Links 8/29/19

While Wall St. Talks of Recession, Bond Investors Make a Killing NYT

FBI agents raid home of union president amid investigation into illegal payments and corruption Business Insider

Funders threaten to quit Facebook project studying impact on democracy Reuters (EM).


Boris Johnson Is Planning A Series Of Extreme Measures In The Coming Weeks To Force Through Brexit Buzzfeed

Jacob Rees-Mogg rejects criticism of UK parliamentary suspension FT

Why it makes sense for Boris Johnson to behave like Donald Trump The Spectator. The UK’s constitution has been broken for some time.

Protests and petition against suspending UK parliament RTE. Certainly that worked with… Worked with…

When you’ve lost anyone at The Telegraph… Thread:

Queen may be advised to sack Johnson if he loses support of the suspended house Irish Times

‘No health problems with chlorinated chicken’ – Govt’s chief scientific adviser Sky News. Alrighty then.

The Latest: Italy’s Conte tapped to form new government Associated Press


Who Is Fighting Whom in Tripoli? (PDF) Small Arms Survey

U.S. should honor nuclear deal if it wants talks: Iran foreign minister Reuters

The Islamic Art of Asking Questions Renovatio


Pakistan’s Kashmir Leader Says India Has Built ‘World’s Largest Open Air Prison’ Across Border Newsweek. With map.

Communication blockade in Kashmir: Deaths go unattended in Valley sans phones The New Indian Express

This Time, The World Is Watching In Kashmir Lobe Log

The Koreas

Seoul unveils biggest stimulus plan since global financial crisis FT

S. Korean court sends Park, Samsung heir cases to new trials Associated Press

“Reform” in South Korea’s educational system. Thread:


CY Leung, Former Hong Kong Chief Executive, Promotes Bounty For Protesters SupChina

Hong Kong police ban upcoming pro-democracy rally citing public order concerns Hong Kong Free Press

Urgent Statement of HKISPA on Selective Blocking of Internet Services Hong Kong Internet Services Provider Association

A History of Hong Kong’s Contentious Politics: “It was you who taught us…” Comparativist. Well worth a read.

Here’s Where Capital Flight From Hong Kong Will Show Up First Bloomberg

Speculators are right: Hong Kong’s dollar peg does more harm than good Nikkei Asian Review

Brilliant photo series captures cats working hard in the shops of Hong Kong Metro UK. From 2016, still germane.

PLA garrison in Hong Kong completes 22nd routine rotation Xinhua

* * *

China unveils plan for huge anniversary military parade Agence France Presse

Beijing invites HK police for Oct 1 parade: report RTHK

China Pressures Foreign Companies to Fall In Line on Protests Der Spiegel

700K Data Points Reveal China’s Edge in the Trade War Bloomberg


Venezuelan Reserves Jump on PDVSA Cash Transfer Bloomberg

Supporting Food Sovereignty as Resistance in Venezuela Venezuelanalysis

Argentina seeks to restructure $101bn of debt FT


Lawrence O’Donnell Draws Unwanted Spotlight to MSNBC Variety

Trump Transition

G7 summit: last rites of old order as Trump’s theatre looms next year Guardian (Re Silc).

Some children of US troops born overseas will no longer get automatic American citizenship, Trump administration says Task and Purpose

‘Undercover deportation’: U.S. and Mexico widen asylum crackdown to block all migrants Associated Press


‘Clarifying’: The Democratic debate stage narrows and candidates quit the race NBC

Democrats in Disarray

Grover Cleveland and the Democrats Who Saved Conservatism The American Conservative. This is the most sophisticated example of the “Republicans explain to Democrats how to win, completely in good faith” genre that I have ever seen.


School Administration Reminds Female Students Bulletproof Vests Must Cover Midriff The Onion

Imperial Collapse Watch

Late Imperialism Monthly Review

Class Warfare

Column: Hollywood’s labor problem is a gender bias problem Los Angeles Times

The Rise and Spread of Excessive Wealth Disorder Medium

Upper-Crust Free TV The Baffler

What if we ran society not based on the market but on evidence? (RM).

Antidote du Jour (via):

Bonus antidote:

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. dearieme

    Mr Strether, given your fascination with the Dems, can you please explain to a poor foreigner the import of this strange article?

    ‘Clarifying’: The Democratic debate stage narrows and candidates quit the race

    If the Dems were sincere about diversity they’d have included Tulsi. She’s diverse in the useful sense – her ideas differ – and in the trivial sense – she’s the only Polynesian and only Hindu. And maybe in a third sense: for a potential Commander in Chief she has the advantage of having seen action.

    And yes, “If the Dems were sincere” is really just vulgar abuse.

    1. teacup

      The polls that Tulsi hasn’t qualified for have to be ‘approved’ by the DNC. She qualifies in many other polls, but not the DNC ‘approved’ ones.

      1. Craig H.

        It’s rigged and the how may be complicated but the why probably is not complicated.

        According to the Lexington column in last week’s Economist the choice is going to be either Warren or Biden. Half the column explains why Sanders is impossible and he would fold if he had any integrity.

        They might not have used the word integrity but that surely was the implication I read.

      2. Briny

        Even more irritating to this veteran, she’s on active duty in Indonesia right now. Campaigning just a tad bit more difficult at the moment. /sarc

  2. The Rev Kev

    “Britain’s unwritten constitution”

    As a comedian said, perhaps the British could use the US Constitution as the US has not been using it themselves much lately. The problem is that if the British go to write a Constitution, it would be done by the very same people who messed up the UK in the first place. They are sure to stuff it up and favour the elite over the people themselves in a written Constitution. It is like if the US had a US Constitutional Convention – it would be written by Koch brother-influenced people.

    1. Carla

      Who do you think wrote the US Constitution we have? Women, slaves and indentured servants? Maybe you should read it again. It protects the rights of property so thoroughly that until the first 10 amendments were adopted “the people themselves” had no rights at all.

      BTW, “The Sacrificial Rites of Capitalism” featured today is a great piece.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Does it matter that it was a bunch of well-off whites dudes that wrote the Constitution? Take a look at the comments on the “Brexit: Focusing the Mind” page. David there included the comment that “the government which got the country into the worst peacetime crisis in modern history was also the most inclusive, and led by a woman at that.”
        The guys that helped put together the Constitution were the movers and the shakers of the late 18th century Colonies. Lots of them were businessmen and so of course there was an emphasis on property as for them that was bedrock. It was the Amendments which made the Constitution workable in practice.

        1. Braden

          The US Constitution was written by a terrified group of property owners and money lenders alarmed that land holders in Western Massachusetts had the gall to rebel against usurious lending and taxation. The Constitution made it abundantly clear that “freedom” meant the right to abuse and immiserate your own citizens without the interference of those pesky Europeans. That our Constitution has come to mean anything else is due to the back-breaking struggle of African Americans, labor leaders, and radical activists that inspire fear in the powerful and force them to permit that small mercies be written into our laws.

          1. Alex morfesis

            What pesky members of the European nobility were running around denouncing first nights and demanding ‘merikanz be protected against those evil founding fathers ?

          2. Titus

            Really? I’m very certain about John Adams. ‘Property owner?’, he had a house and small farm, and there’s no record of him abusing anyone, he defended the ‘redcoats’ involved in the Boston Massacre. After being President he went back to his farm and farmed.

            1. Briny

              Why let facts get in the way? Another overlooked item, a workman’s tools qualified as property; it wasn’t just about land.

          3. Drake

            Those rebels in Western Massachusetts were part of the large crowd of revolutionary veterans who had been paid in near-worthless scrip and had to sell it to eat. After which the people who bought it up (‘the terrified group of property owners and money lenders’) used the state and federal govts of the day to redeem the scrip at a huge profit. Then turned the troops on rebels.

            1. Wukchumni

              The exchange rate for Continental Currency was 1000-1 in exchange for legal specie in metal form in the mid 1790’s. It left so much disfavor of fiat paper currency, that not one Federal banknote was issued again until 1861.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                Only about 65 years to forget the disfavor?

