Links 5/6/2022

Lambert and I, and many readers, agree that Ukraine has prompted the worst informational environment ever. We hope readers will collaborate in mitigating the fog of war — both real fog and stage fog — in comments. None of us need more cheerleading and link-free repetition of memes; there are platforms for that. Low-value, link-free pom pom-wavers will be summarily whacked.

And for those who are new here, this is not a mere polite request. We have written site Policies and those who comment have accepted those terms. To prevent having to resort to the nuclear option of shutting comments down entirely until more sanity prevails, as we did during the 2015 Greek bailout negotiations and shortly after the 2020 election, we are going to be ruthless about moderating and blacklisting offenders.

–Yves

P.S. Also, before further stressing our already stressed moderators, read our site policies:

Please do not write us to ask why a comment has not appeared. We do not have the bandwidth to investigate and reply. Using the comments section to complain about moderation decisions/tripwires earns that commenter troll points. Please don’t do it. Those comments will also be removed if we encounter them.

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The Fed owes the American people some plain-speaking Gillian Tett, FT. The deck: “Chair Jay Powell must acknowledge that free money has made asset prices unsustainably high.”

Wall Street Isn’t Ready for the Crackdown Coming Its Way Bloomberg

A New York law to end to Wall Street’s pension ripoff Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic. With shout-out to NC.

The design of a data governance system Bank of International Settlements. Recommends India’s Data Empowerment Protection Architecture (DEPA).

Climate

A climate scientist on India and Pakistan’s horror heatwave, and the surprising consequences of better air quality The Conversation

This Plastic-Eating Enzyme Could ‘Supercharge’ Recycling Treehugger (Re Silc).

#COVID19

It ain’t over ’til it’s over Science. Important.

More freedom or more death: A pandemic quandary we have yet to solve Globe and Mail

* * *

FDA Severely Limits Use of J&J COVID Shot MedPage Today

What ‘Pfizer Documents’ Release Reveals Newsweek. I don’t love Pfizer, but the tweet storm on the latest Pfizer document dump was…. not helpful. Here is a link to the documents.

A Southeast Asia Expert Review of Global Real-World Vaccine Effectiveness Against SARS-CoV-2 (preprint) ResearchSquare. A meta-study. Interpretation: “Our review of the robust real-world VE [vaccine efficacy] data collated through the IVAC VIEW-hub platform confirms that the most studied COVID-19 vaccines in this database provide consistently high (>90%) protection against serious clinical outcomes like hospitalisations and deaths, and regardless of variant. Additionally, our observation that this protection appears equivalent for mRNA vaccines and vector vaccines like AZD1222 [AstraZeneca] is supported by our analysis of local Asian and relevant international data, and by insights from SEA experts.”

* * *

SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Variant is as Deadly as Previous Waves After Adjusting for Vaccinations, Demographics, and Comorbidities (preprint) Research Square. n = 130,000. “Although the unadjusted rates of hospital admission and mortality appeared to be higher in previous waves compared to the Omicron period, after adjusting for confounders including various demographics, Charlson comorbidity index scores, and vaccination status (and holding the healthcare utilization constant), we found that the risks of hospitalization and mortality were nearly identical between periods. Our analysis suggests that the intrinsic severity of the Omicron variant may be as severe as previous variants.” Commentary:

Does US really have world’s highest Covid death toll? BBC (Re Silc). Re Silc writes: “Our victory was fleeting, but still more time to claim the crown!”

China?

Xi Jinping says China’s Covid policies will ‘stand the test of time’ in Shanghai South China Morning Post

Standing Committee doubles down on “dynamic zero-Covid” and calls for struggle against doubters Sinocism.

Being on the wrong side of this issue now could, to be euphemistic, have a career-limiting impact.

The Shanghai Party Committee held an expanded meeting Thursday evening to transmit the spirit of the Standing Committee meeting. Party Secretary Li Qiang must be desperate to save his job and his political future, and so will now push incredibly hard to show Xi he gets it and can fix things. But someone has to be held accountable for the Shanghai disaster, and it will not be Xi unless there are much bigger changes coming.

What the Shanghai Lockdown Means for Luxury Jing Daily

Myanmar

Continued resistance against the military coup ACLED

Myanmar regime condemns Malaysia call for ASEAN to work with NUG Al Jazeera

India

‘Kindly don’t patronise us, we know what to do’, Ambassador Tirumurti’s curt reply to Dutch envoy’s tweet on Ukraine Tribune India

Facebook Deliberately Caused Havoc in Australia to Influence New Law, Whistleblowers Say WSJ

UK/EU

Defiant Boris brushes off London Tory bloodbath and rebukes leadership rivals as Labour LOSES votes outside capital with ‘Red Wall’ holding in local elections – but PM still faces fury over Partygate and Lib Dem threat in the shires Daily Mail

Would a Sinn Féin victory open the door to a united Ireland? FT

EU citizens may sue countries for health-damaging dirty air, top court adviser says Reuters

New Not-So-Cold War

Ukraine’s Forces Are Told To Hold The Line Where Russian Artillery Is Pulverizing Them Moon of Alabama. “Grinding” defined operationally. Well worth a read.

“It’s not about saving Ukrainian lives, it’s about saving political face here at home” (video) Scott Ritter. “A false sense of capability.” Well worth a listen, and only seven minutes.

Russia Threatens NATO Convoys With Submarine Strike Reuters

‘A second Afghanistan’: Doubts over Russia’s war prosecution Al Jazeera

* * *

Hungary: 9 other EU countries have opened accounts in Russian Banks Al Mayadeen

Unity on Ukraine is crumbling in Eastern Europe Unherd

* * *

Tell us how this war in Ukraine ends Responsible Statecraft

What If the War in Ukraine Doesn’t End? Foreign Affairs

The key challenge resides not so much in the nature of support for Ukraine. It resides in the nature of support for the war within the countries that are backing Ukraine. In an age of social media and of image-driven emotionality, public opinion can be fickle. For Ukraine to succeed, global public opinion will have to hold strong on its behalf. This will depend, more than anything, on adept and patient political leadership.

So the war in Ukraine is like the Clinton campaign: You’ve got to keep pumping hot air into the balloon to keep it aloft.

Possibility of talks between Zelenskyy and Putin came to a halt after Johnson’s visit – UP sources Ukrainska Pravda (!).

Biden Administration

Amazon Gets Huge Contract Despite Biden’s Union Pledge The Lever

Supremes

How the leak might have happened SCOTUSblog

Ben Franklin Put an Abortion Recipe in His Math Textbook Slate (Furzy Mouse). “Deeply rooted.”

The Intelligence Community

C.I.A. Captive Was Too Small for Waterboard, Interrogator Testifies NYT

Damage Control: CIA Told Bolsonaro “Not To Mess” With Brazil Election, US Government Sources Claim BrasilWire

Tech

Smartphones Are Killing Kids The American Conservative. As Silicon Valley squillionaires know.

OPT: Open Pre-trained Transformer Language Models (preprint) (PDF) Meta AI. Commentary:

And:

And:

Ugly.

Here We Are Again!—How Joseph Grimaldi Invented the Creepy Clown JSTOR Daily

Supply Chain

Sea-Intelligence reports increased blanking activity on Asia-North Europe Container News. “A blank sailing is a sailing that has been canceled by the carrier, which may mean one port is being skipped, or the entire string is canceled.”

Trash Mountain Could Burst Into Flames Any Minute Manufacturing.net.

The county relies on trains with empty shipping containers to move the garbage from the railyard to a nearby landfill. But staffing shortages and likely supply chain disruptions have limited the amount of shipping containers that can be transferred over to the railyard. On top of that, the Burlington Northern railway also has staffing shortages.

I wonder if the same thing is happening at other landfills.

Shortages

The nationwide baby formula shortage is getting worse CBS

Boeing

HOTR: Boeing moving HQ to Washington, DC, was obvious to those looking Leeham News and Analysis

‘Buy now, pay later’ is sending the TikTok generation spiraling into debt, popularized by San Francisco tech firms SFGate

Class Warfare

Starbucks plans wage increases that won’t apply to unionized workers. NYT

Pondering the Bits That Build Space-Time and Brains Quanta

Antidote du jour (via):

Bonus antidote (Tristan):

Tristan writes: “[Here is a] little lamb birthed on my farm I thought your readers might enjoy. Here I had brought him in on a particularly cold day about a month ago, and he is modeling a fancy Yorkshire Terrier coat I modified to fit him. His name is Pinkman, age 1 week in this picture.”

See yesterday’s Antidote du Jour and Links 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.

151 comments

    1. fresno dan

      flora
      ….of the serial killer known as “The Killer Clown” who murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men in the 1970s. I wasn’t able to finish it because I don’t have that kind of stomach, but what jumped out at me listening to him was the way he talked about how much he loved power and what an easy time he had manipulating his way up the ladders of political influence.
      Really makes you think about how many psychopaths who are just a little bit more functional must be in politics today, on all levels. …. Or if they are that messed up and not clever enough to avoid getting caught, but their fetish for murder and suffering is satiated by something that’s considered politically acceptable in our society, like war.
      ….
      The competition-based models that shape our society tend to reward those who are willing to do whatever it takes to get to the top, and the type of person who is willing to do whatever it takes to get to the top happens to be the type of person who enjoys the power which comes from being at the top.
      ….
      When all your systems inevitably reward psychopaths with power and money, you will necessarily find yourself ruled by psychopaths.

