2:00PM Water Cooler 1/3/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“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:

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

No change from yesterday, where we had our first polls of the New Year, and YouGov confirming a with a nice big Morning Consult sample as of 1/3/2020, 1:00 PM EST. The pattern of Biden first, Sanders strong second, then Warren and Buttigeig is stable. On to Iowa!

And the numbers:

Here is state polling for IA, NH, SC, NV and CA as of 1/3/2020, 1:00 PM EST. Notice any glaring lacunae?

(I double-checked at RCP; they have nothing too.) No polling in the key initial primary states at all for two weeks, even after the debate? With no polls before the vote, and not exit polls after the vote, we’re gonna have to be awfully trusting of the balloting process….

And for grins, here are the numbers of the last poll, in IA:

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.”

* * *

Biden (D)(1): “Joe Biden’s Senate Papers Will Remain Locked Up For 2020” [HuffPo]. “Initially, the [University of Delaware] said that the papers would go online no sooner than two years after Biden retired from ‘public office’ or Dec. 31, 2019 ― with the possibility that it would be even later if processing took more time. Biden left office as vice president in January 2016, when President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were inaugurated. But in April, the university changed its mind and pushed back the date once again. ‘The records will be available no sooner than the later date of December 31, 2019, or two years after the donor retires from public life,’ the university website reads. Dec. 31, 2019, has come and gone, and the papers aren’t online. And because Biden is running for president, the university still considers him to be in ‘public life,’ as a spokeswoman told The Washington Post in July.”

Buttigieg (D)(1):

Gabbard (D)(1):

Sanders (D)(1): “Can Bernie Sanders Alter the Course of the Democratic Party?” [The Intercept]. (Page title: “A New Electorate.”) “That Sanders’s path to the nomination relies on activating the disaffected is old news by now. Yet how exactly his campaign plans to make that a reality has been closely guarded. Interviews with dozens of senior campaign officials, volunteers, and Sanders allies reveal a well-resourced and complex organizing apparatus that has been five years in the making, the most ambitious effort yet to link face-to-face movement-style organizing with technology not available to previous campaigns. If Sanders does manage to pull off a victory, it will be thanks to the faith he invested in his volunteer supporters to do more than any campaign has asked before — and his organizing operation will get, and deserve, much of the credit…. In leaning so heavily into organizing, Sanders is gambling that the strategy that won him a mayor’s race in Burlington, Vermont, and broke the back of the local establishment, can be scaled nationwide. Or, perhaps, he’s made the calculation that no other path exists through the Democratic primary.” • So, if you see other campaigns attacking not Sanders, but his supporters, this is why; they want to discredit the Sanders volunteers. Well worth reading in full.

Sanders (D)(2): “Bernie Sanders Outraises Billionaire-Backed Competition” [Rolling Stone]. “The latest haul gives Sanders cash to invest in his ground game for the Iowa caucuses, which are now barely a month away. Meanwhile the campaign’s most valuable asset — the candidate himself — is freed up from the time suck of fundraising pitstops, and can focus exclusively on persuading voters that he’s the best bet to take on Trump in 2020.”

Sanders (D)(3): “Ascendant Bernie Sanders turns his focus to Joe Biden as Iowa nears” [WaPo]. Sanders: “It’s just a lot of baggage that Joe takes into a campaign, which isn’t going to create energy and excitement. He brings into this campaign a record which is so weak that it just cannot create the kind of excitement and energy that is going to be needed to defeat Donald Trump.” • That’s very canny framing. How does Biden respond to it? “I am exciting”?

Sanders (D)(4): “Sanders gets cold shoulder from New Hampshire unions” [Politico]. “The Vermont senator had developed close ties with labor leaders in the state well before his 2016 victory, including being invited to headline the annual AFL-CIO Labor Day breakfast so often that local Democrats privately complained they weren’t being offered the top spot. But now, other candidates are running on a similar agenda, and those sympathetic to Sanders’ cause said they have a strong incentive to hold back for fear of picking the wrong horse.”

Williamson (D)(1): “Marianne Williamson stays in presidential race after firing her entire 2020 campaign staff” [CNBC]. “‘It’s amazing what you can do with volunteers,’ the Democratic candidate wrote in a statement late Thursday, which came hours after various reports said she had fired her whole staff…. Financial issues forced the layoffs, sources told WMUR.”

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2016 Post Mortem

“Hillary Clinton named chancellor of Belfast university” [Agence France Presse]. “Clinton will serve for five years in the largely ceremonial role, the Northern Irish institution announced…. The chancellor’s duties involve presiding at degree awarding ceremonies, representing Queen’s in an ambassadorial role and advising the university’s executive.”

Obama Legacy

“Barack Obama Still Got That Presidential Swag… Shirtless Livin’ In Hawaii” [TMZ]. “The shirtless shots of 44 might not be as jaw-dropping as buff Barack in the Aloha State back in 2008 — shortly before he became President — but still … pretty impressive.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

No kidding:

UPDATE CIA Democrat weighs in:

UPDATE “Members of Congress Own Up to $93 Million in Fossil Fuel Stocks” [ReadSludge]. “As of Dec. 13, 2019, 134 members of Congress and their spouses own as much as $92.7 million worth of stock in fossil fuel companies and mutual funds, according to an analysis of financial disclosures by Sludge. House members own between roughly $29.5 million and $78.2 million in fossil fuel stocks, while senators have between $3.8 million and $14.5 million invested in oil, gas, and coal interests. Members of Congress generally report the value of their investments in broad ranges, so it’s not possible to know exactly how much their stocks are worth.”

“NC voter ID law written with ‘discriminatory intent,’ says judge who just blocked it” [News & Observer]. “Racial discrimination was at least part of the motivation for a new voter ID law in North Carolina, a federal judge wrote Tuesday, striking the law down for now. In a 60-page ruling evoking decades of racism in North Carolina, the judge wrote that parts of the new voter ID law ‘were impermissibly motivated, at least in part, by discriminatory intent.’ ‘North Carolina has a sordid history of racial discrimination and voter suppression stretching back to the time of slavery, through the era of Jim Crow, and, crucially, continuing up to the present day,’ she wrote. The last time North Carolina’s Republican-led General Assembly passed a voter ID law, in 2013, it was also struck down for racial discrimination. However, GOP leaders have repeatedly said they believed this newer version of the law, which was passed a year ago, avoided the racial issues the previous law ran into.”

Stats Watch

Tech: “Kohler mistakenly thinks we want a smart bathroom” [Input]. “It’s those very same surveillance worries –– along with the inevitably enormous price tag –– that make the Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet an, umm, hard pass for us. The features list is impressive: water efficiency controls, built-in Japanese-style bidet (or as we like to call it, the old washer-dryer combo), a heated seat, built-in speakers and –– our favorite –– customizable multi-colored ambient lighting. But then there’s the final, terrifying inclusion: Alexa.” • No.

Tech: “One of the world’s largest private equity firms just bought one of the world’s largest library ebook companies” [Boing Boing]. “KKR is one of the largest private equity funds in the world. Overdrive is one of the largest e-lending suppliers to the world’s libraries, supplying 43,000 libraries in 75 countries. Now, KKR owns Overdrive, having purchased it for an undisclosed sum. Private equity firms’ business model is to buy profitable, productive companies, load them up with debt (paying themselves out of the money that was borrowed), cut costs by slashing wages and degrading the quality of their products and services, then allowing the company to go bust, stiffing the creditors, workers, and suppliers (that is, libraries, publishers and writers).”

Tech: “A US government study confirms most face recognition systems are racist” [Technology Review]. “Almost 200 face recognition algorithms—a majority in the industry—had worse performance on nonwhite faces, according to a landmark study…. Why this matters: The use of face recognition systems is growing rapidly in law enforcement, border control, and other applications throughout society. While several academic studies have previously shown popular commercial systems to be biased on race and gender, NIST’s study is the most comprehensive evaluation to date and confirms these earlier results. The findings call into question whether these systems should continue to be so widely used.”

