Links 5/13/17

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Not to be sniffed at: human sense of smell rivals that of dogs, says study Guardian (Chuck L)

15 large great white sharks spotted near CA paddleboarders Euronews (furzy)

Thousands evacuated following floods in Quebec and Ontario WSWS (martha r) :-(. Any readers affected? And why no Federal assistance?

A watch fights tremors and woman finds ability to write TechXplore. Chuck L: “On the schmaltzy side, but with good reason.”

Global Hack

Hackers use NSA tools in worldwide cyber attack Financial Times

NHS cyber-attack: GPs and hospitals hit by ransomware BBC. Lambert: “Tories -> Budget cuts -> No upgrades -> Hacking […] -> Privatization of the NHS.”

74 countries hit by NSA-powered WannaCrypt ransomware backdoor The Register. Richard Smith: “The NHS is thought to have been particularly hard hit because of the antiquated nature of its IT infrastructure. A large part of the organization’s systems are still using Windows XP, which is no longer supported by Microsoft, and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt cancelled a pricey support package in 2015 as a cost-saving measure.”

Global cyberattack holds Britain’s NHS and businesses worldwide hostage Euronews (furzy)

Cyber-attack hits 99 countries with UK hospitals among targets – live updates Guardian. Martha r: “Live blog of current ransomware cyber attack.”

Ransom Hackers Who Hit Hospitals Dealt Setback; May Return Bloomberg

Top NSA Whistleblower: Ransomware Hack Due to “Swindle of the Taxpayers” by Intelligence Agencies George Washington


GDPs vs. what China spent on eating out in 2016 The Atlas (resilc)

India’s finance minister meets with Maruti Suzuki chairman WSWS (martha r)

Laptop Ban

EU protests against adding transatlantic flights to US laptop ban Financial Times

Emirates Airlines Reports 82% Plunge in Profits Amid U.S. Laptop Ban NBC (J-LS)


Brussels could end up paying Britain a Brexit divorce bill, says Boris Johnson Telegraph. More disinformation. Out of the €40-€100+ billion plus estimated Brexit bill, UK assets are only a €3 to €9 billion offset.

Northern Ireland may leave UK because of Brexit, says Blair The Times

London MPs defy Labour Party on Brexit, demand single market membership/a> Reuters

New poll finds huge public support for Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto promises Business Insider

Sneering at Corbyn does Tories no favours The Times

Why are British Columbians Voting Liberal, Against Their Own Interest? Real News Network. An interview with Michael Hudson


Bin Laden’s son wants to avenge his father, ex-FBI agent says CBS. Resilc: “Great news for DoD/CIA/DHS.”

Will Trump Agree to the Pentagon’s Permanent War in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria? Middle East Eye (Sid S)

Imperial Collapse Watch

The First Signs Of A National Mobilization For War Are Appearing Real Clear Defense (Dan K)

The Decline of the West Revisited Pepe Escobar, Counterpunch (Chuck L)

The Losing Warfare State Ralph Nader, Common Dreams (martha r)

Comey Defenestration. The Democrats smell blood. Trump has been making matters worse for himself with every utterance on this topic. The Hill, which is unusually up the center in how it plays things, has far more Trump negative headlines than it typically runs. And critically, Mitch McConnell has relented and has allowed an invitation to be extended to Rod Rosenstein, the #2 at the DoJ, for a closed-door briefing.

But Trump has seemed to be hopelessly damaged goods before and yet has managed to pull himself up to being merely disreputable and wildly unpredictable, which bizarrely has worked for him so far. Will this time be different?

In addition, Rosenstein (see link below) is not backing a special prosecutor, at least for now. As crazy-making, reckless, and destabilizing as Trump’s bullshitting is (and I think he is a prototypical bullshitter, he doesn’t care what the truth is and makes it all too obvious), until someone can get him in a setting where he has been sworn to tell the truth, his statements can and do have great political significance, but it’s far from clear what if any legal significance they have, since Trump contradicts himself all the time. Mind you, Trump asking Comey three times as to whether he was being investigated is terrible optics, but Comey never never never should have seen Trump for dinner (and even worse, Trump claims Comey asked for the dinner to pitch for staying at the FBI) and should never had answered the question re whether Trump was a target.

FBI staffers have issued “Comey would never do that, it’s outside protocol” type denials, but Comey flagrantly violated protocol last summer when rendering a legal judgment on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, which is not the FBI’s job.

So the question is if Trump can keep this mess from escalating further until the Memorial Day recess. My sense is that even if Republican voters are getting edgy about Trump, when their Congressscritters go home to their districts, they’ll find health care is a much bigger priority. On the one hand, the Republicans don’t have good answers. On the other hand, if the Democrats succeed in making Trump the centerpiece of what Congress does for the next six plus months, that guarantees the Republicans will get very little done legislatively when it was already hard for them to get anything done with the Freedom Caucus nutjobs acting as spoilers. Not getting anything done is a prescription for many to be turfed out in 2018.

Finally, my guess is the Trump tweet regarding maybe having taped Comey tapes was a high stakes poker play to check Comey. Trump is leery of being recorded in private; recall that when he was accuses in the Steele dossier of having his golden showers party in Moscow, Trump said he repeatedly told his staff to be completely circumspect when in foreign hotels, since they could be bugged. Since the Comey-Trump conversations weren’t fresh, and memories are never precise or complete unless you have David Boies’ perfect verbal recall, the idea that Trump might have an actual record would put Comey at risk at being caught out in exaggerating or omitting parts of the conversation that could be spun as having a vendetta against Trump. And the proof seems to be that Comey has declined an opportunity to appear before the Senate next week. However, if Trump has been taped, I can’t imagine this would be good for him in the long run, and so any immediate win with Comey would come back to haunt him.

Sources: Rosenstein sees no need for special prosecutor in Russia probe CNN

Trump’s warning to Comey deepens White House crisis The Hill

Senate panel investigating Russia outraged by Comey firing Politico

Trump on Comey ‘tapes’: ‘I can’t talk about that’ The Hill

White House Refuses to Say Whether Trump Tapes Conversations Bloomberg

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to brief Senate on Russia investigation Washington Post. Oddly, I don’t see this reported on The Hill or Poltico, which typically are all over this sort of thing. But I can’t imagine Schumer’s office would misreport this. However, the invitation came from McConnell, and you’d expect his office to confirm the session. And if I were Rosenstein, I wouldn’t be keen about facing this sort of thing: Democrats: Rosenstein should resign if he won’t appoint a special prosecutor Politico.

Comey won’t speak to Senate committee next week The Hill

GOP senators won’t buck Trump on Comey firing Politico

Comeytose in Washington Counterpunch. Good except it repeats the story set in motion by the New York Times that Trump fired Comey over asking for more budget for the Russia investigation. The #2 at the FBI denied that before the Senate in hearings the next day. Curiously, from what I can tell, no one in the MSM has taken note of that or corrected the earlier stories. Update: NBC says that Comey said he asked the DoJ not for more FBI resources but more prosecutor resources to write subpoenas and warrants.

Washington’s political crisis over the Comey firing: A harbinger of revolutionary upheavals WSWS (martha r)

Lawyers who said Trump has no ties to Russia named Russian law firm of 2016 Guardian (Katharine)

Former Trump Adviser Paul Manafort’s Bank Records Sought in Probe Wall Street Journal

Trump Transition

Attorney General Speaks About Stricter Charging, Sentencing Recommendations C-SPAN (Kevin C)

Hundreds arrested in “biggest ever” US gang crackdown Euronews (furzy)

Even Conservatives Know Jeff Sessions Won’t Win the War on Drugs Vice (resilc)

Why Would Trump Want to Prolong America’s Longest War? Atlantic (resilc)

Mexican Drug Smugglers to Trump: Thanks! New York Times (resilc)

California governor proposes more money to fight Trump Reuters. EM: “‘Fight Trump’ – unless the policies in question are pro-fracking and pro-corporate-welfare, both of which our dear progressive governor embraces. In that context, Brown’s ‘support for the undocumented’ takes on a rather different light – it’s all about maintaining that huge pool of cheap labor.”


Americans Demand Single-Payer Health Care at GOP Town Hall Rolling Stone. Martha r: “More details on the Tom Macarthur town hall. in Willington, NJ.”

‘Medicare for All’ — who’s in and who’s out in the Illinois Democratic congressional delegation? Chicago Tribune

Still Not an Activist Jacobin. Important. Resilc: “When does she get her own cable channel?”

How the Sanders Phenomenon Unleashed a Socialist Movement Counterpunch (martha r)

Bernie Sanders to campaign in Billings on 4-city Montana tour for Rob Quist Billings Gazette

Even The Cable Lobby’s Questionable Survey Shows Most Americans Want Net Neutrality Consumerist (Chuck L)

Tunnel Collapse at Hanford Nuclear Dump—Harbinger of the Collapse of the Entire Industry? Common Dreams (martha r)

Concealed Carry on Campus: Why I Resigned From the University of Kansas Counterpunch (Chuck L)

Lawyer with Responsibility for Mortgage Crisis Appointed to Take Care of Mortgage Banks Real News Network. An interview with Bill Black.

When will the next global shock arrive? MacroBusiness. Useful discussion of the very low VIX.

Wells Fargo’s Fake Accounts Grow to 3.5 Million in Suit Bloomberg

Class Warfare

How local governments keep poor people in jail just because they’re poor Rare (resilc)

For-Profit Colleges Are Reinventing Themselves to Profit Off Low-Income Students Truthout

Antidote du jour. From Michael B:

Here is an antidote from a very faithful reader in Victoria, BC, Canada. Two hummingbird chicks stand up on their nest contemplating their first flight. They flew off the next day.

And a bonus video from Pat P. What brave duckings!

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. Jim Haygood

    “First, they [intel agencies] find or create weaknesses then they don’t fix these weaknesses so we are all vulnerable to attack. Then, when attacks occur, they say they need more money for cyber security — a total swindle!!! — Bill Binney

    Step 3 is running their expanded $60 billion (?) black budget past the Gang of Eight (majority and minority leaders of the House, Senate and intel committees). The Gangsters are given a verbal classified briefing, then tell the mushrooms in their caucuses to whoop it through blindfolded and hope for the best.

    Democracy, comrades: it’s been streamlined. :-)

    1. Chris G

      Thanks for fixing the link!
      “Eating out” probably has very different connotations in the West and China. Chinese cities have huge numbers and variety of eating places, from barrows or hole in the wall mom/pop kitchens selling street food dumplings or beefball skewers or egg pancakes or other simple snacks, to small noodle joints with a few tables, to several classes of swankier places.
      For many people, including manual workers, “eating out” is the economical way to feed yourself. (My wife, who’s Chinese, generally won’t let me sample the lower end of what’s on offer – “Not hygienic, foreign tummies won’t be used to it.”)
      Family gatherings are still an important part of Chinese social life – birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, relatives returning from overseas…. Larger restaurants do much of their business in private banqueting rooms. And even with some more expensive dishes (e.g. fresh seafood picked from the water tank) prices in Shanghai are a quarter to a fifth what I’d expect to pay for a similar standard in London.

  2. allan

    A Letter for Rod Rosenstein to Remember [bmaz@Emptywheel]

    A long and bipartisan list of ex-US Attorneys and Assistant USA in the Southern District of NY write to Rosenstein,
    urging him to appoint a special counsel. Hard to write this off as a bunch of Russia-obsessed Dem activists.

    1. grayslady

      I notice that Neil Barofsky’s name is conspicuously absent. The letter strikes me as virtue signaling. In my lifetime, I have yet to see appointment of a special counsel that wasn’t politically driven rather than constitutionally driven.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        He should be allowed to make his own decision on this, at this time.

        Otherwise, the appearance is it is politically motivated.

        “Be patient, grasshopper. There is a time for everything, a season for every activity. You can’t hurry love. You can’t hurry hate.”

    2. Harry

      You said ex – us attorneys in Manhattan? Be fair, it’s not that difficult to write off.

  3. aliteralmind

    > Americans Demand Single-Payer Health Care at GOP Town Hall Rolling Stone. Martha r: “More details on the Tom Macarthur town hall. in Willington, NJ.”

    It’s Willingboro, not Willington. Rolling Stone is wrong. My wife works in a school two miles from the town hall site, which is a now-unused school in the same district.

        1. o4amuse

          Or perhaps it doesn’t meet current seismic, handicaped access or other health standards for student occupancy. Where I have lived in CA and OR I have often see old schools turned into administrative offices for such reasons.

  4. EndOfTheWorld

    So the Democrats are demanding that Trump appoint a special prosecutor? They should be careful what they wish for. What he should and could do is appoint a special prosecutor—-to investigate HRC and the private e mail set-up, pay-to-play at the Clinton Foundation, Huma putting State Dept. stuff on her husband’s laptop, and all related matters.

    1. Deadl E Cheese

      My hope is that Trump drags both the Democratic and Republican Parties down into the abyss, so I’m super-hoping that Trump does this.

      Get us ALLLLLL the dirt on the Clintons, Obama, Schumer, and Pelosi.

        1. Loblolly

          Yves Smith debunks the Russia Conspiracy elsewhere on this site, which I quote below for your reading pleasure Mr Antifa.

          Because people here are smart enough to be skeptical of hysterical MSM headlines with no real goods, you act as if you are some sort of smart contrarian, when you are just echoing a Democratic party/media narrative?

          You do not seem to recognize that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The idea that billionaire, who was already famous in the US by virtue (among other things) of having a TV show that ran for 14 years and got billions of free media coverage during his campaign, is somehow owned by Putin, is astonishing on its face. Trump had to have been the focus of extensive Republican and Democratic party opposition research while he was campaigning.

          And perhaps most important, the night he won, Trump clearly did not expect to win. His longstanding friend Howard Stern stated a view similar to ours, that Trump ran because it would be good PR and the whole thing developed a life of its own. And before you try saying politics doesn’t work that way, the UK is now on a path to Brexit for the same reasons.

          All the Dems and the media have come up with are some kinda-sorta connections to Russia. Trump as a very rich man who also has assembled a large team of political types in short order, would have people who knew people in all corners of the world. “X has done business with Y” is hardly proof o of influence, particularly with a guy like Trump, who is now famous for telling people what they want to hear in a meeting and backstabbing them the next day.

