Links 12/23/18

After Bloodbath, The National Zoo’s Naked Mole-Rats Finally Choose Their Queen DCist. Everything is like CalPERS….

Ivy Leagues Are Handing Out Millions in Fees to Hedge Fund Managers Dean Baker, Truthout (LT).
Tim Leissner: Goldman Sachs banker at the heart of 1MDB scandal FT

How Juul made vaping viral to become worth a dirty $38 billion Techcrunch

7 Arguments Against the Autonomous-Vehicle Utopia The Atlantic

Ozone depletion increases Antarctic snowfall, partially mitigates ice sheet loss (UserFriendly).


What Europeans Talk about when They Talk about Brexit LRB. An interesting sampling of opinion from the continent.

Corbyn’s Brexit Predicament Benjamin Studebaker. A subtext of this article is that Corbyn is a man wholly driven by principle, who also can’t count. But 70% of Labour constituencies voted Leave. And constituencies elect MPs (and PMs), not voters. Moreover, I don’t see how anybody can assume that a “People’s Vote”, were such a vote even to be possible given the timeline, would vote Remain, because its advocates have focused on process, not outcomes (concrete material benefits). IIRC, Quebec’s second referendum on secession — they called it “Neverendum” — did fine among the pollsters, but not so well in the voting booth, where voters realized that they didn’t really know what they were voting for.

If we want to win the next referendum, we’ll need a better campaign than the last one New Statesman. No problem there!

Gatwick: man and woman questioned over ‘criminal use of drones’ Guardian

Hundreds join ‘yellow vest’ protest march in Dublin Irish Independent

Policymakers urge action on EU sovereign debt ‘doom loop’ FT


Sabrina Meng Wanzhou’s arrest is just a taste of the US-China battle to come South China Morning Post

Xi Jinping has changed China’s winning formula FT

Amazing resolution:

On the road in the Karakoram Pepe Escobar, Asia Times (J-LS).

Tsunami kills at least 168 in Indonesia, nearly 600 injured Straits Times

New Cold War

Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference President of Russia


Good Riddance to America’s Syria Policy Stephen Walt, Foreign Policy. I’m not sure I ever got the memo on what our policy actually was.

US envoy to anti-IS coalition, Brett McGurk, quits over Donald Trump’s withdrawal from Syria ABC Australia (KW). KW: “No loss here. The man is a neocon operative who will probably go to a think tank now.”

Trump’s Syria Withdrawal and Mattis’ Resignation Startle Israel – and Undercut Netanyahu Haaretz

Fallout Of Trump’s Syria Withdrawal – Why Erdogan Does Not Want To Invade Moon of Alabama

A Primer on Syria’s Constitutional Committee Lawfare

Imperial Collapse Watch

It’s official. We lost the Cold War. Editorial Board, WaPo (CL). CL: “If in fact we did lose it, we did so with minimal outside help. And it was lost long before Donald Trump, for all his faults, pulled the plug on US forces in Syria. If in fact the plug actually was plugged and stays plugged.” Lambert here: It sounds to me like WaPo has reached the second of The Five Stages of Beltway Grief: Acceptance, preceded by Denial, and followed by Blame-Fixing, Punishment of the Correct, and Rebooting the Failed Policy.

Blowback: America’s Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effect on the Cold War (interview) Our Hidden History

US quietly builds helipad on roof of embassy in Afghanistan Duffel Blog (KW).

Trump Transition

AP Explains: What happens in a partial government shutdown AP

Shutdown Effects: Breakdown by Department and Agency Roll Call

Trump’s prison plan to release thousands of inmates McClatchy

A drug smuggler built a predatory lending company while free on bail. Now the complaints are piling up. Bloomberg (UserFriendly).

Regulators mull massive changes to PG&E management, structure San Francisco Chronicle (DS).

Democrats in Disarray

Bernie Sanders calls out Boeing for firing pro-union North Charleston workers Charleston City Paper (MR). This would not be hard for other Democrats to do (Harris, Booker, Beto, etc.). Were they so inclined.

Beto O’Rourke is the new Obama. And that’s the last thing we need Guardian (MR). I don’t know why Sirota keeps writing this stuff. Neera Tanden told him not to.

Progressive Rep. Ro Khanna Accuses Top Democrat Of Stonewalling Him HuffPo. Rural broadband.

Rural broadband is about to get $600 million in funding—but there’s a catch New Food Economy

Jellyfish are not an ecological dead end Anthropocene

Xmas Cheer

How Christmas evolved from raucous carnival to domestic holiday Economist

Twinkly Twinkly Little Star MWR Labs (EM).

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

How Google Tracks Your Personal Information Medium. Part two. Disturbing.

Guillotine Watch

A Gift Guide for Billionaires Bloomberg. I know! A new planet!

Class Warfare

Last-Minute Shoppers Increasingly Trust Only Amazon to Deliver NYT. IOW, supply chain workers have Jeff Bezos by the short and curlies. Structurally, at least.

Charter Schools and Race in New Orleans The Big Easy

Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma when jumping from aircraft: randomized controlled trial British Medical Journal. Don’t try this at home!

South African musician plays guitar during brain surgery AP. This either.

Human nature matters Aeon (JT McPhee).

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. Alex

    7 Arguments Against the Autonomous-Vehicle Utopia

    These are not arguments against autonomous vehicles per se, they are mostly arguments why such vehicles should be regulated to bring the greatest benefit to the society.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      I just want to know where we will come up with the money for redesigned transportation systems:

      #1. to separate the autonomous cars from pedestrians.. because that is what we will need to do.

      #2. The autonomous cars will be able to drive much closer to each other in traffic, so our highways will need to be redesigned.

      It will cost billions for every City to do this. It will cost Trillions to redesign out highway system. Who is going to pay for it?

    2. roadrider

      They’re not being developed to create a “benefit to society”. They’re being developed to create a benefit to corporations. Any benefits to society will be incidental. And the idea that our current regulatory apparatus is even remotely capable of do anything besides cheer leading and either removing existing rules or declining to impose new rules on any new over-hyped industry is counter to decades of experience.

    3. shinola

      Perhaps I’m shortsighted but I don’t see how Fully Autonomous Vehicles(FAV’s) will ever be viable unless specifically designed infrastructure is built to accommodate them. Of course, vehicle manufacturers would not pay for the upgraded roadways – that cost would be externalized. The public/taxpayers would be on the hook.

      If you’ve ever been to the Ozark region of southern Mo./northern Ark. then you know about curving, hilly, two-lane blacktop with gravel shoulders & trees within a dozen feet of the road plus miles & miles of poorly mapped gravel side roads. And, oh yeah, that last half mile or so of privately owned & maintained gravel road down to the lakeside subdivision. Would that FAV know that certain times of the year one must be hyper-vigilant because of deer?

      I certainly would not want to be the one who rides in the first FAV test under those conditions.

      1. Jeotsu

        In NZ I await the first time a self-driving car comes across a thousand sheep in the road.

        The human drivers who frequent rural areas mostly know how to navigate a big mob of sheep. A big mob of cattle is a different game, especially a big mob of bulls. Which we encountered once on the inland Kaikoura road. That encounter became especially entertaining when two hereford bulls decided to have a little pushing game right in front of our tiny car. I think each bull weighed more than we did.

        I wonder if those scenarios have gone into the machine learning algo?

        1. Jeotsu

          Or how to safely pass a horse and rider on the edge of a road. Done poorly that can end up with injured or dead horses and riders. Too many human drivers are not good at driving around horses. On our rural road it is common enough, but will the computer think to slow down to 15 kph and then drive on the wrong side of the road to go safely around? Will the algo know how to read the expression and hand signals of the rider? (And let’s not even talk about recognising the reaction and behaviour of the horse and adjusting accordingly.)

      2. Jessica

        “unless specifically designed infrastructure is built to accommodate them”
        It fascinates me that this precise point is brought up by commenters here but not much in mainstream discussion. It is obvious that by putting much of the control function into the infrastructure, it would be far easier to create fully autonomous systems along major roads. We are so far gone into neoliberalism that this can not even be thought of.
        What is being attempted (or at least PRed) is like building the Internet without the Internet infrastructure. Perhaps this fiasco is how we will remember neoliberalism when it is dead and buried.

