Links 5/13/18

A growing wolf population presents German politicians with a conundrum Economist

Initial Coin Scams Nouriel Roubini, Project Syndicate

The Dynamics of Japanese Government Bonds’ Nominal Yields (PDF) Tanweer Akram and Huiqing Li, Levy Institute

Pipeline Spews Raw Crude Oil in Oklahoma City Ecowatch

The carbon footprint of tourism revealed (it’s bigger than we thought) The Conversation (original).


In the Middle East right now, all sides in this complex battle are staring at each other with increasing concern Robert Fisk, Independent

Another Middle East Meltdown? Project Syndicate

Countdown To War On Iran Moon of Alabama

Iran Hawks Are the New Iraq Hawks The Atlantic

Syria Imposes New Rules of Engagement on Israel The Saker. Yves: “Way too much verbiage. But if the asserted central facts are indeed correct, this probably is significant: 1. Israel got more aggressive after US exited Iran deal. More strikes but not much damage. 2. Syria retaliated in a bigger way than usual and did very serious damage. Basically suggests Syria can do a much better job of intercepting attacks that Israel.”

Israel Nudges Trump Towards War With Iran The American Conservative

Iran Nuclear Deal and U.S. Pullout Reflect Epic Bipartisan Failures Scott Ritter, Truthdig

Iraqi journalist who threw shoes at Bush stands for parliament Reuters

Russia’s Sukhoi Plans to Supply SSJ100R Planes to Iran Despite US Sanctions Sputnik. Civilian airliners.

On Iran and Trump, India Has Landed Between a Rock and a Hard Place The Wire


A dozen Cabinet ministers set to block Theresa May’s ‘customs partnership’ plan Telegraph

Brexit: Brussels set to push for six-month extension to UK’s transition period out of EU Independent. Yves: “This is only the transition period. This ask was nixed before when it was only 3 months. Messes up EU budget cycle. And 6 months is not going to make any meaningful difference in UK preparedness. I’ve seen no evidence of anyone on the EU side wanting more time. Their big problem is no one can plan because no one knows whether it will be a crash out or a hard Brexit. I think this is Barnier getting out over his skis again. He’s done that two times before and had his ideas nixed. He may be doing this to try to look friendlier while the EU is having to tell the UK its Irish nonsense is a non-starter (which it has already told them but they refuse to hear).”

‘It looks like a shameless bribe’: Almost three-quarters of grammar schools to benefit from Theresa May’s £50million handout are in Tory seats Mirror

Four challenges facing Italy’s new government FT

North Korea

Trump welcomes N. Korea plan to blow up nuke-site tunnels WaPo

Our Nukes, Ourselves The New Enquiry

Trump Transition

Donnelly Becomes Second Democrat to Support Gina Haspel to Lead the CIA Roll Call. Democrat Zero was, of course, Obama, who didn’t prosecute Haspel, or any other torturer.

Cheney calls for US to restart interrogation programs The Hill

We’ve Known for 400 Years That Torture Doesn’t Work Scientific American (DG).

* * *

Russian firm pleads not guilty to election meddling charge AP (more here).

Industry Lawyer Expected to Head F.T.C. Consumer Protection NYT

How romance novels are getting a makeover in the Trump era CBC. Interesting, but I reject formulations like “Trump Era,” because I think the continuities between Bush, Obama, and Trump (and further back) are far more important than the differences.

Ecuador hints it may hand over Julian Assange to Britain and the US WSWS (RK).

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

Thousands of people in Sweden get microchip implants for a new way of life SCMP

Hacker Shuts Down Copenhagen’s Public City Bikes System Bleeping Computer (CL).

Democrats in Disarray

Biden joins global effort to prevent election interference CNN. Start in Brooklyn?

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Woman Calls Police On Black Family For BBQing At A Lake In Oakland HuffPo (KW). KW: “Even the cops are getting pissed off with going to these types of calls.” Yves: “She’s done this before” (14:50). #BarbecuingWhileBlack

Another Black Customer Was Violently Arrested at Waffle House — Now Critics Want a Boycott Grub Streets. #EatingWhileBlack

The unwelcome revival of ‘race science’ Guardian

Class Warfare

The People Made the First New Deal. Can the People Make Another? Counterpunch

There’s now clear evidence that anti-poverty programs like welfare and Social Security work Yahoo Finance

Barber Sermon on Militarism Reveals Philosophical & Political Limitations of the Poor Peoples Campaign Black Agenda Report

The ‘white minority’ illusion The Week. Important.

I Don’t Give a Damn about the First (Insert Identity Here) CEO or President Ghion Journal

* * *

Senator Bernie Sanders Set to Appear at June Rally for Disney Resort Workers OC Weekly

Colorado Teachers Are Mad as Hell—And Now They’re out on Their First Strike in Decades In These Times

* * *

Can capitalism bring profit margins back to earth? John Authers, FT

Wisdom of a Non-Idiot Billionaire Peggy Noonan, WSJ. “‘I saw Bernie Sanders and the kids around him,’ says Ken Langone. ‘I thought: This is the antichrist!'” Managing a top-level domain as a commons P2P Foundation

Record-holding blood donor James Harrison donates one final time 9 News. Donates.

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. fresno dan

    I Don’t Give a Damn about the First (Insert Identity Here) CEO or President Ghion Journal

    I can’t believe I used to fall for this nonsense! It takes a stupendous level of cognitive dissonance to simultaneously celebrate the fortunes of someone from a specific identity while looking past the vast sea of people from said identity who are stuck in gut wrenching poverty. …..
    It’s the most stunning form of logical Ju-Jitsu establishment shills have successfully conditioned us to accept; instead of gauging the health of the economy and the vitality of our nation based on the collective whole, we have been hoodwinked to accept the elevation of a few as success for us all.
    can’t add to that

    1. jefemt

      Corollary: The blurb by Peggy Rah Rah Noonan on Ken Langone. He was one of the first lucky white cronies to ride on the back of Mr. Blank and Home Despot…

    2. bronco

      I like this Ghion journal , I bookmarked the site when it was first linked to in here, I’m sure others have done the same.

      1. Ur-Blintz


        There is nothing inherently virtuous in any identity.

        Peter Thiel is gay.

        Gina Haspel is a woman.

        Ben Carson is black.

        Caitlin Jenner is trans.

        Netanyahu is Jewish.

        George W. Bush is Christian.

        …and the list goes on.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          The Austrian corporal was a vegetarian.

          But not a Zen monk.

          To me, they seem the least bad.

          ‘Everyone, to the zazen room.’

          1. clarky90

            Hitler was also; Pagan, “back to nature” and an aspiring graphic artist. Our World would be different if AH had been accepted by the Academy

            “…his aspirations were ruined because he failed the entrance exam of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Hitler was rejected twice by the institute, once in 1907 and again in 1908.”

        2. polecat

          Some of those are rather translucent, and thus somewhat interchangeable .. which makes it harder to pinpoint, and emphasize, the obfuscations and hypocrisies of our (K)nowbetters ..

      2. Webstir

        That’s two yups. Tedrose is doing a consistent job breaking down the b.s. in his posts. Nothing like a reformed Obama-bot to set the record straight.

    3. Sid_finster

      Doubtless the people murdered in our name are comforted, honored even, knowing that the person signing their death warrant checks off some kind of diversity checkbox.

      If Marx taught us nothing else, it is this: the means of production is the only thing that matters.

      1. Zzzz Andrew

        I’ve been engaged in some pretty heavy discussions IRL about race and class lately, and have been reading a lot / listening to podcasts etc. in the same area. The conclusion I’m coming to is that while solidarity does in fact mean getting past these socially constructed identities, it’s also true that people on the receiving end of identitarian discrimination have a lot of experience with being shortchanged when the spoils of working class victories are divided. Theory is one thing, stated goals are one thing, but historically observed outcomes have been another. And so while folks in another “checkbox” might be in total agreement about your first statement, your second (about Marx) might leave them cold. They could give you the benefit of the doubt (I do, but then it’s easy for me to do so) that you’ve got a bridge in mind that goes from the means of production to police brutality, for example, and that that bridge doesn’t involve you saying “just wait, and ….” But why ask them to give you the benefit of the doubt, when you can get out in front of the disconnect by explicitly adding social justice to the list of the only things that matter?

        For any number of reasons, I’m the last person that should be opining on these questions. But when the urgent goal in general (and the response to checkboxes in particular) is the building of solidarity, it seems like a focus on MLK’s Social and Economic Bill of Rights solves a lot of problems.

