Links 2/18/2021

Rewilding: Beavers to be reintroduced in record numbers across Britain this year Trucker World

Perseverance will make sure it has a safe landing How to watch.

Exclusive: Whistleblower Accuses Exxon of ‘Fraudulent’ Behavior for Overvaluing Fracking Assets For Years DeSmogBlog. From earlier this month, still germane.

Facebook reported revenue it ‘should have never made’, manager claimed FT. Accounting control fraud?

Facebook Blocks Charities, Government Pages in Australia News Spat Bloomberg

The Big Long The Refomed Broker

Polar Vortex 2021

Desperation sets in as power outages and water issues continue ABC13

Big Freeze in Texas Is Becoming a Global Oil Market Crisis Bloomberg

Natural Gas Shortage Forces Feedyards to Reformulate Feed, Packing Plants Pause Production AgWeb

General Motors, Volkswagen halt some Mexican operations on gas shortage Reuters

Perry says Texans willing to suffer blackouts to keep feds out of power market Houston Chronicle. There are plenty of non-Texans to dunk on (dk):

Tough-guy Texas mayor tells residents ‘fend for themselves’ and resigns Houston Chronicle. From the Mayor’s precipitating Facebook rant: “The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING!”

How They Used to Clear Snowy Roads Before Snowplows and Trucks Were Invented Core77 (Re Silc).


Hydrating the Respiratory Tract: An Alternative Explanation Why Masks Lower Severity of COVID-19 (pre-proof) (PDF) Biophysical Journal. From the Abstract: “We demonstrate that normal breathing results in an absorptiondesorption cycle inside facemasks, where super-saturated air is absorbed by the mask fibers during expiration, followed by evaporation during inspiration of dry environmental air. For double-layered cotton masks, which have considerable heat capacity, the temperature of inspired air rises above room temperature, and the effective increase in relative humidity can exceed 100%. We propose that the recently reported, disease-attenuating effect of generic facemasks is dominated by the strong humidity increase of inspired air. This elevated humidity promotes mucociliary clearance of pathogens from the lungs, both before and after an infection of the upper respiratory tract has occurred. Effective mucociliary clearance can delay and reduce infection of the lower respiratory tract, thus mitigating disease severity. This mode of action suggests that masks can benefit the wearer even after an infection in the upper respiratory tract has occurred, complementing the traditional function of masks to limit person-to-person disease transmission. This potential therapeutical use should be studied further. ” The Daily Mail’s retelling (nvl).

Reports of Anaphylaxis After Receipt of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines in the US—December 14, 2020-January 18, 2021 JAMA. See table: Median minutes to onset: 10 for both Pfizer (range: 1-1140), 10 for Moderna (1-45). Number/percentage of women: Pfizer 44(94%), Moderna 19 (100%).

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A new variant (PJ):

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Safety and efficacy of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) Covid-19 vaccine against the B.1.351 variant in South Africa (preprint) medRxiv. On AstraZeneca/Oxford. From the Conclusion: “A two-dose regimen of ChAdOx1-nCoV19 did not show protection against mild-moderate Covid-19 due to B.1.351 variant, however, [Vaccine Efficacy (VE)] against severe Covid-19 is undetermined.”

Delayed Second Dose versus Standard Regimen for Covid-19 Vaccination NEJM (nvl).

The myth of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Covid vaccines: Why false perceptions overlook facts, and could breed resentment STAT

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Ireland’s toothless travel restrictions exposed as sunseekers take ‘dental’ holidays Politico

Who says theatre is dead:

US life expectancy drops a year in pandemic, most since WWII AP


Credit crunch: Chinese infrastructure lending and Lao sovereign debt Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

New Funding for Taiwan Studies Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University

Decoupling denied: Japan Inc lays its bets on China FT

Southeast Asia would choose the U.S. over China if forced to pick sides, survey shows CNBC. Stupid headline. Southeast Asia wants to play all sides against each other and both ends against the middle. The very last thing they want to do is pick sides.

Biden Is Adopting a Militaristic Approach to the Far East The Nation


Swe Win on journalism in Myanmar, the coup, and what comes next CJR

Why Min Aung Hlaing has entered a blind alley Political Insider

Clever tactic:

I still want to know what’s going on out in the villages — where the reporters aren’t.

Cambodia sets up China-style Internet firewall The Star

Stay-at-home orders in Vietnam Covid-19 hotspot France24

Philippine Remittances See First Drop Since 2001 Bloomberg


The hills of hardship From People’s Archive of Rural India. From 2015, still germane.

Can Ganga be saved? What must be done to clean up India’s holy river? Channel News Asia

UGC wants students to write ‘cow science’ exam, asks vice chancellors to ensure wide publicity Read all the way to the end.

Nigeria’s ecological emergency Africa is a Counrry


The devastation of the Mauritius oil spill is still unaddressed Al Jazeera


Troop levels are down, but US says over 18,000 contractors remain in Afghanistan Stars and Stripes

The Arab Spring Failed But the Rage Against Misery and Injustice Continues Counterpunch (Re Silc).

Soviet Jews who fled Israel back to the USSR Yasha Levine, Immigrants as a Weapon


COVID-19 infection rate plummets in England, says Imperial College study Sky News

Keir Starmer’s big economy speech sounds awfully like business – or politics – as usual Independent

Cost of having someone killed across Europe falls as younger hitmen blamed for violence Irish Independent. Silver lining!

New Cold War

Estonia report: Russia bets on COVID-19 weakening the West AP

Russia’s Covid vaccine faces global production hurdles FT

“The Forgotten War.” The Scrum

Biden Transition

The Abruzzo Nomination is Great News For Labor Law Enforcement Labor Law Lite

After Pork Giant Was Exposed ror Cruel Killings, the FBI Pursued Its Critics The Intercept

Democrats in Disarray

Why the Democrats Tied Themselves in Knots During Donald Trump’s Impeachment Trial Jacobin. Putin?

Our Famously Free Press

Can Anyone Moderate Podcasts? The Verge. This new-found liberal lust to censor is really something.

The Clubhouse App and the Rise of Oral Psychodynamics Zeynep Tufecki, Insight

Groves of Academe

What a Public-Information Act Request Revealed About My College President The Chronicle of Higher Education (dk: “This is like all the terrible small college faculty stories I’ve heard in the last 20+ years all rolled into one.”) My worst imaginings….

Iowa Auditor Rob Sand accuses regents of ‘bad faith’ in keeping utilities deal secrets The Gazette

Imperial Collapse Watch

A Superpower, Like It or Not Robert Kagan, Foreign Affairs. Kagans gotta Kagan….

A Culture in Despair Unpopular Front. Journalism/activism in France during the Dreyfus Affair.

Class Warfare

Workers from home beware – pay cuts might be the price of freedom Reuters

It’s Not A Political Problem, It’s A Propaganda Problem: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix Caitlin Johnstone

Antidote du jour (via):

Bonus antidote (1):

Bonus antidote (2):

Volunteers of America!

See yesterdays Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Follow the Money

    Covid turns out to be a self-licking icecone for Pharma.
    British mutant is coming to EU. The EU buys 300 million more vaccine doses without even knowing if the vaccines are efficient against mutants. Prepaid and no liability. Well spent, EU-Commission critters, well spent.

    1. Zamfir

      Thats’s.. good? Covid is bad, vaccines are as yet the most effective measure against it, and they are cheap even at the highest prices quoted . It’s wise to have lots of them, even if there is a risk that we won’t use them.

      Last year the EU did not get that message, at least not hard enough. Now we have less vaccines than we want, and probably less than we could have had.

      Let’s please, please, not repeat that mistake. There a reasonable chance that we might need booster shots. Let’s prepare for that possibility, and spin up a lot of production facilities. Perhaps we won’t need them, or perhaps they won’t work. But if we wait until we know for sure, we will be too late.

        1. PS

          I think we can definitely declare that the Covid-Industrial complex is its own standalone entity now separate from the Medical-Industrial complex.

        2. Zamfir

          Of all the things that turn a profit, fixing this mess is really not a bad one .

          We’re talking about profits in the order of a few dollar per dose. Perhaps 10 for the expensive ones of Pfizer and Moderna, though they claim it’s less than that after accounting for the rushed investment.

          That’s basically a one-off big profit for the first billions of doses. With all the factories gearing up, future doses will be sold in a rather competitive market. Even if there might be a steady market for booster shots.

          So we’re talking about a industry-wide windfall profit of, order of magnitude, 10 billion dollar, with probably some more billions trickling in over the years at smaller margins.

          For comparison, Viagra alone made over billion dollar of profit per year, for 2 decades. All the corona vaccines together might never generate that much in profit.

        3. Irrational

          Very profitable.. including for those offering now practically mandatory tests in airports. Heard stories that people are paying 2x the price of their flight ticket for tests. Oh yes, the UK mandatory quarantine is another nice scam. Hoping we can fly to the US to see the in-laws for X-mas, otherwise in no hurry to go anywhere!

      1. robert lowrey

        Trillions of dollars are spent, as in wasted, annually on what citizens like to refer to as “defense”, despite its being used to research, manufacture, and deploy offensive chemical weapons of mass destruction (ALL modern weapons systems are CWofMD … they are each and every one of them actuated via chemical interactions designed to kill our fellow human beings). Trillions wasted for the express purpose of destroying, en masse, as many human lives as possible; vast sums disappearing every year only to become flush with cash the next, no one knows how, it’s a miracle … it proves the existence of god. Yet spend a few million on trying to SAVE people from a horrible disease, and the outcry, the exaggerated umbrage that such scandalous spendthrift behavior elicits is filled with scorn. Selling entire nations on the necessity of being prepared to commit mass murder on a global scale is soooo easy. But to prepare to save lives on even this small scale gets excoriated and mocked. To describe such an attitude as beastly would be a cruel insult to the animal kingdom.

    2. Lee

      Scientists call for ‘pan-virus vaccines’ to prevent next pandemic

      Scientists from the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, CA, have published a commentary arguing that governments should invest in new vaccine technology to help in the fight against future pandemics.

      “In the article, which appears in the journal Nature, the experts suggest that vaccines that make use of “broadly neutralizing antibodies” could target numerous strains of a virus family, such as coronaviruses or influenza.

      This could offer comprehensive protection against particularly dangerous viral strains that may emerge in the future…..

      … they argue the financial investment necessary to get this type of vaccine ready to be trialed in humans — approximately $100–200 million per virus over a number of years — would be well worth it, particularly in light of global military spending.