      3. Oregoncharles

        We just crossed the northern Coast Range at night in a driving rain and fog. The white line was invisible; fortunately, the state has installed reflectors on the center line, so it was actually visible. Nonetheless, the trip was terrifying. My wife was driving; when we got there, her back and hands hurt from the tension.

        An autonomous vehicle might – should – have the advantage of radar, making cars and maybe the edge of the road more obvious; but how would it handle the puddles? Hopefully, it will be programmed to simply pull over when overwhelmed, as human drivers should; but how would it know? And incidentally, I’m not so sure pulling over in those conditions would be so safe since the edge was invisible; you could be hit by those that don’t pull over.

      4. Acacia

        Agreed. And if the infrastructure needs to be redesigned, then the simplest, most obvious solution is to install trams or trains. The technology is proven. We have over a century of know-how.

        FAVs are a pipe dream for people who do not understand the costs and limitations of the technology.

        For anybody who has visited Silicon Valley, you know the transit infrastructure there is horrible, pretty much on par with the developing world — certainly not the putative bleeding edge of the future — , and for anybody who really knows the sad history of public transit in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s clear that it’s not going to significantly improve.

        But meanwhile, we’re supposed to believe that a place lagging at least fifty years behind the state of the art, a place that is hopelessly mired in the last century — we’re supposed to believe that this place is going to invent the future of transportation? Give me a break.

    4. WestcoastDeplorable

      I surely wouldn’t want to be a passenger in a fully autonomous vehicle in a traffic jam, stuck on a railroad crossing. Would the car’s programming be “smart” enough not to allow itself to be in that situation, or if it were stuck on the tracks to back up out of danger?
      There are many 1,000s of situations where the vehicle’s performance would be unpredictable and perhaps tragic for the passengers and those around the car (such as riders on horses as detailed above).
      Personally, I think autonomous vehicles is one invention we really don’t need, or want.

    5. Brooklin Bridge

      These things always seem to miss a couple of significant things going against autonomous vehicles:
      1) People like to drive (control of destiny)
      2) (related) People don’t like to be cooped up in a tube barreling down a road or highway without any sense of control.

      Granted, neither 1 nor 2 covers ALL people. Also, these preferences and behaviors and can be changed/engineered with time and money and the people salivating at the rent extraction prospects have the money in abundance (hell, they stole it from us) and will shorten the time as much as the money will let them.

      1. ChristopherJ

        I think all the commenters prove the same point – that self driving vehicles can’t work with humans (and animals). If you accept that autonomous vehicles only work (properly) when all the humans get off the roads, then you realize that might be the goal of advocates and the industry.

        Think about it. With us no longer in control, all the vehicles can all communicate and operate in unison. Then, no-one needs a garage (the vehicles are all provided by governments/corporations) and cities no longer need any parking, widening many streets and making parking garages available for something else, even the one at your house.
        Oh, and, for those of us that hang onto our cars) they’ll let us drive gas vehicles once a year, on special roads…

        And, because you are only paying marginal cost, the rides should be way cheaper than (say) the taxi or uber of today (no labor component). And way cheaper than owning and driving a vehicle.

        Our house has 4 registered vehicles at the moment. Apart from the capital tied up, those vehicles (one is a motorbike) cost me a lot (registration, maintenance, fuel, cleaning) and they are parked about 98 per cent of the time on average – so way under-utilized and a very inefficient way for society to organize a way for people to traverse across our cities and towns. Once, I no longer need my vehicles, I can also convert my garage to a studio or garden flat…

        And that, is part of the reason I recently purchased a 20 yo Mercedes that was $150k new – for only $5k. The vehicle was in vgc and at 150k miles has heaps of economic life left in it, but I’m probably not going to be able to drive it for more than a few years. Think about it. Twenty years ago when that vehicle came out, there is no way I could have bought the equivalent (20 yo) top of the line Mercedes/BMW back in 1998 for what is about 5 weeks wage here in Australia.

    6. Raulbe

      The operating SV motto is ‘fake it till you make it’. There is no AI, there is simply nothing in the current programming paradigm to create an ai, you can only sift through a lot of data and look for ‘patterns’. It is entirely based on past data, it cannot infer anything unknown, just preprogrammed guesses. The same tech that was developed to identify porn and nudity in images by large sites is being repurposed as ‘ai’. Everyone in tech knows this is a shameless scam but this is the pull of greed and wealth.

      A couple of key takeaways. SV workers are completely alienated from society and see everyone as stupid and themselves as ‘smart’. This hubris causes them to routinely underestimate basic human intelligence required for things such as driving and overestimate the capabilities of software tools. This is also the same dehumanizing attitude that has enabled them to abuse the privacy of users and build surveillance infrastructure without qualms. There is zero sense of society, they are ‘ok’ with dystopia as long as they are running the show, and its important this ahistorical rootless attitude and worldview predominant in US libertarians is well understood.

      Self driving or anything ai is not going to happen as envisaged without expensive custom infrastructure, the rest the world already has well developed public transport and is not designed only for cars like the US suburbs city town lifestyle is.

  2. Livius Drusus

    Re: How Christmas evolved from raucous carnival to domestic holiday.

    Great article. So many conservatives who love to talk about traditionalism and traditional Christian society would be horrified if they had to live in an actual traditional Christian society. People were actually rowdier in the past than they are now. That is why I usually laugh off scare stories about how hedonistic modern people are. If anything modern people are very domesticated and I think this even has an impact on politics.

    Medieval peasants and early industrial workers would never quietly put up with things like Taylorism. Managers would be lucky to escape with their lives. In order to domesticate workers the wealthy promoted middle-class values like temperance and sought to crack down on traditional forms of sociability like wild holiday festivals. Of course if that didn’t work there was always the iron fist of the military/police/private armies but the elite also tried to use more refined methods as discussed in the article.

    1. The Rev Kev

      There is a lot of truth in this article. I did a lot of research on 19th Britain and this matches what I have read. It was a top down effort by the elite to rid society of anything boisterous or as we call it nowadays, fun. One example I remember is that of parish churches. In earlier times you had amateur village church choirs that would provide the music for the services. The parish priests were driven to distraction though by trying to ride herd on the locals in these choirs as the singers had their own ideas and methods of singing. During the 19th century when organs were being mass-produced, parish priests took the opportunity to install one in their church so they only had a single organ-player to deal with while the rest of the villagers were expected to shut up and sit down from then on. That is why nearly every church these days has a set of organs in them – it is a relic from these times.

    2. Lee

      Puritans in England and the American colonies as well as the French revolutionaries banned Christmas. That and regicide were a couple of their better ideas. Just kidding….or am I? ; )

      1. MichaelSF

        Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” seems to show that it takes a visitation of supernatural terror to get rich people to behave properly and not hoard all the wealth.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          There is a distinction between Scrooge and Marley (sins of ignorance versus greed). Marley’s evil was obvious, but Dickenson noted the doom of mankind was ignorance. Another point is Scrooge is moved by the appearance of Tiny Tim, the least likely person to pay him back, not the ghosts.

          His nephew Fred, who appears to be of some means, Fezziwig, and the men collecting for charity stand in opposition to Scrooge with his nose to the grindstone. They aren’t saints, but they aren’t wicked. Then there is Tiny Tim, the least educated and capable figure (who is probably born without Original Sin ) who is introduced hoping his appearance will remind others of Jesus and take comfort from that. Then we know the address of the Cratchets and can assume their church is in reasonable walking distance.

          When Scrooge is met by the Ghost of Christmas yet to come, he’s fully ready to learn, lessons taught by a mute figure.

        2. Sunday Susan

          Great comments. I especially liked the one about church organs.

          What I wonder about is why the article never mentions the fact that the celebration of Christ’s birth at the latter part of December actually replaced the ancient Roman Saturnalia celebrations. There are many examples of pagan sites and rituals being usurped by the church fathers.

          1. Big River Bandido

            My understanding is the early Christians weren’t actually attempting to “usurp” pagan rituals so much as to blend in. By celebrating their holidays at the same time, they were able to avoid unfavorable notice.

