The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Open Thread

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Know Thine Enemy


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 29, 2023


  1. bruce wilder

    I continue to monitor news about the War in Ukraine and though I abandoned the New York Times, I look at a mix of mainstream news (mostly the smorgasbord served up by Apple’s News app), whatever clickbait is served up by “my” webbrowsers (e.g. Newsweek and CNN snippets) and the little community of dissenters that has grown up around Rumble and Youtube (Douglas McGregor, Alexander Mercouris et cetera). My touchstone for the pure neoliberal/neocon view is an Australian historian cum surfer on TikTok — sounds weird, but he is really good at distilling that self-assured b.s. into 80 proof confidence that Putin could, should and probably will lose.

    I don’t pay much attention to the actual war, but just watching these various commentariats filling the information vacuum is a bit like watching a new train wreck every day. Years ago, we talked about mainstream media manufacturing consent which I always envisioned as a kind of consensus, but these operations seem intent on fracturing opinion into a multitude of tiny pieces and then selling sweatshirts with logos.

    Matt Taibbi continues to labor away on the Twitter Files, today exposing the Alliance for Securing Democracy and their website “tool”, Hamilton 68, a highly successful effort to spray a firehose of post-Russiagate smears into the mainstream media, tainting such varied figures as the editor of Consortium News, Tulsi Gabbard and various otherwise obscure conservatives. Taibbi gives us a rarely glimpse at the sausage-making, but looking at “news” and comment about the Ukraine War, I get the impression sometimes that there are many vast fonts of such disinformation flooding the space.

    I attribute a lot of the derangement of opinion I see re: Ukraine War to the shortage of verified fact and the vast surplus of propaganda and disinformation. Everyone seems to agree that in Donbass the conflict has settled into “a war of attrition”. As Mercouris ruefully notes, the long drawn-out stalemate in Bahkmut is routinely labeled a “meat grinder” in mainstream media, but there’s disagreement about whose meat is being ground. In Clickbait media (but more sparingly in prestige media) Russia is reported to be using “human-wave tactics” — a highly implausible assertion in any circumstance, but especially for a battle being carried out by mercenaries of the Wagner Group. In the absence of reliable official figures, sometimes the daily claims of each side about the losses of the other are trotted out, though the cumulative result of such tallies is absurd.

    My Australian TikTokker was arguing the other day that Russia lacks resources. Russia! And also arguing for the technological superiority of American weapons like the Abrams M-1 tanks (which, by the way, will have been stripped of their fancy bells-and-whistles before being handed over to the untrustworthy Ukrainians to lose to the Russians). (That the U.S. military lost in Afghanistan and Iraq makes no impression.)

    Colonel Douglas MacGregor is a YouTube phenom. He ventures some figures on casualties suffered by the two combatant powers that are staggering, and speaks as if these numbers are based on some kind of systematic intelligence gathering, which is more than any mainstream media bothers with. He’s got a great face and voice. He also believes that FDR deliberately provoked Japan to attack Pearl Harbor, a thesis he regularly trots out, citing the McCollum memo as a smoking gun (which it is not).

    What worries me in all of this, as it worries many thoughtful people, is the apparent impossibility of negotiating a settlement coupled with the potential for escalation. Arguing that Russia cannot be allowed to gain from this war as it would set a precedent that could be very de-stabilizing (good argument on its face), the West has set itself the task of making Russia lose, when Russia has set itself in a position where it (the ruling regime at least) cannot afford to lose, cannot credibly survive intact after losing.

    The solution to this rock-and-a-hard-place dilemma for the deluded West is the faith that Ukraine can beat Russia on the ground if Ukraine are just given enough munitions and money. It is getting hard to see how trying to feed this beast doesn’t end in a NATO confrontation with Russia.

    In a fractured media environment, increasingly dominated by sponsored propaganda (see Taibbi), it is hard to see what kind of “consent” could be manufactured that passed any kind of reality-check. The people who see John Mearsheimer or Douglas MacGregor on YouTube are definitely a tiny niche audience, I would think. Judging by the passing parade of clickbait, most people pay no attention to political news. And, what used to be print mainstream is behind paywalls; only people with subscriptions to something see any of it but headlines. The one thing I never access is the old network news broadcasts — half-an-hour of reading headlines. I fear to know what is going on there.

    You can see I am turning these phenomena over in my mind, wondering what it all means — this political world made by unrestrained, unconstrained propaganda, unanchored by any kind of trustworthiness or reality-check.

  2. mago

    Wow, qué pasa aquí?
    Nobody has anything to say?
    I have a few things, but will stay mute, mas o menos.