      In their words, “[a]s we’ve seen for influenza, one virus strain can cause more deaths than a world war and result in trillions of dollars of economic damage. Surely, global governments that together spend $2 trillion a year on defense can find a few hundred million dollars to stop the next pandemic?”

      1. Susan the other

        “Broadly neutralizing antibodies” are not a good choice for fighting rapidly mutating virus strains. I don’t think we can win that race without causing damage. Imo this “broad” approach is the opposite of something that might be effective and safe. It is the nature of any virus to mutate and do so in a variety of unpredictable ways. Or so it seems. Why not research the limits to viral mutations and understand the tactics a virus uses to mutate and survive and go with that information to make treatment medicines for those specific possibilities. Better to do treatments against specific virus mutation tactics; stop them from causing variant diseases that emerge. But if we do broad spectrum virus vaccines to create human neutralizing antibodies it will be overkill and who knows what that will create both in humans and the micro biome. Why not put resources into rapid production techniques for good diagnostics and treatments? Ones with a shelf life no longer than is necessary.

        1. marku52

          IIRC, the presence of only neutralizing antibodies are what can lead to ADE, Anitbody Dependent Enhancement, where a second exposure leads to worse disease than the first. Seems a rather dangerous idea.

          There was a good discussion of ADE and the mRNA vaccines by Derek Lowe linked the other day. Very accessible to us non-med people.

  2. John A

    Re Kagan gotta Kagan
    He says
    “That Americans refer to the relatively low-cost military involvements in Afghanistan and Iraq as “forever wars”…
    Well low cost to the Kagans of this world, but immensely costly to families with members maimed, killed or mentally destroyed, both in Afghanistan and Iraq and the US, not to mention it is the kind of low cost that prevents the US investing in decent healthcare and welfare provision for its own population. No doubt his wife is busy cooking up more of her disastrous, ‘low cost’ involvements in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

    1. Tom Doak

      The only cost that matters to them is what it costs the Kagans and their ilk. Everything else you mention is a convenient externality.

      1. km

        This is pretty much the functional definition of sociopathy, and it applies to pretty much the entire US political class. Not just the detestable Kagans.

      2. Michaelmas

        “War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking into the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.”
        – George Orwell

    2. farragut

      At least Kagan was accurate when he wrote:

      Their self-perception shapes their definition of the national interest, of what constitutes genuine security and the actions and resources necessary to achieve it. Often, it is these self-perceptions that drive nations, empires, and city-states forward. And sometimes to their ruin. Much of the drama of the past century resulted from great powers whose aspirations exceeded their capacity.

      Only he didn’t realize the great power to which this also applies is the US. In a just world, parasites like Kagan and his ilk would suffer the consequences of their disastrous foreign & domestic policy advice. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a just world…and, not only do they survive, they thrive.

    3. km

      Only a few trillion dollars squandered, a few thousand American lives lost, not to mention maimed and suicidal veterans, plus a couple million brown people dead, injured, homeless and impoverished. And active slave markets in Libya.

      I cannot possibly imagine why anyone could object to any of that! /s/

    4. Darthbobber

      And he even goes with “relatively” low cost. I suppose everything is low-cost relative to something, but even by the “A billlion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money”, the amount of treasure poured down these particular ratholes annually is pretty significant.

  3. Halcyon

    With respect to the moderation of podcasts, and listening to The Analysis.News where Paul Jay complained as an analysis video of his was removed simply for quoting Trump in context, as an independent podcast host I’m extremely concerned.

    Inevitably the way that this will be done is through dumb algorithms that search for words or phrases within a title or an automatically generated transcript and automatically purges those from the platform. Exceptions will only be made for mainstream shows and those with money, with others being trapped in a bureaucratic, Kafkaesque hell to return to being listed on the major platforms which is necessary for discovery for many of us.

    Already, many of those of us who tried to cover Coronavirus saw our shows being demoted in search engines or actively removed. The farcical situation was such that my show – where I would quote from and cite the scientific papers that I was using to make my conclusions, careful to provide as much context and hedging as I possibly could – was made temporarily unavailable back in March last year, while governmental propaganda, which still insisted that mask-wearing was ineffective and that only hand-washing was required, was available via all major podcast discussions of this information.

    I had anticipated something like this in discussing Qanon, so titled that episode “The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories in American Public Life” or some such waffle, and didn’t specifically mention that keyword anywhere. But it creates a terrible chilling effect when you don’t want to talk about particular keywords or topics for fear that your entire show will suddenly lose access to major distribution platforms, with little hope of appeal, even when the information you’re providing is better sourced, better caveated, and better contextualised than a lot of the mainstream guff.

    And, of course, as few here will need much persuading, censoring this information won’t do too much good even to prevent the spread of conspiracy theories that you do view as harmful.

    1. Dr. Roberts

      The great thing about podcasts is they don’t need a platform. The sad thing about podcast listeners is that they don’t understand this. RSS feeds are great and free open source players are available for most devices.

      1. Halcyon

        Agree with this, and most of what I listen to is via RSS feeds these days, but there will always be a problem with discovery – not having your site listed in search engines and so on. Peer-to-peer is probably still the best way of discovering decent content… I wonder how everyone reading this first came to NC.

        1. Milton

          Your comment regarding discovery is correct. But once found, the use of rss is beneficial. My compiler that I created over 12 years ago still works. I found NC via David Dayan in the old FDL days.

        2. boz

          I found NC via the endnotes of Black Box Society by Frank Pasquale!

          Come for the weather, stay for the people..etc

    2. cocomaan

      Time for new platforms. There’s enough money that I will pay for my podcast to be on a platform that won’t censor me.

      The fact is that whether you’re conservative or liberal or from Mars, the censorship will come for you if you step outside of the lines delineated by powerful monied interests. Nobody can be a freethinking person and be in lock step with whatever is considered acceptable 100% of the time. Meaning we’re all going to get censored at some point.

    3. marku52

      Chris Martinsen started referring to HCQ as “Dwizibin” and holding up a sign that said “HydroxyChloroquin” to try to stop the robot censorship.

      Absurd. and as you point out, only the minor voices will be silenced.

  4. zagonostra

    >Why the Democrats Tied Themselves in Knots During Donald Trump’s Impeachment Trial – Jacobin.

    Trump is thankfully gone. But, as the conclusion of his impeachment trial makes abundantly clear, the pathologies his presidency fostered among America’s liberals are probably here to stay…

    The result was an awkward, often tortured fusion of the language of national emergency with status quo political behavior: a fusion that manifested yet again at the conclusion of Trump’s impeachment trial.

    I’m not sure I understand the gist of this oddly written article. I thought Jacobin viewed politics through a Marxist lens. No mention of class, corporate control of Dems/Repubs, cultural hegemony. Where is the analysis that makes use of the concepts of Gramsci, Lukacs, Marcuse, etc. Rather what is served up by Jacobin is an “awkward, often tortured fusion of language” with no guiding principles, much like what they accuse the Dems of.

    The headline question was never answered, at least not to my satisfaction. I’ve seen much, much better/deeper analysis from alt news podcasters.

    I think Jacobin should set up a date with Caitlin Johnstone, she could “learn” them folks at Jacobin some lessons on the clarity of thinking/writing about events with out all the unnecessary obfuscation.

    1. Carolinian

      Speaking of Marcuse, in a recent (but paywalled) Taibbi piece he says that despite being an obscure figure to most people (including me), Marcuse was in many ways the source of today’s cancel culture. Seems Marcuse felt the only way people in his adopted country could be induced to revolt would be to deny them the superficial pleasures of consumerism and free speech in favor of the higher achievement of full economic revolution–sort of a Marx cannot fail, he can only be failed.

      Some of us do believe that growing poverty may be the route to meaningful change here but the induced version may not find much support. Taibbi suggests that Marcuse was once popular due to our Puritan heritage of repression and denial. We did once ban alcohol after all.

      Unclear whether the safe space crowd have heard of Marcuse, but bad ideas sometimes float to the surface on their own. US society has a long history of fanaticism but also a known genius for the practical. Which will win?

      1. John Zelnicker

        February 18, 2021 at 10:27 am

        Benjamin Studebaker has written a piece in response to Taibbi.

        I don’t know much about Marcuse either, but I think Studebaker has an excellent analysis. His major contention is that Marcuse and Taibbi are actually talking about pretty much the same thing, just in different frameworks.

        He uses the example of Nathan Robinson, fired by The Guardian for criticizing Israel in what Robinson claims was a joking tweet.

        How does cancel culture work? In Robinson’s case, a number of people saw his joke tweet and began making unwarranted accusations. Because he made a joke about US aid to Israel, they began asserting he was antisemitic. Some number of these people, presumably, contacted The Guardian, telling them that they had an antisemite on their staff and that they should do something about this. At this point The Guardian chose to get rid of Robinson, perhaps because it feared reputational damage or because the decisionmakers wanted Robinson gone anyway and saw this as a convenient pretext.

        And, importantly, Studebaker addresses the question of who, exactly, is doing the canceling.

        Who are the people who are making the relevant decisions here? Twitter users–and Guardian readers–are disproportionately college-educated professionals. The people with the pull to really damage the reputation of The Guardian are the wealthy people who run competing media outlets and the wealthy people who donate large sums to the paper. It is not at all clear that the people who do the cancelling are oppressed people, standing up against capitalism. To a large degree, cancelling only works because the capitalists who still own and control platforms and institutions want it to work. Cancelling isn’t the left alternative to blacklisting–it’s just woke blacklisting. By cancelling Robinson for ostensibly being antisemitic–and therefore right-wing–The Guardian eliminates one of its prominent young left-wing voices.

        One result is to force those who want to be heard to self-censor in order to avoid being “canceled”.

        Wealthy elites and corporations are now the ones who determine what is and is not (allowable) free speech instead of the government, which is constrained by the First Amendment.

        The idea that those who say something “unapproved” should be punished and lose not only their public voice, but their livelihood as well, rather than being confronted with better arguments and analysis is very dangerous.

        1. Carolinian

          Some of us would agree that it’s really about repression plain and simple. But it’s still useful for people like Taibbi to go after the rationalizations. Fortunately the courts, at least, are still defending free speech. All the state laws forbidding BDS and that have been challenged in court have been struck down. The problem of course is that defending your right to free speech in court costs lots of money.

        2. Jeff W

          I liked this quote from Benjamin Studebaker:

          Cancel culture isn’t a left-wing way of fighting back against blacklisting. It’s a new, clever form of blacklisting in which the left is enlisted to participate in its own marginalization.

