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Geopolitics / 🤡 Donald Trump and the American Left
« on: Today at 03:09:10 AM »

August 3, 2018
Donald Trump and the American Left
by Rob Urie

Photo by nguyengurl | CC BY 2.0

The election of Donald Trump fractured the American Left. The abandonment of class analysis in response to Mr. Trump’s racialized nationalism left identity politics to fill the void. This has facilitated the rise of neoliberal nationalism, an embrace of the national security state combined with neoliberal economic analysis put forward as a liberal / Left response to Mr. Trump’s program. The result has been profoundly reactionary.

What had been unfocused consensus around issues of economic justice and ending militarism has been sharpened into a political program. A nascent, self-styled socialist movement is pushing domestic issues like single payer health care, strengthening the social safety net and reversing wildly unbalanced income and wealth distribution, forward. Left unaddressed is how this program will move forward without a revolutionary movement to act against countervailing forces.

As widely loathed as the Democratic establishment is, it has been remarkably adept at engineering a reactionary response in favor of establishment forces. Its demonization of Russia! has been approximately as effective at fomenting reactionary nationalism as Mr. Trump’s racialized version. Lest this be overlooked, the strategy common to both is the use of oppositional logic through demonization of carefully selected ‘others.’

This points to the most potent fracture on the Left, the question of which is the more effective reactionary force, the Democrats’ neoliberal nationalism or Mr. Trump’s racialized version? As self-evident as the answer apparently is to the liberal / Left, it is only so through abandonment of class analysis. Race, gender and immigration status are either subsets of class or the concept loses meaning.

By way of the reform Democrat’s analysis, it was the shift of working class voters from Barack Obama in 2012 to Donald Trump in 2016 that swung the election in Mr. Trump’s favor. To the extent that race was a factor, the finger points up the class structure, not down. This difference is crucial when it comes to the much-abused ‘white working-class’ explanation of Mr. Trump’s victory.

What preceded Donald Trump was the Great Recession, the most severe capitalist crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Great Recession followed approximately three decades of neoliberal de-industrialization, of policies intended to reduce the power of organized labor, reduce working class wages and raise economic insecurity under the antique capitalist theory that destitution motivates workers to produce more for less in return.

The illusion / delusion that these problems— lost livelihoods, homes, social roles, relationships, sense of purpose and basic human dignity— were solved, or even addressed, by national Democrats, illustrates the class divide at work. The economy that was revived made the rich fabulously rich, the professional / managerial class comfortable and left the other 90% in various stages of economic decline.

Left apparently unrecognized in bourgeois attacks on working class voters is that the analytical frames at work— classist identity politics and liberal economics, are ruling class ideology in the crudest Marxian / Gramscian senses. The illusion / delusion that they are factually descriptive is a function of ideology, not lived outcomes.

Here’s the rub: Mr. Trump’s critique of neoliberalism can accommodate class analysis whereas the Democrats’ neoliberal nationalism explicitly excludes any notion of economic power, and with it the possibility of class analysis. To date, Mr. Trump hasn’t left this critique behind— neoliberal trade agreements are currently being renegotiated.

Asserting this isn’t to embrace economic nationalism, support policies until they are clearly stated or trust Mr. Trump’s motives. But the move ties analytically to his critique of neoliberal economic policies. As such, it is a potential monkey wrench thrown into the neoliberal world order. Watching the bourgeois Left put forward neoliberal trade theory to counter it would seem inexplicable without the benefit of class analysis.

Within the frame of identity politics rich and bourgeois blacks, women and immigrants have the same travails as their poor and working-class compatriots. Ben Carson (black), Melania Trump (female) and Melania Trump (immigrant) fit this taxonomy. For them racism, misogyny and xenophobia are forms of social violence. But they aren’t fundamental determinants of how they live. The same can’t be said for those brutalized by four decades of neoliberalism

The common bond here is a class war launched from above that has uprooted, displaced and immiserated a large and growing proportion of the peoples of the West. This experience cuts across race, gender and nationality making them a subset of class. If these problems are rectified at the level of class, they will be rectified within the categories of race, gender and nationality. Otherwise, they won’t be rectified.

Democrats could have confronted the failures of neoliberalism without resorting to economic nationalism (as Mr. Trump did). And they could have confronted unhinged militarism without Mr. Trump’s racialized nationalism. But this would have meant confronting their own history. And it would have meant publicly declaring themselves against the interests of their donor base.

Mr. Trump’s use of racialized nationalism is the primary basis of analyses arguing that he is fascist. Left unaddressed is the corporate-state form that is the basis of neoliberalism and was the basis of European fascism. Recent Left analysis proceeds from the premise that state control of the corporate-state form is fascism while capitalist control—neoliberalism, is something else.

Lest this not have occurred, FDR’s New Deal was state control of the corporate-state form. The only widely known effort to affect a fascist coup in the U.S. was carried out by Wall Street titans in the 1930s to wrest control from FDR before the New Deal was fully implemented. Put differently, the people who caused the Great Depression wanted to control its aftermath. And they were fascists.

More recently, the effort to secure capitalist control has been led by liberal Democrats using Investor-State Dispute Resolution (ISDS) clauses in trade agreements. So that identity warriors might understand the implications, this control limits the ability of governments to rectify race and gender bias because supranational adjudication can overrule them.

So, is race and / or gender repression any less repressive because capitalists control the levers? Colonial slave-masters certainly thought so. The people who own sweatshops probably think so. Most slumlords probably think so. Employers who steal wages probably think so. The people who own for-profit prisons probably think so. But these aren’t ‘real’ repression, are they? Where’s the animosity?