          We’ve been looking at this for months. The best they can come up with is:

          1. Manafort, who worked for Trump for all of four months and was fired. Plus his Russia connections are mainly through Ukraine. Podesta has strong if not stronger Russia ties, is a much more central play to Clinton and no one is making a stink about that. And that’s before you get to the Clinton involvement in a yuuge uranium sale to Russia, which even the New York Times confirmed (but wrote such a weedy story that you have to read carefully to see that).

          2. Carter Page, who was even more peripheral

          3. Flynn, again not a central player, plus it appears his bigger sin involved Turkey

          4. The conversation with the Russian ambassador, which contrary to the screeching has plenty of precedent (in fact, Nixon and Reagan did far more serious meddling)

          5. The various allegations re Trump real estate and bank loans. Trump did have a really seedy Russian involved in a NYC development. One should be more worried that the guy was a crook than that he was Russian. Third tier, not even remotely in the oligarch class. There are also vague allegations re money laundering. The is crap because first, every NYC real estate player has dirty money in high end projects (see the big expose by the New York Times on the Time Warner Center, developed by the Related Companies, owned by Steve Ross). But second, the party responsible for checking where the money came from, unless it was wheelbarrows of cash, is the bank, not the real estate owner. Since the NYT expose there have been efforts to make developers/owners responsible too, but those aren’t germane to Trump since they aren’t/weren’t in effect.

          So please do not provide no value added speculation. If you have something concrete, that would be interesting, but I’ve been looking and I’ve seen nothing of any substance.

          1. Antifa

            The documentaries say nothing about the conspiracy surrounding Trump the Preznent. Yves is right to stay at arm’s length from that mess because there’s no final evidence yet.

            The documentaries are about Trump the real estate mogul, the man who couldn’t get a bank loan anywhere after six business bankruptcies, so he began taking on partners who were and are known oligarchs in Kazakhstan, with a long paper trail of involvement with the Russian mob.

            Tevfik Arif, and his Dutch holding company The Bayrock Group, LLC are a large part of the public paper trail. Felix Sater was a double agent for US intelligence for 30 years, and made many trips home to Kazakhstan to make arms deals the CIA was in on.

            None of Trump’s shady financial past is news at this point, except to people who don’t want to hear it. And again, none of this has anything to do with his current misadventures in the Oval Office. None of us will know what that is for years, if ever.

            Bill Moyers detailed this same story last June, long before Donald was elected.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              It’s not true that Trump couldn’t get a bank loan. As we wrote yesterday, he was one of only 2 NYC developers who got of the NYC real estate bust of the early 1990s with virtually all of his holdings intact. He even managed to talk the banks into letting him keep his lifestyle at Mar-a-Lago, arguing he was necessary to get the best recovery out of the property. One of my buddies said that was astonishing, she’d never heard of anything remotely approaching that in a bankruptcy.

              And banks love lending to post bankruptcy credits. They have clean balance sheets. Plus real estate lending is project based, so they’d examine whether the project made sense and also if the builder has a record of getting projects done more or less on time and within the cost estimates.

              Because Google is so crapified, I can’t find the story, but Trump’s main lender was a mid-tier bank, one I wasn’t familiar with, and my recollection of the story is that he was with them a long time.

              The more accurate claim is that large banks didn’t want to do business with Trump (recall this came shortly after Trump saying in his campaign that he had relationships all over Wall Street, so the point was to debunk that). One reason is he was no longer doing the sort of projects they liked:

              Other Wall Street banks, after doing extensive business with Mr. Trump in the 1980s and 1990s, pulled back in part due to frustration with his business practices but also because he moved away from real-estate projects that required financing, according to bank officials.


              If you read the story, there’s a long anecdote about how Trump got in a big fight with Deutsche when one of his projects was underperfoming. Apparently some of the “business practices” that the banks don’t like is that Trump is willing to sue them and tries to get them to take a hit if his project isn’t doing well (but Trump is still capable of servicing the loan). That is awfully cheeky, to put it mildly. You can see how he operates. I can see how a lot of banks would say, “He’s too much trouble, particularly if things go bad.”

              1. Antifa

                You mean this Deutsche Bank?

                If $10 billion is the usual slap on the wrist, one has to wonder how much Russian money they actually laundered.

                Also, the loan DB made to Trump — was it for the full amount of his project, or were there other “partners” underwriting the project? All the news articles simply list DB as a “major backer” of Trump real estate projects.

       says the loans from DB totalled $3.5 billion, and DB has backed off doing further business with Trump as of last May, when he had to borrow money from DB’s private bank to pay off his delinquent DB real estate loan.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  Please look at Trump’s net worth per Forbes. He’s way underleveraged on his real estate. He could borrow $1 billion without blinking. He’s jerking Deutsche around because he’s a jerk. It seems to be reflex with him.


                  It’s a big FU to make one one pocket of DB pay off another because The Donald can’t be bothered to lever up any of his un or under levearged properties, virtually all of which he’s owned so long that they are clearly stabilized and any remotely competent RE person could analyze the rent rolls and determine on what terms to make a loan. Apollo would do this in a heartbeat (they’ve been doing a ton of deals with NYC developers since the 1980s and now have credit funds) although Leon Black is the antithesis of a charity. Getting Deutsche to make an internal loan is a really nasty play.

                  No bank (or anyone prudent) would play on the debt and equity side in the same deal. Among other things, it taints your status as a lender in a bankruptcy. and that’s the last thing you want to do to yourself as a lender who can grab collateral. Separately, it’s also a violation of bank regulations that prohibit them from being involved in commerce (RE development is commerce.).

            2. Lambert Strether

              > Felix Sater was a double agent for US intelligence for 30 years

              Interesting, if true. Does make you wonder who how many people he’s working for now, eh?

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          The story mentions only one “Russian”. I suggest you read up on who Slater is. He left Russia before 1974, long before there was such a thing as “Russian oligarchs,” at the age of eight. He’s the guy we repeatedly meant when we said “Trump is involved with a ‘Russian’ that the media should be more concerned about for being a crook than being Russian.”

          He’s Brighton Beach mafia. Graduated from Pace. Worked at Bear Stearns.

          The other seedy character mentioned in the article is Israeli, not Russian.

          1. Antifa

            Yves, Sater has taken a great many trips home to his native Kazakhstan, and Moscow, over the past 30 years. On jet planes. Spent a lot of time there, and in Moscow, and in Turkey. Business travel.

            He did so as a double agent working for the FBI and CIA, mostly doing arms deals. They turned him in exchange for not prosecuting him back in 1998. He was running a pump & dump stock swindle with Sammy “The Bull” Gravano and friends, and got caught holding the bag.

            These Dutch documentaries are in no way about the current Trump White House conspiracies. They cover Donald’s previous constant collusion with very shady partners.

            I agree with your reasons for staying away from the Russian Conspiracy surrounding the current White House, since it is impossible to prove anything in any direction regarding it. That’s all for future investigation to uncover, if that even proves possible.

            Trump the great businessman is a well-proven myth. He’s just been licensing his name to mobsters of every ethnic variety.

            This information will percolate through the dense American news media eventually.

            The hot mess at the White House is an entirely separate matter — unproven and probably unprovable. We’ll most likely see Trump ousted in some manner, and be asked yet again to Look Forward, Not Back.

            They should print that motto on our money.

            1. Lambert Strether

              > They turned him in exchange for not prosecuting him back in 1998.

              Can’t be happening again, of course. This whole story looks like reheated oppo from 2016, to me.

              It didn’t work in 2016, either, presumably because the pros wouldn’t pick up on it , exactly as the pros wouldn’t pick up on the Steele dossier.

          2. Antifa

            The story mentions two “Russians” — Kazakhis both of them. Felix Sater and Tevfik Arif.

            You can easily do more serious research on Felix Sater.

            There are dozens of highly reputable published links on this mobster, if ever you are interested.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Look, I said long ago that people should be more concerned that Trump was doing business with a crook than that he was Russian. And you are busting my chops as if I never said that?

              The allegations all over the media are that Trump is controlled by the Russian government. Being in business with a member of the Brighton Beach mafia doesn’t come close to that.

              The fact that Trump did the a project in Soho with Sater and that Sater is a convicted felon was in the news last year. It never rose to the level of being a focus of either Republican or Dem oppo. That Soho project isn’t in the list of main Trump assets (see Forbes). I’ll need to dig further but it may be a licensing deal. With hotels, the real estate is usually sold to investors and the hotel management is the real operating business. If this was basically a project and Trump gets some residual licensing fees now, Sater was not a significant partner of his and not an active one now, which gets at the question of how much influence he would have over Trump during when he was formulating his campaign and now.

              Here is the bigger issue, as I wrote yesterday:

              Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs. Both the strong form claim that many seem to believe about Trump (“Trump is a Russian agent”) or its weaker form variant (“Trump under Russian influence”) extraordinary, since both amount to charges of treason.

              Yet despite months of press and pundit yammering, nothing has come within hailing distance of proving either claim, despite Trump being the object of extensive oppo by the Republicans, then the Democrats, and throughout, one presumes, by members of the military/surveillance state that badly want to escalate a conflict with Russia (both in the United Kingdom, and this country)….

              How about the claim that Trump has been laundering money for Russians? The amounts needed to finance developments or even to buy high-end condos would be large enough that the funds would have to go through banks. It is the banks that are be responsible for the money laundering checks (and separately, laundering Russian money means cheating the Russian tax man…. If we so hate Putin, wouldn’t be be in favor of that???)….

              Trump by virtue of being a billionaire and separately having hastily assembled a political team (and churned though quite a few operatives) will have relationships all over the world through the people in his very large immediate circle, who by nature themselves will be very well connected.

              But any of them coducting business with Russia, or even close ties, does not translate into influence over Trump. Both legs of the argument would need to be proven. The first is that the member of Trump’s circle didn’t just do business somehow in Russia, but that the Russian government had “influence” over them. That is a strong claim right there. The second is that that individual was able to sway Trump and on a consistent basis too. Trump’s famously erratic behavior alone makes the second leg a very high bar to surmount.


              More specifically with respect to Sater:


              This was as of late 2015, so it was reported early in the primary process. I have not put the timeline together, but it appears Sater worked with Trump from 2003 to 2007, and played some role in the Soho project. Even though Trump allowed Sater to prospect for him again after 2010 (after shunning him when his history became known), there’s no indication I can find that Sater got any Trump business done after 2010.

              In other words, this is ugly. It says Trump is way to willing to get in bed with anyone if he sees a buck for him in it. But I don’t see this history as coming anywhere near proving the “Russian government influence” claim.

              1. Antifa

                Agreed. Nobody can presently prove the “Russian influence” claim. That all remains to be seen. If it ever is.

                I find Felix Sater to be much more than Brighton Beach mafia, since he has spent so much time back home and in Turkey with Tevfik Arif, and most recently trying to work a deal between Ukraine and Russia whereby Moscow would withdraw its troops from Crimea if Ukraine would lease the region to Russia for fifty or a hundred years.

                Ukrainian minister Andri Artemenko says this deal was conveyed to the White House by Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

                This makes Felix Sater much more than Brighton Beach mafia.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  First, let us go back to your original claim, from which you have moved a mile. You claimed Trump has been engaged in “decades-long collusion with Russian oligarchs.” You have yet to provide any evidence supporting that statement. I’m asking Mark Ames and John Helmer, who are all over this beat, to make sure I’m not missing something.

                  Second, having worked on international deals, I have to tell you it happens all the time that people come in pretending to represent one side when they don’t to try to get the ear of the other party and then go to the person they were pretending to represent initially to get an audience. It is a frustratingly regular occurrence in Japan-US deals, which are 1000 times cleaner than anything happening in Ukraine.

                  Third, the deal outlined is lunacy. Putin has no reason to turn over Crimea. He isn’t occupying it, contrary to what you insinuate. The population skews ethnically Russian. Kiev was making lots of threats against ethic Russians, including its head of defense telling soldiers that if they took property from ethnic Russian, they could keep it. That was a license for ethnic cleansing. It appears cooler heads prevailed but that threat alone was enough to freak out ethnic Russians.

                  Crimea voted to secede by a large margin. And before you try to declare that mechanism to be illegitimate, it’s the same one the US used in Kosovo.

                  All your anecdote proves at most (assuming the Ukraine side wasn’t making this up) is that Ukraine is smoking something very strong and maybe Sater has connections with the Ukraine government. That does not prove your original claim, that Sater is connected in Russia, since Kiev and Moscow are hostile to each other. In fact, it tends to disprove it, since anyone who merely reads the papers would know that a proposal like that would be laughed out of the room.

                2. Yves Smith Post author

                  I got a quick reaction from John Helmer, who said he was on deadline, had to be brief now, and would say more later. His comment thus far:

                  On one thing I’m categorical and certain about — anyone who says or thinks there’s a deal on “withdrawal of Russian forces” from Crimea for a Ukrainian signature on a piece of paper is not in the Russian world, nor any real world I know. Sater is a jumped-up gangster who fancies himself as a go-between commissionaire because he doesn’t know either side and talks to his mirror. As you also say, he’s a squealer, so no serious gangster could possibly trust. That leaves Turks. Well… The bargain is the giveaway – Crimea is Russian, and is not negotiable. Lugansk and Donetsk are negotiable, but the table is already crowded. Not even if Surkov dies will anyone like Sater get a peep into that room. In the political geography of Russia, , the one Putin controls and also the one he doesn’t control, Brighton Beach and the Brooklyn Yards are not on the map. Maybe the only oligarch Sater has met is Prokhorov because Sater has a hot dog concession with the Nets.

                  1. 3.14e-9

                    Yves, perhaps this will help:

                    The Dutch story so breathlessly promoted by Antifa bears a remarkable similarity to an “investigation” by Russ Baker at WhoWhatWhy in March (I think there might have been a link to it on NC, possibly in a reader comment). I put “investigation” in quotation marks, because the article is mostly a compilation of old news stories, interspersed with a lot of personal speculation on how those reports prove Trump’s “ties to Putin.”

                    Among the stories Baker references is the NYT’s account in February of Sater’s role in the Ukrainian “peace plan.”