          [emphasis added]

      2. Darthbobber

        I suspect he has in mind the little book “Critique of Pure Tolerance”, coauthored with Robert Paul Woolf and Barrington Moore. Its a strange and convoluted read.

      3. Randy G

        Zagnostra — Agreed. Caitlin Johnstone is a hell of a lot more cogent than the mutterings and natterings over at Jacobin.

        Carolinian —
        I didn’t read the Taibbi piece yet because of the paywall but seems like he is following in the footsteps of the “cultural Marxist” outrage emanating from ‘conservatives’ when they denounce cancel culture and the academic left. Jordan Peterson, et al, occupying common ground with Matt?

        Marcuse wrote a book called ‘Eros and Civilization’ — and he was certainly not extolling the Puritan virtues of repression in it! Quite the opposite.

        One-Dimensional Man was Marcuse’s major work. Hard to see much of it is animating current cancel culture. Do any of them recite Marcuse before plunging into a Twitter rage? Angela Davis is one of Marcuse’s most famous students — so perhaps she is the link to current churnings.
        Or as Darthbobber suggests — it was that odd little book delimiting tolerance that set it all off. But even John Stuart Mill and Karl Popper had their limits to tolerance. Hard to imagine we can blame it all on Herbert but I will need to peek behind Matt’s paywall….

        1. Yves Smith

          I don’t see how you can critique a piece you have not read. Taibbi does make a very cogent case with respect to Marcuse, and he read a hell of a lot more just One Dimensional Man or Eros and Civilization.

    2. Darthbobber

      Hmmm… I found it pretty straightforward. Is it really necessary that every single article on politics be accompanied by an essay framing it in terms of the entire economic and social background? Marx and ENgels found it perfectly possible to do journalistic work, and a good deal of it too, without finding it necessary to append their theoretical framework to every article. Indeed, a good many articles by Marx have nothing highfalutingly “Marxist” about them at all. Just good journalism. Not everything needs to be a screed.

  5. The Rev Kev

    “Estonia report: Russia bets on COVID-19 weakening the West”

    You’ll have to forgive Estonia. The countries of the Baltic States have never gotten rid of having Russia Derangement Syndrome and what with NATO’s push east to Russia’s borders has made it worse. Remember how you would hear how people in those countries during Cold War One would hunch themselves over radios so that they could listen to British & American senders while risking arrest? Well next door Latvia has just passed a law that says that people listening to Russian senders will be fined in order to protect their ‘information space.’ Yeah, yeah, I know that the Russians occupied them but that was finished nearly thirty years ago. Time to build a bridge and get over it-

    1. Winston Smith

      I assume you are attempting sarcasm and not succeeding. Having been subjected to mass deportations, suppression of one’s language in favor of the imperium’s, essentially being “colonized” by the giant country next door does make one prize one’s independence once it has been won. The Baltic countries were run over three times in the period covering WWII: the Russians came in, the Germans kicked them out and then the Russians came back…to stay for a good half century. Think about that.

      Was the expansion of NATO a bad idea? Perhaps, but you have to take into account the history of the region

      1. The Rev Kev

        Partly I am not for a good reason and it is this. At what point do you say stop and leave the past in the past? When the last person of that generation is dead? Maybe longer? We in Oz had cause to hate the Japs after WW2 but in time we got over it. And if I had to believe all those Hollywood films I would never have gone to visit Germany so many times. You cannot burden a younger generation with the baggage of the past but have to let them make up their own minds on what the present situation is. And here is the thing that convinced me of this truth.

        Ever hear of the Orange walks? They take place every summer by members of the Orange Order and are Protestants that march through Catholic areas to remind them of their defeat in the Battle of the Boyne in 16-freakin-90. They have banners, drums and regalia and all they do is incite resentment and hatred. All of that should have been left behind in the 20th century but it still goes on some 330 years later. There are other examples in other countries but consider this.

        Will the Russian Federation invade the Baltic States? Only if they are attacked first, otherwise no. Is it a good idea for NATO to hold tank parades a block away from the Russian border? I would say no. Is it a good idea for countries bordering Russia to host US nuclear-tipped missiles? Again, I would say no. Is it wise to have Spanish and French warplanes fly at Crimea in the Black Sea? Umm, no. Now the big question. Are the European and Baltic countries doing this because they really want to or are they being encouraged by other nations. You can make up your own mind here-

        1. The Historian

          Rev Kev, you are overlooking something that is extremely important – geography. Look at a good relief map. The Baltics have something that the Russians desperately need – all weather ports. Russia is no different than any other country in wanting to enhance its economics at the expense of other countries. They aren’t saints wrt their own economic needs any more than Great Britain is or the US is, or even Japan is.

          And the Baltics are a perfect way to invade Russia if it ever came to that – it has been done many times in the past. No doubt Russia is just as paranoid about our intentions as we are about theirs. It just makes sense for Russia to want to protect that corridor into their country.

          It isn’t Russia Derangement Syndrome for the Baltics to fear Russia’s intentions – it is what they need to do to be sure Russia respects their borders.

          You say people have to leave the past in the past? Who has ever done that? People have long memories and the Russians committed many atrocities against these countries – when do they ‘forget’? When does anyone ‘forget’? Have your aboriginal people forgotten what your early settlers did to them? Have people in this country forgotten what we did to the Native Americans and slaves? Did the Jews forget what happened to them in Europe? Why would you expect these people to be any different?

          1. John A

            The Baltics have something that the Russians desperately need – all weather ports.

            Er, St P and Kaliningrad are as good as any of the other Baltic ports, so no desperate need there. Plus, pre all this sabre-ratling by the Balts, Russia used their ports to export stuff, now they use their own ports and the Baltic countries are wailing about this massive loss of business.

            In any case, there has been a mass emigration of younger generations from the Baltic countries to the EU and the devastating EU/US inspired neoliberal policies have pretty much left them dead zones. Nothing worth Russia bothering about, tbh.

            1. The Historian

              “Er, St P and Kaliningrad are as good as any of the other Baltic ports, so no desperate need there.”

              Isn’t that like saying that the US has ports in LA and Norfolk and therefore all of its other ports are superfluous?

              1. Jason

                Nothing that the U.S. has, has ever had, wants, or may ever want, is superfluous. In order to maintain this natural state of affairs, other nations must be frugal. In some unfortunate cases, even starved. This is the price we all must pay for progress towards humanity’s ultimate ends, which shall remain forever undefined. Please bear with us, and excuse the mess, as we continue to remodel for the future.

              2. John A

                “Er, St P and Kaliningrad are as good as any of the other Baltic ports, so no desperate need there.”

                Isn’t that like saying that the US has ports in LA and Norfolk and therefore all of its other ports are superfluous?

                No, it is saying Russia does not ‘desperately need’ such ports as you claimed in your first post on the topic. Useful to have, no doubt, but not necessary.

          2. Duck1

            My understanding is the Russians have bypassed the Baltic ports, for instance building Ust-Luga, to the economic detriment of the small litoral states.

          3. Polar Socialist

            Russia has plenty of land connections to East and South, where it seems to be turning now.

            Anyway, the best way for the Baltic countries to make sure Russia respects their borders is to not give any reasons for Russia to do so. Joining NATO was one of the dumbest moves they made in this regard.

            Everyone and their dog knows that NATO can’t do anything to save the Baltic countries, should Russia see it important to take them. NATO could try to bomb them in retaliation (except they don’t have the equipment), but that’s probably not something the people in Baltic countries would want. Not my opinion, but from an Estonian dude while having a drink and a cigar. I do agree, though.

            Remember way back when there was a confrontation between Estonia and Russia due to some relocation of a statue? Did NATO back Estonia up? Nope, Estonians acted big, until they realized that nobody wanted to fight for them even against “weak” Russia* and quietly discussed with Moscow about the issue and restored the statue after three days.

            * 2007 – Russian Armed forces were still resisting reforms and suffering from small budgets and negligence; Western-minded faction very strong making Medvedev president the next year etc.

          4. upstater

            Historian, I can say without a doubt that Lithuanians whitewash their own complicity in the extermination of Jews and other undesirables. Their “Genocide Museum” was largely devoid of Holocaust exhibits when I visited. But there was plenty about the Russians.

            In Soviet days, school kids went to the Ninth Fort in Kaunas to learn about the Holocaust; 40,000 were killed there. No more. After independence, a freaking subdivision of McMansions was built right up the the boundary — this would be like doing the same at Gettysburg or Arlington — only worse!

            The Balts have huge historical denialism and very active racism.

            See my comment below and read the links. They memorialize Nazi collaborators, like the Ukrainians do. I have a problem with that level of denial.

          5. Edward

            Nobody seems to give the Russians/Soviets credit for withdrawing from Europe. Why can’t that be the past that everyone thinks about? It was a generous, world-changing action. The deal with the end of the cold war was that both sides were supposed to shake hands and stop attacking each other. The West sure hasn’t lived up to its promise. There is irony that Russia is accused of menacing its neighbors. NATO bases now surround Russia, contrary to U.S./NATO promises, and one of the most over-the-top propaganda campaigns ever has been waged against Russia for years. There was a video on The Saker blog years ago reporting confiscation by Russian police of half a billion dollars in freshly printed U.S. currency, apparently for bribing people. Mr. Putin stated in the Oliver Stone documentary that there had been more then 20 assassination attempts against him.

            Russia has tried very hard to get along with the West and they just get abuse in response. It is yet another example of how awful Western leadership is. Everybody– Russians and Westerners, would be better off with “win-win” cooperation, but the West will have none of it. The anti-Russian propaganda seems to have succeeded in caricaturing that country as a cartoon villain that wants to attack its neighbors, at least in the West. Russia is a society that is populated by people with lives just as complex and interesting as people in the West. They aren’t orcs in Mordor.

            Russia has been preparing for war for years, in response to Western provocations such as expanding NATO to its borders. Yet there doesn’t seem to be much alarm about this situation here, probably because that would mean facing some awkward questions.

    2. vlade

      Sorry, but “get over it” doesn’t cover it. Russia repeatedly took over Baltics states, and given how Russia behaved in Ukraine, there’s little faith that they would not do something similar there.

      I don’t get it how people get so riled up on say the US pushing their interests around the world, but Russia doing so is ok.

      And yes, I get the fact that Russia has valid strategic interests against NATO states on its borders. But given its historical propensity *) to at worst swallow, at best Finlandise, its neigbors, can it blame the neighbors who don’t want either? Do on the great powers have agency?

