Links 3/2/14

[Yves is still sick, but definitely improving. Suffice to say she hasn’t been stricken by a rare toxin, or a disease previously unknown to science. –lambert]

Wild horses couldn’t drag them away: Amazing pictures of the huge herds which charge across the plains of western China Daily Mail 

Skirmish breaks out over normally dry monetary policy McClatchy. The Taylor Rule.

Citi Paid $400 Million in Fake Invoices Bloomberg

Bankers’ expertise needed to sharpen new bank watchdog’s teeth Reuters

Why the TSC Bank SME Lending Practice ‘Grilling’ Was Wasted and a Soft Touch International Business Times (RS). Continued RBS loathsomeness.

The Political Underbelly of the Pensions Crisis: What Broke the System, and How Do We Fix It? Next New Deal

Facebook-WhatsApp Deal Haunted by Past Web Merger Flops Bloomberg

European centre-left launches election drive, attacks austerity Reuters. They’ll have to jail some banksters to compete with the right for blood and fury.

Greek Tragedies, 2014 Edition Sparse Thoughts of a Gloomy European Economist

Saudi Arabia: Besieged and Fearful Immanuel Wallerstein, Agence Global

Global Unrest

Reichstag Fire in Kiev Club Orlov. Of Washington and Brussels: “Their assigned job is to destroy countries, and this they do well.”

Carnival in Crimea Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

Some Perspective on Russian Intervention in the Ukraine Ian Welsh

Live blogs: Daily Telegraph (Torygraph), Al Jazeera, and Kyiv Post.

Telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama President of Russia. Shorter Putin: “Barack, you called me.” White House summary.

Obama warns Putin against Ukraine intervention FT

Ukraine: Russia Offers Crimea Troops Citizenship WSJ

Ukraine calls up reserves, wants forces combat-ready Reuters

Crimeans wait and watch for what comes next USA Today

Making Russia Pay? It’s Not So Simple Times

In Putin’s calculus, U.S. needs Russia more than Russia needs the U.S. McClatchy

‘I could see this one from Alaska’: Sarah Palin hits back at ‘high-brow’ critics who mocked her in 2008 for predicting Russian invasion of Ukraine Daily Mail. Couldn’t resist….

Thai elections: Voting resumes in general poll BBC

This is not Ukraine: Venezuela will erode, not explode Reuters

On the Meaning of Journalistic Independence Glenn Greenwald, First Look (in response to).

Of Neo-Fascists and Smiley-Face Neoliberals emptywheel (ditto).

On the importance of keeping investors out of the newsroom, and not treating your readers like fool Paul Carr, Pando Daily (in response to Greenwald, supra).

Barrett Brown’s Case Could Destroy Online Journalism FDL

New evidence on the risks of flawed and failed elections Electoral Integrity Project (CB). League tables.

Big-Money Donors Demand Larger Say in Party Strategy Times

Obama to Propose ‘Glide-By’ Budget With Eye on Midterms Bloomberg. The previous rounds of bleeding the patient having failed, the barber-surgeons schedule an additional round.

‘Serious problem’: 65-foot crack found in Columbia River dam Seattle Times

Structural concerns shut down $60 million Allen Eagle Stadium Dallas Morning News. That’s a high school football stadium. Lots of schadenfreude in the comments.

How four rival gang leaders coordinated mass hunger strike from solitary confinement cells Daily Mail

U.S. Prison System Resembling Huge Geriatrics Ward Inter Press Service (CB)

Why Oncologists Should Support Single-Payer National Health Insurance Journal of Oncology Practice

NHS records ‘sold to insurers’ MSN UK (RS) and is in chaos. It breaks my heart Guardian (RS).

End of the Ride for Lance Armstrong Times. New word: soigneur: Body man; fixer.

Organizers Worth Their Salt Labor Notes (CB).

Is Start-Up Culture Derailing the MBA? ReCode

Bitcoin: The Cryptopolitics of Cryptocurrencies Harvard University Press Blog

Antidote du jour:


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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Lambert Strether Post author

    Hundreds of gunmen surround Ukraine military base:

    Associated Press journalists say hundreds of unidentified gunmen have just arrived outside Ukraine’s infantry base in Privolnoye in its Crimea region.

    The convoy includes at least 13 troop vehicles each containing 30 soldiers and four armored vehicles with mounted machine guns. The vehicles — which have Russian license plates — have surrounded the base and are blocking Ukrainian soldiers from entering or leaving it.

    Ukrainian soldiers, with clips in their weapons, have positioned a tank at the gate.

    1. Andrea

      I shouldn’t be surprised but still am, at the two sides of the tale about the situation in Ukraine.

      1) A freedom-loving, democratic ppl who instigated a genuine Peaceful Revolution against a totally corrupt Oligarchy, then beaten down and massacred until their will prevailed and the green-clawed rapist Oligarch fled in shame to join the supreme evil – Putin. Whereupon Russia riposted by “Invading” the Ukraine (Crimea)! The free world has to defend the Revolution! (Budapest agreement, etc. etc.) Help us, oh free world, with your arms!

      2) A provoked and paid for Color Revolution, organized and instigated mostly by the US, Nuland with her “billions of dollars spent,” neo-con faction, with the EU in some kind of cahoots.., featuring paid students, prime-time videographers, and mostly, fascists, neo-nazis, aka extreme right-wing nationalists hungry for domination and power. (Imho, the coalition between neo-liberals and the violent, authoritarian right-wing is not new, but grandly on display in the Ukr. I agree with that part.) With Putin being hands off, careful, and completely within his rights to send troops under xyz agreements. Etc.

      These are not just ignorant MSM spins, but Gvmt. talk. Very revealing, very dangerous.

      1. TimR

        I don’t follow your final comment — #2 is the alternative media (broadly speaking) version, no? What do you mean “MSM spin, gvmt talk” — that fits #1, but not #2, I would think.
        I thought you were going to dispute both stories, like that Ames piece from Pando a few days ago, saying that both MSM and alt outlets had elements of truth, but were distorting it to fit their domestic hobby-horses.

        1. Anon y Mouse

          I don’t follow your final comment — #2 is the alternative media (broadly speaking) version, no?

          #2 is the Russian government’s version.

          1. TimR

            I guess it depends what alt media voices you consider, but many of them tend to have (understandably given the facts I’m aware of) a knee-jerk skepticism for US govt motives; hence, a large degree of overlap with Russian govt/media (also critical of US govt) is not surprising.
            But I think I see now what Andrea meant, she was implicitly referring to both US and Russian MSM and govt views.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              We are not in Flat-Earth Politics anymore.

              Parallel political forces intersect.

              Go left and you shall find the Right, etc…

            2. Propertius

              From where I sit, everyone in this affair is a scoundrel.

              This is straight-up 19th Century “Great Game” stuff, with the US playing the part of the Brits.

      2. ohmyheck

        I seems there is more like 3 players in this- EU and Washington are not on the same side.
        ” The talks in Kiev included the EU delegation, Yanukovich, the three opposition leaders and a Russian representative. The USA was not invited. The EU intervention without Washington was extraordinary and reveals the deeping division between the two in recent months. In effect it was the EU saying to the US State Department, “F*** the US,” we will end this ourselves.”
        (One may not like the author. It remains a very interesting perspective.)

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          But we have seen this before in domestic politics – the answer is ‘none of the above,’ even while the program says, ‘this is the good guy.’

          Deja vu all over again.

      3. Murky

        Pretty good summary of the propaganda rant from both sides of the conflict. As for #2, the point of view of the Russian government and the Putin regime, there is an excellent article about that by Dmitri Trenin in the Guardian:

        The core issue for Russia is one of its own security. A Ukraine aligned with Europe could also make a military alignment with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). NATO evolved as a defensive military coalition of European states against the Soviet military bloc (Warsaw Pact Forces), and the cold war legacy of NATO is still very active today. I regret to say that NATO and Western nations are still reckless enough to install NATO forces directly on Russia’s southern border with Ukraine. That would provoke Russia to militarization and counter-measures, resulting in escalating global conflict. That’s the problem with flipping Ukraine into the European orbit. Any emerging democracy in Ukraine will have to resolve these Russian security issues. An agreement keeping NATO out of Ukraine would be an excellent solution, if only there was some way to implement this proposal.

          1. Yves Smith

            1. The gas is Russian gas anyhow, so Russia can cut of the gas at the source. It doesn’t need to control the transmission to have great leverage. Did you miss that it was Gazprom, and not anyone in the Ukraine, that restricted supplies to Europe in 2009?

            2. Europe it trying to reduce its dependence on Russian gas (1/4 of nat gas supplies) by building a pipeline to Azerbaijan, which is trying to make nice to the Eurozone. But that won’t be ready till 2018 (and that of course assume construction gets done on schedule). So this isn’t exactly the greatest time to be trying to destabilize the Ukraine. I doubt that Europe is willing to back any escalation and risk its precious Russian nat gas supplies.

            1. Propertius

              That’s true now, but it may not be (depending on the outcome of the Saudi/US-backed Syrian “revolution”).

