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On inappropriate reactions to COVID19

(This is a short expansion of a twitter stream-of-consciousness I horked up yesterday.)

The error almost everyone makes about COVID19 is to think of it as a virus that infects and kills people: but it's not.

COVID19 infects human (and a few other mammalian species—mink, deer) cells: it doesn't recognize or directly interact with the superorganisms made of those cells.

Defiance—a common human social response to a personal threat—is as inappropriate and pointless as it would be if the threat in question was a hurricane or an earthquake.

And yet, the news media are saturated every day by shrieks of defiance directed at the "enemy" (as if a complex chemical has a personality and can be deterred). The same rhetoric comes from politicians (notably authoritarian ones: it's easier to recognize as a shortcoming in those of other countries where the observer has some psychological distance from the discourse), pundits (paid to opine at length in newspapers and on TV), and ordinary folks who are remixing and repeating the message they're absorbing from the zeitgeist.

Why is this important?

Well, all our dysfunctional responses to COVID19 arise because we mistake it for an attack on people, rather than an attack on invisibly small blobs of biochemistry.

Trying to defeat COVID19 by defending boundaries—whether they're between people, or groups of people, or nations of people—is pointless.

The only way to defeat it is to globally defeat it at the cellular level. None of us are safe until all of us are vaccinated, world-wide.

Which is why I get angry when I read about governments holding back vaccine doses for research, or refusing to waive licensing fees for poorer countries. The virus has no personality and no intent towards you. The virus merely replicated and destroys human cells. Yours, mine, anybody's. The virus doesn't care about your politics or your business model or how office closures are hitting your rental income. It will simply kill you, unless you vaccinate almost everybody on the planet.

Here in the UK, the USA, and elsewhere in the developed world, our leaders are acting as if the plague is almost over and we can go back to normal once we hit herd immunity levels of vaccination in our own countries. But the foolishness of this idea will become glaringly obvious in a few years when it allows a fourth SARS family pandemic to emerge. Unvaccinated heaps of living cells (be they human or deer cells) are prolific breeding grounds for SARS-NCoV2, the mutation rate is approximately proportional to the number of virus particles in existence, and the probability of a new variant emerging rises as that number increases. Even after we, personally, are vaccinated, the threat will remain. This isn't a war, where there's an enemy who can be coerced into signing articles of surrender.

So where does the dysfunctional defiant/oppositional posturing behaviour come from—the ridiculous insistence on not wearing masks because it shows fear in the face of the virus (which has neither a face nor a nervous system with which to experience emotions, or indeed any mechanism for interacting at a human level)?

Philosopher Daniel Dennett explains the origins of animistic religions in terms of the intentional stance, a level of abstraction in which we view the behaviour of a person, animal, or natural phenomena by ascribing intent to them. As folk psychology this works pretty well for human beings and reasonably well for animals, but it breaks down for natural phenomena. Applying the intentional stance to lightning suggests there might be an angry god throwing thunderbolts at people who annoy him: it doesn't tell us anything useful about electricity, and it only tenuously endorses not standing under tall trees in a thunderstorm.

I think the widespread tendency to anthropomorphize COVID19, leading to defiant behaviour (however dysfunctional), emerges from a widespread misapplication of the intentional stance to natural phenomena—the same cognitive root as religious belief. ("Something happens/exists, therefore someone must have done/made it.") People construct supernatural explanations for observed phenomena, and COVID19 is an observable phenomenon, so we get propitiatory or defiant/adversarial responses, not rational ones.

And in the case of COVID19, defiance is as deadly as climbing to the top of the tallest hill and shaking your fist at the clouds in a lightning storm.

1314 Comments

1:

I gather that "folk psychology" is the flip side of the coin to "folk physics" (for want of a better term). There is evidence that babies have an instinctive set of beliefs about physics built in, such as the persistence of objects. If you show a baby a video of an animal going behind a bush and not appearing from the other side the baby will spend more time staring at this than if the animal subsequently reappears. Babies "know" that things don't just disappear.

Extrapolating from this, humans have two built-in mental frameworks for understanding things. They are the physics model, whereby the thing obeys simple knowable rules in a deterministic fashion, and the intentional model, whereby the thing has a human-like mind with mental states, desires, partial knowledge of the universe, and agency.

When humans are faced with something new they automatically try out both frameworks on it. If the physics model works, fine, its a thing with no mind. But if the physics model doesn't work then people fall back on the intentional model because its the only one they have left.

And by the way, just when you thought people couldn't get any dumber: https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/08/deep-dive-into-stupid-meet-the-growing-group-that-rejects-germ-theory/

2:

It dovetails with the human tendency to not think more than a step or two ahead; if we can fix the COVID-19 issue for me, then that's good for me. Lots of people will stop thinking about COVID-19 here - the problem is dealt with, because it's no longer my problem, and so I can ignore it now. We need, however, to think a bit further ahead - if COVID-19 is dealt with in the UK, what happens when we have international travel to or from an area where it's not controlled?

The human tendency is to say "we'll deal with that problem when it's a problem"; the difficulty is that dealing with it *now* is so much cheaper than waiting a decade for the problem to get worse and then trying to deal with it locally.

See also air pollution - we've made huge strides in dealing with localised pollution that made it problematic to live in some cities, but we've taken a "as long as the effects on me aren't too bad for now" approach to the issue where it affects the planet as a whole.

3:

In the USA, the problem is not so much that people are viewing the virus itself as a personalized enemy as that they identify the battle as being against their political opponents. The enemy at which the shrieks of defiance are directed are those who want to mandate vaccines or face masks, or those who believe they are being endangered by the willfully unvaccinated. (BTW -- this is not a "both sides equally at fault" case -- the first group is the more unhinged.)

4:

On this matter, I can recommend "Spike: The Virus vs. The People - the Inside Story" by Jeremy Farrar and Anjana Ahuja. It's more relevant to this topic than one would hope :-(

5:

The intentional stance doesn't actually work so well for people either, what it gives us in that regard is conspiracy theories.

6:

The trouble is that, like Lamarck, Bernard was wrong about the sort of germs being discussed but was right about many other 'diseases'. In at least birds and mammals, behaviour and related skills are at more Lamarckian than Darwinian. And most eyesight defects, cardiovascular and many intestinal problems are more Bernardian than Pasteurian.

But it is amazing at how many people in the medical profession don't accept that, even today, and it was a majority within my memory. While this is not the same delusion as the one OGH described, it is very similar, and similarly convert what is a generalised problem into an attack.

I agree with the intentional stance interpretation, but I don't think the blinkered viewpoint is due to that. I think that it's due to the anti-scientific attitude of the majority of people, including most of those in power in many countries (and, in the case of the UK, for centuries). This could be regarded as part of the discrimination against Asperger's people, but I don't think it is - it's another consequence of an underlying cause.

The blinkered viewpoint has been described as both completely unscientific by most of the leading scientists on COVID (see Spike), and actively harmful to the countries that adopt it. No, I don't understand the mindset, but I don't understand the human race in many ways.

7:

I've felt for a long time now that most people want simple answers to problems. Even people who really do know better. Life just can't be this complicated.

So when the only answers provided by experts or those in the know, it must be a hoax, conspiracy, whatever. There MUST BE another answer.

Which takes us know all of the bad paths.

In my few years ago fight against YEC I was plain flabbergasted by how people would rail against the lies being told by scientists world wide while using their phones GPS system to navigate around town. And if you tried to explain that most of the science they were railing against was required to make their phone exist they just refused to believe it.

The world just had to be simpler than it really is.

YEC = Young Earth Creationism. Back by science. In their minds. Oy vey.

8:

"Which takes us know all of the bad paths."

DOWN

9:

Someone (at this blog, maybe) once likened COVID to Romero-style zombies: you can't bargain with them, they're only interested in infecting you.

only tenuously endorses not standing under tall trees in a thunderstorm

I think it was in one of his earlier Discworld novels that Sir PTerry described a person's foolishness as on the same level as someone going out to the top of a high hill in a thunderstorm while wearing copper armour and shouting "All gods are bastards!"

10:

Unfortunately, the precedent for handling diseases in the West argues against you. Since the 1950s, very few diseases have been eradicated. Most have just been eradicated in the developed world, and still linger in the developing world. That is the model I think a lot of world leaders, and a large subset or majority of the Western population is trying to replicate here. As far as they're concerned, "it worked with HIV". There's a reason that I asked on this blog: what do we do if the next new disease is cholera-based? I guess I should expand the question to what if it's malaria based? Both could still mutate.

11:

In this contect it is worth paying attention to how much of an outlier the humanism which gave us the UN Charter of Universal Rights was.

It is not even half wrong to say that happened in, and only because, the heavy haze of post-traumatic shock, as clearly signalled by all the "Never Again!" language.

The subsequent 20-25 years were the largest and most generous handout of quality-of-life improvements in all of human history, which meant that only those outside or on the fringes of the western worlds seemingly endless party, found reason to grow grudges.

But ever since OPEC busted our party in 1973, the usual, by which I mean "as in the last five thousand years", mentality of "us vs. them" has slowly but surely crept back in, but with the very significant twist that telecommunication continuously reminds us of how many "them" there actually are.

WHO was founded on, and in, that "never again" haze, where nobody could even imagine why anybody would not cooperate fully in vaccination plans etc. etc. and like all other UN institutions, including IPCC, this foundational optimism seems terribly quaint the current and much more natural "us vs. them" world.

It is not at all obvious to me that humans even can feel empathy with all the N billion other humans, and since even making it look like they do, again, would require environmentally unsustainable (ie: exponential) growth in free handouts of bread&circus, it's not going to happen.

Both Covid-19 and climate change already are, and increasingly will become, demonstratively blameless instruments of "respectable" political power, precisely like the EU-memberstate coast-guard boats, sailing out to rescue drowning refugees in the Mediterranean, but doing so very slowly.

In the not-even-pretending-to-be-respectable end, we have not quite yet seen facistoid propaganda outlets run celebratory "%f THEM dead from COVID-19" banner headlines, but their coverage of the situation in India got close.

As Charlie points out: "Us vs. them" is a totally stupid strategy against threats not suffering from the same deficient mental modelling, so yeah, it's going to be ugly, but history, always written by the victors/survivors, will surely record that they, 'them', the victims really did it to themselves.

12:

Cholera is unlikely to be a major pandemic threat: we know how it works and we know how to treat it, even without antibiotics. (Oral rehydration -- and correct sanitation to ensure the bacteria don't get into the drinking water supply -- works well. It used to kill millions and it still infects millions, but deaths are through the floor thanks to rehydration treatment.)

Malaria ... Malaria is, summed over time, probably the most lethal disease in human history. But a side-effect of COVID19 has been a massive acceleration of R&D work on mRNA vaccines, and apparently there's an mRNA-based Malaria vaccine with >70% effectiveness in advanced human clinical trials right now.

Really, COVID19 has done for mRNA vaccine research what the second world war did for jet engines (they'd have come along anyway, but the war put them on fast-forward).

I'm more worried that the next pandemic will be something that hits one of our staple food crops just as climate change is hitting agriculture hard. If the planetary harvest of (pick any one) maize, wheat, rye, soy beans, rice, or potatoes got halved then there'd be mass starvation and quite possibly revolutions and civil wars (as happened during the Arab Spring, due to futures speculation in the wake of 2008 causing the price of bread to spike throughout the Middle East). The Syrian civil war is estimated to have killed 2% of the pre-war population -- making it significantly worse as a per capita cause of fatalities than COVID19, albeit only in Syria. A global crop failure would be very bad indeed ...

13:

Damian @ 5: The intentional stance doesn't actually work so well for people either, what it gives us in that regard is conspiracy theories.

That is a very interesting thought.

I'd say that there are two separate things going on here.

1. Applying the intentional stance to distant public figures. The trouble is that our built-in theory of the mind relies on a bunch of cues; body language, choice of words, response in conversation, emotional affect etc. When we are watching the carefully controlled performances that our public figures are forced to put on those cues are either distorted or completely missing. So we get the wrong answers, and it becomes much easier to dehumanise them and declare that "they" are all corrupt, or whatever. This is why even today politicians need to spend time "pressing the flesh" out in their constituencies; meeting a politician in person is a very different experience to seeing one on the TV.

2. Applying the intentional stance to institutions. Institutions are of course made up of people, but the behaviour of the institution is an emergent phenomenon that cannot be explained by looking at one individual within it (including the CEO). This, I think, is where conspiracy theories come from. The behaviour of an institution towards an individual appear to be anything from deeply caring to seemingly malicious, and its quite possible for a single individual to experience both. When you listen to cases of institutional neglect you get the individuals saying things like "We've been loyal customers for many years; how can it do this to us?". This is very much assigning an intentional stance towards the institution. Once you start doing this, it becomes very easy to infer actual malice on the part of the institution, and hey presto, you have a conspiracy theory.

There are other drivers of conspiracy theory of course; the feeling of empowerment that comes from the secret truth, the existential validation of being at the centre of vital events in history, and the extent to which cynical individuals can amplify the above for their own profit. But I think the seed is probably the assignment of intentional stances to institutions.

14:

By the way, if you want a demonstration of the "folk physics", see this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIxYCDbRGJc

The orang-utan *definitely* knows how things are supposed to work. (And apologies to any simian librarians who happen to be watching: I'M NOT RESPONSIBLE for the title of the video)

15:

The only disease that I can say with any certainty as being Bernardian is diabetes. Even within my own lifetime, another disease clearly Bernardian (stomach ulcers) was confirmed to be Pasteurian. The little corkscrew bugs literally drill into the lining of your stomach. Antibiotics clear them up. While it is doubtful, I can't help but wonder if cardiovascular disease couldn't be similar... it's pretty fringe, but I've read of some who hypothesize smaller-than-believed-possible microbes that cause plaque buildups in blood vessels. And cancer? Woo-boy, who's to say that most of it's not viral in origin. Some types are known to be so.

Jesus, but germ theory is so obviously correct that there was a Roman who managed to figure it out from first principles before anyone had the technology to know it with certainty. Seriously, wtf.

16:

Charlie: "But the foolishness of this idea will become glaringly obvious in a few years when it allows a fourth SARS family pandemic to emerge."

In the USA, we are clearly in wave 4 and with a new variant. We are far closer to 'a new pandemic' than we should be.

17:

No. Why Helicobacter pylori should cause trouble to some people and not others is unknown, but it might well be caused by getting out of balance in some way. Or might be for some other reason - we don't know.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stomach-ulcer/causes/

Again, diverticulitis and many intestinal cancers are usually (but not always) caused by unsatisfactory diets, which in turn cause unsatisfactory got flora.

Most cardiovascular disease is definitely caused by lifestyle, including diet, exercise, stress etc. Again, not always.

I can assure you that it has been definitely known for some decades what causes many cancers, and it's fairly rarely viruses. Others are, and many cancers have unknown causes.

Vitamin (especially C and D) deficiency makes you much more susceptible to many diseases, including at least some cancers.

The above is why many public health specialists say that we should be focussing on prevention, not treatment.

18:

@Damian, @Paul : we are small tribe (~100-200 individuals) hierarchical apes.
Our brain hes not been selected for solving large scale problems.

It did not have to either, the past 200.000 years have been mostly hunter gatherers with 10000 years of ground scratching and goat herding in smallish communities.

The real Darwinian pressure at the species level has mostly been surviving crowd illnesses and playing small scale social games to keep enough status to find a mate.

Even the brightest of us are on full autopilot 90% of their wake up time and following the current fashion (whatever the subject) is the easy way to coast. Thinking is expensive. Many people do not want to think. It's painful.

I do not think that rational explanation is the way out of our current covid or climate predicaments.

Making the "right" behavior fashionable is the only way. We need efficient propaganda.

19:

Correction: "diverticulitis, at least some intestinal cancers and many other intestinal woes".

21:

Lifestyle and cardiovascular disease correlate. Obviously, that means it's lifestyle... it couldn't possibly be that people living modern lifestyles are exposed to microbes that those living non-modern lifestyles see only rarely or never. Gotcha.

And Heliobacter just happens to be attacking people with poor nutrition. Until they get antibiotics, then it doesn't re-attack them, just... because.

Also, there exist no plausible mechanisms for microbes/viruses to instigate most cancers.

Thank you for assuring me, mostly-anonymous internet denizen. I have seen the error of my ways. How much does your newsletter subscription cost? Even if I have to tell my kids there's no money for the karate lessons, I am signing up. (They'll thank me later.)

22:

I doubt that OGH is interested, so I shall not respond.

He and others will notice that I grossly over-simplified, omitting genetics and many other known complications. Possibly a mistake.

23:

There are also many, many actors, at all scales, deliberately abusing this cognitive bias (assumption that viruses have intentionality) but also rest of the full set of tools for manipulation of humans, to affect ("effectorize") various aspects of the pandemic response for their own reasons. There is no vacuum free of such (attempted) manipulation. (There are many active efforts to counter such malignant manipulation.)

The US is particularly stark; much of the resistance to effective anti-pandemic measures is driven by propaganda relentlessly produced and distributed by political partisans, and the net effect is so obvious in COVID-19 statistics that a few R states have stopped or slowed down their reporting.
But there are also less obvious operators, like commercial real estate interests, organizations of small businesses, that are all advocating for making the crass trade of mass death and disability for improved profits. And orgs like pro-pandemic (anti-NPIs/anti-Vax) churches are also active, for varied reasons.

If I wanted to rile up the paranoid anti-Chinese right wing, I'd start mainstreaming the notion that China is taking draconian measures that eliminate outbreaks because they've analysed the long-COVID data (possible long-term or lifelong heart/lung/brain/fertility damage, at the very least) and have decided that it will be in their national interest to minimize the percentage of their population that has been infected by SARS-CoV-2 relative to other countries, especially the USA. (Many think that the Chinese are lying about their numbers. They may be a little, but they are VERY serious about suppressing outbreaks.) The line of attack would be that some anti-vaxxer/anti-masker propaganda is Chinese-backed and motivated by an attempt to improve the long term relative population health of Chinese citizens relative to other countries. Bonus; if the Chinese are actually doing this, they might stop.
(Yes, there has been talk in China very recently about shifting the suppression strategy because Delta is so infectious. So far, no significant shift.)


24:

Here in the U.S. it's not all of our leaders who are acting so selfishly. There's a strong divide between those who want to do the best that science can tell them is the best response and those who want to follow leaders - false messiahs.

I am still mystified by what the anti-vaxx assholes hope to gain by spreading their falsehoods & misinformation.

I've been told various things, but none of them make any sense?

25:

possible long-term or lifelong heart/lung/brain/fertility damage, at the very least

You mean like this?

https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/difficulty-thinking-after-covid/116556/

https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/covid-19-associated-with-long-term-cognitive-dysfunction-acceleration-of-alzheimer-s-symptoms-800060091.html

De Erausquin’s team assessed the patients three to six months after they were infected with the coronavirus, measuring factors such as cognitive abilities, emotional reactivity, motor function and coordination. For example: Could the patients recall names and phone numbers, or where they put things? Could they retrieve the right word at the right time?

He was most struck by three findings: One, he said, was the frequency with which people who had been exposed to the coronavirus had subsequent problems with memory. About 60 percent had cognitive impairment, and for 1 in 3, the symptoms were severe.

Second, his findings indicate that the severity of a covid-19 patient’s illness does not predict cognitive problems. “What puts you at risk of having the cognitive problems is just having been infected, regardless of how badly ill you were,” he said. “You may have had very mild covid, but if you were infected and you are older, you are at risk of having these issues.

And, third, losing the ability to smell, which has been commonly reported among covid-19 patients, is correlated with cognitive troubles. “They track together quite well,” de Erausquin said. “The more severe your lack of smell, the more severe your cognitive impairment.” (The olfactory nerves, which control your ability to smell, are the only ones directly connected to the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain. Nerves for the other senses go through the thalamus, which relays their signals to the cerebral cortex.)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/dementia-alzheimers-covid-research-link/2021/07/29/bccef096-f07d-11eb-a452-4da5fe48582d_story.html

I confess the part I bolded bothers me. If being vaccinated helps prevent hospitalization etc but not infection, which may be the case with Delta+, then that doesn't bode well for the Anglo-American "herd immunity by letting infections run wild" strategy.

26:

Paul @ 1: And by the way, just when you thought people couldn't get any dumber: https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/08/deep-dive-into-stupid-meet-the-growing-group-that-rejects-germ-theory/

But where did this come from? Did these idiots just wake up one day and reject the whole history of Western Science? Or were they motivated in some way by lies & disinformation?

If the latter, where did it originally come from? Cui bono?

27:

I am still mystified by what the anti-vaxx assholes hope to gain by spreading their falsehoods & misinformation.

According to the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the originators of at least 65% of the antivax disinformation on the Internet are gaining money, in some cases lots of it, and Big Tech gets up to $1.1 billion in advertising out of it…

https://www.counterhate.com

https://252f2edd-1c8b-49f5-9bb2-cb57bb47e4ba.filesusr.com/ugd/f4d9b9_b7cedc0553604720b7137f8663366ee5.pdf

https://252f2edd-1c8b-49f5-9bb2-cb57bb47e4ba.filesusr.com/ugd/f4d9b9_00b2ad56fe524d82b271a75e441cd06c.pdf

28:

Charlie:
It's the Politicos, posturing & lying, even ( particularlry? ) idiots like BoZo who have had the bug....

Paul
That last link is terrifying - I'm expecting it to really take off in the USA -as LAvery notes.

David L
Life just can't be this complicated. Oh yes, it can!
Has anyone else here come across the US-based Q-&-A session called "Quora" - there's a persistent subset of Cretinists in there, fucking it up, for everyone else.

P H-K
WHO was founded on, and in, that "never again" haze, where nobody could even imagine why anybody would not cooperate fully in vaccination plans etc.
Yeah, right KILL ALL the Taliban & Da'esh, OK?
[ Yes, I know, stupid US arseholes using vaccination programmes a cover - kill them too! ]
Reminds me - In a "liberal" society - what does one do about people deliberately spreading lies that kill people? Like, especially the Anti-Vaxxers. There must be some way, short of killing them all, to shut them up, for all our sakes? ]

Barry
BUT - that is "intentional". Intentional by the Rethuglican know-nothings who crawl to IQ45

EC
Spot on.
I had worsening gut problems for years, in spite of a a healthy diet - until I was unintentionally "cleaned out".
Since then, nary a twinge. Something truly 'orrible had made a home in my guts ... until.

JBS
I am still mystified by what the anti-vaxx assholes hope to gain by spreading their falsehoods & misinformation.
Can someone help clear this up?
... Ah Rbt Prior has it ..
Personal Profits at the expense of little people's deaths.
Nothing new to see here.

29:

Charlie Stross @ 12: Cholera is unlikely to be a major pandemic threat: we know how it works and we know how to treat it, even without antibiotics. (Oral rehydration -- and correct sanitation to ensure the bacteria don't get into the drinking water supply -- works well. It used to kill millions and it still infects millions, but deaths are through the floor thanks to rehydration treatment.)

FWIW, there IS a Cholera vaccine. I got it in 2003. The immunity it confers appears to be good for about a year.

The big news here in the U.S. yesterday was the Pentagon announcing that all Armed Forces Service Members are required to be vaccinated by September 15.

That gave me a kind of WTF moment, because they didn't do it that way when I was in the Army. If the Army (or any other branch of service) thought you needed to be vaccinated against something they just lined everyone up and vaccinated them. Refusing to be vaccinated was an UCMJ Article 92 violation (Failure to obey a lawful order).

It can and has led to courts martial and BAD CONDUCT DISCHARGES.

30:

Reminds me - In a "liberal" society - what does one do about people deliberately spreading lies that kill people? Like, especially the Anti-Vaxxers. There must be some way, short of killing them all, to shut them up, for all our sakes?

Two points. Firstly, killing people is generally wrong, even if they're murderous fuckwits: it's far preferable to de-escalate the roots of conflict and then work on de-programming them. This seems to have born fruit in Northern Ireland: I hope it can be applied elsewhere, too, although I'm not terribly hopeful in the case of the Taliban (who have acquired the status of a national liberation movement thanks to repeated foreign invasions since 1979) ...

Second point. Prisons, with restrictions on contact/communication with the outside world, are one solution. In the UK and the EU, the European Convention on Human Rights provides an exception to the right to freedom of speech specifically for public health -- its drafters based it on the UNCHR, and the drafters of that document remembered the 1919-21 flu at first hand. It's clearly what it's there for: we should work out how to use it.

Americans tend to take a fundamentalist view of their first amendment right to free speech, which is somewhat stronger, but the US Supreme Court during the first world war also put a limit on the 1st amendment: hark back to "falsely shouting fire in a crowded theatre". At that time, it was used explicitly to suppress political dissent in time of war -- but if you reframe the principle as "free speech ends when the speech in question consists of malicious falsehoods that will lead to mass fatalities", it becomes a bit clearer (and a lot closer to the ECHR yardstick).

I'd want to see a formal legal test before locking people up for speech crimes -- connect the malicious falsehoods to a direct profit motive (marketing chloroquine or anal bleach would be good examples, as would boosting commercial rental receipts). But encouraging other people to die to boost your profit margin is utterly reprehensible and should be easy to explain as a crime to the general public.

As for duration/punishment? I'm not advocating locking anti-vaxx opinion shapers as punishment, even though many of them deserve it -- I'm advocating it as a public health measure. They can get out on parole if they agree to publicly recant, then shut up about the subject: yank 'em back inside if they don't stick with the deal. Otherwise, they stay in detention without access to social media, phones, or email until the pandemic is officially over. That may take a long time, thanks in part to their own efforts ...

31:

That gave me a kind of WTF moment, because they didn't do it that way when I was in the Army. If the Army (or any other branch of service) thought you needed to be vaccinated against something they just lined everyone up and vaccinated them.

The reasoning behind the COVID vaccines being optional previously was that they were deemed experimental, and being rolled out on an emergency product license waiver permitted by the FDA without the full mountain of regulatory compliance paperwork being filed.

Remember the disease has only been A Thing for 20 months at this point. Normally it takes multiple years -- decades, even -- for a vaccine to be approved as safe.

Also remember, we do not conduct medical experiments on unwilling subjects. (Per the Nuremberg protocols: Nazi doctors were hanged for violating them.) Civilians don't get the vaccines involuntarily, you have to agree to the jab. Military personnel, under orders? Not really legal if the treatment is still officially experimental.

The picture has changed now, thanks to hundreds of millions of doses being delivered: what the safety filings lack in terms of duration of follow-up they make up for in breadth of application. So if the FDA formally granted approval for the vaccines for routine (non-emergency) human use, that'd make it legal to order armed service members to be vaccinated.

32:

In some cases, the latter. In others, it's the conscious refusal to admit to facts that contradict their prejudices. The open and flagrant denial of science is a new social ill, associated with 'social media', but I remember otherwise intelligent people denying proven knowledge in the 1960s. They just denied they did it, and refused to check up - as still happens today.

It's not helped by scientists and experts (even real ones) overselling their favoured dogma, which is where I came in. We have seen examples of that on this blog, time and time again - e.g. the dogma that FTL communication necessarily implies breaches of causality.

33:

John Oyler @ 21: Lifestyle and cardiovascular disease correlate. Obviously, that means it's lifestyle... it couldn't possibly be that people living modern lifestyles are exposed to microbes that those living non-modern lifestyles see only rarely or never. Gotcha.

I'm pretty sure those "modern lifestyle" diseases were with us all along. But in former days, say up to the mid 19th century they were masked by other now preventable diseases. People died before those "modern lifestyle" diseases manifested to kill them.

34:

What you say has more history behind it than just the legal aspects.

According to my uncle (who was a medical officer of health), more people died from the old TAB (typhoid etc.) vaccine than were saved by it; I used to have it every 6 months, and can witness how bad it was. With what I know now, he was referring to the direct benefit to a person who was exposed, rather than to the general one of preventing an outbreak; in terms of the population as a whole, it was highly beneficial.

The belief that it is unethical to consider the population benefit (rather than just the individual one) was the reason for original decision in the UK not to vaccinate boys against HPV, which was a pretty clear epidemiological mistake, and has now been reconsidered.

35:

Robert Prior @ 27:

I am still mystified by what the anti-vaxx assholes hope to gain by spreading their falsehoods & misinformation.

According to the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the originators of at least 65% of the antivax disinformation on the Internet are gaining money, in some cases lots of it, and Big Tech gets up to $1.1 billion in advertising out of it…

https://www.counterhate.com

https://252f2edd-1c8b-49f5-9bb2-cb57bb47e4ba.filesusr.com/ugd/f4d9b9_b7cedc0553604720b7137f8663366ee5.pdf

"https://252f2edd-1c8b-49f5-9bb2-cb57bb47e4ba.filesusr.com/ugd/f4d9b9_00b2ad56fe524d82b271a75e441cd06c.pdf

Yeah, I know that part, but it still mystifies me.

Don't these people ever do any kind of market research? Every old fashion snake oil salesman knows that killing the "marks" is bad for repeat business.

36:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/moderna-may-be-superior-pfizer-against-delta-breakthrough-odds-rise-with-time-2021-08-09/

This is a summary article by a news organization.

It reports findings by the Mayo Clinic that vaccine effectiveness in the US is down in July (= vs Delta); to 76% for Moderna and 42% for Pfizer vaccines.

It reports an Israeli study finding an overall breakthrough infection rate of 1.8% in the fully vaccinated. They further report that the "hinge", time-wise, is five months; if you received your second dose more than five months ago your risk of breakthrough infection rises. (Risk of breakthrough infection is also correlated with age.)

I don't think the next several months are going to involve a surge of autumnal normalcy, somehow.

37:

Don't these people ever do any kind of market research? Every old fashion snake oil salesman knows that killing the "marks" is bad for repeat business.

That hasn't stopped people selling vitamin cures to cancer patients…

38:

Charlie
your point # 2 - the EHCR exception in prisons for liars who kill people, if indirectly is one I definitely hadn't even heard of.
I like it. I also like the tying to a "Profit" motive, too.
As you say - now comes the difficult bit - applying it & jailing the bastards ( Without creating "martyrs" )

39:

I don't think the next several months are going to involve a surge of autumnal normalcy, somehow.

They might, if enough people decide 'fuck this' and just proceed with business as usual, accepting the higher risk of disease (mostly suffered by older/sicker people, so not their problem).

I was told by someone last year that Covid wasn't such a big problem because it was mostly the "dead wood" dying, who would die soon anyway, and it wasn't right to make everyone else suffer. I keep hearing that from Canadians deep in the Republican bubble…

Or at least the appearance of normalcy. Look at Alberta, for example…

40:

It appears to me that we have a ton of diseases already. When I was young, there were not a hell of a lot of folks with diabetes. Then, one that seems to have hit a *lot* of people I know, mostly women, is fibromyalgia, which, again, did not seem to be anywhere near as prevalent back then.

My SO tells me that it hit her in her thirties, under extreme stress, and got a virus.

41:

I'd tend to agree; certainly the group of people I know (of) who have the highest Covid infection rate are Con party politicians.

42:

Kind of young in the thread about the immense damage being caused by belief in the agency of "small obligate intracellular parasites", so will keep it terse: here's a recent take (with refs) on the not-well-known-enough story on peanut allergies being caused by pediatricians recommending (based on theory not grounded in data) strict avoidance of peanuts among infants.
The peanut snack that triggered a fresh approach to allergy prevention
(nature outlook, 02 December 2020)

Literally, the incidence of peanut allergy is 5-10 times higher among children who were oh-so-carefully protected from exposure to peanuts when young. Was discovered because a researcher noticed a difference in the incidence of peanut allergies among UK and Israeli children.

43:

Charlie Stross @ 31:

That gave me a kind of WTF moment, because they didn't do it that way when I was in the Army. If the Army (or any other branch of service) thought you needed to be vaccinated against something they just lined everyone up and vaccinated them.

The reasoning behind the COVID vaccines being optional previously was that they were deemed experimental, and being rolled out on an emergency product license waiver permitted by the FDA without the full mountain of regulatory compliance paperwork being filed.

The BioThrax Anthrax vaccine was still considered "experimental" and under "Emergency Use Authorization" in 2003 when I was lined up to receive it.

AFAIK, it was STILL under that "Emergency Use Authorization" when I got the other five shots in the series. I don't know if it EVER received final approval from the FDA. But that didn't slow the Army down from vaccinating me in the least.

The need for vaccinations to combat the threat from Covid-19 is obviously greater than the need for the Anthrax vaccinations ever was.

Even if I had been sent over there to clean pigpens & sheep corrals, there was never a risk of developing a life threatening case ... and likelihood of my spreading it along to my fellow soldiers was NIL. There's good reason why the military does (and should do) such things "by the numbers".

Military readiness. If they need you, they need you NOW. And they don't need you to be infecting other soldiers1. Covid-19 is a much greater threat to military readiness than Anthrax ever was.

New England Journal of Medicine: An Outbreak of Covid-19 on an Aircraft Carrier

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_on_USS_Theodore_Roosevelt

Also remember, we do not conduct medical experiments on unwilling subjects. (Per the Nuremberg protocols: Nazi doctors were hanged for violating them.) Civilians don't get the vaccines involuntarily, you have to agree to the jab. Military personnel, under orders? Not really legal if the treatment is still officially experimental.

The vaccine was safe enough to release to the civilian population under "emergency use authorization", so vaccinating soldiers against the pandemic IS NOT conducting "medical experiments on unwilling subjects", so that argument doesn't hold up.

I haven't heard a single good argument for why the Pentagon didn't already have vaccinations in train. I will accept that it was important to prioritize older people & persons with high risk conditions who were most vulnerable, but we're well past that now, with vaccine doses expiring & having to be discarded UNUSED.

At the very least the military should have begun mandatory vaccinations when the uptake among the civilian population stalled out and more doses were becoming available.

1 Plus it's an ALL VOLUNTEER force. You weren't drafted. You chose to join up. But when you did join up and took the oath, you voluntarily gave up some of your freedumbs.

44:

And, third, losing the ability to smell, which has been commonly reported among covid-19 patients, is correlated with cognitive troubles. “They track together quite well,” de Erausquin said. “The more severe your lack of smell, the more severe your cognitive impairment.” (
Yep. Very concerning. Thanks for the links; hadn't seen all of those.
I've posted a link or two about research results in this area (brain damage) here before; easy to find with scholar.google.com. (And have been avoiding getting infected with SARS-CoV-2 since before February 2020 because long term neurological sequelae were clearly possible. (Also SotMNs warned back then. :-))
Mask up, with a good mask/respirator like an N95. With Delta (and any variants of it that retain the high viral load) reducing the inoculum levels to where vaccine-stimulated antibody levels in the nose can have a good chance of clearing the virus quickly is perhaps important. I'm not waiting for "science" on this.

45:

"When I was young, there were not a hell of a lot of folks with diabetes."

Beware of sampling bias!

I do not know your age, but it is very likely that, people suffering from diabetes lived significantly shorter and much less socially active lives then.

Even though the Nobel Price for Insulin was handed out in 1923, it took half a decade before the quality of life for the affected even approached normal.

That said, yes, there is no doubt dietary intake of refined sugars has made the prevalence much worse.

