Links 12/10/19

Why New Zealand’s White Island Erupted Without Warning Scientific American

Top Polluters Told to Do More to Fight Warming: COP25 Update Bloomberg

How a closed-door meeting shows farmers are waking up on climate change Politico

Greenwish: the wishful thinking undermining the ambition of sustainable business Real World Economics Review


Boy on the floor photo prompts Boris to add larceny to mendacity Guardian. Johnson: “I’m sorry to have taken your phone, but there you go” (!!). More here. And here:

Brexit: a lack of focus EU Referendum

In U.K. Vote, Online Disinformation Is the New Normal NYT. The UK, you say.

France set for further transport chaos on sixth day of pension strikes France24

France’s regulator AMF fines Morgan Stanley 20 million euros Reuters

Why Italy’s Bridges Keep Collapsing Bloomberg


What really happened in Iran? Pepe Escobar, Asia Times


Hong Kong offices become new battleground in protests FT

Human rights are universal, which is why the United States stands with Hong Kong Hanscom Smith, South China Morning Post. Hanscom Smith is the US consul general for Hong Kong and Macau. We should try them!

* * *

There’s an app for that. Important thread:

Seems an odd approach for a putatively communist nation to take.

Venezuela’s Civilian Militia Surpasses Target, Reaches 3.3 Million Members Venezuelanalysis

Brazil to send security force to indigenous land after two shot dead Reuters


Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi’s India New Yorker

US agency completes implementation of H-1B electronic registration process for 2021 cap season The Hindu

Seven-Eleven Japan failed to pay 490m yen in overtime pay Nikkei Asian Review

Suu Kyi set to make history in Hague genocide case Agence France Presse

New Cold War

Russia, Ukraine agree to ceasefire by year-end at Paris talks Deutsche Welle. The Blob must be furious.

It’s Time for Ukraine to Let the Donbass Go Foreign Policy


Trump impeachment: House Democrats to announce at least 2 articles of impeachment Tuesday USA Today. That’s today!

Senate looks for holiday truce on impeachment trial Politico

FBI was justified in opening Trump campaign probe, but case plagued by ‘serious failures,’ inspector general finds WaPo

The FBI Inspector General’s Report Has Bad News for Democrats, Too Eli Lake, Bloomberg. The deck: “The party is increasingly becoming the chief defender of the national surveillance state.”

Trump Transition

‘The Interagency’ Isn’t Supposed to Rule WSJ

Trump Offers Hunter Biden Job In Energy Department Based On Oil Industry Experience The Onion

As Secret Pentagon Spending Rises, Defense Firms Cash in Defense One

Compromise defense bill expands benefits, creates Space Force Politico

Amazon lawsuit blames Trump for loss of Pentagon cloud contract Reuters

California Could Lose $2 Billion of Budget Surplus Due to Feud With Trump KQED


Democrats pick Hillary Clinton as 2020 frontrunner in new party poll New York Post. Now they’re just trolling us.

Boeing 737 MAX

Boeing 737 MAX was plagued with production problems, whistleblower says Seattle Times. “When [Ed Pierson, a former manager on the Boeing 737 MAX production line] met with [the head of the 737 program, Scott Campbell] in July 2018, he said, he again urged Boeing to shut down the MAX line. Pierson had spent decades in the Navy before joining Boeing and said he told Campbell that he had seen the military stop exercises over less serious concerns. In response, he claims, Campbell said, ‘The military isn’t a profit-making organization.'” Boom. As we say.

Health Care

UnitedHealth Group: 2020 Revenues To Eclipse $260B Forbes

Everything’s going according to plan:

Medicare For All Would Improve Hospital Financing Health Affairs. See also NC here.

Imperial Collapse Watch

Empire, Twenty Years On NLR. Dense, but as always with NLR, rigorous, agree or disagree.

‘We Committed Copyright Infringement and Want to Be Sued by Disney’ Fortune (dk).

Why the profit motive fails in education The Conversation

Class Warfare

Investigating cooperation with robotic peers PLOS One

File an Information Request with Every Grievance Labor Notes

Man who ate the $120,000 banana art installation says he isn’t sorry and did it to create art CNN. Duchamp would be proud:

The first effort to regulate AI was a spectacular failure Fast Company

How William Gibson Keeps His Science Fiction Real The New Yorker (TH). The public relations campaign for Agency begins. Good background, though.

When did societies become modern? ‘Big history’ dashes popular idea of Axial Age Nature

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. The Rev Kev

    “Senate looks for holiday truce on impeachment trial”

    So the Democrats have been at the throats of the Republicans and visa versa the past few months with law after law either being trashed or ignored. But now that Christmas is almost here, they both get together and decide to leave it off and start it off next year? Seriously? I think that what we are seeing is a Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog relationship between the two parties-

    1. Geo

      Where’s your Christmas spirit? Isn’t this the season of putting aside differences and coming together in harmony? Why let a years worth of accusations of treason get in the way of their holiday plans? The “fate of the nation” can surely wait until the new year. For now, they have lobbyist cocktail parties to attend and gifts to open!

    1. Arizona Slim

      And it’s why those Partnership for America’s Health Care Future ads are stalking me all over YouTube. You’ve probably seen them. They paint a picture of one-size-fits all, government-run health care.