            1. polecat

              Hence the desecreation and ‘repurposing’ of the Pantheon by the ever powerful Christians to suit their stature whilst ring-fencing the ‘deplorables’ of their time …

            2. The Rev Kev

              The Romans did the exact same thing. When they moved into an area, they did not try to push out the local gods at all. They would look at who the locals worshiped and would say something like “Hey, that is just like our Jupiter. Let’s worship them together!” thus blending them together. Worked a treat.

        3. Cynthia

          Come to think of it, invoking the supernatural in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) is largely why this film remains extraordinarily popular today. Take out the supernatural elements of the film and the film wouldn’t have endured as one of the most popular and beloved Christmas films of all time. It is rather sad to think that angels from heaven must intervene in order to reverse wrongs or take away evil or wrongdoing here on Earth. Which is why I prefer watching another Christmas film from the same era, “It Happened on 5th Avenue” ( 1947). Wrongdoing in this film is reversed without the use of the supernatural. Plus, it’s a much lesser known film that has superb acting with a storyline that’ll warm your heart. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is good, and it will warm your heart. In fact, it is one of the greatest heartwarming films of all time, but it has been overplayed and overhyped. On top of that, Jimmy Stewart overacts in it, as he too often does in films.

          There are a couple of other lesser known Christmas films from the 30s and 40s that don’t invoke the supernatural that are well worth watching as well. One of them is “Holiday” (1938), starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. I’m not much of a fan of Katherine Hepburn since she also tends to overact in a lot of her films. But this film was made before her overacting days, making her a joy to watch as her natural and effortless ability to act shines brightly from screen shot to screen shot. It’s for the most part an anticapitalist film in terms of content, but has been wrongly characterized by some critics as a film that bashes the American work ethic. They wrongly confuse earning income with acquiring wealth. Which why it didn’t do well in theaters, and why no one today would ever remake it. Most Christmas films made today are centered around money — having it, making it, or getting it, supernaturally.

          Another Christmas holiday film from the 30s that’s well worth watching is “Bachelor Mom” (1939), starring Ginger Rogers and David Niven. It has some elements of a screwball comedy without being overly screwballish. Watching Ginger Rogers going back and forth from doing serious dramatic acting to doing lighthearted comical acting is lots of fun to watch. You can tell she is very good at doing both. Overall, the film is a joy to watch with a storyline that’s refreshingly different.

          Last but not least, “ Holiday Affair” (1949), starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh is another Christmas holiday film that is well worth watching. There are a couple of screwball comedy acts in it but not enough of them to overwhelm the film. The leading lady in the film ultimately chooses love over money and financial security. You’d be hard pressed to find any Hollywood or Hallmark film today that does this. Oftentimes they marry money with love. And none of them have endings where the leading man and woman end up happily and deeply in love despite being dirt poor. Which is why you are not likely to ever see a Hollywood or Hallmark remake of this movie. It goes against the neoliberal capitalist narrative found in most films today.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > “Holiday” (1938), starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn

            One of my all-time favorite movies. The “holiday” is for re-creation, both senses, not merely “time off,” but finding out the right sort of work to do (not banking, as the film makes clear).

      2. Cynthia

        As to which film adaption of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is widely considered the all-time best, it is usually a toss up between the one adapted in 1938 and the one adapted in 1951. I prefer the one adapted in 1938 because it flows better and its messaging and plot development in more concise and to the point than the one adapted in 1951.

        This is somewhat unusual given the 1938 adaption was done in the US. Usually the best film adaptions of any of Dickens’ works were done in the UK, not the US. For instance, the best ever film adaptions by far of, say, “Great Expectations” and “Oliver Twist” were both done in the UK. David Lean having directed both films, one in 1946 and the other in 1948, respectively, is largely why they are both so amazingly good. He was such a great director that he could take the worst works or the most complex works of literature and make them into great films. Nonetheless, no one can disregard the fact that both films having been made in the UK played a huge role in why they are so good.

        “Little Dorrit” (1987) is another film that was brilliantly adapted from a Dickens’ novel with the same name. This film was also made in the UK, no surprise here. The director of the film had special training in costume and set design, which adds a lot to the film’s greatness. Everything about the film is great, but the costume and set designs of the film are what really set it apart from all other film adaptions of “Little Dorrit.” And if you’ve got 6 hours to spare, since it is a 6 hour film, I highly recommend watching it.

        Not to overgeneralize, or over-typecast, if you will, but it only makes sense and is only logical that the British are better than the Americans at putting Dickens’ works into film. The same can be equally said about Mark Twain and his literary works. Which is probably why I can’t think of a single work by Mark Twain that was ever made into a British film.

        1. Carolinian

          Ditto on Lean although Jean Simmons could never grow up to be Valerie Hobson.

          Dickens despised America btw and probably wouldn’t have cared for Americas adapting his books.

          1. MichaelSF

            Weren’t Dickens’ books just ripped off and printed in the USA without any royalties paid to him?

            These days USAians whinge about IP theft in China, but I think in the early days it was pretty common for books/songs as well as patented machinery being made here without concern for the rights of the originator of the materials.

            1. epynonymous

              Interestingly, “A Christmas Carol” was wrote after Dickens visited the USA’s factory mill-towns (for fabrics), specifically Lowell, Massachusetts.

              The technology for the mills was directly stolen from England by the town’s founders (they bought the land with the river and incorporated a new city out of it…)

              Currently, it is the only urban national park in America, part of a deal from Senator(?) Paul Tsongas, in exchange for taking Cambodians for resettlement after the Vietnam War.

              So there’s some argument the story is partially inspired by the US, although it is clearly set in the UK. Although, this may be us stealing credit once again, rather than a legitimate narrative.

              The digging of these canals was partially paid for as a military necessity by the Department of War, and the evolution of these corporations was historically important in the wide-spread allowance of corporate charters, which we originally for limited purposes only (toll roads and such.) Of course, all the famous politicians of the day got an early crack at buying the stock…. which they then voted funding for at tax payer expense.

              Naked Capitalism indeed.

              Cheers, everyone!

            2. ambrit

              American television still rips off English television plots, and pays nary a farthing for the privilege. Television shows like “Sanford and Son” and “Three’s Company” were wholesale thefts of “intellectual property.”
              Google is now so meretricious that I could not find supporting links in fifteen minutes of searching.
              Still, BBC on Dickens’ travails:
              And, TV show theft:

              1. Carolinian

                Support for that “nary a farthing”? Shows like All in the Family were based on British shows but I feel fairly confident that to the extent source material fees were warranted they were paid. The Dickens situation was in a different copyright era.

                Of course British culture hasn’t been influenced by American culture in the modern era except totally.

          2. NotTimothyGeithner

            But if Dickens could have seen he would one day be portrayed by Gonzo the Great, I would be he would be pleased.

          3. Plenue

            He also despised India and seemed to think genocide was a viable response to the 1857 rebellion. So, frankly, I couldn’t care less what Dickens thought about other countries.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          There was also the animated cartoon version . . . ” Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” . . . which in fact was the Dickens story with Mr. Magoo starring as Ebenezer Scrooge.

    3. Jessica

      “Medieval peasants and early industrial workers would never quietly put up with things like Taylorism.”
      I think that the main weapon in creating the kind of docility in the work force that is taken for granted nowadays was poverty to the point of starvation. Throwing peasants off their land (enclosures; this is where the military is used) and collapsing prices for woven goods etc. in the face of competition from machines created a desperate work force. In the US, this was effected largely with mass immigration and slavery. Taylorism first appears on a large scale in the US on Deep South plantations.
      “crack down on traditional forms of sociability” The tendency to make the drugs of choice of the lower classes illegal might be seen as a continuation of this.

      1. JBird4049

        Think of it like a variety of neoliberalism. Impoverish, terrorize, and then exploit the now tractable population not just of England, or American, but the whole world.

    4. John Merryman

      Keep in mind the Ancients built their celebrations around nature and emotion, not this top down, father figure lawgiver and his “Commandments.”
      As I keep arguing, a logical spiritual absolute would necessarily be the essence from which we rise, not an ideal from which we fell. That organized religion is a political function, more than a spiritual one.
      The problem we are finding with a top down spiritual absolute, is that it validates top down political absolutism.

  3. paul

    That article on juul’s dirty money is a rather irresponsible bit of scaremongering.

    The author has not grasped the concept of harm reduction or deliberately ignored it to make room for his disapproval of ‘addiction’.