46:

You appear to be confusing Type I diabetes (an autoimmune disease that kills off islet cells, reducing insulin production: mostly arrives in childhood or adolescence, or in the wake of acute pancreatitis) with Type II diabetes (reduced sensitivity to insulin: mostly arrives in middle-to-old age, correlates with abdominal fat deposits).

Despite both being called "diabetes" (which is actually a symptomatic diagnosis) these are very different diseases with different treatments.

47:

The same people who deny climate change, think Covid-19 is a hoax, that the election was stolen, and obsess over Qanon are the same people who thought fluoride in water was a Commie plot, were reading the Left Behind books and deciphering the Book of revelations, denying evolution, and collecting Jack Chick religious pamphlets.

The exact same people, the exact same mind set.

48:

The other relevant difference is that we are completely baffled why Type I should be increasing in prevalence, but have a fairly good idea why type II is.

49:

I agree with you on the dangers of sampling bias.

And yet....

I don't recall as a kid in the 60s ever meeting or hearing about any other child with T1 diabetes, autism, developmental issues, physical handicaps, cancer, etc.

Yes I know people did not talk about such things back then (for example, breast cancer was a taboo subject until first lady Betty Ford's diagnosis) and children were kept ignorant about such things. And yes, autism as a concept didn't exist back then (and you could make the argument that it may be over diagnosed today).

And yet...

We have several children just in our neighborhood alone with the above maladies.

Has there ever been a definitive study showing an increase in the rate of childhood maladies over time - and not just improvements in diagnosis?

Microplastics, forever chemicals, glyphosates, pesticides, etc. have all been shown to reduce sperm counts and fertility, cause Parkinson's and lower IQ levels in adults.

So are our children today sicker than children 50 years ago? And is it due to chemical pollutants?

50:

I believe that insurance companies will save us by denying coverage to businesses, organizations and even people who refuse to get vaccinated.

The worst thing the anti-vaxxers have done is give the Covid-19 virus opportunities to mutate further.

The Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and goes after kids.

The Epsilon variant could ignore the vaccines.

The Zeta variant could be as deadly as Ebola.

51:

Remember the disease has only been A Thing for 20 months at this point. Normally it takes multiple years -- decades, even -- for a vaccine to be approved as safe.

The various vaccines in use today are safe, they wouldn't BE in use if they weren't safe. Effectiveness is another matter, several vaccine candidates have been abandoned at trial level because they were not as good as the current crop of in-use vaccines. Merck lost a bundle of cash on their V590 and V591 vaccines after they pulled the plug a few weeks ago, not even attempting to put them forward for EUA. Hell, even the Russian Sputnik V vaccine product is safe, it's based on a couple of existing coronavirus vaccines even though its efficacy is questionable.

What the FDA is trying to do is to rigorously confirm that the vaccine manufacturers can continue to make their vaccines safely into the future, years and decades from now since they are expecting to produce, sell and dispense these vaccines for a long time to come. For that to happen there's a large amount of t-crossing and i-dotting, precursor supply chain guarantees, QA testing protocols, documentation and batch tracking and a hundred other things I don't know about or wouldn't consider unimportant but are seen as essential by the FDA.

52:

My pet theory: Covid-19 is the product of gain of function research performed at the biolab in Wuhan.

It is NOT a bioweapon and the lab does NOT engage in biowarfare research (it would be pretty stupid to put such a dangerous facility in the downtown of a major population center).

In general, gain of function research is a good thing in that it allows us to anticipate future diseases.

Provided it stays in the lab.

Someone at the Wuhan lab got sloppy with the containment protocols.

53:

"we are completely baffled why Type I should be increasing in prevalence"

Probably environmental factors (comment #49).

https://www.jdrf.org/blog/2020/02/18/more-people-being-diagnosed-type-1-diabetes/

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a nearly 30% increase in type 1 diabetes (T1D) diagnoses in the United States, with youth cases growing most sharply among diverse populations.

The CDC’s 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report, cites that in the United States, T1D diagnoses included 1.4 million adults, 20 years and older, and 187,000 children younger than 20.

That totals nearly 1.6 million Americans with T1D—up from 1.25 million people—or nearly 30% from 2017.


54:

Speaking as a rational animist...

I'd point out that you're largely programmed by a society that rather pointlessly derides animism. This is, again, the Scala Naturae speaking, where Atheism is supposed to be on the top, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are on the second rung, animism is at the bottom, and atheists often love Taoism and Buddhism and ignore the fact that they're explicitly animist.

In other words, figure out how much is programming and how much is rationality.

Now, here's the rational animist part.

I have no problem segregating out different levels of life: viruses, cells, organs, organisms. Fine. They all have that spark of creativity that some animists call a soul, as does everything else, in single and in aggregate.

The question for a rational animist isn't what a soul is, because that's endless recursing bullshit. Animistic religion wasn't (and isn't) about that stuff, it's about being aware of the relevant parts of the world using your limited human brain, that weirdly adapted organ that remembers songs and dances better than long stretches of words (Darwin got it wrong: music is adaptive for memory), and deals with interpersonal interactions in part by using specialized cells called mirror neurons.

Anyway, humans have mirror neurons that help us predict the behavior of others. How do you engage those neurons? By seeing the other as a person, animated by a soul. Just as a memory palace tries to engage human's bizarre memory for other purposes, rational animism tries to engage mirror neurons for data processing it by transforming inputs into "human" interactions.

So you want to predict the behavior of a virus? Start by treating it as a really, really stupid person that only interacts with your cells, and see if that gets you anywhere. It's not that "the" virus is a person. What's relevant is to test if personalizing covid19 data helps you deal with it better. If it does, great. If not, abandon that approach and try something else.

Nothing irrational about that.

Note that this has precisely nothing to do with authoritarian followers demonstrating their devotion to their Leader Figures by engaging in stupid and dangerous displays. That's bog standard cult behavior, nothing more.

55:
"My pet theory: Covid-19 is the product of gain of function research performed at the biolab in Wuhan."

This is probably not true. Reasons why are laid out briefly (but with references if more detail is needed) in The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2 as preamble to more probable theories of origin. Most of the article is technical, but I think the relevant paragraph (under Theories of SARS-CoV-2 origins) is accessible enough.

56:

As has been pointed out, humans anthropomorphize everything. This is probably hardwired (or as close to hardwired as higher cognitive functions get). Even biologists seem unable to discuss natural selection without using euphemisms like "advanced" vs "primitive" or an organism "seeking to adapt". We know what they really mean, but the constraints of language and thought force us to communicate in terms that humans can most easily relate to (ever curse the weather?).

Experts know better, but policy makers do not, cannot, because policy makers are not experts, they are representatives of constituencies.

Axiom: An elected official can only be as intelligent as the people who elected them.

"Intelligent" is here defined as "defining a problem, and weighing possible solutions, primarily using objective criteria."

How intelligent policy can be depends on how objective the constituents wish to be. This is a choice, which is based on motivational criteria. What do people want? There is no reason that I am aware of to presume that most people regard physical survival as their highest value in all situations, even in emergencies.

Were I to attempt to adopt the mental framework of people who resist vaccinations (I am not an anti-vaxxer) I would probably suggest that freedom of choice trumps risk when the risk is low enough. Most people do not know anyone who died or were hospitalized due to covid, so they can conclude that the odds of themselves or anyone they care about actually getting it are low enough to be acceptable, when weighted against other things they want to keep, such as employment. Plus, most people probably think that once vaccinated, you are safe regardless of what anyone else does, so why force people to vaccinate (few members of the general public understand natural selection well enough to get the mutation threat that Charlie mentioned).

If you're safe, and my employment is at risk, how dare you force me to vaccinate? Once this gets framed in an us vs them orientation, tribalism takes over, and people start getting stupid.

I once heard a woman being interviewed who had lost her husband to covid, and still refused to vaccinate herself. "What's the Matter with Kansas?"

The problem reaches it's crux, at least in the US, with school mandated masking requirements, and the pushback, sometimes legal, and sometimes from elected officials. Children cannot give informed consent, therefore someone must decide for them. But using which values?

Of course this is the US we are talking about, so lawsuits to follow. That might provide a resolution, but not quickly. Children may die.

The real problem we have here is the amount of empathy we have with people who do not have as much empathy as we do (the problem they have with us is our lack of in-group loyalty). We value reducing suffering, they value individual autonomy. Conflict ensues.

This doesn't have an objective answer, so expertise wont help.

57:

Axiom: An elected official can only be as intelligent as the people who elected them.

I know a bunch of elected and formerly elected people pretty well, since I'm an environmental activist.

To put it bluntly: this ain't true.

The basic problem is that it assumes there's a one-dimensional something called "intelligence" that all people can be ranked on. This is manifestly not true. Intelligence is multidimensional, probably extremely multidimensional. That's why, say, Greg Tingey, Elderly Cynic, Nojay, and I can all think each other are idiots, and be right in some regards and dead wrong in other regards. We're all very multidimensional beings here. Inevitably, on some of those dimensions we're closer to zeros than others are. That's humanity for you.

Politicians, like engineers and doctors, have a highly unusual set of skillset, based on both innate talent and learned (and practiced) skills. As with doctors, engineers, and plumbers, they do stuff I can understand and influence, but I could no more do their job than they could do mine.

One big part of their job is taking shit from people without having it destroy them. If you think this is easy, go listen to the open mic part of any city council meeting, and imagine sitting there taking this crap for hours every week, if not every day. They're up there with waitresses in their ability to handle crap, especially since most people think they're stupid and/or corrupt and treat them accordingly.

Another big part of their job is making complex decisions about stuff they're not expert on. Again, this is harder than it looks. It's tremendously easy to look stupid in this role (especially if all the choices are bad) and it's extremely easy to just do what your major donors tell you to do (e.g. corruption). Finding compromises that work well is hard. Doing it ethically is harder.

Then there's the high stamina, good people organizing skills (they all have offices) and so forth.

Now yes, there are a lot of politicians I have utter contempt for, Bojo and IQ.45 being only two. But I've learned that even ones I think are idiots can do stuff I can't, and I genuinely respect them for that. Well, I don't respect IQ.45, but that's because he has an almost perfect reverse Midas Touch.

58:

We value reducing suffering, they value individual autonomy.

Well, they value some people's autonomy. They are quite happy to shit all over my nieces because their skins aren't pink enough, interfere with their control of their bodies, dictate who they can date and marry, and police what they wear (to name just a bit of the "autonomy" my nieces won't have, if 'they' get their way).

They don't value autonomy. They value control, as long as they have it.

59:

"You appear to be confusing Type I diabetes ..."

No, I certainly do not, being nailed by genetics to the bulls-eye for Type2 risk myself.

But for the precise issue of "I saw no diabetics when I was a kid" the distinction is not relevant, because both types cut your life short.

60:

"I don't recall as a kid in the 60s ever meeting or hearing about any other child with T1 diabetes, autism, developmental issues, physical handicaps, cancer, etc."

Most likely because such children were sequestered away from society in specialized institutions.

As a child I knew several families which had children in such institutions, and we were not allowed to play with them, when they were visiting home, and everybody agreed that "it was best that way".

Later in life I got to know senior staff at one such institution, and learned more than I ever wanted to know, about the postwar society's intolerance of anything abnormal, and it's total disregard for the value of humans who would be unable to "contribute to society."

61:

"Intelligence is multidimensional, probably extremely multidimensional. That's why, say, Greg Tingey, Elderly Cynic, Nojay, and I can all think each other are idiots, and be right in some regards and dead wrong in other regards."

Absolutely. I have often said that's why I scored sky-high on a Mensa test; it tested PRECISELY those abilities I was best at. But I am not so stupid as to be unaware that they are not the only ones - just the ones that are easiest to test.

62:

I did, and am 73, so am in a good position to say. You have confused a huge number of unrelated things, which have different properties. In terms of the non-diseases, Poul-Henning Kamp (#60) is correct for some of the extreme cases, but I can witness that the general solution for most cases was to often beat the child into line (including for physical handicaps). It still is, to a great extent, as many of us can witness :-(

In terms of Type I diabetes, we know it's more common but not why. Duffy (#53) misspelled 'possibly' :-)

In terms of allergies and other auto-immune diseases, we know they're more common, Bill Arnold (#42) has pointed out one factor, but it's pretty certain it's not the only answer.

In many cases, sanitation (in many places), vaccines etc. have eliminated or vastly reduced old childhood diseases (e.g. TB) and, in others, they were diagnosed reliably only recently, so we don't know.

Yeah - it's complicated.

63:

It's almost certainly not true, though it looked awfully like a bioweapon when it was first analysed. Pretty well every scientist who thought that was a plausible hypothesis has accepted that what we know now (not then) makes it extremely implausible.

And, even if it was a bioweapon that first emerged in Wuhan, why should it have been China that created it? Why not some rogue elements within the USA's military-industrial complex, specifically trying to stir up anti-China hatred? It's even on the borderline of feasibility for a well-funded terrorist organisation.

64:

" It's the Politicos, posturing & lying, even ( particularlry? ) idiots like BoZo who have had the bug...."

With no discernible change in cognitive capacities ? ;)

65:

This describes exactly what I was referring to. Should we vaccinate for the benefit of the individuals, or the population? It's a separate aspect of 'inappropriateness', and people's views depend entirely where they are on the socialist / individualist spectrum.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-58170048

66:

Also worth noting that tests, including the MENSA intelligence test, measure not just what is easy to measure, but also what the test creators thought was important to measure.

And they suffer from the usual problem with metrics - once a metric is deemed "important", people will tend to do things that improve the metric regardless of whether they improve the underlying thing - and thus your teachers and mentors will almost certainly have trained you in ways that improve your test score, even without any active attempt to "cheat the system".

67:

OF COURSE its on Facebook
OF COURSE its mostly populated by USAians

68:

Smart people solve problems. The MENSA test and IQ tests in general are problem tests. Smart people get good marks in problem tests. Quelle surprise. And yes, I know there are all sorts of cultural and social things in such tests, language, visual comprehension etc. but statistically speaking the problem-solvers are the ones we look up to as smart.

We admire squirrels who work out how to get through puzzle trails, crows who can use sticks to get at food in a bottle and we call them smart because they solve problems but put them at a desk with a MENSA test on it they're not going to get anywhere.

69:

The bioweapon hypothesis has two key weaknesses, to my mind, leaving aside the actual genetics of the pathogen in question.

If it's a bioweapon, then it was obviously released either deliberately or accidentally. (Pick one, but not the other.)

Deliberate release: well, who the fuck would be stupid enough to release something with the properties of COVID19 without being prepared to (or already have) vaccinate(d) their own population? It serves no reasonable strategic goal and the potential for political blowback if a planned release was exposed is enormous.

Accidental release: bioweapon development laboratories can't afford to be sloppy. If they get sloppy, they slaughter their own population. See also the 1979 Sverdlovsk anthrax leak -- no surprise that it happened in the USSR in the twilight Brezhnev era (the same period that ultimately gave us the Chernobyl disaster). I find it hard to imagine that the authoritarian technocrats of the Chinese Communist Party wouldn't have learned the harsh lessons that process control failures when handling self-replicating weapons might possibly be problematic.

Finally: as bioweapons go, it's a bit shit. Yes, it's plausibly non-lethal to soldiers, but the incubation period and time to maximum morbidity in serious cases outstrip the likely duration of a modern high operational tempo war, and the age-stratified mortality would make it far more lethal among their own political leadership than among enemy combatants.

COVID19 as a bioweapon would have been an excellent choice during the first world war in Europe -- or maybe the second. But in modern conflicts, it's both obsolescent and dangerous.

70:

I agree with your first paragraph, and your second might well apply to some people, but my education was not like that, not at all. Yes, I was taught basic mathematics, vocabulary and use of English, but the vast majority of the skills I used in that test were either innate or I had learned on my own (usually from reading).

But my point stands - I happened to have a near-perfect skillset match with the things they were testing for. I can think of things they they did not test for (usually because they are harder to measure) where I would NOT do well!

71:

With no discernible change in cognitive capacities ? ;)
Well, we are talking about Bozo here.. ;-)

72:

I found this on the EBC - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-58066767 which tl;dr says "Covid may cause diabetes in Indians".

73:

Unsurprising: COVID19 binds ACE2, so plugs into the renin-angiotensin system which modulates blood pressure and lipid storage/obesity regulation. Type II diabetes as a side-effect would be totally peachy, but ... as I said, unsurprising.

If we're really lucky, research into COVID19 may clarify how metabolic system emerges and even point the way to a vaccine against it -- as it's a major killer these days (and I for one suffer from it) this would be very welcome.

74:

because they didn't do it that way when I was in the Army.

This one is a bit of an odd duck. If a vaccine is fully authorized then yes, they just do it.

But since this one is not they (the armed forces of the US) need a Presidential waiver before they can order it done.

Basically they are saying the waiver is coming so shut up and get ready for it.

75:

paws @ 71
Even so, I think he's got even worse & even wobblier & unfocussed & inconsistent since he emerged from hospital?
The mouthing off on any subject at all, with no follow-up or policies actually detectable .....
Or is that just me?

76:

There's also survivor and recall bias with childhood diseases and fatal accidents. People our age (I'm around Charlie's age) and older will say things like "kids didn't have those dangerous allergies when I was a child," by which they usually mean "nobody I knew was worried about things like anaphylactic shock when I was a child." But nobody worrying about it didn't mean people didn't have allergies: it meant that "the child just stopped breathing and died, we have no idea why" [with optional "God works in mysterious ways"] was sad, and fortunately rare. And even if someone thought "maybe if he hadn't been stung by that bee, he'd be okay," it wasn't talked about as "this allergy killed my nephew."

Or people will insist that their family's pool didn't have a fence, or nobody had seatbelts and it didn't hurt them, because the people who drowned in unattended pools or were killed in car crashes aren't here to say "well, you're OK, but I drowned and was buried at age 3."

77:

Absolutely, though it wouldn't rule out an insane terrorist group, but that's implausible on other grounds. That is in addition to the data in the Nature paper (and elsewhere) posted by Luke McCarthy pointing out that either the "gain of function research" or bioweapon (which result in very similar organisms) theories are implausible on genetic grounds.

The most interesting hint I have seen are the indications (and they are little more) that there was a precursor active in humans before November 2019. If so, that would strongly imply that their second origin hypothesis ("Natural selection in humans following zoonotic transfer") is correct, and the initial virus that spread around the world was the first major variant with increased transmissibility (i.e. the sequence of those variants goes that one, Alpha, Delta).

Anyway, that's the hypothesis I think is most likely.

78:

There's also survivor and recall bias ... "kids didn't have those dangerous allergies when I was a child"

What you say is true, but in fact there *has* been a considerable increase in food allergies over the past few decades. We don't know why (although there are lots of guesses). And I'd also be interested to know *why* we don't know why. Is it lack of research, or is it a particularly difficult question?

79:

Some things, yes, but others were easily distinguishable, many countries have good records going back a long time, and the increase in (say) Type I diabetes is clear. Yes, people had allergies (and I am over 15 years older), and anaphylaxis has been recognised for over a century, but I take your point. There is a lot of fashion in what goes on a death certificate, which applies especially to those who die of anno domini, and there certainly used to be for infant deaths.

80:

I haven't tracked down the original article, but here is a link to one of the indications:

https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-italy-timing-idUSKBN27W1J2

81:

"The bioweapon hypothesis has two key weaknesses, to my mind, leaving aside the actual genetics of the pathogen in question."

Besides almost all the military reasons for not using chemical weapons by modern armies apply to biologic weapons, even more so, so I highly doubt there is any serious, well funded, research in this domain.

See Bret Devereaux : "Collections: Why Don’t We Use Chemical Weapons Anymore?"

https://acoup.blog/2020/03/20/collections-why-dont-we-use-chemical-weapons-anymore/

The answer is not because of morality. It's because it is inefficient when compared to modern weaponry, unless maybe if your are a terrorist group.

82:

I think the lab leak hypotheses have been given undue weight due to having a really noisy PR team that's been working on it since at least early 2020. While the mere fact that some very sketchy people have been heavily promoting variations of the lab leak hypothesis doesn't mean it CAN'T be true, when the average epidemiologist says one thing and Bannon's people say another... I'm gonna bet on the epidemiologists.

There doesn't seem to be any genetic information in the virus to support artificial gain of function. At the same time, it's an unfalsifiable hypothesis - no matter how natural the origin looks, there's no way to PROVE that it wasn't somehow guided by human hands. The behavior in the wild (jumping to a wide variety of mammalian hosts with varying success), however, is a trait that would be likely in a natural zoonosis.

From a strategic perspective:

- Initial containment response isn't very different whether it's a lab leak or a natural outbreak. Since we can't know which it is, the logical strategy is to treat it more like a natural outbreak. (Why? Because you need to be ready for possible outbreaks at other locations. Acting as if it's natural means you blanket the area around the first detection AND try to trace other patients back and be ready for outbreaks elsewhere, while a lab leak focuses all resources on Wuhan.)

- If you manage spies, you should absolutely consider the bioweapon and leak hypotheses and look for information that would help test those. IF it was the result of modification in Wuhan, somebody HAD the receipts. (HAD, because if one of MY scientists had accidentally released a deadly plague I'd be very tempted to introduce them to a firing squad.).

- A spymaster is also going to be looking into possible false flags (Did someone fabricate evidence to implicate their enemies in the plague?) and opportunistic biowarfare - the people handing out torches, pitchforks, and lists of scientists they claim are responsible for the plague COULD be attempting to punish those they see as the plague's architects... but they could ALSO have been attempting to disrupt the response and maximize plague damage. And to top matters off a spymaster has to consider the fact that 'insiders' don't necessarily have accurate information. There may be insiders
who THINK they made the virus when they DIDN'T, for instance.

- If you manage a biolab in the region, you absolutely should do the 'how do we figure out if this is one of ours?' protocols when you first become aware of it. This will create false positives for suspicious-looking internal investigations, of course.


We're being misled by the fact that an honest scientist who thinks there is an 0.1% chance of it being artificially enhanced is going to say "I can't rule it out but it's probably natural" and the media is going to present it little differently from "60% chance it's natural".

83:

@Heteromeles #57: "The basic problem is that it assumes there's a one-dimensional something called "intelligence" that all people can be ranked on. This is manifestly not true."

Normally true, but you aren't taking into account the definition of intelligence that I used for my post. This deviates somewhat from the standard definition--on purpose. I believe that the reliance on objective solution criteria subsumes all the dimensions that have been documented so far. What constitutes "intelligence" in the brain is somewhat a matter of definition, but here I'm focusing on the external behavioral aspect of the process.

In other words, it doesn't matter how intelligent the public official is in their own head, the policies they can support can only be as intelligent as the constituents who elected them want them to be. Usually, this isn't very much.

Besides, even using the standard psychometric criteria, you seem to overlook the fact that a very large proportion of almost anyone's constituents (even conservatives) also qualify (maybe not in the specific skill domain of politicing, but each within their own professional sphere).

Finally, my main point regarding the emotional motivation behind most policy making stands regardless.

@Robert Prior #58: "Well, they value some people's autonomy."

You aren't thinking this through. It is a necessary corollary of valuing personal autonomy that you focus on the autonomy of yourself and those you are close to, and neglect the autonomy of other people, because that isn't any of their damn business (in their mind).

Of course the qualities of autonomy and empathy are not necessarily in opposition to each other, but given constraints on human mental processes and the contrary social functions that the expression of each of these emotions serves in modern Western society, and the fact that people are lazy, they usually are.

Racism and sexism are very real, but they don't explain why they wont vaccinate *themselves*, which was the original question posed by our gracious host. Not to devalue your nieces' experience (go girls) but that doesn't address this specific aspect of the problem.

Something else is going on, in addition to the normal shit they give out.

84:

"kids didn't have those dangerous allergies when I was a child,"

When I was a kid we were always warned to be careful eating peanuts, because a lot of children apparently didn't chew them enough and choked to dead with a peanut in their throat.

I wonder how many of those deaths were actually caused by allergies, rather than insufficient mastication.

85:

the lab leak hypotheses have been given undue weight

It panders to xenophobic impulses and allows incompetent leaders to blame someone else for their mishandling of the pandemic.

86:

Normally true, but you aren't taking into account the definition of intelligence that I used for my post. This deviates somewhat from the standard definition--on purpose. I believe that the reliance on objective solution criteria subsumes all the dimensions that have been documented so far.

" The Humpty-Dumpty Principle in Definitions: In dealing with empty concepts, we came across the issue that if somebody uses a term that potentially has an unintelligible definition, they are likely to defend themselves by quickly making up some kind of definition." http://definitionsinsemantics.blogspot.com/2012/03/humpty-dumpty-principle-in-definitions.html

87:

Michel2Bec @ 64:

" It's the Politicos, posturing & lying, even ( particularlry? ) idiots like BoZo who have had the bug...."

With no discernible change in cognitive capacities ? ;)

Suppose for a minute that BoZo was suffering from persistent long-term cognitive decline ... how would you know? What symptoms would he be manifesting now that he didn't show before?

He was already stupider than a box of rocks. How would you know if the got stupider still? What's the measurable difference between 100% stupid and 150% stupid?

It's the same problem we have in the U.S. evaluating Trumpolini's latest crazy antics.

88:

With moldy peanuts, concerns about aflatoxin even made their way into children's songs. But yes, I also wonder when peanut allergies became a serious thing, and why.

89:

I don't recall as a kid in the 60s ever meeting or hearing about any other child with T1 diabetes, autism, developmental issues, physical handicaps, cancer, etc.

I did. I guess living in a low population area made it more known.

But I learned later in life how much was "hidden" or just not talked about.

My cousin had T1 d, and I know of several adults who died of cancer. And there were kids I went to school with who got bad grades and by most teachers were considered of lower intelligence but a few recognized them as just severely socially challenged. Back then they were dumped into the "special" classes or just at the bottom of the grade curves.

90:

Trump's a great example of intelligence. As a leader he was an utter failure. Couldn't plot a coup, couldn't use a short, existing playbook to beat back a plague that everyone was predicting would come, that he actually had a month's warning on, and so forth.

However, as a conman he's a genius, and as an authoritarian douchebag, he's not half bad either.

This is why it's so terribly, terribly dangerous to think there's one thing called "intelligence." It makes you underestimate threats like Trump, and that's not at all healthy in the long run.

91:

@Robert Prior #58: "Well, they value some people's autonomy."

You aren't thinking this through. It is a necessary corollary of valuing personal autonomy that you focus on the autonomy of yourself and those you are close to, and neglect the autonomy of other people, because that isn't any of their damn business (in their mind).

My possibly too sarcastic point is that the same people claiming that their autonomy means they can act how they want are perfectly willing to deny my nieces the ability to act like they want, on the grounds that my nieces existence/behaviour offends them. In other words, they want the autonomy to interfere with my nieces' autonomy.

The same Billy-Bob who claims a personal right to stay unvaccinated wants to ban my niece kissing her girlfriend (actually, ban her having a girlfriend), gets his shirt-less self all in a knot because another niece's top actually exposes her navel, feels free to publicly scream at yet another niece for marrying a white guy, etc.

It's like the old 'states rights' canard.

92:

They bioweaponized as a political ruse the virus, and there They are, making money out it, willing to kill Their own kind. But as long as Their own kind kill Us too, it’s all good.

That’s how this all began. Kushner & Co. were convinced it was only people of color, the poor and blues who get covid. The more sick, dead and invalided the fewer voters for blue issues.

Frackin’ jerkwaddies. Virii do not care what color you are or which column you vote.

Yet, Their refusal to be vaccinated, refusal to follow any of the recognized safety protocols to minimize the opportunity for infection by the virus has taken over the entire health care system so that people with other conditions can't even see doctors proactively, cannot schedule surgeries, cannot get emergency room treatments and beds.

In wars and battlefield injuries there is the traumatic practice of triage: the medical people have to make split second decisions over whom may live and who is unlikely to live, in order that those more likely to survive with treatment do survive, which means not treating those most severely hurt. Now, due to Their choices, those who would be most likely to survive, cannot get medical care because what little health system we have is overwhelmed by Their choices. I am living with the consequences of this very up close and personal over the course of the last two years, including two people literally dead of cancers that they'd likely survived if they'd been able to see a doctor in the winter of 2020. More and more health care heroes and saints are wondering among themselves why they are doing all they can to save the lives of Those who chose to do this, endangering the whole world – while they continue the battle to save Their lives.

In other words, we are the ones being medically punished by Them, and not only medically: our employment, our friendships, our professional lives, everything is negatively affected by Their choices. They, on the other hand, aren't affected at all -- except when They get ill and / or die -- and They still hold us responsible. No hard lessons learned, as some keep saying, despite all evidence being to the contrary. They expire cursing us and the government and blaming both us and the government, because Their Selves’ identities as superior, due to Their identification with the Con(s) and Big Lies, cannot endure the knowledge they were conned -- and an ever increasing number of Those They listen to, are making ever larger amounts of money out of conning Them.

There is no healing the nation of this, ever, one thinks, even if the virus finally recedes.There will be more pandemic illnesses, as well as famine, flood and fire. We seem to have entered a planet-wide 6th-7th century when the horsemen of the Apocalypse trampled most of what became Europe under hoofs. A terrible time to have tried to live. With climate change and all the other self-destructive, toxic, abusive and wantonly cruel beliefs They hold, we still will be punished by the earth no longer able to carry us -- any of us. Not that this matters a whit, as the 0.01% who are the only ones who matter, believe They shall escape into space. Ha!

Perhaps this explains why so many have joined the Death Cult, happy to be suicide domestic terrorists even to destroying themselves and their own families. O Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the Orange Shoggoth, O the woes and miseries you all have wrought, rubbing yourselves gleefully the entire time with the money you raked in from the marks.


93:

I happened to have a near-perfect skillset match with the things they were testing for. I can think of things they they did not test for (usually because they are harder to measure) where I would NOT do well!

Back in the early 70s when I took such tests I scored 99th percentile in math and 95th in English no mater which test I took. But before computers and a backspace key plus copy and paste to let me turn that page length sentence into something readable I could barely pass a writing course. But due to the testing I'd always be put into the classes where you were expected to write at near Shakespearian levels. And barely pass.

94:

More and more health care heroes and saints are wondering among themselves why they are doing all they can

Certainly true in Alberta. No raise for five years, UCP now imposing 3% pay cut, no more public health measures, one of the lowest vaccination rates in Canada…

95:

This is why it's so terribly, terribly dangerous to think there's one thing called "intelligence." It makes you underestimate threathics like Trump

I tend to want to call him an idiot. But I also realize he's an idiot when it comes to things I value.

I do not value the skills of anyone who is a "great" con man and thief. Which is the phrase my father used to describe a cousin.

96:

I grew up in a very big city (Philly). I vaguely remember hearing of maybe one or two kids with a peanut allergy, but I can't be sure. I certainly did not know any kids with diabetes.

And until the nineties or oughts, never saw so many people have food allergies.

97:

Charlie Stross @ 69: The bioweapon hypothesis has two key weaknesses, to my mind, leaving aside the actual genetics of the pathogen in question.

If it's a bioweapon, then it was obviously released either deliberately or accidentally. (Pick one, but not the other.)

Up front I want to say it was NOT a bio-weapon1, but ...

Consider a third possible scenario: An accidental release followed by deliberate release.

That would answer the objection of why someone would release a bio weapon when they didn't already have their defensive measures in place.

IF it got out and infected the population of the lab's "host" nation, it might cause a spasm by the Powers That Be prompting them to release & spread it as rapidly as possible in opposing nations - with intent that the opponents should also find themselves suddenly deep in the kimchi, so they couldn't take advantage of the "host" nation while it was down ... or something like the purpose behind the doomsday device the "Soviets" had in Dr. Strangelove

I don't believe for a moment that IS what happened, but it makes a serviceable Science FICTION plot point.

OTOH, I can see how it might be possible that a lab doing medical research to identify possible future threats with the intent of preventing them could have a big Oops moment, especially with something that has a fairly long asymptomatic incubation period. It might be out and spreading in the population before lab researchers realized it had escaped.

That's not bio-weapons research, it's simple prudence. But if that's what happened in this instance, Prudence got screwed by Murphy.

I can also see how in such a scenario the "host" nation's PTB might be tempted to clamp down on sharing news & information about the new plague hoping to keep hostile nations from taking advantage of the situation.


1 I am not a doctor, but I was an NBC (Nuclear, Biological & Chemical) Operations NCO in the Army. I have had fairly extensive lay training in the characteristics of bio-weapons & how to deal with them. SARS-CoV-2 does not have enough of the required characteristics to be a bio-weapon.


98:

Or maybe they're as "intelligent" as the median, or the average, of the people who elected them, and for whom they depend on for their jobs.

How many politicians got vaccinated in secret?

Also note that it is an old truism, esp. referring to Hollywood (and *everything* Former Guy does is related to Hollywood), that the IQ of a committee is the median intelligence divided by the number on the committee.

99:

Let's see. Why do these people refuse to believe in Covid, vaccines, science, etc...

I was raised by a mother who was there. I was born in 1954. No profit motive there. Some of it we saw growing up. Much of it came out in full force when my father died. 15 years before my mother. She complained he was holding her back. And yep, he was. He kept the crazy down to low levels most of the time.

Where did she get it? Her childhood was a mess. Not cruel but a totally dysfunctional marriage between her parents. This was in the 30s and 40s in the US. Not a nice time to be in a weird situation. Plus while not destitute or hungry they were barely above poor while she was growing up.

Then her first child was born with what they called polycystic kidneys. In 1952. No dialysis. No transplants. Docs tried everything they could then said there was nothing more they could do. My mother heard "we give up, let her die". My mother was headed to a totally fraudulent chiropractic hospital 1000 miles away that promised to cure nearly everything that could ail someone when she died. My mother was convinced the snake oil hospital would have cured her if she had not wasted so much time with the "real" doctors.

So doctors are evil. Science is crap. And you can't trust experts. That was her life for the entire time I knew her.

She would be refusing the vaccine if alive today.

GNC was her favorite store till her death.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNC_(store)

100:

And bioweapons are truly miserable as weapons. They're more like a Doomsday Device. Unless you can vaccinate your people - and there is clear evidence China did not - they kill everyone.

Back in the sixties, the CIA was experimenting using psychedelics as weapons. They even developed their own, whose street name was STP - like LSD, but it lasted 24 hours, rather than just 8, and no, don't argue with me, I have personal experience with *both*, and if you don't, you don't know what you're talking about, you've only read propaganda). They dropped it... because all of them gave too unmanageable/unpredictable results.

101:

Special classes was a good thing. The idiocy of "mainstreaming" means the slow kids, who need extra help, don't get it, and the fast kids are bored out of their gourd. Oh, and the average kids will happily pick on both groups.

Socially-challenged - I trust that assumes "they're "fill-in-the-blank", in the US mostly Black - and so assumed to be stupid.

When I went into either kindergarten or first grade, don't remember, the first Black kid came into my school. By fourth grade, I was the 26th white kid left in the school. My Black teacher had a meeting with my mom, and she was trying hard to bring kids who'd had *nothing* up to grade level, so I was getting stuff I'd learned in 3rd and even 2nd grade. My teacher recommended me registering under a relative's address and going to another school, which happened. And I was rapidly bored out of my gourd, with the average readers in class....