      Well, Partnership, you are really wasting your money. If I didn’t support Medicare for All before, I really do now.

    2. inode_buddha

      See?? This is proof the system works! No taxation without representation! The people have spoken, and they have representation! //sarc

    3. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      GM completely retooled during WWII to make tanks. Then retooled again after the war for peacetime. At some point we will need to retool > 50% of the entire American economy: the MIC, the HIC, and the WIC (Wall St)

  2. Henry Moon Pie

    Modern Societies–

    The Nature article is mainly about the trendy use of “big data” to make inter-society comparisons that are cross-temporal as well as cross-cultural. Interesting, but what really struck me were the value judgments attached to this Axial Age, whether or not it took place in the way that its “inventor,” Karl Jaspers, theorized.

    This ‘Axial Age’ [occurring during the first millennium BCE) transformed an archaic world of divine rulers, slavery and human sacrifice into a more enlightened era that valued social justice, family values and the rule of law…

    This step, Jaspers argued, was prompted by the teachings of lone cultural innovators — Plato, the Hebrew prophets, Zarathustra, Buddha and Confucius — and initiated a trend that eventually touched the entire globe.

    Jaspers’s theory advances these two points:

    1) Developments during this Axial Age, like the “publication” of the Code of Hammurabi, represent “advances” in human society; and

    2) These “advancements” were built on top of Platonic/Zoroastrian dualism and monotheism.

    Jeremy Lent’s The Patterning Instinct, essentially a survey of anthropological, historical and sociological research over the past 30 years, comes to exactly the opposite conclusion:

    1) The hierarchy between human and human and between humanity and the Earth appear as a consequence of the human turn to a more sedentary life supported by agriculture. These were not “advancements” in and of themselves.
    Human-to-human hierarchy made life so bad for the common Jane and Joe in the period of initial transition to agriculture that human life expectancy dropped substantially from hunter-gatherer days. Human-to-Earth hierarchy has led us to our current ecological disaster.

    2) Monotheism and Platonic dualism combined to make the ill effects of these hierarchies even worse. Monotheism’s transcendent, anthropomorphic god became the object of worship and reverence rather than the animistic spirits with whom hunter-gatherers interacted. Platonic dualism, refined into Descartes’s “mind” separate from mechanistic matter, has contributed to our regarding the Earth and all its non-human creatures as resources to be exploited.

    It’s good that there’s so much interest these days in re-evaluating who we are, why we’re here and how we relate to the world around us. As those monotheistic religions lose their hold on many, we’re groping around for other ways to orient and understand ourselves. It’s really been a question almost my entire life. I remember that old Time “Is God Dead?” cover from the Sixties. And I remember Joni Mitchell’s quandary:

    Then can I walk beside you?
    I have come here to lose the smog,
    And I feel to be a cog in something turning, round and round.
    Well maybe it is just the time of year,
    Or maybe it’s the Time of Man.
    I don’t know who I am,
    But you know life is for learning.

    We are stardust.
    We are golden.
    And we’ve got to get ourselves
    Back to the garden.

    Joni Mitchell, “Woodstock” (audio link)

    1. Chris Cosmos

      Thanks for opening up this subject–without wading into some deep issues the surface is often misunderstood.

      We live at a time when history is pulling in many directions. We are, fundamentally, a consumer society thus money is the bottom-line determiner of morality. Now most healthy people don’t really believe that all there to determine social worth is money but, basically, without a vigorous religious tradition or metaphysical/philosophical framework we can agree on that is reality.

      We are missing some basis for morality over and above money and power. Some are retreating into tradition and orthodox religion–Rod Dreher at The American Conservative is an articulate defender of that point of view and urges believers to establish their own communities so that their values can be re-enforced. I believe this is simply impossible. I live around conservative Christians and they may have feelings about traditional morality but they live a consumerist-based life; the rest of their beliefs are abstract and follow whatever formula their pastors preach on Sunday but then go ahead and ignore all the fundamental teachings of Christianity the rest of the time. Even New Age-(my general POV) people will talk a good game but when push-comes-to-shove they have to have a job and live in the world and buy stuff to demonstrate their identity cause that’s what we do.

      People, particularly on the left, are talking about making a more compassionate society yet voted for Clinton, Obama, and now still support Biden who are distinctly center-right politicians whose values are quite simple–if you got the money you can play, otherwise we have jails or the street. To have a compassionate and healthy society there has to be vigorous values based on solid metaphysics beyond self-interest, consumerism and the culture of narcissism. This is why we can do NOTHING whatsoever about any real issues we commonly face other than chase chimeras, illusions, delusions and bizarre myths of American Exceptionalism, sentimental emotionalism about pets (children are no longer as winning as they once were), climate-change denialism, paranoid fantasies about the UN, Muslims, Jews, Russians and the absurdity of identity/tribal politics—all this sort of thing is common on cultural left and right.

      Yet, most people I know have strong moral instincts about what is right and wrong and would probably agree whether they were conservative Christians or Wiccans. I believe both neuroscience and social science show that there is a kind of Natural Law morality that starts with some traditional virtues we all know like generosity/compassion, truth-telling, courage, and some level of self-control and awareness but they can’t be the basis of a culture without a metaphysical framework. How we translate all this into a viable social morality in the midst of a culture that preaches the opposite values with a smiley face is something we will have to find out somehow.

