Links 10/10/19

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Stuffed with sockeye salmon, ‘Holly’ wins ‘Fat Bear Week’ heavyweight title MPR News (Chuck L)

Huge stash of walnuts squirreled away under car bonnet in US BBC (resilc). Winter is coming….

Watch Genius Pigs Use Tools in a Scientific First Vice

Genes partially explain dog breed behaviors Futurity (David L)

Sea-level rise threatens 13 million Americans. Can FEMA help? Grist

Climate Activists Block Roads, Stage Protests Worldwide Time (furzy)

Interview: Climate change is increasing number of days with heavy rainfall, says IMD chief Scroll (J-LS)

Back from the dead: Some corals regrow after ‘fatal’ warming PhysOrg. Chuck L: “Maybe it ain’t all over yet for the Great Barrier Reef.”

Climate activists block traffic in Berlin as protests heat up The Local (furzy)

What Are the Actual Chances of Being Buried Alive? LitHub (J-LS)

From ‘Gemini Man’ to ‘The Irishman’: Dawn of the De-Aged Actor Hollywood Reporter (J-LS)

How to Avoid an Encore Wall Street Journal. On Placido Domingo.


U.S. Weighs Currency Pact With China as Part of Partial Deal Bloomberg

Hong Kong protests: economy lost an estimated HK$2.8 billion over ‘golden week’, experts say South China Morning Post (Kevin W)

China Attacks Apple For Allowing Hong Kong Crowdsourced Police Activity App TechCrunch


EU WHAT? Remainer Speaker John Bercow holds secret meeting with EU chief about holding second referendum The Sun

Brexit latest: No extension without new referendum or an election, EU insists Telegraph. Consistent with their past position, but now apparently a harder line.

There’s no deal – so what next? Spectator

Brussels braced for possible Boris Johnson walk-out at next week’s Brexit summit Telegraph. We said high drama from Johnson was guaranteed, this is just a particular flavour of that.

Brexit: MPs could hijack emergency Saturday sitting of Commons to force through second referendum Independent. More confirmatory referendum bollocks.

No-deal Brexit threatens the health of UK citizens living with HIV in other European countries AIDSmap (timotheus)

Mexicans are killing each other at record rates. The U.S. provides the guns Los Angeles Times (resilc). Not surprising. The US is an arms merchant at every price point.


America Doesn’t Belong in Syria American Conservative (resilc)

Not Just Ethnicity: Turkey v. Kurds and the Great Divide over Political Islam v. the Secular Left Juan Cole

Kurdish soldiers I spoke to feared Trump would be a treacherous ally. But the scale of his betrayal is terrifying Independent

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

When social media stops being social: How Twitter and Facebook have rendered Americans uncivil, insecure & addicted RT (Kevin W)

Trump Transition

Congress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds The Hill

Republican anger grows as Trump disavows Kurds by saying they didn’t help during WWII CNN (Kevin W)

Matt Drudge, an influential figure in conservative media, sours on Trump as he faces impeachment CNN (furzy)

Trump Fatigue American Conservative (resilc)

Dear Ellen DeGeneres: The Problem With Bush Is His War Crimes Intercept (resilc)


How Americans’ Views On Impeachment Have Changed In Just One Week FiveThirtyEight (resilc)

Does Medicare Coverage Improve Cancer Detection and Mortality Outcomes? SSRN

Comment on Davis, Haltiwanger, Handley, Lipsius, Lerner. and Miranda, “The Economic Effects of Private Equity Buyouts” Eileen Appelbaum, CEPR. Dry title but readable and deadly post.

Cracks Found on 5% of Older Boeing 737 Planes in Inspections Bloomberg

SEC Launches Investigation of Practices in Retirement Plans for Teachers, Government Employees Wall Street Journal. Not defined benefit plans like CalPERS and CalSTRS, but 403(b) and 457 plans, which the SEC regulates. Even though the Journal piously pretends it doesn’t know why the normally somnambulant agency roused itself, the authors (which include Gretchen Morgenson) tip their hats:

News of the SEC investigation comes after New York state’s financial-services watchdog last week opened a probe of insurance-industry practices in the 403(b) market. The New York Department of Financial Services has demanded that a dozen major life insurers detail how they market retirement-income products to teachers, in a bid to assess whether insurers or their agents are taking advantage of teachers in selling potentially high-cost and inappropriate retirement-savings investments.

Federal agencies hate being end-run by state regulators, and the young New York Department of Financial Services already has a lot of notches on its belt.

Billionaire Warren Buffett Is Predicting a Stock Market Crash; Is He Right? CNN (furzy)

From financial crisis to inequality — how economists got it wrong Financial Times. This is a frustrating piece, since the books sound simplistic, which may be a function of the review as opposed to the books. For instance, depicting capitalism as only the US “liberal meritocratic capitalism” version versus China’s “political capitalism” is just wrongheaded. What about the “market capitalism” of the 19th century analyzed in depth in Polyani’s The Great Transformation? What about the socialistic flavors in place in Japan and in Sweden and Norway (the latter two have been eroded by neoliberalism but are still bona fide models)? And that’s before you consider, as we’ve explained, that meritocracy is unattainable even within companies.

Democracy on a Knife-Edge Project Syndicate (David L)

Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen on why the answer to the inflation puzzle matters Brookings (Kevin C)

Senators Warn Visa, Mastercard to Think Twice About Joining Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Scheme Gizmodo (Kevin W)

Class Warfare

California governor signs statewide rent-control law Associated Press. Calling this “rent control” is bit of a stretch. Vastly weaker than NYC “rent stabilization,” which in turn is weaker than NYC “rent control”. While it restricts evictions, it appears that there is a huge loophole: not giving tenants the right to lease renewal. In NYC, if a tenant is current on a rent stabilized or controlled apartment, the landlord must offer a lease renewal.

Organized Amazon Warehouse Workers Just Got Two Fired Co-Workers Rehired Vice (Dan K)

Sesame Street to reveal muppet’s mom suffered from addiction The Hill. UserFriendly: “Everything is going according to plan.