      Reply
        1. anon y'mouse

          a friend has a theory that these were attempts at viral marketing of something or other.

          my theory was mass hysteria (i guess they’re calling this “social contagion” now?) of some kind, as similar to back during the 70s-90s, a crime would be in the news with mention of the possible perpetrator in a “white van”. everyone everywhere would constantly then notice white vans, and get a bit too animated about them even if the crime had occurred on the other side of the country just yesterday.

          Reply
      1. Martin Oline

        A good friend of mine in Iowa told me in the late ’70’s that another mutual acquaintance had been molested by Gacey when young and that Gacey was sent to prison as a result. The result of the trial made his family move to Des Moines from their original location in Iowa. I never knew the truth of the matter but suspected, if it was true, that conviction could be the reason why Gacey started murdering his victims. I have never been a fan of true crime but your comment made me do a little looking at the man and I found this from Brittanica: “In 1968, after his conviction for sexually assaulting a teenage boy, he was confined in the Iowa State Men’s Reformatory (Anamosa State Penitentiary) and forced to undergo psychological evaluation. After his release in 1970 and while still on parole, he was again arrested for sexual assault, but the charges were later dropped.” Perhaps this story was true after all. My acquaintance was completely freaked out by his narrow escape.

        Reply
        1. schmoe

          Netflix a new 3 part series on Gacy and it did indeed have an interview with one then-teenage male in Iowa who he allegedly tried to molest several times over the course of one day after Gacy gave him a ride to his house and let me stay for the night. He did not go to the police as he suspected he would not be believed.

          Reply
          1. britzklieg

            Gacy was a prominent Democratic organizer in his district. Like Nancy says – it’s a big tent and all are welcome. /s

            Reply
      2. griffen

        It is not for everyone, but the Netflix series Mindhunter was generally a strong, and on occasion excellent and well acted show. Some really dark material, once they started their work in the basement ( but not letting anyone really know what they were starting ).

        Disappointing that a season 3 will not be available.

        Reply
    2. Stick'em

      Often when thinking about Washington DC and it’s famous kabuki theater, this song plays in my head:

      https://youtu.be/lTaT1SxCssM

      “Isn’t it bliss? Don’t you approve?
      One who keeps tearing around and one who can’t move
      But where are the clowns? Send in the clowns
      They’re already heeeeeeere…”

      Reply
    3. shinola

      Psych prof circa 1974:
      -“A sociopath is a psychopath who has learned some social skills.”

      According to the prof. it would be rare for a person to encounter a true adult psychopath in ordinary circumstances as most are dead or incarcerated by the time they reach adulthood while a sociopath can be quite successful – particularly in politics or organized crime…

      Reply
      1. Stick'em

        In general, what we look out for in these whackjobs is organized vs. unorganized behavior. So we expect the organized psycho/sociopaths to be more successful at mayhem and maleficence than the unorganized ones. Neither group cares much about their fellow human beings as anything more than tools, like furniture or a wristwatch. But they do have different degrees to which they fear getting caught and abilities to make sure they don’t.

        The disorganized ones tend to get caught because their impulsive behavior inevitably leads to a wrong time in a wrong place doing the wrong thing. The organized ones often become CEOs and politicians because they spend an inordinate amount of time plotting and planning how to get away with exploiting others using leverage and so on.

        The first book I read about this stabbing your way to the top phenomenon is Snakes in Suits.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snakes_in_Suits

        Reply
      2. anon y'mouse

        interesting. i always thought the distinction is that sociopaths control themselves because the manipulatiion of other people is instrumental to their goals (material, social, whatever), whereas a psychopath’s goal is to harm others because they enjoy it. the sociopath doesn’t care either way, they just want to obtain whatever they want to obtain and will use any means to get it. if conning you is easier, they’ll do that.

        isn’t this constantly argued about within psych circles?

        Reply
        1. Juneau

          It is argued and debated quite a bit. I have a peer who used to work with psychopaths (by your definition, sadistic killers) and he commented that they were notable for having no obvious distinguishing features, they were plan, dull, normal looking. Per Joe Navarro (former FBI, body language specialist) sociopaths are less deliberate more impulsive. His best point that it doesn’t matter who holds the knife to your throat, they’re all bad and should be avoided.
          https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/wicked-deeds/201401/how-tell-sociopath-psychopath

          Reply
  1. Geo

    “While Amazon was doubling down on its union busting, the Biden administration was delivering a massive federal contract to the company, signaling to Amazon executives that he is so far not interested in fulfilling his pledge to use the government’s purchasing power to be ‘the most pro-union president.’”

    Very on brand for Biden and the Dems. Surprised Biden wasn’t wearing Kente cloth when he had the photo op with Chris Smalls.

    Reply
    1. Nikkikat

      I’m gonna hope Smalls has learned his lesson. Keep the Democratic Party as far away as possible. Refuse to donate to Democrats or run a Pac for them. Do not give hard earned membership money to these clowns. Let them in and before you know it they will take over.
      They push you to get in bed with management, steal the money you need to organize or file grievances and plant trouble makers among your bargaining unit. Before long they manipulate your members to vote for their plants among the leadership and destroy your credibility. As President of my local for twelve years, I spent most of my time fighting with our leadership council, wholly owned by the Democratic Party puppets. He should have told Brandon where he could stick his Photo Op for it is they who brought the most destruction against the Unions.

      Reply
      1. judy2shoes

        He should have told Brandon where he could stick his Photo Op for it is they who brought the most destruction against the Unions.

        I haven’t forgotten Obama’s promise on the campaign trail to put on his comfortable shoes to stand with unions on the picket lines. When the Wisconsin teachers’ strike happened, they called on Obama and Biden to stand with them. Crickets.

        That’s not all I remember.

        Reply
    2. doug

      “Nothing will fundamentally change.” and “Amazon, here we come” were both fund raising slogans.

      Reply
  2. digi_owl

    So basically they “trained” their statistical language model to talk like your average edgy teen. Glorious…

    Reply
  3. Stick'em

    re: Smartphones Are Killing Kids

    The problem we are struggling with now is a video game system called Roblox. Makes my elementary school daughter nuts when she plays it online with her friends.

    If you haven’t read How Technology is Hijacking Our Minds by former Google ethicist Tristan Harris, you should. It outlines the details of how they do it, just like Bernays, just like Pavlov, just like gambling:

    https://medium.com/thrive-global/how-technology-hijacks-peoples-minds-from-a-magician-and-google-s-design-ethicist-56d62ef5edf3

    Reply
    1. Medbh

      The other issue with smartphones is that they are the center of kids’ social life. Our original plan was to buy our kids cell phones once they were in high school, but we learned there’s a significant social cost to not having a phone. All social planning is done via phones, and even when kids are together in-person, they’re texting or chatting on their phones.

      For example, I went to a professional soccer game with a group of middle school girl scouts. All of them were looking down at their phone and texting to each other, with the exception of my daughter (who had no phone). It was really bizarre and kind of creepy. A huge row of kids quietly ignoring each other and their surroundings, except everyone once in a while they’d all laugh together.

      I don’t know the solution, but I sympathize with the complaints of the phone-free kids (and our family went that route). Everything centers around the phones now, and there are significant social repercussions for not joining the crowd.

      Reply
      1. jr

        When I was a public presenter, I would become angry because 20-somethings would constantly open their phones while I was addressing them. Then I chilled out because it became ubiquitous and I realized they weren’t being intentionally rude. It was totally normal for them; it was no big deal. I think it was safe to assume a majority of those texts and emails weren’t crucial to their continued survival. They were just cool with ignoring speech to talk to their tech.

        Reply
      2. eg

        I refused to give my children one until the back end of grade 8, despite much grumbling from about grade 5 onwards

        Reply
        1. Late Introvert

          My daughter cried about it right before 7th grade, so I broke down. She’s not ruined by it, she’s a great kid getting straight A’s, and as was mentioned, it’s the center of her social life.

          Reply
            1. John

              My two grandchildren, 18 and 24, are quite damaged by cell phones although they woud deny that are are oblivious to ir.

              Reply
    2. Ranger Rick

      Back in the late 2000s and early 2010s, game developers struggled with the ethics of what they were doing in the emerging mobile game space. The mobile games market is now the biggest sector by revenue in the video game industry, and all the people with a conscience are gone.

      Reply
    3. lyman alpha blob

      My kid was into the Roblox too – it was recommended to her by an after school program at the Boys and Girls club. She’s outgrown it, but is now on to the social media nonstop or plays other stupid time-waster games in between messages rather than dealing with the reality all around her.

      The schools had already been using way too much tech in their teaching and that was greatly expanded while schools were closed, and it was the school system that introduced a chat room all the kids in the class could use around 5th or 6th grade. What a terrible idea that was – it took about 5 minutes before the girls were sniping at each other and feeling bad.

