Links 1/4/2020

Santa Anita Suffers Two Deaths in First Week of Meet; Opening Day Handle, Attendance Drop Casino :-(

How to Make a Tree With Fractals Wired (David L)

A new mathematical model predicts a knot’s stability PhysOrg (Kevin W)

On-chip integrated laser-driven particle accelerator Science (Chuck L)

Terrorists could make a ‘dirty bomb’ from this common medical device; why regulators won’t act PhysOrg (Robert M). Not to sound Pollyannish, but the hype over “dirty bombs” is way way way overdone. A dirty bomb is just a regular bomb with nasty radioactive material thrown in. The bigger the blast area, the less the severity of contamination. The problem is it does contaminate an area which then has to be cleaned up, which could be super inconvenient if it were, say, Grand Central. And the sort of people who are more worried about terrorism than vastly greater real world risks, like riding in a car, are particularly likely to get freaked out.

Australia Burning

This is not a Natural Disaster. It is Man Made Steve Keen, Brave New Europe (Chuck L)

The Australian: Murdoch-owned newspaper accused of downplaying bushfires in favour of picnic races Guardian (Kevin W)

To Replace Gas Taxes, Oregon and Utah Ask EVs To Pay For Road Use ars technica

Planes could fly together in V-shaped flocks to save fuel and cut down on emissions amid growing ‘flight shame’ over their environmental impact Daily Mail

Plastics Industry’s Greenwashing Aggravates Environmental and Health Crises TruthOut


China’s academics tackle the ‘Big Brother’ state Asia Times (Gordon W). Awfully late for that.

U.S. farmers see another bleak year despite Phase 1 trade deal Reuters (resilc)

A Quarter of the World’s Pigs Died Last Year in China New York Times


India close to concluding a trade package with U.S.: Shringla The Hindu (J-LS)

Former NSA Shivshankar Menon says CAA, Kashmir decision have isolated India from the world Scroll (J-LS)


Paris Villejuif stabbings: Attacker shot dead after killing one and injuring others BBC (furzy)


U.S. reportedly strikes pro-Iran convoy in Iraq ahead of funeral for Soleimani Agence France-Presse. We really want that war, don’t we?

A New Year and a New Trump Foreign Policy Blunder in Iraq (resilc). Important.

A Shocked Iraq Reconsiders Its Relationship With the U.S. New York Times (Kevin W)

The Pinnacle of Trump’s Foreign Policy Stupidity New Republic

The Assassination of Suleimani Escalates the Threat of War Nation

Strait of Hormuz, the world’s biggest oil chokepoint, in focus as Iran tensions flare MarketWatch

Trump launches evangelical coalition after strike on Iranian military leader CBS News (Kevin W)

Reprisals against US to come at time and place of Iran’s choosing Guardian (resilc)

Senator Sanders Warns of Dangerous Escalation After Top Iranian Commander is Killed in Airstrike C-SPAN (Kevin C). Interesting C-SPAN picked this up.

The Killing of Osama bin Laden Seymour M. Hersh, London Review of Books (2015)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

#MeTooBots that will scan your personal emails for ‘harassment’ are an Orwellian misuse of AI RT (Kevin W)

Company shuts down because of ransomware, leaves 300 without jobs just before holidays ZDNet (Chuck L)

Google cuts off Xiaomi smart camera access after bug showed photos of strangers’ homes CNET (BC)

Y2K20 Parking Meter Software Glitch Causes Citywide SNAFU Gothamist. Chuck L: “The Internet of Shit.”

Trump Transition

Under Trump, the U.S. Has Become a “Known Unknown” Atlantic (resilc)

Trump’s ‘West Point Mafia’ Faces a Loyalty Test Politico. Chuck L: “About six weeks old but as of last evening VERY pertinent.”

Trump asks New York judge to dismiss rape allegation case The Hill. The claim is actually defamation and it’s unfortunate that it is the NY Post that makes that clear: Trump files to dismiss columnist E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit

Russian pranksters strike again: Fake Greta Thunberg convinces eager US politician that she has dirt on Trump RT. Kevin W: “It’s Congresswoman Maxine Waters.”


McConnell digs in on impeachment: ‘Non-starter’ for Pelosi to influence trial The Hill. Predictable, but now official.


Bernie Sanders’s Momentum Continues With Massive Fundraising Haul Vanity Fair

Malibu wants to ban all pesticides. The state of California says that’s against the law Los Angeles Times (J-LS)

2019: A Year the News Media Would Rather Forget Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone (UserFriendly)

First Nation looks ahead after court sides with natural gas company CTV News (David L)

Manhattan property decline worsened as Wall Street boomed New York Times

Amazon employees who spoke out about climate change could be fired The Verge (Kevin W)

Ciities Struggle To Boost Ridership With ‘Uber for Transit’ Schemes Wired. Of course, zero mention of the fact that the availability of Uber vehicles is achieved only through billions a year in investor subsidies.

Tesla “Autopilot” has killed 3 more people in past month — It will get far worse from here Medium

Tesla Tops Wall Street Estimates With 112,000 Vehicle Deliveries In Fourth Quarter CNBC

Car Sales Boom Hit the Brakes in 2019 Wall Street Journal. Catching up with Wolf Richter.

Class Warfare

“Shit-Life Syndrome,” Trump Voters, and Clueless Dems Counterpunch (resilc)

Antidote du jour. From Heresy 101:

Last New Years Day, the coyotes got our dear little Rocky. He was more like a teenager than a cat: he would boss you, argue with you, tease you, and comfort you. At night, those big eyes were like headlights!
We miss him so.

An anti-antidote from guurst, which strikes me as fitting in light of our Middle East misguided macho:

And a bonus, moar cats:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. D. Fuller

    Concerning dirty bombs and radiation. A long-lived radioactive contaminant does more than require a “little cleanup”. Besides, it is not the overall exposure to radiation that kills you. It is the particle that is emitting radiation, perhaps a particle stuck in one’s lungs, into the surrounding immediate cells that will potentially kill a person days or decades later.

    Dirty bombs are over-hyped as long as a bad actor does not obtain sufficient quantities of long-lived isotopes. Dirty bombs of the type available to common bad actors is more of a weapon of fear.

    1. The Historian

      Not quite true – it all depends on what bonds in your RNA/DNA are broken and how good your body is at repairing those bonds. Exposure can also kill you. But so can getting radioactive particles in your body, particularly those that can replace other molecules in important areas and that your body has a hard time getting rid of. Calculating dose/damage is complex, that is why I had to carry around that big Handbook of Health Physics around with me when I went on investigations. And as always, the amount of harm you suffer from a radioactive material is extremely dose dependent.

      Normally I like articles and I typically read them several times a week, but I think they missed the boat on this article. This is just one of those chicken little stories by someone who really doesn’t know how much radioactive material is in every day use in this country. Sorry folks, but it is everywhere in various amounts. Road construction companies have nuclear gauges to prove that their asphalt and concrete meets requirements. Mining companies and concrete companies use nuclear gauges to measure material flow. Every hospital and university has its radioactive materials department. Every cardiologist and many other doctors have radioactive materials for testing. There are even portable labs in trailers that roam around this country doing various types of CAT scans. FedEx got going by delivering moly generators to hospitals and labs across this country. Then there are the sterilizers, the well loggers, the radiologists, etc. Just because you don’t know how much radioactive materials are in your environment doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And with that much radioactive material loose in our environment, there are going to be incidences and they are recorded and available for you to read about if you want:

      If you want a dirty bomb, you don’t have to go to a sterilizer to get material. And what a bomb does is disperse the radioactive material everywhere, and dilution is the solution when it comes to radioactive materials. Although you can measure it, that does NOT mean that you are going to get a harmful dose. I’d be more afraid of the nails or shrapnel from the dirty bomb rather than the radiation.

      The real heroes in protecting you from the harmful effects of these radioactive materials are NRC and the state radiation departments. Everyone who has radioactive materials is required to be licensed and NRC and the states not only investigate, but they also inspect each licensee routinely to make sure they are following the rules and they know when some radioactive material goes missing. A special shoutout to those state inspectors because they really are the unsung heroes. They are the ones who find the problems first and it is they who monitor the cleanup and protect the public from the harmful effects of radiation, but hardly anyone in this country knows about them and what they do.

      A disclaimer here. I did not work for NRC or any state radiation agency although I did interact with them often and was very impressed by the work they do. I worked for another one of the myriad of federal agencies that has a radiation department.

      1. xkeyscored

        they also inspect each licensee routinely to make sure they are following the rules
        From the article:
        In a series of investigative reports, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has challenged the commission’s assurances that no meaningful “gaps” exist in how cesium and other radioactive materials are secured.
        In 2012, a GAO report described finding a cesium irradiator on an unsecured wheeled pallet near a hospital’s loading dock. At a second facility, investigators found the combination to a lock—intended to secure a cesium irradiator—”clearly written on the door frame.”
        The GAO’s most recent report, issued in April, implored the regulatory commission to act more forcefully. David C. Trimble, the analyst who supervised the GAO’s work, recalled that each time his staff has examined uses of cesium and other radioactive materials, “we have identified a vulnerability.”

        And I’m not sure what you mean about missing the boat on this article, but it seems fair enough to me, not overhyping caesium as something that’ll kill us all, but as a potential major disrupter:
        A dirty bomb packed with cesium would not kill large numbers of people. Instead, it would be a weapon of “mass disruption”—leaving areas uninhabitable for months or even decades and increasing long-term cancer risks for people who come in contact with it, atomic experts say.

        Evidence of the damage cesium could cause emerged tragically in 1987 in Goiania, Brazil, an interior city about 800 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro.
        In September of that year, two people entered an abandoned site that had once housed a radiation-therapy clinic that utilized cesium. After prying loose some of the metal equipment, they loaded it into a wheelbarrow, hoping to sell pieces as scrap.
        That evening, both men began to vomit. It wasn’t until two weeks later—after the equipment and the strangely glowing material inside it had changed hands through two scrap yards and become a source of fascination for adults and children—that a local physicist persuaded authorities to take action.
        A monitoring station set up in a local stadium screened more than 112,000 people for possible cesium contamination. Forty-nine houses were demolished or decontaminated and about 4,500 tons of soil were hauled away, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
        In the end, four people died and hundreds had to be decontaminated.

        and, a bit I’d especially like your comments on, as in would you agree that this form of caesium is particularly feared by experts? –
        The cesium used for irradiators is a dry, talc-like material derived from atomic fuel left over from nuclear power production.
        The material is particularly feared by experts on radiological threats because its fine particles disperse easily and can migrate through air ducts and bind tightly to porous surfaces, including concrete. The potential danger is long-lasting: Cesium can keep emitting radiation for nearly 300 years.

        1. The Historian

          First of all, read what really happened during that incident:

          Second, Cs-137 is encapsulated as a sealed source and a source that big would have to have been doubly encapsulated – they don’t use “powder” in irradiators. Right now, I don’t know why that Cs capsule was breached, but that is what had to have happened for CS contamination to occur. I am sure that the method used to encapsulate the Cs will be a big part of the on-going investigation. NRC registers all sealed sources and devices and is very specific about what the sealed source can contain and how it is to be used.

          Breaking open a sealed source is not easy but that is what you’d have to do to get powder or make a dirty bomb out of it. I’m not sure what you mean by a “major disruptor” – how big of a dirty bomb do you think a terrorist could make with radioactive materials without killing himself first from the amount of radiation that he uses? And how far would that bomb throw that limited amount radioactive material? The “major disruption” would be from media sources crying: “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.”, nothing more. If a terrorist steals an unprotected 2800 Curie Cs-137 source for use in his bomb, I wouldn’t worry – he isn’t going to live long enough to detonate it.

          The NRC has been concerned about sealed sources that contain powder like Cs-137 for a LONG time. I can remember the many meetings I attended so for GAO to imply that the NRC isn’t concerned about their safety and security is wrong.

          And yes, everyone knows about the Goiania story and that can still happen in countries where they don’t have strict laws concerning radioactive materials and where the very poor have to pick through garbage to survive. India still has a problem with this, although most of their poor know now not to break open those capsules they find. But that is entirely different than what happened in Seattle in May 2019.

          And Cs-137 has a 30 year half life. A rule of thumb is that a radioactive material is considered safe when it has gone through about 8 half-lives so yes, Cs-137 can be a problem for about 240 years and what little is left will still keep on emitting radiation in smaller and smaller amounts until it decays away too.

          The point of all of this is that we need to think this problem through thoroughly and not succumb to fear mongering. Dirty bombs are not the threat you think they are and the worst damage will always be from the bomb itself.

          1. xkeyscored

            Thank you, Historian.
            First of all, read what really happened during that incident
            Well, I have, and it doesn’t appear to conflict in any significant way with the account in A lot more technical details, and a lot less about what went on at the Harborview Medical Center.
            When I talk about a major disrupter, I mean much the same as the article. Not a colossal number of deaths, but a huge amount of fear and panic, and disruption to daily life, urban systems and economic activity – I’m assuming it would be used somewhere like Grand Central, not the middle of a desert.
            9/11/01 was a minor incident in a way, 3000 dead compared to the carnage in Iraq or Vietnam or on the roads or due to opioids in the USA. Yet many would say it changed the USA forever. How would the nation react to chunks of Manhattan sealed off for years because of radioactivity, which may have been sucked through the subway system far and wide? Even if they are told that there isn’t that much to be worried about, rest assured that many won’t believe a word of it. That’s the kind of thing I mean by major disruption.

            1. The Historian

              I think you are worrying for no reason.

              There have been several instances where a building or ground open to the public has been found contaminated with radioactive material and it has been taken care of quietly without anyone even knowing about it. There are many companies that specialize in radioactive cleanup in the public sphere.

              For a dirty bomb, no doubt DOE would want to do the cleanup and they would clean it up just like they do at their sites: clean what they can, and truck everything else, including dirt, drywall, concrete, etc., to a landfill.

              So much radioactive material is carried by FedEx that I think that they are probably leading experts in cleaning up radioactive contamination at their sites by now. Even radioactive materials packages containing liquids do break open now and again.

              A dirty bomb event would never be anything like 9/11 because:
              1) Not that many people would die
              2) The radioactivity would be confined to a small area
              3) There will be nothing dramatic like a building falling.
              4) You probably won’t hear about it until long after it has happened – there is a general “secrecy” about radioactive materials incidents in our MSM. You might hear that a terrorist bomb has gone off, but that is about all.

              I doubt that most people would even pay attention to it for more than a few days, much like the Boston Marathon event.

              As far as the subway system, DHS has performed airflow tests for radioactivity and although I haven’t read their latest results, I don’t think they consider it much of an issue. The airflow would most likely be enough to rapidly diffuse any radioactivity a dirty bomb could do. Most of their tests lately have been for biological terror weapons which frighten me far more than any radioactive materials could ever do.

          2. D. Fuller

            how big of a dirty bomb do you think a terrorist could make with radioactive materials without killing himself first from the amount of radiation that he uses?

            Suicide bombers don’t expect to live long at all. And any terrorist cell employing a dirty bomb is likely to have technical knowledge to minimize risks before handing off a dirty bomb to a suicide bomber.

            Now, consider multiple attacks across a large geographic area. Which would cause major disruptions in transportation and trade.

            1. The Historian

              Reality check!