Antidote du jour (MGL, from Yellowstone):

And a bonus. Lance N: “Another snow leopard being goofy. Y’know, they may just have itchy teeth.”

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    “What Are the Actual Chances of Being Buried Alive?”

    Well of course there is a simple solution to this problem. Simply require that all people that have passed away have an autopsy to find out the cause of their death. If you aren’t dead by the time you are scheduled for your autopsy, you certainly will be afterwards.
    Reading all the ways that modern tests are conducted to find out if you are dead or not, why am I left with the impression that these are only one level above leaches, body humours and witch doctors? What, no tricorders yet?

    1. Big Tap

      I think cremation will do. It won’t matter if when you are declared dead you aren’t. You won’t be banging on the casket lid since you’re now ashes.

  2. Paul Jonker-Hoffrén

    Re: snow leopard

    This is obsessive behaviour by the cat – it is going mad because of captivity, even though there are toys. These animals need a lot of space and are shy. It is probably extremely stressed!!

    1. Winston Smith

      Agree. I saw a snow leopard in a confined space in a zoo and it was going around in circles. Heartbreaking and NOT funny (as in the above case). Animals are not in the world strictly for our pleasure

    2. PlutoniumKun

      That was my first thought too – it looked like stress behaviour. But so little is known about them in the wild its probably hard to be sure.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I heard a story that over a century or more ago scientists were studying the behaviour of animals like chimpanzees in zoos and research labs. Whole text books were written about their apparent antisocial behavior. Then the first wave of field researchers went to places like Africa and started to observe them in the wild in their natural environment. They were baffled as these animals had a completely different behaviour that did not match accepted beliefs about what they should be seeing. It took a while to realize that these African animals were behaving normally and that the ones in zoos and labs were stressed out and almost psychotic with confined imprisonment. That it was like trying to study what humans were like by only studying prison populations.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Prison populations… or just densely urban office workers.

          Compare the latter with their surburban counterparts, or better yet, those who roam the wild (or what is left of it)…say, the Sierra foothills on the California side.

  3. Henry Moon Pie

    Here’s a teaser from a new article about Wendell Berry:

    Here, in Kentucky, he has seen industry — coal, for example, once one of the state’s biggest employers — fleece the land and the people, sowing resentment. “The idea that rural and urban America describe two economies, one thriving and the other failing, is preposterous,” he tells me. “We’re joined by one economy. And it’s a one-way economy — the sucking and the digging is out here. The delivery is in the city. They’re prospering because they’re plundering their own country.”

    The resulting slow bleed of life and self-sufficiency from small towns alarms the author. When Berry was growing up, many people worked at local farms or businesses. Today, nearly everyone is a commuter, working under a boss, and the small farms he remembers have largely vanished. “It’s a very significant change,” Berry says, “from self-employed to employee.”

    …Those who still farm here, Berry tells me later, need to support it through non-farming jobs, such as working in steel and chemical factories along the Ohio River, construction jobs in Louisville, or at the state penitentiary in nearby La Grange.

    “People come out here in the summertime, and it looks pretty and they say how beautiful it is,” he says. “But you could drive from Shelbyville to New Castle through some of the best grazing land in the world and I bet you won’t find a single farm with a kitchen garden or a family milk cow or a flock of chickens. They may be spending the night out there. But they’re not living from the country. Which means, in a certain profound way, they’re not living in the country.

    “This little community that used to be coherent, sufficient to itself,” he says, “is a bedroom community where people come to sleep and watch TV.”

    1. Lost in OR

      I’ve made it a practice to look for home gardens in my travels through Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. They’ve become pretty rare.

      I sure miss getting my own fingernails dirty. There’s no better way to lose yourself.

      1. Dan


        Ride AMTRAK and you’ll see the backside of lots of trackside homes where gardens are usually located. As well as a lot of personal junkyards, unfortunately.

        Also, if you are going to garden yourself, make your veggie boxes double high so you don’t have to lean over so far to reach the middle.

        1. JacobiteInTraining

          “…personal junkyards, unfortunately…”

          I guess I know what you mean, and in extreme cases those ‘junkyards’ can become ridiculously large/toxic, BUT – having grown up on a family farm, and having many relatives through Oregon, Washington, and Alaska who have the normal kind of ‘junkyards’ squirreled away here and there on properties – in most of the cases I would never say ‘unfortunately’.

          Having often used such places as sources of parts, metal, spare wood, screws, bolts, power cords, mechanical devices to be re purposed, plastic sheets or old glass panes to make greenhouses/cloches, or broken appliances used to scavenge for stuff to get another one working again, I consider those junkyards to be VERY fortunate.

          I guess a lot depends on whether you have the spare $10 to go buy a part new at Home Despot, or do you instead need to use the $10 for another bag of pinto beans….and get that broken toaster working from the junkyard instead.

          Fortunate….very fortunate.


          1. Off The Street

            Don’t forget the additions to the food chain from various animals that choose to inhabit that stored stuff. Amtrak rides can also provide views of adapting and nesting.

          2. Amfortas the hippie

            when my dad came up,last time and we went on the tour on the Falcon, i made sure this is playing in the trees:

            i try to keep my piles of junk somewhat orderly…and hopefully some of it might get turned into a big shed for the rest of it this winter.
            call it extreme recycling.
            i make all manner of things with stuff other people throw away….and there’s hardly a shortage of useful things at the dump
            most of my 1200 sq ft shop is made from salvaged material.

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      somehow, i’ve never read one of wendell berry’s books.
      maybe they never end up in library sales, garage sales or half-priced/used book stores…
      but from what i’ve seen online, here and there, I think i need to remedy that.
      these sorts of observations of rural america are smack in the face obvious where i live…little “towns” that were…falling down clapboard buildings with the faded, rusty signs for a dentist office, 75 years ago, or 3 cent gasoline.
      since i came way out here, 25 years ago, the constant lament is that the kids run off to college, and never return.
      that’s begun to change in the last 10 years or so…many of those former kids are coming home…and taking a loss in doing so, because the cost-benefit analysis falls squarely on the side of living cheaply out here, with kin and kith nearby, and scraping by on whatever one can find.i think the welfare and psychology of these kids’ own kids is what finally tips the scales.
      the whole county is a defacto day care, for one thing…even without direct local relations.
      now if only we could figure out a way to stop exporting whatever cash comes in….

