2:00PM Water Cooler 1/2/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I thought I’d relive my lost youth and read How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan. It’s informative, but oddly — considering the subject matter, psychedelics — doesn’t seem revelatory to me in the way that The Botany of Desire did. It could also use tighter editing. I think I’m going to move on to Hate, Inc. next. I’m a little hung up on Taleb.

* * *

Politics

“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

Here is a second counter for the Iowa Caucus, which is obviously just around the corner:

* * *

2020

Alert reader dk (not to be confused with DK) is in the process of developing the following interactive chart.

Nationally, we have our first polls of the New Year, and YouGov confirming a with a nice big Morning Consult sample as of 1/2/2020, 12:00 PM EST. The pattern of Biden first, Sanders strong second, then Warren and Buttigeig is stable. On to Iowa!

And the numbers:

And here is the same polling, represented in small multiple form:

As before, it does look like Sanders is slowly closing on Biden, that Warren is continuing her slow decay — while performing her essential functions of splitting the left and unselling voters on #MedicareForAll — and that Bloomberg is buying his way out of the cellar. The slope of Bloomberg’s curve is concerning.

CAVEAT I think we have to track the polls because so much of the horse-race coverage is generated by them; and at least with these charts we’re insulating ourselves against getting excited about any one poll. That said, we should remember that the polling in 2016, as it turned out, was more about narrative than about sampling, and that this year is, if anything, even more so. In fact, one is entitled to ask, with the latest Buttigieg boomlet (bubble? (bezzle?)) which came first: The narrative, or the poll? One hears of push polling, to be sure, but not of collective push polling by herding pollsters. We should also worry about state polls with very small sample sizes and big gaps in coverage. And that’s before we get to the issues with cellphones (as well as whether voters in very small, very early states game their answers). So we are indeed following a horse-race, but the horses don’t stay in their lanes, some of the horses are not in it to win but to interfere with the others, the track is very muddy, and the mud has splattered our binoculars, such that it’s very hard to see what’s going on from the stands. Also, the track owners are crooked and the stewards are on the take. Everything’s fine.

I think dk has started a really neat project, and in the near future we’ll seek your feedback (within reason) for the tool “live.”

* * *

UPDATE Bloomberg (D)(1): “Michael Bloomberg addresses his prior support for city’s handling of Central Park Five case” [CBS]. Bloomberg: “There was an awful lot of evidence presented at that time that they were involved. There’s been questions since then about the quality of that evidence. And so it’s, I’ve been away from it for so long, I just really can’t respond because I just don’t remember.” • Why didn’t Bloomberg run as a Republican? He certainly could have. If there are, indeed, any never Trumpers, they certainly would have voted for him. Bloomberg could certianly outspend Trump. Perhaps beating Sanders is more important to Bloomberg than beating Trump.

Buttigieg (D)(1): Getting owned by Ted Cruz. Words fail me:

Buttigieg (D)(2): “Buttigieg’s Syria ‘Do Somethingism'” [The American Conservative]. “Buttigieg’s foreign policy has become more conventionally hawkish over the last year, and here the former mayor seems to be embracing full-blown liberal interventionism. We see the familiar moralizing rhetoric, the condemnation of ‘inaction,’ and the demand that something ‘must’ be done without first asking whether there is anything constructive that can be done. What is Buttigieg really calling for here? It sounds as if he is proposing a ‘humanitarian’ intervention that would put the U.S. in direct conflict with the Russian and Syrian governments. This is the same problem that has confronted interventionists in Syria for more than seven years. Are they prepared to use force against these governments, and if so how do they think that will improve the situation? If Buttigieg has an answer to that, I doubt it will be any more persuasive than the ones we have heard in the past.” • Probably just Buttigieg signaling to The Blob that he’s “a safe pair of hands.”

Buttigieg (D)(3): “Pete Buttigieg took big swings and declared ‘South Bend is back.’ Is it really back?” [South Bend Tribune]. “So is South Bend really back? The answer may come down to how you interpret the question, and your perspective. As with any mayor, the record offers a mixed bag of answers, with some clear wins and some glaring setbacks.” • One festering sore: “Another set of numbers has more recently drawn attention: the number of black police officers in South Bend has dropped nearly in half since Buttigieg took office, to 15 (out of a total force of about 230 officers). The mayor has admitted that recruiting a diverse police force was one area where he fell short. ‘I couldn’t get it done,’ he said during a Democratic primary debate in June.”

Buttigieg (D)(4): “Your Complete, One Stop Guide to Why Buttigieg is the Wrong Choice (Part I)” [Medium]. “Pete Buttigieg has clearly done some fine work as mayor of his small city, and there’s evidence that he’s learning from his mistakes, but his police force has been running rogue for years, and the economic gains he touts have not been equally shared across the community. One wonders what part of his record suggests he’s ready to run the country.” • A handy compendium.

UPDATE Castro (D)(1): “Julián Castro Drops Out of Presidential Race” [New York Times]. “Though he created some memorable moments as he championed progressive policy and challenged his rivals on the campaign trail, Mr. Castro did not catch on with voters and was unable to break into the upper tier of a crowded primary field. His exit is the latest departure of a candidate of color from a field that began as the most racially diverse ever in a Democratic primary.”

Sanders (D)(1): “Sanders delivers blowout fundraising number” [Politico]. “Bernie Sanders raised more than $34.5 million in the final three months of 2019, a substantial sum that exceeds the two other Democratic presidential candidates who have announced their hauls so far in that period… The campaign’s average donation was $18….. Sanders said nearly 300,000 new donors gave to him last quarter. … The Sanders campaign said it received contributions from 40,000 new donors on the last day of the year…. The Sanders campaign said that the most typical occupation listed by his donors in the final quarter was teacher. Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target and the United States Postal Service were the most frequent employers, according to the campaign.” • That 300,000 new donors figure has to be encouraging if you believe it’s a good proxy for bringing new voters into the system. And 40,000 on the last day! Holy moley!

UPDATE Sanders (D)(2): “Bernie Has Always Had A Path To Victory. The Media Missed It (Again)” [The Federalist]. “Trump shot through Republican favorites Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, and Jeb! Bush before screaming straight at Her, propelled by a populist rage. It was born in the despair left behind when America’s elites made trillions sending jobs overseas, in unending wars the politicians and generals have no idea how to win, and in a true feeling of being completely ignored by an increasingly global elite. The president has made large strides to help those people, but he has few allies in either party, so ask yourself: Has this discontent dissipated? Have the feelings in this country subsided? Is all calm now? Are we good? Or might Bernie Sanders win the Democratic nomination for president?” • “Large strides” is, to say the least, debatable. When you think about it, Trump has delivered on “Make America Great Again” about as well as Obama delivered on “Hope and Change.”

Trump (D)(1): “Do not underestimate Trump’s re-election chances” [Financial Times]. “It is hard to overstate the fatalism of the country that elected him and stands to do so again. By a gap of around 20 points, voters believe the US to be moving in the wrong direction. (The margin has been in the double digits for a decade now.) According to Pew, super-majorities expect it to become weaker in the world, less equal at home and more politically divided over the next 30 years. Declinism is no longer just a trope of current affairs non-fiction. It is the national mood, and it predates Mr Trump. Of all the US founders, one of the least lionised, John Adams — to whom there is still no monument in Washington, for lack of donations — most reflects the contemporary spirit. The great sceptic always winced at the idea of inexorable progress, of America as celestially favoured among nations. It follows that, if voters are resigned to the unimprovability of things, the performance of the president is neither here nor there. It is impossible to disillusion the never-illusioned.” • Interestingly, Cruz (above) quotes Adams. I don’t know what to make of that.