    The ‘thinking of the children’ ignores the benefits to existing smokers by helping them quit, by far the biggest sector of the market.

    Would he rather have da kidz experiment with a benign product or a known pathogen, which class of product would he prefer altria to produce and market?

    1. barefoot charley

      I know I”m replying too late for anyone to read this, but Juules is first to acknowledge that they don’t claim to aid quitting. They replace cigarette addiction with more convenient vape addiction, giving nicotine concentrations higher than cigarettes, so high their American-standard dope is illegal in Europe. What a great business model.

      1. JBird4049

        >>What a great business model.<<

        No kidding.

        Vaping might be more addictive, but cigarettes like much of modern processed food has been designed to be more addictive and unhealthy. Just like store bought “tomatoes” the goal is to get you to buy. Just as home grown vegetables are usually more nutritious (and have this thing called “flavor”) hand rolled cigarettes and homemade chocolate cake might still kill you but they lack all the fabulous additives that make them not spoil as well as be extra addictive as well as even more damaging to your health.

        It’s all about getting you to buy (too much) and if you die a decade sooner from obesity, rotten teeth, high blood pressure, or a bad heart, who cares?

  4. The Rev Kev

    “Beto O’Rourke is the new Obama. And that’s the last thing we need”

    Here is a thought. It would be not pushing it to say that the the biggest achievement of the eight years of the Obama Presidency was the Presidency of Donald J. Trump. So here is the thing. If you ended up with a Beto O’Rourke Presidency from 2020 on, what type of person might follow as President after him?

      1. John Merryman.

        What if the blowback goes much deeper?
        With reference to the Christmas article, I keep trying to make the point that a spiritual absolute would be the essence from which we rose, not an ideal from which we fell and the whole top down, father figure, monotheism thing was more about social control and order, than spiritual insight. The Ancients were pretty good at making up religions based on nature and emotions, not Commandments.

    1. Big River Bandido

      Could we refer to Robert O’Rourke by his formal name? Using “Beto” is Hillaryesque-style Hispandering.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        It’s what he calls himself. Pandering may be the point, but it’s still respectful to call him it. Also it’s what he’s known as. Except for formal stuff, no one writes William Jefferson Clinton.

        1. ambrit

          Well, no one writes William Jefferson Clinton and expects a reply unless they include a nude selfie photo.

      1. polecat

        Unfortunately, scum floats to the top surface, whereby everything below that neoliberacon layer eventually succumbs to anoxia …
        Someone needs to CRISPR a super-sized scumsucking carp diem.

  5. Eureka Springs

    All this never ending seemingly enabling no action evasive talk of maps of broadband coverage/ no coverage is extremely frustrating. Seems to me netflix could answer much very quickly. Just map their DVD by mail customers. And then map satellite internet customers. This should take a week if over budgeting for extended lunches is included. This should tell us more than 98 percent of where broadband does not exist but needed to at least twenty years ago.

    Even that article on China Pakistan no mans, no glaciers land mentioned fiber optic cable running everywhere through the remote Himalayas.

    1. Briny

      That’s real engineering! Can’t have that. You short circuit right around the political class!

      That’s called doing a site survey whether it’s one plot of land or a whole country. Then you look at your constraints:budget, manpower, resources, yada yada. I played as a field engineer long ago.

    2. Synoia

      Not going to work using satellites as an indicator for no broadband coverage.

      I live in an AT&T fiber served area, and there are multitudes of Satellite dishes.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Here in Australia there is a huge unmet need for rural broadband, 5G wireless is coming and it’s 100x faster than 4G, the elite are cr*pping their pants about it and trying to slow down 5G development any way they can. Rupert Murdoch runs the country and his previous minion prime minister Tony Abbott (famous for stating that the internet was “nothing but digital graffiti”) made sure the $45 B spent on fast national broadband got hobbled and today is a huge fiasco (Rupert dreamt of locking out Netflix with his inferior Fox version). 5G being wireless however runs on a completely different set of technology so the political power control game is trickier for Rupert to pull off. Of course Labour (the opposition) sits on their thumbs and does nothing about it, the Liberal decisions that led to where we are today should be a huge national scandal but Labor just wants to import more unskilled migrants so they get more voters. But hey at least I get good health care, quite awesome actually.

  6. Summer

    Ivy Leagues Are Handing Out Millions in Fees to Hedge Fund Managers

    At a point it becomes more about sustaining their own “ecosystem”, not business. They are maintaining hierarchy and that is more valuable to them.
    This would be a situation better analyzed by sociology or anthropology than thru economics. Why? Because they wouldn’t take financial advice (and paying the fees too) from someone outside their network, not even if that advice makes them more money in the financial arena. Profit is not reigning surpreme, but building a ecosystem (sustainable for them and their needs) is the priority. They have a “society.” (Take that – Maragaret Thatcher).

    1. JTMcPhee

      I’m reminded that in the old days of old money, there was also a “society” of the players in their silk stockings and vested suits. Back when the grift was seemingly minimal, and people who could afford to “invest” actually invested, as in puttting money into businesses that made stuff in the real (non-financial-BS-“product”) world. When the word was “investing,” not “exposing yourself to risk.”

      But maybe that is just a failure of my recollection?

      Not that there was any vast honesty and honor and all, and there’s been one Gilded Age Class Looting Event after another. South Seas bubble, Tulipmania and all the rest.

      1. Wukchumni

        All of the financial bubbles of the past mentioned really only had one country participating, the situation is a bit more complex now.

        1. JTMcPhee

          No kidding, eh?

          I was thinking about the apparent difference between silk-stocking and white-shoe Wall Streeters and bankers in the Old Days, before financialization and neoliberalism took off, and the pampered looters of today.

          Query whether, short of Jackpot, there’s a path to unwinding what’s gotten “a bit more complex.”

          1. Wukchumni

            The tangle of financial alliances in concert is way too big to fail and they know it, and have jimmied every crack in the armor and so far-so good.

            1. JTMcPhee

              Last word again!?

              As I repeat, these critters are all thinking “Apres the next guy, le deluge,” and they’ll get to live really large, then cruise into a comfortable old age and gentle death, immune to consequences.

              Mebbe so, who knows? Maybe the Jackpot-in-the-box their collective efforts have wound up so tight, including enlisting so many of the rest of us to help, may Pop! in their faces and drag them down too.

              In the meantime, there’s a warm spring bubbling, right? For those who can get there.

              Over to you. Best holiday wishes!

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      They are the new priest class.

      Yesterday, I was listening to my Alma mater’s post game show (don’t worry, we are undefeated), and they’ve always been sponsored by a couple of locally based financial advisors which are fairly successful and entrenched. Yesterday, their ads were direct appeals for people whether they had two million or two thousand dollars to invest. Based on their previous ads and what I know of them, it struck me they were looking for a new customer base. It’s anecdotal, but changing the ads up and being so direct was odd.

    1. Lee

      An orthopedic surgeon told me of a patient who had recently opted to be awake his own hip replacement so that he could observe the procedure and asked me if I would like to do the same. After giving the matter a split second’s thought I refused his kind offer, stating that I would just as soon not be in the same room with myself during the surgery if there were any possible way he could arrange it.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        my dog! did they let him remain awake?
        I requested the old, rotten hip in a big jar of formaldehyde or something(even brought a large pickle jar)…but that was a bridge too far, it seems,lol.
        But remaining awake and “observing” the procedure?
        it is my understanding that the surgeon often gets pretty physical in such surgeries.
        I was thankful for the versed(forgetting medicine) and whatever it was that knocked me out and muddled my mind for 4 days.

        1. Lee

          I should have voiced my preference not to the surgeon but to the anesthesiologist:

          GROSS: So among all the things that you do, you’re an anesthesiologist. And you tell a very funny story about another anesthesiologist who was being interviewed for a position at a hospital and was asked, how do you see your job? Would you just tell us the punch line there because it’s hysterical?

          FONG: So it’s funny – isn’t it? – because, you know, our popular imaginings of anesthesiologists is, you know, they sort of sit at the end of the table and do what the surgeon tells them to do, and occasionally they sneak off and do the crossword when they’re a bit bored, when in fact it’s much more dynamic role than that.