  4. Wukchumni

    Ooh ungowa, a couple million Californians ain’t got the power…

    There’s no electricity in Mineral King aside from what comes through the phone line, and we’ve had our cabin almost a decade now, and it takes some getting used to, going cold turkey on kilowatts, although quite the boon to book reading, as you’re powerless to it’s loosened grip.

      1. Wukchumni

        We’re in the forest for the most part, and some cabins have a few solar panels, although not enough to do anything of note. Otherwise everything is propane powered, lamps-fridge-heater.

        My neighbor was reminiscing about the view from his cabin in the late 60’s when he was a kid, as you could see the mountain range in the distance, whereas now the view is a dense forest, thick with too many trees eking out a living, in essence a wall of can’t miss for a greedy wildfire.

    1. Winston Smith

      Best way to relax. Go to a cabin in the woods without power or internet for a weekend, preferably in the colder season so you don’t need to worry about refrigeration. You will sleep well (and lots), your mind will clear the web-generated floatsam and jetsam…

    2. Dan

      As I understand it, 48 volts comes in through phone line. We have night lights powered by our land line.

      Couldn’t one use a transformer to power 12 volt lighting systems with that?

  5. cnchal

    > China Attacks Apple For Allowing Hong Kong Crowdsourced Police Activity App TechCrunch

    . . . and Apple has folded and toed the CCP party line, according to one of the comments.

    An interesting comment from Penny Zhang.

    China also has Apple’s biggest consumer base. Huawei and Xiaomi are cutting the market share aggressively, Apple is putting their business at risk by stepping toes. I’ve been paying attention to Amazon Echo’s news selection, so far all topics are very neutral and friendly. Smart.

    Smart? Venal is more like it.

    Globalization is a disaster, no matter where one cares to look.

    1. Mike

      I would say that globalism, in the hands of our gangster-capitalist elites, is as much a disaster as nationalism has been. Don’t see fewer dead because of national boundaries – this just changes the methods and reasoning behind the deaths.

      Besides, you can always use your democratic ideals and build a boycott of Apple & Amazon, letting them know there is no safe place when making decisions with a two-edged sword. Or stop buying Apple/Amazon products.

      1. Big River Bandido

        On principle, I don’t buy anything from Amazon/Whole Foods. Same with WalMart, Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, and Bookface.

        Apple? That will be a harder habit for me to break. I’ve used the platform all my adult life, built up a great deal of competency with it, and in particular with the music applications that are a critical part of my livelihood. And yet, those applications — to say nothing of the machines themselves — have become corrupted and crapified in just a mere 8 years. They way they have begun limiting creative choices within the apps suggests a bottom-line business mentality rather than a conscious focus on actual product “design”. Perhaps that’s fine for the person who wants an iMac for email, entertainment and casual web surfing; for serious content creators this is deadly.

        So who knows? If that trend continues, there may eventually come a point where the apps and the machines no longer suffice, or become so degraded that they’re not worth the purchase price. At that point I may have to re-learn a different application or (Dog forbid) even a new platform, or (even worse) go back to the Middle Ages of handwritten parts and magnetic tape. That would really suck. But I guess if I had to…it couldn’t be any worse than where Apple hardware and software are heading.

        1. Dan

          It seems that slowdown strikes would be most effective at Amazon warehouses, since they sell next day delivery.

        2. Chris Smith

          I’m with you on the crapification of Apple. I only do amateur video/sound but iMovie and GarageBand both have lost so much functionality over the past 8 years its not even funny. It’s like they quit making tools and now make toys.

    2. Krystyn Walentka

      Apple is not unlike the corporations that had no issue providing services for the Nazi’s, but I fear this is much worse. We cannot use the tools of the state if we need to fight the state.

      I am prepping to ditch my iPhone SE for a phone with LineageOS. I am just not sure if I should just give it to some needy homeless person or bury it.

      1. cnchal

        >. . . but I fear this is much worse.

        It is much worse. Apple’s profits come from totally abusing Chinese labor with the blessing of the Chinese elite, which takes a big cut too. Chinese labor is prohibited from any self organizing for better working conditions and pay, with the punishment for trying being killed. Those horrific working conditions are being adopted here, as for example witness the abuse heaped on Amazon warehouse workers. Wanting fairness is seen by Bezos and his ilk as laughable, and is fought mightily every step of the way. In the meantime the US government or any government using AWS is propping up and sanctifying that abuse by grossly overpaying for that service. How often do we hear of the fat margins AWS generates for Amazon, which subsidizes the crapola delivery and warehouse side of the business? All the time. The Wall Street criminals love it. On top of that there are direct subsidies by states and municipalities to Amazon, Apple and the rest of them for their power sucking data spy centers.

        I’m lucky, though. With one foot in an urn and another on a banana peel, I won’t see the absolute worst of it.

        The Hong Kong protesters know exactly what monsters the Chinese elite are.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Huh? You are assuming facts not in evidence, that the protests have anything to do with the US. The Chinese government is promoting the “outside agitators” line with no substantiation. And I’m sure the CIA would like to take credit because funding.

  6. Sam Adams

    First thought went through my head was, now we will have better breeding programs for our warrior class.

  7. Wukchumni

    Stuffed with sockeye salmon, ‘Holly’ wins ‘Fat Bear Week’ heavyweight title MPR News
    Was talking to Cody, the backcountry ranger @ Hockett Meadow, and he’s seen only 4 bears this summer, after a 4 month vigil deep in the back of beyond, and i’ve only encountered 3, one of which looked emaciated, a gaunt 2 or 3 year old.

    I didn’t really even see much in the way of their calling cards on or near the trail, or even off-trail. Does a bear shit in the woods anymore?