* * *

Impeachment

“The Senate and the public need to hear from Mulvaney and Bolton” [Editorial Board, WaPo]. “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is withholding two articles of impeachment from the Senate, pending assurance that the Republican leader of that body, Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), will agree to a full and fair trial of the House’s charges against President Trump.” • So, first Pelosi rushes through the two (weak) articles — without even letting the courts resolve challenges to witnesses. Next, Pelosi wants the Senate to call the witnesses she did not. How does this make any sense? If this is strategic genius, I’m not seeing it.

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE “If President Donald Trump loses in 2020 (and it is by no means certain that he will), his defeat will come at the hands of a coalition led by the Democratic Party that will be composed, in the main, of energized and angry Democrats. In swing states, they could get the support of a small but important cadre of independents and surburbanites who tended to vote Republican in the past, and an even smaller handful of disaffected former Republicans for whom tax cuts and judges were not enough to keep them in their party” [Tom Nichols, USA Today]. • Conventional wisdom erases not merely Sanders, but his electoral strategy of expanding the base.

UPDATE “Someone went into Barnes & Noble and replaced the covers of Trump Jr.’s new book” [Daily Kos]. • I remember, back in 2003-2004, going into Barnes & Noble and turning over books of Bush hagiography so the front covers didn’t show. There were a lot of them. Fat lot of good it did me. So, fifteen years later, we’re still doing that.

UPDATE “They Can’t Get Enough of ‘The West Wing’ Right Now” [New York Times]. “[T]o its many liberal and independent-leaning fans, in particular, [the West Wing] has become something more than just a nostalgic drama from a time when men’s suits with pleated pants are fashionable and Twitter does not yet exist. For many in the Trump era, the show is an idealistic alternative reality, an escape from the vitriol and ill-will that they see coursing like poison through contemporary politics. Much as people may return to the film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ to remind themselves that feeling worthless does not mean you have no worth, or to the children’s book ‘Goodnight Moon’ to remember that bedtime once meant being enveloped in a cocoon of love, fans revisit ‘The West Wing’ to recall an era — even a fictional one — when it seemed possible for the three branches of government to be populated by public servants of integrity, intellect and wit.” • Oy. Josiah Bartlet as Mr. Rogers for grown-ups, so-called. It’s a beautiful day on the Acela!

Stats Watch

Shipping: “Parcel carriers are taking aim at the flood of oversize items pouring into their networks. FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. are starting 2020 by levying $24 fees on packages weighing more than 50 pounds… escalating a financial tug-of-war in distribution networks that has grown as consumers have gotten more comfortable buying big, bulky items online” [Wall Street Journal]. “Package carriers are wrestling with the higher handling costs of rising e-commerce volumes and the new charges suggest they’ll continue to fine-tune their pricing to reflect changes in parcel shipping patterns.” • More aching backs for workers.

Shipping: “The relentless decline in North American rail volumes over the past year is bringing pain to financial institutions. [Banks] own hundreds of thousands of railcars, and… a business they once viewed as a dependable source of revenue has turned into a headache” [Wall Street Journal]. “Tepid railroad demand and changes in commodity markets have turned railcar ownership into an example of how the freight rail downturn is echoing across the U.S. economy.” • Also, “precision railroading.”

Manufacturing: “Sales of cargo vans used to transport packages and other internet-ordered items are booming… providing a lift to manufacturers as the surge in online consumer sales begins to change the shape of parcel delivery” [Wall Street Journal]. “Auto makers are notching record van sales and adding features to the traditionally no-frills vehicles as they vie for a bigger share of a category that executives expect to outpace the broader auto market in coming years.” •

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 96 Extreme Greed (previous close: 93 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 93 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 2 at 12:30pm.

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged. [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 182. Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing. I would expect the Rapture Index to jump if evangelicals thought impeachment was likely to hurt Trump. So it looks to me like this index is delivering a verdict on impeachment as well.

The Biosphere

“Australia, your country is burning – dangerous climate change is here with you now” [Michael Mann, Guardian]. • Predictable and predicted. 1992:

A gardening thread:

Not sure about some of the claims, but lots of good info for soil fans.

Feral Hog Watch

“Feral Pigs Are Invasive, Voracious and Resilient. They’re Also Spreading” [Smithsonian]. “But even within the continental United States, feral pigs are expanding their range rapidly. As Mary Bates reported for PLOS Blogs in 2017, research has shown that feral pigs are moving northwards at an accelerated rate. ‘If this trend persists, invasive wild pigs are predicted to reach most U.S. counties in 30-50 years,’ Bates explained, “but likely faster if a southward expansion from Canada continues.'” • Wait. 30-50. In 2017?!?!? Either Bates is a time-traveling troll, or reality itself is…

New Year’s Post Mortem

“The Worst People of 2019” [Jacobin (NippersMom)]. • Not even ten? And the Best People of 2019 are mostly unheralded, I would say Naturally.

“Damn, We Wish We’d Written These 17 Stories” [FiveThirtyEight (LR)]. • This is a good wrap-up. but don’t some smaller, non-Acela Corridor venues also need — and deserve — the hits?

“I Hate New Year’s Day” [Antonio Gramsci, n+1]. “I hate these New Year’s that fall like fixed maturities, which turn life and human spirit into a commercial concern with its neat final balance, its outstanding amounts, its budget for the new management. They make us lose the continuity of life and spirit. You end up seriously thinking that between one year and the next there is a break, that a new history is beginning; you make resolutions, and you regret your irresolution, and so on, and so forth. This is generally what’s wrong with dates.” • From 1916…

“From Desire to Development? A Multi-Sample, Idiographic Examination of Volitional Personality Change” [Journal of Research in Personality]. From the abstract: “In large part, volitional personality change desires did not predict actual change. When desires did predict change, (a) desired increases in Extraversion, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness corresponded with decreases in corresponding traits, (b) participants perceived more change than actually occurred, and (c) decreases in Emotional Stability predicted perceptions of personality change. Results illustrate the difficulty in purposefully changing one’s traits when left to one’s own devices.” • So miuch for New Year’s resolutions….

Class Warfare

“2019 was one of the decade’s worst years for job cuts in the US” [Business Insider]. “The outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said Thursday that employers announced plans to eliminate 592,556 jobs last year, a 10% rise from 2018 levels. That was the largest annual total since 598,510 were announced in 2015. Over the past decade, job cut announcements were only higher in 2009 and 2011… Companies said bankruptcy or restructuring were most often behind the changes, according to the report.”

“This Holiday Season, Thank a Janitor” [Jacobin]. • Or an adjunct.

“Harvard Graduate Students To End Strike Without A Contract” [WBUR]. “After more than a year of negotiations, the union and the university have failed to reach agreements on key issues like healthcare, pay, and grievance procedures for sexual harassment and discrimination complaints. The parties are scheduled to reopen negotiations in January with the assistance of federal mediators. According to union officials, Harvard has expressed a desire for a finished contract before the spring term starts on January 27. “[This] is the first time they’ve put any sort of timeline on these negotiations, and so we were heartened by that,” says Lee Kennedy-Shaffer, a PhD student in biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and a member of the union bargaining committee.” • Deans playing sitzfleisch, as they do.