              1. All licensees have to report lost radioactive material as soon as they discover it is missing or lose their license. And you wouldn’t believe the response that occurs if the amount missing is significant.
              2. To remove a significant amount of radioactive material means that you know how to get it out of a device and that you have a sufficiently shielded cask to carry it in. Those casks aren’t small and they are heavy – not something you can hide under your coat or in a suitcase.
              3. The radioactive material will be in a sealed source, meaning you need to break open that source capsule to make the material usable in a dirty bomb. And you will get a bad dose doing that!
              4. A source big enough to make a serious dirty bomb will cause you to become very sick within 1/2 hour after you are exposed to it, even for a few minutes. You won’t be able to do much more than puke, let alone do any complicated actions.
              5. Do you know how many cops have radioactive materials detectors in their cars nowadays?

              We can go through all the what-if scenarios you want, but a terrorist stealing a significant amount of radioactive material and creating a dirty bomb is really a very low probability event.

              1. xkeyscored

                5. Do you know how many cops have radioactive materials detectors in their cars nowadays?
                No, I don’t, but you seem to imply it’s quite a few. How would that square with
                4) You probably won’t hear about it until long after it has happened – there is a general “secrecy” about radioactive materials incidents in our MSM. You might hear that a terrorist bomb has gone off, but that is about all.?
                A terrorist bomb, subway/Trump Tower/whatever sealed off, and no cops tweeting about it, or civilians finding out some way or other? Maybe.

        2. John Wright

          My degree is in electrical engineering, but I dislike the statement that “Cesium can keep emitting radiation for 300 years”

          More properly, Cesium-137, with a half life of 30.17 years will decay to about 1/(2^10) of its initial radiation in 300 years (10 half-lifes).

          This is about 1/1024 or about 0.1% of the initial strength.

          It would be far better to state that Cesium-137 declines to about one thousandth of its initial emitted radiation in 300 years and not imply that a quantity of Cesium-137 EVER stops emitting radiation.

          A large quantity of cesium-137 could still be emitting significant radiation after 300 years.

          1. Wukchumni

            More properly, Cesium-137, with a half life of 30.17 years will decay to about 1/(2^10) of its initial radiation in 300 years (10 half-lifes).

            This is about 1/1024 or about 0.1% of the initial strength.

            Sounds oddly similar to Cherokeeum~

      2. Phacops

        What seems to be missing is any discussion of utility and risk in a Cs dirty bomb. Effective dispersal for maximum damage requires atomization, and while the parent and daughter decay, releasing 1.2, 0.51, and 0.66 Mev beta, provides a highly ionizing and interactive bio risk, I would not think Cs is a good material.

        I am more concerned about alpha emitters that are pyrophoric (and will easily atomize) and available in large quantity, like depleted uranium, used for armor penetrating projectile weapons or radiation shielding (as in the Tc generators you mention).

        1. xkeyscored

          Some Iraqis might feel justified in returning the tons of depleted uranium littering their country.

        2. Paradan

          DU is an interesting case in that it is the toxicity(electron shell) not radioactivity(nucleus) that is a big deal.

          Also the Brazil incident! They let there kids paint themselves with it cause it glowed, also I believe a few people ingested it thinking it would be good for them (magic medical glow powder).

    2. .S,D,

      The potential chaos and economic damage are also being downplayed.

      Suppose Penn was involved. Yes good riddance to a hellish rat maze, but imagine months (or years?, actually probably decades, given contracting practices and union work rules in NYC) of transit disruption while leaky contaminated tunnels under the station are repaired/cleaned. Amtrak NE corridor service would be severed, NJT, and the LIRR would have no rail service to Manhattan, not to mention what, six or maybe ten subway lines cut? Blocks of midtown a no-go zone? Short Macy’s!
      Knock on effects- job displacement, crashing property values, bankruptcies of all stripes, etc., etc., could easily make such a blow to an already rickety, over-levered system one that would take anywhere between generations and eternity for NY to recover from,

      On the bright side, lifetime employment for lawyers in lawsuits over liability.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        You miss the point re blast and dispersion. The bigger the blast, the bigger the dispersion, the less intensity of contamination.

        The practical maximum size for a dirty bomb is a car bomb. That’s taking out one entrance of Penn, not the entire station.

        Flip side is a dirty bomb in the Grand Concourse of Grand Central (say a couple of suitcase bombs) would really disable the facility, particularly if placed near the ticket windows.

        1. D. Fuller

          The practical maximum size of ONE dirty bomb is car-sized. Of which SEVERAL could be constructed, increasing the risk of detection and prevention of an attack. It is not the size of one bomb… it is the number of attacks that determine the effects.

          The only limitation to the number of attacks would be the radioactive sources available to bad actors. The size is not the issue. The number of attacks is.

          The point would be to cause maximum dispersion, increasing the surface area of contamination. A small surface area exposed to an attack is easier to clean. How to maximize the disruption, contamination, and consequent health effects? That would be achieved by using gas cylinders as a core for the device to increase the power of the explosives used to disperse contaminants.

          As for long term health effects for individuals? That could last for decades.

          Dirty bombs are terror weapons.

          1. Paradan

            Firehose could get cleanup done in a few hours. Block the drains, then let the puddles dry and youve got a few spots radioactive mud to clean.(this comment may contain snark)

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            You seriously think multiple car bombs would get close to a transportation facility? You haven’t looked at one lately. They all have concrete barriers to keep cars from getting too close.

            1. S.D.

              Last I looked panel trucks and even 18 wheelers were common sights on 7th and 8th Ave. They drive right into MSG directly on top of Penn Station on a regular basis.

              Of course terrorists would never manage to hijack four trucks at the same time, then overpower the mall cop asleep in the booth and lower the barrier to let them in.

              Oh wait…..

          3. The Historian

            Sigh! One last attempt at reality with a back of the envelope calculation and using Rad Pro for dose info. It won’t be exact but it will be within the ballpark range.


            Say a terrorist does get his hands on a 10 Ci Cs-137 source. He’s going to have to open the capsule to get to the powder which means he is going to get a 29,000 R/hr dose – and that means he’s going to get very ill very fast and die even if it takes him only a couple of minutes to breach the capsule.

            But let’s pretend that it gets done and that powder is put into a car that has been turned into a bomb. ATF gives a distance of 1500 feet for a car bomb blast radius but let’s be conservative and say that the blast radius is 750 feet.

            So divide 10 curies by the area of a circle with a radius of 750 feet. That 10 Curie powder will be spread over the whole area and in the circle there will be about 0.00006 Ci in any square foot. The dose from that 0.000006 Ci will be about 16millirem/hr – not a dangerous dose considering you get 300 millirem each year from just living. But the shrapnel from that car bomb will most likely kill you.

            So exactly what would be the point of going through all the trouble of dealing with radioactive materials when it is the explosives that will do the damage anyway?

            If you need something to be really scared about, be scared about biological weapons – they don’t need explosives to spread. Most of the fear from dirty bombs is created by people who don’t understand the issues but hear “radioactive” and get scared.

            1. xkeyscored

              Say a terrorist does get his hands on a 10 Ci Cs-137 source. He’s going to have to open the capsule to get to the powder
              Some terrorists aren’t above forcing others to do their bidding. “Just open this and stick the contents in here, while I watch on CCTV from another room – or else.”

              Most of the fear from dirty bombs is created by people who don’t understand the issues but hear “radioactive” and get scared.
              Terrorism is basically about scaring people. Cause enough panic and they’ve achieved their goal. The actual danger isn’t so important.

        2. The Historian

          “The bigger the blast, the bigger the dispersion, the less intensity of contamination.”


  2. Livius Drusus

    Re: “Shit-Life Syndrome,” Trump Voters, and Clueless Dems.

    Great article. I have been a fan of Bruce E. Levine for a long time. I think the article gets the real sense of despair out there. For many people who are doing badly in America, voting for Trump was perhaps less a positive vote for Trump and more a signal to the establishment that they were unhappy. To put it another way, it was a big middle finger to our elites. I suspect that Brexit and other populist movements in other countries have similar motivations.

    One thing that should be pointed out, though, is that many of those who are doing badly in our society do not vote at all and you really cannot blame them. There is some evidence that the policy preferences of less affluent voters have little influence on politics. Larry Bartels has done some good work on this issue.

    Political Inequality in Affluent Democracies: A Lecture by Larry Bartels

    1. jackiebass

      I think one reason many people don’t bother to vote is because they have little input in who is a candidate. The party leaders really determine who is on the ballot from top to bottom. The president is a little different but not much. The party and money do the determining. A sort of exception is Bernie. A large number people back him. Even that being the case he wasn’t the party nominee. Even this time around he has to battle the party leadership that don’t want him as the candidate. Also the press doesn’t give him the coverage he deserves. Just look at the coverage Trump and Biden get and compare it with the coverage Sanders gets. I think sanders survives because he is persistent and has a message a large number of people like. Even with all of the efforts to discredit Bernie, he plugs along. Then you have the difficulty many people have when trying to vote. Long waits coupled with efforts to disenfranchise them discourages voting. The day elections are held hurts turnout. Perhaps even year elections should be a holiday. When you look at it from a statistical point of view a minority always determines the winner. If 80% of eligible voters vote, that means any candidate over 40% is the winner. Even if 96% voted , anything over 48% is the winner. Once the election is over the winning candidates soon forget the people that elected them. Just look at legislation that is passed even though it is opposed by a big majority of voters. I don’t know how you fix the system. Probably if we had more than 2 viable parties things may be different. Unfortunately the 2 parties make the rules so other parties don’t have a chance to survive.

    2. Craig H.

      I thought that article was judgmental of millions of people.

      For most of these low-wage workers, Hutton notes: “Finding meaning in life is close to impossible; the struggle to survive commands all intellectual and emotional resources. Yet turn on the TV or visit a middle-class shopping mall and a very different and unattainable world presents itself. Knowing that you are valueless, you resort to drugs, antidepressants and booze. You eat junk food and watch your ill-treated body balloon. It is not just poverty, but growing relative poverty in an era of rising inequality, with all its psychological side-effects, that is the killer.

      My observation of these people (and for all I know the poop head who wrote this article thinks I am one of them) is that 51% or more of them are perfectly happy. It is impossible to measure such a datum, but seeing how Levine doesn’t read like he is very happy, they are actually mostly happier than Levine and Hutton.

    3. Ignacio

      Yes to all. That is why progressives need to become, at least, somehow populist if they want to change things some day.

      1. philnc

        If progressivism is going to be more than an isolated philosophical preference, it _has_ to be populist. Otherwise it’s just @RaleighDSA Let us know, we are setting up something for Sunday January 5th at the Durham Life and Science museum stuff of drawing room liberals at the clise of the Tsarist empire.

      2. Louis Fyne

        Progressives will never become populist unless they also drop non-class-based identity politics (guns, migration, abortion, etc)—which is extremely unlikely but Bernie probably will be the closest in this generation.

        just saying. don’t flame the messenger.

        I too lament that the bottom 85% have been divided-and-conquered by the top 0.5%.

        Best practical chance is that the USA becomes more federalist in the future (in my opinion). but not holding my breath

        1. Geo

          All of those issues you listed are class issues so dropping them would not be beneficial to class interests.

          – Abortion/birth control is a major factor in allowing women some control over their own life, careers, and well-being.
          – Guns impact the lives of poor people in inner cities (my own neighborhood has had numerous shootings in just the last year).
          – Migration is as much a symptom of our imperialist foreign policy as it is our predatory economic policy. Plus, if you’ve ever known anyone trying to legally immigrate here you know it’s far from a rational process. The system of immigration is in dire need of reform, industries that sustain themselves on low paid (often illegal labor) need to be dealt with somehow, and our policies which cripple other nations and make life in so many places unbearable needs to end if we hope to have any humane change in migration issues.

          Dropping these issues won’t solve anything. Addressing them in a way that promotes a populist message would be beneficial.

          1. Titus

            Sure say that in a poli-sci class, but I’m telling you, while truth in theory anyone talking like that in Michigan is going to get no where. People don’t ‘frame’ their problems with those mental models.

            1. ambrit

              It’s more subtle than that. What is needed is control of the factors that guide that ‘model framing’ behaviour. So, at the least, control of the ‘Media’ would be advantageous. Primarily though, control over the educational system would be optimal. The cynic in me wonders just how much of the “teach to the test” model of pedagogy is ‘organic?’ (‘Teach to the test’ short circuits any student development in the field of “thinking.” There goes independent thought.)

          2. Jeremy Grimm

            I have no thoughts regarding the class basis or lack of class basis for the issues Louis Fyne identified. I am more concerned by the way their strong emotional appeals seem to act as a smoke screen the right-hand can wave covering what the left-hand is doing. I am also concerned by the way these issues dilute and obscure and hide broader issues of economics and foreign policy. I am skeptical of class alone for explaining political and economic forces. I think the class explanation is growing long-in-tooth and dated as concepts of ‘class’ have deteriorated to income categories. Dialectical materialism as an explanatory philosophy seems no more satisfactory than dialectical idealism — and both carry too much metaphysical baggage.

            1. flora

              I don’t disagree. However, it’s interesting the way that both these social and economic theories of class are used reflectively to cancel each other out, and give neoliberal politicians the intellectual camouflage for ignoring both arguments against austerity and neoliberal looting. That cancellation of objections by mooting the argument is the essence of the Third Way, New Dem party, imo.

        2. marym

          In the US the populace is all of us. Currently Trumpian “populism” is rhetorically non-class based white ethno-nationalist identity politics. As far as policy, it’s also as anti-worker and pro-1% as establishment Republicans and Democrats have ever been.

        3. flora

          There does seem to be a determination in the neolib Dem estab to conflate economic class and social culture. They love talking about social culture and avoid talking about economic class. Or they mention economic class only peripherally, if at all, as a reason for voting patterns. That dismissal is very convenient for sounding progressive about everything except income, job security, and economic well being – which is important to everyone regardless of social culture.

          1. Jeremy Grimm

            You note a dichotomy between social culture and economic class. I believe social culture and economic class over-complicate the basic in-Justice for how income, status, and power are allocated in our society. The category blue-collar versus white-collar is retro [in you comment immediately below]. I am not disagreeing with your conclusion — “… everything except income, job security, and economic well being – which is important to everyone regardless of social culture.” — with which I strongly agree. I also believe “… formation of political identity …” — “… comes from experiences, oftentimes inherited ones …” BUT — it also comes from very ancient ‘instincts’ about what is Just and Right which are part of our very essence. Even Capuchin Monkeys know what is unfair.

            1. flora

              oh indeed. no argument. excepting where culture and economic well being are used rhetorically/politically against each other to ultimately further the interests of Wall St. alone, instead of furthering the greatest good for the greatest number, etc.

              1. Glenn S Olson

                In college learned to talk like those above but now I understand why the general public laughs at such “high falutin’ words.” You can’t pigeon-hole individuals into theoretical boxes. You have to get to know them to understand them.

                FWIW, there aren’t enough words to describe how bad Trump is. Yet, if we had an election today I’d vote for him. Why? All the Democrats I’ve seen so far want to pile laws on top of laws on top of laws telling me what I can eat, what I can say, what I can own, and etc. The Republicans do so also but by a slim margin their’s are more palatable to me. What I’d like is for both of them to leave me more freedom to live my life as I see fit, not them. If the Democrats want my vote they’ll have to stop being so d… controlling. Ok, back to reality.