      1. xkeyscored

        there has to be vigorous values based on solid metaphysics beyond self-interest
        I think, on the contrary, we need to base our values solidly on our self-interest. We need to recognise we are now determining the future of ourselves and our planet. Do we continue to be atomised individuals who ‘have a job’ and live in a world controlled by dark forces like The Market, the 0.1%, and the (deep) state, a world becoming worse by the minute, with the ever-present threat of global nuclear war hanging over us, or take collective control of our destiny for ourselves?
        Basing our values on anything other than our self-interest seems, IMO, to lead only to more metaphysical mystification.

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          I’m not sure we have a clear enough idea of who the “self” is these days to figure out what its interests might be.

              1. xkeyscored

                Exactly what I think is the problem. Until we learn to see ourselves as responsible for what we do to our societies and our planet, I see myself as up against it all. I might as well go for it, earn tons of money, snort loads of cocaine, live a high impact lifestyle affecting millions of others, and say “Well, what can I do about it anyway?”

    2. Craig H.

      Seshat was Egyptian goddess of record keeping. She did not have a cool zoo morph head and a google image search was not fruitful. My other question was not answered. Is there a difference between a social historian and a historical sociologist?

      The best part was definitely the graphic of the different Axial Age proposals. From Big Age to little age it was:

      1400 BC – 600 AD
      650 BC – 550 BC

      Also I checked wikipedia and they said the biggest thing happening in 600 BC was Babylonians killing Assyrians.

      1. Swamp Yankee

        Craig H. — yes, there is a difference between a social historian and an historical sociologist.

        In short, history and sociology are different and distinct disciplines, so even if they look at the same thing (say, the ancient Near East), an historian and a sociologist are going to come at it from very different perspectives.

        Generally speaking: sociologists are social scientists, like economists, psychologists, political scientists, anthropologists (mostly); they tend to be more interested in discerning larger “laws” of human behavior, tend toward a more quantitative approach in recent decades;

        Historians are humanists, and thus more of a family relation with students of philosophy and literature, tend to be far more interested in the particular, the contingent, the concrete leading to the abstract, rather than the abstract leading to the concrete.

        Now, there is a lot of good interdisciplinary work being done, but as platonic types, I think the above holds mostly true.

        (Full disclosure: I am an historian by training).

    3. Steve H.

      To be clear, the cited article presents Jaspers arguments to shred them. The value judgments about primary origins drop out when societies who were not linked to Jaspers’ primary sources, are shown to create a similar cohort of factors indicated by the proxy measures. The article provides validation for your view that Jaspers was incorrect in this.

      But it disagrees with Lent’s assertion about western/Greek influence, which I suggest falls into the same trap Jaspers fell into. On p.144, he cites Jaspers without critique. I’ll note Lent’s purpose in writing the book is aiming at a new synthesis worldview for our modern problems. As such, he is surveying the surveyors: Thom Hartmann, Dawkins, Alan Watts… There are as many interpreters as there are original sources in his footnotes. Lent holds a BA in English Lit, and an MBA, and we could say he is trying to create a narrative for a better world. I’m not mad at all. I’ll just give a caution about his scholarship, and thus his implicit assumptions.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        Thanks for this comment. I had not noticed that Lent cites Jaspers.

        I had a similar reaction to the portion of Lent’s book that touched on an area where I have some academic background: the Hebrew bible. The theory of the origins of monotheism that Lent picks, while held by some, would not have passed muster in the environment I was in. No role for the Ugaritic city states. No monotheists until Second Isaiah. Essentially nothing original or pre-Exilic in the entire corpus of the Hebrew bible. I can imagine how that would have gone over in the institution where I saw a visiting prof shredded for suggesting some limited sections of Leviticus came from the Middle Assyrian laws.

        With all that said, Lent’s book provides a nice, very readable, introduction to this topic of cultural transformation or whatever it ends up being called. Our current social and cultural stalemate has been going on for 50 years with little or no move toward some kind of new synthesis. In the meantime, we have a declining life expectancy because of suicides and ODs, waterways measurably polluted by anti-depressants and a complete collapse of any kind of ethical or moral standards in the business and and political worlds.

        And if any kind of new consensus worldview is to emerge, wouldn’t it be nice if that worldview had two characteristics:

        1) it “fits” human proclivities as they can best be determined by current scholarship; and

        2) it is compatible both with human empathy and human love and awe for the natural world of which we’re part.

        1. JP

          The Axial age is about the concept of a personal god becoming widely accepted. As with older concepts and organized religion, it requires adherence to a belief system. We are still firmly embedded in the axial. An evolution to a new “worldview” would be possibly replacing the concept of Deity with an acceptance of reality. Reality, as in gravity, doesn’t require belief. The new acceptance of reality frees one of the need to filter ones thoughts through a preconceived screen. Some people believe in science but science is not a belief system. It is a process for discovery. Individual progress will come about when the need to believe is abandoned. The new age, or new consensus worldview will arrive when pursuit of reality is widely accepted. The doors of perception open when the heavy goggles are removed.