102:

Vicki @ 76: There's also survivor and recall bias with childhood diseases and fatal accidents. People our age (I'm around Charlie's age) and older will say things like "kids didn't have those dangerous allergies when I was a child," by which they usually mean "nobody I knew was worried about things like anaphylactic shock when I was a child." But nobody worrying about it didn't mean people didn't have allergies: it meant that "the child just stopped breathing and died, we have no idea why" [with optional "God works in mysterious ways"] was sad, and fortunately rare. And even if someone thought "maybe if he hadn't been stung by that bee, he'd be okay," it wasn't talked about as "this allergy killed my nephew."

Tangent to that thought I ran across an article just yesterday that said researchers were suggesting a possibility that more people are allergic to peanuts now than in times past because when they were babies the doctors told their parents to keep them away from peanuts (and vice versa) resulting in them not having natural immunities they might have otherwise developed.

So, in addition to "survivor and recall bias" there may be an increased incidence. I think likely from environmental causes. Global warming is not the only byproduct of our societies chemical dependence on fossil fuels.

I've long thought there might be an actual increase in the number of autism spectrum disorders due to cumulative exposure to chemicals in the environment before and during pregnancy. Sure we have better testing that allows children affected by autism spectrum to be identified, but I think there are literally more of them (in relation to the general population) and SOMETHING causes it. But I'm not a research scientist & I don't know how I might test my supposition.

Another thing is I think there's bias in research because they're looking for a single cause and my suspicion is that this is combination of multiple factors coming together so there is no single cause to find.

This also NOT about lifestyle choices, because how can you choose whether or not you're going to be exposed to chemicals you cannot see, taste or smell and don't even know they exist.

We can detect chemicals in our environment like we never could before, but can we tell whether those chemicals have always been there or whether they're recent (last few decades or centuries) introductions?

103:

The other problem with the bioweapon scenario is that coronaviruses from bats were basically #1 on everyone's expected list of viruses to cause the next pandemic. They'd been working out strategies to deal since SARS-CoV-1 popped up in 2006. As a potential bioweapon, this was stoopidly obvious.

Speaking of which, the reason we had so many good vaccines so fast was two-fold:
1. People had actually prototyped a vaccine for SARS-CoV about 5-7 years after that virus first appeared, but the work had been shelved due to SARS-CoV disappearing from humans. Covid19 is, what 85% similar to SARS-CoV? Basically all the groundwork had been done on the previous coronavirus.
2. IIRC, the success rates for novel vaccines are low, around 5%. From in the pipeline, well over 100 Covid19 vaccine programs were started. Almost all of them failed, generally quickly. Out of that we got, what 5 good vaccines? Ten? This with prototype vaccines and a decade of work on coronaviruses, because the virologists were pretty sure one was coming.

So even before we get into whether there are any signs of SARS-CoV2 being engineered (there aren't), it's a terrible choice for a bioweapon, sort of like going to war armed with 0.22 rifles when everyone's expecting gunfire and prepping body armor.

If some dictator had wanted mass death in a virus, they'd have weaponized a hantavirus, or something for which there is little or no vaccine research. But as others have said, at best this is a doomsday weapon like a nuke, and the only reason to have it is to keep other nations from messing with you.

To finish on a brighter note: if I wanted to cripple America and its allies with a bioweapon, I wouldn't engineer a human bioweapon at all. I'd spread coffee blight. Speaking of which...

104:

In the UK, the difference is between "setting", "streaming" and "special school".

Special school is usually the worst option absent exceptional circumstances - you take children with additional educational needs and put them in their own school. This is the traditional option, and often resulted in kids with issues being "left to rot".

Streaming is where you split kids in a year group by attainment across the entire curriculum, and have each attainment group go to the same classes. Doesn't work well if you have a specialist subject; if you're great at Maths, useless at Chemistry, and average at everything else, you'll end up in the "average attainment" class for all subjects, and struggle in Chemistry while finding the Maths class too simple.

Setting is where you split within a subject and year group - so you can be in the "top" class for Maths, and the "bottom" class for Chemistry, while staying in "average" classes for everything else.

The issue with all three is getting the children in the "bottom" classes the help they need to do well. We only really know how to split by attainment, not ability, and thus the "bottom" class mixes kids who are perfectly able, but refuse to work (and thus need one set of interventions to get their standard up) with kids who genuinely struggle to understand, but are willing to work hard on it (and need a different set of interventions to benefit from school).

The ideal state is well-understood, but damn expensive; you need enough decent teaching staff that, on a topic-by-topic basis, the ones who are struggling to keep up with expected attainment can have one-on-one tutoring, reserving the "bulk" teaching to an entire class for those who are keeping up, and having staff who understand the topics well enough that they can ensure that the kids who find the expected level of attainment easy to reach simply dive in deeper and deeper on the same topic. If you let the advanced kids race off onto new topics, then you develop the issue that you have kids who've done this already, and kids for whom it's new when you teach them the thing the advanced kids raced off onto.

Most teachers (all good teachers?) would love to be in the ideal state, but we refuse to spend that much on teaching, hence all the issues with bad schooling.

105:

Michel2Bec @ 81:

"The bioweapon hypothesis has two key weaknesses, to my mind, leaving aside the actual genetics of the pathogen in question."

Besides almost all the military reasons for not using chemical weapons by modern armies apply to biologic weapons, even more so, so I highly doubt there is any serious, well funded, research in this domain.

See Bret Devereaux : "Collections: Why Don’t We Use Chemical Weapons Anymore?"

https://acoup.blog/2020/03/20/collections-why-dont-we-use-chemical-weapons-anymore/

The answer is not because of morality. It's because it is inefficient when compared to modern weaponry, unless maybe if your are a terrorist group.

There is A LOT of "serious, well funded, research" in this field. Not because we want or need new biological weapons, but because we need to be prepared to counter (defend against) anything the OTHER GUYS (doesn't matter if they're terrorist group or nation state) might come up with; OTHER GUYS who might not share our view about the inefficiency of chemical/biological agents.

It's mostly kept deep dark secret because we don't want to give the OTHER GUYS ideas, just in case they haven't noticed the potential in some bug we're already working to defend against.

This goes on in parallel with the openly acknowledged gain of function research that has already been mentioned. There's no such thing as being too prepared for defense when it comes to bio-weapons.

106:

Nevertheless, the fascists grabbing with glee turning the virus into a political bio-weapon has been extremely effective -- at least here in the USA of Freedumb -- for destabilization and suicidal domestic bioweaponry terrorists.

So many ways this Freedumb bioweaponry works:

"TEXAS GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT REQUESTS EMERGENCY MEDICAL HELP FROM OTHER STATES WHILE CONTINUING TO BLOCK MEASURES TO SLOW COVID PANDEMIC"

Though governors and mayors are starting to ignore the anti-masking mandates, and filing lawsuits too, as in Texas and Florida.

They have felt so safe coz, you know, libs are effete cowards -- you can tell because they wear masks and get vaccinated -- so they obey our rules. They are not noticing the utter fury the vaccinated are building toward those who have chosen not to vaccinate. Because, you know, what can we do?

They may be surprised out of their thinking that it's still biz as orange shoggoth convinced them was usual.

107:

Heteromeles @ 103: To finish on a brighter note: if I wanted to cripple America and its allies with a bioweapon, I wouldn't engineer a human bioweapon at all. I'd spread coffee blight. Speaking of which...

God will get you for that ...

... and if SHE doesn't, I will!

108:

Cognition. Bozo. Somehow they don't seem to go together.

In my view, the most ignored (and perhaps most important) aspect of intelligence is whether you USE your abilities - and not just when you are doing something that formally needs them. The number of scientists, engineers etc. who (outside their actual job) do not check their facts, do not look at the whole problem, do not think of the consequences and alternatives, and don't use their logical and mathematical skills, is legion.

It's damn-near untestable, and is one of the ways that we people with Asperger's (and even some people with autism) score extremely high. Bozo does not.

109:

I'd spread coffee blight

There was a short story published around 1980 (±5) where the British engineer a bioweapon against the French, affecting grapes and the wine supply, and the French retaliate with a devastating blow against the world's tea plantations…

110:

The issue with all three is getting the children in the "bottom" classes the help they need to do well. We only really know how to split by attainment, not ability, and thus the "bottom" class mixes kids who are perfectly able, but refuse to work (and thus need one set of interventions to get their standard up) with kids who genuinely struggle to understand, but are willing to work hard on it (and need a different set of interventions to benefit from school).

In the last century, when I was doing one of my teaching practicums, I was sent to a school that (of its own initiative) solved this problem.

They split off all the students who needed specialized interventions into targeted small classes, taught by experienced special education teachers. This meant that remaining classes were much bigger* but no longer had disruptive students. I taught one of the lower-ability math classes, and it was a dream. It was as large as the typical 'high-ability' class, but all of them were focused and eager to learn, would ask for extra help and work…

In my years since I've taught that level many times, and it's honestly heartbreaking because I know that half the class is full of kids like that, but I'm spending all my time dealing with behavioural issues and they just fall farther and farther behind…


*The pupil-teacher ratio is set by the government

111:

Here in Ontario the conservative government is resisting the push for vaccine passports because it would be an undue burden on business, while business groups are pleading with the government to institute vaccine passports…

And anger against those who are refusing vaccination is steadily rising.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorial_cartoon/2021/07/30/theo-moudakis-the-unvaxxed.html

(The red hat isn't coincidental. Despite red-and-white being the colours of the Liberal Party*, our covidiots wear the red MAGA hats. Pre-Trump the idiot would be wearing a blue hat, to show they were a conservative supporter.)


*Centre-left by Canadian standards, so a bit left of Bernie Sanders by American ones.

112:

#75 - You reckon? I honestly thought that was normal service when he wasn't reading prepared speeches.

#87 - We're clearly thinking on similar lines here.

#109 - Like it; and in escalation, India could develop a bioweapon against hops...

113:

fascists grabbing with glee turning the virus into a political bio-weapon has been extremely effective

According to PenceNews, the pandemic is simultaneously nothing to worry about and so bad because of Biden's poor leadership.

114:

"but because we need to be prepared to counter (defend against) anything the OTHER GUYS "

And the difference between this defensive research and (civilian) research against, say Ebola is ?

I was speaking of offensive bioweapons. They are Doomsdays device weapons by design. Not worth it for the major powers. Which China is.

115:

@109 -- alas, like coffee blight this is a true thing. Predictions are that wine production in France alone this vintage year will be down at least 30% due to climate wreckage -- with the additional collateral low production to halted migration and the pandemic.

The price of tea has continued to increase nearly every 6 weeks since even before the pandemic thanks to shoggoth's tariffs and trade wars with China (and France too!), whereas until just recently our coffee emporium said the price of coffee increased only once. That has changed too.

Partner is madly coffee dependent. I drink tea -- it doesn't have to be the truly pricey Chinese oolong I generally prefer. But I really do like wine with my meals, and for cooking.

Also grain shortages due to droughts and wildfires globally. This, They Say, bodes badly for the beer supply.

We are talking within this year, not 2 or 3 years from now. All the more about which the Fascist and their cadres of anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers and climate/covid deniers, and those who have weaponized their gullibility (looking at MURDOCH!) for their enrichment and power are to be held responsible

116:

With regard to coffe blight I’d just like to remind everyone that as long as I get enough coffee, nobody will die too slowly

117:

Yes, and wildfire smoke isn't any good for wine flavor either (cf: Napa, Greece, etc.)

That's part of the misery of civilization in a time of climate change: get us addicted to the good stuff from around the world, set it up so that our supply chains are unsustainable, then force us onto the ultimate paleo diet of eating whatever's available this year: crickets, kale, amaranth, dandelions...Sucks all the joy out of life. Heck, the last time the climate changed this fast, our ancestors at least ate the occasional mammoth.

On a less amusing note, the US and other countries have been doing grain diplomacy for years, undercutting local food production so that other countries rely on our subsidized food exports. That's going to lead to more Arab Spring-type unrest if grain harvests fail. While I think that semi-compassionate food redistribution has a place in a climate changed world, profiteering and hardball politics can easily turn this into a cause for war.

118:

Coffee blight/rust is already an issue with Guatemalan refugees who used to be coffee growers until global warming end the cool evenings that would stop the rust from spreading:

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/climate-effects-hit-coffee-crops-guatemalan-farmers-become-migrants

119:

other countries rely on our subsidized food exports

America doesn't subsidize food production. Absolutely not at all. That was the foundation of your government's long-running campaign against the Canadian Wheat Board: that Canada subsidized grain farming while America didn't.

You have price supports and crop insurance, but these are in no way price subsidies and have no place in trade negotiations.

(Yes, sarcasm.)

120:

Re: COVID-19 deniers/anti-vaxers

A few ideas about barriers some people might have wrt to COVID-19 and vaccines.


1- SCALE - A virus is extremely small - almost unimaginably small in comparison to what humans are used to interacting with. At the same time, a virus can replicate much, much faster than anything humans can ordinarily see - including that mess at the bottom of a college dorm fridge. I'm guessing that the absolute 'size' trumps reproduction rate on the scare/relevance meter among these folks. (Also suggests that these folks don't know/remember what exponential growth means.)

2- DOGMA trumps DISCOVERY - I'm guessing that folks in these groups believe that being able to memorize and spit out a bunch of 'facts' is the same as being intelligent/educated. To them, this also means that once they finish their education they no longer have to or are expected to keep 'learning' and that anyone who does choose to keep 'learning' is a cretin/shmuck and probably hasn't mastered his/her real-world ABCs. Media (and history books) usually discuss 'DISCOVERY' as some discrete identifiable and unique moment in time rather than a process of poking/probing, testing and retesting. Nobody talks about all the 'failed' experiments/trials, dead-ends - why?

3- NARRATIVIUM - 'The simplest answer is the best answer', Occam's Razor, etc. We've been told to expect scientists to simplify the world for us - compartmentalize things into smaller and easier to grasp ideas - ideally as one-line math/formulas. Problem is that this doesn't work so well/at all when it comes to understanding complex systems (biology, climate).

4- PERCENT vs. NUMBERS - Relates to NARRATIVIUM above ... we've been taught and become accustomed to thinking that anything under a certain percentage level is meaningless/trivial regardless of the number of factors involved*. But we can relate to population sizes in numbers of a benchmark city/town. So why aren't people/media talking about this pandemic in terms of towns/villages? (See wildfire coverage - mortality vs. COVID-19 deaths.)

*There are approx. 30,000 genes in the human genome which to me suggests that there are probably some 100,000+ different chemical reactions taking place simultaneously/in parallel in my body. Hopefully someone can figure out how to present such info at different scales and levels of interaction.
- with animation to show speed and spread of interactions/reactions.

5- MOLECULE vs. VIRUS -- Kinda tough to explain that a virus is a self-replicating molecule when the person you're talking to thinks 'H2O' is the standard form/size of a molecule.

121:

subsidize food production

This and farming in general is why people of all political stripes want to move the first US presidential contest OUT of Iowa. To eliminate the issue from electioneering that keeps subsidies going for no other reason than the keep Iowa farmers happy.

Oh, and also get rid of the terrible caucus system.

122:

Occam's Razor

Occam's Razor is total crap. It gives license to people who don't want to understand something to throw out anything too complicated for them to understand. Or want to understand.

123:

Nobody talks about all the 'failed' experiments/trials, dead-ends - why?

Oooh, oooh, I know this one! :-)

Most people get all their knowledge of science in school, mostly junior levels because senior science is not required for most post-secondary programs. The curriculum at that level is stuffed too full to finish, and teachers at that level focus on things that teachers of senior science classes want students to know (because if they don't then they will get railed at by their usually senior colleagues).

This means that there is no time to "waste" teaching things that aren't true.

It gets worse.

Entire chunks of the curriculum are often dropped because they are 'dead ends' with no senior classes — ignoring that most junior students aren't going into senior classes anyway. (In Ontario, that would be astronomy in for 14-year-olds and climate science for 15-year-olds*.)

*Yes, our children need to know nothing about climate science. It's not nearly as important as memorizing the first 20 element symbols and balancing chemical equations.

124:

A virus is extremely small - almost unimaginably small in comparison to what humans are used to interacting with.

Viruses are small. You just won't believe how incredibly, amazingly, mind-bogglingly small they are. I mean, you may think your ex-boyfriend's package is tiny, but that's gigantic compared to viruses.

With apologies to Douglas Adams, and acknowledging I've comforted too many heart-broken nieces :-/

125:

we've been taught and become accustomed to thinking that anything under a certain percentage level is meaningless/trivial regardless of the number of factors involved

Except in certain categories. Rob Ford won a Toronto election by eliminating a 0.1% property tax increase, which was apparently too big for taxpayers.

Last year I thought of a demo that I couldn't actually do in the classroom. If someone claims that the amount of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere is too small to have an effect, offer them a litre of beverage and add a drop of urine (or vomit or some other disgusting substance). See if they can drink it. The concentration of the disgusting substance is the same as the anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere, so they should have no problem doing it, right? :-)

126:

Have them do all the climate change work in Kelvin temperatures, instead of Celsius. A 1% change in the temperature in Kelvin can be pretty noticeable in Celsius, yet look trivial in Kelvin. But without the sun warming the Earth, the Earth would be around 3 K plus escaping crust heat, so getting warmed by the sun is quite critical, even without doing those lovely black body calculations.

127:

"2- DOGMA trumps DISCOVERY"

I think you are missing the status angle.

Refusing the vaccine has become a tribal marker for a number of right leaning people, especially in the USA.

People (and especially men) are ready to *die* to preserve status among their peer group, this is the basis of small unit training in the military.

Some will try to get vaccinated secretly, but the majority is going to hang out as long as they think that the other members of their tribe are doing the same.

I have a feeling, it has nothing to do with logic or knowledge it has become a flag.

128:

Simon Farnsworth @ 104: In the UK, the difference is between "setting", "streaming" and "special school".

Personal story here:

When I was 8, at the end of my first year in primary school (i.e. 4th year of formal schooling) my parents had a meeting with the headmaster. He told them that I was mentally subnormal and needed to be sent to the local "special school".

My parents predictably hit the roof. They tried to explain that I was really quite bright, but I just had difficulty with writing. He showed them a picture I had drawn of my sister where I had forgotten to include the arms, explained that this was clear evidence of mental subnormality, and said they were "over-reacting".

At the time I was already in what would now be called the special needs class. I can only assume that the headmaster had not bothered to talk to the teacher there, because the individual attention meant that I actually did quite well. The fact that the school bully was in the same class didn't matter because he was happy making and painting his papier-mache head, while I was putting together display projects on Skylab and the solar system, and learning how to add fractions.

My parents had my IQ tested by an independent psychologist, who found that it was well above average, as was my vocabulary. On the strength of this they got me a scholarship (i.e. some assistance with the fees) at a local private school. It wasn't great, but it was a vast improvement over the disaster of primary school (where a day without being beaten up was an unusually good day). Whenever my parents wanted to really motivate me about school work they would threaten to send me back to the state system if I didn't get on with it.

Later on I joined Mensa, which also made a big difference. I'd always known that I had odd interests that nobody else shared, and now I had an explanation.

Today I know that my real problems were dyspraxia and face-blindness, but neither of those were recognised back then. The education system was still in thrall to the concept of "g": the idea that intelligence is a single factor. "Specific learning difficulties" like mine were invisible to a system that didn't accept they could exist. Even the existence of dyslexia was still mildly controversial. A few clinicians were starting to talk about "clumsy child syndrome" as a possible thing, and at one point my mother tried to talk to the doctor about this. I remember the evaluation. He asked me to walk down a corridor and do a few other gross motor tasks. From this he concluded that there was nothing wrong and basically told my mother to stop bothering her silly little head with nonsense. (My mother was a secondary school teacher, BTW).

These days things have changed. "General intelligence" is still recognised as important, but much more attention is given to specific difficulties because mitigation of a specific difficulty can have an impact out of all proportion to the effort required. There are also much more effective anti-bullying policies these days; back then it was regarded as the victim's problem to sort out (yes, really).

So to sum this up, my experience with "intelligence" as a social construct has been mixed. First it almost destroyed me, then it saved me. Since then I have seen it subsumed into a much more sophisticated model of mental capabilities. I can see a lot of myself in my son, but when he went through school we had the language and references to engage with our doctor and the special needs departments, and they had the institutional systems to cope effectively. His experience was radically different from mine, for which I am profoundly grateful.

I've always wondered what would have happened if my parents had been a bit less effective, and I had wound up at that special school. Would they have figured it out, or would they have just put me in the remedial shoelace tying class? Thanks to my parents I didn't have to find out.

129:

Ireland now has 78% 16+ pop fully vexed, and horsing it into the 12-15y olds before school opens next month. Thankfully, for a variety of reasons, there is little anti-tax sentiment here. It a combination of a reasonable level of education, a vibrant local radio/newspaper setting which is generally reasonably sane wrt climate etc, a national media which is very science oriented (just now the main morning radio program has hosted a 25m talk between a oceanographer, a climate scientist and a Man from the Ministry on how the IPCC report is a wakeup call) and a population with has folk memory of Bad Things health wise - TB was a massive scourge until the 1960s and the folk memory of the famine with cholera and typhus lies deep. So we are used to and pro public health.
For all his many many faults we were lucky to be led by Leo V in the early days of the pandemic. As a trained GP he had the scientific and public health skills to go with the science. Sure, we may have overshot the runway a few times, often quite badly but thats life.
By contrast with the USA .....

130:

John Cristopher's Death of the grass? OMG.
perchance, was a grandparent of yours named John and lived in Patmos? :-)

131:
the French retaliate with a devastating blow against the world's tea plantations…

I remember that one too.

It was anthologized in one of Jerry Pournelle's endless "There Will Be War" series.

132:

Special classes was a good thing.

Into the 70s (I don't know when things got changed.) "special" classes were for those considered "mentally retarded" (the term of the day I know). It was mainly for people with Down's Syndrome. But in hindsight it also got the socially un-adept. Which thing tarred them for life as being "slow", "stupid", or whatever.

133:

was a grandparent of yours named John and lived in Patmos?

Definitely not!

134:

Attention conservation notice:

Dead Lies Dreaming is shortlisted for the 2021 Dragon Award (best Fantasy).

The trademark snag holding up my next Laundry novella appears to have been resolved: it's now on course for publication in March 2022, under the (new) title Escape from Yokai Land.

(And I'm just waiting for confirmation that the third New Management book -- after Dead Lies Dreaming and next January's Quantum of Nightmares can be titled Season of Skulls.)

135:

My school experience had some similarity to many of the above. In my case I was preternaturally good at tests, but spent most classes reading a novel below my desk.

The result was that my grades were good but my teachers were exasperated beyond measure. Couple that with social incompetence and I somehow ended being put up a grade. Where I did the exact same thing.

Because my skillset correlated almost exactly to what and how the school system measured success, I was able to have good grades while spending most of my time reading novels in class. I remember everything I hear and absolutely everything I write down. When I start a test the world disappears and I focus entirely on it until finished.

My father was a schoolteacher and spent some time teaching me how to write essays and critical articles. This time in 8th grade learning the structure of an essay more or less carried me through graduate school.

I distinctly remember handing in a paper that I was distinctly unhappy with because I had effectively bullshitted the entire thing. My grade was top of the class, largely because the paper had structure and grammar. I shudder to think of the unreadable dreck my classmates must have disgorged for my own pile of garbage to seem like a ray of light to the poor instructor.

Getting very good grades can give one big ideas about one's intelligence. Harsh reality has done plenty to remind me that those talents were uniquely suited for doing well in school, but in many other realms my talent is effectively zero.

136:

Before college I could get a B+ or A- by just paying attention. And a consistent A if I tried. And taking notes that I never referenced. Like you if I wrote it down I remembered.

EXCEPT for essay writing of any kind. Reading was no problem. For a while if it tried I could read fiction at 800wpm. (College engineering classes killed that off.)

Anyway my grades put me around 35th out of 230 or so students when I graduated from high school. If I could have thrown out any grades from writing I likely would have been in the top 10.

As for reading novels, I did that in Algebra I in the 9th grade. It was one of those "everyone not a dummy" classes. So the first 5 or 10 minutes of a class a friend and I sitting on the back row would pay attention then grab a library book from the stash we kept on the back shelves and read. I was in the class because 2 years earlier I had nearly straight A's in math but was utterly bored and thus didn't get placed in the advanced track due to attitude.

I left high school realizing just what a crock it was that merit and ability was what counted.

137:

Congratulations on the nomination. IIRC The Dragon Awards were originally conceived to be the Puppies' awards, but they are headed towards the median as quickly as a crowd composed of the usual suspects can carry them there.

138:

I see - you lucked out with your father. Mine graduated high school, and wound up as a factory worker (he should have been a poly sci prof). My mom got her GED after I graduated high school.

After I transferred schools for fifth grade (see previous post), I was bored out of my gourd again. They read the textbook out loud in class, while I had read it, and was well into the next chapter, and didn't want to get too far ahead. So what I was reading was inside my textbook, not beneath the desk.

Now let's talk about school in the US in the fifties and sixties. The story that I've told ever since: as above, until one day, I look up, and my 5th grade teacher is standing over me, and the whole class is watching. She takes the book I was reading away from me, and says to see her after class. Luckily, I had another book, but didn't get so involved.

Now, let's look at the same situation from the omniscient PoV: the kid in 5th grade who transferred in is reading a prose translation of The Odyessey inside his social studies textbook. What do you do with him? Put him in a special class (what are those? Who has them?) Move him up? No, why, you give him the book back after class, and tell him not to do it again.

I went through school on a low C, bored most of the time, not doing a lot of my homework... but doing well on exams. I was labelled an "underachiever", and got to see my counselor in jr. high, but that was it. Went to the best public HS in Philly (Central), and most of the time, more bored. A few classes were interesting, but....

139:

Is the father reference to Rocketpjs?

140:

This thread is too long and I'm too tired to go through the whole thing, but...

Any rational response to COVID in the US (and the UK, more or less) was doomed to failure as soon as our not-so-glorious former President decided to make it a political issue.

For whatever reason, Cheetolini decided He Kew Better™, not only about the source of the pandemic, but also its impact and how to ameliorate same.

And now he has all his lovely acolytes not only refusing to do the rational thing but actually passing laws to make it ILLEGAL to do so. All to appeal to a rabid base stirred up by xenophobia and paranoia.

And now, thanks to these self-serving smegheads, all the gains of this summer are wafting away on the breeze. I actually had to start working from home again this week because of the numbers in my area. *shrug*

141:

For whatever reason, Cheetolini decided He Kew Better™,

Naw. He just demands that everything important or in the news be centered on him. Then he BS's until caught then changes the subject or throws the dissenters out of the room.

142:

Based on the recent stuff from his niece, it also terrified him, because he had no idea what to do, would not use anything the Obama admins had come up with, and so treated it like it was a movie.

144:

Robert Prior @ 111: Here in Ontario the conservative government is resisting the push for vaccine passports because it would be an undue burden on business, while business groups are pleading with the government to institute vaccine passports…

And anger against those who are refusing vaccination is steadily rising.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorial_cartoon/2021/07/30/theo-moudakis-the-unvaxxed.html

(The red hat isn't coincidental. Despite red-and-white being the colours of the Liberal Party*, our covidiots wear the red MAGA hats. Pre-Trump the idiot would be wearing a blue hat, to show they were a conservative supporter.)

*Centre-left by Canadian standards, so a bit left of Bernie Sanders by American ones.

I've got a RED hat too, but it don't say MAGA

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/dan-savage-impeach-trump-badges-t-shirts-merch-funding-a7702276.html

145:

Got it. BTW, and at this time MZN have just e-mailed me that they're still having problems sourcing "Escape from Puroland". In which context, am I on the right lines with Yokai meaning the Japanese spirit?

146:

Yes, you're on the right lines.

Tor.com are going to try to roll the existing pre-orders over onto the new title/delivery date, but there's a risk (Amazon being Amazon) that big river co. will just cancel all pre-orders. If they do that, I'll let you know here on the blog.

147:

So, the cover designer was unable to source a font that allowed them to spell "Yōkai"?
:-P

148:

You'd think they'd run the title by legal BEFORE putting it up for pre-order.

149:

Alas poor yokai! I knew him Kitaro.

Personally, I think Yokai are western spirits who slipped into Japan on western trade goods starting during the Edo period. They diversified from there, largely displacing the indigenous Mononoke.

150:

Michel2Bec @ 114:

"but because we need to be prepared to counter (defend against) anything the OTHER GUYS "

And the difference between this defensive research and (civilian) research against, say Ebola is ?

Not sure how to phrase this, but ...

China might be one of those "OTHER GUYS" ... or it might not. But China IS capable of doing secret bio-weapons DEFENSE research and it's not beyond the realm of possibilities something could go wrong.

I DO NOT BELIEVE that's the case with SARS-CoV-2 for REASONS, but the idea has to be carefully examined even to disprove it.

That's SCIENCE!!!

As far as I can tell, Ebola already exists in its most virulent, damaging form and doesn't hold much promise for development as a bio-weapon. There are other diseases that might have that promise, but if the "OTHER GUYS" have NOT YET recognized the possibilities, we don't want to give them any nasty ideas.

So the civilian researchers get Ebola (which doesn't look like a good candidate for a weapon) and the defense guys do secret research against the others to hedge against unpleasant surprises.

I was speaking of offensive bioweapons. They are Doomsdays device weapons by design. Not worth it for the major powers. Which China is.

And I was talking about both; offense - those "OTHER GUYS" - and defense.

China is not the only "major power" able to do bio-weapons research. You don't even have to be a "major power" to do bio-weapons research ... or even a Nation State.

China ain't the only threat. Might not even be a threat at all1.

But among those who DO have the capability, who are threats, are some people who don't give a shit that it's a "Doomsday" device because God or Allah or Jesus or Overlord Xenu (insert your preferred bugaboo here) will protect the faithful and THEY KNOW it's not going to affect them.

Or they don't have a power base to protect and if everybody dies, then so be it, at least they've protected the purity of their ideals.

Some of them are just criminals or madmen who might release it for fun & profit if extortion didn't work.


1 But I'd be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that China DOES conduct secret research into bio-weapons DEFENSE. They'd be stupid not to.


151:

I doubt defensive medicine even needs to be that secret. It's like cryptography: public research on things like antibiotic resistance and emerging viruses is a) a public good (which is useful in international prestige and so forth) and b) gets more eyes on it through public review than a purely secret program would.

The secrecy is in the production phase, and it's pretty universal. Pfizer hasn't given away how it makes the adjuvants for the Covid19 vaccines, after all. Sharing information on the virus is fine. Sharing trade secrets is already protected by international norms.

I'm with OGH, though: when I spend my scarce adrenaline scaring myself about real threats, I worry about epiphytotics, not human diseases. The reason is that at least in the US, we've largely dismantled the epidemiology and public education functions that we used to have for crop pests and diseases. We've even dismantled university plant pathology programs all over the country, because they don't bring in big-enough grants to meet administration funding goals. When you couple that with a general lack of warehoused food, that's a disaster waiting to happen sometime. Add on climate change for the extra "Zombies on a Plane" special scariness.

152:

This is UK-specific. On the matter of inappropriate responses to COVID, PHE and some other gummint advisory borg started publishing data on known variants early in 2021. I have started tracking it, but nothing of interest has shown up yet. Alpha dominated initially, to be replaced by Delta about mid-May, but we knew that.

The first and most serious inappropriate response is that sequencing has been replaced by genomic analysis; very likely for good reasons, but the latter appears to have been outsourced (probably to one of the usual culprits). Anyway, the data described as being of a particular date correspond to the sequenced data of 20 days earlier. My wife says that genomic analysis takes longer than sequencing, but not THAT long. And is DAMN shoddy statistics and epidemiology to date samples with when they were analysed, not when they were collected.

So it seems that the gummint and PHE will be acting on the basis of three week old data. Farrar correctly points out that hours can matter in an epidemic, and days assuredly do. Given COVID's fast doubling time, an immunity-bypassing variant that occurs in 0.1% of cases could easily occur in 90% three weeks later. This is just what we wanted to know. Anyway, I will post updates if anything happens and I notice before the press does. But, if our elf secretary were half-competent, he would light a fire under the genomic analysers.

In addition to that, the gummint has archived all of the genomically analysed data before May 20th. Following a FOI, I have the links, but they seem to have taken pains to ensure that the Web pages look the same, but are much more hostile to anyone wanting to do any statistical analysis. Saving the Web page gets JUST the boiler-plate, and the actual data is hidden behind an indirection (UNLIKE on the original PHE Web pages). And, yes, I checked one that is on both.

153:

Agreed. The UK used to be a world-leader in this area, but bloody Thatcher demolished most of our not-for-profit organisations that did it, and massively cut the funding for the others. It's unfair to assign all the blame to her, though, as the Department of Total Incompetence had been gunning for the area since at least the early 1960s.

154:

David L @ 132:

Special classes was a good thing.

Into the 70s (I don't know when things got changed.) "special" classes were for those considered "mentally retarded" (the term of the day I know). It was mainly for people with Down's Syndrome. But in hindsight it also got the socially un-adept. Which thing tarred them for life as being "slow", "stupid", or whatever.

Fortunately for me the late, un-lamented Durham City School System didn't have those in the 50s & 60s while I was attending there.

I am reasonably smart, reasonably well educated, but socially un-adept" fits me to a 'T' ... then and now.

As a side note, I was much smarter, even a genius, when I was in school ... or at least I thought I was. Schools should NOT tell children where they rank on IQ & Assessment tests.

155:

They did run it by Legal before putting it up for pre-order. Legal took about six months to notice ...

156:

JBS @ 154:

The same thing happened to me in the early '80s.

I literally went from being in a remedial class to "gifted" in the space of two years.

157:

"COVID19 as a bioweapon would have been an excellent choice during the first world war in Europe -- or maybe the
second. But in modern conflicts, it's both obsolescent and dangerous."

Now there is a premise for a story. Covid-19 as a bioweapon to be used for a time-travel attack during WWI, but it got released now by accident. I guess after this mess, they decide to go back to the drawing board and give influenza a boost instead.

159:

Both my children were labelled as poor readers in infant's school. They were both bored with the school reading schemes. My daughter, born in 1975 was only interested in non fiction. She wanted to read about animals, machines aircraft and making things. Her teacher was also upset because she refused to play in the Wendy house and wanted to use their construction toys instead ( a sort of giant plastic Meccano). She now has a civil engineering degree. My son, born in 1978 was bored with his reading scheme because he wanted exciting stories. Later, at the age of seven, his teacher complained of poor reading comprehension. I got out our copy of Catch 22 and gave him the passage about Orr where catch-22 was first explained. He laughed and told me exactly what it meant. He's now a marine biologist. My wife dealt with both teachers.

160:

whitroth @ 138: I see - you lucked out with your father. Mine graduated high school, and wound up as a factory worker (he should have been a poly sci prof). My mom got her GED after I graduated high school.

I believe from some of the other things you've written, that we are close in age. And I suspect your parents are the same generation as my parents. If that's the case, your Dad's job working in a factory may have been a good paying job. And your Mom didn't need a diploma to be a "wife & mother" because your Dad's factory job paid enough to support a family.

My Mom graduated from high school, but didn't go to college because she was told "women didn't need a college education". I think she might have actually been offered a partial scholarship at the time, which she had to turn down because "women didn't need ...".