    In contrast to their dwindling numbers, i’ve seen hundreds of deer.

    1. Anthony G Stegman

      Last month I spent 5 days camped at Cold Springs in Mineral King. I hiked 65 miles over those 5 days and saw not a single bear. I was disappointed as I expected the bears to be out fattening up for winter hibernation.

  8. .Tom

    Re: Turkey, Syria.

    On BBC Global News Podcast Paul Adams said that Turkey’s primary goal is to “take on the Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG”. He also reported from a White House statement, I cannot find the original (can you?), but The Hill has the same text

    “Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place—and we will hold them to this commitment,” Trump said. “In addition, Turkey is now responsible for ensuring all ISIS fighters being held captive remain in prison and that ISIS does not reconstitute in any way, shape, or form. We expect Turkey to abide by all of its commitments, and we continue to monitor the situation closely.”

    The lack of any mention of the YPG implies that the US intends for Turkey to attack the YPG.

    1. Mike

      This was a lesson in Trump’s art of the deal. The deal here was, if I may guess, the urge to pull Turkey back from its ties to Russia, to maybe stop the installment of S-400 missiles, and get Erdogan back to the “let me into the EU” stance. Price? The Kurds, a long standing enemy that has been stated by Turkey to back before Erdogan took office. Since Kurds have no money or global standing within the powers-that-be, this “betrayal” was obviously in the offing no matter who was President. Coulda been done nicer, a la Obama-style, no?

      1. Mike

        That’s the ticket, it seems – try ElementaryOS, as it is very Apple-like, though still somewhat…elementary. Free, unless you wish to donate.

    1. David

      A lot of this is just hurt feelings: how dare non-whites make the same sort of demands of us that we make of them? But the balance of economic power in the world is changing, and we’re going to have to get used to western companies (those that still exist) responding to the demands of powerful states far away.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Weak, or not-powerful, non-white nations have different demands than powerful non-white states, and the former won’t be making any demands of western companies as often, nor as likely to be taken seriously.

        Separately, some demands move the world forward, while other demands set us back.

        The demand here, in this case, seems more like the latter.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Has Apple ‘kowtowed?’

      That was the thorny issue with the McCartney Embassy.

      And how does Apple compare with others, like Hollywood studios or NBA teams?

  9. Lee

    Watch Genius Pigs Use Tools in a Scientific First Vice

    Remember when tool use was considered to be an exclusively human trait that distinguished us from other critters? Welcome to the club, warty pigs!

    1. xkeyscored

      I’ve watched pigs cooperate in an effort to get a fence down. One per fence post, Heave, dig a bit more, 1,2,3, Heave again…
      I think they’d have succeeded if we hadn’t intervened.

      1. Craig H.

        Tom Harrisson in Living Among Cannibals reports human meat is closest to pork.

        (Probably just a coincidence.)

        1. Oregoncharles

          Both are omnivores. Hence, similar body chemistry.

          As far as the hybrid hypothesis: I read that. Intriguing, but still implausible. For one thing, it’s hard to imagine the initial hybrid being viable.

        2. The Rev Kev

          I don’t know if they still do it but the British not all that long ago used pigs to test out the impact of new rifles and bullets. Pig physiology was a good analogue for human physiology and few people put their hand up to be shot for testing purposes.

  10. Robert McGregor

    “Mexicans are killing each other at record rates. The U.S. provides the guns Los Angeles Times (resilc). Not surprising. The US is an arms merchant at every price point.”

    The miracle of “market segmentation.”

      1. marym

        Links to any research indicating that “that behavior” among illegal Mexican immigrants in California is statistically similar to that in Mexico? Or any correlation between the demographics of murderers in Mexico and illegal immigrants from Mexico?

        CATO 03/04/2019

        Marshall Project 05/13/2019 (Cites CATO studies and others)

      2. xkeyscored

        Ending the horrific and failed war on drugs might help the situation within Mexico and further south, which might in turn slow the flow of undocumented immigrants crossing the border if that’s what bothers you about US policy.
        When I was younger, drug smuggling was largely an amateur affair carried out by hippies. Today, well armed and organised transnational gangs dominate, with unsurprising results. Drugs continue to cross borders, and anyone who gets in the way gets killed.

      3. New Wafer Army

        I doubt they will be as violent as the last wave of people who invaded California. They were so spectacularly violent that they virtually wiped out every last native. perhaps the newest arrivals will be more peaceful?

  11. Robert McGregor

    “When social media stops being social: How Twitter and Facebook have rendered Americans uncivil, insecure & addicted RT (Kevin W)”

    “Modern Digital Culture” is a Net Loss.

    1. Jane

      Not so sure Facebook and Twitter are to blame for the “uncivil, insecure, and addicted.” The old BBS and discussion forums were not, for the most part, pleasant, especially for women. Facebook and Twitter increased the visibility of the festering nastiness, giving it a wider audience to feed on.

  12. JohnnyGL

    I’ve been reading Moon for a few years now. It’s a very good site, overall. It’s at its best when laying out the state of play in various geopolitical theaters, including the military dimensions. But, yes, there’s a bit of truth to your accusation that it’s pro-Russian. It also gets a bit over the top at times on some odd stories. But, on the other hand, US foreign policy has been completely idiotic of late and the Russians have been pretty adroit negotiators. So, I can’t really say for sure because I can’t think of a situation where the US has been doing something sensible while the Russians were acting like idiots….so, I don’t know how even-handed Moon would be in that situation, because it hasn’t really happened.

    That said, Moon laid out a couple of years ago how the Kurds joined in a US project to try to fill the void left by ISIS in order to drive a wedge between Syria and Iraq. However, Syrian army was able to retake the most strategically important parts and Iraq really hasn’t played ball with the US on this. So, the end result was just the Kurds and Kurdish led forces holding a large chunk of territory in northeast Syria that they’d never previously inhabited and were there for no other reason other than to keep it out of Assad’s hands.