UPDATE Tech: “Why I may dump Apple in 2020… and why you should consider it too” [ZDNet]. “The bottom line is that I feel like I’m paying premium prices for Apple hardware, but that I no longer get a premium experience. Some of this is outside of Apple’s control for sure and is down to stiff competition, but the buggy releases and inconsistent user experience is totally under Apple’s control. And yet, despite years of knowing that iOS development is slipping, it can’t get a handle on the problem. What’s worse is that I feel that Apple is hiding behind high customer satisfaction scores as opposed to addressing the issues at hand…. .Sure, there will be rough edges [with Windows and Linux and iOS and Android], but there are rough edges with Apple hardware, and I’m paying top dollar to experience that pain.”

The Bezzle: “Inside the College Football Game-Day Housing Boom” [City Lab]. “Numerous college towns with serious football fanbases receive waves of alumni and road warriors on the Friday nights before the game, often traveling as family packs or roommate reunions…. But as in many larger cities grappling with tourism spikes, some college communities are also dealing with the downsides of their seasonal magnetism. Disruptive noise, safety concerns, and scant parking are common refrains among locals besieged by weekend football crowds…. Taylor Shelton, a MSU geosciences professor, is researching this phenomenon in Starkville, MI. Based on vacant residence counts from the Census Bureau, parcel data from the county assessor, and Airbnb listings, he estimates that game-day homes make up 5 to 10 percent of the town’s total housing stock. That share has grown steadily in the past seven years. Shelton believes it’s linked to a current dearth in affordable housing in Starkville, since home values and rents have also risen significantly.”

Mr. Market: “Oil prices skyrocket, stock futures sink after top Iranian general killed by U.S. airstrike” [MarketWatch]. “Crude oil prices skyrocketed and U.S. stock market futures fell on Thursday night following news that a top Iranian general and an Iraqi militia’s deputy commander were killed in a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad’s airport… If those increases hold up for Friday’s trading sessions, it would be near crude’s highest prices since mid-September, after a missile attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.”

Mr. Market: “Economic prospects for 2020: New Weather and the FT survey” [New Weather]. “Periodic and worsening financial crashes point to a memory loss problem in the world of economics. As the chronicler of the Great Crash of 1929, J K Galbraith put it, “The world of finance hails the invention of the wheel over and over again, often in a slightly more unstable version.” There is a danger that an over-confident government with a large major majority and a short memory may forget the lessons of the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and push ahead with the ‘bonfire of regulations’ that several Conservative pro-Brexit voices exhorted in 2016. The crash taught us that the pendulum between deregulation and checks and balances, between public and private, had swung too far in one direction. If it is allowed to swing still further in the direction of weakly regulated markets, and undermining and destabilising the public sphere – not only will it be self-defeating in economic terms – but in terms of the social fabric and protecting our underpinning ecological life-support systems, it will tip us over. The climate emergency and crisis of inequality requires us all to put preconceptions and ideological preoccupations aside, and find out what will work to bind a country together and to flourish within the bounds of its biosphere.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 95 Extreme Greed (previous close: 97 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 91 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 3 at 1:15pm.

The Biosphere

“The past and future of global river ice” [Nature]. “More than one-third of Earth’s landmass is drained by rivers that seasonally freeze over. Ice transforms the hydrologic1,2, ecologic3,4, climatic5 and socio-economic6,7,8 functions of river corridors. Although river ice extent has been shown to be declining in many regions of the world1, the seasonality, historical change and predicted future changes in river ice extent and duration have not yet been quantified globally. Previous studies of river ice, which suggested that declines in extent and duration could be attributed to warming temperatures9,10, were based on data from sparse locations…. Our results show that, globally, river ice is measurably declining and will continue to decline linearly with projected increases in surface air temperature towards the end of this century.”

Groves of Academe

“The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade” [Hackeducation]. “1. Anti-School Shooter Software: “For a while, many ed-tech evangelists would bristle when I tried to insist that school security systems and anti-school shooting software were ed-tech. But in the last year or so, it’s getting harder to deny that’s the case. Perhaps because there’s clearly a lot of money to be made in selling schools these products and services: shooting simulation software, facial recognition technology, metal detectors, cameras, social media surveillance software, panic buttons, clear backpacks, bulletproof backpacks, bulletproof doors, emergency lockdown notification apps, insurance policies, bleeding control training programs, armed guards, and of course armed teachers.” • Ka-ching.

Class Warfare

This looks like a good idea that would help the precariat:

UPDATE “Military Families Live in Housing with Mice and Mold, and Congress Wants ‘Slumlords’ and Top Brass Held Accountable” [Newsweek]. “The housing crisis facing the Defense Department dates back over 20 years. Congress enacted the Military Housing Privatization Initiative in 1996 to address Pentagon concerns over inadequate and poor quality housing for service members. Today, private companies control roughly 99 percent of housing units on U.S. military installations and are responsible for overall conditions, according to the GAO report.” • This should be low-hanging fruit for the Sanders campaign….

“Escaping the inequality-data Dark Ages” [Social Europe]. “We are living in the Dark Ages of inequality statistics. More than a decade after the ‘Great Recession’, governments are still unable to track accurately the evolution of income and wealth. Statistical agencies produce income-growth statistics for the population as a whole (national accounts), but not for the ‘middle class’, the ‘working class’ or the richest 1 per cent and 0.1 per cent. At a time when Google, Facebook, Visa, Mastercard and other multinational corporations know intimate details about our private lives, governments still do not capture, let alone publish, the most basic statistics concerning the distribution of income and wealth.” • That’s not a bug. It’s a feature.

News of the Wired

“I asked my students to turn in their cell phones and write about living without them.” [MIT Technology Review (Furzy Mouse)]. “To these young people, direct, unmediated human contact was experienced as ill-mannered at best and strange at worst.” • Yikes! Moral panic, or legit?

UPDATE Pricing signal failure:

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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. Tvc15

      So much to say regarding the Soleimani assassination, but I think the South Park America F*#k Yeah! video Lambert occasionally posts says it best.

      1. Sol

        The internet has many thoughts on this.

        The kids of Reddit assume they are all about to be drafted and die. They are discussing whether this counts as sweet relief.

        The libertarians are screaming “Murika!”, talking about glass parking lots and quoting Toby Keith songs. Unironically.

        The boomers seem pleased that finally, at long last, it will be proven that women are no good in combat. There are a few side fights in regards to gold being a stupid investment vehicle.

        Investors and finance types are moaning, “Nooo wat is u doing??” Apparently the market had priced in a trade deal with China (which, frankly, i mean come on…).

        Interesting times.

        1. JBird4049

          …and quoting Toby Keith songs. Unironically.

          Kinda like how Born in the USA was/is so popular withsome people. As if they are not listing to the words, the lyrics, of the song, which is still, itself, relevant to today.