After I transferred schools for fifth grade (see previous post), I was bored out of my gourd again. They read the textbook out loud in class, while I had read it, and was well into the next chapter, and didn't want to get too far ahead. So what I was reading was inside my textbook, not beneath the desk.

Now let's talk about school in the US in the fifties and sixties. The story that I've told ever since: as above, until one day, I look up, and my 5th grade teacher is standing over me, and the whole class is watching. She takes the book I was reading away from me, and says to see her after class. Luckily, I had another book, but didn't get so involved.

I went through school on a low C, bored most of the time, not doing a lot of my homework... but doing well on exams. I was labelled an "underachiever", and got to see my counselor in jr. high, but that was it. Went to the best public HS in Philly (Central), and most of the time, more bored. A few classes were interesting, but....

My Dad was on the School Board (later Chairman of the School Board), so THEY were always watching me like a hawk (like how the community is always watching the preacher's kid, salivating like Pavlov's dogs hoping to catch him screwing up). There was no way I could have hidden reading another book from my teachers for even a minute.

I went to the same Elementary School, Junior High School and High school my Dad had attended. Many of the teachers I had in school had been teachers when my Dad was there and had taught him, so I was always being measured against him ... and found wanting.

My Dad was frequently riding me about my poor grades. They took me to a child psychologist in the 4th grade, who told them the "problem" was that I was bored. I had read all of the text books all of the way through by the second week of class (even the math text, although I hadn't worked all of the practice problems).

I did well in the enrichment summer school that the Ford Foundation funded for one year (summer 1960). But there was no followup, so when fall came around and school started back up it was back to the same old routine - read all the books the first week or so and daydream my way through the rest of the school year.

My dad died a long time ago, but after my Mom died I inherited a bunch of the old papers he'd saved and then she saved after he died. Among them were old school report cards - mine AND his. Turns out he had a 'B' average in High School and so did I. On a numeric scale, I had a 3.2 and he had a 3.1.

161:

whitroth @ 142: Based on the recent stuff from his niece, it also terrified him, because he had no idea what to do, would not use anything the Obama admins had come up with, and so treated it like it was a movie.

He treated it like every other "problem" he's ever had to deal with; a distraction from the adulation of adoring masses for his awesomeness; something he could make go away by ignoring it & just wishing it to be gone.

I can recommend a good book:
Nightmare Scenario - Inside the Trump Administration's Response to the Pandemic That Changed History

The Peter principle doesn't appear to apply to the politics of elected office, because Trumpolini isn't the only example of someone rising to a level far above the level of their incompetence. In fact, it often appears to me that competence is likely a barrier to higher elected office.

162:

I had read all of the text books all of the way through by the second week of class

By the end of my 10th grade a group of us had convinced the new band director that year that we wanted to learn music theory. So he setup a new to the school class for the next year.

First day of class the next year. "Good news, the school system has a book approved for us to use. Bad news is they've never ordered it so we have to wait till it comes in. In the mean time I'll teach from my college notes."

5 weeks later.

"Good news, the books are here. Bad news, we'll be done in 2 weeks." So we continued with no books for the rest of the year. Final exam, write a 32 bar baroque style piece. We had an hour.

One of the best classes I ever had in high school. The people in the class were VERY self selected which helped.

For those outside of the US we were mostly 16/17 years old.

163:

Now there is a premise for a story. Covid-19 as a bioweapon to be used for a time-travel attack during WWI, but it got released now by accident. I guess after this mess, they decide to go back to the drawing board and give influenza a boost instead.

Yeah maybe. Unit 731 releases "Chinese Bat Flu" against the Chinese and Soviet armies during the close of WW2, to try to slow them down. It doesn't, but Covid39 gets loose in Asia, then spreads to Japan with troops returning from Manchuria, then spreads to the US via occupation troops and to the UK in India, literally ad nauseum. It replaces polio as everyone's nightmare. Given the slow development of vaccines and the viruses' rapid mutation rate, it outruns all efforts to vaccinate people against it, and becomes a more lethal version of the flu, with new forms flaring up every fall when kids go back to school.

164:

Given what's happened this week, with the release of the IPCC 6th report, here's my suggestion for alt-history (Paging Bruce Sterling and his clone army):

Big Oil does something really stupid (fill in blank) and royally pisses of Richard Nixon around 1972. Maybe Nixon gets his hands on the climate change doomsday file and realizes that there's someone more evil than him out there.

So he decides, in a fit of rage, to take down Big Oil and deal with this cocksucking climate change thing.

And he does. And he doesn't resign either, because this is more interesting than Watergate.

After much chaos, he's given a Nobel Peace Prize sometime in the 1980s. Meanwhile, the Cold War rages on, but now that the Soviets know that climate change is a capitalist conspiracy and that they were had by the Koch family cozying up to Stalin et seq., the decarbonize too.

Anyway, plant tongue firmly in cheek and describe the new millennium in this bizarro world where Tricky Dick actually saved civilization.

165:

Pay: not hardly. Before he retired, he was elected shop steward, and pissed off the union by standing up for his men. But all the time, my mom was working as a secretary. There were three years in the late fiftes that he was out of work, because the steel plant ran away to the South for cheap, nonunion labor.

I grew up in an apartment building in what became a slum.

And my folks kept a low profile, given Joe McCarthy, and my father's politics.

Around the same age, yes. But both my folks died last millenium. They're a long time gone.

166:

I fear to express this, even to myself, but I am feeling a sense of tipping point. Between Delta hitting the international market profits, holding back again the US economic recovery from the first wave, and children, even babies, here in the US, in overflow emergency rooms, hospitals, in all the states where the anti-vaxxer bs is strongest, while the same states (TX, AL, FL, MS) try to mandate anti-masking and anti-vaxxing, while demanding assistance and medical care from the feds and other states, the ever-rising fury of the rational (and vaccinated, coz, you know, rational) has risen to the point that it is maybe beginning to drive back the fascist insanity, at least as far as covid goes, here in the US, with mandating vaccines and masks. Schools all over these states are rebelling, and judges are upholding. Please, PLEASE PLEASE!

But it is taking the disease hitting children to do this, just like it seems its taken wildfires all over the globe to get some people to finally admit that climate catastrophe is real, and it is here -- the fire burned down my house and my whole town/city, so ya.

167:

I was actually alluding to the fact that the Spanish Flu was first majorly spread at an American Military base in Kansas towards during WWI.

168:

Ah, missed the turn. Sorry about that.

The weird thing about your scenario is that years ago they actually recreated the Spanish Flu as an experiment, to see what was different about it. There was a big controversy about how much of the research to publish, because they didn't want terrorists releasing it again. Very few people have any immunity to it, for obvious reasons.

More generally, the problem is that in any time when smallpox is on the loose, releasing something like Covid19 is small beer in comparison. For infectiousness and lethality, variola was hard to beat.

That's why I'd go for loony instead: if you've got a time gate, scoop up a million passenger pigeons and let them loose in the Upper Midwest. De-extinction, or releasing a literally huge crop pest in a starving world?

169:

"Trumpolini isn't the only example of someone rising to a level far above the level of their incompetence."

If I may quote one of the greatest thinkers in my lifetime: "The role of the president was not so much to wield power, as to draw attention away from it".

170:

DigiCom
I literally went from being in a remedial class to "gifted" in the space of two years.
In my case, about 3 days ...
I went to a state selective ( "grammar" ) school & somfink went 'orribly worng at the beginnig of the 4th form ( age 14-15 ) ... just for once, I moaned about this at home ... at the start of the next week I was transferred to the "special fast stream" which was doing 5-7 "O" levels in 1 year flat.
I strongly suspect that my father went & "had a few words"
... later I left school with 11 "O's" & 4 "A's"

Ah yes, reading ... fortunately, I don't think I was ever subjected to the "Janet_&_John" bollocks ... but I read my Father's copy of Last & First Men" at age 9, followed by his copy of the first volume of Sayers' translation of Dante, which has always left me interested in the failed Renaissance of the early 1300's
[ I once astounded a medieval-history PhD by asking intelligent questions about Frederick II Hohenstaufen! ]

Foxessa
Meaningless if the "R's" manage to suppress the vote next year & the US goes really fascist

171:


"(it would be pretty stupid to put such a dangerous facility in the downtown of a major population center)."

Like this P4 here for instance ?

https://www.google.fr/maps/place/21+Av.+Tony+Garnier,+69007+Lyon/@45.7279749,4.8226894,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x47f4ea2ae86d3f97:0xe4977b1506ec7664!8m2!3d45.7279712!4d4.8248834

Context :

https://www.laboratoirep4-jeanmerieux.inserm.fr/

https://www.lyon.fr/lieu/centres-de-recherche/laboratoire-p4

It is like 300m from the Rhône, one of France biggest rivers, in the 3rd city of France. Quite possibly in a floodable area.

172:

#164 Have you read Watchmen?

173:

#155 - Well, it took me more like 2 minutes, and another 2 to find it on MZN and pre-order a copy based on author and title alone.

#159 - Plastic Meccano (note capitalisation) was very much a thing in the UK, in the 1960s and 70s.

#160 - One of my secondary school teachers (I think 9th grade) once said at a parents' night "I sometimes think I'm boring Paws." My mother replied "Well, if you will make him go over stuff he covered in 5th grade!"

174:

I guess that precedes the Exxon file, but not sure by how much.

175:
That's why I'd go for loony instead: if you've got a time gate, scoop up a million passenger pigeons and let them loose in the Upper Midwest. De-extinction, or releasing a literally huge crop pest in a starving world?

The passenger pigeons would scoop up a lot of food at first. But I think they'd all be dead in a few years.

What killed the passenger pigeons was not so much overhunting (though that didn't help) but habitat loss. Not sure if there's any of their preferred nesting habitat has rewilded since 1914. If not, they're all kaput.

Anyway, plant tongue firmly in cheek and describe the new millennium in this bizarro world where Tricky Dick actually saved civilization.

Heh. Tricky Dicky is one of those strange people. LBJ was monumentally corrupt, but he brought in civil rights. One of Nixon's biographers said that Nixon's career was one of the best examples of a tragedy you could take from USA 20th century politics. Tragedy in the sense you get in English class, that is.

Here's a guy with amazing good things going for him. He's smart, physically brave, loves his wife, is an excellent organizer. Yet he thought because he was smart he could fool everybody all the time. This hubris - along with his utter indifference to the suffering his policies caused - brought him crashing down.

Giving Nixon a slight push in the 1930s to respect African Americans - as his parents did1! To give him the wisdom to see that although he was smart, there was always someone smarter. To give him the compassion and sense of justice to keep him away from HUAC - and who knows? RMN, vice president, 1953-1961, president 1961-1969, continuing the policies of Eisenhower with some of LBJ's Great Society thrown in.

I can't see it happening, of course. Unless you scoop the real RMN up and drop a properly-prepped doppelganger into his place at the right time.

1RMN's classmates at Duke University (NC) were amazed and appalled that he'd actually sat at the same dinner table as African Americans when he was growing up at his parents house.

176:

Mass education is unfortunately one of those systems where scale conflicts with individual needs.

If you fall within 1 or maybe 2 standard deviations from the mean on various learning scales you will probably manage a decent educational experience. Further away from the mean and you will either be bored silly (and thus not benefit) or over-challenged.

Of course, everyone has their own suite of skills and talents. In my case I was years ahead of the school system with reading and writing, roughly close to the mean on mathematics and science, and utterly hopeless at other things. My talent for testing well got me through school, but about 80% of it was effectively warehousing. My behaviour in high school reflected my awareness that much of what I was doing was bullshit. I calculated the minimum grade necessary to get into a community college, did the precise amount of effort to make that grade, and focused on being a teenager otherwise.

A significant number of my 'intelligent' classmates did similarly - it is hard from a teenage perspective to participate in things that are actively and obviously bullshit because it will help you fit into a bullshit system later on.

Once I arrived at college I had a 4.0 GPA (out of 4) for the first 3 terms, largely because of the option to pick what you study (and a little bit of false consensus motivating me to work hard).

Educating hundreds of thousands or millions of children presents a challenge when they are all annoyingly individual. The vast education machine churns out a lot of people who have learned how to keep their heads down, do what they are told and learn the minimum to pass. The machine also wastes a lot of human potential by failing to support the needs of anyone too far away from the mean.

The cost of building an education system that did support kids to their full potential would be enormous and gives politicians and stupid people indigestion. The cost of boring millions of children into stupefaction may well be higher, but harder to measure.

177:

Remember, Nixon's gone, and this is a tongue-in-cheek counterfactual.

The basic points that might appeal in this Alt-World:
--What-if #1: the initial environmental movement, and all the creativity that flowed from it, didn't get killed off in the 1980s. Could we have gotten to where we are now with wind, solar, and batteries that much sooner? I'm guessing probably, but it's a story point.
--What-if #2: New-Kewl-yar power! Seriously, the world goes big on nukes, with all the problems that portends. Unlike today, sea level rise is not a serious problem, although having too many dams is.
--What-if #3: Civil rights are for democrats, environmentalists are all Republicans of the Teddy Roosevelt/Nixon flavor. This isn't at all far-fetched. Conservation organizations are currently wrestling with a heritage of racism that goes back to Muir. The ideal of preserving untouched wilderness has some unpleasant bigotry feeding its roots.
--Novelty: Cli-Fi is generally disaster porn. This is averted disaster farce. If someone could sell a story with a west Texas rancher grumbling about the cost of getting rid of oil pumps, while bragging about the number of wind turbines on his spread, this would be it. Having Chinese and Soviet spies swiping the latest solar panel technology...that sort of thing.

This isn't the Watchmen, because superheroes didn't make the world safe for Nixon. Rather, this is the same president who created the EPA, signed NEPA and the Endangered Species Act to mess with the Democratic party going on to screw over companies that were trying to screw him over. And getting lionized for it.

Or postulate Dick Cheney and Company pushing American solar on the world, Nixon hardball style. That could be interesting. Especially if the idea is that nukes are for research reactors and nuclear powers. All the non-pink countries get wind and solar to save the ecology and be good little client states. That sort of thing.

178:

You'd need a couple things driving the story. First, an early solar/wind type breakthrough of some kind; better batteries in 1969, better solar panels... something.

Second, someone with money to out-lobby the oil companies.

You might be able to substitute a social or political event that makes everything necessary; maybe the attempt to install the Shah of Iran in 1953 is a failure and touches off a war/revolution of the kind we don't want, or maybe OPEC does a better job with their boycott in 1973... Maybe Exxon's super-sekrit climate papers come out in 1972 and that crisis substitutes for Watergate in the fictional narrative. Whatever.

179:

Rocketjps
it is hard from a teenage perspective to participate in things that are actively and obviously bullshit because it will help you fit into a bullshit system later on.
In my case that was "Skool Spurts" & "Team Games" - shudder. Fortunately, that accelerated course at age 14, meant I HAD to drop out of "sports", oh dear, how sad!

180:

I strongly disagree. Tricky Dick was "smart", but had no sense. LBJ, over the decades, I have come to see as a Greek tragedy. He wanted the Great Society, Civil Rights, etc, to be his legacy - remember, he was from Texas, and the Great Depression hit Texas *hard*.

Instead, thanks to that Iago/asshole/MacNamara, he got 'Nam.

I've thought - actually, started a short story - where MacNamara did tell him the truth when it mattered, and we did *not* go into 'Nam with half a million men, and he got re-elected. And Kruschev kept power, and eased out of Stalinism. And Apollo-Soyuz was only the beginning, a joint US/Soviet space station in the eighties....

181:

I just kept reading, though was more careful about not getting so involved in reading that I got caught.

Plus, goals for me, when I got around to thinking about them (not something that was talked about at the dinner table, not in our social milieu), everything was second best, since at 6', back then, I was 2" too tall to apply to be an astronaut.

By 12th grade, I had figured to major in physics (if I couldn't get into a college with an astronautical engineering program)... and had a *dreadful* physics teacher. Mid-sixties, all the amazing stuff going on... and I could practically count the dust motes (there was no a/c), as the teacher, late sixties or early seventies, read from the textbook, worked some of them, and then gave us homework, *period*.

182:

On the "Environmental Nixon" timeline:

You would have to do something about the environmental movement. This has always been a mixture of deep red ("capitalism is destroying the world, so we need to abolish it") along with a definite strain of hair-shirt thinking ("we have sinned against our mother and must do penance"). Nixon had a visceral loathing for both those.

So you need an alternative Nixonian vision of environmentalism. Something involving market forces; perhaps pollution permits or green taxes. Lots of space for big business to come up with solutions. Nixon's actual environmental record was pretty progressive for the time, so this isn't a big reach. But it would need to be spelt out.

This Economist article (sorry, paywall) imagines a future 2024 pivot by the Republicans, with carbon taxes and/or government investment in low-carbon technology.

183:

Second, someone with money to out-lobby the oil companies.

Wind turbines, solar power and electric cars are all growing fast, and want to keep on growing. They are now getting big enough to start putting serious money into lobbying.

I also have an optimistic take on the Trumpist right. They stand a good chance of making the Republicans unelectable; there may be 35% of the US who will always vote Trumpist, but there are probably more who will vote for anything else. There is already a steady demographic shift towards the Democrats, and the Republicans are increasingly having to stick a thumb on the electoral scales to stay in the running. Eventually their capacity for tilting the scales is going to be exhausted, at which point the Democrats will be able to permanently remove that thumb (and possibly tilt it the other way by using the same tactics). This could result in a long time in the wilderness for the Republicans.

Which sounds like a good thing. Unfortunately monopolization of power by one party is never good for sound government.

184:

A) ...provided USA does not elect Tucker supreme leader for life before then.

B) Why do you refer to the Democrats as "one party" ?

185:

David L @ 122:

Occam's Razor

Occam's Razor is total crap. It gives license to people who don't want to understand something to throw out anything too complicated for them to understand. Or want to understand."

It's not crap when used responsibly. You're complaining about people who won't use it the way it was intended, as a tool to validate alternate EQUAL solutions to a problem. That's their fault, not Occam's.

186:

First, I'll note that the Democrats had a large majority, but lost the supermajority that year. The Dems were pro-ecology (see Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern).

Second, the GOP pivoting? How odd - it's not an April 1 issue of the Economist. That's about as likely to happen as I am to become a good pal of IQ 45.

187:

Heteromeles @ 151: I doubt defensive medicine even needs to be that secret. It's like cryptography: public research on things like antibiotic resistance and emerging viruses is a) a public good (which is useful in international prestige and so forth) and b) gets more eyes on it through public review than a purely secret program would.

It's not defensive medicine. It's research into biological organisms that could be weaponized, figuring out HOW they could be weaponized and developing countermeasures for them BEFORE some asshole thinks to weaponize them.

As I pointed out, keeping the research secret is primarily intended to keep from giving said assholes any bright ideas about what they might be able to develop into a bio-weapon.

Frequently the research produces negative results ...
You can't make a bio-weapon from Germ A, so there's no need to worry about it." or ...
"Even IF some crank tries to weaponize Germ B, our medical knowledge base already has the necessary information to combat it"

The payoff is when the defense research establishment identifies Germ C and recognizes that it COULD be made into an effective weapon if one of those "OTHER GUYS" gets ahold of it.

We don't know how to defend ourselves from something like Germ C ... YET, so let's NOT tell those "OTHER GUYS" that here's something they should look into for developing a Germ C bio-weapon.

The SECRET so we don't tip off the "OTHER GUYS" while we try to figure out how to defend against it.

188:

Paul
Eventually their capacity for tilting the scales is going to be exhausted
UNLESS they grab power in 2022 & make sure their thumb is till pressed down in 2024 in enough US states ...

189:

I don't think the idea of a GOP pivot is completely outrageous. Most of their base is rural, and they'll have heard plenty from farmers in the next couple years. Also, the writing is on the wall about energy pricing and a couple scientific advances and the wind/solar types are starting to have serious money.

I don't think the GOP as a whole will pivot - that's too much to ask for - but the idea that they will lose a couple congresscritters to wind/solar, then lose more in each of the following elections isn't outrageous, and it won't take that many for U.S. energy policy to undergo a major change.

The GOP's larger problem, and it ties into this, is that they've lied too largely and many times, and that chicken will come home to roost sometime in the next decade. This will be easy to miss, because it won't be explained to pollsters with a phrase like "The GOP lied all the time so I stopped voting for them" but you'll see it if you dig. It will be more along the lines of "I was going bankrupt, but that nice ecofreak bought me out and put solar panels where my crops used to grow" or "they did such a bad job on COVID..." or whatever.

190:

You would have to do something about the environmental movement. This has always been a mixture of deep red ("capitalism is destroying the world, so we need to abolish it") along with a definite strain of hair-shirt thinking ("we have sinned against our mother and must do penance"). Nixon had a visceral loathing for both those.

At that point, the environmental movement had 2, maybe 3, major strands:
--The hippies and the back to the land types. These tend to break hard Boomer/Left.
--The hikers and hunters in the old TDR mode. These tended to be Roosevelt Republicans until the mid-1990s when the Neo-Cons booted them out of the party.
--Then there's the minority environmental justice vote that went democrat with LBJ. They weren't big players then the way they are now.

I agree that Nixon loathed hippies, but I think he got along reasonably well with the others.

So back to Environmentalist Nixon...

Here's another way it could play out:
--The Pentagon Papers broke in 1971, the Watergate Scandal was 1972-1974.

Posit a couple of things:
1. The Pentagon is currently the #1 petroleum user on the planet. However, in 1971 they were getting their teeth kicked in for Vietnam, getting downsized, and weirdness like the First Earth Battalion was happening.
2. The whole Watergate break-in was discovered by accident. The simplest solution is that it wasn't discovered, and Nixon finishes out his second term.

Now, how to get Nixon to become a climate warrior. Posit:
3. The Doomsday Papers, a long series of studies done by oil companies on global warming, showing that it's a critical problem. These more-or-less exist.

Let's assume Nixon got his hands on them around 1971-1972. To take the heat off from the Pentagon Papers, instead of declaring a War on Drugs (1971), Nixon releases the Climate Papers and launches a huge investigation. He then drums up support for an Apollo-style program to free the US from petroleum before it destroys civilization, using nukes and the sun. And, heh heh, perhaps a bit of hydrogen from natural gas.

This gets even more embarrassing for Big Oil when it comes out that Koch Industries was perfectly happy to work with Stalin. Oil increasingly becomes seen as a (communist/fascist?) plot to profiteer while destroying civilization, whether through the Military-Industrial complex in Vietnam, or getting everybody hooked on oil.

Anyway, the decarbonization moon-shot works well enough, mostly because Big Oil gets knocked on its heels and for once its normal supporters in the military can't save it. In defense, they rally around hydrogen from natural gas.

The technological breakthroughs Whitroth wanted start coming out in the mid 1970s. These plausibly include lithium batteries (and possibly better FeNi ones or something), better hydrogen fuel cells, and better wind turbine designs (the last two from NASA). Oh, and more nuclear power plant designs.

In the Mid-1970s, the "next ice age stuff" scare tactics get revealed as a Big Oil propaganda ploy, and nukes proliferate through the industrialized world, along with solar and wind subsidized on rural ranches throughout the West. Ronnie Raygun campaigns from the back of an electric jeep while wearing a cowboy hat under a spinning windmill, while Big Oil tries to retool to sell "Hydrogen to the People" in the big cities.

191:

Oh yeah, I forgot about the 1973 OPEC Oil Embargo of countries that supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War. That could easily play into this.

I should note, at this juncture, that I'm goofing with a setting. Someone else wants to use it for a story, go right ahead. Aside from real work, I'm goofing around with an alt-history where Reconstruction succeeded, and some former slave turned out to be geniuses...

192:

whitroth @ 165: Pay: not hardly. Before he retired, he was elected shop steward, and pissed off the union by standing up for his men. But all the time, my mom was working as a secretary. There were three years in the late fiftes that he was out of work, because the steel plant ran away to the South for cheap, nonunion labor.

Still, factory wages in the 1950s - compared to the cost of living in the 1950s - were fairly good. One breadwinner could support a family on those wages and women generally did not HAVE to work outside the home UNLESS THEY WANTED TO.

My Mom started nursing school just about the time my youngest sib entered the first grade. She worked for many years as a Licensed Practical Nurse before going back to school to become a Registered Nurse. She was considering going back to school again for a Bachelors Degree in Nursing when my Dad died, but gave that up for work (supporting 2 of my siblings who still lived at home).

She didn't have to work, but she needed to (if you understand the difference). Her work gave meaning to her life.

Around the same age, yes. But both my folks died last millenium. They're a long time gone.

Dad died in 1977 at age 54. I'm almost 18 years older now than my Dad was when he died. Mom lived on until 2013 when she died at age 92; not quite a year to the day from when her last surviving sibling died.

193:

Getting back to the original topic: with my usual warped humor, I started wondering about the Cult of Santa Rona, The Fixer of Stupid (You can't fix stupid, but she can). Turns out that cult doesn't exist, but prayers have been going to Santa Muerte since the start of the pandemic. Just goes to show.

194:

Heteromeles @ 168: Ah, missed the turn. Sorry about that.

The weird thing about your scenario is that years ago they actually recreated the Spanish Flu as an experiment, to see what was different about it. There was a big controversy about how much of the research to publish, because they didn't want terrorists releasing it again. Very few people have any immunity to it, for obvious reasons.

More generally, the problem is that in any time when smallpox is on the loose, releasing something like Covid19 is small beer in comparison. For infectiousness and lethality, variola was hard to beat.

That's why I'd go for loony instead: if you've got a time gate, scoop up a million passenger pigeons and let them loose in the Upper Midwest. De-extinction, or releasing a literally huge crop pest in a starving world?

Why not go back to 1908 and bribe the proctors at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna to admit a certain prospective student despite the deficiencies of his portfolio?

195:

I sometimes find myself offering up an agnostic prayer to the saint of Amazon deliveries, Saint Expedite. Supposedly, the story goes, shipments of plaster saints destined for the faithful would arrive at the railway station at New Orleans marked "Expedite" and the folks buying the statues thought that was the name of the saint(s) inside the crates.

196:

Why not go back to 1908 and bribe the proctors at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna to admit a certain prospective student despite the deficiencies of his portfolio?

That's how you end up with the German National Workers' Party being run by Fritz Lang, while Adolf Hitler simply paints the tromp l'oeil backdrops for the spectacular flats behind the Nuremburg rally.

(Lang's pre-1919 career eerily mirrored Hitler's, although Lang was in the Austro-Hungarian army rather than the German one, and Lang was a lot less likely to succumb to rabid anti-semitism.)

197:

As far as I know, my mom had to work. I've no idea what my father was making, but I think we would have moved out of the apt building that had become a slum long before I left home.

198:

Two corrections: first, boomers/hippies breking hard left. Wall, true... unless you read any mainstream media, who were desperately trying to sell hippies == apolitical.

Second, 1971, the Pentagon getting downsized? Huh? Nixon was increasing it - 69-72 was when we were going into Laos, and Cambodia. After the '72 election, he started winding it down, and going to "Vietnamization". I assure you the B-52s were carpeting Vietnam in '71.

199:

Yup, that's a big correction, alright.

Anyway, Imagine Hizzoner Nixon The Unwatergated yanking the US Military-Industrial Complex out of Vietnam, then kicking it while it's down in its vulnerable petroleum storage sacs, and telling it to make future war with nuclear power, solar, and hydrogen, or else.

I'm sure that would go down real well. But we are talking about tongue-in-cheek alt-history.

And, of course, Keith Laumer imagined just such a weapons system, suitable for anti-communist landwar in Europe. Even if it had to mount a Davy Crockett and be twice the weight of an Abrams tank.

Combine such weapons systems with something like the First Earth Battalion, aim the resulting story at Baen, and you're in business.

200:

Alt history with Nixon as hero? Easiest sales job in the world!

201:

I'll hork up another Cli-fi scenario, just so we can get back to Inappropriate covid19.

Here's the elevator pitch:

Pharma-bro in the near future has his company assemble a virus based on the smallpox genome. He also bought up the patent rights to brincidofovir, an antiviral that's supposed to work on smallpox. He decides to release his Frankenstein'ed Variola into the wild, so that he can corner the treatment market and get filthy rich. So he bribes some ecofascists to release his monster at airports, while he does the dirty at Davos, or a drug company conference.

Anyway, turns out that brincidofovir doesn't work all that well on his smallpox, which due to the manufacturing process isn't exactly Variola major any more. For similar reasons, it turns out that the old vaccines don't work very well either.

Smallpox historically has about a 3% fatality rate. Covid19 has a 2% fatality rate. You can make this into a cli-fi story if smallpox spreads through the air lanes, and the combo of covid and variola actually do cause humanity's population to stabilize rather abruptly. Add in Wheat Rust, and you've got the 2020s in a horrorshow.

*Note to NSA: A) I'm not planning this, B) I don't have the means or desire to do this, and C) this is because I figure that horror fiction occasionally needs real-life monsters. Problem is, some PharmaBro might think this is a playbook, instead of a cautionary story.

202:

You could always take out a business-process patent on the idea. That way if someone does follow-through they've got to pay you.

203:

...What he doesn't anticipate, though, is that chickenpox turns out to give immunity against his modified version just as well as cowpox did against the original :)

"But we are talking about tongue-in-cheek alt-history."

The religion of the Middle East considers natural petroleum seeps to be far more sacred than Islam as we know it does Mecca. They guard an exclusion zone around them against unbelievers so assiduously that the outside world has no idea what they're guarding (but, people being people, are inclined to suspect it involves sex). Consequently, early oil exploration concentrates on the belt of oilfields from Romania to the Caspian. Free passage of the Bosporus becomes existentially critical to the British navy...

The shock of the news from Sarajevo does Franz Josef in. Carl is in, Conrad is out...

or: The Black Hand decide on a different method after reading some contemporary SF. They collect a bucket of gunge from people with smallpox and chuck it into FF's car from an upstairs window. The resulting spread of infection more or less decapitates the Austro-Hungarian leadership and knocks the stuffing out of much of the Balkans. King Peter gets a hard-on...

or: Wittgenstein's efforts to get himself shot at more often bear early fruit. He survives having his leg shot off but can no longer serve in the field. Instead he goes into military R&D, and invents the jet engine...

or: ...instead he becomes a staff general. He analyses the existing corpus of military doctrine and concludes that it's all fundamentally bollocks. He devises instead a new set of methods which are totally correct and cover all possible contingencies, but which nobody else can understand...

204:

How about this as a counterfactual: Nixon beats JFK in 1960 (very possible, it was a razor close race and the press just had to report on one of JFK's sex scandals).

How do the 60s turn out?

First off, no Bay of Pigs. Nixon thought it was a stupid plan. And no Cuban Missile crisis either. Khrushchev thought that Kennedy weak when they met in Vienna and thought he would accept Soviet missiles in the western hemisphere. He never thought that about the red-baiting Nixon who stood up to him in the famous Kitchen Debate.

No Civil rights or voting rights bills, however. Can't see Nixon ever doing that. The South stays Democratic. Cities burn brighter and hotter with ghetto riots. Nixon rolls out the tanks. White suburban America applauds. Race relations much worse.

But no insane right wing craziness growing like a cancer in the GOP (which has come to fruition today) since Goldwater does not run in 64. The John Bircher stuff stays on the fringe.

Probably wins re-election. Who does Nixon beat in 64? Bobby Kennedy? Does Nixon, grateful for Teamster support, keep Jimmy Hoffa out of prison?

But big improvement on the environment, he did create the USEPA by executive order.

Hippies, counter culture, sex-drugs-and-rock and roll? He gave us the fake war on drugs (really a war on black males as admitted by Haldeman) so yeah he tries to stop it early - and fails.

But the sexual revolution happens on schedule with the invention of the Pill - no stopping that.

Whether the Woodstock counter culture ever emerges depends on whether Nixon gets us into Viet Nam like LBJ did. While staunchly anti-communist he was also a cold blooded geopolitical realist not willing to spend American blood and treasure on a strategically unimportant piece of real estate. I see him keeping it low key with just advisors, no major military commitment - just enough to ensure that SVN does not fall until after his reelection.

Probably does not play the China card. Sino-Soviet border clashes showing the split between the two communist giants did not occur until 1969, after Nixon's hypothetical second term. Until that happened everyone assumed a big monolithic commie conspiracy to take over the world.

Probably not have an arms deal with the Soviets either. That required satellite imaging technology that could allow us to accurately count Soviet missiles, and that tech would not be available until after Nixon's two terms.

No Watergate, his paranoia didn't set in until later. But he always played very dirty politics so expect very nasty elections with the Left still hating him.

If Watergate had not happened, Nixon might have gone down in history as a great president - hence the Tragedy aspect of his life.

But if he gets the presidency 8 years earlier, he'd probably just be remembered as an ordinary transitional president trying to preside over a turbulent changing America, failing and succeeding in equal measure.

206:

Health Warning
Sourced through MSN from the Daily Nazi
BUT: I do hope this is not true - and just a scare story.
Information?

Land lines stay working when the internet goes down
And a LOT of us are still using Copper "land-lines" for our Internet access, anyway!

207:

Health Warning
Sourced form MSN - itself from the Daily Hate
But:
If true this is scary ...
A LOT of us are still using Copper "Land-Lines" for our Internet access.
And in emergencies, the Land-Lines tend to saty "up" longer than the Internet.

Information & Opinions, please?

208:

Welcome to the modern world.

In the US most copper lines don't go back to the Central Office (CO). And haven't for a decade or few. For 25 years or so anytime they could the telcos here would replace a huge pile of copper bundles with fiber to a pod and the pod would have power, some batteries, and copper from that to the end point. And later on fiber to the curb or premises. (The AT&T fiber splicing barrel for homes around me is above my driveway just off the edge of the street.)

Those huge stacks of lead acid batteries in the COs went away and were replaced by a battery or few in the pod.

Removing the batteries and mechanical switches freed up huge amounts of data center style floor space around the country. Some times they sold it off. Now some of it is being repurposed to be caching servers and such to bring data closer to the customer.

Welcome to the present. It's not too bad a place to live.

209:

UNTIL you get a major or minor power cut - then you have lost everything.
In the "Great Storm" ( Hurricane ) of 1987, even in London, the only thing working was the telephone system ....
Will I need a new actual fibre feed to my house, because, at the moment it's Copper out-up-the-top, to a street-pole & Cu certainly as far as the junction box on the next street corner, if not to the exchange, about a km away ....
And, I assume, as usual, we will be forced to pay for this?

210:

Greg Tingey @209:

Re: Power and telephone lines...

Until you go to something like the NBN we now have in Oz.

Ignoring the mistake in not delivering Fibre-To-The-Premises thanks to Rupert, it's all VOIP, so even if you do have FTTP and the battery back-up box, you've only got four hours until it runs out.

And the lusers say, "But you can still use your mobile", they tend to look puzzled when it's pointed out that the power to the base stations will also have been cut, and respond with, "No, you can charge your 'phone from the car". Sigh.

211:

That only seemed to affect Larndarn and "Home Counties Sarf".

2 weeks later, the Stornoway Gazette carried the following paragraph:-
"Last week, 100mph winds were recorded at Butt of Lewis. A national state of emergency was not declared".

212:

Duffy @ 204: Hippies, counter culture, sex-drugs-and-rock and roll? [Nixon] gave us the fake war on drugs (really a war on black males as admitted by Haldeman) so yeah he tries to stop it early - and fails.