                It suggests time is on the side of fiat paper currency issuers.

                1. Wukchumni

                  I’ll tell you how bad it was…

                  Until 1838, every last USA gold coin issued for circulation, actually had slightly more in gold value, versus face value, i.e. a $5 gold coin had about $5.15 in content.

                  We had so badly screwed the pooch with fiat currency, that we went a little overboard in the other direction.

            2. EricT

              Not really. Shea’s rebellion was over usurious tax rates, that made sense in cities but ruinous for poor farmers. Farms were being taken due to non-payment of taxes. Shea was a revolutionary war veteran who felt that the actions of the state at that time were the same tyrannies that they had fought England over in the Revolutionary war. The courts wouldn’t listen to their complaints so the veterans did what they did last time they were being terrorized and proceeded to surround the courts where the tax auctions were taking place, forcing the auctions to be suspended. John Adams and Jefferson were debating the bill of rights, notably the second amendment through correspondence. Adams was against the second for the reason the slave states would use the second to form armies to stifle slave revolts. Jefferson was for the second for a lot of the same reasons that he outlined in the Declaration of Independence, that government can become unresponsive to the plights of the citizens. Shea’s Rebellion convinced Adams that Jefferson’s reasoning made the second a necessary part of the bill of rights.

              1. Amfortas the hippie

                today, the Second only really counts if I can have an ack-ack or a SAM installation on my roof….or a suitcase nuke with a deadman switch.
                anything else is childs play to the Machine.
                that my few 3 percenter neighbors don’t understand this, is amazing, to me.

                it may come to that, anyway….but we’ve yet to try withdrawal of consent on a large enough scale to be noticed.

                1. Wukchumni

                  It would be funny to watch the hand cannon crowd shooting their puny arsenals @ out of reach drones, which is why I have an 88 mm ack ack gun on backorder from a army-navy surplus store in Düsseldorf. Getting ammo for it could be a problem, but i’m sure Wal*Mart carries some.

                2. inode_buddha

                  Ya know, technical superiority has little to do with it. All that technology requires humans to operate it. Humans which can be shot, or turned. I should know, I live within a mile of a major air base, and something like 3/4 of my acquaintances are ex-military. At 7 AM every day, 5,000 people change shifts at one of 3 gates to the public road. They all favor the 2nd and any attempts to undo it will be disobeyed.

                3. Briny

                  It won’t be child’s play should I break out my security tools, kept in a set of very cryptographically secure containers. I’d also note, I have access to the .mil Internet, too. Lastly, security clearances don’t go higher than the one I had. I worked on everything, all the weapon systems, even NSA gear when it broke and they couldn’t figure out what went wrong. That’s despite having no training on any of them nor a useful set of schematics. They don’t even trust their own technicians to know what’s going on inside entirely. Engineering, most every type there is, is my thang.

                  Next up, you want IED’s, EMP weapons, anything like that? Just let me do the walking through my library here. That and a trip to Walmart, Home Depot and Sparky’s (electronic/electrical supply here). SAM’s, IR seekers, would take some serious work. Give me a couple of weeks, RADAR-Homing SAM’s and RPG’s are quite doable.

                  I’m by no means unique, not by a long shot. It really comes down to a couple of things here. What, exactly, is a weapon? Who is willing to step forward and put it on the line when crunch time arrives. There were orders that I would flat out not obey and I would have been the first to shoot you if you tried to force me or others to obey them. This was well known about me while I was in uniform.

                  While I was serving, everyone from my CO on down knew I was the local Constitutional “expert.” I made it a point, as I usually do, to study what that Oath of Service meant, phrase by phrase. I’m funny like that. When we’d do that formally, the officer in charge liked having me around. Despite the government breaking faith with me, I have that oath at the back of my mind when I look at things political. I sure a heck know that most of the people I served with did as well.

                  Side note: Everyone in my family has served. Everyone, including the extended family and the in-law. We are dead serious about the Constitution, even though we are all over the place politically.

                  Add’l: Yeah, the government knows all this, too. So do the Chinese since the OPM breach. More worried about the Chinese.

                  1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

                    Excellent Comment!



                  2. Plenue

                    So this is a lot of nonsense. And I know for a fact it’s nonsense because warzones throughout the world have plenty of talented engineers. But they aren’t making SAMs from scrap and basic tech store gear. They are still entirely dependent on shipments of professionally made MANPADS sent from rich patrons. The most they can manage is making a clunky homemade hell cannon or a crude rocket from a propane tank.

                    The Houthis are so effective against Saudi Arabia because they have access to the extensive stockpiles of the Yemeni military. You can kitbash working new weapons together when you already have access to existing weapons.

                    So you go ahead and to whatever you delusionally think you can do. SWAT will be scrapping you off the floor within a fortnight. Yes, SWAT. They won’t even need the National Guard to take you down.

                  3. Amfortas the hippie

                    Briny, did you grit your teeth while writing that?
                    it took hundreds of thousands of people to put men on the moon.
                    it takes at least that many to pull the wool.
                    we should take what insidery stuff as we can get.
                    and filter it through the commentariat
                    vincit omni veritas

                  4. skippy

                    Yeah about that ….

                    I was on the killing face and was urged to reenlist, even after some article 15 events in billets should have precluded such an offer. Too the point of my command going up to the Command Sgt Major of the Asian Pacific theater for a waver, did I mention my Command were all elite infantry operators, some Vietnam sorts.

                    So heck …. I had the kind of security clearances that enabled me to work for TRW back in the day after ETS in areas for developmental projects for MIC and NS.

                    So after the meet and greet I can only say … good luck with going postal and the royal WE that others have your back …. huge difference between – TALK – at the bar or backyard BBQ when life and limb are not on the line living in REMF land.

              2. Drake

                Yes, taxes were a big part of it, but even prior to the taxes many were veterans who had been paid nothing or with worthless paper and who returned home to find themselves being dunned for payment of debts. The taxes, laws, and currency problems made a bad situation worse. Shay’s motivation wasn’t about abstract tyranny, it was that he had been injured and left the army without pay only to find creditors at home waiting for him. He was in this boat with many others. And this was all due to policies that directly enriched the elite at the expense of many others. The bailout scheme I mentioned was one way they picked the pockets of the poor, but it was just one of many.

                I wish I could find my source, it was one part of a multi-part history of America prior to and immediately following the revolution, but it doesn’t show up in my first 10 pages of search results.

                1. LifelongLib

                  IIRC William Hogeland’s “Founding Finance” (which was discussed extensively on NC) has a section on Shay’s rebellion. Yes, many of the rebels were men who had gone into debt while serving in the continental army, only to get home and have their property seized. Hogeland makes the larger point that a lot who participated in the Revolution expected a much more democratic result than what actually occurred — one elite replaced by another…

        2. diptherio

          The guys that helped put together the Constitution were the movers and the shakers of the late 18th century Colonies.

          …i.e. “the 1%.” You really think they were ever going to come up with a gov’t that redistributed their own power and privilege?

          The book American Aurora includes many personal correspondences by the founders that show that for most of them restricting democracy was much more of a goal than encouraging it, and the constitution we got reflects that. In one letter, John Adams bragged that King George, upon seeing the US constitution, quipped “You have given yourself a king and called him a president,” to which Adams commented “he has understood it perfectly.” The Bill of Rights was a concession to a few ideologues, that was ignored and violated almost from the get-go.

          1. Old Jake

            The Bill of Rights was a concession to a few ideologues, that was ignored and violated almost from the get-go

            How do we interpret the notorious 2nd Amendment in this light?

          2. Plenue

            It’s a trite phrase among some that ‘the US is a republic, not a democracy’, but most people don’t seem to actually grasp what that means. It means that ultimate power kind of, sort of rests with the people, the consent of the governed.

            But while they had their differences not one of the ‘Founding Fathers’ (what creepy idolatry) believed in literal democracy. They were terrified of it, and their arguments were literally straight out of Plato, which many of them could read in the original Greek.