“NY farmers sue to block law that gives workers overtime, right to unionize” [Syracuse.com]. “A coalition of New York dairy and vegetable farmers filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Buffalo asking for a temporary delay in the law’s implementation until the state clarifies how the law will be enforced. The farmers’ say they are concerned that the law, as written, classifies farm owners, their family members and supervisors as “farm laborers” who technically have the right to engage in collective bargaining and other union activity with other employees. But those same farm owners, family members and supervisors, representing the farm business, are prohibited by federal law from discouraging union activity or assisting in the formation of a union.”

“Amazon threatened to fire two workers who criticized company’s environmental policies: report” [The Hill]. “Amazon has threatened to fire several employees who have spoken out about their concerns surrounding the company’s environmental impact, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post. The emails, sent to several employees who spoke previously with the newspaper about Amazon’s partnership with companies that exploit fossil fuels, advises them that their interviews with the Post and other media outlets violate the company’s external communications policy. Further violations, the emails reportedly warn, could ‘result in formal corrective action, up to and including termination of your employment with Amazon.'”

News of the Wired

Unknown history:

The thread includes the tape.

I love this genre (and if Twitter give you a stupid warning, it’s perfectly safe):

>

Here we have a visual snowclone (ditto the Twitter warning):

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (IM):

IM: “A wintry west coast scene on the UBC endowment lands.”

Once more, if any of you go out on your New Years’ walks with camera (or, I suppose, phone), I’m running out of plants. Wintry plants would be especially appreciated!

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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.

128 comments

    1. allan

      Irving Fisher approves of this message. And surely a good time to start investing part of Social Security in the market.

      Reply
    2. diptherio

      Goldman cites five factors that pose a reduced threat to the “Great Moderation” that began more than 30 years ago and was interrupted only by the financial crisis.

      OMG, “interrupted” lol. The delusion is as deep as it is wide….

      Reply
    1. clarky90

      “A Tiny House” is a neo-hovel. Veganism is the neo-famine food movement. 1845-1849 unevenly distributed. Serfdom is being aggressively sold, as aspirational!

      And, rampaging feral pigs!

      Reply
    1. meeps

      >The list of reasons to not patronize Amazon continues to grow.

      I agree, but very few people outside of this forum seem to have any idea what those reasons are. Those of us who know will apparently not be left with a choice in the matter. Two anecdotes from December, if you’ll bear with me.

      First, I made the effort this holiday not to buy from Amazon and I was almost entirely able to do so. But when I placed my December medical accessory supply order as I always have–with the manufacturer of my device–I received only half of my order and it came from Amazon. I am trying to resolve this with the manufacturer, but I’m concerned they’re defaulting to Amazon now as if it’s not a thing. It is for me. I had no intention of patronizing Amazon.

      Second, I live in a rural area and we have a tiny post office. I’ve never seen more than 3 people working and they’re always hiring. Being a postal driver here is rough, too. The streets are steep, icy, poorly maintained, dirt roads and drivers must use their own vehicles. Postal service doesn’t come to the house, it comes to the cluster boxes down the road and they leave those peach slips to notify that you’ve of a parcel to pick up. The gentleman ahead of me in line noted the wait and I remarked I’d seen the staff handling a lot of extra Amazon packages; there were guys loading boxes enough to completely fill their SUVs in the parking lot. He became giddy about “how great a model Amazon is for us rural people” because he could pick up his dog food at the post office (his peach slip), cheaper than the store and saving him the trip. The store isn’t exactly close, but I was surprised how little he cared, or maybe he just didn’t know, about all those reasons not to patronize Amazon.

      I frequently have encounters with people that remind me how differently informed the readers here are from the peeps on the streets.

      Reply
  1. zagonostra

    >H.L. Mencken Notes on Democracy 1926

    I seem to get more illumination from older analysis of the American Democratic experiment than anything in today’s headlines.

    I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing. Does it exalt dunderheads, cowards, trimmers, frauds, cads? Then the pain of seeing them go up is balanced and obliterated by the joy of seeing them come down… In the long run, it may turn out that rascality is necessary to human government, and even to civilization itself…

    As the old aristocracies decline, the plutocracy is bound to inherit their hegemony… An aristocratic society may hold that a soldier or a man of learning is superior to a rich manufacturer or banker; but in a democratic society the latter are inevitably put higher, if only because their achievement is more readily comprehended by the inferior man, and he can more easily imagine himself, by some favour of God, duplicating it…

    The capitalists, in fact, run the country, as they run all democracies…They organize and control the minorities that struggle eternally for power, and so get a gradually firmer grip upon the government
    Thus the plutocracy, in a democratic state, tends to take the place of the missing aristocracy, and even to be mistaken for it. It is, of course, something quite different…It stands under no bond of obligation to the state; it has no public duty; it is transient and lacks a goal.

    …democracy may be a self-limiting disease, like measles. It is, perhaps, something more: it is self-devouring. One cannot observe it objectively without being impressed by its curious distrust of itself – its apparently ineradicable tendency to abandon its whole philosophy at the first sign of strain. I need not point to what happens invariably in democratic states when the national safety is menaced. All the great tribunes of democracy, on such occasions, convert themselves, by a process as simple as taking a deep breath, into despots of an almost fabulous ferocity.

    Public opinion, in its raw state, gushes out in the immemorial form of… fears. It is piped to central factories, and there it is flavoured and coloured and put into cans.

    Reply
    1. lyman alpha blob

      I’ve always been fond of this one from old HL –

      Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

      Also, I picked up a book of his essays recently and Prof. Veblen and the Cow is a hilarious piece even if his target is socialism. Funny thing – I just tried to find the essay so I could link to it and came up short, but several of the links I did see were gleeful ones from Austrian economics sites reveling in HL’s skewering of Veblen. While I am not a Mencken expert, I’m pretty sure HL would have flayed and fricasseed the Austrians too.

      Reply
  2. Goyo Marquez

    Re: Trump Winery Fires Undocumented Employees After Harvest,

    Did he pay them first?

    “Oh we couldn’t pay them that would have been illegal.” Ha ha, would have been a typically Trump move if it happened.

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      There was an article in Marketwatch about eating out, ice cream and booze may be worse for climate change than meat.

      Maybe or maybe. But if the point is to consume less, and not to just buy new greener products, that is worth noting.

      And if every little act counts, then, sure, stop drinking wine…French, California or Australian. Especially, if the wine was made from another continent. Just drink local clean water (it’s a basic demand) and eat locally grown grapes.

      Being a connoisseur impacts the climate.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        Just bought a case of $6 a bottle 91 point Malbec for my wine cave @ the Grocery Outlet, but luckily it isn’t from one of your blacklisted countries, whew!

        Reply
  3. curlydan

    And now Castro officially enters the “pick me! pick me!” Vice Presidential race.

    On another note, I read “Botany of Desire” a few months ago based on recommendations here…generally liked it, but I thought it could have used some tighter editing.

    Reply
  4. Drake

    “I think I’m going to move on to Hate, Inc. next. I’m a little hung up on Taleb.”

    Did you mean Taibbi here?

    Reply
  5. shinola

    Warmonger Mayo Pete channeling HRC on Syria:

    “Inaction is a stain on our collective conscience”

    Well Pete, you are a stain on our collective shorts.

    (The Buttgags practically write themselves).