          1. Murky

            Soft-pitch question!

            1) Belarus does share a long border with Russia. And it is one of the important buffer states between Russia and the West. But Belarus is not an independent state in any true sense. Rather, it is a protectorate of Russia. Politics are aligned wholesale with Moscow. And for a couple decades now, the country has run by a rather brutal autocrat, Lukashenko. Elections have been rigged many times. Minor opposition forces occasionally arise in Belarus every few years, but have been repeatedly crushed. Civil liberties are almost non-existent. Currently there is zero possibity of NATO or western political influence gaining a foothold in Belarus.

            2) Poland does not share a natural border with Russia, so there is less threat from any stationing of NATO forces in Poland. Poland used to be a Warsaw Pact country aligned with the Soviet state, but broke free and joined NATO some 15 years ago. Poland has played an important role in recent negotiations between Russia and the new regime in Ukraine. Radislaw Sikorski is the current Polish foreign minister, and he’s the guy that got the Ukrainian opposition to negotiate with Yanukovych.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Perhaps you are right about that ZERO possibility currently.

              Maybe in the future, after a successfully Ukrainian gambit, billions will be deployed in the name of democracy further north.

          2. Jim A

            Or Turkey and Norway. Even at the height of the Cold war, there was a direct land border between the Soviet Union (indeed Russia itself) and NATO.

        1. Propertius

          The core issue for Russia is one of its own security.

          So is control of the European natural gas supply. One can be skeptical about US motivations without being gullible about Russian motivations, can’t one?

    2. Paul Tioxon

      I like to pick a side when it comes to politics because if you don’t decide, if you don’t plan your own future, you will be planned for and your decisions will be made for you. Whether or not you get what you want, you are involved with living your life. I am not Ukrainian, Russian but American, and geo-politically speaking, I have nothing to do with this. I have no side to choose. My government has other considerations than mine, but I think that standing back and letting both sides bleed is their problem. I don’t want my government to get involved, as if it isn’t already. Gorbachev was angry with America and Europe in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, which was his doing. He unilaterally dismantled the Warsaw Military Alliance and in exchange watched NATO expand, not dismantle itself. It is not a surprise to anyone that this happened, just a matter of time. I feel sorry for the Ukrainians that simply do not understand that they do not count at all in this world anymore than I do. I wish them best peaceful solution as quick as they can before too many lives are lost in a lost cause. They have Russian military bases on their soil and a navy base as well. I think they know full well what that meant. Russia is not giving it up and no one can win a fight with them over it.

      1. psychohistorian

        IMO, it is all about extension and maintenance of American Empire. It centers around the EU being between its role as part of US Empire while getting significant energy resources from Russia…..between a rock and a hard place.

        1. Wayne Reynolds

          ” between a rock and a hard place and the deep blue sea” as Angela Merkel said a few days ago.

        2. Paul Tioxon

          Yes, yes and yes again. It is not too hard to understand. Foreign policy analysis can be reduced to isolationist as default. It does not require Brazil or India to make a firm stand on every crisis everywhere in the world. Our position as the Hegemonic Power does. We could deliberate when a crisis comes about, to discern the conjuncture that created an event and what the best decision is for us in a bad situation. We create a lot of problems for ourselves as a nation, and our government creates a lot of problems for us and much of the world as well, because we have government policies that are pursued in 2 modes from decade to decade with varying results.

          There is the default war policy and then there is the diplomatic back by the threat of war and misery of economic sanctions along with covert disruptive tactics just short of war. Russia has a defensive position to maintain its military placements on the Black Sea and does not want a Ukrainian Spring turning over the carefully constructed social order that it is maintaining. There is enough chaos on their border which would stagger any other nation in the world if they had to live with what Russian does, from China on the East to Islam along its South and NATO right on its door mat. This is just another day at the office for the largest land mass of politically delineated territory in the world. Thank God we bought Alaska when we did. There would be no end in sight to Russian tensions with its neighbors.

  2. dearieme

    The “Reichstag Fire” analogy needs to be retired, because it would seem that the mentally defective Dutch communist really did start the fire.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Maybe not deranged. More like “not quite all there.” According to Richard Evans in The Coming of the Third Reich yes, he did, and the Nazis seized the opportunity.

        I think Orlov’s point, which is interesesting, is that Anniversaries matter. He is not, I think, saying there are structural similarities in the train of events then and now.

        1. dearieme

          I suspect that the intelligent but “not quite all there” American communist shot JFK. Does this leave me in a minority yet?

          1. Paul Tioxon

            Only if your complete your statement to include the other shooters.


            “THREE YEARS AGO, Vince Salandria got a phone call from Arlen Specter, a man he didn’t know. Salandria had been in the Senator’s company only once before, but that was almost a half-century earlier, at a public event. When he called, Specter wasn’t running for anything—he had recently been voted out of office. All he had was a simple request of Salandria, who was 83 years old, a retired Philadelphia school-system lawyer: Would you have lunch with me? They eventually met at the Oyster House, on Sansom Street in Philadelphia. The lunch would turn out to be one of strangest meetings of Salandria’s life.”


            1. psychohistorian

              Thanks for the link.

              History is written by the winners….until they can’t kill all those that legitimately question their definition of history.

        2. Susan Pizzo

          You might be interested in a new book – “Burning The Reichstag” by Benjamin Carter Hett, which examines previous theories and adds ground-breaking research. Seems there were tunnels and chemical arson involved as well as white-washed Nazi historians:

          “Hett suggests that Nazi activists had indeed orchestrated and participated in setting the fires throughout the Reichstag building; the blaze was not the result of a single conspirator. Since 1945, historians have contended that Marinus van der Lubbe had acted alone as asserted by the Nazis. Hett’s contribution sheds new light on the fire and the trial’s legal process behind van der Lubbe’s hasty execution. van der Lubbe was executed by guillotine on 10 January 1934.”

    1. Ignim Brites

      Yeah and the Sudetenland analogy seems a lot more germaine to the spirit of the times. Or to put it another way, What is a demos?

  3. Kevin Smith

    WikiLeaks Cables Foreshadow Russian Instigation of Ukrainian Military Action
    via …

    Now that Russia has sent troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, international politics are tense and frantic. An anonymous reader notes an article from Joshua Keating at Slate, which points out that some of the diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks illustrate how this situation is not at all unexpected. Quoting a cable from October, 2009: “… pro-Russian forces in Crimea, acting with funding and direction from Moscow, have systematically attempted to increase communal tensions in Crimea in the two years since the Orange Revolution. They have done so by cynically fanning ethnic Russian chauvinism towards Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, through manipulation of issues like the status of the Russian language, NATO, and an alleged Tatar threat to ‘Slavs,’ in a deliberate effort to destabilize Crimea, weaken Ukraine, and prevent Ukraine’s movement west into institutions like NATO and the EU.” The article points out another cable from a few days later, which was titled, “Ukraine-Russia: Is Military Conflict No Longer Unthinkable?”
    from the if-only-anybody-had-bothered-to-read-them dept.

    1. ohmyheck

      That’s very interesting. If true, then it would seem like both the US and Russia want the same thing—a division of Ukraine, and a creation of two separate states. Then both the US and Russia are bat-sh!t crazy psychopaths.

      All of this would be kayfabe, just like has been theorized about Syria. I’m not saying that the it’s true, just that there has been some speculation on what is really going on behind closed doors, and it is nothing like most of us have been led to believe.

      1. cwaltz

        Welcome to modern politics! I’d say that there’s is more than a good chance that the US and Russia has batsh!t crazy psychopath running the show. I’ve seen no evidence that most of us(and that includes the Ukrainians) are more than chess pieces on a board to manipulate for the ruling class. When it comes to politics you just can’t be cynical enough. For example, we’re apparently going to be offering the Ukrainians a significant amount of money after telling our own people for months and months that we don’t have the money for food, the olds retirement or any programs that actually help people HERE. It’s amazing how suddenly now that the drums of war are sounding that all of a sudden “fiscal responsibility” is no longer a major concern.

      2. psychohistorian

        It is not in Russia’s best interest to divide the Ukraine because it just brings American Empire (the EU is a satellite) that much closer to Russia….they want as big a buffer as they can “maintain”.

  4. scott

    True story, my hairdresser used to hang out with Armstrong’s mother back when he lived in Plano. I was telling her about our new kitten with one testicle that we named “Lance”. Well, I should have let her swallow her Coke before speaking.

    I’ll send a picture of Lance for the Antidote.

    1. psychohistorian

      As someone who invented a bicycle saddle that (most likely) could have saved Lance from his testicular problem, this evolving story galls me.

      The bicycle industry continues to deny science regarding the architectural problems with the standard bicycle saddle. The NIOSH arm of the CDC even put out a Workplace Bulletin recommending alternative saddles for heavy use riders and the industry is still in denial and has/continues to brainwash the public about the issue.