                    Baker’s self-acclaimed “blockbuster” revelation is that the FBI had to have known about Trump’s Russia connections as part of their work with Sater, but kept it from voters to avoid exposing a high-stakes operation against the Russian mob that could lead to Putin himself.

                    Baker is a seasoned journalist who wrote for the Village Voice in the early 1990s, back when all of the Russian money started flowing into U.S. real estate. His website isn’t blatantly partisan, but this particularly article bears the marks of “fake news.” It’s filled with historical details and impeccably sourced facts, including names and dates. The tells are weasel words: “apparently knew,” “reputed Russian gangsters,” “also may explain,” “it is possible to draw certain conclusions,” “might well have,” “must have known,” etc. Readers not familiar with Sater’s backstory might be impressed, but much of that information is irrelevant to the allegations that Putin personally directed interference in the U.S. election, in collusion with the Trump campaign.

                    Note that the Dutch report, like Baker, got a lot of information from Fred Oberlander, a New York attorney with a dog in the fight.

                    That Sater was working for the FBI and the CIA has been confirmed several times over, including by Loretta Lynch herself. There is ZERO evidence of Antifa’s claim that he was a “double agent.” Given his ties to the FBI and CIA, and given that he had an office in Trump Tower, one might just as reasonably ask about Trump’s ties to the intelligence community.

                    Come to think of it, he did cave in to the Blob awfully fast. Damn, I might just have convinced myself that Trump is an FBI plant!

                    Just kidding, of course, but my point is how ridiculous all these attempts are to spin any contact with a Russian or with someone who knows a Russian or bumped into a Russian in the supermarket as evidence of “collusion” with the Kremlin. It’s discouraging that we even have to waste time on this BS.

                    1. different clue

                      The time was not wasted, Citizen 3.14-e9. Watching an expert IBD disposal technician dispose of a well-laid
                      well-disguised IBD may not teach the rest of us how to do it, but it makes the rest of us aware that IBDs exist and may help us begin to learn how to recognize one when we encounter it by the side of the thread.

                      ( IBD stands for Improvised Bullshit Device).

        3. Lambert Strether

          I’m not sure how you know that the “homework” is “excellent.” At this point, counter-suggestible to “explosive” revelations as I am, the first thing I do is look for the qualifiers. Raw Story’s lead para includes “alleged.” Zembla’s introduction to the first “dossier” includes “may have been used.”

          I remember how the Steele dossier (“The British Governemnt has learned“) turned out when small independent blogs looked in to (as opposed to more tendentious venues). It remains to be seen how the Dutch dossier turns out.

          Adding, I think it’s sensible to look into Trump’s business dealing, since so far as I can tell, the Russian connection is a dry hole, but that doesn’t mean there’s a reason to look carefully at this “documentary.” The practice of planting oppo overseas so that “it’s out there” and becomes a story in the US is well-known.

          And adding, antifa says the connections are to Russian oligarchs. What I’m seeing in the lead is a lot of sketchy shell companies, a la the work that Richard Smith does. Amazingly, not, Raw Story and Alternet say “oligarchs” but don’t name the oligarchs (although Alternet says “mining oligarch”). So far, then, this story is “Hamlet without the Prince.”

    2. Cynthia

      It seemed pretty obvious to me Clinton and others in her camp mishandled classified information. It also seems like there’s plenty of smoke, more than enough to assume a fire, when it came to bribery and influence peddling through the Clinton Foundation.  And on the other hand, all of the Russian accusations seem to be nothing more than a Goebbelsian-driven lie, and at most, it’s a Bernaysian-driven distraction from the fact that there’s nothing liberal about the Democrats and nothing conservative about the Republicans. Both parties are nothing but water carriers and bootlickers for the oligarchical-industrial complex, from banking and healthcare to defense and homeland security. Perhaps this isn’t enough to get rid of Comey, but it’s a start.

    3. Ernesto Lyon

      Russia is the excuse. Once they have the special prosecutor they can go digging through Trump’s admin until they find something, anything.

      If you’re out to take down Trump the truth doesn’t matter about Russian connections, it’s the pretext for the objective.

      1. Art Eclectic

        Alternate theory: it’s the same strategy as Benghazi was towards HRC, a way to tie the Trump operation in knots so they get very little done and keep making forced mistakes because they’re always looking over their shoulders.

    4. Yves Smith Post author

      It’s too late for Trump to call for an investigation of Hillary. He said he wouldn’t do that, and if he were to gin that up now, it would look like an effort to divert FBI resources from the Russia probe.

      1. jonhoops

        And because that is what the Beltway conventional wisdom is, I say odds are good that Trump will do it just to throw everyone into another meltdown.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          No, that was an obvious play he missed. Even if he wanted to do it, saner heads at the DoJ, plus potentially Kushner and Ivanka, would tell him it would pour gas on the fire. It would be depicted as a way of undermining the Russia investigation. And Sessions could just say no. He’s already said he’s amping up the war on black people, um, drugs, which is another way to keep everyone looking busy.

          The only way to justify re-opening up the Clinton e-mail matter is if some new shoe drops. Then I grant you it would be a good gambit. But out of Trump pique, it would be another terrible move.

          1. different clue

            One of the drugs which Sessions expresses the most fear, loathing and hatred for is . . . Cannabis ( so-called “marijuana”). This is a retro-Nixonian culture-war obsession of his. He will pursue this War on Cannabis against white users, including MEDical white users in states where Medical Marijuana is now state-legal. He will act with particular vengeance against white marijuana users and growers and handlers in Colorado, California, Washington and other culture-war targetloads of people.

  5. Jim Haygood

    Trust me:

    Here are the phrases used in loan applications by people most likely to pay them back: debt-free, lower interest rate, after-tax, minimum payment, graduate.

    And here are the phrases used by those least likely to pay back their loans: God, promise, will pay, thank you, hospital.

    Generally, if someone tells you he will pay you back, he will not pay you back. The more assertive the promise, the more likely he will break it. If someone writes “I promise I will pay back, so help me God,” he is among the least likely to pay you back.

    Appealing to your mercy—explaining that he needs the money because he has a relative in the “hospital”—also means he is unlikely to pay you back. In fact, mentioning any family member—a husband, wife, son, daughter, mother or father—is a sign someone will not be paying back.

    Another word that indicates default is “explain,” meaning if people are trying to explain why they are going to be able to pay back a loan, they likely won’t.

    Whips out a US dollah bill: “IN GOD WE TRUST” it says on the back. Uh ohhhh …

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In God we trust we are doing God’s work, by gathering His little wandering dollar bills in one concentrated place, our trillion dollar corporation.

      That’s how we honor Him. Our headquarters building is like a temple dedicated to Him.

    2. clinical wasteman

      New Zealand National Anthem (written by an anglo-Irish settler, mid-1870s, when the Imperial government had just spent 20-odd years fighting the Maori Kingitanga movement to a settlement-friendly standstill): GOD DEFEND NEW ZEALAND.
      In fact Aotearoa even still has a parallel Official National Anthem, to which the same applies: GOD SAVE THE QUEEN (sadly not Lydon/Matlock/Jones/Cook).

    3. divadab

      Sometimes you don’t want to be paid back. I’ve found an effective way to get rid of a spanger pest is to say – “Ok I’ll lend you ten bucks – you can pay me back next time you see me”. Never see the guy again. And if he forgets, and spanges me again, I ask for the ten bucks back. Sometimes he has a good story and I throw him some green – never cash.

      Street survival strategies. Main St.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Love this idea from the article:

      It is the members of Congress who have no skin in the game. Very few of their children are in the armed forces. Were the American people to demand enactment of a one page bill that requires drafting all able-bodied children and grandchildren of members of Congress anytime they or the White House plunges our country into war, you would see a very attentive Congress that pays attention to its Constitutional duties and responsibilities.

      Why not ask your Senators or Representatives to put such a bill in the hopper?

      A bill like that would never pass of course, but it would be great if it could be moved just to see the squirming as they try to come up with reasons for not voting for it.

      1. Matt

        I hear this a lot, but I’m not so sure. Shouldn’t self-interest make soldiers the most antiwar group out there? But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

        1. H. Alexander Ivey

          It’s a case of institutional capture. To join into an institution, you must adopt their mores and desired outlooks and be prepared for the unhappy consequences of being in the institution, else they will not let you join. For this discussion, the mores of the military is solidarity of purpose and unquestioning higher command, the desired outlook is dead people and destroyed property, and the unhappy consequences are enduring terrible hurt or a horrible death.

          Not many people raise their children with those objectives in mind.

    2. fresno dan

      Bunk McNulty
      May 13, 2017 at 8:04 am

      It gets worse. Less than 3,000 ISIS fighters took sudden control in 2013 of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city with over a million residents. Notwithstanding being vastly outnumbered by the Iraqi military and police – who fled – ISIS went on to control over a third of Iraq’s land area. Iraqis and US forces are now destroying West Mosul in order to save it from a few hundred remaining ISIS fighters.

      Fallows quotes former military intelligence officer, Jim Gourley, as saying “it is incontrovertibly evident that the US military failed to achieve any of its strategic goals in Iraq.”

      Setting aside the fundamental questions about why we invaded Iraq and continued to occupy Afghanistan long after 9/11, Americans are entitled to question how continued American occupations across the Middle East serve any kind of vital national interest and why they continue to fail.
      Listening to the House and Senate Armed Services Committee hearings, one finds a sycophancy and level of questioning by the lawmakers of Pentagon officials that would embarrass a mediocre high school student.

      But the Senators and Representatives have their reasons. They simply do not want the responsibility for military action except to provide a virtual blank check from taxpayers for the Department and its avaricious, wasteful contractors who fund their campaigns. Second, members of Congress see the military expenditures as a jobs program back in their states and districts. Finally, members of Congress are not getting any heat from the detached, indifferent voters (with few exceptions), either during or between elections. Notice there is never a debate by candidates on the military budget – how it is used or misused financially and strategically (yet candidates regularly pledge ever increasing dollars for the Defense budget).
      Considering the amount of money involved, maybe someone makes a lot more money letting the wars go on….

  6. MoiAussie

    Anyone following the situation in Syria may find the latest at MoA quite interesting.

    Syria – “The regime will be there” – U.S. Concedes Raqqa … And The Syrian East?

    There are strong rumors that the U.S. intends to launch an invasion of east-Syria from Jordan with the aim of occupying the whole eastern area. The Syrian army and its allies launched a move towards the east (red) to prevent such an outcome.

    A new Wall Street Journal piece, primarily about the ISIS held city of Raqqa on the Euphrates, casts doubt on long term U.S. plans for such an occupation. Its core quote: “We won’t be in Raqqa in 2020, but the regime will be there.”

    The title of the MoA piece is a bit confusing but the thrust seems to be that Damascus now approves of the US and Kurds taking Raqqa, and the US and Assad are reaching understandings that the US will withdraw after ISIS is expelled and subsequently hand over administration to a local civilian council friendly to the Syrian regime. However noone seems prepared to take this on trust, so Syrian Army troops and allies are continuing to move east, and here’s a bit of a race to get forces into place going on. It’s uncertain to what extent this all represents a change in US Syria policy, or is just another con.

    Some of the embedded links in the piece are definitely worth a read.

    1. financial matters

      Yes. From the original MOA piece:

      “”Any agreement with the U.S. that ISIS areas in Syria will fall back to government control, independent of who liberated them, should be welcome. Military hawks in the Trump administration, the sectarian Gulf countries as well as Israel will try to interrupt such a move. The Syrian government and its allies must therefore continue their own operations and liberate as many ares as possible by themselves. They must stay aware that a Trump administration might, at any time, revert to the old plan of establishing a “Salafist principality” in the area – even when such an unruly proxy would make little sense for it.””

      and from the ‘old plan’ embedded link:

      “”The document shows that as early as 2012, U.S. intelligence predicted the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), but instead of clearly delineating the group as an enemy, the report envisions the terror group as a U.S. strategic asset.

      While a number of analysts and journalists have documented long ago the role of western intelligence agencies in the formation and training of the armed opposition in Syria, this is the highest level internal U.S. intelligence confirmation of the theory that western governments fundamentally see ISIS as their own tool for regime change in Syria. The document matter-of-factly states just that scenario.””

      1. Andrew Watts

        The 2012 DIA report isn’t referring to al-Baghdadi’s outfit specifically but rather the the goal of Islamists rebels ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood to Al Qaeda to found a islamic state. Which is something the Brotherhood has attempted in Syria since the United Arab Republic broke up. The Islamic State was still a part of Al Qaeda and didn’t separate from them until 2014.

        The DIA didn’t predict anything besides the fact the opposition was dominated by Islamist and jihadist rebels. I’m not going to give them any credit for that analysis. It was obvious.

    2. JTMcPhee

      Re Syria and Notagainistan: Another good place to look, if one is interested in following, or gazing on, at least, all the shifting alliances and allegiances and affirmations and temporary combat convenience connections between the war bands and gunmen in Syria, is “Syriacomment,” Prof. Joshua Landis’s blog: There are numerous articles detailing over time which sets of Evil and Moderate Jihadists are on whose sh!tlists or organization chart/force structure diagrams at an instant of time. Constantly changing, hardly a new feature of war and vengeance culture and idiotic human affiliations, of course, but interesting. And the simplistic categories that are on display in the media and in the public pronouncements of our imperial war leaders are so patently oblivious to, or obfuscatory about, the situation on the ground, and prospects for any kind of resolution. Except, of course, more of the effing same.

      And for a video look that includes some interesting commentary about who produces the many advertising youtubes that help with crowd-sourcing the anomic disintegration in the direction of “Ragnarök,”ök, here’s the link: “Hot News: Syria War Video, May 1, 2017,” May be disturbing to some who don’t care to gaze on the output of imperial energies. Your tax dollars and fiat money at work.

      1. different clue

        I used to try reading Syria Comment. I respect it. It is clearly very good work. But it was so granularly detailed that I just didn’t have the patience to keep reading it. It got to the point of describing every single grain of sand on the beach.

        If it is still that granularly detailed . . . right down to all the individual grains of sand one at a time . . . then that would be the blog for people who can handle that level of detail.