    Reply
  6. Seth Miller

    Re: impeachment

    Why exactly would anyone think that the measure of whether a witness is an appropriate trial witness at an impeachment is whether they testified prior to the House drawing up charges? Accusations are simple, and the proof that leads to them only needs to be enough to convince the House. Trials are a whole different matter. And the managers, the lawyers who are entitled by the constitution to conduct the trial, are from the House, and so are Pelosi’s people. The House has a constitutionally protected interest in asserting the right to call trial witnesses, and those witnesses need only be relevant to proving the charges.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The House has a constitutionally protected interest in asserting the right to call trial witnesses

      Well, if it shows strategic genius to run a calendar-driven impeachment process and then expect the Senate to pick up the slack on schedule, I’m all ears to hear why.

      Reply
      1. Seth Miller

        I dunno the political strategy. As you’ve been saying, the politics seems awkward.

        But legal strategy is a different matter. Unless you really want to settle, and really don’t want to go to trial, you never disclose your best evidence before the trial, ever. (Unless you can’t get out of it in discovery). Maybe the House is sitting on trial evidence that it now needs to present at a trial. Maybe Pelosi got suckered into thinking there’s going to be a trial with witnesses, since that’s what the Senate rules say, and not just by implication, but explicitly and in several places. I’m hoping that’s the reason, but I have no way of knowing.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith

          First, with a 2/3 majority required in the Senate for conviction, the odds that will happen are functionally close to zero. Particularly with a party line vote in the House, unlike the only past two impeachments.

          Second, this is the polar opposite of the strategy taken with Clinton, where Ken Starr conducted an in-depth investigation and presented a public report.

          Third and most important, did you miss that the House has ZERO ability to tell the Senate how to run its affairs? If they wanted certain witnesses called, they needed to call them and not rely on a totally out of character act of munificence by the Republicans.

          Reply
      2. Alternate Delegate

        Not a fan of Pelosi, but the following makes sense to me as a strategy:

        1. Continue the impeachment inquiry in the House
        2. Take whatever time you want to call the gum-up-the-timeline witnesses in the House
        3. The impeachment charges stand and you can run on them
        4. You have an on-record majority that will pass more charges whenever you want a news cycle
        5. You stall the Senate, in principle forever, using whatever excuse works

        What’s wrong with that? Sounds practical to me.

        Reply
        1. The Rev Kev

          You forgot the last point.

          6. Trump re-elected when the voters see that the Democrats were only playing games with impeachment and were never serious about it.

          Reply
          1. richard

            the voters never seem to hold it against repubs for gumming up the works to their advantage
            but i do grant you that sitting on a bad impeachment charge is a different kind of stalling than stonewalling on appointing judges, for instance
            it all goes back to what an enormously cruddy idea impeachment was to begin with
            how could no one see it? even if there’s usually never any price to pay for being wrong in a crowd, for being horribly, stupidly wrong, you’d think this one might have some casualties
            here’s hoping

            Reply
            1. Procopius

              how could no one see it?

              TDS, Trump Derangement Syndrome. The noisy minority who hate Trump so much that they are certain that if he smiles it is solid evidence that he’s made a treasonable deal with Putin. Or maybe with Kim Jong Un. Completely out of touch with reality, at least as far as understanding what constitutes evidence.

              Reply
    2. anonymous

      “And the managers, the lawyers who are entitled by the constitution to conduct the trial, are from the House”

      Where exactly does the constitution give the House any right to participate in the trial in any way, much less to conduct the trial?

      “The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.”

      Reply
    3. russell1200

      The Chief Justice presides over the impeachment trial of a President in the Senate. But the discovery is done by a committee of Senate members. After the evidence is brought forth, it is presented to the Senate as a whole.

      Presumably it would be at this point that the Democrats would make objections to the proceedings at the committee level, and the Chief Justice would take corrective action. It seems like it could get awfully sticky.

      It also seems very possible that a motion could be made that the charges be thrown out for lack of merit. I believe this was attempted during Clinton’s impeachment. At that point, it seems that the Senate could simply vote that the House’s case lack’s merit and kick the whole thing back down to the House.

      Reply
  7. cocomaan

    Pigs are truly difficult invasive animals to eradicate. They can change from nocturnal to diurnal under pressure and are prolific in breeding. Plus, the boars can be really nasty!

    Female pigs establish fission-fusion societies, which mean they can operate in large or small groups and can respond to predator pressure accordingly. Humans, coyotes, and crows are similar in that way. It’s a pretty sound way to keep your society alive.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fission%E2%80%93fusion_society

    Reply
    1. Mark Gisleson

      I had a neighbor who made long distance trucking work for him, but if you’re not willing to falsify your DOT logs, the plan doesn’t work very well. Others supplement by bootlegging (I’m really surprised we haven’t had a Hollywood movie about the staggering amount of weed moving along our interstate highways).

      And that’s a big problem for blue collar workers. The only ways to get ahead involve cheating of some sort, and the penalties are disproportionate.

      Reply
      1. Wyoming

        Except that Federal Law now requires all trucks made since 2000 to have electronic logs. It is much harder to cheat now (and for many drivers not possible at all).

        I am a volunteer officer for the town I live in and find trucks parked in odd places all the time. I often talk to the drivers for a bit and it is mostly due to the fact that their time ran out and they ‘must’ stop or they will be violating the law. So they are just pulled over alongside the road or stopped in some parking lot. They know they should not do this but they lose their jobs if they don’t. If they stop 30 mins early so they can wait out the clock at a truck stop they also get in trouble. It is a mess.

        Reply
    2. urblintz

      Alas, it was Jimmy Carter not Reagan: https://money.com/trucking-worst-job/

      “Sociologist Steve Viscelli, in an article published Tuesday in the Atlantic, describes how truck driving—once a blue-collar job with good benefits, relatively high wages, and considerable political clout—today is just the opposite. Following deregulation of the trucking industry in the late 1970s, during the Jimmy Carter administration…

      Reply
    3. Procopius

      Minor quibble: I’m pretty sure it was Jimmy Carter who deregulated the trucking industry. The airline industry, too, which is why you have insufficient leg room.

      Reply
    1. jo6pac

      That’s easy I always keep a month of vacation on the books that way when I was outsourced it’s like money in the bank. Yes my job was out sourced and I had to help my replacement to get my severance pay..

      Reply
  8. Wukchumni

    Maybe the oddest thing in regards to New Years, is every thoroughbred’s birthday comes on January 1st, no matter what date they were actually born on…

    It’s different down under, as their birthday comes on August 1st.

    Reply
  9. Pat

    Impeachment was a failed political strategy. Support for impeachment was dropping before the vote even with a highly selective “investigation”.

    Pelosi is well aware that the Senate is NOT going to play nice, nor is Trump. At this point I would bet they are no longer thinking this only throws Biden (and Sanders) under the bus. As bad as the delay is, it is probably better for a whole lot of the Democratic House than a Senate hearing. And she is using the only excuse that remotely gives any cover.

    (I would also bet that the process is going to cast an unflattering light on Obama and Clinton this tempering any power or influence they have.)

    Reply
      1. Misty Flip

        False, says Snopes. Source of misinfo is Q-Anon, says Tampa Bay Times. Viscoil is a US company, never did business east of the Curzon Line.

        Reply
    1. Jeff W

      “The slope of Bloomberg’s curve is concerning. ”

      Well, it is concerning for what it says about the ability of billionaires to buy support but for Sanders supporters, I’d guess that it’s a good thing.

      Bloomberg is taking away very few people who would support Sanders—Morning Consult has the second choice of Bloomberg supporters as Joe Biden at 33% and Pete Buttigieg at 13% with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders combined at 12% (and I would guess that most of those are Warren supporters). So Bloomberg is in effect splitting the vote with Biden.