            The US government was set up to be a tug-of-war between Montesquieuian separated branches, one of which, the Senate, wasn’t even directly elected until 1914. The power to elect representatives that you then didn’t have direct control over was carefully circumscribed to those deemed ‘worthy’, Athenian style.

            If you showed the US system as it currently stands to any of the founders they would probably be horrified of it. Most of what people commonly associate with American democracy was grafted on after the fact. Steps towards democracy built onto something that to a large extent was fundamentally anti-democratic to begin with.

            1. dearieme

              the Senate, wasn’t even directly elected until 1914

              Well, of course not – it was loosely based on the House of Lords. It was the House of Representatives that was based on the House of Commons.

            2. Johan Telstad

              ‘the US is a republic, not a democracy’

              This always struck me as a category error.

              There are democratic republics and non-democratic republics, like there are democratic monarchies and non-democratic monarchies.

              They are different concepts, and being a republic does not mean that one is not a democracy.

        3. Chris Cosmos

          I have to share your defense of the Founders. They were an unofficial aristocracy and if you follow Aristotle and other classical authors (they were a key part of my own education) you know that there is a difference between today’s elites who are not an aristocracy but an oligarchy. That means essentially that the Founders cared deeply about the people they ruled and were not only less well-off but less-educated. Jefferson believed it was possible for the new country to deliver education and a decent standard of living to all people–and yes, for them that meant European (I hate the term “white”) men. They were the key to developing our now, nominally at least, egalitarian society. Most of us, even Republicans, believe that all men are created equal at least in theory. Since I’ve had many deep discussions about class and race with conservatives I know that most of them mean well but don’t get the structural impossibility to further the egalitarian ideals we claim to believe in. Our forefathers/mothers struggled to get to where at least we pay lip service to the ideals that were not common at the time the country was founded–it was these guys that furthered that effort in a sane, highly sophisticated and clear headed way that is the foundation of these ideals.

          Today, we have squandered our inheritance and have devolved into an absurd and even comical tribalism fed by the most obvious and blatant kind of propaganda on all the several sides of the political equation. We don’t vote in great numbers, we shrug our shoulders at the obvious injustices, the deep and systemic corruption beyond anything we’ve seen in our history (yes, worse than the robber baron days) at a time when we could have reversed the trend had we just stepped up to our responsibilities as citizens (btw, I’m not excluding myself here). We swim in fantasies and convenient myths about the world that have virtually no resemblance to reality. My hope is that electing our Joker President would wake us up–so far we’ve just fallen into a deeper sleep.

        4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Bussinessmen and property owners of the 18th century colonies…

          Wasn’t class consciousness first defined by Marx in the 19th century? How did men of the previous century see or analyze the society in which they lived?

          Can we, for example, be critical of Sanders for using mini shampoo bottles in the 70s while travelling, or FDR being driven around in gas guzzlers?

          1. Wukchumni

            Can we, for example, be critical of Sanders for using mini shampoo bottles in the 70s while travelling, or FDR being driven around in gas guzzlers?

            I’d say it depends on whether Bernie used the conditioner & hand lotion, also ensconced in mini bottles @ a hotel, oh the humanity!

            Don’t get me started on plastic shower caps…

            And isn’t most every car by definition a ‘gas guzzler’?

            It takes less than an hour to use up a gallon that took untold millions of years to create.

          2. Amfortas the hippie

            well…to a certain unpleasant cohort, we should burn Jefferson in effigy for owning people…and having sex with one of them.
            similarly with Gandhi and MLK.
            so…yeah…i guess…

            meanwhile, in the hinterlands: tonight, my eldest son will be on global TeeVee…one of the Fox Sports Southwest stations…at 7pm central.
            for any footballers in the commentariat.
            wife will also be the Human Interest Story of the evening…so there’s that.
            I’ve attempted to encourage her to at least mention “Healthcare is a Human Right”, or something….even to the point of whispering it in Quendi while she sleeps….
            we’ll see.
            I will be out here, far away from the circus that town has already become, smashing grasshopper heads and feeding them to my gods.
            may they watch over my boy as he gladiates.

            1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

              Ill be watchin the Saints kick the Dolphins ass tonight!

              My cousin won a State championship with Katy High School back in the early Aughts.

              We killed some wicked looking Spider Babies and their Mama earlier, Shai Halud be praised.

            2. Plenue

              He didn’t ‘have sex with one’. He raped her. Consent doesn’t truly exist when one party is literal property. Additionally, Jefferson would qualify as a pedophile in Epstein terms. I’m perfectly happy throwing Jefferson into the dustbin of history.

              Also Jefferson was simply wrong even in terms of the Federalist debate. The strong central government is a large part of why any amount of genuine progress has been made since the founding. Whereas “muh states rights!!!11” has been the whinge of the retrograde for centuries. And I’m not interested in hearing about the glories of ‘farmer democracy’ from a fake farmer. Sitting on your porch learning yet another language while hundreds of black people work the fields is not farming.

              1. Amfortas the hippie

                all i wanted was to stand on his shoulders….
                not own all of his human failures, every one, forever.
                can’t i admire the guy?

              2. Jonathan Holland Becnel

                One could argue that strong central govt directly led to the destruction of our Climate today.

                Jefferson ought not be thrown in the Dustbin quite yet, methinks!

                Screw the Federalists. Long live the Yeopeople!

        5. Dan

          Rev Kevin and Carla—

          As in property was owned by royalty and nobility in England, Scotland and Wales? That’s what the Founding Fathers were trying to get away from here.
          As to a bunch of well off white dudes that wrote the Constitution, poor white dudes, blacks, Indians and others most likely could not read nor write.
          Perhaps Africa has a Constitution or two that you could refer to with happier demographics for your personal preferences vs. History?

          1. mpalomar

            B. Franklin noted that any assembly will reflect, “all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests and their selfish views.”
            Another take was the federalist John Jay’s –“Those who own the country ought to govern it,” a sentiment shared by most of the founders whose delicate problem with democracy was that more radical elements in the colonies would at some point attempt to redistribute property and wealth through democratic power often described by elites as mob rule.

  3. Olga

    Are we doomed, or what:
    Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission rejects the “Green New Deal” – “MEDORA, ND – The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) this week passed Railroad Commission Chairman Wayne Christian’s (R – Texas) resolution urging the federal government to oppose the Green New Deal in the spirit of cooperative federalism.”
    (I guess it is “we all cooperate in our own demise” – is that what is meant by ‘the spirit of cooperative federalism?)

    And – Energy Companies Set to Get Reprieve on Methane Rules.

    1. Synoia

      That fully explain the US’ interest in obtaining Greenland.

      Meet the new Hamptons, with a cool view…

      The mineral wealth is just a Bonus.

  4. Summer

    RE: What if we ran a society not based on markets but on evidence…

    …..In what looks like to be Cumming’s version of public policy, an elite group of administrators trained in the disciplines of pure thought—mathematicians and philosophers—would run society based on evidence. Collected data points would be used to create a machine simulation (often called the model). Policy makers would then be able to test the simulations with hypothetical policies (“what if drugs were legal?”) and, according to the results, adjust public policy….

    Paging Adam Curtis and “All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace.”
    Gives a debunking of this line of thought.

    1. c_heale

      Sounds like a technocratic government by another name. I had a quick look at Cumming’s blog. Reads like he’s been drinking the silicon valley Kool Aid.

        1. pjay

          Yes. Here is the last line:

          “Perhaps we may end up in a position where actively planning using AI towards a “good society” is actively pursued.”

          Since we all agree on what a “good society” is, there should be no problem for the AI geniuses to load the “evidence” with which to plan it for us! Perhaps Peter Thiel could help fund it (if he isn’t already).

          1. compared to what

            active planning
            using AI
            a “good society”
            is actively

            through redundancy and verbal layering I’m sure we will work towards getting there

      1. Titus

        Technocrat- similar to the E.U.? Noam Chomsky has pounded away agaisnt this kind of thinking as well.