As political scientist Thomas Ferguson has been arguing for decades and Gilens and Page have recently chimed in, neither elections nor the public interest hold sway in the corridors of American power. The levers of control are structural— congressional committee appointments go to the people with lots of money. Capitalist distribution controls the politics.

The liberal explanation for this is ‘political culture.’ The liberal solution is to change the political culture without changing the economic relations that drive the culture. This is also the frame of identity politics. The presence of a desperate and destitute underclass lowers working class wages (raising profits), but ending racism is a matter of changing minds?

This history holds an important lesson for today’s nascent socialists. The domestic programs recently put forward, as reasonable and potentially useful as they are, resemble FDR’s effort to save capitalism, not end it. The time to implement these programs was when Wall Street was flat on its back, when it could have been more. This is the tragedy of Barack Obama.

Despite the capitalist rhetoric at the time, the New Deal wasn’t ‘socialism’ because it never changed control over the means of production, over American political economy. Internal class differences were reduced through redistribution, but brutal and ruthless imperialism proceeded apace overseas.

The best-case scenario looking forward is that Donald Trump is successful with rapprochement toward North Korea and Russia and that he throws a monkey wrench into the architecture of neoliberalism so that a new path forward can be built when he’s gone. If he pulls it off, this isn’t reactionary nationalism and it isn’t nothing.

Otherwise, the rich have assigned the opining classes the task of defending their realm. Step 1: divide the bourgeois into competing factions. Step 2: posit great differences between them that are tightly circumscribed to prevent history from inconveniently intruding. Step 3: turn these great differences into moral absolutes so that they can’t be reconciled within the terms given. Step 4: pose a rigged electoral process as the only pathway to political resolution. Step 5: collect profits and repeat.
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More articles by:Rob Urie

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. His book Zen Economics is published by CounterPunch Books.


critical mass?
This Charges Everything

Behind the scenes of Seattle’s latest foray into bikeshares.

By Amelia Urry   on Aug 9, 2018

“Sorry about the smell; it’s not usually this bad.”

Andrew Infante is watching the rearview mirror of his Dodge RAM ProMaster and trying to maneuver out of a parking spot along a steep and congested street in downtown Seattle. In the back of the mostly empty cargo van, three bikes are roped together with a bungee cord. Two are green, with highlighter-yellow fenders like bright parentheses. The third is chalky white. That is where the smell — a murky eau de low tide — is coming from.

“We call them barnacle bikes,” says Infante, the Seattle operations manager for Lime, a startup that runs bike- and scooter-share programs in several American cities. “We thought we didn’t have to say, ‘Don’t throw them in the water,’ but I guess that’s not obvious to everyone.”

Fishing bikes out of lakes and waterfronts is one of many trials bikeshare companies must overcome in the Emerald City, which isn’t the easiest place to get around on two wheels. Unlike New York City or Washington, D.C., where city-sponsored bikeshare programs have flourished, the Pacific Northwest’s notorious drizzle and unrelenting topography pose challenges to the bike-curious commuter.

Seattle’s first attempt at a bikeshare, Pronto, launched in November 2014 and struggled with low ridership until the city bailed it out in February 2016. A year later, Seattle mothballed the program altogether.

“The city’s bikeshare karma was pretty bad,” says Mafara Hobson, communications director for the Seattle Department of Transportation.

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But just a few months later, in July 2017, three new companies — Lime, Ofo, and Spin — lined up to join a new dockless bikeshare pilot program. Free-floating GPS-tracked bikes were scattered around the city, eschewing the expense and restrictions of docking stations. Anyone could walk up to a bike, unlock it via app, text, call, or even by paying cash at a nearby 7-Eleven, and ride exactly where they needed to go.

Initially, the bikes tended, like water, to flow downhill. The green Lime bikes, yellow Ofos, and orange Spins pooled in Seattle’s low-lying neighborhoods, crowded onto street corners and medians until unmarked maintenance vans showed up to haul them back to higher ground. But then, this February, Lime debuted an electric-assist bike capable of taking on Seattle’s most challenging terrain at a breezy 15 miles an hour.

The so-called “e-bikes” were an immediate hit. They were a little more expensive than the $1 rides on a traditional pedal bike. But you could also cover more ground with a battery boost: In 10 minutes, you could travel nearly three miles for less than a $2.75 bus fare. And the e-bikes were turning up in places Lime’s pedal bikes never did, like on the top of Queen Anne — a hill so steep that, during snows, its streets are closed to car traffic and occupied by sleds instead.

Lime started with 500 e-bikes in Seattle, but the company began adding new ones almost immediately to keep up with demand. By the end of June, there were 1,400 green e-bikes on the city’s streets; today, that number is closer to 1,600. By Lime’s count, it now operates the largest e-bike fleet in North America — and maybe the world.

Running a hubless e-bikeshare involves intricate behind-the-scenes choreography to keep charged bikes where riders want them. Lime says it is growing as fast as it can, adding new bikes and training new field operations staff to keep them running. But these maintenance-related realities add a layer of complexity to an otherwise sleek-seeming scheme.

Transportation is the top emitting sector in the United States, with nearly 2 billion tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere every year. For the more than 400 American cities who have signed a pledge of support for the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals, bikes and e-bikes offer a better way to keep urban traffic moving at a lower carbon cost. And if the partnership between municipality and startup pays off, bikeshares might redraw the urban planning of those cities.

When a gap in traffic finally appears, Infante muscles his van out of its parking spot and onto the road. On the Lime app, he selects a glowing green target that indicates a nearby bike — an e-bike with less than 10 percent of its battery power remaining. Bingo. The stoplight turns green, and we’re off to track it down.