      *) USSR had large territorial gains from wars as late as WW2 (there were some small Jugoslav and Greek gains too, and that’s pretty much it for European countries). Konigsberg, aka Kaliningrad was a major Russian gain from Germany (East Prussia), which is still Russian though it had zero Russian population up till 1945, and never ever belonged to Russia before. Will Russia return that? I do wonder what would Germany tried to call its historical rights to it?

      Assuming a Russia is a benevolent player is IMO dumb. It has exactly the same great-power ambitions and all that goes with it that the US and China do, except in the last couple of decades learned to hide it better.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Got a longer answer stuck in moderation but in short, there has to be a point where you leave the past in the past. Otherwise it is not fair to burden younger generations with historical baggage.

        1. Jason

          I’m thinking of a monstrous parent who, after years of separation in which the child has recovered some semblance of “normalcy,” returns to say, “Hey, look, sorry about all those years ago, but it’s been a while and things will be better this time. Anyway, you really need to get over the whole thing for your own benefit. Haven’t you grown up yet?”

          Not a perfect analogy by any means, but illustrative of the plain fact that it ain’t so simple, now is it? For those involved, I mean. You and me? Sure, we’ve got obvious answers to situations we have no intimate experience with. Why don’t people just get over themselves and listen to us?

          1. The Rev Kev

            More like ‘Hey, I know my grandfather hated your grandfather and visa versa but to hell with them as they are both dead. We are not them. Let’s get to know each other and make up our own minds, OK?’

            1. Swamp Yankee

              Re: putting the past behind us. I think you’re correct at the level of rational self-interest, Rev Kev, but I am afraid that is not how things have tended to work out historically.

              For some, it’s just impossible, whether through circumstances or inclinations, to put the past behind them. You mention the Orangemen — coming as I do from the most Irish county in America (Plymouth County, Massachusetts, though neighboring Norfolk County is tied), there are plenty of people who, despite even the Good Friday Agreement, are not prepared to put those four centuries away.

              Ditto the American South. We, the US, are still fighting the Civil War. It was William Faulkner who famously wrote that “The past is never dead — it’s not even past.”

              I also think of a short, enigmatic but lovely poem by Yeats, called “Memory” — it’s about love, specifically Yeats’ unrequited longing for Maud Gonne, but I think it applies to the human condition more generally.


              W.B. Yeats

              One had a lovely face,
              And two or three had charm.
              But charm and face were in vain,
              Because the mountain grass
              Cannot but keep the form
              Where the mountain hare has lain.

              And honestly, I give the Baltic peoples a pass on this one; these aren’t Rachel Maddow Resistanceheads sitting comfortably in Brooklyn, these are people who have been pushed around and brutalized by larger neighbors, really since the Northern Crusades in the Middle Ages. I mean, the Teutonic Knights, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Russia, Germany — they are in a tough neighborhood, so to speak.

              Balts are also ethno-linguistically their own branch of the Indo-European (Lithuanian is the closest living language to proto-Indo-European, it kept all the complicated declensions and so on that English, French, Spanish, etc., lost over time, and which German retained many but not all of), while Estonians are Finnic speakers; neither are Slavs nor Germanic like their neighbors. So I think they feel doubly enveloped in that sense.

              1. Kouros

                What about the actual persecution of the Slavic population within their own borders, because this is ultimately of an issue here.

                Should Israel get a free pass for persecuting its Arab minority within Israel proper and in the occupied territories because they suffered during the Holocaust at the hands of Germans?

                1. Swamp Yankee

                  Fair point, Kouros — no, they should not be given a free pass. But I think you can try to understand the roots of social-political phenomena without approving of those phenomena themselves.

                  Much of this is also complicated by the fact that those Slavic populations were, in many cases, purposefully settled there by the Soviets in order to forestall Baltic nationalism, which was a real thing (the Lithuanian “Forest Brothers” are resisting the Soviets well into the 1950s).

                  So it’s complicated, and I don’t have any good answers.

                  I do want to echo some of the other commenters: the Baltics are indefensible. Recent NATO war games have shown this, you have the Russians walking over them in a few days, while NATO vainly tries a sea-lift across the Baltic.

                  And most people here don’t want to see, in George Marshall’s words, “one goddam American” kid die for Riga or Tallinn.

                  1. km

                    For an American to complain about resettled populations is truly rich.

                    What they don’t tell you is that the “Forest Brothers” and those like them are the people who thought that the wrong side won WWII.

                    1. Swamp Yankee

                      KM, I’m not “complaining” about them, I’m acknowledging their reality.

                      And I’m well aware that Baltic nationalists cast their lots with the Germans (as did the Finns, post-Winter War, later siding with the USSR after 1944). And I’m glad the Red Army beat them!

                      But I’m an historian, not a preacher. I try to explain why things happened. Explaining something doesn’t mean you endorse it.

                    2. Harold

                      Hasn’t resettlement of populations (cruel & barbaric though it certainly is) been going on ever since Biblical times? Seems to be a concomitant of empire.

                2. Icecube12

                  I don’t think the issue here is “should” people get over their history but rather do they and is it a realistic ask. Jewish people won’t forget their suffering anytime soon, and neither will those suffering due to the actions of Israel. Will Iraqis or Afghans have forgotten the decades of sheer hell unleashed upon them 30-50 years after the US finally stops making war and interfering there? Suffering will most likely create more suffering, and “free passes” are probably only given where they are geostrategically favorable. Also, historical resentments are often resurrected and reinvigorated when the leadership sees them as serving a certain political purpose. It’s all incredibly frustrating, but I feel like it’s also pretty understandable.

                  Also, I would just add that regardless of what Russia’s ambitions are presently, they will change with time, as with any country. Any Baltic state thinking of the long term would probably also take that into consideration, especially when 30 years is pretty short relative to the whole history of entanglement between Russia and its neighbors.

          2. Wukchumni

            Isn’t it really more along the lines of the longer ago the separation happened, the less people care, as the new normal supplants itself?

            Russia owned a chunk of California once upon a time, which they sold to John Sutter for $30k, although some Russian historians claim of the sum never being paid, thus ownership is still Russian, right?


                  1. jrkrideau

                    In 1839, two American warships entered the harbour at night and circled Pinchgut Island. Concern with the threat of foreign attack caused the government to review the harbour’s inner defences.

                    Does not read like a fear of the Russians.

                    1. The Rev Kev

                      They started it but gave up because of the cost. When the Crimean war broke out it was rapidly worked on due to fears of a Russian naval attack and the newspapers at the time reflecting this paranoia of Russian raiders. Of course by the time it was finished the war was over but it is still a nice place to go visit on a sunny day. Great views of the harbour to be had from it. Don’t forget to read about the Explosive prank too-


                1. Wukchumni

                  Too far away from Eastasia to give it any thought, but if ever in San Pedro Ca. check out Fort MacArthur (named after Doug’s dad) with the emplacements for its four 14 inch disappearing carriage cannons, in order to thwart a sea invasion a century ago.

                  I’ve always been suspicious of the eastern auspices of nothing like atolls but auspicious, and what is with all of the monies being spent where the buffalo roam in arming Catalina to the teeth, and when do they plan on invading us?

              1. Swamp Yankee

                Look, I’m all for better US-Russian relations, but this article is stretching the history a bit.

                Does it help the Union that Russian warships are in NYC and SF? Yes.

                But to say it played any significant role in the conduct or outcome of the war is simply not warranted by the evidence. The North had a huge advantage in the naval realm; there is essentially no chance of any kind of Confederate naval assault on any major Northern port. Even if they can run the blockade, the fortifications around cities like NYC or Boston or San Francisco are extremely significant. No commerce raider is going to go up against them, it would be suicidal.

                Here is Fort Warren on Georges Island, in Boston Harbor (where Confederate prisoners were also kept), covering about 28 acres, and just one of dozens of similar fortifications around the country:


                Note also the star-shaped battlements, after the revolutionary design of the 17th century Frenchman Vauban.

                1. The Rev Kev

                  Don’t forget that commerce raiders were a major problem for the Union during that war and not to be ignored-


                  But more to the point, it was the Russian diplomatic support that really helped. If Lee had won at Gettysburg, that might have given Britain and France the excuse to recognize the Confederacy. To have a major power like Russia give diplomatic and military support in those dark days is not to be lightly dismissed.

        2. Winston Smith

          I agree with you to some extent on the broader point you are trying to address. I am originally from Quebec where some give too much weight to the british conquest of New France and its consequences. It is a case of historical obsession (some in Quebec) versus historical amnesia in the rest of Canada.

          The baltic countries are different. The history is recent, very painful and Russia remains a real and present danger.

          1. urblintz

            Every nation on earth poses some real and present danger when it comes to defending itself… and whatever ‘expansion” Russia has done close to its borders “recently” pales by comparison to the real and present danger of a rogue NATO alliance still fighting WWII against a non-existent USSR. The first thing Putin did when elected was ask to join NATO. He was rebuffed without even a consideration. Wouldn’t it have been better having Russia inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in? And I will remind that after the great false promise from the West that it would not push NATO closer to Russia, Russia did not respond to constant provocations and betrayals of that promise for 2 decades, until Georgia in 2008 and that was “our” guy Medvedev, not Putin:

            Some of us can walk and chew gum at the same time…

            1. urblintz

              And I will further point out that the 2+ decades-long period during which Russia did NOT respond to NATO/Western aggression on its borders despite the broken promise include the entirety of Putin’s first presidency. Whatever else there is to know about Putin – and I defy anyone to show me a definitive source for such “knowledge” – he is a fervent capitalist now and wanted Russia to be part of the capitalist west not the communist East.

              1. Procopius

                My apologies to the moderators for adding to their burden, but I have to express my opinion that Putin has shown himself to be the adult in the room. He’s used restraint and very smart diplomacy (do you ever see in the American papers reports of the five visits Netanyahu made to Moscow in 2019?). He’s managed to keep the Syrians from firing at the Israeli warplanes bombing them, while the Israelis have been helping Saudi Arabia to send funds and arms to Islamic State. He’s managed to keep things open with Turkey, despite Turkey continuing to provide support to Hayat Tahrir al Shams (Al Qaeda, currently still ensconced in Idlib Province). I wish I could find out why, aside from needing an enemy, no matter how improbable, the neocons are so determined to have a hot war with Russia (my inference, because that’s what their behavior seems like).

      2. upstater

        Have you looked at the demographics of the Baltic states after their so-called “independence”? Populations have crashed under “freedom” to the same extent as Ukraine or Russia itself. Hundreds of thousands well-educated young have left Lithuania (I have dual citizenship) and remittances remain a large source of earnings.

