

 

 

This one from the New York Times, annotated by Charles Hugh Smith, is very revealing too. What happens is that just as we find ourselves in a stagnating/shrinking economy, the rich get richer fast. They can do that because central banks are releasing trillions of dollars in QE, but also because the system is geared towards eviscerating the poor, and increasingly the middle class as well:

 

 

And this is amplified by the ultra-low rates policies central banks have been pushing over the past decade. They allow for the ever poorer to keep up appearances of wealth by plunging into debt ever deeper, but they don’t allow for their living conditions, their jobs, their savings, their pensions, to recover. They do the exact opposite. As this graph from Mike Lebowitz, one of many to show the same trendline, goes to show:

 

 

This is not an American phenomenon, though it’s more pronounced stateside. And Trump’s tax reform plans promise to only make it worse. It looks like Bernie Sanders might be the only politician in the US to stop it, but what are the odds of that? We live in a system that is warranting economic suicide for everyone including its own proponents, and we’re blindly following it like so many lemmings.

The Koyaanisqatsi film doesn’t have a happy Hollywood ending, and it makes no pretense of it. Our Koyaanisqatsi economy will not end with ‘they lived happily ever after’ either. The protagonists wouldn’t know how to achieve that. They don’t understand what makes an economy run, and keeps it running.

And they don’t want to understand, because they think it’ll make them less rich. Nobody gives balance a second’s thought. Presumably because they think the system, like nature, will eventually balance itself. And they’re right in that. They just haven’t considered what that balancing act might mean for them personally.

if you’re rich, good on you. But don’t forget what made it possible for you to gather your riches, or you’ll lose them, and probably a lot more too.