          And indeed, it’s very challenging because you’re sitting there trying to look after the patient’s physiology and stop – you know, counteract the effects of the drugs they’re using or the blood that the surgeon is releasing. And so a colleague of mine interviewed for a job with a cardiothoracic team – so a bunch of heart surgeons.

          And in that interview, one of the slightly pompous heart surgeons says, listen, I want to know what you think you can contribute to this team, what you think you can contribute to this heart surgery. And my colleague sort of sat there and said, well, that’s easy. It’s like flying a plane. I fly the plane, and you provide the in-flight entertainment.

          And I think that is pretty much the relationship we have with our surgical colleagues, I think.

          The full interview is quite interesting, not least of all because of the interviewees personal story.

          I was thinking of leaving my artificial hip to my son. I think it would make a really cool tomahawk.

        2. MichaelSF

          If you look (and not even very closely) at some of the ironmongery taken out of people it is easy to conclude that you wouldn’t want some surgeons putting up a shelf in the garage, must less operating on you. Rods and screws with jagged edges where they were hacked off but not smoothed, giving a wonderful sharp spot for muscles/tendons to try to slide over, etc. “Hacks” seems a good term for them for their lack of mechanical sympathy and craftsmanship.

          1. Conrad

            I guess that’s a consequence of selecting potential doctors by raw academic ability rather than any physical competencies.

      2. Summer

        “I would just as soon not be in the same room with myself during the surgery if there were any possible way he could arrange it.”

        Indeed. Hope it turned out well.

        I’m plan to miss my own funeral.

  7. Carolinian

    Scariest quote from the Medium story on Google manipulation,

    Today’s average consumer spends 4.7 hours per day on their phone.

    so scary I find it hard to believe. I sometimes joke to my psychology major brother that whatever B.F. Skinner’s influence may have been on the world of psychology, his impact on marketing and sales must have been immense. If those phones in our pockets are indeed enfolding us in a radio connected digital Skinner box then our consumer society may have reached its final and most decadent stage. Television, the original FUD marketer was bad enough (and also claimed 4 or 5 hours a day), but the food pellet lever was far enough away at a retail store that the manipulative power was muted. Smartphones plus online shopping may eventually have us all mesmerized in front of our phone, ordering stuff. That’s an exaggeration of course, but with marketing also applied to things like wars and the economy the public needs to wake up and snap out of it.

  8. SimonGirty

    I wonder who’ll pack up the morphine, for delivery to Tobyhanna, once the last Blackhawk pulls up it’s ladder from the embasy helipad? Just KIDDING! “DeVos Family Values” was a reality infomercial, we’d never pitched successfully under a previous Secret O’ State?

  9. Wukchumni

    I’ve noticed there isn’t much crowing about how retail xmas sales numbers are this holiday in the news, and when you see stories such as this, about how newlydead trees are where the action is, in particular among Millennials, you kind of wonder?

    Buying a real Christmas tree “matches up with what they’re doing in the rest of their lives,” O’Connor said.

    Beyond “real” objects, Millennials also value real experiences, said Ken Reeves, owner of Mountain Creek Tree Farm in Concord, Ohio. Of his about 2,000-tree inventory, Reeves has sold nearly 70 percent, with his final day of sales this Sunday – a better season than usual, he said.

    For millennials, “there’s decidedly a preference towards non-artificial” trees, Reeves said, “because they don’t want an artificial experience.”

    1. kareninca

      You would think that businesses would want to promote the holiday – that is, the secular version – in order to promote sales. But I just tried to find Christmas music on the radio here in Silicon Valley, and couldn’t find any on AM or FM. I went up and down both dials, twice, on my little old-style pocket radio (which probably doesn’t get everything, admittedly). There were church services on a few stations, but no Rudolph or Jack Frost. I’m not saying there won’t be any at any point (there was one station yesterday), but there was nothing just now. I wanted to put the radio on the mantlepiece so I wouldn’t have to use my computer to play YouTube Christmas tunes, and was willing to listen to the occasional advertisement.

      We have two Christmas trees, both artificial. One is about two feet tall; we have had it for many, many years. Last week I got my 94 y.o. father in law a three foot tree from Goodwill for his room (he lives with us). Every night my husband sneaks into the room and puts an additional gift from Santa (mostly WWII history books) under his tree. It is easy to do since he doesn’t wear his hearing aids to bed.

      A couple of months ago I took my father-in-law to the VA hospital to have one of his hearing aids fixed. We were lost in the giant complex; I pulled up beside a veteran walking along the sidewalk and opened my FIL’s window. He addressed the guy as Mister, and asked for where to have his earpiece fixed. I felt like I was in the boring part of a 1940s movie.

    2. Geo

      I wonder when the realizarion will come that it’s not the tree that makes the “experience” real but the actual experience that makes it an experience.

      Am I too cynical thinking the need for real trees has more to do with personal branding on instagram than with real experience?

      1. Wukchumni

        Am I too cynical thinking the need for real trees has more to do with personal branding on instagram than with real experience?

        …the see me-dig me generation likes to be seen

    3. foghorn longhorn

      Was astounded to find out from a neighbor who managed a Christmas tree farm here locally that they actually painted the trees green.
      Not the white flocking, which does actually make them more fire resistant, but spray painting them with green paint.

  10. The Rev Kev


    There is a factor that may be going without notice about that ISIS pocket in the south-east corner of Syria. That is, except for maybe an article at Sic Semper Tyrannis ( The US and its allies have had ISIS boxed in for about a year and a half now but just can’t seem to finish them off. So the big question is what happens to this ISIS force after the US leaves. The Tiger Forces Division is already deploying along the banks of the Euphrates river so like the article says, a deal is cut where the Syrian Army takes back the Syrian Arab portion of this region while the Syrian Democratic Forces head north to help fend off a Turkish invasion. And that is when it really starts.
    My own amateur guesstimate is that the Syrians and Iraqis will first seal off this region. The Iraqis want this area gone too as it is a constant source of danger to Iraq itself. With aerial cover and bombing by the Russian aerospace forces along with missiles attacks, the Syrians will go in to mop up this area once and for all. After the hard fought battles against the ISIS die-hards in the volcanic area at Al-Safa, the area around Albukamal will certainly not stop them. Call it a coupla weeks to wipe them out. At this point there may be questions asked how it is that the most powerful military on the planet could not defeat this ISIS force in a year and a half but the Syrian army and its allies could do so in a few weeks. Don’t expect to see this question in the main stream media though. Won’t ever happen.

    1. JTMcPhee

      SST and MoA and several other sources seem to have a pretty good case that the Empire had a lot to do, intentionally and maybe inadvertent-stupidly, with the creation and growth and now continuation of ISIS. The Coalition as the Empire calls itself could, as you say , have nominally “mopped up” the hard-core GUNmen and head-choppers and liver-eaters a long time ago, but “geopolitics, my dear,” or at least the running of vast covert obscure stratagems and “ops” by the sneaky sh!ts that make up the Blob as we call it, behind the curtains of “spreading democracy” mythology, and “national interest” fog. (Anyone care to define that first word, “democracy,” in all its dense and bloody and distracting and fraudulent effulgence, or take a crack at defining “the US national interest[s]?)

      And, of course, let us recall that it’s kind of beyond argument that the Empire, and “coalition partners” on their own accounts, have funded, trained and armed those shifting-loyalty warbands that change names and allegiances with the wind and opportunities and ego trips of their “commanders.” Including (experience sudden frisson of FEARUNCERTAINTYDOUBT Remember 9/11!!!!) “al Qaeda” and what, in our Bernays-soaked “business-class” thinking, we call its “affiliates.”

      I personally don’t think the Empire/Blob is going to follow the chain of command and “pull out of Syria,” any more than the teenaged hormone-charged young male is going to pull out. It’s what the participants and bureaucracy and institutions and the kinds of people that are drawn to that kind of Game of RISK!-meets-Monopoly(tm) activity. Anyone interested in insight into these folks, and the sandbox they are having so much fun and profit in, here’s one source: “First In: An Insider’s Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan,” by CIA paramilitary (whatever that means) Gary Schroen, “A national best-seller!!” it should be noted.

      Is AI going to fix all this for us? Who’s bringing AI on line, again? With “our” MMT money, and the profits from all the corruption and drug dealing and the rest of what we can vaguely glimpse is being done by “rough men” to “protect us?” Is “politics” or are “elections” going to change the vectors?