                1. The Rev Kev

                  “Half the political intelligentsia who talk to a working audience don’t get the value of their stuff across—not so much because they’re over their audience’s heads, as because half the chaps are listening to the voice and not to the words, so they knock a big discount off what they do hear because it’s all a bit fancy, and not like ordinary, normal talk.”

                  -John Wyndham “Day of the Triffids”

                2. Jeremy Grimm

                  I tend to agree with your assessment of the laws — which both parties make. The laws they pass apply to members of the general public. They work to confine our already small lives within ever smaller spaces. And both parties work to remove laws put in place to restrain Corporations and the wealthy from preying upon the general public. But before you vote for Trump again, take a closer look at how laws and the administrative rules in the Executive Branch changed during his reign and look at who he appointed to high office in the Executive Branch. If you cannot vote for someone other than Trump for President, do vote for someone in a lower office — to make sure your vote is counted — and leave your vote for President blank. Better to be counted an under-count than ignored as apathetic and uncaring. I do credit Trump with killing the TPP … for the moment.

    4. flora

      One thing he mentions about T deliberately running an unconventional campaign matches my opinion that T isn’t nearly as impulsive in actions or decision making as the media claims.
      A second thing is, yes, the Dems could win back voters not by better advertising that “T is worse than you thought”, but by better program policies (like Sanders) that would raise their wages and living standards. It doesn’t help the Dems, though, that while claiming to welcome cultural diversity and tolerance they don’t extend that tolerance to struggling, white, rural citizens. “Those people” are “deplorables” in the Dem estab’s mind. “Vote for us, we deplore you.” That’s not a real vote winner. It is an excuse to continue the failed neoliberal economic policies that drive this destruction. imo

      From a recent FireThirtyEight column (my emphasis):

      “Our concept of class is far too vaguely defined, and our political discussions of it too two-dimensional. Class means more than how much money you make or whether you went to college. It encompasses your understanding of racial identity — your own and that of others — and your perceptions of history, whether you look favorably or unfavorably on the country’s evolution. When we say “working-class white,” what we actually mean is a set of people whose understandings of politics is rooted in a specific set of values: those of racially homogenous communities who came up in America through middle-class jobs, often unionized ones.

      If Democrats lose these voters in 2020 — both white blue-collar workers and their blue-collar-identifying descendants — it might portend a dramatically different party over the next few decades, or even century. When I went back to Ohio, I gleaned that how white people vote has quite a bit to do with their pasts — the formation of political identity comes from experiences, oftentimes inherited ones.

      The writers claim “how much money you make” is only a tiny fraction of what class means. oh. Keep telling yourself that, Dem estab, and keep losing.

      “formation of political identity comes from experiences, oftentimes inherited ones.” Yes, and the New Deal lifting so many out of poverty and despair between 1935 and 1965 is one of those experiences that kept people voting for Dems long after the Dem party abandoned them for Wall St. The brand fumes from the New Deal have mostly evaporated by now. my 2 cents.

        1. flora

          adding: Poliyani was examining the effects of capitalism + the industrial revolution on society. We are now living through the digital-industrial revolution. Most of what Poliyani described, per the orginial NC post, applies today, imo.

        2. Procopius

          His name is misspelled in the url. It’s Karl Polanyi, a Hungarian name. His point is that there is/are no such thing(s) as self-regulating markets, that this is a snare and a delusion. Any attempt to create self-regulating markets (as the neoliberals claim to do) is destined for disaster.

    5. Lemmy Caution

      I think the author is a little too quick to proclaim that clueless Democrats “cannot provide a candidate who can viscerally connect with shit-life syndrome sufferers.” Isn’t that what Sanders has been doing in city after city, for months, if not for years? Isn’t that why Sanders is racking up phenomenal small-donor contributions, month after month? Isn’t that why Sander’s poll numbers have been relatively steady while other flavor-of-the-month candidates rise and fall? Perhaps the author needs to rethink who he is calling clueless.

      1. marym

        + 100.

        Yay(?) for the author in setting a possible record rate of s[family blog]t’s per lines of text, but Sanders is doing what the left (rightly) accuses liberals/Democrats/progressives of not doing: defining issues and organizing strategy based on class.

        As far as support for Clinton in 2016, as has been pointed out endlessly, he kept his word to do this. Also, he said then and he says now that he sees Trump as the most dangerous candidate/president. Agree or not, that’s how he sees it. Despite subsequent references to Russiagate, it seemed, at least in 2016 to be due largely due to the politics of hate and exclusion.

      2. richard

        counterpunch (Levine has been a regular contributer for awhile) often features “left” criticism of sanders, i.e. Jeffrey St. Clair and others
        and alex cockburn who co-founded the site was always critical of and dismissive of Sanders
        i loved alex’s writing and personality so much, but he wasn’t right about everything of course.
        Sanders endorsement of clinton in 2016 was probably the least small “d” democratic thing sanders has done in his life. He promised to do it, yes. He was under enormous pressure to do it, and there were a great many corporate media amplified a^%holes who tore into him for not doing it sooner and with enough slavish devotion. The endorsement can even be seen, without too much stretching, as part of a longer term strategy: why attract a lot of fire and hostile attention when you are not in any position to attain a greater office? Why not lay low and build organizational strength?
        All these things can be said if Sanders 2016 endorsement of Clinton, who it needs to be remembered, was the worst dem nominee since James Buchanan, and lost to a Cheeto. But it also felt like a gut punch to many of his supporters, even when they knew it was coming. And it’s not a proud moment, any way you slice it.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          I agree with you that Sanders endorsement of Clinton in 2016 “felt like a gut punch”. But I also gained a certain respect for Sanders integrity which I believe it evidenced. I think Levine is wrong about Sanders endorsement of Clinton as completely negating his ability to gather the “shit-life” cohorts to his cause.

    6. Pelham

      I broadly agree about Levine. In this article, however, he mentions a Dem strategy of discouraging shit-life sufferers from voting by pointing out Trump’s failures, something I doubt would work. For one thing, some of his failures can be traced to Dem resistance, particularly on the wall (which actually could be paid for by Mexico with a US tax on remittances).

      But as Levine suggests, it’s not much of a strategy if all you’re doing is actually discouraging voters rather than appealing to them.

      My concern, though, is that a Trump re-election may be the best possible long-term outcome in 2020. If a conventional Dem is elected and shit-life sufferers’ explosive discontent is ignored, what then? Granted, these folks are dying off (as Lambert says, all is going to plan), but not fast enough to suit the elites. They’re not going away. And a Dem administration and reliably corrupt Congress are unlikely to do much to tamp down the incendiary mood. Hence the ground may be laid for some kind of super Trump in 2024 and beyond.

      I only wish I were a multi-millionaire so I could comfortably sit back in an inconspicuous, well furnished bomb-proof silo and watch this vast drama play out over the next few years.

      1. kiwi

        Levine’s article is about the stupidest garbage one could possibly read.

        First he opens with this: Getting rid of Trump means taking seriously “shit-life syndrome”—and its resulting misery, which includes suicide, drug overdose death, and trauma for surviving communities.

        Then he writes as if Trump is the repository for all that is wrong in the US, so get rid of Trump and all will be well. It’s as if people with TDS think the US economy began on day 1 of Trump’s presidency.

        The dems and the repubs (and big business) have sold out the US over the decades with their global drive to enrich themselves at any cost. And while the repubs seem to be getting the message, the dems continue to sell out the country with globalism and their desire for unfettered immigration.

        Ross Perot in the early ’90s predicted it all and was ridiculed.

        It doesn’t take much observation to realize that the dems did absolutely nothing to reverse (and actually supported) trends that started decades ago, despite having the political power to do so. Doing something wasn’t even on their radar; I know this because I was involved with the dem party from 2003 through 2013 (and I was a state delegate for Bernie), and my own state and US representatives never even talked about jobs during the depression during any party event that I attended. “Learn to code” – the democrats’ rallying cry.

        Levine shows that, like Pelosi, Schumer, and many other dems, that they just don’t get it and never will.

        1. richard

          Kiwi, I hold no brief for Mr. Levine, but he does not write as if “Trump is the repository for all that is wrong with the US, so get rid of Trump and all will be well”. He just does not do that; take another look. The piece correlates Trump 2016 success with regions of the country sunk deepest into despair, and suggests that those regions were easier pickings for anyone promising immediate relief. That was the whole point of the piece, i thought, that the needs in those parts of the country were immediate. Like Now, Help NOW.
          I don’t totally agree with Levine’s criticism of Sanders in the piece, but he’s certainly not a tds sufferer nor even a dem.

          1. Carey

            richard, I always appreciate your comments, but did
            you read Levine’s entire piece, inluding his proposed
            Dem “solution” in three of the last four paragraphs?

            Maybe the dude’s still doing ok himself, unlike so many of us.

            1. richard

              I’ll go back and check, thanks.
              Well, I did; three readings now :) With closer reading, I definitely don’t agree with his “solution”, of dems focusing their campaigning entirely on Trump’s lies and betrayals and not at all on their own candidate. This is more dismissiveness about Sander’s message and campaign, lumping it in with the rest of the dem campaigns and pretending it is as contentless as the rest. I don’t agree at all with that framing. Levine’s “strategy” does seem more like a point he’s making than something offered in good faith.
              But I still feel I don’t really fully understand what you (or Kiwi) are arguing about Levine’s article. If you happen to see this and would like to clarify more, I’d appreciate reading it, like all of your comments.
              I do stand by my original response to Kiwi’s post. Whatever its other faults, Levine’s article does not treat trump as a root cause, as Kiwi suggests it does, but as a symptom. I don’t really see how that can be missed.

              1. kiwi

                The article opens with “getting rid of Trump.”

                And the whole notion of Trump as some sort of “symptom,” as writers like to write, is yet another example of people refusing to deal with the reality of his win.

                For crying out loud, Trump won stalwart dem states, like WI and PA. Trump told those voters, who were sick of the do-nothing dems and suffered for decades, that he was going to do something about it. And he did – he is trying to re-align the trade deficit (without getting into the effectiveness of his efforts).

                The entire nation has been ready for change for a long time; they want someone to protect their economic interests. One just can’t tell voters too bad so sad over and over and expect voters’ loyalty. That is the reason behind Trump’s and Bernie’s appeal to voters.

                1. richard

                  I totally agree on your last point.
                  I don’t understand how using the analogy of “symptom” vs. “disease (or whatever)” is an example of people ignoring the reality of Trump’s win. Please explain if you like.
                  I don’t agree at all that Trump is working in the interests of people suffering through decades of off-shoring and malign neglect in WI, PA and elsewhere. But again, feel free to enlighten me if you like.

              2. Carey

                Levine: “The Dems’ problem in getting the shit-life syndrome vote in 2020 is that none of their potential nominees for president are unconventional.”

                He’s strawmanning, here.

                “..So in 2020, this leaves realistic Dems with one strategy. While the Dems cannot provide a candidate who can viscerally connect with shit-life syndrome sufferers, the Dems can show these victims that they have been used and betrayed by Trump.

                Here in Ohio in counties dominated by shit-life syndrome, the Dems would be wise not to focus on their candidate but instead pour money into negative advertising, shaming Trump for making promises that he knew he wouldn’t deliver on: Hillary has not been prosecuted; Mexico has paid for no wall; great manufacturing jobs are not going to Ohioans; and most importantly, in their communities, there are now even more suicides, drug overdose deaths, and grieving families.

                You would think a Hollywood Dem could viscerally communicate in 30 seconds: “You fantasized that this braggart would be your hero, but you discovered he’s just another rich asshole politician out for himself.” This strategy will not necessarily get Dems the shit-life syndrome vote, but will increase the likelihood that these folks stay home on Election Day and not vote for Trump..”

                Note Levine’s slippery “realistic Dems” framing.
                I really dislike this guy’s paid-not-to-see Democrat
                attitude. How has “realistic Dem” been working oout for *most people* for the last forty years?

                Maybe Mr. Levine has written better stuff; I certainly do hope so.

                In a nutshell: why is his apparent job #1- Stop Trump!- why is that *in itself* a good thing, if the
                change is primarily or entirely self-serving
                Dem PR, with no betterment of material conditions for the many (lookin at you, Mister Obama..)?

        2. flora

          I think Pelosi, Schumer, have gone all-in on both the possibilities and the hype around what’s called The Third Industrial Revolution.

          So, “learn to code” to replace your factory job. Except, in a globalized economy the coding can be done anywhere, and preferably where is cheapest hire coders, to increase profits. Learn to code in the US and see most of the coding jobs outsourced to S.E. Asia or Eastern Europe, or see cheaper foreign workers brought into the US on temporary work visas.

          I don’t know if the Dem estab is clueless or simply well paid to spout this nonsense.

        3. Pelham

          You make good points, but I think Levine is simply describing what a winning strategy might be for Dems — not what a winning strategy would be for the country. In other words, he leaves open the possibility and likelihood that a return to power for the Dems would mean further crapification of the kind that led to Trump’s election.

          Separately, I’ve been on the receiving end of that “learn to code” nonsense and I heartily agree, it’s a stinko rallying cry. But one doesn’t hear it so much today, although people who should know better continue to wave off the “deplorables” with the idea that they can simply be retrained. We’ve had decades of experience with retraining and the consistent evidence is that it doesn’t work. People need decent-paying jobs as a first priority, with retraining or continued education as possibly part of the package.

          French economist Bernard Friot has proposed simply divorcing pay from jobs — though not from work, education or work experience. The idea is too complex to explain here, but I like it as a superior alternative to the widely admired UBI. I hope that Lambert or Yves will weigh in on this at some point.

          1. Massinissa

            If its too complicated to explain, its probably too complicated to work in practice or put into practice. Also being better than UBI is a low bar considering UBI is mostly a plot to get rid of welfare. About the most popular thing around here is a jobs guarantee.

          2. Jeremy Grimm

            As a retired coder — I can only agree with your feelings about the “learn to code” baloney. Coding is not for everyone, nor should it be. Do you ask the “learn to code” types whether you should learn Hindi as well and join up with TATA after your training … or look into emigration?

    7. Katniss Everdeen

      Beg to differ on the quality of the article.

      The premise seems to be that since Donald Trump didn’t keep his campaign promises, you should vote for the other party that didn’t keep it’s promises the last time you voted them in.

      Setting aside the obvious fact that shit-life creation has been bipartisan, the betrayals have been far more significant and in-progress far longer on the dem side than on the repub side. “Populism” is a new thing for republicans, the dems have been peddling it for decades and don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. If constituents voted against politicians who didn’t keep their promises, it’s the dem party that would be long gone.

      And what’s all this about “voting” anyway? If the last three years have taught the country anything, it’s that if voters pick “wrong,” the real power will just find another way to make sure that “promises” don’t get kept.

      1. Carey

        Hear, effing hear, KE. I wrote the author of that piece, saying some of the same things, though not so, um, eloquently.
        Wonder if there’ll be a response.


        Corporate Dems, per Levine: “He lied to you! You can trust us this time!”


      2. Jeremy Grimm

        I am unsure about the quality of the article. After reading the article I was moved to look at Levine’s website and at other articles he has written. His articles on psychiatry touch me personally and ring all too true after some years dealing with the Mental Health Industrial Complex. I am also unsure where to go from your questions about “voting”. While I share your disgust and pessimism about voting I will place one last — probably forlorn — hope, with my vote, and such limited financial support as I can tender to Sanders.