    The Kurds didn’t have to participate in that project, they’d had cordial relations with the Russians and there were points where it seemed like a reconciliation with Assad was possible. They didn’t go in that direction and instead chose to hitch their wagon to the US and its largess of cash and weapons. There are people in the national security establishment that would very much like to create a Kurdistan and turn it into a 2nd Israel. That’s a crazy-pants idea.

    Now, we don’t have to think Assad’s a good guy, — he’s not. But what he did during his country’s civil war was no more/less awful than any other stubborn, determined leader would have done to save their own skin. Some group, possibly CIA-linked (Michael Morrell made cryptic comments in an interview once), assassinated Assad’s brother around the height of the conflict. When people fear for their life, they’re willing to do some very questionable things.

    Also, you don’t get to question whether Assad gets to rule Syria. The Syrian people get that choice and they generally seem to prefer Assad to the various rebel factions that have risen/fallen since 2011. Any reporter who’s been on the ground and talked to people in the midst of the conflict seem to find Assad wasn’t well liked but they all saw their choice being as simple as “Assad or ISIS”.

    Yves once summed things up brilliantly when she said ‘the kurds are good fighters and terrible negotiators’. Their leadership chose several years ago to go for the military option and not push for a diplomatic one.

    I don’t want to see people get killed or forced out of their homes, but their leadership chose to take that risk instead of figuring out how to get along with their neighbors.

    1. JohnnyGL

      dropping this related clip here because even though the interviewee seems to loaded with hatred for Iran, he’s right that we should have gotten the kurds to cut a deal with Assad.

      I can’t even imagine the media freakout if Trump had actually tried to negotiate with Russia and/or the Syrian govt on this issue….even if it would be the right thing to do. Ask Tulsi what happens when you talk to Assad.

      1. Mike

        Don’t see how that Kurdish/Syrian deal could have been accomplished when we honed their leadership to help fight Assad, in the hopes that this would take pressure off their war with the Turks by giving them land in northern Syria. Of course, behind the scenes (where all foreign policy lives), attempts might’ve been made to do just that, but Erdogan and the YPG have a hard time sitting at a table together.

        You are right to see the freakout. Trump was toast with the establishment no matter what he did here. Another sign of his isolation was the need for him to make those calls to Ukraine & China, instead of a guy who knows a guy who hires a guy… maybe Barr & Cronies are not trustworthy to the paranoid.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I think Cockburn is right that its not as simple as MoA seems to think – the potential blowback for the Kurds if they were ‘caught’ trying to do a deal with Assad/the Russians while the US was aiding them in fighting ISIS would have made it very difficult. And MoA also assumes that Assad would be interested in a deal that didn’t amount to a humiliation for the Kurds. From their point of view, they might have thought they could manipulate a ‘distant’ ally like the US more than one of their immediate neighbours.

      But it was definitely inept of them not to have seen this coming – once it was clear Assad was winning, there was only one long term likely outcome for them.

      This is also, it should be said, very bad news for Assad, as it means the Turks are in Syria to stay.

      1. JohnnyGL

        Also, we shouldn’t discount that western media/mic want to push a narrative that if we DO NOT put troops everywhere, civilians die. The danger is that a reduced military presence gets done incompetently and tied to trump as a ‘discredited’ idea.

        I suspect the turkish incursion is more molehill than mountain. We saw this same playbook in 2016 when the battle for Aleppo was raging. Media screamed ‘genocide’ and it was far from true, even if urban warfare is usually particularly nasty.

        1. pjay

          Here is Elijah Magnier’s latest take, in which the Kurdish leadership still appears pretty stubborn:

          “What is surprising is the fact that, in the circumstances, the Kurdish leadership has not lowered their expectations realistically in negotiations with the government of Damascus concerning their request to form a federation in the country. The Kurds have asked Damascus, in the presence of Russian and Iranian negotiators, to allow them to retain control over the very rich oil and gas fields they occupy in a bit less than a quarter of Syrian territory. Furthermore, the Kurds have asked that they be given full control of the enclave on the borders with Turkey without any Syrian Army presence or activity! Damascus doesn’t want to act as border control guards and would like to regain control of all Syrian territory. The Syrian government wants to end the accommodations the Kurds are offering to the US and Israel, similar to what happened with the Kurds of Iraq.”

          A useful update overall.

          1. JohnnyGL

            Wow, if that’s even 1/2 right…it’s loony-toons level crazy.

            The only ace in the hole those guys have to play is the fact that lots of MIC thinkers look at Kurds, admire the fight they’ve shown, and think, “with the right help, we could turn them into another Israel”.

            And they say it like it’s a GOOD idea. For the rest of us…especially people living in the region, it’s a prescription for endless war.

            Separately, I don’t know what happened to the original comment in this thread that I was replying to in my first post! Whole thing seems weird, out of context.

        2. Katniss Everdeen

          Kurds, Uyghurs, Yazidis, Coptic Christians, White Helmets…..

          I think there’s a dartboard in the pentagon press office. In the unlikely event that some big orange rogue politician tries to pull american troops out of some hellhole, they throw darts to choose a group that can be represented as existentially and “immorally” threatened without the training and protection of american “special forces” supermen.

          Then the PR offensive commences with doses of guilt, fleeing / dead civilians especially children (as if the shooting war is better for those civilians especially children), “ally” abandonment, isis, military-turned-mic-lobbyist outrage, bone spurs, emoluments and rejection at the gates of heaven as needed.

          Oh, and the penultimate accusation of “just doing it to fulfill a campaign promise” to get reelected.

          Too bad the guy with the nobel peace prize has left the building. He’d know what to do to keep the wars going.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            The US is the policeman of the world. We want the cost and headache of that? Y or N. If N, then let the consequences flow. You either want Empire or you don’t. I subscribe to what Ron Paul said, when asked when he would pull American troops from overseas he responded: “as soon as the boats can get there”.

            Oh horror. The rest of the world would get self-determination. Just like a bunch of disgruntled farmers did in North America around 1776.

