Links 1/12/2020

A Comedy Education From Late Legend Buck Henry What working on The Graduate, Get Smart, SNL, and more taught him about making timeless humor. New York Magazine

A scandal in Oxford: the curious case of the stolen gospel Guardian

Germany: Evacuations as Dortmund scans for suspected WWII bombs Deutsche Welle

Viking Runes Warned of a Climate Catastrophe, New Research Suggests Gizmodo

At least 11 dead as severe weather slices across the South, while snow and ice wallop parts of the northern U.S. WaPo

18 Years After Its Opening, Justice Remains Elusive for Prisoners of Guantánamo TruthOut

Uber won’t share sex assault details with California regulators, citing privacy San Fran Chronicle


How a Journalist in Kyiv Responded to the Downing of a Ukrainian Passenger Plane New Yorker

Protests in Tehran after Iran admitted shooting down plane Al Jazeera

The west is still buying into nonsense claims about Iran’s regional influence Independent. Patrick Cockburn.

Was Qassem Soleimani a monstrous kingmaker or simply an enabler? The truth is as murky as Tudor history Independent. Robert Fisk.

What legacy does Sultan Qaboos leave for Oman? Al Jazeera

The War in Afghanistan Is a Fraud (and Now We Have Proof) Consortium News. Lee Camp.

Libya strongman Haftar agrees ceasefire after calls from Kremlin, Ankara Agence France-Presse

Class Warfare

The Dismal Forecasts of the Dismal Scientists American Prospect. James Galbraith.

James Galbraith’s memoir of lifelong struggles to make economics a force for good Democracy in Europe Movement 2025

Chain Store Massacre: Alternative Business And Density Revived This Mall American Conservative

French govt offers compromise in bid to end transport strike Agence France-Presse

Think Debtors Prisons Are a Thing of the Past? Not in Mississippi. Marshall Project

Vanguard and the US financial system: too big to be healthy? FT

Trump Transition

Democrats Outraged At Republican Accusations Of Foreign Loyalty Caitlin Johnstone

Donald Trump Is the War Crimes President New York Magazine. Andrew Sullivan.

For one shining moment, liberals loved Fox News Politico


He Could Win the Caucuses,’ Pollster Says as Bernie Sanders Leads Gold-Standard Iowa Survey for First Time Common Dreams

Election Update: Sanders Now Leads A Wide-Open Iowa Race FiveThirtyEight

Trump campaign steps up attacks on Sanders The Hill

After Trump Attacks Bernie on Foreign Policy, Sanders Campaign Says ‘Bring It’ Common Dreams


Obama campaign guru: Trump would love to run against Bernie Politico


Australia Apocalypse

Scott Morrison can’t afford to waste the bushfire crisis when Australia urgently needs its own green new deal Guardian. Malcolm Turnbull.

Australian bushfires: The canary building the coal mine Deutsche Welle


Megxit, pursued by the press Columbia Journalism Review

Gone With the Windsors NYT. MoDo


Minister says Britain must reduce military dependence on U.S. – report Reuters

L’affaire Jeffrey Epstein

MIT releases results of fact-finding on engagements with Jeffrey Epstein MIT News

737 MAX

Boeing’s tough challenges as civilian aircraft maker Asia Times. Marshall Auerback.

Health Care

California considers selling its own generic prescription drugs Ars Technica

High-Deductible Plans Jeopardize Financial Health Of Patients And Rural Hospitals Kaiser Health News

Exercise: we calculated its true value for older people and society The Conversation

Waste Watch

House passes sweeping new PFAS bill with waste implications Waste Dive


Entangled US-China-Taiwan relations likely just got more complicated after President Tsai Ing-wen’s big re-election victory SCMP


Mamata Banerjee urges PM Modi to rethink CAA-NRC even as protests continue in Kolkata  Scroll

Indian Supreme Court finds 150-day Internet blackout in Kashmir illegal Ars Technica

Indian Army’s allegiance is to the Constitution, says General MM Naravane Scroll

Antidote du Jour(via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. CoryP

    Sad to see on Common Dreams today that John Atcheson was killed in a car accident!
    He was probably their only exclusive contributor that I still read. I have his novel sitting on my kindle, though untouched so far.

    What a shame. Judging from Google maps, that intersection does look pretty treacherous.

  2. Darius

    Fun to watch Obamaworld melt down over Bernie Sanders surge. The unnamed official warned against appealing to progressives. Bernie’s not appealing to progressives. He’s appealing to people who’s lives suck. And that’s a rich well to draw from.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Why depend on progressives when you can use the winning strategy of going for a centralist candidate, ignoring rural Democrats and appealing to suburban Republicans to switch sides?

        1. richard

          never say die about always giving up! – the centrist credo
          I wonder why it isn’t catching on?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I mean HRC did win a non existent contest against a reality TV star. So don’t we just need to give it one more Friedman Unit?

    2. foghorn longhorn

      There is no bernie surge, they installed biden at 33% from the start of his campaign.
      The reality is, that dog won’t hunt, and he will get trounced in Iowa. So now ol bernie is “surging”, because they can’t have their polls proven to be utter malarkey.
      SOS as in ’16, when billary was just going to stomp the orange man.
      So now oblama is weighing in again, much like his ‘I’ll be personally offended, if you don’t vote for the wicked witch’ schtick.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        We’ll see this process repeated again and again over the next 3 months. Pollsters can play narrative games (against Bernie) some distance out from the actual vote, but they’ll blow their credibility completely if they don’t turn the knobs and adjust the levers to get a result that might actually be close to the final outcome. Iowa polls are “adjusting” now because they’d look pretty silly in a few weeks when Pete doesn’t come out on top.

        1. Carey

          Why will the PTB not lie from start to finish? It’s working well
          enough so far, and sans exit polling, who can call them on it?

    3. Annieb

      Actually, Bernie’s appeal is wide ranging. I am not in his supposed demographic at all, being retired and well off. Lots of middle aged and older people here in the metro Denver area support Bernie. I think he has a shot at changing things for the better and maintaining social programs. That would be good for everyone, especially young people. I want a better country for my kids and grandkids. I expect him to win the Dem primary in Colorado.

      1. CCinco

        I hope you are correct. I, too, am not in the typically touted Sanders demographic; also live in CO (foothills NW of Denver). I’m pulling for him to win the Colorado Dem primary. A fair number of people around here also support him, some enthusiastically, some rather grudgingly. (Of the latter, I’m thinking of the members of the local DSA chapter who were not happy that DSA national endorsed him so early on.)

        1. CoryP

          I love this comment. Why would you be a DSA member and yet hope that they didn’t endorse him? Why are these people part of DSA in the first place and what do they think their goal is?

          I mean, it would be defensible if they maybe hoped DSA would endorse a farther left third party candidate.

          But is membership really that watered down?

          I’m just watching in bafflement from another country and don’t really understand the dynamics here. I’m just unable to understand why one would choose to be a member of a nominally socialist tendency and hope for a different nominee.

          I assume Warren. But.. really? How big a tent is this thing?

          1. JTMcPhee

            If it’s like around here, some DSA members were I think wanting to hold off endorsement to get some kind of leverage. To get Bernie to tick more of the boxes, or hope other candidates would “commit” to more platform items. DSA is a good bunch, but with the seeds of schism that seem inevitable in leftishness that the PTB have long since learned how to water and fertilize.

            It’s a tiny bit heartening that the local Dem Club has been holding Medicare for All events ( though who knows what M4A formulation the tricksters hope eventually to offer as best deal going.) Also holding “Impeach Him! Russian Asset!” rallies and protests too.

            It’s hard enough to herd the fussy cerebral “issue” cats, without Judas goats working the crowd too…

      2. John k

        Hope you’re right.
        A few close friends are retired and support Bernie, but quite a lot feel entitled and don’t see why others should get anything ‘free’, and don’t want to hear it might cost us all less.
        Happy to read that polls here in Ca show bernie leading.
        And that Bernie is leading in Iowa… and maybe polls understate the lead… Biden has been leading bc electable, likely collapse if he loses early states.

        1. Jeff W

          “…quite a lot feel entitled and don’t see why others should get anything ‘free’, and don’t want to hear it might cost us all less.”

          Let’s pay a lot more and have far more stress and anguish so that others less “deserving” than we are don’t also benefit. Sheesh.

        2. JohnnySacks

          My barely blue town in the dependable blue state of MA loses it’s collective mind if a cell tower, gas pipeline, or non super high end apartment complex is proposed, but will burn the world down, piss on the ashes, and salt the earth if it perceives any hit on their investment portfolios. The threat of a capital strike if Sanders is elected is all it takes.

          1. Grant

            Well gosh golly, I hope that investment money can help them to start a good fire to cook a meal when the environmental crisis really hits. Those privatizing water are going to make a killing in the decades ahead. Think of all of the investment opportunities that will present themselves as things start to fall apart. It really is collective madness. In a sane society, Bernie would not be considered radical.