          [Verse 1]
          Born down in a dead man’s town
          The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
          You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
          ‘Til you spend half your life just coverin’ up

          Born in the U.S.A
          I was born in the U.S.A
          I was born in the U.S.A
          Born in the U.S.A

          [Verse 2]
          Got in a little hometown jam
          So they put a rifle in my hand
          Sent me off to a foreign land
          To go and kill the yellow man

          Born in the U.S.A
          I was born in the U.S.A
          I was born in the U.S.A
          I was born in the U.S.A

          [Verse 3]
          Come back home to the refinery
          Hiring man says, “Son if it was up to me”
          Went down to see my V.A. man
          He said, “Son, don’t you understand”

          [Verse 4]
          I had a brother at Khe Sanh
          Fighting off the Viet Cong
          They’re still there, he’s all gone
          He had a woman he loved in Saigon
          I got a picture of him in her arms now

          [Verse 5]
          Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
          Out by the gas fires of the refinery
          I’m ten years burning down the road
          Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go

          Born in the U.S.A
          I was born in the U.S.A. now
          Born in the U.S.A
          I’m a long gone Daddy in the U.S.A. now
          Born in the U.S.A
          Born in the U.S.A
          Born in the U.S.A
          I’m a cool rockin’ Daddy in the U.S.A. now
          Yeah, the more things change…

      2. clarky90

        IMO, the Soleimani assassination is also a clear warning to the USAian Deepest State (the neo-NKVD/Gestapo). They are engaged in a fight to the death with Trump. If the Alphabets (CIA etc) prevail, Trump, and eventually his entire family and entourage will be loaded into boxcars and sent “North”, or worse.

        The “Alphabets” are a grave danger to Bernie and all future presidents…..and the unruly…….

        1. John k

          So you mean trump and Bernie are on the same side?
          Does this mean I’m on trumps side?
          Interesting times.

          1. JBird4049

            It means that the Deep State and whoever has the Presidency might be in conflict; just because the Constitution and over 230 years of law, customs, traditions, and expectation all make the President in charge of the military and foreign relations does not mean that he is.

            Some people think that only the Serious People should run things and that silly things like democracy or the rule of law mean anything. They want the President to be like the British Monarch all impressive with pomp and circumstances, but no real power, except as a distraction for the Deplorables (meaning the 95% of Americans who didn’t go to the right schools or have the secret handshake).

            More generally, it means a growing conflict between the chosen representatives of the people who theoretically have ultimate control of the government and the bureaucracy of the Security State.

      3. Synoia

        Organized crime gangs whack people they do not like.

        Governments arrest and try them. Possibly in International Criminal Court.

        1. polecat

          What is this International Criminal Court of which you speaketh of ??
          … is similar stature to that of the toothless and PeterPrincipled organization colloquially known as … the U.N ?

          Because when comes down to brass tacks, I don’t see either one as effectively doing squat to really chang things for the better on this tiny blue dot !!

        2. JCC

          But don’t forget,

          “The United States is not a State Party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute), which founded the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2002 as a permanent international criminal court to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst crimes known to humankind – war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide”, when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so.”

          (from the lead para on wikipedia regarding the International Court)

        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Governments arrest and try them. Possibly in International Criminal Court.

          Good point. What we should have done with Bin Laden. “Rules-based international order” and so on. To be fair, if we had done that, we wouldn’t have been able to funnel billions to Halliburton and various mercenary armies. So, opportunity costs!

      4. JohnnyGL


        Trita Parsi interviewed on The Hill’s ‘Rising’. He says the assassination is much bigger than killing Petraeus during the height of the Iraq War.

        Saagar threw out the idea of killing Douglas MacArthur, Parsi didn’t seem to disagree.

        This has got to be close to the worst move yet by Trump, right next to pulling out of the Iran deal.

        1. Daryl

          Seems like a good thing to impeach someone for, but Democrats would probably like to maintain the right to murder people for themselves.

      5. lyman alpha blob

        A few thoughts –

        The Democrats want Bolton to testify during the impeachment trial. If he does he will likely make statements damaging to Trump, even if they are not true, to protect himself and further his own influence. Bolton has also been one of the leading hawks against Iran (and pretty much every other country for that matter) for years. Does Trump launch an assassination to placate Bolton and the hawks in exchange for exonerating testimony?

        My guess is that McConnell wouldn’t let Bolton testify without some advance assurance that his testimony would benefit the Republicans, if he allows anyone testify at all, so the above may be very far-fetched.

        Maybe Trump did it as a favor to his Saudi pals. A lot more evidence of colluding with the Saudis than there ever was with Russia, but that collusion vector is AOK in the Beltway. If the Dems suddenly get all quiet about this, that would be a tell.

        And maybe Trump was just as in the dark about it as Congress was and the spooks pulled it off without telling anybody, and Trump just took credit later.

              1. The Rev Kev

                I guess that Scotty from Marketing is trying to shape the narrative. Or it may be also a result of the NSW Emergency services minister finally getting back from his holidays and knowing what needs to be done first.
                I hope that Bega will be OK. A lot of my ancestral families lived in that town so I have a kind of soft spot for it. Tegan George was saying “People’s tents and tarps are now being blown over in the evac grounds as the wind picks up around Bega”. That’s not good that.

        1. kiwi

          So no one here thinks the strike was done for the purposes stated by Trump or Pompeo?

          That Soleimani was planning attacks across several countries?

          And tying the strikes to Bolton’s potential testimony and/or ‘favors’ to Saudis is just weird.

          Do you think with all the attacks Trump has weathered over the years, he is worried about Bolton? Trump’s attitude is probably, “bring it.”

          1. Acacia

            How would we know his plans? Oh right, “military intelligence”.

            I would imagine it works something like this: Trump has regular meetings with military intel people, who report their findings and suggest options. They identify high profile targets, stalk them, and then put them on the menu for Trump. The menu items include the “benefits” of droning them as talking points, which the POTUS then gets to tweet, etc. “Was planning dastardly attacks in several countries” sounds like a good unverifiable talking point.

            It wasn’t that Trump was yelling “Cook! Where’s my Hasenpfeffer?”, it’s more like Soleimani was this week’s special on the kill menu.

            1. Plenue

              I expect that’s how it normally works (we certainly know that’s how it worked under Obama, sans the Tweeting), but I get the very distinct impression that this whole affair was special, and probably very hastily put together.

              I’m sure Soleimani was on a kill list for a long time, but how he came to be killed seems to be on a timeline measured in just a few days:

              Moon of Alabama pointed out that on December 12 the Carnegie Middle East Center asked for opinions on how the US should respond to ‘Iranian aggression’ inside Iraq. One of the answers was to set up prearranged targets, and hit them the next time Iran does something. On December 29 someone, it’s still not clear who, attacked a US base with rockets and killed a US contractor (mercenary?). The US then immediately blamed the attack on the Iraqi PMU militias, claimed they were servants of Iran, and bombed PMU bases 300 miles away from the base where the contractor was killed. The US attack killed at least 25 Iraqi military personnel. Protestors then attacked the US embassy in Baghdad on December 31. The US blamed Iran for the embassy attack, and assassinated Soleimani on January 2, claiming he was planning ‘further’ attacks.

              The whole thing seems to me to have been either planned and executed in a hurry, or to have been a series of off the cuff decisions as events rapidly crashed together one after another. If we discount the part with the Carnegie Center, since there’s no real reason to think the suggestion of hitting prearranged targets wasn’t something that was already going on, we get only five days for all these events.

              Even with December 12 it’s still only a few weeks.

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                > hitting prearranged targets wasn’t something that was already going on

                Obama set up an entire bureaucracy to manage his “disposition matrix.” Hard to believe that’s still not going on. Also, check out Slotkin’s thread in the post; “Suleimani” had apparently been tracked for some time.

                I don’t deny that the decisions were off-the-cuff — this is the Trump administration, after all — but it looks like Suleimani’s number was bound to come up at some point…

          2. Plenue

            “So no one here thinks the strike was done for the purposes stated by Trump or Pompeo?”


            And even if I were to accept their claims, and there is literally no reason to, it still doesn’t justify bombing the capital of an allied nation, against the express wishes of that allied government, and killing that allies government officials in the process.

            Also, last I checked assassinations are illegal, under both US law (no less than three Presidents proscribed it in Executive Orders, including Reagan), and international law. Now I’m not sure if that illegality includes targeted killing of individuals in time of war, but we are, in fact, not in a legally declared state of war with Iran.

            For whatever it’s worth (I know he is certainly abnormal for the military) my serving Marine nephew is not at all happy about any of this, with a particular displeasure at the assassination aspect.