      2. John Merryman

        What really matters is the economic medium, aka the circulation system. We have all been conditioned to accept money as a commodity to be mined from society, rather than the social contract holding billions+ economies together. It would be as if the head and the heart told the hands and feet they didn’t need so much blood and should work harder for what they do get.
        We need to learn to store wealth in a stronger society and healthier environment, not as abstractions in the markets. The only thing positive I can say about the current situation is that capitalists are the greatest danger to capitalism.
        Just as government is the executive and regulatory system of society, aka the central nervous system, finance and money are the circulation and blood distributing energy and nutrients throughout the body.
        So just as monarchs found they had to serve society, not just be served by it, so too will those running the banks find the same thing.

      3. Webstir

        Everything comes back to property law. As I said in an earlier thread: “We define the world by how we collectively rationalize the mine.

      4. polecat

        They’re the human version of a ‘phasmid’ … e.i. you can’t “see” what their intensions truly are, until they lord over you !

    4. Webstir

      “But, but, but … we have to fight against ____________ identity injustice! How can we ignore it!”
      This is the refrain I hear every time I rail against identity politics in favor of class. “Liberals” simply fail to see that uniting under the common banner of class, actually gives them the power to do something about their particular identity issue. Whereas, so long as they remain divided by identity issues they remain prey to divide and conquer strategies.

      I think educating liberals to this reality is the biggest challenge progressives face, and I don’t think we’re doing the best job at it. However, I recently came across a tweet (probably on here — though I forget specifically where) that strikes right to the core of this challenge:

      “The only dangerous minority is the rich.”

      1. Louis Fyne

        “The only dangerous minority is the rich.”

        If you’re white and could have perfect knowledge of your family tree—-sure, three of out 2^X of your ancestors (aka big number) were Charlemagne or King George II.

        But in most cases, the vast majority of your family tree are English serfs, Scottish crofters or Irish peasants or Italian sharecroppers or German mill workers. (and a lot of them were cousins, lol)

        That’s a lot of history of misery, de facto slavery and economic exploitation. Class should > self-indulgent individual identity label. in my opinion.

    5. David

      I’ve always thought it’s incredibly condescending to assume that “ethnic minorities” will vote for self-styled leftist parties, just because … well, just because. Not only do many ethnic groups have more conservative attitudes to some social issues, but some (Indians and West Africans in Britain for example) have been financially successful and are by no means inclined inevitably to vote for Leftish parties.
      In other countries, relying on demography and coalitions of minorities has been disastrous. In France, the Socialists took the vote from families of North and West African origin for granted for decades, and this vote is indeed steadily increasing. Then, to appease another of their lobbies, they introduced the gay marriage law. This scandalised many voters of African origin, whose views on such issues tend to be rather conservative. The upshot was the the Socialists lost a number of previously safe seats in working-class areas with high immigrant populations to the Right. This wasn’t the only factor that contributed to their defeat last year, but relying in identity-based politics resulted in the Socialists losing three quarters of their seats in Parliament, and having their Presidential candidate, Hamon, ejected in the first round of voting. And they had to sell their Paris headquarters. Whatever you think of the issues in contention, it’s just stupid politics.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The vote (of ethnic minorities)…for granted for decades.

        Yesterday, Hillary’s well to do coastal voters and their selfihness were discussed.

        In spring of 2016, her low information voters were in focus for while.

        Is the assumption that all three or maybe two of the three can be taken for granted, a good reason to prefer D nomination over, say, the Green party’s?

        Even so (engaging realpolitik), it is not productive to call them low information or to focus only on their selfishness.

  2. fresno dan

    Antidote du jour (via)
    Evolution perfectly adapting a ?moth? to camouflage itself in a ….whorehouse.

    1. Lunker Walleye

      Antidote du jour
      Felted pink and red quilt applique complete with stitching?

      1. HotFlash

        They just exist to find a mate and reproduce.

        I’m pretty sure I have met people like that.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Some of them posesses not much monetary wealth, but abundant mating wealth.

          Is that just?

          1. ambrit

            Reproductive justice?
            ‘They’ don’t call it the “Reproduction Lottery” for nithing!

  3. fresno dan

    The ‘white minority’ illusion The Week. Important.

    It’s likely to be their last gasp because, as Klein writes, “if current demographic projections hold, we will be a majority-minority nation in less than 30 years.” Once that happens, the country’s formerly white majority will have no choice but to reconcile itself to a changed demographic reality.
    But even if we assume for the sake of analysis that the categories remain intact, it’s important to recognize that “white” is going to remain the plurality group for a very long time to come.
    I would merely add the point that people should ask Presidents Gore and H. Clinton about what relevance winning a majority of voters have to holding the reins of power…..

    1. PlutoniumKun

      There is the other point that ‘whiteness’ changes over time. In the 19th Century Irish, Italians and Jews were not considered ‘white’, but as they joined the establishment, this is what they became. Plenty of ethnic groups aspire to belong to the majority and are politically and socially quite conservative and will no doubt soon become ‘honorary whites’. You can see this process happening with various groups such as Cuban Americans and Asian Americans. Whatever way you look at it, waiting for a demographic change like this is profoundly stupid politics.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        “White” generally meant the ability to move and be accepted by the dominant force. My grandmother knew relatives who were no longer considered Indians because they lived like white men despite still obviously being Indians. The almond shaped eyes are noticeable among my mother’s female relatives, but I can assure you no one would ever suggest I was anything but white.

        1. Oregoncharles

          It helps that Americans like to boast about Native ancestry, as long as they aren’t actually stuck on a reservation (which, mind you, are the only way to maintain any real cultural continuity.)

      2. JohnnyGL

        “Whatever way you look at it, waiting for a demographic change like this is profoundly stupid politics.” — I suspect this is a kind of political equivalent for liberals of waiting for the 2nd coming of Christ.

        It’s also a comforting story of telling yourself that history is on your side and you don’t have to change a thing.

        But yes, the fluidity of the social construction of race is a strong point and it’s underestimated how quickly ‘hispanics’ convert to ‘white’ in the US.

      3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The Europeans have had only eyes for Asians for millennia.

        Why did the Portugese pjust sailed around Africa, as if there was no one or nothing there? There were in a hurry to get to Cathay.

        And Columbus planned to go to Asia, not Santa Domingo.

        Things changed later, of course.

        It’s natural, it would seem, today Asians return that affection, when it comes to becoming Whites.

    2. Geo

      I am so tired of this changing demographic nonsense. Been hearing this from Democrats since the 90’s as an impending tide sweeping them into a permanent majority (and from the GOP warning of losing cultural identity).

      All this is just fodder for pushing identity politics and building walls (metaphorically, if not literally) between the working poor and distracting them from the vapidness of the two parties they vote for.

      Even if whites do become less than fifty percent in 30 years (do Democrats plan on waiting that long to regain election advantage by default?) they will still hold most the wealth and institutional power, and the other demographics will be minorities still since demographic groups have individual interests. As is often said here, Democrats would be better served focusing on policies that actually benefit all people and stop with the targeted incrementalism that only divides and pits groups against each other (“I don’t want my tax dollars going to ‘those’ people) but, of course, that would require them to start considering the welfare of the people instead of the welfare of their donors.

      1. Heraclitus

        One often overlooked fact of the demographic story is that out of wedlock birth rates among blacks and Hispanics have declined by 50% since 2007. They’ve declined 36% with whites. All of those groups, including low income whites, are needed for the Democrats to dominate.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Demographic change can be from immigration/immigration and births/deaths.

        First generation immigrants are easier than later generations to attract to the D party, as adjusting to surviving in the new country can be very tough.

        But if your party can’t take care of existing clients, either 10th generation immigrants or second generation ones, you will always need new immigrants.

        You need a Ponzi scheme.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I visited South Africa during the Apartheid years and found that is was more of a case of a minority of the white minority ruled South Africa. Even countries nowadays like America you can also say that it is run by a minority of a white minority. The rest of that white minority are stuck in flyover America and get no say whatsoever in how their country is run. I guess that you could say that some whites are more equal to other whites in many countries.

    3. clarky90

      Re “identity politics”.

      I believe that this marriage is hugely significant to future USAian politics. Minority peoples do not have to vote for the Democrats.

      “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Just Received the Ultimate Seal of Approval from Queen Elizabeth”

      “NOW KNOW YE that We have consented and do by these Presents signify Our Consent to the contracting of Matrimony between Our Most Dearly Beloved Grandson Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales, K.C.V.O., and Rachel Meghan Markle,….”

  4. QuarterBack

    Re the Swedish microchip story, that rumble and fiery streak into the sky you witnessed was not the latest SpaceX launch, it was George Orwell rocketing out of his grave.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Can we agree at this point that it is only a matter of time until the first microchip suppository is announced? Like, it would be so convenient to use, man. And everybody knows that convenience is the only thing that matters. Taking a quote from this article, they might say: “It was fun to try something new and to see what one could use it for to make life easier in the future”.