          2. tegnost

            I think the fed will simply raise rates before he’s inaugurated. Inflicting pain is what these scroungers do best…and they will crash the economy rather than give up power.

        3. Lambert Strether

          > Bernie is leading in Iowa… and maybe polls understate the lead…

          However, Iowa is famously volatile. Warren seems to be flailing, but Buttigieg is not. Premature triumphalism is dangerous!

      3. LifelongLib

        I’m retired and for Bernie, and so was my late dad (90s, WW2 vet). Our main reservation is/was wishing he was 20 years younger. I have a pension, SS, and free health insurance. Everybody should have at least that.

  3. LawnDart

    “Debtor’s Prison” is NOT rare, it’s pretty much everywhere in the USA.

    Find the souls locked away under “contempt” charges.

    1. Procopius

      Yes, I recall the same story being reported about Missouri. I think Radley Balko has reported on it, too. This story is nothing new.

  4. Wukchumni

    Viking Runes Warned of a Climate Catastrophe, New Research Suggests Gizmodo
    If a 50 year long continuous drought hit in parts of these United States, would that be proof at long last to convince deniers in Chaco Canyon to admit they were wrong about allowing the clear cutting of forests to build 4 and 5 story buildings with as many as 400 rooms, mostly never occupied-as they were used for storage of junk we’d probably toss in the trash or attempt to sell for a pittance at a yard sale, exotic bird feathers and a cacophony of shell games, etc.


    A 200 year drought followed a century later by a 135 year dry spell might even convince those in the pre-CVBB here-including proto-Devin y Kevin, that yes, it’s all those controlled burns the Yokuts tribes did late every fall without fail was the culprit.

    …and then there’s us

    1. Frank

      The bird picture for today is beauty and it triggers wonderment about the mysteries life, evolution and the incomprehensible amount of time culminating in this bird. My time on the planet is beginning to run a little short and heretofore I’d always imagined that my atoms and molecules would re-enter the world as perhaps part of a feather on such a beautiful bird.
      But now I’m concerned that my atoms and molecules will ignominiously settle forever in a toxic waste dump.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        I don’t know you, but it’s lovely for me to contemplate you, looking wistfully at a photo of a beautiful bird while watching the final grains run down the hourglass. My best friend in the universe, now dematerialized, always replied “Entropy” when asked the meaning of life. I’m happy if my atoms become a rock, or a bit of algae, like you I would prefer they not become a piece of a Big Mac wrapper…

      2. JEHR

        Frank, I’ve had similar thoughts, too, wondering where “my atoms and molecules would re-enter the world.” I have pretensions of making it into the atmosphere as, perhaps, a snowflake or sundog.

        1. furies

          Nice to know ‘great minds think alike’

          I’m working on non-duality.

          The river, the birds, the rocks, the trees…

        2. xkeyscored

          My thoughts wander toward the way atoms and molecules continually enter ‘my’ body and leave again. Carbon and phosphorus and amino acids and wotnot from our food get made into skin and hair that falls off, or broken down and breathed or urinated out, and so on. Makes the idea of ‘my body’ fascinatingly problematic, even without the gut bacteria that easily outnumber ‘my’ cells. Like the river that’s never the same river. If “I” am not this particular selection of atoms and molecules, then what am “I”?

                1. ambrit

                  Yes. Only more profound.
                  The area of overlap partakes of the essence of a ‘Negative Space.’ The actual points of congruence can be described as “Non Event Horizons.”
                  The old directions of “You can’t get there from here” break down when one realizes that there are no longer any “here” or “there.”
                  More esoteric cartographers used to write in the margins of these two dimensional attempts at explaining the ineffable the phrase; (the fragment of papyrus breaks off here.)

    2. Eustache de Saint Pierre

      One of a seires of IMO fascinating if somewhat sobering podcasts that relate the stories of failed civilisations closes with a short recital of the Ragnorak prophecy in relation to Medieval Viking settlers in Greenland. Global cooling & a couple of mini ice ages with a load of other factors such as bubonic plague at their Icelandic supply depot & refusing to go native did for them & aside from a collection of theories, no-one truly knows the full story.

      The archaeological discovery of the small Viking settlement in Newfoundland proved that they reached ” Vinland “, which makes sense as America is much closer to Greenland than Iceland & there is one theory that at the end those that disappeared might have at least attempted to sail there.

      It was no country for snowflakes, that’s for sure.

  5. The Rev Kev

    “Boeing’s tough challenges as civilian aircraft maker”

    Considering that so much of Boeing has been gutted by the bean counters and marketing droids, perhaps the possibility should be thought of that most of Boeing will simply go away. And why not? When I was growing up, there was an American airline called Pan Am. It was so embedded into American aviation that in 1968 when the film “2001: A Space Odyssey” came out, the Orion III Spaceplane featured bore the Pan Am logo. Everybody knew it.

    But now it is long gone. We may see this with Boeing and you will know when it is really dying when a consortium of private equity firms take control of it. I do not know if it will matter if Trump throws buckets of cash to keep Boeing going as that will only work with a total revamp of the culture and massive investment of its technical expertise. More likely the present managers will just use any money to give out bigger dividends and bigger bonuses. For those also into nostalgia, her is a doco on Pan Am-

    1. Phacops

      The question I always have when reasing about Boeing and other entities crapified or deliberately killed through financialization is how we can create an economic environment where this cannot happen? Where do we attack this non-productive financialization to the point where MBA programs wither and die.

      For my part all that can be seen is an America where actually making things, with good quality, is dismissed as a career. I think we are on the cusp of losing several generations of manufacturing skill.

      1. The Rev Kev

        ‘how we can create an economic environment where this cannot happen?’

        More workers co-ops perhaps? At least for small companies.

      2. xkeyscored

        Do we want en economic environment where this can’t happen?
        Boeing produces planes and weapons. The planes contribute to global warming. (‘Low emissions’ planes are only so per plane, per passenger-mile, etc., and do nothing to reduce emissions, whatever the advertising hype. More planes = more emissions.) And it has been argued that major weapons manufacturers are a significant factor in the USA’s endless pursuit of war.
        Should I mourn the loss of such a company?

    2. Wukchumni

      For those also into nostalgia, her is a doco on Pan Am-
      An hour well spent. I flew Pan Am a number of times in the 70’s & 80’s, but was more of a free agent in my travels. In the stone age days before the internet, there used to be ‘bucket shops’ in London where you could pick up cheap seats for travel, as the airlines didn’t want seats going empty, get something for them!

      It had all of the sophistication of legalized scalpers with a storefront, there was a number to choose from.

      You get the idea the Boeing saga is kind of similar yet different to Packard going under, a great name laid low. There were many other car manufacturers to pick up their slack though.

      Lets say Boeing goes under and leaves one manufacturer.

      Its not as if there’ll be any rush for anyone to be a competitor, and say something similar happens to the last of the mohecans on high, and the age of air travel goes away with a pungent whiff of kerosene scented spent jet fuel perfume.

      We go from a record speed of the Scott Special train carrying Death Valley Scotty in 1905 @ a blistering average of 55 mph from LA to Chicago, to piston engine planes capable of 400 mph, then an X-15 @ 4520 mph. culminating in numerous Apollo moon missions reaching 25,000 mph.

      …we’ll be back to 55 soon

      1. anon in so cal

        We took one of Pan Am’s last flights, from Rio de Janeiro to Miami. We were sitting in economy, and right after takeoff, some brown liquid (from the a/c) began dripping on people’s heads from the overhead compartment. People had to hold the pillow on their heads….

    3. VietnamVet

      Boeing is on a razor’s edge. It has agreed to simulator training. If the cockpit multiple warning confusion is cleared up, it likely will get FAA and EU approval. China and Russian approval needs agreement to stop the America’s military and economic provocations. The golden goose is sterile if it loses the Asian market. It is dead if one of 400 stored Maxes crashes after returning to service.

      The Empire just nosed dived. Industry is gone. Boeing was it. The USA cannot even defend overseas oil fields. Trying to seize Syria’s and Iraq’s is a fatal mistake. The Gulf Kingdoms must make peace with Iran to keep the money coming from their oil fields. The USA is not needed or wanted. The only way to make money in America is loan sharking and shakedowns. Bernie Sanders will end that. The Obama-bots are jumpy. The Great Con is finished.

  6. KLG

    “Obama campaign guru: Trump would love to run against Bernie”

    “You go right ahead, Donald! You will make a great presidential candidate!”
    –Billary Clinton

    1. Oh

      “If I were a campaign manager for Donald Trump and I look at the field, I would very much want to run against Bernie Sanders,” Messina said.
      Looks like he’s gonna get his wish.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Enthusiasm is meaningless to those who count the votes. 010011101000111010000000111111011111010111111111111…

    2. Jeff W

      President Trump [tweeting]: Wow! Crazy Bernie Sanders is surging in the polls, looking very good against his opponents in the Do Nothing Party. So what does this all mean? Stay tuned!

      Bernie Sanders [in response]: It means you’re going to lose.

      Sanders, at least, has no problem nailing it.