    8. chuck roast

      “Shit-life syndrome is not another fictitious illness conjured up by the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industrial complex to sell psychotropic drugs. It is a reality created by corporatist rulers and their lackey politicians—pretending to care about their minimum-wage-slave constituents, who are trying to survive on 99¢ boxed macaroni and cheese prepared in carcinogenic water, courtesy of DuPont or some other such low-life leviathan.”

      Wow! That pretty much captures it in a nutshell.

    9. LawnDart

      I was going to order this book by Levine from our local library, but after reading excerpts and many reviews I decided to purchase a copy– and very glad I did as this is a book that I expect to often re-read and to loan to friends:

      Resisting Illegitimate Authority: A Thinking Person’s Guide to Being an Anti-Authoritarian―Strategies, Tools, and Models

      In my experience in a couple of workplaces along the Ohio River, there were generally two types of Trump voters: the middle-finger group and then the ones who by their nature are the types who like to cheer on bullies. As voters, the middle-fingers are up for grabs, but the bully’s clique will need to be dealt with directly, forcefully, within their own language or they’re going to keep kicking sand in the faces of those that they perceive as weaker or non-confrontational: defenders of what is good and decent in this world must sometimes aim for the kneecaps.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I do very much doubt Sanders will acquire many of the “types who like to cheer on bullies” as you characterize one portion of the Trump voters. I sincerely hope your assertion “… defenders of what is good and decent in this world must sometimes aim for the kneecaps.” is not true.

    10. Carey

      I thought Levine’s piece was ok enough until his (utterly-deluded, IMO) last four paragraphs. Did you read them, and if so, what are your thoughts on them?

      Also, the “deluded Dems”™ framing needs to go away. They know very well what they’re doing to- not for- us.

      CP’s become quite a strange place.

    11. Carey

      What was “great” about Levine’s article? It followed a well-established pattern: 1) I hear you 2) I’m with you 3) shepherd the reader along until 4) same old goddamn bullshit loserDem “solutions”.

      utter, sheepdogging, Bunk. Gah!

    12. drumlin woodchuckles

      Dr. Levine’s complaint about Sanders’ backing the DemParty nominee if it wasn’t Sanders without mentioning that making that promise was the price Sanders had to pay to be allowed by the DemParty to run in its DemParty labeled primaries . .. . sound like the weeping of the purity snowflakes from whom we have heard so much already.

      Those who wish to take the purity snowflake approach can spend all their effort on ad campaigns about what Trump didn’t do. Those who see Sanders as still being a plausibly possible tire-iron to swing into the teeth and mouth of the DemParty establishment will continue supporting Sanders with money or time or effort or maybe even all three . . . even if they don’t expect him to be the magical messiah figure which the purity snowflakes condemn Sanders for not having been.

      1. HotFlash

        I do not understand why any Sanders backer would be permanently put off Sanders by his endorsement of Hillary. He said he would endorse the Democratic nominee and he did. He campaigned for her, possibly harder than she did herself, although I must say I did not hear him praising Hillary so much as reviling Trump. Michigan, which went for Bernie in the primary, went for Trump in the general. Some of my MI relatives say they voted Trump to stick it to Hillary and the Dems for robbing Bernie. So there’s that.

        Now, let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Suppose the superdelegates had done their job and cast their votes for Bernie, who even then polls showed more likely to beat Trump than Hillary. And suppose Hillary had refused to endorse Bernie. She would have looked petty, small-minded, vindictive, more interested in her self than in the good of the country, and a sore loser (I know, I know). So, Bernie once again to the high ground. Perhaps it is an outdated concept, but Bernie is a man of character.

        Which brings me to another point. A commenter a week or so back complained that ‘Bernie, Bernie!’ seemed to her/him as a cult of personality. I fervently hope that Bernie is the next president of the United States because of his character, not his personality. I can’t donate but I phone bank, b/c I see him as the last best hope for the planet. Trudeau II not only wants to mine every last Canadian resource and ship it out of the country, he just had Canada buy a pipeline to ship fossil fuels to market in China b/c the pipeline company thought it would cost *them* too much to build it. Australia has Scotty from Marketing. India seems to be busy ethnic cleansing. UK and EU are busy infighting. Only the US has sufficient clout to get all the countries to begin the vital work of dealing with climate change.

  3. The Rev Kev

    “Trump’s ‘West Point Mafia’ Faces a Loyalty Test”
    ‘A close cohort from the military academy’s Class of ’86 has risen to astonishing power in the U.S. government. Are they using it for the president, or the nation?’

    I think that there might be a third option. That of using it for themselves in a self-serving exercise. That is the trouble when America depends on it’s “ring-knockers”. It is an elite institution that produces officers that have not served America particularly well when you look back over the decades.

    I wonder if it would have made a difference if people like Pompeo and Esper had been forced to serve a year or two as ordinary soldiers before being permitted to go to West Point. Time was when America had officers that were commissioned in the field but nobody knows how long ago that that practice was stopped.

    1. John

      How about a requirement that each person appointed to one of the service academies be required to serve in the ranks for two years before matriculation.

      1. JTMcPhre

        There’s all kinds of “serving in the ranks.” I doubt the Elites headed for the “service academies” would find themselves cleaning barracks toilets and floors with toothbrushes, cleaning out mess hall grease traps, or pulling “kitchen police” and guard duty. I did all that, as a 1966 enlistee in basic and “advanced individual training.” Prepping me to be a “lean, mean fighting machine.”

        Of course most of that scut work is now done by civilian contract workers. Any residual “sh!t derails would not fall to up and coming Academites.

        I’d expect the few hundred Elites headed for academies to be driving generals and colonels to golf events and similar risky assignments. To learn how to live like kings, as the bloated colonelate and general-officer upper crust do:

        It’s rot, all the way down. Fueled by our friend, MMT.

      2. The Historian

        Let’s even make it more specific and have them serve as a grunt in any one of the many hot spots around this world. My brother that went to West Point got stationed in Saigon and never saw any combat while my brother that was a Marine grunt got stationed in Da Nang. Which one do you think learned more about what war is?

        1. anon in so cal

          There were some good comments following an article, “Did Donald Trump Light the Fuse on a New Middle East War?,” including one that referenced the Politico article:

          “It has been pointed out to me that until his retirement in October 2019, JCS Chairman Joe Dunford was a factor in tempering neocon fervor for war. The same was true for his predecessor Martin Dempsey. Now we have a self-described “West Point Mafia” class of 1986 and a JCS Chairman far more politically motivated than Dunford and Dempsey. This looks to be to be more dangerous than when Bolton the chicken hawk was running around the West Wing. ”

          The article is good, too.

        2. NotTimothyGeithner

          I’ve come to the conclusion the 16 year olds who are eager to go to West Point should under no circumstances ever be given any real authority. Whether they imagine themselves on horseback statues or cashing in on defense contractors, they need to be deterred for what is effectively a self-selective group. Though I think Vietnam and Korea proved a draft was useless for deterring war (yes, I know this time we won’t let the rich kids off…rich psychopaths don’t care about their kids except as trophies), I think a draft for the officer corp is the path forward. If you want to go to college, you have to enter the lottery for the West Point draft.

          After all, West Point’s greatest graduate was a last minute addition, and West Point couldn’t even get Grant’s name right. Its officially most illustrious graduates include traitors. America’s greatest officer outside the Revolutionary War was a rando liberal arts professor who volunteered for the Civil War. This must drive the West Pointers nuts.

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      “I wonder if it would have made a difference if people like Pompeo and Esper had been forced to serve a year”

      I’m not sure how that would have helped. While serving as a grunt does have a salutary effect on the humanity of a very few, for most, it has the opposite effect.

      Better that anyone who applies to West Point have to undergo study under a Taoist sage. Their tutelage would be complete when they could explicate the following chapter from the Tao te Ching:

      A Taoist wouldn’t advise a ruler
      to use force of arms for conquest;
      that tactic backfires.

      Where the army marched
      grown thorns and thistles.
      After the war–
      come the bad harvests.

      Good leaders prosper,that’s all,
      not presuming on victory.
      They prosper without boasting,
      or domineering, or arrogance,
      prosper because they can’t help it,
      prosper without violence.

      Things flourish; things perish.
      Not the Way.
      What’s Not the Way
      soon ends.

      Tao te Ching, Ch. 30 (Le Guin, trans.)

      The hope would be that the students would decide to ditch the Point, but undoubtedly there would be types like Pompeo who would doggedly resist enlightenment.

    3. Wyoming

      Time was when America had officers that were commissioned in the field but nobody knows how long ago that that practice was stopped.

      See here. The practice ended following the Vietnam War for officers. Within enlisted ranks it is currently active.

      Of note is that battlefield promotions to O1 were essentially temporary and to retain them one had to pass the standard officer training courses as soon as one was rotated out of combat (assuming one survived of course). Following WWII (where the vast majority of such promotions happened) most chose to ‘retire’ or leave the service with their officer rank intact and never took the required training (I knew several boys growing up whose fathers were officers via this situation). Those who chose to stay in the service at the end of WWII often had their ranks reduced significantly – Lt Col to Captains, Major’s to 1st Lt, and so on.

      Most battlefield promotions were for enlisted men being pushed up the Sergeant ranks to replace those killed. A great number of them of course suffered the same fate. They also must eventually complete required training courses or they are subsequently reduced in rank back to their previous.

    4. IronForge

      Yeah, sure. There are some; but RingKnockers like Myself make the BULK of Regular Commissioned Officers – not the Weekend Reservist Types in your local School’s ROTC Programs. In My Day, USNA Midshipmen were in the Regular Navy – unlike the Cadets who weren’t so for their Services.

      That being said, the Selection Processes are Politically Influenced(IIRC, every Congressman+Senator had 5 Nominations and POTUS had a 100 – I rcvd 2 Each for USAFA and USNA), Highly Selective (in my Year, we had a lower acceptance rate than Harvard), Compromised by Athletic+Diversity Programs (lower SAT Athletes to make the USA Today Top 25 (and a few Pro Ballers) – I am a Minority BTW -Better Off Dumping the Academically Challenged and play Schools with higher Avg Scores. We operate Technologically Advanced Gear – can’t afford those less capable even if they go into the Marines).

      Yet, they comprise the Top 1000 or so Candidates for Officers Per Service Every Year. It’s a Tough Load of Responsibilities to Put On 22-25 YearOlds; but that’s Life. Many Do Get Attractive Offers Post Obligation and Leave, while some Stick Around. Almost All have their Career Path+Plans Altered; but that’s Life.

      In the Fleet, many ROTC Types end up being useless as Officers. Some may be good engineering students at school; but literally Suck at their Competencies at Sea. Mustang Officers (Prior Mid/Senior Enlisted) and Academy Grads tend to endure Arduous Deployments. Being a 2Gen Navy Vet – a Son of a Sailor who sailed from WWII to mid 80s in EVERY Pacific+Gulf Conflict, and Coached in Kid Sports and Cub/BoyScouts by Veterans growing up – I had a Veteran’s Work Ethic Going In.

      Appreciate Draft Dodgers, ROTC Weekenders, and Academy Rejects cease their Baseless Whine.

      That being said – IIRC, Pompeo never spent much time Deployed Overseas in the Front Lines (I have); and had a Short Active Duty Stint (3Years? Don’t know what the Army was thinking). It’s been different since Dubya’s Long War. WPointers(Woops, since their outfits resemble Flying Monkeys of OZ) are very Clique-ish.

      Don’t know Pompeo; but from his speeches and statements, I wouldn’t Trust Him as Far as I can Throw Him.

      1. norm de plume

        ‘Don’t know Pompeo; but from his speeches and statements, I wouldn’t Trust Him as Far as I can Throw Him’

        The thing that worries me about Pompeo is that he is, like my Prime Minister Morrison, a Pentecostalist.

        I would like to see a test applied to all holders of public office. If anyone confirms that they believe in the Rapture they should be disqualified from high office, or indeed any role in which their decisions could endanger the lives of other citizens.

    1. Wukchumni

      When you got right down to it the bane of braving L.A. freeways was the dreaded BEFNAR* which could cause an almost Fermi-an chain reaction, all it took was one fearful driver pushing a lever one-footed and it transmitted the warning, red the riot to act in it’s aftermath. A familiar risk

      Wonder how they would handle plan b?

      * Brakes Engaged For No Apparent Reason

    2. xkeyscored

      I can’t figure out what he’s saying.
      “Tell the prime minister to go and get f****** ?_____________?”
      The last bit sounds like inelegant, which is probably not right. Any Ozzies to translate?

      1. The Rev Kev

        He is saying “from Nelligen” which is a town down on the south coast. If you look on the side of that fire truck, you can see that he is a regular firefighter and his unit is from Nelligen itself which is one of the major areas that these fires have been taking off in.

  4. The Rev Kev

    “Steve Keen – This is not a Natural Disaster. It is Man Made”

    Keen mentioned that Scotty should be sending in military aircraft and renting some fire fighting planes from the USA and Europe. Well that is finally happening now. When P.M. Scotty from Marketing was heckled by the people of Cobargo, he finally realized how serious the situation was. No, not that the continent was on fire. He realized that his Prime Ministership was at risk!

    So about 3,000 Army Reservist are being sent to help – finally – and three more fire-fighting aircraft are being leased from the northern hemisphere at a cost of $20 million which is chickenfeed. And to prove that you can take Scotty out of Marketing but you can’t take Marketing out of Scotty, when he released a film clip about this, he did it with a jingle playing in the background-

    But his was an epic failure of leadership and he was not alone. The New South Wales Emergency Services Minister finally returned from his European holidays and promised to get right to work. As soon as he attends a funeral and runs a few errands first-

    But if you want to see a real leader, you only have to look at this bloke-

    There have been more deaths, more lands burnt by the fire and there is more on the way. The headaches are piling up for the insurance companies and who knows what the effect will be of all this smoke being released. Will our Pentecostal Prime Minister change his thinking? Of course not. But there will be changes in Australia but if you asked me what, I have no idea. Before I forget, it looks like more American firefighters will be coming out here to Oz-

    1. Wukchumni

      We can deploy 3,500 GI Joes & Janes to the Middle East, but in this effort-only 20 firefighters from California to Australia, when there is essentially no wildfire risk here.

      The priorities are so woefully out of whack, maybe what a high speed wobble on a motorcycle must feel like.

    2. anon in so cal

      The fires are unspeakably horrific, beyond words. To realize the loss of human life, habitat loss, and the catastrophic loss of wildlife could possibly have been mitigated if those in power had responded, makes the whole thing even more terrible.

    3. norm de plume

      I agree Shane Fitzsimmons has done a fine job under the most trying circumstances. Early on, I was a bit suss on him thanks to the feud that exists between the RFS and the Volunteer Firefighter’s Association, which had long been demanding more resources from govt. I thought that as a political appointment he was a company man and think in the first few days that was a fair assessment.

      However the ongoing and increasing gravity of all this has I think led to a more independent and forthright stance from him, culminating in this morning’s extraordinary revelation that he found out about the additional measures PM Morrison touted yesterday the same way we did – in the papers. Fitzsimmons said he was ‘disappointed’ by that, which for a political appointee is strong language. Objectively it is flabbergasting, not just that he wasn’t told, but that he wasn’t involved. Just another pointer to the quite unprecedented cack-handedness of this PM’s response.