      1. perpetualWAR

        Making life easier:
        When did anything good come from taking the “easy” route?

        I am just frightened how willing people are to allow surveillance. My niece was delighted when her iphone opened up by recognizing her face. And my sister’s boyfriend has Alexa turn on his lights, play his music and wipe his a**.

        Thank Goddess for this NC community where I find people equally appalled about the direction our surveillance society is headed!

    2. Quentin

      Yes, this some of the scariest crap I can imagine coming from the society that is now for all intents and purposes cashless (that is, requiring the use of debit and credit cards for all payments) and for kicks gave us the hideous rape allegations against Julian Assange which turned out to be false and will soon result in his downfall even though the allegations themselves were dropped long ago. Oh, whatever happened to the voluptuous Swedish world of Anita Ekberg of La Doce Vita fame. By the way, the #MeToo crowd might have the decency to condemn the Swedish government for politically leveraging rape to distort the personal sexual experiences of two women and literally destroy a man.

      1. JTMcPhee

        “16And the second beast required all people small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark—the name of the beast or the number of its name.

        18Here is a call for wisdom: Let the one who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and that number is six hundred sixty-six.

        6-6-6 is your number, Citizen! And yours also, Citizen! And yours! And yours, Citizen, is 6-1-6, just to provide a wedge issue and basis for arbitrary discrimination for the managers of the Apocalypse…

        Oh, not to worry — Revelation was just an apocalyptic apocryphal scratching that wasn’t even written in English, for God’s sake — can’t rely on that text, massaged by so many gatherings of old-man paternalistic Biblical Scholars and High Church Officials — any insight or applicability to the Real World of Digital Dollars and Nuclear Weapons and conveniences like UberFlyingCars and surgically inserted chips must be ignored (or in the case of the Bibis and Lemays and Tellers and all those Imperial general officers who see themselves bringing along Armageddon “in accordance with the Very Word Of God Himself, as inerrant and unarguable as the Commandments chiseled into those Holy Stone Tablets that Moses Heston carried down from Mount Sinai, it says so right here, right here in my copy of one of over a hundred competing versions of the Holly Bibble —

      1. Aumua

        This is the thing. The AI does not need a chip to identify anyone. Biometrics will be all that is needed.

  5. Edward E

    Boggy Creek welcomes NK moves, “Thank you, a very smart and gracious gesture!”
    Pompeo: US to assist North Korea with its economy if it gets rid of nuclear weapons.
    Haven’t we heard that stuff with Muammar Gaddafi?

    1. Edward E

      Looks like Boggy Creek is about to get Julian turned over to UK.
      ‘Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa stated in a Spanish-language interview on Wednesday that her government and Britain “have the intention and the interest that this be resolved.” Moves were underway, she said, to reach a “definite agreement” on Assange.’

          1. The Rev Kev

            I have always thought that when a country accepts US bases on its territory that it might be a bit of a poison pill. The trouble is not so much the soldiers or the bases but what happens next. Consider this, if the US has bases set up then they do not want to be one day kicked out. And the only way to do that is to infiltrate that society and its governmental institutions to make sure whoever is in power, that US base stays. And guess what? That is exactly what former President Rafael Correa accused the US of doing. I wonder if when Assange is ejected from that embassy, that they will take him to the same hidey-hole that they have locked the Skripals in?

            1. Edward E

              Was thinking the same thing. Legendary Boggy Creek quicksands mostly won’t leave clues.

      1. Indrid Cold

        As Hitler-(correctly) said when the Brits got hold of Rudolf Hess “they’ll pump him full of drugs and get him to say anything they want” Assange will disappear into the wonderful hall of MK mirrors and emerge a sweating, wild eyed, pale mess, saying nothing that might embarrass his handlers or their masters. People who know where the bodies are buried and where the archons derive their power are, when caught ( and kept on ice for weeks at a time) and dragged before the tribunal, invariably silent regarding what they know ( or knew before being injected with 800 mics of LSD) when at last put in front of the cnn camera. Remember the leader of Panama, who knew all about the CIA/ drugs operation? Noriega must have got an offer of continuing to breathe in exchange for omertà.

        1. pretzelattack

          bolton purportedly told the leader of the chemical investigations at the un “we know where your kids are” when ordering him to resign for not being compliant enough in supporting the u.s. iraq war push. examples will be made till morale improves.

      2. oh

        Wouldn’t it be so funny when they go get Assange in the embassy they find he’s an imposter and the real Assange, like Elvis had “left the building” years ago!

      1. Arizona Slim

        Mount St. Helens also burped a mushroom cloud. I saw a framed photo of it in a friend’s house.

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          Spray cans at our burning dump, back in the day, would do perfect little mushrooms. No wonder kids need iphones, we’ve knocked the edges off all the fun stuff.

          I have seen Kilauea lava a zillion times. It was the go-to stock footage of all the sci-fi shows I watched growing up. Doctor Who and a supervolcano in the middle of Britain? Kilauea footage. Palms trees and all.

  6. Carolinian

    Re Kenneth Langone, the VC exec who arranged the financing for the Home Depot founders: He tells Noonan that the wealthy have a social obligation, a noblesse oblige, but one of those HD founders named Bernard Marcus is a driver behind Trump’s potential war with Iran. In fact it seems that much of the world’s mischief these days is being committed by “billionaires” whose notion of social benefit is as skewed as that of the divine right royals and aristocrats who preceded them.

    That said, Langone is probably right that Sanders’ obsession with billionaires diminishes the role of the middle class elite in propping these people up. There was a time when the press and popular entertainment made fun of deluded octogenarians. Given the current system it’s unlikely that anyone will be taking away billionaires’ money any time soon, but there’s no reason why we should give people like Marcus or Langone our respect.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      Thanks to Lambert for posting that link. I especially appreciate the window into the thinking of the other side in the comments.

    2. kgw

      Just like the wannabe “billionaires” known as “landlords.” Notice the word “lord” in there…

    3. The Rev Kev

      I loved it when billionaire Kenneth Logan said that: “If I can make it, everyone can!” and you know what? He’s right you know. All it takes is to be born in the mid-1930s so that you come of age during the greatest expansion in the American economy ever with business opportunities abounding. Now if he had been born in the 1990s you have to wonder where he would be now. Crushed by student debt maybe? Still doing stuff like being a butcher’s assistant, a caddie and a ditch digger like he did in his earlier life? I wonder if he ever thinks about stuff like this?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        In the 1990’s, the Chinese are likely to claim today, you would have been better off being born in China.

        Location, location, location.

    4. Mo's Bike Shop

      I just made a 6 mile trip for a $4 circuit breaker. Invention of the big box store is not on my list of the triumphs of Capitalism.

  7. The Rev Kev

    “Hacker Shuts Down Copenhagen’s Public City Bikes System”

    Ahh, a hacker deleted the organization’s entire database, did he? That should be no problem. Just copy over the backups to that database and they should be back in business again. Hello? Hello?

    1. Wukchumni

      I long for the days when the worst thing a hacker could do, was hit an awful slice off the tee @ the driving range, somehow breaking a parked car’s front window thought to be in a here to fore safe place, in the process.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        A hacker could also swing at ball four in the bottom of the ninth, with team trailing by a run, and the bases loaded, in their first World Series appearance in 100 years.

  8. PlutoniumKun

    Syria Imposes New Rules of Engagement on Israel The Saker. Yves: “Way too much verbiage. But if the asserted central facts are indeed correct, this probably is significant: 1. Israel got more aggressive after US exited Iran deal. More strikes but not much damage. 2. Syria retaliated in a bigger way than usual and did very serious damage. Basically suggests Syria can do a much better job of intercepting attacks that Israel.”

    The Syrian – and not Iranian – response consisted of more than fifty – and not twenty – rockets against four sensitive Israeli military bases in the occupied Golan, which caused material damage and even casualties according to Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s media. These were not reported by the Israeli press because of the draconian military censorship forbidding mentioning Israel’s initial aggression, more than twenty rockets fired on Israel, the identification of their targets and any hint to the damage inflicted, in order to reassure the population inside and allow the vassal Western capitals to shout their sickening refrain of the sacrosanct-right-of-Israel-to-defend-itself.

    It does seem logical that the attack on the Golan was much more severe than reported. It makes no sense that the Iranians would retaliate with such a powderpuff attack (just 20 unguided rockets?), knowing full well that the Israelis would respond with a much more intense attack. Of course, given the sources you have to assume a lot of exaggeration, but I can’t believe that Iran/Syria wouldn’t have thought through very seriously the nature of their response.