  7. John A

    I see the New Yorker is still pushing as ‘fact’ that the Donbass ‘rebels’ shot down the MH17. The use of Kyiv for Kiev is a pretty clear clue which side of the propaganda maze a publication is on.

    Instead of saying, yes it was a tragic accident, let’s cool things so we avoid anything similar in the future, the western politicians and MSM are going full speed ahead in demonising Iran and pushing for regime change.

    1. Baby Gerald

      Great points, John A. Particularly good spot on the pro-Ukrainian lean on that New Yorker article. The pro-Ukrainian propaganda is rife in our mainstream media.

      Let me offer another reason we maybe give Iran a little leeway in this accidental shoot-down, which Masha Gessen completely leaves out of her Ukrainian hagiography:

      Iran Air Flight 655

      At least Iran offered an apology.

    2. Tom Doak

      It was pretty obvious which side The New Yorker was on after this quote:

      “She is probably best known for her coverage of the investigation and prosecution of the killing of eighty-two protesters during the 2013-14 Revolution of Dignity in Kyiv.”

      That’s a very neutral labeling of the revolution. However, they did fail to label anyone as a “strongman”. I guess that label has reached its sell date.

      1. furies

        Masha Gesson was the reason (tbh also Timothy Snider) I quit subscribing to the NYRB.

        Back in 2014 I was desperately trying to figure out what the heck was going on there in the motherland (I’ve got those Ukie genes). It took a lot of digging…not sure I had discovered NC yet.

        Yet I see MG touted as the ‘expert’ on Ukraine all the freaking time…

    3. wilroncanada

      John A
      The rush to regime change propaganda and subversion is to be expected, because the US and its allies never ‘accidently’ do anything like shoot down planes, do they?/s

      If one were to be conspiratorial, one might posit that the reason for the shooter not being able to contact his/her superior was jamming of communications by a “foreign” power, but again, the west, including Israel, would never do that, would they?/s

      Or that a “foreign” power might have sent a message that it was sending missiles to attack some Iranian defense installation near Tehran, but the US or Israel would never do that, would they?/s

      And if one of the above happened, would Iran admit that its cyber security is less than adequate, or would it “confess” in order to take it more quickly out of the news cycle, or to handle the immediately expected regime change propaganda more forcefully?

      One may have so little trust in the truth of western/five-eyes intelligence apparatus and its captured media, that these and many other possibilities arise no matter what either side has said in the recent past.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If the IranGov finds any signs of such interference or manipulation, the IranGov will show the world, I should think.

        So your theory will either be supported or overtaken by events over the days and weeks to come.

    4. Acacia

      Utterly predictable propaganda from the New Yorker. And I, too, gave up on the NYRB when they started on CIA talking points about Russia.

  8. a different chris

    Jesus even when some economists get things right, the underlying stupidity is breathless.

    Tuomas Malinen: Even if it were true that “Nature could be saved … but at the expense of humanity reverting to slavery and oppression.”

    If you don’t save Nature you get The Book of Eli, at best (still not sure how those people supposedly feed themselves). There is no “not saving Nature” that is the better outcome for man.

    Maybe something got lost in the translation. But wow.

      1. xkeyscored

        There’s a fairly famous and influential (I believe) paper from 1997 called “The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital.”
        From the abstract, “For the entire biosphere, the value (most of which is outside the market) is estimated to be in the range of US$16-54 trillion (1012) per year.” So I guess they believe that yes, we can live without nature, but at a cost. Presumably, if we can boost GDP by the same amount while we destroy the biosphere, we’ll have nothing to worry about. Their paper gives no indication of how this might be done, except that on digging deeper, it seems they have incredibly perverse and limited idea of what the biosphere is (hint: not this), and an entirely inappropriate mathematical model. Yet I gather this paper was sort of foundational in what they call ecological economics. It’s scary, if you ask me, that this stuff is taken seriously.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      LOL, as if Man could “save” Nature, the anthropo-centric hubris is breathtaking.

      There is no such “contest”, and if there was, it’s clear that She wins, everywhere and always, the meaningless milliseconds that an overclever chimp briefly used his oversized brain to move things to his advantage will pass unnoticed.

      From Her point of view he was just doing his job, using his capacities to fully exploit his ecological niche during his one minute in the sun. Whoosh and he will be gone forever, an asteroid fall, a solar flare, a cosmic ray burst, or some fiendish poison of his own making, viral, radioactive, chemical, and Chimp-o will be just an interesting layer in the geology. Or it could be the slow way, global sperm counts are down 50% since 1970, extend that trend line and do some math and you very quickly get a planet with no more H. Sapiens

      (LOL “Sapiens” LOL).

      I think I’ll just enjoy the ride while it lasts, we can buy a new ticket to extend the ride briefly but end it will as surely as night follows day.

  9. Olga

    Even not fans of Q Soleimani admit he was onto something:

    Almost sounds like revenge killing:
    “The CIA hoped to overthrow Assad. Iran feared losing its ally in Damascus to a hostile anti-Shia regime controlled by al-Qaeda. Obama feared another Iraq and refused to commit to regime change in Syria. Soleimani brought in Iranian advisers and fighters from Hezbollah, the Shiite militia of Lebanon that Iran has supported since the 1980s. With help from merciless Russian bombing attacks, the Iranian-trained ground forces helped Syria turn the tide on the jihadists.”

    1. xkeyscored

      I’d guess it’s more than just revenge. They feared that with a record like that, he might be better able to thwart their plans for the region than his successor.

      1. John

        A general of one nation thwarts the plans of another nation and for that he is murdered? Death in battle is one thing; ambushed by a remotely fired rocket is quite another. How does this differ from a gangland hit?

        I have read that there were reservations about the morality of the shoot-down of Admiral Yamamoto’s plane in 1943 because it was looked on as murder and something one simply did not do.

        Seems to me that this behavior pins a target on anyone who displeases any government, especially that of the USA. I find it barbaric.

    2. ObjectiveFunction

      Remember, the roots of the Syria conflict are as much demographic as they are sectarian; Sunni Arabs in the (climate change damaged) hinterlands migrating to overcrowded cities and having 8 kids each, outbreeding the wealthier Levantine ruling groups. The Baathist welfare state was breaking under the strain and couldn’t provide jobs to all the young people wanting them. These problems are not unique to Syria.

      From the very start of the Syrian civil war in 2011 the Assad government forces were critically short on infantry, particularly the kind of ‘gritty’ assault troops needed to go house to house and root Sunni insurgents out of urban strongholds like Baba Amr.

      The army couldn’t rely on the bulk of its Sunni conscripts (in fact, the armed core of the original ‘FSA’ were army deserters), especially for this kind of brutal, high casualty work. So initially reliable (i.e. minority officered) formations like 4th Mechanised (commanded by Amer Assad, the President’s brother), the Republican Guard and Airborne had to do the heavy lifting through 2012.

      These armor-heavy formations quickly relearned the harsh lessons of Grozny and Fallujah (Hue, Berlin, Aachen, Stalingrad, etc.): that in narrow Arab urban areas BMP carriers and T72s are basically rolling coffins. Hence, they reverted to ‘Hama rules’: indiscriminate bombardment, kill-everything-that-moves sniping and plain old siege tactics (cordon-and-starve). This in turn created an immense refugee crisis, as well as sincerely horrified but as usual half-assed Western ‘covert action’. We all know how that went….

      But protracted siege didn’t work everywhere; terrain didn’t always allow it, and in much of the country there were few local pro-regime sects to furnish ‘Shabiha’ militiamen to beef up the infantry. Plus, the rebels were now getting help from Sunni veterans (not all jihadis btw) of the Anbar resistance against the Americans 2003-2009. The Syrian mech troops began finding their extended rural supply lines being interdicted by sophisticated IEDs. And logistics has never been a strong suit of developing nation armies in general. Without ammo, fuel, POL and spares a mechanised army quickly becomes an immobile cluster of rusting pillboxes.

      So when the Russians came in, the key thing they brought wasn’t frontline combat infantry or air power, but shoring up the regime supply lines at the moment of crisis, enough to keep the Syrian army in the field. Ongoing Islamist radicalization of the rebel forces, who had also suffered terribly, as well as factional squabbling more or less did the rest, alienating the Sunni majority and making a country-wide insurgency untenable. The Assad regime might be brutal, but at least they were Syrian, and after 5 years of civil war the average citizen just wants peace and order to return.

      But to clear out the rebel and jihadi strongholds the regime still needed high quality infantry, willing to die; their core divisions had been bled white. That was what the Iranian IRG ‘volunteers’ provided, allowing the regime to reduce urban pockets of resistance via direct assault (backed by heavy firepower).

      I hope that is helpful in understanding the context. Yes, some of the above is overgeneralized for brevity; civil wars are messy things.