      Like Medbh above, we tried to wait until high school to get a phone for our kid, but how can you tell your kid too much tech is bad when the schools have been pushing it on them for years already? And I spoke to a lot of parents who have multiple older children and at first they would wait until high school to get the kid a phone, but that kid had younger siblings who would then be jealous, so the phone age just kept getting younger and younger. We finally broke down and got our kid a phone before 8th grade started and she was one of the last kids to have one.

      Seems like my years of parenting are now complete and the internet gets to do the rest. It’s a terrible problem and I have no idea what to do about it. They are so addicting you can’t take it away and expect any peace.

      Reply
      1. Stick'em

        The Roblox rage is probably seen over other videogames and electronic media as well. Just so happens this is our first encounter with it. Daughter plays 30 min with one of her real life friends online. When she gets off, you can’t talk to her or get her to do anything. It’s traumatic as a parent. Jarring for real because this isn’t behavior we see otherwise.

        I didn’t understand it until I read this article in which some of the biochemistry and neural development is explained.

        https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mental-wealth/201609/is-your-childs-brain-video-games

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Daughter plays 30 min with one of her real life friends online. When she gets off, you can’t talk to her or get her to do anything. It’s traumatic as a parent. Jarring for real because this isn’t behavior we see otherwise.

          That’s really bad.

          Reply
          1. Stick'em

            It’s a thing, Lambert. I usually avoid “mommy blogs” like this one:

            https://medium.com/illumination/the-dark-side-of-roblox-every-parent-should-know-93bf066b16c0

            because they tend to be scientifically unsound and hyperbolic, but this lady follows the money.

            We’ve spoken with the parents of our daughter’s friends who play Roblox with her online. Some of them see the same behavior and are glad to have someone else verify what they are seeing. The first step to solving a problem is awareness of the problem…

            My guess is as parents, we stare at our own phone/laptop/tablet/PC so much, we don’t want to call out the kids for doing it because doing so means we are hypocrites. I’m a hypocrite. The tech-navel-gazing behavior is normalized by society. I want to blame her uncle who gave her the iPad because he’s one of those “there’s an app for that” technological optimist, PMC types.

            But really there’s a learning curve for all of us about what we’re doing to kids’ minds (and our own). The problem is these games aren’t like the Atari I grew up on back in the day. We could only play Frogger so many times before you got bored and wanted to go outside and find a real frog. We never got to use the landline phone as kids. Never. Unless grandma called on Sunday nite. Probably because misdialing someone in Kansas could cost big bucks. Now?

            If hyper-reality is so much more real than reality for your average FoxNews or Facebook addicted friend, then imagine what it must be like for a kid who hasn’t had decades of being tethered to the real world prior to being immersed in the bullshit. I’m afraid most kids are growing up in the Land of Make Believe without anyone in school teaching ’em the critical thinking skills to get out:

            https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mental-wealth/201705/growing-in-false-reality

            Reply
      2. curlydan

        My 9th grade son skipped class recently, so we took away his phone for 5 days. It was like we got a real human back those days. He would talk to us more, play with the dog, and interact with his brother a lot more.

        Reply
    4. Maritimer

      Many of those opposed to lockdowns, universal masking and other draconian measures which drove the population to more and more digital dependence have been speaking out about these deleterious effects for at least two years. Yet, they were vilified, marginalized and censored. And all the ad nauseum studies of lockdowns/masking etc. never, never factored in the other consequences.

      Zooming, FBing, Tweeting, WFH, etc. as substitutes for face to face Human interaction are indeed at the very least hijacking the Human Mind if not destroying it.

      Reply
      1. Late Introvert

        Mask opponents need to be vilified, sorry. What that has to do with this topic I can’t see.

        Reply
      2. Basil Pesto

        on the bright side though, face to face interaction without respirators will sooner or later see your mind literally hijacked and destroyed by SARS2. Science you can trust! Dunno if that was in any of your ‘ad nauseam studies’ tho

        Reply
        1. Basil Pesto

          like it really is amazing. decades of moral panics about weed, videogames*, rap music, “lockdowns” lol. but the brain shrinking probably-hepatitis-causing-in-some-way bat virus? no that’s good. you want to fight it? what, do you hate freedom or something? are you a big pharma phaucian phascist?

          *(the concerns expressed in this thread about the more overtly manipulative and cynical design of latter-day videogames I fully recognise as legitimate, as to be fair many “gamers” do too, particularly older ones with kids of their own)

          Reply
      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > face to face Human interaction

        I’m all for it. Masked, especially indoors, ideally with N95s+. Asia does this just fine. Are we too weak and stupid?

        NOTE Masks should have been mandated; proven, non-invasive. Vaccines should not have been; not proven, invasive.

        If we had gotten the NPIs right in the beginning — including short and effective lockdowns where people were paid to stay home — none of the draconian nonsense would ever have happened.

        Reply
    5. anon y'mouse

      “let me tell you how all of this works, after i already helped the evil CIA affiliated corporation implement it (whose slogan was “don’t be evil” for awhile. whatta hoot!). oh, i also attended an infamous spook school.”

      Reply
    1. Maritimer

      At the top of that item it says “UNACCEPTABLE JESSICA”
      Rose is a Canadian. The Prime Injector of Canada Trudeau has labeled folk like Rose people who hold “unacceptable views”. According to him, she may also be a, yes, misogynist, racist, a member of a fringe minority and take up too much space. Hmm, who does that echo?

      Thus Jessica proudly owns as do many other Canadians the labels and insults bestowed on her by the Government of Canada.

      Reply
  4. Safety First

    Subjective report from personal conversation with statistically average Russians, let’s call them “Ivan and Olga”.

    – War breaking out was a complete surprise, and not a welcome one. But now that it it happening, it must be won, since the alternative is a victory for NATO.

    – There is growing annoyance at the Russian army’s very slow progress. Phrases like “just carpet bomb the @&$ out of them and get it over with” were used. [The “them” here were Ukrainian armed forces, not regular civilians.]

    – Equally, there was annoyance that NATO’s weapons shipments aren’t being blown up in transit. There was surprise when I mentioned recent strikes against rail junctions and Odessa airport hangars, which suggests Russian media is not doing a good job reporting on this stuff.

    – Several times the term “nazis” was used to denote Ukrainian army or government. This had not been a thing previously.

    – General distrust of media reporting on all sides (Russian, Ukrainian, Western) was expressed multiple times.

    ——

    Obviously this was not a scientific survey of a representative sample. On the other hand, one suspects that there are many such “Ivans and Olgas” in Russia, and published opinion polls – e.g. trends in Putin’s approval rating – seem to indirectly back this up.

    Broadly speaking, what seems to be happening is not a “Vietnam syndrome” – as in, we don’t want to do this – but a sort of a “Chechnya syndrome”, with Chechnya 1 being broadly viewed as a war the Russians should have won but for corrupt and incompetent political leadership. [Hence Putin’s popularity boost after Chechnya 2.] In other words, the worst thing Putin can do right now for his government would be to back down or de-escalate, it seems.

    Parenthetically, all of this leaves Russian leftists in the lurch, at least for the time being. It is difficult to argue that this is an unjust imperialist war of choice when the US and NATO keeps making public noises about “defeating” and “degrading” Russia. Nor does Ukraine’s nationalist ideology and a seemingly maniacal commitment to killing civilians in the Donbass help tilt public opinion in Russia in its favour.

    —–

    On the war itself. My personal hypothesis at the moment is that the Russians are basically trying to do a lot with a little. That is, the limitations they themselves have imposed – e.g. not using conscripts – plus the amount of territory they already control and have to defend, mean that they have not a lot of manpower left for actual offensive operations, especially against a dug-in enemy. You can actually tell the intensity of the fighting is not exactly at First Day Battle of the Somme levels by Russian daily claims on Ukrainian equipment destroyed – yesterday it was something like three tanks and a dozen each IFVs and guns, today it’s nine tanks and two dozen each IFV’s and guns…these are basically platoon or company scale losses at most, and note that claims by one side almost always exceed actual losses by the other, often significantly. Also note that the fighting is fairly localised, i.e. the Russians appear to have shifted all their offensive operations towards the Donbass, whereas earlier in the war they had multiple geographically disparate offensives going.

    Of course, at the operational and strategic level, Ukraine’s capabilities continue to be eroded daily. In theory this means that eventually the entire edifice, so to speak, will begin to collapse, though who knows how much more erosion will be necessary for this to occur. But in any case, one suspects that politically speaking, Putin will need to show some tangible progress fairly soon, e.g. completing the Donbass encirclement in the month of May, and maybe sewing up the Nikolaev-Odessa area over the summer.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > There is growing annoyance at the Russian army’s very slow progress.

      I’m with Ivan and Olga on this one. I expect the train to Odessa to leave on time and it’s not. (Granted, Putin and his General Staff have their reasons, house collapses when termites eat enough of it, the cauldon’s gonna get chopped up into little bits… More narratives. I like narratives, especially coherent ones, but I like seeing the enemy’s forces destroyed and running up flags over Reichstag-equivalents even more.)