      2. Adam Eran

        A just machine to make big decisions
        Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
        We’ll be clean when their work is done
        We’ll be eternally free yes and eternally young

        –Donald Fagen IGY

        1. Wukchumni

          “Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.”


      1. a different chris

        Oh jesus:

        “As somebody who has spent his life as an entrepreneur trying to pursue kind of rapid, disruptive changes,” Parker said, “I’m impatient.”

        Please, please get this guy as far away from medical research as possible. Any shiny object will probably work to distract him. And I’m from a cancer-struck family so yeah, I’m “impatient” too in a way he may not even comprehend but “move fast and break things” is the opposite of what we need.

        PS: anybody who starts a sentence with “As somebody who has spent his life as” needs to be completely tuned out. If you really spend your life at something, the major result is a deep humility towards the subject.

        1. deplorado

          >> PS: anybody who starts a sentence with “As somebody who has spent his life as” needs to be completely tuned out. If you really spend your life at something, the major result is a deep humility towards the subject.

          Absolutely! Someone saying that destroys their credibility. It’s such an ugly, ignorant boast. Unfortunately it’s become the norm in corporate and political life. Ugh.

        2. inode_buddha

          Those “Creative destruction” types are very enthusiastic about it until it starts happening to them.

      2. Summer

        It’s the “cybernetics” and machine worship that is most troubling about the Cummings philosophy.

        1. Elizabeth Burton

          Calling Andrew Yang, whose campaign is based on the coming robot apocalypse. And who is apparently hiring skilled PR Astroturfers to pose as supporters to Yang gang-bang Bernie Sanders threads at every turn. Then play the pained victim when called out on their behavior.

          Twitter politics right now would make some doctoral candidates seeking a thesis topic very fertile ground.

    2. Oregoncharles

      He’s channeling Plato’s “Republic,” with the exact same conclusion: society should be run by people just…like…me.

      Still fascism.

  5. The Rev Kev

    “‘Clarifying’: The Democratic debate stage narrows and candidates quit the race”

    I can only conclude by the remaining candidates that the Democrats are not serious about winning next year’s Presidential elections. I mean, take a look at the faces of those Candidates and imagine them going head to head with Trump in a debate. All of them except Sanders would be cat food to Trump and we know that Sanders will be eased out before then. And Gabbard? Cheated by the DNC by failing to fulfill secret criteria. Here is Jimmy Dore talking about what happened (note lots of swearing of course)-

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Like the GOP, which needed Trump to win, the Democrats are by and large a degenerate party. The clods in the race are Team Blue. There simply aren’t better candidates in the wings waiting for 2024. Compare the candidates to Democrats of yesterday year. The only “good” ones are very new or old and effectively outsiders or not known enough to make traction. Buttigieg is raising money because he’s marginally more exciting than the Tim Kaine types athe all levels. It’s a wretched party.

      1. Pat

        Gotta disagree with you on Buttigieg. I am positive that he is the pick of the same people who brought us Obama. He has encountered enough movers and shakers during both his military and consulting career. He is a cipher for the masses. He checks an identity box. And he is clean and we’ll spoken. He gained too much traction and attention too early to be anything but a ringer.

        I do agree he works an audience better than Tim just not that is why he is rolling in unlikely campaign funds.

    2. Oh

      Giving 30 seconds to each “candidate” to answer media biased questions hardly makes for a debate. It’s not even entertainment. I wonder how many people really watch it.

      1. Wukchumni

        I’d borrow from Jeopardy, and make the ‘contestants’ press a buzzer button in order to ‘debate’ with others, and if they hit it too soon, there’s a lapse between when they can try again.

        It’d be fun to watch them squirm…

      2. Chris Cosmos

        I certainly will not watch it. It’s just bad television. They are attempting to be some kind of reality-TV show. My wife and I faithfully watched the Republican debates in 2015 because Trump was great TV. The propaganda outlets are trying to match that show but they have no true entertainers on stage so people will, in my view, turn off. The only interesting part would be if Biden truly gets confused in a humorous way–but they’ll be plying the dude with canned answers and Xanax so he says as little as possible so where’s the entertainment? We all know who the corporate stooges are and if we want to find out what the candidates are proposing we can go to their web sites. If we want to know how they performed–we can read the reviews and catch the cool bits on YouTube.

        1. Elizabeth Burton

          Biden’s “confusion” is no longer humorous. Given his medical history, there is a growing consensus among those observing him he is suffering serious cognitive decline. That the Democrats continue to advance him as a candidate, compelling him to appear in public knowing he will make humiliating and egregious errors, for no other reason than to block Bernie Sanders is all anyone needs to know about how low they will stoop to obey King Bill and Queen Hillary.

      3. jrs

        I am even less enthused about watching it going forward as the candidate selection is becoming more and more weighted to not even just sell-out (Cory Booker is one thing), but to really outright personally dis-likable people (Klobuchar is still in there for one). It’s becoming personally disgusting.

      4. NotTimothyGeithner

        Even “good” debates are anachronisms. Once upon a time, I might need to go to a library and hope they had copies of the LA Times to learn about Kamala Harris or look for a biography, but now I just use a search engine.

        All the debate can show is a willingness to lie. With television debates, they don’t even run the risk of meeting the plebes. With the todo about the need to check Parliament’s basement for Guy Fawkes, I think debates have about as much relevance as that tradition.

        When these people were strangers, debates were good for the citizen job interview because it was an accessible way to do it, but now the debates provide opportunities for bad actors to say, “hey, wait for the debates when I’ll unleash this zinger.!” And nostalgia will do the heavy lifting.

        1. barefoot charley

          I found the debates to be a reasonably entertaining reality-tv show, though admittedly I can’t make informed comparisons. The idiotic infotainment-barrage of graphics and noisy razzle-dazzle contextualized moderaters’ questions to the various moderate non-entities that were written to help the non-entities make lefty contenders squirm. Of course it didn’t work because they’re non-entities, but that was part of the fun. Watching the top tier of phonies lie hard to be confused with Bernie was more entertaining than the nightly news, which I admit I don’t watch either. I guess I’m an uninformed voter after all, but I’ll watch more debates, as compelling sh*tshows.

          1. Jonathan Holland Becnel


            I like studying all the candidates and reading their faces, language, talking points, etc. Then parse how the MSM spins the truth, what author says what, so i can better understand American Power Structures. Yes, its a reality show, but like Big Brother/Survivor/The Challenge, the debates contain real people who can and do crack under pressure.

    3. mpalomar

      “…head to head with Trump in a debate. All of them except Sanders would be cat food to Trump…”
      Of course most of the candidates are a product of big money in politics and therefore a facade; plus debating is an exercise in sophistry rather than issue explication; plus the debate format as rolled out by corporate media is closer to reality tv vehicles like survivor or the apprentice to Trump’s advantage.
      In an actual discussion of the issues of the day, Trump would be at a great disadvantage. In the current degraded infotainment setting in which the suspect republic finds itself you are correct the output is likely cat food. What’s new pussycat?

    4. apber

      The selectively accepted good polls by the DNC proves, once again, that the “fix is in” just as in 2016. But unless the vote is stolen or micromanaged (quite probable), Trump should easily defeat any of the contenders. And please don’t exclaim that voter fraud is a myth. There are hundreds of precincts in the US where votes cast are greater than the numbers of eligible voters.

      1. Chris Cosmos

        Thank you. Most of us have no certainty that our votes will be counted as we voted–this is a reality and those of us who have delved deeply into elections and election fraud know that chicanery rises when the stakes are high in any field of endeavor. The question we have now is what is the actual balance of power among those who are equipped to steal elections? Are they willing to take the risk? Beyond a certain point it becomes risky. A few states in the primaries, maybe one or two states in the real election can weather obvious fraud as has been the case in several important national and local elections. Again, fraud is an option deliberately baked into the political system.

      2. lordkoos

        I think either Sanders or Warren could dispatch Trump without too much trouble. As far as your allegations of voter fraud, let’s see the evidence. The bigger problem is the voting machines.

