Links 1/21/19

Corn Tastes Better on the Honor System Emergence

Close companions: Early evidence for dogs in northeast Jordan and the potential impact of new hunting methods Journal of Anthropological Archaeology

Church of Sol: The Solar Cycle’s Potential Impact on Weather and Climate Weather Underground

Debt machine: are risks piling up in leveraged loans FT

Central Banks’ Window to Restock Ammo Is Closing Bloomberg

South Asia Tops the Ranks of World’s Highest Real Interest Rates Bloomberg

No cash? No problem, with India’s mobile microcredit Nikkei Asian Review. Micro-usury. Swell.

Pay-for-Play, Ethical Concerns & the Usual Suspects: A Look at the Rivaling Fyre Fest Docs The Fashion Law


Brexit: Theresa May ‘considers amending Good Friday Agreement’ to break deadlock Independent (KW). By March 29? When I first saw this, I thought it was a parody.

Dublin rejects idea of alternative deal for Irish border post Brexit Politico

Theresa May on Brexit collision course with MPs FT

Defiant John Bercow ‘set to stay as speaker’ Guardian

Moving On Institute for Government. They tweet: “On major govt projects, almost half of project directors and a quarter of senior responsible owners leave their roles each year.” Projects such as Brexit planning and implementation, presumably.

Leveling up my cat game:

Frenchman jailed for 6 months for attempting organize Yellow Vest protest RT

Tsipras blames ‘extremist elements’ for clashes; protesters cry staged provocation Ekathimerini


Army’s long-awaited Iraq war study finds Iran was the only winner in a conflict that holds many lessons for future wars Army Times. The only winner besides Halliburton et al. If you call that winning.


China’s 2018 growth slows to 28-year low, more stimulus seen Reuters

China’s private sector struggles for funding as growth slows FT

Ronnie Chan, Donald Trump and how China misread the US in first round of trade talks South China Morning Post

Chinese Drone Giant DJI Unearths $150 Million Losses From Fraud Bloomberg

Mongolians are getting angry about corruption The Economist

“What Is Peppa?” – Viral Ad Campaign for ‘Peppa Pig’ Movie Makes the British Pig More Chinese Than Ever What’s on Weibo

New Cold War

Coincidence? – Chief Nurse Of British Army Was First To Arrive At Novichoked Skripal Scene Moon of Alabama. “Scene” is indeed the word. When I was in London a couple of years ago, I went to see the great British farce, Noises Off. Hilarity ensued. This latest incredible coincidence in Weston-super-Mare the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury should be causing that stiff British upper lip to twitch, at the very least. Maybe when everything’s funny, nothing is funny.

Gangster Geopolitics: The Kremlin’s Use of Criminals as Assets Abroad Russia Matters

The Russian pension chicken is coming home to roost… (UPDATED) Vineyard of the Saker

Trump Transition

The huge problem with Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe that no one talks about Will Bunch, Philadelphia Inquirer

ACLU sues federal agencies in attempt to obtain social media surveillance records The Hill. Invasion of the data snatchers…

The Green New Deal: How We Will Pay For It Isn’t ‘A Thing’ – And Inflation Isn’t Either Forbes

Democrats in Disarray

1 big thing: Freshmen Dems balk at impeachment Axios. Goodness. I thought that’s what the Blue Wave was for? (The link includes a spreadsheet for the survey of the Dem frosh. That’s a good practice.)

Hawkish Democrats, Anti-War Republicans? Thank Trump The American Conservative

As Beto O’Rourke Weighs 2020 Run, Democrats Chafe at His Go-It-Alone Style NYT. That trial balloon popped fast.

Elizabeth Warren’s Early Stroke of Genius The Atlantic

Kamala Harris says she focused ‘almost every day’ on justice reform. That’s not the whole story. McClatchy

Our Famously Free Press

Beyond BuzzFeed: The 10 Worst, Most Embarrassing U.S. Media Failures on the Trump/Russia Story The Intercept. I remember each and every one of these stories, but I’m so jaded that one debacle after another seems like the new normal.

Health Care

Early Medicaid Expansion Associated With Reduced Payday Borrowing In California Health Affairs. Imagine what #MedicareForAll would do!

Guillotine Watch

“When You Get That Wealthy, You Start to Buy Your Own Bullshit”: The Miseducation of Sheryl Sandberg Vanity Fair (DK). DK: “Gets better when moving past Sandberg, around para eight.”

Millennials Are Taking Charge of Davos Bloomberg. Well, let’s hope they ruin it.

Class Warfare

Framing Crashed (9): Christophers’ The New Enclosure, Crashed and the problem of dirty and clean histories of neoliberalism Adam Tooze

Why 70 per cent tax rates would require capital controls The New Statesman

The Left Critique of Bureaucracy Current Affairs

‘The goal is to automate us’: welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism Guardian (MR).

‘I’m trying not to die right now’: Why opioid-addicted patients are still searching for help Politico. Everything’s going according to plan.

Fans Shocked After Marie Kondo Reveals She Has Been Dating Untidy Cupboard For Past 6 Months The Onion. Dateline — you guessed it — “Brooklyn, NY.”

It’s All Over The Point. No it isn’t.

Antidote du jour (via):

“When the weather’s cold you can see the song” (Geoff Shipp)

Bonus antidote:

Awwwww! Look at the little dinosaur!

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. Redlife2017

    That Vanity Fair piece on Sheryl Sandberg and the vaunted “Leadership” rubbish that comes out of all these management courses really hits the nail on the head. This is a total must read for those of us who suffer through some of the worst management/leadership techniques ever invented. Without a moral compass all you are doing is encouraging people to have to act like monsters (or worse get people who just really are monsters, which is not in short supply).

    The whole discussion really pinpointed what I’ve been trying to figure out what the hell my boss meant a year ago when he was saying I needed to exhibit more “leadership” and not be such a manager. ‘Cause being a manager clearly has nothing to do with “leadership” (/sarc). At the time I asked him what he meant by leadership and it seemed to mean kissing rear-ends of the C-suite and knowing your political position with people at your level and above. Nothing about the people below you. I said “Oh! You mean I need to play politics. OK.” I don’t think he liked that answer…

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said, Redlife.

      Unfortunately, we get more than our fair share of such monsters in the square mile.

    2. JTMcPhee

      I worked for too many years for a national retailer of marine supplies. The guy who started the company was all about empowering the workers. The text for management training was “ZAPP! The Lightning of Empowerment — How to Improve Quality, Productivity, and Employee Satisfaction,” Here’s the laugher pitch on the book from B&N:

      Most managers know that revitalization in their companies must occur from the ground up. But how to get that message to employees without applying the kind of pressure that makes them even less productive? The answer is empowerment. In this motivating book, you will find specific strategies designed to help you encourage responsibility, acknowledgment, and creativity so that employees feel they “own” their jobs. It’s all here, in an accessible guide for the successful managers of tomorrow. How quaint…

      This of course is vastly out of synch with the “management by intimidation and algorithm” brought in when the aging founder handed off his power to C-site failures hired in from other large retailers (toy sellers) and bought a big sailboat and went cruising. The district manager, parroting the top-down groupthink and lingo, exhorted all us sub-creatures to “be the ball,” apparently oblivious to the source of the phrase. He has risen high in the higher-archy since then, and the company has run the stock-pumping-for-options game pretty well since then, though the “brand” has gotten pretty tattered and dirty since the early quality-and-value-driven days. Nothing new in any of it, no possible deviation from the deviance-down path. I’m glad I am older sometimes…

      1. Chris Cosmos

        I love your term “management by intimidation and algorithm” though, from what I’ve seen, the emphasis is on management by algorithm which is intimidating in itself.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          I was a manager at Microsoft, they had a great HR algorithm. Here’s how it worked:

          I had 6 people reporting to me. My job at review time was to divide them into 3 groups: 2 Outperformed, 2 Performed, and 2 Underperformed.

          Based on these classifications people would either earn loads of money that year, break even, or fear for their jobs.

          But people are not dumb: they figured out they did not need to be actually productive, they just needed to do better than their group members. “I don’t need to outrun the bear, I just need to outrun you”, etc.

          So people spent their time trying to sabotage the work efforts of their team members. It was less work to tie a lead weight to the other guy’s shoe than it was to work on your own running-away-from-bears skills. If you did do productive work and did not engage in sabotage you ran the risk of coming up empty regardless of your good efforts.

          Microsoft paid some very fancy HR experts many millions to invent and manage these incentives. When that champion of destroying American shareholder value Steve Ballmer finally went so did that program.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Good luck trying to form a well-functioning team under that setup. So for the workers at Microsoft the enemy was not Apple or Samsung or whoever but their own fellow workers. That job must have driven you nuts at times.

              1. The Rev Kev

                Thanks for the offer. May have to wait till I’m ever down that way as I’m up in SE Queensland. I’m about 32 kilometers south-west from the middle of nowhere.
                The way I heard it, at Microsoft the idea was to sack a portion of the workers each year so that over the course of time, the general ability of the workers would go up under constant ‘culling’. A team of champions or a champion team? I’d rather go for the later.

          2. Crestwing

            I remember working for Safeway for a time. Some genius thought to empower and motivate us with the slogan, “Think and act like an owner.”

            My response was, “When you pay me like an owner.”

      2. GlassHammer

        This of course is vastly out of synch with the “management by intimidation and algorithm” – JTMcPhee

        No, it isn’t

        Empowerment allows C-suite bozos to push decision making down chain to some poor schmuck who isn’t protected when things go wrong. Its the perfect scumbag management style. I don’t know who came up with it but whoever it was managed to put a happy face putting someone else’s skin in the game instead of your own. Its impressive in its degeneracy.

        1. JTMcPhee

          That ain’t what I’d call empowerment. Delegation dumping, maybe. And of course the commanding business model is “more and more increasingly bullish!t and invasive work, from fewer and fewer people, for less and less pay, under algorithm-driven metrics.” Probably many more items could be added, of course.

      1. How is it legal

        Given her previous great essays, which haven’t received close to enough US press (can’t imagine why), I’m betting the book is a masterpiece of the many reasons why Google, Facebook, et al are so dangerous to humanity.

        One thing I don’t agree with her on though is that Capitalism is ever nondestructive and can be ‘saved.’ Also, I would term Learned Helplessness (used in her May 2016 Google essay, towards the end, under the section Profoundly anti-democratic power), Enforced Helplessness instead.

    3. aletheia33

      from what i have heard from friends, family, etc., the US workplace has become, for most, a kind of hell.

      it’s not just the politics and the “leadership” crapspeak, which cannot be overemphasized (the language of selling). it’s the corruption.

      i’m beginning to understand at a new level how endemic cheating, lying, and stealing have become in every sector. and people who don’t want to go along with it have no choice but to cooperate. business owners must either cheat and lie or go out of business. employees do not feel constrained to observe ethical boundaries when bankers are not constrained. and so the levels of cheating, lying, and stealing by ordinary people are becoming more egregious/serious by the day.

      still, most people do not realize how widely and insidiously the rot has spread. they know about it in their own jobs and interactions with health care providers, vendors, (privatized) government offices, and so on. but they do not put the picture together that the whole society has become incapable of ethically managing itself. some people know what is the right thing to do and they simply cannot do it without risking their basic survival. (or, for the 10%, risking their children’s access to elite education, which for that cohort amounts to the same thing.)

      not to mention the stress and physical and/or mental breakdown brought on by being pushed relentlessly to work harder and longer in all sectors; likewise with that, people understand that this is a trend that is affecting everyone they know, but they do not understand the level of deliberate manipulation being worked on them collectively by the owners and the owners’ mindless, market ideology-based greed, abetted by the mindless embrace of brave new technology.

      1. KLG

        We have a new COO, a first, with an all-important MBA. Some can ignore him to a certain extent, for now, but morale among staff at all levels has plummeted to depths from which it will never recover. Eventually essential work will not get done, but we have a “Leadership” team at the top. “They” tell us to “own” our work and be “leaders,” lowercase. They are arrant bullshit artists, but not particular good at it.

        1. Enquiring Mind

          Exhortations for leadership often include its consort, vision. Details are almost never forthcoming, allowing subsequent application of that advanced technique plausible deniability.

          Lack of agency is a feature in the meta-workplace.