    4. JP

      While a little tedious I liked Robert Bellah’s Religion in Human Evolution. A more modern look at the Axial as a step in the evolution of society and individual thinking about place in the cosmos.

      He demonstrates that the transition was very much about deity becoming personal rather then the tool of kings (crowd control). He looks at more remote societies such as Hawaii.

      I think we could consider the axial as a phenomenon spread through time and humanity

    5. Krystyn Walentka

      Yes, thanks for this. Advancement? No thanks. I need the Code of Hammurabi like I need a smart fridge.

      A good beginners take on what you explained is laid out in Ryan Christopher’s “Civilized to Death”.

      To me money is just a symbol of stored food, or rather, my share of stored food.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        Summa awilum… Yeah, that characterization struck me too.

        Yeah, Christopher Ryan is another one, like Lent, writing about this. Jimmy Dore even did a long interview of him about Civilized to Death

        About that money as stored food symbol, I’m still pondering the depth of meaning of that Piraha saying:

        I store my meat in the belly of my brother.


        1. skippy

          I for defective reasons always visualize the topic as the Starving Marvin episode of South Park.

          Sally Fields warehouse in the middle of the desert filled with food for those in need, where she resides over all of it as Jabba the Hut.

    6. Amfortas the hippie

      aye. the dualism/descartes problem.
      you reminded me of one of my favorite philosophers that nobody’s ever heard of:
      Eugen Rosenstock-Huessey

      i was introduced to him by one Longsword, a Canadian prairie philosopher who used to run Dark Age Blog, and now runs the Chrysalis(
      I lean pretty far towards the Nietzsche of Zarathustra and the Gay Science(with the socialist jesus mixed in there), but that doesn’t mean i can’t agree with…or take gems from…folks like Huessey…or Rod Dreher, for that matter.
      Zarathustra’s version of the Great Commission….that, since we killed god, we are responsible, now, for performing his functions…is important to me.
      in the feedstore, etc, i find i must use jesus-speak to approach this, which Uncle Freidreich might find hilarious.
      but there we are.
      that conversation must be had, far and wide.
      who the hell are we? how are we connected? what’s our responsibility to one another and the planet?
      we’ve taken all this for granted, in various ways, for so long…a problem made worse by the american philosophical tradition of dismissing metaphysics, then the whole neoliberal project of instrumetalisation and eviscerating the Humanities…underlain by a habitual, performative right wing parody of Xtianity.
      like everything else, we pretend…and insist that everyone else pretend…that “everything’s fine”.
      I engage in moral discourse with random people, and they are always shocked and surprised when(if) i finally come out as a non-christian:”how can we agree on all this, if you don’t even believe?”
      but “there, but for the grace of god, go i” doesn’t really require god, when you get right down to it.

      i’ll end the ramble, because it’s a pain day…cold and wet and nasty….and i’m too metaphysical(ie: medicated) to do this justice.

  3. bassmule

    Re: Disney

    Darn. It’s a great stunt, but I was kinda hoping they were going to actually challenge Disney’s copyright hegemony.

    “Disney now has until 2023 to figure out how to extend that date once again. In 5 years or so, we can probably expect to see stories about proposed changes to copyright duration, once again. It is unlikely that a company as strong as Disney will sit by and allow Steamboat Willie to enter the Public Domain.”

    How Mickey Mouse Keeps Changing Copyright Law

    1. Sam Adams

      Recent Disney production credits all use steamboat willie as part of a newly created logo. The lawyers are working on it.

    2. Carolinian

      Disney has to protect their ancient IP given Iger’s allergy to anything new. They’ll probably bring back Steamboat Willie as a digital animation just as they made a shot by shot remake of The Lion King only digital. They could bring back Walt too using the photo real animation style of The Lion King (its good).

    1. foghorn longhorn

      Pretty sure there are some bloomberg lurkers hear about, so here is some friendly advice.
      Stop showing trump in your tv ads, you damn morons.
      Everybody knows who the president is and it is just more free pub for him.
      You’re welcome.

    2. Grant

      Come on now. So, about half of those polled wanted Biden, Clinton or Bloomberg? CNN did a poll a few weeks ago, and it showed Pete what’s his name doing well. About half of those polled were registered Republicans that don’t plan on actually voting in the primary. CNN didn’t bother to mention that.

    3. WheresOurTeddy

      that poll with Hillary in first was conducted by Mark Penn’s organization

      take it with an entire shaker of salt

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        that poll with Hillary in first was conducted by Mark Penn’s organization

        In the age of Trump and a Democratic primary featuring Joe Biden and Mayo Pete, the idea anyone would give Mark Penn money at this stage is easily the most ridiculous thing you will hear this month. It might be the winner for 2020.

        1. Grant

          Oh yeah, well you try to milk a bunch of money out of rich people that are attempting to rig the system again. I doubt you could do as good of a job as Penn in taking their money and producing things with as little value. There’s a talent in that.