    It also seems likely that the air defence was quite successful, judging just by the absence of more specific claims of much damage, plus the youtube videos available, which seem to show successful interventions. Its hard to believe that the Russians haven’t been updating Syrian defences, if for no other reason that it would help them test the capabilities of their latest hardware and software. We’ve heard a lot of talk about how the Syrian military has been degraded, but they’ve shown great resourcefulness, and with technical help from the Russians and Iranians it can’t be assumed that they are a walkover for a modern military. If nothing else, they are very battlehardened.

    Although it is interesting to see the Russian refusal to get more directly involved. I’m pretty sure they’ve told the Syrians and Iranians that if they want to fight the Israeli’s, they are on their own. Russia must be itching to de-escalate Syria to minimise the chances of getting caught in a quagmire.

    1. jsn

      To your last point, Napoleon’s maxim: Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself.

      As the Donald’s tweets sap US alliances around the world and Bolton rolls out the “Regime Change” groundwork and messaging even as Russian missile defenses appear to significantly outperform their American counterparts, and as trade frictions and increasingly ambiguous “sanctions regimes” subvert the US control of the coercive power of international capital flows, the Russians and Chinese probably think time is on their side.

      With the hollowness of the US economy, where official statistics only even attempt to represent the corporate and financial sectors, casting the balance of nation to the wind, I suspect they are right.

      1. tegnost

        a new turn on the we have to pass the bill to read it, we have to start a war with russia to see what kind of weapons they have

      2. VietnamVet

        The Empire’s Wars are not in the people’s best interest. They do satisfy the need for looting by oligarchs and military contractors. The reigniting of the Korean War is unlikely except for the possibility of an insane mistake. South Korea, China and Russia do not want a war. The Middle East is different. There the USA and UK are directed by their Client States; Israel and Saudi Arabia. They want a war with Iran but cannot fight one on their own. The Washington Post article “In Syria, an accidental bulwark against Iran shows confusion of Trump policy” at the bottom of today’s front page is implicit. Israel is pushing the USA to go to war and cut the Iranian landline to Lebanon. Dennis Ross was quoted at the end: “That is a war that you know how it starts but you don’t know how it ends,” he said. “Rather than waiting, why not get off the sidelines?” This is crazy. If we survive, the 17-year war will drag on for decades until the Empire is bankrupt. Not much different than the Eighty Years’ War (1568 -1648) that led to the Peace of Westphalia and ultimately the decline and collapse of the Spanish Empire.

    2. cocomaan

      I don’t foresee a real shooting war. Just like we didn’t have one in North Korea. Nobody wants a war.

      The Iran deal probably was holding together some kind of criminal undertaking, judging from the abrupt and awkward resignation of an IAEA official:

      and the chief architect on the American side:

      I don’t think we fully understand this Iran deal yet, it smells funny.

      1. Grebo

        If nobody wanted a war there would be fewer of them.

        The IAEA inspector resigning indicates the Iran deal is a criminal undertaking? I do not follow your logic. More likely John Bolton threatened his children.

        Likewise the American, not having got the message from all his staff being fired, was made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

      2. JTMcPhee

        “Nobody wants a war.” What kind of wishful thinking is that? Have you heard of “Shock and Awe,” and Libya, and Syria, and Vietnam, and Korea and a whole bunch more places that have benefited from the gentle ministrations of the many people in the Empire who goddam for sure “want war.” And they have proven themselves totally unconcerned about the kinds of “consequences” to the mopes of the world, consequences that they of course suffer none of. And of course North Korea, and South Korea, too, the whole peninsula, was subjected to a bombardment and invasion that was, in the words of the “American Generals” who planned it, to “burn it all to the ground.”

        Wow. The “deal probably was holding together some kind of criminal undertaking,” based on some kind of smell of associations? No doubt everything us mopes are allowed to see of what actually goes on in the Great Game, all the secret miserable crap that Our Various Rulers and Owners have been doing for millennia. And once in a while we get a little glimpse behind the veils and curtains. But that’s all we get.
        And so often those little bits of information are just converted, but the sleight of hand of the sh!ts and spooks converts those bits into “modified limited hangouts” and suchlike…

        You might, if you haven’t done so, read “The Guns of August,” the parts about the run up to what we call WW I — where as the enthusiasms peaked and the Schlieffen Plan moved toward collision with Plan 7, and finally an event produced a declaration, all the newspapers put up the large-type headlines reading “IT’S WAR!” Finally, once again, IT”S WAR!

        “Nobody wants a war.” Forgive me if I have to say that is purblind BS.

        1. cocomaan

          Look, I protested the Iraq war. I’d protest a war in Iran. But as far as America goes, there’s no will for a war in Iran. The will is just not there (like it wasn’t for a syrian incursion back under obama). Israel isn’t likely to go at it on their own. Iran is too much of a powerhouse for Israel to deal with themselves. They need America to do it. They can’t even handle the yahoos in Syria. 2006 showed that they couldnt’ handle hezballah.

          Just a few months ago, the stories here on Naked Capitalism were about how a war with N Korea was imminent. Nothing happened.

          I am speculating, and people are rightfully criticizing me for speculating, that Iran deal is damn murky. John Kerry’s hail mary to try and save the deal was strange, because I never got the feeling it was all that effective, except for the cash transactions. Iran continued to funnel weapons and the cold war between them and Saudi continued.

          1. marym

            The JCPOA was to ensure Iran’s nuclear development would be limited to peaceful uses in return for sanctions relief. It’s effectiveness should be judged on what was in the agreement. There was no evidence that Iran failed to comply with the terms.

          2. Bittercup

            I have the same sense of there being some sort of not-public component to the Iran deal. It feels like the “veils and curtains” draped over it (to borrow JTMcPhee’s phrase) are just a little bit thinner than usual, and reveal strange shapes underneath.

            1. JTMcPhee

              I recall that in addition to trading weapons for hostages, in that stuff that happened back when the “Iranian students” broke down the Embassy gates in Tehran, reassembled all the shredded Super Secret Papers showing the vast piles of US Imperial dirty underwear that the spooks were too incompetent to dispose of in a hurry, and Reagan forked Carter with the October Surprise thing, getting the Iranians to not release the hostages until Reagan was ‘elected.’ Quite a story, the whole Iran-Contra thing,–Contra_affair , even the bits that make up the “modified limited hangout” version that we mopes have been allowed to see. Speaking of veils and curtains in connection with Iran dealings and the whole ME thing in general.

              And this is the Bible part,

              …According to a person who has read the committee’s draft report, the retired C.I.A. official, George W. Cave, an Iran expert who was part of the mission, said the group had 10 falsified passports, believed to be Irish, and a key-shaped cake to symbolize the anticipated ”opening” to Iran….

              Nevertheless, until the committee’s report began to circulate in Washington, all the Iranian assertions about the McFarlane mission were either derided as fanciful or not confirmed. Today, a senior State Department official independently confirmed that Mr. McFarlane, a former national security adviser, did carry the Reagan Bible as authentication for the group. But he said he was not sure about the cake and declined to discuss the passports.

              The Irish Government complained publicly when the reports appeared that the McFarlane group had carried Irish passports.

              The report noted that Mr. McFarlane, in his testimony, said he had carried his own United States passport but had never had to show it. One earlier report said Lieut. Col. Oliver L. North carried all the fake passports. When asked in November about the Iranian reports, Mr. McFarlane dismissed as fiction many of the details, such as that the participants were wearing disguises.

              And this is the reason the Super-Secret Mission apparently failed:

              According to participants in the trip, the McFarlane mission, on May 28-31, turned out to be a major disappointment for the Reagan Administration, the committee report said. Under an elaborate plan worked out in advance by Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian businessman, and an Israeli official, Amiram Nir, the McFarlane mission was to deliver three planeloads of weapons starting with their flight to Iran. In return, all the American hostages were to be freed in Lebanon.

              When no hostages were freed, the group’s three days were spent in fruitless argument with low- and middle-level Iranians. The Iranians complained that they had been overcharged for weapons previously sent to them via Israel.

              There’s a pattern starting to emerge here, neh?

    3. Procopius

      I think the Russians are not willing to let their newest and best anti-air technology out of their own hands. I’ve seen reports that they are considering selling SA-300 systems to the Syrians, but currently the Syrians, with some targeting help from the Russians, seem to do pretty well with the “obsolete” SA-200. I think if they had SA-300s the Isrealis would have to stop this game of flying over Lebanon and launching air-to-ground missiles at targets inside Syria. The Saker is a very interesting site.