        I will say this: Prof. Landis seemed to finally come to an understanding that the Assad Government would be the least-bad source of governance for Syria to be under. The others . . . almost all jihadis of one kind or another . . . would be worse for Syrian people and Syrian state survival in the long run. That is a level of understanding which Professor Juan Cole for his part will never achieve regarding Syria. Prof. Cole will spend his whole life believing that there “just has to be a Syrian Democratic Opposition Pony” in there somewhere.

      1. MoiAussie

        Good stuff. Better hope the Demons don’t read it. Far too much cozying up to the kremlin.

        BTW, Lang refers to the baton passing from “Generals Mattis and McArthur”. Should that be McMaster?

      2. Olga

        Alastair Crooke was MI6 for 27 yrs – diplomat is a euphemism.
        His commentary is usually quite excellent.

    3. Andrew Watts

      A few days ago ‘b’ was claiming that the US and Jordan were going to invade Eastern Syria. This article makes it look he’s trying to walk back that claim after the Jordanians publicly denied it. Currently the SAA and friends are driving on al-Tanf on the Jordan border and unconfirmed reports via social media are claiming that the Jordanian-backed rebels have withdrawn.

      The Ajeel tribe in Raqqa province has joined the Syrian Democratic Forces and are members of the recently founded Raqqa civilian council, According to a study on Raqqa’s tribe by the Washington Institute the Ajeel have always been pro-Assad given the history of support they’ve enjoyed. They aren’t the only tribe to have joined the SDF but they are the most pro-Damascus among them. Anybody who can’t talk about the dynamics of tribal politics has no idea what they’re talking about when Raqqa is mentioned The Arab tribes who call Raqqa home are the most important political dynamic in the province.

      There isn’t going to be any US occupation of Syria. The US is arming the Kurdish YPG and rest of SDF for the operation to liberate Raqqa. This is in spite of Turkey’s furious objections. Washington wouldn’t be doing that if they intended to invade with 15,000 – 40,000 troops. We’ll probably see a few thousand more US troops that’ll be mostly in indirect roles, and there will be the foreign volunteers of course, but this is going to be a bloody fighter for the SDF. Unless I get my wish and the SAA and friends turn north instead of heading to Deir Ezzor for a climatic beatdown involving SAA/SDF fighting against IS.

      Ahh, I can dream.

      1. Andrew Watts

        Here’s a link to the study by the Washington Institute I mentioned on Raqqa’s Arab tribes. It was written before the Ajeel joined SDF and is way too pessimistic imo.

        Oh, and I don’t envision any scenario where the SDF turns over Raqqa to the government in Damascus without a widespread and far reaching diplomatic agreement. It doesn’t mean they won’t wield influence on Raqqa’s civilian/military council. Likely through their tribal proxies.

        1. MoiAussie

          Thanks Andrew. Understanding what’s happening in Syria is a big job, given the biases of most available sources. The tribal relations are obviously a key issue, but so is the level and extent of military support. Do you have any thoughts on whether there has really been some kind of turnaround in US intentions at the WH level.

          1. Andrew Watts

            Not really. Things have been relatively consistent which is support for the SDF so the US doesn’t get bogged down in another quagmire. A minority might favor an invasion but my feeling is that they’re just looking for alternatives that doesn’t involve alienating the Turks by supporting the YPG. Other plans like supporting a Turkish-backed rebel drive on Raqqa aren’t feasible.

            Previous campaigns were short on manpower and were incompetently waged. In the al-Rai campaign the rebels fought over and traded the villages in an epic game of ping-pong with IS. A few IS counter attacks ended up throwing them back completely from al-Rai and that lasted from about April until August 2016. While the al-Bab offensive featured the same game of ping-pong with IS kicking the Turks/rebels out of al-Bab completely a few times.

            Erdogan humiliated himself by proclaiming victory again and again in al-Bab starting in November 2016 but it wasn’t captured until April 2017.

  7. DorothyT

    “Comey Defenestration”: Yves writes, “Since the Comey-Trump conversations weren’t fresh, and memories are never precise or complete unless you have David Boies’ perfect verbal recall, the idea that Trump might have an actual record would put Comey at risk at being caught out in exaggerating or omitting parts of the conversation that could be spun as having a vendetta against Trump. And the proof seems to be that Comey has declined an opportunity to appear before the Senate.”

    Comey declined the “opportunity” to appear before a closed Senate hearing. We all need to hear him in real time in open testimony in a hearing.

      1. DorothyT

        Actually, quite apart from the Trump/Russia issues, it would be good to know first hand from Comey how or why he got the Clinton/Abedin/Weiner email #s wrong. The ProPublica article from May 8th details this situation but stops at the answer.

        ProPublica is reporting a story on the FBI’s handling of the Clinton emails and raised questions with government officials last week about possible inaccuracies in Comey’s statements about Abedin.

        It could not be learned how the mistake occurred. The FBI and Abedin declined ProPublica’s requests for comment on the director’s misstatements.

      2. DorothyT

        According to the NY Times:


        declined a request to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. According to a close associate of Mr. Comey, he is willing to testify, but wants it to be in public.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Apologies, but that was not in The Hill story I linked to above. And I find that odd, since you would expect Comey to say that officially as opposed to though back channels (what is a “close associate” now that he is not longer at the FBI???) and rely on Congresscritters getting the message via the NYT.

          1. DorothyT

            Congresscritters won’t get Comey’s message out until he testifies or speaks in public.

            Reputations such as his are fragile things and reflect on the FBI as well: one needs to get his/her ‘side’ out asap or the story most often rests on the initial barrage. That’s why all sides use surrogates until there’s a secure and respected platform available for them to speak publicly.

            I have no knowledge whatever of this, but I wonder if his testimony about Clinton/Abedin/Weiner emails might not have reflected erroneous information he was given within the FBI to discredit him. Why else would he risk his reputation and that of the FBI in such an enormously public and risky way? If that happened, he must be careful that clearing his name without proof would reflect on the agency.

            So he’s careful until and unless he has a secure public platform. As well he should be.

            Yves, I have great respect for the work you do. You are exposed but also have a respected website that has earned you national recognition.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              No, the “message” I mean is about logistics, negotiating the shape of the table. If the issue was that he would speak, only in a public hearing, it would be normal to state that as the reason for demurring.

              Comey is likely restricted in what he can say regarding his former work at the FBI.

              I don’t think the committee would dare cite him for contempt since he is willing to appear. In fact, Comey could argue to a judge that he’d be at risk of being improperly citied for contempt in a private hearing for being asked questions the committee knew he shouldn’t answer. It would drive some members of the committee nuts but it would be a legitimate concern.

    1. HBE

      The thing I’ve noticed and heard on the ground from nearly everyone who isn’t transfixed by MSNBC and huffpo about the comey debacle is generally “I don’t care, I’m sick of it, it’s all they play on the news”

      Outside of the bubble (and we’ll off MSNBC addicts) it doesn’t appear that anyone cares.

      Comey and Russia fall very far down on the list of things the average American is concerned about at this point.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Does that include people who participate in this blog? Seems the policy-related stuff is taking a little less of the column inches than the reality-tv stuff from inside the imperial capital. All very attractive to the prurient and the entrail readers, of course.

        At some point, the Visigoths sees their opportunities and takes ’em… The situation is so far beyond honest graft, of course, , which could at various times and places actually enhance stability and comity, up to some critical point where the greed gene kicks into high gear.

        1. HBE

          That was excepting NC, hence the “on the ground” phrasing. It was an anecdotal reference to general sentiment of the “average” person.

          Unfortunately the NC commentariet is not at all representative of the majority (or even a sizable minority) on much of anything at this point.

          Which is not a bad thing.

          1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

            Couldn’t disagree more.

            We see through the bullshit MSM.

            Flyover country can’t see exactly what’s happening, but they feel the pressure.

            I like to think of this as a leftist populist blog espousing very popular ideas violently repressed by TPTB.

          2. different clue

            Well . . . if chunks of the majority began thinking of Naked Capitalism as a place to sometimes go to for news and views and things to think about in a new way . . . that would be a good thing.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          To be quite honest:

          1. I hate how much time following this story is taking. I feel like we have to cover it because the MSM is so preoccupied with it. If you want us to cut it down, I’d be delighted.

          2. I hate how debunking the slanted reporting makes us look like we are defending Trump. It’s appalling that the media is fixated on the Russia hysteria, while spending way less time on other stuff Trump is and isn’t doing, like that his super sketchy (in both senses of the word) tax plan, the actions re illegal immigrants (too many anecdotes, not enough data on that front), more rigorous discussions of which of his executive orders are press release v. which have legal impact and thus are meaningful (we are finally seeing some of that but it’s still not common).

          #2 is analogous to the position we found ourselves in on Greece v. the Troika, that saying that two sides had no bargaining overlap in their positions, and that in a game of chicken, Greece would lose big got lots of people furious with us. A clinical analysis was seen as siding with the Troika and we got attacked for that for months on end, accused of favoring neoliberalism when we never have and for (supposedly) being wrong, that the plucky Greeks would prevail.

          A doctor that says a patient with Stage 4 cancer has only 20% odds of five-year survival isn’t rooting for the cancer, but we get analogous accusations on a regular basis.

          1. JEHR

            Having seen the video by Zembla, I would be inclined to say that a lot of Trump’s recent behaviour and even some of his earlier behaviour becomes more understandable. My question: how has Trump managed to keep all these oligarch and mafia connections from the knowledge of other journalists? I guess it does not matter what kinds of friends Trump associated with as it doesn’t seem to affect his Presidental bona fides. Trump has successfully denigrated the press for his own advantage.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              See my long discussion with Antifa. No one has yet to prove any “oligarch connections” save the ones in the US that you ought to be much more worried about than Russians supposedly hiding under beds: his billionaire buddies, many of whom were Mike Milken proteges, and now the Goldman mafia.

              As for the mafia mafia, there were stories form the early 1980s, when pretty much everyone building in NYC had to deal with the mob (you didn’t get concrete poured otherwise), and Felix Sater, a Brighton Beach stock scammer and mafia type who appears to have played some sort of role in Trump’s Soho project (one he does not own, BTW; like most hotel deals, it looks like the real estate was sold) and then tried to come back in 2010 but there’s no evidence he got anything done with Trump then.

            2. different clue

              Large chunks of the Flagship Establishment Press have been self-denigrating in terms of establishing their highly visible Freedom From Fact and Freedom From Truth.

              I can’t help but think of Judith Miller as she turned with the Aspens that Turn Together.

          2. Albacore

            I’d like less of it. More on FIRE economy, and political alternatives. The Dem-bashing is also getting repetitive – there must be some positive initiatives

            1. hunkerdown

              Definitely would like to see mainstream Trump coverage de-intensified, but I support as much Democrat-bashing as is necessary to destroy the Party and the lives of its nomenklatura. They are 100% dispensable if not more.

            2. different clue

              I agree in a sense with hunkerdown. I would like to see the Clintobamacrat scum degraded and attrited and soaked down with napalm and set on fire in these posts and threads often enough that they can be weakened enough to where the Democratic Party can be conquered and declintaminated and be filled up with Real Democrats again.

          3. SoCal Rhino

            Frankly I question your dedication to Sparklemotion.

            Yes, any questioning of HRC or the impartiality of say CNN means you must also be a climate science denialist. Media. Reminds me of something from Org Behavior, that the single most effective way to advance in a beauracracy is to suck up to your boss. It works, even when they realize you’re doing it.

        3. craazyboy

          Ditto. I guess in the name of counter-fake news we must scoop up the turd and blow it right back from whence it came in order to keep one’s safe place clean and tidy. And smelling nice.

          But there is so much more interesting and relevant things going on. Like the udder collapse of egg prices!

      2. No Way Out

        The Official Story (and ‘m sticking to it):

        The whole idea of Russiagate was concocted by David Brock, and picked up by Hillary several days later. The billion dollar Clinton campaign machine was then put into operation twisting arms to get the intel agencies to agree, which they reluctantly did initially, and then gave into because they all expected to be working for Hillary someday, and well knew how the Clintons punished their enemies.

        Eventually the GOP got on board because they didn’t like Trump anyways and wanted to bring him down, and why would the Democrats be going so crazy if they didn’t have anything?

        The whole while, folks were noticing that there wasn’t any evidence, and this was making a lot of people uncomfortable, so people started hoping the thing would just die its own quick death, the faster the better. There was only one problem, and boy was it a big one: Hillary actually believed the whole mess of crap.

        Which brings us to today. Someone needs to tell Hillary it was all a bunch of crap, but not a single person can be found with the death wish necessary to tell the Mad Woman she been nothing more than David Brock’s dupe for the past six months.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Data! Hooray!

          So Trump is losing on getting public backing for his war v. immigrants but the good marks on the economy seem to be an offset.

  8. OIFVet

    Re: The First Signs Of A National Mobilization For War Are Appearing. How utterly depressing to read on a sunny morning.

    1. Antifa

      When we’re already the biggest, baddest military power on this blue planet, the claim that this buildup is for defense or peace rings hollow.

      We have a big stick. We must have a bigger stick.

    2. Olga

      I looked up this Goure guy – looks like a part of the neocon cabal.
      Never met a war or weapon he did not like.
      On the other hand, he may be confirming Pepe Escobar’s theory that US will start preparing for a war ag China – which means that at least some of the productive capacity has to come back to the ‘homeland.’ It’d be kinda awkward to have your enemy be in charge of manufacturing spare parts for your military…

  9. MoiAussie

    Corbyn’s policy manifesto (Business Insider) contains some very desirable elements.

    Banning zero hours employment contracts, increased taxes on high-income earners, decrapifying the railways, postal, and energy industries and restoring them as public infrastructure services, and free education for all. Popular and worth fighting for. Presumably, restoring the NHS is also a given.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a US party running with such policies.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      If the UK educational system is as about credentialism as ours is, de-credentializatoin of their higher education is more important than making credentialism free.

      Let corporations train their own employees on, say, calculus or crop genetic modification.

      1. MoiAussie

        Calculus, sure. But I’d prefer that training in any genetic modification technology was completely divorced from corporate imperatives, and came with compulsory ethics training.
        Let corporations pay for people to be trained, but not control the classroom or the teachers.