      Reply
  5. The Rev Kev

    ‘That being said, they do have a strong hunch that its toxicity could have a lot to do with the fact that “a primary source” for the system is a giant database of “unmoderated” text from…wait for it…Reddit.’

    This is hilarious this. Maybe that is why Skynet was never able to defeat the human resistance in the Terminator universe. Because it’s AI was trained up on Facebook & Twitter postings. You know, I have a good idea for an experiment. Start off with two identical AIs. Then for the first one you train it up on a database of “unmoderated” text from the Daily Kos comments. The second one you train up on a database of “unmoderated” text from Fox News comments. Finally, you open up a communication channel between the two AIs and sit back to watch the fun.

    Reply
    1. fresno dan

      RK
      The only question is how many nanoseconds before the communication between the two sites becomes “your momma is ##@&^^#*!!…you &!*%^^@!!

      Reply
    2. Questa Nota

      Then for the first one you train it up on a database of “unmoderated” text from the Daily Kos comments. The second one you train up on a database of “unmoderated” text from Fox News comments.

      Call one Colossus, and the other Guardian.

      The lead actor in that 1970 movie, Eric Braeden, went on to fame and fortune as magnate Victor Newman on The Young and the Restless. He must’ve learnt to code!

      Reply
    3. Kevin Smith

      Rev Kev – BRILLIANT suggestion! If that has not been done yet, it will be done, real soon now.

      Reply
    4. skk

      “Then for the first one you train it up on a database of “unmoderated” text from the Daily Kos comments. The second one you train up on a database of “unmoderated” text from Fox News comments. Finally, you open up a communication channel between the two AIs and sit back to watch the fun.”

      Hey there’s a neural net technique for that – Generative Adverserial Networks ( GAN) – “GANs…by pairing a generator, which learns to produce the target output, with a discriminator, which learns to distinguish true data from the output of the generator. The generator tries to fool the discriminator, and the discriminator tries to keep from being fooled.

      It really would be interesting if they were first pretrained on these different sets of text and then in the second phase worked on a random sample of text drawn just a specific set.. Wonder where the second retraining would lead to.

      Reply
      1. skk

        I hate saying this, especially since I no longer do this as an occupation, but most issues I find are due to the ones doing it forgetting the basics :
        from a statistical point of view – your predictions form a set that always reflects, as in have the same statistical distribution ( non-parametric though it may be), as the statistical distribution of the set of data you learnt from. It can’t be otherwise. So you better make really sure that you learnt on a set that is statistically the same as the one you want to make predictions about. Or else don’t generalize your predictions set any further but state its qualifications.
        I wonder if this is because of the early divergence between machine-learning and statistical inference, from around the late ’80s. I remember the big promises made for neural-networks, for support vector machines methods. versus ancient statistical inference techniques.

        Reply
        1. vao

          Funny, I remember a colleague working on his PhD about machine learning at the end of the 1980s telling us that (then novel) neural network techniques were basically a form of statistical model fitting.

          Oh, and I am not at all surprised by the fact that those automatic AI learning systems are limited to construct models constrained by their data / sampling basis — with all warts and biases. From my brush with statistics I got enough warnings about the dangers of sampling bias, autocorrelation, data cut-off, etc when deriving distributions and regressions.

          Any references on the divergence and why it happened?

          Reply
          1. skk

            I can detail my 40 year life in this field, but no academic references of something that’s in the “history of science/technology” field. I don’t know of any “just one thing”, primary reason etc for this, as you would know – assigning importance to causative variables is really really hard. On that subject, perhaps not teaching the metaphysics of causation by Hume is a factor. I was taught that at Uni in the early 70s.
            Then, I’d enumerate these factors:
            1. package(commodification) software. To solve a problem first I had to write the SVM software in the late 90s. By the 2000s, R, a language that interestingly calls itself “…is a system for statistical computation…” had a package ( i.e. commodification) – you’d be nuts to write a SVM routine. But it also meant you don’t have to think out the statistical subtleties.
            2. The outsourcing of computing ( to India) with a reduction in pay locally for programmers and the migration of those who could out into higher valued occupations – i.e. math/stat >>> computing/programming. I was part of that – I trained in math/stat but computing paid way more in the late 70/80s so I switched to that. By the late 90s, I switched back to ‘data science’ ! So were a LOT of computer science specialists, not math/science graduates. Their training was just … different.

            3. The massive change in computing power per dollar. It meant that large computation in a reasonable time and cost ( I build computers, from parts like motherboards, memory cards etc and in the late 2000s built a $24000 equivalent for 1200) was tractable and the sharp statistical ancient techniques ( recall that Fisher’s 1920’s p-value stuff, now called “ad-hockery” made the data analysis tractable given the computing power available then) much less needed.

            4. Packaging / commodification( with the resultant reduction in understanding) of the whole data science complex. Stuff like DataBricks, Microsofts, Amazons, Google’s Machine Learning + data storage packages.

            So, I guess, yeah its capitalism in action. And financial capitalism at that – when once accuracy really mattered during industrial capitalism now.. – what with Boeing airliners, F-xxx crap, I followed the Osprey tilt-rotor debacle – now its just… marketing.
            As you said – its all just a meme. But I’m getting into social science stuff – which isn’t my field.
            I’m glad I’m out of it biz-wise and do my own stuff, for hours a day, just for fun.

            Reply
    1. Questa Nota

      With the current formulary, (J&J, Pfizer, Moderna) you are damned if you do, and damned if you do. Isn’t it about time that Astra Zeneca started pulling its weight in the newspapers? /s

      Reply
    2. Nikkikat

      I was planning to get the J&J this weekend. I got one a year a ago. I’m not worried about a blood clot as I’m not in that age group. I’m more worried that it may be worthless because of the newer mutations. I wish Novavax would be approved.

      Reply
      1. Mikel

        All of the non-sterilizing vaccines are based on older mutations. J&J don’t have their Covid vax marketing team dialed up to 11 is about the only difference – just my opinion.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith

          The argument against J&J, although this one was not the basis for limiting distribution, was it is much less effective than the mRNA vaccines. See the study of 620,000 vets via the VA:

          For the period mid-March 2021 – August 13, 2021, full vaccination with Janssen was also associated with a lower risk of infection (aHR 0.30, 95% CI 0.28, 0.32), owing to the fact that full vaccination with the Janssen vaccine was not possible until March because of timing of authorization. However, these protective associations declined over time (p<0.01 for time dependence, Table 2), even after adjusting for age and comorbidity. The proportionate reduction in infection associated with vaccination declined for all vaccine types, with the largest declines for Janssen followed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna (Figure 1).Specifically, in March, protection against infection was: 88% (95% CI, 87% to 89%) for Janssen; 92% (95% CI, 92% to 93%) for Moderna; and 91% (95% CI, 91% to 92%) for Pfizer-BioNTech. By August, protection against infection had declined to: 3% (95% CI, -7% to 12%) for Janssen; 64% (95% CI, 62%-66%) for Moderna; and 50% (95% CI, 47% to 52%) for Pfizer-BioNTech.

          https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.10.13.21264966v1.full-text

          Reply
    3. Mikel

      You’ll be fine. Check the demographic and the numbers on TTS. This isn’t new news about the clots.
      And this experiment isn’t over for mRNA. And it IS an expermiment.
      And caught this conversation last night:

      Yves Smith May 5, 2022 at 8:22 pm
      Right, the one that had the better all-factor mortality, at least according to a small scale study.
      Reply ↓
      1. rowlf May 5, 2022 at 9:38 pm
      Isn’t it odd the occasional reports of J&J (and AZ) having better long term results than the mRNA vaccines? It looks like marketing fighting.
      This all sucks. Crappy human data inputing. I work in a field trying to utilize data from machines and it somewhat sucks too. Who can actually make a good judgement from low quality human nonsense input and data collection?

      Reply
  6. Objective Ace

    I’m having a hard time understanding the limiting of JnJ vaccines because of a 1 in 2 million side effect (and its really driven by women 30-40, for everyone else its more like 1 in 10 million). Meanwhile, the mortality rate when catching covid is something like 1 in 200, not to mention the negative long-covid effects that are harder to quantify

    My Spidey sense is tingling–I cant help thinking there must be something else going on behind the scenes

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      It could not possibly be that Pfizer and Moderna have corrupted the FDA review (sic) processes so thoroughly that, like so many other times oligarchs have twisted regulatory outcomes to advance monopoly and monopsony power and looting, a lesser player got wedged out…

      Reply
      1. Maritimer

        Haven’t gotten my Epidemiology Degree yet though working on it intensively over the last two years. Nonetheless, I came to the conclusion JJ Injection was not for me since they are a convicted criminal organization, all in the public record. In addition, like any common Street Perp, they also use an alias, Janssen, to avoid excessive scrutiny. Don’t need any Scientific Studies with flags like that.

        Heard Ed Dowd on this subject and he said most FDA approvals, no one ever checks the data! Hey, does that sound like MBS? Drive a corrupt truck through that door.