  9. PlutoniumKun

    Russia’s Sukhoi Plans to Supply SSJ100R Planes to Iran Despite US Sanctions Sputnik. Civilian airliners.

    This is a huge opportunity for Sukhoi (and maybe the Chinese too), but its worth pointing out that the Europeans, especially the French, have a significant share of the new Sukhoi Superjet. So it would need some form of EU approval for it to go ahead, and it would raise the question of whether the US would retaliate against companies like Snecma (French engine maker) for its role. Boeing had a consultancy role in the design process, but presumably this will be ended quickly if a sale goes ahead.

    Unfortunately for the Iranians, the Russians only make these mid-range aircraft. If they hope to compete with the Gulf States as a hub for Asia to European travel, then they’ll need Airbus or Boeing aircraft, there are no alternatives.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Mid-range aircraft may be all the Iranians need at the moment when you think about it. I would say that this relentless campaign against Iran will eventually result in the refusal of landing rights for Iran Air to at least all the EU countries ( and perhaps other countries.
      Most of their fleet appears to be Airbus aircraft so I would imagine that before the sanctions kick in in six months time, that they will be laying as many spare parts as possible for their current fleet – and Airbus & Boeing can kiss $40 billion worth of deals goodbye.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Yes, well, of course thats the other big issue. The normalisation of long distance travel for holidays is enormously environmentally destructive. I’m guilty of it myself, as I love travelling.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I think Iran Air has aspirations to develop Tehran as a major hub, in competition with the UAE and Qatar – in fact, Qatar was using Tehran for that purpose to avoid overflying SA. Although I suspect that in the longer term such hubs will become less important as airlines seem to prefer direct flights now that more long distance aircraft are available.

        I think the EU will be very reluctant to impose any more restrictions than absolutely necessary on Iran Air – there are too many big contracts at stake. They will take the minimalist route possible, thats if they don’t fully stand up to Trump on this (which is still possible I think).

  10. PlutoniumKun

    Brexit: Brussels set to push for six-month extension to UK’s transition period out of EU Independent. Yves: “This is only the transition period. This ask was nixed before when it was only 3 months. Messes up EU budget cycle. And 6 months is not going to make any meaningful difference in UK preparedness. I’ve seen no evidence of anyone on the EU side wanting more time. Their big problem is no one can plan because no one knows whether it will be a crash out or a hard Brexit. I think this is Barnier getting out over his skis again. He’s done that two times before and had his ideas nixed. He may be doing this to try to look friendlier while the EU is having to tell the UK its Irish nonsense is a non-starter (which it has already told them but they refuse to hear).”

    I don’t really see the logic behind this idea, as its pretty clear that a longer transition period won’t satisfy the core issue of how the UK addresses the Irish border, although its possible that some in the EU are starting to panic over a lack preparedness on all sides for the cliff edge next March. Politicians will always opt for extending deadlines if there is no other alternative. Its possible they are floating the idea to see if it strengthens the Remainers in Parliament. But I suspect this is just a feeler to see if there is some sort of left field solution that can be pulled out of the bag at the last moment.

    1. Carolinian

      Thanks for the link. Of course there’s no reason to necessarily believe the Hezbollah version of the missile exchange any more than the Israeli version. But it’s useful to simply have another version given the lockstep American media and their known record of misinformation.

      1. kgw

        What’s your reason for saying that? In my years of, unfortunately, keeping track of the matter, the Israeli governments are the absolute winners in the fabrication department.

  11. yarnover girl

    I appreciate Naked Capitalism posting occasional articles on the romance genre; it’s interesting to see that part of culture intersect with the type of analysis found on this website.

    As for the article itself, I’m skeptical of claims that the genre is undergoing any fundamental changes. As the annotation to that link points out, there isn’t a clear line between the Obama era or Trump era; the internet is full of Obama-era articles about how the romance genre is totally feminist now. (Example:

    I also think it’s telling that Sarah MacLean describes her revamped hero as an “Alpha feminist.” Keyword: “Alpha.” From what I’ve gathered after years of trying to make myself enjoy romance novels (because they’re totally feminist, as the internet is eager to tell me), the genre has a death grip on the idea of the “alpha male.” That archetype has been dressed in different clothing in recent years, made to have moments of sensitivity or of apparently respectful behavior towards women; but if he isn’t, at bottom, capable of domination, aggression, and possessive protectiveness of his beloved, then he isn’t fit to star in a romance novel. Of course there are exceptions in a genre so large, but in my experience they’re very difficult to find.

    And that doesn’t even get into the class element of romance novels. I’ve struggled just as much to find romance novels in which neither partner is wealthy or a member of the aristocracy, as I have to find romance heroes who are psychologically integrated human beings with recognizable feminine sides. The only middle-class characters I’ve seen with any regularity are members of the military. A quick survey of the recommended novels in that article is telling on this point: beyond the marquesses, princesses, dukes, etc., our heroes and heroines include a “cutthroat corporate attorney” who has just won the lottery, two “high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood,” a returned soldier, an “heiress” (in a contemporary novel), and an algorithm-writer who has “more money than she knows what to do with.”

    Fit for the Trump era indeed.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Seeking a definition of “feminism” in this context.

      What would be the beliefs and behaviors of a “feminist heroine” in one of these novels? Would something along these lines be part of it? “Lara Croft — Tomb Raider”? Madeline Albright? Nancy Pelosi, Wasserman-Schultz, Feinstein? Melania Trump, ?

      1. yarnover girl

        I’d say the “feminist” ethos of romance novels and their online boosters is similar to what Andi Zeisler describes, in We Were Feminists Once, as “choice feminism”: the idea that women exercising autonomy over their lives, making choices for themselves and their own happiness, is inherently feminist. It’s the kind of thing that seems half-true before you think about it too much; if women are conditioned to devalue themselves and their desires, then something that cuts against that would seem to be feminist. But of course the idea of “women making choices” is completely amoral, and your mention of Madeleine Albright is a perfect example of how women’s choices deserve scrutiny, just like men’s choices do — even if they reflect some authentic internal state within the woman herself (like Albright’s no doubt authentic desire to grow American empire by feeding it the bodies of Iraqi children).

        It’s why, in the examples I mentioned above, a book about a “cutthroat corporate attorney” who has just further enriched herself by winning the lottery can be included in an article touting the new, feminist face of romance fiction. That cutthroat, lottery-winning lawyer is nothing if not self-actualized.

        1. ambrit

          A heretical thought here.
          The idea of “choice feminism” sounds almost bizarre when considering that the concept of personal ‘agency’ is counter to any social construct that includes hierarchical organization.
          Socially thinking, “choice” any category is deconstructive.
          The contest should be rather focused upon the distribution and basic parameters of social control. Hence, reproductive control struggles. Who determines when women have children, and, more importantly, why, is of the essence.
          My prime example of this dynamic in action is one basic to Western civilization; the Christian Bible, specifically the Old Testament.
          Hidden within the historical narrative of the Hebrew Patriarchs take over of Philistia is the story of the fierce battle between the Hebrew exclusive Male deity and the Philistines multi-aspect Female deities. Strong, self assertive females were demonized by the Hebrew Patriarchs, and I’ll hazard to guess, all Patriarchs in general. This was reflected in the Hebrew Male Sky God construct. Such religious hierarchies were almost exclusively male dominated. The female priestesses of the surrounding cultures were seen as evil and seductive. Literally seductive as Temple Prostitution was a going concern back then. Simply put, the idea of powerful and influential females was anathema to the Patriarchs and had to be suppressed, or, if not suppressible, liquidated. The winner of this contest got to write the history and divide the physical spoils.The cougars were forced to become pussycats.
          My primary source for this theory is Robert Graves and his “White Goddess” and other works, both fiction and non-fiction. His “King Jesus” casts the life of Jesus in this light.

        2. Oregoncharles

          Female “cutthroat corporate attorney”’s are an inevitable consequence of equality. So, feminist, yes. To say nothing of dominatrix material, from a plotting point of view.

          Did someone say women are inherently more moral than men?

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      Something bothered me about this link. The two authors pictured stood out first. I don’t know how attractive either woman might be in person but I doubt either could have been represented with a more unflattering photograph. Shooting a face from below? Am I wrong to wonder whether this link is subtly subversive of popular romance literature? The assertion that crafting an “alpha female” character who conquers a politically correct “alpha male” helps romance novels reflect feminist ideals in today’s political climate impresses me as ludicrous. And the work of the second author seemed to get mention, along with the reference to the size, particularly the high dollar value of the market for romance literature to round out the supposed political correctness of this link.