      1. optimader

        I have literally thousands of wonderful miles on my Brooks Saddle I don’t recall ever having sat on (either) testicle, and I’m sure that’s something I’d recall.

        note to Scott: You have a “hairdresser”?? send a picture of you hairdo instead of the Kat, I’m thikin Marjoe Gortner, yes?

        1. ex-PFC Chuck

          The problem isn’t the testicles. To quote webMD:

          While riding a bicycle burns calories and improves cardiovascular fitness, too many hours on a bicycle saddle can compress the artery and vital nerves leading to the penis.

          The result? A risk of numbness, pain, and erectile dysfunction.

          A male cyclist can place a significant percentage of his weight on his perineum, an area between the scrotum and the anus where the nerves and arteries to the penis pass. This pressure — and a narrow saddle seat — can injure the arteries and nerves.

          I get my CV exercise by bike riding when the weather is decent – i.e. not raining and temps of at least 45F – which means 5 or so months a year here in Minnesota. I bought a no-nose seat about three years ago and it was quite an adjustment. At first it didn’t seem that I had as good a control over the bike as I’d had previously. ‘Twas a bit unnerving.

          1. optimader

            yes, I am aware of the nerve/ blood vessel damage theories ex-P. The offending saddles I suspect are the hard ones that have synthetic (plastic) structures w/ leather or textile stretched over them. Not necessarily cheap either, these can be very light (and expensive). Brooks Saddles, (and their knock offs) conform like a good leather shoe. can be a slight weight disadvantage, but from a practical usage perspective that is irrelevant. I actually move my saddle from bike to bike. I retired a B17 saddle ~ 7 years ago that I regularly used for over 30 years. Sublime bike saddles IMO. Uncomfortable saddles are probably the leading limiting aspect to bike ride endurance for most people.

            “…After a certain period of use, which can be from 100 miles to 1,000 miles depending on the leather used to make the top, the saddle visibly moulds itself to the rider and “dimples” appear where the “sit bones” normally rest. This is caused by fibres in the leather breaking down under the weight of the rider. The saddle is normally more comfortable by this stage, although some riders find that no break-in period is necessary for comfort and other riders never find a Brooks saddle comfortable, even after many thousands of miles.;;;”

            1. psychohistorian

              May I suggest you read some science from the following link:

              Not everyone who smokes gets cancer….I am happy your Brooks saddle works for you. Your comments remind me of a conversation I had with the Science editor of the NY times after publishing the article they did in 2011. After reading the comments made after the article he summarized a big chunk of the sentiment being….Well it doesn’t bother me so it must be a stupid idea.

                1. optimader

                  yes, as I said, familiar w/ the subject. Chicago Police I believe were some of the first to dick around (pun intended) with hornless bike saddles.
                  No doubt personal anatomy is a factor for some peoples seemingly irreconcilable discomfort on a bike saddle.
                  That said, more often I suspect it is a case of poor saddle choice bad geometry setup.
                  I think leather saddles that conform to anatomy, and importantly the position (forward/back), elevation and angle of the seat –as well how hard you sit (physical conditioning related) can resolve most any discomfort problems for most people.
                  I am pretty particular about setup geometry.

                  What I was responding to was your statement:
                  “As someone who invented a bicycle saddle that (most likely) could have saved Lance from his testicular problem, this evolving story galls me.”
                  I see nothing in your link that suggests L. Armstrong might have avoided testicular cancer by using a hornless bike saddle, My guess is steroid abuse quite possibly has more to do w/ his testicular cancer than his choice of bike saddle, but maybe I misunderstood the L Arm’s problem you were addressing?

                  1. psychohistorian

                    I believe Lance had testicular cancer before much of his drug abuse.

                    Why do you continue to not read and/or deny the science about compression of male plumbing to the genitals? Your continued argument that bike fit and/or leather saddles are the solution to this architectural problem is disingenuous, IMO.

                    1. optimader

                      “I believe Lance had testicular cancer before much of his drug abuse.”
                      Can you offer a link that indicates when Lance Armstrong first started using performance enhancing drugs/steroids??

                      Can you offer a link that suggest his “testicular problem” (cancer?) is related to a bicycle seat/compression?

                      “Your continued argument that bike fit and/or leather saddles are the solution to this architectural problem is disingenuous”

                      You may think that.

  5. sufferin' succotash

    Elections in Mongolia are more honest than elections in the USA.
    Kell Soo-preez, to coin a phrase.
    Speaking of that, Yves should get well pronto because the times we’re living in are getting more interesting by the minute.

  6. Banger

    If there is an important issue to be discussing today, rather than what you all have put up today, it is the crisis in Ukraine which you have been studiously ignoring. Why? Afraid that we will have one hell of an argument? The Ukrainian crisis deeply effects the Europe, Central Asia, and the imperial ambitions of the U.S. and its satellites.

    It is clear to me now that despite the opposition of the majority of the American people the Obama administration and politicians on both sides of the aisles need a Big Distraction and threw money to fuel a coup d’etat on a fragile democracy (we forget that Ukraine has a democracy) just as the U.S. has done countless times throughout the world. As someone has said recently, the job of the U.S. and it’s subject nations (NATO) is to destroy nation states in order, quite frankly, dominate the world which is still, I believe, official U.S. policy (full-spectrum dominance).

    Politically, I’m struck with the resurgence of a reshaped neoconservative movement in foreign policy. Now, it seems, they prefer nation-destroying through covert operations rather than direct invasions which even the Mighty Wurlitzer cannot get Americans to subscribe to. Better to throw billions at street-thugs and fascists (yes I know all the demonstrators were not nativist right-wingers) that trillions at invasions and massive bombing campaigns. But the policy is the same–spread chaos throughout the world. This, clearly, is Obama’s policy–now after a couple of years of anti-Russian propaganda (you could see from the U.S. coverage of Sochi) the oligarchs in Washington/New York believe that a yet another strategy of tension can keep the populace of the world in line.

    I’ve been trying to monitor now the propaganda organs are playing this–the rightists are sniping at Obama for not going to war (remember the JCS wanted to initiate a nuclear strike against Russia during the Cuban Missile Crisis where they believed 150 millions Russians would die as opposed to “only” 40 million Americans–that to them was a victory–think about it!); I believe the same mentality is alive in Washington in the Obama administration, certainly with those who surround Torrey Nulan, i.e., the rebirth of the neoconservative movement.

    1. Anon y Mouse

      If there is an important issue to be discussing today, rather than what you all have put up today, it is the crisis in Ukraine which you have been studiously ignoring.

      Are you sure about that?

      1. Banger

        Well, NC isn’t talking about it–it’s a sticky issue to be sure but the direct cause of the crisis, to be blunt, involves the EU and the political economics of said organization which are covered here. The implications of this crisis are very deep since the current installed government is inviting the IMF to, in effect, run the country.

        1. susan the other

          I thought Pepe Escobar, above, said the most salient thing: The US/UK aka “the West” is trying to drive a wedge between the heart of Europe (Germany and France) and Russia. The alliance between Germany, France and Russia would be (is rapidly becoming) a world-changing event. Why we think we can do anything about it is puzzling. They have a geographic synergy that will prevail. And we will go our own way, which seems to be the Pacific rim.

          1. Susan Pizzo

            Spot on! I’ve been waiting for the EU to chime in, given their interest in Russian oil/gas. Seems they are a bit conflicted. And good call, Banger. Despite continued ‘terrorist’ attacks across JSOC-pocked Africa, the rest of the world was starting to look behind the curtain at who was/is funding global conflict. Whereas the Cold War is almost an old friend, as comfortable as an old shoe for dancing the 1% samba (cue Peggy Lee, Is That All There Is?)…


      2. different clue

        Colonel (Ret.) Pat Lang and guest posters and commenters have been covering the Ukraine events at some length and depth lately at his blog Sic Semper Tyrannis.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      “Studiously ignoring.” That’s irony, right? If 14 links (including 3 live blogs) is “studiously ignoring,” what do you consider the nature of giving attention to be?

      1. Banger

        Ok, excuse the rhetoric–the links are great btw, so my apologies–but you all are not featuring any story on what may turn into one of the key events of this decade this is due, in part, because the mainstream media is lying more blatantly than they’ve done since the Iraq invasion.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Well, we don’t do assignments. I can’t speak for Yves, but I certainly am not a foreign policy expert, and I don’t think I’d add anything useful to what other more knowledgeable writers have done in Links. That said, it may be that there is some material coming.

          1. Banger

            This is not so much a FP issue as an issue of systematic lying by the U.S. mainstream media. For example, Ukraine is a democratic state not an authoritarian one, Russia has troops permanently stationed in the Crimea. The current “government” is a right-wing nationalist/neo-fascist government that wants to eliminate Russian as a legitimate language and God knows what else. You don’t need to be a FP expert to find someone to say something about this.

            This is a major, major issue–not a little skirmish like Georgia a few years back.

        2. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

          I don’t get your point at all, banger.
          WTF do you want us to do about it?

          N.C. could put up 50 posts today about the Ukraine, and what difference would it make?

          1) Our government doesn’t care what we think…one dollar, one vote, you know.