  4. PlutoniumKun

    Seven-Eleven Japan failed to pay 490m yen in overtime pay Nikkei Asian Review

    I believe that late night convenience stores are cutting back severely in South Korea (where Seven Eleven is also ubiquitous) because of new laws on paying night time and overtime rates. I do love that in so much of Asia you can pretty much graze good convenience food at any time, even in the smallest town, thanks to the Seven Eleven and Lawsons and Food Marts pretty much everywhere (for the record, IMO Lawsons rice balls are marginally better than Seven Elevens, but its a close run thing). But that convenience comes at a price as I saw often with drained and exhausted looking (mostly very young) staff when dropping in late at night or very early morning.

    1. Some Guy in Beijing

      In Korea, the convenience store was the center of my universe. Booze, bus cards and coffee had me on a first-name basis with a few checkout clerks. I always felt bad for them but their jobs seemed kind of chill. They could just hang out and play phone games or read a book with their down time.

      I do worry about people in Korea and Japan … Can anybody survive 50 meters without access to a prefab riceball?

      Where were you located, btw? I was in Seoul and eventually “made it” to HBC. It was a great scene for a hot minute

  5. zagonostra

    > Afghanistan Papers

    Does impeachment not seem but a distraction when viewed in light of below? Can one really get behind holding Trump accountable when those leading the charge are no more than one side of this Janus-faced corrupt oligarchy that has been in power for way way too long?

    It’s that after 18 years encompassing three presidential administrations from both parties, no one has been held accountable for the vast U.S. taxpayer dollars—not to mention, blood, sweat, and tears—wasted on a vast exercise for a purpose that even the principle players seem unable to identify.

    These papers show a clear attempt to mislead and deceive the American people about the extent of the administrative and bureaucratic waste and incompetence that was occurring. What these interviews reveal is mind-blowing; that no one has been unaccountable is criminal.

    1. barefoot charley

      Exploding SIGAR! (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) report.

      New, if not news, thanks!

    2. xkeyscored

      Did we really need the “Lessons Learned” report to understand this?
      Afghanistan was invaded, and the Northern Alliance, a gang financed via the opium trade, was installed in power. Since then, the only real economic developments have been the resurgence of opium production, and the refining of opium into heroin in Afghanistan rather than exporting it raw. All this was well known at the time of the US invasion:
      What other result did anyone expect from a bunch of big-time smack dealers?

      1. Carla

        No, WE did not need “The Lessons Learned” to understand the epic bi-partisan sting that was/is the forever war in Afghanistan. The BLOB needs to know that we know “The Lessons Learned” and we’re on to them.

        Now, will anyone listen to Tulsi? Oh, f**k, no.

        1. xkeyscored

          I’ve heard a lot of people in the US are listening to Tulsi and liking what they hear, including many soldiers and vets. I think it’s your mainstream media and the Democratic Party leadership and its sponsors that don’t want anyone to listen.

    3. Chris Cosmos

      I find the quote jejune. “Mind blowing”? I don’t think so. I have never known a federal government or bureaucracy that was not based on lies and misdirection. The US military, with 74% approval ratings prove the success of systematic propaganda and mind-control. The fraud is obvious to anyone trained in the school of Machiavelli, and realpolitik. Americans are Charlie Brown endlessly trying to kick a football held by Lucy. Every time we say, “we’ve been fooled” how shocking, I never would have thought because every American is, literally, reborn every day as if history was no more real than a Seinfeld rerun.

    4. Geo

      “Eighteen Years In, two parties responsible, no one accountable”

      That pretty much sums it up. Not sure if it makes me more depressed or just dead inside. Years ago it would have outraged me. I got called every name in the book protesting those GWOT wars yet most people now have just moved on and forgotten we’re even there. Almost two decades of being “that guy” who always brings up what is being done in our name in other lands: Giving people “Guantanamo Diary” for Christmas presents, putting three years worth of savings and four years of work into making a film about what happens to returning combat vets in the hopes that might have an impact. When I mention the wars to others nowadays they’re like, “Oh, that? Didn’t Obama’s/Trump end those?” Or, they’ve just tuned out completely.

      I think I’m beginning to get an taste of what was meant by that old saying in the black community, “I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired”.

      Our corrupted government and the profiteers should all be hooded in the back of a cargo plane and dumped off in Iraq and Afghanistan to stand trial. Probably get at least as fair of one as Saddam did for his crimes against humanity. But far too many Americans either don’t care or actively support the people who’ve done this. I think the Dems “lesser evil” talk in ‘16 broke me. That’s about the time I felt the outrage turn to depression. It’s when I realized they know, but are OK with it. Ok with Fallujah babies, OK with arming/funding Al Qaeda in Syria, OK with bombing children and families of “bad guys”, OK with ever-rising suicide rates for combat veterans. “It’s not me, so I don’t care”. And the profiteers and politicians know this so they just get more brazen each day.

      1. zagonostra

        Geo your sentiments are well summarized.I too have encountered that same sicking sense that “Americans either don’t care or actively support the people who’ve done this,” though I think the former is a function of ignorance where as the latter is a manifestation of evil and much more difficult if not impossible to remedy.

        The “lesser of two evils” is the the more effective evil as Glen Ford at BAR noted with respect to Obama.

        1. Wukchumni

          The majority of the fawning over the 1% cannon fodder that you see the propaganda machine in the MSM playing fast & heavy, is aimed @ the 99%’ers that didn’t enlist.