        1. xkeyscored

          Firmly seconded. Thank you.
          I’d like to add that “indiscriminate bombardment, kill-everything-that-moves sniping and plain old siege tactics” are pretty much the only tactics anyone’s successfully used against jihadis who’ve had a city for long enough to dig extensive networks of tunnels and so on, as in Aleppo, Mosul and Raqqa.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Have to say that I am not so sure about that last line. The Coalition annihilated the cities of Mosul and Raqqa taking them. They are still finding bodies in the wreckage after all this time and it was infamous how if a sniper was spotted atop a building during the battles, the US would destroy the entire building with no care as to who else might have been in that building. Tens of thousands of civilians died.

            The Russian and Syrians managed to take the city of Aleppo with only a part of the city being destroyed. Their tactic seems to have been to unleash massive destruction on identified targets but to leave escape alleys not only for the civilians but also for the Jihadists if they chose to live to fight another day. They also provided food, water and medical aid for the people and took care to send in teams to remove munitions and booby traps – something that the Coalition never bothered to do after taking Mosul and Raqqa.

          2. ObjectiveFunction

            Remember, civil wars are extreme events, turning entire societies on their heads. The Norms Fairy© gets a cap popped in her tiara pretty quickly. They also go through phases of expansion, stalemate and despair. So, regime propaganda aside (Sunni=ISIS), it actually took some years for the rebellion to become dominated by headchoppers.

            1. Through 2012 the armed rebels were a mix of local Sunni leaders disgusted by their protests being shot up and army deserters who balked at firing on fellow Sunnis. Others of course were just opportunists, or caught in the middle and fearful of reprisal.

            The extremists came to power over time as the vicious no quarter war dragged on, accelerated by meddling by our favorite crypto-Wahhabi oil states, plus the squabbling and corruption of many Western backed ‘moderate rebels’. Also, many of the most effective original rebel leaders had perished.

            2. Make no mistake: the regime was absolutely brutal (“Hama rules”) from 2012-2015, when it was fighting for its life against what seemed a very broad based and foreign backed insurgency. “Christians to Beirut! Alawites to the grave!” Civil wars suck. So hence the Katyusha bombardments, riddling apartment blocks with Shilka AA guns, sniping, barrel bombs, (unproven, but wouldn’t surprise me if it did in fact happen) homebrew mustard gas, etc. But as they saw Sunnis recoiling from the jihadis, and also had their own outside help they could afford to be less savage. And with victory in sight, they also needed to think about the costs of rebuilding.

            3. Plenty of room to disagree, but I personally view the US-led intervention (and make no mistake, the Europeans have been there too) as being initially well-meaning, but then paving the road to hell for other people, as usual.

            The Europeans (also being swamped with refugees), the foreign press (Amanpour, et al.) and the Obama admin (especially State) were all sincerely appalled by the brutality. Much hand wringing: Something Must Be Done. But we can’t invade, that would make us Bush.

            So then the West Wing / Arab Spring types had a brainwave: what if we back a moderate ‘Third Force’©? The Syrians aren’t religious nuts at heart; they’ve all gotten along for millenia, yada yada yada. Hey, why don’t we use that same CIA/dotmil covert action apparatus that has worked out so very nicely for so many other countries?

            And the rest, we know.

            I never met a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.

            1. anon in so cal

              Objective Function,

              The demographic / hydrological explanation for the start of Syria’s “civil war” was also advanced by Thomas Friedman. While events transpired within the context of high levels of demographic growth and water shortages, it is important to realize that the U.S. was identifying vulnerabilities and shaping attitudes well prior to 2011. The initial protests cannot be considered organic, therefore, when U.S. interference is acknowledged.


              “The cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million since 2006 to a group of Syrian exiles to operate a London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, and finance activities inside Syria, the Post said.

              Barada TV began broadcasting in April 2009 but has ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria that began last month as part of a long-standing campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad the Post said”


              Caitlyn Johnstone provides a good overall summary of the U.S. role in fomenting the protests, etc.:


              This article also provides info:

              “The Day Before Deraa”


            2. xkeyscored

              The extremists came to power over time as the vicious no quarter war dragged on
              I’m none too sure about that. The extremists were probably the most organised and determined of the opposition from the word go, and before. Extremists, by definition, think their cause worth fighting, killing and dying for; moderates are by definition the opposite, more or less. And we know from a famous 2012 DIA report that the USA was well aware from the start that “the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” and that “the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition.”
              And, yes, you guessed, I don’t go along with your point 3, but it’s still good to read your thoughts. (I take your point about European involvement. I frequently focus on the USA because I think Europe would be much less of a threat without the USA’s backing, not because I think they’re saints.) Thanks again.

  10. The Rev Kev

    “Chain Store Massacre: Alternative Business And Density Revived This Mall”

    This is quite a good development this. If you go online, there are any number of videos exploring abandoned malls and a guy named Seph Lawless has explored a few-

    But if they could be re-purposed into local economy centers that completely bypass chain stores and online mobs like Amazon, surely that must be good for the local economy itself. Add some food stalls, perhaps some community help programs and who knows what else, it may very well thrive. People would get to meet each other face to face. It wouldn’t be exactly Main Street but it is better than nothing.

      1. tegnost

        Cascade Mall in Burlington WA. has been hemorrhaging retailers for years and just this year (yeah, 2020) is losing Macy’s, has been floated as a homeless shelter. The community is not happy. I have to agree here, it’s almost a ready made work camp, stick the regions problem cases in Burlington and throw up a fence, problem solved! for everyone but Burlington.

    1. polecat

      Kinda like that big warehouse everyone in District 11 used in which to barter.

      That’s as localized as it gets !

    2. Craig H.

      > It wouldn’t be exactly Main Street

      Yesterday I noticed that one of the prime retail locations on the main shopping street downtown in my small city has gone vacant. Think corner of First and Main. It was an Ace Hardware. And a huge prime spot that used to be a Toys R Us is still sitting vacant.

      Does anybody know the trick to print that R backwards?

      I would have thought by now the Toys R Us would be a cannabis supermarket but the biggest local weed outlet is the size of a convenience store.

      1. smoker

        Я is a Cyrillic letter, if you use MSWord you can try the Insert tab and click Ω [Symbol] (if it’s on your version) and search for it. Under Font, choose (normal text), under Subset choose Cyrillic.

      2. xkeyscored

        Another trick that usually works is simply to copy and paste the Я from somewhere like Wikipedia’s ‘Cyrillic script’ page. You can save it somewhere for future use.

    3. Wukchumni

      …dig Big Snow @ a NJ shopping mall

      Rode a chair lift with a local surgeon and asked him where his business came from, and without missing a jump, let it be known that ‘terrain parks’ were his bread & butter, and this obstacle laden frozen terra firma is the haunt of snowboarders doing tricks, twirls and towering ascents of spin only imagined possible in the Oval Office. You’ll see a skier once in awhile attempting such stunts (FD: I enjoy watching boarders antics) @ the resort, but hardly.

      Saw a small contingent of USMC skiers in full camo with black helmets as opposed to last year’s red model. One of them wiped out in an elongated spray of what little snow there was on the ground 50 feet in front of me, and the resultant yard sale couldn’t netted me 20 bucks.

      This probably means they mean business, and the Shemshak (really the name of a ski resort in Iran) redemption must be near, no?

    4. L_44_E

      How about using these for education?
      Specialty high school classes.
      Junior college classrooms.


      Senior centers
      with exercise

    5. Oregoncharles

      The closed retail malls here are mostly occupied by healthcare offices, which are spreading through that whole end of town in a rather sinister manner. (The hospital and clinic are clear at one end of town, so branch clinics at the other end – where I am – make sense.) mostly business offices, physical therapy, other things that don’t need specialized buildings. Granted, the town is getting bigger and older, but it still looks like overgrowth to me. It is rescuing some property owners, though.

      And here, it’s mostly the old downtown housing “alternative” businesses. Antique malls like the one described are very familiar. Might be a western idea making its way east. Antique stores, like galleries, always gravitate to low rents, then move on after gentrification.

      1. ambrit

        In many venues in the Deep South, North American version, the gentrification never happens and we end up with just the antique malls and payday loan storefronts. Speaking of which, it could be a sign of the times, but I saw my first Payday Loan store closure last week. It was on the Main Drag no less. Either fierce competition for ‘customers,’ or the local commercial landlord raising rents again, (the local big shot raises rents every year, irregardless of business conditions,) or, what I hear ‘on the street,’ people are running out of ‘disposable’ income. The numbers of visibly homeless has taken another jump recently. From a little questioning by myself, it does not appear to be an influx of impoverished snowbirds, but an increase in locally sourced destitution. Also, a big upsurge in violent crimes this winter. I’m thinking about getting a Concealed Carry Permit. (Mississippi is an open carry state too.) It is getting that scary in general.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          If the Payday Loan rackets were to be exterminated, that would be a beneficial side effect of the unrolling bad events.

  11. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Donald Trump Is the War Crimes President New York Magazine. Andrew Sullivan.

    Just had to read this to find out what mental contortions sullivan came up with this time to make Trump the WORST EVAH. Same old shit.