        Reply
        1. Basil Pesto

          In addition, like any common Street Perp, they also use an alias, Janssen, to avoid excessive scrutiny.

          lmao

          Reply
            1. Basil Pesto

              I certainly wouldn’t make such an assumption, I was simply tickled by the lame analogy of comparing a subsidiary company (Janssen – subsidiary status readily checked with a 3 second web search) with some kind of inscrutable, obfuscatory street name

              and the “criminal organisation” meme that Maritimer is devoted to, while accurate so far as it goes, is nevertheless a fairly weak attempted blanket ad hominem. Are Merck (creators and of legendary anthelmintic Ivermectin) also a criminal organisation? And is that something I actually need to know when scrutinising the apparently quite shitty Molnupiravir? I’d rather look at some actual, thoroughgoing research.

              Reply
  7. The Rev Kev

    “It’s not about saving Ukrainian lives, it’s about saving political face here at home”

    Scott Ritter laying it all out on the line again. I have seen a few videos confirming what he says. One Ukrainian soldier launched a rocket against a tank which did not work. The tank shell fired by that tank at him a few seconds later did. In another, a captured Ukrainian soldier was complaining about the ant-tank weapons that the west gave them. The battery would be flat so the missile would not fire or the missile fired at the tank would explode before it is even near that tank. Do I want the Russians to win? Yes. But this butchery of Ukrainian men happening just so western leaders can feel politically comfortable is what is really vile here. The lack of serious negotiations because of Boris & Biden is just unforgivable.

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      Biden wouldn’t negotiate before the war. Why would he favor negotiations during it? The USG goal is regime change in Russia, not peace in Ukraine. If it was the latter they would have supported MInsk. The notion that our policy is to “protect” the rest of the world is a huge joke and that’s been true for a long time–long before Biden.

      Since your average Americans aren’t very interested in the rest of the world they put up with this as foreign policy special pleaders take over Washington and bring their ancient European disputes into our government. Where Biden has made his big mistake is in allowing these below the radar manipulations to blow back on the American economy in very visible way.Given that he also has an authoritarian attitude to the American people (mandates) this may not bother Biden much, but the rest of the establishment may be starting to sweat.

      Reply
      1. Vandemonian

        I read somewhere that there have been 11 years since 1788 in which the US has not been fighting a war somewhere.

        And that 1977 and 1979 are remarkable years, because they are the two only years since 1945 that have not had the US invading or fighting in another country.

        Bellicosity is not an anomaly for the US – it’s a core value.

        Reply
      1. Jacob Hatch

        That will have to go to Joe Biden, as he’s already got a long start by creating famine and lack of safe water in Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and now we can add famine in much of African, Near East, and some parts of South America. In terms of total kills, he gets to share everything Albright did and then some, and now he’s just hitting it out of the park.

        Reply
    2. Michael

      I believe the RF will win the ground war. That’s good and may turn out to be a pivot point for the world in terms of reducing citizen slaughter.

      The media war will be ongoing for a long time esp if the trials in Moscow prove HOT!
      I think the UN will be forever changed by its “values” being put on trial.
      US elections in Nov? Ugly. Throw the bums out is not a strong enough message.

      Time to get back to basics.

      Reply
      1. Soredemos

        The media war is going to encounter serious problems when the Ukrainian Donbass front collapses over night when Russia actually begins its major push.

        Reply
    3. hunkerdown

      Notice that the DGB’s dual mandate is to protect 1) the election and 2) anti-Russia sentiment? What better alibi to rig an election than to declare the results you produce sacred. Ukraine is the feint; the public will is the objective.

      Reply
      1. Carolinian

        I question how much Americans really care about Russia other than hard core Ds. Polls don’t show strong general support for escalating. They also don’t show that the public is buying “Russia did it ” re inflation. Ironically Biden’s best electoral move would probably be to indeed arrange peace, drop the sanctions, repair the supply chains.

        But if a long ago conflict was once managed by the “Best and the Brightest” this current one is the handiwork of the Dumb and Dumbest. Either way war is still hell.

        Reply
    4. Skip Intro

      The MoA link above quotes Ukrainian press:

      Sergeant Davydov, who wears sunglasses, a pistol on his thigh, and a skull shoulder patch in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag.

      His job is to take freshly mobilized men to the front “to show them not to be afraid,” and to teach them “how to dig in and make very effective defensive positions” to compensate for the firepower imbalance with Russia.

      “I tell them that all they have to do is hold our line, and not retreat,” says Sergeant Davydov. The cost can be high. The sergeant recalls 10 recruits in late April being sent to him one night at 11 p.m. By 6 a.m. two were dead and three wounded by Russian artillery.

      “to show them not to be afraid,” – I take this to mean he will definitely shoot them if they don’t take their chances under the artillery. Sounds like a political enforcer herding cannon fodder to slaughter. Is the skull patch reminiscent of anything?

      Reply
    5. Skippy

      Its the pink dot drama. All these personally fired anti tank/bunker missiles have a moisture indicator or at least they did in my day on the 120mm Dragon I used to fire. So it goes green is good, pink is do you feel lucky and red was inop or its anyone’s guess what happens.

      I have heard stories of wire or optical guided anti tank missiles deciding to go where they wanted regardless of operator input, due to moisture contamination or battery dramas. I mean like leaving the tube and just going straight up over everyone’s heads, leaving everyone under it doing a recreation of a chicken pen panic.

      I personally had an experience with a pink dot on a live fire exercise not many klicks from the DMZ, 1000m assault course which was really a small valley between the steep hills and small mountains in that region. So I was issued a live dragon round and automatically checked the dot indicator only to see the pink, informed the Lt of the dramas and was told to use it anyway as it was all they had and the big show was on that night with a guest general attending. So here I am on a ridge line with my battalion member’s in foxholes in front and below of me with my CO and general off to my left say 20m.

      Anywho the whole party was to start with a volley of 82mm mortar illumination rounds which would silhouette the tank I was targeting, about 800m away on the other side of the valley and a bit up its ridge. So whilst sitting on my backside with the dragon on my right shoulder and right eye in the sights I depressed the trigger mechanism expecting the kick back and ready to roll back forward whilst keeping the target in my sights … nada … whole lotta nada …

      So now its time to go through the malfunction list, wait 30 seconds and re depress the trigger … nada … all whilst the illum rounds are getting low and burning out … remove optical tracking device and re-seat … I should mention at this time that a failure to launch at this stage means the whole show is over and everyone has to move outside the missiles effective range of about a 1000m, including the few M-60 tanks to my right because it could delay fire at anytime without any control … so I depress the trigger again and … nada … about 30 seconds latter I’m just moving my head back off the rubber eye scope mount and ready to declare a miss fire and … bang it went off … the charge to pop the missile out of the tube does pack a punch and it was like a good straight jab to the right eye … so now I can’t see anything out of my right eye and have to use my naked left eye to direct the optical tracker by following the missiles trajectory.

      Phew … some how I managed to hit the target and was still a bit dazed by the impact from the tracker to my head. Next thing I know my CO, recently posted from my old Ranger battalion no less, ran over a smacked my steel pot with a big attaboy thump which was harder than the kickback I received from the Dragon moments before. Very Chuffed that another Ranger had made him look good in front of the General, so here I was again dazed and cobweb headed having to shake a Generals hand and engage in the proforma small talk such occurrences demand.

      So I can only imagine the joy some of the Ukrainian soldiers are experiencing thinking they have the best of the best shoulder fired weaponry … on the orb … only for it respond like a wet kids battery powered electric tinker toy. Never mind that all this stuff is shoot and scoot because it leaves either a signature from the launch position or retaliative position can be determined by its trajectory.

      Yet Raython executives and investors salivate at the big fat DOD payday that awaits to restock or gasp still their betting hearts that a new and improved system is called for and all the profit that entails over a protracted period …

      PS. another big wet for us this week it seems … eh …

      Reply
    6. XXYY

      Is it too obvious to suggest that much of the motivation for the Ukraine war is simply to funnel tens of billions of dollars to armaments manufacturers, and for that matter to anybody who has old stockpiles of weapons sitting around? It seems like the Ukraine has become a dumping ground for any weird and obsolete weapon system that somebody happens to have on hand. Vietnam War era armored troop carriers. F-16s. Ancient tanks. Out-of-date anti-tank weapons and artillery.

      I assume since the end of the Afghan war, there has been tremendous pressure to start up the spigot again.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        Scott Ritter was talking about Vietnam-era APCs being sent to the Ukraine. I have hear about them and read how they were called crematoriums on wheels because they were made of aluminium. A coupla years ago in one of the many Israeli invasions of Gaza, the Palestinians got a hit on one of these being used by the Israelis and those guys on the inside never stood a chance. They should have all been sent to the metal-recyclers long ago-

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M113_armored_personnel_carrier#Israel

        Reply
  8. Synoia

    Shortage of baby formula?

    Perhaps allowing babies in some workplaces with more breast feeding and, expelling Human milk, as practiced in the not to distant past could eliminate the shortage?