      2. Chris Cosmos

        Excellent expression of what many people are increasingly experiencing. We are nearing the end of the System we are where the Soviets were about a decade before their system collapsed. Large organizations, after awhile, all seem to develop perverse incentives where much time is spent covering asses and living by the motto of “no good deed goes unpunished.” JTMcPhee used the excellent phrase “management by intimidation and algorithm” to describe the reality of the much of the American workplace. The worst of this is the tyranny of algorithm which causes employees to become mechanical so that alienation can flourish. As an older person, I remember that life was no rose garden in the past but there was more opportunity to be human and less dependence on an official paper-trail. Towards the end of my career we were faced with the need for documenting everything so we had to spend time either actually keeping track of every breath we took or just making shit up, writing fake emails, checking boxes, simply because these bureaucratic features just got in the way of doing the job we were hired to do. It was this very movement that caused me to resign from the job I had held that once gave me great autonomy to serve our clients better. I found out later that all this was done because the higher ups did not trust middle-managers.

        1. Enquiring Mind

          You may appreciate this New Years Resolution mantra.

          Tolerance and Presence

          Where you arrive at the point of reminding yourself to tolerate the present.

        2. tegnost

          well what did you expect, you were serving clients…see the col’s link re: investment assoc. BTL of the BlackRock/ Fink post

        3. whine country

          The difficulty in turning over ALL work functions to robots is not from an inability to design and build robots. Rather it comes from the problem that before we can design and build the robot, we must turn the human into one so that the human can be more easily replaced. Think about this next time you have a conversation with a Customer Service “Person”.

          1. Chris Cosmos

            I had those very thoughts the last time I did interact with such a “person”–I think you are right. This logic was noted by Jacques Ellul who believed technology’s real “agenda” is to make us all more mechanical and less human.

            1. aletheia33

              interestingly, the video posted below by Cuibono, on MLK’s support of a guaranteed basic income, seems to indicate that MLK understood ellul’s take on it very well.

              MLK was not afraid to insist that factory slavery was no kind of life for a human being. now it seems to have fallen to the tech masters to say it, for the most suspect reasons. what an irony.

      3. Cal2

        I encourage others to try this experiment; when dealing with any employee of a corporate business, ask them if they think the management is screwing them over, cheating them, letting them down, whatever the level of discourse you think appropriate. I have found 98% approximately agree with the question. In the medical world, 100% agree with the question,
        “Do you think this is a screwed up system and we need National Health Care?”

    4. Roquentin

      Plain and simple, this is what you get when you replace classics and the humanities with venal corporate nonsense. It was always going to be this way. Trying to get the same thing culturally from a business school was an attempt to square the circle (business majors could simply have the humanities made part of their curriculum). They never had any interest in creating leaders. This bullshit was only ever about getting anything out of the way which might get in the way of being a dutiful corporate stooge. I think the stuff about FB is mostly a red herring (more corporate media types telling you to never, ever listen to anyone else), but what did they expect to happen?

      1. Swamp Yankee

        I think we see this in other areas as well — Col. Patrick Lang, while a reactionary on many domestic issues, is a learned, experienced, and clear-minded observer of this vis-a-vis news culture. He, before he got blackballed by Rumsfeld, was often interviewed on cable news, PBS, etc. He remarked how it is essentially a combination of The Borg/The Blob, who tend to be from a background in social sciences like economics or political science, and then the producers who are all communications majors and the executives, all MBA types.

        Thus, lacking any real sense for history, philosophy, literature, and the essential insights any humanistic study gives, you see the spectacle of narcissistic talking heads perpetually goading … Russia.

        Neither the failures of Napoleon, or the Germans, or the Swedes, or any other number of people who’ve tried to screw with the Russians, are kept in mind at all; the sense that our actions may look profoundly different from another point of view …. hard to find an equation for that a la’ econometrics.

        Idiots sleepwalking the world towards great power conflagration — woke jingoism!


        1. tegnost

          yeah and you make a joke like “paging dr. pangloss” and they look at you like you’re speaking foreign or something…

  2. PlutoniumKun

    China’s 2018 growth slows to 28-year low, more stimulus seen Reuters

    China’s private sector struggles for funding as growth slows FT

    On the subject of China, Michael Pettis published one of his always very interesting articles last week, and he confirms that there are very deep stresses in the economy:

    And yet, when you speak to Chinese businesses, economists, or analysts, it is hard to find any economic sector enjoying decent growth. Almost everyone is complaining bitterly about terribly difficult conditions, rising bankruptcies, a collapsing stock market, and dashed expectations. In my eighteen years in China, I have never seen this level of financial worry and unhappiness.

    These concerns have even breached academia. One of my students told me yesterday that there was a huge increase last semester on the university website in the number of students selling their belongings because they are hard up for cash. They are selling their phones, computers, clothing, and lots of other possessions. He said the amount of selling is noticeably higher than last year, enough so that everyone is talking about it. And he indicated that this is apparently happening at other schools too. It seems that the poor and middle-class kids are squeezed for cash because they are getting much less money from home than they have in the past.

    He then goes on to give an enlightening discussion of what GDP growth (claimed to be 6.5% last year) really ‘means’ for the Chinese economy. In short, not a lot.

    The Chinese government will of course do yet another pump prime for the economy. The problem is that with each successive cycle, its having less effect.

    1. cnchal

      > One of my students told me yesterday that there was a huge increase last semester on the university website in the number of students selling their belongings because they are hard up for cash.

      Were Audi’s on the sales chopping block too?

      I remember from several years ago a Chinese student describing his stawk market winnings in how many Audi’s could be bought. It was an Audi a day back then.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        They sound like bitcoin investors. The Chinese stock market is notoriously volatile. If – a big if – you got out on top you could be seriously rich from a small initial investment. I was hiking the hills here yesterday with two wealthy Chinese here in Ireland who did it – cashed in at the right time, got an investor visa, and moved and put their kids into Irish schools. They were the smart ones. And of course there are the other ones who are getting rich maniplating it and pumping/dumping, bribing insiders, etc. The vast majority of regular punters though will lose out.

        1. Wukchumni

          One interesting aspect of China, is the incredible increase in value in modern non circulating legal tender commemorative coins issued since the early 1980’s.

          We’re talking in regards to silver coins with $15 or $75 worth of silver in content, some being worth $500 to $50,000.

          These are essentially the same type of item as anything the Franklin Mint produced in the 1970’s for a myriad of countries, all of which are worth just the silver value currently.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I think this is a reflection of poor investment/savings opportunities in China, people will leap on anything that is relatively anonymous that potentially provides a return. Plus, the Chinese just love collecting coins, I frequently give old Irish coins as gifts to people there. My closest Chinese friend here frequently stiffs me for any euro coins I have from other EU countries that she doesn’t have in her very large collection (there are numerous variations on the ‘reverse’ of all euro coins).

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              No faith in the goevrnment in Beijing, or a lack of domestic investment/savings opporunties?

              If the latter, government bonds should be one good option.

    2. Ignacio

      Good to have another “indirect indicator”. It is happening finally. A real slowdown in China. Then what?

      Implications on the Global Economy

      China’s economic slowdown would impact different regions of the world in different ways depending on their exposure. In countries dependent on commodity exports, like Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Indonesia, the slowdown could have a negative impact on their GDP growth as demand slows. The inevitable fall in commodity prices could be beneficial, however, for other countries that consume the commodities, such as the United States and countries across Europe.

      Either way, the slowdown will require some adjustment on the part of the global economy. The country has been the single largest contributor to global economic growth over the past several years, according to the IMF, contributing 31 percent on average between 2010 and 2013. These figures are significantly higher than its eight percent contribution in the 1980s, but some economists argue that the U.S. and Europe could pick up much of the slack as the global economy rebounds from the 2008 financial crisis.

      Pick up the slack? Don’t make me laugh!

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The interesting thing though is that as Michael Pettis points out, GDP, especially as applied to China, is a very poor measurement of ‘growth’ in the sense most people mean it. And since GDP growth has been decoupled from ‘real’ growth in China for years, this implies that much of the post 2008 growth worldwide has been something of a statistical mirage.

        The third set of problems with GDP occurs in a very limited number of cases globally (today, China is the main example). But the implications are much greater. This has to do with whether GDP is even being used as a proxy for economic activity. In China, reported GDP does not tell observers about the economy’s performance; rather, it tells people how rapidly Beijing thinks it can impose the necessary adjustments on the Chinese economy. This is because GDP means something different in China than it does in most other major economies.

        In any economic system, GDP is supposed to be a measure of output, and in most countries that is exactly what it measures, however messily. The economy does what it does, in other words, and at the end of a given time period, statisticians measure the things economists agree to include in the relevant calculations, and they express the change over time as the scale of GDP growth for that period.

        This is not what happens in China, where GDP is actually an input determined annually as the country’s GDP growth target. The growth target of a given time period is decided well ahead of time, and to achieve it, various entities, including local governments, engage in the requisite amount of activity, usually funded by debt. As long as China has debt capacity, and as long as it can postpone the writing down of nonproductive assets, Beijing can achieve any growth target it desires.

      2. Summer

        I’m waiting for the announcement that one person has more wealth than all people on the the planet combined.
        The current mainstream economists will still have their heads up their butts, staring at GDP numbers.

        1. The Rev Kev

          We’ve already had the world’s first trillion dollar company. The race is now on to see who will be the world’s first trillionaire.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            In the old days, you could get it via marriage.

            One $500 billionaire marries another $500 billionaire, and the oldest male child, or the husband’s brother, inherits $1 trilion (not counting inflation).

        2. WheresOurTeddy

          Unrelatedly, the commodity price for wood, rope, and steel to be fashioned into blades is still remarkably low and within the reach of even the poorest determined prole.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Typical of us Americans to think fake news is new or unique to us.

      In fact, the Chinese GDP news, among others, has been fake news for many, many years.

      And of course, the people in the former USSR stopped believing in their fake news, long before its dissolution.

    4. Chris Cosmos

      Meanwhile some 10% of American students are or have been this year homeless (according to one estimate recently broadcast on CBS) and, at the same time, diving deeper into debt. China has the luxury of being an authoritarian state. If the leadership is mainly honest they will simply chop a few heads off, prune the System, and reversed course or turn it sideways. Much depends on the level of corruption and the power of the corrupt/criminal sector. In the West that sector has been rising steadily and from what I’ve read the same seems true in China.

    5. Lambert Strether Post author

      > a huge increase last semester on the university website in the number of students selling their belongings because they are hard up for cash. They are selling their phones, computers, clothing, and lots of other possessions. He said the amount of selling is noticeably higher than last year, enough so that everyone is talking about it.


  3. larry

    lambert, your headline, “Brexit: Theresa May ‘considers amending Good Friday Agreement’ to break deadlock Independent (KW). By March 29? When I first saw this, I thought it was a parody.” is misleading. There is only one paragraph about the Good Friday Agreement in the Independent and it is this: “The Daily Telegraph reported the prime minister was even considering an attempt to amend the Good Friday Agreement, but a Downing Street source told The Independent the claim was “nonsense”.” The article is almost entirely about a no deal Brexit and the problems it poses.

    1. sd

      To even casually suggest the Good Friday Agreement can be amended is rather alarming – and I’m not even from the region.

      1. Oregoncharles

        I wonder – the Good Friday Agreement has been in force for at least a generation, has it not? So while I remember the Troubles very vividly, I’m past 70; N. Ireland is a very different place now, with different people.

        Is there a decent guess on the likelihood of serious violence coming back? Peace can be addictive. Restoring the border, which a crashout will do, would be a major pain in the neck; and the DUP’s role certainly indicates that there are still some hard cases around; but it’s a far cry from economic hardship to war.

        I also suspect there would be local accommodations. Ireland is two layers of salt water from the EU, and one from Britain. That’s considerable room for maneuver.

        1. makedoanmend

          I don’t have a link, but there was a car bomb in Derry over the weekend. Memories are long and more than one generation was involved in the “troubles”.

          If one looks at the history of the six counties, the economic hardship of families was always a factor that played into the violence. The unemployment of men in particular played an undeniable role in the early days.

          The renegotiation idea just seems like a ploy to either play for time to let the clock run down, and/or it’s a desire to reinforce the idea in the UK national mindset that the EU, and the Republic in this instance, didn’t want to accommodate the UK’s objectives.

          One would have hoped for a deal by this stage so that the border and the GFA never became an issue. The way the referendum was pursued in the UK fundamentally ignored the GFA, and now that May thinks she might consider playing fast and loose with the treaty is rather clutching at straws and probably dangerous in the long run.