          It’s a very effective shaming device essentially shouting to the 99%, YOU ARE SO NOT WORTHY.

  6. GramSci

    On AI regulation Albert Cahn complained, “the task force was given no details into how even the simplest of automated decision systems worked.”

    The essential mechanism is elementary: garbage in, garbage out.

    Not to disparage the importance of responsible waste management!

  7. PlutoniumKun

    Why Italy’s Bridges Keep Collapsing Bloomberg

    Its quite something when Bloomberg magazine is openly saying that it was the privatisation of the road system that is to blame. I wonder if the writers boss has noticed.

    The collapse of a highway bridge in the northern Italian coastal region of Liguria in November and of one in nearby Genoa last year appear to have very different causes. But they raise similar questions, not only about the state of Italy’s infrastructure, but about the decision to entrust much of it to private operators, along with whether a country famed for its coasts and mountains is ready for the disruptions of climate change.

    1. chuck roast

      And there appears to be a poison pill in the contract: “Autostrade’s concession runs through 2042 and includes a costly break-up clause that requires the government to prove serious negligence in maintenance works.”

      After a focused and succinct job of laying out the facts, the authors do what they are paid by Boomberg to do…ignore the obvious conclusion and blame the bridge collapses on global warming

      If anybody asks you what you mean by “neoliberalism” here is a concrete story that they will certainly understand, and the poison pill clause is all the more reason why the French should have simply mothballed their guillotines.

    2. Geo

      The writer’s boss is busy subverting democracy. Maybe they’re feeling emboldened like the kids when mom and dad go away for the weekend?

    3. Kurt Sperry

      I mention to Italians how crazy it is to have the nation’s major highways, the autostrade, in private hands and am generally met with a rolleye/shrug.

      The two major lines of communication between Tuscany and the Emilia-Romagna crossing the Apennines, the privately operated A1, and the E45 state road, are completely dependent on long bridges and tunnels. Most of the peninsula is seismically very active and there was just a significant earthquake in Mugello not far from the A1 between Florence and Bologna. If bridges are falling down from lack of maintenance, even without earthquakes, what does that say about the likelihood of having adequate seismic margins in place?

      Both those Apennines crossings are wonders of engineering, well worth the drive just to admire their sheer audacity. On the E45, the state road, there will always be significant stretches of one lane in each direction due to roadwork, That may be a good sign, even if it isn’t fun to drive through.

  8. PlutoniumKun

    Re: Brexit and the election.

    Wild weather and lots of rain predicted for polling day. Anyones guess who this will benefit – probably the Tories.

    I see Sterling has gone up on the latest polling, indicating a strong possibility of a Bojo clear majority. And we know of course currency markets are never wrong. Lots of indicators that Labour candidates are feeling pessimistic. It also seems that the SNP screwed up their campaign, and have frightened Ramainers back to the Tories, gifting them maybe a dozen seats north of the border. The Lib Dems are in freefall nationally, but it may not matter if their groundgame is as good as it seems to me in the crucial target constituencies.

    It seems some are suggesting that Labours best strategy could be to pretty much concede defeat, and this may encourage soft Tories into a protest vote for the LibDems or BP or whoever, if they feel its not a good idea to give Bojo too much of a majority. This seems a bit of a forlorn hope, but it might just help swing a few constituencies.

    The odds seem very strongly now that the Tories will, almost unbelievably considering their incompetence, win a majority on Thursday. There are counter-narratives out there, but I think they are increasingly clutching at straws. But its not beyond the bounds of possibility that the pollsters have been wrong again, and at the very least it will be another hung parliament.

    1. Redlife2017

      Re: Polling Day weather

      Don’t know if the rain will suppress Labour turnout. The number of people being mobilized for knocking up is huge. And it is being very specifically directed at marginals.

      Momentum is redirecting Polling Day volunteers out of major cities. Places to stay overnight for the next few days are being found for free. And coaches leaving major cities all over Britain are leaving regularly over the next two days (seats are £5). Thousands of people are moving around. From the ground, that is not a Labour Party giving up. But none of us know what will happen..
      lots of people are going to decide with the pencil in their hand.

        1. Anonymous 2

          It is indeed the case that bad weather is traditionally thought to help the Tories. This time, though, the Tory strategy has been to try to steal ‘traditional Labour’ voters who want to ‘get Brexit done’. So may be, if ‘traditional Labour’ voters are the ones who do not vote in bad weather, the effect may be different this time around?

          I was talking to a Labour party member in West London yesterday. He did not try to extrapolate from one constituency and was not overconfident but said that the word is that Johnson may be in trouble in Uxbridge. The expectation of course is that, if he does lose the seat, he will just push someone out of a safe Tory seat and re-enter the Commons that way.

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you. Fingers crossed. I have heard that Ian Duncan Smith, formerly George Smith, is in trouble in Chingford and, down the road from me, Steve Baker is in trouble in High Wycombe.

            I won’t be shedding tears if Dominic Grieve fails to win in Beaconsfield, also down the road, as there’s no difference between him and Baker apart from Brexit and prison reform.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Redlife. Good luck.

        I am hearing more support for Labour in true blue Buckinghamshire. There has been nothing like that for 35 years. The demographics, due to flight from expensive London, may be the reason.