        1. robnume

          We had compulsory ethics training when I was studying law. It didn’t work out very well. The “ethics” part, that is. The only thing that any of my fellow students appeared to get out of the course was how to get completely around ethics.
          I believe in ethics. Color me naive.

    2. Cynthia

      As near as I can tell, hospitals, say for example, have a few employees working under something akin to a “zero hours employment contract,” which is just a fancy way of saying that they’re on salary with little to no comp time off. Most of these hospital employees are either junior surgeons or highly skilled junior clinicians. Since there is no one else around with their special set of skills to fill in for them, they have no other choice but to work long hours day after day with no relief. They do this because many of them are workaholics and love what they do and enjoy caring for their patients. What also motivates them to work long hours with no relief is the fact that in the not-so distant future they will become senior physicians, enabling them to get paid more for doing less work, specifically the kind of work that involves patient care. At least this is common practice in teaching hospitals.

      Nursing is a little different. Most nurses who work long hours in the hospital and do so day after day are paid by the hour and receive overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours per week. These nurses work exclusively on the frontlines, meaning all of their work involves doing direct patient care. If their work isn’t done, patients either don’t improve or they die. Which is why they are classified as “essential” staff. OTOH, nurses who’re on salary rarely, if ever, are involved in direct patient care. And because nothing they do involves providing care for patients, they are classified as “nonessential.” In other words, if they fail to show up for work, hardly anyone would notice. Oftentimes no one needs to fill in to do their work if they call in sick or need a day off. And if they need someone else to fill in for them, their work is pick up by someone who is already doing “full time” work with a supposed “full time” workload. They somehow manage to do the work of two people without having to stay over, much less double their time at work. Which is why it is very easy for them to get time off, and it’s really easy for them to get comp time off. All they have to do is stretch their work day out by a few hours Monday through Thursday and take off Friday as a comp day off.

      But what I don’t understand is if the hospital has a lot of non- direct care nurses on the payroll who are classified as full time with full time benefits but who are apparently not doing full-time work, then why isn’t this raising eyebrows among senior management? It seems to me that senior management only cares about the productivity of their hourly workers and not the productivity of their salary workers. My guess is that this is a symptom of an industry that’s hype-regulated, overly micromanaged, and receives way too many government subsidies, from Medicare and Medicaid to NIH and HHS. Reduce regulations and micromanaging, most of which do nothing to improve patient safety and patient outcomes, and reduce government subsidies, most of which don’t go to direct patient care anyway, and hospital costs will return to more manageable levels. Then hopefully this will allow money and resources to return to the bedside where they belong and where patients can benefit the most.

      1. MoiAussie

        Zero hours employment contracts are insecure jobs where in general employees have no certainty that they will actually get work, hence pay, but are expected to turn up when summoned for perhaps just a couple of hours work. Widespread in UK service and health industries. Pay is timesheet based, rather than salaried. They have previously been used to “stand down” employees who are at work during quiet periods in order to avoid paying them.

        In UK health they seem to be used to employ temp workers, consultants, service providers such as physio’s, and recently retired employees to fill gaps. These workers may in fact get regular work but have no benefits or long term security – if the budget runs out you’re gone. They are also entered into by consultants who have permanent contracts who want to work extra hours.

  10. fresno dan

    Trump on Comey ‘tapes’: ‘I can’t talk about that’ The Hill

    President Trump during a new interview refused to discuss his tweeted warning to former FBI Director James Comey.

    “Well, that I can’t talk about,” Trump told Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro in the clip released Friday. “I won’t talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest and I hope he will be, and I’m sure he will be, I hope.”

    Trump also denied that he demanded Comey’s loyalty to him during a January dinner, something that has been reported by The New York Times and The Associated Press.

    “No, I didn’t,” he said when asked if he gave that request. “But I don’t think it would be a bad question to ask. I think loyalty to the country, loyalty to the United States is important.”

    “You know, I mean it depends on how you define loyalty, number one. Number two, I don’t know how that got there, because I didn’t ask that question.”

    Trump reminds me of my stepfather – an unintelligent man who worked at a minimum wage job who lied to avoid work and to get himself out of any thing he should not have done that was wrong. (he worked in a second hand store never earning more than minimum wage and eventually was fired for giving away stuff to a competitor, the competitor simply acting like his friend to get the stuff). Trump uses lying because it works for him, and unlike my stepdad, being a billionaire allows for a LOT LESS accountability…

    Will this blow over like the “wiretapping” remarks? Maybe….
    But even though I suspect there is no provable crime of collusion of Trump with Russians, I suspect Trump’s nature ((he’s 70 years old and apparently a long life of toadys to make him think he’s got the world by the tail, and winning the presidency sure would seem to validate his view)) will compel him to lie about things that eventually cause a real problem for repubs. At some point the immovable object of Trump will confront the irresistible force of the 17 intelligence agencies. I can certainly see a military disaster and Trump saying he ordered the opposite…..and there being irrefutable evidence that he did not.
    The question is: Will the repubs stand with Trump or the MIC – I would bet on the MIC.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Two things:

      -there is a White House recording system. One of those goofy stories about Kennedy was how he would forget to turn it off and hear what people said about him later when he wasn’t in the room. What a coincidence? And it’s remarkable, JFK chose to review history so often after he forgot to turn off.
      -Washington much like New Mexico has “one party consent” laws. As long as one participant is aware, it’s not illegal.

      I imagine learning of the secret recording system seemed like a god send to a man like Trump, and due to Democratic hyperventilating, it seems to be the Versailles crowd doesn’t quite grasp what those tapes of Kennedy and Nixon in the Oval Office actually were. They weren’t for posterity.

      The reactionary anti-Trump crowd won’t care. Secret recordings might be unseemly, but they are nothing “unprecedented” which is a common buzz word.

      1. Ivy

        -Washington much like New Mexico has “one party consent” laws. As long as one participant is aware, it’s not illegal.

        Well, that helps me understand just how far the television show Better Call Saul (for non-American readers: filmed in NM, spinoff from Breaking Bad, some taping figures in) has gone in portraying aspects of modern American life!

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I don’t know. Maybe Obama didn’t turn them on. The system is in the White House, so when Trump suggest he has tapes recorded in the White House, its not surprising. The direct and public nature of the threat is “unprecedented,” but stories abut JFK forgetting to turn off the tapes were implicit messages.

          Anyone who goes to the White House and doesn’t expect to be recorded is stupid.

    2. MoiAussie

      Trump is possibly unwilling but probably simply unable to use language precisely. Who was it who accurately pointed out that he needs to be taken seriously but not literally? There are people who still don’t get this, and others who quite deliberately take him literally in order to pile on, as happened endlessly with the “wiretapping” claim.

      If it’s a fact that he demanded Comey’s loyalty at that meeting, then Trump is lying (or forgetful to the point that he is clearly unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.) Other possibilities are that he didn’t, in which case the NYT or it’s unnamed sources are lying. I note the NBC account of the dinner relies on secondhand testimony from the notoriously honest Clapper. Another possibility is that Trump said something that was misconstrued by Comey as a request for a vow of loyalty. Hopefully, there is a tape of the meeting which will come to light. (One would want to pay careful attention to the chain of custody of any such evidence.)

      How much of a liar is he? Perhaps we can do a little survey here. Does anyone have any examples of where it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that Trump has publicly lied on a matter of substance since the election? I’ve no doubt he has previously lied repeatedly in his business dealings, but that’s to be expected.

      1. allan

        Does anyone have any examples of where it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that Trump has publicly lied on a matter of substance since the election?

        I have limited time, and multiple links would invoke the wrath of the-net-that-must-not-be-named,
        but off the top of my head:

        1. Describing the creations of the Grand Staircase-Escalante (Clinton) and Bears Ears (Obama) National Monuments as “land grabs”. The lands in question had been federal since before Utah became a state.

        2. Saying that the U.S. has a multibillion dollar trade deficit with Canada when in fact it has a surplus. This might seem like nitpicking, but in the context of choosing which countries to go after in terms of trade, it matters.

        3. In his Feb. 28 address to Congress, he stated, “We will provide massive tax relief for the middle class. ” All credible analyses of his tax plan show that it does not.

        4. Claiming that the murder rate is the highest in 47 years, when in fact, although it has ticked up in the last couple of years, it is half the level of 1995.

        Enough already.

        1. MoiAussie

          Thanks, but with the exception of 3, all these could be examples of him being mistaken, rather than lying. Lying is saying something knowing it to be wrong. I imagine he often believes incorrect things he has heard or read. I was hoping for examples that clearly demonstrate lying, rather than merely being wrong.

            1. witters

              JEHR: If someone truly knows nothing about something, then they don’t know whether what they might say about it is true or false, so a lie or not. Not knowing this, they can’t intend to tell a lie. So if you must intend a lie for it to be a lie, then no lie (!!!).

              One may HOPE what one says is true or false, but hoping to lie isn’t itself lying. Nor is hoping to tell the truth, telling the truth.

            2. MoiAussie

              Yes, almost, you can’t lie about something you have no beliefs about. If you believe something, but don’t actually know anything about it because none of your beliefs about it are true, you can lie.

              To be precise, lying is making an assertion while believing it to be false. Beliefs can be wrong. Knowing something is justified belief that is true. (The justified part covers the fact that a correct guess is not knowledge, nor is an intentional lie that just happens to be true.)

              If I say that the Chinese killed JFK and I really believe they did, I am (presumably) mistaken, but I am not lying. If I actually believe that it was the Canadians, and I assert it was the Chinese, then I am lying. If I believe it was the Canadians, and I assert it was the CIA, I am still lying even though the assertion may be true.

              1. witters

                Not quite sure how – even if – we in fact differ on this. But this is a bit peculiar: “you can’t lie about something you have no beliefs about.” If you have no beliefs about it, you will, presumably, have nothing to say at all. I supppose you could speak in the optative mood, but that would seem to be a matter of wishing or hoping that you had some beliefs about the thing in the first place.

                1. MoiAussie

                  you can’t lie about something you have no beliefs about
                  I phrased it that way to make the distinction between beliefs and knowledge, as JEHR had written So if someone lies about something they know nothing about, it’s not a lie!

                  This is basic epistemology, but perhaps unfamiliar to many, given common loose usage of words. Another example may help. I can make assertions about things I have no beliefs about with ease:

                  Yves Smith is a personal friend of Noam Chomsky.

                  As I neither believe this nor disbelieve it, my statement can’t be a lie. Only if I believed that this was false would I be lying, by asserting the contrary of my belief. And in that case, it would be a lie by me even if it happened to be a true statement.

                  It is your beliefs that determine when you lie, as well as your knowledge. (You believe everything you know, but you don’t know everything you believe.) You can have no knowledge of something and still lie, by misrepresenting what you believe or disbelieve about it. But if you have no beliefs about the truth of something you can’t lie, but that doesn’t stop you from making assertions, for whatever reason.

                2. MoiAussie

                  A clarification of an ambiguity in what I wrote above:

                  you don’t know everything you believe

                  By this I do not mean that some beliefs are somehow hidden from you, rather that not all your beliefs are knowledge. Some are false beliefs, and others are things you believe but you are well aware you do not have sufficient evidence to claim that you know them.

        2. Michael

          To say Trump lied on a matter of substance is absurd.

          Re #1…The US acquisition of the original territory from Mexico was a land grab too. The history of both of these more recent land grabs is full of bitter litigation. Just another Presidential boner that tramples state’s rights and excludes the locals from decision making.

          Look north to the Feds forcing in-holders of property in Teton Nat’l Park to sell (except for the Rockefeller Ranch) or the terms of renewal for expiring 99 year leaseholds on lakes in the Sierras as another example of heavy handed land grabs conducted by the Feds in the West.

        3. dontknowitall

          Being parsimonious with the truth , lying and other assaults on truth are part of being president it seems since Obama lied repeatedly, extensively and maybe even maliciously about such things as the surveillance powers of his agencies, the drone kill orders and Occupy among many others. So, not to defend Trump but his lying so far is about a surplus, a tax plan and the statistics of murder rates…please…at least he’s not a smooth but deadly liar like Obama.

      2. fresno dan

        May 13, 2017 at 10:03 am

        Is Trump lying about his intentions with regard to health care? Or is he just a standard politician making promises he knows he can’t keep? Does it matter???
        Is Trump cleaning the swamp or repopulating it? Are we really going to have prosecutions of people on Wall street?

        As with a lot of politicians, Trump has said contradictory and mutually exclusive things, e.g., more war or less war in the middle east? Was Trump against the Iraq war – being vague in a campaign is different from actually committing troops in Syria. Trump speaks in a simple easy to understand way, which, considering that most politicians say in a thousand words nothing, is refreshing to many people. On the other hand, it makes it easy to ask “where’s the beef?….uh, I mean where’s the wall?”

        But with regard to congressional investigations, and subpoenas, it is at another level. I think Trump’s megalomania constitutes a personality disorder that is severe enough that it is possible that he will talk/tweet himself into a situation that can actually end his presidency.

        But I could be wrong. Can Trump EVER say he is wrong? At some point SOMEthing will go terribly wrong because of something Trump indisputably ordered – CAN Trump own error? I think not…

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          In a place where everyone lies, fake this or that everywhere, it doesn’t even help to find out where is lying more and who is lying less.

          We are only aware of the possibility that some are better at lying than others, and the great ones make lying appear effortless, and their lies so believable.

        2. allan

          The focus on “lying”, with its requirement of intent, is a red herring.

          It is of course impossible to look inside someone’s mind and know their intent.
          (Unless they’re so stupid as to write it down: Dear Diary, I’m going to lie to Lester Holt tomorrow.)

          The problem is repeatedly making statements that are easily checked to be objectively false,
          and then basing policy on those false statements.

          fresno dan says

          At some point SOMEthing will go terribly wrong because of something Trump indisputably ordered …

          and he’s absolutely right. Each of the four claims I listed above fall into that category.
          A reasonably well-informed citizen should know the truth for several of them.
          Someone we’re paying $400,000 a year to govern should know all of them.