      I felt for Fitzsimmons when his voice wavered talking about the death of young firefighter Geoffrey Keaton, who left behind a wife and young son. The picture of him pinning his father’s medal on the boy at Keaton’s funeral is moving enough, but when you know that Fitzsimmons himself lost his firefighter father to a blaze 20 years ago, it becomes almost unbearable.

      The PM’s marketing-drenched response found an echo in the NSW Emergency Minister David Elliott, who after admitting that his holiday to Europe was ‘inexcusable’ got up on his hind legs to say ‘I came back to step up, not step down’. Echoes of ScoMo’s dictum that you must ‘have a go to get a go’ in His Australia. Elliott like ScoMo is a hard right winger. He is behind the huge uptick in police with sniffer dogs infesting pubs and youth music festivals, averring that he would be quite happy for his own kids to be strip searched. What a crew we have running the show here. They’re like a South African apartheid era caste of dinosaurs.

      Meanwhile, the heat record for the Sydney metropolitan region was shattered yesterday when Penrith reached 48.9 degrees. Due to the fire threat to power lines we have all been asked to limit airconditioning and avoid use of washing machines and dishwashers.

      We are sitting inside right now, breathing the acrid air. At least my wife and daughter are here with us, having got out of East Gippsland the day before the ‘monster’ hit. My brother with the weak lungs has been coughing for three weeks and we worry about him, urging the use of a mask, which he is resisting.

      But at least the cricket is on (we’re winning!) and the Father of the Nation is home to lead us…

      1. skippy

        As YS has noted of late politics has become a PR marketing driven exercise with consultancy gurus w/ mass social media immersion – spastic hot button bias triggering 24/7 on a multi-platform device environment.

        I think the reality show twitter in Chief bares that out, necessity to transmit before information can be passed through internal channels to keep the unwashed in the fold.

        I can almost envision a Awakenings movie like or a classical moment when the priests doubling down or increased rhetoric meets its conclusion and that is when we will find out who we are …

      2. The Rev Kev

        @ norm de plume
        Was just thinking that for your brother, would having one of those air purifiers in his room be any sort of option? Try Googling the following search term-

        air purifier remove smoke

        1. norm de plume

          Thanks Kev, I have forwarded the search result on, along with a link to the top rated one on the Product Review website.

  5. CletracSteve

    We live in Shit-life-ville and have a friend who is trying to address the despair and also the opioid-epidemic. It’s both hopeless and endless, as even one of his own employees OD-ed, despite attempted help. So, along with this site’s readers, I’ve been musing/wondering how we as a society with governance could alleviate/mitigate/address the national depression we’re in.

    However, reading this article, the thought came to me that:
    As Trump depends on shit-life-ville for his support, it is simply in his interest to further debilitating policies that aggravate the frustration and anger, despite his populist rhetoric.

    1. tegnost

      I’d say there are plenty of people who voted for trump for all the traditionally republican reasons, tax cuts and deregulation. The dems have tried to get into that area to weaken republican support (look good rich republicans! We can do that too.. come to our side or else the poor will band together against us). It’s a battle over the placement of the overton window, the dems have become a right wing centrist party, and bernie (who is in fact the biggest threat bar none, RRR, bomb bomb bomb iran, and broken china included) is pulling the window back. I see it in the sense that the blob needs to move the crazy right in order to make the republocrats seem like democrats. It’s kabuki. I agree with the poster who says shit life people don’t vote in the percentage that the wealthy do, and the wealthy of both parties have the same interests that lead to the shit life situation. Look at the wolf street from today. Which parts of the economy are producing wealth? That would be “In the Finance and Insurance sector, the biggest of them all, revenues soared 6.6%; in health care, revenues grew 4.4%; in professional services and information services – which include the tech and telecom sectors – revenues grew 6.0% and 5.8% respectively.”.These people desperately want you to think there are two parties and they sense it ain’t working right now. And our most productive manufacturing sector? Well that would be “Food Manufacturing”. But yeah, blame it on the deplorables being gullible…

      1. kiwi

        And definitely blame it all on Trump, who has had nothing to do with decades-old policies that led to shit-ville.

      2. flora

        Sanders seems like the only Dem candidate running with a believable New Deal ethos in his programs and policies. I think core Dem voters have voted for candidates they thought had the New Deal ethos for the past 30 years but ended electing New Dems instead, ( candidates who talked New Deal or remained fuzzy on the campaign trail, then governed neoliberal when elected).

        Maybe after 30 years of bait-and-switch, the deplorables aren’t as gullible about what the real Dem estab stands for today. Not that T is any better. my 2 cents.

  6. Arizona Slim

    My thoughts on that Antidote du Jour photo:

    Here in Tucson, the coyotes feast on small pets. Which is why it isn’t a good idea to allow one’s cat to roam in the outdoors.

    1. Lemmy Caution

      Packs of coyotes roam the woods and farm fields by us, so I always accompany my dogs out in the yard at night during their bathroom breaks. I suspect our four-foot fence is no obstacle to them.

      1. jefemt

        Coyotes are known for their Siren-like luring of ‘city-mouse’ pets.

        On the other hand, city dogs on weekend holiday to Vail, along I-70 corridor, are known to lie in wait and ambush at bridges/ fenced/ directed wildlife crossings.

        Adaption. Wonder how humans will do at it?

      2. Off The Street

        Coyotes can jump a six-foot fence with ease, as I’ve seen in my backyard. They glance at you and give that little coyote shrug then go on about their business. We have a duo that makes regular fence line patrols.

      3. ambrit

        When I would help out my father in law with his livestock, I always kept an eye out for coyotes and shot them on sight. Around here, coyotes are legally ‘nuisance’ animals, liable to extermination at any time of the year.

    2. anon in so cal

      Here in Los Angeles, also. There are home-made signs posted with photos of lost pets who succumbed. Rocky was an adorable cat, it’s sad, and my condolences. At the same time, I will repeat that one factor explaining the catastrophic loss of birds in the U.S. and the West is pet cats allowed to go outdoors….

      1. heresy101

        Rocky loved the outdoors but would be waiting at 18:00 for my wife or me to come home to let him in for food. I believe that daylight savings time confused his clock about when to come home and when it would be dark. If we were home, he would be in and out three or four times during the day.

        We have coyotes from the park up in the east bay hills a mile away that are around at night.

        Rocky didn’t like to kill birds but just play with them. There is an antidote from a couple years ago of Rocky bringing a bird into the house to play with. The bird was released unhurt.

        I have a video of Rocky playing with a mouse on the patio – “Stay” – but it is about 15 minutes long and don’t know where to display it.

        1. Geo

          One of my worst fears is what you went through. My own two cats occasionally find a way to escape and neither is a threat to anything but upholstery. They’re both old and their natural instincts have atrophied to the point where they don’t even hunt down the odd moth or critter that makes its way through the living room. They would be helpless in any real world confrontation. With traffic, stray cats, and untold other dangers I worry each time they get out.

          So sorry for your tragic loss.

    1. rd

      Iran is four times the size of Iraq with a relatively monolith population compared to Iraq and a long established government. Meanwhile the US has dramatically reduced ground forces in the region with reduced sea lift capacity and no ready land mass, like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, to stage from. The US is in a position to do a lot of bombing, but that is about it. So this war shouldn’t be too expensive, but it will also be even less effective than the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The battles for Fallujah and Ramadhi meant that Cheney, Rumsfeld et al missed their opportunity to have their exit strategy from Iraq be through Iranian ports.

      1. juliania

        Think Vietnam and be not so complacent. (I address the fools in government; not savvy NC commentors.)

        It is all about dedication to country. Nothing to do with what each has or has not.

    2. Louis Fyne

      It won’t be World War III more like the a slow boil version of the 100 Years’ War…..a slow trickle of more assassinations, tanker attacks, roadside bombings, nutjob lone wolf attacks, etc.

    3. Susan the other

      And then some I’d guess. We have a goal – the control of mideast oil – but we have no plan. We make it up as we go along. Which is capricious and expensive. The Seymour Hersch link from 2015 (a good reminder) stated clearly that there was no DNA proof we killed ObL and some say he was dismembered and dropped in the mountains. Others that ObL died a decade before from kidney failure. Hersh says we’ve been using those torture and “raid” tactics all along in Afghanistan (2015). And getting away with it because the local “governments” are just a euphemism. When we killed Solemani, Iraq should have immediately closed our embassy and thrown us all out, but they can’t. We just ignore them. Our goal seems to have distilled down to the gargantuan oil field in Iraq which we are staking claim to. We aren’t going anywhere. And nothing would please us more than Iran doing something pointless. Iran might as well be hog-tied at this point. The most disconcerting thing about this is just how bold we have become. At the price of our own democracy, imo.

        1. Monty

          Maybe the goal isn’t controlling the oil. It is asserting (mob style) credibility to keep everyone on the same page about US position in the global financial system. Got to crack a few heads now and again, just in case someone thinks they don’t need to offer tributes any more.

          Also socialism for the 1% war profiteers!

        2. xkeyscored

          I wonder if Trump thinks the US doesn’t need Middle East oil, but can rely on its own, Canada’s and maybe Venezuela’s. (Could it, anyone who understands these different grades of oil?)
          If the flow of ME oil ceased, that would hurt Iran, Iraq and China, all ‘enemies’ and Europe, a ‘foe’, which Trump would probably celebrate. It would also hurt the Gulf monarchies, but the US is known for stabbing its former allies in the back.
          “America First” and the hell with everyone else? That’s certainly how I read Trump’s foreign and economic policy, purely a zero sum game in which any other country’s prosperity is a threat to his own and the USA’s, and a united Eurasia is an existential threat that cannot be contemplated.

          1. Tom Doak

            It’s not that we need the oil. It’s that we want to control everyone else’s supply of oil. It’s the same for the gas pipeline in the Ukraine; it’s got nothing to do with our needs, really, but we still want to control it.

            1. Paradan

              Iran in the 50’s, Chile in the 70’s, Venezuela today…Its not about the resources, it’s about what they do with the profits from them. If they use it to help their poor, well, then they must be destroyed.

            2. John

              We certainly will need their oil to continue living as we live.

              The U.S. has only 10 years left of proven reserves. Iraq and Iran have over 100 years. Saudi Arabia has 82 years. Venezuela has over 387 years. (all at current production rates)

              I believe it is more that we, because of our extreme hubris and ineptness, bungled securing Iraq’s oil for the U.S. Controlling it for the U.S. certainly would have been the main reason we wasted almost 7 trillion over there.

            3. John

              We certainly will need the oil to continue living the way we live now.

              The U.S. has 10 years left of proven reserves.
              Iraq and Iran have over 100 years. Saudi Arabia has 82 years.
              Venezuela has 387 years. (all at current production)

              The main reason we wasted almost 7 trillion dollars over there would certainly be to secure the Middle Eastern oil reserves for ourselves. Wasting that amount of wealth can’t be justified only with the Military Criminal Complex getting richer.

              Extreme hubris and ineptness by D.C.s leadership has lead to China being the biggest beneficiary of Iraq’s oil. IMO

          2. Oh

            Trump can never be accused of any kind of logical thinking. He’s a bully who shoots from the hip. The DimRats being what they are gave him the election by nominating Shillary. Of course, she would’ve started new wars in the ME just like Obama did. Unfortunately, not many peopleunderstand the deception of the two parties who thrive on self enrichment for their leaders. Our goose is cooked unless we can somehow get Bernie as President.

      1. VietnamVet

        I have bad feeling about the Iraq assassinations. The closest analogies I came up with is the British killing George Washington a year after Yorktown. Or Tony Soprano and the mob going legitimate. It doesn’t end well.

        The one sure thing is that the American Iraqi Occupation War is not over. There only alternatives are standing put, escalation or withdrawal. But the USA is trying to hold onto the Syrian and Iraqi oil fields like a monkey holding a nut in a jar. It can’t let it lose or break the trap. The only way out is a Bernie Sanders inauguration a year from now and the gradual weakening of globalism and confronting climate change. Joe Biden’s Democrats will try to keep the wars going forever for the Profiteers. The Republican alternative from these assassinations onward is a know-nothing escalation that will inevitably result in VP Mike Pence’s End of Time.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Iranian retaliation, and/or Iraq ordering all Americans out, will come in a good deal less than a year.

    4. rowlf

      How close are we to when the populace tells DC to go fight them yourselves? We have made a lot of veterans and I live in an area where lots of veterans live (based on the licence plates my state issues and people I meet or work with). Being from a military family one of the characteristics of veterans is they are usually very quiet but when one steps forward to tell you “You don’t want to do that” it is best to pay attention. My father, a Vietnam and Silent War veteran with fifteen years of service before a reduction in force, suggested very firmly that joining the military was not a good idea.

      How many potential military recruits are getting this message? How is staffing of skilled trades assignments in the military going? Is the Hollow Force back or coming back?

  7. The Rev Kev

    “2019: A Year the News Media Would Rather Forget”

    I can guess why they would want to forget 2019. People have finally woken up to the fact that so much of the media is lies and spin that you cannot get the news from them anymore which is kinda their sole function. I mean, when you have to listen to Tucker Carlson to get the truth of what is going on, when you see CNN and MSNBC censoring Presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders & Tulsi Gabbard from the news and deleting them from displayed charts.

    When they insult and treat with disdain hundreds of millions of their fellow Americans, when they expect people to believe that only ex-CIA and FBI head honchos must be listened to for their opinions, when they cheer the US getting involved in another war or attack, when they hype up impeachment over what is dodgy material at best without any apology when proven wrong.

    Back in the 90s you saw in movies and on TV shows how journalists were widely respected and it was something to aspire too. They were honoured members of the community but now of course they have the same respect that used-car salespeople have – maybe less so. And they only have themselves to blame.

    1. JBird4049

      I have known people in the news business and hearing and seeing what was done to people in the industry was not fun; those who survived, somehow especially if their beat is outside the country can have a hard time just surviving, and the most successful people probably sold their souls for the privilege of working.

      The chopping and eviscerating of the industry began thirty years ago all for more profit.

  8. timbers

    And Shit-Life Syndrome to the things the media won’t talk about, like that OPCW report that was changed by management to report the opposite of what was true.

  9. Tertium Squid


    LOL I inadvertently put a Y2K20 bomb in some code I wrote recently, shortening a year to two digits by stripping 20’s out of the number.

  10. Eddy L

    I read that the House of Reps quietly repealed the SALT deduction cap of $10,000 under the “Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act (H.R. 5377)” on December 19th. LOL…Tax fairness!!

    It was said to be a non-starter in the Senate. Could this be the reason behind Pelosi’s pause on submitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate? Looking for a deal with McConnell on quietly agreeing to a quick acquittal if the Senate takes up, votes, and passes the SALT cap repeal? I mean, this hullabaloo about Impeachment was never about “upholding the Constitution our forefathers died for, yadda, yadda, yadda” it was about distracting the unwashed masses, providing cover so they could pass things like increased defense spending, extension of the Patriot Act, etc.

  11. TroyIA

    U.S. farmers see another bleak year despite Phase 1 trade deal Reuters

    One of the cheaper and more effective ways of addressing climate change is through carbon sequestration. The US has a history of paying farmers not to plant crops when the prices are low so Bernie Sanders and AOC could apply a version of a GND to the farm program by paying farmers to convert their land to grasslands.