          Anyway, she cannot rewrite the GFA unilaterally and the Irish government has already stated it has no appetite for such an adventure. The deal took a great deal of effort
          to negotiate with input from numerous people and organisations across Europe and North America – not just the UK and Ireland. It wasn’t negotiated to become a convenient football for those who think nothing of playing with people’s livelihoods and very lives.

          It really looks as if the hard border is coming back at this juncture. If only those whose prime concern was for their own political careers had had the least foresight to see the consequences of their actions beyond what they might have gained personally, we wouldn’t have ended up with this situation.

          It’s always the common people who suffer for the folly of their supposed superiors. Hopefully peace can be maintained in Ireland but it’s only a hope, and such sentiments tend to be fragile compared to the hard course of reality that occurs so regularly in Ireland.

    2. Yves Smith

      You are shooting the messenger, plus it’s pretty ballsy to hector Lambert over the Independent’s headline.

      And No. 10’s denial is actually to try to have it both ways. From The Mirror in Theresa May considers rewriting Good Friday Agreement to break Brexit deadlock:

      The Prime Minister is said to be considering changing the Good Friday agreement to get her Brexit deal through the Commons.

      According to the Telegraph, one of Downing Street’s plans is to rewrite the 1998 agreement to assure Ireland that the UK is committed to no hard border on the island after the UK leaves the European Union.

      A senior No10 source dismissed the story as “nonsense” but did not deny it was under consideration anywhere in government.

    3. ChrisPacific

      It’s become clear to me as I learn more about the Brexit issues that the fact that all parties were in the EU was a big part of what made the Good Friday agreement workable in the first place. The need to keep it operative is largely what’s constrained the solution space so severely for the UK.

      No Deal Brexit would almost certainly lead to a breach of the agreement, since the choices on offer are largely defined by the border requirements and a rejection of all of them would also be a rejection of the GFA, in practice if not formally. The UK is well on track to do just that right now, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to bring up the topic, no matter what Number 10 might say in public.

      1. Clive

        Technically Brexit doesn’t breach the GFA — the strongest that even the Taoiseach would put it was “undermine”. Morally, however, it’s sticking two fingers up at the intentions which all parties had originally, the U.K. giving the south the cold shoulder and rowing back on 30+ years of mutual cooperation.

        That all said, it’s also argued by “experts” from both the north and south that the Republic’s demands don’t respect the GFA either not least because they make demands on the province which need consent from Unionists, consent they are unwilling to give

        From the Executive Summary:

        The EU have insisted that, after Brexit, they want to maintain the ‘necessary conditions’ for continued cooperation between the North- South institutions for cross-border cooperation that were set up under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

        However, these ‘necessary conditions’, as the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 spells out, require the ‘specific endorsement’ (see Strand 2, Section 12) of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

        (explored in more details in the report itself)

        The only thing I’ll say is that, in following NI politics for 20 years or more and two generations of family history to boot, anyone who ever claims unequivocal black-and-white certainties about the island of Ireland in a few sentences or so is treading on thin ice. It is inevitably a simplistic reduction of a vast, complex subject and while everyone is entitled to state their facts, no-one gets to only present a subset of the vast trove of facts in isolation and retain credibility. Presenting a selective editing of reality and claiming that to be the entirety of reality is an ill which bedevils the whole of NI politics.

      2. makedoanmend

        Hi ChrisPacific,

        Indeed the following statement captures, in a sense, an important dynamic of the situation as it developed during negotiations in that:

        “It’s become clear to me as I learn more about the Brexit issues that the fact that all parties were in the EU was a big part of what made the Good Friday agreement workable in the first place…”

        In fancy speak, the customs union of the EU provided the political space, in a concrete manner, for the geographical aspect of the settlement that is the GFA. Plus, people saw that the EU operated on more levels than merely that of a customs union. It provided opportunities for other political solutions beyond trade to address some fossilised historical conflicts.

        There were other factors that tend to be forgotten as time has passed. First of all, there was a concerted push-back against even the hint of negotiations when John Hume (leader of the SDLP in the day) first began talks with Gerry Adams (leader of Sinn Fein) by certain sections of Unionism. They were aghast. They liked the idea that British army and securostate basically ran the province. Violence was a small price to be paid to keep their sacred union. Violence paradoxically had, in part, become a gaurantee of their union in their mindset.

        Secondly, the introduction of George J. Mitchell (former US Senator among other accomplishments) as the chair of the peace negotiations provided third party assurances and a degree of impartiality for the negotiations. Since the six county nationalist community faced an asymmetrical negotiating position, given that the Unionist had the full force and resources of the British state and military, Senator/Diplomat Mitchell along with the small’ish resources of the Irish Republic provided some greater balance and assurances that a fair deal could be developed. The EU context was invaluable.

        That is why Brexit, for all it complexities, is not viewed in the same light in Ireland by vast swathes of the population as the proponents of Brexit see it. A hard border, and this is what the DUP wants at all costs, once again puts the nationalist community in an asymmetrical situation and allows unfavourable situations to develop.

        I was speaking with a staunch Unionist from Antrim (as staunch as they get) in Glasgow last year. We would not see eye-to-eye on political situation by any means but we could agree that we both liked the fact that the army was gone off the streets and that we could travel freely. He’d developed the habit of visiting various part of the South and me of parts of the North coast. We compared notes and interests – mostly unthinkable before 1995.

        This what we are afraid of losing. Both of us lived through the troubles and so don’t need to reference it or put it into some other context. I suspect there are many in Ireland in both jurisdictions who would like to explore other ideas of maintaining peace beyond the extremes of segregation/isolation or outright unity. There are always alternatives. We do not want alternatives reduced.

        As Ivan Rogers reported, this was probably the first time in the history of these Western Islands were the Republic of Ireland has at least a symmetrical negotiating position vis-a-vis the UK. Nobody, for the most part, is arguing that all parties don’t have concerns that need to be addressed. However, thinking that we can reset the clock back 25+ years and think that the peace dividend, as it was called, was merely a device to pacify a proportion of the native population to accept diktats is hardly a long term solution. Far from it.

        Either learn from history or repeat it.

  4. ambrit

    I found the Philadelphia Inquirer Op-Ed piece to be a curious mix of hard headed realpolitik and outright anti-Trump propaganda. The meme of “Trump is worse than unsliced bread” was hammered on continuously throughout the piece. It assumed that the reader was completely in sync with the author’s visibly anti-Trump attitude. Then, having established that “point,” it veered into realpolitik by endorsing the function of impeachment as a political purgative.
    If I didn’t know any better, the cynical side of me would suspect that this piece was another example of “Operation Mockingbird” in action. Indeed, the cynic in me notices that Trump, love him or hate him, must be threatening some very powerful cliques’ ‘ricebowls’ to generate this much opposition, both overt and covert.
    To the extent that the present system and players need cleansing, Trump is, witting or not, doing the country a service. Yes, there is going to be pain. The choice is, when to go through that pain. The longer we wait, the worse that pain will be.

    1. Wukchumni

      Americans have always had great admiration for those that oozed wealth, and what better fill-in for the end of capitalism as we knew it, than a Cockatiel usurper to the throne?

      He’s an odd going away present, but embodies everything you’d want as an agent of change, to the new normal of our future, whatever that entails.

      1. ambrit

        “Horatio Alger in the White House?”
        How a plucky youngster rose to prominence after saving the Presidents Mistress from the foul clutches of a Gang of Journalists!
        Or: ‘A Fate worse than Graft!’

    2. Carolinian

      From this ridiculous screed

      America is facing an unprecedented crisis of confidence — thanks to the growing, impossible-to-ignore evidence that a president who was elected with an assist from an often-adversarial in Russia may in fact be an agent, consciously or unconsciously, of that foreign power who is consistently advocating policies that aren’t in the best interest of the United States yet somehow benefit Vladimir Putin.

      Our real crisis may consist of “journalists” who are unfailingly dumb and hysterical Chicken Littles and know nothing beyond their own little bubble consisting of what their fellow opinion spinners are talking about. The assumption of the piece is that what went on before Trump was somehow normal and in this “crisis” we must have a return to normalcy–in Harding’s immortal phrase–or else the sky will fall. These people really need to take up knitting, find a hobby.

      But it’s apparently what fills the time on MSNBC and CNN day after day. Meanwhile out in the heartland there is certainly disgust but directed more at the broad spectrum of our “elites” and their ego charged food fight.

      1. foghorn longhorn

        They do have a hobby, clutching pearls.

        The rank stupidity in the paragraph you cited is appalling on so many levels.

      2. Enquiring Mind

        The tide appears to be turning, and when it goes out, those media members swimming naked will be exposed. (Hat tip to uncle Warren, ;p)

        1. newcatty

          The more people in this country realize that the naked emperor is not alone in power due to Divine Right, then the more they may see with opened eyes that msm, for the most part, are naked. Most of those in actual, or supplicant to, power will be exposed, too. What will come from the shock for many people? Shock Doctrine (tip to Klein) is at its zenith right here in River City. Its been well covered here, that the strategy has been applied by the ultimate hustlers in the hegemon’s conquest of less powerful countries throughout the
          world. What, it’s not just single men seeking refuge in our country? Now, women and children come too. What, children born and “raised” right here in America are hungry, live in abject poverty and are now, with parents (or increasingly on their own…from young teenagers on up) homeless. Every day there are “reports” of the degradation of our public institutions and infrastructures: water, air, fertile soil, whatever mass transit that does exist, bridges and roads, national parks and wildlife refuges, public education, safe and nutritional food stuffs, quality and honest “health care for all citizens, dignified and liveable wage work (jobs), community centers and parks and recreation, reliable and non polluting energy sources, and last, but not least, an “economy” based on peace and not war. Thanks for reading my rant.

      3. timbers

        I felt similar when I read that paragraph. So much to roll ones eyes over. Another I almost laughed at is:

        Woodward and Carl Bernstein were also attacked as “fake news” for a mistake in an article that would soon be swamped by the proof of Richard Nixon’s massive corruption.

        Nixon’s massive criminality? Well, maybe it’s just me but after seeing 2 recent Presidents from each party commit massive “high crimes” killing millions with illegal wars and illegally spying on citizens…what Nixon did now seems silly school boyish to me now in comparison.

        Loved this one too:

        Let’s stipulate right now that America is in the midst of overlapping crises that are worse, arguably, than anything we’ve seen since 1861…

        Yes, Hillary’s losing is comparable to the Civil War and slavery because Hillary should be the one deporting kids and separating families like Obama did – not Trump. Has Hillary won, she probably would have defeated Russia by now and solved global warming with the coming nuclear winter.

        1. Montanamaven

          And Hilary as SOS had a lot to do with the coup in Honduras which led to this mess of refugees coming from that country. The PTB look the other way on crimes against humanity like Nixon’s bombing Laos and Cambodia and scorching Vietnam. However, they couldn’t ignore his real crime. He would not embrace Miltie Freedman and The Shock Doctrine. So out he must go for trying to cover up a two bit breaking and entering. Looks to me like the same playbook for Trump

        2. RMO

          timbers: Well, Nixon WAS massively criminal… it’s just that the worst of his crimes (such as Cambodia) were not the ones he was under threat of impeachment for.

          Wholesale slaughter, torture, the supreme war crime, shredding the constitution… no problem!

      4. Chris Cosmos

        I don’t think the journos are dumb–they just follow the Sinclair Lewis quote “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” In today’s world this includes, of course women, who are just as bad. Journalists are just ordinary people with a career, mortgage payments, children and so on who work in an industry like most people. I’ve seen their world close up, some years back, but it seems the same only worse today.

        1. aletheia33

          i wish i saw more discussion of the kids and mortgage scenario. glad you mentioned it.
          people are profoundly changed once they become parents/householders.
          yet i see complaints “what happened to this or that journalist? why did he sell out?”

          the fact is that once one becomes beholden to one’s children’s destinies, as all parents do and is very natural (and as the opposite is understood as practically inhuman), TPTB have got you. they can make you do anything they want. (the mafia know this well.)

          even TPTB often sincerely believe they make their decisions with their children’s welfare primarily in mind.

          when we look at the condition of women worldwide, we see enslavement by means of the human obligation to love and care. you cannot refuse to care for a child, no matter whose, who needs you. or for an old or sick relative for that matter. and so women “hold up the world” without any choice in the matter. they are hostage to their own (strongly conditioned) decency and compassion.

          i would guess the vast majority of woman understand this problem and have very strong feelings about it, without being able usually to articulate it, especially outside the home. i see few men having reason enough to think it through, yet fathers too are held hostage in their own unavoidable enslavement to it.

          forgive my generalizations; i say this not as a sally in any of the current sex wars but merely to point out an important way that people are kept under control by TPTB, and how odd i find it that it is not more spoken of. …as in, am i missing something?