    I don’t know what to make of a country and culture that despises the homeless more than homelessness,; that uses the term “food animals”; that equates empathy and compassion with weakness; that buys the lies and reifies everything while indulging in nihilism and mindless activities.

    There’s more to say, but to quote some obscure 60’s band: “one grows weary of the torment, can there be no peace?”

    That’s all folks.

  3. StewartM

    Interesting factoid:

    As the Rs take aim and the “entitlements”.

    We were told by the assorted punditry that the average Republican representative/Senator was so terrified of Trump’s base that they would DARE buck him. Moreover, in this case, a large majority of R voters agree with Trump. Yet, the Republican House seems poised to use take the debt ceiling hostage to force cuts.

    Makes you wonder how much of that fawning was just opportunism? They seem to have no problem bucking him and their own base to serve their masters.

  4. StewartM

    Tucker Carlson advocates liberating Canada:

    Maybe to “free” Canadians from healthcare, the way Chileans were “freed” from the “tyranny” of secure old-age pensions?

  5. multitude of poors

    I don’t know what to make of a country and culture that despises the homeless more than homelessness

    yes mago the US has a vile and deadly war on the homeless, versus a war on homelessness. And not a one of the repeatedly quoted bright bulbs we’re all repeatedly informed to follow, follow, follow; on countless Platforms™—on line and off line— has shit to say about, except on very rare occasions when they know they’ll look bad if they keep neglecting the horrific reality.

    (note, mago’s comment was the last one showing when I commented at 9:00 PM PDT, so I’m not necessarily not responding to anyone’s comment which followed mago’s)

    gotta run ….

  6. Ché Pasa

    Just who is doing the fighting on behalf of Ukraine? Speculation is that the entirety of the Ukraine armed forces were wiped out early in the conflict; every “fighting age” male in the Ukrainian population was then conscripted into the armed forces. Males were forbidden to leave the country. But are two conscript armies battling one another? Or is the fight one between mercenary forces: Wagner Group and whatever mercenaries/”volunteers” Ukraine can recruit.

    There have been stories that Russian speakers, Russian sympathizers, and ethnic Russians throughout Ukraine are being systematically murdered and survivors driven out in an ethnic cleansing frenzy that is very nearly genocidal. Given the widespread bloodlust and warmongering in the United States, it’s no surprise that something like that would be encouraged and take place in Ukraine. “Whatever it takes” to ensure Ukrainian “victory” in this war, right?

    And what is the ultimate point of a depopulated, largely destroyed Ukraine? I’ve never agreed with the Russian invasion nor with the scorched earth defense employed by the Ukrainians (if that’s who’s fighting). From the outside, it looks to be insane. The innate cynicism of both the Russians and Ukrainians must kick in from time to time, and they must wonder themselves what the hell is going on? Really. Not the propaganda. Something else underlies this conflict. What?

  7. Tallifer

    Why are MAGA white nationalist anti-intellectuals on the same page about the defense of the Ukraine as pro-Maduro Leftists?

  8. multitude of poors

    Adding to my last comment, when those follow, follow, follow sites finally do highlight the increasing homeless disaster, way too late, and way too many times. And yes, I do have a site in my mind, they never fail in allowing too many outrageous comments which go unmuzzled, while likely vaporizing many of the pushback comments. The unmuzzled bit might be okay if the site didn’t have an increasing history of vaporized comments that were assigned unmoderated comment numbers (I know, I used to make comments there at least a few times a month, way too many good ones were vaporized inexplicably and I felt gas lighted after a time (and, I admit, started wondering about possible California Donors with big wallets) and stopped commenting there). Further despite having some very long time commenters who are familiar with the area being discussed, they inexplicably do not invite them to at least aid in writing the post, and or first ask those facing the disaster to highlight their experience.

    California and the US at large are deliberately culling their most vulnerable, particularly citizens in their sixties or older.

    Lastly, I think I’ll detract my comment a week and a day ago that sites may not know about the extent of inexplicable vaporization that happens.

    (Note, my comment was the last one showing when I made this comment at 11:17 AM PDT, so I’m not necessarily not responding to anyone’s comment which followed mago’s. Noting that I don’t generally respond to comments unless I have the time, which is very little; and then, not generally outside of US poverty at large; and nefarious California legislators and tech billionaires. I’m too steeped in the brutal effects of those issues on everyone I care about (yes, including myself), as the terrors are exploding exponentially. California is loaded to the gills with poverty ridden victims, many of which never received Gavin Newsom’s 600 stimulus (yes Biden plays from Newsom’s manual, as in where’s that $600?), and they won’t be receiving that gas rebate if they don’t need to file a tax return; both of which he made so many glowing headlines for. Today those of us who care in the Silicon Valley area get to wonder how many homeless might die in the next couple of days, as notable cities are not providing any warming shelters, though they have hundreds of homeless, and temperatures are projected to drop into the thirties for at least two days. It’s pure mythology that California weather is always warm, one needs at least a sweater on most evenings in much of California—even in the summer—despite possible hot daytime temperatures.)

    gotta run, as usual, I’ve used up way too much time than I actually have.