          2) The fuck do we know about it, anyways. Neither our government nor our media is interested in telling us the truth…see 1).

          1. Banger

            Well, what do you do when people claim the Moon is made of green cheese or the sun circles the Earth? There are Big Lies and then there are really Big Lies and the ones that are being told by the mainstream are extraordinary even by their standards and we need to say something even if it is ignored.

            Just one thing about what you think is the powerlessness of the public. I saw during the so-called Syrian gas crisis the mainstream media start up the Mighty Wurlitzer that almost always leads us into war fall flat on its face. The mainstream was practically jumping up and down foaming at the mouth to start a new war and the American people clearly wanted nothing of it–meaning that the people do have power. Kerry backed down.

            1. Doug Terpstra

              No, I think thunder has it right. It wasn’t democracy or the will of the people that stopped O from bombing Syria. It was the British parliament and Putin’s fleet at Cyprus. If only we’d had the Russian navy to oppose the Wall Street bailouts, then the 90% of the people opposed might’ve had a chance. The PTB say “ the people” far more often than they say “ the EU”.

              US regime change in Ukraine is very much related to Syria IMO, toward dismembering and disabling Russia so the imperial project and Israel’s agenda can proceed apace. Of course the droner’s criticisms of Russia’s eavesdropping and violation of national sovereignty are laughable hypocrisy. See Ray McGovern’s piece:


              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                I think what stopped us in Syria is that we broke the Army in the process of losing Iraq and Afghanistan.* We can’t put books on the ground, period. Putin certainly knows this, Obama may even know it, but the political class doesn’t know it.

                NOTE * Not to say that the larger goal of the post-national ruling elite — state-breaking, as Orlov says — wasn’t achieved. But it’s only required to have war to do that; pleasantly, it doesn’t matter who wins.

    3. Wayne Reynolds

      Oh, and let’s not forget the little rumble in the jungle down in Venezuela, complete with rooftop snipers shooting at unarmed protesters. Gee, how peculiar, same modus operandi, same instigators of violence and regime change? To paraphrase Victoria Nuland, F^#k democratically elected presidents.

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Coverage at Sochi.

      Do the games still promote peace and brotherhood?

      Do the games promote better fitness among the athletic 99%?

    5. psychohistorian

      I would posit that democracy in the Ukraine is not any better than our democracy in the US and I would challenge you to defend the fig leaf that says we have democracy and “real elections” here.

    6. optimader

      Banger, too much RT News?
      As usual, I think the global political byzantine hall of mirrors has some deeper but familiar motivations, and it goes to energy and money. The notion that the Ukraine was a “fragile democracy” is of course naïve. It was a primitive kleptocracy w/ some rather toxic history.

      Bottom line, the Russian energy mafia is still looking for payment on skimmed natural gas transiting the Ukraine. Crocodile tears from Putin if he can organize reliable Ukrainian government “partners” that are a bit more fiscally “responsible” –as in paying outstanding and ongoing debts. The Ukrainian was a failed economy going forward.
      Putin’s public posture has to be push back on “western imperialism” , but bottom line, he needs a stable energy revenue stream on pipelines transiting the Ukraine to Europe. That requires stable political “partners” that don’t steal too much.
      As far as Russia invading the Ukrainian territories, the last thing I should think Putin wants is a loss leader problem child coming back home to live in the Russian basement.

      I think a reasonable analysis

      1. Banger

        Well, actually haven’t watched RT much for quite a lot–though I briefly monitored it today to see what they had to say.

        No, i have followed U.S. foreign policy since Vietnam where, by coincidence, my father was directly involved in the policy planning. I learned that the American mainstream media, by default, lies systematically about the most salient facts about U.S. foreign policy. I also followed revelations about the CIA in various formats including the Church Committee hearings and the continuing actions by various governmental agencies and contractors over many years including the Iraq fraud.

        My point to you is this: I don’t care what Russia does within its borders, it like nearly all countries in the world is run by an oligarchy–they are playing their own strategic game as all great powers do and have done throughout history–so what? The problem here is that the U.S. has chose to initiate a coup d’etat against a democratically elected government right on the border with Russia when they knew for certain there would have to be a genuine Russian military response. Why are the Americans starting a Cold War? Because Russian stopped the U.S. from yet another military operation in the ME?

        1. optimader

          “The problem here is that the U.S. has chose to initiate a coup d’etat …”
          My bullshit alarm just went off. How did the US initiate it?

    7. Yves Smith

      This is a finance and economics site run by me and half-time by Lambert.

      Your demands are UTTERLY out of line. See Barry Ritholtz’s policies, which we regard as Web standard and refer to specifically on the topic of Assignments in our own policies:


      There are few things that I find more annoying than disingenuous rhetoric. “Why are you ignoring X? You must post on this NOW.”

      No, no I mustn’t. I do not, and will not, under any circumstances, accept your homework assignments. They will be deleted, and your troll potential score will skyrocket. Instead, you fat lazy bastard, do some homework yourself. Then, post a clever observation and URL. Perhaps you will stimulate a conversation. (Of course, you could always write your own blog, ‘cepting your constant masturbation makes typing exceedingly slow).

      1. Banger

        Fair enough. You do what you must do and want to do. It’s your thing.

        How you think this is not an economic crisis I don’t think I am able to understand. This issue was and is still, in many ways, about economics and finance–maybe I’m hallucinating but that’s what the main issue was at the start of the crisis and now the EU/US must deal with how Ukraine is going to finance its budget, quite apart from the security concerns. Effectively calling me a troll seems to be a bit of an overreaction.

        But the deeper issue is that you believe, it appears, that we live in tight compartments like “economics” and “finance” perhaps you are right.

        1. optimader

          “How you think this is not an economic crisis”
          It is for the Ukraine, but their already a failed economy.
          The larger possibility for “crisis” is energy related but that “crisis” has been poaching for a while under the auspices of the democratically cough cough elected kleptocracy.

        2. Yves Smith

          I see, so you’d like me to start shooting from the hip on a topic where I have no expertise and have not been following. Oh, and lose my credibility on the topics where I do know something and where I have achieved something pretty remarkable, given that all I have is the Internet equivalent of a soapbox in a public park: policy impact.

          You were supposed to drop it or acknowledge your error. Instead, you are arguing with me.

          What you are really saying is that you are too lazy to find sites that do have expertise and read them. You are loony enough to think a site run by 1.5 people can and SHOULD provide informed commentary on everything. Did you miss the fact that reporters have beats, and they are a lot narrower than what Lambert and I endeavor to cover already? You have no fucking idea how hard Lambert and I work. I happen go be on the verge of physical breakdown. I have no personal life, I don’t even do business related meetings or conferences or media because I it takes everything I have to keep this blog running at this level. For a site which is a free service, you whine and demand more.

          Go read another blog. I don’t need ingrates like you.

          1. psychohistorian

            Thank you for your laser guided response.

            I know I can be a pain in the ass here as well but hope I continue to provide enough appreciation, respect and useful commentary to allow continued participation in your seminal contribution to our historic situation.

            Please take care of yourself.

          2. Murky

            I just discovered the donate option at the top of the page! Electronic dollars are now zipping across the continent. Feels so good to swim in a nice clean forum!

          3. jonboinAR

            Thank you, “Ms Smith”. I’ve been a fairly avid reader all my life, and was an English major. IOW, I’ve read quite a bit of stuff, including some “classics”. Your blog is the best thing I’ve ever read, hands down, not in terms of style or anything, of course, but in terms of what I’ve learned. So, again, thank you!

  7. Jagger

    Listening to NationalPublicRadio this morning on Ukraine, some US ex-ambassador was going on about international rule of law and territorial integrity and the NPR lady was acting as if he was serious. It is like the last 10 years never happened. Today, no one can take a US official seriously when discussing rule of law and territorial integrity. You only hear those words when it is convenient for US objectives. Yet NPR is discussing this issue as if the US government actually believes in rule of law and territorial integrity. NPR and this US ex-ambassador clearly live in some non-parallel universe from me or something is wrong with both our media and government.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      It really does blow your mind, doesn’t it?

      Most of the time I’m convinced I must be dreaming because no one could really be buying this.

      Yet there seems to be no shortage of people who endlessly and relentlessly repeat this crap as if it were fact and no shortage of venues that air it.


      1. Jagger

        And now Obama chimes in for the public:
        “President Barack Obama spoke with Putin by telephone for 90 minutes Saturday and expressed his “deep concern” about “Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the White House said. Obama warned that Russia’s “continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation.”

        Ummm…So should drone strikes be considered a violation of national sovereignty and territorial integrity, President?

        1. Katniss Everdeen

          And John Kerry is on “Face the Nation” this morning getting apoplectic over “trumped up” evidence supporting Putin’s “invasion” of Ukraine.

          TRUMPED UP.

          As opposed to that non-TRUMPED UP, really scary “yellow cake” in that little vial that Colin Powell waved in the world’s face during his “testimony” at the UN several years ago.

          Mind. Officially. Blown.