          1. Chris Cosmos

            Yes, what you said makes sense. As a father of four children I was held hostage to it like everyone else but that is our society and any society really–we each have social connections. The difference between our society and what could be a healthy society is alienation. When we feel we are the part of something greater and meaningful to us we can accept, as many people have, almost any sort of privation. Victor Frankl wrote about this in his book *Man’s Search for Meaning” explaining that those in concentration camps who had some sense of meaning in their lives tended to survive even impossible situations while those who did not have that in their lives died.

            I think many women today look around them at an alienated and alienating structure and feel despair for themselves and their children–men a bit less because they fall more easily into nihilism. On the whole sexual conflict: we are losing sight that we are in this together and that we need to find a way out of this rather than blaming villains. We are all culpable in some way. TPTB reflect and usually reflect the state of culture and that is our job to change.

          2. Cal2

            aletheia, How many kids were thrown out on the street in California when Mnuchin’s OneWest Bank committed mortgage fraud on 36,000 homeowners?

            Attorney General Kamala Harris, who could have done something about that, did nothing.

            Surprise, today she announced that she’s running for president.
            Wonder how much money Mnuchin will send her this time?

            1. aletheia33

              yeah! throw families in the street to make more money, and you’re really messing with people’s heads. the existing social contract is broken. the job that would pay your mortgage for 30 years, for one thing, is a thing of the past.

              yet people continue to expect some kind of restoration to their former sense of security, to the former contracts that allowed the majority to subsist. where does that kind of job exist anymore? sanders insists its restoration is possible–but how? given that 1960s peak prosperity depended on brutal exploitation of third world people and resources? and toxic pollution cannot be outsourced indefinitely?

              from their first arrival, americans have enjoyed a high standard of living that they did not earn but stole: from the indigenes, from slaves, from south americans and other peoples around the world, from nature and the earth itself. this may sound grandiose: but it does appear we are now facing a reckoning.

        2. Strawman

          the Sinclair Lewis quote “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

          Please forgive the pedantry, but it is that other Sinclair scribe (and one-time CA gubernatorial candidate), Upton, to whom this most useful observation was attributed.

          1. WheresOurTeddy

            Strawman – thankyou, that was bothering me. Everyone should know who Upton Sinclair was, just as everyone should read “The Jungle”

        3. cnchal

          Wanna know when you have a bullshit jawb?

          It’s when you have to bullshit someone to sell your stuff to them.

    3. Montanamaven

      Indeed, this anti-Trump opinion piece seems right out of “Operation Mockingbird.” It looks like Mueller may not have the smoking gun and so this guy, Bunch, is in the vanguard of steering people away from relying on Mueller and his investigation for the means of getting rid of the disrupter Trump. “Impeach him anyway, he’s saying. “We don’t need this Mueller guy”. And we will be hearing more of this as people back away from the “Russia, Russia, Russia” narrative. By the way, the story about the teenagers in D.C. for a pro Life rally who supposedly harassed a Native American may not be accurate. Covington Catholic school teenagers and Nathan Phillips clash?

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Yes, it’s pretty amazing. The logic — and I’ve seen this other places than Bunch — seems to be:

        1) Two years of anonymous leaks from the intelligence communit and daily press hysteria has failed to nail Trump on Russia

        2) Two years of Mueller looks likely to fail to nail Trump on Russia*

        and therefore

        3) We must impeach Trump to find out the truth!

        * Remember that Brennan back-tracked the other day

    4. flora

      I couldn’t finish reading; it’s another ‘moral panic!’ piece instead of reporting. “Everyone knows” and “everyday people know” isn’t reporting. It’s journalistic table-thumping performance art, imo.

      This sort of – what I can only describe as click bait story is standard fair in msm these days, sadly. This is how the msm makes its money, now that their classified ad section income and their business stock market quotes/analysis section income is gone, replaced by free online services. Whip up a moral panic; sell newspapers.

      Msm politicial stories are coming close to tabloid journalism, to sell papers, imo.

      1. flora


        If I didn’t know any better, the cynical side of me would suspect that this piece was another example of “Operation Mockingbird” in action. Indeed, the cynic in me notices that Trump, love him or hate him, must be threatening some very powerful cliques’ ‘ricebowls’ to generate this much opposition, both overt and covert.

        I agree.

  5. Selective or elective stupidity

    Gangster geopolitics
    That Galeotti dude has a no-shame or no-knowledge condition. Read this and laugh.

    “one could look at U.S. examples ranging from cooperation with the Mafia in the 1943 conquest of Sicily to the 1985-87 Iran-Contra deals with drug traffickers. However, in fairness, these cases are extremely rare, singular and typically carried out in the context of wars, both open and undeclared.”

    conveniently forgetting that CIA has worked with drug dealers for a long time (McCoy The Politics of Heroin) as well as running the drug imports from Mexico and when they invaded Afghanistan the world was again flooded with Afghan poppies

    How about using the Cuban mafia to kill Castro?

    Wonder if he is well paid from the agencies concerned or if he is just another sad incompetent.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Hiring hackers to fight hacking is commonly done.

      It’s not dis-similar.

      Further back, way back, the dog link above is another, or a very early example, of the ingenuity of humans – getting dogs, with wolf ancestors, to work for us.

    2. jsn

      SoES, I had the same thoughts exactly, the criminality here has been rampant since it was incorporated into the FBI: Hoover spent decades after prohibition ended insisting there was no organized crime because it was so useful to him. Whitey Bulger is an obvious recently deceased exclamation point on this.

      But then since the Ronald, the US has been systematically decriminalizing all the most profitable crimes so our gangsterism is now more manifest in IMF and World Bank policies than in street crime.

  6. wellclosed

    re: Novichoked Skripal Scene
    “You can call me conspiracy theorist if I can call you a coincidence theorist” -William Blum

    1. David

      Unfortunately coincidences happen all the time in life, whereas conspiracies are relatively speaking very rare. But human beings are pattern-making animals, and it is comforting to believe that we have found some kind of logic in events that otherwise seem to have no rationale. There are shelf-loads of books on this.
      MoA has now gone so far down this rabbit-hole that, as often happens, any new piece of information is seamlessly integrated into the massive conspiracy that now seems to have been devised in Salisbury, albeit that no-one can explain what that conspiracy was intended to achieve.
      Salisbury is pretty much the centre of the British Army, and you are as likely to find its Chief Nurse in the shopping centre on a Saturday as you would find you or me in our local shopping centres at the same time. Does anybody think seriously think that dark forces would have said to themselves “hum, computer analysis indicates that the Skirpals will touch the door-knob at about time X, and then take Y minutes to go to place Z where they will collapse. So we’ll arrange for the daughter to be passing at that exact moment, give or take 5 seconds, so that she’ll see them suffering and call her mother, who extensive fieldwork has shown is usually nearby between time X and time Y.
      And why a nurse? She would have known nothing more than anyone working in an average hospital about novichok agents – ie nothing. Information about their nature and effects would have been highly restricted to very few people. It’s an interesting intellectual exercise, on the other hand, to try to find someone passing by who would not have been regarded as suspicious. Once you have a conspiracy theory, everything else follows.
      There’s obviously something weird going on here, although I don’t claim to have the answer myself. But as I’ve said before (and not everyone has agreed) you have to bring the same initial scepticism to extraordinary claims that you instinctively believe, as you bring to extraordinary claims that you instinctively don’t believe.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Bring on the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt! Best way to keep anyone from knowing anything substantive about the stuff, and there really is so much of it so well documented, Operation Mockingbird being just one bit, how about the MI6 interference in US elections not to mention the right out in the open activites of AIPAC and what Snowden showed us about NSA and the rest of the security state.

        Yaas, let us run out the impeachment cannons, both the kind that happens if the House of Reps goes forward with that, and the kind that lawyers use, bright-lighting and gaslighting some tiny inconsistency to sucker the jury into disregarding all the rest of the testimony. And blast away, to try to destroy the credibility of someone like bernard at MoA who labors hard and mostly thanklessly to “get it right.” The Narrative, as Matt Taibbi pointed out in that important excerpt from his book that was linked here yesterday,, is built one faux brick of FUD at a time, millions and now billions of carefully circumscribed bits of “reporting” and “opinion” all pointed where? I’m sure the following is all just “CT,” of course (/s) — “The CIA and the Cultural Cold War,”

        Not to worry, purveyors and protectors and projectors of the Narrative — “everything is proceeding as has been foreseen.” Do the folks who sell this stuff ever ask what the endpoint of the game is?

        1. Cal2

          One is either a conspiracy theorist or a coincidence theorist.

          Comment meant for A Different Chris BTW.

      2. a different chris

        >you have to bring the same initial scepticism to extraordinary claims that you instinctively believe, as you bring to extraordinary claims that you instinctively don’t believe.

        Actually I try to step the scepticism up a notch when the claim makes me happy. In many instances, you find the person in the mirror is the last one you should trust. (This comment is not to be construed as for or against the Skirpal “side”, as I really know squat about it.)

      3. Roger Smith

        True or not, at least b’s take has more internal logic than, “IT WAS RUSSIA. Yesserree, Putin himself did it.” Unfortunately for truth, no one else seems to care that the established narrative holds no ground but MoA.

      4. NotTimothyGeithner

        I just assumed May or someone important enough seized on a potential early explanation and accused “OMG Russia” because it fit the deranged “OMG Russia” narrative. Classified is perfect. Just because one investigative team didn’t find evidence doesn’t mean another didn’t. Final reports can be classified. My gut sense is there are procedures in place to ensure this kind of hoopla (there was quite a bit of media hoopla for something that fell to intelligence services) doesn’t occur, and those procedures which would have detected a problem with May’s explanation were simply ignored because of the “immediacy” of the problem. If procedures were ignored, the next question is were laws broken then did it contribute to a poisoning of international relations. A navy captain who runs his ship aground will never make admiral no matter how promising a cadet he once was. My guess is a bunch of up and comers right on through to May, who is already weak, broke the rules.

        The Skripals despite their heroic survival have disappeared down the memory well in the msm. Protecting well intentioned patriots from embarrassment is a function of the msm these days.

        1. JTMcPhee

          I question the notion that navy captains who run their ships aground (or army and Air Force majors and colonels who fail in similar ways, losing wars and running ridiculous procurements like the F-35 and Littoral Combat Ships and such, are debarred from becoming general officers any more. If ever that was the case, even in the Royal Navy, where “interest,” i.e., being part of the upper crust, the people who pronounced it “bal-CON-y” instead of “BAL-cony” would routinely ascend the ladder of advancement despite major screw-ups and corruption.

          In the Modern World-Ruling Imperial Military, screwups seem to get punted upwards way past the nominal Peter Principle altitude. But that’s a function of the redefinition of “success” that rewards playing the game and assisting the wealth transfer to war contractors. I’m guessing that similar rules apply in the CIA and other state security apparatus, including of course the FBI and DHS generally.

          As an aside, I would really like to have a compendious definition of the term “WAR.” The DoD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms uses it hundreds of times, to label and define other terms, but never defines the term itself. Maybe some definitional clarity might lead to re-evaluation of what the whole “modern” imperial structure, is, as well as the concomitant evolution of the globalized Game of RISK! ™, and what it’s all about? Maybe it might clarify that way beyond being just a “racket,” war in all its many parts is the expression and activation of the death wish of our sorry species?

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Navy captains who do this get drummed out. The difference between the navy example and others is classified doesn’t stop pleasure and commercial boats from observing the foul up.

            In the case of Skripals, the intelligence services descended on the place, and its easier to cover everything under classified because the pleasure boaters can’t recognize the ship being beached.

          2. knowbuddhau

            Or World Imperial Military Pretenders? We don’t actually rule the world, the Blob just thinks we do.

            Picture John Bolton, in a toy car on a track (like the one in Disneyland), working that fake wheel for all it’s worth, in full meltdown tantrum mode as he realizes he’s not the king of the world. Trouble is, the Blob is in various stages of realizing this, too.

            Imagine enlisted people deciding to “down tools” and start crashing all kinds of hardware without killing themselves or others. With any luck, “controlled flight into terrain” could be the new thing.