      2. xkeyscored

        definitely inept of them not to have seen this coming – once it was clear Assad was winning, there was only one long term likely outcome for them
        I’d omit everything after the hyphen. Entirely predictable, with plenty of precedent. And I think many Kurds expected it too; they were well aware of Kurdish history and US temporary tactical alliances.
        In fact, is there anyone left in the world who trusts the USA or expects loyalty from it? I get the impression even its closest allies, such as Europe and Israel, are busy reviewing and revising their Plan Bs.

    3. Mike

      It seems I have heard this constant message everywhere – “Assad is not a good guy, but what we did…”. To me, Assad, like Putin, like any US President, needs to take account of their own national oligarchy, the economic/political/religious established order, and decide how much they wish to remake or replace, and to whom to listen. This is not a neutral, all-go-happy event – some people die, and we are not different except in the ability of our media and educational system in building a myth around the acceptable actions, covering up the “details”.

      With the UN in abeyance (crippled, even if weak before), the global elite culture is making the decisions as to who is acceptable, and it will often seem inscrutable to us, especially as we live inside the media bubble of empire, where secrecy is the rule, profit/power the method. We need to know more, and reliably so.

      Moon operates under the thought that, while Putin, Assad, Khoumeni, etc. may be flawed, their nations and policies are, so far, defensive in nature, defending against the major powers of the Western world, aligned against them. This puts these leaders in the stance of a third-world fighter against “imperialism”, according to this idea. All bloggers and publishers in Moon’s position should know that change in the alignment and relative power of any nation presents the bad aspects of that society to the world. Russia’s rise to world leadership, like China’s, like X’s, is a threat to be dangerous, just like the US’s rise was. Nationalism, in this particular global structure, in this specific economic domination, cannot lead out of this morass, and no nation or “hero” can arise that answers it without a challenge to the structures enabling it.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Sounds like you don’t really believe in the nation as a construct?

        That’s quite a tide to swim against. People tend to agglomerate based on shared ethnicity, culture, resources, or sometimes just based on superior military strength.

        It’s nice to think there is some universal set of values we could all agree to, and get along. I’d point to America’s 19-year war to get Afghanistan to adopt Western values as just one example of the futility of that.

        If the US treated the rest of the world fairly we would have the moral standing to bring the worst offenders around or at least to quarantine their spread through goodwill cooperation with their immediate neighbors. We don’t.

        I do still mostly view WWII as a “good fight”, US financing of the Nazi war machine (Ford, Bush) aside. Since then? Not so much.

        1. Mike

          There is not much to “believe in” for or against. Totally correct that humans aggregate along well understood and very partial lines, but I would venture to offer just that kind of ethnic/language/cultural/religious grouping could be done without the terrible borders we see now, where ethnic and religious groups are split between national borders that create two things – animosity between the states for having ‘their’ minority captive, and the ability to abuse the minority within their state. If we had a real UN, or a global government along the lines of “The Day the Earth Stood Still”,it would be better (although the robot thing is scary).

          The bottom line, to me, is any nation formed or forming in this political chaos has the potential to do great damage. Russia, Iran, China, and Syria are demonized by our feckless leaders, and we here are smart enough to see through it by understanding our nation could be demonized as well. So I ask, where does that leave nationalism as it is currently practiced? Should we be crazy and continue what is already an insane method?

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        In the film, Black and White In Color, the natives in Africa look on at the Europeans fighting among themselves, blowing up the habitat of the former.

        There are other humans outside of Putin, Assad, Xi, Hillary, et al, and their nations, who don’t benefit from any of combatants. All they see and can say is ‘your shells are landing in my garden, some unexploded.’

    4. anon in so cal

      Re: Syria’s “civil war”

      The US has a long history of working with the Muslim Brotherhood.

      “”The participation of local Muslim Brotherhood followers, who would assist the foreign Libyan mercenaries/terrorists, was an essential part of the CIA plan, which was well scripted and directed from Jordan”

      “Deraa was teaming with activity and foreign visitors to Syria well before the staged uprising began its opening act…..The CIA agents running the Deraa operation from their office in Jordan had already provided the weapons and cash needed to fuel the flames of revolution in Syria….”

      Then there’s the Obama Brennan CIA’s Operation Timber Sycamore, which gave $1 Billion per year, for several years, to “moderate rebels” (from all over the world).

      Trump ended this program, to the chagrin of Brennan and McCain

      1. Olga

        To this handy list, I’d add:

        A good history, including this bit of context:

        “For Americans to really understand what’s going on, it’s important to review some details about this sordid but little-remembered history. During the 1950s, President Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers—CIA Director Allen Dulles and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles—rebuffed Soviet treaty proposals to leave the Middle East a neutral zone in the Cold War and let Arabs rule Arabia. Instead, they mounted a clandestine war against Arab nationalism—which Allen Dulles equated with communism—particularly when Arab self-rule threatened oil concessions. They pumped secret American military aid to tyrants in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon favoring puppets with conservative Jihadist ideologies thath they regarded as a reliable antidote to Soviet Marxism. At a White House meeting between the CIA’s director of plans, Frank Wisner, and John Foster Dulles, in September 1957, Eisenhower advised the agency, “We should do everything possible to stress the ‘holy war’ aspect,” according to a memo recorded by his staff secretary, Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster.”

        Nothing has really changed. More than 70 yrs of almost non-stop intervention in Syria.

    5. Chris Cosmos

      This reference to Assad not being a “good guy” is meaningless to me. If you’ve ever been in a serious fight with determined opponents you have to do some bad things. This notion has created a lot of misery for American soldiers who know very well the atrocities they’ve committed in combat would remove them from the “good guy” category. Other than that great analysis. I will add or amplify that Kurdish leaders believed the palettes of cash they must have received was worth the casualties their side will suffer. The Empire is transitioning from rule by gunpoint to rule by bribery and sanctions. I guess we’ll have to call that progress.

      1. Olga

        I was going to say something similar. Completely meaningless… with the main purpose of deflecting from far more difficult and uncomfortable questions via what is in effect an emotional appeal/diversion. The relevant point is – after eight years of war, Assad is still the president – there was no widespread demand by ordinary Syrians to kick him out. Why would that be?