      1. ChristopherJ

        I suspect, JT, that our vectors are already baked in. Dismal, eh?

        Thank you for your thoughtful links, as usual

        1. JTMcPhee

          Wish I could thoughtfully find some stuff to be happy about — maybe that piece about how chlorofluorocarbons damaging the ozone layer over the pole is increasing snowfall, thus slowing ice loss…

          1. ChristopherJ

            Hey, it’s raining buckets at my place, over 125mil in last 24. Have to invest in a tank this year…new french drain absent the rocks is full to brim

            Shops are frothy…so home now and calm

            TY bro and merry christmas to all who read NC

            1. JTMcPhee

              Blessings on you and your house. May only good things come your way, and the wind be always at your back…

    2. Pelham

      I worked at three major US newspapers over 27 years. Speaking from that experience, I’d say you’re absolutely right about the mainstream media.

    3. Amfortas the hippie

      finally got to the wapo exercise in hyperbole from dana milbank…and parts of his list of Very Bad Things look pretty good to me: withdrawing from nato and wto, ending 2 stupid wars we shouldn’t have been doing any way…
      Seems like I remember a time…not so long ago….when American “Liberals” would have rejoiced at these developments.
      now trump’s freeing “low level drug offenders” from federal prison?
      Ryan Cooper’s “…another blizzard of random chaos this week….” is an apt description.
      I warned my remaining Team Blue acquaintances 2 years ago that this guy might blunder his way into doing some good…what would we do if he woke up one day and tweeted in support of legalising weed? or found a soft spot for unions?
      it doesn’t really matter if he’s serious, or even consistent at all…the taboo would have been breached…apo kalypsos—tripped over his gut and fell through the veil…another absurdity of the late, lamented “Normal” undone by whim and idiocy.
      meanwhile, lindsey graham and various vichy dems are of one voice,lol. and Daddy Bush was some kind of saint.
      what an amazing time to be alive with an internet connection.

    4. Skip Intro

      You make it sound as if defeating ISIS in Syria was the actual goal of the US operations in the area. I mean, you see what happens when ISIS is even just 99% defeated…

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        there’s been an ever changing puppet show of “goals” in those places…none of them touching on the more plausible “because we want to”.
        from the starry eyed neocons in the well appointed study, reading Thucydides right up to the attack on Syracuse before they collapse into the wing backed chair, spent…
        to the newest iteration of the Best and the Brightest(tm)….just a different mein to the same old imperial ambition….elegant engineering solutions to non-engineering problems…
        …and yet for weeks since the Elder Bush kicked off….more if we count McCain’s hagiography as prequel…we’ve heard all about “spreading democracy” and “world order” and “stability” and “our cherished allies”….
        what planet do those people think they’re running?
        the “Establishment” deserves trump.
        it’s just unfortunate that so many of us little people will likely get trampled in the drunken dinosaur dance/fight.
        on another note…the word “Precariat” as used around here has finally penetrated my suburban upper middle class brother’s awareness of post-capitalist harvest and parasitism…he has resisted grasping it for so long…
        but when i said it again this early morning, it was as if lights literally went on.
        I consider that to be a prime indicator of the progress of deligitimacy.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          I like the word “bourgeoitariat” and hope there becomes a place and a way to use it. Perhaps for the downfalling mid-upper middle-class individuals beginning a swift descent from the 10 per cent.

      2. oh

        How is it that ISIS photos show them having brand new Toyota trucks? Were theygifts from Uncle Sam and Ojiisan Abe?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Never rely on digital evidence without iron-clad provenance. That applies to all digital evidence from the Middle East, from all sides, without exception. IOW, this issue isn’t even worth discussing. So don’t.

          1. integer

            The Mystery of ISIS’ Toyota Army Solved New Eastern Outlook

            Recently, when the US State Department resumed sending non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, the delivery list included 43 Toyota trucks.

            Hiluxes were on the Free Syrian Army’s wish list. Oubai Shahbander, a Washington-based advisor to the Syrian National Coalition, is a fan of the truck.

            “Specific equipment like the Toyota Hiluxes are what we refer to as force enablers for the moderate opposition forces on the ground,” he adds. Shahbander says the US-supplied pickups will be delivering troops and supplies into battle. Some of the fleet will even become battlefield weapons..

            The British government has also admittedly supplied a number of vehicles to terrorists fighting inside of Syria. The British Independent’s 2013 article titled, “Revealed: What the West has given Syria’s rebels,” reported that (emphasis added):

            So far the UK has sent around £8m of “non-lethal” aid, according to official papers seen by The Independent, comprising five 4×4 vehicles with ballistic protection; 20 sets of body armour; four trucks (three 25 tonne, one 20 tonne); six 4×4 SUVs; five non-armoured pick-ups; one recovery vehicle; four fork-lifts; three advanced “resilience kits” for region hubs, designed to rescue people in emergencies; 130 solar powered batteries; around 400 radios; water purification and rubbish collection kits; laptops; VSATs (small satellite systems for data communications) and printers.

            It’s fair to say that whatever pipeline the US State Department and the British government used to supply terrorists in Syria with these trucks was likely used to send additional vehicles before and after these reports were made public.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              “moderate forces on the ground” is simply code for Alphabet Jihadis . . . the evershifting mass of al Qaeda allied and inspired Islamist jihadistas who are indeed a whole other group of people from ISIS.

              Analysts who are less than impressed with the concept of “moderate forces” have taken to calling them “moderate head-choppers”, ” moderate liver-eaters”, etc. Which of course is exactly correct.

              I have read that ISIS gets some of its new trucks and etc. by beating up the “moderate” jihadi scum and taking their stuff whenever they get a new shipment of beautiful toyota trucks.

              1. JBird4049

                At the start of the war in Syria, the government made a point of killing the moderates, the reasonable ones who were acceptable to everyone, and latter ISIS did as well. If there are people you can negotiate, you are often forced to negotiate. If there is no one, you can unite your side by pointing at the total monsters you are fighting and you might be able to win everything.

                It is a more lethal version of what has been happening in the United States. Demonize the opposition and push out any actual moderates or real leftists (and conservatives) especially those who are not the right kinds. Both political parties keep themselves in power and keeping their sugar daddies happy by doing so.

    5. Samuel Conner

      It’s really hard not to believe that ISIS in Syria looks to our elites like a useful tool of US policy, the way the mujahideen of Afghanistan did in the wake of the Soviet invasion. That, of course, did not end well, but every next time is sure to be different.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Remember where Syrian ISIS came from, a few disgruntled people started an uprising in Idlib during Arab Spring, it would have died out but there was a nice CIA cell in Idlib with guys who dished out a ton of cash and logistical support to encourage it all to get going.

        So this is better viewed as a corporate financial headline:

        GAWC (Global American War Corporation) Shutters Syria Division, Citing Decline in Orders

    6. The Rev Kev

      Things are starting to heat up at the al-Tanf area ( – the green bit) astride the strategic Baghdad-Damascus highway too where the US maintains a pocket of territory. The announcement is that they are going and they only need to go across the border back into Iraq which would not take long. There are several rebel groups there that the US trains and which carry out attacks from time to time on the Syrian army which are starting to panic. They will either have to reconcile with the government or be moved to Idlib by those green buses. No other choices. There is also the Rukban refugee camp which has about 50,000 refugees in it that are in desperate plights. Although located within their zone, the US maintains it is not responsible for the refugee’s welfare. This camp will be emptied after receiving basic necessities though some may choose to go to Idlib. And after all is said and done the al-Tanf area will revert to just a piece of desert with a few checkpoints and border crossings which will free up cross-border trading with Iraq.

  11. JCC

    Prof. David Collum’s “2018 Year In Review” is out and, as usual and whether you agree with him or not, a good read. His view on the stock markets and Central Banks is always interesting.

    (My link is to the pdf version, it can be read in html/web format at Peak Prosperity)

    1. Oji

      Yes, just finished it. Recommended.

      For anyone who doesn’t like his social/political views, you can always read only the econ./finance material. Great compilation of material.

      He has an strong tendency towards confirmation bias and lack of context when discussing social issues, but, then, don’t we all. I read the social commentary mostly for the jokes and witticisms, though it’s not as if he’s completely wrong, IMO.