            The winner is the one who takes out the most hardware/complex system with the biggest bang, literal and/or virtual, without harming anyone, not even a fish or a bird. Style points awarded for creative use of wreckage.

        2. David

          You may well be right. It’s important to appreciate that there is no simple either/or logic at work here. It’s not necessary to say that you don’t believe the British government and therefore MoA must be right, nor to say that you don’t believe MoA and therefore the British government must be right. The truth, whatever it is, may contain elements of both, or for that matter neither. It’s fairly clear to me that the British government rushed out with accusations that could not be supported, and indeed were almost certainly beyond what its own experts wanted to say, as I suggested when we discussed the subject last year. Incidentally, I have a lot of time for MoA when they write on Syria and related subjects, but here I think they’ve lost it. With enough determination, any conspiracy theory can be made to seem consistent: it’s reality that has fuzzy edges.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Thanks for being the voice of scepticism, I agree that MoA is guilty of joining multiple dots together than don’t necessarily match.

            I do find the whole thing baffling though – if there is an explanation I think its likely that some sort of bizarre occurance messed up an intelligence action of some type against the Skripals and since then the services have been engaged in a crazy series of actions to cover it up and blame the Russians.

            I keep as usual trying to apply Occams Razor to this, but really there is no rational ‘simple’ explanation for the multiple coincidences and bizarre facts attached to this case. It doesn’t make sense as a Russian assassination attempt and it doesn’t make sense as an MI5 false flag or other type of Intelligence consipiracy. It makes more sense as a Cohen Brothers movie plot.

            1. ambrit

              “”Cohen Brothers” movie plot.” The analogue would be “Wag The Dog,” which turns out, given what we have discovered about the ‘run up’ to the Second Irak war, to be almost a documentary, not a filmic fiction.
              This case looks to be an example of the dictum; “One can never be too cynical.”

              1. MyLessTHanPrimeBeef

                I am reminded of Agatha Chirstie’s Murder on the Orient Express – everyone (on the suspect list,and not literally everyone,for exmaple, Poirot) did it.

            2. Lambert Strether Post author

              > really there is no rational ‘simple’ explanation for the multiple coincidences and bizarre facts attached to this case. It doesn’t make sense as a Russian assassination attempt and it doesn’t make sense as an MI5 false flag or other type of Intelligence consipiracy. It makes more sense as a Cohen Brothers movie plot.

              Perhaps Burn After Reading?

              “Report back to me when, I dunno… When it makes sense.”

          2. jsn

            You should really look into all the documents declassified since 1995 regarding the Kennedy assassination. It’s pretty well documented now the the CIA promulgated the whole “conspiracy theory” meme as part of their coverup.

            As posted in links the other day, the Kennedy and King families are advocating reopening the investigations because of declassified documents that, gasp, inhale, indicate “conspiracies” right at the top (where one would expect to find them, see Sy Hersh on Bush 1) in the CIA and FBI.

        1. ambrit

          Here on the Commenteriat perhaps, but look around you out “on the Street” and you see a population conditioned to react to stimuli in an unreasoning manner. Mobs are not rational, but nonetheless very powerful and dangerous beasties.

      5. Plenue

        My view always comes back to “gee, they sure don’t make near-instantly lethal nerve agents like they used to”. I guess we can add a teenage girl to the ever growing list of people this substance, supposedly several times more lethal than the already fantastically deadly VX, hasn’t killed.

        I don’t know what the real story is. I do know that the British government has objectively, verifiably, been lying over and over and over again since day one.

        There’s been a lot of incredibly stupid things in this insane new Cold War of the last few years, but the entire Novichok farce is to my mind by far the most asinine. Wasn’t the latest claim that a couple drunken Russian ‘agents’, who were probably just tourists, dumped the container for the gas (a perfume bottle) in a park that isn’t in practical terms remotely near the site of the supposed crime? Come the eff on.

      6. Lambert Strether Post author

        A farce proceeds by the accumulation of ever more implausible events. Here, amazingly enough, the protagonists have been turned into a MacGuffin. Nobody can find them!

  7. Isotope_C14

    “Elizabeth Warren’s Early Stroke of Genius – The Atlantic”

    “Not just that: As big of a flop as the rollout of her DNA test in October was, and as much as it remains a topic for the chattering class, the issue has been neutralized among her opponents, at least for the moment.”

    @eshalegal and Rebecca Nagle have a delightful discussion about how that the issue is far from being neutralized. Glad to see that they are posting these up on YT. Feel free to like and subscribe, their channel is only getting better.

    If you care to listen, the intro music is only imbalanced for a minute or two.

    They mention some interesting Native American issues, and the utterly hysterical Harvard Cookbook, where Warren is listed as “Cherokee” in the recipe credits.

    She’s got my vote! As long as that vote is for out of touch rich white lady.

  8. Ignim Brites

    “1 big thing: Freshmen Dems balk at impeachment”. To the extent that the new Dems are mostly “Orange County” Dems this is not surprising. Their upper middle class constituents are more interested in SALT limitation relief (i.e. a tax cut). To the extent that talk of impeachment fosters a sense of instability, they look at the trembling housing market and are against it. They are the switch. AOC is the bait.

    1. edmondo

      You may have found the real message from the 2018 House election. Almost half of the seats turned over from R to D (19 out of 41) were seats in high property tax states CA, TX, PA, NY, NJ) that Trump’s tax cut hit homeowners right in the gut. So we have 19 Congresspeople who are there because property taxes aren’t fully deductible and we have AOC calling for 70% tax rates. Let me guess who wins this argument.

      Then again, what happens when these 19 newly elected representatives have no answers for their constituents when they run for re-election in 2020?

      1. allan

        “because property taxes aren’t fully deductible and we have AOC calling for 70% tax rates.
        Let me guess who wins this argument.”

        Why is there an argument?
        Property taxes are flat and begin on the first $1 of property value.
        AOC’s proposed income tax is progressive and the 70% rate doesn’t kick in until $10 million.

        1. John k

          But people in expensive homes pissed with no longer deductible prop taxes would likely be affected if income tax rates go up, even if the max rate only applies to very high earners.
          The idea is apparently popular, but likely not in high income places recently flipped… or among our other sitting reps and senators. AOC is leading a parade of voters, not Congress critters.

      2. a different chris

        So we have 19 Congresspeople who are there because property taxes aren’t fully deductible

        Interesting but correlation is not causation.

      3. Cal2

        Long term property owners who have paid large amounts of property tax collectively in the past pay low property taxes in the present, Thanks to Proposition 13, and are thus insulated from the changes in the law. That’s a large demographic that falls outside of your observation.

          1. ambrit

            Too right. And ‘services’ that every property tenant must pay, such as water, sewer, garbage, electricity, plus some more exotic variants, keeps increasing in cost as wages remain flat or decline.
            The 70% figure on income above 10 million is a step in the right direction, as social engineering.
            If any of these New Dems were to suggest changes to what is taxable, then I would be impressed. Say, a 50% capital gains tax and a tax on deferred compensation at the time of vesting.

  9. The Rev Kev

    “Gangster Geopolitics: The Kremlin’s Use of Criminals as Assets Abroad”

    Using gangsters goes way back. This article mentioned using the mob to influence Italians to come forward with photos and information on Sicily to be used for the invasion. The Corsican mafia was tapped for info for the invasion of southern France as well. What is not mentioned is the use of contract killers from prison to teach OSS operatives how to kill. I have books by Frederick Forsyth, who like Tom Clancy, believes in doing his research and they talk about the French security force’s vicious war against the OAS in the 60s where much use was made of the Corsican underworld as heavy troops. At one point, he mentions in one book that it was getting difficult to tell where the French security forces stopped and the French underworld started.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      And those German scientiests working in the US, the USSR, and probably elsewhere, after the war.

      It’s like, they all have been doing it.

      And so, in that sense, nothing special about the FBI in yesterday’s discussion, and the stunning degenercy. The Stassi did the same or more, as did the Brocade-Clad Guard (or the Embroidered Uniform Guard) and the KGB and NKVD, etc.

    2. Rhondda

      Novichok-careful of anything written by slithery serpent Mark Galleotti. He’s an integral part of the NATO/Atlantic Council/CFR/IntegrityInstitute/InstituteForStatecraft/FoundationfortheDefenseofDemocracies (I could add so many more) paid claque of “Russia! Russia! Russia!” pseudo-academics.

  10. larry

    A must read for NC readers, it seems to me, is the discussion, by John Naughton in the Guardian, of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff. In her book, she draws an analogy between Typhoid Mary and Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg took Google’s research into surveillance programming to Facebook. Nice one. While neoliberalism was not a driver of surveillance capitalism, there are mutual reinforcement relations between them. It is possible to see this from Naughton’s review. He also has an interview with the author.

  11. Wukchumni

    Early Medicaid Expansion Associated With Reduced Payday Borrowing In California Health Affairs.
    I’m curious as to whether anybody within signal of this missive, has ever borrowed on their payday?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      There was also the news reported last week of the €200M million fine on Greece connected to the Piraeus port and China.

  12. Alex

    The Vineyard of the Saker piece combines very accurate observations of Russian realities with complete b—shit. The current official opposition is indeed a joke and the real opposition might easily emerge from the nationalist right, even if so far they have been just as unsuccessful as the liberals.

    But the idea that Medvedev is an independent figure or even represents a certain faction that is opposed to the Putin’s faction is laughable. Putin has been ruling Russia for nearly 20 years already, and since 2003-4 without meddlesome media or oligarchs. He went to war with Georgia, annexed Crimea and has been helping Donbass rebels and this guy wants us to believe that can’t fire Medvedev?! Medvedev suits him well for redirecting people’s anger and if need be will be replaced by someone else. The idea that Putin wants to carry out a different economic policy but has not been able to do so fails Occam’s razor

    1. Alex

      Btw recently there was another article about Russia linked here (maybe also Vineyard or maybe Moon of Alabama) that claimed that nationalist right in Russia are actually supported by US that thus try to put a wedge between ethnic Russians and everyone else. As it often happens, these two conspiracy theories contradict each other :)

      1. Carolinian

        Is it not possible that Putin is threading the needle between a nationalist right (which would have invaded Ukraine and been done with it) and an Atlanticist (to use Saker’s term) pro Western faction that is indeed covertly supported by our intelligence apparatus? Are you claiming that the USG does not desire–by any means necessary–regime change in Moscow?

        No offense and I’m no expert on this myself, but I read Saker regularly and think he may know more about what’s going on there than you do. Perhaps that’s not true, but you need to offer up more support than just deeming other views “laughable.”

        1. Alex

          I would be surprised if the US didn’t try to covertly influence Russian politics (and vice-versa). Probably it would be happy to see a different government in Moscow (and vice-versa).

          What I’m saying is that the concept of two camps (nationalist and liberal) that vie for the control of the Russian state is unhelpful in a sense that it fails to explain a lot of things that have happened in these 20 years.

          There exist competing groups each controlling certain resources (whether oil, gas or militia, in case of Kadyrov). There are more than 2 of them obviously and they have no ideology to speak of for the most part, other than to amass more resources and control. When you say that the nationalist right would have invaded and occupied Ukraine, who are they and what is their power base?

          Also both Russia’s internal and external policy has been pretty consistent in spite of declarations to the contrary, which wouldn’t be the case if Putin indeed had been threading the needle. The much simpler explanation is that Putin is actually carrying out his preferred policy, or at least one he’s completely fine with.

        2. Olga

          Saker gets (and can clarify) what to me seems like the intangible part of what is Russia. I’ve been trying for years to put into words – but find it difficult. A’s opinions do very little to illuminate the subject; skipping them altogether is usually my preferred option.

    2. Chris Cosmos

      This seems like the usual comic-book view of Russia coming out of the media which is that Russia is now and always will be dominated by authoritarian Tsars. This is simply not the case. Russia is a complex society with many power-groups who mainly cooperate because Putin has learned to give them what they want and bring them together because, as his foreign policy has proven, he is a political genius and has advanced Russian interests despite Washington and London’s relentless crusade against a country that has half the population of the USA and the same military budget as the UK–yet gets ten times the bang for the buck. I don’t see any evidence that Russia is a totalitarian society equivalent to Stalin or what it was in the eighties. People who know and have studied Russia who have been reliable in the past know this. Saker has been fairly reliable though I agree (his reporting of the Ukraine/Dombass conflict was relentlessly accurate in the same way as the Moon of Alabama reports were the only reliable reports of the Syria War while the US media was almost insanely inaccurate about both wars.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Never under-estimate the other side, whether the taking-lightly is by the US portraying Russia as comic-book like, or the Russians thinking America ignorant.