        Like all of the FSU, oligarchs snapped up commercial and industrial enterprises. Except in the Baltics, they were flipped quickly to foreign ownership. IIRC, Landsbergis’s (the most prominent independence leader of 1990) wife got all the supermarkets and sold them quickly to Germany’s Metro for $60M. Telecom, banks, utilities, refineries, almost anything worthwhile is in foreign hands. Depopulated and deindustrialized, to benefit the large EU countries. Sanctions against Russia cost Lithuanian agriculture billions in lost markets for dairy and chicken.

        So long as we’re talking about East Prussia, perhaps Lithuania should give the Curolian Spit back to Germany, along with Klaipeda (Memel)? Or Maybe the Poles should give back Gdansk, Gydnia and Silesia back to Germany? After what Germany did to the USSR, they would have been nuts to give East Prussia back to Germany.

        And as I stated in a comment to Rev that is stuck in moderation, the racism of the Balts against Slavs (including Poles) and Jews is epic. The Jäger Report details how Jews, disabled, mentally ill were exterminated in a matter of weeks after the Nazi invasion, largely by Lithuanian collaborators. Sylvia Foti wrote in the NYT recently about discovering her grandfather — a Lithuanian hero, with schools and streets named after him — rounded up the Jews in a region and killed them all. Unfortunately this was typical; my mother was considered Volksdeutsche by my grandmother and evacuated to Berlin in huge people-swap in 1941; her family often said “the Jews were communists”, as if this was some justification.

        The racism today is best exemplified by the Latvia laws which largely deny ethnic Russians citizenship, some with many generations of heritage in Latvia. All the Baltics do their best to drive out Russians through discrimination of all sorts.

        The dutiful Lithuanians also helped run blacksites for the CIA after 9/11 — I suppose they had a lot of experience of ex-KGB that made the flip in doling out torture.

        The Balts, like all of Eastern Europe traded one empire for another. Historical propensities of empire surely run through the veins of German and US politicians and oligarchs, too.

        The USSR suffered 25M dead in WW2, the US 400K. Yes, Stalin made huge blunders and Generals casually sent soldiers to hopeless, senseless deaths. Russia has well-deserved paranoia, the US does not. I suppose we can agree that empires are not good…

        1. JTMcPhee

          On US and paranoia: US intent is to dominate everywhere. The US DISPENSES paranoia at large scale. There’s plenty of reasons for “lesser places” to be fearful of the Essential Hegemon…

        2. Randy G

          upstater — thank you very much for your thoughtful and detailed reply. I was thinking to weigh in to support Rev Ken’s arguments, but you are vastly more informed on the topic on an intimate level than I am — so I can avert having my views stuck in moderation limbo!

          I would just add some interesting economic research from Michael Hudson on the economic strangulation of Latvia after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

        3. Massinissa

          Lithuania has had a downward trend in Population since 1991 or 1992. You would think that with extra ‘freedom’ it would have reached some kind of baseline and stopped decreasing. Nope, continually decreasing even today. From 3.7 mil in 1990 to 2.7 mil today. Losing a million people in 30 years is really, really bad. Especially when its the equivalent of 1 in every 4 people leaving. Its possible many who left were ethnic russians (I know in Latvia, at least, most of the people who have left the country are non-latvians, but getting rid of so many hundreds of thousands of people, regardless of them being of differing ethnicity, is insane. Not sure how it is in Lithuania), but either way, its absolutely shocking. And it isn’t stopping. Its been 30 years, the degrowth should have stopped by now and its still dropping… Russia having no population growth but also no population degrowth looks good in comparison.

      3. farragut

        Russia is not the USSR. It seems to me (not an expert in Russian or geopolitical history), most of Russia’s foreign military excursions is due to defending native-speaking Russian populations stuck in disputed territories of former Soviet states (Donbas, Ukraine) or to quell civil wars in former Soviet states bordering Russia (just like the US would do if their were civil war in Mexico or Canada). Russian forces in Syria would be the lone example where Russia was helping defend an ally from Western aggression. Russia’s military excursions since the early 90s seem to be defensive in nature, nothing more.

        1. Eustachedesaintpierre

          As far as applying history to countries as it is being done here, IMO everyone should be worried about Germany if an EU military ever became a thing, As for the Baltic states who as far as I can see mainly export people while others like Romania in particular are in essence Neoliberal cheap labour set-ups being the equivalent of what Mexico is to the US.

          If Russia that is not the USSR, like Germany is no longer the 3rd Reich were to move into Eastern Europe it would very likely end with nuclear warheads flying all over the place, while even if they succeeded the cost of governing a bunch of countries who despise them would be incredibly expensive in all ways. Also with modern weapons there is no longer any need for a buffer zone, which Stalin believed was needed, because after all they were invaded losing something like 25 million people & basically ended up in Eastern Europe after destroying around 80% of the Wehrmacht & SS panzergruppen which was very fortunate for the Western Allies.

          Also Russia does not need Lebensraum & as far as trade is concerned that in case if anyone hasn’t noticed will be something that is increasingly occurring in the East with China, which will not be reliant on seaports. Russia is no pussycat but why poke a bee’s nest when you can get your honey from elsewhere ? while it is pretty obvious who is lusting after control over whose resources & whose very recent vicious history, never mind it’s past would be enough to convince any state that as is the case with Russia that most of their conventional military investment should be spent on defensive weapons.

      4. Maxwell Johnston

        This is a touchy subject, but I would like politely to point out that:

        a. History did not start in 1940 or 1945. The area known as the Baltics (or Courland, or Livonia, or the Prebaltika as the Russians now call it) has spent nearly all of its existence in thrall to outsiders (mainly Moscow or Berlin, nowadays Brussels and Washington). The USSR’s re-occupation in 1940 and 1945 was not so much a wild aberration, but more a reversion to the mean. Just sayin.

        b. A large chunk of the people who live in these three nations are ethnically Russian. Roughly 10% in Lithuania, 25% in Estonia, and about 33% in Latvia.

        c. The USSR’s territorial gains in WW2 had a lot to do with the blunt reality that the Red Army did most of the dirty work of defeating the Wehrmacht, plus the fact that most East European states at that time had gone along quite willingly with Hitler’s desire to attack the USSR, hence Stalin’s understandable desire to impose ‘friendly’ regimes in said countries post-1945. I don’t condone what the USSR did post-1945, but its actions are understandable.

        d. Neither the USA nor Russia is a benevolent player. Every country looks out for its interests.

        e. Your suggestion that Germany might assert its historic rights to Kaliningrad is one of the most hilarious ideas I’ve heard in a long time. I really enjoyed that one. Thanks for a much needed dose of humor.

        1. Wukchumni

          Yes, you really have to take the long view. I expect California to become something more akin to Italy of old before unification in 1861. A bunch of city states in a Mediterranean climate that segues into mighty mountains, half of the state bordering the sea.

          The way we obtained it from Mexico is instructive of how some things never change as far as projecting military might to get what we want.

          Before the Mexican-American War, Polk offered Mexico $25 million for California & New Mexico…

          …and then the winner made new terms

          The treaty called for the United States to pay US$15 million to Mexico and to pay off the claims of American citizens against Mexico up to US$5 million. It gave the United States the Rio Grande as a boundary for Texas, and gave the U.S. ownership of California and a large area comprising roughly half of New Mexico, most of Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. Mexicans in those annexed areas had the choice of relocating to within Mexico’s new boundaries or receiving American citizenship with full civil rights.

          1. Maxwell Johnston

            Ah, the Mexican-American War, yes indeed, that was an ugly little episode. Of course Mexicans might see things even more darkly: recall the previous episode in 1830s Texas (‘remember the Alamo’), plus the subsequent episode in the 1910s (Pancho Villa, John J. Pershing, a young George Patton, Veracruz, etc.) So perhaps three wars and not just one, between “The Exceptional Nation” and its lucky southern neighbor.

      5. km

        If Russia actually wanted to take over Ukraine, they could accomplish this in a matter of days or hours, or however fast it is that you can drive a tank to the opposite border.

      6. Edward

        The “Saker” writes similar opinions about the West on his blog along the lines of “Europe has been attacking Russia over and over again for centuries. Russia has only recently emerged from a catastrophic European attack that killed more then 20 million Russians. European hostility to Russia and Catholic hostility to the Greek Orthodox is in their blood.”

        “I don’t get it how people get so riled up on say the US pushing their interests around the world, but Russia doing so is ok.”

        If you look at how the two states have gone about pushing their interests, I think this response makes sense. The U.S. tears up treaties and laws while lecturing other countries about their obligations, commits wars of aggression against weaker countries, destroying them, sponsors coups to install client regimes, uses sanctions that often cause great hardship to coerce or regime-change other countries, and engages in economic hit man policies.

        Russia, on the other hand, says its foreign policy is to “make hostile countries neutral, and make neutral countries friendly”. They have a “win-win” approach to diplomacy, rather then “my way or the highway/regime-change”. They are in Syria at the invitation of the government, assisting this beleagered country fight off a jihadist regime-change operation supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the U.S., and Europe. About 50% of Syria is made up of minorities. They would be decimated by the jihadists. Russia’s position on Syria is that the government there should be decided by the Syrians, to which the Western response has been– silence. Russia has been trying to reconcile the warring parties and end the war with diplomacy.

        U.S. actions in Ukraine have been equally sordid. $6 billion was spent promoting regime change there. Ukraine’s democratically elected government was overthrown by a coalition including Nazis. It is now a failed state. The annexation of Crimea is not a black-and-white issue. Crimea was historically part of Russia and the current population there is 90% of Russian ethnicity. Krushchev, a Ukrainian, attached Crimea to Ukraine on a whim, possibly induced by vodka, without the consent of the inhabitants. At the time this wasn’t important, because both Ukraine and Russia were part of a single country. After the coup, though, Russia saw NATO designs on the military base there and annexed the area. I would have done the same thing in their position. And if I were the Ukrainian government I would have done what they did and scream bloody murder about it.

        Patrick Armstrong recently wrote and article about how the West is losing its soft power:

      1. km

        The policy itself was most assuredly written in the US Embassy, unless the Latvians themselves are so well trained that they don’t need instruction.

      2. michael Hudson

        I can’t believe how much this discussion misses the point. Actually, two points.
        First: The argument in Latvia isn’t about the PAST. that’s a front. It’s about the PRESENT. Russian-speakers are a third of the population, and their Harmony Center party is the largest party. It is denied a role in the parliament (although Latvia’s mayor is Russian-speaking). It wants to stop the kleptocracy and tax back the grabitizations. (I wrote most of its political program a few years ago, along with Jeff Sommers.) The “anti-Russians” are the pro-Kleptocrats, fun from Georgetown university.
        Second, who ARE these “Russian” Latvians. A great many (most?) seem to be Jews — who FLED the Soviet Union because of its anti-Semitism. As one Jewish student told me, her family was banned from politics, so her father went into real estate business, and has not shed a tear.
        What passes for Baltic governments are extremely fanatic libertarian neoliberals. The Texas Mayor cited in today’s Links would fit right in.