    5. Big River Bandido

      Sanders cannot be so simply “eased out” without the establishment diverting his support to a credible candidate — and the Democrat nomenklatura can no longer cough up such a candidate. The reason is simple: austerity and neoliberal economics have no political constituency left, and the dogs won’t eat the dog food. The establishment’s icky embrace of Warren shows just how desperate they are to keep the left out of party power. Their machinations remind me of Jeb!™ and the Republicans in 2016, trying to deny Trump the nomination. In many respects, Sanders’ position among the Democrats this year is analogous to that of Trump 4 years ago among Republicans. Certainly the establishment Democrats see Sanders much the same way.

      1. Phil

        They tried to divert his support to a supposedly credible candidate last time around. Like many, many other Bernie supporters, I chose not to vote. Same thing will happen this time.

      2. lordkoos

        I think the Dems are hoping for a brokered convention between Warren and Sanders. Then their super-delegates get to vote, allowing them to get rid of Bernie in favor of Liz.

    6. Oregoncharles

      It’s still the Republicans’ turn.

      According to the secret deal they’ve kept since Clinton.

  6. Wukchumni
    It’s the DM, so you’d expect them not to figure out the real story, which is said bars are made in China out of tungsten* and then gold-plated, heck Alibaba sells them on their webpage, one of 1644 gold-plated tungsten products they sell.

    * Tungsten has approx the same specific gravity as all that glitters, meaning that it has the same heft, a perfect host for larceny.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I wonder where they got that idea from? I dug around for one place that mentioned this story-

      Roughly 15 years ago — during the Clinton Administration [think Robert Rubin, Sir Alan Greenspan and Lawrence Summers] — between 1.3 and 1.5 million 400 oz tungsten blanks were allegedly manufactured by a very high-end, sophisticated refiner in the USA [more than 16 Thousand metric tonnes].

      I have read of other countries receiving gold bars from the US – Germany for example – but closer examination finding them to be gold-plated tungsten bars. I won’t even guess what is at Fort Knox.

      1. Wukchumni

        It’d be the perfect crime for the Unabanker crowd, and as they’ve already thieved and stole so much, what’s a bit more in the scheme of things?

        What makes it perfect is the utter inaccessibility of the goods. Heck, i’ve never seen a 400 oz bar, they don’t trade ever in terms of retail bullion, and a shiny heavy gold-plated (this wouldn’t be a time to scrimp on the karats, bay-bee) tungsten 400 oz bar 5 feet away on a shelf that nobody can get all that close to, would make it the ultimate theft, the Brinks Job was strictly penny-ante in comparison.

        Now, does it even matter all that much, were this to have happened?

        Wouldn’t effect hardly any Americans, who’ve been fiscally rudderless since 1971-and wouldn’t have it any other way, along with the rest of the world, I might add.

  7. L.M. Dorsey

    >> “What if we ran society not based on the market…”

    In what looks like to be Cumming’s version of public policy, an elite group of administrators trained in the disciplines of pure thought—mathematicians and philosophers—would run society based on evidence. Collected data points would be used to create a machine simulation (often called the model). Policy makers would then be able to test the simulations with hypothetical policies (“what if drugs were legal?”) and, according to the results, adjust public policy.

    The hope that such models might be adequate recalls of the “systems ecology” of George Van Dyne who hoped, using mases and masses of “data points” to construct a working model of the prairie grasslands, conceived of of as a system of systems. Adam Curtis traces the outlines of the project toward the end of “The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts”, part two of All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace.

    In brief: when similes and metaphors seek to engorge the real of which they are the shadows — boy howdy, Katy bar the door.

    1. Summer

      The article tries to debate whether it’s a “right” or “left” ideology.
      It’s just another mode of authoritarianism. All I need to get a whiff of before I’m running.

      Looks like Curtis needs to put “All Watched Over….” back in release. It’s a crtique that needs to stay widely available as long as the machine worship ideologies are out there.

  8. a different chris

    >Key points for those of you frustrated by the paywall:

    Huh? Do you think Mr. Renwick is going to get called into a corner office and mansplained that the paywall is what covers his salary? I do.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      You assume the point isn’t to ensure the broadest audience for the propaganda. Actual news remains solidly behind the paywall, while the messages intended to reach the rubes is whittled down to outtakes and disseminated on a long thread on Twitter. Since the source is an approved and verified one, the belief is those who see and read it will be more convinced.

      It’s a new method of getting the word to the masses; this is just one of several such I’ve seen in the last week.

  9. Prodigalson

    TAC was briefly a breathe of fresh air from the right but has regressed into a lot of zombie reaganism and pining for the days when the white man’s burden was self evident.

    1. Oh

      I stopped reading TAC because all in all it’s a pro republican site. Once in a while they publish anti war stuff but I wonder if it’s just to suck in some on the left.

    2. Chris Cosmos

      It’s important, if you’re interested in reality, to find out what people think. TAC is hardly Republican but is, as the mast says, “conservative” the paleo mode. The writers are smart and thoughtful and elevate the national discussion on what sort of society we wish to live in. I am on the left and like TAC because they challenge the assumptions on the left many of which are deeply toxic to the left like identity politics, political correctness, and the whole “wokster” plague that alienates everyone but the 25% or so of the population that can be classified as “left” in a vague way.

      1. prodigalson

        The quality level of late has dropped a lot though. For some reason they’re publishing articles from graduate theology students (?) about why empire isn’t so bad, that the ends justify the means, and that we need a neo manifest destiny of “sea to shining sea, but also greenland.” (granted that last one was from the always terrible James Pinkerton) There’s also a lot of CATO brand libertarian slop and AEI voodoo.

        So all-in-all the alternative viewpoints outside of Larison, the occasional Dreher, and a few others are pretty much boilerplate tribal republicanism, no different than the Blaze or Fox news.

        The comments however are fairly fun as there’s much more independent thought than you’d expect from so many tribal republican and Trump puff piece articles. (I wonder if Buchanan is angling for a job in a 2nd Trump admin…)

        1. Chris Cosmos

          Well, I’m kind of a nerd about following conservative thinkers and how they are developing from a historical perspective. What I see in their case is a greater willingness to go deep–so-called progressives tend to not think much about the assumptions and tend to call their enemies names rather than go to foundational concepts. The left today is deeply impoverished from an intellectual POV.

  10. PlutoniumKun

    “Reform” in South Korea’s educational system. Thread:

    This strikes a chord with me. Ireland has a similar system to South Korea and China, in that almost all public University admissions (medicine is one exception) are allocated strictly according to performance in the final year exams. Its a very tough system and controversial, but I’m a big supporter of it – the exams are entirely anonymous so its the one time in every Irish persons life when their work is assessed solely on its merits, with everyone, rich or poor, male or female, gay or straight, while or otherwise, assessed entirely on an even playing field. Needless to say, just like in South Korea and China, the upper middle classes loath the system and do everything they can to undermine it.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In China, for close to two thousand years, passing the Imperial Examination (in several stages) was often the only way to a successful life.

      By the end of the Qing dynasty, it was apparent to many Chinese intellectuals that the subjects on the exam were not relevant to saving China from imperial powers like Japan, Russia, Germany, France, and others.

      Particularly egregious was the ( and if you are amused by the name, it was not) Eight Legged Essay*.

      *For those interested in this Eight Legged Essay, please let me know and I will post more, or they can research it on their own. I say this, because (and excuse me if I am wrong), I assume not many are familar with this essay.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          It’s a funny name (to us, not to the exam taker). Wiki says it literally means ‘eight share text’ and is related to the eight sections of the exam.

          One criticism of it was that it was designed on purpose to supress creative answers.

          I can’t fully appreciate unhappiness with it (not being able to read classic Chinese), but we can get a glance with this passage in Wikipedia:

          The Qianlong Emperor said that he could not comprehend the eight-legged essays written by many exam-takers.[4]

          Granted, he was a Manchu, but being the 4th Qing, his family had been ruling China for over 100 years, and he was taught Chinese by the best from an early age. In fact, he was very good at it, evidenced by all the poems he composed and then ordered carved onto many Song and Ming dynasty porcelains.