Andrew Infante moves a Lime bike that was parked improperly on a Seattle street. Grist / Jesse Nichols

Hubless bikeshares depend on workers who search for abandoned, damaged, or out-of-the-way bikes, most often using workhorse vans like this one. It may seem incongruous that a company pioneering new forms of urban mobility is reliant on such an old one, but this is pretty standard in the industry: Maintenance crews drive around, checking that bikes are in good working order and “rebalancing them” — moving them from low-use areas to spots with higher demand, like near public bus stops or light rail stations. (Some 80 percent of Lime’s rides in Seattle start or end at transit stations, Infante says.)

Lime has a fleet of 13 vans and a team of about 50 people who take turns rebalancing the bikes around the city 24 hours a day. Now that e-bikes are in the picture, this team is also responsible for making sure they get fresh batteries when needed. This means hauling the batteries back and forth to their warehouse on the north end of the city to charge.

When demand for e-bikes is particularly high — on, say, July 4th weekend — the operations team may have trouble keeping up with all the batteries that need charging, Infante says. That can leave a lot of low-on-charge bikes sitting around. When a bike’s battery starts to run low during a ride, the Lime app will buzz to alert the rider and show the estimated mileage remaining; if the battery is critically low, a user will not be able to unlock the bike in the first place.

Infante admits that using a van for all of Lime’s maintenance isn’t practical — nor is it as sustainable as the company would like. Lime is in the early stages of experimenting with alternatives, like hauling batteries with a Prius or ferrying bikes with electric cargo trikes, which can travel in bike lanes, avoiding traffic and the bulk of a van’s carbon emissions.

The company isn’t alone in trying to find a better way to keep a fleet of e-bikes charged. Earlier this year, in an attention-getting vote of confidence that e-bikes will play an important role in future transportation, Uber acquired an e-bikeshare startup called Jump. Like Lime, Jump’s bikes are self-locking and trackable; unlike Lime, Jump skipped over pedal bikes and went straight to e-bikes, as it moved into five cities in the U.S., including San Francisco, D.C., and Austin.

In several of these cities, it installed experimental charging stations where users can choose to dock their bikes to charge in exchange for a ride credit. This brings the model closer to the classic hub bikeshares, but it’s more flexible, says Nelle Pierson, Jump’s head of communications.

Providing incentives to encourage users to take on some of the company’s logistical labor is a neat trick, and one other bikeshare companies are also considering. Lime currently offers rewards to users who unlock bikes that have stayed in one place for too long — if you move the bike, then Lime might not have to send a field technician to do the same.

A Lime operations employee unloads an e-bike to place on a Seattle street. Grist / Jesse Nichols

While it’s hard to get a handle on exactly how much energy a mass e-bike scheme requires, it’s almost certainly less than any other kind of transit. According to industry estimates, the average e-bike battery consumes between 0.4 and 0.7 kilowatt hours of power per charge, which might power the 250-watt engine for four to five days — enough to cover more than 50 miles. That means that in Seattle, Lime’s batteries may consume as much as 1,120 kilowatt hours of energy every few days. For comparison, keeping the same number of electric cars charged might take 32,000 kilowatt hours.

How much carbon is spent in generating that electricity will vary widely depending on where you are. In Seattle, much of the energy comes from hydropower, meaning its carbon intensity is relatively low. On other electrical grids that are more reliant on fossil fuels, the e-bike will have a larger footprint.

It’s been 15 minutes since Infante pulled out of the parking spot, and we’ve managed to go about half a mile. We could have walked the same distance in this time — and we still have five blocks to go to retrieve the abandoned bike. E-bikes offer a middle way between car-centric transportation and the lycra-heavy machismo of urban cycling. You can hop on an e-bike at your office, pedal it to the nearest light rail station, and catch the train home. This ease and convenience may be enough to coax some commuters out of their cars.

The average Seattle commuter spent 55 hours stuck in traffic in 2017, according to data-consulting company INRIX’s traffic scorecard. That number is likely to get worse in the coming years as major infrastructure projects shut down some of the city’s arterial routes and Seattle’s population boom puts more cars on the road.

“Cars are not going to move better in Seattle for the near future,” says Gabriel Scheer, Lime’s head of government relations. He explains that the city is going to be entering a “period of maximum constraint” soon. But even in the most crowded situations, Scheer notes, “Bikes usually get through traffic.” While pedal bikes may be a tough sell for people who don’t want to show up to work sweaty or tired, the electric assist might be the clincher.

An estimate by the National Association of City Transportation Officials found that 7,500 bikes can move through a two-way protected bike lane in an hour, compared to the 600 to 1,600 car passengers that can squeeze into the same single lane of road in the same amount of time. When a software engineer ran the numbers for New York City, he found that more than half of all trips taken during rush hour would be faster and cheaper on a bike than in a cab.

Grist / Jesse Nichols

All that might explain Uber’s investment in Jump, as well as Lyft’s move earlier this month to acquire Motivate, the largest U.S. bikeshare company, which runs NYC’s Citi Bike and D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare.

If bikeshares can get more people out of their cars and onto bikes on a regular basis, the very structure of a city could change for the greener. Seattle’s five-year Bike Master Plan has already identified almost 100 projects where bike paths and separated lanes should be installed or expanded before 2021.

The city is becoming more bike-friendly because, ultimately, it has a stake in promoting bike commuting. Seattle has allocated an estimated $65 million to build 50 miles of protected bike lanes and 65 miles of greenway trails on existing roads over the next nine years. Compare that to the $3.3 billion in estimated costs to replace the waterfront viaduct with a 2-mile-long tunnel, a project which has suffered numerous delays and mishaps over the past seven years. The tunnel is still not open for use.