    Considering that farmers are some of the most conservative and ardent Trump supporters this approach will have a better chance of passing than a complete overhaul of the economy. Whether converting US farmland to grasslands will offset Brazil destroying the Amazon rainforest is up for debate but at least it will be better than doing nothing.

    1. BGGB

      Considering that farmers are some of the most conservative and ardent Trump supporters

      Is this definitely true? For sure there are a lot of them. But it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if there are a lot who cannot be ideologically grouped into pro-Trump/rightwingism. Kind of like how the biggest labor protests our nation has seen in years were led by teachers in so-called “red” states.

      1. TroyIA

        Honestly I don’t have any hard numbers to share but just anecdotally in my part of the US it is rural and whenever I meet someone in agriculture there’s a great chance they are Republican. Sure there are some who are very mindful of environmental issues for the most part all of the other issues tips the balance for them to lean Republican.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Then again, of course . . . foodbuying foodeaters could themselves pay farmers to turn some row-crop land into grassland . . . if those foodbuying foodeaters were prepared to pay the prices involved for strictly grass-fed beef fed on those carbon-sequestering pastures growing where carbon-emitting soybeans and corn won’t be growing anymore.

      How much purely grassfed beef could the corn-soy chemical deserts of Iowa produce if the corn-soy chemical deserts were transformed into bio-pastures under pasture-eating cattle?

  12. fdr-fan

    Dirty bombs and EMP are both fake worries. Both have been advertised as imminent threats for 60 years, but nobody has tried them. Conclusion: They don’t work as well as advertised, or they’re not as easy as advertised.

  13. KLG

    Bruce Levine makes several good points and the shit-life thesis is spot on, and the failure of national Democrats to understand this over the past 40-50 years is both an explanation of our situation and a disgrace. His Resisting Illegitimate Authority is good, even useful in a few places. But there is much of the typical and wearisome Counterpunch contrariness in his piece, including the “Bernie supported Hillary!” trope (yes, I am a CP subscriber). Bernie is an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, and is a better democrat than most. He ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016, which was the only legitimate path available to him then, as now. What was he supposed to do? As for Levine’s “The Dems’ problem in getting the shit-life syndrome vote in 2020 is that none of their potential nominees for president are (sic) unconventional,” this is not a serious proposition and is little removed from the mainstream media Bernie Blackout, which does seem to be lifting a bit as Bernie keeps on keeping on. Bernie is the only legitimate unconventional Democrat candidate for president (except perhaps Jesse Jackson), ever, in my voting lifetime going back to 1974. He has also been an effective politician at every level for the past 40 years, with his feet planted firmly on the ground. What the hell do these people want? Rhetorical question.

    1. Off The Street

      Dems seem forever plagued by trying to serve and hide different masters. Over the last generation they got really hooked on the Wall Street money and the Silicon Valley attention. That led them into perverse and dysfunctional attempts at crafting legislation by oversized committees, with predictable results.

      They promise the funders one thing, then sell (read, lie to) the voters something else and if by some miracle their legislation gets near a vote they overcomplicate it to appease way too many presumed stakeholders. That is allocation of scarce resources by idiots.

      Sadly, there isn’t a Party way to get off that money and attention addiction, even as the Bernies of the world try.

      1. Phacops

        A comparison between the original Medicare enabling act and the absolutely dysfunctional ACA is a case study in what you describe. With Medicare it was tasked to HHS professionals to issue guidance on its implementation. The secret to its success despite republican efforts to see it fail.

    2. Ford Prefect

      3-4 years ago I was driving though Ohio on a trip and realized that the anti-drunk driving billboards on the interstates had been turned into don’t drive on opioids billboards. In turn, that was a couple of years after I realized that the Cialis bathtub ads on football games had turned into prescription laxatives to address constipation from opioids ads.

      The Dems in coastal cities do not have a clue how dire it is in many communities.

    3. PhilK

      “. . . the failure of national Democrats to understand this . . .”

      It’s not a lack of understanding. It’s a lack of concern. Hating deplorables is part of the esprit de corps of the formerly-democratic party.

    4. Jeremy Grimm

      The 2020 elections hold my last hopes for some remedy. I plan to move further into the country away from the large cities to shield myself from the unhappy harvests the future may reap. I am sad that my children are so bound to the cities. The best I can do is to position myself to offer sanctuary if my children might somehow escape.

      Like you I strongly favor Bernie Sanders. I place a large amount of what hopes I still nurture in Bernie Sanders.

    5. drumlin woodchuckles

      They want the moral-purity stuff-strutting and preening self satisfaction of strutting their “purer-than-thou” moral-ideological superiority stuff.

      That is what they want. That is all they want. That is all they ever wanted. That is all they will ever want.

  14. Samuel Conner

    The thought occurs that the assassination of QS might have a connection to DJT’s apparent desire to cast every possible form of shade on BHO.

    Arguably, (following this item,


    given that QS badly beat us at our own game in terms of influencing the formation and policy direction of Iraqi democracy, if one were going to do this, it should have been done much earlier, during the earlier BHO years at the latest.

    Perhaps this is, in part, a way of DJT (in his own mind, at least), cleaning up messes that BHO (and GWB, let us not forget) left behind.

    This isn’t to approve of the policy, just to try to understand it. I don’t expect it to improve things.

    1. TroyIA

      IMO this latest Mideast adventure goes beyond what Trump wants and is a continuation of the US policy since at least the 70’s. The US has been trying to achieve a balance where the Mideast countries are too busy fighting each other without one side getting too powerful.

      After 1979 Iran tipped the balance in their favor so in the 80’s we helped Saddam Hussein fight Iran. Later on Saddam went off script and invaded Kuwait. The US now had to intervene again on behalf of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in order to weaken Iraq.

      Throughout the 90’s things were at a low simmer until Osama bin Laden went off script and attacked the US. Now the parties in the Mideast are supposed to fight each other not the US so we attacked al-Qaeda.

      But once we degraded al-Qaeda’s ability to attack the US then Saudia Arabia felt they didn’t have anyone to defend against Saddam Hussein. Now the US had to take out Saddam but in the process empowered Iran.

      To weaken Iran it was decided to take out Assad in Syria. However after eliminating al-Qaeda’s a-team the band of jihadist misfits Saudi Arabia put together was unpalatable to Isreal and Turkey. So we left Assad in power and Turkey and Isreal and Russia are in charge of keeping a check on Assad.

      But now Iran is still harassing the US and our allies so we need to weaken them. I suspect the architects of our current situation don’t want a war with Iran that takes out the mullahs, rather just enough pressure to keep them in check.

  15. Basil Pesto

    I find The Killing of OBL endlessly fascinating, or perhaps instructive. The chief criticism levelled at Hersh to dismiss the story was its overreliance on a single anonymous source. Flash forward 2-5 years later, it’s hard-ons all round in the press for single anonymous sources (the key difference being that Hersh is considerably more trustworthy and credible than most reporters, at least to this reader).

    The other thing that occurred to me lately is this, running a simple hypocrisy test: If Bin Laden were killed under Trump’s watch in otherwise identical circumstances (that is, with the administration’s official story, and the story as reported by Hersh) would Remnick have hesitated even for a second to publish Hersh’s account in the New Yorker? I very much doubt it.

    1. JohnnyGL

      You’re quite right about the single, anonymous source. However, it needs context. Before running the story, the ediotrs are allowed to speak to the source, to help verify. Plus other sources are contacted to vouch for the credibility of the source and story. Hersh is super-careful about source cultivation. He is not afraid to spike a story, — even a good one, to keep a source.

      Also, recall hersh ran a story in a german publication about trump having to be talked out of a bigger strike after the alleged chem weapons incident in Syria.

      1. Basil Pesto

        oh absolutely, I’m not denigrating Hersh’s practice, but not all single source stories are created equal I daresay – and I suspect those of the Russiagate era have not been as thoroughly vetted as they needed to be. All those good points you mention were in short supply when the LRB piece was first published and much of the media was very keen to throw Hersh under the bus. Incidentally, in his memoir, when he was at loggerheads with Remnick about the OBL story and found out the New Yorker was going to be publishing an account in line with the administration, Hersh found out that the New Yorker fact checkers were checking the administration’s given facts with… John Brennan.

        Incidentally I just finished watching Wormwood where he’s interviewed in the last episode and insists he can’t publish the story of Frank Olson’s murder because it will finger his sources, exactly as you describe. As a corollary, it made me even more confident in the OBL reporting. I also love that he’a such an unrepentant asshole about it when he’s being interviewed.

  16. rd

    Re: Let the Oceans into our Cities

    Venice is instructive along those lines. It can work, but there needs to be a real focus on the civil engineering of foundation and utility systems to facilitate adapting to changing ocean levels. That will require a complete rethink of current design and codes. Venice has been struggling with adapting their centuries old structures and systems.

    Sewage is easily solved with money. You need to improve piping and then do tertiary treatment. It is feasible, just needs the public will to spend the bucks.

    Drinking water in areas like Florida will be a serious issue as aquifers have salt-water intrusion into them. Desalinization technologies will be needed at significant cost.

    So all of these things are doable from an engineering standpoint, but costs will rise dramatically. There has been no political or public will to even think about that level of spending to date. My best guess is that the next 50 years will be fairly dystopian where the wealthy will simply view low-lying coastal properties as disposable and replaceable while the non-wealthy will slowly get driven out by financial ruin or will just live in low-cost trailer homes. The coastline of Florida is beginning to trend in that direction in areas where major hurricanes have come ashore.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Ahem, this is not a handwave. You need to decommission existing sewage facilities and route piping someplace completely different. And new facilities raise NIMBY issues.

  17. Bill Carson

    Regarding higher registration fees to replace lost gas taxes, way to shoot yourselves in the foot, America. You just don’t get it, do you? If they want to replace what little revenue has been lost, they should INCREASE gas taxes. This would create an incentive for more people to buy EVs and PHEVs, WHICH IS WHAT WE WANT.

    1. Louis Fyne

      No. More EVs won’t solve the problem (in my opinion).

      Annual road taxes based on vehicle weight is the physics-based answer—but will never fly as the trucking/Mega-Lo Mart/auto dealership/automaker lobby is so strong at the state/federal levels.

      Just saying

    2. smoker

      Thousands of homeless and soon to be homeless who all would have bought EVs if they had at all been affordable (or could fit their entire family into one, versus a used RV), and if there had of been somewhere to plug them in prior to EV stations becoming available, would disagree with you.

      Very sick of all the regressive taxes and fees storming down onto the increasingly impoverished, in the name Progress.

    3. Massinissa

      No way. Increasing gas taxes hurts the poor and middle class, not the rich. They increased the gas taxes in France and the middle class was upset.

      Corporations should pay the costs, not working people who have no choice but to drive to work everyday.

    4. Kurtismayfield

      Why wouldn’t taxing it as it comes out of the ground make more sense? You want to keep it in the ground, tax it more.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Well . . . that’s the James Hansen logic behind the at-the-point-of-first-sale fee-tax and dividend on fossil carbon fuel. The ultimate goal being to torture fossil carbon fuel to death by raising its price too much for anyone to afford.

        ( Would a few super-rich people still affording it be able to flow enough cash to the mega-merchants of fossil to keep their giga-buck enterprises alive?)

    1. pjay

      Here is Craig Murray on the same propaganda talking point:

      “Precisely which are these hundreds of deaths for which the Shia forces of Soleimani were responsible? Is there a list? It is of course a simple lie. Its tenuous connection with truth relates to the Pentagon’s estimate – suspiciously upped repeatedly since Iran became the designated enemy – that back during the invasion of Iraq itself, 83% of US troop deaths were at the hands of Sunni resistance and 17% of of US troop deaths were at the hands of Shia resistance, that is 603 troops. All the latter are now lain at the door of Soleimani, remarkably.”

      “Those were US troops killed in combat during an invasion. The Iraqi Shia militias – whether Iran backed or not – had every legal right to fight the US invasion. The idea that the killing of invading American troops was somehow illegal or illegitimate is risible. Plainly the US propaganda that Soleimani was “responsible for hundreds of American deaths” is intended, as part of the justification for his murder, to give the impression he was involved in terrorism, not legitimate combat against invading forces. The idea that the US has the right to execute those who fight it when it invades is an absolutely stinking abnegation of the laws of war.”

      There is a lot more worthwhile in his latest post.

  18. xkeyscored

    Here are a few odds and ends I’ve come across today relating to the US attacks on Iraq and Iran (I hope I’m not duplicating stuff already in Links!):
    “Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more.” Yes, and compare their numbers with those attending the ever-growing number of funerals. (20 seconds)

    Corbyn calls on UK govt to ‘stand up to the belligerent actions’ of US after assassination of Iran’s Quds chief Soleimani – RT

    The United States’ main allies are abandoning Trump over his ‘dangerous escalation’ with Iran –
    “A photo of #soleimani hanging out with American soldiers while they all fought ISIS. So how can the Pentagon’s post assasination claims that he was killing Americans be true ? See this is why you never collaborate with the US. I hope we have all learned something today.”

    “Moqtada al-Sadr, the unruly Shia cleric who commands millions of followers in Iraq, has given orders to reactivate his military branch ‘Jaish al-Imam al-Mahdi’. Between 2004 and 2008 the Mahdi forces fought the U.S. occupation of Iraq. They will do so again.”
    – U.S. Will Come To Regret Its Assassination of Qassim Soleimani – Moon of Alabama

    “Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran,” John Bolton tweeted about the assassination. Bolton may have left the White House, but clearly his spirit lives on.
    – Trump’s Iran Aggression Deserves Full-Throated Opposition – Foreign Policy In Focus –

    – could the US elections have any bearing on all this?

    (I haven’t included links to all those, as NC’s moderation machine dislikes too many of them, but those are the titles for items without links.)

    1. Roady

      “A photo of #soleimani hanging out with American soldiers while they all fought ISIS.

      There are no U.S. soldiers in that pic.

      The guy on the left is the only one wearing a U.S. camo pattern and it would’ve been obsolete by the time of any fictionalized combined U.S.-Iranian operation against ISIS.

      Most U.S. combat troops stopped using that pattern before 2010, and it was phased out by all US services by 2012 (Desert Camouflage Uniform). Any unit that would’ve been involved in the type of scene pictured would be wearing MultiCam or OCP. So until PartisanGirl provides a verified date and identifies the US units, this is pure propaganda from an unreliable source that doesn’t justify being promulgated.

      BTW, why does the ISIS seal look like a modified Enron logo?

      1. The Rev Kev

        Found a caption for that photo that says “Photo is from 2015 of #Soleimani near Tikrit, surrounded by US weaponry (of Iraqi army), amidst the Iraqi offensive against ISIS in Tikrit, for which US was providing air support”. So there would have been American soldiers nearby for that air support but not directly in that photo.

    2. Roady

      I included 2 links in my reply to you, so my comment is awaiting mod. Here’s a summary: Your PartisanGirl pic is BS. No American troops in that photo. Thanks for the daily dose of propaganda.

      1. xkeyscored

        Thank you. You could be right, all I can really see is soldiers. But something like ten comments down:
        SHVAN @Haitham8289 Jan 4
        Replying to @Partisangirl
        No American in this photo!!!!