      Reply
  10. fdr-fan

    Pelosi is a master of strategy. She knows where this is going. She wants to keep Trump in office with a maximum amount of publicity and “investigation” running against him. Trump is accomplishing all of Hillary’s goals and steering all criticism of the goals away from Deepstate and toward “his” Deplorables.

    Best of all worlds for DNC/HRC.

    Reply
    1. kiwi`

      And Trump’s re-election coffers keep raking in massive amounts of money – now a 100 million fund on hand.

      Bernie did very well, too, this final quarter. Was that part of NP’s master strategy?

      And keep using the epithet ‘deplorable’ about the 63 million people who voted for him…they will be on NP’s side in no time at all.

      Reply
  11. Summer

    “Harvard Graduate Students To End Strike Without A Contract” [WBUR]

    Waiting for them to graduate…easy waiting game with largely student movements at any level.

    Reply
  12. Krystyn Walentka

    Lambert, glad you are not getting hung up on the psychedelics hype. After all, if they offered any benefit at all, the amount of trips that were taken in the 60s would have made the U.S. a much better place. Yet, here we are.

    To me it is just another techo-fix that is way over people heads and will create more problems than it solves.

    And on Pollan’s title, in order to change your mind you have to change it to something else. But all we change it to is what we want, and that will not end up well.

    Reply
    1. Bugs Bunny

      Yes, but the accompanying graphic art in articles about it is groovy.

      The microdosing of acid seems the silliest. I remember taking too little to get off and it just makes you a little speedy and lights might seem brighter. Probably the initial effects are just what sleep deprived young programmer types need to get through the day. Do that for a week or so and it will eventually just taper down in potency from tolerance. I haven’t seen anything peer reviewed either.

      Reply
    2. Wukchumni

      What if toadstool trips taken in the 50’s laid the ground for the creative 60’s?

      “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” is a 1957 photo essay by amateur mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson describing his experience taking psilocybin mushrooms in 1955 during a Mazatec ritual in Oaxaca, Mexico. Wasson was one of the first Westerners to participate in a Mazatec ceremony and to describe the psychoactive effects of the Psilocybe species. The essay contains photographs by Allan Richardson and illustrations of several mushroom species of Psilocybe collected and identified by French botanist Roger Heim, then director of the French National Museum of Natural History. Wasson’s essay, written in a first person narrative, appeared in the May 13 issue of Life magazine as part three of the “Great Adventures” series.

      Reply
    3. John Zelnicker

      @Krystyn Walentka
      January 2, 2020 at 4:21 pm
      ——-

      If all of those trips had been relatively evenly distributed among the population, then yes, the US would b e a much better place.

      However, the number of people who used psychedelics and got the benefit of them was quite small.

      The vast majority of folks didn’t understand the benefit and others were worried about losing control or having a bad trip. It was also illegal which stopped a lot of people from trying it. Psychedelics were mostly used by hippies and other free-thinkers who were interested in expanding their consciousness and how they perceived the world.

      I know, I was there. And, I would take another trip if I could be certain of the quality of the psychedelic.

      One of the things that bothers me the most about all the blame for our current situation being placed on my generation of boomers is that those of us who benefited from psychedelics are the ones who are working hardest, in many ways, to bring progressive change to our country.

      I’m sick and tired of being insulted by people blaming us for problems that were actually started by previous generations. Clinton was the first boomer president and he mostly followed policies started by his predecessors, although he did make many of them worse.

      Reply
  13. chuck roast

    Uh, I think John Adams was a-molderin’-in-the-grave (1826) when the expansion of slavery into Missouri became an issue. His kid, Quincy, was involved in the debate, but was not a ‘founding father.’

    We have to cut Ted some slack here. He is simply a first-degree useful idiot who (thankfully) does not have his finger on the nuclear button.

    Reply
    1. ForFawkesSakes

      The quote can be found in John Adams letter to William Tudor, Jr., written in 1819.

      Ted Cruz is many, many horrible things, but not merely a useful idiot. That is only the character he plays for his voting base and the donors who hold his strings.

      Reply
    2. Rufus

      I’m afraid you have the dates off. The “Missouri-Maine Question/Missouri Compromise” dominated the politics of 1819/1820.

      Reply
    3. S

      The Missouri issue surfaced in 1819 when its move towards statehood began. There were already an estimated 10,000 slaves in the territory at the time.

      Reply
  14. richard

    r.e. turning over hated books so the covers don’t show
    as a former employee of now defunct Crown Books
    I can now freely admit (there is no NDA)
    that for the 2 years I worked there I made it my regular practice to hide hated books from consumers (turning around the cover and putting a better book in front of something horrible were my 2 habits)
    I did this with Art of the Deal, that Everything I Needed To Know book, and many, many others. I’m afraid I went mad with power. My list became idiosyncratic and my actions not always motivated by the public good. Sorry everyone.
    Well, that’s out.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      I hereby pardon you, and offer a tale of tomes from the other side of the counter in 1990…

      Call it one of the most remarkable success stories in modern publishing history.

      Since late 1985, at least 20 books by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard have become bestsellers.

      He said that while he was working at the B. Dalton in Hollywood, some books shipped by Hubbard’s publishing house arrived with B. Dalton price stickers already on them. He said this indicated to him that the books had been purchased at one of the chain’s outlets, then returned to the publishing house and shipped out for resale before anyone thought to remove the stickers.

      “We would order more books and . . . they’d come back with our sticker as if they were bought by the publisher,” Hamel said.

      Mike Gonzales, a non-church member who worked in accounts receivable, said one supervisor gave him hundreds of dollars for weekend forays into bookstores.

      In one month alone, he said, he bought and returned to Bridge 43 books in Hubbard’s “Mission Earth” science fiction series. And, according to Gonzales, he was not alone.

      “We had 15 to 20 people going all over L.A.,” he said.

      During a shopping spree at B. Dalton in the Glendale Galleria, Gonzales said, he bumped into three Bridge co-workers.

      “There we were, four people in line buying ‘Buckskin Brigades,’ and (the clerk) blurted out, ‘You know why they do that? To get on the bestsellers list!’ ”

      https://www.latimes.com/local/la-scientology062890-story.html

      Reply
  15. T

    “Josiah Bartlet as Mr. Rogers for grown-ups, so-called.” But Mister Rogers was a helper.

    Sorkin is bodice-rippers for grown-up grade-grubbers.

    Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Centrist fantasy. Was anything particularly liberal about the show? I mean the twofer Supreme Court nominees of a liberal Mitch McConnell would approve and Attila the Hun isn’t exactly a fantasy of even liberals.

        Reply
        1. richard

          I’ve never sat down and watched an episode of that show
          chapo counterpoises it against 300
          seeing them as the 2 foundational ur-texts of our times
          Wasn’t one of the fantasies in the show about making The Grand Bargain to cut social security and medicare benefits?

          Reply
  16. dcrane

    UPDATE “Someone went into Barnes & Noble and replaced the covers of Trump Jr.’s new book” [Daily Kos]. I remember, back in 2003-2004, going into Barnes & Noble and turning over books of Bush hagiography so the front covers didn’t show. There were a lot of them. Fat lot of good it did me. So, fifteen years later, we’re still doing that.

    A similar gimmick has been making waves in new Zealand.

    https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2019/dec/30/what-is-turnardern-and-why-is-everyone-in-new-zealand-talking-about-it

    Reply
  17. cnchal

    > . . . “Package carriers are wrestling with the higher handling costs of rising e-commerce volumes and the new charges suggest they’ll continue to fine-tune their pricing to reflect changes in parcel shipping patterns.”