Finally, Infante pulls over into a loading zone near Seattle’s packed shopping district, where tourists and office workers jostle for sidewalk space. We climb out and look for the bike, but after a few minutes, it becomes clear that it’s not there. When Infante checks the app again, the green target has disappeared. Someone has already pedaled the bike away.

This is pretty typical, Infante says. Since the e-bikes were introduced in February, demand is so high that it can be hard to find one in busy areas like this, especially when the weather is nice.

Infante says this marks another difference between Lime’s pedal bikes and its e-bikes, and another point in favor of the electric assist: He’s had people take e-bikes from his hands as he unloaded them from a van. “The e-bikes are so popular,” he says, “they tend to move themselves.”

Inspired by the people I had seen cheerfully whizzing around town on their Lime e-bikes, a few days later I decided to take one up a route I’d never attempted on two wheels before: the steep blocks that lead from Seattle’s sea-level downtown into the neighborhood called, tellingly, Capitol Hill. As I started to pedal, I was delighted to find myself flying up grades that usually leave me winded at a walk. The city seemed to open up before me, a series of vistas of expanding possibility, mobility, convenience, comfort.

The battery on Lime’s e-bikes Grist / Jesse Nichols

Then, my bike gave a sudden lurch.

All at once, my feet met the resistance of a 60-pound bike expressing a sudden gravitational preference to roll back the way I’d come — the battery was dead.

I jumped off and hauled the now-leaden bike onto the sidewalk. The Lime app had warned me a few minutes earlier that my bike was low on charge, but the mileage estimate had seemed more than adequate, until I hit the hills. Now I pushed the dead bike up the hill until I reached a flat spot where I could park it. I had never understood the phrase “learning curve” so clearly, looking ahead and behind at the hill that Lime and its riders would both have to find their way up.

Feeling foolish and a little shaken, I hailed a Lyft.

Geopolitics / 💣 US Sanctions Are Pushing Russia to War
« on: Today at 12:33:05 AM »

US Sanctions Are Pushing Russia to War
August 13, 2018 Posted by Addison dePitt



The new round of sanctions this week unleashed by the United States on Russia has only one meaning: the US rulers want to crush Russia’s economy. By any definition, Washington is, in effect, declaring war on Russia.

The implemented economic measures may have a seemingly abstract or sterile quality about them: banning electronic exports to Russia, rattling financial markets, stock prices falling. But the material consequence is that American officials are intending to inflict physical damage on Russian society and Russian people.

It’s economic warfare on a sliding scale to military warfare, as the Prussian General Karl von Clausewitz would no doubt appreciate.

It seems all the more significant that this week also saw US internet services launching a major clampdown on anti-war websites, suggesting that the powers-that-be want to shut down any criticism or public awareness of their reckless warmongering.

What’s more, the latest round of US sanctions – there have been several previous rounds since the contrived Ukrainian conflict in 2014 – is based on nothing but wild, ridiculous speculation. That only adds insult upon injury.
Zionist Democrat Adam Schiff leads the pack of Russia haters. Tragically, the American people are being led to the abyss by politicians who are either ignorant, insane or prostitutes for war profits. Maybe even all of the above. Perversely, these politicians and their media clients accuse Russia of “acts of war” over fantastical claims about “election interference” when in reality it is they who are the ones committing acts of war against Russia.

Washington said the new proposed sanctions are due to its “determination” that the Russian state was responsible for an alleged chemical-weapon attack on a former double agent in England earlier this year.

The so-called Skripal affair involving Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia allegedly being poisoned by Russian agents using a deadly nerve agent is as yet an unproven conundrum. Some might even say “farce”.

No evidence has ever been presented by the British government to substantiate its sensational allegations against Moscow. Its claims that Russia was responsible for poisoning the Skripals rests entirely on dubious assertion and innuendo.

Now Washington is proposing sanctions based on a wholly unverified “determination” by the British – sanctions that are intended to crush the Russian economy. The proposed punitive measures go way beyond the usual freezing of assets pertaining to individuals. What Washington is moving to do is attack the core financial operation of the Russian economy.

No wonder that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued a grave response to the latest American sanctions. He said they were comparable to “economic warfare”. Medvedev warned that Moscow would have to retaliate either “politically, economically or in some other way”. Medvedev’s tone was unmistakably one of alarm at the draconian, gratuitous and irrational nature of the US actions.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also expressed incredulity and apprehension over Washington’s conduct. He said that following the seemingly constructive summit between US President Donald Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month, this latest provocation from Washington makes the American side completely unpredictable.

The immediate sanctions coming into force are limited to banning exports of US electronics to Russia. But it’s what comes next that is perplexing. Washington is saying that if Russia does not give a “guarantee” on halting the future use of chemical weapons, and if Moscow does not allow international inspectors into its country to monitor alleged chemical weapons – then the second wave of sanctions will be applied within 90 days.

The subsequent round of sanctions include banning Russian state-owned airline, Aeroflot, from operating flights to the US. The impossibility of Russia meeting Washington’s absurd demands make the further application of sanctions inevitable.

A separate bill is passing through Congress which is planning to hit the Russian banking system, aimed at preventing international transactions.

Senators sponsoring that bill have labelled it “the sanctions bill from hell”. The title of the proposed legislation says it all: “Defending American Society From Russian Aggression Act”. Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Robert Menendez and Ben Cardin, among other Russophobes who are pushing the bill, are explicit about the objective. They say the measures implemented will “crush the Kremlin”.