          And Qianlong was prescient in his concern. For this is what is said about it:

          In the history of Chinese literature, the eight-legged essay is often said to have caused China’s “cultural stagnation and economic backwardness” in the 19th century.[1][2]

          My guess for its equvalent today is either Twitter or the internet (or vidoe games).

    2. eg

      Which means that the upper middle classes do not understand standardized testing — because such a system reliably favours their offspring at the expense of the poor and marginalized.

      Not, mind you, that other systems don’t do this also, eh?

  11. PlutoniumKun

    A History of Hong Kong’s Contentious Politics: “It was you who taught us…” Comparativist. Well worth a read.

    Excellent and essential read. I’ve been on the fence about the HK protests (and watching closely as I’ll be in HK in October), but from my knowledge of HK I’ve been less than convinced than other NCers that this is a US sponsored color revolution. I’m inclined to it is very much a local indigenous protest – following a history of protests in HK going back to the 1960’s, even if the motives of many are not entirely pure (for one thing, many HKers despise Mainlanders to an almost racist extent). But progressives can certainly learn from the long and active history of HK people fighting against an authoritarian government, firstly backed by London, and now by Beijing. What freedoms HK has have been fought for very strongly from the ground up by ordinary HKers, they have never needed outside agents to help them.

    1. bwilli123

      Organic origins (and with good reason) but cultivated since then. If not actively cultivated then foreign intelligence services have been remiss in their job.

      or courtesy of the BBC
      …”However, far from being impromptu demonstrations, it is an open secret at this meeting in Norway that plans were hatched in Hong Kong for the demonstrations nearly two years ago.
      The ideas was to use non-violent action as a “weapon of mass destruction” to challenge the Chinese government.
      Organisers prepared a plan to persuade 10,000 people on to the streets, to occupy roads in central Hong Kong, back in January 2013…”

      and video from same.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        You should read to the end of that BBC article. It makes clear that none of the Hong Kong activist groups were at that meeting.

        1. bwilli123

          From 1:20-1:35 in the BBC video at the Oslo Freedom Forum, BBC Political Editor says Laura Kuenssberg says,
          “.. the teaching here is (that) to be successful to topple a government for good you have to be organised and to plan meticulously. And activists here have been involved in helping to organise the current protests in Hong Kong”… Their plan to put thousands of people on the streets of the Territory was in fact hatched nearly 2 years ago.”
          She then interviews an activist in contact with the protestors “daily”, sometimes “hourly”.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Did the activist say anything more about those daily and hourly conversations?

            Here at the site, we also talk about it almost daily and often hourly (though no one person, or not too many, can be said to be in contact hourly, if by hourly, it is meant every hour, for more than a few hours at a time, and perhaps for a couple of days if the situation requires it).

          2. PlutoniumKun

            Are you suggesting HKers are unable to organise protests on an hourly basis without some sort of CIA aid? Or that somehow learning from other protests means its all a US plot?

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        In 2018, the Chinese rolled up an intelligence network of ours on the Mainland and killed dozens of agents. It’s hard to imagine how our presence in Hong Kong can be large, and it’s even more hard to see how even the CIA could imagine it was secure.

        > If not actively cultivated then foreign intelligence services have been remiss in their job.

        And if the cultivation went anywhere, the HKers would have to be extremely stupid. The whole effing city is wired, for pity’s sake.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            So you think Chinese intelligence would help the Americans by handing over Snowden?

            Also, Snowden was in HK in 2013. I would imagine the city become far more wired after the subsequent protests in 2014.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          Nice report from the streets of HK. Damn they are well-organized. And someone taught them in 2014 to be leaderless.

          Polite stuff so far. The police put up an orange flag to let people know they will soon commence firing rubber bullets.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Yep. Some commenters are just amazed that HKers can be so organized, so it must be that there are outside agitators, hidden hands, since HKers couldn’t possibly have done with all on their own.

            In fact, the HKers have an enormous mass of experience, orders of magnitude greater than Occupy, the Capital occupations, and Black Lives Matter put together. It really should not be surprising that they are capable of exercising agency without consulting their CIA handlers!

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        The idea seems to be that protests should not be planned, and that planning is evidence, proof even, of the involvement of Western intelligence agencies. As if young Chinese people could not plan without a colonial presence to run the meeting!

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Exactly, I find that assumption amazing. As the article points out, there have been active street level pro-democracy movements in HK for half a century (and you can be pretty sure the CIA wasn’t behind anti-British movements). They are extremely resourceful and organised and the number of techies involved means they don’t make the mistakes other movements make (i.e. assume that WhatsApp or Twitter are not monitored).

    2. Olga

      As one NC-er who cannot but see the hand of uncle sam in HK’s protests, I’d like to explain. The matter is not black and white. I’ve lived through a similar situation (another continent, another country, another century) – and so to me, the picture is as clear as the blue sky. The point so many seem to miss is that “indigenous protests” and “US’ helping hand” ARE NOT mutually exclusive. They co-exist – and in the case of HK, we have proof, including photos and $$ trail. (From a friend, whose family live there: lasers used to defeat the face recognition s-ware seemed a bit much for a buncha spontaneous lil’protesters. It pointed to preparations and access to certain technologies.)
      Folks are disgruntled all over the place and for all sorts of reasons. With some encouragement, it wouldn’t take long to start protests almost anywhere. The US provides such encouragement in places that have strategic significance to it. We have seen this repeatedly – all over the world and many long decades. Nor sure why it is so hard to face up to. Never heard of Gene Sharp?
      I have no doubt many in HK have serious concerns – legitimate ones, too. But that is precisely the beauty of it – discontent does not have to be invented; it only needs to be co-opted and re-directed (ever so slightly, so few would notice).
      (During the orange ‘revolution’ in Ukraine in 2004, even the Guardian wondered why so many protesters waved same little flags. In another European country last year, a tragic death was used as an impetus to send waves of gullible young people – with identical signs in English! – into the streets, resulting in a departure of a PM, who was disliked by the uncle.)
      What the uncle does in appropriating and taking over protests with legitimate gripes for its own purposes is deeply insidious and corrupting. It damages a society in at least two ways – authorities do not (or are unable to) address justified concerns because they see the under-currents and are caught in a bind, and if the protests succeed, often chaos follows (that can be then exploited further).
      The uncle may be the ultimate Wizard of Oz.

      1. Carolinian

        People tend to believe others think and act the way they themselves do, so perhaps one reason the “Russian interference” meme is so credible to the elites is because we do it all the time. I know less than nothing about Hong Kong, but I’d say one always has grounds to at least suspect CIA or NED interference.

        I’ve also read that some very rich people have a lot at stake in Hong Kong and that this drive for partial (or full?) independence may be as much about giving capitalism there a freer hand. Any time Rubio is involved one has to also be suspicious.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          The protesters are not seeking to organize the working class to seize the means of production. It looks to me like they want liberal democracy, rather like what we or the UK used to have.

          1. Carolinian

            The reports I’ve read say it may be more about economics. Those young students are not prospering and that situation is getting worse.

          2. PlutoniumKun

            I think thats exactly it. While I’d hesitate to say I know what’s driving the movement, if I was to summarise it I think its largely driven by the lower levels of the middle/educated classes who see themselves as part of a distinct nation – they want a democratic and self governing Hong Kong (if not actual independence). The movement is not socialist or working class, but has a lot of support from workers who see their living standards under threat from incoming Mainlanders. I don’t see any evidence whatever that it is anything but an organic movement with a mix of nationalist and pro-democracy, pro-justice aims (the latter is important, as the chipping away of the independent judiciary is a key concern).

            Anyway, I’ll be in HK in a few weeks, with luck I’ll be able to wander around and have a look myself. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Cantonese and have only a few words of mandarin.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        >I’ve lived through a similar situation (another continent, another country, another century) – and so to me, the picture is as clear as the blue sky.