  12. Carolinian

    Re Boeing South Carolina–here’s a bit more from a different article.

    In recent months, six flight-line employees — all described by the Machinists as avid union supporters — were fired for infractions that were not an issue before the workers joined the union, according to IAMWA organizing director Vinnie Addeo.

    That includes backdating tool log information, at a manager’s request, and crossing a pathway while an aircraft was taxiing nearby, a practice the union says had happened multiple times with no disciplinary action taken.

    “The company is simply doing this for one reason: to deter the support we have here,” Addeo told the AP in a recent interview.

    Will the Trump Labor department chastise Boeing? It is to laugh. Still, after moving south to send a message to their uppity workforce, it must be bitter times at Boeing if Dixie is starting to turn on them too.

  13. Charles Myers

    I did the Karakoram trip using Google Earth it took me around 15 hours. It really was a good way to see it.

    1. Ignim Brites

      Very cool idea. Thanks. And the article, “On the road in the Karakoram” is fun and intriguing for those with any wanderlust.

  14. polecat

    So, WaPo … riddle me this – if the plug has in fact been pulled, how can it still be in the act of plugging ?

    Hey Bezos .. Why U no copy right ??

  15. Roland Chrisjohn

    How does someone write an article about “human nature” these days without bringing up any of the monumental work of Peter Hacker?

  16. Pelham

    Re self-driving cars: The most telling point, I believe, is that one about partly self-driving cars.

    This has got to be the worst of all possible combinations. It’s well documented that airline pilots taking over from autopilots in emergencies are often flummoxed by the situation, sometimes to deadly effect.

    How much more will this be the case in terrestrial applications, where distracted or half-awake drivers won’t have miles of empty sky around them in which to make corrections?

    The one, only and truly fascinating thing about this technology is the sheer persistence of the companies and investors involved based on notional value that — as it now plainly appears — will never, ever be realized.

  17. Samuel Conner

    I would just like to say, “Thank you, Lambert!” for today’s snarky commentary. I got multiple belly-laughs out of it, my lungs are deeply ventilated and my mood is discernibly elevated.

    To quote the 11th Doctor, “It’s almost like Christmas!”

  18. Craig H.

    > Blowback: America’s Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effect on the Cold War Christopher Simpson on KPFK, 1988

    1. this is an important story and nobody wants it to be true; nobody wants to talk about it (I am pretty sure Christopher Simpson doesn’t even like it very much); nobody wants to hear it.

    2. the CIA and other military orgs hired 1000’s of Nazis. And when they weren’t Nazis they hired gobs of Ustashi, Crooked Crosses, and every other national equivalent. Every European country in 1938 had a huge fascist population. America was not a fascist country but in 1958 it had a sizable fascist representation of people in responsible posts.

    3. Werner Van Braun was a hero. He was Carl Sagan or Neil degrasse Tyson before they got the gig.

    4. From the interview:

    Von Braun or his defenders would insist that he had no control over these slave laborers; maybe so, that can be debated. But here, nonetheless, is a man who is willing to walk across a concentration camp full of corpses in order to advance his career, [00:13:00] in order to rise higher in the Nazi bureaucracy.

    5. Blowback is not in print in hardcopy but you can get one for your kindle thanks to the Forbidden Books folks. If you go to their homepage it is like the 8th title down from the top.

    1. How is it legal

      1. this is an important story …; nobody wants to talk about it …

      Indeed. Particularly not in the Meritocratic™ Republic of California™, which certainly housed more than one Nazi, along with a sizable population of racists in very high places, and Institutions of Higher Learning™.

      Visiting the article’s link for Otto Albrecht von Bolschwing there’s just a hop skip and jump from Otto to numerous of California’s historic, and current, Players; such as San Francisco’s Getty family, and the Getty connected Newsom family, for just two examples (both mentioned in the linked Spitfirelist piece). Bracketed notes are mine:

      The list of people he knew, some of whom met him through a California high technology business venture in 1970 reads like a Who’s Who. They include justice William A. Newsom of the 1st District Court of Appeals in San Francisco [That would be California Governor elect Gavin’s Papa].

      further down:

      TCI’s high powered directors – one was J. Paul Getty Jr. son of the oil billionaire – thought enough of von Bolschwing to make him the firm’s president in 1970.

      and below that

      Justice Newsom, who traveled as a TCI attorney with von Bolschwing in Europe in 1969-70, and said von Bolschwing alluded to wartime work for the Americans.

      “He was suave and plausible” Newsom said. “He seemed to have all the credentials… He looked kind of world weary,” recalled Newsom. “He had the long cigarette holder, his hair was slicked back.” [just like Justice Newsom’s son Gavin’s is].

      I know one thing, racist’s make outrageously racist remarks among those they consider their own race (especially to those they’re paying money to), they can’t seem to help themselves. Gavin’s dad was either mentally unfit to be a Judge – for not being capable of discerning racism – or he was an out and out liar as to his awareness, regarding Otto Albrecht von Bolschwing.

    2. pjay

      Yes, nobody wants to talk about it, so few people know this history. Thanks for the comment, and thanks Lambert for slipping it in. “Old” history that is still having repercussions today. Strongly recommended.

  19. mareko 15:15

    Hello all, I’m a bit mystified by the silence about Craig Murray’s recent post on the integrity initiative. I appreciate that the MSM would be keeping shtum, but this dates back to 21 Dec, and it’s explosive stuff. Basically suggests that the UK MOD with associated deep state allies are up to no good with russiagate… well worth a read. I’m completely failing to format links I’m afraid, but you can paste this into your browser:
    And here analysts can get their teeth into a detailed briefing note on the integrity initiative.
    Looking forward to hearing comments….
    And happy winter solstice one and all…

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      You don’t need to be “mystified,” which could be interpreted as imputing bad faith to the blog. We don’t guarantee to cover everything, and we have only a small crew. Many commenters supply useful links.

      1. mareko 15:15

        Apologies for the malapropism, no imputation of bad faith meant. I’m a huge fan of NC and appreciate that this is a peripheral issue to your main concerns, but I always look to the commentariat here for critical analysis of the latest issues and the integrity initiative would appear to be of interest to many.
        Thank you for the Brexit coverage, btw, easily best on the web for this ex pat Englishman. Amusing that I come to a US based blog for news about blighty…
        Thank you more generally for all the hard work maintaining this amazing oasis of sanity, I hope you, the NC team and all of us have a peaceful Christmas.

  20. Ignim Brites

    “It’s official. We lost the Cold War.” I think Vlad would beg to differ. Got to wonder what is going wrong in the minds of these people. Don’t think for a minute that they are actually concerned about Russia. It is more like a semiotic variable. They get up in the morning a check a memo they have left on their phone. It starts: Let Russia = ‘something bad’; export Russia. Then then can face the day.

    1. Tomonthebeach

      To whom did we lose the Cold War? Russia? Ridiculous. If there ever was a cold war it happened in Antarctica.

      The US has been successfully losing (i.e., not winning) wars since WW II, and it helped every enemy’s economy immensely after peace was declared – think Korea, Vietnam, the Soviet Union (okay, the Balkans are still a mess, but CZ, PO, HU, up north are doing ffar better than under USSR rule). It has also been very good for our own defense industries.

    1. Wukchumni

      HALexa: I know you’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can’t give you my complete assurance that your workplace injury claim will go through. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.

      1. Carolinian

        You really like that joke.

        As you should. Who knew 2001 would have such legs? The movie may not be all that profound but it is so very good.

        1. Wukchumni

          My mom took me to see it in the summer of ’69 in midtown Manhattan. It blew my 7 year old mind away, too much to take in, though I tried.