  9. Ian Welsh

    If a leftist was genuinely “pro Maduro”, aka: supports Venezuela, of course they’d be for Russia. Russia has consistently been an ally of Venezuela, while the US has supported coups, and has had Venezuela under punitive sanctions for years. If Russia wins, the US loses and that’s good for Venezuela. If Russia loses, one of Venezuela’s key allies is weakened.

    As for the MAGA, Russia has positioned itself as a Christian ethno-state, and they like that.

    There also the paleocons, who were against Iraq, for example, and think that what’s going on in Ukraine is none of the US’s business. Plenty of wars that don’t involve the US giving hundreds of billions worth of support, after all. What’s so special about Ukraine, which is on Russia’s border and nowhere near the US?

    You can even be “I hope Ukraine wins, but I don’t think the West should be giving so much weapons support” either because it’s not really the West’s business, or because you are concerned with the possibility of escalation with a state with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world multiple times.

    There are lots of different reasons why someone might either support Russia, or oppose US policy (not the same thing.) Plenty of hardcore FP realists who are hawks who think the US is being insane in Ukraine.

  10. Willy

    The homeless don’t much consume corporate consumables. But I predict that if an entire industry could be created to manage homelessness, (which also enriched the overlord class) then homelessness would be history.

    I know Ukrainian wives and daughters in meatspace who have men fighting over there who have views about the conflict which jibes with most of the MSM reporting, that their men are inspired and Putin is evil. I think our MAGA white nationalist anti-intellectuals and the pro-Maduro Leftists really have their work cut out for them.

    Maybe if I was Putin I would’ve said: “Uh yeah. It looks like it’ll be taking years when I was hoping days. That’s a sign of gross incompetency. Ya know, trading hope for reality. And so I’m stepping down to let the Russian people decide who our next leader should be. On the condition nobody kills me.” Good thing I’m not Putin?

  11. bruce wilder


    Re: Trump’s warning on Social Security & Medicare

    three relevant observations:
    1.) no one should trust Trump (duh! he will say anything for applause) but some idiots will
    2.) Trump’s power in the Republican Party is his ability to leverage the extreme divergence of values and desiderata between the elite Party establishment and a large part of the Republican electoral base. (Again, duh.)
    3.) The Democratic Party establishment salivates every time they see an opportunity to subvert the public financing of a social program (e.g. the ObamaCare giveaway to the rapacious health insurance industry) or the chance for a “Grand Bargain” on Social Security or Medicare. But, the Democratic electoral base is mostly OK with the corruption and betrayals. Maybe somebody might yell at AOC about turning “Build Back Better” into unlimited, unsupervised aid to Ukraine in furtherance of amplifying Hillary’s Russiagate fraud into WWIII, but really cable news Democrats cannot remember last week.

    Re: “Tucker Carlson advocates liberating Canada”

    Tucker Carlson uses provocative hyperbole for the 224th time that week. “I am just talking myself into a frenzy.”

    1.) The host of that linked YouTube video doesn’t like Tucker’s exaggerated, heated style. “Can you imagine if Don Lemon at CNN was like, uh, ‘why don’t we invade Canada?’ ” That’s his argument.


  12. different clue


    Animals are eaten for food all over South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and etc.

    Is America really the only country out of all those places that has a word like “food animal”?

    ( Does anyone else know the answer to that question?)

  13. Jorge

    Global Warming dictates that the US must annex Canada, and that China must annex Eastern Siberia. I have no idea if someone is planting this with Carlson, or if he was just filling time. But- you will see more of this in the coming years.

    What should Canada do about this? All I can think of is trying to peel off the very most northern US states.

  14. Chuck Mire

    Ukraine: The War That Went Wrong:

    A detailed critique against this war by Chris Hedges.

  15. bruce wilder

    Ché Pasa: And what is the ultimate point of a depopulated, largely destroyed Ukraine?

    a means to an end? Russian ends or Western ends — it serves both and what Ukrainians might want or might be able to use and enjoy does not really matter anymore to those driving the train(s).

    From the outside, it looks to be insane.

    Doesn’t war nearly always look insane from the outside (where the observers are rational weighers of costs and benefits)? The basic proposition of modern wars at least is cessation of nearly all mutually beneficial cooperation and the substitution of brutal abuse into the relationship “until” the other side is willing to be “friends” under any terms and conditions whatsoever.