        1. Eclair

          My grandparents, illiterate peasants, emigrated from Lithuania, part of the Russian Empire at that time, in 1895, to work in the textile mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Overachievers, their sons became doctors, dentists and engineers. They married off, literally, their beautiful 19 year old daughter to a fellow Lithuanian, engaged in ‘import-export’, who moved the two of them to Kovno (Kaunas) in the 1920’s, to provide financial help to the struggling young republic. Supporting the spread of democracy! Family stories told of them being buddies with the Lithuanian president, Antanas Smetona.

          Quite by chance, last winter, I came upon the published diary of American diplomat, Robert W. Heingartner, consul in Kovno, from 1926 – 1928. He mentions my aunt and uncle (not, unfortunately in a flattering manner; Uncle-by-marriage was a bit shady, as well as hot-tempered, shooting my aunt’s lover). But I was fascinated by Heingartner’s gossipy tales of military coups and dinner table conversation at the presidential palace and consular residence (where the champagne flowed like water; US diplomats were excused from observing the 18th Amendment) with Lithuanian government officials speaking approvingly of the Italian fascists. Turns out the Lithuanian government was a bit on the repressive side, not at all the beacon of democracy that we had been led to believe.

  6. John Beech

    On Exxon ‘overvaluing’ fracking assets, who cares? Nobody on this earth accurately knows the value of anything until it changes hands. It’s always a best guess on the part of the party that owns it, and a best guess by the party being persuaded to loan against the asset on the other side (or in the case of the state, seeking to value it for tax purposes). Bottom line? It’s the best guess so it’s to be ‘expected’ everybody is tasked with getting the best deal for their side. Is anyone seriously surprised about any of this? Good grief!

    1. JTMcPhee

      And all those best guesses, these days, derived in an atmosphere of overwhelming fraud, are underwritten by the guarantees of essentially unlimited federal “bail-overs.” So there are lots of reasons why it is impossible to “value” things, especially things being extracted from what naively is considered the remnants of the “commons.”

      1. RMO

        Optimism can be cultivated until it becomes something very much like fraud. Valuing my house based upon city evaluations and a survey of recent selling prices of similar nearby houses could lead to a figure which might be off by a few tens of thousands of dollars in excess of what ti would bring if sold right now. That would be understandable. Valuing it at five or six times the current market prices of anything similar would not be. They admit to booking the assets at nearly $20 billion over what is now their “best guess” and that’s still $30 billion over what an appraisal based on a real world survey would be. That’s fraud, plain and simple.

  7. CanCyn

    Clearing snow pre snow plows…….
    Great story! We just moved to a rural property with a longish, unpaved driveway. My husband was flattening the snow by driving up and down it. Who knew we were using a tried and true method? After we had a 15cm snowfall this past week, we started to worry about how slushy and unstable it would be when temperatures start to warm. I would like to know what those roads were like in early spring. We ended up hiring a guy with a truck and plow to clear the driveway.

    1. John

      The farm I grew up on fronted on a dirt road, which was plowed by the town. The result was a hard packed snow surface. In the spring it was a seas of deep mud. Eventually it dried out and the town came along with a road grader.

      On the property the plowing was done with a horse pulling a heavy wooden A-frame. My father, reins in hand, stood on the crosspieces.

      In summer the dogs took dust baths in the road.

    2. Stephen

      We use a similar method. The problem to look out for is during the thaw-freeze cycles in the early spring, which out here is mid to late March.

      Fluffy, uncompressed snow will simply melt in the first set of thaws, usually on sunny days. The nightly freeze won’t have too much of an adverse affect.

      But the sections of the driveway you compressed will form a thick (1-2 inches) sheet of glassy ice. The compressive action is somehow a causal factor, though I will admit ignorance of the physics. The solution is to salt the compressed strips very heavily on the first thaw day.

      1. Swamp Yankee

        Re: pre-modern snow removal.

        I thought the NC Commentariat would appreciate this. It’s from my doctoral dissertation* (2016) on early Plymouth County, Massachusetts:

        The increased attention to the highways and byways of the town was evidenced by a novel introduction to Pembroke: for the first time, provision was made for the organized, communal clearing of snow from the roads during the winter months. In the spring of 1807, the Town “Voted That Surveyors of highways, be empowered to remove, or tread down snow in the winter, When the ways are blocked up with it._” Thus was the now-venerable practice of town snow-plowing born in Pembroke, a practice memorable to this historian during the research and writing of this dissertation. The practice continued in subsequent years. It was decided in 1808 “To impower Surveyors of highways to make a tax (if need be) to remove snow &c”; in 1809 these surveyors of highways were, in the course of their new, formalized snow duties, to “be served with warrants from the Selectmen to work out their tax bills.” Snow removal became an integral part of the road responsibilities of the Town in the following years. By 1815, the Town was giving elaborate instructions regarding the snow: “Voted that Surveyors of highways adopt the same method to remove Snow, which is practised in the Town of Abington. Viz. That Surveyors employ men at Sixty Cents per day, and oxen at the same price, and that a bill of their labor be exhibited to the Town at their March meeting, and added to the Sum raised for the repair of highways the this insuing Year; & the Sum of each man’s labor be taken out of his next year’s tax.”

        *The Enduring Commons: Ecology, Politics, and Economic Life in Plymouth, County, Massachusetts, 1691-1815 (University of Michigan, 2016).

    1. gc54

      As a Canadian Mr. Cruz at least should be able to tolerate cold weather, so it must be a “think of the (dual citizen) children” move.

        1. bassmule

          “However, Cruz’s office had not confirmed any travel plans to Cancun at the time of writing and Newsweek could not independently verify the claim that he was at an airport or flying on Wednesday.”

        2. urblintz

          “Before Justin Trudeau was prime minister of Canada, right winger Stephen Harper held the position. A loud-mouthed, somewhat boorish right-winger, he attacked immigrants, the indigenous nations of Canada, working people, the environment and everyone to his left. Millions of Canadians breathed a huge sigh of relief when Harper was defeated in the 2012 elections. The overall attitude was that Justin Trudeau and his redesigned Liberal party would turn the clock back on Harper’s right-wing politics and consequently move the nation forward. Imagine their surprise, then, when Trudeau and the Liberals barely altered Harper’s most egregious policies. They did, however, try to make them seem friendlier. If that didn’t work and most Canadians were still opposed, the Liberals either ignored the opposition or lied to them and the rest of the nation.”

          …and there was that Ford fellow in Toronto to be considered as well.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            But Trudeau Jr went to that one protest, which was protesting his own government’s policies, but…err…

          2. Winston Smith

            Harper was a lot smarter than this piece gives him credit for. “Boorish”? “Loudmouth”? Must be talking about that Ford fellow not Harper who was a quiet, glacial prince of darkness. Whenever, I saw Harper speaking in the House of Commons, I was reminded of the Disraeli’s quote on Sir Robert Peele:
            “”The Right Honourable Gentleman’s smile was like the silver plate on a coffin.”

            Yes Trudeau is a “branding” expert who has a range of ethical issues stuck to him for good. But are Canadians expected to vote for Erin The Tool?

            1. urblintz

              Thanks for the informed response! I had few opportunities to watch Harper in action. The Disraeli quote is stunning.

              And contrary to what my comment might have implied I do trust Canadians as a whole to have profoundly better judgement than usians.


            2. RMO

              Well Winston, that’s my problem when it comes to the next election neatly summed up. The past two federal elections have been the only ones in my lifetime where my riding had even the slightest chance of electing anyone but the Conservative candidate so I have found myself trying to figure the least awful choice. Despite having no regard for the Conservative party but several things the Liberals have done (and things they have not done) make it extremely hard for me to vote for them in the next election.

              I found (and find) Harper repugnant but loud mouthed and boorish don’t seem to me to be accurate descriptions of his public persona at least. I always got a vibe like he was the all grown up version of Damien from The Omen crossed with a bit of the always-creepily-smiling David Mainse on 100 Huntley Street.

              Of course here in Canada only the people in a handful of ridings actually vote for or against the person who will be Prime Minister anyways.

        3. wilroncanada

          Cruz is what we in Canada call a “Duel Citizen”. Any time he claims to still have anything to do with Canada, he will be invited to a “Duel” Many times. Toques at the ready, with a side of poutine and Canadian beer for sustenance.

    2. Dalepues

      Ted Cruz looks more and more like a cartel gangster every day. He used to sport the clean shaven jaw and close cropped hair of the class Republican. That’s how I remember him anyway. Now, he wears a beard and combs his lengthy hair straight back. The hood look.

    3. zagonostra

      Ted Cruz. Not surprising. The Rising covered today on their show. The whole political leadership class is morally bankrupt. The Dems shouldn’t be getting their Schadenfreude off, just look at what Pelosi/Biden have done with respect to getting money to people cued up to food lines. Congress takes their breaks, the rich fly to their islands; to quote that that infamous Texas Mayor:

      No one owes you [or] your family anything; nor is it the local government’s responsibility to support you during trying times like this!” he said. “Sink or swim it’s your choice! The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout.”

      These are the people you/we select/elect to positions of political power. It’s no surprise to the awake what they will do when you reach out for a helping hand.

    4. The Historian

      I’m wondering when the people of Texas will finally figure out that they voted for the wrong people, Will this latest fiasco do it? Probably not.

      1. chuck roast

        Perry reminds me of the urban guys who run the “which cup is the pea under” corner scam. That would be the first thing that the Texans will have to figure out…the guy is running a scam, don’t play the game.

        Two years ago we had a deep freeze on the island. Some bit of natural gas piping infrastructure failed somewhere off-island. This resulted in everyone on the island with a home or business having to turn off the water, shut down the gas and vacate the building. The responsibility for this fiasco rested with National Grid, a giant monopoly based in London with a $5B annual bottom line.

        When the pols knocked on my door before the recent election I told them that my priority was that National Grid should be condemned as a public nuisance and all of its properties on the island seized by eminent domain. The three municipalities on the island should thereafter run the local gas company as a public utility owned by all islanders. The pols all looked at me like I just dropped in from outer space.