              1. Acacia

                Why? Was it really any different under Obama, who assassinated thousands of people?

                Democrats have and would do the same thing. Pelosi recently admitted she knew the claim about WMDs in Iraq was a lie, and she didn’t call for W’s impeachment.

                The Democrats are only ever serious in the future subjunctive mood.

                1. lyman alpha blob

                  All true, which goes to show they are not serious and impeachment is merely a frivolous political matter meant to further their own interests, not those of the country.

                  1. workingclasshero

                    As usual ,a contemporary democrat trying to further party or whatever you want to call “progressive”intetests has just f#!&ed up whatever their political goals are with impeachment.

            1. RMO

              “So no one here thinks the strike was done for the purposes stated by Trump or Pompeo?”

              I tend to be skeptical of people and institutions that have been telling egregious lies for longer than I have been alive. I’m funny that way.

              1. kiwi


                So were you skeptical about the Russia Russia Russia stuff? Were you skeptical about the parade of institutional ‘witnesses’ who didn’t actually witness anything during the impeachment hearings?

                Did you believe the entrenched bureaucrats in Ukraine when they said they were concerned about corruption in Ukraine?

                1. Plenue

                  This site, and the majority of its commentators, hasn’t just been ‘skeptical’ of Russiagate. We’ve outright said it was a lie from the very beginning.

              1. Plenue

                There is zero evidence there was any ‘threat’. Trump et al are lying. And I dispute that Soleimani was a ‘terrorist’, at least any more than any other general was.

                Further, we assassinated a foreign official of a country we are not at war with, who had diplomatic immunity and who was in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government, on the territory of a sovereign ally, without that ally’s permission, murdering multiple of that ally’s own government officials and citizens in the process. And that only days after murdering dozens of that ally’s soldiers in what very much looks like a deliberate attempt to bait Soleimani out into public.

                How about you go and educate yourself about the guy, his activities, and the events surrounding our illegal assassination?

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Does Trump launch an assassination to placate Bolton and the hawks in exchange for exonerating testimony?

          I don’t buy the Wag the Dog theory, for the simple reason that Pelosi and the Democrats have completely butchered* the impeachment process. There is no dog to wag.

          * To be fair, Pelosi has drawn the bounds of what is and is not impeachable pretty clearly, with her limited indictment. Emoluments are “off the table,” for example. So the next liberal Democrat can cash in immediately, instead of going through the charades of “Presidential Centers” and book and TV deals. So there’s that.

          1. kiwi

            The dems have already said they are going to continue impeachment processes forever and ever and ever and ever, regardless of what NP says.

            After all, Trump is an existential threat that must be dealt with immediately, or we’re all gonna die!!!! (as the dems leave DC for vacations)

            So, NP slow walking the process makes so much perfect sense (not).

      6. skippy

        I think Iran has more long term strategic concerns due to its affiliation with Russia and China, now, hence any knee jerk would be seen as a weakness and not strength, especially tit for tat mob like whacking of higher ups. The propaganda machine will be running at full potential and feeding it any energy would be counter productive or do some remember how our man Saddam, Noriega, or a cast of other colourful caricatures became ev’bal despots in the blink of an eye.

        Who knows if the diminishing returns on fracking and shale plays need a bit of help or any stabilization in the ME must be avoided at all costs. I still remember the Albright thingy, but hay, she did well post SecS with her cntsultancy* gig for herbal life … eh …

          1. notabanker

            The aim of this drill is to bolster security of international maritime commerce,

            Imho, that is more than just a shot across the bow, pun intended.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          “… diminishing returns on fracking and shale plays….”

          this tickles my Prophet Beard a bit.
          both my Brothers in Law work in the Permian oil patch, and both report layoffs, cut hours, precarious scheduling, etc.
          both are socking away $$, and looking for work elsewhere as much as they can.
          also, sand truck traffic is way down on the highways hereabouts.
          boosting oil prices at this moment will help the Players in the Permian, at least a bit.
          prolly not a main reason for such an action….if there even is a discernible “reason”,lol…but I’m sure it plays into the smoky room justifications. How much is the “health” of the domestic oil patch tied up incestuously with the rest of the “economy”?

          1. skippy

            Per Hudson wheat was weaponized against the USSR, remember many farmers getting checks to not plant, even when many were never going too.

            Highlighted by some links of late with evidence of other commodities or power utilizes being gamed, its all old hat.

            Per Lambert’s link – Gang land style executions on the expectation that command and control apparatus is significantly impaired does not even begin to damage Iran in any meaning full way and more than likely will promote anti U.S. perspectives, if that was the goal they succeeded. We had some drone strikes, hardly a tactical or strategic engagement where anyone showed their hand.

  1. katiebird

    The Overdrive story makes me sick. I love checking out eBooks from libraries (free books in the middle of the night!)

    Of the 3 major library systems near me, only one still uses Overdrive. And Overdrive has a format option for eInk! Which means Kindles, Nooks and other eBooks are compatible.

    Axis, used by the other 2 library systems is only compatible with Tablets and Computers. I hate reading fiction on tablets and computers so losing Overdrive would be a tragedy for me.

    1. Carolinian

      Overdrive has an excellent browser based reader that I use for checking out e-books from my library. Before Overdrive they used a different product–from Adobe I believe–which wasn’t very good at all. You had to download a special reader program for use with a computer. As for Kindle–trying to keep Bezos at bay as much as possible.

      1. katiebird

        Yes, I was devoted to Nook. But several British authors That I have to read are now only published in Kindle format. Maybe there is a way around actually buying their books through Amazon, but I haven’t figured it out. As it is, sometimes there is quite a wait before I can get them here in the US.

  2. Mark Gisleson

    Twitter says there’s a new Selzer poll being conducted in Iowa. Last time they did the Buttigieg surge poll in about four days over a weekend when many Iowa college teams had important games. The current schedule suggests they’re going to do polling during this weekend’s NFL playoff games.

    I’m glad to see this. The more glaring the disconnect between the polls and the actual turnout, the harder it will be for the media to control the primary season narrative.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The more glaring the disconnect between the polls and the actual turnout

      I would really, really like to see some significant election monitoring going on, but if we can’t call in the UN, I don’t see how we do it (and asking the Sanders campaign is both a burden on a campaign that’s already enormously burdened, and likely to be framed as tendentious). Sadly, the only institution I know of in this area is run by Stacey Abrams, who went to Washington immediately after her loss and got on board at CAP.

    1. dcrane

      Just sent both Tulsi and Bernie new donations. If they see a surge in funding at moments like these the message will be clear.

      1. Shonde

        Great support idea! Emails from Bernie and Tulsi today were both deleted since if I sent a donation to their every email I would be bankrupting myself. However, based on what you just wrote I just restored them and sent both donations. Thanks.

        1. dcrane

          Yeah these campaigns all tend to abuse the emails from the actblue system. I end up having to immediately unsubscribe after each donation to avoid the spam.

  3. ambrit

    I had to laugh at the TMZ “Shirtless Obama” ‘story.’ What utter tripe! Bread and circuses in the electronic age. But, there’s more! I suddenly thought back to all the obloquy heaped upon Vlad Vladimirovitch Putin, (the Democrat Nemesis! [cue the hisses and boos,]) for letting out those photos of a *gasp!* shirtless Vlad on horseback. Now, the ‘manufactured’ popular feeling was somewhere between ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘The Magnifithant Theven!’ (Don’t go on so! I come from an old and storied tradition of English ‘Precious’ jokes. Think Eddie Izzard.) So, to see similar photos broadcast straight faced of Obama with no ‘subversive’ commentary is, to say the least, educational.

    1. Biph

      TBF being shirtless on a beach is pretty normal, being shirtless on horseback is unusual to say the least.