Do you have a cite for that? I'm aware of this article in Harpers quoting another Nixon aide, Ehrlichman, which is often cited as evidence that the WoD was actually a pretext to attack the civil rights movement. However that version of events doesn't seem to have much to back it up. Both Erlichman and Baum (the reporter) are now dead, and Ehrlichman doesn't seem to have said this to anyone else.

A better understanding of the Nixonian policy can be found in the relevant oval office tapes. Nixon believed that alcohol is drunk by strong races, and it makes them stronger, but "drugs" are used by weak races and lead to the downfall of nations. He believed that the growing use of these drugs was being pushed by the USSR as a strategy to weaken America, while the USSR maintained its strength through having a strong anti-drug policy. He believed that homosexuality was another part of this same strategy. And he also believed that Jews were a big part of the push for drug legalisation, although he couldn't see why.

In short, he and his advisers showed all the intellectual sophistication and self-awareness of a bunch of guys sounding off in the bar after work. The Nixonian WoD was not a really clever way of sicing the FBI on the civil rights movement and Nixon's political opponents, it was just Nixon's personal fears and prejudices being turned into policy.

213:

You are correct sir. I confused Haldeman with Ehrlichman.

214:

The 2025 date seems to be for shutting down the POTS equipment at exchanges. Individual lines will be left as they are until a change in service or provider is made at which point they'll be switched to full fibre. It is already not possible to order new copper in several areas of the country.

Effectively everyone who isn't already on FTTP will land up on FTTC rather than the wire going all the way back to the exchange. The entire change-over is expected to be a 30 year job.

The Register does articles on the progress every so often and is probably a better source than Adolf's blog.

215:

Yes, it did, and that wasn't just because we aren't prepared for it (unlike Stornoway!) I keep telling people from the Sarf (including Americans) that 60 MPH winds are common there, but it's not a problem (even camping) if you are properly prepared. My tent is a Hilleberg Nallo 2, NOT a quick pop-up dome :-) I haven't encountered 100 MPH, and would rather not ....

http://wiki.dtonline.org/images/4/45/UK_Wind_Map.gif

216:

And no Cuban Missile crisis either. Khrushchev thought that Kennedy weak when they met in Vienna and thought he would accept Soviet missiles in the western hemisphere.

This is how you get a full-scale nuclear war in 1962.

Kruschev and the Supreme Soviet didn't put missiles in Cuba for shits and giggles, they did it because they were terrified of the USAF Thor IRBMs based in Turkey, with a flight time of around five minutes to Moscow. They looked like a credible set-up for a first strike, and only the perception that Kennedy would let them maintain a balance of terror with missiles based on Cuba held them back from pre-empting.

(Remember that Curtis LeMay was arguing for a first strike back then, and he wasn't alone: a lot of US opinion-shapers thought it was essential to nuke the USSR until it glowed in the dark before they had a chance to catch up.)

Now, Nixon knew there was no missile gap (a major element in Kennedy's election campaign) because he presumably knew about the findings from the CIA's U-2 overflights and OXCART program. But he would still have been feeling the pressure, and in all likelihood he'd have lent a friendly ear to those voices -- and the Soviets would have known this.

End result: denied the option of moving IRBMs into Cuba and then negotiating a stand-down of intermediate forces, Kruschev's Supreme Soviet could easily have succumbed to the same Abilene paradox dynamic that caused Kennedy's cabinet to go all-in for the blockage (and nearly caused a nuclear war).

Upshot: there is no 1964 presidential election, instead Nixon's successor (whichever one survived the 3 Day War) continues on pro tem on emergency powers. Side effects: there is no UK. There is no France. There is no Germany. The rump of the USSR is ruled from some small town with a number designation that nobody ever heard of. At least 200 million people died in the prompt exchange, but that was before the fallout and famines.

217:

In the "Great Storm" ( Hurricane ) of 1987, even in London, the only thing working was the telephone system ....

That was a third of a century ago: times have moved on.

Modern cell base stations cover a relatively small geographical area and have their own backup power via UPSs. They talk to the main switches via fibre or microwave link. I'm reasonably certain that there's some resilience there -- the emergency services run on packet-switched radio networks too, these days.

But there's a much wider problem in the UK with successive governments paying less (or no) attention to resilience -- for example, when property developers bung a couple of thousand quid to the Tory party in return for smoothing the way to planning permission to build a thousand new homes on a flood plain. Which in due course is going to bite us much harder than a reduced battery back up duration on our phones.

218:

Effectively everyone who isn't already on FTTP will land up on FTTC rather than the wire going all the way back to the exchange. The entire change-over is expected to be a 30 year job.

I'm currently on FTTP but hopefully being switched to FTTC in a couple of weeks. Which means going from 60mbps incoming/16mbps outgoing to 300/60 (I didn't feel like paying for 900/200 because my household wired ethernet isn't fast enough to use it and I don't feel like rewiring the house so I can download an ebook purchase in a couple of milliseconds rather than a couple of dozen milliseconds).

NB: my "home" broadband is actually a BT Business account. Costs about four times as much, but I get unmetered data, no throttling, contention ratio of 1:1 (as in: it's all mine), and a static IP address. Indeed, I might even think about canning the colocated server and moving this blog in-house ...

219:

Placing the missiles in Cuba was more political than military.

The Soviets already had Hotel-class K-19 SLBM submarines each armed with a half dozen medium and short range nuclear ballistic missiles parked off both coasts.

Few would survive an encounter with the US navy, but they only needed a few to take out enough coastal cities to destroy America as a viable nation state.

In October 62 there were only about 6 to 8 operational Soviet ballistic missiles in Cuba (though many more were coming).

So it wasn't just fear of our missiles in Turkey (Reagan would later deploy Pershing II missiles with better capability), since the Soviets already had an effective counter with their SLBMs.

So there being no real military reason to put missiles in Cuba, Khrushchev's motivations were political and diplomatic. A bastion of Soviet nuclear power in Cuba would have collapsed the Monroe Doctrine, crippled American foreign policy credibility, and spread Communist revolution throughout Latin America. It was a gamble for political high stakes. The highest stakes.

And his mistaken evaluation of JFK's "weakness" led him to believe that he could get away with it. As Khrushchev told the Politburo, JFK was like a peasant who may not like sheltering a cow in his house during winter, but he would have to accept it because he had to - and in time would get used to the smell.

He wouldn't make that mistake with Nixon.

220:

Biggest question about a Nixon presidency from 1960 to 1968:

Does he get us involved in Viet Nam?

Which rules, his anti communist heart or his cold and calculating geopolitical brain?

221:

Er, no. I can't tell you how those fitted in, but I read both an authorised British history and a semi-authorised USA one that referred to the nuclear 'defence' situation in 1962. Both said the following:

If the USSR launched a first strike, it would seriously damage the USA, but the USA's retaliation would reduce the USSR's military and industrial capabilities to rubble.

If the USA launched a first strike, it would destroy enough of the USSR's retaliatory capabilities that the USA would survive the retaliation with at least 70% of its industrial capabilities intact. Militarily, that's survivable. No, they didn't bother to describe what would happen to the USSR.

There were a lot of influential hawks in the USA who were actively lobbying for just such a first strike, and the balance of power was such that they might well have won out.

The USA, UK and USSR knew all that, each knew that the others knew, and so on recursively.

No, Kruschev was running scared, and for damn good reason.

222:

they did it because they were terrified of the USAF Thor IRBMs based in Turkey

Two different people I talked with in the 70s/80s who were involved in US military missiles at the time of such said it was an open secret that these were version v0.1 of such and the likelyhood of a majority of them launching AND getting to their intended target was slim.

223:

I'm currently on FTTP but hopefully being switched to FTTC in a couple of weeks.

OK. I'm confused. I thought:
FTTP was fiber to the premises.
FTTC was fiber to the cabinet. (Neighborhood)

How would a fiber run that is not into your home be faster than one that is into your home?

Or do the terms mean something else?

224:

The two views are not mutually exclusive.

Soviet doctrine was essentially "the best defence was a good offense."

225:

The Cuban crisis was 1962, and the technologies were completely different from those used in 1970 onwards.

226:

It is a common mistake to assume that fibre is any faster than copper - it is actually slower. One reason that fibre is used is that it maintains its speed over long distances, whereas 'fast' copper doesn't. Another is that it causes less chaos when hit by lightning. And, of course, nowadays, it is cheaper.

227:

I'm not sure I really agree that services were out in London. I lived in London and looked out the window at about 6am (the windows were rattling)to see the neighbours young silver birch prostrate across our garden.

But the electricity, water and phone were fine.

At 8am I walked 3 miles to work - the main road was blocked by fallen scaffolding from a bulding restoration, so the commuting traffic queue was off in to the distance.

I did a normal day at work and the site I worked at announced at midday that anyone who had not come in would have a days wages docked - despite the police and government pleading with everyone to stay home.

By the evening I went to evening classes in Malet St, apart from a couple of trees down in Byng Place it was business as usual.

Kent, near Deal, which I visited two weeks later was a whole different story.

228:

I had the convrsation with BT:

"When you take away the copper connection we will have no connectivity if theres a power cut!"

To which they responded:
"Use your smart phone"

To which I responded:
"We can't get a text without going upstairs and hanging out the front window"

their response:
.....

I'm still waiting, backup power supplies were muttered about but, no info provided. If I want to call an ambulance or the fire brigade I need to drive a mile first.

229:

Charlie @ 218
Have you got that backwards?
You're saying you expect to be switched AWAY from Fibre-to-the-Premises back to Fibre-to-the Cabinet? Really?

Grant
😡

230:

Don't want to derail the thread below 300 so I'll be brief, but it was good old Alexander Shulgin who first synthesized 2,5-Dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine, aka STP. Credit where it's due and fuck the CIA.

231:

Got the acronyms reversed.

Anyway: I'm getting about 6x the UK's entire trans-Atlantic internet bandwidth in 1990, ALL TO MYSELF.

232:

The Cuban crisis was 1962, and the technologies were completely different from those used in 1970 onwards.

Please read what I said. I TALKED with them in the 70s/80s. They were on duty in the 50s/60s.

233:

Not sure of your point. But the telcos in general want the conversion from fiber to copper to take place as close to the customer as possible. And in conditioned space. And while pristine copper CAN be fast, the faster you want it to be the more expensive the bit at each end. And the more protection against the real world. And again the telcos (at least in the US) don't want to put such things in cabinets. In the weather. Where cars run over them every now and again.

234:

And to tack on a bit more.

In the US what I saw was 25 or so years ago the telcos started replacing fiber to the larger neighborhood pods and to buildings with large numbers of lines. Then to the smaller neighborhoods and smaller buildings. And for the last 5-10 years to individual customers.

Copper can do wonderful things. But long term and long distance it sucks.

And in the US most telcos have ditched microwave to the extent possible and as fast as possible.

235:

In the US the big 3 (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile) will now give you a cell hot spot to put in your home if your signal sucks. I have 2 at this time for my T-Mobile account for 2 locations on my account.

While free if it goes away for more than a month you get an email saying use it, return it, or pay for it. :)

And you need to remember that the traffic is no routed over your home internet connection with whoever you get that from and you'll need to watch if you have data caps.

236:

I think that you have the dates wrong - certainly, Wikipedia thinks so. Interestingly, it says that Turkey (and Italy) had the Jupiter, and that was pretty accurate; only the UK accepted the Thor. And, as I said, I am relying on one authorised and one semi-authorised history; none of the three countries I mentioned felt that those missiles would fail badly enough to prevent a successful first strike, and what they BELIEVED is more important in determining their motives that what the actual bits and bobs would have done if used in anger.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PGM-17_Thor

I agree with OGH in #216.

237:

Charlie Stross @ 196:

Why not go back to 1908 and bribe the proctors at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna to admit a certain prospective student despite the deficiencies of his portfolio?

That's how you end up with the German National Workers' Party being run by Fritz Lang, while Adolf Hitler simply paints the tromp l'oeil backdrops for the spectacular flats behind the Nuremburg rally.

(Lang's pre-1919 career eerily mirrored Hitler's, although Lang was in the Austro-Hungarian army rather than the German one, and Lang was a lot less likely to succumb to rabid anti-semitism.)

I don't know. Would a German National Workers' Party without the rabid antisemitism have been as bad as the one we actually got?

238:

What I said in #226, principally cost and because engineers have to be trained and carry spares for only one technology.

If you need an explanation of WHY copper is (slightly) faster, I could give one, but it's boring. As far as distances go, even 10Gb Ethernet can handle 100 metres, which is fine for most cabinet to premises. Note that you can multiply that up by simply having repeater boxes every 100 metres.

https://kb.wisc.edu/ns/page.php?id=7829

Re #235, that helps with making a telephone call after a power cut exactly how? Your digital telephone line and internet connection use exactly the same technologies, and often share most of the infrastructure (in our case, all of it).

239:

Trying to start an argument?

Yes I can dig out my old texts and notes and figure out the math behind propagation down a copper twisted pair inside a building. But that is NOT what we're discussing. We're talking about getting the signal from one building to another. Mostly miles away. And 10 gig along outdoor copper that needs to stand up to weather and splicing is just a royal PITA.

My comment about cell spots was about how to get a cell signal if inside your house the signal sucked. Most people I know have a $50 to $100 UPS stuck on their modem and router just to deal with such. And you'll not get an argument from me this is a grand universal solution.

240:

EC
ASSUMING that BT are running fibre to my road Box: - ... then the distance of Copper from there to my socket is 215-220 metres.
Now - when the switch happens, does anyone have an idea if that last Cu bit will remain, including the 25 metres of wire hung across the road from a pole? OR will they run fibre under the road/pavement in conduit & then up the side of my house to a (new) socket?

241:

I upgraded to FTTP in January, no data cap, 20 ms ping and 217Mbps down and 192Mbps up according to an actual speed check. (I could get faster tiers up to 900/900 for more money but I thought 200 was more than enough for my present needs) I also have a static IP and got to transfer my old landline number to the VOIP. My Panasonic DECT phone base station just plugs into a phone socket on the new router and works, caller ID and everything.

242:

Nope. Nixon's whole career (whatever you call China) was as the anti-Communist warrior, and https://www.thehistoryreader.com/military-history/nixons-bay-pigs-secrets/

Suggests he would have gone with it. I mean, all the Batista supporters and the Mafia (proprietors of Havana) were all anti-commie, and hot under the collar.

I also suspect he would have ramped up Vietnam *sooner* if not with .5M to start with.

Meanwhile, as Charlie pointed out, the Cuban Missile Crisis was all about the US missiles in Turkey. And what anyone here says *now*, what the Soviets knew in 1962 is a completely different story.

I think the riots would have gotten worse in the later sixties, and more whites, esp. younger, would have been in, just like the BLM demonstrations.

The '68 election would have been, ahhh, interesting, with Nixon putting draftees in 'Nam. Could be JFK running for a rematch, or Bobby. MLK - Nixon might have let Hoover jail him.

243:

Yeah, I'm unhappy. We have FIOS, so fiber-to-the-home, meaning we only have two ways of getting out - Internet/phone, and cell phone. Power goes out... and your backup battery goes out (and the phone company installs the battery backup... but it's on *us* to replace the batteries), and the cell towers will be overwhelmed.

244:

Ike already involved us, and Nixon would have gone beyond, Cold-Warrior that he was, so yes.

245:

The question is whether he could have been stopped from using a nuke.

246:

Perhaps, but it was the CIA who was experimenting with it, and word got around on the street....

247:

"I don't know. Would a German National Workers' Party without the rabid antisemitism have been as bad as the one we actually got?"

A fascist party that wasn't infected with the insane conspiracy theories would, if they had gained power, been vastly more dangerous.

The Wehrmacht was modern and powerful but had a critical weakness - in the words of Dan Carlin, it was infested with Nazis. People in authority who were chosen for their loyalty to party rather than ability.

Imagine a Luftwaffe without Goering. Good planes, good pilots, competent leadership would have been much more effective.

The Nazis declared war on the US (which they didn't really have to do, the US might have stayed out of Europe altogether) because their insane ideology imagined the US to be part of the huge Jewish conspiracy against them. Not doing that might not have changed the final outcome for the Germans, but I suspect a lot more of Europe would have ended up behind the Iron Curtain.

248:

@204 [ "....No Civil rights or voting rights bills, however. Can't see Nixon ever doing that. The South stays Democratic. Cities burn brighter and hotter with ghetto riots. Nixon rolls out the tanks. White suburban America applauds. Race relations much worse.

But no insane right wing craziness growing like a cancer in the GOP (which has come to fruition today) since Goldwater does not run in 64. The John Bircher stuff stays on the fringe...." ]

Well a lot of that would be due to no eraduation either, then, of the racially based immigration quota system, which happened right on the heels of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts passages in 1965 with the passage of The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

However, if "...the sexual revolution happens on schedule with the invention of the Pill - no stopping that.." a whole lotta crazies still would get violently and publicly crazy about all the same things they are violent and publicly crazy about women in these very days -- see, the Plymouth shootings just yesterday in the UK -- not even the USA, where this is so common as to hardly be noticed now. Sexual mores change create 'culture' and 'identity' wars all by themselves. Don't Mess With Gender Roles! Beautiful young women MUST GIVE ME SEX ON DEMAND, still a thing, ya know? And the USA would be a nation of the very old right now, staying a white nation without all the immigration from the previous decades, which is why the last census showed for the first time the proportion of white people dropped below that of 17 something or other for the first time.

That we are currently deep in labor shortage, incidentally is due to the shoggoth etc. to have essentially stopped immigration, and the massive deportations of same in the Obama previous administrations, and not really changed under Biden either, though Biden refuses to return to Obama's relationship with Cuba, preferring to keep Menendez's vote to allowing Cubans to get food and syringes. By the way, Nixon lurved Havana and Batista, who always saw to it that Nixon won at the races and the gambling tables.

249:

I don't know. Would a German National Workers' Party without the rabid antisemitism have been as bad as the one we actually got?

It might have been more successful militarily: certainly there wouldn't have been an exodus of Jewish nuclear physicists from Germany, and possibly not from places like Hungary. Imagine the Manhattan project without Szillard, Fermi, Von Neumann, et al. And with Einstein sitting the war out in Switzerland. They might conceivably have ended up with nuclear-powered U-boats, which would have changed things drastically. Or with Von Neumann working on cryptanalysis systems.

On the other hand, it might have been more successful economically in which case it wouldn't have gone on the insane looting rampage spree around the neighbourhood. Remember, Hitler sidelined the economists then adopted a crude Napoleonic strategy of filling his coffers from his enemies' treasuries.

And then again, by being less rabid and more realist, they might have ended up not getting into power and leaving a vacuum that would have been filled by the Spartacists. In which case, could Germany have conceivably gone Trotskyite, setting the scenes for a war with the USSR on about the same schedule but for entirely different reasons?

250:

That we are currently deep in labor shortage, incidentally is due to the shoggoth etc. to have essentially stopped immigration, and the massive deportations of same in the Obama previous administrations

I'm going to politely disagree here. The labour shortage is due to companies not being willing to let the law of supply and demand work on the labour market. Companies that are paying a living wage are able to pick-and-choose from applicants.

251:

Depends on what you're paying for, but the standard BT offering is based on copper to your house; we're near Glencoe and on their 45Mb service which has been reasonably reliable over the last 18 months or so, although it occasionally drops for a minute to two during the heavier horizontal rain storms.
Previously we were in a city with a similar setup except with Virgin and 200Mb, and for most purposes we haven't noticed the drop in speed. Fibre to the house speeds are typically between 300Mb and 1000Mb symmetric, i.e. same up & down, with the usual "dont push your luck" data cap.

252:

#201 Smallpox case fatality is 30%, not 3% https://ourworldindata.org/smallpox

253:

Another unplanned test of managing Covid:
The Glasgow to Edinburgh train due in at 23:35 Friday evening arrived at 03:40 Saturday morning. As preparation for an evacuation which in the end didn't happen, passengers from all 8 carriages were moved into 2 (for over an hour); fewer than 10% of them were wearing masks.

254:

Or just ignore the standards, which are the required minima, not what you might expect. The last 20 metres of my telephone and internet is over an UNtwisted copper telephone cable that has probably been there since the 1950s. I have no problem, and get a reasonable bandwidth.

255:

Try rereading Grant's post of #228, to which you were responding.

256:

Rbt Prior
( Labour shortage ) - happening here - but nothing to do with wages, but a lot to do with Brexit insanity ...
Not come home to roost - yet

257:

Given the treaty of Versailles, some degree of revanchism was inevitable but, beyond that, I can't guess.

258:

#201 Smallpox case fatality is 30%, not 3% https://ourworldindata.org/smallpox

Thanks for catching that. I thought 3% was low, but I was in a hurry.

259:

Which labor shortage is still due to halting immigration, since so many here will not work the conditions and shytty pay. But all around restaurants and hotels, etc., don't have that great pool of labor to draw on, which like universities dependent upon cheap - non-paying labor of students and grad students (and immigrants, too, documented and not), are addicted to that. Or prison labor -- such as California was fighting wildfires, and didn't have it when covid had so many prisoners released, and then, because former prisoners cannot be hired for state government jobs, couldn't even hire them back at higher wages.

260:

To no one in particular:

General pattern:

--Let's try to imagine a world where we actually do something about climate change.

--Okay, how could we possibly do that?

--Semi-plausible scenario.

--Okay, let's argue about the details.

--Fine. Details get more plausible.

--Someone: I KNOW, LET'S REFIGHT THE COLD WAR IN ALT HISTORY! TRAINS! GRUMBLING!

--A bunch of people: Yeah, that's more fun, LET'S REFIGHT THE COLD WAR! TRAINS! GRUMBLING!

Not talking about the future is a strange attractor around here now.

Just to point out, we can actually hit the Paris Agreement if we get our butts in moonshot mode and do something about emissions. That's per the IPCC 6 Working Group I report that came out last week.

Basically, we're in the Singularity right now: we're at a point in history where we can either retain some influence on Earth's climate (by seriously decarbonizing), or lose control as the tipping points tip, glaciers melt, forests burn, permafrost gets into a positive feedback of blowing methane, and we're along for the ride for the next 100,000 years, or however much our species survives of it.

So can we start talking about the Climate Singularity, at some point, maybe? I seem to remember OGH being known for writing about such things, back in the day. Deaccelerando time?

261:

Re: Not-so-Nazi Nazi party alt-hist: They might conceivably have ended up with nuclear-powered U-boats, which would have changed things drastically.

Energy. The Germans never had enough energy to make anything nuclear work other than some basic lab experiments. The US had the Tennessee Valley Authority electricity generating complex which powered the uranium enrichment plants that supplied the reactors with enriched uranium fuel that made the plutonium for nuclear weapons.

They MIGHT have managed enough electricity to enrich uranium if they had diverted all their coal production into power plants but that would have crippled their steel industry and other war-making capabilities. Any enrichment plant(s) and its ancillaries such as hydrofluoric acid production facilities would have been a priority target for bombing during the war, not surprisingly and something that big would have been easy to disrupt -- the gaseous-diffusion plant at Oak Ridge Tennessee (located there because of the TVA) was for a long time the largest single building on the entire planet.

Nuclear U-boats, not going to happen unless they could build much bigger subs -- a late-war Type XXI U-boat was 1800 tonnes, the first nuclear sub was the USN's Nautilus at 4,000 tonnes. Stores, especially weapons such as torpedoes limit the cruise duration of nuclear subs even today and small hulls mean short range never mind the propulsion systems employed.

It's all moot anyway -- without outright anti-Semitism there's only Bolshevism for the German right-wing hate-mongers to coalesce around in that inter-war period and left-wing Communism was intimately tied into the concept of the International Jew anyway. _Protocols_ was a big seller back then regardless of who was in charge of rabble-rousing.

262:

So can we start talking about the Climate Singularity, at some point, maybe?

Sure. And my feeling after the discussion here about EVs made me feel a bit better. Then I was reading a local newspaper series about NC State Highway 12 which is the road along the Outer Banks. And what to do about it. The article talked about rational choices and what to do if there was a decision to abandon parts or all of it. But in looking at the aerial pics in the article it became obvious that the state and feds will continue to pour money into the highway no matter how much the ocean washes parts away. Even if they have to haul in rocks and dirt to build it up as if a levee. Way too many people have way too many $1mil + homes, hotels, B&B's, restaurants, etc... there to allow it to wash away.

EV's are noise in this discussion.

HW 12 is basically a road with some bridges along the sand bars that form the coast of NC. With more bridges replacing the road as time goes by. Even without sea level rise these sand bars used to move and shift. But now with all those homes, mostly second and vacation that, there we have embarked on a stop the sand from moving effort. No matter what the cost. Or at least until maybe 2 more zeros are added to the end of the cost numbers. And planning by state law cannot assume climate change induced sea level rise.

Waivers to environmental laws are written into annual budgets or the laws just ignored.

263:

So now I'm curious. Unrelated to the discussion here I was checking out local AT&T FTTP prices.

Consumer
300/300 $45/mo
500/500 $55/mo
1000/1000 $70/mo

Includes a first year $20/mo discount.
There is a current promotional rebate of $150 that you get after 2 or 3 months.
And just this minute (things can change daily) there is a waiver of the $100 installation fee.

Now some of us around here flip every year or so (if not wedded to a TV package) between things like this and Spectrum coax or fiber into the home depending and maybe Google Fiber to keep getting the first year discounts.

I just helped someone get Spectrum coax 200/10 for a two year intro price of $30/mo + $100 install. Which goes up to $50/mo or more when the discounts run out. AT&T was showing only 25mbps copper to their address just a few months ago. Now they show the fiber option. The 25mbps is the minimum you should get. Likely more depending on how close you are to the pod that services your address.

Curious as to the costs in other places on the planet.

264:

Davidl #262

EVs may be noise in the discussion, but presumably at some point the feds will stop bailing out waterfront homes no matter how rich their owners might be.

Of course we will all flail and stomp our feet about giving up our little bit of privilege. That is very human and something we haven't yet figured out how to address effectively.

I suspect insurance companies will lead the way. It is already pretty hard to get private insurance for places that get routinely flattened by hurricanes and flooding. So far they have been covered by disaster relief, but I suspect that at some point a rational government will have to assert something along the lines of 'here is your relief, if you rebuild in the same spot there will be no further relief'.

Here in BC we are seeing various small towns and rural homes being burned in fires. They will get relief I'm sure, but insurance will be tough to get, and hopefully future bulding will either be fireproof or not covered by anyone.

The point is that the privileged wealth living along that highway might pull all the levers they can, but at some point the ocean will ignore their demands.

265:

The US had the Tennessee Valley Authority electricity generating complex which powered

And the Columbia River on the other side of the country. Which used huge amounts of water for cooling and such.

I tend to think that without the US fighting in Europe and the antisemitism of Germany nuclear things in general would have been 5 to 10 years later than what happened. If not more. The time lines were accelerated during WWII by war time dumping mountains of cash into the project.

And without that accelerated time line the "cold war" would have been a very different thing. Ditto westeren Europe. I do agree that Germany would never win with the USSR but the lose would look very different without the US fighting in Europe.

266:

LET'S REFIGHT THE COLD WAR IN ALT HISTORY! TRAINS! GRUMBLING!

NUCLEAR DIRIGIBLES! STEAM-POWERED MECHA! NAPOLEONIC SPACE NAZIS IN SPAAAAACE!

Oh and MOAR GRUMBLING, MMOOAARR!

Will that do?

267:

You might like this video on Nazi nuclear research (they did have a reactor model with a strange cube based design) and America's effort to capture German nuclear scientists after the war.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrCc9XfNoBE

Hunting Heisenberg: Capturing Germany's Atomic Secrets

I recommend all of his videos.

Sensationalist reports of a Nazi a-bomb test on the island of Rugen notwithstanding (eyewitness accounts indicate a behemoth incendiary bomb, not a nuke) at most they could have developed what we call a dirty bomb that could have scattered radiation over the D-Day beachheads, downtown London or advancing Russian spearheads.

268:

butts in moonshot mode

I was looking for the right snippet my more serious response from, but I was struck that this part doesn't convey the image any of us were quite expecting... anyways.

I'm not sure we ever exhausted what the outcome for power generation when suppliers just go ahead and massively overbuild in renewables (solar, wind, pumped-or-not hydro, etc). We've talked about it a bit, and I think there's general recognition that once this has happened, the current problems with storage and demand cycles still exist but many of them become different challenges that are perhaps quite a bit more solvable. I guess this counts as a singularity: we're not sure what that world will look like, even just confining it to electricity grids (and non-grids, or private islands).

So let's spell out the question: everything else equal, we now have a massive oversupply of renewable power worldwide, albeit distributed unevenly so some places have some of their own but a local undersupply, while interconnects might not currently have capacity to bring it from elsewhere. What happens next?

269:

Serious decarbonization means everyone (not just Texas, Russian or Saudi oil oligarchs) gets poorer since renewables, especially when you add in energy storage requirements, are more expensive than fossil fuels as measured by levelized cost of energy (LCOE) factoring in all up front construction and operational lifetime costs) which allows for apples to apples economic comparisons.

Renewable energy costs have fallen, but nowhere near enough. In fact, LCOE says natural gas is still the cheapest and coal is still king according to this brutally honest video (you can see the disappointment on the narrators face - he really wanted renewables to be economically viable, but the harsh facts say otherwise):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6PTKXz_2r0

Note: Oil is almost exclusively for transport, only rarely for energy production, so it is not included.

LCOEs costs per kWh are:

Natural Gas: $0.02 to $0.08
Coal: $0.04 to $0.15 (mature tech, not much room for improvement)
Hydroelectric: $0.01 to $0.28 (relatively few locations to build dams, and they've all been built on)

On Land Wind: $0.04 to $0.12
Off Shore Wind: $0.10 t0 $0.21 (much bigger up front costs than on-land wind)
Solar PV: $0.06 to $0.56

Concentrated Solar: $0.06 to $0.25
Nuclear: $0.05 to $0.13
Geothermal: $0.05 to $0.15 (new advances in deep drilling and applying fracking techniques could be game changers)

OTEC: $0.10 to $0.17
Tidal: $0.15 to $0.40 (even fewer possible locations than hydro)

Summary chart shown on the video at 16.27.

The apparent winners are wind, hydro, natural gas, coal and nuclear.

But none of the LCOEs sited for renewables include their necessary energy storage facilities (li-ion batteries, air batteries, pumped hydro, etc.) so total system LCOEs are even higher. So scratch wind.

Hydro power can't be expanded because all of the practical places to put hydro dams have already been built on. So scratch hydro.

Coal is dirty, deadly and causes global warming. So scratch coal.

Nuclear is almost impossible to build and permit these days (much as I would have it otherwise). So scratch nuclear - unless we see a serious development in easy to install plug and play small modular reactors (SMR).

So that leaves natural gas, which creates less than half the GHGs that coal does per kWh and is so insanely cheap due to fracking advances it's almost free. And it is the reason America is going to become the second largest fossil fuel EXPORTER after Saudi Arabia later this year - and why we no longer give a rat's ass about the Middle East.

My ideal solution - if I were king - would be to go balls to the wall with nuclear, especially new advanced and inherently safe technologies like pebble bed reactors and SMRs, and use the off peak kWhs to electrolyze as much hydrogen as you would want for a true hydrogen economy with hydrogen fuel cells for transportation.

Alas, we don't live in an ideal world.

So my realistic solution is to frack natural gas until it comes out of our ears, with side bets on deep geothermal (made possible by fracking and drilling technology advances) and SMRs. What's left of GHGs are to be dealt with by other means (planting forests, fertilize the oceans, sequestration underground, etc.)

The harsh truth is that if we continue to use fossil fuels, global warming will kill billions.

A harsher truth is that if we go fully renewable, real energy costs will increase and billions (not just oil oligarchs) will be thrown into poverty.

The harshest truth is that humans will choose to avoid immediate poverty even if it ensures death decades or generations hence.

In fact the rich white art of the world responsible for the bulk of GHG emissions will be least effected by global warming while the non-white peoples of the equatorial regions who did not cause the the problem will suffer the most. And we will watch it on TV and eventually ignore it due to compassion fatigue (Anybody notice they had yet another massive earthquake in Haiti? It was barely in the news. Think there will be any celebrity telethons this time to raise money for the victims? Probably not.)


270:

The point is that the privileged wealth living along that highway might pull all the levers they can, but at some point the ocean will ignore their demands.

Agreed. But in the mean time the privileged and many of the not so privileged control the state legislature and they will keep bailing until the ship sinks. And many on the non-R side of politics around here, especially the eco minded upper income, very much prize their multiple week long trips to these beach houses every year.

I have seen estimates that 20% to 30% of the property insurance premiums in the state subsidize the shore line losses. The state is flat rated.

271:

(Anybody notice they had yet another massive earthquake in Haiti? It was barely in the news. Think there will be any celebrity telethons this time to raise money for the victims?

Well for one thing as things are just now it seems the death toll will be under 1000.

For the one in 2010 the estimates of deaths range from 100,000 to over 300,000.

Not enough deaths to make it HUGE NEWS NOW.

272:

Okay, so you've made your statement of faith, which is that you cannot visualize a future in which decarbonization happens.

That's nice. So don't play this game, play something else.

There were a bunch of Romans who couldn't imagine the empire without a deified emperor, yet that turned out to be most of its history.

Now, again, let's ask the science fiction question: what does decarbonization look like?

The point here, for anyone else who actually wants to play is that science fiction is a genre for playing with ideas, especially about the future. This is opposed to sitting here glumly going "we're all gonna die man. Game over."

One thing we need, badly, are more images of what a livable future looks like.

It's not particularly hard. Look up the change in western Europe from the falling-apart western Roman Empire to the medieval systems, which after a few centuries had a higher standard of living and even technology than the Romans had. ACOUP.blog is full of details that can be co-opted. And then look at how the Eastern Romans made out as the Byzantines (lasted another thousand years, and would have done longer if they hadn't made some silly mistakes early on).

How might this work? For example

Abandoned western Roman provinces=managed retreat from coastlines, the Colorado River-fed cities, and lethal humidity levels.

Corrupted polytheism=Consumerism, wretched excess, and short term profit maximization.

Rising Christianity=squabbling versions of sustainable living systems, all aiming for the blessed future of +1oC in a century, maybe two.*

Battling Empires=China, Russia, and the US

Switch from infantry to cavalry=hybrid warfare with space war and drones.

Shall I go on? If you're looking for a vision, this is an easy one. I suspect that if I knew more about Chinese dynastic history between the Han and Tang regimes, I could make a different setting. Someone should, actually.

*Note, if you read a little, you'll find a superficially noisy split between the ardent, loud Christians and equally loud, ardent Polytheists. A more thorough reading of history finds that most people came down in the middle between the two extremes and got on with life. In the sustainability vs. consumerism split, there will obviously be the vegan ascetics versus the Trumpian Double-Downers, but meanwhile there will probably be a shift in economic focus to long-term warehousing and long-term survivability, simply because these two measures are required for any firm to survive the really chaotic future we're aiming for.

For example, if you can store grain for seven years, you can deal with six years of bad harvests, so long as there's a bumper crop every seven years or so whose surplus can be saved for the bad times. So long as we can warehouse and ship, we can save surpluses and move them to where they're needed. Control of storage and shipping processes will be the keys to power in the 21st Century.