    Somebody needs to tell sullivan that a “war criminal” is the one who justifies war crimes, commits them or refuses to prosecute them, not the one who talks about them or lets some guy keep a stupid pin. But sullivan would know that if he was as concerned about war crimes as he wants readers to think he is.

    1. tegnost

      I cajoled myself into reading it as well, looking for references to gina haspell (0) and later looked for mentions of the reinvigorated NDAA (0) but the lawmakers are “sidelined”…by themselves as they wash each others hands.

  12. The Rev Kev

    “A Comedy Education From Late Legend Buck Henry”

    It’s amazing that a man could work on so many successful movies and shows. Thing is, lot of earlier comedy can still be funny decades later where all those topical shows do not age as the cultural reference is lost. A lot of comedians are complaining that it is hard to do comedy these days as there are so many SJWs waiting to be offended at the slightest lapse in purity. Fortunately we still have some people like Ricky Gervais around. But man, Get Smart. I grew up on this stuff and, having seen some episodes not long ago, they still work-

      1. Krystyn Walentka

        Haven’t people learned they have been duped? Paying companies to show us commercials both on TV and the Internet?

        1. ambrit

          But then people would have to admit to themselves that “Popular Culture” as used over the last century was merely a sub-set of advertising. C’mon now! Next you’ll tell me that Gilligan’s Island is not a theme park. As for “Fantasy Island;” hide in plain sight.

        2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          And plastered all over their bodies, I love R. Crumb’s simple observation about the clothing with corporate logos people voluntarily choose to wear, sans any royalty payments

    1. Wukchumni

      Get Smart was a primer for a budding juvenile delinquent, me.

      I went to high school in the golden years of Buck Henry being on SNL and truly it was the only game in town, a phenomenon not even remotely possible today with so many other drama distractions.

      We would reenact skits or faux commercials starting on Monday and maybe run out of gas by mid-week, needing another hit of SNL to repeat the process.

      Similar to SNL being live, we also were afforded only one chance to see it, as nobody I knew had one of them really spendy VCR recorders in the late 70’s.

      1. ambrit

        I’m also pretty convinced that a lot of SNL’s ‘edgier’ stuff has been ‘disappeared’ by the aging SJW producers. I mean, the supposed political ‘humour’ on SNL this past few years is, to be charitable, pathetic.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          Don’t watch much SNL these days but I did watch it right after Trump was elected when Dave Chapelle and Chris Rock were on and remembered one sketch being a pretty good takedown of ‘woke’ elite liberals’ sensibilities. Then the writers all lost their minds with TDS.

          Anyway here’s the sketch and you may be on to something because I could swear there was a line from Rock or Chapelle about what white people would be feeling post-election is what black people call Tuesday, or something to that effect, but it’s not in the clip. Still pretty funny without it (or maybe it was never there and it’s just my flawed memory that’s mistaken) –

        2. Carey

          I hear you. Saw a segment from 2016-17, hammering on
          Bad Trump IIRC, and had to turn it off out of real embarassment for the cast.. it’s gotta be *funny*, and this wasn’t; not in the least. Felt more like whistling in the dark..

          1. Carey

            What’s that saying.. ? “Afraid that someone, somewhere, might be having a good time..”

            What’s funny, too, is that if one were to put any two
            or more of these modern-day Church Lady types in a room together, and *you can be sure* they’ll be having a form of fun at yet another (absent) person’s expense..

        3. ambrit

          Yes! (Or, for the culture challenged, Oui!) When SJWs gain control of “iconic,” [in every meaning of that word,] mass entertainment programs, they are humourless. Humour detracts from the pedagogic aspect of the ‘mass communication.’ {X2}
          And no, my name ain’t Joe…. An the only Marilyn I know is Manson.

        4. NotTimothyGeithner

          Former sportswriter Bill Simmons has said for decades now (I think he’s been saying this his original site before Cold Pizza or Page 2) that Lorne Michaels had become the guy he use to hate in the 70’s.

          Clearly this banned video that was aired once in the 90’s was destroyed by millennials and SJWs and not the fine people at General Electric who owned NBC at the time.

    2. petal

      Have been streaming old Barney Miller episodes lately. Really makes me laugh. Had watched it when I was a kid but was too young to appreciate a lot of the humour. It never would’ve made it today-too much to be offended by, plus it makes you think and challenges you. Can’t have that.

    3. xkeyscored

      I’m not familiar with Buck Henry or Get Smart, and I’ve only seen one or two clips from SNL, so maybe this clip is not typical. It is funny, but I couldn’t help noticing the way it portrays US spooks, the CIA presumably, as a benign but bumbling bureaucracy. No reference to their long history of worldwide gun and drug running, assassinations, coups, terrorism, and so on. It smacks to me of US propaganda – Look! We have free speech! We can even make fun of the CIA!
      I far prefer the grim, dark, hard-hitting humour that takes these things into account. That clip would be better set in a watch factory, where internal gripes are perhaps the organisation’s biggest issues.

    4. Lobsterman

      Consider The Good Place for a timeless meditation on how hard and absurd trying to be a decent human being is.

    5. Riverboat Grambler

      I’ve been doing standup for about 5-6 years now in a small Midwestern city/glorified college town. Although I’d rather not dox myself by posting a video, I’m good enough that the local comedy club trusts me enough to emcee weekend shows, as well as a couple of album recordings.

      I’m a straight white male, and most of the audiences I perform for are college kids. In my experience most of the bitching about “SJWs ruining comedy” comes from comics who simply aren’t funny. I’ve seen people melt down onstage because their stale material wasn’t working and they started to attack the audience as being too uptight; it’s not a good look. Standup tends to attract loner types; sometimes those loners are a lot more angry and unstable than they are funny. They come and go within a matter of months usually, bitching about how uptight audiences are after they flame out.

      I’ve done bits that deal with rape, I’ve done bits that involve me calling out someone in the front row as attractive, and I’ve made them work consistently in front of college students. I like doing material that initially makes the audience uncomfortable (partly because of the subject and partly because of me being a white guy) and then breaking that tension and getting laughs anyway. Yes there is a stigma about white guy comics and what they should or shouldn’t talk about but you can use that, you can play with it, you can turn it into a strength and that’s a big part of the fun of doing standup. I kind of like being a white guy comic; I think It’s true that it draws more scrutiny from certain audiences, but if your material is actually good you have more room to surprise people, especially if you don’t actually hate women or like racist shit. That said, it’s true that a lot of my bits tend to portray myself as a cartoonish dick and/or a fool, so YMMV.

      Apologies if this comes off as rambling or self-aggrandizing, but I’ve been involved with the standup scene for a number of years, I’ve heard all about how SJWs and college kids are “killing” it and I just don’t see it. Yes it’s true that if you’re a white guy, the dumb shit you say to your white guy friends about women might not work in front of an audience with actual women in it. And yes, somebody might get outraged at your jokes and heckle you. So what. It’s always been like that. There’s a wide variety of people doing standup with all sorts of different styles and they are not all being cancelled by Twitter. When was the last time Jerry Seinfeld did a college crowd anyway?

      The beauty of standup is that you can say literally whatever you want; the catch is nobody has to like it. The people who consistently bitch about how audiences “can’t handle” them are usually the people who are covering for their own comedic inadequacy. And yes, of course Blazing Saddles could be made today, come off it.

        1. Riverboat Grambler

          If you’re referring to Seinfeld’s comments from 2015, he actually said he doesn’t do colleges, but he’s been told to stay away from them because they’re too PC. So he wouldn’t even know! Seinfeld does safe material for private rooms full of rich people, he is nowhere near the campuses he is so quick to demean. He comes across as a pompous ass whenever he talks about standup; see his terrible show about driving around with comedians in cars, where he occasionally roasts his coffee servers in between congratulating himself and his guest on having “made it”. Screw him.

          I know there’s a few successful, established comics who like to moan about how kids these days can’t handle comedy, much like how old people rail against the young in every other avenue in life. As if Chris Rock was doing the college circuit in 2017. Whatever.

          People come to comedy clubs to laugh, and to be surprised, and the majority of audiences (in my experience) have no problem with being challenged a bit. Even on campuses.

      1. Carey

        >In my experience most of the bitching about “SJWs ruining comedy” comes from comics who simply aren’t funny.

        Thanks for your opinion. “Most of” doing a lot of work, there?

        1. Riverboat Grambler

          Yeah, just my anecdotal evidence. Never claimed it was anything more.

          In fact I probably should have changed “most of” to “all of”, because that’s been my experience.

          1. Carey

            Fair enough. I like Bill Burr, myself, cause he’s still willing to say something. The zeitgeist has largely been set, though, by whoever handles/pays the SJW crew, IMO.

            1. Riverboat Grambler

              I like Bill Burr too. He’s one of the biggest comic names out there (yearly Netflix specials and his own tv show) and he rags on PC culture regularly.

              I agree that the zeitgeist slants towards PC culture in standup. And it’s pretty much destroyed the late-night talk shows. And there’s a fair amount of comics who seem like they’re going for applause more than laughter, which misses the point. I just don’t believe that PC is throttling comics as much as some people say. I think comics can play off of PC culture similarly to how comics can play off race.