          Here’s another.
          Whether or not the factually unsupported claim that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in November should be called a lie is a side show. But that the claim is now being used as the excuse to form a “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity”, which anyone who has been awake for the last few years knows will lead to the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands or millions of voters.

          1. MoiAussie

            To you it may be a red herring, and I agree a President should have a command of the facts or get properly briefed, especially when making policy decisions.

            But it’s remarkable, to me, that nobody has yet come up with some convincing examples. You don’t always need to get in someone’s head to spot a lie. If someone “must have known” something, like that they called you yesterday and threatened to sack you, and they then claim they didn’t call you, that’s a lie.

          2. witters

            “It is of course impossible to look inside someone’s mind and know their intent.”

            Either trvially true or spectacularly false. (You seem hung up on a Cartesian conception of mind and ‘inside’ and ‘outside’.) I can often clearly know someone-else’s intent – there are good reasons for this capacity! And (even weirder for one with the Cartesian picture of mind) I may sometimes know someone else’s intend better than they do (and others, my intent).

            Using Descartes to attack Trump just seems a trifle recherche.

      3. Katniss Everdeen

        Use of the word “lying,” in reference to Donald Trump in particular, would seem to be more of an editorial comment than a statement of fact. More recently, presidents have been given a pass with use of ginned-up words like “misspoke” or “misremembered,” or given an uncritical opportunity to “clarify” previous statements. There have been plenty of times over the last 30 years that presidential statements could very reasonably have been called lying, but the word was conspicuously avoided.

        You may remember that Trump’s statement during the campaign that george w. bush “lied” us into war in Iraq over non-existent wmd was considered quite scandalous at the time that he made it. These days Trump can be called a liar if he says something like “a long time,” and commentators determine that the time frame he’s referring to was not, in their opinion, very long at all.

        Editorializing through language where Trump is concerned has become accepted if not acknowledged. Take, for example, this current “news” about Trump’s demanding loyalty from Comey. Demand is a powerful verb, intended to characterize a specific behavior, and tending to reinforce the perception of Trump as out-of-control authoritarian. (Saturday Night Massacre!) Since all accounts of what happened by anyone other than Trump or Comey are hearsay, the word was chosen deliberately by people who have no idea what really went on.

        Obviously Trump is not the only politician who lies, but he’s one of a very small number of them who can be called a liar without consequence, and plenty of people are taking advantage of the opportunity, sometimes under dubious circumstances.

        1. MoiAussie

          Agree completely. Given all the editorializing and unsubstantiated accusations, I’m interested in whether the smart audience here can point to some evidence of real lying, namely making statements which he must have believed to be false. Not being mistaken, or deluded, or unreasonably optimistic about what he would/could do. So far noone has offered anything in that category.

          1. fresno dan


            It always comes down to money, especially with people, and Team Trump is filled with them, who are stimulated by any opportunity for self-enrichment. Mannafort and Flynn are both vulnerable on these counts and thus are likely targets for being squeezed by the Feds until they squeal on Trump and his inner circle to save their own asses.

            So Trump went on the offensive. He told Jefferson Beauregard Sessions that he wanted Comey’s head on a platter and Sessions, a nasty but dull piece of work who had already perjured himself before Congress, wasn’t smart enough to simply advise Trump that he had the power to can Comey without cause. Instead, Sessions instructed newly-minted Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to prepare a brief against Comey based on the G-Man’s buffoonish mishandling of Hillary’s email entanglements. Rosenstein was viewed as the perfect patsy in this scenario, because he had recently been lauded by many Democrats (useful idiots in almost any grifter’s game) as a “man of principle and integrity” and had been robustly confirmed by the Senate in a vote of 94-6.

            The key element in this charade was that Rosenstein’s bill of indictment against Comey had to sedulously avoid any mention of RussiaGate© in order to keep Sessions–who vowed to recuse himself from such matters–in the loop.

            Then the President, in true Trumpian style, undermined the whole plot by writing in his dismissal letter this damning sentence: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.” Damning to Trump, Sessions and Rosenstein that is, because Trump couldn’t resist revealing that the real motive was to bury the Russia investigation. Trump’s letter is a kind of forensic IED, detonating legal shrapnel toward anyone who had a hand in it: Trump, Sessions, Rosenstein, Doug McGahn and Mike Pence.

            When the affair immediately blew up in the face of the White House, Trump’s team reflexively tried to pin the blame on Rosenstein, saying the Deputy AG’s memo was the sole reason for the firing of Comey. After Rosenstein got wind of these reports, he called White House counsel Doug McGahn and threatened to quit unless the White House clarified that the impetus to fire Comey came from Sessions and Trump not him. According to the Wall Street Journal, Rosenstein told McGahn that “he couldn’t work in an environment where facts weren’t accurately reported.” Which begs the question, what administration did he think he was joining two weeks ago? In the end, Rosenstein’s threats were idle ones. He lacked the courage and character of Elliott Richardson and Bill Ruckelshaus.

            Maybe Trump is delusional, and maybe Trump believes untrue things, but my point is that Trump says in the context of campaign and political stuff – is way different when your in the sights of multiple congressional committees, where those excuses won’t hold.

            Will the repubs stand behind Trump? It depends on what Trump does….
            Losing the presidency over a 3rd rate burglary for someone who so aspired to the office was really an amazing thing, yet somehow Nixon’s mind told him to do things that accomplished that. What is Trump’s mind telling him to do?

            1. Elizabeth Burton

              The important thing that keeps getting buried with regard to Trump is that he is a classic narcissist. As such, his mind is telling him he can do no wrong; he is always right. That when he’s wrong or makes a mistake, it’s because other people are responsible. To a narcissist, reality is what he or she decides it is, and they are perfectly capable of concocting the most outrageous stories to support their contention their failures are the direct result of people acting against them. The thing is—they truly come to believe those stories because they are reinforcing for the basic narrative.

              The dangerous flip side to narcissism is that for people with the right level of know-how, they can be manipulated. It’s largely a matter of presenting what’s wanted in such a way that the narcissist becomes convinced it was their idea to begin with. Once that happens, they can be turned loose to wreak whatever havoc is desired.

              I have yet to see any behavior presented by Trump that contradicts a “diagnosis” of narcissism, having lived with one for far too many years.

              1. MoiAussie

                I’m not sure many would consider it particularly well buried.
                She’s the same. Prerequisite for running, I’d’ve thought.

              2. Toolate

                I can say that I used that very strategy successfully for many years with a narcissistic boss as a means of self preservation

              3. witters

                “I have yet to see any behavior presented by Trump that contradicts a “diagnosis” of narcissism, having lived with one for far too many years.”

                With the diagnosis?

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          A very good point.

          I read ‘Trump summoned X to the White House.’ With other presidents, it would have been ‘X and president met at the White House.’

      4. Lambert Strether

        Bullshitting is not the same as lying. See Harry Frankfurt:

        Lying and bluffing are both modes of misrepresentation or deception. Now the concept most central to the distinctive nature of a lie is that of falsity: the liar is essentially someone who deliberately promulgates a falsehood. Bluffing too is typically devoted to conveying something false. Unlike plain lying, however, it is more especially a matter not of falsity but of fakery. This is what accounts for its nearness to bullshit. For the essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony. In order to appreciate this distinction, one must recognize that a fake or a phony need not be in any respect (apart from authenticity itself) inferior to the real thing. What is not genuine need not also be defective in some other way. It may be, after all, an exact copy. What is wrong with a counterfeit is not what it is like, but how it was made. This points to a similar and fundamental aspect of the essential nature of bullshit: although it is produced without concern with the truth, it need not be false. The bullshitter is faking things. But this does not mean that he necessarily gets them wrong.

        As Yves says immediately below, as I work through the thread!

        1. MoiAussie

          I’m aware of the difference, but appreciate the link.

          Bit confused though, as you seem to be replying to me @10:03 yesterday. Do you mean simply that T is a bullshitter? Or were you taking issue with something? Or replying to someone else?

            1. MoiAussie

              Yes, probably not so useful. But as Katniss said, Trompe seems to have the unenviable distinction of having normalised explicit accusations of lying being made against POTUS by serious voices, at least in modern times. And I was surprised how many commenters and net commentators did not seem to distinguish much between speaking loosely, being incorrect, and lying.

              1. ambrit

                I dunno. Remember the Congressman who yelled out to then President Obama at a state of the Union speech, “You lie!” Remember the hullabaloo about the “insult” to the Office of the President?
                I welcome this controversy as a way of diminishing the excessive power of the Executive branch of the U.S. Government. Trump is doing us all a favour by diminishing the stature of the Presidency.
                I fear that the Trump opposition is not thinking through their policy of deligitimization.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      I should have provided the link to Harry Frankfurt’s classic paper “On Bullshit”. Here it is:

      In saying that Trump bullshits (my current hypothesis), I’m not defending him and more important, not saying he isn’t a flagrant and routine liar.

      But the salient characteristic of a bullshitter is that they don’t care about the truth. It is a matter of no interest to them.

      The elder Simpson identifies the alternative to telling a lie as ìbullshitting oneís way through.î This involves not merely producing one instance of bullshit; it involves a 574 7,2 of producing bullshit to whatever extent the circumstances require. This is a key, perhaps, to his preference. Telling a lie is an act with a sharp focus. It is designed to insert a particular falsehood at a specific point in a set or system of beliefs, in order to avoid the consequences of having that point occupied by the truth. This requires a degree of craftsmanship, in which the teller of the lie submits to objective constraints imposed by what he takes to be the truth. The liar is inescapably concerned with truth-values. In order to invent a lie at all, he must think he knows what is true. And in order to invent an effective lie, he must design his falsehood under the guidance of that truth. On the other hand, a person who undertakes to bullshit his way through has much more freedom. His focus is panoramic rather than particular. He does not limit himself to inserting a certain falsehood at a specific point, and thus he is not constrained by the truths surrounding that point or intersecting it. He is prepared to fake the context as well, so far as need requires. This freedom from the constraints to which the liar must submit does not necessarily mean, of course, that his task is easier than the task of the liar. But the mode of creativity upon which it relies is less analytical and less deliberative than that which is mobilized in lying. It is more expansive and independent, with mare spacious opportunities for improvisation, color, and imaginative play. This is less a matter of craft than of art. Hence the familiar notion of the ìbullshit artist.î My guess is that the recommendation offered by Arthur Simpsonís father reflects the fact that he was more strongly drawn to this mode of creativity, regardless of its relative merit or effectiveness, than he was to the more austere and rigorous demands of lying.

      What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false. Since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its misrepresentational intent. The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to.

      This is the crux of the distinction between him and the liar. Both he and the liar represent themselves falsely as endeavoring to communicate the truth. The success of each depends upon deceiving us about that. But the fact about himself that the liar hides is that he is attempting to lead us away from a correct apprehension of reality; we are not to know that he wants us to believe something he supposes to be false. The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides, on the other hand, is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor co conceal it. This does not mean that his speech is anarchically impulsive, but that the motive guiding and controlling it is unconcerned with how the things about which he speaks truly are.

      The dangerous part of this is bullshitting is so fundamental to how Trump engages with the world that I don’t think he is capable of being truthful in the way most of us expect (as in only telling white lies or politician’s lies or using lawyerly tortured phrasing) since he can’t be bother to pay attention to what the truth is.

      1. ewmayer

        So let’s consider the classic Twilight Zone episode Hocus-Pocus and Frisby — is the titular character more liar or bullshitter? Or does tall-tale-teller deserve a separate third category here?

      2. wilroncanada

        Thanks, Yves.
        I referred to Frankfurt’s book several months ago during the election campaign in reference to Trump’s habit of outrageous statements, being followed within days by his stating the opposite.

        On a network television interview within the past few days–I think it was NBC–he used a phrase (darned if I can remember what it was) then claimed that he had just invented it days earlier. It was a phrase first recorded in about 1916, and indeed he had used it himself a few times during the election campaign. But he had to insist that he just invented it–a veritable Shakespearean coup.

        Was it a lie? Who knows? Reading his mind to ascertain whether he actually knew he was making a false claim is impossible. Did he forget that he had used the phrase before? Was he just deluded, or just had to brag to build his ego? Not a lie? Just bullshit. Doesn’t know truth, doesn’t care about truth, truth is irrelevant.

        1. Lambert Strether

          It’s worth noting that bullshitting is deeply embedded in the American character; see Mark Twain on “the Duke and the Dauphin,” or “The Great and Powerful Oz,” or P.T. Barnum, to pick three easy examples.

          So Trump, in his person, is not unique, although electing a bullshit artist the Presidency is unique (?). Usual disclaimer on not defending Trump, but painting him, in his person, again, as aberrational is just wrong.

          Now, how a bullshit artist came to be elected President…. That’s an interesting question, but not one our political class seems to be very interested in asking, other than to blame the dogs for not eating the dog food. Defective dogs!

  11. sleepy

    Still Not an Activist Jacobin. Important. Resilc: “When does she get her own cable channel?”

    I had a fleeting thought that this was in reference to Nina Turner. Oh well . . . .

  12. RenoDino

    In the game of loose cannons, Trump vs. Comey, Trump wins every time. Professional vs. amateur.

  13. grayslady

    Re antidote: I am amazed that anyone can even spot a hummingbird nest, much less obtain clear photos. The NC bird antidotes may be the only bird watching I get to enjoy this year. A cold, wet spring, with flood-level lakes and ponds, and no insects to speak of, has meant no migration so far. I check the local hotspots on eBird regularly, but reports indicate other birders aren’t seeing any of the usual ducks and warblers either.

    1. Katharine

      I saw two kinds of warblers on one day. Otherwise I’m just getting the usual 20 or so species that like the shrubs and young cedar near my house. This is the first year the tree is sturdy enough that a lot of them are using it, which is kind of fun.

      Amazing picture, isn’t it? And I appreciate being told they flew the next day.

      1. craazyboy

        Just got back from Walmart and noted egg pricing. Wow! 80 cents for large eggs. Egg prices have cracked support levels and crashed to the ground, just like in the duck video.

        Decided to go long cholesterol. Bought two cartons.

          1. craazyboy

            Wine Critique!

            Also just sampled a bottle[not done yet] of a Woodbridge Cab. Happy to say I’m cool with it. They used the time proven technique of killing their mistakes in oak, and the end product only had some vinegar residue and perhaps traces of tannins.