    5. Eclair

      Wasn’t it a Texas official who remarked, early in the pandemic when it became apparent that elders were the ones dying, that old people would be willing die in order keep ‘the economy’ open?

      We need to make it a requirement of holding office, that any official who promulgates ‘sacrifice’ should be first line.

  8. zagonostra

    >Can Anyone Moderate Podcasts? The Verge.

    Reading this article brought to mind the controversy that Leo Strauss initiated in speculating that Machiavelli’s writings contained hidden references/meanings. Strauss contended that

    reading of Machiavelli was based on the esoteric principle that the surface meaning of Machiavelli’s texts does not always indicate his real intention. According to Strauss, for reasons mostly related to religious and political persecution, Machiavelli practiced esoteric techniques in his works to conceal his profound and subversive insights from the common reader. In other words, Machiavelli is an esoteric writer who conveys his real teaching only to a select group of readers who are familiar with the secretive or esoteric mode of communication. For Strauss, Machiavelli in his writings “does not go to the end of the road; the last part of the road must be travelled by the reader who understands what is omitted by the writer.”

    So I imagine as podcaster’s ability to reach their audience is increasingly censored by algorithms, it only stands to reason that they will develop their own “esoteric” system of communicating on verboten topics.

    As things change the more they remain the same…

      1. zagonostra

        Interesting you should say that about Strauss when you view how higher education today is mediated through technology and PC culture.

        If you listen to Strauss’ audio lectures he has his students read the text in English while he followed along in the original language, whether it was German, Greek, or Latin, occasionally stopping the student to make corrections to the interpreter’s rendition. Student’s today could only dream of attending lectures by such an erudite professor. Which is not to say that his political views, especially as they were distorted by his epigones, are not anathema. But as with Heidegger or Nietzsche the brilliance/scholarship has to be separated from the man, at least to the extent that it is possible

        Below is invaluable site for listening to some of his classic lectures, though the audio leaves much to be desired by standards of today’s podcast.

        1. cocomaan

          Love it, thanks. Will have to take a listen, what a treasure.

          I know a few Straussians and they are castigated in the liberal arts schools they teach in. It’s a shame. They’re viewed as troglodytes and racists for no good reason at all.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I have not read any Strauss or listened to any of his lectures. What texts by Machiavelli did Strauss have in mind as esoteric? I remember what I was told about Machiavelli in grade school and encyclopedia references, and plays. I believe much of “The Prince” has been misunderstood because it made such great material for writing villains for plays half of a century later. I view Machiavelli as a Florentine Republican. Rather than esoteric I believe “The Prince” is a very subversive book, written to undermine any notions of Divine Right that royalty might claim.

      1. Harold

        “The Prince”hides its esoteric meanings right on the surface layer of its text, which people don’t bother to read carefully, projecting what they want to believe onto or under it.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Is your comment esoteric like “The Prince”? Do I need to study Strauss or some other key? I am not pleased to read Machiavelli’s writings as were they alchemical tomes — Obscurum per obscurius. Ignotum per ignotius?

  9. The Rev Kev

    “Rewilding: Beavers to be reintroduced in record numbers across Britain this year”

    This is really great news this as beavers will be a net benefit to Britain. I see that they are also being introduced to Cornwall as well. I hope that they are remembering to get beavers from different populations to create genetic diversity or else they could be laying down problems for themselves down the track-

    1. KB

      Hmm, here in many creek and river beds in and around Minneapolis, the beavers are destroying the forests creating opportunity for the dreaded buckthorn to further destroy them.

      A walk in the forest of my childhood just weeks ago was devastating to see the beaver destruction.

      Balance? and be careful what you ask for I guess…

      1. The Rev Kev

        Probably the problem with Buckthorns is that they are not a native species which beavers developed with but were one brought to North America in the 1800s as an ornamental shrub. We have a similar problem with Lantanas in Oz which too were an ornamental plant introduced into the country.

        1. Wukchumni

          Jedediah Smith was the first American to see the rivers emanating from the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in the 1820’s and pronounced said currents to be among the best beaver laden rivers he’d ever seen.

          And he was all top hat & no cattle, in that those made of beavers were all the rage.

          No reason why you couldn’t reintroduce them as the lay of the land hasn’t changed remarkably behind me here on the front porch of the back of beyond.

          Once upon a time Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep were throughout the entire range, I read of an account of seeing a herd around Lake Tahoe in the 1840’s, and closer to home in Mineral King, there were 2 herds of around 75 bighorns living near passes on either end of the valley @ Farewell Gap & Timber Gap in the 1870’s when the silver rush started. That would be so awesome to see today, and they’d totally be protected.

          The good thing is, that they’re making it happen potentially here, in rewilding some of the 600 or so from their current hanging out aerie near Mt Williamson to the Chagoopa Plateau on the other side of the Kern River.

          Some of the monies to allow for the expense of location, tranquilization and transfer are supplied by auctioning off hunting tags, one of which fetched $450k.

          Maybe a decade ago we were at a potluck in town, and there’s a hunting guide here that will take the well heeled would be Hemingway to where they want to go (We’re talking 12-14k feet) to fulfill their kill.

          He had a client who only wanted the head of his sheep thrill as a trophy, and had brought some over for his contribution to the well being of our bellies, and no matter how long cooked and over-marinated it was, tasted so gamy.

      2. jrkrideau

        Reportedly the European beaver in not an aggressive as the North American beaver. I remember reading somewhere the statement that “they are not that good at building dams”.

        On the other hand, Argentina introduced Canadian beavers in Tierra del Fuego with great “success”. Apparently the have invaded mainland Argentina and Chile.

    2. GC54

      I still want capybaras (re?)introduced into NYC sewers and subway tunnels. The image of giant rodents there appeals. Could wrestle the alligators.

  10. The Rev Kev

    “Tough-guy Texas mayor tells residents ‘fend for themselves’ and resigns”

    ‘The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING!’

    Does that mean that all the people in that town can get their taxes refunded to them because the local government will do nothing for them? In any case, I don’t think that Tim Boyd really has a grip on what it was like on the early frontier that he seems to derive his beliefs from. I suspect that life there was more along the lines of the Amish if anything. I don’t think too that he has worked out that a belief system based on Darwinism cannot compete against a group that practices mutual help.

    1. Wukchumni

      The situation in Texas has real possibilities to go feral as the ingredients are all there, thanks to gross lack of preparation by not just the leadership, but seemingly the vast majority of the populace.

      There are no guns i’m aware of that need electricity in order to work, and I suppose a hand cannon could double as an ad hoc divining rod in finding a water source underfoot, so there’s that too.

      Why did gun sales go through the roof since Covid?

      It wasn’t the fear of foreigners, but of an implacable foe, us.

      1. PS

        I can’t recall a time in recent memory when I haven’t heard that guns sales are going through the roof.

    2. CuriosityConcern

      How is Tesla et al’s move to Tx going? I wonder if there are any second thoughts among the c suite and/or the rank and file.

    3. Swamp Yankee

      Yeah, this point about the frontier is a great one, Rev Kev. There are differing degrees of communitarianism vs. individualism in American westward migration, with the New England strain that dominates upstate NY, the Great Lakes, the northern Plains and the Pacific North West the most communitarian, and the Upland Southern strain that goes from southern Appalachia through Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, northern Texas the most individualist.

      That said, even these highly individualist settlers in Texas are not some kind of Randian, up-by-your-bootstraps supermen. They are critically reliant on kinship linkages (think of how significant kinship is in, say, the Hatfields vs. the McCoys), they are reliant on the Texas Rangers/US Army to protect them from the Commanches, etc, they depend on itinerant circuit-riding preachers to tend to their spiritual needs.

      “No man is an island,” after all.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        aye. observing rural texans for a lifetime, yes….the crazy randian lonerism…much like the over the top hatred of Others…is largely driven by rhetoric and influence from outside.
        sure, my hill folks are wary of strangers and new ideas, but they’ll still stop to help you change your tire.
        first 3 tru,p years were instructive…tea party fervor had exhausted itself, gop…and “conservative movement” writ large…were out of favor(pox on both their houses), and the acrimony and performative assholery were at an historic low.
        same with local’s FB and twit rhetoric.
        only ones still swilling the gop/tea koolaide, were hard core Party operatives.
        i watched small-c conservatives roll their eyes at those nutters….and then ask me about Bernie.
        Pandemic undid this right quick…and i watched it in real time…it was purposeful, and played on fear, uncertainty and doubt…like any good counterinsurgency op.
        but the pandemic, out here, at least, was invisible….and largely remains so, since most who get it sail right through(so far).
        this montana invades BS is acute, very visible, and is effecting everyone more or less equally.
        my pod of neighbors…4 households plus us…have been checking on each other for the duration.
        and our necessary town trips during this have been of a piece with that…pharmacist handed me wife’s meds in his yard…”we’ll settle up later”…things like that.
        “we’re in this together”.
        just prior to this mess, the courthouse arson had already begun being seized upon by all and sundry as a method of rallying together, unconsciously mitigating the last year of division and acrimony.
        remarkable to watch.

        “social media” is inherently unsociable…and was likely a mistake, as currently configured.

      2. Wukchumni

        Judging from the severity from the accounts i’ve been reading, we’re going to need the equivalent of a Berlin Airlift to resupply Texans with just the lower tier of Maslow’s pyramid, and then keep it going for sometime.

  11. JTMcPhee

    Forgive my obsession with Vietnam, but here’s the closing sentence in the France24 article on Vietnam having to impose restrictions in response to “outbreaks” of Covid there:

    “ As of Monday morning, Vietnam had tallied 2,229 coronavirus cases and 35 deaths across a population of 95 million.”

    Compare to US: 28.5 million “cases,” bearing limitations of data efforts in mind, and 502,500 deaths, in a population of 332 million.

    Heckuva job, Uncle Sam!

    1. Wukchumni

      Gooooood Moooooorning Fiatnam!

      The platoon was knee deep in big muddy somewhere on the outskirts of the Kho Viet plains purposely perched on pointed Punji sticks, that is we all had our first shots of vaccine.

      State Provides Quality Rx

      1. Anonymous


        Yep, if we only worshiped precious metals like you apparently do, all would be well. /sarc

        Btw, precious metal backed fiat is STILL fiat but needlessly expensive and puts the taxation authority and power of government behind special interests such as gold owners, gold miners and those who seek risk-free gains from the young, for example, via deflation.

        1. Wukchumni

          You must have me mixed up with somebody else, I worship nature and it nurtures me.

          I’m cool with fiat as its all i’ve ever known and the great multiplication of money has been fascinating to watch, and await the ending of the Cinderella story as one of those turning points in history that I was lucky enough to witness. Hope it doesn’t get too messy though.