              1. Carey

                Thanks for your comment, and I’ll be thinking about your second para.

                Didn’t realize Burr was one of the hotshots,
                just like his stuff.. he did one working-class
                interlude that I might try to find again and link.

      2. makedonamend

        to Riverboat Gambler

        Thanks. I found your comment very interesting, fwtw. Particularly interesting was:

        “…breaking that tension and getting laughs anyway. Yes there is a stigma about white guy comics and what they should or shouldn’t talk about but you can use that, you can play with it, you can turn it into a strength…”

        It seems to me that there is a very powerful message packed into that quoted statement. I just can articulate it. Maybe because effective comedy involves continual subservsion of established and emerging memes. Play without reward and down-home story telling are vastly underrated in Western society imho.

  13. xkeyscored

    Babson college professor dimissed over what was clearly a joke, made on Facebook.
    I fail to see why whether it was a joke or not has anything to do with it. The professor suggested Iran might bomb US cultural sites, such as the Kardashian’s home and the Mall of America in Minnesota, in response to Trump’s threats to demolish Iranian cultural heritage. Are alternative viewpoints to be outlawed? It looks like the answer is yes.

    1. ambrit

      Even more worrying is that this piece of enforced conformity was done by an enabler of the elites, not an elite itself. No specific ‘orders’ needed to be promulgated. The lower levels of the nomenklatura did it themselves. Don’t task me with the college administration being an elite itself. For evil’s sake, it is an administration, by definition, working for a higher authority.

      1. Wukchumni

        Luckily we haven’t yet attained the juncture where one must hide meaning in code, and by the way the jackdaw flies set against a backdrop of intense fully lit moonlight.

                1. Yves Smith

                  Commentors come and go based on what is happening in their lives.

                  Fresno Dan reappeared for a few comments a few weeks back and hasn’t been seen since then.

                  I do not know what happened to Cal2.

                  1. ambrit

                    Glad to hear that Fresno Dan is still among the living. It may be an irrational ‘fixation,’ but there it is.

            1. ambrit

              Are those ‘lilies’ the Black Lotus of Khem or the narcotic fruits of the Lotus tree from Odysseus’ travelogue? (Said Lotus Tree is always in Bloom, per Joyce.) A favourite item of American cuisine is Lotus Fruit in Bernays’ Sauce.

      2. richard

        for evil’s sake, I will task you a bit ;)
        a relative of mine is a college administrator
        very well paid, a dean of a department or something like that I think
        retirement savings well in 7 figures
        spouse with similar work and salary
        my point being that this is not that lower a level of nomenclatura
        they are very well compensated to look after these sorts of things themselves
        and 100% think of themselves as an elite
        whether they are or not….

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      That whole ’52 cultural sites’ thing has me suspecting that some genius was planning another set of ‘playing cards.’

      1. The Rev Kev

        Do you think that the Iranians will, based on a Pentagon idea, issue a deck of cards with a US cultural sites on the back of each card? Maybe on the back of the Joker card,they could have a Trump hotel.

  14. mpalomar

    “The UK ambassador to Iran has denied Iranian claims that he had joined street protests in Tehran on Saturday after he was arrested and then later released by Iranian authorities.
    Rob Macaire said he had gone to an event advertised as a vigil for the victims of the Ukrainian air tragedy.”
    -Sometimes it’s stunning how tone deaf and/or blatantly, deeply perverse Western foreign policy creatures are.

    1. John A

      I can almost picture the British ambassador handing out cookies to the protestors while scouting the best vantage point for snipers to position themselves.

    2. xkeyscored

      Wikipedia says he has an MA in Modern History from Oxford University. I’d imagine he’s at least dimly aware of the UK’s role in the overthrow of Mossadegh in ’53, and more likely than not actively hoping to foment another such coup.

    1. TsWkr

      The timing of that article is interesting, because the big talking point being disseminated against a potential public option in Colorado is that rural hospitals would have to close (likely the very same ones referenced in that story).

      Our household received a call from a pollster on this very topic, with leading questions to try to get results that show a dim opinion of a state public option. The big money has chosen their argument, although I wonder if all the people on those bronze plans will see right through it.

      1. flora

        FTI Consulting? Interesting they got called in as “impartial” analysts.

        ‘London, 9 Dec. 2014 — FTI Consulting, Inc. (NYSE: FCN), the global business advisory firm dedicated to helping organizations protect and enhance their enterprise value, ‘ -SourceWatch

        Don’t know who is behind their hire. My guess is the insurance and pharma industries.

        Thanks for the link.

      2. Carey

        Framed just a little differently, couldn’t that be reasonably called
        an extortion ploy? “We the few keeps our Racket, or you the Many
        lose your (already-diminished and likely dying, by design) hospital..”

        Your last sentence poses a good question.

  15. Hepativore

    What everybody seems to have forgotten is that despite all of the hand-wringing and pearl-clutching over Trump’s degeneracy on foreign policy and stances on things, is that his warcrimes still pale in comparison to those of the W. Bush administration. It was W. Bush who set up the whole torture and indefinite detention system, preemptive strike foreign policy, Patriot Act, etc. to name a few. Trump is also a disaster, but he (…and Obama) is largely following the script that the W. Bush neocons have had in place since 2001. However, W. Bush is now considered a media darling by the liberal crowd despite the atrocities and human rights violations that he is responsible for that are just as bad if not worse than those of Trump.

    By the way, has anybody heard anything from Sanders or his campaign team in terms of what he plans to do about all of these people we are holding indefinitely without trial like in Gitmo and elsewhere? I hope he plans to shut them down or at the very least, let these people go due to lack of evidence. The establishment in both parties would howl with rage, but they will hate Sanders no matter what he does or does not do.

    1. JBird4049

      From the chapter titled Depravity: Alexander VI, 1492–1603, in the book March of Folly by Barbara W. Tuchman describing Rodrigo Borgia (the new Pope).

      As described by contemporaries, he was usually smiling and good-tempered, even cheerful, and liked “to do unpleasant things in a pleasant way.” An eloquent speaker and well-read, he was witty and “took pains to shine in conversation,” was “brilliantly skilled in conducting affairs,” combined zest with self-esteem and Spanish pride and had an amazing gift for exciting the affections of women, “who are attracted to him more powerfully than iron to a magnet,” which suggests that he made his desire for them strongly felt. Another observer rather unnecessarily remarks that he “understood money matters thoroughly.”

      Emphasis is mine.

      I don’t think everybody has truly forgotten President Bush’s actions. It is just that Trump outré behavior makes him the bumpkin and ICE’s Kiddie Concentration Camps or Puerto Rico’s destruction unacceptable.

      However, Bush is folksy Americana and Obama is debonair which makes them the Right People and all their actions such as the destruction of several countries during several undeclared, illegal wars, and the illegal kidnapping, imprisonment and torture of numerous, often innocent people. Then there is the police state and its often illegal actions against American citizens.

      It is appearance over substance. The Applelization of both government and society done with the help of Madison Avenue.

      1. inode_buddha

        Also known as being shallow. Shallower than a puddle in a newly paved driveway. Appearance over all!

        I think you are quite correct, I was thinking about this the other day. The refusal to look beyond the surface leads to all kinds of hypocrisies. And as they say, democracy dies in darkness.

        1. JBird4049

          Shallower than a puddle in a newly paved driveway.

          A nice description.

          Reading up on some of the people Tuchman describes in her books A Distant Mirror, The Guns of August, and The March of Folly as well as biographies and histories of people in the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Progressive Era, I am usually impressed by the people in them.

          Even when I do not like a person, for instance Confederate colonel John S. Mosby or Pope Alexander VI, I am impressed by them. Then there are the many American politicians and military officers, many of whom I admire, like both Roosevelt Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, Harry S. Truman, John Adams, James Longstreet, and Ulysses Grant. And many others. Activists, scientists, and so on.

          But I look these people of the past as well as their societies and then look at today’s big names and our current society and ours comes out as wanting. Doesn’t mean that the past was deep or that there are not plenty of admirable people today. It just seems that our society is more flash and cash instead of reality, if that makes sense. If I had to guess, shallowness, flashiness, and superficiality is what is rewarding. Anything deeper is lost or just not created.

      2. Lambert Strether

        > to do unpleasant things in a pleasant way

        Reminds me of this clip: The ending of Killing Them Softly

        (Not sure which commenter posted this great clip; hat tip to them, whoever they are!)

  16. flora

    How laws get made in the US today.

    You elected them to write new laws. They’re letting corporations do it instead.

    ‘ “This work proves what many people have suspected, which is just how much of the democratic process has been outsourced to special interests,” said Lisa Graves, co-director of Documented, which probes corporate manipulation of public policy. “It is both astonishing and disappointing to see how widespread … it is. Good lord, it’s an amazing thing to see.” ‘

    1. inode_buddha

      “… which has the stated goal of reducing litigation”

      Would they prefer shooting instead?

