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

Open Thread

Feel free to use the comments on this post to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.


Is Trump Trying to Start a War with Iran?


Why US Leadership Stinks and Drone Assassination Doesn’t Matter (Leadership in Organizations People Believe In)


  1. Herman

    More evidence that things are getting worse for Americans. A study has shown that opioid deaths are 85 percent higher in areas where auto plants closed.

    It is really amazing that you still find so many people with a Panglossian attitude these days. Either that or they just say that these people deserved their fate because they were unwilling to learn new skills or move or whatever. Comments like that make me wonder if anything will ever get better since there is so little solidary in our society. Many people believe in Social Darwinism until it hurts them. I have noticed a change in attitude since the last recession. People are back to being “I’ve got mine” types when they previously had some sympathy for the downtrodden.

    I also have to admit that I sometimes get aggravated with some elements on the left when they blame deaths of despair on “whiteness” or “toxic masculinity” when the material, economic factors are obvious and staring them right in the face. I think their attitude is as bad as any conservative who blames people for not pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. It is the same attitude but with different flavors.

  2. Herman

    *That should read “solidarity” not “solidary.”

  3. Mark Pontin

    I\’m going to be foolhardy enough to offer some New Year\’s predictions.

    Bruce W. on the \’Is Trump trying to start a war with Iran?\’ thread has just been lamenting that \’We don’t know anything about why anyone does anything.\’ Respectfully, I disagree.

    I believe that once one sets aside the conventional wisdom and one\’s own confirmation bias regarding a situation and does the work of understanding the actors\’ fundamental goals, together with what detailed analysis indicates would be the constraints on their actions and the enabling factors/capabilities, then what\’s going on frequently turns out to be fairly obvious.

    Talk is cheap, though. If my model of the world is workably accurate, then it should permit not just post-game analysis, but some degree of predictive capability, too. Otherwise, what\’s it worth?

    So, in that spirit, some predictions about what\’s likely in the coming year —

    The Fed has been doing an ogoing daily $1 billion QE (yes, probably there\’s some slick technical workaround so they can explain how it\’s not really QE, except it is) to Wall Street to obviate the lack of liquidity in the inter-bank repo markets. There\’s fuck-all coverage of this in the MSM, given that it\’s a huge story. (The hugeness is one big reason why the MSM aren\’t talking about it, of course, since it shows that more than a decade after the GFC, the powers-that-be haven\’t been able to rebuild a functioning capitalism.)

    Interestingly, the recipient banks include not just U.S. banks, but foreign ones. This isn\’t such a surprise when you consider that, again, more than a decade after the GFC, Deutsche Bank continues to be a black hole in the world economy, to the tune of $46-50 trillions\’ worth of derivatives.

    A number of geopolitical consequence likely follows from the above. Forex: –

    [1] Germany, and thus the EU, will continue to respond \’how high\’ whenever the US tells them to jump , even when it\’s against their other interests (i.e. as with the Russian Nordstream II pipeline or sanctions on Iran);

    [2] More specifically, Robert Lighthizer and Trump\’s strong arm trade negotiation team, having wrapped up China for now, are about to turn their attentions to the EU, and threaten tariffs and a trade war there. Remember when Trump claimed he was going to bring \’our manufacturing jobs back over here\’ and everybody ridiculed him? Well, everybody is still mostly right about that. But what Trump could do is \’Bring their manufacturing jobs back to America.\’ For instance, BMW sells 40 percent of their cars in the US and can probably be strong-armed into building a couple of factories in Alabama, which Trump will thenboast about that to his base.

    Also, Germany has based its society on being the best 19th industrial manufacturing, export-based economy it\’s possible to be in the 21st century. Except that\’s running out: global car sales are starting to go south, particularly, and the Germans are way behind on making the move to electric. And this isn\’t even to get into their Energiewende ….

    Now, black swan events can always happen in 2020: Trump could be assassinated, WWIII could kick off in the Middle East, 0r — not so unlikely — some climate change catastrophe could be big enough to change everything.

    Descending the ladder of improbabilities, enough of the European banking system could implode in 2020 that we get another Great Depression/Recession — though it\’s hard to see why the Fed and the other central banks won\’t keep on doing however much QE as is necessary to keep the whole wretched show on the road.

    Allied with that, nobody knows just how strong a game Sanders is going to bring in the primaries and thereafter, and whether he can get past the Dem establishment. Probably, he can\’t. In which case in 2020 Trump very likely wins a second term and then in 2024 the Dems are either taken over by populists or become as irrelevant as the American Whig Party.

    So, like that. Anybody got any calls of their own? Please show your work.

  4. Z

    If Trump starts driving towards SS cuts, like I’ve been hearing noise about, then I hope he gets removed from office. Unfortunately though if he does add some vibrancy and feathers to our ruling class’s wet dream by pushing towards SS cuts his chances of being removed from office decrease.


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