        Projection is often like that. I think you’re assuming that all countries are alike, and that (say) Ukraine and Hong Kong are at a similar stage of political development, and that their cultures are sufficiently similar for Uncle Sam’s “playbook” to apply. I don’t think those things are true. Imagine urging that the Carré Rouge protests were orchestrated by the hidden hand of Moscow, because the squares are red, there are still communists in Quebec, and, after all, how is it possible that provincial Canadians could possibly be clever or committed enough to organize such a protest all on their own without the involvement of “outside agitators” (to use the term that the white supremacists of the Civil Rights Era used to explain the sudden uppitiness of their nigras).

        > The point so many seem to miss is that “indigenous protests” and “US’ helping hand” ARE NOT mutually exclusive. They co-exist – and in the case of HK, we have proof, including photos and $$ trail.

        ‘They co-exist” seems to be the current line, and is certainly more sophisticated than the initial framing that the protests were orchestrated by the United States intelligence community. As for as co-existence — a pleasingly vague word — the proof is apparently so clear that no links are required. In any case, in this happy co-existence, who has agency? The protestors, or the United States?? If the protestors, then is the situation still “clear as the blue sky”? In any case, there are four factors that work against even co-existence:

        1) The Hong Kong police deny it: Protests show no sign of foreign interference Hong Kong police say, contradicting Beijing. Note that the police are speaking against interest. (I don’t care what the Mainland says; they’re gonna say what they say.)

        2) We lack the operational capacity for such a large and risky operation. From Foreign Policy: “Botched CIA Communications System Helped Blow Cover of Chinese Agents” (and dozens were killed). There’s no reason to think we have a functional intelligence operation in Hong Kong; maybe they all got whacked. If we still even have an intelligence presence, it would be sensible to regard it as penetrated and unsafe to use.

        3) Supposing you are correct, where are the arrests and the show trials? Could it be that the Mainland can’t even fake “outside agitators” because it’s too hard to do? Sounds to me that the “like water” structure of the protests — original to Hong Kong, AFAIK — is doing what it is designed to do.

        4) We aren’t that competent. As I keep saying, we can’t even overthrow Maduro in Venezuela, in our own backyard. And yet somehow, our omnipotent “hidden hand” is capable of bringing millions of HKers into the streets? Really?

        > (From a friend, whose family live there: lasers used to defeat the face recognition s-ware seemed a bit much for a buncha spontaneous lil’protesters. It pointed to preparations and access to certain technologies.)

        1) As deployed by you, this is a classic case of Orientialism. Are you really saying that Hong Kong people are incapable of working this out for themselves, without assistance from the (white, colonial) West?

        2) Your friends seem not to have access to the Internet. A moment’s search turns up this link:

        Are you really saying Cantonese speakers are simple primitives who don’t know how to use the Internet to do technical research?

        3) “buncha spontaneous lil protesters” lol, what happened to the precious idea of co-existence, where the protestors actually had agency?

        4) “It pointed to preparations and access to certain technologies” Holey moley, what makes you think protests don’t require planning? Again, are you saying that planning can only come from the West? That HKers can’t do it? As for “certain technologies”… Laser pointers? Really? Hong Kong is a large Asian city; I’m sure one can buy whatever technology one wants there, or have it shipped in. (And I would bet there are plenty of entrepreneurial shopkeepers willing to stock the accoutrements, too.)

        > Folks are disgruntled all over the place and for all sorts of reasons. With some encouragement, it wouldn’t take long to start protests almost anywhere.

        This is just silly. No organizer would agree with this. This weird attitude, so similar to RussiaGate, just with a different “hidden hand,” permeates a certain sort of pseudo-left. I suppose it’s like vanguardism, just with the hidden hand in place of the party.

        > The US provides such encouragement in places that have strategic significance to it. We have seen this repeatedly – all over the world and many long decades. Nor sure why it is so hard to face up to. Never heard of Gene Sharp?

        Sure, but generalities aren’t enough. You need to prove the particular case. (I have no doubt there are entities from the Five Eyes sniffing around Hong Kong; that doens’t even imply co-existence. It certainly doesn’t imply agency, let alone dominance.) And yes, I will naturally have heard of Gene Sharp and his rather equivocal role (see at NC from 2014 and 2012). The three volumes of Politics of Nonviolent Action are available at Amazon; one does not need to meet with one’s CIA case officer to obtain a copy. Many HKers can even read English!

        > I have no doubt many in HK have serious concerns – legitimate ones, too. But that is precisely the beauty of it – discontent does not have to be invented; it only needs to be co-opted and re-directed (ever so slightly, so few would notice).

        1) “co-opted and re-directed” — so much, again, for “co-existence.”

        2) “ever so slightly, so few would notice” — lol, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

        > During the orange ‘revolution’ in Ukraine in 2004, even the Guardian wondered why so many protesters waved same little flags. In another European country last year, a tragic death was used as an impetus to send waves of gullible young people – with identical signs in English! – into the streets, resulting in a departure of a PM, who was disliked by the uncle.)

        Semiotics like this prove nothing. Is it your position that in order to be authentic, all “little” “flags” must be hand-crafted in the home? Umbrellas are hard to make by hand, you know!

        > What the uncle does in appropriating and taking over protests with legitimate gripes for its own purposes is deeply insidious and corrupting. It damages a society in at least two ways – authorities do not (or are unable to) address justified concerns because they see the under-currents and are caught in a bind, and if the protests succeed, often chaos follows (that can be then exploited further).

        Mere question begging.

        > The uncle may be the ultimate Wizard of Oz

        Unless, of course, there is a hidden hand behind the hidden hand! And then another hidden hand behind that! This view is, at best, pre-political.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Yeah, I thought it was, well, not the best comment I’ve ever read. Since I’ve seen this silliness elsewhere, I thought I’d consolidate my thoughts in one place. You’re welcome. You don’t find the “touch a nerve” trope jejune?

      3. Plenue

        “and in the case of HK, we have proof, including photos and $$ trail.”

        Do we? Or is this like Moon of Alabama asserting that Tiananmen Square was a fake CIA revolution, citing as ‘evidence’ 1. a link to a collection of declassified Pentagon documents that he apparently never bothered to read because they only consist of reporting on the protests, with no hint of control, and 2. the fact that we worked to evacuate protest leaders after the event, which he imagines proves we were controlling them to begin with.

        The “it’s totally fake” narrative has already collapsed with regards to Hong Kong. It’ll be interesting just how far back that will have to be walked.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I like MoA a lot, but he does have a strong tendency to over reach when writing about areas outside his (or her) core area of knowledge, and this is a classic example. The ‘evidence’ that this is a color revolution that I’ve seen quoted is ridiculously slight. Occams Razor suggests that any CIA influence (or connected NGO’s) is almost certainly very marginal, there is simply no way they can exert the sort of influence they have had in eastern Europe or Central Asia in somewhere like HK. Their history of trying to gain intelligence or influence in China is pathetic, Beijing always has their number.

    3. John k

      The group with the most to lose are the hk very rich running factories on the mainland… if something goes wrong, say the factory burns down, or is closed after loss of foreign orders, extradition to mainland might be unpleasant.
      So imo good chance the wealthy had a hand, at least at the beginning… banners and gas masks fairly cheap. But the wealthy’s goal would have been preservation of status quo, not democracy or out of control change, so more likely to me the latest moves by protestors are some combination of youthful exuberance and outside agitation.
      (My hk wife, and her friends siblings in and out of hk, are readier to blame cia from the getgo… though this group is more satisfied with status quo than the mostly younger demonstrators… somewhat like the situation here.)

  12. Wukchumni

    A few years back I was talking to another cabin owner in Mineral King who’s a farmer with extensive citrus orchards, and asked him if he was worried about Huanglongbing, the Asian psyllid that causes citrus greening, and has devastated Florida along with other locales, and he laughed and told me it was a down the road problem, as they were burning out the Amazon to plant Valencia (juice) oranges, and driving the price down almost to where he wasn’t competitive, and his saving grace was Navel oranges, which although they originated in Brazil, can’t be grown there anymore.

    You’d think the Amazon burning was a new thing that just started happening a few weeks ago, ha!