    Shipping is a nightmare for small businesses..

    USPS is implementing dim weight, the biggest scam in the shipping business, in collusion with UPS and FedEx, system wide in a few weeks, destroying small businesses that ship large lightweight packages in one fell swoop, with 300 to 400% rate increases. A $24 “heavy box” surcharge is not yet being charged by USPS so I expect heavy box shipping will go there instead.

    Look at the bright side though. With all the destroyed businesses shipping nothing going forward, that carbon footprint goes to zero, saving the planet from cooking itself. The dark side is Amazon get’s moar bargaining power to crush USPS and UPS. FedEx being the smart one to fire Amazon, may escape the crusher.

    If your package is large and light, punishing rate increases. If your package is heavy, punishing rate increases. You cannot fine tune greed.

    Reply
    1. Stillfeelinthebern

      Yes, shipping and health insurance cost. Both always increasing without relation to inflation. Small business headaches.

      Reply
  18. Plenue

    Re: The West Wing

    Reminder of the existence of this podcast, which goes episode by episode and skewers the insufferable show https://westwingthing.libsyn.com/

    The hosts themselves occasionally drift into liberal hysteria (they’re in the ‘Trump is a fascist!!!11’ crowd), but for the most part they take a proper leftist scalpel to the toxic, morally and intellectually bankrupt worldview of the show. And often the most damning parts are when they just play straight audio clips from the show and let it speak for itself.

    The West Wing is astonishingly bad in its portrayal of women and minorities as well, even by 1999 standards. Sorkin is a weird anomaly in that he’s a neoliberal shill, but also seems to have not swallowed the identity politics pill. When they aren’t entirely token, minorities exist mainly to deliver “I’m totally not racist” dialogue, where Sorkin uses people of color as a shield he can cower behind as he has them deliver his own ugly opinions. ‘It can’t be racist if I have a black person say it!’ And women exist to be idiots who men can walk-and-talk exposition dumps at.

    The White House of The West Wing is a ‘perfected’ Clinton administration that removes all of the people who aren’t white men from positions of real power. It’s horrifying that liberals embraced it, and that they still do. In the same way that it’s horrifying to watch them fall all over themselves in their love for Hamilton.

    Reply
  19. allan

    Well, on the bright side the Federal minimum wage went up on Jan. 1 … oh, wait …

    Public Citizen @Public_Citizen

    Wealth of 400 richest Americans:

    2009: $1.27T
    10: $1.37T
    11: $1.5T
    12: $1.7T
    13: $2T
    14: $2.3T
    15: $2.3T
    16: $2.4T
    17: $2.7T
    18: $2.9T
    19: $3T

    Federal Minimum Wage:

    2009: $7.25
    10: $7.25
    11: $7.25
    12: $7.25
    13: $7.25
    14: $7.25
    15: $7.25
    16: $7.25
    17: $7.25
    18: $7.25
    19: $7.25

    11:20 AM – 2 Jan 2020

    Financial repression: Designed in Chicago, made in D.C.™.

    Reply
  20. BoyDownTheLane

    Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been named chancellor of Queen’s University in Belfast, becoming the first woman to hold the largely ceremonial role – and igniting speculation on social media.

    Clinton said it was a “great privilege” to become the university’s 11th chancellor, after her appointment was announced on Thursday. While the position does not involve relocating to Belfast – sorry, Americans – the chancellor acts as an ambassador outside Northern Ireland and sometimes oversees graduation ceremonies, in addition to advising the vice-chancellor and senior management. 

    Full story with multiple Tweets in response to this news:

    https://www.rt.com/uk/477341-hillary-clinton-chancellor-queens-belfast/

    Reply
  21. dcblogger

    The celebrity press corps only understands $, so that is why Sanders fundraising is big news, but the real story is his unprecedented volunteer organizing machine. Sanders is the only candidate with a nationwide campaign. The rest of them have skeleton crews in the early states.
    http://map.berniesanders.com/

    Reply
    1. Arizona Slim

      Bernie volunteer here. I personally have been at it since June 2019. This group has been active since last February:

      https://tucsonforbernie.com/

      I haven’t been to any of their meetings, but I have taken part in events that Tucson For Bernie has organized.

      Reply
    2. Massinissa

      Did not expect to see so many Bernie groups dotting North and South Carolina. Wonder if Bernie can actually take those from Biden.

      My state of Georgia only has Bernie groups in Atlanta. I assume its going to go to Biden like it went to Hillary in 2016.

      Reply
  22. Karla

    “Sales of cargo vans used to transport packages and other internet-ordered items are booming….”

    And don’t forget as living quarters for millennials:

    https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/converted-sprinter-van-family-home-photos-264469

    Know of five rather normal looking, clean, semi-professional people around here who are living in Sprinter vans, plus sevarl other Gypsy types, in old Chevy van conversions, Plus retired people living in standard RVs.

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      From what I can figure out, thousands of apartments, condos, and homes are being kept off the rental markets with any new units built for the saturated upper income market; that means anyone and especially any families, not in the top 20% is out of the market; however, vans and RVs are now doing great. The current political economy is so twisty and corrupt I could almost see investors taking advantage of the housing crisis that they helped to create by investing in vans and RVs. The scale is the only thing that would work against it.

      Still, some grifts can be gigantic in scale. Just look at what the American auto manufacturers did to the street car companies or how much of the large, interconnected public transportation that once laced through the Bay Area and Los Angeles just conveniently faded away at about the same time. IIRC, there have been a few cases of the water supply being privatized, cornered, or stolen for an area with the locals then having to buy back their formerly free or affordable water.

      It really only happens in poor, corrupt, Third World countries, but that increasingly describes we Americans. Plus, I’m Californian. A state where stealing entire rivers is a thing and about the only thing that they don’t do for water is put an actual shiv into people.

      Reply
    1. Bugs Bunny

      One more thing interesting today from France – re: fugitive crook Carlos Ghosn :

      “junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told France’s BFM news channel […] If Mr. Ghosn arrived in France, we will not extradite Mr. Ghosn because France never extradites its nationals”

      https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/01/02/national/france-will-not-extradite-ghosn-arrives-country-government/#.Xg6IFbco-pc

      I suspected some French Renseignements involvement in his escape, mostly due to the complete absurdity of it. This seems to confirms it.

      Once you make it in France, they’re gonna love you forever.

      Reply
      1. John

        Ya, how can we sleep when Oz is burning? Species are being burned to extinction there now. That’s a song I don’t care for much either. Thank you Lambert for the elegy for the dying animals of Oz. When will our beds burn?

        Reply
  23. The Rev Kev

    “Buttigieg’s Syria ‘Do Somethingism’”

    Trump did something when he let the Pentagon bomb those Iraqi Army militia units and that made things ten times as worse. These units were famous for fighting & defending Iraq against ISIS so he bombed Iraqi Army units on Iraqi territory. What is worse, they bombed the ammo dumps – the ones necessary to fight who? ISIS. So the Pentagon did bombing raids that directly benefited ISIS in its fight against Iraq. I bet that the Iraqis understood this.

    The Pentagon needs to be on a short leash. When Obama made a deal with Putin for Syria, a few days later the Pentagon unleashed a massacre of Syrian troops to help ISIS try to capture the besieged city of Deir ez-Zur and was only stopped by a furious bombing campaign by the Russians and the Syrians. If Buttigieg is saying do something, I think that it is a given that he would depend on the Pentagon to tell him what to do. This short history shows why that is a bad idea.