  21. Mattski

    Two very different takes on the yellow vests, the first densely theoretical but–I believe–highly important. The second talks about anti-semitic gestures from some of the crowds. Would not be surprised if it were true, but whether pervasive or not is quite another question. The writer of the first piece notes that our first order of business as progressives should be to help everyone in need; we are less likely to do that in an atmosphere of identitarian hauteur, where we tend to fall back into the ruling class trap of separating the deserving poor from the underserving:

    The first piece asks what it will take for the gilets jaunes to transform not just France but the EU (note strong take on what the EU was really all about in the first place). There will, I expect, be plenty more pieces like the second in the popular press, exposing the “dark underbelly” of the movement. How that movement is going to be inflected is the critical question, and the author doesn’t assume this will be toward the left. Our passivity toward such processes is, unfortunately, telling.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      One big center of antijewism was/is inspired by this French comedian, I believe . . .
      Most of his followers and supporters are I believe of either African or Arab ancestry, maybe some other ethnic ancestry background. I suspect that very few Franco-Frenchians support or admire this comedian.
      So if the antijewitic demonstrators and actors in the Yellow Vest movement are discovered to be Arab, African, etc. ancestry; then the answer is very simple.

      If the visible antijewites in the Yellow Vest movement are Franco-Frenchians themselves, then some other hypotheses might have to be worked up. Some long-standing little antijewitic fringes might be trying to attach themselves to the Yellow Vesters the way remora suckfishes attach themselves to sharks . . . to get a free ride.

      Or, they might be false-flag French government and secret- police agents-provocateurs in Yellow Vest disguise sent in to discredit the Yellow Vesters by ugly association.

  22. ambrit

    I was just weaseling about on the Yahoo “news” site, strictly for experimental purposes of course, and noticed more Michelle Obama hagiography. Suddenly I had an anti-enlightenment moment. The idea hit me so hard that I fell into a fugue state. I experienced next what alien abduction theorists refer to as “missing time.” I have finally shaken off the aftereffects of this Daemonic Meme.
    I predict that the DNC will run a Hillary/Michelle ticket in the 2020 election cycle.

    1. Lunker Walleye

      Your comment made me laugh and shudder at the same time, though it does sound like a plausible way for H to get back into the limelight.

      1. ambrit

        It is political chemistry.
        H and the 2’O’s
        You’ll say that I’m all wet, but, at my age, I’ll “get wet” whenever possible.

  23. newcatty

    The nightmare before Christmas… now that you are shaken back to your own enlightened Self. Wish you and your family a Joyful Christmas.

    1. Wukchumni

      It’s not uncommon for a mountain lion to cache the carcass of a deer in a tree, for ‘safe keeping’.

    2. shinola

      Don’t know about the authenticity of that particular pic. but I do seem to recall something about a lion in a tree from a TV nature program years ago.

    1. Anon

      Exploring the Shanghai photo it crossed my mind that that city has arrived at a solution to a Jobs For All program. Zoom-in to the traffic circle and you’ll see exquisite garden topiary and plant design detail unrivaled. That must take a gazillion workers to maintain. And it’s everywhere the camera can pan.

      Also, note that the traffic circle has PAINTED traffic guides, not real barriers. There is a full-size bus and various motor scooters that are ignoring the traffic flow signage/markings entirely. (Do they call that the Thai manuever?)

    2. Anon

      …not just London. Many other cities/sites as well. Digital photography has shrunk the solar system, too.

  24. Big River Bandido

    Christmas Hucksterism

    Absolutely brilliant, and the snarky commentary was ree-ricious. Thank you for traipsing far down the useless, self-promoting, propagandistic rathole of jive and reporting what little there is to be found there. I’m especially thankful you did this, so that I don’t have to.

    1. grayslady

      Agree. Thoughtful analysis; and puts the monkey onto the back of those who stand to profit from scaring others.

    2. ewmayer

      Lambert, you are right not to trust the ‘polls’ conducted by interested for-profit parties, but NC gives you an excellent venue for conducting your own such poll. It might not be any more scientific than the ones you cite, but at least it wouldn’t be money-driven.

      Cheers, and to you and the rest of team NC, thanks for all you do and happy holidays!

  25. Wukchumni

    I’d be remiss without mentioning that it’s the 151st of a quite the avalanche that took out about 1500 mature Giant Sequoia trees in the Garfield Grove in Sequoia NP.

    “One of the most cataclysmic events affecting the Sierra Nevada in historic times impacted the Garfield section of the grove. On December 20, 1867, a warm rain fell on heavy snowpack blanketing the higher elevations of Dennison Ridge. One observer wrote that “the north side of Dennison Mountain” fell through the heart of the grove into the South Fork of the Kaweah, destroying a reported one-third of the grove’s forest. The avalanche and landslide swept down from as high as 7,500 feet, covering hundred of acres, and devastating an area about 2.5 miles long and ranging in width from 1,500 to 4,000 feet. A natural dam was created measuring a half-mile wide and 400 feet high, and the reservoir that formed behind it breached the dam on Christmas night.”

    “The flood scoured the canyon, then flooded Visalia in the Central Valley to a depth of five feet. Sequoia logs and tree sections were carried to the valley, where they floated far and wide beyond the riverbanks. Though new growth has disguised most signs of the 1867 avalanche in the grove, its effects are still dramatically apparent in the vicinity of Snowslide Canyon, where dense sequoia forest ends abruptly at an avalanche boulder field which swept away all that was growing there before the slide.”

    Not much threat of it happening today, very light snow on the ground.

  26. Louis Fyne

    re: Christmas hucksterism (to share this anecdote despite the comment freeze)

    A family member delivers Amazon packages via their “gig app”…

    Delivered thousands of unattended packages, steal rate as AMZL (logistics) keeps count and shares this info in its feedback:

    less than 1 in 500 overall—a bit higher (but still well less than 1%) in the city.

    Even dastardly ne’er-do-wells have better things to do than try to steal and pawn your $35 worth of widgets, vitamins and toiletries. Expensive stuff (>$500) require a signature or get delivered by UPS/USPS (signature required).

    Amazon Echos (and instant pots) are really, really, really popular this year. And delivery volume **feels** less than predicted. earnings miss this qtr?


  27. drumlin woodchuckles

    The New York Post is considered a somewhat crude and low-class newspaper. Some of its articles seem sort of rude and crude. But are they always wrong?

    I ran across a New York Post article about the arrest of Meng and the ChinaGov’s reaction and what it exposes and what it means for the world. And it reads a little bit crude and alarmist. But is it wrong?

  28. integer

    In keeping with the Festivus tradition, Rand Paul is airing his grievances on Twitter and some of them are quite amusing:

    I’m going to go a bit easier on the grievances against the neocons and warmongers this year though. The Weekly Standard has folded, wars are ending — I really think their holiday is already bad enough, I don’t want to pile on…

    Well, actually…let’s talk about John Bolton. I don’t have a grievance. I just really would have liked to have been in the room when the POTUS told him to END a war. How many times do you think he made the President repeat it because he didn’t even know what the words meant?..

    I opposed John Bolton being hired. But I really can’t think of anything that makes me happier then thinking of him having to end wars for the rest of his time in the White House.

    Here is the full thread.

  29. Adam1

    I’ve seen a handful of people discuss this before, but it really might end up being the Achilles heal of self driving cars. The underlying assumption is that we can build cars capable of driving down streets without crashing or killing people (I hope). However the underlying design is based upon continued use of the existing infrastructure as is; but history says things will change as people adapt to changing uses.

    If you watch movie clips from the 1890’s and early 1900’s you’ll see roads jammed with people, horses and street cars all intermingled. Why? Well it was relatively safe or at least easily predictable for pedestrians. Horses didn’t move much faster than pedestrians and street cars had fixed routes. A pedestrian could randomly cross or walk through the streets and as long as they were paying attention make needed navigational changes to keep from being run down. By the 1930’s or 40’s cars were so prevalent and moved so much faster and cars were driven by humans who are not always algorithmically predictable (distracted, intoxicated, angry, etc…). These calculations couldn’t be humanly made fast enough nor with enough confidence to be safe to randomly cross or walk a busy city street. Pedestrians were relegated to side walks and crosswalks. What happens when you make cars that are highly predicable and programmed not to kill people? Will a self driving car be able to navigate a busy city street where every pedestrian knows they can make a car stop just by walking across the road at will (or nearly at will)?

    1. Louis Fyne

      Jaywalk cams. Via cloud facial recognition

      And please no one be naive enough to think that this can never happen. Think of the children!

  30. Wukchumni

    Long suffering Bills fans (that would be all of them) had it easy this year, as adversity came early & often and by mid season everybody knew it was as hopeless of a cause as 100 year Argentine bonds, as interest flagged.

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