      1. ambrit

        Then why did Frederick Remington paint all those Plains Indians shirtless on horseback? He actually went Out West to see for himself. Why, if Elanor of Aquitaine, as reported in the play, “The Lion in Winter” is any judge, even women revel in riding shirtless.
        All snark aside, you have a point. However, in my defense, we are expected to require “Honesty” in politics? What a novel notion!
        The real quibble I have with this “news story” is it’s obvious nature of hagiography and multi sensory propaganda. The man nearly destroys America’s middle class, not to mention the poor, and we are supposed to delight in his living the High Life!
        I have learned one major lesson in the few years I have been perusing this blog and similar venues; “One cannot be too cynical.”

        1. Wukchumni

          How come college football players are allowed to have a lot of nekkid leg showing, while the NFL is more chaste when it comes to showing lower extremities?

          …and by the way

          What Would Ned Buntline Do?

      2. polecat

        Didn’t you mean shirtless on Bearback ?? …

        And lets not forget Putin-on-a-Ritz .. spinning, bareback, to infinity and beyond, in hills and glades of Mother Russia !

      3. Yves Smith

        Cultural projection, big time!

        No, in Russia the natives are desperate to get sun in the short summer months, so being partly disrobed on days that allow for that is pretty common.

      4. Lambert Strether Post author

        > TBF being shirtless on a beach is pretty normal

        But propagating the photos all over the Intertubes is not. (A lot of people lost their minds in 2008: “He took off his shirt!”)

  4. Synoia

    Trump’s military strike against Iranian militia was impulsive, short-sighted, and lacked strategic purpose.

    Perhaps the US should have taken the case to the International Criminal Court? The one that adjudicates war crimes?

    Isn’t one of the recognized aspects of organized crime their propensity to whack people they do not like?

    1. voteforno6

      A Trumpster at work tried to claim, with a straight face, that Trump wants to end U.S. involvement in the Middle East, and this was part of that effort.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > A Trumpster at work tried to claim, with a straight face, that Trump wants to end U.S. involvement in the Middle East, and this was part of that effort.

        At least Trump knows what sells, even if he’s not going to deliver it.

    2. RMO

      Since the Clinton administration refused to send the ICC treaty to the Senate for ratification and the Bush administration “unsigned” the ICC treaty and in the years since the US has done everything it could to prevent the ICC from having jurisdiction over US citizens it probably wouldn’t be the first choice of US authorities for something like this. Much easier to just damn the questions of sovereignty and law and just splatter some more human bodies over the scenery with that magnificent trillion dollar a year military. /s

      1. JBird4049

        I rather don’t like the idea of someone else having any jurisdiction over Americans, but I also support the quaint ideas of the rule of law and of basic humanity, of being humane to everyone. Guess that makes me a chump to too many “serious people.”

      2. JTMcPhee

        ICC jurisdiction, per the Jerusalem-DC axis, does not extend to either party to that secret agreement noted in comments earlier, a “memorandum of understanding” on complete cooperation going forward. Nuclear Israel has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that most “civilized” nations have signed on to, while demanding that Iran and Iraq toe that NPT line to the nth degree. Some feel that the Israelis dictate a lot of the Doctrine and Strategy and Tactics that the Empire actually plays out. Not much discussed among the more “serious” people…

        Hypocrisy. I think it is just Imperial propaganda that has the US electorate thinking it is just peachy that their mercenaries and troops are immune to the rules of “host countries,” let alone international bodies that try to breathe life into the corpse of “international law…”

        1. John Wright

          Enforcing this requirement that USA troops and mercenaries be immune to the rule of “host countries” helps increase the USA defense budget, as effectively a portion of the budget must be dedicated to remaining perceived as so powerful that the USA can dictate these terms.

          The feedback loop is broken, the people making and implementing these decisions never suffer serious consequences.

          I fear that even a USA in decline will continue to well-fund the military, as TPTB protect the decision makers that make their current livelihood pushing these actions and their consequences on their fellow citizens.

          Woodrow Wilson entered the USA into WWI to make the “world safe for democracy” and now more than 100 years later, the same theme is being trotted out.

    3. You're soaking in it!

      Isn’t one of the recognized aspects of organized crime their propensity to whack people they do not like?

      Like in the Sopranos! How did that end again?

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        And how did it begin?

        With Tony wondering aloud to Dr. Melfi if “… I came in at the end (of the criminal enterprise).” Which was pretty much the case…

  5. marku52

    Some of my predictions for Happy 2020 were already War with Iran, even before this reckless assassination. Just unbelievably short sighted to think that knocking out one guy changes anything. How many times did we whack the “#2 Man in Al Quida”. Yay, our team!

    The other “prediction” is that one of 2 things happens in the election. The DNC pushes Biden, and he loses in a landslide (Jeez, the oppo TV writes itself. just text of his voting record in front of him “handling” someone’s daughter)…

    Or Sanders wins, and Trump refuses to leave the WH. “Well it was all done by illegal Ukrainian immigrants voting!”. The military everywhere has to choose:
    -Valid election of a guy who is going to cut .mil spending
    -Invalid election, keep the guy who’ll keep the money rolling in.
    I know which way the top brass will go. Sense of “duty” not being strong in any of our institutions anymore…The National Guard will probably divvy up according to local politics.

    So the Blue coasts pretty much secede, driving the Pubs out of DC, and get this, now we have a second WH at Maralago (Gotta have a golf course, dontcha know?)

    A Pope in Avignon. Certainly been done before.

    Sure hope I’m wrong…..

    1. Titus

      US Military going to follow the constitution to the letter. Trump loses the vote he’s out. Plans are in place.

      1. marku52

        You have more faith in our medal ridden, military-contractor-revolving-door top brass than I think is warranted.
        I hope you are right anyway.

        1. voteforno6

          When it comes to this rather far-fetched scenario, what the top brass wants is irrelevant. Without those at the grunt level willing to follow them, they wouldn’t be able to do something so drastic as foment a military coup.

          1. JTMcPhee

            Via “indoctrination,” privatizing, selective recruitment (partially successful, depends on making more precariati via “national neoliberal policies,”) and kicking down, the Brass and their adherents and fellow travelers have been working hard to remove from the Armed Servicesany weapon-toting servicepeople that might have qualms about “lighting up” their Fellow Americans who might show some spunk (“insurrection!!”)

            Given where we are, who needs a military coup? $768 billion this next year, in the overt budget — real costs, nobody knows. The Pentagram has got us all used to the idea that every dollar they spend, willy nilly, is for our “protection” and hegemony. GO USA!!

      2. Massinissa

        I kind of have the feeling the Deep State regards him as a loose cannon at this point. They would probably allow the election of an ‘acceptable’ candidate like Biden, Buttigieg or Bloomberg.

        But if its Sanders? They would probably void the election in the interest of national security… Sigh…

        1. voteforno6

          How does that work? People might get a little upset if they participated in an election and some nameless bureaucrats decided that it didn’t count. Sorry, but if anything, Trump has demonstrated just how weak the establishment is.

            1. lyman alpha blob

              Is Tim Eyman really still at this? He is a shyster and did the same thing 20 years ago when I lived here. Reducing tabs wouldn’t be so bad if the state had an income tax it could adjust to make up the difference in lost revenue, but it doesn’t. Just more libertarian nonsense from a scam artist who prior to making a living from running initiative campaigns sold overpriced watches to frat boys.

              In this case the court probably has a point.

        2. JBird4049

          It probably depends on close the election was as well as the mood of the population; if Sanders was to win an absolutely clear majority with the voters as well with the electors and that the majority of Americans thought that the winner had run a clean campaign, or at least it was no worse, then an absolutely clear majority would not accept any coup. At all. Likewise, if the evidence of massive corruption stole the election from either side’s candidate, it would not be acceptable.