Tragically, the American people are being led to the abyss by politicians who are either ignorant, insane or prostitutes for war profits. Maybe even all of the above. Perversely, these politicians and their media clients accuse Russia of “acts of war” over fantastical claims about “election interference” when in reality it is they who are the ones committing acts of war against Russia.

The chances are paltry that President Trump will use his executive power to block the forthcoming sanctions. The political climate in the US among the intelligence agencies, lawmakers and the mainstream media has become saturated with anti-Russian hysteria. The US is an oligarchy in throes of insanity beyond democratic accountable to its people.

Already this week’s announcement of more offensive economic incursions on Russia sent the Russian economy plummeting. The ruble, bonds and stocks all nosedived. This is an attack on Russia’s vital interests. An economic Barbarossa.

No doubt part of the American calculation is to foment social discontent and discord towards the Putin government. It’s the same illegal playbook that the Americans are using with Iran, whose economy this week was also hit with draconian US sanctions.

If Russia’s economy has been thrown into turmoil already over the latest announced sanctions one can only imagine the damage inflicted when further American attacks are mounted on the fundamentals of Russia’s banking system and its freedom to trade with the rest of the world.

For Washington this seems to be open season for sanctions. It’s not just Russia and Iran on the receiving end. China, Canada, the European Union, Turkey, Venezuela, North Korea, among others, are also being battered with American economic warfare, either under the name of “sanctions” or indirectly using the rhetoric of “tariffs”.

For Russia’s part, it has shown immense forbearance up to now in tolerating Washington’s provocations and indeed aggression over numerous pretexts. From the conflict in Ukraine, to the alleged annexation of Crimea, to Moscow’s principled support for Syria being traduced as “supporting a dictator”, to alleged “meddling in US elections”, and much more, Russia has shown huge reserves of stoicism and self-discipline in tolerating what can only be called gratuitous American aggression.

At all times, Russia has maintained a dignified, unflappable posture in the face of American taunting and irrationality. Moscow perhaps thought that President Trump could bring some normality to bilateral relations. That’s turned out illusory.

But what happens now? When Washington has really gone too far. The US has taken its churlish conduct to a whole new dangerous level, by preparing to launch a full-on economic war on Russia’s vital interests.

The crazed American rulers are pushing the world to the brink by their belligerence.

Washington has heretofore given notice that it is not interested in diplomacy, dialogue, or negotiation. It only has one mode of conduct – war, war, war.

Finian Cunningham is a former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages

Perhaps you can explain why your bedmate, Surly, is exempted from all COC rules.

I can.

He runs the forum and has to put up with a lot of cheap bullshit from the peanut gallery. Plus he's the heir apparent to this whole site, if the current admin becomes unable to keep on keeping on. Plus, I know him, like him, and trust him. He might be a liberal, but he's the same liberal every day. And he supports his arguments with good data.

This post of yours, as you know, is in clear violation of the CoC too. You might ask why I put up with your crap. The answer is that you sometimes make very good comments. I'd recommend sticking to that, because this path you're on now leads to permanent banishment, and no telling how upset your internet BF GO would be about that. We'd have to ban him too, and we don't really want to ban anybody.

Want to go for broke? Double down? Make this into another pissing contest?

 I have been off-line all day, and I’m reading this on my phone while waiting forever in a doctors office.

If you’re scoring at home, Carpet talk earned her  next ban by emailing Ashvin  to complain about  The lack of white glove concierge service in re moderation. I have not checked the admin bin yet, but if what he says is true, yet another violation would make her a four time loser.

Go ahead, Carpet Talk. Double down. I will ban your ass with gusto.

Looking forward to your next post.

The world is full of places that welcome right wing fuckwittery. This ain’t one of them.

Basically it's what Eddie said, but there is more to it than that.

When anyone joins the Diner, they come in with a Clean Slate, Tabula Rasa.  Over time, Diners who contribute demonstrate  through their posting whether they are supporters of the Diner principles or detractors.

Some Diners show themselves to be very much in support of the Diner, to the point of devoting hours of their time to the thankless task of moderating a forum.  Other Diners show themselves to be detrimental to the Diner, repeatedly instigating napalm contests, insulting other Diners with pejorative adjectives and generally claiming the right to say WTF they want to say however they want to say it.  They don't have this right, anymore than you can write a letter to the NYT and expect it to get published if you repeatedly insult the editors of the NYT.

Diners who repeatedly demonstrate their value to the Diner end up as Admins, who have a lot of latitude on what they write and how they write it.  Diners who repeatedly demonstrate they are detrimental to the Diner end up Contrarians and Moderated, or if they persist even with moderation they will be banned.

I have stated all of this before in countless threads where the complaining crops up, and I have explained the CoC in detail as well, although it should be mostly CFS.  For this particular episode, the discussion is over, I am locking this thread there will be no further commentary (except by Admins, who can comment in locked threads).  To the Diners who are pushing the envelope here, I will let you know both of the Admins tasked with moderating the forum are thoroughly fed up, so if you don't want to get banned this would be a good time to STFU.


Play your word games all you wish RE. 

There a wonderful display of your character and wisdom.

Your dripping sarcasm is another Violation of the CoC.  See how many you can rack up in a day.  ::)  Then try learning some manners.



No it's not.

Yes, it is.  Calling someone "sad" & "hopeless" is equivalent to calling them "stupid" or "dim",  It's directed at the person, that is the definition of Ad Hom.  You do it all the time, you are the biggest violator of the CoC on the Diner because of it.  You have to learn to argue to topic, not to your opponent.


They are most definitely not. Sad is Not a Synonym for either Stupid or Dim, nor is Hopeless.