        1. Olga

          Knowing both, I’d argue that “America – ignorant” is a lot closer to the truth than your other example. Who said it … Yes, H L Menken: “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            A Russian would demand more of Russia, in the same way an American would ask more of America.

            That would be one way to read Mencken’s quote.

            And Putin probably agrees, being a reader of Sunzi’s Art of War. He will not likely under-estimate anyone, as would any reader of that book, in any country.

    3. Alex Morfesis

      Hmmm…excuse me…but raz-putin is the neoconz best friend…a fake Russian helping his handlers in the west…invades Georgia right on cue as great recession begins…Obama submits a military budget which lowers the size of the us army to a level not seen since before ww2…no problem…putin is handed Crimea by his fellow German speaking ukrainiatzis…you did notice Crimea was draining Ukrainian budget and Ukraine had a financial instrument due for payment or roll over which they had no funds to pay and no one wanting to roll over the zombie debt one more time…oh…and please take those navy ships too…no money in our budget for that either, begged the ukrainistanis…

      Yes…yes…details details…but facts would not be as much fun as “the narrative”… Those poor popcorn venders need a show otherwise they will have to MBA their factory (Move Business to Asia)…

      It is much more fun to imagine the genius who has lost effective control of Chechnya is some how able to threaten the west since he stands so tall behind that podium on the rostrum with the help of those stacked yellow pages
      (they still make yellow page books right ?)…

      It was just way too hard to keep the Fidel myth going…using the Keith Richards robotronics to keep his carcass moving and posing him ala weekend at Bernie(sander)s…and too many people noticed the MIGs had not been moved in four years, the tires were flat and the hatchs would not even open to selfie guys in helmets…

      And that whole protecting the oil fields for gulf oil in Angola thingee…and the little detail of fidelito and company getting that u. S. of hay hey xxxaeee money via prio to actually buy the grannma leaky boat and sail it from Texas…the photo op at moncada the day before the official signing of the Korean war armistice…

      Always need a new mystery enemy…even if you need to invent them…as old as breathing itself…the olde enemy over the hill trick…get me agent 99…would you believe…

      1. sanxi

        Actually understood all of that, not sure that says about me, but for sheer fun, that’s the best comment of day. The year. Hunter S. would be proud.

  13. Steve H.

    > It’s All Over

    “This gutting of our human subjecthood is currently being stoked and exacerbated, and integrated into a causal loop with, the financial incentives of the tech companies.”

    “No it isn’t.”

    So, you Object.

      1. Steve H.

        Yeah, I was trying something with Subject Verb Object and it didn’t work so much.

        The deep dive is that the subject verbs the object, and is tied into the very notion of agency implicitly. Once someone allows themselves to be an object, they can’t do anything.

        So “I AM” is a state of being, but starts with “I’M AM-ING.” Is “I AM” backwards “MAY I?” or “MAYA”, asking permission or pure illusion?

        Anyway, like a mirror, get too reflective and things seem backwards. I shoulda put an Oxford comma in there somewhere.

  14. lakecabs

    Elizabeth Warren’s positions really got me interested.

    After review she really needs to work on her charisma.

    Perhaps an early start will polish her up.

    1. Louis Fyne

      E Warren needs to stop listening to her Beltway handlers.. See her efforts to be “hip” by ironically popping upon a Michelob on an Instagram live feed.

      (unless that was her idea….then i guess listen to your handlers?)

      1. Montanamaven

        Yes, only listen to advice that rings true to yourself ….is my advice. So, whether it was she or they who pitched the “Open a Brewsky” idea, it’s still shows her to be lacking in common sense and authenticity. And it shows that most “consultants” or “marketers” are full of “family blog”, stupid, incompetent, or both.

          1. Carey

            It’s so common with Our Dems that you could almost think it’s intentional. Losers anyway, by design or not, and I don’t see Warren
            doing any better.

          2. flora

            adding: (adjusting my foil bonneting….)

            Makes me wonder if those campaign handlers are Clintonist, DLC, 5th columnists (heh) who want Warren to lose.

            Or, maybe they’re just stupid and incompetent.

            1. flora

              or, or, (adjusting foil bonnet even tighter…)
              maybe those campaign consultants are also getting paid for… Product Placements! Just like movie studios! (joke)

              1. ambrit

                Don’t be too sanguine flora. This iteration of the American political class has shown itself to be brazenly greedy of late.

        1. polecat

          Common sense dictates that she would’ve popped open a real brew, instead of that mass-produced dreck she hinted at imbibing in … Yuck !
          I doubt that much of the millennial demographic was impressed by that cheap stunt.
          Now if, on the other hand, she servered herself a homebrew …

          1. ambrit

            If she rolled a spliff and, unlike a certain aging closed pants zipper challenged ex-President, did inhale, I’d give her the nod.

          2. WheresOurTeddy

            Michelob: Some Days Are Better Than Others
            (hint: your day will be better if you drink a better beer)

      2. ewmayer

        See her efforts to be “hip” by ironically popping upon a Michelob on an Instagram live feed.

        That brought to mind the scene in the great black comedy Heathers, where Christian Slater’s character explains to Winona Ryder’s a crucial piece of his frame job of the murder of 2 of the HS football team uberjocks as a gay-murder-suicide pact, the planting near the bodies of ‘incriminatingly gay’ items, in this case bottles of sparkling water:

        “Look, this is Ohio – if you don’t have a brewski in your hand, you might as well be wearing a tutu.”

        (Disclosure: I grew up in Ohio and thought the line was funny nonetheless.)

          1. sanxi

            Ya well I thought so too, until my daughter thought it was a template to run high school with her pack of mean girls. She now an Army general. Turned out great.

            1. ambrit

              Life imitating art, with formal uniforms!
              What army?
              And, that is a most definitely pertinent observation on the culture of bureaucracies.
              Wellington is most famously alleged to have said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. Meaning that the senior officers of his army were trained up in the English “Public School” Tradition. Can we now say that the tradition of the officer corps coming from the aspirational cohort of the high school masses informs our modern strategies?
              A counterpoint to the Wellington ‘quote’ comes from Mathew Arnold, writing in the Fortnightly Review of June 1881.
              “The aged Barbarian [ie: a member of the English upper classes] will, upon this, mumble to us his story how the Battle of Waterloo was won in the playing-fields of Eton. Alas! disasters have been prepared in those playing-fields as well as victories; disasters due to inadequate mental training-to want of application, knowledge, intelligence, lucidity.”
              I have elsewhere characterized the present state of American politics as “Performance Art.” Considering the degree to which politics has come to dominate within the halls of the Cult of War, the same can be said of today’s military. (It was, alas, ever thus. The contemporary definition of the decadence of said culture of governance is one of degree.)

    2. notabanker

      Warren strikes me as a slight upgrade from Obama with commensurate results. She will probably win enough fairly meaningless battles to garner support from the “now we’re making progress” contingent, but we’ll still be losing the war and the consequences will not have changed.

      We’ll cover more people with lousy ‘basic’ healthcare. We’ll crackdown on the insurance companies so it takes them 1 year instead of six months to bankrupt sick people.

      We’ll fine pharma for Oxycontin while they work on the next generation of highly profitable boner pills.

      Banks will have to carry more tier I capital propped up by markets flooded with fiat money. We’ll pass more regs that make it even harder to get a mortgage that millenials can’t afford anyway.

      We’ll regulate the interest rates on student loans so that it only takes one lifetime to pay them off instead of three.

      We’ll carbon tax fossil fuel companies on an insignificant portion of their profits and transfer it to consumers to keep the three card monty game going.

      And a whole bunch of people will view it as ‘progress’ or ‘a good start’.

      1. Chris Cosmos

        Because I’ve followed Warren’s career fairly closely as a bankruptcy expert I can attest to this major difference between her and Obama–she’s basically honest and has a moral compass we both might agree with. Obama is and was a smooth operator, a manufactured candidate recruited and groomed by elites to do their bidding while appearing to be on our side. Warren is on our side though she’s not that great at showing it. She wants to make pragmatic reforms and does not intellectually believe that our System is beyond reform. BTW, I do believe it is beyond reform–but that is because our entire culture is degenerating too rapidly for there to be any chance of reform. I hope this changes however.

        1. WheresOurTeddy

          The quickness with which some people have disabused themselves of the notion that Obama was anything more than he was, as you put it, “a smooth operator, a manufactured candidate recruited and groomed by elites to do their bidding while appearing to be on our side” is encouraging.

          I mean, the NYT ran Michelle Alexander’s “people lick Israel’s boots to preserve their careers but I refuse” op-ed, so who knows

  15. The Rev Kev

    “Army’s long-awaited Iraq war study finds Iran was the only winner in a conflict that holds many lessons for future wars”

    I wouldn’t be much interested in those two volumes. Old soldiers may still not die as in MacArthur’s era but these days they go to work for defense contractors and/or think tanks and having a good reputation is important. Even if you screw the pooch there are still goodies tossed your way and an example is David Petraeus’s career since the scandal broke. From what I read the old generals were leaning on this report’s authors to not put in anything that would tarnish their reputation, lessons be damned. Maybe a better history will come out in another twenty years. Certainly the junior officers had a lot of criticism of the conduct of those general’s decisions during the occupation.
    I followed that war closely and well before the invasion lots of people were saying don’t do it. It will only make Iran stronger but they were ignored, sidelined or fired. The neocons plan was to abolish the Iraqi armed forces and replace them with a 30,000 man border guard so that the country could be turned into a launching pad for the invasion of Iran. The Iraqi resistance put paid to that little delusion but the damage was done. I have read the lessons in this article but remained unimpressed as the real lesson that should have been learnt was not to do it on the first place. The American and Iraqi dead could have told them all about that lesson but nobody listens to the dead.

    1. Steve H.

      > nobody listens to the dead.

      “Qui tacet consentire” applies to living peers, not the dead nor slaves.

    2. georgieboy

      Last summary point in that article on Army report, file under Human Nature:

      Democracy doesn’t necessarily bring stability: U.S. commanders believed the 2005 Iraqi elections would have a “calming effect,” but those elections instead exacerbated ethnic and sectarian tensions.

      Being a military report, evidently could not note that the neocon civilians and politicians who sold the invasion made that same claim, over and over again.

    3. Craig H.

      Rumsfeld said we would be in and out in 3 or 4 months it’s going to be so easy.

      That thing G. Khan never said is a talk page-wikiquote thing under misattributed.

      Conquering the world on horseback is easy; it is dismounting and governing that is hard.

      They are saying this was said to Genghis. Anyway everybody who has taken one year of ROTC knows that knocking out the enemy army is only .01 – .1 of the task in taking over an opposition country. The American leaders who started Gulf War II all deserve to be shot or hung or fatally injected. Crucified.

      1. ambrit

        Turn them over to the widows of those killed in Fallujah. Either set of widows; Iraki or American. (I suspect that the two groups could get together on this. Gleefully.)

    4. Chris Cosmos

      I too followed the Iraq War/Occupation closely and what I saw were a hundred different micro-policies and, above all various shades of corruption, sweetheart deals, and the need to use massive amounts of firepower to keep the factories humming. I don’t think there was any coherent strategy as far as the military was concerned–it was just, like Vietnam, a way of getting promotions and padding your resume to, as you say, go to work for military contractors–only it was far worse than Vietnam because, in those bygone times, many of the people involved were “true-believers” in the anti-communist crusade–that is not really the case in contemporary wars.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        American foreign policy elites (in general the West) are still dominated by soft racists. Its more like the Roman non-Roman divide where outsiders were called pagan (the Roman word for rural or people in the sticks who had not embraced the imperial religion of Christianity) than the black/white divide in the U.S. due to slavery so we over look it.

        The expectation was the locals in Iraq would be so happy to be near Americans everything would be ideal, with the U.S. military gearing up for a strike into Iran or Syria by mid-2004, just in time for the election.

        These soft racists (Obama is one and was loud and proud with his constant refrains about American Exceptionalism) are still the “deep state” and promote others like them, and they don’t have a way to comprehend leaving or changing strategy because to address these issues would be to address the central narrative of their status. They are true believers, but its a belief in civilizing the savage or the 21st century white man’s burden.