    3. Elizabeth Burton

      Sadly, speaking as a publisher, there doesn’t seem to be a market for middle-class romances. I hate those tropes as well, so have never published any. Which means I haven’t published a whole lot of romances because no one seems interested in writing them. Same with the hot-button issue of “diversity,” which I was doing 15 years ago.

      Maybe I should start using “Sick of reading about rich people?” as a marketing tag. :-)

  12. The Rev Kev

    “Mueller Indicted Concord Catering for Conspiring in the 2016 U.S. Election. But Its Lawyer Says the Company Didn’t Exist Then”

    OK, so Mueller indicted a coupla Russian companies and forgot that that would mean that they would have the right to discovery of any evidence Mueller has which they have demanded. Oops! Now it comes out that one company that he indicted did not even exist back in 2016.
    Could it be that that Robert Mueller is simply a lousy lawyer?

    1. Jim Haygood

      Or even worse … could Mueller be part of a conspiracy to frame people? That’s one possible inference to draw from Senator Grassley’s May 11th letter to Rosenstein (DOJ) and Wray (FBI), demanding the transcript of the intercepted call between Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

      Grassley amps it up a notch by outing the identity of the second FBI agent present at the Jan 24, 2017 interview with Flynn, one Joe Pientka. Grassley demands that Pientka present himself to the Judiciary Committee for a transcribed interview.

      Grassley is homing in on glaring discrepancies between notes saying that the agents found no indication that Flynn was lying, versus Flynn’s subsequent indictment for lying. A few weeks after the Flynn interview on Feb 14, 2018, Peter Strzok texted his paramour Lisa Page asking “Is Andy [McCabe] good with F 302 [Form 302, agent’s notes of interview]? “Launch on f 302,” replies Page.

      Doubtless the committee will ask Agent Pientka to what extent he was pressured by the now-fired McCabe to slant his interview notes toward prosecuting rather than exonerating Flynn, in contrast to the agents’ initial reaction that the Flynn interview was a poor start toward making a criminal case.

      The upshot is that even one of Mueller’s few conviction trophies — the conviction of Flynn on a minor, derivative charge of lying — is being picked apart by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Woe to Mueller if McCabe (who was fired for lying) prevailed upon Strzok and Pientka to lie themselves in the Form 302s which Mueller used to indict Flynn for lying. If that’s what happened, was Mueller aware of this potential perjury and evidence tampering?

      1. JTMcPhee

        Will any of that make any substantive difference to the Blob or the mopes it is crushing? Or to “Policy” like Forever War or financial looting or anything to protect our environment? Who will do anything in the way of enforcement of those fusty “laws” that might change the Oligarchs’ domination of pretty much everything?

        About as important as box-scoring baseball games.

      2. sd

        So basically, short version, we are watching real world Game of Thrones without the titties and dragons.

        1. Oregoncharles

          What did you THINK GoT was about? Supposedly it’s inspired by the Wars of the Roses.

        2. Bernard

          exactly, i gather. I often wondered why Game of Thrones was so popular. a view of our own future, or what I expect life’s future might perhaps be akin. Violence is already widespread, no respect for the commons or society. As Thatcher said, There is no such thing as Society. Evil pure and simple

  13. QuarterBack

    The narrative the subject of torture artfully distracts the public from the very essence of why torture is employed in the first place. The target of the act is not the individual being tortured; the target is the public itself. The objective is not to uncover truth, but rather to buttress suppositions and lies so that the public can be persuaded to follow a desired path. For this purpose torture is highly effective. For whatever reason, groups of people in the moment can be reliably sold most any premise, from witch hunts to a modern casus belli, when there is a person in the flesh offering confession. This is even more true when there is a line of confessors. The tradecraft of tyrants then shifts the narrative to the debate over whether the same truths (which are actually fallacy) could have been uncovered by others means. The promoted fallacy is assumed true while the debate is shifted to tactics and urgency. Students of the Change Management Process learn the importance of the sense of urgency for evoking change. The excuse for torture is most always expediency, when in fact, urgency is just the cover for the desire to hook the public on the fallacy. The passing of time removes the urgency and enables historians to see the witch hunts for what the were, but when the public is in the moment, caught in the call for urgency, and unarmed with knowledge of history, (regrettably) torture works.

    1. Spring Texan

      Thanks, QuarterBack. I hadn’t thought of this, but you are so right. Enlightening.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Is one against torture itself, in principle, whether it works or not?

      Are we against killing our fellow humans and ourselves, regardless if that would reduce overpopulation?

      The answer for me and all of us, I hope, is we are against killing, period.

      So whether torture works or not is a non question. In fact, I think it works in not a few cases. It’s like the fear of death and death itself, which can in cases, be swift and painless. That way, it’s possible to intimidate with the threat of torture.

      1. John Wright

        I can offer some personal experience with pain as I had some second degree burns that required surgery and hospitalization.

        During treatment, I was given morphine, but that only took the edge off the pain.

        I remarked to the burn technician who was scrubbing the burned area, “this pain makes me feel weak and powerless”, and he responded that “that is why they torture people”.

        If I had been told, and believed credible, that the pain would go away if I testified to some action or signed some form, I might have done it.

        From my point of view, information extracted via torture may be credible in a few cases, but also could be bad information offered simply to make the pain go away.

        The USA spends about $70 billion/year on NSA+CIA+FBI and another $700 billion on “defense” and it also needs torture in the toolbox?

        Perhaps many of those “chicken hawks” who assert that “torture works”, could, under torture, be induced to say the opposite if they believed the pain would go away.

        Torture, by the USA, should be banned for both ethical and effectiveness reasons and to set an example to the ROW.

    3. JCC

      The target of the act is not the individual being tortured; the target is the public itself.


      I remember reading an article I read years ago about the Shah of Iran and his SAVAK secret police force. One of their primary objectives when dealing with dissidents was to torture them to the point where they were clearly, permanently, crippled and just short of death, then release them back to the public as a “lesson to them all”.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Took a quick trip down history lane and found out that the SAVAK was set up by the CIA and trained in its techniques and such one trainer was the father of General Norman Schwarzkopf. The other organization that helped in training afterwards was the Israeli Mossad. Some SAVAK interrogators were sent abroad for training in more violent techniques after 1971. I wonder where to? I wonder also if that was one of the main reasons why after the Revolution that both the US and Israel got into Iran’s bad books? Needless to say, after the Revolution they were all put up against a wall and shot. Nah! Just kidding. The organization got re-branded as the SAVAMA and the same people went to work for the Revolution instead.

      2. AbateMagicThinking but Not Money

        Re Staliin’s torture,

        Reading about the terror of the 1930’s after the Kirov assassination where torture and executions were common place there are some moments of relief (if you can call it that) when the torturer is consumed by the terror he has been engaged in.

        It seems to me there was no purpose to it at all. It was just a process, like photocopying. The people seemingly loved Stalin – unable to believe that he was behind it all, so if it was a warning to society it did not seem to achieve the desired effect. When it comes to fulfilling quotas for executions it is beyond a warning.


    4. Harold

      Public execution served similar purpose. The idea was to set an example, through use of terror.

    5. Craig H.

      He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. — Friedrich Nietzsche

    6. Grebo

      The purpose of torture is not to make the victim tell the truth, it is to make them tell the right lies.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I wonder with people that want to torture other people that it is the same dynamic at work as with rapists and men who bully women. It is all about power and making someone bend to your will. As the novel “1984” says, the way to demonstrate power is to make someone suffer to make sure that they obey you. You see this even with people that are second-hand away from the actual violence like John Bolton (although he is on record as bullying & threatening people) and Dick Cheney. God knows what would happen if they came up against people that would bully them right back but I think that I can guess the outcome there.

      1. Aumua

        Torture is a truly terrifying idea. What is more disturbing than the thought of being tortured, of being tortured to death especially? As long as we still live in a world where torture is accepted as a necessary path to anything… we still have a long way to go to even call ourselves civilized.

    7. ObjectiveFunction

      Brilliant exegesis and analogy, QB! (having once myself been a journeyman of the Guild of Corporate Torturers aka Change Management Consultants before fleeing in horror)

  14. allan

    Class warfare, lower-ed edition:

    Education Department Unwinds Unit Investigating Fraud at For-Profits [NYT]

    Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees.

    The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked. …

    With a surprise cameo appearance by Swamp Creatures of the Month, Matt and Mercedes Schlapp.

  15. Olga

    An incisive view from a soldier:
    “The truth is that America is exhausting itself in internecine wars of choice across the greater Middle East—actions that exacerbate instability. War has bankrupted our nation during a time of effective peace, without any discernible threat comparable to the costs, though the media certainly doesn’t help the public see the threat clearly. The wars have also contributed to our fractured politics, as we ignore guns versus butter by using debt and conduct specious freedom versus security arguments.”
    This does not get mentioned often enough – all these wars are wars of choice; we could have had peace and (at least some) prosperity at home instead.