          1. cwaltz

            LOL Apparently we have the world’s biggest hypocrites running our country.
            A country’s sovereignty is only as important as the US’s interests in it having sovereignty dontcha know.

              1. Doug Terpstra

                Truly breathtaking hypocrisy, n’est pas? After Robert Kagan’s spouse, Nuland, boinked the EU, and put our man “Yats” in power, everything these f..ckers say about Russia’s actions in Ukraine are pathetically hypocritical.

          2. Banger

            In fact, unknown to most Americans because the mainstream media won’t report anything resembling the truth, is that Russia has maintained troops in the Crimea since Ukraine became independent by treaty. The MIghty Wurlitzer knows no shame and will make up facts as it pleases.

            1. Wayne Reynolds

              Just now, Sunday afternoon at 4:35 pm EST, CNN is reporting that Russia now has 6,000 troops in the Crimea. There is no mention that according to the treaty between Ukraine and Russia, Russia has the right to bring in 30,000 troops to secure it’s bases in the Crimea. The mighty Wurlitzer is calling these current 6,000 troops an invasion.

        2. slingshot

          Another irony would be that Putin probably supports drone strikes as long as Muslims are the target.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            On the other hand, Chinese terrorists, said to be from the Muslim Uighur region, knifed (not gunned, perhaps explaining the silence) to death scores, and injured a whole bunch more, at a train in Yunnan.

            It is said that they acted out of being discriminated based on their culture and religion, though I suspect, if they were the perpetrators, economic exploitations more likely.

        3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Sometimes a forceful statement can take less than 90 minutes.

          In fact, you might lose the central points if you go on too long, on the phone or writing a piece.

        4. gordon

          How would the US react if Mexico decided to ally with Russia? How did the US react when Cuba did exactly that? Neither the US nor the CiS are prepared to tolerate foreign-aligned minor States on their doorsteps.

      2. McMike

        “No one could be buying this”

        We are in the Kubuki phase, and heading for the why-bother phase.

        Of course, some people do buy it. Studies of propaganda show that repeating the lies actually moves public sentiment.

        1. TimR

          I think people can’t fathom the idea of this whole class/ block of people who could be so in lockstep in shamelessly mouthing propaganda. They think media types are more or less regular joes, just guys & gals who get up and go to the office; individuals. They don’t grasp the Borg-like quality of the Deep State / Washington Consensus. As per Chomsky’s media model, those in the media maintain that degree of heated debate within narrow windows (or hot-button social issues) to suggest genuine disagreement and outspoken independence. So people sleepwalking by it accept them as actual human beings, rather than hive-mind insectoids promulgating the neoliberal line.

            1. hunkerdown

              Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here, the bid to keep Huey Long (and, admittedly to his credit, Father Coughlin) out of national politics.

              You’re thinking of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Of course, the most potent propaganda is one that elicits a desire in the subject for more propaganda.

          Once you master that, great brainwashing work follows.

      3. optimader

        what is in the US (European) interest is a Ukrainian government that is stable (ie not screwing the pooch on natural gas transiting to Europe). That’s all the Ukraine is really strategically good for, supporting a stable energy status quo for Europe.

    2. Banger

      NPR, in particular and “public” broadcasting in general have become the official propaganda organs of the USG more than any other new org that I know of.

      1. Ed S.


        Couldn’t agree more. In the past 5 years (ISTM) listening to NPR is like waiting for the daily cable from Moscow to tell us how to think about a topic. Moyers still does good work, but NPR generally is pure propaganda.

        Maybe it always was and I simply notice it more today. The other thing I’ve noticed is the repetition of “reports” on certain subjects. At one point, it seemed as if every hour at least one to”report” was from the following list:

        1) Israel and the Middle East
        2) Gay rights
        3) Climate Change
        4) Illegal immigration / “the undocumented”
        5) Issue du jour (something of short term interest to the Administration)

        Every hour. Every day. One of the five. And the “news” was always a parroting of the administration’s daily PR brief. Repetition in action.

        Oh, and the never-ending begging for money. I’d rather listed to commercials.

          1. optimader

            the old adage, NPR – nice polite republicans.
            fwiw, not a real diverse ethnic profile in the news dept there, but we wont go there.

    3. neo-realist

      If the NPR reporter queried the ex-ambassador’s spiel on the rule of law vis-a-vis the US with a critical journalistic eye, Corporate and Government funding would be seriously endangered. NPR’s role is primarily that of a stenographer to power.

    4. different clue

      Well . . . NPR also supports the Catfood Commission and the Grand Bargain and opposes Social Security and supports Obamacare . . . and has done so for years. So why is this surprising?
      One wonders if some public stations have an audience small enough and poor enough (meaning no rich liberal donors) that the small poor audience could withhold its meager fund drive contributions entirely until their public radio station severs links with NPR, drops NPR news, etc. They could make it a condition that their public radio station has to establish links with Free Speech Radio Network before resuming any pledge-drive donations. Maybe some public radio stations here and their could be liberated from NPR occupation that way.

    5. savedbyirony

      NPR “news” specifically, terrible- just another mouthpiece for TPTB dressed-up in different garb to appeal to certain more (supposedly) reasonable/educated/sophisticated demographics. Up to a few years ago i would have recommended people here turn to the CBC online for world news and info. specifically about the U.S.A., but now after years under P.M. Harper that news source as well has noticeably declined.

    6. James Levy

      The interview was with Pickering and I was staggered by the idiocy of the interviewer. It was pure propaganda.

      The key factor in all this was that an agreement had been signed for new elections and somehow the government was overthrown within hours of signing that agreement. One call from Merkel and another from Obama could have put the kibosh on the coup and the insurrection would have won at the ballot box. Yet the West let the Ukrainian nationalists scrap the agreement and now are shocked, shocked, that the Russians saw this as a prelude to Ukraine throwing out their military forces and inviting in NATO and acted accordingly. Since 1945 Russian/Soviet policy has been built on one absolute–no offensive military forces will be allowed on the border of the nation; no repeat of 1941 will ever be allowed to even be possible For the US and the Germans to overstep that line was insane. That none of this is mentionable in the main stream media is dangerous, and that the media mantra is “what’s Obama gonna do to make Putin retreat?!?” shows that they have a depraved indifference to human existence–do they really think we should risk a nuclear holocaust to push NATO East?

      1. Wayne Reynolds

        I agree wholeheartedly with everything you have said. It is important that the world see that there is some sanity left in the USA, but it was Obama and the GWB neocon holdovers in the State Department that created this mess in the first place. $5 billion dollars spent according to Victoria Nuland to destabilize and overthrow the democratically elected President of a sovereign nation. We might as well also highlight the events in Venezuela, Syria, Iran, the Magreb and could we also have had a covert hand in the slaughter at the Chinese train station today? Who in the world would believe any word from the USA?

  8. Carolinian

    Club Orlov….thanks for the link. Another source of info.

    And for that matter thanks for Links. We denizens of webworld do appreciate your efforts even though we sometimes kvetch. Back in the hippie era I worked for one of the then numerous alt weeklies which arose out of much the same impulse–the need to know what’s really going on at a time when principal news outlets are shading the truth. On our masthead was a famous I.F.Stone quote that could serve for bloggers everywhere: “The only way to insure freedom of the press is to own your own.”

    So thanks NC.

    1. Jagger

      Agree, Orlov is a good link. Orlov also provides a link to a short youtube video which really gives you an idea of what is going on there. Here is the link:

      The man in the video is the definition of a thug. Those are the type of people that take control when things fall apart. A lesson to rulers for just rule because the thugs can get very ugly when rule is unjust.

    2. diptherio

      Seems like a well argued piece, although I think he mis-represents John Michael Greer’s recent essays on “fascism” and things related.

      …John Michael Greer recently came out with a 3,200-word treatise on the subject…He takes a long time to define fascism and his thesis is, roughly, that fascism tends to spring forth like a naked lady from a cake whenever the political center fails to hold.

      Not by my reading. JMG is simply pointing out that “fascists” have historically been able to take power when the political center falls apart. It’s not something that always happens, but it’s always a possibility. Greer presents a scenario to illustrate how that could (conceivably) play out in contemporary US culture. His major point seems to be “it can happen here, so let’s be aware of the fact and not let it.”

      Greer’s other major point is one about rhetoric. He claims that “fascist” has become a “political snarl word,” mostly devoid of content. It’s just a fancy way of saying “@$$hole.” Greer also discusses the history of the word and how it has been variously defined, but his main point is that it has become hollowed out rhetorically. Orlov obviously takes exception to Greer’s history, but then kind of goes on to prove JMG’s point, unwittingly:

      In case you would prefer something much shorter, my thesis is that fascism can be handily equated with militarized bigotry, and that while most countries are at this point immune to it, seeing it as idiotic at best and criminal at worst, certain countries are not—weak, socially disrupted, destitute countries, with an unresolved fascist past, that are subject to unscrupulous external political manipulation—such as poor Ukraine. [emphasis added]

      In his essays, Greer addresses the common definition of fascism (at least on the left) as corporate control of the state. Orlov, however, defines fascism as “militarized bigotry.” Well, which one is it? ISTM that those two definitions need not be conterminous. By Orlov’s definition, for instance, the Confederate Army during the US civil war could be considered a fascist force, and the Confederacy a fascist state. And yet it was not corporations that were pulling the strings of the Confederacy, but large land-owners.