I didn't say they were synonyms.  They are pejorative adjectives directed Ad Hom, and are a Violation of the CoC.



No it's not.

Yes, it is.  Calling someone "sad" & "hopeless" is equivalent to calling them "stupid" or "dim",  It's directed at the person, that is the definition of Ad Hom.  You do it all the time, you are the biggest violator of the CoC on the Diner because of it.  You have to learn to argue to topic, not to your opponent.


Environment / Re: Crazy Weather
« on: August 13, 2018, 06:55:58 AM »
Good to hear you eat lamb. I know it is not as popular in US as here where roast lamb and veges is very traditional fare.


I'm a big fan of Lamb, particularly Rack of Lamb, aka rib chops.

Did you ever read my essay on the life story of Baa-Baa, a Baby Lamb from Oz?  :icon_sunny:


Your a sad hopeless case of denial Surly.

That is Ad Hom and a Violation of the CoC.



August 10, 2018
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
by David Price

This week Vice President Pence announced that the Department of Defense is beginning a planning process to establish a sixth military branch, known as the Space Force.  Pence’s statement was a public reassurance that Trump’s sudden announcement of the Space Force was not just another of the president’s frequent sudden announcements that have no connection to reality.  Pence claimed that this new Space Force military division will be in place by 2020, and while many in the media are reacting as if the militarization of space were a sudden departure from American policy, as with much of the Trump presidency, this policy shift is only a minor, more grotesque version of what our government has long routinely undertaken.

Links between the American space program and military have long been one-part open secret, and one-part open question.  It has always been difficult to determine just how much of NASA’s budget can properly be considered military spending.  A few years ago while starting to work on a paper examining Margaret Mead and other anthropologists’ work on a 1950s and 60s program designed to measure and shape US public attitudes about space (known as Project Man in Space), I had assumed I would find a basic critical analysis, akin to Gore Vidal’s famous 1988 essay on “The National Security State,” in which Vidal’s analysis of mandatory and discretionary spending revealed that the American military’s budget was far larger than the meek 37% appearing at first glance (when only considering the listed DoD budget), and once all military linked projects at agencies ranging from Department of Energy, Department of State, Veteran’s Benefits, and foreign arms deal aid packages, and other defense related projects not included in the Department of Defense budget, could be understood to make up not a minority of the federal budget but approaching 77% of the budget.  And while I found many excellent contemporary and historical analysis of the links between NASA and military space projects, I could not find straight forward numbers stating how much of the money the US government spends on space goes to military linked projects.

Links connecting NASA and military projects have been close to the surface since NASA’s origins. Section 305i of NASA’s 1958 Charter clarified NASA’s relationship to the Pentagon, in stating that: “The Administration shall be considered a defense agency of the United States for the purpose of chapter 17 of title 35 of the United States Code.”  While nothing is hidden about this, NASA’s very public civilian space exploration projects create widespread perceptions that its mission remains essentially one of pure science and exploration.

Beginning in 1957, anthropologists, including Margaret Mead played a role in formulating the public disassociation of space exploration’s direct links to the militarization of space, and the roots of this severance can be traced back to a program known as Project Man in Space, where Harold Laswell, Margaret Mead and Donald Michael’s basic narratives championing pioneering elements of space exploration were developed, in part with funding from the Brookings Institution.  This work studied and reported on public attitudes about space during the post-Sputnik era, and impacted policy narratives about the American space program.

A 1983 General Accounting Office report determined that about a quarter of NASA’s spending then went to “support military programs.”  In a 1982 New York Times article, John Nobel Wilford reported that,

    “In a letter on the report, W.H. Sheley Jr., director of the accounting office, said that, based in part on projections that almost half of the space shuttle flights will carry military payloads, more than $1 billion of the requested $3.5 billion for the shuttle in 1983 could be allocated as a military expenditure. Part of the agency’s spending for aeronautics and space technology research could also be attributed to military goals, the report said.

    By these calculations, Mr. Sheley said, $1.1 billion of NASA’s research and development budget of $5.33 billion, or 20.5 percent, should be considered military-related. Another $400 million, or 7.7 percent, was listed under civilian-military support. The space agency’s total budget request for 1983 amounts to $6.6 billion. The Pentagon’s total direct spending on space activities is not known, but is thought to be equal to or greater than NASA’s annual budget. NASA Disputes Calculations.”

During the Reagan years, as governmental space exploration and private industry merged in new ways, there were increasing uses of NASA for military and intelligence activities. In the mid-1980s we learned that at least 1/3 of the space shuttle missions had classified top secret military or intelligence components—many of which ran through the secret National Reconnaissance Office.  During the period following the explosion of the Challenger shuttle, the significance of these missions became apparent as the Pentagon claimed priority for missions once the shuttles were cleared to fly again following the lifting of the post-Challenger moratorium.

Government historian, and former policy staff member at CIA, the National Reconnaissance Office and in the office of the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Cassutt, observed that the Space Shuttle was so linked to intelligence missions that the National Reconnaissance Office “requirements drove the shuttle design.”  During the 1980s and 90s, classified payloads became a regular feature of space shuttle missions.

Today, astronauts and NASA are not needed to advance the militarization of space to the next frontier: we have the Pentagon’s secret space drone (known as the X-37B) that has circled the earth with minimal public interest, undertaking secret missions. Well before Trump did his publicity stunt announcing his comic book “Space Force,” the Department of Defense built its own space program—benefitting directly from the advances developed by NASA, with a separate space budget comparable to NASA’s; the militarized explorations of space today dwarf civilian explorations.