      2. gordon

        The two go together. They always have. The important point to note is that there are no rules any more. The post-WWII settlement based on the UN, self-determination, human rights, relinquishment of war as an instrument of international relations has collapsed. We are back in an era of unconstrained Great Power rivalries and manoeuvring. Just like the era that culminated in WWI, in fact.

    6. Yves Smith Post author

      Please do not put words in our mouths. We have not said anything that even dimly resembles what you attributed to us. Straw manning is a violation of our written site Policies.

      We have expressed a different view on the Hong Kong protests than the one MoA has advanced. Even though we did not say we disagreed with him, much the less question any of his HK posts, he attacked a reader in a nasty and flagrantly false manner in our comments section and has attacked us several times since then at his site. I had no idea he was so thin skinned and even worse, so narcissistic as to take things personally that were not about him.

    1. Mike

      On the sidebar, RealClear has an item about Hillary and trying now to defeat Trump. Yup, Biden in a pantsuit will be an advantage to some. Downhill is easier with momentum.

  13. The Rev Kev

    “From ‘Gemini Man’ to ‘The Irishman’: Dawn of the De-Aged Actor”

    This is a bad development this. It is not enough that you have sequels and prequels and things like Transformers 14 and so on. With this development you are recycling the same old tired actors but with a bit of digital buffing. There was a 2010 film called “The Expendables” which featured a whole bunch of tired 1980s/1990s stars in what was a forgettable film. So of course Hollywood did two more sequels. With this development you could do this film again and make them look like what they appeared like thirty or forty years ago. Yeah, progress? How are young actors supposed to get a look-in? Where are they going to get roles to help them launch their careers? I suppose that this is only going to be a temporary problem though. It is only a matter of time before studios come out with digital actors that have no basis in reality but which cannot be told from real people in films. I’m told that the more expensive digital actors will have only very little egos.

    1. Acacia

      It is only a matter of time before studios come out with digital actors that have no basis in reality but which cannot be told from real people in films.

      Cf. Michael Crichton’s Looker (1981)

      1. Lord Koos

        I heard that Amy Winehouse’s father put together a tour that features a hologram of Amy.

        There is a fantastic and mostly overlooked movie on this subject, called The Congress. It stars Robin Wright as an actress who in hard times sells the digital rights to herself to a corporation.

      1. Plenue

        That case had nothing to do with wanting youth. Kevin Spacey was much more marketable and relevant than semi-retired Plummer…until suddenly he was revealed to be a creepy sex pervert and became toxic to the touch.

    2. Summer

      Younger actors should actually be glad.
      They will not defy aging and could actually extend their careers instead of having the more likely shelf life of an athlete.

    3. Summer

      Don’t want to dwell, but thought of another point. You wrote:
      “How are young actors supposed to get a look-in? Where are they going to get roles to help them launch their careers?”

      Step up their acting game and be more than the new, hot, sexy young thing that slept with the right people….

      1. Mike

        It’s not all sleeping, but true that your look determines whether you get the backing. In music, it is amazing to me how many sexy-fied artists are out there, making me wonder how many semi-ugly or out-of-shape but better-talented artists are passed up in the process of talent development. Worth a study, if it could be designed to not abuse those left out (identity politics?).

      2. Big River Bandido

        This implies that there are scripts and screenplays, and good roles for them to play, in good plays, movies, and teevee shows.

        I don’t disagree with your critique of modern actors, but the actor can only play the part. There first must be a good show, and a good role written for them to play. So much of today’s “entertainment industry” de-values the role of the creative process. Actors, by themselves, are generally powerless to interfere with that trend.

    4. ewmayer

      “It is only a matter of time before studios come out with digital actors that have no basis in reality but which cannot be told from real people in films.” — Already happening, for example Peter Cushing’s character in Disney’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) — for which the IMDB trivia page says:

      The character of Grand Moff Tarkin, played in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) by Peter Cushing, is revived and “performed” by Cushing, despite his death in 1994. Cushing was resurrected with CGI by Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) with the blessing of his estate, and actually performed by Guy Henry on set. Henry and ILM went through hours of old footage from Cushing in order to get all of his facial mannerisms right. Henry then performed the role on set, while wearing head-mounted cameras that recorded all his facial movements. ILM then replaced his face with a digital mask of Cushing. As luck would have it, a face cast of Cushing made for Top Secret! (1984) had recently been found in an archive, and was of great use in this process. Cushing received a special “with special recognition to Peter Cushing” honorable mention in the end credits. Similarly, with the blessing of Carrie Fisher, the character of young Princess Leia has a brief cameo, with much help recreating her facial features with CGI, while physically performed by Ingvild Deila.

      I had previously commented on said digital recreation in an NC Links discussion (before having see the above page), at the time I wondered how the estate of the late Mr. Cushing felt about that, but it’s clear it was done with the blessing of his estate.

  14. Winston Smith

    Best way to relax. Go to a cabin in the woods without power or internet for a weekend, preferably in the colder season so you don’t need to worry about refrigeration. You will sleep well (and lots), your mind will clear the web-generated floatsam and jetsam…

    1. Mike

      Amen – maybe just writing some of your own thoughts without reference to someone else’s regurgitated ideas. Cobweb-clearing plus.

    1. nippersmom

      I love this man. Is he perfect? Of course not–who is? But he is sincere, hard-working, pursues policies that benefit the many rather than the few, and has integrity, traits that are increasingly hard to find, especially in politicians.

    2. June Goodwin

      Was just waiting for this! Note Bernie’s not “yelling” (don’t get me wrong, I loved his “yelling”), but this is more sober and determined. Watch out – because we’re behind him because he’s got our issues. Eliz. Warren still hasn’t taken up Bernie’s policy (new last week) that he will not take money for the Dem convention or when we have the Bernie inauguration. We noticed. She’s a waverer and always has been.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Liz is a waverer fake.

        OK let’s be generous and imagine she really means well and has her heart in the right place.