    Reply
    1. Misty Flip

      Five targets, two groups at the al Qaim border. Kata’ib Hezbollah and Al Qods. 25 killed, presumably some Iranian officers. However, the problem going unaddressed is that the rockets that killed an American, and wounded four more, at K1 are being stored in civilian areas. Things were already “not great”. This was the tenth recent attack by militias after the Iraqi PM and the Iraqi President both resigned over Iranian influence [corruption] two months ago. Iran is trying to assert itself again by stoking anti-American violence; the K1 base was captured by Iraqi SF from the Peshmerga, putting professional Iraqi soldiers, American-trained, back in Kurdistan. So, the Trump Admin and DoD remained in the fetal position for quite a while before a vehicle-borne rocket attack prompted “doing something”.

      Reply
  24. allan

    Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

    In order to get elected, @BarackObama will start a war with Iran.
    11:48 AM – 29 Nov 2011

    In light of tonight’s events in Baghdad, I’ll take Projection for $200, Alex.

    Reply
  25. Stormcrow

    SCARY NEWS LATE TONIGHT FROM IRAQ

    Trita Parsi

    Spoke to a very knowledgeable person about what Iran’s response to Soleimani’s assassination might be. This would be the equivalent of Iran assassinating Petreus or Mattis, I argued.

    No, he responded, this is much bigger than that…

    Some sources to follow:
    https://twitter.com/tparsi
    https://twitter.com/IraqiSecurity
    https://twitter.com/snarwani
    https://twitter.com/Dannymakkisyria
    https://twitter.com/FirasMaksad
    https://twitter.com/SanaSaeed
    https://twitter.com/aaronjmate

    Reply
    1. Kfish

      I was willing to defend Trump as a better president than Clinton if only because he was less willing to start a war. Looks like that’s gone now. Gods help us all.

      Reply
  26. Stormcrow

    US killed Iran’s Gen. Soleimani in strike, Pentagon said

    https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/01/03/iraq-rockets-fired-at-baghdad-airport-7-people-killed/

    It’s unknown how Iran may retaliate against the death of its military commander who is highly revered in the country.

    But researcher Kyle Orton says the U.S. may not be able to absorb what Iran throws at the U.S.

    American “troops are spread to thin, and Iran’s agents too widespread,” Orton told Military Times.

    Orton was previously a Syria conflict expert at the Henry Jackson Society — a London-based think tank.

    “If Iran makes the decision to flip the switch, I’m not sure how U.S. forces in Iraq defend themselves,” he said.

    Reply
  27. Stormcrow

    Max Fisher

    This is not Saddam’s half-decomposed Iraq or some bunch of North Vietnamese irregulars. Iran is a big, sophisticated regional power with far greater military capabilities than any country the US has gone to war with since WW2.

    If reports are true, assassinating Iran’s Soleimani would represent a major, overt act of war. Functionally and legally, it’s not a “risk of war” or “tantamount to war.” It is war outright, and against a country that has invested years of preparation into enduring just that.

    https://twitter.com/Max_Fisher

    Reply
    1. anon in so cal

      The War Nerd on General Soleimani:

      “this man was a great general, in an era with few top-level commanders worth remembering. He was brilliant from the beginning, and perhaps the best in the world at what’s emerging as the key military skill of the era: managing local allies…”

      https://twitter.com/TheWarNerd/status/1212956038632280064?s=20

      Soleimani was instrumental in defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria:

      https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/iranian-gen-qasem-soleimani-guiding-iraqi-forces-fight-against-isis-n321496

      Reply
  28. Synoia

    Feral Pigs Are Invasive, Voracious and Resilient. They’re Also Spreading

    Bit like the Blob. Meet the new apex species.

    Reply
  29. Stormcrow

    National Day of Action

    Sat Jan 4: National Day of Action U.S. Troops Out of Iraq

    On Saturday, January 4 the ANSWER Coalition, CODEPINK, Muslim Peace Fellowship, Veterans for Peace, United AntiWar Coalition (UNAC), United for Peace & Justice (UFPJ), Feminist Foreign Policy, World Beyond War, Popular Resistance and Voices for Creative Nonviolence are calling on people from around the United States to organize local demonstrations to demand: NO MORE U.S. TROOPS TO IRAQ OR THE MIDDLE EAST! U.S. OUT OF IRAQ NOW! and NO WAR/NO SANCTIONS ON IRAN!

    https://www.codepink.org/01042020

    This is what’s left of our anti-war movement, such as it is.

    Reply
  30. Stormcrow

    Trita Parsi

    Biggest risk for the US may not be the Iranian response to Soleimani’s assassination. It may be that other elements, who Iran may not control, may start targeting the US.

    So even if a desire to escalate exists, control may not exist to ensure no one else adds fuel to the fire.

    https://twitter.com/tparsi

    Reply
  31. anon in so cal

    “For weeks, it was Iranian consulates and facilities that bore the brunt of Iraqi popular unrest. Iran reacted with restraint. With our lethal attacks on the Kata’ib Hezbollah, we changed that. Pompeo, Esper and Trump are keeping up the trash talking. Threatening Iran by killing Iraqis… whose ass was that brilliant diplomatic strategy pulled from?”

    More discussion of protracted / unending US imperialism and aggression, from Col W. Patrick Lang:

    https://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2020/01/our-embassy-in-baghdad-ttg.html

    Article by Elijah Mangier:

    “…The United States of America has fallen into the trap of its own disinformation policy, as exemplified by the work of one of its leading strategic study centres, a neocon think tank promoting war on Iran.”

    https://ejmagnier.com/2020/01/02/how-the-us-was-hoist-by-its-own-petard-in-iraq-and-the-wishful-thinking-of-its-thinktanks/

    Reply
  32. ambrit

    Just an anecdote from the “Pain City” files.
    We’re trying a better formulation of the gaba pentin drugs that work against nerve pain: generic Lyrica. The GP sends our prescription to the local XXXXX Pharmacy. When I get there, sticker shock! Sixty 25mg pills of the stuff, for the uninsured; asking price $375 USD. Back I go to the GP. She sends the same prescription to the Hospital’s in-house pharmacy. They approve the transaction; cost: $8.50 USD. Words fail me.
    A similar example; oxycodone, 5mg. From the Hospital pharmacy: $4.50 for 30 pills. From the local Bigg Boxx Store Pharmacy: $14.50 for 30 pills. From the XXXXX Pharmacy: $22.50 for 30 pills. The exact same stuff from all the outlets. Something is profoundly wrong with our drugs “marketplace.”
    National Health for America, all the way.

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      At the least, Trump has thrown away any chance he may have had at re-election. When American soldiers start coming home in body bags, the mood of the ‘deplorables’ will turn against him in anger and disgust.
      A big part of Trump’s campaign was an anti-war stealth position. Now he has displayed stupid hypocracy. The Iranians might well consider this an act of war and react accordingly. The Persian Gulf region is such a ‘target rich environment.’

      Reply
      1. polecat

        I am extremely worried that neocon psycopandorians will, with maniacal intent, open up their box-o-‘toys’ … and start baring t- nuks … to deploy, and wankingly fling, before this is all over …

        And yes, Trump may very well be a 1-termer president, as a result of this clusterf#ck ! …… assuming anyone’s left to notice.

        Carbon wall-ghosted credits, anyone ……

        Reply
    2. makedonamend

      As calculated risks go, I think that this assassination might just work for President Trump.