    2. paul

      While the SNP have certainly screwed up with their ‘stop brexit’ campaigning, I don’t see how they’ve pushed back remainers to the blue tories, as the house jocks are foursquare behind the UK prime minister.

      Their ‘stop brexit’ message is rather undermined by their leading MEP (and most useless oxygen thief), Alyn Smith, jumping to the good ship westminster.

      The treatment of Neale Hanvey in Cowdenbeath, stitched up by an inner cabal led by the above, has been shameful.

      I’ll still be voting for them, but a few might not be able to hold their nose, and there are a lot of narrow margins out there.

      They could gain 10 seats or lose 10, neither result being particularly deserved.

  9. The Rev Kev

    “It’s Time for Ukraine to Let the Donbass Go”

    I actually agree with Foreign Policy here. To be honest though, where they say “The Donbass and its residents have been the war’s greatest losers. Thousands have died in the fighting; houses and infrastructure have been destroyed.” they omitted to say who was doing all that killing and who exactly was destroying all those homes and that infrastructure. I doubt that the people of the Donbass were doing it to themselves.
    But since the Dobass is at the center of all that ‘corruption and criminality’, then cutting it loose would make the Ukraine a paradise. After all ‘the progress Ukraine has made in the last five years’ the place is becoming a beacon of freedom and democracy. Well, except for all those Nastys that is. Yep, let the Donbass rot and gnash their teeth with envy looking at the Ukraine and how it works out for them. Maybe old Joe & Hunter can come back and give them some pointers on democracy.

    1. apber

      Interesting fact about the situation in Ukraine, similar to the USG lies about Afghanistan. Russia never invaded, although it has supplied the Donbass rebels. And Crimea was never “stolen” as it legally voted to be Russian (close to 70% of the population is ethnic Russian). BTW, you should all know that coincidental with Nuland’s coup in 2016 there were plans drawn up to rehab the Russian naval base in Crimea for US use.

      1. xkeyscored

        BTW, you should all know that coincidental with Nuland’s coup in 2016 there were plans drawn up to rehab the Russian naval base in Crimea for US use.
        Do you have a link for this please?

          1. xkeyscored

            Thank you. I’d always assumed they had their eyes on the naval base in Crimea, not only for their own use, but to deny it to Russia, but you’re right, the hard evidence seems pretty weak.

            1. The Rev Kev

              @ xkeyscored
              Years ago I linked to a contract let out by the US Navy for some building/s in Crimea which was before the 2014 putsch. It was on a US government website so it was all legit. Apparently they did not want to wait till they got their hands on the base itself.

    2. anon in so cal

      Foreign Policy’s recommendation to “let the Donbass go” is laudable. But the rest of the article, sadly, regurgitates the US regime change narrative. It could have been written by Victoria Nuland, herself, such as,

      “It was out of the Donbass that came his [Yanukovych’s] corrupt Party of Regions. And it was the Donbass that opposed popular pro-democracy uprisings in 2004 and 2014.

      Russian President Vladimir Putin’s occupation of the eastern Donbass in the summer of 2014 effectively disenfranchised its voters. That was bad for the voters, but it enabled pro-democratic forces in unoccupied Ukraine to win the presidency and control of the country’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, in 2014.”

      Translation: “residents of the Donbass opposed the US-supported, if not directly engineered, Maidan putsch, in February 2014. Putin came to the aid of the Donbass in the summer of 2014 as its residents were being slaughtered by Banderite Nazis, who comprised part of the US-installed Poroshenko puppet regime.”

  10. @pe

    Some of the background to Hardt & Negri’s Empire, 20 years on:

    Latour’s: We have never been modern

    Particularly their stress on the “constitution”, regarded as a system both hiding the connection between while mediating the technological/capital world with the social/social reproduction world.

    1. Jokerstein

      Minus the Arsebook tracking id:


      Pro-tip – you can almost always sanitize the link by trimming off the question mark and everything to the right of it.

  11. The Rev Kev

    “Russia, Ukraine agree to ceasefire by year-end at Paris talks”

    The talks could have completely collapsed – by design. A few hours before they were due to meet and talk, and by an amazing coincidence in timing, WADA put a four-year ban on Russia playing in the Olympics & the 2022 World Cup under the Russian flag or having the Russian anthem played for any medals won by Russia. This will not only cover the Tokeo Olympics next year but the Winter Olympics in 2022 as well. America, China and host country Japan are expected to benefit on the medal tally board because of this.
    And to pile on the pressure, ‘The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution Monday condemning Russia’s occupation of Crimea and the city of Sebastapol and urging the withdrawal of its military forces “without delay.”( But Putin won’t fold on the Donbass as he has said if not done right “I can imagine what would happen next. There will be a Srebrenica.” And he is right. It would be a massacre that would never be reported in the media or protested by any western government.
    If this wasn’t enough, a bill has been proposed by Republican Senator Cory Gardner called “S. 1189: Stopping Malign Activities from Russian Terrorism Act” to name Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. I guess that the art of irony is not dead after all. Next Tuesday Lavrorv is supposed to meet Pompeo to discuss Ukraine, Syria, arms control and “other issues” between the US and Russia and I can only imagine what will be said between the two. My guess is that Pompeo will tell Lavrov ‘Well, what are you going to do about it?’