    Reply
    1. Jacob Hatch

      Working class women are often under excessive stress, and thus have trouble producing milk. Dairy Farmers figured it out, ala Das Capital, as a direct cost, but as producing future labour is too far out on the curve for Capitalism so no one is playing Bach, giving massages, insuring proper balanced diet, etc. to destress humans. Besides, stressing humans is good for formula sales, and many other profitable panacea for Das Capital effects.

      Acute physical and mental stress can impair the milk ejection reflex by reducing the release of oxytocin

      Reply
  9. Steve B

    Re: New Not-So-Cold War
    Interesting claim in Responsible Statecraft article that Russia blew up Czech arms depot in 2014. Russia denies it. But there are similar claims that they blew up Bulgarian arms dumps in 2011,2015 and 2020. More here:
    https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2021/06/28/czech-republic-asks-russia-to-pay-for-2014-arms-blast-a74364

    So, if Russia extending its demilitarisation operation to NATO countries is a red line for US, looks like it’s already been crossed.

    Reply
    1. Michael

      Lots of ifs in there. 7 years after the event and no one can make a definitive case?
      Even Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Lab?

      Digging a little more one sees Bellingcat and a host of other red flags.
      More propaganda, IMO.

      Last US red line I remember was Obama, Syria and chemical weapons.

      Reply
  10. hemeantwell

    The Responsible Statecraft article about the Ukraine war ending suffers from a weak understanding of the strategic purpose of the war. Or, to put it better, from an unwillingness to acknowledge just how instrumentalized those Ukrainian babies are in a US project to maintain a hegemonic position in Europe by blocking the development of closer ties between Europe and Russia.

    The current mess offers another one of those conjunctural illuminations of the project to “keep the US in, Germany down, and Russia out” that can best be understood when compared to other conjunctures. In a 1999 New Left Review article on the Balkans crisis, Peter Gowan was able to draw on well-documented analyses of US diplomatic efforts to show that the US intervention was heavily determined by the goal of preventing the formation of a European security agreement that, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, might include Russia. Thus the US intervened in a way that led to a militarization of the conflict that outstripped the warmaking capacity of a nascent European “security” system — they didn’t really have the means to bomb Serbia. German-French leadership was blocked, and the US once again avoided the feared development of a “rising power” in Europe.

    That conjuncture of the 90s can be played off against the late 40s conjuncture, which I won’t try to summarize but which was governed by similar motives. If these motives are given their due weight, then US policies take on a sinister quality that I think is beyond the willingness of some of the most independent-minded commentators to contemplate, much less steadily incorporate in their criticisms of US policy. Russian calls over decades for European security pacts suddenly have to be taken more seriously and cannot be dismissed as insincere “peace offensives.” Speculation about a revival of Russian imperial aims have to be considered for their potential to projectively hide the imperial aims of the US. The failure of a “peace dividend” to result after the collapse of the Soviet Union becomes a demonstration of the US emphasis on military power and a tendency to militarize of conflicts. And so on.

    I’ve reached the point where any purported criticism of US policy that focuses away from these guiding strategic motives appears feeble-hearted at best and, if not dishonest, then inadvertently obscuring and ideological. Thus, for example, Scott Ritter’s scathing post today, so deservedly indignant about the cannon foddering of Ukrainians, nonetheless fails to track down the logic behind the war. In other posts he has, heroically in this climate, insisted that the best course for the Biden administration would be to guarantee Ukraine’s demilitarization. Great stuff, but he still veers away from talking about the motives of US that makes the efficacy of the weapons delivered to the Ukraine a relatively minor issue. The war will go on to block a European security pact and European economic integration.

    Reply
    1. pjay

      “…If these motives are given their due weight, then US policies take on a sinister quality that I think is beyond the willingness of some of the most independent-minded commentators to contemplate, much less steadily incorporate in their criticisms of US policy.”

      I think you hit the nail on the head here. This has long been the biggest problem I’ve encountered in arguing with supposed “progressives” about our actions in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, etc., etc. Although capable of criticizing US policy up to a point, their inability to accept the true depth of this “sinister quality” behind these actions limits their ability to understand what’s really going on, or the response of those nations on the receiving end whose leaders understand this quite well.

      Reply
    2. jsn

      It is 70 years of imperial lies you are trying to get everyone to see all at once, obviously there’s resistance to seeing what’s obvious because its so bad.

      I think your version is the history being recorded by third party historians the world over right now and kept from our controlled media. Of course, all those historians are dealing with the same corruption of information via an “internet revolution” that was weaponized in embryo.

      Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The current mess offers another one of those conjunctural illuminations of the project to “keep the US in, Germany down, and Russia out”

      Yes, Nordtstream 2 would have been a real problem….

      Reply
    4. michael99

      “The war will go on to block a European security pact and European economic integration.”

      It sure looks that way. It is hard to imagine European leaders breaking with the US over this. I wonder if such thoughts are going through their minds though. The US plan does not seem to be in the best interests of Europe, to say the least.

      Is there still a lot of distrust of Russia in the former Eastern Bloc countries? What about in Germany and France? It is too bad more hasn’t been done to build trust in the decades since the end of the Soviet Union, but it seems that is not what the US wanted.

      Reply
  11. DJG, Reality Czar

    I recommend today’s posting from Nick Corbishley about Lula and the Pope. I also recommend the Brasilwire article to you. The title is deceptively lulling–the machinations are starting to look much too familiar. Ukraine III (or whatever version of Nulandia we are now trapped in).

    Quote, Brasilwire: “Anglophone media has so far shied from talk of US involvement in Brazil’s democratic crisis since the 2014 election. Yet now, with a series of coordinated statements, the United States appears to be distancing itself from Brazilian president Bolsonaro, the coup-threatened coming election, and its involvement in the anti-corruption operation which brought Bolsonaro to power in the first place.”

    2014. Gosh, golly, who was president of the U S of A then? And what other country received the tender mercies of the U S of A in 2014? With cookies at the Maidan.

    This grotesque inhumanity among the U.S. elites to make other people suffer is infuriating.

    Reply
  12. DJG, Reality Czar

    Thorp, Science, It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over.

    Yep. A must read, largely because Thorp also is showing the ethics behind / within science.

    Note the quote near the end of the article from Farmer. Bracing. But that’s what happens when one has ethics instead of the barrage of press releases and happy talk (and Nancy Pelosi’s Sparkly Prince Olga pin) that is now being vomited out of the U.S. elites.

    Reply
    1. LifelongLib

      FWIW I’m double vaxed and boosted (all Moderna), but I haven’t seen the same push for a second booster that there was for the first one. For the first booster I got multiple emails informing me about free shots at CVS. This time around there was an email a couple of months ago advising another booster (before I was “eligible”) but I haven’t got anything since. It looks like enthusiasm for more vaccination is receding.

      Reply
      1. Basil Pesto

        It’s strongly diminishing returns, as we’ve seen from Israel. I think only the highly susceptible who don’t think they can/don’t want to bother avoiding infection will bother with 4th booster. I think as well a lot of people who got booster have subsequently been infected so will probably have decided to rely on the temporary immunity conferred by infection.

        Reply
  13. Alyosha

    Why does Joe Biden hate Ukrainians? We’re not helping them, we’re sending thousands to slaughter. I don’t buy the saving political face at home either. The catastrophic Afghanistan evacuation only lasted a handful of news cycles before America forgot. The Ukrainian political regime could be abandoned by the west just by reprinting articles written between 2014 and 2021, never mind expanding and updating them. Nor is it as if the United States has any overarching loyalty that it now feels honor-bound to uphold.

    Grandpa Joe could have kept Ukraine whole by reigning in our OUN fascists on Bankova St and negotiating a settlement of protected federalism. Russians, the DPR and the LPR wouldn’t have been terribly happy with that settlement, but I’m fairly certain Putin would have supported it. He’d do so for no other reason than that he is a foreign policy realist and the fundamental goal of realism is stability. Biden could have brought the death and destruction to a halt even 2-3 weeks into the conflict. Ukraine would have lost Donetsk, Lugansk and probably Kherson. It would have had to return to neutrality, but it would still have functioning industry and infrastructure.

    And no one should forget that Biden was Obama’s point man for Ukraine. He could have kept Ukraine whole and helped it become prosperous long ago, either as VPOTUS or a senator. Ukrainian life has only gotten worse since Biden took deep interest in the nation and exerted his influence. So I think it is worth asking why Joe Biden hates Ukrainians enough to do what he’s done to them.

    Reply
    1. orlbucfan

      Grandpa Joe is a right wing old (family blog) suffering from early onset dementia. He’s lucky he can still spell ‘Ukrainian.’

      Reply
    2. Vandemonian

      I have a suspicion that he needs to keep the fighting going to try and get some evidence hidden: Hunter’s gig with Burisma? Bioweapons labs in the Azovstal catacombs?

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I have a suspicion that he needs to keep the fighting going to try and get some evidence hidden: Hunter’s gig with Burisma?

        Surely Biden could have had whoever controlled the evidence whacked and the evidence destroyed? Unless he was betrayed by his contractors, of course, Ukraine being what it is.