273:

Question that I'm guessing you might know the answer to.

What are the fossil fuel costs to mine lithium. From both brine and rock. My quick searching tended to turn up generalized articles.

A relative posted a picture of a huge open pit mine on FB saying see the cost of lithium means that EVs cost more in fossil fuels than ICs. (I suspect the picture of the mine was generic but he and his friends don't care about such details.)

274:

LCOE estimates are closer to lies than truth. Notably, they do not factor in in any realist way serious externalities due to global heating. (e.g. human gigadeaths, mass extinction, possible collapse of technological civilization.) (Also, the discount rate is just ... shockinginteresting.) (Agenda-driven lecture videos are dead to me at least without an independent description.)

e.g.
LAZARD’S LEVELIZED COST OF ENERGY ANALYSIS — VERSION 14.0 (October 2020)
"This analysis also does not address potential social and environmental externalities,"

For instance, see this recent Mortality Cost of Carbon paper, which at least is trying, though probably underestimating the mortality cost of carbon by at least an order of magnitude because it just covers heat-related deaths.
The mortality cost of carbon (29 July 2021, R. Daniel Bressler, open access.)

Or, if one prefers, what's the expected probability of death by elite assassination squad for major fossil carbon extraction owners/executives/billionaires and their families( + wealth/asset seizure), and government leaders covering for them, 20+ years from now?
(KSR's (optimistic/hopeful!) "Ministry For the Future" covers this, gingerly. It starts with a 20M black flag kill event in India which provides a long-term driver for change. A 5M kill by COVID-19 is being dealt with by denial by an army of Indian ruling-party propagandists, so not sure about that.)

275:

Keith Laumer imagined just such a weapons system,
Making me re-read(skim) the Bolo stories (and some of the Retief stories, and a few others.)
Not complaining :-); haven't revisited Laumer in a couple of decades.


276:

Was it the facebook thing described in this article?
Lithium mining meme digs itself a hole with deceptive photo (AAP FactCheck, February 11, 2021)
A reverse image search reveals the mine photo has been used in articles from as early as 2011 to show one of the world’s largest copper mines, Escondida, located in northern Chile.
...
Jake Whitehead, an electric vehicle researcher at the University of Queensland, said while it was true that manufacturing EVs required more energy and produced more carbon dioxide emissions than making a fossil fuel-powered car, the long-term benefits swung the other way.

(I often use https://tineye.com/ for reverse image search. It has a sort-by-oldest-first.)

277:

EV's are noise in this discussion.

They're a pilot project. We get EVs right and that gives the greens a lot of room to ask for the next thing. The whole process is going too slowly, mind you, but get EVs right and lots of stuff becomes much more possible in political terms.

278:

Was it the facebook thing described in this article?

Nope. Seems to be generic open pit mine. Maybe iron ore.

https://tineye.com/search/f23cf1d8c950316e46418c63da66326b67c310e3?sort=score&order=desc&page=1

Thanks for the tineye.com link. I figured there were some of these site floating around.

Ditto the aap fact check.

279:

but get EVs right and lots of stuff becomes much more possible in political terms.

Personally I'm not so sure.

I connected to someone on FB who was a couple of years behind me in high school. I don't remember him that much (nearly 50 years later) but he is a very successful architect in the Galveston Texas area. He designs those 2 or 3 story houses on stilts for millionaires. Seems to do well at it.

Yes based on his FB posts and comments he is thoroughly a D and eco person.

For those who don't know, Galveston is one of those towns that needs to be abandoned. Like 30 years ago. But it is to Texas what the Outer Banks are to NC.

280:

What are the fossil fuel costs to mine lithium.

My first thought here is a reminiscence/anecdote, which probably says more about how I respond to stuff like this than anything else. When I studied ecology at university in the early 90s, which actually involved studying forestry with people who wanted to be foresters, I'd often hear about how odd it is that so many "greenies" smoked and that smoking tobacco is surely at least as bad a cause of pollution as ICE vehicles. I think that "what is the carbon of mining the lithium" is on a similar level to that. It's a similarly cynical construction that relies on the fact that most people are functionally innumerate for its spread and propaganda appeal.

The proper response is different: how does it compare with steel and aluminium smelting? What measures might be available to decarbonise all three? The answers there are just as important as switching to EV.

At the moment we think we can influence the rate of change of emissions, but most of the things we are talking about are the first derivative of that (the increase in the rate of increase of emissions). But temperatures will continue rising for decades after we have net negative emissions. We still have to get the rate of increase in the rate of increase of emissions negative, and then we have a long way to go get the actual rate of increase of emissions negative, and then further till we actually have negative emissions. But we need negative emissions by what, 2030, we think, maybe, to turn around warming before we hit a major tipping point, and even then it's still possible. So anything with any operational carbon footprint just has to go for that scenario to be broadly possible. We're definitely facing some different scenarios and most of them are going to involve living with a lot of serious impacts of warming, even if everything from now on is ideal.

281:

Nojay
"the Protocols" is still on sale in Britain today - you just have to go into a "muslim bookshop" ( Well, some of them, anyway ) YUCK

David L
The lesson is over 990 years old & the idiots still won't learn?
( Cnut the Great died in1035 CE )
As for And planning by state law cannot assume climate change induced sea level rise. Suicidal stupidity, presumably from "R's" since we are talking one of the Carolinas here?

Troutwaxer
... but get EV's right ... EXACTLY
Except they are fucking it up by the numbers
I would love to convert the L-R to electric, but at £30k+ a pop?
Or here, the lying hypocrites of our tories bleating on about decarbonisation & COP25 & won't even string ONE MILE of knitting on the railways ...
So it goes as someone used to say ( I do know whom! )

282:

#261 - A lot of alt history where Germany does (or only just doesn't) develop a uranium bomb revolves around Norwegian hydro-electric plants.

#268 - Generally speaking, having a significant surplus of generating plant over what is required to meet the evening peak is a failure of planning.

#269 - You have, of course, got a working pebble bed reactor stashed away somewhere. Personally I only know of them in some near future milSF series.

#271 Failure of English BC again. I only found out about this as a 5 minute piece on their breakfast news, which was mostly "5 people murdered in Plymouth: gunman then shots himself" and Covid-19 in England.

#273 - Mining the ore is only part of it; you then have to refine the ore, manufacture LIon accumulators, and transport them somewhere useful...

#280 - We don't have to make cars out of "all metal". For example, the Lotus Elite Type 14 (1957 - '63) had an all grp monocoque body/chassis, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hustler_(car) descrubes a car with a GRP or wooden body...

#281 - As other discussions, we've already done some of this in Scotland, even through tunnels.

283:

Cnut the Great died in1035 CE

OK. So I skimmed hit widipedia page and still don't get the reference.

As to D's and R's and ocean front property. You're mis-reading. Abandoning such brings out all kinds of D and R coalitions.

Sure I'll buy an electric car, recycle and compost till my trash is almost empty, and put solar on my house.
GIVE UP our homes on the coasts that keep being washed away???? But that's where I have my beach house.

284:

a GRP or wooden body

Interesting problem space to think into a bit. If we're not using petrochemicals for fuel, how long does it remain viable to use them for plastics and resins? Are existing plastics purely a byproduct, does it make sense to continue to produce oil to feed the plastics industries or have they only ever been viable as a byproduct of producing petrol? Are there any viable alternatives using renewable sources, like plants? I'm aware of at least one venture into a plant-based epoxy alternative (years ago now, I forget any details, I'm sure a bit of Google fu will reveal it).

We're actually doing quite well with plantation timber products these days, all over the world. Doesn't mean there isn't a lot of ecological harm being done to make way for plantations, though AIUI that is mostly focused on palm oil (in the SEA region) or beef (in the Americas).

Anyhow it means that traditional woodworking skills are nice things to acquire and maintain. Into the future it is potentially very useful to power woodworking machinery from localised renewable power. It fits a model of local production, the tradeoff is in terms of the cost of consumer goods, which must inevitably increase, although there may be a corresponding increase in robustness and longevity simply because that would a marketable feature, in a way that just isn't the case right now. To be clear, equivalent consumer goods are cheap now because slavery and "free" energy and plastics, so there's a big question mark about the labour portion of costs and whether that might be absorbed into more slavery.

285:

I know/believe EVs are a much better long term bet. I've read the numbers in the past. I just couldn't find any references in a bit of searching earlier tonight to other than "of course".

And I don't like to debate against "obviously" / "of course" with the same.

286:

#283 - You may know the individual better as "King Canute". See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cnut_the_Great#The_story_of_Cnut_and_the_waves for Greg's reference.

#284 - No arguments except that this is why I don't like the "oil extraction bad" environ mentalists. They conveniently ignore all the "other stuff" we do with oil, like making the PC they're posting from and insulating its net connection...
I was just making the point that a steel or aluminium unitary body (or even chassis in the case of the cited Lotus) is not essential to a usable vehicle.

#285 - My "big issue" with EVs and hydrogen fuel systems is "Where does the fuel come from?" and how often the actual answer (except in Norway and possibly Switzerland) turns out to be "CO2 generating thermal power stations".

287:

Are existing plastics purely a byproduct, does it make sense to continue to produce oil to feed the plastics industries or have they only ever been viable as a byproduct of producing petrol?

Plastics are a big issue in my mind. Both for tech and for food distribution. I don't see any way around them in a short term. At all.

There are likely 500 or more specific plastic type things in the laptop I'm typing one. While maybe 1/2 of them could be swapped to something else in a hurry, the rest would be hard to rapidly switch out.

Ditto food storage and transportation. Going to the butcher and baker ever other day would upend the first world food system. Maybe for the better but push back here would be fierce. More so than against ocean front vacation homes and cities already below sea level.

288:

If we're not using petrochemicals for fuel, how long does it remain viable to use them for plastics and resins? Are existing plastics purely a byproduct, does it make sense to continue to produce oil to feed the plastics industries or have they only ever been viable as a byproduct of producing petrol? Are there any viable alternatives using renewable sources, like plants?

1) Unknown, but see below.
2) That depends I'm afraid. It's not a hugely satisfactory answer, but lighter crudes (eg North Sea) are better for making lubricating oil and plastics than a heavy, tarry Middle Eastern crude.
3) In which context, has there ever been an EP caster oil? Serious question; EVs still use EP oils in their gear trains.

289:

I tried to look up the true costs of electric motoring, and could find little but competing propaganda. Even the basic efficiency (generator to charge point to battery and back to motor) was very like that. The same is true of the petrolheads' claims, of course, but there's more data and it is just possible to make plausible guesses.

Even claims like those of Jake Whitehead are dubious, because it isn't clear what he is assuming. What lifetime mileage is he assuming, and is he allowing for EVs to be double the weight of the cars they are replacing, for example?

This is a large part of why I believe that (especially in Europe and the urban parts of the USA), the key is to cut the size of the vehicles used rather than increasing it.

290:

I believe that castor oil is an EP oil, though I am pretty ignorant of this area and could easily be wrong.

291:

>they do not factor in in any realist way serious externalities due to global heating

The owners, operators and investors in fossil fuels and their derived power sources don't pay for externalities. That's passed on to society as a whole.

To make them pay for externalities would require political change.

And they already own the political process.

292:

Castor oil is definitely a high temperature tolerant lubricant and I suspect that its EP rating is not bad. It was used extensively in WW1 era rotary engines for crankcase lubrication, generally on a total loss basis so never get between a pilot just back from patrol and the nearest loo.

293:

#289 - I agree with you about vehicle weights, which is partly why I posted about the plausibility of making vehicles that don't contain a tonne of mild steel plate!
I presume you know about the track damage caused by a vehicle being proportional to the 4th (fourth) power of axle weight.

#290 - I don't know either; in particular I don't know how (if at all) a castor oil would stand up in a modern EV gearbox. What I do know is that at least one Tesla owner (video recently posted) felt it beneficial (maybe even necessary) to change the transmission oil after 2 years and about 24_000 miles, which is twice (or more) the frequency you need to change a petroleum transmission oil at.
Perhaps gasdive or Moz can comment on how castor oil does, or doesn't, perform in an epicyclic bicycle gearbox?

294:

the key is to cut the size of the vehicles used

Limit the length to the railway loading gauge, bring back motorail and your self driving car can drop you at the main line station entrance, load itself (cross-wise, hence the length limit) onto the car wagon of your train, and collect you at the far end. As a bonus, upgrade the electrification capacity and it will be fully charged when you arrive.

295:

These are well thought out examples, yes societies can and do change.

But only after disasters occur.

The transition from the late empire required the sack of Rome itself by barbarians, destruction of the Roman army at Adrianople, multiple plagues gutting the highly urbanized population of the empire, civil wars between rival claimants to the imperial purple, etc.

A similar transition from late capitalism will require similar death and destruction.

And you are neglecting to mention that the first stage of the transition was the even more repressive regime of Diocletion's tetrarchy were taxpayers were tied to their jobs, unable to change locations or professions.

Before late capitalism collapses, its too will become more repressive in an attempt to preserve the status quo. You can see the first inkling of this in Republic state legislatures passing voter restriction laws.

296:

Are there any viable alternatives {to plastics} using renewable sources, like plants?

Yes, increasingly so, and the matter is being treated with some urgency. Fortunately we have enough plastics lying round unused to substitute for mining new oil for quite some time. Sadly we have enough unused plastics lying around that that is a major problem completely separate from the climate catastrophe.

As with most of these things the exact answer is "we don't know but we hope so". We've discussed here before whether it would be worse for the waste plastic to just keep piling up, or for something to develop that eats plastic (you might remember that much coal and oil arises from a similar problem in the past with lignin).

The realpolitic answer is that producing plastics isn't a problem, we know how to do that and if we really need a particular plastic we can mine oil to make it if we have to. The current problem is that we give so much power to the producers of oil and plastic that we may not be in a position to reduce how much oil and plastic is produced.

297:

Limit the length to the railway loading gauge
Yes, but which one? Not trolling, there are 9 different loading gauges in the UK, and even more if we add in European and North American loading gauges, and that's confining ourselves to the standard 4'8.5" track gauge!

298:

If we are going to discuss the end of late stage capitalism and its civilization, we may as well talk about Toynbee.

According to Toynbee there are only remaining "civilizations": Western, Islamic, far Eastern and Hindu. Each existing and extinct civ goes through a predictable cycle of growth and decay:

Challenge and Response- causing the birth of a civilization. For the West that would be the “stimulus of new ground” caused by barbarian volkwanderung at the end of Hellenic Civilization (fall of the Roman Empire).

Cultural growth – led by a creative minority that spurs a civilization to greater heights of artistic, scientific, cultural, economic and political advancement. The majority willing emulates this creative minority. For the West, this stage started in the so-called Dark Ages and really gathered steam during the Renaissance, Age of Exploration and birth of Science.

A Time of Troubles – when war and the struggle for power leads to destruction of cultural creativity as the leading minority stops being creative and becomes a dominant minority which forces the majority to obey without meriting obedience. The West has seen a time of troubles since the Napoleonic Wars through the World Wars and the Cold War. We can see the continued mutation of the new dominant minority as the uber rich establish an oligarchy which controls the economy and the political process.

Creation of a Universal State – as one competitor (like Rome) achieves total dominance and defeats all rivals to create an empire encompassing its civilization. In the West that is obviously the United States (for good and bad).

Cultural decay – the establishment of a Universal State creates an alienated internal proletariat resentful of being under the thumb of the dominant minority and an external proletariat of barbarians.

YOU ARE HERE.

Hordes of the external proletariat would have to be created by catastrophic climate changes turning them into into hordes of refugees (which was what may of he barbarians migrating into the Roman empire were, their mass migrations were also triggered by climate change). The refugees from Syria entering Europe to escape ISIS and war, which was caused by a prolonged drought, which in turn was caused by climate change may be the first of many.

A Universal Church – created by the alienated internal proletariat as an outlet for its dissatisfaction with its political and economic lot under the dominant minority. It’s no accident that Christianity spread through the Roman Empire via slaves, the poor, women and other oppressed minorities and disenfranchised.

Fall of the Universal State – As Toynbee noted, a universal state empire is not a golden age so much as an Indian Summer, a brief rally in an inevitable downward spiral. As the empire finally unravels politically, militarily and economically the external proletariat launches another volkwanderung and the internal proletariat creates a Universal Church which then forms the chrysalis of the next civilization.

299:

Speaking of collapsing civs, has anyone else read "1177 BC the Year Civilization Collapsed" by Cline concerning the still mysterious Bronze Age collapse?

300:

Steel is recyclable - GRP is not. No, we have to cut the juggernauts down to size. The fourth power rule is misleading, because the situation is a lot more complicated (I looked up the reference once), but is a good enough guideline to use for highway planning purposes, given how many other major factors there are.

Bicycle gearboxes do not need or use EP oils, and can used anything from light oil to medium grease (I have done that). Castor oil is rather heavy for most people's taste, but has been used, and is reported to work perfectly well.

301:

Moz would know this stuff better, probably, but I think I've wondered aloud before about combining a crank motor and a Rohloff hub. Other than "expensive for the outcome" I mean. The outcome, obviously, is avoiding difficult chain angles while keeping full use of the gearing. But I bet there are gotchas.

302:

No - it's straightforward, because the bicycle hub motors use a standard chainline. Some companies market the combination (e.g. ICE trikes with Shimano STEPS), and there is a Bosch/Rohloff integrated system. Both are OEM-only, but people have used Bafang and other add-on motors with Rohloff.

I hope to try one this autumn, and will buy it if it meets my requirements.

303:

Smallpox case fatality is 30%, not 3%

Smallpox infection confers immunity. It looks like Covid doesn't, so that complicate the math a bit.

A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation doesn't get Covid to 30% but it's more than 3% long-term.

304:

Bicycles
I am almost certainly going to buy an electric-assist bike, probably from "Volt" & probably with Shimano STEPS, if only because a crank-located motor makes more sense.
But, almost all 'leccy-bike makers seem to avoid or frown on multiple front chain-wheels ( I found just one, with otherwise unsatisfactory specifications. )
And a trolley/carrier/trailer device, for small loads & "town" travelling up to 10 miles radius & maybe, for longer without the trailer, to keep money out of Khan's pocket.
Any comments, or better still, advice?
Feel free to e-mail me off this blog:
fledermaus AT dsl DOT pipex DOT com

305:

Which labor shortage is still due to halting immigration, since so many here will not work the conditions and shytty pay.

Proximate case, not ultimate. The real problem is having a business model dependent in importing desperate people to exploit.

Canada has the same problem too. Our hospitality industry is screaming about the CRB and how the government is paying lazy workers to not work. Workers who have changed careers talk about how the pause (during which the CRB kept food on the table and rent paid) helped them realize that 60 hour weeks for $35k a year wasn't how they wanted to spend their lives, and time to decide on other careers. Not surprisingly, restaurants paying a living wage are having no trouble attracting workers.

306:

I have seen estimates that 20% to 30% of the property insurance premiums in the state subsidize the shore line losses. The state is flat rated.

Is that the case with other insurance, like car or health? I rather doubt it.

So socialism for the rich?

307:

So socialism for the rich?

Nope. Not possible.

The rich would never agree to anything based on socialism.

308:

We had a once in a life time (maybe century) chance to abandon New Orleans after Katrina. But it would not just happen. Too many poor folks of the wrong skin color would have revolted.

Similar to Princeville NC after Fran. But it was a town with a history of being run by minorities. So it got rebuilt. And again. And will be again and again.

For an interesting read on just how bad New Orleans and the lower Mississippi situation is and gets worse every year as "we" fight against the inevitable.

Link is to part 3 which is the money conclusion.
https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/If-Old-River-Control-Structure-Fails-Catastrophe-Global-Impact
All 3 parts are worth reading.

As to a topic Heteromeles brings up a lot, global consequences for almost all of industry in general and food in particular if things go wrong. And they likely will once we fail to keep up with the spending of an ever increasing amount of money fighting the river.

309:

You just can’t stop yourself, can you?
EVs are not generally twice the mass was of the vehicles they replace.
GRP, at least in the context of the form used for large wind turbine blades, appears to be surprisingly recyclable.

310:

“The rich would never agree to anything based on socialism.”
They seem to have spent a lot of time making the system behave as socialism for them, rabid libertarianism for everyone else.

311:

#300 - Well, I wasn't sure either way because the load from the drive is lower, but the cogs are a lot thinner, so there were factors increasing and reducing the sheer pressure on the lubricant.

#304 - Test message sent.

#309 - Well, IMO everything is unnecessarily heavy...

312:

Unfortunately, no - sometimes they're more :-( OGH may be right that replacements for modest-sized utilitarian cars (THE most common type in the UK) will be available by 2025, but there are assuredly none today.

My car takes two people of over 6' with stiff knees fairly comfortably, AND over 1,000 litres of luggage space, AND a full-size spare wheel, AND does 400+ miles on a tank, AND weighs less than a ton, unladen, AND is still one of the more common cars on the road. I rely on all of those (except the last), though (as I have said) I could tolerate 200 miles between charges with difficulty. Now why don't YOU suggest a replacement, because I would be genuinely interested?

313:

I left off the sarcasm tags.

Here in North Carolina it's socialism if laws helps the non rich. If it helps the richer then it is free market capitalism boosting.

314:

We had a once in a life time (maybe century) chance to abandon New Orleans after Katrina. But it would not just happen.

New Orleans was the place the barge traffic of the Mississippi river met the open sea for international shipping and it's expanded from that historical basis with additional road and rail transport links over the centuries. The city was never going to be abandoned, indeed over the past 15 years since Katrina the port facilities in and around the city have expanded massively.

Next you'll be telling us the American Mid-West should be abandoned because of the increasing threat of tornadoes, or the South-West (aka the Great American Desert) because of drought.

315:

Well, I think we're in the position where the autophobes are looking at price and maybe mass but ignoring actual range, where others, like you and I, start by looking at acceptable range, and then look at the price and mass of anything that actually fits the range criterion without requiring us to plan journeys around "where can I get a mid trip charge?"

For example, an early Nissan Leaf (which might fit my budget) would reduce plausible routes from my house in the Western Isles to my Mum's from 4 direct, and one less direct, all of which I've driven, to one, and that one requires a mid-trip charge at 1 specific establishment. If I was stopping in that village, there is another place I'd rather eat and/or have coffee in, but it's uncomfortably far to walk unless the weather will remain dry for 90 minutes.

316:

It's past 300, so I hope y'all will indulge my whimsy. I hope these stories will lighten someone else's burden the way they lightened mine.

Feel Good Story from the Czech Republic. There are apparently OVER 12,000 centenarians living there:
https://twistedsifter.com/2021/08/centenarians-then-and-now-by-jan-langer/

No actual cats or dogs were harmed in the production of this video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4y54TXsSKc&t=55s

317:

Haiti: yes, the earthquake is all over the news.

318:

Summer homes on the ocean - thanks, I may add that to the novel I've almost got finished, set between 58 and 105 years from now. Real eco-terrorists... in small boats, with night vision, firing rockets and blowing up vacation homes in colder weather, when no one's there.

319:

If you've read the articles fine. If not you should before commenting. I've been watching this for 2 decades.

If the Old River Control Structure fails the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to the ocean will become a salt water estuary. And the main channel will move west. And it has almost failed more than once. And keeping that section of Big Muddy open for river traffic will make current efforts look trivial. Sediment dropping into the river there will increase rapidly.

And there's a lot more going on that makes this all a big mess. That Congress has basically told the Corp of Eng to "deal". And a major problem is that the daily / yearly efforts tend to counter the long term needs.

Should the lower Mississippi be abandoned. No. Should we deal with what the river is demanding. Yes.

320:

Next you'll be telling us the American Mid-West should be abandoned because of the increasing threat of tornadoes, or the South-West (aka the Great American Desert) because of drought.

… and California because of lack of water …

Well, most of the US should be abandoned, probably. The only question is: who'd be willing to take in all the climate refugees? [/sarcasm]

321:

Oh, and after I hit submit, I realized... that's probably *not* covered by insurance (act of terrorism/war).

322:

Nah, plastics are made primarily, not as a by-product.

However, making them reusable would help a *lot*.

For example, when I was working, I reused the ziplock baggie I put my sandwich in for weeks, at least, and that's five days a week.

A question: I read about not being able to recycle some plastics... ah, but that, presumably, is for the *same* purpose. Now, suppose you recycle baggies into harder plastics for longer-term storage?

323:

Yes, though I would call them extremist autophils! You are I are NOT unusual in going for the cheapest/smallest/whatever car that meets our functional requirements. Most people who are not into prestige spending or penis extension do that, and most people don't have a lot of spare cash (I am not typical there). There are plenty whose requirement is 5 (3+ adult-size) people and enough luggage for a fortnight's self-catering and seaside holiday at the distances we are describing. And so it goes.

I don't know why the weight of the same model of petrol car has increased so much over the past few years - a conspiracy theorist would say that it is softening up the public for the forthcoming juggernauts - I would not go so far, but can't think of another rational explanation!

Incidentally, the average age of cars on UK roads is about 7 years, the average lifetime about 14, and the average replacement age about 6 years, so the correct comparison is new cars with ones of 6 or 14 years ago, depending on whether you are doing a personal or overall average calculation.

324:

There are several answers. For one, more use of hard plastics, reusable, for food. For another, there are existing technologies.

Say, why the *hell* did they replace the waxed paper bags for my graham crackers with plastic?

325:

As I think I posted: ban freakin' SUVs. Altogether. They get far worse milage than a non-SUV. My 13 yr old minivan, 2wd, gets the milage that many new SUVs do.

And the majority of SUV drivers have no frickin' idea how to drive, much less drive a vehicle that big and heavy.

326:

They don't like multiple front sprockets?

Oy! What do you do on a 5 or 10 or more degree grade?

327:

Whitroth
My point, exactly.
In other news ..
1. Trudeau is hoping for an absolute majority - snap election in CAN
2. Religious Primitives re-take a country - how bad is it going to get?
And how badly will it infect neighbouring Pakistan, which is already half-way there to total stupidity ...

328:

Bicycle motors: I just looked at what I could buy to add a motor to my bike. They *look* like they all expect you to replace the hub. I remember, years back, that the motors used friction, I think, to move the wheel from the rim (which would give a lot more leverage).

Are those still around? Any cmts, please. Feel free to email me offlist (link from https://mrw.5-cent.us)

329:

Now, suppose you recycle baggies into harder plastics for longer-term storage?

When I looked into this a decade back or so, the problem was that different plastics would melt and solidify at different temperatures and/or pressures. Which means that you can't process the input unsorted or you get a mess of slug mixed with chunks or a solid with globs of sludge in it.

And everything I've read or seen since says the same thing.

330:

Say, why the *hell* did they replace the waxed paper bags for my graham crackers with plastic?

Shelf life and packing efficiency.

331:

I think the defiant stance, in the case of COVID, is as much about anthropomorphizing as it is about (and maybe more about) the fact that mitigation encroaches significantly more on human behavior & society than, for example, hurricanes it lightning do. And of course that adhering to mitigation strategies were to one extend or another in many countries ::cough USA cough:: made badges of tribal allegiance.

If a class 4/5 hurricane is headed toward your home, you may anthropomorphize it, but most people also get out of the way. Hurricanes don't require a change in lifestyle though. Even actual human-based pervasive amorphous threats like terrorism don't require dramatic lifestyle changes on this scale.

I think it's those much more disruptive mitigation strategies, combined with the (false) appearance to many people that danger isn't imminent (until it's too late) are what combine here with our tendency to humanize any threat to produce such larger defiance compared to other threats. It's a bit of a perfect storm, both viral in biology and memetics cognitive bias, the psychological attack vector weakening our desire to strengthen ourselves socially and biologically against the biological attack vector.

332:

#322 Para 3 - Likewise.
Para 4 - The "film" on a lot of ready meals and prepackaged cold meats isn't actually "a plastic" but layers of 2 or 3 chemically separate plastics.

#323 - I pretty much agree there, with the note that I could use a smaller vehicle than I own for a 12 mile commute on quiet country roads, but needed the extra space and cruising ability of an Octavia TDi (closest equivalent in some markets is a VW Jetta/Vento/Bora, which uses the same floor pan) up to 10 times a year.

#325 - I'd normally agree, but 2 Saturdays back a Dacia Duster got me and my taxi driver out of a very sticky situation involving no fewer than 10 stretches of flooded road that we needed some of.

333:

"Neighboring Pakistan"? Oh, I thought you were talking about the US' primitive "Christians".

334:

I'll send Email to you and Greg, because OGH has shown dislike of bicycle discussions in the past.

The executive summary to #326/#327 is that, IN THEORY, a decent EU/UK road-legal crankset motor will push 250 KG up a 10% hill. Whether that is true in practice, I don't know, but I am planning to test that later this year.

335:

Rocketpjs @ 247:

"I don't know. Would a German National Workers' Party without the rabid antisemitism have been as bad as the one we actually got?"

A fascist party that wasn't infected with the insane conspiracy theories would, if they had gained power, been vastly more dangerous.

The Wehrmacht was modern and powerful but had a critical weakness - in the words of Dan Carlin, it was infested with Nazis. People in authority who were chosen for their loyalty to party rather than ability.

Imagine a Luftwaffe without Goering. Good planes, good pilots, competent leadership would have been much more effective.

"The Nazis declared war on the US (which they didn't really have to do, the US might have stayed out of Europe altogether) because their insane ideology imagined the US to be part of the huge Jewish conspiracy against them. Not doing that might not have changed the final outcome for the Germans, but I suspect a lot more of Europe would have ended up behind the Iron Curtain.

I get that, but would there have even been the World War we know about under this alternative "GNWP"?

Would the Wehrmacht & Luftwaffe be under the thumb of the "GNWP" the way they were with the Nazis?

Would COMPETENT military leadership have stood up to The Leader and told him that invading Poland was Nucking Futs; an unmitigated disaster that could only end in tears? Might there have been anyone in the German High Command who wouldn't want to repeat the folly of August 1914?

Would there have been a Sudetenland crisis or Munich? Would there have been an Anschluss?

For that matter, would the German Government have fallen under the spell of The Leader of such a NON-anti-Semitic "GNWP"?

What might the politics of a NON-anti-Semitic "GNWP" been? Surely they would have had some domestic political priorities. What might those have been once you remove "kill all the Jews" from their political platform?

What might their international diplomatic goals have been and how might Germany under a NON-anti-Semitic "GNWP" have sought to achieve them?

336:

Next you'll be telling us the American Mid-West should be abandoned because of the increasing threat of tornadoes, or the South-West (aka the Great American Desert) because of drought.

I party agree about parts of the Southwest. They've only been inhabitable for the 20th Century because we've been mining groundwater and/or building dams without maintaining them (or only maintaining some) or having a good idea how much water can be extracted.

For the Midwest, I'll point to the Southern/Central Plains and the Oglalla Aquifer as having similar problems. I'm not worrying about the rare tornados, but about the lack of water for agriculture.

There are a lot of ruins in the world, and I'd be happily surprised if the US doesn't start leaving even more ghost towns than it already has. And there are a lot of dead and dying towns throughout rural America as it is.

The normal pattern for big cities for the last few thousand years is for populations to fluctuate by several orders of magnitude. So that's the safe bet if we can stick with the Paris Agreement. It's hard on the people living through it, but it's perfectly normal in history. What's less normal are what happened to the Classic Maya and Angkor, where huge cities depopulated and were mostly or entirely abandoned. That's quite possible in the 21st Century, especially if we don't stick to the Paris Accord.

As for where people go in North America, I'd guess the Great Lakes, with work to upgrade the Saint Lawrence Seaway and to keep shipping possible from Chicago and Duluth to the Atlantic*. Again this sounds like heresy, but two and three generations ago, a bunch of members of my family immigrated from Europe and worked in the new auto plants around the Great Lakes. My parents moved to California chasing jobs. People moving in the US is a normal thing, and I'd expect people to move when they can't afford houses or fire insurance.

As for New Orleans, I actually agree that it's going to be really hard to abandon. All the ports are. Unless we all (including LA and San Diego) don't start seriously copying the Dutch, both in technology and in politics**, I'm not sure we'll be able to keep any of the big ports in working order for the rest of the century. And that, quite honestly, sucks.

*Not to deny the Canadian ports. I'm thinking of maximum distance, not maximum transshipment capacity.

**The San Diego Port Commissioners don't seem to be entirely stupid. However, there's a kind of politics around here called "The San Diego Special" where readily solvable problems become insoluble due to dunderheaded maneuvering by the electeds. Maybe it's happy ignorance, but I don't think the Netherlands are similarly stupid, especially about water issues?

337:

What I'm saying is that there will be a large city at the mouth of the Mississippi to act as a trans-shipping port between ocean-going ships and river, road and rail transport inland. Abandoning New Orleans would mean having to build New New Orleans somewhere nearby to provide infrastructure, homes for workers, shops and offices and all the things that makes up a a city capable of supporting such a port. Making efforts to keep the existing New Orleans and its associated port facilities viable will cost less in terms of effort and money, at least for the moment. The alternative is to start making plans to build New New New New New New Orleans some time next century.

Abandonment has happened in the past for various reasons - port cities such as Thonis-Heracleion have been lost as the sea encroaches or retreats or for more spectacular reasons, like Pompeii. The slow meandering of the Mississippi river delta isn't, I think, an overwhelming reason to consign New Orleans to the tides of history.

338:

Speaking of inappropriate Covid19 reactions, I keep hearing "MAGA 'Rona" popping up to the toon of "My Sharona." Similarly creepy, but I haven't figured out the rest of the lyrics. Probably just as well.

339:

The alternative is to build up capacity within the Mississippi basin to take oceanic traffic. I mean, technically you should be able to use the Chicago Canal to get from the Mississippi Basin to the Great Lakes.

Now obviously that's not going to work for super-max ships, but scaling up (for silly example) Natchez, Vicksburg, Greenville, and Rosedale might be a partial solution to losing New Orleans. They're not great choices, but they're better than no choice.

340:

Now obviously that's not going to work for super-max ships, but scaling up (for silly example) Natchez, Vicksburg, Greenville, and Rosedale might be a partial solution to losing New Orleans. They're not great choices, but they're better than no choice.

Oil and gas. They can be piped from the Louisiana and Texas production headers and the Gulf onshore terminals to New Orleans and immediately trans-shipped for export from there. That production alone guarantees the existence of New Orleans for the next couple of hundred years and/or twenty-five COP conferences, whichever comes first.

341:

Charlie Stross @ 249:

I don't know. Would a German National Workers' Party without the rabid antisemitism have been as bad as the one we actually got?

It might have been more successful militarily: certainly there wouldn't have been an exodus of Jewish nuclear physicists from Germany, and possibly not from places like Hungary. Imagine the Manhattan project without Szillard, Fermi, Von Neumann, et al. And with Einstein sitting the war out in Switzerland. They might conceivably have ended up with nuclear-powered U-boats, which would have changed things drastically. Or with Von Neumann working on cryptanalysis systems.

On the other hand, it might have been more successful economically in which case it wouldn't have gone on the insane looting rampage spree around the neighbourhood. Remember, Hitler sidelined the economists then adopted a crude Napoleonic strategy of filling his coffers from his enemies' treasuries.

That's one thought I had. If the Nazis had not come to power; if there had been an alternative "GNWP", would Germany have resorted to military adventurism?