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      You are not banned if you boycott.

      In 1980, we did that voluntarily, with not much to do with being banned, if I recall correctly.

      Perhaps Beijing can show solidarity and boycott as well (instead of being expected to benefit Russia being excluded).

    2. ddt

      Russian troops also got between Turks and their proxies, and the Kurds minimizing what could have been a much larger slaughter by Erdogun in N. Syria (not that anyone in the US blinked).

      Evil ruskies, always trying to minimize bloodbaths…

  12. TroyIA

    While the Democrats have spent the past 3 years yammering on about Russia President Trump has been doing this –

    What Trump has done to the courts, explained

    No president in recent memory has done more to change the judiciary than Donald Trump.

    In less than three years as president, President Trump has done nearly as much to shape the courts as President Obama did in eight years.

    Trump hasn’t simply given lots of lifetime appointments to lots of lawyers. He’s filled the bench with some of the smartest, and some of the most ideologically reliable, men and women to be found in the conservative movement. Long after Trump leaves office, these judges will shape American law — pushing it further and further to the right even if the voters soundly reject Trumpism in 2020.

    Also Patrick Leahy appears to be an idiot.

    1. chuckster

      Because it shows that Democrats = Republicans and that isn’t what we need to put front and center when the Democrats are trying to “save the Constitution and the Republic.”

      Since a vast majority of the lies occurred during the reign of St. Obama (the first?) when will someone ask him for an explanation? No scandals my ass!

      1. @pe

        Scandals are when you play the game in such a way as to undermine the game — so Obama & the dirty glass of water could be a low level scandal. But faking war successes will only become a scandal when it threatens to bring the system down, see for example the Russian Empire in 1917.

        No D != R: they are distinct but overlapping subsets that are functionally reinforcing. Let’s call them “moieties”. They are really different — they have different people, playing different roles, but they are related and working together.

        Let’s say the obvious things first — there’s an internal dialectic to the show, and pretending that they’re the same (even if only for rhetorical effect) is quite destructive.

        1. Oregoncharles

          The two wings of the same vulture.

          I would have said “predatory bird,” but those are beautiful.

    2. jef

      In other news…water is wet!

      This information or Pelosi admitting that they all new there were no WMDs in Iraq, or any other “revelations” about Imperial exploits causing the deaths of millions changes nothing. Who in the last 50+ years has killed more innocent women and children and destroyed more basic infrastructure leading to the suffering and early death of millions more?

      1. foghorn longhorn

        Only one country has deployed nuclear weapons on civilian populations, twice. EVER
        Care to hazard a guess?

    1. Stephen Gardner

      And when the next big hurricane to hit the NE coast puts a foot of water in that spacious well appointed master bedroom, oh the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the press about the suffering that the Obamas are enduring. The humanity! The humanity!

      Wasn’t he the one who was bragging about the fracking boom? Karma.

      1. wilroncanada

        Well! Since Mr Obama is already washed, it will then be up to Mrs Obama and the Obamalettes to right the shinking sip.

    2. Oregoncharles

      And here we thought they were smart, as well as greedy.

      Not widely known, but there is a good chance of a major East Coast tsunami when a volcano on the Canary Islands (IIRC) collapses.

  13. Bill Carson

    According to the NYT, we’ve spent $2 trillion in Afghanistan in the past 18 years, which averages $111 billion per year.

    It is estimated that the total amount of tuition charged by all of the nations public colleges and universities combined is $70 billion per year.

    Which means we could bring our troops home, fund public college tuition for all students in America, and we’d still have $40 billion per year left over.

    The next time someone asks you how we would pay for free college, you ask them why they haven’t complained about the cost of an endless war in the most useless place on the planet.

  14. John

    The profile of William Gibson contains the quote, “The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.” The article that follows begins with the observation that the “Axial Age” was far messier that Jaspers suggests. In other words the Axial Age, or a simulacrum of it, was not very evenly distributed.

    1. Danny

      “The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games,” the novel explains, “in early graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks.” By “jacking in” to the matrix, a “console cowboy” can use his “deck” to enter a new world:”

      Change the word “in” to nearly the same as its antonym, and guys have been doing this for millennia in the real world.

  15. Carey

    Former Monsanto CEO Ordered to Testify at Roundup Cancer Trial:

    “Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company’s Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers..”

    Until corporate execs face *real heat*, nothing’s going to change except the theater.

  16. Chauncey Gardiner

    Enjoying the entire $120k banana art kerfuffle. I agree, Marcel Duchamp would have been proud indeed. The creator’s careful positioning of the downward-sloping banana, together with the duct tape which both holds it up and is upward sloping, is clearly a metaphor for neoliberal markets supported by the state (of course, that interpretation could just be me. After all, the creator, Maurizio Cattalan, is a relational artist.) But never mind, soldiering on with rank speculations about the concept behind the art… it literally represents the demise of the banana as a victim of climate change with it being temporarily held in position through artifice, or… um, well, it’s simply Dada art… and the subsequent consumption of the banana by hungry humanity was merely part of a premeditated artistic statement on the temporary nature of the status quo, no?… :)

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