        Reply
  14. The Rev Kev

    “Ben Franklin Put an Abortion Recipe in His Math Textbook”

    Next week’s headline-

    “Oklahoma puts Ben Franklin’s Math Textbook on it’s List of Banned Books.

    Reply
  15. allan

    What is it with Republicans and expensive bottles of red Burgundy?

    First it was Paul Ryan (and academic enabler John Cochrane) being plied
    by billionaire hedgie Cliff Asness with $350 bottles of Jayer-Gilles 2004 Échezeaux Grand Cru
    while discussing the importance of fiscal austerity back in 2011.

    And now it’s Clarence and Ginni Thomas, waving a bottle of [squints at screen]
    Domaine de la Romaneé-Contee Échezeaux Grand Cru, vintage unknown.

    While Jayer-Gilles is highly regarded,
    Domaine de la Romaneé-Contee is possibly the most famous and expensive domain in Burgundy,
    with wines from its various vineyards going for thousands of dollars per bottle.
    Even an Associate Justice’s salary won’t support that kind of habit.
    Quis honos?

    Reply
  16. Patrick Donnelly

    Boris Johnson has no sense of shame, like Churchill.

    A very useful trait in a PM of the UK. He will never resign and he is surrounded by disposable muppets.

    Reply
    1. Maritimer

      Marina Wheeler (1993 — 2018) and Allegra Mostyn-Owen (1987 — 1993) were disposable. Carrie Johnson (29 May 2021 — )—-watch out Boris! This lady could make Amber Heard look like Mary Poppins.

      Reply
  17. Mark K

    Re: “How the leak might have happened”

    I wonder what reaction might have ensued if Wikileaks had been the recipient of Alito’s draft opinion.

    Reply
  18. The Rev Kev

    “Hungary: 9 other EU countries have opened accounts in Russian Banks”

    When this is all over, all those EU countries will lambast and tear strips off Hungary for stopping the EU from banning Russian oil and gas with their veto. Behind the scenes however, all those EU countries will be relieved that Hungary is doing this so that they do not have to admit that they too are doing this. Maybe Russia, at Hungary’s suggestion then, will “accidentally” leak the names of those 9 other EU countries.

    Came across a funny story today. So there is this Hungarian bloke living in Italy who is demanding that Italy must give up all gas supplies from Russia to show Putin whose boss because principles. But it also mentioned that he was returning to Hungary to join his wife which has no problems getting gas from Russia. I wonder how he squares that circle.

    Reply
  19. Michael Ismoe

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind.-Vt.) last month sent a letter to Biden “asking you to fulfill that promise…

    And I was afraid that Bernie wouldn’t hold Biden’s feet to the fire. Silly me. Those letters should make excellent party hats for Jen Psaki’s farewell party.

    Reply
  20. Mikel

    “EU citizens may sue countries for health-damaging dirty air, top court adviser” says Reuters

    Do they have a case for suit against damaging, virus infected air? Has it even crossed their minds?
    What’s their definition for health damaging air?

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      Its interesting that this study is from Mexico City – I would not have thought that Vit D deficiency was common there of all places. But then again, maybe people cover up a lot.

      But which ever way you look at it, the fact that the medical establishment is so hostile to a simple and generally very safe supplement like Vit D is really quite shocking.

      Reply
    2. DJG, Reality Czar

      flora: Thanks. The sample is well under 1,000, and a third (100) dropped out. That’s not promising.

      Yet this is:

      Of 321 recruited subjects, 94 VDG and 98 PG completed follow-up. SARS-CoV-2 infection rate was lower in VDG than in PG (6.4 vs. 24.5%, p <0.001).

      Members of the commentariat with more experience with drug trials and clinical research will have insight.

      As for me, as someone whose chiropractor began to push D3 at the very start of the epidemic, I’ll continue with my daily dose of D.

      Reply
      1. Basil Pesto

        I can’t claim insight but I gather the difficulty with Vitamin D is disentangling whether the good Vitamin D levels are helping with Covid or whether the low vitamin D levels correlate with poor general health and therefore greater likelihood of poor Covid outcomes.

        End of the day though, like vaccines, it’s a distraction. Don’t fall for the neoliberal mistake of thinking SARS2 is an every-man-for-himself problem and we all just have to pick our disease mitigation product of choice and hope for the best. By all means take vit D (make sure you don’t take too many IUs daily!) as I do, and hope for the best, as I do, but let’s not lose sight of what the ultimate goal has to be despite the odds being overwhelmingly against us: elimination. I suspect on the timescale that counts – 10 years – multiple reinfections with SARS2 annually will barely be mitigated by Vit D at all. The breadth and depth of the damage done, the variability of severity per infection, it’s just very hard to imagine Vitamin D will be able to make much difference against an adversary as relentless as SARS2. Actual scientists might see it differently of course so ymmv

        Reply
        1. marku52

          Intersting Utoob from medcram re Vit D. Why the pill alone my not be as protective as sunlight.

          Researchers disentangled D production from latitudes where, due to low sun angle, sun exposure cannot produce Vit D. Yet there was still winter/summer seasonality in Covid waves.

          The suspicion is that near IR radiation from solar exposure produces subdermal Melatonin, which is a potent anti oxident.

          It’s a quick and interesting watch.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eEyWlbToI4

          Reply
  21. The Rev Kev

    “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”

    Personally I do not see what the problem is. I mean to get through this once in a century pandemic, all we ever had to do was listen to the experts and our political leaders. What was so hard about that? And if it happened that we got sick, then obviously it was because of something we did not do correctly, right?

    https://twitter.com/JordanSchachtel/status/1472327161352798212

    Reply
  22. Jason Boxman

    This buy now pay later always looked like a scam of some sort. But it’s genius and pedestrian in its design; By limiting payments to 4, these companies simply evade lending regulations. That’s both genius and boring in its depravity. At its core, this is what fintech innovation is.

    Reply
  23. Soredemos

    >Ukraine’s Forces Are Told To Hold The Line Where Russian Artillery Is Pulverizing Them Moon of Alabama

    Think of it like termites hollowing our some wood. On the surface it may look fine, but a solid blow will bring the whole thing down. Ukraine is also fairing extremely poorly against the advances of what are still mostly recon units. There’s still no sign that Russia has activated its main forces, and it may be weeks before it does. Russia is operating on its own timetable and is in no hurry.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > On the surface it may look fine, but a solid blow will bring the whole thing down.

      I understand the metaphor, but at some point the solid blow must be given.

      Perhaps Putin is waiting for China to pull the trigger on Taiwan. That would put a lot on the United States’ plate at the same time…..

      Reply
      1. SocalJimObjects

        I hope not. I am still harboring hopes of going to Taiwan as early as next month as a brand new long term resident. Then again, they are going to “live with Covid”, so I am not exactly thrilled with that switch in policy.

        My biggest hope is that Taiwan will get absorbed into China in a manner similar to Hong Kong’s reintegration into the mainland. That way I’ll get to become a Chinese PR through the back door :)

        Reply
  24. anon in so cal

    Ireland / Ukraine:

    According to this restaurant owner’s tweet, the influx of Ukrainian refugees is impacting workers in the tourism sector. Hotel owners themselves are apparently remunerated by the government, so unscathed:

    “I know we’re not allowed to say these things but at some stage we’re going to have to have this conversation

    Hotels full of refugees in rural Ireland is having a catastrophic affect on tourism. We are filling hotels, cutting supply, driving up prices resulting in a disaster.”

    https://twitter.com/PaulTreyvaud/status/1522510794218483714?s=20&t=Htsi2KusMXYWDsI77Xhu7Q

    Reply
  25. .human

    I got to wondering yesterday while driving north of Hartford and reminiscing of the plethora of tobacco farms that use to fill the landscape. Connecticut long leaf wrapper was once the gold standard worlwide. The rich, glacial earth that produced that foremost global harvest is no more. The huge tobacco barns, with their adjustable, vertical siding now seem to be pushed to the edge of fields now so covered with stone and composite building site products to a depth of tens of feet in order to stabilize the ground for the monstrous distribution centers that are being built. How long before even the barns are gone and mankind loses another connection with nature and harvests of the soil.

    Reply
  26. Fraibert

    I think the historical arguments relating to abortion practices around the time of the Constitution’s drafting miss the mark insofar as their larger purpose is to argue in favor of a “right to abortion.” Since they’ve appeared a few times in this blog, I figured it would be useful to make this point in greater detail since I think the discussion could be helpful in elucidating more generally useful legal issues.

    Besides “penumbra theory” of _Roe_ itself (widely disparaged, as readers know), Constitutional law has developed other doctrines that enable the courts to recognize “new” federal rights: Substantive Due Process and the “fundamental rights prong” of Equal Protection. There’s not a whole lot of practical difference between the two doctrines–its more a matter of how arguments are framed. Both doctrines are entirely Constitutional common law, meaning that the Supreme Court is the final arbiter on their scope.