            I’m warmed over with this as it’s far better than my usual up to $15 mistakes with CA supermarket wine. The happy campers and bridge trolls will savoir this fine brewski.

            Airbelly concurs.[He’s right here, now!]

            “- something heavy yet airy, like a led zeppelin, then slowly goes down the runway and ends!”

            P.S. Playing some more guitar tunes, sorta. Honky Tonk Women [Do they really do that?], No Satisfaction, and Emotional Rescue. Cool. The Stones make cool tunes easy. Lucille is still a bitch.

            Also crashed my camera quadcopter. Electronic nav failure. I got da Blues.

        1. ambrit

          Good heavens! Proof positive that the hinterlands get buggered every which way possible. Basic eggs are two cartons for $4.00 at Winn Dixie and $1.54 a dozen at Wal Mart locally.

  14. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Still Not an Activist Jacobin

    Speaking to the crowd, she [hrc] said, “I just want all these Twitter trolls out there to know that maybe if you had left us alone, we might have gone out longer in the woods for our walks, but every time you hit those 140 characters demeaning women’s voices and rights, we’re comin’ back at you.”

    What an odd construct. Is she referring to herself in the plural now? The royal “we?” I’m with her….. Er, I mean “them.” Sounds like a pronoun issue.

    And here I thought her speaking style could not get any more annoying.

    1. Montanamaven

      “We” (meaning truth seekers) should keep pointing out this odd behavior of referring to herself in the third person. It’s more than odd, but I’m not a psychologist. Or maybe I was wrong when I thought her walks in the woods were alone. Was she like a guru with many followers discussing philosophy and/or exchanging recipes for how to aid mankind? You know, something like that dinner party that Chelsea had in her head where she invited Shakespeare and Kafka and discussed how to make communities more kind. Sigh.

      1. MoiAussie

        It’s suggestive of the existence of a clintonista hive mind. Would explain a lot.

  15. Paleobotanist

    Re: Quebec floods

    I am a climatologist in Montreal.

    Yes the Province delegated responsibility for water and flood management to the municipalities in the early 2000s. The municipalities don’t have the resources for it. As well, you have to manage water at the bigger watershed level otherwise you can make the problem much worse. Furthermore, municipalities are in a conflict of interest situation since they have allowed people to build in flood plains for those nice expensive, waterfront properties which they then collect municipal real estate taxes on.

    Many people have built in floodplains which is illegal but the province hasn’t enforced the law, nor the municipalities. We have an election next year and our Premier Couillard says that people will be allowed to rebuild in exactly the same places.

    The Centre d’expertise hydrique du Quebec is tiny in comparison to equivalent bodies in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The Centre should be managing water and floods. They have neither the budget nor staff to really do so. Provincial flood return maps in many (most?) cases do not exist or are out of date, including for most of the province’s largest city, Montreal. So if you wanted to avoid building in zones where you have a 1 in 20 or 1 in 100 years chance of floods, you probably don’t know where they are. The Centre d’expertise has no staff to compare predicted flood maps when they exist to actual observed flooding extent to make sure that the modelling is done correctly.

    A large part of the Centre d’expertise’s flood modelling job has been privatized to Hydro-Metro. Hydro-Meteo has 7 staff and is a for-profit company and clearly is not up to properly modelling and managing water and floods everywhere throughout the province for the public good.

    With climate change, we have to start worrying about 1 in a 1000 year floods or 1 in 2000 year floods. Rainfall events will become more intense, increasing flood possibilities.

    Yes, we have made a problem much worse by our stupidity.

    1. grayslady

      Furthermore, municipalities are in a conflict of interest situation since they have allowed people to build in flood plains for those nice expensive, waterfront properties which they then collect municipal real estate taxes on.

      Many people have built in floodplains which is illegal but the province hasn’t enforced the law, nor the municipalities.

      Describes a lot of places in the U.S., as well. The pittance in real estate taxes collected won’t come close to offsetting the costs of clean up and rehabilitation. I wonder if this event will trigger lawsuits regarding why exceptions were made for building on flood plains.

    2. JCC

      Yes, we have made a problem much worse by our stupidity.

      In French, or English, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” … or any other language for that matter.

    3. ocop

      This is surprising to me. As an outside observer I assumed Hydro Quebec would have a major role in province-wide management of water.

      But I live in TVA country so my priors on big utilities are probably leading me astray. Ironically, TVA is enduring proof that socialism can work in America!

  16. MtnLife

    “we discuss sensitive and highly charged topics in my classroom, concerning anti-religious bias, racism, sexism, classism and many other indexes of oppression and discrimination. Students need to be able to express themselves respectfully and freely, and they cannot do so about heated topics if they know that fellow students are armed and that an argument could easily be lethal. “

    This needs a little fixing for full comprehension: we discuss sensitive and highly charged topics in our SOCIETY, concerning anti-religious bias, racism, sexism, classism and many other indexes of oppression and discrimination. CITIZENS need to be able to express themselves respectfully and freely, and they cannot do so about heated topics if they know that THEIR GOVERNMENT is armed and that an argument could be lethal.

    This statement only proves how ineffective this professor or his students will be if they can’t talk about heated topics with people that will be punished for violence, then there is zero chance they will ever stand up and attempt to make changes against those who hold a monopoly on legal violence. About as effective as “The Resistance”.

  17. Pavel

    Re the “NHS cyberattack” (which is a misnomer as the NHS is only one of many victims)– a Hacker News commentator pointed me to this Guardian article from May 2015:

    The Government Digital Service will not extend its £5.5m deal with Microsoft to extend support for Windows XP, leaving government computers that still run on the obsolete operating system at risk from hackers.

    The service said ending the support meant “weaknesses that are found in unsupported products will remain unpatched and will be exploitable by relatively low-skilled attackers”.

    Microsoft withdrew its extended support programme for Windows XP, its 14-year-old operating system, in April 2014. Given the number of Windows XP PCs still being used in government and businesses at the time, Microsoft provided paid-for extended support on a one-off basis.

    The Crown Commercial Service bought a year’s extension of support, which includes security updates crucial for keeping hackers at bay, for £5.5m last year to give government departments 12 months to safely migrate from XP.

    A year on, the Government Digital Service has decided not to extend that support. The Office of the Chief Technology Officer said: “Technology leaders met last month and took a collective decision to not extend the support arrangement for 2015. The current support agreement ended in April 2015.”

    –The Guardian: UK government PCs open to hackers as paid Windows XP support ends

    Shameless shortsightedness by the Tories, which is pretty much their modus operandi in most affairs. Part of the problem is that Tony Blair signed a deal with Bill Gates himself years ago which locked the NHS into using Windows software. Then the NHS ran out of money for upgrades, or they weren’t made a priority. A separate problem is a large number of “legacy apps” which were written for old versions of Windows or Internet Explorer — I know NHS workers who have to use IE7 to access critical database apps. Sometimes these are “orphanware” so the software isn’t upgraded to work with newer browsers or OSes. All in all a bit of a nightmare.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Defeat the NSA’s malware for a low, low $10.69:

      A UK cybersecurity researcher tweeting as @malwaretechblog, with the help of Darien Huss from security firm Proofpoint, found and activated a “kill switch” in the malicious [WannaCry] software.

      The switch was hardcoded into the malware in case the creator wanted to stop it spreading. This involved a very long nonsensical domain name that the malware makes a request to – just as if it were looking up any website – and if the request comes back and shows that the domain is live, the kill switch takes effect and the malware stops spreading.

      “I saw it wasn’t registered and thought, ‘I think I’ll have that’,” he is reported as saying. The purchase cost him $10.69. Immediately, the domain name was registering thousands of connections every second.

      “They get the accidental hero award of the day,” said Proofpoint’s Ryan Kalember. “They didn’t realize how much it probably slowed down the spread of this ransomware.”

      Windows XP: back in the saddle again. :-)

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Then the NHS ran out of money for upgrades, or they weren’t made a priority.

      This would suggest that It’s not always the case of no money, but money spent elsewhere.

    3. Katharine

      Before Friday’s attack, Microsoft had made fixes for older systems, such as 2001’s Windows XP, available only to mostly larger organizations that paid extra for extended technical support. Microsoft says now it will make the fixes free for everyone.

      Even Microsoft can recognize a PR disaster?

      This was one of many articles at in the past 24 hours related to the attack.

  18. XXYY

    I like WSWS. After a lead in that seems like a pretty straight-ahead news story, we get this:

    The floods in Quebec have exposed the gap between the courage and generosity of ordinary people and the utter indifference and hypocrisy of the ruling class. The Federal government deployed about 2,250 members of the Canadian Armed Forces to assist overwhelmed responders, but flooded residents are largely left alone, forced to rely on themselves, neighbours, volunteers and the Red Cross.

    Nice to see news of events (even the weather!) placed within a social and political context. The contrast with the usual corporate and mainstream news is striking.

    Well done.

  19. bronco

    Concealed carry article is nonsense. Whether or not concealed carry on campus is a good idea how can the author suggest its been a failure ? When has a shooting occurred on a campus where students were carrying firearms and could somehow respond with said firearms?

    Don’t you have to have at least one datapoint to form an opinion? Not that anyone is wishing for an incident to test the idea

    1. justanotherprogressive

      So far nobody has explained to me how to tell a “good guy with a gun” from a “bad guy with a gun”. Sooo……if someone starts shooting on an “open-carry” campus, how are we, or the police, supposed to know who the “good guys” are? For that matter how are the “good guys” supposed to know who each other are?

      Sorry, all I see in that scenario is mass carnage….. wouldn’t you consider that a prime definition of a “failure”?

      Open carry is just an excuse for gun owners to exhibit blood lust in a time of a crisis…….do we really HAVE to have this happen before we can figure it out? Do we really NEED “datapoints”?

      I know that if I put my hand in a fire, it is going to get burned. Do I really have to try it out so that I have a “datapoint”?

      1. justanotherprogressive

        Err….that “open carry” should have been “concealed carry”. The thought still holds… or concealed…..same results….

      2. cm

        if someone starts shooting on an “open-carry” campus, how are we, or the police, supposed to know who the “good guys” are? For that matter how are the “good guys” supposed to know who each other are?

        I doubt you are sincere in asking, but at the Oregon mall shooting a person w/ CCW permit had no difficulty identifying the shooter.

        1. marym

          A lot of stories in this post:

          There’s Joe Zamudio, who came running to help when he heard the gunfire that injured Gabby Giffords and killed six others in Tucson. But by the time Zamudio was on the scene, unarmed civilians had already tackled and disarmed the perpetrator. Zamudio later said that, in his confusion, he was within seconds of shooting the wrong person.

          1. allan

            And there’s the 2012 Empire State Building shooting:

            On August 24, 2012, a gunman shot and killed a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York City. Following the initial shooting, the gunman, 58-year-old Jeffrey T. Johnson, was fatally shot by police officers after raising his weapon at them. Nine bystanders were wounded by stray bullets fired by the officers and ricocheting debris, but none suffered life-threatening injuries.[4] …

            Two highly trained police officers, in broad daylight.

            1. MtnLife

              From the article:

              “he did not have a license to carry a handgun in New York City”

              You mean not having a license didn’t stop him in his successful murder attempt? Maybe they need better laws! /s

              “Jeffrey Johnson, a clothing designer who had been laid off, emerged from hiding behind a van, pointed a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun at a former co-worker’s head, and fired one round.”

              “A coworker of the victim said she witnessed Johnson walk up to him and pull a gun out of his jacket”

              Well, I bet that dead guy is happy she wasn’t armed. She could have misidentified what was about to happen and someone might have gotten shot. /s

              In all seriousness, if you can’t identify that someone coming out of hiding and putting a gun to someone’s head has intentions of violence then I agree – you shouldn’t own a gun. Zamudio didn’t shoot the wrong person – something our “well trained” cops do all the time. Why? Because they are seemingly immune to prosecution from their errors. I’d rather have a a fellow Vermonter come on the scene and appraise the situation to see if violence was necessary. They will be responsible for their actions, unlike the officers, and hopefully act accordingly. Did you not read the story in the links the other day about the veteran who was fired from his police officer job in WV for NOT shooting someone and attempting to diffuse the situation instead? Those are the ones you want to show up? Really?

              1. a different chris

                >In all seriousness, if you can’t identify that someone coming out of hiding and putting a gun to someone’s head

                Do you know what the word “serious” means? Life is not freaking TV, with carefully crafted scenes where people you have already been introduced to have pre-scripted interactions.

                Real life is a f*cking mess. YOU would be the last person I would want around if I was threatened, as you seem to live completely inside your own personal TV set.

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      Surely a grenade launcher would do more to raise your grades than a hand gun? Especially in English lit.

      Maybe KS could start out with mustard gas and work their way up to hand guns when people see it was all just a matter of bunched undies? Or forensics club could revive the excitement of dueling?

  20. Brian

    The sense of smell;
    The presence of pheromones and other olfactory stimulants is universal. It drives all mammalian behavior and we pick and choose among the smells we like. We select our partners based upon it, and we react to emergencies that bring a change in the air.
    Just because we don’t immediately understand a complex vapor, do we not react to it? All animals with a sense of smell do. Sometimes by ceasing all other activity until we know if it is safe to proceed. It is one of the reasons we have survived.
    Perhaps humans should be trained like the dogs are and a stink off could be held? It could avoid assumptions long held. Start in the refrigerator.

  21. fresno dan

    In the closing minutes of Saturday Night Fever, the following events occur: A racist injustice, an attempted date rape, a gang rape, a horrific accidental death with an element of suicide, and (not least) a nighttime ride on the disco-era New York City subway. The film concludes with the hero getting rejected by his lady. Naturally it was one of the biggest hits of 1977.

    Undoubtedly, the economic prospects for the middle class was at their apex in the 70’s and I remember a lot of gritty movies. Nowadays, 40 years of economic decline for the middle class give us a surfeit of super heroes who always win. I don’t think it is coincidence that people crave feel good movies when things are going bad
    Spoiler ALERT: So I just saw “Passengers” – a movie in my view that would have been much better if at the end Chris Pratt had just floated away and Jennifer was left alone for the next 50 years….
    Now, being with Jennifer Lawrence for the first year would be heaven on earth…or more accurately, heaven in the heavens, but somehow I think after 25 years together, the relationship would wear thin….