        Farideh.s @Faridehsabaghi Jan 4
        Look to the left

        and they do look like US soldiers, with some kind of camera on their helmets.
        I look forward to Moderation releasing your comment; I’ll see what’s in the links.

        1. Paradan

          Guy on the left looks to be holding an older model M16(A2 or A3?), US Army uses M4 carbines now and Marines use M16A4s(?)

    3. Henry Moon Pie

      ” Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom”

      Well, if that’s all it took, why didn’t we do it sooner?

      Those Iraqis were supposed to be dancing in the streets 15 years ago as I recall.

      We bombed them, and they didn’t dance.

      We shot them, and they didn’t dance.

      We ran over them with our trucks delivering Burger King to the troops, and they didn’t dance.

      We reduced some of their towns to bloody rubble, and they didn’t dance.

      If we were obsessed with making the Iraqis dance, we should have killed this Iranian guy many years ago. It could have saved a lot of trouble. Or not…

  19. Cat Burglar

    Almost every assertion about the Soleimani assassination has problematic sourcing (e.g., that he was the second most powerful figure in Iran, etc., etc).

    How about the US contractor that got killed and the US troops wounded in Kirkuk? What were they doing there? Who were they?

    How do we know — and from what source ? — that one of the notorious “Iran-backed Iraqi militias” were responsible for the attack? There are at least four armed groups operating in the area. The only reasons adduced for the origin of the attack are the assurances of US authorities, and that the rocket launcher was found 2/3 of a mile from the camp of an Shiite-linked militia. If the contractor and troops were operating against ISIL, how do we know ISIL is not the attacker? Something smells pretty funny about this.

    1. Phillip Allen

      We really need to stop using the anodyne term ‘contractor’ and start calling them what they are: mercenaries. It’s a relatively small point, but would help clarify the situation properly.

      1. Mel

        :-/ Given the use of “contractor” by Uber and many others, and adhesive contracts, and all, “contractor” could be an accurate term.

        “They told me I was going to code a new e-commerce website. And it was really dark when they took me to my cubicle. And when the sun came up there was no terminal, just a Squad Automatic Weapon. And there was all this incoming mortar fire…”

      2. Plenue

        It’s a term deliberately meant to obscure. A ‘contractor’ is just as likely to be a plumber brought in to fix the pipes in a US base as a ‘security contractor’, ie a mercenary gun-for-hire. Neither the government nor the media has shed any light on which category the dead American was.

        1. JBird4049

          Contractors were used to hide the total number of people working, fighting, and dying for the wars of The Empire. Frequently, they were “former” American soldiers for the actual fighting and desperately poor Americans from some economic wasteland to do the dangerous work like driving the supply convoys that are a favorite target of any military. So when asked about how much money was being spent on the military, never specifying to include the contractors, or how many American military casualties there were, they would get the lying facts.

          1. Plenue

            I appreciate the past-tense you’re using, as if you’re quoting from some bleak future history book.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          The support personnel in WWII who did logistics (driving trucks, medics, etc). were all military personnel and proud of their status. A plumber in military support in a war zone is a de facto soldier.

          1. JBird4049

            But the plumber will probably not be getting any real medical benefits or retirement, which is another reason for them being used. It might pay more, or less, than someone in the military, although the ones doing armed mercenary work will be far better paid than anyone else.

            If you are injured, any long medical care is on them and whatever coverage that their employers will give. And no retirement. That hypothetical truck driver would certainly have his life threatening injuries treated and be sent home. But that just might be It for medical care with missing limbs, TBI, or PTSD. So in the long run it might be cheaper for the military.

            So does risking your sanity or your limbs and other bits of your body for 20 or 30 per hour sound good? No armor, probably unarmed and no benefits driving one of those fuel trucks that the other side really wants to destroy. IIRC, none of the casualties of the contractors has been officially numbered (according to Wikipedia American **military** casualties are over 58,000) although just like the average count of around 1,100 police homicides can be dug up from the few people and organizations that do the good work. The numbers are strangely hard to get or at least the completeness of them are suspect. So what are the the true number of American dead and injured ignoring the far greater numbers of Iraqi and Afghanistani? Who knows?

            Lest anyone thinks that World War 2 was perfect the large number of American sailors in the merchant marine who were casualties in large numbers and often voluntarily went back again and again when their ships were sunk got no benefits like the military’s G.I. Bill. It could be argued that winning the Battle of the Atlantic was crucial to winning the war and the sailors were essential to that with their willingness to seriously risk being injured or dead.

            So what about around 2009 when the economy was toast and maybe you had a family? Or somebody like me that occasionally can’t eat? That 20, 25, 30 per hour job looks really good. Plenty of desperate Americans took those jobs. IIRC, the many non Americans were paid much less. The American political economy is such a fascinating, shining example of the mass exploitation of both its citizens and the rest of the planet.

    2. xkeyscored

      e.g., that he was the second most powerful figure in Iran
      I think that’s one of the few things that isn’t problematic. I’ve read some comparing his assassination to say the US Secretary of State, or whoever the topmost general currently is. I expect many would be hard put to name either – “SofS – isn’t it Tillochson or someone, that ExxonMobil guy, or was he replaced, or has that one been replaced now?” – and I can’t recall who’s Chief of Staff or whatever the title is.
      Soleimani, on the other hand, appears to be a hero, even a super-hero, to many Iranians and others in the region, more like Eisenhower or Churchill, a name known by all and remembered for ages.

      1. Plenue

        Gary Brecher, the War Nerd, pointed out that they killed Soleimani at basically the worst possible time they could have (from their point of view).

        The guy was 62, he’d already accomplished most of the substantive military stuff he was ever likely to accomplish. He would probably have retired in the not too distant future, or gone into politics. Either way he would have gotten out of being directly in the military game. He’d already established an entire legacy of accomplishments that would continue without his input. We killed him far too late to prevent or undermine all the infrastructure, intellectual, strategic, and material that he helped shape. His successor has already been named; another Iran-Iraq war veteran who has been in the Quds Force for decades. We’ve killed one important, capable guy, but he was far from the only capable person Iran has to offer.

        All we’ve achieved, aside from setting our relationship with Iraq on fire, is that we’ve turned a man who was already nearing the end of his military life into a martyr. We’ve supercharged Iran and its allies motivation while doing nothing significant to undermine their war-making infrastructure.

        I’m thinking this assassination will go down in history as the single worst US foreign policy decision of at least the last fifty years. Yes, invading Iraq was also massively bad, but it didn’t put our very position in the greater Middle-east in jeopardy. This is ‘worse than a crime; a mistake’ in its purest form (someone linked an Atlantic article yesterday that used that very phrase).

        1. richard

          “worse than a crime; a mistake”
          kind of weird word choice, since mistake has been used by establishment figures to whitewash crimes like carpet bombing Southeast Asia, but I think I get the idea
          the murder of one person as a catalyst
          I don’t know about the worst foreign policy decision ever. How about overthrowing Mosaddegh? That’s where the whole sick modern history with Iran started. I mean one horrible thing is just connected to another, innit? And anyway, worst ever is a pretty deadly high bar.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            He’s quoting Talleyrand. The occasion was another seriously misguided execution, of Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, on orders of Napoleon, in 1804.

        2. pretzelattack

          i think the consequences of invading iraq are still playing out today, and this is one of them. after all, we created the power vacuum in iraq in the first place, and elevated the shiites over the sunni. didn’t chelabi turn out to work for iran?

          1. Plenue

            Of course current events exist in direct continuity with the 2003 invasion. But Bush invading Iraq didn’t mean Trump had to kill Soleimani in 2020. He could have just…not. It wasn’t a decision he was backed into a corner and had to make.

    3. Plenue

      I don’t know if he was the ‘the second most powerful figure in Iran’ (how are we defining power in this context?). But he was massively popular:

      “General Soleimani remains the most popular Iranian public figure among those tested, with eight in ten viewing him favorably.”


      “Without question, Soleimani is the most powerful general in the Middle East today; he is also one of Iran’s most popular living people, and has been repeatedly touted as a possible presidential candidate.”

      Do you suppose Trump is aware that his own military directly contradicts his ‘Soleimani wasn’t popular’ claim? I’m guessing no.

  20. IronForge

    IMHO, Trump not just opened the Pandora’s Box of an Open Season in State Level Assassinations – He Opened Himself (, his Cabinet, Senior Congressional, and Flag Military Officers) Up to be Targeted Going Forward.

    He Crossed the Red Line by taking out the #2 Man of IRN at a Funeral.

    IRN can’t be Successfully Invaded, nor will the Regime Collapse from Color Demonstrators. They may be damaged by Stand-off Weapons; but they have them, too.

    Think Tanks haven’t figured out the Vulnerabilities of the Strait of Hormuz (Yes, I did get my Tan off the Shores of Iran) or any Material Assistance CHN and RUS are Willing and Able to Provide.

    IRN endured IRQ’s ChemWMDs. They can endure any Conventional Weapons that the USA can Throw at them.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if IRN would Acquire DF-21s and SAMs from CHN (since RUS declined to sell S-400s) and resume their NukeWeaps Programs.

    On the Domestic Front, I wouldn’t be Surprised if the DNC/ANTIFA/Anti-Trumpers looking to Remove Trump from the WH or Deny Him a 2020 Victory Engage in Foul Play on this Situation. I actually think that Trump may have a Better Chance of Being Assassinated by Foreign/Domestic Parties than of Losing to Biden/Warren/Sanders (IMHO, Bloomberg/Gabbard have better shots at the WH).

    Looking at this Objectively ( I don’t advocate Assassinations.), An Assassination of Trump most likely Will Deny the GOP the White House for 2 or more Terms starting in 2020; and Trump Supporters in Congress would most likely be Voted Out.

    Nasty, Foul Play; but Trump Opened the Playing Field. The Assassination Threats won’t ease until a FUTURE President puts out a Policy Ending Them.

    What’s been done is done.

    1. Plenue

      Regarding the funeral part, I commented yesterday that I wondered if this killing was more the result of a series of off the cuff decisions rather than a deliberate, well-thought-out plan. I retract that line of thinking now, because after I posted that comment I saw someone on Twitter point out that Soleimani was most likely in Baghdad, on invitation, to attend the funeral of the 25+ Iraqi military personnel the US killed on December 29.

      I think readers can see where this is going. This was a deliberate trap.

      One of the meme’s I’ve seen floating around, alongside the claim that Soleimani wasn’t genuinely popular, is that he was arrogant (the reality seems to be the opposite). One of the pieces of ‘evidence’ for this is that he didn’t practice proper operational security after he got to Bahgdad; Soleimani, as well as the PMU deputy, al-Muhandis, and PMU PR chief Mohammed Ridha, all being too bunched together in only two vehicles.

      But of course he didn’t practice operational security. Because he wasn’t conducting an operation. He was there to attend a funeral. Despite Trump’s talk about our ‘amazing’ intelligence gathering capabilities, Soleimani flew in openly from Lebanon on a non-secret flight. He wasn’t hiding. He probably figured, quite reasonably I would have thought until about 36 hours ago, that the US wouldn’t openly bomb the international airport at an allies capital.

      I now think the series of events starting on at least December 29 was quite deliberate. We waited for an excuse, in the event someone launching a rocket attack on a US base and killing a contractor, to attack prearranged targets for the express purpose of killing Iraqi soldiers, in the hope that Soleimani would then make a predictable public appearance in a show of solidarity. Which is exactly what happened. If true, we didn’t just assassinate the people in those two vehicles. We assassinated dozens of allied soldiers solely for the purpose of setting up an ambush.

      The people running our country are utter, monstrous morons.

      1. xkeyscored

        As for this being planned or off the cuff, I couldn’t help noticing articles like these in Debka a month or so ago.

        A US-Iran military front is fast shaping up on the Syrian-Iraqi border – with a role for the IDF Nov 24, 2019 “As the US military takes up new positions against Iran on the Syria-Iraq border, a major Mid East event seems to be brewing, with a key role for Israel. This is strongly indicated by the comings and goings of top US officials this weekend”

        Trump and Netanyahu confirm US-Israel military coordination against threatened Iranian attack Dec 2, 2019 “The Trump-Netanyahu conversation on Sunday night, Dec. 1, finalized the arrangements for military coordination against Iran that were set up during recent US generals’ talks in visits to Israel, DEBKAfile reports.”

        Systematic air strikes are dismantling the Al Qods compound at Abu Kamal Dec 8, 2019 “Eastern Syria is turning into an arena for combined US and Israeli aerial operations”

        None of them too long, and well worth looking through.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Of course it was a set up. They ignored diplomatic immunity, killed a high ranking Iraqi as well as Soleimani, launched an attack near Iraq’s airport after taking off from a base in Iraq and arrested a very high member of Iraq’s Parliament in a series of raids after the murder. But I did wonder about Netanyahu’s involvement.

          I thought that Tweet of the American flag as a comment on this murder a bit odd. As if to say it was an all-American idea with no other involvement of any other country. Like Israel for example. Well Trump is likely to win re-election this year so he is going to have to deal with the consequences of his actions in the coming years.

          One man I pity here is poor Putin. I can see it now. An aide comes to Putin and says-

          “Sir, it is the Americans!”
          “What did they do now. Sink an Iranian ship?”
          “No sir”
          “Attack one of their oil fields?”
          “No sir”
          “My god, they didn’t launch a strike on Tehran, did they? That is why we sold them the S-300 to stop that.”
          “No sir. They just murdered Soleimani. In Iraq. While on an official visit”
          “Maybe they can deny it was them. Maybe…”
          “No sir. They are laughing and boasting about it. And are now attacking Iraqi Army units.”
          “I’m going back to bed.”

            1. The Rev Kev

              Nah! It was just stupidity and arrogance on the part of the Trump regime. Right now the US is saying that the nuclear deal can be back on and all economic restrictions lifted if the Iranians don’t react to this murder. How craven is that. As if you would believe such a promise. It gets better.
              Elijah J. Magnier in a tweet pointed out that “Sayed Mohammad Reza al-Sistani, son of the Grand ayatollah Sayyed Ali, received in-person the coffins pf #QassemSoleimani and #AbuMahdialMuhandis reach Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf.”

              I know the name and he sort of like the Pope in Iraq. When the US occupied Iraq, they never dared to touch him such was his position. And now he meets those coffins in person.

              1. Plenue

                If those are genuine offers, DC must be in full-blown panic mode.

                NYT has a report out now claiming Trump selected the most extreme option out of the choices intelligence officials presented him with. The claim is it was included basically as a rhetorical flourish to make less extreme options seem more palatable. Strikes me that the Pentagon is trying to distance itself from a disastrous blunder. “Hey man, don’t look at me! He’s the one who chose assassination!”

                Meanwhile, Trump just threatened Iran with attacks on 52 sites (‘one for each hostage they took’) if any Americans are attacked. Attacked where, and by whom? Because in a day or two lots of Iraqis, not Iranians, are going to start taking shots at Yankees.

                I suppose that most recent threat is another part of the ‘please Iran, deescalate!’ rhetoric that keeps coming out of the administration. Killing Soleimani was the beginning, not an end. We are now in a state of open war with Iran. Whether Washington thinks that or not is irrelevant, because that’s how Iran (correctly) views it.