Under Obama, in 2016 Defense Secretary Ash Carter pushed for significant increases in the Pentagon’s space budget, bluntly argued that in the past, “space was seen as a sanctuary. New and emerging threats make clear that that’s not the case anymore and we must be prepared for the possibility of a conflict that extends in space.”  Carter also noted that China and Russia “have advanced directed-energy capabilities that could be used to track or blind satellites, disrupting key operations, and both have demonstrated the ability to perform complex maneuvers in space.”  Trump’s move to establish a Space Force continues is little more than a continuation of the Obama administration’s effort to militarize space.

While it is simple to separate (or launder) budgetary lines funding civilian space missions designed to orbit the earth or walk on the moon—there is no simple meaningful way to separate the scientific research needed to launch the Apollo astronauts to the moon, from the science needed to successfully build Intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to carry deadly nuclear payloads to our Soviet enemies.  This is the nature of dual use science; and while the particulars of our culture of science train us to categorically see these as separate enterprises, these developments feed knowledge into a conjoined body of knowledge.  Military spy satellites, star wars technology, unknown military tests in space, space weaponry, many innovations now in the public domain—such as early GPS technology–was classified and limited to military applications.  This is part of the dual use nature of militarized science in a capitalist market place.

It remains unknown what role our greatest contemporary malefactors of great wealth, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk’s, privately funded space programs will play in the development of this new Space Force.  Given the ongoing trends of privatized R & D for military and space programs it is reasonable to assume there will be profits to be shared, even as these elites are acting in ways that appear as if they are preparing the way for their decedents to leave a depleted world behind.

What Trump’s formation of an identified Space Force does is to make naked the truth that the American space project, within and outside of NASA, has always been part of a military project wrapped in the public gauze of utopian space travel fantasies. These fantasies helped channel public understanding of space exploration and its inherent links to the militarization of space; and even while we gained incredible, important, scientific knowledge and stunning photos from Hubble and other projects, these were also, at least in part, shinny objects that kept our attention from core military aspects of America’s space project.  Like most open secrets, little was hidden about this, but the cultural categories we constructed kept the depth of this obvious truth at bay as we entertained visions of utopian space exploration, of a world where developed nations would share satellite data with poor countries as acts of mutual aid, even while NASA’s space race with the Soviet Union was a form of warfare.  The Mercury and Apollo programs were civilian programs–with some military personnel and project links, the satellite programs, and other NASA linked projects had significant military links. These military features were frequently highlighted in congressional funding requests, while the public was sold Buck Rogers fantasies.

In very concrete terms Trump’s step towards a Space Force simply connects the dots laid in place by the politer and more articulate administrations came before him as he moves us into a world where space more openly becomes a warfare platform.  But we should expect a culture so deeply embedded in a political economy of warfare and militarization to try and do no less than to extend its militarized vision beyond our atmosphere reaching to militarize the universe.



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After hitting new record low, Turkish lira pares some losses on central bank statements

    The Turkish lira touched a new record low in early Asian trade.
    The lira crossed the 7 handle against the dollar before later paring some of those losses after its free fall in the previous session.

Cheang Ming   | @cheangming
Published 5 Hours Ago Updated 26 Mins Ago

People check currency exchange rates at a currency exchange office on August 11, 2018 in Istanbul.
Yasin Akgul | AFP | Getty Images

The Turkish lira retraced some losses after touching a new record low in Asia's Monday trade following a recent geopolitics-triggered free fall in the currency.

On Monday, the lira last traded down by around 3.5 percent against the greenback at 6.6475 at 2:30 p.m. HK/SIN. It had earlier dropped to a fresh all-time low of 7.24, before paring some losses after moves were taken to assuage market nerves frayed by the currency's recent weakness.

The retracement in losses came after the Turkish central bank moved to improve liquidity during Asia afternoon trade. Among the moves announced Monday were a slashing of lira required reserves held by banks by 250 basis points for all maturities, Reuters said.

Before that, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak had said in a Sunday interview with local media outlet Hurriyet that the government had a plan in place following the fall in the lira, Reuters reported. Albayrak said Turkish institutions will take "necessary steps" beginning Monday, but the news agency said few specifics had been provided on what those steps included.

The lira briefly plunged 20 percent against the dollar on Friday, finishing the U.S. session lower by some 16 percent after U.S. President Donald Trump said he had approved metals tariffs on Turkey to be doubled.

The weakness in the lira came against the backdrop of the Turkish economy facing major challenges, but it has come under pressure most recently after U.S.-Turkey talks over the detention of a U.S. pastor in Turkey appeared to make no major progress.

"The decline in the lira is multifaceted, caused not only by a weak external position in terms of current account deficit and inadequate currency reserves, but also the challenging political environment which exacerbates the vulnerabilities in the lira," Kerry Craig, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, wrote in a recent note.

"A mid-meeting rate hike and tightening of monetary policy may help to avert the lira's decline, to some extent," he added.

After calling for citizens to convert out of dollars and gold and buy the lira to help fight a "national struggle" last week, Turkish President Recep Erdogan said Sunday that the drop in the currency was not an accurate reflection of the country's fundamentals, Reuters said.

"There is no economic reason ... This is called carrying out an operation against Turkey," Erdogan said, based on a translation.

Although sentiment in the wake of the lira's plunge has been cautious, the turmoil in Turkey is not widely seen by analysts as posing a significant contagion risk for a broader financial crisis due to the confluence of factors that have resulted in the drop in the lira.

"[T]he drivers of the lira's decline are very specific to Turkey — therefore it should not derail the positive fundamentals in other emerging markets over a longer term," Craig said.