          1. Anonymous

            and await the ending of the Cinderella story as one of those turning points in history that I was lucky enough to witness. Hope it doesn’t get too messy though. Wuk…

            Then note that the demand for fiat is unjustly suppressed in that only a government-privileged usury cartel, aka “the banks”, may use fiat except for grubby coins and paper Central Bank Notes.

            Think that makes a difference wrt the value of fiat? Or does only supply matter?

            1. Wukchumni

              I don’t think anything matters now as its all a chimera ruse, we’re in uncharted territory.

              This rather unlimited amount of fiat has been to our detriment, greatly accelerating climate change, almost all fueled initially by oil becoming money-the true boogeyman of minerals, we can’t bear to do without. And then we discovered other ways to conjure it out of the ether, especially with the advent of the internet.

              1. Anonymous

                This rather unlimited amount of fiat has been to our detriment,

                Actually, it’s usury that requires unending growth – to pay the interest.

                Do you think then that government privileges for usurers is a good idea?

                As for the unlimited supply of inexpensive fiat, that’s a GOOD thing so long as it distributed in a manner that does not violate equal protection under the law.

        2. Wukchumni


          I have extensive holdings of what was once perhaps the rarest of all precious metals in its natural state in the guise of perhaps a thousand feet of it in the cupboard right out in the open for anybody to take, but who steals rolls of Reynolds Wrap?

          Aluminum foil is damned handy for cooking and can be re-used after cooking Coq Au Vin or baking cookies.

          A gift from the gods in that were able to figure out how to make it commonplace in our lives just in time to allow lighter than air planes to ascend (Wright Flyer had an aluminum crankcase) above our situation.

          We never had aluminum coins in the USA nor anywhere really in the developed world, but most of the 3rd world coinage did, as it was kind of the cheapest of metals to mint with, oh how the mighty precious metal had fallen!

  12. tegnost

    Historians will look back in horror when all this era is past. Reagan gets a lot of blame but really from the reign of King of the Burning Bush II on it’s been a predictable debacle with overtones of postbellum carpetbaggery and it’s attendant corruption and insider dealing leading to a hubris of unmatched elevation. King of Thieves the Obama will get the blame up to now, and king Trump of the Claptrap will be seen as a sort of talisman where those looking back will note that it was already too late, the iceberg had pierced the soul of the ship of state, and King Biden of the Scorched Earth will deliver us into the interregnum.

      1. Wukchumni

        The object of my desire is eerily similar to the too big to fail corporations & public concerns, in that a good many of them are crooked, top heavy with management in branch offices, and shallow roots as far as supply chain goes. They never go just a little ways down when they fall, its one massive implosion to a prone position.

        Nothing in natures realm ever lies to me although many resort to deceit when trying to be on the down low should we be in their presence. I’ll try to be quiet so as to get a fleeting glimpse of the high altitude upper crust…

        Man Walks Among Us by Marty Robbins

      2. km

        What’s next – another in a series of Chernobyl moments, episodes that demonstrate beyond even the power of the KGB to keep secret that our overlords are not only greedy, corrupt, tribal and self-serving – they are also….incompetent.

        All the calls for censorship, for “rooting out extremism” are a de facto admission that our rulers are not confident that they will fairly win the battle of ideas.

          1. km

            Trust me, our masters are not only incompetent. They are still greedy, corrupt, tribal and self-serving, among other such qualities.

            1. JTMcPhee

              …for all that supposed incompetence (and what you list are just characteristics, not metrics of competence), they still are the Ruling Elite…. they don’t have to deliver positive governance, or concrete material benefits, is that they are competent at crushing and looting, and organized enough to make it stick.

              1. km

                How did that work for the USSR? Their ruling elite were masters in reliance upon brute force as opposed to persuasion.

                Some of the Nomenklatura made out like bandits under the new system. Some didn’t. Either way, the new system was nowhere near as powerful as what the USSR had been.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Reagan and Clinton were really awful. Shrub’s imperial wrecking is one thing, but he and Obama are just the heirs of Ronnie and Willie. Deregulation, unfunded mandates, telecommunications conglomeration, cutting capital gains, and so forth, these two were just awful. The parties, not that the GOP has ever been good, became diseased hate fill corporate whores under their rules.

      Obama was bad and would be much worse if there was more to wreck. The others are minor actors. Carter was a blue print, but he doesn’t quite have the unhinged worship of bad government that every president and so many of our political elites have as a tenet of faith.

      1. tegnost

        I agree completely, just speculating on who will get the blame when all is said and done… For all of the sins of the others, obama had the clearest chance to set things into a more equitable framework, so that’s where I expect most of the blame to fall, especially when viewed with the loss to trump then the reinvigoration with the obama alumni association. We’ve reached another level.
        For myself I watched the whole thing starting with reagan, and you’ve pointed out that maybe I shouldn’t exonerate myself with my carter vote. At any rate, it’s been a consistent effort lasting my adult life. Now it just seems tragicomic.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Obama will be remembered as a 2nd gilded age President who “leaned” into the influencer lifestyle.

      2. Jason

        Agree with your sentiments though I would say Carter, or his administration anyway, was more than just a blueprint. Brzezinski and Volcker were working off the blueprints left by many others, going back to Hayek and earlier. They began the project, in earnest, of demolishing the former edifice and laying the foundation for what was to come. The Reagan era continued and went to work on the zeitgeist, changing it.

    1. JTMcPhee

      And just how would the Bolivians be able to enforce any kind of clawing back of any of the looters’ ill-gotten gains? Send the Bolivian Special Ops teams to the Imperial Capital to extract it from IMF Headquarters there? Try some kind of cyber-Robin-Hooding? Refuse to play in the IMF’s Imperial sandbox any more? Pass a law that no Jackals or Color Instigators will be allowed in Bolivia?

  13. Mikel

    “Can Anyone Moderate Podcasts?” The Verge. This new-found liberal lust to censor is really something.

    That everybody and their grandma has a podcast should be enough for the entire enterprise to soon reach over-saturation.
    In addtion, morning talk and evening talks shows are still on blast on radio and tv.

  14. Mikel

    “Tough-guy Texas mayor tells residents ‘fend for themselves’ and resigns” Houston Chronicle.

    “He also rallied the city by warning “only the strong will survive and the weak will parish (sic).”

    That’s not “Texas Tough Guy” talk – that is the same unstated view of people who worship at the alter of “the market” deciding the ‘best’ of outcomes. It’s the outdated and debunked “Social Darwinism” of the 19th Century still alive and well – the same interpretation of science and society that helped to make two episodes of world destruction possible.
    It’s the root of neoliberal economics.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      the Padre Island National Seashore, just south of Corpus, on “North Padre Island”, is one of my favorite places.
      used to go down there to fish and camp and watch the marine biology coeds ride up and down the beach on “Mules”(in bikinis), looking for turtle eggs.
      at sunset, i’d often be the only human for 30+ miles.
      glad to see they’re stepping up…but i wouldn’t expect any less, given the quality of the people i talked to down there.

  15. Susan the other

    Curious little cross link to Joshua Brown, investment adviser at Ritholz (where I first learned about NC). Good description of the state of “investment”. The state of capital. “The Big Long” seems to be a stoic philosophy of accepting that there is way too much money and synthetic money in this world and far too few good places to put it to create a profit. A good profit as opposed to a frivolous, money-only profit. Because money is not valued – that little twist always gets difficult for capitalists. Carried out to the end of the thought, then, profits accounted in money are not too important. I do like that one. But money shouldn’t be ignored because it is very important what that money actually does; what it creates. So if I read Mr. Brown correctly, he’s not being facetious about a “big long”. He’s OK with the whole thing, especially since there’s no place else to go. And, in his own way, Mr. Investment Advisor, he sounded just like Mark Blythe to me – when Mark Blythe shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t know how to balance the economy to make it work and we should all just enjoy our ability to deficit spend to create the world we need. Always liked that one too.

  16. Swamp Yankee

    I definitely identify with the piece about terrible small college administrations.

    The community college where I worked until last August, when falling enrollment due to Covid (and other factors, see below) gave them the excuse to cashier me and lots of other junior faculty and staff, could be almost a case study in corruption in higher education.

    One good example is the Registrar. She would routinely put out three different, competing academic calendars, quite literally copying and pasting one year to another. Thus students would think their exam was on the 12th, whereas faculty were told it would be on the 22nd.

    How did said Registrar get to her position? Not through any relevant experience or credentials. In fact, she was made the head of the Nursing Program before becoming Registrar, despite having no background whatsoever in nursing (she holds an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration from the very college she works at). She did such an abysmal job at that — getting rid of all pre-requisites for nursing, so that you have people who are literally innumerate or illiterate or who aren’t English speakers trying, in vain, to become nurses — that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts stepped in and removed the program’s accreditation. Rather than being cast into the Outer Darkness, she was *promoted* to Registrar.

    Why? Well, said individual is the a) sister-in-law of the Mayor of the City that runs the college (one of the few municipally-owned colleges in the country); and b) the sister of the Chief of Police and the State Senator in said city. And yes, she is still employed, while their most productive teachers and staff are not.

    This is just one example of the cartoonish, Boss Tweed style corruption at this place (they also hired a literal war criminal, who rewrote the American Psychological Association’s guidelines to allow psychologists to take part in CIA torture sessions in the 2000s, as our first ever Provost, at 250,000K per year).

  17. lordkoos

    Great piece on the Texas distaster:

    From the article:

    In a 2019 story for the Texas Observer, Amal Ahmed wrote that Texas’s energy grid, ERCOT, “has the lowest reserve margins, or extra supply, out of any grid system in the United States this summer. If customers had needed more electricity than predicted, there wouldn’t be much room for error, and ERCOT might have needed to initiate rolling blackouts to prevent a larger, more dangerous power outage.” The state was warned a decade ago that this might happen. And they did nothing. “The ERCOT grid has collapsed in exactly the same manner as the old Soviet Union,” an expert told the Houston Chronicle. “It limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances.” In other words, a lack of capable governing allowed an important and life-sustaining system to rust.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      Good thing Texas has the former governor and dept of energy secretary, Rick Perry, available to straighten things out! Man, with those credentials, he’s got to be up for the job.

  18. Dirk77

    Perseverance landed safely a minute ago. I saw the link on NC five minutes ago and tuned in. Not that they were waiting for me to land it…

    1. Dirk77

      My mistake, apparently the “live” feed on the NASA site isn’t really. So I guess I’m not the center of the universe after all…

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