        1. Chris Cosmos

          I know from the account of a high-ranking State Department official that Bush II ignored completely the recommendations of both the State Department and CIA experts just about running the Occupation of Iraq as the WH political types largely ignored the experts and their own State Department during the Vietnam War. “Winning” was never a serious intention in either war–decisions at high levels are made usually for momentary political expediency by the major actors–it is disunity and jockeying for power that causes the problems we see. Otherwise you would have to assume that these senior officials are just completely insane and I know they are not.

      2. aletheia33

        except that some of those who volunteered into the services for the iraq war said they were inspired by strong feelings of needing to avenge the 9/11 “attacks on america” and/or “teach those —–s a lesson and so “protect america” from any further such “invasions” of america’s holy ground.

        utterly misguided of course but worthy of note. these are strong feelings that these people actually do experience as transcendently morally compelling.

        1. Chris Cosmos

          This was not the case for more senior officers in the National Security State who did not fall for the ideology thrown at the public. What they believe is that no matter how many bad things they do it is better than handing the world over to China–literally, I’ve heard that with mine own ears.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            China would prefer to have earned it, than to have it handed over by the US.

            “The global warming Tianxia is ruled from Beijing now, because we’ve worked very hard to earn it. The Americans didn’t just hand it to us.”

            1. ambrit

              Well, considering the humiliating way the West has dealt with China since at least the Opium Wars, that same West has legitimate cause to worry.
              The people of China are just as frailly human as the rest of us, and that includes the desire for cultural revenge. Just as the West is not ruled by Platonic Philosopher Kings, so China, I’ll guess, is not being ruled by Confucian Masters of the Tao.

              1. Summer

                China still has the advantage of largely surviving the attempted pre @ post WWI carving up of states into manipulatable regions of chaos.

          2. aletheia33

            thank you, chris c, i think i missed your point that back in vietnam even many of the higher level people believed they were “fighting communism” and such people now do not even harbor such “righteous” beliefs as that (my quot. marks here, not yours). although from what you say here, if “china” now stands in for “communisim” maybe they really do “believe in” something.

            i think i just wanted to add that they get away with the ideology-throwing because the cannon fodder, unlike the higher-ups, STILL sincerely believe in a “higher good” of god and country, which to me is difficult to understand. and are genuinely shocked and dismayed when they discover, once they’re in and can’t get out of the forces, how totally corrupt the whole system is that now controls their lives. vietnam and gulf wars vets suffer so obviously in so many ways. yet young men can still be persuaded to volunteer, to show up, to be shipped out, and to perpetrate horrific US wars all over the world. at least, that is, perhaps, if you lie to them enough about WMDs and an enemy that “attacked” their “homeland”. to me this continues to be astonishing.

            in other words, as was once said, “what if they gave a war and nobody came?”
            historically soldiers have had to be physically pressed into “service” or persuaded into it with the prospect of reaping plunder and maybe some glory. some american boys go far more readily, just to “do the right thing”.
            so maybe i just meant to probe a deeper question, what is it exactly that allows the level of corruption you describe to persist in its horrific success?
            what is it exactly that brings people (grunts) who non-cynically believe they are doing the right thing to do things to other people, who have not attacked them, that are so horribly wrong?

            not really asking for any “answers” here, just wanting to frame the problem as systemic to a whole society or perhaps the whole modern age. maybe it really is propaganda more than anything else that keeps all of us compliant.

    5. WheresOurTeddy

      The Romans understood human nature 2K years ago better than most Americans do now.

      “War is sweet to those who have never experienced it”

      “No one who has anything to gain from war is deterred by it”

  16. Wukchumni

    Central Banks’ Window to Restock Ammo Is Closing Bloomberg

    I’ve mentioned previously the locked glass ammo cases in the sporting goods department of Wal*Mart in Visalia,Ca., as being my Baedeker to how bat shit crazy the country’s love affair with lethal rounds is, and in the “Obama’s gonna take away our guns!” era, which would be all 8 years of it, the cupboard was bare, as much as 85% empty, this in a store that has many thousands of unique retail products that are continually restocked w/o any shortages.

    Trump has killed any incentive to go out and get armed and dangerous, a calming presence of sorts. The glass cases were chock-a-block full of every possible caliber, with around 20 backup boxes of each bullet @ the ready.

    Now, as far as free money goes with Central Banks, how could they ever run out?

  17. marcyincny

    “…but I’m so jaded that one debacle after another seems like the new normal.”

    And isn’t that the really insidious damage of all this?

  18. Steely Glint

    RE: Beyond Buzzfeed
    #10 Small criticism, but as Leah McElrath (cited in #10) has pointed out, Glen dates the CSpan supposed hack as 6/12/17 instead of the correct date 1/12/17. Wonder if he’ll add a #11 (wink)

  19. ChrisAtRU

    #BrExit – Finally Ready To State My View

    So … as I’ve opined before – in brief – I was very much pro #BrExit in the early going, but was turned to the opposite point of view after benefitting from the tremendous amount of information shared on this website, both editorial and commentariat. In retrospect, fans of “Horseshoe Theory” would find support for their beliefs in the way #BrExit spoke at once to both left and right elements in the UK and beyond. The veracity of that which appealed to both poles of the political/economic spectrum was, however, not the same.

    For the right, #BrExit’s allure lay in the notion that immigration and lack of sovereign control over the UK’s economic well-being were the root of the state’s malaise and its inability to treat said ills. For the left (myself included), who see the EU as a dictatorship of sorts run by banks, a UK #BrExit carried with it the promise of undoing the whole sordid EU/EZ mess. Finally that first domino would fall, where each of the GIIPS’ (I hate using the alternative abbreviation *oink*) previous teetering on the brink of the economic precipice had failed before.

    Needless to say, several large doses of reality later, some on both sides have seen the light while others remain (pun unintended) transfixed by their original views even as the train wreck unfolds in painful slow-motion.

    For me, the singular thing that has stood out is that Labour has not seized the initiative to call out Tory austerity as the real reason for economic hardship in the UK, and instead seems to be playing for power (as discussed here within the last week), without any real concept of what wielding that power actually means.

    I am not sure about what really fixes things. Neither am I sure that even if the UK reverses course this year – A50 revocation or 2nd referendum (I know Yves! You’re not buying it!) – that the longer term doesn’t precipitate a revisit. I’ve not been able to find a discussion about this here, but there are a couple of articles within the last two years about moving all EU nations to Euro at some time (2020 – 2025). Is there any truth to these? If there is, then I’m not sure that staying in the EU today only to face a choice between £ and € in five or six years time helps – or maybe it does, if it gives whatever government is in charge time to actually figure the tangled web out.

    Anyway, thanks again for the many informed articles and discussions here. I simply hope that the least possible harm comes to those most vulnerable to the effects of #BrExit or whatever comes to pass in the months ahead.

    1. windsock

      “Labour has not seized the initiative to call out Tory austerity as the real reason for economic hardship in the UK”.

      I thoroughly disagree. That’s what Corbyn and McDonnell have been doing since GE 2017 and why they want a GE now. They’ll promise to solve Brexit (I’m not sure I believe either of them on that) to sideline it as an issue and then hammer austerity relentlessly. With the UC roll out, PIP fiasco, WCAs still being abhorrent and the DWP an institutional basket case, it won’t be hard. Add in council cuts and the knock-on effect of falling care standards for the elderly and only Brexit die-hards won’t vote Labour. Oh, and ex-military (they hate Corbyn for talking to Irish nationalists during the troubles).

      1. ChrisAtRU

        “They’ll promise to solve Brexit (I’m not sure I believe either of them on that) to sideline it as an issue and then hammer austerity relentlessly.”

        See, that’s problematic on two fronts:

        1. From what I’ve gathered, promising to solve BrExit consists largely of spouting off plans that have no foundation in the reality of EU Law, International Trade and the desire of the EU to make sure that it does not give any preferential treatment to the UK.

        2. Speaking to an ability to solve #BrExit before hammering on austerity seems to me like putting the cart before the horse – or at the very least akin to trying to punch one’s way out of a brawl using only one arm. Labour should first articulate the realities:
        – UK economy is sh*te because of austerity
        – Immigration is not blameless in wage depression, but UK has tools in its arsenal from a fiscal perspective to widen its social safety net so that its citizens suffer less (NHS, Uni Tuition, tax reduction, public housing etc)
        – SGP directives not mandatory for UK, so it can run a larger deficit – Corbyn has been poor on this is particular
        – Set the table for a more gradual and graceful exit from the EU if the EU intent is at some future date that: a) all member nations be Euro users; or b) SGP directives become mandatory for all member nations

        [Update before I finished penning this]
        From Marshall Auerback’s Twitter TL:
        “Cancel Brexit now, if you must, maybe then we can replace our politicians with people who listen”
        Paywall* … also check the URL for a possible earlier lede … ;-) In any case, this is written by a Leaver, which is interesting.

        1. windsock

          See, Corbyn is getting hammered in the UK press partly because he DOES go on about austerity while sidelining the Brexit stuff. He keeps trying to keep all those issues I mentioned in my earlier reply in the headlines. and then is being accused of having no policy on Brexit. That’s not true… he has several.

          If you lived in the UK, I think you would understand how Brexit as an issue sucks all the oxygen out of the MSM/politcal nexus bubble, giving few other issues room to breathe. And given the Blairites within Labour (Chuka Umunna, Yvette Cooper, David Lammy) who won’t shut up about Brexit either, (mainly to undermine Corbyn, I think, but also because they have Brexit Derangement Syndrome), he has to walk a very tricky tightrope in keeping them from blatantly calling for his resignation (again) and keeping his own core support strong.

          Socialism in the UK is once again under threat from the EU (howsoever indirect that is) and our own rober press barons..

    2. a different chris

      >from the tremendous amount of information shared on this website

      So at the end of it all you didn’t buy my “let’s you and him fight” stance that said that Britain would pay dearly but the rest of the world would be better off for it? I do think if the “Chris”‘s situations were reversed I would find myself on your side. :)

      1. ChrisAtRU

        Sorry if I missed a comment of yours on an earlier post of mine! I’ve tried to search for it, but can’t find … ;-) In any case, yes, I do realise that me not being in the UK meant I was opining as one unaffected by the morass.

    3. Summer

      “I’ve not been able to find a discussion about this here, but there are a couple of articles within the last two years about moving all EU nations to Euro at some time (2020 – 2025).”

      Some are going in the easy way and some are going to dragged in kicking and screaming.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Considering Greece, and maybe Italy too, not going to happen – the attempt would tear the EU apart.

  20. Wukchumni

    The donkey show has many aspirants eager to expose their candidacy, Kamala being the being the latest, and Harris polls show her in a statistical dead heat.

    1. Wukchumni

      It’s true, it’s true, the Senate has made it clear
      The climate in DC isn’t perfect all the year

      A law was made a distant moon ago here
      July and August can be too hot
      And there’s a 6 year limit to the show here for Kamala

      Senate is forbidden after December
      And exits not having done a lot
      By order, Senate lingers through November for Kamala

      Kamala: Camelot?
      I know it sounds a bit bizarre
      But for Kamala: Camelot
      That’s how conditions are

      Her reign may never fall till after election
      By November third, when the possibility must disappear
      In short, there’s simply not a more congenial spot
      For happily ever after in than here for Kamala

      Kamala: Camelot
      I know it gives a person pause
      But in Camelot: Kamala?
      Those are the legal laws

      The show may never be thrust upon her spot
      By for of November, an answer must appear
      In short, there’s simply not a more congenial slot
      For happily ever after in than here in the house for Kamala!

  21. Summer

    Re: Beto / Democrats Chafe at Go It Alone Style

    That trial ballon hasn’t popped.
    I read that NY Times article as the Democratic Party’s own “dog whistle” to the disgruntled Republican voters they crave.

    Democrats have their own way of doing “the Southern strategy.”

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I ignored or missed it at the time, but Beto not endorsing a Hispanic, woman running for Congress with no obvious disqualifier (Ex. ex-CIA) in a district he definitely knows in favor of a GOP friend is pretty galling. The Democratic elite narrative against Sanders will be he’s not serious, he hurts unity, and Bernie Bros. They aren’t a creative lot, but with this, the argument for Beto is he was this crummy and couldn’t beat Ted Cruz.

      The Democratic courtiers have trotted out every potential also-ran to style as an Obama style alternative to Sanders, ignoring Obama was viable in 2008 because of the awfulness of HRC and Team Clinton in general (something Democrats have not quite come to terms with). Beto has been presented a new fantasy Obama, but he’s just kind of a dippy guy who has lived a charmed life. For the courtiers to try to present him as an end game boss with demands for unity (example, Neera’s war on Sirota), its just beyond the pale.