    Formally speaking, under Substantive Due Process, the state can only infringe on a recognized right if the state can demonstrate a “compelling state interest” and that the means used to further that interest are “narrowly tailored. At least, that’s the black letter version, but the exact reasoning can depend on the case (see _Lawrence v. Texas_, overturning state sodomy laws, where Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion never really explains what doctrinal test it is applying).

    Similarly, for “fundamental rights” under the Equal Protection Clause, the question is whether the government’s treatment of a particular class of persons, when compared to other groups, is justified by a “compelling state interest” that is “narrowly tailored” to achieve that interest. (This recognition of unjustified differential treatment is where a right implicitly arises–see, for example, Justice O’Connor’s concurrence in _Lawrence_, which uses an equal protection approach).

    What both doctrine share in common is a probable outcome of any relevant case: when the courts find a right “covered” by either doctrine, government invariably loses.

    The bottom line is that there exist Constitutional legal doctrines that, in theory, enable the Court to create whatever rights it deems appropriate. Substantive Due Process’ history has ranged from recognition of a general right to raise one’s children (in a case during WW1 where German language schools had been outlawed), to the _Lochner_ era cases (finding a deprivation of liberty to limit contracts), to the right to gay marriage.

    Having said all that, I think it becomes clearer that the purpose of the conservative Justices’ emphasis on rights “deeply rooted in history” is to prevent the Court from pursuing that temptation to become super-legislator. If a right has that deep historical (founding era) pedigree, then Substantive Due Process or Equal Protection (really, whichever is more conveniently at hand) can be invoked to protect that right, if another part of the Bill of Rights is not particularly relevant.

    However, in the case of abortion, there isn’t, as far as i know, a historical recognition of an affirmative right. The fact that a practice was permitted doesn’t mean people thought the government couldn’t regulate the practice.

    To conclude otherwise, it seems to me, creates strange results. I understand, for example, that it was legal at the time of the founding to beat one’s children quite severely for the purpose of discipline. Does that mean that modern child abuse laws are unconstitutional because there’s a historical right to use severe corporal punishment?

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      I’d say the only issue in this debate is whether the Supreme Court has the right to do what they didn’t yet do and there seems to be little appeal of the answer that they do. Time to get busy in those state legislatures.

      And re the Slate article–a page from a Franklin published book telling how to “regulate menstruation” is not exactly a full throated endorsement of abortion or evidence of widespread cultural acceptance in the 18th century. That some forms of abortion were widely practiced then could be inferred without reference to Franklin. It’s not even very relevant, even if Alito chose to go there. The bottom line is the above.

      Reply
  27. britzklieg

    Yesterday The Nation finally published a reasoned and principled essay about Russia/Ukraine by Michael T. Klare. https://www.thenation.com/article/world/ukraine-russia-peace/

    It’s a good read.

    During the Russiagate nonsense, The Nation would include, without fanfare, the occasional piece by Stephen Cohen (or Aaron Mate) and with equal regularity disappear said articles from the front page after a single day. If it was Katrina van den Heuvel’s concern about nepotism or not no one can know (she was married to Cohen) but it was a disservice nonetheless.

    At least it has stopped trumpeting the bile emitting from the pen of the loathsome Joan Walsh. Perhaps she’s no longer writing there. One can hope.

    Reply
  28. Tom Collins' Moscow Mule

    The Fed owes the American people some plain-speaking Gillian Tett, FT. The deck: “Chair Jay Powell must acknowledge that free money has made asset prices unsustainably high.”

    Yeah, well, that might be the least of everyone’s [Except for the rich and ultra rich, of course,] problems because,

    The casual observation that interesting ‘things’ are happening is probably the obvious understatement of the year, thus far.

    On the economic front it is also interesting to note that prices for basic food stuffs are increasing by orders of 50%-300% and anywhere in between. The ‘Mule’ somehow remembers an old saying along the lines of, “Even if the shelves are full, nobody can afford to buy anything.”

    The economically disenfranchised have more than likely already arrived at that point and will likely be crushed out of existence.

    Further, it is the very simple understanding of this ‘Mule’ [As this ‘Mule’ is a very simple ‘Mule’ indeed.] that the academically inclined economists like to illustrate basic economic behavior if the form of:
    “The substitution effect is the decrease in sales for a product that can be attributed to consumers switching to cheaper alternatives when its price rises. When the price of a product or service increases but the buyer’s income stays the same, the substitution effect generally kicks in.”

    Now, this ‘Mule’ is more often than not, loathe to make predictions concerning the future, but one can certainly and easily envision the scenario; whereby, prices increase –> demand for those goods drop as lower priced goods are subsituted for high cost goods –> prices eventually increase for low cost goods as demand increases –> the price for all goods goes even higher as input costs increase even further –> cutbacks in consumption patterns assume unprecented levels as individuals reduce to their lifestyle to one of bare minimum survival –> unsold goods with dated shelf lives will be dumped/destroyed; which, is a version of the observation that states:

    [“If the basic problem in capitalist economic crises is that there is an overproduction or overabundance of capital, then the basic solution to such crises—as long as we still remain within the capitalist framework—can only be to somehow dispose of, or eliminate, or destroy that excess capital.”] Assuming, as well, the basic observation that profit dictates business survival.

    How long such a feedback loop can continue remains to be seen, as it also remains to be seen how long it takes for ‘solutions’ to be developed by central bankers and a self interested market. Perhaps the entire ideological framework will have to reevaluated. In any case, for many individuals the outcomes will be on the harsh and severe end of the scale.

    Finally, according to some observers a sense of ‘normalcy’ may arrive later rather than sooner:

    “Brad DeLong, an economist at UC Berkeley, has a modestly more relaxed view on inflation. “My answer is calm down, it’s by and large a desirable part of adjustments. We look out at what people are expecting in the future, and in five to 10 years from now, people are expecting inflation to quiet down. The Fed will do its job,” he said.” [Emphasis mine.]

    “America’s inflation problem is weirdly hard to fix”

    https://www.vox.com/the-goods/22994731/inflation-rate-russia-gas-prices-jerome-powell

    Reply
    1. tegnost

      just after the DeLong quote the author notes…

      “. Rent prices, which go into the services bucket, are about to cause more inflation going forward. If you think that part of the problem in that arena is that there’s too little housing, and rising interest rates could make building housing more expensive (because it will be more expensive to borrow), that doesn’t solve the problem. ”

      I thought higher rates drove down prices as borrowers can get less property for the same loan amount?

      Reply
      1. Fraibert

        I think it’s generally true that higher rates drive the purchase price down of _preexisting_ homes.

        However, the situation you are asking about concerns the effect of rising interest rates on new home construction, If the builder of new homes is forced to take out a bank loan at an elevated interest rate, then the builder, all else being equal (e.g., no reduction in quality of the homes to be built), will raise the price on the finished home in order to meet its profit goals. Similarly, if the homes are being built for rental, then the elevated cost of financing for the builder will be incorporated into the rent. This is why the quote you’ve included connects rent prices and the supply of housing.

        Reply
    2. chuck roast

      Yes, Gillian Tett. Typically wrong on everything, and when reading the pink paper I usually treat her scribblings as a black hole. Today, however, she dons her Captain Obvious cap and describes the utter lack of clothing of this particular emperor. Of course the clown car that is the Plutocrat Boutique Bank could long ago have done something along the lines of increasing margin requirements to temper rentier speculation, but then where would be the golfing partners for their splendid Sunday morning foursomes?

      Asset bubbles and inflation. Never problem for DeLong or the entitled elite filling his Berkeley lecture halls. Neo-classical macroeconomics has all the answers they will ever need.

      Yes, the substitution effect. Amply demonstrated by my cat food leaping from $3.89 to $4.25. I’m not eating it yet, but I’m going to have put the tap on my two fur bags because my apples have gone from $1.50 to $2.50/lb. Is there a substitute for apples?

      Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > If the basic problem in capitalist economic crises is that there is an overproduction or overabundance of capital, then the basic solution to such crises—as long as we still remain within the capitalist framework—can only be to somehow dispose of, or eliminate, or destroy that excess capital.

      Hence, sending a ton of congealed capital to Ukraine in the form of weaponry?

      We not only have a crisis of overabundance of capital (“money sloshing around”) we gave it to fools and fraudsters to allocate (“stupid money sloshing around”).

      Reply
  29. deplorado

    “Starbucks plans wage increases that won’t apply to unionized workers. NYT”

    Haven’t had time to read the article – but, isn’t it illegal to discriminate workers in this way? If it isn’t, Im out of words.

    Reply
  30. marku52

    “So the war in Ukraine is like the Clinton campaign: You’ve got to keep pumping hot air into the balloon to keep it aloft.”

    Maybe the War will take August off to fund raise in the Hamptons….

    Reply
    1. Michael Ismoe

      Better yet, just change Ukraine’s name to “Wisconsin”; no one will ever go there.

      Reply
  31. korual

    “Pondering The Bits…”

    These ideas of the universe being made up of information confuse physics with math, subjects that operate in different dimensions. Nothing could be more material than the laws of physics and nothing could be more abstract than math.

    The first metaphysics is actually chemistry, that dimension of reality that emerges from physics. The final dimension is ontology, which Badiou identified as math itself.

    Reply

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