      This goes to prove Greer’s point that in today’s political discourse, the word “fascism” is nothing more than a rhetorical snarl. If we on the left can’t even get our definitions straight, what good is this word, regardless of its historical definition?

      Greer argues that it is totalitarian and authoritarian regimes that we ought fear, and that those are the aspects of “fascism” that are still a menace, even in relatively “functional” societies like our own. I think both Orlov and Greer would agree that militarized bigotry along the lines of what is going on in Ukraine is a long shot for happening here in the US or W. Europe. That’s my take, anyway.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        That’s an excellent comment. Intuitively, and not saying I couldn’t change my mind, but I like “militarized bigotry” a lot, because it captures how it feels in RL when interacting with a fascist personally. (I keep recommending Richard Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich). And I’m not so sure that a “fancy” way of saying “@$$hole” isn’t exactly the right way to think about it; check out this column by Ta-Nahesi Coastes on @$$holes in the quiet car, and change the content of the assholery to hate speech.

        I’m not sure the Civil War South can be considered a Fascist state; I haven’t thought of it that way. But I think there’s a serious case to be made that the Reconstruction South, with the KKK, and great lashings of hate, was the world’s first fascist state, interestingly a consquence of the world’s first total war.

        It may also be that fascism had its day, and the term is useful historically, not now.

        1. MikeNY

          Yeah, dip is pretty smart. kewl, too.

          (Don’t worry, dip… I’m taken. But I do like telling people, even if obliquely or weirdly, when I admire them.)

        2. nobody

          The claim “that ‘fascist’ has become a ‘political snarl word,’ mostly devoid of content” recalls Orwell in his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language”:

          In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning… Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies “something not desirable.

          For what it’s worth, the sociologist Michael Mann, in his 2004 book Fascists, defines “fascism in terms of the key values, actions, and power organizations of fascists. Most concisely, fascism is the pursuit of a transcendent and cleansing nation-statism through paramilitarism.” (p. 13)

        3. montanamaven

          Love that piece by Ta-Nahesi Coates. My rancher husband will often say, “Well, he’s just an a**hole.” It’s why I wrote a series called “Bar Codes” since certain people in a bar feel that they have more rights than other people. The majority of men certainly do not think women are really entitled to an opinion in the Saloon in my town. And the more land you have, the more you can poke your big chest into somebody else’s. Now I’ve learned to ask questions rather than argue a point. “So what’s so great about farming as opposed to hunting and gathering?” or “I never want to mow another lawn as long as I live.” “I was happy in my rent controlled apartment that had a super to take care of the plumbing.” And I’ve remained saner by using the conversations to write short stories.

        4. optimader

          “But I think there’s a serious case to be made that the Reconstruction South, with the KKK, and great lashings of hate, was the world’s first fascist state, interestingly a consquence of the world’s first total war.”

          I think you need to rewind you history tape further. Without thinking too hard about it, aren’t Sparta, and Greece for that matter, contenders for world’s first status?? As well the notion of the civil war as the world’s first total war seem a bit provincial.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            I don’t think so. Fascism has a historical context; even if Sparta and Hitler’s Germany checked all the same boxes on a checklist, I wouldn’t call Sparta fascist.

            And on “total war,” perhaps I should have said “World War” in caps: The first global war of our era that mobilized the total power of the nation-state; besides the railroad, the telegraph, and mass-produced weaponry, we got Sherman’s March to the Sea, the lack of one decisive battle, and along with that, trench warfare and the submarine.

            1. optimader

              Italy preceded Germany as a “modern era” Fascist state. It is a semantic argument some will make on whether “fascism” first required the coining of the term to be a definable economic/political construct. I would say Sparta looks like a duck and quacks like a duck.
              In our local historical context, I think an very good argument can be made that A. Lincoln was a fascist.
              Granted that the US Civil war was our domestic bloodbath, I’m having a hard time w/ the US Civil war being framed as a World War?

              Although the Hunley was the first submarine to successfully sink an enemy combatant, it was certainly not the first submarine, military or otherwise.

              trench warfare
              Lines of Stollhofen
              “.The French Marshal Villars had captured the lines of Stollhofen on the Upper Rhine. This massive system of trenches, redoubts and fortifications were some of the strongest constructed during the War of Spanish Succession, and prevented any incursion into Germany along the Rhine valley. The problem was that the defenders of these seemingly impregnable works were the poor remnants of the Austrian Emperor’s Rhine army, which had been sadly depleted by its master to bolster his grand ideas in Italy. Thus, on 23rd May 1707 Marshal Villars, almost without any loss of life, occupied the Stollhofen position and Germany was laid wide open…

              History, with all her volumes vast, hath but one page
              ~Lord Byron

                1. optimader

                  “…And the Mongolian Horde had cavalry. Just like the French and the British did in World War I…”

                  Yes indeed they did have a calvary, as did the Romans, Greeks, Assyrians. Not necessarily “like” the French or British but functionally for the same objective.
                  I think Byron was correct about human behavior and time scale. We can disagree on that.

        5. vlade

          Yep, Evans is very good and anyone with some interest on how thing can turn extremist in a “civilised” nation should read it. I see a lots of parallels between Weimar and current situation in the ex-soviet bloc (with Russia as Weimar).
          Of course, a minor twitch on the above is that fascism was Italian, the German variety was nazism :) (even if it helped itself to a lot of stuff from Italians).

          And, as the last one – history shows that if someone is perceived as an A-hole, it makes zilch difference to their political potential.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        That’s one risk with using words to think.

        See, for example, one of today’s links, ‘the Meaning of Journalistic Independence.’

        One can ask that of other words as well. ‘What is the meaning of democracy?’ ‘What is fascism?’ ‘What is money?’ Does this or that mean this or that for these people or those people?

      3. montanamaven

        Orlov admires Greer. He uses Greer’s definition of “collapse” for his two books on the subject i.e. “Reinventing Collapse” and “The Five Stages of Collapse”. They were guest speakers together at the “Age of Limits” conference last year. My take on Orlov’s reference to Greer in this essay is that he agrees with Greer, by and large on many things especially peak oil and how to survive collapse. But on the Ukraine, he wants to cut to the chase. Fascists are crass and brutal and afraid of “the other” and are armed by warlords and so fascism is “militarized bigotry”. That term really resonated with me.
        What was revelatory to me about Greer’s piece and what resonated for me was his definition of fascism as NOT being “a movement to overcome the economic and political status quo”. It was that fascism was also NOT a fight against the corporations rule over the state. This is the definition I had been using in reference to present day America. My friend just yesterday said, “We are already living in a fascist state.” Not according to Greer. Real fascism as practiced by Hitler and Stalin was much much worse than neo-liberalism or corporatism, as bad as they are. It was totalitarian and authoritarian. It killed you if you disagreed. It may have sprung from the void left by the corrupt dysfuntional status quo, but it was uglier, crasser, and more brutal than the people every expected.
        So Greer is asking his readers not to throw around the word “fascist” in a meaningless way so it is just a “snarl” word meaning a**hole. This keeps us in partisan tribes flinging crap at each other but does nothing to fill the void that is our political discourse. And does nothing to protect us from a charismatic leader with populist language of change. That leaves room for a deadly very deadly authoritarian person and group that uses racism to gain and then hold power.

    3. montanamaven

      Orlov is one of my main go to guys for the on going “collapse” of the American Empire. I highly recommend his “Reinventing Collapse” and “The Five Stages of Collapse”. “Reinventing Collapse” is a remarkable comparison of the Soviet Union and the United States. His comparison of the two election systems is priceless. Both kayfabe, don’t ya know.
      Nothing for the Ukrainian people in this mess. And nothing for the American people. Just more “shock doctrine” and “economic hit men” and nefarious NGOs and billionaires spreading democracy aka making a killing both there and here.

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Great comment – own your own press.


      Belief in yourself – there is greatness within.

      You can do it – sing, write, dance, philosophize, poetize, etc.

  9. McMike

    US elections… worse than Italy and Argentina; a little bit better than Mexico. Sounds about right.

    In the meantime, the official Dem inaction in the face of GOP election rigging, systematic voter suppression, and dirty tricks, remains one of the oddest and questionable facets of the very-odd official Dems.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Goes all the way back to Al Gore rolling over in 2000, if not before. I’m thinking that for the political class as a whole, it’s much more profitable (and doesn’t break anybody’s rice bowl) if elections are close. Hence, no Democratic voter registration drives, for example.

    2. ignim Brites

      Ok. But will you guys support blue state secession in the event of a Republican sweep (coup) in November?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        How does one go about that secession, in this country, in Ukraine or any country?

        Does it have to be mutual or is an occasional un-consented divorce (and peaceful) possible?