          Americans probably are really not willing to accept actual militarized Banana Republic governance. Having the winner “die,” or be deposed, would cause a reflexive “he’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard,” or a “our nation, right or wrong,” response. The perception of unfairness, or betrayal, of Us by Them, or the need to defend, even die, for Our Tribe is what gets you Vietnam and Afghanistan beating the United States. The former generally believe(d) that their nation was being unfairly unfairly, that their corrupt, lapdog regime was imposed on them, and that their friends, neighbors, and families were being hurt and murdered.

          You could even make a case for why Germany lost the Second World War and was treated so harshly for a while. Or why that war was an emotional response to the vindictive and unfair Treaty of Versailles.

          It is an extremely emotional response in which logic or reason goes away. However, that is what is worrying. The lack of reasoning by the ruling classes of the wealthy oligarchy, the political nomenklatura, security state apparatchiks, the pettifoggers masquerading as judges, and yes, even the senior military officers is frightening. Some cabal might form, and in their groupthinking folly, try to prevent someone from taking the Oval Office. The emotional blowback would be… bad? And not just for one country.

          1. Massinissa

            “Some cabal might form, and in their groupthinking folly, try to prevent someone from taking the Oval Office.”

            Business Plot 2.0? I wonder if we still have some Smedley Butlers around…

            1. Hepativore

              I think it would be easier for Sanders’ many enemies among the wealthy and status quo to arrange for him to have a tragic and fatal “accident” either on the campaign trail or while in office.

              This way, they can remove somebody who threatens to undo all of their hard work of setting up rent-seeker capitalism over the years while giving their efforts a veneer of plausible deniability.

              Of course many people would rightly suspect foul play and there would be public angry calls for multiple investigations but when federal law enforcement is at the beck and call of various neoliberal aristocrats, any findings released would either be “inconclusive” or cleared of any wrong-doing.

          2. Charlie

            Bush vs. Gore lays waste to the claim that Americans would not accept militarized Banana Republic governance. And every major event since that time. The difference for 2020 is only in the level of absurdity Americans will swallow.

            1. JBird4049

              Not quite. Please let me expand on my ramblings here.

              There have been presidential races with questionable results and backroom dealings to determine the winner. The 1876 presidential elections that resulted in Rutherford B. Hayes “winning” instead of Samuel J. Tilden was a backroom deal in which Federal troops occupying the South would be withdrawn and Reconstruction would be ended in exchange for the Republican candidate would be given the Oval Office.

              The have been other close races although none as tainted including the 2000 Presidential Election. But the votes could be honestly argued over with the security state not having any say although the Supreme Court’s decision had clearly been a partisan one for George W. Bush. Still, if you squint real hard, you could say that it was righteous.

              What worries me is an election that is not close, that has a clear winner, but something, somehow prevents the change of leadership especially if the apparatchiks in Deep State, the Security State, a Cabal of the Nomenklatura, or something like that happens. A Jeffrey Epstein is done. Proof that the Game really is rigged in favor of the House. It won’t matter really to the left or right right then who was supposed to be president. What would matter is that the 1% with their courtiers and factotums in the Credentialed Class with the assistance of the Security State will make sure that the beatings will continue and they, the peons, should smile and like it.

              The combined literati and glitterati classes, plus the various news and the information commissars at CNN, Fox, MSNBC, the New York Times, etc could be screaming about our lying eyes, but the fecal matter will hit the fan. Hard.

              Do you know that the United States is the emergency food source for the Earth’s countries? On a perfect year for everyone the crops grown in the Midwest or in California are not essential to some country not having an old fashioned famine. Think skeletons with bloated bellies. Much of the world’s shipment of bulk goods goes through the United States ports and railroads. We also, for now, keep energy prices low with oil and natural gas production.

              Do you know that even in California up to a quarter of the population is armed and in some states it approaches 50% with not only the White racist Deplorables armed, but also plenty of other Deplorables including leftists. And plenty of unhappy and knowledgeable veterans of all the damn wars we have been fighting since the 1960s.

              Sanders or Trump, even Warren would have represented real change, a chance to say up yours. Take away their voices and what do they have left? Especially as if it looks like even peaceful protests will not be tolerated.

              So pulling the United States out of the world’s economy, even just its food, oil, and shipping could be catastrophic to other countries and who knows how they would react? There are already signs of dysfunction in China, the UK, Australia, and other governments and climate change is only starting. Suppose India, China, or Indonesia suffered bad harvests? Very likely that we will still have a nice surplus of food stored away especially corn. What kind of pressure on, of action against the United States they might they take? Remember how much effort has been taken to secure oil even when it might not needed for decades. And I am talking about needing food or fuel or access to the transcontinental transportation from ocean to ocean next now.

              If the American leadership was split because of unrest, what would stop asking and getting help from outside the United States? The British maybe?

              So it not just stopping Sanders, Trump, or whoever from taking office that worries me, but all the likely succeeding actions and reactions. Like dominos. It is there for the seeing if people want to see, but like the homeless because of over priced housing, or climate change due to to burning fossil fuels, or the social unrest comes from both, some people just won’t look.

              1. Amfortas the hippie

                precarity is not exclusive to the Poors or the former middle class, but extends all the way up to the tippytop….what is “wealth”?
                the whole global “economy”….and by extension,civilisation, itself….is hopelessly entwined with itself and with all manner of complex abstractions…failure of any one of which ripples outward into the rest.
                also consider the still ongoing crisis(crises) of legitimacy. I don’t reckon we’ve plumbed the lowest depths of that, yet.
                but attempt to void an election, and we almost certainly will.
                our aristocracy seems for all the world to actually inhabit the proverbial Bubble….and this includes the Brass, with their revolving doors….similar to the other revolving door users throughout the upper levels(C W Mills).
                They Think They Know, but Certainty is the enemy of Learning anything…witness the Demparty post ’16 insanity and lashing out.
                Civilisation is always the thinnest of patinas, especially when it appears to be robust and eternal.
                I don’t even think a New 9-11 would work anymore in shoring up “patriotism” and support for the elite.

                (and yes, this is coloured by my current 4am reading of early middle ages/post-roman political economy, as well as by my general and more or less terminal habit of Doomerism)

                1. HotFlash

                  precarity is not exclusive to the Poors

                  Indeed. I expect that many party aparatchiki, both Rep and what Bernie calls “the Democratic establishment”, are feeling the tree shaking under them. To Lambert’s list above I would add, “Make sure that stent is *really* just a stent.”

    2. indigo

      I don’t think Trump is all that attached to being president. He might even be happy to step down so he can do less work and deal with less opposition. Maybe he’d see an impending Sanders presidency as an excuse to start some kind of media business or otherwise personally enrich himself. My prediction is that he would whine a lot, claim it was rigged, and so on, but then step down without too much incident.

      But if the 2020 election ends up being against Pence (or some other more typical Tea Party type) I would expect that incumbent to pull everything he can think of to stay in office – possibly even if he loses to a centrist democrat. The rhetoric on the right about the democrats (even centrists!) being evil, America-hating communists sets up a lot of conservatives to support an outright coup if the guy on top promotes it.

      1. John

        I believe just the opposite.
        I think he will fight like a cornered animal to stay in the office.

        He needs to run out some statue of limitations so he doesn’t end up in prison
        for the rest of his life…

      2. wilroncanada

        indigo: “I don’t think Trump is all that attached to being president.” True, but he is absolutely orgasmic about being Emperor! Which position he has been occupying for the past three years, with complete supplication of the Republican Party and the complete consternation of the Democrat Party, who had its Empress in semi-operational mode.

        If a few more Democrats could only realize, this declaration of war is all on the D.T. He cancelled the agreement Obama had made with Iran because he hates Obama and has tried, mostly successfully, to sabotage the few beneficial moves by that forlorn administration. He, with the full support of the neocons who have returned to power positions in his administration, has continually escalated extralegal attempts to destroy that country, culminating in this assassination.