      1. JBird4049

        Not the point. Guns, abortion, climate change, lead poisoning, homelessness, God, whatever. It is to make money. Whenever there is a mass shooting, it is an opportunity not to have a productivity discussion, but to profit from it. Whatever the issue is, solving it would me a loss of donations, votes, attention, political agitation.

        That is a prime reason for the nonprofit sector has become so dysfunctional and corrupt. The various charities and advocacy groups goals are not to solve anything. Their goal like most “nonprofit”‘hospitals is to make money.

        1. inode_buddha

          My point was, would these corrupt leaders rather be shot than sued? That is an option. They need to be reminded that they are edible.

  17. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    “Protests in Iran”. I doubt they are organic or any more real than the CGI contrived panoramic video of the entire population of Iran packed onto a freeway for Gen. Soleymani’s funeral.
    The Color Revolution playbook has been the go-to for US and UK intel services since it got used against Iran back in 1953. Find a disatissfied sector of your target society (merchants, students ‘middle class’ or whatever) and get a few dozen to stage a loud protest. Media amplify the protest and make it look like total anarchy has broken out. Then your Foreign Minister comes out and publically encourages the target nation’s military chiefs to oust the government you don’t like. And invite in an American oil company exec with some ethnic tie to come rule in the name of ‘Democracy’, ‘gay rights’ & ‘free markets’. Loot the country until it collapses. Then establish military garrisons and move on to the next country. The game won’t stop until China and Russia have color revolutions and host US military bases.

      1. curious euro

        More likely China or Russia set up bases in the New California Republic or the Inuit Homeland of Alaska or whatever.

    1. Olga

      But then some other misbehaving lil’ol country with a cheeky dictator will want to become independent, and then another, and the poor US will have to pull out its colouring book all over again…

    2. rusti

      According to my Iranian friends here in Europe, they are very real. One just sent me this link:

      During the past few years, America’s presence in the Middle East has produced nothing but increasing insecurity and chaos. Our approach towards that aggressive power is quite clear. However, it is also clear to us that America’s adventurism in the region should not be used as an excuse for domestic suppression.

  18. Tom Stone

    Thanks to NC I now know who Megan Markle is, we should all be grateful that she has brought low comedy to the inbred house of Saxe-Gotha.

    Disclosure, as an old fashioned Liberal it has long been my opinion that the best use of Royalty is as decorations on lamp posts.

    1. curious euro

      That’s not liberal, that’s republican.

      PS: it could also be possibly bolshevik, tho then the preferred method is a bullet.

      1. John A

        Bullets. The Romanovs had so many jewels secretly sewn into their clothes, it took a lot of bullets to kill them.

    2. Plenue

      Same here. I make a point to not pay attention to the world of royal parasites. But it seems she and her husband are making an effort to strike out on their own and be more than parasites (or at least the blue blooded flavor of parasite). Good for them, I guess.

      1. Massinissa

        They’re going from blue blooded parasites to capitalistic parasites… I think that’s a downgrade.

  19. Conrad

    The Oxford papyrus story is yet another example of excessive wealth corrupting academia. I doubt the don in question would have pilfered the collection he was entrusted with if there weren’t a willing buyer with very deep pockets at the ready.

    1. The Rev Kev

      You have to watch those Oxford Dons. Back in the 19th century, one was even a slave trader on the transatlantic run.

      1. neighbor7

        Actually, Moss has written a number of interesting books. I’ve read “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom.” There’s also “Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby,” which after reading the papyrus story sounds particularly intriguing.

  20. notabanktoadie

    And in the next crisis, the United States may finally be moved to free itself from the deadweight of mainstream economic thought, to retire a worn-out generation of policy advisers, and to move on with the great social, economic, and environmental project known as the Green New Deal. There is a history of radical experiment and popular mobilization in this country, from which democracy emerged stronger, not weaker, than it ever was before. And for many Americans, to escape from the debt trap and from domination by bankers and billionaires into a world of work and public purpose would be the very opposite of slavery and oppression. A better word would be liberation, along with a new freedom, and a new hope. James Galbraith from The Dismal Forecasts of the Dismal Scientists

    If Mr. Galbraith is counting on the proposals of MMT proponents, then the result will not be an escape from slavery and oppression but merely a change in masters, i.e. from wage slavery to the private sector to wage slavery to government.

    Also, similar to the original New Deal, MMT proposals would sneak in new privileges for the banks – so much then for escaping domination by bankers.

    Based on the insights of MMT, there is much better solution and that’s to simultaneously de-privilege the banks and wipe out a huge amount of private debt without cheating non-debtors or running the risk of massive inflation.

    Of course we need land reform too and I see no mention of that in any MMT proposals either.

    1. eg

      I’m confused — what are these “MMT proposals” you reference but don’t name?

      My reading of core MMT is that it’s descriptive, not prescriptive.

    2. Lambert Strether

      > If Mr. Galbraith is counting on the proposals of MMT proponents, then the result will not be an escape from slavery and oppression but merely a change in masters, i.e. from wage slavery to the private sector to wage slavery to government.

      This isn’t even wrong.

      1. notabanktoadie

        OK, I accept the phrasing was sloppy.

        Then: If Mr. Galbraith is counting on the proposals of MMT proponents, then, should those proposals come to pass, the result will not be an escape from slavery and oppression but merely a change in masters, i.e. from wage slavery to the private sector to wage slavery to government.


  21. Daryl

    > Democrats Outraged At Republican Accusations Of Foreign Loyalty Caitlin Johnstone

    In addition to Caitlin’s point about their RUSSIA hysteria, this is also an abject lesson in why it was pointless and stupid for Democrats to begin all their statements on this with “Of COURSE Soleimani was a bad guy who should have been killed, but…”

    1. The Rev Kev

      I usually watch Paul Joseph Watson’s videos to get an idea of conservative thought and it surprised me to see him attack Soleimani so viciously in a recent video. And then I realized that in defending what Trump did, he was literally spruiking CIA talking points. What he said could have been written by Mike Pompeo. I bet he and Rachel Maddow would get on well together off-screen.

  22. JBird4049

    I like the ideal of using tumbrels ending in close shaves myself, but don’t you think that all this is a bit harsh? Just give them their walking papers and let them keep whatever they have squirreled away. After paying their taxes of course.

    1. Yves Smith

      I could not agree more but Meghan appears to be using her and Harry’s supposed fragile mental state and threats to do media tell-all, with Meghan expected to claim racist treatment, to be allowed to set up a Sussex Royal retail empire and keep pretty much the whole shebang for themselves.

      1. kiwi

        Poor Meghan was supposedly on the “brink” of something or other, hence Harry’s rush to announce on the day they did.

        Hmmmm, and conveniently right on the eve of Kate’s b-day celebration.

        1. anon in so cal

          After reading up on the topic, learned this (please take w/ a grain):

          MM self-aggrandizes; uses, then abandons, husband, lovers, friends, family; odd history w/ Soho House and Sunshine Sachs; manipulates Harry; wrecked H’s relationship w/ friends, brother; huge sums on clothing, renovations, vacations; shower; “charity” links to business interests; plotted using royal status to create global brand/empire; threatens to blackmail RF if they do not comply; counseled by the Obamas.

          1. The Rev Kev

            And the Clintons. You forgot that bit. Oh, and some of her staff were from the Clintons as well.

            Wallis Simpson put to shame.

              1. The Rev Kev

                She started by buying the most expensive clothes in the world. And then she worked her way up from there.

            1. John A

              I thought most ‘celebs’ got lent designer clothes free rather than having to actually buy them.

              1. Pat

                Another bit of royal protocol and image, they pay. Despite their value advertising preferably British fashion by wearing it, seeking to be a walking advertisement would be crass.

                1. John A

                  The royals dont pay for anything. The taxpayer does. When it comes to inheritance taxes, it’s all ours. When it comes to paying bills, it’s all ours. When it comes to access, it’s all theirs. However, would be surprised if they dont have some ‘free’ deal with Land Rover for cars at least. When 98 year old Mr Queen pulled out onto a main road and almost killed a young family and totalling his own car last year, Land Rover very publicly delivered him a brand new replacement the very next day. Only then came cries of ‘maybe a 98 year old who almost caused a fatal accident should give up driving’. In the meantime, still waiting to hear if he’s going to be prosecuted for any driving offence.

            1. Clive

              The Duchess of York (former wife of Prince Andrew) succumbed to just such a fate.

              As a rule of thumb, generally speaking, the British public will be completely loyal and indulge all sorts of royal eccentricities (like Prince Charles and his tree hugging) provided the members of the royal family hold up their end of the bargain — ensure that at all times they be something completely removed from politics and commerce. As soon as any member of the royal family walks away from that deal, they’re toast.

              When I met Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at a business function, they had the act down to a tee. Meeting and greeting, schmoozing without being condescending or supercilious, nudging a couple of key players into a tete-a-tete and generally wielding soft power with aplomb. They made it look easy, but one wrong word or getting too pally with the wrong people and it would have been sleazy and manipulative — the investors would have felt played (which they would have been). Months or years of preparation would have been ruined whereas, in actuality, I think this event helped seal an international contract for a UK retailer.