        The time for a ThirdWay-reach-across-the-aisle-with-everyone-at-the-table-so-we-can-try-to-get-something-done has long since passed.

        Power concedes nothing without a series of hearings and plans and equivocations and brunches and listening tours demand

    3. chuck roast

      Thank you for this link.
      In my long life I have never seen a pol with such humble caring and genuineness. His humanity really is a blessing.

  15. The Rev Kev

    Re the Extinction Rebellion protester who grounded that flight.

    Sorry, but the way that he was acting and the fact that he took care to be filming his own performance continuously on his mobile just made him seem a virtue signaler – and a wally.

    1. jef

      I thought he handled it very well and commend him for his courage. Too few are willing to stand up. Some need to more than spend all their time making clever quips on the internet.

      1. The Rev Kev

        The Extinction Rebellion had a choice. Either take the fight to those who actually had power, demonstrate outside their homes and offices, hassle those that were taking all these destructive ideas and putting them into practice – OR inconvenience the little people who have almost no say in the whole matter and will be most affected by climate change. Guess which way they went?
        If, in twenty years, we discover that the Extinction rebellion movement was totally infiltrated by governments and industry and was persuaded to use totally self-destructive ideas and policies to sabotage the entire project, it would not surprise me in the least. Damned fools had a solid chance to get vitally needed public support for their ideas so they turned around and kicked them in the teeth. Way to go Extinction Rebellion.

        1. xkeyscored

          inconvenience the little people
          I don’t know the numbers, but I expect air travellers are a small, even tiny, minority of the world’s population. With an outsize impact on the environment.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Here in Australia they have been gluing themselves down in major traffic intersections in different cities and on bridges while at one place they were burying their heads in sand-


            This does not strike me as winning tactics no matter how dedicated those protestors are. I am certain that those in power would not be taking them seriously.

  16. Kurt Sperry

    News from Italy: in what may turn out to be nothing, but it shows signs of possibly being significant, Leghista Raffaele Volpi (from La Lega, Salvini’s party who are warm to Trump) today won the seat of President of Copasir, the legislative oversight group of the Italian intel services (“i 007” in Italian slang). One of those aforementioned signs would be Italian center-left PM Guiseppe Conte’s palpably frantic, and in the end futile, efforts to prevent Volpi’s securing that post happening. Conte and the center-left affiliated Italian Blob seem desperate to keep the lid on whatever transpired in two visits to Italy by Trump’s AG William Barr, who one suspects was looking for damaging counter-ammo to use in the event of a Senate impeachment trial against Trump. Further and likely related questions are being asked about missing “Maltese professor” and enigma Joseph Mifsud (see Mueller inquiry), part owner of spooky pseudo-academic and probably CIA-affiliated Link University in Rome, who dropped off the face of the Earth last year in a way that suggests friends in high and spooky places. One of the things Barr was almost certainly after from the Italian intelligence services was Mifsud’s likely whereabouts.

    This may turn out to be damp squib, but the way the Italian Blob have been rather desperately trying to keep the lid on Barr’s inquiries in Rome and the questions arising from those and the Mifsud disappearance raise suggests otherwise. I don’t know if there are any good English language treatments of this unfolding spook story, but I have a feeling that if there aren’t yet, there will be in due course. This is currently pretty big news in Italy, with even center-left PD newspaper juggernaut la Repubblica giving it significant play.

    1. DJG

      Kurt Sperry: Thanks. Last week, Repubblica ran an article about George Papadopoulos and his wife, who is Italian. They did not have kind things to say about George’s treatment. They also mentioned the mysterious Mifsud.

      So there is something going on, but I am inclined to think that the Lega (not exactly the “smart” party) won’t follow up well. Any party that thought that Salvini’s Papeete summer and insults were going to play well in Calabria and Italy can be easily outfoxed.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        Yeah, I started a fire with that issue of la Repubblica the other night when it got rather cold here in the Appenine foothills. That paper reminds me of the NYT, they often hire great writers and cover non-political subjects like culture, the arts, and literature impressively, but their political stuff is obviously center-left/neoliberally biased.

  17. Seth Miller

    Rent Control and Rent Stabilization

    A minor quibble: NYC rent control does not require the renewal of leases. Rather, it compels the landlord to keep the tenant in occupancy under the original lease, the terms of which are extended. See, Stern v. Equitable Trust Company of New York 238 NY 267, 144 NE 578 (1924) “by suspending possessory remedies under the lease, these laws extended, against the will of the landlord, the right of the tenant to remain in possession of the leased premises . . . the tenant does remain in possession, not by virtue of any agreement, expressed or implied, either as to duration of term or amount of rent, but by virtue of the compulsion which the law exerts on the landlord to allow him [or her] to remain.”

    The chief problem with this year’s California legislation, as I understand it, is that there is no limit on rent increases after a vacancy, and that there are still large loopholes that allow pretextual evictions (e.g. claims of owner use).

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t quibble with the loose way in which the term ”rent control” is used. It’s come to mean any form of price control that applies to rents. Originally it meant a system whereby individual rents were set only by order (e.g. NYC in theory but not in practice, and the abolished former system in Cambridge MA in practice). Nobody really has a true rent control system in that sense anymore. “Rent stabilization” originally was used by the Lindsay Administration as a way to give its system of on-the-surface landlord self-regulation a different name, so it could claim it wasn’t rent control.

  18. noonespecial

    Re: Ecuador

    The following is a quick translation of a quote from a Colombia-based news service on Ecuador’s current situation:

    Indigenous protesters gathered at the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana (CCE) of Quito detained this Thursday eight police officers and warned that they will apply ancestral justice if government forces order an attack on this site. “We have been notified that the Government is starting to send tear gas bombs, as such our indigenous leaders will not release those police officers as we need respect. If they hurt us, we will apply native ancestral justice,” said Efe Fabián Masabanda, representative of the indigenous people of the Imbabura province.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Sometimes, the police officers are also indigenous people.

      I’m thinking of the film, Warriors of the Rainbow, Seediq Bale, about an indigenous uprising in Colonial Taiwan against the Japanese.

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