And then again, by being less rabid and more realist, they might have ended up not getting into power and leaving a vacuum that would have been filled by the Spartacists. In which case, could Germany have conceivably gone Trotskyite, setting the scenes for a war with the USSR on about the same schedule but for entirely different reasons?

I'm wondering how that would work? Without invading Poland how would Germany have gone to war with the USSR?

Would Germany have been able to invade Poland without the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact? I believe (from what European History that was included in American public schools) that Poland had the military strength to hold off the Wehrmacht by itself. Stalin stabbing Poland in the back played a major part in Germany's military success against Poland in September 1939.

If Germany invades Poland to get to the USSR, they're still faced with the two front war against the USSR and Poland in the east and Poland's French & British allies in the west.

Poland & the USSR in the east and France & Britain in the west? That war probably would have been "over by spring!" even with the "Sitzkrieg" on the western front during the winter of 39/40.

The only way I see a direct war between Germany & the USSR taking place is if Poland INVITES the Germans in or allies itself with Germany to attack the USSR. How likely is that?

And how might the British & French governments have reacted to Poland being a part of a German coalition against the USSR? From the U.S., I think the response would have been increased isolationism.

The little I know about the "Spartacists" is they split from the Social Democrats over Imperial Germany's declaration of war against the Russian Empire in 1914. Would they have supported an imperialist war against their coreligionists in the USSR a generation later?

342:

Nojay @ 261: Re: Not-so-Nazi Nazi party alt-hist: They might conceivably have ended up with nuclear-powered U-boats, which would have changed things drastically.

Energy. The Germans never had enough energy to make anything nuclear work other than some basic lab experiments. The US had the Tennessee Valley Authority electricity generating complex which powered the uranium enrichment plants that supplied the reactors with enriched uranium fuel that made the plutonium for nuclear weapons.

They MIGHT have managed enough electricity to enrich uranium if they had diverted all their coal production into power plants but that would have crippled their steel industry and other war-making capabilities. Any enrichment plant(s) and its ancillaries such as hydrofluoric acid production facilities would have been a priority target for bombing during the war, not surprisingly and something that big would have been easy to disrupt -- the gaseous-diffusion plant at Oak Ridge Tennessee (located there because of the TVA) was for a long time the largest single building on the entire planet.

OTOH ...

Supposing the "Not-so-Nazi Nazi party" doesn't follow the path of military adventurism that leads to Germany starting a NO-WIN war against the rest of the world, might the electricity generated from the Möhne, Eder, Sorpe and Ennepe Dams have been sufficient to enrich enough uranium sufficiently for them to begin building POWER reactors?

Nuclear U-boats, not going to happen unless they could build much bigger subs -- a late-war Type XXI U-boat was 1800 tonnes, the first nuclear sub was the USN's Nautilus at 4,000 tonnes. Stores, especially weapons such as torpedoes limit the cruise duration of nuclear subs even today and small hulls mean short range never mind the propulsion systems employed.

Instead of Nuclear U-boats, how about nuclear powered commercial cargo ships? I'm sure they would have gotten around to nuclear powered warships sooner or later. So would the British, French, Japanese & the U.S.

It's all moot anyway -- without outright anti-Semitism there's only Bolshevism for the German right-wing hate-mongers to coalesce around in that inter-war period and left-wing Communism was intimately tied into the concept of the International Jew anyway. _Protocols_ was a big seller back then regardless of who was in charge of rabble-rousing.

I want to be sure I understand what you're saying, but do you mean that "left-wing Communism" (aka Marxism, Bolshevism, Trotskyism) were also propagators of anti-Semitic, so that even without the Nazis there would have still eventually have been a holocaust?

343:

almost all 'leccy-bike makers seem to avoid or frown on multiple front chain-wheels

That's because most people who buy cheap ebikes use them in flat areas and want the assist because they want or need to avoid exercising. The more expensive ones tend to have hub gears with a wider range than you probably expect, so two chainrings would get you 9 effective gears rather than the 8 you get with the hub. Even derailleur systems have often gone to a "1x" (one by) setup, where the rear cassette is ridiculously wide ranging - my ex girlfriend has more range in her 1x12 setup than my Rohloff offers, and it's cheaper, lighter and more efficient (just needs more maintenance, doesn't last as long, and is more fragile... but all of those are "compared to a Rohloff", it's still a lot more reliable etc than an old school 3x7 setup). I suggest looking at the actual gear range you want, and consider carefully the weight of the loaded bike when the e-assist is off and whether you really want to be pushing it, before getting excited about wanting to do that.

https://ebiketips.road.cc/content/advice/advice/9-of-the-best-electric-cargo-bikes-103 seems like a useful overview.

In Australia we get cheap "eMTB" toys which have multiple chainrings but they are to be avoided with extreme prejudice. We also get non road legal "electric motorbikes with pedals" of various sorts but they cost over $AU10k and are pointless for you.

I would find your local ebike dealer and talk to them about what you want. My local one definitely sells various electric load bikes and they definitely cover a the "light-ish flat bar road bike with trailer" end, but I suspect you might actually prefer the "modern load-capable ebike" because those are wildly popular meaning there are a lot of options.

And a trolley/carrier/trailer device, for small loads & "town" travelling up to 10 miles radius

Again, there are two grades here: lightweight toys for people with no idea, and expensive things that work. There's no regulatory process to create a "safe mass market" version so the better stuff is all made in the thousands rather than millions. I'd look for a load bike first, and a $500-$1000 trailer as a second option. It might be cheaper for you to build or have built a two wheel trailer that's cheap and heavy but solid and capable. My design, or one or the many others online.

344:

To make them pay for externalities would require political change.
And they already own the political process.

How about a modest carbon tax, like $2000 per ton of carbon burned without CO2 capture. (Not per ton of CO2; we're not unreasonable! :-)
How does the possibility of such taxes (or even 10 percent of such taxes) change the calculations? (Perhaps with threats of military annihilation clandestine sector-targeted ratfucking severe sanctions against countries that do not enact them, or do not enforce them.)
Fossil fuel interests do not have enough power to reduce the probability of such taxes to close enough to zero to ignore. Not even close. (Many will ignore such possibilities anyway, because they suffer from the cognitive biases that manifest as arrogance.) There are other measures that could have similar effects.

345:

Moz
I was looking at medium-size trailer with seat post attachment ( "up-&-over" )
There are many on the UK market - some are obvious crap, others need looking at.

346:

I tried to look up the true costs of electric motoring, and could find little but competing propaganda.
A lot of propaganda out there, agreed. The piece I linked has a few interesting links. Have not read them yet.
A GLOBAL COMPARISON OF THE LIFE-CYCLE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS OF COMBUSTION ENGINE AND ELECTRIC PASSENGER CARS (Georg Bieker, July, 2021, International Council on Clean Transportation, 86 page PDF)
Net emission reductions from electric cars and heat pumps in 59 world regions over time (2020 Jun, 24 pages)
Here, we analyse current and future emissions trade-offs in 59 world regions with heterogeneous households, by combining forward-looking integrated assessment model simulations with bottom-up life-cycle assessment. We show that already under current carbon intensities of electricity generation, electric cars and heat pumps are less emission-intensive than fossil fuel-based alternatives in 53 world regions, representing 95% of global transport and heating demand.

347:

Thanks very much. You are good at finding data that is actually worth looking at!

348:

#339 - Supermax no, but 2 minutes in Wikipedia told me that the largest Great Lakes bulk carriers are around 1_000 feet long, 68kton cargo capacity.

#342 - The Möhne, Eder, Sorpe and Ennepe Dams might have generated enough power for running uranium enrichment, but that power was being used to manufacture steel, and German steel making methods of that period needed the electricity from 10 tons of water to make 1 ton of steel.

#343 - This all makes sense to me except that I don't have 5 grand to spend on a bicycle.

349:

One design I saw for a bike trailer from a Hacklab was based on a pair of hub-centre-motor bike wheels which could be powered from a battery pack. The linkage to the bike had a load sensor to engage and set the power levels of the drive motors so the pedalling load of the bike pulling the trailer was muchly reduced, even up hills. It was a work in progress though, lots of hacking and tweaking of the assist programming going on and I don't know how far it progressed in the end.

350:

p>David L @ 262:

So can we start talking about the Climate Singularity, at some point, maybe?

HW 12 is basically a road with some bridges along the sand bars that form the coast of NC. With more bridges replacing the road as time goes by. Even without sea level rise these sand bars used to move and shift. But now with all those homes, mostly second and vacation that, there we have embarked on a stop the sand from moving effort. No matter what the cost. Or at least until maybe 2 more zeros are added to the end of the cost numbers. And planning by state law cannot assume climate change induced sea level rise.

Highway 12 started out as a local road for the FULL TIME residents of the outer banks. It ran along the sound side, behind the dunes that held the islands in place. The Outer Banks have always moved, but they didn't really move that much. Most of the connections connections between the islands were by ferry ... before the Bonner Bridge. I vaguely remember visiting Cape Hatteras National Seashore before the Bonner Bridge was built.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dijNciYvmWY

The short bridge is "complete" now, and I don't know how long it's going to last. It's almost certain that the long bridge was the better long term "solution" and should have been built instead.

Beginning in the 1930s tourism became an "industry" in eastern North Carolina and the islands started being developed. Much of that development included building beach front before the primary dune lines & bull-dozing the dunes. That's when the banks really began to move.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf0kR79U6KU

Those houses at 1:37 are sitting where the "primary dune line" used to be before development began.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYCgh6ph-sU

Look at 35.254967, -75.520704 in Google Maps. This is the original location of the second (current) Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. When it was built in 1868 it was approximately 1,000 feet from the shoreline. It was still 900 feet inland in 1950.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfLIgmg35kI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFFJc0CUOsI

I wish I could tell y'all how to fix it.

351:

The alternative is to build up capacity within the Mississippi basin to take oceanic traffic.

This led me into a minor geography rabbit hole, particularly poking around google maps up and down the Ohio River, but this article is relevant to many discussions here:

https://www.legendsofamerica.com/il-cairo/

Town is on a funny little peninsula that would once have been a semi-ideal rail-to-or-from-barge transhipment hub, when such things were more significant than they are now.

352:

I want to be sure I understand what you're saying, but do you mean that "left-wing Communism" (aka Marxism, Bolshevism, Trotskyism) were also propagators of anti-Semitic, so that even without the Nazis there would have still eventually have been a holocaust?

The common understanding among German nationalists and others was that Bolshevism was the creation of the International Jew as part of a secret plan to dominate the European-slash-Aryan white races. Of course the Communists of the Soviet Union were notably anti-semitic themselves but rationality and sensibility wasn't the point. No-one on the Continent was really free of this sort of thinking, the French had just been through their Dreyfus Affair for example.

353:

David L @ 313: I left off the sarcasm tags.

Here in North Carolina it's socialism if laws helps the non rich. If it helps the richer then it is free market capitalism boosting.

Socialize the costs, privatize the profits - same as it ever was.

354:

whitroth @ 325: As I think I posted: ban freakin' SUVs. Altogether. They get far worse milage than a non-SUV. My 13 yr old minivan, 2wd, gets the milage that many new SUVs do.

And the majority of SUV drivers have no frickin' idea how to drive, much less drive a vehicle that big and heavy.

And as I've posted, such feel-good "panacea" proposals harm people, while doing noting to alleviate any real problem.

Why stop with SUVs. Why not ban ALL new-fangled MECHANICAL transportation devices? Everybody can go back to using ox-carts. They were good enough for serfs & peasants, they should be good enough for you.

355:

Heteromeles @ 338: Speaking of inappropriate Covid19 reactions, I keep hearing "MAGA 'Rona" popping up to the toon of "My Sharona." Similarly creepy, but I haven't figured out the rest of the lyrics. Probably just as well.

Email whatever you do have to Randy Rainbow along with a copyright release.

356:

paws4thot @ 348 #342 - The Möhne, Eder, Sorpe and Ennepe Dams might have generated enough power for running uranium enrichment, but that power was being used to manufacture steel, and German steel making methods of that period needed the electricity from 10 tons of water to make 1 ton of steel.

I don't know all about German steel manufacture pre-WW2, but it occurs to me that a significant portion of that capacity went to armaments manufacture. Suppose a NON-anti-Semitic "GNWP" eschewed military adventurism for the reasons I've already outlined, mainly recognizing that picking a fight with the whole rest of the world the way Hitler did is a NO WIN proposition.

Eschewing militarism frees up a lot of steel manufacturing capacity from procuring armaments, giving them the opportunity to use the power involved for other things.

357:

Nojay @ 352:

I want to be sure I understand what you're saying, but do you mean that "left-wing Communism" (aka Marxism, Bolshevism, Trotskyism) were also propagators of anti-Semitic, so that even without the Nazis there would have still eventually have been a holocaust?

The common understanding among German nationalists and others was that Bolshevism was the creation of the International Jew as part of a secret plan to dominate the European-slash-Aryan white races. Of course the Communists of the Soviet Union were notably anti-semitic themselves but rationality and sensibility wasn't the point. No-one on the Continent was really free of this sort of thinking, the French had just been through their Dreyfus Affair for example.

Thank you for clarifying. Stalin had quite as many people murdered as Hitler did, but not specifically because they were Jews. But I hadn't thought that a Bolshevik/Trotskyite regime would have specifically singled out Jews for murder.

I read Hannah Arendt's "The Origins of Totalitarianism", but I'm not sure I understood everything in it. It was a difficult read & I kept drifting off while trying to read it.

I had to check it out from the library 4 times (could only keep it for three weeks at a time & only renew it once before I had to return it & wait a day to check it out again) to get all the way through. But I am somewhat familiar with how modern anti-Semitism developed along with the rise of nationalism.

But I persevered and got through to the end it.

358:

Why stop with SUVs. Why not ban ALL new-fangled MECHANICAL transportation devices? Everybody can go back to using ox-carts. They were good enough for serfs & peasants, they should be good enough for you.

Because, to put it bluntly, I'm not a fan of famine. I dug out Hot Earth Dreams again, because I covered the point.

The basic unit is miles, but it's actually (payload ton miles/ton fuel), or how many miles a transportation mode can carry a ton of cargo for a ton of fuel.

With ox-carts and humans, it's in the range of 250-300 miles, give or take. With the Concorde jet(!), it's 467 miles. So if you're traveling across a continent, it's actually more fuel efficient to take a Concorde than to walk, although food and jet fuel aren't the same thing.

Semi-trailers run at 18,500 miles, freight trains at 63,000 miles river barges run at 160,000 miles, and Bulk cargo vessels run at 1,300,000 miles.

One problem is if you limit all travel to shanks' mare, if someone has a crop failure 500 miles away, you literally cannot get food to them. You can start out with a full cart, but the horses or oxen (or humans) will eat it all getting there, then have no food to get back out. The other problem is that, if walking is the only mode available, everybody's stuck with one of the most inefficient methods devised. And the 21st Century needs to be about efficiency.

This is why Nojay and I actually agree that ocean ports are really, really, really important. Trucks and trains are important too. The trick, going forward, isn't to eliminate them, it's to find ways to power them that keeps their cargo mileage as high as possible with out emitting greenhouse gases.

But even if electric cargo ships turn out to be half as efficient as the current bunker oil burners, they'd still be almost 2,000 times more efficient than using ox-carts.

Now if you want to eliminate wasteful travel modes, I'd look at cruise ships (4 times worse than jets), suborbital rocket ships, and gas-guzzling, single passenger cars. And the best alternative for single passenger cars, in some cases, is to work from home.

359:

Paywalled, but extremely relevant epidemiological calculation regarding Delta seen nowhere else which demonstrate the irrelevance of boosters vs the necessity to vaccinate the UnJabbed.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/coronavirus-vaccine-booster-shots/2021/08/11/aefec5dc-fae0-11eb-9c0e-97e29906a970_story.html

360:

"Next you'll be telling us the American Mid-West should be abandoned because of the increasing threat of tornadoes, or the South-West (aka the Great American Desert) because of drought."

This is an incredibly interesting topic.

To say archaeologists are a bit puzzled by the lack of ruins in N.A. from large(-ish) settlements at the "naturally suitable locations", by which they usually mean river confluences, is almost an understatement, and the explanation that the indigenous population "just liked to move around" is no longer taken seriously.

The climate in the last thousand years have been almost unnaturally stable, and yet that area is barely survivable without post-1800-technology, and the loss of human life to weather was crippling until the modern computer-based forecasts.

We tend to assume that with modern technology we can survive anywhere.

Assuming needed supplies are ferried in, that is more or less true: We've kept a space-station running for a generation, it doesn't get much more difficult that that.

So current thinking is that fixed settlements in that area of N.A was simply not economically sustainable prior to the stable climate from approx the iron-age forward: A settlement can survive only some relatively low rate of crop-failures and natural disasters, before it disintegrates or migrates.

Of course that part of USA can be kept inhabited in pretty much any future climate by technological means, provided there are good economical reasons to do the necessary ferrying-in.

"It's our ancestral home!" is not enough, it only works as long as charity has no bigger problems elsewhere.

Today those areas are kept populated mainly by two economical phenomena: Fossil fuel extraction and federally funded jobs (ie: the military-industrial complex) which is located there primarily as a second-order effect of the two-senators-per-state rule in the US constitution.

Mechanized large-area agriculture requires only a skeleton crew, and it is not even obvious it is profitable without the subsidies to begin with.

Renewable energy wont do it either: Once the kit is installed and the electricity flows through the wires, very little staff is required.

So it is not really a question of "should be abandoned" as much as "will be abandoned", if the second-order effects fail to hold.

...which is why there is no chance that USA can reduce the objectively insane military expenditures or for that matter enact equitable and fair tax-reforms.

361:

#356 - Yes, as far as it goes. Civil projects of the period might include the original VW Type 1 (Beetle, Bug, Kafer...).

#358 - I actually agree with most of your analysis; my main reservation is that you actually lose muscle mass on food animals by making them walk the several hundred miles, and I'm not sure you've allowed for that as a factor with carts (ie, I think they may be even worse than your figures suggest if the target population want meat).

362:

On meat: I think we (globally) really need to start eating less meat. As I understand it, animals used to be much more valuable in other respects (for example beasts of burden) than just meat to eat.

After all, it's kind of wasteful to feed plants to animals and then eat the animals, if you can eat the plants yourself. Feeding plants inedible to humans to pigs and goats is a different thing, but it's not a solution for current amounts of meat we eat.

363:

That's a separate argument to where I was going, which was that specialist road (or rail, or even ship) haulage of livestock is a more efficient means of transporting live meat 100 miles or more than a "old West cattle drive" is. That will remain true even if we reduce meat consumption. There are medical reasons why this doesn't work for everyone.

364:

I have some book questions (might be obvious stuff, might have been answered before, but anyway):

  • In DLD, a Baroness Sanguinary is mentioned. Is that Mhari? Will we learn how she became notorious?
  • Iris' sacrifice of Bob, it seems the SA knew about it, and had his blessing. Is that correct? Does Bob know?
  • In Annihilation Score, Mo tells the SA Lecter's name twice. Anything particular with that?
  • 365:

    The only way I see a direct war between Germany & the USSR taking place is if Poland INVITES the Germans in or allies itself with Germany to attack the USSR. How likely is that?

    If we're going back to someone other than Hitler running the NDAP, then in all likelihood there will be other significant historical changes.

    Trotsky gets a relatively clean pass in the history books mostly because he wasn't Stalin: but Trotsky's policies -- had he succeeded Lenin -- would have led to another large-scale war (albeit a different one). Trotsky was all for exporting communism globally, rather than keeping it inside the former Russian empire, and it's hard not to see one or more of the European great powers rocking up for a re-run of 1919-21, even if he settled for modernizing the USSR and funding overseas missions, rather than full-on invasions.

    366:

    In DLD, a Baroness Sanguinary is mentioned. Is that Mhari? Will we learn how she became notorious?

    Yes: as noted in "The Labyrinth Index" the New Management gave her a peerage and stuck her in charge of a House of Lords Select Committee.

    Iris' sacrifice of Bob, it seems the SA knew about it, and had his blessing. Is that correct? Does Bob know?

    Bob did not know: the Iris/SA connection is a plot point for a not-yet-written book.

    In Annihilation Score, Mo tells the SA Lecter's name twice. Anything particular with that?

    I don't even remember that.

    367:

    might the electricity generated from the Möhne, Eder, Sorpe and Ennepe Dams have been sufficient to enrich enough uranium sufficiently for them to begin building POWER reactors?

    Yes. Remember the US bomb program consumed stupefying amounts of electricity because they used calutrons for enrichment -- a technology everybody abandoned as soon as possible. Ultracentrifuges date to the 1920s; an ultracentrifuge enrichment cascade running on UF6 by the late 1930s is not totally inconceivable. Also, enrichment to 3% (reactor fuel) is a lot easier than enrichment to 70% and up (necessary for bomb making). The bomb comes later, by way of plutonium.

    Indeed, an alt-Reich "dash for nuclear" to build civil power reactors in the 1940s seems quite plausible, just as historically France went full-bore for nuclear power in the 1970s.

    Nojay's objection to nuclear powered U-boats doesn't hold up to examination, either. Yes, the existing U-boats were far too small. But big-ass submarines were a thing -- look at the Japanese I-400 class, which overlaps in size with early SSBNs. Germany was certainly able to build big lumps of floating metal (hint: Tirpitz, Bismark, etc). The real limit on U-boat size wasn't engineering, it was tactical purpose (they only needed to get to the middle of the Atlantic and back to carry out their mission).

    368:

    You have now puzzled me. There is a strong SA/Iris plot point in The Delirium Brief, indicating that Iris infiltrated the cult under orders (as well as from inclination) - do you mean beyond that?

    I noted the duplicate Lecter explanation, too. If you were collecting things to clean up in a rewrite, it would be worth adding.

    369:

    Of course the Communists of the Soviet Union were notably anti-semitic themselves

    The anti-semitism really caught on in the 1930s, under Stalin. If you look at the composition of the Bolsheviks in 1917-24 or thereabouts a lot of the leaders were secular Jews: Bolshevism attracted them because it offered a way out of the institutionalized state anti-semitism of the Tsarist (Russian Orthodox Christian) regime.

    Then Stalin started purging his perceived rivals ...

    370:

    The climate in the last thousand years have been almost unnaturally stable,

    I am gradually coming to the conclusion that the reason a small island nation managed to build a world-wide Empire and ruled a quarter of the world's land mass was in part due to the Gulf Stream.

    Britain doesn't routinely experience the sorts of truly disastrous weather events which get reported daily from around the world, hurricanes and monsoons and typhoons and droughts and famines and tornadoes and extreme heat events (or extreme cold either). 'Temperate' was pretty much the word created to describe our climate, at least over the past 20,000 years or so after the ice retreated. Add to that a severe lack of earthquakes and other geological disasters and what you've got is a nation that didn't have to dig its way out of one natural disaster after another and could spend that accumulated capital going out in ships and conquering the world.

    371:

    And as I've posted, such feel-good "panacea" proposals harm people, while doing noting to alleviate any real problem.

    It's an incentives problem.

    I think the answer is probably to tax passenger vehicles by axle weight, and make it a non-linear relationship so that heavy vehicles go up sharply -- there's no reason a Cadillac Escalade should be as cheap to pay annual tax on as a Smart ForTwo or a microcar.

    People who need a pickup or SUV for work will pay more. Simple.

    Does this discriminate against people who live in far suburbia/exurbia? Of course it goddamn does. We should be moving to a more urban lifestyle as a matter of urgency: this is just an additional incentive.

    (How you fund the shift from suburbia back to urbia is a more specific and different question. Hint: I think socialized housing is a big part of the answer, as is universal basic income and a huge dose of policies that the conservative/right wing will scream at as Godless Communism, never mind Socialism. But that's a whole 'nother argument.)

    372:

    The I-400 was an engineering disaster. I read a report of the US officer who was given command of one of the two examples the Japanese managed to complete as he sailed it across the Pacific to America. He stayed on the surface for the entire transit and never submerged, the hull was in appalling condition and the likelihood of it coming back to the surface again was low. There were other problems with the I-400 like the ship's monkey which, he was assured by the Japanese crew, was necessary to keep the cockroach infestation down to an acceptable level (a bit like a ship's cat and rodents). It wasn't that funny in reality, cockroaches got squished between hatch seals and let water in at the most inappropriate times...

    Building large lumps of metal that were supposed to stay on or above sea level all the time was well-understood by the 1940s. Large submarines were still a problem, a very large submarine with a novel power plant was a step too far for 1940s tech. I did see a nuclear sub described in the rather worrying Luftwaffe 1946 comics series though.

    373:

    The places where we should be producing meat are places like the hill farms of the Yorkshire Dales - land where the only thing that grows well is grass, moss, and other things that humans don't eat.

    And that does imply not much supplementing of feed - as you say, no point diverting human feed to animals just for meat. At least, not until education etc results in the human population falling naturally to a sustainable level.

    374:

    Actually, I think that's too one-dimensional. There are people who need to live in rural areas (including rural towns and villages), and that discriminates against them as well. A lot of the problem with rural social demise is due to that effectively being a policy for the past 70 years.

    I remember when most people who lived in rural areas got on pretty well without using a car much, and CERTAINLY without using a multi-ton juggernaut. Packing everyone into dense conurbations is neither necessary nor desirable - though I agree the current fashion of commuting for over an hour in a SUV is worse.

    It's the same with meat. We should abolish ALL forms of battery production instanter, but traditional grazing and similar is critical to many ecologies (e.g. downland), and MUCH less ecologically harmful (indeed, sometimes beneficial). Yes, the prices for meat, dairy and even eggs would go back to what they once used to be, but eating more pulses etc. and less of them is beneficial in so many ways.

    Other UK factors to tackle the SUV problem include hammering the manufacturers' cartel in the goolies until they produce small utility vehicles again, and hammering the insurance cartel in the goolies until they make the hire of such vehicles feasible again. When I have been moaning about being unable to get a car for my use, lots of people have told me that I need a SUV. I need a SUV like a sodding hole in the head! But that's very close to all that I am offered :-(

    375:

    Then Stalin started purging his perceived rivals ...

    I think the only people sure to not get on that list were the ones JS didn't see when looking in the mirror.

    376:

    Remember the US bomb program consumed stupefying amounts of electricity because they used calutrons for enrichment -- a technology everybody abandoned as soon as possible. Ultracentrifuges date to the 1920s

    Yes. And gaseous diffusion took it down to "holy crap that's a lot of power". Like 500 to 1000 megawatts for a production plant. Maybe you could stop at 500 megawatts for a wartime situation.

    Ultracentrifuges to me in my not so deep reading, were a thing but we (the planet) didn't have the control systems to make it work at scale. Sort of like flying the first stage of a rocket back for re-use. Without modern computers/control systems it wasn't really a feasible thing to do prior to 2000/2010 or so.

    377:

    Greg, I'd suggest heading over to https://www.pedelecs.co.uk/forum/#pedelecs-forums.1

    I've had some good advice there. I'd be interested to hear how you get on - I really need to start cycling again but my knees are knackered and complain even cycling in Cambridgeshire.

    378:

    I will break my rule, because I may be able to help.

    A lot of people have that problem because the modern UCI-derived fashion is to cycle with very bent knees and high cadences, which is something we have not evolved to do. Raising the saddle so that your knees are straight at the bottom and toes pointing down at a modest cadence is far more natural, how people used to cycle, and is less problematic in general (everyone's anatomy is different, so some people find it is worse). Do it GRADUALLY, though.

    379:

    The rich would never agree to anything based on socialism.

    Well, socialism for other people.

    If it benefits them, it's not socialism, because by definition socialism is evil, right?

    380:

    Arr. Double negatives.

    381:

    Nojay & Charlie
    No-one has mentioned the two (?) insane submersible cruiser(s) the French Built: Surcouf

    382:

    Yes, there's a deeper game in progress.

    There won't be a rewrite of the Laundry Files novels: there's about 1.5 million words of them at this point, so it'd take years, and there's zero commercial rationale for it. (If I even suggested it my editors would take out a restraining order.)

    383:

    #369 - This may be "teaching my granny", but Russian pogroms go back hundreds of years into the Tzars rather than starting with Stalin,

    #374 - And for people who require stomas https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoma_(medicine)? They may, not always but may, be on a low fibre diet, which is the complete opposite of a pulse-rich one.

    #378 - Well, FWIW that's how I used to ride, before I had this feeling that about half of motorists would knock you off as soon as look at you.

    #381, or the British b>steam-powered K boats, and their M-class brethren (aka "mutton boats").

    384:

    The I-400 was an engineering disaster....

    My question is:

    Was this due to the pitiful state of ship construction near the end of the war?

    I suspect by then the only high grade steel they had available to them was what they could salvaged from wreaks in Tokyo Bay.

    385:

    I missed a spacebar in a hotlink, so it's broken by a redundant or non-existent "?" character,

    And an opening brace on a HTML tag; "steam-powered" should be bold face.

    386:

    #369 - This may be "teaching my granny", but Russian pogroms go back hundreds of years into the Tzars rather than starting with Stalin,

    That might just have something to do with why my paternal grandfather's family emigrated to the UK in 1906 ...

    387:

    I did sort of realise the fact if not the actual date.

    388:

    It doesn't make sense to orient an (inter-)national strategy around a small number of people with particular problems. That does NOT mean that we should follow the current strategy of shafting people for whom the dominant solution does not work. Yes, some people would need financial or other assistance, but much of the current animal food industry is inhumane, unsustainable and socially harmful.

    389:

    Thanks. I had rather assumed the latter from some of your posts!

    390:

    Yes, that's what I meant, though it also applies to downland etc. (for ecological reasons) and traditional mixed farming; pure arable farming relies on providing a lot of fertiliser from outside. We would use more (often hard) wool, and most mutton and beef would be from sheep and cows at the end of their productive (for other purposes) lives.

    391:

    Not really.

    This is a matter of time scale: There was nothing inevitable about England's rise, and when it did grow big, that didn't last for very long (100-200 years, depending on how you count it). The nothing inevitable is a reminder that a lot of critical stuff happened during the Elizabethan era, and a different outcome of the Spanish Armada would have us all speaking Espanol if there were an internet at all. Having a lot of easy-to-get coal during the first Industrial Revolution, and controlling the Ganges Delta when there the world was critically short of nitrates, explain a lot of the rest.

    Incidentally, the USA and Russia are in the same boats. Big empires seldom never very long.

    As for why there weren't big cities in North America when the first European explorers arrived, there were: Tenochtitlan in Mexico (est. pop. 140,000) and Cahokia (est. pop. 14,000, which was bigger than London at the same time). Maize and beans can feed a lot of people. As to why there weren't more big cities, Indians riding bison and fondling guns, and so on, I think Guns, Germs, and Steel hit it on the head. But that's only half the story.

    Most people, when they met the European colonizers, thought "These men are fucking insane and heavily armed." The problems with exploitative capitalism were quite obvious to those observing the initial wave, as recorded by the colonizers who talked with the colonized. The idea that colonization in a capitalist regime would be ruinously destructive isn't a new notion, but a very old one. The surprise has been how very long and how thorough the destruction has been. If you don't believe me, see the discussion on how to adapt to climate change, where phrases like "mass extinction," "human extinction," and "radical transformation" are norms that are considered boring and dismissed by many.

    Civilization, as we've done it, is basically everyone trying to be Donald Trump, colossal mismanagement and greed fed by looting everything else, doubling down instead of adapting, and trying to silence anyone who says otherwise or points to more survivable alternatives. This is also known as progress, the pinnacle of human achievement, and many of the other best words. But it's worth looking at how much we've wasted and how fast we've done it, and asking whether those words, --uttered by fine people, the very best people--are anything other than self-serving bullshit.

    392:

    My family left Russia in 1912 and came to the U.S.

    393:

    Thanks. After reading your comment I made the issue of how much you have to feed your draft animals a minor plot point in the book I'm currently rewriting - the oxen now eat through 2000 pounds of grain while hauling five wagons 200 miles. (Half the oxen will be slaughtered at the end of the journey as well.)

    394:

    Civilization, as we've done it, is basically everyone trying to be Donald Trump, colossal mismanagement and greed fed by looting everything else, doubling down instead of adapting, and trying to silence anyone who says otherwise or points to more survivable alternatives.

    The terrible thing is, at least in my own case, that I've known about those alternatives for decades. Presumably that's also true of the policy-makers. What we need, but don't have, is a political party based on best practices instead of ridiculous amounts of greed.

    395:

    @391:

    Cahokia is pretty much why there even is a discussion about the "missing cities" on the North American continent.

    First, because it comes very late for a pre-iron-age city, but mostly because it only lasted at few hundred years, and show very little technological progression during that time.

    The simplest explanation for both facts is that the climate in (much of) North America has too many extreme events to make it beneficial or even viable, to put all their eggs in one stationary basket.

    396:

    Diamond may have got the 'what' right, but his explanations of why it was necessarily western Europe are a load of horse-puckey. I agree with you that it was simply a matter of timing - though not as obviously as it was in India.

    As Troutwaxer says in #394, some of us have been trying to march to the beat of a different drum. The signs were sodding obvious half a century ago and, no, you didn't need to read the now classic disaster-prediction books to see them. It's not nice having the curse of Cassandra, unless you are completely lacking in empathy.

    397:

    Hmm. This is where I channel Mencken. A great deal of the belief that North America has a lot of extreme weather events comes from the dogma that everything there is more so than elsewhere. The Fertile Crescent has never been particularly stable in that respect, for example. While some of the extreme events could take out a small area, as far as a particular point on the map is concerned, they are pretty rare.

    Furthermore, while technology does depend on a certain population density, the lack of progress indicates a social cause.

    398:

    The I-400 submarine had an aircraft hangar carrying three light bombers with a hatch on the front that had to be kept watertight under several dozen bar of water pressure when submerged. The American officer skippering an I-400 during its transit to San Diego mentioned the hatch had warped and was never fully watertight against its seal. Even cruising on the surface the bottom edge was lined with sandbags to keep most of the water out.

    A 4000-tonne sub hull has a lot more "must be perfect" welds in its construction than a submarine half its displacement. Surface ships, or "targets" as submariners like to call them, can cope with slight leaks below the waterline using pumps and packing but submarines have it harder in that regard. The larger the sub the more total force it has to cope with and this has to be factored into the design, hopefully before catastrophic failure at sea costs you a prototype or two plus the crews.

    Certainly the problems of designing big submersibles could have been worked out, they obviously were after the war but just designing and integrating a new type of power plant was going to take years and the Germans didn't have those years or even the slack manufacturing and supply capacity to complete such a project in a timely fashion. They managed to get the large-ish Type XXI U-boats off the drawing board just before V-E Day and they were possible game-changers in the Atlantic if they had come into service in quantity even eighteen months before.

    399:

    just designing and integrating a new type of power plant was going to take years

    Yeah, well: the USS Nautilus was authorized in 1951: construction began in 1952, the boat was launched in January 1954, and delivered to the Navy in 1955. You may argue it was a prototype and test-bed (as was its successor, SSN-575 Seawolf), but between 1955 and 1959 the US built four Skate class SSNs, an actual production class of hunter-killer submarine. They displaced 2300 tons on the surface, so only about 20% more than a type XXI U-boat, on which the Soviet Whisky-class and USN Tang-class submarines were both based.