              Meghan trying to (metaphorically speaking) steal the spoons and pick the pockets of the elite and Harry being crass, matey and oafish in such situations would simply be liabilities. The fact the neither of them appreciated how this gig works says a lot about their uselessness. They’ll be a lot better off as the Earl and Countess of Hollywood — much more suited to their “talents” and less of a drain on the public purse.

            2. Pat

              I think it already is. After it was denied that Harry lobbied for her to get work, the video of him doing just that at a red carpet for a charity event has surfaced.
              More and more I think they will find that they will not escape scrutiny into the abyss between what they say and what they do. The Kardashians have never had to be about anything but self promotion, their model will not work here. And there is no power/access aspect to the couple away from the royal family, so the Clinton/Obama model doesn’t work either. The press maw will soon find there is as much or more value in exposing them as in enabling them. They may have a strong hand short term but long term it won’t hold up.

              1. John A

                Harry inherited millions from his mother and great grandmother. More than enough to live a very comfortable life on a remote Canadian island or wherever, in luxury. While doing the skiing, sailing, polo things rich playboys like to do. Not sure why they feel the need to hustle or grift more millions. He is also sure to inherit more millions when his grandmother dies if he were to blow Diana’s inheritance in the meantime.

    2. notabanktoadie

      There’s also this from the Old Testament of all places (go figure, hasty judges of the Bible?):

      The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked. And the one who loves violence His soul hates. Psalm 11:5

      1. Plenue

        Since the Old Testament/Tanakh is a redacted collective of disparate oral traditions, there’s bound to be genuinely good stuff amid all the rape and war crimes. Especially in the Psalms.

        Just as there’s worth and even beauty in the Iliad. Doesn’t mean we today have to hate democracy, fetishize kleos, or think the Olympian Gods literally exist.

        1. ambrit

          The ‘moderne’ ultra-wealthy class is trying to live as if they were Olympians. Unlike the Heroes of old, our moderne aristos garner kleos by the number of stables they defile, not clean.

  23. The Rev Kev

    “Australia Apocalypse”

    Had a nice touch when the Sydney Opera House was lit up with an image of our firies in their honour-

    But even our military are finding conditions a tough one to deal with-

    And Scotty from Marketing? ‘Some of Australia’s most extreme Christian-right parties have withdrawn from politics, claiming the election of Prime Minister Scott Morrison had rendered them redundant.’-

    But maybe they were a little to quick on that one-

    1. anon in so cal

      “Premier Daniel Andrews has refused to commit to the steepest emission cuts recommended by his government’s independent advice panel, saying it is not appropriate to make such an announcement while the state was in the grip of a bushfire crisis.

      While the Premier said he accepted the grave risks posed by climate change, he controversially commented that people making “ideological points” about the need for tough new climate targets should ensure they do not distract from the emergency relief effort.”

      Reminds me of those in the U.S. who say it’s not appropriate to discuss gun control in the aftermath of a mass shooting…

  24. Carey

    ‘Bernie Sanders campaign rips Biden revisionist history on Iraq War support’:

    “..It is appalling that after 18 years Joe Biden still refuses to admit he was dead wrong on the Iraq War, the worst foreign policy blunder in modern American history,” Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement Saturday. “Unlike 23 of his Senate colleagues who got it right, Biden made explicitly clear that he was voting for war, and even after the war started, he boasted that he didn’t regret it.”..”

    1. John k

      Yes, huge blunder.
      But Vietnam blunder far larger, half million us troops mobilized from a smaller pop. Johnson gets credit for that.
      Sad thing is mic worked out the problem was the draft… protests finally ended the war. Ending the draft ended war protests.
      Odd to think dems are the warmongers even more than reps. Kennedy’s missile gap, Johnson’s Vietnam disaster, Carter’s Zbig, Obama and his Middle East wars, hillary in Libya plus wanted to confront Russia in Syria… I give Clinton a pass for his Balkan excursion, cleaning up a mess the Eu should have taken care of much earlier.
      But Nixon finally ended Vietnam and opened China, Reagan met with soviets multiple times on arms deals, granted bush 2 did the Iraq disaster, aided and abetted by the dems, witness Biden.
      So while pundits see a logjam in dc, there’s far too much cooperation on wars.

  25. Carey

    OT, late-Sunday question for possible Linux users:

    If you were going to recommend one of these three OSs for a low-powered (netbook, prob Dell 2120), non-techie user, which one would it be?

    Linux Mint
    Linux Elementary
    Linux Ubuntu

    Cursory or detailed responses welcomed!

    1. Daryl

      I’m not up to date on which of these Ubuntu derivatives is the right one; as I recall the main difference between Mint and Ubuntu is that Mint out-of-the-box includes proprietary software that may make life easier.

      The recommendation for extreme low end computers is generally to jettison the typical desktop environment that Ubuntu comes with, but this comes with a steep learning curve. This can always be done after the fact.

      One simple way to test drive might be to just flash each of these to a USB stick, boot off that (search for “my distribution live USB”) and see if it is snappy enough for you.

      If you’ve not yet obtained the device, I can highly recommend getting a secondhand Thinkpad. They’re cheap, repairable with easily obtained parts, and even old ones are beefy enough for day-to-day-use. The only main downsides are that the screens on old ones tend to be terrible.

    2. c_heale

      An important thing is the gui – xfce is one which doesn’t use a lot of processing power. There are others.

    3. Arizona Slim

      I’m using the System76 variant of Ubuntu (Pop! OS) on my laptop. Thing’s a gamer machine and is built like a tank. Two things I admire in a laptop, even though I’m not a gamer.

    4. Jack Parsons

      Been using Mint for years, quite happy with it.

      For calibration, I was a kernel hacker starting from 1979-1995 and I hate the Mac.

  26. Savita

    Rev Kev,PlutoniumKun, Makedooramend, thanks for response on Northern Ireland parliament. It appears to have been the day before the deadline for them to act. 3 out of the 4 of us commented on being blindsided by it, somewhat. ABC news which is my staple (some Australian equivalent of the BBC) didn’t seem to have ANY reference on it, I came across announcement elsewhere. Valuable lesson there for me, reminded me the Indonesian bushfires have had virtually no coverage on ABC either

    1. makedonamend

      Hiya Savita,

      There’s possibly good reason for the lack of coverage. There’s real element of Kabuki theatre about this, and anyway not too many people are excited or expect too much. For three long years neither government could be bothered to investigate the original reason for the collapse of Stormont, namely the “cash-for-ash” scandal involving the DUP. Now the scandal is simply being swept under the carpet. Good governance, if only at the council type level, is obviously not a concern of either the Irish or UK governments. It suited both the predominant Irish governing party, Fine Gael, and the governing UK Tories to sideline the GFA (Good Friday Agreement) for numerous reasons that suited their respective parties’ narrow political interests.

      However, in light of any possible trade deal between the EU and the UK, it seems to suit all parties to bring Stormont back as a symbolic feature to bridge concrete political obstacles to any possible future trade deal.

      I’d suggest that your typical Irish 5 year old is pretty cynical at this point.

  27. Savita

    I actually complained to the ABC when their articles very recently referred to Londonderry and how inflammatory and insensitive that was. I learned a bit later it just seems which side of the fence one stands, rather than being partisan. Still, I’ve seen maps have Londonderry and Derry so one would expect an ‘impatial broadcaster’ would be more respectful of something, in someone elses country no less, thats so contentious

  28. meeps

    Wow, the prismatic plumage on that barbet is to die for.

    As for other antidotes, we need one like the gilets jaunes here in the US. As I recall, there were some commenters here who took up the cause on their home turf. Anyone out there have a field report? I’ve mentioned the protests at opportune moments for more than a year and have yet to meet someone who gets the referent.

    1. Lambert Strether

      I’ve seen two reasonably attested videos of French laywers throwing their black robes onto a fire; one, I think, in Lille, and the other in Paris. The news blackout has been very effective.

  29. Savita

    Carey, your Linux question. Some of those flavours have security and privacy issues compared to others. As discussed on Schneier on Security, ubuntu and mint both have been discussed as needing mitigation or for the hard core user just total avoidance re: security/privacy. Some flavours are easier to use for newbies than others. Open BSD is the most adored of the open source operating systems, not least for its minimalist ethic, versatility, and security and privacy built in from the ground up. But, it’s got a learning curve. All useful factors to take into account, but don’t let being a newbie detract from the learning curve challenge that can provide more options with a bit of effort. The designers go out of their way generally to make things as accessible as possible. And, there’s always going to be a lot of discussion on topics like this, across the web, one can easily find comparison guides. The security and privacy angle for operating systems is rarely going to get a mention in manistream sites however.

    1. Carey

      Thanks for these detailed comments, Savita, and I will be checking out
      Knoppix, for sure. Don’t know what I don’t know..

Comments are closed.