        Donald Trump has had two abiding hates. He hates Obama, and always has. He hates Iran, and always has.

          1. JTMcPhee

            “It’s a big game,” and us mopes have no idea how it’s played. Or who the players are. Or which teams they are on. Or what the goals are. Or the shape of the playing field.

            From William “Slimeball” Casey: “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” https://infiniteunknown.net/2015/01/15/did-cia-director-william-casey-really-say-well-know-our-disinformation-program-is-complete-when-everything-the-american-public-believes-is-false/

            Us mopes have been allowed a limited-hangout glimpse of Operation Mockingbird. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mockingbird Then there’s the “Cultural Cold War,” https://journals.openedition.org/transatlantica/7373 There’s so much more, but of course all that is blanketed and stifled by the CIA’s successful use of the weaponized phrase “conspiracy theory.” https://projectunspeakable.com/conspiracy-theory-invention-of-cia/

            And I ran across a 1963 “documentary”/propaganda movie on the making and use of the atomic bomb in 1945, with an ending pitch for all the “Peaceful uses” of nuclear explosives in the future. Passing mention is given to the slavish behavior of the entire press and media to blackouts even on words or hints about super weapons, “atom,” anything related, which were censored by the media people themselves. And then there were government press releases all prepared to both cover the government’s arse in the event of failure, or conversely in case of uber-success that blew up half the planet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv5JNAuGcJU

            Maybe it only LOOKS like Calvinball… Maybe…

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Or Sanders wins, and Trump refuses to leave the WH. “Well it was all done by illegal Ukrainian immigrants voting!”. The military everywhere has to choose:

      (a) Making Sanders strong role on the Veterans Committee strikingly savvy, as well as (b) his very strong small donor numbers from the troops.

      As I keep saying, I’d love to see him take over a stadium in some Red State with an antiwar message. I think he could do it (probably not to the level of purity desired by some, but certainly stronger medicine than Obama’s “no more stupid wars” mantra).

  6. DJG

    I read Mayor Pete’s communiqué to us groundlings so that you don’t have to: He mentions being a former military intelligence officer. Is this a sudden reveal? Or is this more of Buttigieg’s résumé polishing (which has been along the lines of “love me; I speak seven languges ineptly”)?

    And as the Oracle of Delphi said,

    A great empire shall fall.

      1. Moo cow

        Same as Palins kid. Only 10% actually see combat but we’re supposed to thank them all for their service anyways.

    1. Massinissa

      What Marku said. This isn’t new, but most people assume he wasn’t a chauffeur, which is what he was. Some ‘service’ that.

  7. Trent

    The MIT article about cellphones:

    “Without cell phones life would be simple and real but we may not be able to cope with the world and our society. After a few days I felt alright without the phone as I got used to it. But I guess it is only fine if it is for a short period of time. One cannot hope to compete efficiently in life without a convenient source of communication that is our phones.”

    without a cellphone you can’t compete efficiently. That is the most depressing thing I’ve read all week. The only reason to exist is to compete……..

    1. Massinissa

      And nobody ever seems to question if its fair that those who can’t ‘compete’ become homeless.

      1. wuzzy

        Most of the homeless around here have a phone, the smart ones don’t compete they share. Go figure…

  8. Sol

    Clinton will serve for five years in the largely ceremonial role…

    …advising the university’s executive.”

    Clinton getting only a shiny title in exchange for access, and econ wonks say there’s no recession.

  9. chuck roast

    Well, if the Democratic thingy is a horse race, then my boy Delaney is the Zippy Chippy of ponies. He just lost over two-tenths of one percent and can no longer be measured in the polls.

    Ya’ know, Zippy once got traded for a broken down horse trailer. There is no doubt that Delaney has lots of relatives out there. Prolly’ a big Irish family with many-many second cousins. My guess is that they all were totally on board with his candidacy and were calling in their votes to the polling agencies. It appears that they are no longer wagering and are now trading their names for Smith or Jones. After he drops out, and with a reasonable passage of time – say ten or twelve years – they can all change their names back again.

    1. chuckster

      If Delaney is Zippy Chippy, what does that make DeVal Patrick?

      Whatever momentary delusions ex-Gov Patrick had about sleeping over in the Lincoln bedroom seem to have vanished as if his lithium tablets finally kicked in. Has Obama’s alter ego done anything other than announce his candidacy and then take the family off to Switzerland for the holidays? Maybe this is how the rich get fired? Patrick had to “resign” from his sugar-daddy venture capital company in order to run for president but it looks like he just ran for president so it wouldn’t look like Bain Capital fired his butt.

      Still waiting for a coherent reason why he thinks he ought to be president. Zippy Chippy my ass. DeVal was scratched from the race the day he entered.

      1. chuck roast

        Chuckster, chill bro’.

        You will note, that in the poll above, of the 632 likely voters in Iowa DeVal scored a zero. So, you’re right…he was a scratch. Feel better now?

    2. petal

      Aww, I had forgotten about poor Zippy Chippy. Always felt really bad for him(we lived in the area). An update-in 2010 he was retired to Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm near Saratoga Race Course. It looks like he is still alive.

  10. Misty Flip

    Correlated conditions associated with elevated levels of dopamine: anxiety, paranoia, and schizophrenia. Sensory input, such as gloating and tormenting, suggest threats which will increase the levels of dopamine in the brain. Consider, on Jan 1st, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s website posted the following message: “”That guy [Donald Trump] has tweeted that we see Iran responsible for the events in Baghdad and we will respond to Iran. First, there is no damn thing you can do, and second, If you were logical —which you’re not— you’d see that your crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan… have made nations hate you.” 40 years ago, one year before Reagan was elected, Ayatollah *Khomeini* said “America can’t do a damn thing against us,” which became an official slogan of the Revolution, a reference to holding embassy staff captive for 444 days.

    There is a screaming switchboard within each mind, Trump’s and Khamenei’s. Both suffer existential crises of their leadership, impeachment and mass unrest. Specters of failure loom over each of their political revolutions, both movements being obsessed with the cleanliness of their nation. Both leaders are also painfully aware that neither occupy a defensible space. Having recognized a willful co-conspirator in one another, both leaders are coding their behavior for maximum confrontation.

  11. Carey

    Remembering 2016’s ‘Uncounted’ fiasco here in California, I tried
    to check my current registration status™ using the online system (heh). Jumped through all the correct hoops: “Page not Found.”
    Tried another, more convoluted online route: “System error.”
    No discernable online™ path forward, in either case.

    I have this bad feeling.

      1. Carey

        Yes, and it’s safe to expect they’ll be giving us the Padilla treatment again (Alex’s, for now; Jorge’s later, if necessary.)

        “Our” Dems- unpersoning the many, since…?

  12. petal

    NH’s Dem Senators checking in.
    Shaheen(Pts 1 and 2 from the twitter): “Gen Soleimani is responsible for terrorist attacks against the U.S. military and the deaths of our service members—his death represents some justice for those Americans lost…However, this is a significant escalation and I hope that the White House has a plan in place and has prepared for potential responses from Iran. It’s imperative that we do everything to protect our service members and diplomats in the region.”
    Hassan(from twitter): Pt 1: “Soleimani was an enemy of the United States who was responsible for the murder of thousands, including U.S. service members. This is an incredibly volatile situation, and our first priority must be protecting U.S. troops and interests around the world. Pt 2: “The Administration needs to proceed with great caution, consult with Congress, and be clear with the American people about its strategy.”

    1. anon in so cal

      Shaheen is a virulent, rabidly anti Russia NeoCon. She complained when she was denied a visa to enter Russia several months ago, following her protracted hostile statements.

      Otherwise, both CIA Dems and Repubs are perfecting their propaganda.