    1. JCC

      This is an exceptionally good article and well worth taking the time to read. Thanks for providing the link.

      And as the author points out, it isn’t just the guns vs butter issues, but the devastation of the community in general all over the country in the name of Corporate profit strip mining.

    2. Brian

      thanks for this Olga; I would consider that all our excursions are but wars for oil. The only thing importants is to find it, suck it out of the ground, import it and use it all up as fast as possible. Knowing that this is necessary, we must continue to control all of it because we are run out, now relying on a trillion dollar waste called fracking. General Clark told us about the regime changes planned, and all have come to pass except Iran. All of which are about oil and governments that don’t like us and would prefer to profit from their oil without interference. This can not be allowed.
      Go back to “Three Days of the Condor” and other examples of multimedia that have been written by people in the know from decades ago. When the oil runs out, civilization does as well. The “Houston Oil Men” don’t care, they need profit to impress their friends. The western hemisphere will exhaust its supply and our government is planning how to steal what we need from those too weak to resist.
      If we can remember this global issue, we may be able to plan for a sharp revision in our practices of environmental destruction.
      But we won’t. Governments have allowed new technology that could provide power needed to escape oil dependence to be hidden for decades to prevent a loss to Houston, and big oil, where we have a problem. The numbers don’t lie, times are a changing.

    3. JTMcPhee

      Sun Tzu made all that very clear in writings on war that are thousands of years old and proven repeatedly by many experiences and episodes. Our great Imperial Generals supposedly learn this stuff in Academy and War College, and the great geopoliticians, too — but it’s all “who effect cares?” and “it’ll be different this time” and careerism and the “benefits” of looting. Read for yourself, folks:

      Waging War

      1. Sun Tzu said: In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand li, the expenditure at home and at the front, including entertainment of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armor, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.

      2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.

      3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.

      4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.

      5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.

      6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

      7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.

      8. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice.

      9. Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy. Thus the army will have food enough for its needs.

      10. Poverty of the State exchequer causes an army to be maintained by contributions from a distance. Contributing to maintain an army at a distance causes the people to be impoverished.

      11. On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause the people’s substance to be drained away.

      12. When their substance is drained away, the peasantry will be afflicted by heavy exactions.

      13,14. With this loss of substance and exhaustion of strength, the homes of the people will be stripped bare, and three-tenths of their income will be dissipated; while government expenses for broken chariots, worn-out horses, breast-plates and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and shields, protective mantles, draught-oxen and heavy wagons, will amount to four-tenths of its total revenue.

      15. Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy’s provisions is equivalent to twenty of one’s own, and likewise a single picul of his provender is equivalent to twenty from one’s own store.

      16. Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.

      17. Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first. Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy, and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept.

      18. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength.

      19. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.

      20. Thus it may be known that the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people’s fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril.

      I posted the first bit of Sun Tzu’s oeuvre a day or so ago, on the considerations a wise general or ruler should take before starting down the warpath. The whole writing can be found here, Worth a read, I think.

  16. Eustache De Saint Pierre

    This is an excerpt fro Dmitry Orlov’s latest which was posted by someone on FB who is a subscriber to DO’s Patreon site – which I am not. I lack the knowledge & expertise to define the validity of it.

    Any thoughts ?

    Patreon Dmitry Orlov
    ” The US pulled out of Iran Nuclear Deal because it’s too broke
    Here’s a perspective on Trump’s decision to pull out of JCPOA, a.k.a. the Iran Nuclear Deal, that definitely doesn’t get enough airtime. It’s all about money. Following the Iranian revolution of 1978-79, Jimmy Carter froze Iran’s assets in the US. Ever since then, the US has been holding on to between $100 and $120 billion in Iranian assets, which have been accruing rent and interest. After the JCPOA, which stipulated the lifting of sanctions on Iran, Washington has been doing its best to drag its feet on releasing these assets, but they would have to be returned to Iran sooner or later… unless the US pulled out of the deal, which it just did.
    It is very important to note that these frozen Iranian assets are US dollar-denominated. And what would be the first thing that the Iranians would do upon regaining control of them? Why, of course, they would convert them out of US dollars. This is a requirement written into Iranian law: no US dollars allowed, and nobody in Iran has the power to change that even if they wanted to. According to the Iranians, US officials have pleaded with the Iranians not to liquidate their dollar-denominated assets, but that the Iranians told them that nobody has the authority to change this law.

    A sudden liquidation of this size would have punched an irreparable hole in the dollar system, which hinges on the ability to sell huge quantities of US treasury paper on the international market. The Iranian liquidation of dollar assets would have come at a time when the US is in dire need of foreign debt buyers, the demand is soft, and liquidity at the primary dealers for US debt is at record lows. It might have been enough to trigger a run on the US dollar as everybody dumped their treasury paper and lead to the collapse of the entire scheme by which the US robs the rest of the world by forcing it to continuously buy up its debt.

    Thus, Trump’s decision to pull out of JCPOA is an attempt to postpone the inevitable—to buy the US a little bit more time. It is a move that smells of fear and desperation. In taking this step, Washington becomes the biggest loser: nobody will want to negotiate any more agreements with the Americans now that they have shown themselves to be incapable of abiding by them. On the other hand, it would appear that Iran will not be hurt much by this development; it has been living under sanctions of one form or another for the past 40 years and is doing quite well in spite of them.

    And then there are some winners. With all the geopolitical uncertainty this move brings, oil prices are heading up. Thanks to higher oil prices, the fracking industry within the US will finally get a chance to start paying back their massive debt (they barely made a cent of actual profit so far). And, of course, Putin & Co. will be laughing all the way to the central bank. With oil once again providing a massive stream of tax receipts, Putin’s ambitious six-year plan to dramatically improve the living standards of all Russians will be easy to pay for.

    Holders of US debt around the world will get a chance to de-dollarize gradually instead of suddenly and catastrophically. Many countries, and China in particular, have been very active in negotiating currency swaps among themselves to avoid using the US dollar in trade. These arrangements will insulate them from dollar-related woes when the US debt pyramid scheme finally collapses. The US itself won’t be so lucky: when US Treasuries crater, the US government’s spending ability will evaporate “.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘the US has been holding on to between $100 and $120 billion in Iranian assets, which have been accruing rent and interest’

      Grossly exaggerated:

      The Treasury Department’s most recent “Terrorist Assets Report” cites $1.973 billion of Iranian financial assets frozen in the United States, and $19 million of unfrozen assets (e.g., funds belonging to Iran’s UN mission, which are protected by diplomatic immunity). Due to problems evaluating the worth of real estate, the report’s figures do not include tangible property (e.g., 650 Fifth Avenue in New York City, a building worth at least $800 million, which a court has ordered frozen).

      The largest funds often described as frozen are those held in the central banks of countries to which Iran has recently been selling oil, especially China, Japan, India, and South Korea. These assets total at least $50 billion, and by some accounts more. Iranians are learning how to use these funds to purchase items in the countries where they are being held; that is, most of the restrictions only prevent use of the money to buy goods from third countries.

      Both Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Central Bank of Iran (CBI) governor Valiollah Seif have stated that $20 billion or more of these restricted funds are already committed for future Iranian purchases, arguing that this money should not be included in any calculation of assets that will become available to Iran once the nuclear deal is implemented.

      A genre of financial disaster porn holds that many political events are just cover for desperate moves to save the US dollar. A better explanation for the US withdrawal from JCPOA is that it’s simply political.

      1. José

        Yes. And even if Iran had $100 bilion of dollar assets to sell for other currencies in a world where daily turnover on foreign exchange markets is more than $5 trillion per day ( source: ) that would clearly be insufficient for the dollar to take a “hit” – whatever that means.

        1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

          Thank you both.

          Jose – I did wonder about the fact that these days, even the stated figures are relatively insignificant.

    2. Olga

      While there may be something to this theory, I doubt that $100 bil would make an irreparable dent (hole).
      OTOH, the image invoked in an Irrussionality article (linked to y-day on the JCPOA exit really is quite vivid:
      “The Americans are like a man sinking in quicksand.: the more he struggles in an effort to get out, the faster he sinks. As their relative power declines, the Americans are fighting with all their might to retain their hegemony, striking out in sometimes rather peculiar directions. But the very act of struggling just sucks them down further. In the aftermath of Trump’s decision on Iran, the sound of the sand sucking America under can be heard louder and clearer than ever before.”