  22. allan

    Sister: Weakened ‘Sandra Bland Act’ in Texas ‘gut-wrenching’ [AP]

    The sister of Sandra Bland, a black woman found dead in a Texas jail following a confrontational traffic stop with a white state trooper, says it is “gut-wrenching” that lawmakers stripped police reforms from a bill named after her sibling and are now pushing a weakened compromise that “painfully misses the mark.”

    Bland’s death in 2015 was a national flashpoint in the Black Lives Matter movement — the 28-year-old Chicago woman was stopped near Houston for not signaling a lane change, forcibly pulled from her car and found dead in jail days later.

    A leaner “Sandra Bland Act” enters the home stretch of the Texas Legislature far from the sweeping package of police accountability and anti-racial profiling measures originally filed in March. In the face of opposition from law enforcement groups and Republicans, the bill was drastically slimmed down and now mostly focuses on better jail trailing and mental health care access. …

    Charley Wilkson, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, said the original version was overly broad and seen by rank-and-file officers as a punitive attack. …

    1. fresno dan

      May 13, 2017 at 10:42 am

      “the original version was overly broad and seen by rank-and-file officers as a punitive attack. …”
      Or more accurately, subjecting them to fair, equal, and impartial standards before the law. The only question is: do cops manipulate the law for their own benefit even more than bankers do?

  23. XXYY

    But even if the NSA were more willing to divulge its exploits rather than hoarding them, we’d still be facing the problem that too many people really don’t seem to care about updating their software. “Malicious actors exploit years old vulnerabilities on a routine basis when undertaking their operations,” Parsons pointed out.

    This seems to be a pervasive attitude in the SW industry: First we will field our product as quickly and widely as possible, then we will attempt to make it secure over time via hundreds of patch-and-pray cycles, often lasting years or decades. XP obviously never completed this process during its entire product lifetime.

    Imagine if the auto industry worked this way. New cars would fall apart, explode, refuse to start, etc., and every week you would come out to find Ford mechanics under the hood of your car, replacing one or more parts with newer designs. Ford press releases would blame dead and injured owners for “not updating their cars”, not purchasing expensive support packages to rectify design problems, and so on. You would obviously conclude Ford and anyone else doing this had no idea how to build a car and should get out if the business ASAP before more damage is done. (Of course, this does *not* happen with Ford cars!)

    The reason non-SW industries try hard to get it right the first time is (obviously) that there will be huge financial repercussions if they don’t. Microsoft, and the software industry generally, seem to escape this entirely. I assume nothing will change as long as this is true.

    1. JCC

      XP obviously never completed this process during its entire product lifetime.

      No offense, but I will have to fix this for you:

      Microsoft obviously never completed this process during its entire product lifetime, nor the product lifetime of any of their other Operating Systems… and they never will.

  24. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    A watch fights tremors.

    In a Microsoft blog, Bill Briggs delved into what was going on in the brain and how the watch helped. “In people with Parkinson’s, the brain fires off extra signals to muscles, creating a chaotic, internal feedback loop that causes muscles to essentially panic and perform many movements at once. That creates tremors. The vibrations from the watch seem to cause Lawton’s brain to focus on her right wrist, apparently reducing the brain’s messages to that spot.”

    Apparently…seem…words connected not with precision, exact and full knowledge, but partial knowing, somewhat groping in a dark cave.

    But let’s go ahead and mess with the brain…because it helps somewhat. “You can’t be that cruel. This helps who suffer.”

    Does it do anything else, short term/long term, to the brain? Do we know?

    1. From Cold Mountain

      Those of us with neurological issues are the least understood, least cared for, and most experimented on in the medical industry.

  25. From Cold Mountain

    On the very low VIX; it is the thing keeping me up at night. I have been watching it, and I am seeing it connected with things I cannot put to words at this moment, but it is a disjointed and unusual connection. It is like the low volatility you get from a centrifuge.

    1. Harry

      Things fall apart. The center cannot hold blah blah.

      9th year of an expansion – wouldn’t really be that surprising if something went wrong.

    2. justanotherprogressive

      Yea, I’ve been watching that too………guess everyone is just on the same merry-go-round again, like they were in 2006……
      Comparing it to a centrifuge seems very apt…..

      1. From Cold Mountain

        Reading about how the FAANG stocks are all up but the rest of the S&P is down, definitely centrifuge.

  26. Mikerw0

    Trump is the best thang that ever happened to the R’s far right agenda of ending the ACA, a massive tax cut for the rich, ending Medicaid, etc.

    Why? His antics are the great distraction they need to take the hatchet to the welfare state they have wanted to do since FDR died. And, due to the ratings game the media is playing along.

    1. jrs

      I don’t think people are that easily distracted from say losing what health care they may have under the current system. But yea it is distracting from most real issues, and filling all the government agencies up with people who will run them all into the ground as well. I fear this bad Trump hangover might linger much longer than I want to think about.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Sometimes, it’s best to confront one’s fear, which is Trump in this case.

        That is to say, get our best guys and gals to go meet with Trump and talk him into Single Payer, and afterwards, saying something good about it before the media.

    2. sleepy

      Trump is also one of the best things that’s happened to the dem party. No need for policy proposals, just the “resistance”, and the fundraising goes into overdrive.

  27. Antifa

    Japan was always going to see every drop of its stored radioactive water end up in the Pacific Ocean. If not by earthquake or tsunami, simple rust would see to it.

    So big surprise that TEPCO now plans to dump their million tons of stored radioactive water into the sea. Presumably, they will let future cooling water run straight into the ocean, at a minimum of 200,000 tons per year. Cost of doing business, eh?

    By the way, what tool or robot or machine or whatever does one use to “retrieve a melted fuel core” from beneath a ruined reactor? With what implement can you pick up some melted nuclear fuel twice as hot as molten steel, but without ever directly approaching anywhere near it?

    I really need to Google the name of that tool, if anyone knows what it is.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Tiger tiger burning bright
      In the forest of the night
      What immortal hand or eye
      Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

      What do humans learn from their songs of experience?

      “Take the money and run.”

  28. Sub-Boreal

    The Michael Hudson interview was an odd choice for updating folks on British Columbia (not Colombia) politics. A much better source, written from a leftish greenish orientation, is the BC-based Tyee online newsmagazine:

    1. Some Guy

      Have to agree with Sub-Boreal, I love Hudson, but as a B.C. resident you get the sense he is a little out of his depth here on some topics (e.g.softwood lumber, motivation for construction of site C dam, etc.)

      Hudson seems focussed on inter-provincial dynamics as driving corruption, but most of the (extensive) corruption in B.C. is home-grown, provincial with both a small and capital ‘P’. To the extent there is an outside influence moving matters politically in B.C., it is in Beijing, not Ottawa or Toronto.

      One of the most interesting things in the election, in my opinion, was largely overlooked, which is that, at 17%, this was one of the highest percentages of the vote ever won by a ‘Green’ party in the English speaking world, as far as I am aware. Whether it will last is another question, but the trend is upward over quite a long period of time.

  29. Adam1

    Flooding… i am not familiar with what’s going on in Canada, but there is a lot of flooding going on on the southern side of Lake Ontario here in the US. Lots of communities sandbagging. I have a friend who teaches high school in Greece, NY and the town has repeatedly asked high school students to come fill sandbags on their free time “during school hours”. The rain has been crazy! We surpased our May average on like May 4th!!! Lake Ontario normally crests seasonally in June, over a month away.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Pipeline to the arid Southwest and the ag and lawns and swimming pools of Cali… all fixed!

      1. ambrit

        You might be sarking there, but the costs of pumping all of that water quickly become a factor in the feasibility of the project. Most large public water transport schemes rely on gravity to do the work. Municipal fire mains are generally hooked into a water tower somewhere on the general principle that emergencies of a significant scale occur concurrently with electric service outages. The water tower provides a head of pressure to run the system utilizing, yep, gravity as the motivating principle.

  30. Altandmain

    Salon of all places has been more critical of the DNC:

    The DNC’s elephant in the room: Dems have a problem — it’s not Donald Trump: It’s time for the DNC to stop blaming Trump and the GOP for their own credibility issues


    Thousands evacuated following floods in Quebec and Ontario WSWS (martha r) :-(. Any readers affected? And why no Federal assistance?

    Yes the county where I live is affected.

    There has been some relief from the province:

    There is some support coming here.

  31. robnume

    On NHS “ransomware” attack: Something I did not know about the privatization of UK’s NHS was that Sir Richard Branson has a huge personal economic stake in the privatization of NHS. No wonder Obombya was schmoozing with Branson immediately after leaving the WH. Think that he or others with large stakes in the privatization scheme might have paid hackers to do this job? That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
    Like Yves and Lambert always point out: grifters gotta grift!

  32. fresno dan

    Why Would Trump Want to Prolong America’s Longest War? Atlantic (resilc)

    Republicans are supposedly becoming more nationalistic, less willing to bear the burdens of global empire. Democrats are supposedly moving left, abandoning the “indispensable nation” hawkishness favored by the Clintons. American politics, we are told, is turning into a battle between Breitbart and Bernie Sanders.

    So how come America is reportedly considering escalating its war in Afghanistan? Donald Trump, who as a candidate pledged that “If I become president, the era of nation-building will be ended,” may in the coming days decide to send several thousand more troops to take part in a war that has been going on since some of them were toddlers. Democrats, who denounce Trump multiple times before breakfast, will mostly look the other way. And the longest war in American history will grind on, despite the fact that almost no one believes America can win.
    Corruption is deeply intertwined with this unwillingness to fight. The Taliban’s second-biggest source of revenue, after the opium trade, is the American taxpayer, who sends billions in arms and supplies to the Afghan military, much of which ends up in the Taliban’s hands. “We hear story after story of [Afghan] commanders who steal the fuel, sell it to the Taliban, who take the weapons we—you—pay for and sell it to the Taliban,” explained John Sopko, America’s special inspector general for Afghanistan, earlier this year. “The irony of it is, the terrorists are at the end of our supply chain.” Last month, in what’s believed to have been their largest attack on an Afghan military base since the war started, the Taliban stormed an army outpost in northern Afghanistan and killed 170 people. How did they pull it off? In part, because they were wearing Afghan army uniforms, traveling in Afghan army vehicles, and carrying Afghan army-issued M-16s.
    Who knows who really is aligned with who? But the fact is that the US cannot actually suppress ANY insurgency, ….well, maybe Grenada……
    So let’s be winners and re-invade…uh, that’s right – we don’t “invade” – liberate Grenada!

  33. allan

    U.S. Crackdown on For-Profit Schools Is Said to Go Idle [NYT]

    The Education Department’s sweeping crackdown on fraudulent practices at for-profit colleges has stalled under the Trump administration’s appointees, several current and former department employees say.

    Current and former employees, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, said tight restrictions have been put on staff members scrutinizing for-profit institutions, constraining their contact with other state and federal agencies without high-level approval — a contention a department spokesman denied. …

    Veterans Education Success, a nonprofit organization and an advocate for former members of the military who say they were misled by for-profit colleges, regularly met with the enforcement unit last year, said Carrie Wofford, the president. But this week, she said, her request for the department to meet with a legal service clinic from Yale Law School, which had researched veterans’ complaints about deceptive recruiting practices, was declined.

    “We were shocked the new Education Department didn’t even want to hear about complaints from defrauded veterans,” Ms. Wofford said. …

    Delivering another solid for the back row kids.

  34. Kim Kaufman

    Re Comey

    “And the proof seems to be that Comey has declined an opportunity to appear before the Senate next week.”

    I read somewhere earlier, can’t find link now, that Comey said he will only appear in an open session in front of the Senate – not closed. That seems smart as the only way to prevent lying, er, contradictory statements being leaked. Rosenstein should do the same.

    Marcy Wheeler seems to think Special Counsel, whatever, is not best idea right now:

    The Last USA: Dana Boente Is the Best Short Term Solution

    If Dems want to make this all about Trump/Comey (stupidly following the Clinton playbook, imo) Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem to mind and will proceed with pushing a crap healthcare bill through quickly and quietly:

    Hope You Don’t Expect The Senate GOP To Be Transparent About Obamacare Repeal

    “Private negotiations, a quick floor vote — yeah, you’ve seen this before.”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, thanks. It turns out the NYT had the tidbit that Comey wanted the session to be in public. So I stand corrected. But it still seems a bit weird that he didn’t say so directly (I have yet to see a press report consistent with that) and ran that through a buddy who told the Times. Is he trying to play the access game?

    2. Lambert Strether

      > It Dems want to make this all about Trump/Comey (stupidly following the Clinton playbook, imo) Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem to mind

      McConnell to Dems: “Here, have some more rope!”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is a fishing expedition that is very unlikely to yield anything actionable. It appears someone believes Trump was dumb enough to take wires from mystery baddie Russians into personal or corporate bank accounts.

      The department that is providing the data is the anti-money laundering operation. Banks are responsible for anti-money laundering controls, not real estate property owners/developers. So even if Trump had some dirty foreign money wind up purchasing say a few Trump condos, he’s not at fault.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I sometimes record calls if I think there’s reason to, as in a person will lie and I want it documented. It’s legal in New York to record your conversations without telling the other side. It is most decidedly not in CA and quite a few other states. The article says “sometimes:” so I infer recording was not a default.

  35. paul

    Monsanto gets worse: Don’t know if its been linked before

    Sherman County may be issuing a Court Order on May 22, 2017, to quarantine Azure Farms and possibly to spray the whole farm with poisonous herbicides, contaminating them with Milestone, Escort and Roundup herbicides.

    This will destroy all the efforts Azure Farms has made for years to produce the very cleanest and healthiest food humanly possible. About 2,000 organic acres would be impacted; that is about 2.8 times the size of the City of London, England, and 1.5 times the size of the city center of Philadelphia that could be sprayed with noxious, toxic, polluting herbicides.

    The county would then put a lien on the farm to pay for the expense of the labor and chemicals used.

    Large scale organic farming, this must not stand!

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