  13. Wukchumni

    Top hits then: Casey Kesem

    Top hits now: Commander Qassem

    It’s time to watch The Bedford Incident again, as life is imitating art.

  14. anon in so cal

    Uber helicopter from JFK to Howard Beach: Not understanding this. When I walk out the door of the AA terminal at JFK, I cross the street (right outside the terminal doors) and get on the yellow medallion cab line. The woman in the kiosk asks me my destination, then gives me a paper with the destination-based fixed price. To the upper west side, way farther than Howard Beach, Queens, the cost is approximately $59. What am I missing?

      1. RMO

        Best guess? The prices that are shown in that picture were higher because the person was looking at going via Uber when they were busy and the algorithm jacked up the rates accordingly. They probably count on most users defaulting to Uber and not bothering to actually check taxi fares to compare.

        Something similar happened to us in Glasgow this summer – the rest of the group we were with summoned Ubers to get to the airport because that was what they were used to going with. A day earlier they had persuaded my wife to install the Uber app on her phone for the first time so she could avail herself of the wonder that is Uber. When she tried it the day of the trip to the airport she got a “your account has been disabled” message. She just went to the hotel desk and asked them to call us a taxi. Two minutes later our taxi pulled up. As we were driving off we saw the Ubers that the rest of the party called much earlier show up. Price for the rides was about the same too and the licensed taxi was nice and clean and the driver was nice and safe as well as being a fun guy to talk to during the trip. The Uber app was deleted during the ride – my wife wasn’t too enthusiastic about installing it in the first place. I was hoping both Uber and Lyft would implode before they managed to connive their way into the market here in Vancouver but alas that didn’t happen.

  15. a different chris

    Here’s what is, or at least would be if our country had any principles, interesting about the Soleimani “killing”.

    If we were at war with Iran, it would be “killing” without the quotes.
    Otherwise, if this was pre-approved via FISA then, disgusting as that is, it would still be “killing” without the quotes. Really should take all three branches of government, but Congress would rubber stamp it anyway so oh well.

    But if Trump just had somebody do it then it’s murder. No quotes, no question. Wouldn’t that be really impeachable, compared to the stuff that I can’t even remember at the moment? Hello, Nancy?

    1. cm

      Democracy Now calls it an assassination. NPR calls it a miltary strike.

      I don’t think enough people are focusing on the fact that the US dropped a bomb on a foreign country (Iraq) to assassinate a military official of a country (Iran) when no war has been declared.

      The rest of the world sure sees US as a lawless terrorist entity.

      We can set up analogies: Russia drops a bomb on Heathrow to kill an American.

      1. rowlf

        Listening to the radio news on the drive home and then watching the idiot box I noticed there was also no mention at all of the Iraqi PMU general also killed in the destroyed car.

        Also, wasn’t Soleimani having a good run at giving Daesh/ISIS a bad time? Wouldn’t the US want to encourage that type of activity?

    2. Acacia

      By that standard, Obama should have been impeached.

      Any Dem candidate (with the possible exception of Gabbard) in the Oval Office would do the same.

      1. Phillip Allen

        Absolutely, Obama should have been impeached for war crimes. The only president of recent memory who might get a pass on that front is Carter, but only barely. One can hold out hope that one day Obama may yet be at the dock to face judgement, likewise Trump, Bush the Lesser, and all of their chief co-conspirators and enablers. It’s a faint, fantastical hope, but in this world that may all that’s available. It’s a small diversion as I watch this epochal decline and fall roll it’s gruesome way forward, waiting for whatever will prove to be The Jackpot.

        I am reminded of a line from the Three Penny Opera, in the Ballad of the Pirate Jenny, Und wenn dann der Kopf fällt, sag ich: Hoppla! (And when the heads fall, I’ll say, Hoppla!)

  16. Carey

    Not a fan of some of this, but plenty of interest overall in this piece:

    “..Almost simultaneously, an identical process is occurring in Britain with George Galloway’s announcement of a new Workers Party of Britain. At the time of its launch Galloway described the party as “hard Brexit and hard labour,” and added: “If you’re a liberal who thinks it’s Left if you’re still pining for the EU, if you think shouting “racist,” “homophobic,” “transphobic” at everybody who doesn’t agree with you is the way forward, we’re probably not for you.” Galloway’s pro-Brexit stance is rooted in his belief that the modern British Left “have no vision for an alternative to rampant neoliberalism and a deindustrialised, finance-led, low wage economy, they calculate the best way to make this work is within the EU.” He argues that the cosmopolitan leadership of the Labour Party in particular “think we are some kind of uncivilised tribe, painting our faces blue, and only able to vote in a right-wing government,” a view he finds “not only deeply insulting, but also self-defeating and overly optimistic about the EU.” On immigration, Galloway argues that there is “nothing left-wing about unlimited mass immigration. It decapitates the countries from which the immigrants leave, and drives down wages in those where they arrive. The wealthy benefit from it, as they can afford cheap labor for their companies, or cheap au-pairs, cheap baristas, cheap plumbers. But the working class suffers.”..”


  17. Jen

    Fop some reason this doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention among our famously free press. From the NYT(!) on 12/29.

    “The shah sought refuge in America. But President Jimmy Carter, hoping to forge ties to the new government rising out of the chaos and concerned about the security of the United States Embassy in Tehran, refused him entry for the first 10 months of his exile. Even then, the White House only begrudgingly let him in for medical treatment.

    Now, a newly disclosed secret history from the offices of Mr. Rockefeller shows in vivid detail how Chase Manhattan Bank and its well-connected chairman worked behind the scenes to persuade the Carter administration to admit the shah, one of the bank’s most profitable clients.”


    So, the CIA overthrew Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 to restore the Shah. 2 decades ish later the Shah is overthrown by the Iranians. Rockefeller gets the Shah into the US because he’s a profitable client, the Iranians seize the US embassy, Regan wins the election and decades later here we family blogging are.

    Happy New Year.

    1. cm

      Too funny. I’ve read Carter’s autobiography and this item (from Wikipedia entry on the Shah) was not included:

      President Carter did not wish to admit Mohammad Reza to the U.S. but came under pressure from many quarters, with Henry Kissinger phoning Carter to say he would not endorse the SALT II treaty that Carter had just signed with the Soviet Union unless the former Shah was allowed into the United States, reportedly prompting Carter more than once to hang up his phone in rage in the Oval Office and shout “Fuck the Shah!”

      Boy, I hope this isn’t a double post…..

  18. The Rev Kev

    “Hillary Clinton named chancellor of Belfast university”

    This sounds like she is being put out to pasture. At the end of a career when you have served your purpose, there is a whole swag of gifts, board appointments, honorary doctorates, autobiography contracts, magazine articles, etc. that come your way. Feather-nesting I suppose you could call it.

    A Chancellorship of a University that few Americans would ever attend would be par for the course here. If she had been given a similar position in the US, then she might have been a target of protesters and the like. In Ireland it would be a sort of safe space for her.

    1. skippy

      Peter van Onselen
      Tegan George
      We have been with the Bega Valley ppl at the showground for 5 days and they have welcomed us into their community. We have told their stories, respected their privacy, laughed and cried with them. Now @nswpolice
      has decided to show up and kick us out. I have no words.


      I kid you not, I can confirm the inner sanctum of Team Morrison are actively backgrounding media against the NSW Coalition government to try and make sure the PM doesn’t wear the blame for his handling of the fires. It’s extraordinary that is their focus at the moment! #auspol


      Mate Twitter is on fire, family and friends networks even more so, lets see if Dutton has the brass to raise his hand considering how pissed off – everyone – is …. cups of metho crowds ….

  19. Gregorio

    “Kohler mistakenly thinks we want a smart bathroom” Alexa: “It appears that you could use some additional fiber in your diet.”

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