    3. Oregoncharles

      “A sudden liquidation of this size would have punched an irreparable hole in the dollar system, ”
      Really? $120 Billion doesn’t sound like enough to do that.

  17. John k

    LA times, below the fold, long discussion of Venezuela exodus effects on cucuta, Columbia, border town. Columbia directs local hospital and other schools to service migrants, but provides no extra money. Hospital now 5 mil in debt, approaching collapse. Catholic Church food kitchens overwhelmed.
    Most migrants move on to various central South American countries but many stay. Locals sympathetic but unemployment now 16% vs 9% overall in Columbia, patience thinning.
    A migrant says likely to get worse, Maduro expected to win coming election, and already more refugees than from Syria.
    Us just announced 17 mil aid, wonder if any gets to Cucuta.

  18. Cat Burglar

    The JCPOA always reminds me of what I think of as NPR’s finest hour: Robert Siegel’s interview (about ten years ago) with the Israeli ambassador to the US about the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons development. Siegel observed that Israel was concerned about the Iranians, but didn’t Israel have between 200 and 300 warheads of its own?

    There was a long pause.

    Then the ambassador suggested that the world should focus its attention on Iran’s weapons.

    Any nation with 200 nuclear weapons has the means to end civilization, and possibly to destroy life on earth. Using even ten percent of such a stockpile — as shown when a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India was modeled — would mean the end for most people.

    So I have to laugh when US military and economic aid are touted as necessities for Israel’s defense. If you can hold the entire world hostage, as all nuclear powers have done, you don’t need any help. Israel is not going anywhere.

    1. ambrit

      You assume that all decisions concerning any countries nuclear weapons use are going to be made by “rational actors.”
      Now, take a look at the nut jobs in positions of responsibility in Washington DC and Tel Aviv. Do you feel safe with such confidence men (and women) in charge?

      1. Cat Burglar

        Safe? When our futures are hostage to multiple captors? Nope.

        But one reason (among the many, including being identified as a proliferator under US law) the Israeli nuclear stockpile is kept out of public discourse is because it makes Israel’s vulnerability appear more dire and urgent — it keeps the pot bubbling.

    2. Olga

      You’re not incorrect, but then the question is – why is IS hyping up the (imagined) Iranian threat? Could it be that because – in the final analysis – it cannot really use nuclear arms without also destroying itself? In that sense, the nuclear stockpile is useless (not that that would not deter certain crazies).

      1. Cat Burglar

        Mutual assured destruction was often cited as a reason the US switched to fighting smaller wars like Korea and Vietnam. The wars kept the MIC funded, kept the public politically mobilized for war, and allowed great power struggles to continue. Perhaps Israel cannot use nukes without destroying themselves, as you point out — if air circulation patterns brought fallout to Israel after an attack on a neighboring country, it would not work out too well.

        I imagine Israel is hyping the Iran threat to get the US to do its military heavy lifting — probably with the idea of reducing Iran to a shattered, weak, and miserable place that cannot compete for control of the region. There are probably other dimensions, like maintaining panic in the US public, and keeping up the military aid — and I’ll bet there are others even more subtle.

        But seeing Israel as the global nuclear power that it is seems like it should be the starting point of any evaluation of its power in the world, any analysis of the threats it faces, and what US policy toward Israel should be. If it ever was a victim, it sure isn’t now.

  19. Jim Haygood

    Hahhhvid goes all in on three of the Five Horsemen:

    The university’s endowment took on new stakes in Apple, Microsoft and Google’s parent Alphabet in the first quarter. They now account for more than two-thirds of the publicly traded American securities in its portfolio, according to a regulatory filing this week.

    Together, the three companies account for about 72 percent of the $817 million worth of publicly traded securities listed in the filing. Harvard’s total endowment is $37.1 billion.

    Like many endowments, Harvard is so loaded up with private equity, real estate and timber partnerships that publicly-traded equities are only a thin 2.2% of its assets. So the massive bet on tech isn’t as undiversified as it may sound.

    Apple is largely a buyback story. Recently Apple announced that it will buy back up to $100 billion of its shares in what would be the largest buyback plan in history.

    By shrinking equity, buybacks inherently increase leverage. Leveraging up in a late-stage economy deepens the subsequent dip in share prices when recession comes. But they do it every time. :-(

    1. John Wright

      And one seldom reads that a company is having a secondary equity offering to retire debt.

      This could imply the company views its stock price as “fairly priced” ( AKA “high”) and a good time to exchange equity for debt.

      Companies are always certain when it is a good time for them to buy back stock but don’t seem to view ANY price as a good time to sell.

      General Electric’s recent buyback behavior may cause a future GE to illustrate “buying high and selling low”, indicating their buybacks did not work well for its stock.

  20. JBird

    The unwelcome revival of ‘race science’ Guardian

    Good grief.

    Of the problems with identity politics politics is it pollutes everything, and I am including the current (neo)liberal obsession with race, gender, sexuality, and biological sex, as well as the many putrid flavors of white suprematist organizations; both groups are myopic moralists who insist on fitting the world to their beliefs and not the beliefs to the world. To them, it’s a Manichaeismic of good/evil and no gray. Of course, meritocracy is a part of both, which means that it is the innate inferiority of blacks, or poor whites, or Latin American refugees that are the cause of their misfortune, not the multi centuries long murdering, looting, enslaving/disenfranchising, and generally abusing, or the massive loss of jobs. It cannot be our beautiful system as it is their inherent worthlessness. Question answered. What’s the solution?

    Francis Galton created the word “eugenics” in 1883 and the Wannsee Conference on the “Jewish Question” was in 1942. That’s fifty-nine years from when scientist Galton suggest that cash payments or maybe tax breaks be used to encourage the right people to marry (he thought coercion of any kind wrong) to SS officer Reinhard Heydrich finalizing the full implementation of Holocaust. Do not believe the United States had nothing to do with the Holocaust. The Germans got much, perhaps most, of their racist ideas, pseudo science, nonsense facts, funding, and the initial steps for racial hygiene. Large American organizations, like the Ford Foundation, wanted to do so. After all there was a campaign to institute sterilization on those deemed unfit to reproduce. A number of states across the United States including California started to sterilize prisoners, the mentally ill, poor people, people using public clinics, and sometimes just grabbing children off the street. All legal, usually because someone, somewhere signed something in a way rather like with many current search warrants. The last sterilizations supposedly happened in the 1960s but in some California women prisons they were doing them into the 1990s. Details are sketchy because it was legal and done quietly.

    I suppose I am writing this overwrought post because of how easily the past happened. Some of what I’ve read in the recent past, if they aren’t the same, they sure as Hades rhymed with the not so recent past. Approved by the Supreme Court, given the imprimatur of the scientific community, funding by the wealthy, supplied by corporations, and used by many to do nihilistic deeds in the name of progress, a better world, or just to make profit.

    1. JTMcPhee

      I suggest reading up on Skinner v. Oklahoma, , for some insights into one of the many reasons to be “proud of our great democratic American heritage.” Following, as it did, the marvelously reasoned majority opinion in Buck v. Bell,, penned by that sterling exemplar of All That Is Good In American Jurisprudence, Oliver Wendell Holmes, who also brought this tear-jerker to us:

      Yah, Ollie, “three generations of imbeciles is enough.” But the Imperial populace, and all other human polities I am aware of, keeps producing the other kinds of imbeciles, the ones who rul us and own us and drive us toward extinction events…

  21. The Rev Kev

    “The unwelcome revival of ‘race science’ ”

    So, race science is again a thing? Just like in Germany back in the 1930s? This stuff sticks like s*** to a blanket. You buy into this and that brings the other “IT” clowns out of the wordwork like Social Darwinism, eugenics, sterilizations, slavery, genocide, immigration restrictions and before you know it you live in post code Gattaca. Probably you will find that a reason that this keeps on arising is that so many elites buy into it to justify their ‘eliteness’ and I can think of a few names off the top of my head that were a believer in this such as Rockefeller, Harriman and Carnegie ( In other words, there is always money available to fund stuff to do with this trash and it is as true today as it was a century ago.
    We are really living in weird times. Slavery is making a comeback and none of the powers are interested in crushing it. Wars of conquest are seen as a good idea. Torture is now seen as an accepted policy with waterboarding being the most infamous even though the US tried, convicted and hung Japanese for waterboarding American POWs. Suspension of habeas corpus is accepted. And now race science is once again rearing its ugly head. Its almost like that we are progressing, or should that be regressing, back into the practices of the past. I think that that was so bad about National Socialism. The worst atrocities that they committed were not were not stuff that they came up with themselves but practices that they dug out of the past from medieval times and earlier. And now we are headed the same way.

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