        1. Ignim Brites

          The Canadian high court has acknowledge the right of Quebec to secede. The UK has accepted the right of Scotland to secede. Seems like this right is increasingly accepted in international law. So if Gov Cuomo were to ask New Yorkers to vote on a referendum for secession it seems unlikely there would be much of an outcry.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            It’s progress, if we can spell out an exit strategy, a clear definition, for all to see and follow, if or when the time comes.

          2. James Levy

            He’d be laughed at, vilified, and denounced, and the referendum would never be held and his career would be over. That would be the result.

            Federal facilities are so ubiquitous, and federal monies like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security (not to mention student loans) so important to so many people that you could hardly produce a majority for secession anywhere. And how would the new “nation” negotiate trade and transit agreements with Washington except at a gross disadvantage? And how could New York resist a US military strike to reassert Federal authority if Washington said “no dice.”

            When you talk secession at this juncture you are talking nonsense.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              I guess that leaves emigration as the only way out for those unhappy people.

            2. Punchnrun

              What about that net flow of Federal tax money from blue states to red? If Cuomo included not paying Federal taxes in the secession deal, would there not be a net positive cash flow, a cash out so to speak? Played with the right spin the small government conservatives should jump on that bandwagon in a New York minute.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Dem inaction, possibly due to

      1. Not clean with an existing pot-kettle relationship
      2. Clean now, but saving it as yet another IOU for future use.

      As with MMT, the more IOUs the Republicans issue, the more IOU-savings the Dems will have to use later…unless ‘change’ comes (to make all those IOUs useless).

      1. psychohistorian


        As to your 2nd point, do you not remember the recent “keep your powder dry” posting by Lambert from Daily KOS?

        Just saying….

  10. diptherio

    Re: New evidence on the risks of flawed and failed elections ~Electoral Integrity Project

    From the article:

    The following global rankings in figure 1 show how elections compared on the 100-point PEI index. Long-standing democracies such as Norway, Germany and the Netherlands emerged as the highest in electoral integrity, while contests in countries such as the Republic of Congress, Djibouti and Equatorial Guinea were worst rated by experts.

    Is that a typo, or is the Electoral Integrity Project trying to tell us something?

  11. Eeyores enigma

    Ukraine is just more of the Peak Oil shake-out. Being a key pipeline hub for Russian production and also a major consumer of FFs they are loosing their ability to consume and therefore must extort their way to future prosperity.
    Who ever controls Ukraine controls a huge slice of the resource conundrum.

    The biggest reason for the Global economic (debt) crisis is the growing understanding that the world no longer has the resources to pay off debt yet alone create new.

    Most only look at and talk about the too much debt side of the equation but the debt is only too much because of the limits to growth or resource depletion and environmental destruction.

    If the west has any sort of grand plan it is not Global Domination it is Demand Destruction through any and all means even bombing back into the stone age and sewing conflict.

    1. F. Beard

      Usury REQUIRES exponential growth and not necessarily at a rate the environment and technological advance can accomodate. Plus the debt is unjust since the population was driven into it by government-subsidized credit creation. Plus the population has been dispossessed and now disemployed via automation and outsourcing financed with their own stolen purchasing power via government-backed credit creation.

      The problem is not resource depletion but an unjust distribution of wealth and income and the unjust money/credit system that caused it.

      Resource depletion? Our money system was a major cause of WW II which besides killing 50-65 million people wasted huge amounts of resources. And now Russia and the US are squabbling when we could both be enjoying peace?

      1. eeyores enigma

        F beard – A prime example of my point.

        You imply that with equitable distribution of wealth there would be no resource depletion issue? It would in fact be a thousand fold worse and would have come to head soon after WWII IF NOT SOONER.

        What peace could we be enjoying when we do not have the resources to sustain the population that we currently have and the environment can no longer absorb the wast stream that humanity creates. AND NO TECHNOLOGY can not solve these little predicaments.

        Oh right what you mean is the peace you personally believe you have right now is something everyone could have. BS!

  12. kate

    I have a question that been bothering me. Why didn’t Obama purge the State Dept. of the neocons when he got into office? Why didn’t Hillary purge the State Dept. of Nuland and the rest of the Cheney hold-overs when she become Sec. of State? Or Kerry, for that matter? I agree that this is Kabuki theatre, we’ve all been kabuked.

    1. Yves Smith

      The State Department is one of the few places where you have a cadre of generally highly regarded career bureaucrats. They have a lot of local knowledge and also many have language skills. You can’t purge a workforce with a high level of skills.

      The problems at State are at the political appointee level way way more than an the working staffer/diplomat level. And the US giving out more and more ambassadorships to really unqualified people as rewards for being big donors hasn’t helped.

  13. Jim Haygood

    Robert Johnson’s ‘Political Underbelly of the Pensions Crisis’ (linked above) strikes an anodyne, ‘don’t worry about the government’ theme. ‘Contrary to public perception, pension underfunding is not a widespread issue,’ writes Johnson. Silly public, always worrying their little heads over big subjects they don’t understand!

    Unfortunately, in conceding that states are using discount rates that might be too high (thus lowering the calculated present value of their liability to pensioners), Johnson linked a paper by Novy-Marx and Rauh (NMR) which demolishes his thesis. Whereas state pensions were assuming 8% returns, NMR assert that a discount rate based on the 3.25% yield of 15-year Treasuries would be more appropriate.

    Taking the next logical step, and calculating liabilities discounted at 3.25% instead of 8.00%, NMR find that liabilities exceed pension assets of about $2 trillion by nearly $3 trillion. In other words, with a proper discount rate applied, public pensions are about 40% funded.

    Thanks for the paper, Robert Johnson. You oughta read it sometime. Or maybe stick to makin’ blue records.

    1. Jess

      Also, Mr. Johnson fails to mention that in many states (definitely CA where I reside) the BoD responsible for making these ROI projections and investment decisions is dominated by union leaders. Or that the negotiators sitting opposite union leaders during contract talks are also covered by and beneficiaries of the same pension fund. Thus, no one represents the taxpayers and everyone has a vested interest in keeping the gravy train going for the high salaried upper-end people who are negotiating the deal. In my little city, $200K+ per year City Manager negotiates with $150K a year Fire Department Battalion Chief who is next in line to become the new $200K+ per year Fire Chief.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Here in S. California, I am just glad we don’t have any $60 million high school football stadiums…yet.

    2. bob

      Jim, try that little but of math with anything. Go find the NPV of a fourtune 500 company. Or yourself.

      1. forecasts are useless after 5 years.
      2. 100% funding of any pension plan is a gain for wall st, and not necessary. There will still be people working as cops in the year 2040, right? If not, would the “fully funded” plan be worth anything anyway?

      All of your comments belie your complete belief in the orthodoxy of fixed exchange rates trade under a gold standard.

      Hasn’t been that way in over 30 years now. Venezuela!! Printing money!

    3. Yves Smith

      The states are using EXACTLY the same assumptions as private defined benefit plans (yes, there are some that haven’t been converted to defined contribution).

      And they do not make the assumptions. They hire pension consultants who tell them what assumptions to use based on their asset allocation.

      Pension fund management is all about litigation avoidance. Everyone hires experts who give recommendations that are followed faithfully on every important decision.

      Moreover, public pension funds in aggregate are not underfunded to any large degree, and the underfunding is due to some real biggies who chose to shoot themselves in the head, like New Jersey, which decided to underfund its pensions under Christie Todd Whitman and then made matters worse by making lots of risky investments (including in Lehman!) in 2007. So you’ve got a minority in a world of hurt, and they are being used to create the inaccurate impression that all defined benefit plans are in trouble.

      1. psychohistorian

        Nice contextual statement on public pension funds, thanks.

        That said, what is the stink bomb(s) that Calpers is hiding? I suspect you will find out and share it with us….and thanks again.

    4. alex morfesis

      public pensions cant play games like private ones, where private companies, when the pension is overfunded, can book the excess funds as profits, and stop contributing. But…

      pensions are doing much better across the board, with the returns of the last two years.

      “private pensions are back up to 95% funded”, the highest since just before FM Policy Watch, declared mission accomplished by crushing fannie and freddie in Sept of 08

      “the funding ratio was at 76% at the end of 2012”

      not to bring politics into it, but this noise about “public pensions” is just anti union nonsense.

      The US has ZERO unions, if you remove government workers and certain industries that are no longer a big part of the economy.

      from the BLS Jan 2014 report

      “Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.3 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7 percent)”

      “In 2013, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $950, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $750.”

      not that unions have kept up with the times, or made sure their members are kept ahead of the curve with online training to keep them a step ahead of the Move the Business to Asia (MBA) crowd

      why is it a stretch for public pensions to be looking at 8% if private industry pensions are popping at much higher rates. We are at Marriner Eccles interest rates and we will stay here for another 25 years. That reality changes the 1980’s Reagan/Volcker interest rate burp that so many got addicted to. Its purpose was to force open national banking. It aint coming back. This might be “cleanest dirty shirtistan” reality, but invested capital needs to find a place to park itself, and last I checked, The Red Army does not trust its citizens enough to allow free elections, Raz-Putin is hoping that no one calls his bluff on the crime-eeah, Germany has this habit of not paying its debts every fifty years or so, and Nijon has a minor demographics issue…so where you gonna put your money cowboy…Nigeria ?