      Issues that mitigate against Iran declaring war or taking precipitous action immediately:

      1. Iran on its own couldn’t defeat Iraq.
      2. Iran knows it cannot defeat the USA militarily.
      3. Iran doesn’t have the ultimate deterrent of nuclear weapons.
      4. Iran desparately needs to keep Russia and China on side for the long term, and right now neither nation wants a confrontation with the USA. Their economies would suffer at the very least.
      5. War would devastate the Iranian economy, allowing internal tensions to mount over the long term. The deterioration of social cohesion makes it easier for outside influence to control events when tormoil ensues.
      6. You do not go to war, if you can help it, just after your head (top general) was cut off.
      7. Iran has used surrogacy methods to confront the USA military juggernaut because it knows it own limitations and can use this as an excuse in the short term to placate its own hard-liners.

      Iran will, imo, just have to suck it up.

      As for die-hard President Trump supporters, some will turn on a political dime. The ones who shouted loudest that President Trump stopped the endless wars of the Democrat Party will now claim that his strong action and resolve has finally put Iran in its place. As similar dynamic played out over Brexit with relation to Prime Minister Johnson – the man who delivered. Strong men are admired by a vast cross section of any political entity.

      What will be interesting is the reaction of France and Germany. (The EU doesn’t set foreign policy for any member country.) Both will have to pay obeisance to the USA, at least on the surface. Both nations and other front line immigrant desination countries will have to worry about the blow-back of refugees. Will they keep back-door communication open with Iran? Can they suggest they candeliver some future political promises/tokens to Iran? Probably not. Europe, bar the UK, will see this as a continuing distabilising measure, and Germany in particular will have to weigh the USA’s sanction against NordstreamII in this light.

      From where I sit, the USA holds a hand full of Aces. This is not to say that less powerful countries might not try and bluff, so to speak. War is possible, and circumstances might spiral out of control. Some articles mention that other actors, only tangental to Iran, might decide this is a good time to attack US military so that Iran can be blamed.

      It’s a calculated risk, but still a risk.

      The rest of us have a front row seat to “interesting times”.

      (sorry for any spelling mistakes)

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        I’d hesitate to use the word ‘calculated’ with anything the Trump administration does in the Middle East.

        You are right that like all high stakes moves, it could work out well. Certainly, Iran is domestically under a lot of strain, and in those circumstances the government there is more likely to make mistakes. They’ve certainly made significant errors in Iraq, successfully turning many Shia against them.

        But it seems to me to be far too risky, even seen from their perspective. This significantly increases the possibility of a chaotic, Vietnam style retreat from Iraq, which would be catastrophic for Trump personally.

        As for Europe, as usual they’ll be craven on this – most likely they’ll try to have things both ways – equivocating in public, while desperately trying to persuade both Washington and Iran that really, they have their backs. They need to be very careful, as Europe could easily be the main casualty if it ends up being the main destiny for refugees, not to mention the economic impacts if Iran tries to shut down the supply of Gulf oil.

        Reply
        1. makedonamend

          Hey PK

          Fair enough.

          I say it is a calculated risk because the US military had to be on board with this “adventure” as did the entire US intelligence complex. Whatever the faults of the US complex, they do have some very, very savvy people who’ve run through varous scenarios to be sure. They didn’t take this action lightly and, imo, didn’t let President Trump act unilaterally. That’s my take, anyway. Assissination requires planning, good implementation, and a degree of luck. I wouldn’t be surprised if this event hasn’t been on the cards for some time, and now was both poltically opportune and and opportunistic with regard to time and place.

          The foreign policy of the US and its methodologies have been pretty linear for the last couple of years; replacing direct military confrontation with economic sanctions and very targeted instances of regime “alteration”. Europe has just been in the fall-out zone so far, and Chancellor Merkel has been dismal. (I laugh when people say the UK is the epitome of a US vassal. Germany just lies on its back and hopes the US will rub its belly. And of course France just got slapped with sactions/trade tariffs for talking out of school. Naughty France.)

          Also, whatever the short-comings of President Trump (and from a social and environmental standpoint they are legion) he has proven adept enough at pursuing his own political goals that converge with US international goals. What nation doesn’t like a politician who can deliver a win over a perceived enemy?

          MAGA is every bit a wooly as Hope&Change, but it has encorporated a patriotic element which gives it more scope for interpretation.

          Reply
          1. PlutoniumKun

            Those are fair points, although reading a little more (especially the always excellent Elijah Magnier), its also possible (if not probable) that the decision chain became victim of its own propaganda, believing incorrectly that Iran has lost popular support in Iraq and so is vulnerable to pressure. It wouldn’t be the first time that the entire intellectual weight of the US foreign policy team has acted in an entirely self defeating and stupid manner thanks to their incapacity to distinguish their own message from the on-the-ground reality (see, for example, Syria, Libya).

            Reply
            1. makedonamend

              Good Point. And recent history certainly lends credence to that point. It has to be a factor to some extent.

              However, I’ve had some tangental contact with the US complex back in the day (even to the point of being able to ask ex President Ford and his entourage a question on US foreign policy in an academic environment) and I tend to think the US complex is peopled by quite high calibre individuals. (Certainly way above my lowly pay grade.) They may make mistakes but they also learn. If they have the resources, and they do, they are very focused on their objective.

              US foreign policy, imo, tends towards the long term, though it seems hard to believe that recently. But, of course, a new administration can affect the long term goals in the short term.

              I do wonder though if certain layers of the military/intelligence complex have been cut out of the decision and strategic making loop. Such as secnario better fits President Trump’s modus operandi. (The top management by virtue of being top management make decisions seemingly unilaterally?)

              Still, I think the US holds all the Aces right now. I expect any blow-back will be a long time coming. I mean, how can any world leader not now know that they’re vulnerable. Anyone anywhere is drone fodder at the very least. Russia and China are used to playing the long game. A very long game.

              “It’s a fluid situation” – always is

              Hell, that clown in North Korea must be thanking his lucky stars he has nuclear capabilities.

              Anywho, the vast majority of us are mere spectators these days – if that.

              Ours is not to reason why, just work and shop work and shop work and shop :-)

              Reply
              1. ambrit

                The “drone fodder” theme is now world wide. The Iranians can hack and ‘recover’ American drones. They fly drones over the Golan heights ,and who knows where else. there is now nothing keeping “Foreign Actors” from doing drone strikes on targets here in America. think about that for a minute. The two ocean defensive moat is now obsolete. Of course, it was obsolete once inter-continental ballistic missiles were activated. But that was in true MAD territory. Small, controllable drones remove the basic rationale of MAD. In drone warfare, size matters, just in a counter-intuitive manner.

                Reply
        2. vlade

          The cost to the US could be that Iraq unceremoniously ditches out US troops, at the point of a gun. Think of the media! That would have very little real impact, but impact on Trump in particular woud be IMO rather different.

          Re Europe – Iran could try and split the Europe from the US there, especially if it managed to get China and Russia on its side. I.e. it could tell the EU to put up or shut up, offering both sweeteners (economic and non-economic, like helping with Syrian refugees), and threats (again, economic and non-economic). It could spell it out that fence sitting is seen as supporting the US.

          It could make it easier by using “Trump” instead of the US. In fact, disassociating Trump and the US could be a very good move in parts of the world.. Of course, it could make it harder for whoever is going to run against Trump later his year though, but does Iran care?

          Reply
  33. Basil Pesto

    That link for Sitzfleisch comes with a terribly clunky translation: sit-flesh. IMNSHO a far better translation would be: ‘seat meat’

    Reply

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