  13. chuck roast

    Thanks for the Schiavoni article on food sovereignty in Venezuela. We’re still fighting The Alliance for Progress. Drop a dime if you can.

  14. Camp Lo

    No health problems with chlorinated people. I drink chlorinated tap water. Ingest sodium chloride, too. If I worked in an abattoir, you bet I would want so sort of antisepsis regime. The human body produces face-melting hydrochloric acid. Over-obsessing over food additives is another type of science denial-ism. Infections are far more lethal than the increased cancer risk inherent to some of the by-products, a la bromide rxns. It’s good to remember our environment is trying to kill us as well.

    1. Wukchumni

      Sometimes @ the bar, i’ll order a double of chlorine beach straight up, although occasionally i’ll add vodka to cut the strength a bit.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      Nobody is claiming the chlorine is harmful in the food (although there are significant health and safety issues for workers). The question is why in the US they have to use chlorine whereas they don’t in Europe. Despite the use of chlorine, the WHO has found rates of salmonella contamination far higher in the US than in European chickens.

      And chlorine used in cleaning can break down into chlorates in food and there are significant question marks about safe levels. Interestingly, there has been plenty of research on this in Europe, but minimal research in the US.

      And if you want to talk about science denial-ism, then reformulating scientific questions in a dishonest manner is one of the most common methods used by the right. No serious food safety authority obsesses over the harm or otherwise of chemical cleaners. Serious food safety authorities address the issue of contamination from first principles – i.e. from the farm right through to the consumer. This is why EU food is significantly safer than US food – precisely because short cuts like permitting the use of chlorine is not considered acceptable in the EU. Using chlorine to make meat safe is like addressing metal fatigue in aircraft by allowing airlines to spraypaint over visible cracks.

    3. willf

      If I worked in an abattoir, you bet I would want so sort of antisepsis regime.

      But “eating chicken” is not the same thing, and should not be the same thing, as working in a abattoir.

    4. Monty

      I am glad you feel that way. Each to their own. I prefer to avoid ingesting chlorine myself.

      Why do you suppose it’s currently banned in the UK?

      If it’s such a plus, why isn’t it labelled as such in US stores?

  15. The Rev Kev

    “G7 summit: last rites of old order as Trump’s theatre looms next year”

    This had leaders of the world’s larger industrialized democracies and Trump was suggesting that Russia be invited back in. Russia may not want to. The seven members are France, the United States, Italy, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. When you think about it, six of them them are NATO countries and the seventh – Japan – is joined at the hip to their aims. The G20 is much more representative as it includes countries like India, Saudi Arabia, the EU and China.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      How many D candidates, in your estimation, will come out and support Trump’s suggestion?

  16. jfleni

    RE: Funders threaten to quit Facebook project studying impact on democracy.

    Everybody knows by this time that “Butt-book aka facebook is just a yuppie wet-dream that has no value except as a nitwit mania for foolish
    billionaire clowns who are fooling themselves totally!!

    1. polecat

      I wouldn’t exactly peg STASIBook as ‘nitwit’ … they are, for all intent, an intelligence op. , instead masquerading as a hip platform of benevolent communication.

    2. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      The value is in being able to see your family and friends. I wouldn’t call that foolish.

  17. Ed

    Admin note:

    “The Latest: Italy’s Conte tapped to form new government” Associated Press

    This actually links to a story about Kashmir.

  18. Drake

    Grover Cleveland and the Democrats Who Saved Conservatism

    This article had me from the very first sentence. The Democratic party is “Known at the moment for its full-throated acceptance of socialism”. Who knew?

    Surely the rest of the article is full of such bedrock facts.

    1. Massinissa

      Man, if only I could find this Democratic Party. I checked all over the DNC and couldn’t find it. Maybe everyone there were Republicans?

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          The Ken Burns series on the Roosevelts is wonderful. Back when “the people” actually figured into their plans

    2. Jeff W

      “Republicans explain to Democrats how to win, completely in good faith”

      Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson, in their excellent Citations Needed podcast, call it “the Inexplicable Republican Best Friend.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Wasn’t (or isn’t) there also one big open air camp in Xinjiang, or are both Western fabrications?

      More broadly, some people (some of those wishing to go into space) think this planet is one just open air prison.

  19. FFA

    It occurs to me that the right wing might be quite happy to give the bleached poultry a lot of press: at the forthcoming US/UK trade talks Team Oligarch (on both sides) will go in pushing for chlorinated chicken, throwing the NHS into the piranha tank and ditching those pesky environmental regulations. Our politicians will stagger out after minutes of arduous negotiations and proudly announce that they’ve saved us from the chickens…

  20. Dan

    De facto deportations.

    “Some people…said they never requested asylum, including Wilfredo Alvarez, a laborer from Honduras. He crossed the Rio Grande without permission to look for work to support his seven children and was unexpectedly put into the program. He was sent back to Mexico with a future court date.”

    American working families and better educated people have done their part and foregone having children, thus achieving zero population growth, so we have plenty of housing, jobs, infrastructure, used cars, energy, social services and taxpayer provided free medical care–at least in California, for Wilfredo and his brood. Aren’t we’re supposed to just allow anyone who walks across the border to become a citizen, as well as their children? Isn’t that the plan of the Demographic Socialists?

  21. JEHR

    Re: The Rise and Spread of Excessive Wealth Disorder

    I just couldn’t read this article; would rather re-read Little Red Riding Hood two thousand times!

  22. Wukchumni

    A couple of ‘stealth’ F-35’s announced their arrival overhead about 5 minutes before I saw them today, the plane being so obnoxiously loud, it’s calling card.

    Who knew that the F-35 also doubles as a fire department?

    Lawmakers and people who live in the area were concerned about noise from the jets and displacement of low income communities. Air National Guard members say the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is based on the worst case scenario, and it’s very likely they can reduce the noise impact.

    “As air crew, we make every attempt to minimize the noise when we take off and we land. So we can tailor our flight paths to mitigate the noise,” Lt. Col. Merkel said.

    Not only do the F-35’s have a positive effect on national defense, but Air National Guard officials said having the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison benefits the community.

    “We have the largest tender in Dane County to be able to bring large quantities of water to any commander requiring a large structure fire,” Lt. Col. Dan Statz, 115th Fighter Wing said.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Did it occur early in the morning (that would be a new development) or, as usual, ‘late in the afternoon?’

    2. Jeff W

      The stress and rigors of the campaign trail, even if he is relatively insulated, will not be working in Joe Biden’s favor either. At some point these cognitive lapses will no longer be able to be waved away as mere “gaffes.” As I said the other day, it’s just a matter of time. (And then I think it will be down to Warren and Sanders.)

  23. Alex

    Re The Islamic Art of Asking Questions

    Thank you for the link, I enjoyed it. The obvious parallel for me is the tradition of Talmudic learning where you also have differing views on many issues having equal authority. Unfortunately it seems that in both Islam and Judaism this once vigorous tradition has ossified.

    While in 1st century Hillel was able to find an excuse to do away with Jubilee years and in the early medieval period the polygamy was essentially outlawed in Judaism, I can’t imagine changes of this magnitude happening now and being accepted by the majority of believers.

    1. Solar Hero

      Also, as Chomsky points out, Scholastic debates began with expounding your opponent’s argument in the strongest form possible.

    2. ewmayer

      A good movie in this vein is God On Trial (2008), starring the great Stellan Skarsgård (who I see plays Baron Harkonnen in a forthcoming-next-year remake of Dune, LOL.)

  24. Wukchumni

    We’ve had mass murders @ mass, @ country western concerts, @ schools of every age, @ the workplace, @ Wal*Mart, etc.

    None of them has pushed the effort to greatly lessen nutters from acquiring weaponry any further than thoughts & prayers, and the flags are lowered to half mast, that’s it.

    How would we react if it happened in one of our National Parks, which atypically has around 30-40% overseas visitors?

    1. inode_buddha

      Maybe if we had a few in the Capitol district it might get their attention. It would be a blessing if some nutter let loose on K street.

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