                1. The Rev Kev

                  Trump had a ball about the whole business while he was in Mar-a-Lago. I read that news of his death came during the ice cream. It reminded me of when Trump talked about the “beautiful piece of chocolate cake” he enjoyed while telling President Xi about the Syria air strikes.

                  Meanwhile “Iran Unfurls Red Flag of War Over the Holy Dome of Jamkarān Mosque”. The article below mentions that this flag was not unfurled even during the Iran-Iraq war-


                  This is definitely a Bad Boys 2 moment-


                2. JBird4049

                  HTH is murdering someone openly going to a funeral, who had diplomatic immunity, at an airport in the capital of an “allied” sovereign country that we are not at war with legal, sensible, or even sane? That being so, why anyone give advice to the President that had that as an option?

                  For whatever reasons, there is a clique that has been banging on the war drums since at least President Carter’s administration; like with the PNAC pushing for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, it looks like this clique, who may, or may not, be same as PNAC will get us a war with Iran.

                  Historian Barbara Tuchman would have had a fantastic time seeing the thesis of her book The March of Folly once again confirmed. It is somewhat of a stretch, but I really hope to live long enough to read one of the definitive text about the next few years, maybe decades. All the excellent, fascinating, yet often disturbing reads that come out of every war, economic crashes, or natural disasters. I think it’s gonna be interesting times.

      2. Cat Burglar

        If the only direct evidence of Iranian involvement of the killing of the US contractor is that the rocket launcher used in the attack was parked near the camp of a militia linked (by whom?) to Iran, then it was just as likely a false flag attack. Who abandons their rocket launcher right near camp?

        1. Plenue

          The case isn’t even as weak as you’re describing. It’s weaker, to the point of being non-existent. No one knows who attacked and killed the contractor; the US simply asserted it was the PMU militia. The militia targets hit were 300 miles away from where the contractor was killed.

          The PMU are ‘linked to Iran’ in that the militia members are predominantly Shia Muslims, like Iran, and that Iran did indeed provide them with funding and support five years ago. In the present day the PMU are formally integrated into the Iraqi military, with official ranks and wages. They are directly under the command of the Iraqi Prime Minister. They are themselves Iraqi government soldiers. On top of that, not all the 25+ people killed in the US attack were PMU. Many of them were more regular Iraqi military personnel. The PMU and their bases were simply not a valid target by any possible definition, but we bombed them anyone.

          There is no direct US equivalent, but think of it like someone bombing a National Guard base. The people killed were soldiers, even if not normal front-line ones.

      3. anon in so cal

        Pompeo labeled the IRGC a terrorist group on April 8, 2019, which meant Trump did not need Congressional approval for a military strike. So, they have been planning this at least since then.

        Separately, Pentagon officials were “flabbergasted” that Trump chose the unthinkable assassination option (NYT), yet followed orders, nonetheless. This is not comforting.

  21. Judith

    From Elijah Magnier’s twitter:

    Elijah J. Magnier
    ‏ @ejmalrai
    2h2 hours ago


    #US asked #Qatar to mediate w/ #Iran over the retaliation to the assassination of #QassemSoleimani .Deputy PM/ FM Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met with his counterpart Javad Zarif and offered “nuclear deal” and lifting sanctions in exchange of no response.

    Pepe Escobar’s analysis of the assassination is here:

    From the article:

    Once again, the Exceptionalist hands at work show how predictable they are. Trump is cornered by impeachment. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been indicted. Nothing like an external “threat” to rally the internal troops.

    Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei knows about these complex variables as much as he knows of his responsibility as the power who issued Iran’s own red lines. Not surprisingly he already announced, on the record, there will be blowback: “a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of other martyrs last night on their hands.” Expect it to be very painful.

    1. Daryl

      > Israel gave the U.S. the coordinates for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani as they wanted to avoid the repercussions of taking the assassination upon themselves.

      Holy heck. Has there ever been a more persistent and brutally destructive “let’s you and him fight” relationship in history?

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      This death is too high profile for any kind of deal. Its like Russia intervening in Syria. Assad and the Baath party were irrelevant. Russia has a long standing alliance. Abandoning it would be effectively surrendering sovereignty. Putin had to respond, and so do the Ayatollahs.

      The only rationale way out is for Trump to be removed and the Iran deal be reinstated along with an orderly and significant withdrawal from the region. Along with a public gift. Something big.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          A hearing is just a hearing. The United States has demonstrated its a clear and present danger, and the behavior of the Obama Administration towards complete non-threats in Libya and Syria and the subsequent celebration of the rejection of the Iran deal by so many of the Team Blue adults in the room demonstrates that a simple deal can’t be made with the future turnover in mind.

    3. The Rev Kev

      #US asked #Qatar to mediate? Are you *family blogging kidding* me? That is like a bully hitting you in the side of the head with a piece of iron from behind and then him saying that we should “de-escalate” the situation and how about he sends a friend of his to talk you down.

        1. The Rev Kev

          If you look at that photo and the flags in it, you will see that Qatari changed the colour of its flag (on the left) from red and white to black and white during the visit. This might be seen as a sign of solidarity.

  22. Anon

    RE: Gas Tax (Ars technica)

    NC commentariat sounded off on this topic a few days ago. Here’s a comment taken from the Gas Tax article that re-iterates my comments about this issue.

    MMarsh said:

    If you really want the fee to be exactly proportional to the wear & tear that the vehicle puts on the road, then the parameter to use is the weight per axle, raised to the 4th power, multiplied by the number of axles.

    Nobody actually does this, because a transport truck would get charged 10,000 times more than a passenger car, so either cars would pay virtually no tax or the trucking industry would shut down… but that is the actual ratio of road damage done by the two vehicles.

    EV “gas” tax money should go to local, municipal (lightweight) roadways for maintenance and repair, not to the Interstate hiighway system.

  23. Sub-Boreal

    I recommend to readers here a fine, irregularly released blog on ecological matters by retired UBC professor Charley Krebs:

    The writing and opinions are clear, pithy, and well-informed. Krebs has a long history as a patient observer of what actually happens in nature, and this is reflected in his commentaries on how to conduct ecological research and how to apply its findings.

    The most recent topics that he addresses are characteristically eclectic: “On Fires in Australia”, “On Progress in Ecology”, and “On Salmon Hatcheries as an Ecological Paradigm”. He has a real knack for cutting through BS. His pieces always come with a few key citations from both recent and older literature, and as a non-biologist, I’ve learned lots from following up on these additional readings.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Professor Krebs blog does appear to have the qualities you cite but my interest in ecology suffered a steep decline as my concern about and interest in climate change grew. I was most struck by Professor Krebs post “The Central Predicament of Ecological Science” where he states: “If climate is a major driver of ecological systems, as Andrewartha and Birch (1954) argued (to the scorn of the Northern Hemisphere ecologists of the time), the rules of the past will not necessarily apply to a future in which climate is changing.” I’ll worry more about ecology once I know better how the climate is likely to evolve and what the climate state might be after things stabilize — if they do.

      Another post “On Christmas Holiday Wishes” spoke to a problem I am having reading many of the comments here on NakedCaptilism:
      “6.Define all three- and four-letter acronyms. Not everyone will know what RSE or SECR means.”
      I also have trouble with some of the two-letter and more than four-letter acronyms.

  24. smoker

    Very sorry about your beautiful kitty, Heresy 101, and then on a day when everyone is trying to enforce Happy™, as if they could make it so.

  25. xkeyscored

    Give what credence you choose to anonymous government/security insider sources, but I just heard an NYT journo on the BBC radio claiming she’s spoken to two of them. They say the ‘evidence’ that Suleimani was planning attacks on US citizens was “razor thin.”
    If I remember rightly, the ‘evidence’ is:
    – He had recently travelled to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and wherever and met with leaders of groups known to be hostile to US interests in the region. (Exactly the same could be said in reverse of US officials in recent weeks.)
    – They caught him talking from Baghdad with the Ayatollah asking for permission to ‘start the operation.’ (He was summoned back to Tehran for consultation, effectively meaning no for now, whatever ‘the operation’ was.)
    – There has been an upsurge in bellicosity toward US and its interests in the region (many in the region may feel exactly the same in reverse, especially those who perceive the US and Israel as allies, if not 51 united states)
    And I think that was it, the evidence, at least according to these unnamed sources.

    1. John A

      There are indications that the umbrella assassination was a British ‘intelligence’ hit job to blame the Soviets. A Skripal saga of its time.

  26. Plenue

    “Iraq’s prime minister joins mourners in Baghdad for funeral of top Iranian general killed by US –
    Thousands of Iraqis chanted “Death to America” as they joined the funeral procession for General Qassem Soleimani.”

    “Also attending were several powerful Shia leaders including former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who now leads the State of Law Coalition and has close ties with Iran. Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Fateh bloc and closely tied to the PMF [PMU], Shia scholar Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Hikma parliamentary bloc, and Faleh Fayyad, head of the Hashd al-Shaabi [PMU militia], were also at the processions.”

    The Kurds have also condemned the assassination:

    Whatever tensions there were between Iraq and Iran before January 3, they’ve been completely put aside for now. The Iraqi Parliament holds their emergency vote today on kicking the US out. We’re not only at war with Iran, we’ve lost Iraq as well, maybe even the Kurdish part.

    Someone is already taking potshots at the Baghdad Green Zone, but this is probably just angry isolated armed groups. The real violence will start after the vote, if we refuse to leave willingly.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I wouldn’t want to be an Iraqi Member of Parliament that votes to keep US forces in Iraq today. Their lives would become very problematical after such an action. All non-military Americans have been told to GTFO as in yesterday. Will any American corporation ever be able to work in Iraq again? And it seems that even the Kurds are lining up with the Government as well.

      Sooner or later some media organization is going to hang the title of ‘The President that lost Iraq’ around Trump’s neck. And he will suddenly find that people like Pompeo & Esper will be saying that they tried to stop him but it was all Trump’s idea. By now Trump must be learning that he has just been suckered into a catastrophic mistake and that he is going to own all it all.

      1. Synoia

        The Kurd’s got theirs after the US retreat form the Syrian/Turkish border. This in a part of the world famous for its grudges.

        The Kurds will never trust the US again, and may never work with them either.

    1. Wukchumni

      It’s kind of WWF (World Worshiping Federation) with the only difference between it & the usual wrestling gig, being that the adherents don’t know it’s all fake, and no chair throwing.

    2. John

      Those people aren’t Christians. The Bible calls them hypocrites.

      Jesus called hypocrites “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15), “snakes,” and “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33).

      1. Monty

        Yes indeed! 23:33 is the perfect verse!

        “33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

        BTW The best part of the youtube video is the comments.

  27. Carey

    Call for name of the new party, the need for which will be apparent
    after this year’s Corporate Democrat convention.

    My initial proposal: US Worker Party (Nationalism imp’t; we’re all workers whether we have mcJobs or not, excepting the expendable Few)

  28. Plenue

    I was suddenly struck by a great sadness that Paul Jay (and Sharmini Peres) are no longer making news. If they were, The Real News Network would have a, probably extensive, interview with Lawrence Wilkerson up right now about the murder of Soleimani.

    Wilkerson at least got a chance to appear on MSNBC today where he blasted congress as cowards. So good on him.

  29. ObjectiveFunction

    I find myself wondering: is the Baghdad Embassy a Defensible Position©? I recall an Iraqi commander in the US-trained CTS “Golden Division” that did the heavy lifting in the 2016-17 Mosul city fight saying that if it was up to him, the next target would be the Green Zone.

    Might we have Hostage Crisis Part 2: Baghdad Boogaloo in the offing? Does Trump want to have to reoccupy Iraq?

    It’s tempting to think Trump wants to get kicked out of Iraq (Brer Rabbit strategy) which we can’t ‘lose’ since we’ve already lost it, but in an election year the timing is quite odd, to say the least.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Doubt that he wants to, but it sure looks like he will be.

      And yes, the embassy was built as a fortress – there were comments about that at the time. A fabulously expensive one. Note that the mob that occupied the compound did NOT get in, though they did set the reception area on fire.

      1. Plenue

        Walls aren’t great against cannons and rockets. Part of why the medieval period of knights and all that ended. So what if they can’t get in? They don’t need to. Next time it won’t be enraged protestors, it’ll be organized fighters with mortars and missiles.

        What’s the US going to do? Send out troops to patrol streets filled with people who now hate us more than they ever did post-Saddam? And it’s not the Iraqi security forces are going to be inclined to help us.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Agreed. What’s the point of having a fortress if you can’t leave the place without a huge military convoy and air cover? And what if Iraqis refuse to meet you. How do you get business done or contacts made, especially intelligence contacts.
          I remember when the US part of the Green Zone fortress was built for a huge sum. It was going to be the command and control center for the entire middle east and would be Washington-on-the-Tigris. One day it will be a museum.

  30. Carey

    Rob Urie- fanciful title, but: ‘Neoliberalism and the End of Politics’:

    “..Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren articulated this paradox when she stated that she is ‘capitalist to her bones.’ When tied back to her erstwhile policy prescriptions, she restated the neoliberal synthesis— capitalist economics tied to a fey conception of democracy as ‘inclusion’ in capitalist political economy. The question then: what happens when capitalist outcomes are anti-democratic? Is this not the central political question of the age?

    “..Moreover, how and when was capitalism decided upon as the mode of social organization through anything resembling a democratic process? The answer is that it wasn’t. Capitalism is an imposed political order that is put forward as both not-political and freely chosen. What lies behind it is a neoliberal conception of history as before and after, the ‘before’ which occurred before we had a say in the matter, and the ‘after’ which is the world that was decided on ‘before.’..”

    “What happens when capitalist outcomes are anti-democratic”? Indeed.

  31. Carey

    ‘Why the ‘Left’ Is Dead in the Water (Revisited)’:

    “..In most cases, the contemporary Left politician is a middle class university activist groomed through party politics activity. Instead of fighting for manufacturing and jobs, the Left has embraced the highly divisive identitarian battle. While the old Left tended to unite us by leading the fight against the horrid capitalists rather than worrying about whether you were a man or a woman, black or white, Jew or Muslim, gay or hetero, our present-day ‘Left’ actually promotes racial differences and divisions as it pushes people to identify with their biology (skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, Jewish maternal gene etc.) If the old Left united us against the capitalists, the contemporary ‘Left’ divides us and uses the funds it collects from capitalist foundations such as George Soros’ Open Society Institute.

    The British Labour party is a prime example of this. It is deaf to the cry of the lower classes. It claims to care ‘for the many’ but in practice is only attentive to a few voices within the intrusive Israeli Lobby. As Britain is struggling with the crucial debate over Brexit, British Labour has been focused instead on spurious allegations of ‘antisemitsm.’ It is hard to see how any Left political body in the West even plans to bring more work to the people. The Left offers nothing in the way of a vision of a better society for all. It is impossible to find the Left within the contemporary ‘Left.’..”

    1. Plenue

      The Left cares about jobs and manufacturing. If someone isn’t fighting for those things, then they aren’t actually Left, is how I would frame it. They may think they are, but surely Right and Left describe actual policy positions, not self-image. If you aren’t fighting first and foremost for the wellbeing of the majority of the population that actually has to work for a living, then you aren’t a Leftist.

  32. Synoia

    I suspect Trump is angling for the political contributions of the Israel supporters.

    In other words the US foreign policy is driven by Israel though the political contributions of the US Israel supporters.

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