      Neera Tanden Retweeted David Sirota
      Oh look. A supporter of Bernie Sanders attacking a Democrat. This is seriously dangerous. We know Trump is in the White House and attacking Dems is doing Trump’s bidding. I hope Senator Sanders repudiates these attacks in 2019.
      Neera Tanden referencing David Sirota’s article on Beto’s relationship with donations from people linked to the fossil fuel industry.

      This puts Beto in league with DWS, another clown who famously refused to support a Democratic woman candidate to protect her GOP pal.

      1. Summer

        “I ignored or missed it at the time…”

        And that is really the point of the article (more so than anything about the platform of the Democratic party’s candidtate).
        “In case you missed it, here is that road trip with Beto and the Republican. Beto reaching across the aisle.” #DisgruntledRepublicanUnicorns

    1. sd

      It’s really fabulous! I love the little ‘smoke’ rings coming out of its beak while it sings – visual music!

      1. newcatty

        Visual music…lovely. We saw mountains breathe once upon a time. There really is more to heaven and earth. Do you believe in magic, or a young girl’s ( boy’s ) heart?

    1. Summer

      Great, now we’re really getting a carnival of con artists and cultists along with the usual billionaire servants consisting of dull, technocrats spit-shined by marketing and ad agencies.

  22. bruce wilder

    The Adam Tooze essay is fantastic — an exercise in critical self-reflection that goes a very long way to uncovering one of the chief mechanisms by which ideas control and drive political ideology and vice versa. He says pretty much everything negative I would say about his own Crashed and says it better. And, he does it while creating a relation with two other significant books on neoliberalism, Quinn Slobodian’s and the book he reviewed, while repeatedly orienting to Hayek’s grand design for neoliberalism. I am going to read this essay several times today, I am sure.

    The allergy of neoclassical economics to cheating is more general than Hayek though as is the deliberate ignorance of bureaucracy. We really do have to stop saying, “market economy” when we mean something else entirely, if we are to recover our collective sanity and some control over politics.

    1. JEHR

      Talking about the “market” as if it were a living, natural thing is part of the insanity. What the market is is a bunch of mostly rich people buying and selling shares in stocks and getting rich using algorithms that are better than those of other mostly rich people. When the market “talks” it is the rich having their way with the poor. The economy is not defined by “markets.”

      1. polecat

        I prefer the “ferengi economy” as it has a moar visceral feel to it .. Big ears, sharp teeth, voracious appetite for collection of assets/wealth of all kinds .. by any means (deception, deceit, coercion and force) possible ! The epitome of the economist/financier/gangsterbankster !!

  23. Alex

    The technical infrastructure for the implementation of [capital] controls [in the UK] is there – most of it could be performed electronically through existing software.

    Is it really simple? I mean if it wasn’t part of the original software requirements…

    1. windsock

      Cliive would know so much more on this than me, but I would guess a “yes”, considering all the anti-money laundering/anti-terrorist controls that have been introduced into UK banking over the past two decades.

    2. bruce wilder

      “Capital controls” suggests monitoring the mere transfer of funds when what matters most to the evasion of taxes, not to mention regulatory control and fighting monopoly, is fixing on-demand corporate ownership. The present state of play in which beneficial ownership can be obfuscated by rapid churning thru shell companies “domiciled” in post office boxes in practically imaginary island states while the attribution of income is gamed continually at light-speed cries out for root-and-branch reform.

      For that not only is the political will lacking, but I would submit that basic concept of corporate ownership itself needs to be worked thru thoroughly and radically. (Not that the 16th century didn’t have some valuable insight into the essential nature of property ownership, but maybe we need an update?)

    3. djrichard

      I’ve had a couple of beers and will have to read this article later, but I can say the author Grace Blakely (who wrote this article) wrote another article which I thought did a good job of speaking to how the dragon lairs are parked in assets:

      This was actually linked to on NC, but there wasn’t any discussion at the time. Just want to give it the shout out I think it deserves.

    4. djrichard

      OK, I thought I would end up watching the boob tube after my indulgence, but that got pushed out so ended up reading this instead.

      So I don’t think capital controls are that hard. From what I understand, it’s a matter of regulating foreign exchange, basically regulating of buying foreign currencies. There’s ways to get around this, e.g. by overpaying on imports, as I think China was experiencing, but otherwise I think China had a pretty good grip on it until they give up on capital controls in order to have the yuan become part of the SDR (sovereign drawing rights) basket. After they let it float, the issue for China was that yuan started getting stronger due to capital flight and the PBoC had to unwind their US treasury holdings to sell into that internal demand for the US dollar. Presumably China didn’t want to be upsetting the US with the yuan getting even weaker than it already was.

      Which makes me wonder, why should capital flight be a concern to new leftist regimes, say in the US? If I’m in the US and my currency gets weaker due to capital flight, then that makes my exports more attractive. The article referenced by Blakely refers to inflation being a concern, but I don’t see how inflation (of the monetary base) has anything to do with a weak currency (compared to my trading partners). Unless the issue is inflation due to importing oil with a weak currency. Even so, spiraling wage inflation hasn’t been seen since the 1970s. But I guess that would be the “risk” of a leftist regime taking over in the US.

  24. Wukchumni

    Close companions: Early evidence for dogs in northeast Jordan and the potential impact of new hunting methods

    A century ago, the official State of California mountain lion hunter was a fellow named Jay Bruce, and in about a quarter century, he killed 669 cougars. Most people never get to see one of them.

    His methodology was using hunting dogs, who would be on the scent of the feline, and then eventually tree it, where it met it’s demise with Mr. Bruce down below with outstretched hand giving it the Colt d’gras.

    Here’s him @ work, circa 1924, with commentary added later.

    There’s a medium sized Irish Setter that weighs maybe 40-50 pounds that regularly trees bears 3-6x it’s size, in our mountain community.

    Dogs would’ve served the same purpose in Jordan way back in the day, except the hunters would’ve thrown a spear, or perhaps rocks, or used a sling (sorry-bow & arrow was eons away) to kill their prey, on high.

  25. Synoia


    Moving On Institute for Government. They tweet: “On major govt projects, almost half of project directors and a quarter of senior responsible owners leave their roles each year.” Projects such as Brexit planning and implementation, presumably.

    “Everything was all right on my watch.” See six laws of project management,

    1. aletheia33

      excellent video. thank you. i did not know MLK argued for that.
      great juxtaposition of footage from our times and of MLK speaking.
      i will forward to friends.

      1. Olga

        He seems simply amazing. How much more he could have achieved had he lived … and what a tragedy it is to have lost him.

        1. aletheia33

          i’ll take it one further: we’ve got to somehow find him, in ourselves. i can’t see anything else that will preserve us/the planet.

  26. juliania

    I didn’t get a chance yesterday to thank you, Lambert, for posting the link to the request for a truth and reconciliation commision assigned to the assassinations of four important figures in US history. The discussion which followed here, I think made the point very clearly that such a request has a bedrock foundation.

    I am particularly grateful to commenter Roadrider for his factual assertions in response to statements that blur the historical record. And to those who wish an accurate accounting of later horrors such as 9/11 towers destruction, let me just say:

    This leads to that.

    Thank you Lambert. America needs this to happen. And I thank all the signees to that petition.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      History itself needs a truth and reconcialtion commission.

      That applies in any country, as history is written by the victor, and today’s loser was a winner yesterday.

  27. Oregoncharles

    “Dublin rejects idea of alternative deal for Irish border post Brexit”
    Eire is playing with fire, here. A crashout, which is more and more likely, means a hard border in Ireland – at least on the EU side.

    OTOH, I would assume that the Repubic’s intelligence on British politics is quite good, and that there are backchannel contacts. The alternative to a crashout is no Brexit at all. Maybe they’re expecting that. But counting on it seems very risky.

  28. Susan the Other

    just thinking… if we can create robots to grow feathers, when them, and grow some more we might be onto something.

  29. ACF

    re Brexit writ large, it seems to me that really it’s the first big conflict of more to come as people realize that the EU really has become a federation more like the US than a confederation of states. It’s a transition that was done for economic and peace keeping reasons, but which was done without the intentional participation of the masses, at least it seems to me.

    The sine qua non of a nation is citizenship, and freedom within borders. Thus there is a European nation, and Germany, France, UK, etc are simply states in the American sense, not in the national sense that each of those countries has considered themselves for a long time.

    The inability to square the circle of a Brexit that keeps ‘those people’–i.e., European Citizens–out while retaining the economic benefits makes very clear the political consequences of the economic integration, as it has been engineered. (The political integration was no more inevitable than the Euro, which was not inevitable. But both have happened.)

    This issue–which is the nation state, Europe, or each constituent member–exacerbated by the refugee crisis driven by our endless wars, will I think get worse, not better.

  30. Manqueman

    For god’s sake, the Axios piece made it as clear as can be expected from a Beltway water carrier that the overwhelming majority is ruling out impeachment at this time, subject to Mueller’s report or other documentation — which exactly correct position. Nearly none have ruled impeachment under any circumstances.

    1. Summer

      I don’t know. There is one case to be made that there could likely be impeachment hearings about something (anything, or whatever):
      The talking heads would much rather the 24/7 news cycle be taken up by that instead of a host of other issues.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > which exactly correct position

      Correct, but the #Resistance would disagree, along with a lot of media figures (Maddow), portions to the donor class (Steyer), and surely factions within the intelligence community. For god’s sake.

      * Adding, it’s not even clear whether and how a Mueller report will be released. Not at all? In redacted form? In summarized form?

  31. Jeff W

    From Current Affairs “The Left Critique of Bureaucracy”:

    Progressives should be fully on board, for example, with making it simple to file your taxes. Not with lowering taxes, but with making sure that the actual process of filing them is straightforward. We’ve got to think: How do we make government less complicated and frustrating?

    The IRS could make filling taxes much easier but companies like Intuit and H&R Block, whose businesses depend partly or wholly on tax preparation, in alliance with anti-tax activists like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, consistently oppose such efforts. (Intuit has fought them for well over a decade.)

  32. SJB

    I am sorry to do this, but I tried to email and it kept kicking it back. So I thought posting to comments might work. I read this post today on Brad DeLong’s blog. He felt the need to comment on MMT apparently, but does not seem to know what exactly it is.

    By Popular Demand: What Is “Modern Monetary Theory”?

    What Is “Modern Monetary Theory”?
    Ever since the Great Depression it has been settled doctrine in the nations of the North Atlantic that the government has a responsibility to keep the macroeconomy in balance: The circular flow of spending, production, and incomes should be high enough to keep there from being unnecessary unemployment while also being low enough so that prices and inflation are not surprisingly and distressingly high.
    To accomplish this, governments use fiscal policy—the purchase of goods and services, the imposition of taxes, and the provision of transfer payments—and monetary policy—the provision by the central bank to the system of those liquid assets called “money” and its consequent nudging up and down of interest rates and asset prices—to attempt to keep the circular flow of spending, etc., in balance with the economy‘s sustainable productive potential at the expected rate of inflation .
    Modern Monetary Theory says (1) that that is all there is to worry about, and (2) that fiscal policy should play the principal role in this balancing process.
    Is there excessive unemployment? Then the government should boost its purchases and cut its taxes. How will we know that we have gone too far in doing this? Rising inflation will tell us—when we see the whites of rising inflation‘s eyes, Then will be the time to cut purchases and raise taxes.
    Are there rational worries that the interest payments on the outstanding national debt are too high? Then, Modern Monetary Theory says, expand the money supply to push down interest rates and so make it possible for the government to refinance its debt on sustainable terms.
    Does that monetary expansion threaten to cause excess inflation? Then deal with that stress the normal way a government following Modern Monetary Theory deals with incipient inflation: cut government purchases and raise taxes until the macroeconomy is back in balance.
    This is the macroeconomic policy management gospel that Abba Lerner preached during and after World War II under the name of “Functional Finance“. It is a good gospel—much better than the ravings of those yahoos who nearly a decade ago denounced Ben Bernanke for debauching the currency and risking an explosion of inflation via quantitative easing. It is a god gospel—much better than the ravings of those yahoos, including President Obama, who said nearly a decade ago that the United States government needed to freeze spending because it needed to tighten its belt just as American households had been forced tighten theirs.

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