Still, some think the crisis could have a degree of fallout in the short term.

"While Turkey does not reflect any endemic risk amongst emerging markets, there could still be some sentiment spillovers into (emerging market) currencies and risky assets in the near term," Chang Wei Liang, a strategist at Mizuho Bank, said in a note.

— CNBC's David Reid contributed to this report.

Energy / 🛢️ Crude Oil Price Forecast: Oil Prime for Breakdown
« on: August 13, 2018, 12:01:31 AM »

Crude Oil Price Forecast: Oil Prime for Breakdown
Gary Ashton
August 12, 2018 — 3:52 PM EDT

The tension in the energy space resulted in oil prices remaining range bound last week. The most significant news was China's announcement of 25% tariffs on $16 billion worth of U.S. goods, including autos and some oil products, like fuel. The story put pressure on oil Wednesday, but prices recovered slightly later in the week.

Interestingly, China chose not to put tariffs directly on U.S. crude oil imports. The decision, analysts say, reflects China's substantial import needs, particularly with oil supplies from Venezuela in decline and supplies from Iran potentially disrupted by U.S. sanctions. China's latest tariff move was in response to the U.S. putting 25% tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese goods previously. The most recent U.S. list brings the total value of Chinese products facing a 25% import tariff to $50 billion.

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U.S. Oil Projects Under Threat

In addition to tariffs on Chinese goods, the Trump administration announced late Friday that the U.S. would double tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey. The announcement comes as a diplomatic dispute between the two countries escalates. Oil industry executives are concerned that this latest tariff decision could further increase costs for domestic oil and gas pipeline projects that are already facing huge bottlenecks.
OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report

On Monday, OPEC will publish its latest monthly oil market report. Traders and analysts will be closely watching for changes in OPEC's supply and demand expectations. Last month, OPEC said that it expects world oil demand in 2019 to grow by 1.45 million barrels per day (mb/d) year over year, a slowdown from 1.65 mb/d growth in 2018. The cartel also said that it believes non-OPEC oil supply for 2019 will grow by 2.1 mb/d, broadly unchanged from 2018.

Late last Friday, the IEA released its monthly oil market report in which it said that higher output from Saudi Arabia and Russia had reduced concerns about a global supply shortage. The IEA revised up its forecast for world oil demand in 2019 by 100,000 barrels per day from last month to 1.5 mb/d.

Global oil demand growth

The most significant data in these latest forecasts is the expected decline in demand growth from the U.S. in 1Q19 and the absence of any demand growth from Europe. The drop does not seem to be a seasonal factor, because demand growth was strong in 1Q18. If the IEA's demand forecast eventually proves to be correct, then it does not paint a very bullish picture for oil in an environment of rising supplies from some producers that are adequately meeting falling output from others.
Crude Oil Still Range Bound

Oil spent another week struggling for direction, trading in a range between $70 and $66 per barrel. It started off last week testing $70 per barrel on both Monday and Tuesday but failed to make gains at that level. By Wednesday, the bears were entirely in control following news of a more significant increase in U.S. crude oil product inventory like gasoline, driving prices sharply lower on the day. Thursday was a classic doji candlestick as the market floundered for direction. Friday was a bit of a relief rally, but most importantly, oil again failed to reach the previous week's closing price.

Examining the daily price chart, we see that the 21-day exponential moving average is about to cross down through the 55-day moving average, which is itself starting to point lower. This moving average cross is a significant bearish technical indicator and indicates that oil could be about to break down.

Another bearish sign is the fast line of the moving average convergence divergence (MACD) remaining below the neutral zero level. MACD below zero is a bearish signal indicating that prices are trending lower. MACD is also a momentum indicator, so a downward trending fast line – in black – tends to mean an acceleration of any downward price move.

Other technical indicators also remain bearish for oil. On a daily price chart, for example, there are currently no buy signals and seven sell signals. Technical indicators on a longer-term weekly price chart are presently neutral, with three buy, three sell and four neutral indicators. If the technical indicators on the higher timeframe weekly price chart move to bearish signals in the coming weeks, this would be particularly problematic for the bulls.

Disclaimer: Gary Ashton is an oil and gas financial consultant who writes for Investopedia. The observations he makes are his own and are not intended as investment or trading advice. Oil price chart courtesy

Read more: Crude Oil Price Forecast: Oil Prime for Breakdown | Investopedia
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I was planning on bringing something like a ski hat for cold nights or mornings or the boat, and a baseball cap for sun and driving.. You think that'll be okay?

That should work.  Mostly for the boat, but also mornings cooking until you get the campfire going a hat is nice.  A hoodie works too.


It's a drizzling rain  day here, after a real rain for some unspecified time before dawn this morning. I evidently reflexively set my alarm (set for 5:30 am) last night, and the rain was happening when the alarm went off.

I had forgotten I booked Monday so I could get three days work in, and also had planned to go to the sale. Bring in the clowns clones. It would have been potentially a mudfest anyway. I have to get busy. I think the pig auction is being discontinued completely in late October. And that's litter season too. I have to get some pigs gone real soon. But it won't be this week.

I'm starting to pack. I'm making  a list and checking it twice.

Don't forget the HATS.  You'll need themto protect your brain from frying when the Ancients arrive at the Ceremony.


Another rainy, damp, cold, miserable day here on the Last Great Frontier.

It appears this weather has got the etter of what is left of me, and I have contracted some respiratory infection, a cold or flu which is kicking my ass today.  With my immune system in it's current dogshit condition, I will probably have pneumonia by the time Eddie gets here.  ::)

On the upside, the weather for the trip looks somewhat better.


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