    400:

    Right. But this all happens after the technological breakthroughs to build a working nuke plant had been achieved, and the U.S. by then probably had samples of both German and Japanese larger subs, and had spent some time dealing with the Surcouf, so they weren't anywhere close to starting from scratch on the problem - quite the opposite, particularly if they had access to German and Japanese plans and personnel.

    In contrast the German and Japanese engineers were starting from scratch on the problems, doubtless had failures and problems along the way, then the Americans leveraged their work.

    401:

    The US wasn't fighting an all-out war at the time the Nautilus was designed and laid down, they weren't resource-constrained or limited in manpower or energy or finance. That helps a lot.

    402:

    Yes: and your point is ...?

    Remember that Germany was one of the leading submarine powers prior to 1918, and while Versailles forbade them from doing that no more, they began breaking those restrictions from 1933 with minimum blowback until they began invading other countries. While the treaty forbade Germany from building submarines, in practice they continued R&D efforts during the interwar period by funding a design bureau located in the Netherlands. It's not clear when U-boat construction started -- it was kept secret, concealed under other projects -- but by September 1939 the KM already had 65 U-boats.

    By keeping the research arm going, and being able to recall experienced officers (from WW1) to train the newbies 20 years later, they got a head start. It's not obvious that they could have developed SSNs significantly earlier than the USN managed to -- but it's not obvious that they'd have been a lot slower, either. (Especially if they weren't kneecapped by Hitler's approach to divide-and-conquer within the Party, which we've just seen eerily replicated by the Trump administration.)

    403:

    Agreed, with the note that the type XXI U-boats were not really bettered as diesel-electric designs until the UK's Upholder class were launched.

    404:

    The US wasn't fighting an all-out war at the time the Nautilus was designed and laid down

    Remind me again what the polite disagreement in Korea was about, the one where General MacArthur was demanding nuclear release authority and got into a pissing match with the Chinese People's Liberation Army as a proxy for the USSR?

    What was that whole Cold War thing about, anyway?

    405:

    No serious historians believe Stalin killed more people than Hitler any more. There was a vested interest in inflating his kill count during the cold war, and the Soviet archives only became (briefly) available in, I think, 1991 to revise things. Here's a good summary by Timothy Snyder of more or less current thinking - https://web.archive.org/web/20160306142141/http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2011/03/10/hitler-vs-stalin-who-killed-more/

    Had to use the archive because the New York Review of Books now wants a registration.

    406:

    Uncle Stinky
    Don't really believe that, unless you want to lay the whole total of deaths in the European theatre in WWII at Hitler's door, which is plausible.
    As for "internal" deaths of your own population, Stalin is the clear "winner"
    Again I recommend Alan Bullock: "Hitler & Stalin: Parallel Lives"

    407:

    Stalin started out with a bigger nation (population wise), and was in power for 30 years, to Hitler's 12. The fact that we're even arguing over who killed more should highlight the fact that Hitler killed people faster, and a higher per-capita proportion of those under his control.

    So I'm going with "Hitler was worse (but you didn't want to live under either of them)".

    408:

    Why America didn't have a copper age:

    We did. The Old Copper Complex started up around the Great Lakes ca: 7500 BCE (contemporaneous or older than in Eurasia). Lasted until 1000 BCE, and the people who built Cahokia were casting copper.

    So why not a bronze age? The nearest sources of tin to the Old Copper Complex are in Alaska and just east of Los Angeles (and not much in the latter mine in Azusa). Compare this with Asia Minor and China, where tin and copper were a few hundred miles apart.

    Then there's kiln technology: making really hot fires is useful for a lot of things: pretreating chert to make better edges, better pottery, porcelain, smelting ores, and working with metals, among other things. North Americans really didn't get into kiln technology in general, whereas around Syria, there's good evidence that the maker-types were grinding up any weird rock they could find, in pure form or in compounds, then heating it as hot as they could get it to see what happened. Smelting copper and tin ores aren't the easiest things in the world, and so they had to experiment to get the right recipes. In North America, conversely, Great Lakes copper comes in big lumps of pure metal, and there's nothing much to clue people in that it should be melted with other rocks to make it harder.

    As for weather, I'd point to Charles Manns' 1491. There's an interesting point in there about food production in Mesoamerica. Farmers aren't stupid on average, and they plant their milpas (corn, bean, etc. fields) in areas where they get the highest yields. Decades ago, a grad student talked to some modern peasants about how much they thought a field should produce, and how they went about choosing the land. She then did some calculations, looked at archaeological data, and noticed that Olmec culture (the mother civilization of Central America) popped up in the areas and at the times when crop yields hit the "good range" as defined by modern peasants. What triggered civilization in Central America was having good enough maize to trigger a population explosion.

    Long story short: people can live on a lot of things. Having enough surplus to support a stratified society takes not just excellent crop plants, not just excellent soil, but also reasonably stable weather. And note that civilizations only tend to last for a few centuries before something goes haywire and there's a catastrophic regime change. This is true even in the really, really, really good spots like Egypt. What has kept civilization going as a phenomenon seems to be that catastrophic failures are more often regional than global, so even if someone's crashing out, their essential knowledge is shared elsewhere. When things get better in Crashland, some poor god-ridden psychopath can get annointed by heaven and resurrects civilization in the old spot and inflicts leading them on his heirs. For awhile.

    But let's look at the places where civilization never launched. A place like California, for example, has been settled for 15,000 years, and the Central Valley 50 years ago was an agricultural mecca with what used to be pretty decent soils. Why didn't the Indians develop agriculture? Well, the Central Valley has this really bad habit of flooding (yes, the entire valley) every few decades and getting bad droughts. It's a big reason why we have massive dams and aqueducts. If you don't have the wherewithal to pour millions of cubic meters of concrete, you've got to plan on losing a crop to flood every few decades and to drought rather more often. And even with the floods and droughts ameliorated, too much California ag depends on groundwater and is going away. So if you're planning on living in California for more than a few decades, agriculture isn't the greatest option. It's not entirely stupid, but you don't bet your life on one crop in one place every year, if that's all you have to live on.

    Going forward, if we want civilization to stay in California, we've got to maintain our martian canals dams and aqueducts, get much, much, much smarter on managing groundwater, diversify crops as the climate permits, and get really good at storing and redistributing surplus production, rather than doing futures and just-in-time deliveries. None of this is impossible, but it is a real transformation of business as normal.

    409:

    The Type XXI boats were scary. Put a few wolfpack veterans of the first or second Happy Hunting Grounds periods in command and the slaughter would have been immense. However they arrived too late on the scene and although a couple of them sailed on combat missions they never engaged any targets, and that late in the war there weren't that many veteran U-boat commanders left.

    410:

    I noticed the tin problem a long time ago - ore beds are definitely not common, and there were surprisingly few in Europe. But the lack of kiln technology is definitely not down to lack of resources.

    As I said, the Fertile Crescent got and gets a lot of floods and droughts; you might also like to look up the frequency of crop failures in mediaeval Britain, and just how few calorific crops grew at all reliably. It's a serious problem, agreed, but I have seen no evidence that north America had it to a massively greater degree.

    411:

    One big reason things in the Americas went differently is no draft animals.

    Cattle (and near relations), horses, camels, and similar just didn't exist there/here.

    412:

    Ok, so the answer to N'awlins is obvious to me: put the whole city on a float, and move it as necessary. I mean, if we could consider moving, say, Manhattan with a spindizzy, and putting it under a mile-diameter dome....

    413:

    Interesting story, related to this, on slashdot today: https://news.slashdot.org/story/21/08/15/0435227/the-worst-5-of-power-plants-produce-73-of-their-emissions

    Shut down/replace 5% of the plants, and we massively cut emissions. But then, that would mean putting money into capital plant, rather than ROI (with results like the great NE blackout in the US, and Texas this year, and wildfires in CA started by PG&E equipment....)

    414:

    You made me look at askhistorians. It looks as if Bullock's book is slightly out of date. You know what historians are like. Key quote that touches on why-
    "[W]hat has changed in Soviet historiography would be how we understand the Soviet leadership's thinking/motives. Bullock's depiction of Stalin tends to underplay the ideological aspects, which was common at the time - Stalin was often seen as a master manipulator and opportunist rather than a a dedicated Communist. Stephen Kotkin suggests that one of the great revelations from the opening of the archives has been that Soviet leaders spoke in private much the same way as they spoke in public. So rather than discovering a bunch of cynical people grabbing for power, it seems we found a group of true believers whose policy was motivated by ideology rather than gain. So Bullock's depiction of Stalin amassing power and ruling for his own benefit (or out of some kind of psychopathic behaviour) isn't really in line with current interpretations, which would tend to situation Stalin as acquiring power in order to lead the party along what he saw as the correct/necessary path."

    A bit more here- https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/450v5l/how_accurate_is_alan_bullocks_account_of_the/

    415:

    Why is there a disagreement here? Food, etc, gets moved in ships, rail, and trucks. SUVs are none of the above. SUV, with all-wheel drive, get lousy milage, and allow the drivers to feel "safer" by being able to wreck (and hurt/maim/kill) drivers in less-heavily build vehicles.

    And I used to have a sig, from 20 years ago, quoting an unnamed Ford exec that "the only time 90% of the owners ever go offroad is when they miss their driveway at 3 in the morning, when they come home drunk.

    416:

    The real issue is industrial ranching of meat. Let them forage, on land that is *not* suitable for farming without imported water and petrochemically-created fertilizer.

    The old west cattle drives ended when rail lines were brought nearer. According to U. Utah Phillips, those big drives only lasted about 20 years until they weren't needed any more.

    There would be a *lot* of advantage to returning to forage: better feed (and a better life) for the animals, a *huge* amount of crops, water, and fertilizer that could go into raising human food. For that matter, the animals provide natural fertilizer, improving the soil.

    417:

    Well, yes. Socialistm had been intended to be international all along. Otherwise, as we've seen from the USSR, the capitalist countries will do everything in their power (without directly starting a war and attacking the socialist country) to destabilize and destroy it.

    Same is true for the Christian communes in the US.

    418:

    Now, I don't want to start a fight, but about that famine issue, I should point out that there was some little belt-tightening right across the Irish Sea around 1849....

    419:

    And more: in '04, I was working on the Kerry campaign in FL (after Faux, illegally giving "in-kind" free advertising to the GOP, killed the Dean campaign), I was talking to a dentist. She told me her accountant was pushing her to get an SUV, since she could get tax breaks for a "work-related vehicle". In Florida. On the Space coast (can you say "flat"?).

    420:

    Very bent knees? What? In the mid-seventies, we knew that the proper seat height on a bike was where, when the pedal was at the bottom, your leg was straight, but not locked.

    Anyone bending knees more has no clue.

    421:

    Pogroms? I strongly urge reading China Mieville's October, esp. the first few chapters, and the massacre of Jews in 1905.

    But then, the whole "Christian" west had only started letting them be citizens in what, the 1700s? 1800s? and regularly kicked them out or murdered them when the wealthy owed too much money to them.

    422:

    Both of my grandfathers came in 1914, for some obscure reason.

    423:

    One question: how fast do they need to be moving, and will they have time to forage?

    424:

    The way I remember it is the old Chinese proverb, "Don't sell your grain beyond 500 li (a bit over 250 miles)." Obviously, if you can graze your oxen as they move, you're fine. If you're feeding them off what's in the cart, you won't have anything to sell after 250 li...according to the proverb.

    This is especially a problem with famine, when there definitely won't be anything to eat in the famine-stricken country. Walking food into such an area is hard, whatever is doing the walking. It can be done, but you've got to set up a big supply pipeline fast (food for the animals, plus to alleviate famine), and be defended (so the victims don't eat your supply chain and doom themselves).

    425:

    The potato famine period that started in the mid-1840s covered most of Europe, it wasn't just a case of "the Redcoats a'stealin' all of our potatoes oh" but the Oirish do like to blame someone other than themselves for all their ills. Some estimates put the excess death toll in Europe in the mid-1840s at over a million people, mostly due to malnutrition and other diseases. These famines were also the triggers for revolutions and instability across Europe in that time period which didn't help.

    The potato blight (Phytophthora infestans) is though to have arrived in Europe from America a few years before on imported seed potatoes.

    426:

    I figured for a two-hundred mile journey they'd start with five wagons of grain, each pulled by two oxen, and deliver four (except that they get attacked by bandits.)

    427:

    One big reason things in the Americas went differently is no draft animals. Cattle (and near relations), horses, camels, and similar just didn't exist there/here.

    Let me introduce you to Harvey Wallbanger, a racing bison who had a short career in the 1980s and 1990s as a novelty on the racetrack before some jackass accidentally laced his hay with oleander and killed him.

    Bison do interbreed with cattle. Also, horses and camels evolved in the Americas. And llamas and alpacas are camelids and draft animals.

    The third problem with this idea is that an Amerindian milpa (multi-cropped field of corns, beans, squash, etc.) is at least as productive as a medieval wheat field, probably more so, with only human labor. Draft animals are not required for high output agriculture, as the Aztecs demonstrated by having 400,000 people in Tenochtitlan and no draft animals, at the same time that Paris had around 225,000 people. And draft animals.

    Anyway, if you want to start a really fun alternate history, start by proposing that some reasonably eccentric characters in the Old Copper Complex figured out how to domesticate bison as both draft and riding animals, and take it from there.

    428:

    Mongo conquer world!

    430:

    #408 Para 3 - And the UK; Cornish tin and North Welsh copper, and a convenient direct sea route to link the two.

    #412 - Given how completely Blish ignored the physics, surely the spindizzy is a McGuffin?

    #415 Para 2 - In the UK, SUVs used to be described as "Chelsea tractors", and it was an article of faith that the only time they went off road was parking with 2 wheels on a sidewalk.

    #416 - Agreed, although I did approach it from a different angle.

    #421 - Thanks but no thanks. I have been very unimpressed both by China's writing and by the man himself when I met him at an Octocon.

    431:

    Raising the saddle so that your knees are straight at the bottom and toes pointing down at a modest cadence is far more natural, how people used to cycle, and is less problematic in general (everyone's anatomy is different, so some people find it is worse)

    Thank you for the part in parenthesis, because to me what you described is not just "worse", it is effectively impossible. I get muscle spasms almost immediately.

    432:

    Nojay @ 314: Next you'll be telling us the American Mid-West should be abandoned because of the increasing threat of tornadoes, or the South-West (aka the Great American Desert) because of drought.

    Missed this first time through, but thought I'd drop back to add my 2¢.

    The "Great American Desert" doesn't refer to the south-western U.S. Those territories hadn't been added to the U.S. at the time the phrase was coined (1830).

    The Great American Desert IS the American mid-west; the western prairie from the 100th meridian to the Rocky Mountains. Some of the U.S. south-west is part of it, and some is not - West Texas, eastern New Mexico, Oklahoma panhandle, western Kansas, eastern Colorado, western Nebraska, eastern Wyoming, western South & North Dakota, eastern Montana ... and it extends north into Canada; into south-western Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan and south-eastern Alberta.

    Doesn't extend much down into Mexico because the mountains that form its western boundary mostly run along just west of the Rio Grande, which I think is why the Rio Grande makes its turn to the southeast near the U.S.-Mexico border, although a small part of Northern Chihuahua - west from Cuidad Juárez is part of it (mostly north of 31.33353 lat). And maybe a bit of north-eastern Coahuila.

    But it is a Great American Desert, not just a Great U.S. Desert.


    433:

    whitroth
    Ah the old myth
    There was a lot of belt-tightening ALL ACROSS EUROPE in 1848/9 it's just that Enlgand & Belgium were least worst hit, though even there, people starved to death in England ...
    The whole thing was "Weather-controlled" in fact - worsened by the then accepted politico-economic theories
    SEE ALSO Nojay @ 425
    ... EC: - principally monetarism - with a side-order of anti-catholicism ... folk memory from 1550-8/1605/1655-8 principally

    434:

    Charlie Stross @ 365:

    The only way I see a direct war between Germany & the USSR taking place is if Poland INVITES the Germans in or allies itself with Germany to attack the USSR. How likely is that?

    If we're going back to someone other than Hitler running the NDAP, then in all likelihood there will be other significant historical changes.

    That's what I'm getting at. I don't know enough about post-Great War politics in Germany to identify the players; the possible alternative leaders & where they might have taken German politics in an UN-Nazi Germany.

    Trotsky gets a relatively clean pass in the history books mostly because he wasn't Stalin: but Trotsky's policies -- had he succeeded Lenin -- would have led to another large-scale war (albeit a different one). Trotsky was all for exporting communism globally, rather than keeping it inside the former Russian empire, and it's hard not to see one or more of the European great powers rocking up for a re-run of 1919-21, even if he settled for modernizing the USSR and funding overseas missions, rather than full-on invasions.

    Don't know that much about what Trotsky favored, only that he was on the outs with Stalin. But I don't think that was ideological, just a power politics rivalry.

    The "odd thing" I know about Trotsky is how many of his former self-described "Trotskyite" adherents back in the 60s ended up as full-blown, rabid, Reich-wingnut Neo-CONS. You can't throw a rock1 at any white-nationalist Think Tank without hitting a whole gaggle of former "Trots".

    1 Or if you wanted to be more in context with their politics, fire a gun into ...

    435:

    Charlie Stross @ 371:

    And as I've posted, such feel-good "panacea" proposals harm people, while doing noting to alleviate any real problem.

    I think the answer is probably to tax passenger vehicles by axle weight, and make it a non-linear relationship so that heavy vehicles go up sharply -- there's no reason a Cadillac Escalade should be as cheap to pay annual tax on as a Smart ForTwo or a microcar.

    People who need a pickup or SUV for work will pay more. Simple.

    That I can agree with. It's the "ban everything I don't agree with" bullshit that sticks in my carw.

    Does this discriminate against people who live in far suburbia/exurbia? Of course it goddamn does. We should be moving to a more urban lifestyle as a matter of urgency: this is just an additional incentive.

    I disagree with that part. I don't think it's discriminatory at all. Isn't it one of the basic "conservative" talking points that people should pay the costs of government services? Larger, heavier vehicles cause greater wear & tear on the highways (and on the environment) so I think they should have to pay proportionally larger taxes to pay for it.

    (How you fund the shift from suburbia back to urbia is a more specific and different question. Hint: I think socialized housing is a big part of the answer, as is universal basic income and a huge dose of policies that the conservative/right wing will scream at as Godless Communism, never mind Socialism. But that's a whole 'nother argument.)

    The only thing I have against "socialized housing" is the petty bureaucratic nit-picking the residents have to endure. It's bad enough around here, and I OWN the damn house.

    If I were to have to live someplace like that THEY wouldn't let me keep my little dog. I'd rather die.


    436:

    Nojay @ 372: The I-400 was an engineering disaster. I read a report of the US officer who was given command of one of the two examples the Japanese managed to complete as he sailed it across the Pacific to America. He stayed on the surface for the entire transit and never submerged, the hull was in appalling condition and the likelihood of it coming back to the surface again was low. There were other problems with the I-400 like the ship's monkey which, he was assured by the Japanese crew, was necessary to keep the cockroach infestation down to an acceptable level (a bit like a ship's cat and rodents). It wasn't that funny in reality, cockroaches got squished between hatch seals and let water in at the most inappropriate times...

    Building large lumps of metal that were supposed to stay on or above sea level all the time was well-understood by the 1940s. Large submarines were still a problem, a very large submarine with a novel power plant was a step too far for 1940s tech. I did see a nuclear sub described in the rather worrying Luftwaffe 1946 comics series though.

    Having their entire industrial establishment subjected to aerial bombardment every day probably didn't account for any of the engineering shortcomings.

    437:

    Greg Tingey @ 381: Nojay & Charlie
    No-one has mentioned the two (?) insane submersible cruiser(s) the French Built: Surcouf

    That sounds like a quest worthy of Robert Ballard's talents.

    438:

    Troutwaxer @ 392: My family left Russia in 1912 and came to the U.S.

    My ancestor left England ca 1664 to come to "Virginia". He didn't bring any family along with him.

    439:

    Charlie Stross @ 402: Charlie Stross @ 402:

    Remember that Germany was one of the leading submarine powers prior to 1918, and while Versailles forbade them from doing that no more, they began breaking those restrictions from 1933 with minimum blowback until they began invading other countries. While the treaty forbade Germany from building submarines, in practice they continued R&D efforts during the interwar period by funding a design bureau located in the Netherlands. It's not clear when U-boat construction started -- it was kept secret, concealed under other projects -- but by September 1939 the KM already had 65 U-boats.

    By keeping the research arm going, and being able to recall experienced officers (from WW1) to train the newbies 20 years later, they got a head start. It's not obvious that they could have developed SSNs significantly earlier than the USN managed to -- but it's not obvious that they'd have been a lot slower, either. (Especially if they weren't kneecapped by Hitler's approach to divide-and-conquer within the Party, which we've just seen eerily replicated by the Trump administration.)

    Has nothing to do with whether in the absence of that asshole Hitler, Germany might have been able to develop nuclear powered U-boats (I'm glad they didn't and wish they'd never needed U-boats), but did y'all know that Georg von Trapp (patriarch of the "Sound of Music" von Trapp family) was a decorated Austro-Hungarian U-boat commander during the "Great War"?

    440:

    My ancestor left England ca 1664 to come to "Virginia". He didn't bring any family along with him.

    My ancestor left England in 1966 bringing his family with him (including me), because in Canada he had the chance of becoming a research scientist.

    Which he eventually became. It was mildly embarrassing at his PhD convocation when he stopped to talk to the chap giving him the diploma, who was the same chap who had welcomed him to Canada* — former Prime Minister Diefenbaker!


    *Or possibly congratulated him when be became a citizen — my memory is fuzzy and I can no longer ask for clarification :-(

    441:

    The 1912 date is for my father's side of the family. My mother's side goes back to Hans Herr, who arrived in 1710 as the first Mennonite Bishop in the colonies.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Herr

    442:

    Charlie Stross @ 404:

    The US wasn't fighting an all-out war at the time the Nautilus was designed and laid down

    Remind me again what the polite disagreement in Korea was about, the one where General MacArthur was demanding nuclear release authority and got into a pissing match with the Chinese People's Liberation Army as a proxy for the USSR?

    "What was that whole Cold War thing about, anyway?

    The Korean Conflict was NOT an all-out war on the U.S. (U.N.) side. Its economic impact on the Home Front was minimal. The U.S. military was basically just using up the surplus arms stockpile left over from the Second World War.

    If anyone can find a link to how much it cost to build the USS Nautilus (SSN-571) please post a link. Especially if it includes the overall USN budget for 1951-52 & 1953-54 so I can get some idea of what percentage of USN resources were devoted to building that one ship. How many OTHER ships did the USN acquire while the Nautilus was being built?

    443:

    Having their entire industrial establishment subjected to aerial bombardment every day probably didn't account for any of the engineering shortcomings.

    The Type XXI design had some shortcomings -- for a sub meant to use mostly electrical propulsion underwater, running the battery cables to the motors in the bilges was probably a bad design decision that might have been rectified in the Mk2 given that the large lead-acid battery pack evolved hydrogen while charging. There were a few more bugs of that sort which could have been fixed in time, something the Unterseeboot Kreigsmarine ran out of. Even so it was a very capable sub.

    As for the aerial bombardment problem, yup. One unfortunate skipper of a brand-new Type XXI U-boat was sailing it down the river from the construction yard[1] heading for the ocean when it got bombed and sunk since it wasn't able to dive in the shallow water. He went back to the boatyard with most of his surviving crew, got another brand-new boat the next day and sailed down the same river to the point where the bombers were waiting for him again. Oops.

    [1] the Type XXI subs pioneered modular construction with sections of each sub being built in inland fabrication plants and then barged to a dockyard near the coast for final assembly, a process that happens a lot these days for warship construction.

    444:

    JBS,
    If you can lay your hands on a copy of Jane's Fighting Ships for 1953-54 or 1954-55 it is quite likely they will have construction costs for Nautilus. Plus you can go through the US section and catalog the ship construction in the same period. The introduction to the US section may also discuss annual budgets. There are "reasonably" priced copies on ABEBooks if you want to purchase a copy, otherwise you will have to find a library which retains 70 year old copies of Jane's, since libraries tend to discard "old" books, making research difficult.

    Enjoy!

    Frank.

    445:

    "A lot of people have that problem because the modern UCI-derived fashion is to cycle with very bent knees and high cadences"

    Unintended side effects of propaganda, no. 8478756897860460475: Giddling along like a mad monkey with your knees up round your ears.

    See also: people who decline to cycle in to work because they "don't want to arrive all sweaty", because the relentless cycling! sport! cyclingsport! cycling! sport! sport! sport!!! bollocks has somehow programmed them to think that riding a bicycle has to be, of necessity, a strenuous activity, and to forget that an activity is only strenuous if you choose to do it in a strenuous manner. As far as I'm concerned the whole point of cycling is the gain in efficiency: it is less effort than walking, but nevertheless quicker. Or, even worse, "because there's nowhere to get changed", because they have been programmed to think it's actually not possible to ride a bicycle without dressing up like a ballet dancer and can no longer remember when they were a kid and used to do it in their normal clothes.

    "Raising the saddle so that your knees are straight at the bottom and toes pointing down at a modest cadence is far more natural, how people used to cycle, and is less problematic in general"

    ...and has potential to be adapted as physiotherapy for (the right sort of) knee injuries.

    Both my knees are knackered, as the cumulative result of various clouts and falls over the years, with the eventual consequence that after going up Wetherlam one day I could barely walk at all the next, which pretty much buggered the holiday. When they didn't get much better I saw a doctor and was given some physiotherapy exercises to do. These were really bloody boring, so I analysed which muscles were being tensed during the exercises and which relaxed and what this was actually doing to the knee joint, and realised that I could avoid doing specific exercises entirely by slightly altering the way I held my legs during a couple of everyday activities so as to tense and relax the muscles in the same pattern.

    These activities were going up the stairs, and riding my bicycle. (Not in Cambridgeshire, but in Bedford, so basically the same.) A short cycle journey was equivalent to many more than the due number of repetitions of the exercise. It also meant that holding the muscles in that way became habitual, and was no longer something I had to think about setting up deliberately. The result was very good, and these days all I get in my knees is the odd twinge now and again, of negligible significance.

    446:

    "In the UK, SUVs used to be described as "Chelsea tractors""

    Used to be?

    "and it was an article of faith that the only time they went off road was parking with 2 wheels on a sidewalk."

    When parking, yes, all the time. But absolutely not popping two wheels on the verge to get out of the way when meeting an oncoming vehicle in a narrow country lane, even if the oncoming vehicle is bigger.

    I have long thought that the Matra Rancho was a great idea - it looks like an off road vehicle but without the superfluous losses of a 4wd drive chain half of which never gets used. (It didn't have to be powered by a special quick-perishing elastic band.) And I believe current manufacturers are to some extent beginning to realise this: at least some models of the well-known mobile roadblocks are, I think, now available in 2wd versions, or the 4wd is an optional extra on a normal version, or something like that.

    447:

    "Does this discriminate against people who live in far suburbia/exurbia? Of course it goddamn does."

    No, it only discriminates against dickheads who live in far suburbia/exurbia and think that that point on its own necessarily mandates driving an inappropriate vehicle, so that's all right :)

    (Actual farmers can have an exemption, like they do at the moment for driving any old heap of shit from one field to another.)

    The need to have a lorry which calls itself a car is not correlated with whether you live in the town or the country. If you find a VW Golf adequate for living at 22 Grope Lane it'll be adequate anywhere else that has tarmac as far as the gate. On the other hand you might need the young lorry even living in the city if you often need to move half a ton of actual shit.

    448:

    "...a nation that didn't have to dig its way out of one natural disaster after another..."

    Hardly unique in that position. In particular, in the usual comparison of our history with that of the rest of westernoid Europe, the exposure to natural disasters is pretty much the same: the only one that really happens is plague, and everyone gets that.

    Far more significant I think is the incidence of artificial disaster. Once our monarchy had got over its obsession with the throne of France, we mostly managed to take advantage of that handy strip of water to stand aloof from the various wars and devastations that the Continent continued to enthusiastically indulge in, or at least only get peripherally involved. What we didn't have to put up with was the neighbours constantly deciding to come into our garden and pull up all the plants and shit everywhere.

    Furthermore, we knew all about Spain and understood that to maintain that position it wasn't enough just to rely on the water being there, we needed to put ships on it as well. So we evolved the Navy, partly out of what you might call our home defence fleet and partly out of our pirates. This then gave us a ready-made tool to go into government-backed piracy on a global scale and get rich pinching stuff off people who couldn't fight back, while the chaps on the other side of the Channel were still into fighting each other.

    It also meant that we could manage happily without producing enough food, by going and grabbing someone else's, so it didn't matter if lots of people stopped making food and came into towns to make things in factories instead. We could therefore get into industry ahead of those who otherwise might have started getting into it around the same sort of time.

    449:

    Pigeon
    cycling! sport! cyclingsport! cycling! sport! sport! sport!!! bollocks
    Yes, well, quite.
    I determinedly refused, idled & dragged my feet between the ages of 11 &14 ... at which age I still could not swim more than about half a length ...
    Simply because it was promoted as TEAM SPURTS.
    Since then I did actually learn to swim properly, for, you know actual NON-COMPETITIVE FUN, shock, horror. Could do 50 lengths at one point.
    What did skool NOT tell us or emphasise? That swimming is a vital survival skill.
    Fucking spurts_idiots

    Returning to cycling - I've been told at acrimonious local meetings about "cycle-friendly" ( Read - crap on the local car-owners who want to get in & out, without sitting in traffic jams, causing needless pollution ) policies that "YOU are not a proper cyclist!" even though I had arrived by bike - but I'm not a MAMIL. Not a proper cyclist, been cycling since 1957, yeah. Arseholes.

    450:

    Yes: as noted in "The Labyrinth Index" the New Management gave her a peerage and stuck her in charge of a House of Lords Select Committee.

    Yes, I just thought about why the Lost Boys would fear her. Do they even have a reason to know what she is?

    Bob did not know

    He did not know, but does he figure it out? (I'm guessing no, since he doesn't have a reason (yet) to suspect anything.)

    While I'm posting meaningless questions that nobody cares about, is the endgame of Annihilation Score a Batman gambit? I'm thinking they can't be sure that Mo brings the violin.

    451:

    #435 - Well, here in Dumbarton a local housing association have just built about 200 new social rental houses, at one end of the High Street (capitalisation does apply).

    #437 - Based on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_submarine_Surcouf I'd agree, since we first have to find the wreck.

    #439 - Yes, his recall in the film is based on actual historical fact.

    452:

    You can't throw a rock1 at any white-nationalist Think Tank without hitting a whole gaggle of former "Trots".

    Very true.

    This is because of the split between Trotsky and Stalin, basically.

    Stalin was all about consolidation and building socialism in one state (okay, in one hemisphere-dominating empire and its satellites).

    Trotsky ... there are few people more dangerous than a journalist with a gun and a cause, and he's the type specimen that proves the point. He built the Red Army. He was a vehement proponent of spreading the revolution globally. And his plan to do that was to seed the reactionary states with internationalist-minded revolutionary cells who would work underground to increase the strains on the capitalist system until it crumbled into weak authoritarianism, which would serve to drive converts to the socialist revolutionary cause. These days we call this tactic "accelerationism", and it also works for fascism: disrupt, spread polarization and chaos, radicalize your base, and mobilize them.

    Big irony: the anti-communist witch hunts of Joe McCarthy, Nixon, and the other red-baiters in the USA were motivated by terror of this sort of spread -- of Trotskyism -- at a time when being a Trotskyite in the USSR would get you a bullet in the back of the head. (Stalin really did not approve of disruptive accelerationism: he was an instinctive authoritarian.)

    453:

    The only thing I have against "socialized housing" is the petty bureaucratic nit-picking the residents have to endure.

    It used to be a normal, unexceptional form of housing in the UK, between 1945 ("homes fit for heroes") and 1980, when Thatcher decided to privatize the hell out of it and push the nation towards home ownership or usurious private rentals.

    The idea that bureacrats would nit-pick the residents is very American, and seems from over here to arise from that strain of US politics which holds that government can't do any good, so any good ends it tries to follow must be sabotaged. (Hint: Republican efforts to justify "shrinking the government so we can drown it in the bath tub".)

    There were problem council housing estates in the UK, but the problems largely emerged from regional systemic neglect: there were also good council housing estates (my wife grew up on one) that were more or less indistinguishable from any private sector new-build housing estate of the same vintage.

    (Pet ownership was/is taken for granted.)

    454:

    is the endgame of Annihilation Score a Batman gambit?

    I don't even know what a Batman gambit is -- at least by that name.

    455:

    It's TV Tropes lingo for a plan that relies on other people doing exactly what you expect they would do.

    (TV Tropes is a web site collecting a lot of media tropes, and has its own terminology which seems to pop up in unexpected places. It has its problems, but for me it provides the occasional fun moment.)

    456:

    I am far more familiar with TVTropes than I am with Batman ...

    (For lulz, look up the Laundry Files on TVTropes: last time I did that, it had spilled across four wiki pages because apparently there's a size limit for entries.)

    457:

    Charlie
    Trotsky ... there are few people more dangerous than a journalist with a gun and a cause
    BoZo ??? Surely not, perish the idea!
    Or maybe, given that you also said: ... and it also works for fascism: disrupt, spread polarization and chaos Oh shit, right.

    Third thoughts: Mein Kampf

    458:

    I call TV Tropes the "Troutwaxer attention-sucking black hole of death."

    459:

    Interesting. Most of those predate television, of course, but what else is new? TVTropes has also spotted the gun you have placed on the mantlepiece several times - surprise, surprise!

    460:

    The Trot to Neocon pipeleine is not that well supported as a claim- https://indefenseoftoucans.gitlab.io/2021/02/01/trotneocon.html

    In Britain we do have those Wankers over at Spiked, I'll have to concede.

    461:

    Hint: Republican efforts to justify "shrinking the government so we can drown it in the bath tub".)
    I like to cheer myself up by remembering that (most of) the repugnants saying this are already of a suitable size.

    462:

    Regarding the reception of Socialism, Marxism and Trotsky here in the USA, from the beginning, in the 1840's -50's, IMMEDIATELY in the slave states Socialists and Marx were identified as anti-white, pro-abolition, pro slave insurrection, and BLACK. The Victorian era in the US saw a great migration out of the Germanies of progressive labor, anti-monarchy, pro-revolution intellectuals. They settled predominately in what came to be known as middle western cities, like St. Louis, and set up printing presses, newspapers, clubs and community education groups. They even did so in cities such as New Orleans. They were viewed with rage and terror by slaveocracy sorts, and of course, by the first large wave of emerged US industrial capitalists. Recall how much money was being pulled in by those who could finance the ships of the African slave trade -- which continued even after the War of the Rebellion was finished -- taking up 'cargo' from Africa's west coast and sailing to the lucrative ports in Cuba and Brasil and some other places.

    Then, after the Russian Revolution and the shackles of Jim Crow, black intellectuals and artists were indeed attracted by Russia and communism. Many went there, at least for a while. So, thus, communism/marxism/socialism - BLACK DANGER!

    This has been revived yet again by the fascist political movements here right now, branding the Black Lives Matter protests as the first stages of a communist revolution here.