      With interest rates low, and staying there, the value of capital streams grows. Same cash flow, with lower cost of funds should leave us with higher PE and returns.

  14. Trent

    I really don’t find any of the recent turmoil to be anything but what you would expect in the times we live in. When a global empire begins to teeter, forces that have chaffed under it for decades are going to take advantage. Not only has the US been running low on the credibility scale with the rest of the world since the early 2000s, but the glue that hold the empire together (the dollar) is beginning to come undone. If i was Putin or any other power looking to expand my influence, now is the perfect time. The US looks alot like England before WW2, talking about consequences and then not doing anything. We have our hands full just “managing” the domestic economy and keeping everything else from falling apart, that Putin and others know they can step over the “line” when they feel the outcomes will be beneficial to them. As the Dollar and our country continue to unravel, we’ll only see these types of situations accelerate.

    1. ignim Brites

      Yeah the US is at a “Buchanan” moment in foreign policy. One path leads to ever increasing engagement with a turbulent world we are powerless to affect short of World War. The other leads to concentration on domestic concerns and abrogation of our multiple treaty obligations beginning with NATO and Japan.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I am glad Palin didn’t resist.

      Yes, even humans could see this coming years ago, not just some math theory, if I remember correctly from a link a few days ago about math predicting a lot of what is happening these days.

    1. Susan the other

      Thanks for this link. Congress is a throwback to c. 1850. As Evans screeched truth to the Taylor Rule idiots: if the Fed had gone by the rules in 2008 it would have imposed a (real-life) negative 1.5% interest rate. Instead it modestly left it at a positive .05%. How, when the entire system breaks down, is it helpful to follow the old rules? Hmm? Janet Yellen will do us all a favor to follow her own compass on this one, even tho’ Stanford is in her cherished (ultra-conservative) homeland.

  15. slingshot

    Palin v Putin; she claimed in ’08 that an American junior senator’s reaction to Georgia (the country!) would allow the Ruskies to invade Ukraine. Okay, but why didn’t then President Dub’s behavior cause the invasion of Georgia?
    I know, I know…..logic doesn’t apply in a vacuum.

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Horses…western China.

    I don’t see them sweet any legendary ‘blood.’

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Thanks, CB.

        I do recall vaguely reading about it, though I was thinking more about the skinny-legged horses the NHK crew found in Afganistan and thought them to be the descendants of the ‘Heaven Horse’ in their 70’s documentary ‘the Silk Road,’

  17. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Big Money Donors…Larger Say In Party Strategy.

    Are we to believe New Big Money is smarter than Old Big Money?

    It seems to me that Old Big Money demanded plenty of ‘larger say.’

    Maybe ‘new’ is always ‘smarter.’

  18. heresy101

    When checking RT for the Russian side of the Ukrainian news, I noticed this article that I hadn’t seen anywhere in the MSM:

    A heretofore inexplicable fatal, chronic kidney disease that has affected poor farming regions around the globe may be linked to the use of biochemical giant Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide in areas with hard water, a new study has found.

    The new study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

  19. CB

    Who are the blue jacketed, pointed helmet riders, looking like something out of a turn of the last century? And is that a photo or a painting?

  20. Vatch

    Since events in the Ukraine are among the top news stories these days, I am intrigued that there has been so little mention of the horrible planned Ukrainian famine of the early 1930s. There is disagreement about how many people died, but the estimates tend to range from 5 million to 7 million. This was Stalin’s way of suppressing dissent in the troublesome Ukraine. It was quite effective. There wasn’t much of a rebellion in Ireland in 1848, either, even though there were revolutions in almost every European country that year. Why? As a result of the Potato Famine, few malnourished Irish people had the energy to oppose the British government. Naturally, there is controversy about the role of the governments in both famines, but I think it is safe to say that neither government did as much as they could to feed the people, and anyone who gives Stalin the benefit of the doubt is very naive.

    I’m sure there are many Ukrainians who are thinking about what Stalin did to their ancestors in the 1930s, and we should keep those events in mind, also. For more on the Ukrainian famine:

    Wikipedia article about the Ukrainian_famine

    For those who want to learn a lot more about this than I know, there are books:

    The Harvest of Sorrow, by Robert Conquest

    The Years of Hunger, by R.W. Davies and Stephen Wheatcroft

    Other books are listed in the Wikipedia article.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Thank you, Vatch.

      All the more tragic that it happened in the breadbasket of Europe, as I recall from the book ‘Execution by Hunger.’

      Another tragedy was the Honan Famine of 1943-44…simple Chinese people additionally had the bad luck to be also caught in between the Imperial Japanese Army, the ROC Army and the Chinese Communist Army.

    2. Wayne Reynolds

      There are some interesting commentaries on the Holodomor over on the Vineyard of the Saker website. Also he has put together a 7,000 page history of the Ukraine. Highly recommended.

  21. psychohistorian

    About the Columbia river dam near Vantage.

    Think about the domino theory of dam failure. As a Portland OR resident in the flood plain of such a cascading event I am not happy to read about this and wonder if downstream lives will be put at further risk like with poorly designed, built and maintained nuclear facilities….the Hanford nuclear reservation is also downstream of this dam.

    When is the next major earthquake in the region due?

    Whee!!! Surfs up!….and it glows in the dark!!!!

  22. Vatch

    Here’s a quaint quote from the link “Bankers’ expertise needed to sharpen new bank watchdog’s teeth” from Reuters:

    The United States got its banks quickly back on track, but in Europe many banks are weak and still in recovery mode and wary of lending money needed to drive economic recovery.

    Gosh, I sure am glad that the U.S. banks are back on track!

  23. Jim A

    At some level, Bitcoin is an attempt to recreate the gold standard. It is subject to only gradual increase in supply, which theoretically would lead to it being a fairly stable, inflation proof store of value. The idea is that it is immune from government interference. The fact that the value gyrates wildly is proof that it is a complete failure as a store of value.

  24. kareninca

    Wild horses in China – coming soon to a diseased “beef” Hot Pocket in a grocery store near you.

    “Here are the top 5 products imported from China that you should watch out for.
    1) Tilipia: 80 percent of the tilapia (sold in the U.S.) comes from China.
    2) Cod: About 51 percent of cod on the U.S. market is from China.
    3) Apple Juice: About 50 percent of the apple juice sold in the U.S. originates in China.
    4) Processed mushrooms: 34 percent of processed mushrooms (sold in the U.S.) are from China.
    5) Garlic: About 31 percent of garlic (sold in the U.S.) is from China.”

    For the gross details of how these items are unsafe:

  25. ChrisPacific

    After reading the Russian and American versions of the Obama/Putin phone call, I suspect that the hotline between the US and Russia may be broken.

    One of the key features of the phone as a device, and the international phone system in general, is that when the party on the other end speaks, it transmits the sounds to your ear so that you can hear them. I see no evidence from either summary that this occurred. Possibly the phones had been secretly substituted with some other device, such as a megaphone or loudspeaker.

    I’m surprised that they spent 90 minutes on this. In both cases, a 5 minute briefing to a speechwriter would have done equally well and freed up some time for them to spend on more useful tasks. For example, you can get a lot of vacuuming done in 85 minutes.

  26. Howard Beale IV

    Where have All the Cowboys Gone? Tim Cook vs the Galtian Ovelords from NCPPR at the Apple Shareholder meeting:

    Tim Cook to NCPPR: ” “If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.”

    NCPPR’s response on their website reveals massive butthurt: “Tim Cook to Apple Investors: Drop Dead”:

    This outfit is absolutely clueless-why anybody gives these eeejets any money is beyond me.

  27. Lambert Strether Post author

    A quantity of religous flamage deleted. Different clue has the right of it:

    The trick is not to bite the hook everytime a one-note thread-spammer chums the water.

    That doesn’t go for just one person. And “He started it!” is for six-year-olds squabbling in the back of the car. “He’s looking at me!”

    * * *

    Try thinking of it this way: Your moderator sees a high comment count and thinks “Oh, great! The readers really enjoyed this one!” and then, come to find out, the count is high because of off-topic crap that’s screaming for deletion (and deleting is stressful, because it risks the integrity of thread nesting). So try having some compassion.

    1. psychohistorian

      I succeeded this time in having either compassion, as you suggest, or serious and conscious restraint…..grin

      And hope I continue to do so……”these are the times that try men’s souls”………Thomas Paine

    2. F. Beard

      That does it Lambert. You’ve deleted my comments for the last time unless you delete this one too.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        After having been warned many times, you had to go ahead and post flame-bait, igniting the predictable flame war, and then you concluded by congratulating yourself on a successful proselytization, which you know is forbidden. Here, you are to render to Caesar. But Caesar’s patience is at an end.

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