    The innate cynicism of both the Russians and Ukrainians must kick in from time to time, and they must wonder themselves what the hell is going on? Really.

    From my small, personal sample, I would say the cynicism, always high, is past 11, . . . but quiet.

    Not the propaganda. Something else underlies this conflict. What?

    Something more? or something less?

    I think it is less. The folks in charge on the western side have made themselves seriously stupid. Key figures have a bad case of Russophobia and combine that with a neocon/neoliberal faith, bolstered by the experience of the last 30 years, in which failure in war has no apparent consequence but rewards the greed of the military-industrial complex surrounding Washington. It is all shellacked by the ideology of the “rule-based international order”, a game designed to make Russia lose and a game that Russia’s leader has decided he does not want his country to play, a position that elites outside the West regard sympathetically given their own experience losing to the House under House rules.

    The key political factions driving Western policy — the foreign policy “blob”, the “deep state”, the neoliberal uni-party “coalitions” that govern Western European power — however you name them — are completely absorbed in their game, that neoliberal rules-based international order fashioned from the Washington Consensus of thirty-plus years ago. They simply do not and cannot see developments “from outside” and therefore cannot see their own insanity in operation.

  16. Curt Kastens

    I am a new reader. I came here via I just read your post about the psychology of radicalization, from early in 2022. Now I understand that you are as radicalized as I am.
    My path began as a 13 year old in 1973 with the implimintation of wage and price controls in the US. That event caused me to see that the rhetoric and the actions of the US society are not synchronized. But I headed off in a libertarian direction as I concluded it was the actions of the US that were wrong not its rhetoric. Then by the mid 1990s I began to see that predicitions about the future of the US economy from a Marxist professor that I had in school in the late 1970s had made were looking more and accurate 20 years latter sent me moving in a leftward direction.
    But it was the invasion of Iraq that caused me to reach the conclusion that the policies of the US are not the result of stupidity but of bad intentions. For 20 years I had waffled back and forth on this question.
    Further lessons in life taught me that the Pentagon(including the CIA) is the source of this sickness and more importantly that history does not just happen by coincidence as coincidence theorists are prone to believe. History is manufactured by the Pentagon, and its allies with operations planned decades in advance. It is an extraordinarily Byzantine process.
    This knowledge has been very hard to deal with. Because where are you most likely to find someone who has read 10,000 or more books by the time that they are 50? You would think that people with such qualities would be responsible citizens rather than warped drones. That such people are so engaged in a childhood game of Risk rather than deal with the real environmental problems that humanity faced is very disheartening.

    The last time that I read something about the amount of classified material that the US had accumulated it was 40 million documents. But 40 million documents does not mean 40 million secrets because each document could contain numerous secrets. So, even we are generous and say that 99% of these secrets are not really relevent for the voters to know that is still probably over a million pieces of relevent information that are being withheld from society and the voters at large. And that is just in the US, not the UK or Canada, or Germany or France or Israel. No one should be surprised that few people know the full context of what is happening in the world. Even a one star General would probably know only a tiny fraction of those 1 million secrets that is withheld from the public sphere. Then I have to add this small bit because I know that the percent of people in the US, and Canada and western Europe who have actually served in the military is very small but they should know that you are trained not to ask any questions about things that you do not need to know to do your job. Such an institutional setting guarantees abuse by those where the strings of information, money and power all intersect.
    Now, and if I am not mistaken you agree, the planetary environment has been so badly eroded that human extinction in this century is guaranteed even if we were to stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow. We can now only attempt to do what could be done in the mean time.

  17. Curt Kastens

    The US and its allies have never negotiated with the Palestinians in good faith. The US and its allies have never negotiated with the Iranians in good faith. The US and its allies have never negotiated with the Russians in good faith.
    What does this behavior show? It shows that the US has been hiding something. It can not negotiate in good faith because to do so would require that it then make some sort of admission that it does not wish to make. The leadership of the US does not want to come clean because to do so would be embarrassing.
    So if someone were threatening you and you knew that the reasons that they were threatening you were not their real reasons would you not conclude that the real motives for their hostility towards you must be of the the worst possible reasons that you could imagine? Reasons that could never be expressed publicly because it would be to politically embarrassing.
    Sadly the political left can not do a darned thing to prevent such behavior. All it can do is do a not very good job of recording such behavior for history. Recording that the political right will quickly erase and rewrite.
    It is very sad and very frustrating. The left lacks the ability to communicate without oversight from our enemies. That is one of the reasons that we have not been able to effectively reign in the behavior of those waging war upon the entire planet.

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