…less festive [DOT 3/12/23]

more restive...

…or, indeed…intensive…&…not the way you’d want…saying a thing is non-negotiable is one thing…refusing to negotiate…is another

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/live-blog/israel-hamas-war-live-updates-rcna127791

Up to 1.8 million Gazans — around 80 percent of the population — have been forced to leave their homes since Israel began its bombardment in response to Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7. That number is expected to rise after Israel issued a new evacuation order on Saturday for areas in the south.
[…]
With Israel barring most Gazans from leaving and shelters swelling to many times over their capacity, humanitarian aid workers say there is no safe place to go as the fighting continues.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/12/02/world/middleeast/gaza-map-displaced-people.html

…& I’m not here to force feed you stuff that’d curdle your cornflakes…but…some things just strike you as hard to ignore

Israel’s military leadership faced heightened public scrutiny this week after a string of damaging revelations in the Israeli media and The New York Times suggested that senior officers had ignored or dismissed intelligence reports about the likelihood of a major Hamas attack.

According to those reports, the Israeli military obtained a copy of a battle plan that Hamas ultimately used during its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, but officers wrongly judged that Hamas would be unable to carry it out. A commander also dismissed a subordinate’s warning in July that the group was running drills and building the capacity to set the plan in motion.

…but apparently the fog of war is a heady fucking brew…because some of the narratives it allegedly supports require some frankenstein-ed “context”…& the picture is…cracked

Supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seized upon the reports, using the allegations of military failure to deflect from accusations that Mr. Netanyahu was himself partly to blame for what many Israelis consider the country’s worst security failure in 50 years.

…&…most of the time I don’t begrudge anyone their faith…doesn’t work for me but it can be its own miracle to some & more power to them…that said…when it hops, skips & jumps the tracks to hit “kill ’em all & let god sort it out”…it fucks with my faith in my fellow man…in the non-gender-specific sense of the entire human race

“I’m closing my eyes to these questions for now,” said Ayelet Samerano, whose son, Yonatan, was shot by Palestinian gunmen and taken to Gaza on Oct. 7. Israel is engaged in an “existential war,” she said in a phone interview. “I believe we’ll learn all the answers — after the war.”

Many Jewish Israelis are also reluctant to blame the military, a vaunted institution that is central to their identity: it is a melting pot in which most Jewish Israelis serve as conscripts, and which they consider a sacred national project that is essential to defending their state.

Opinion polling indicates that, even after the attack, trust in the military remains high. A survey conducted in mid-October found that 87 percent of Jewish Israelis interviewed said they trusted the Israeli military, slightly higher than in June.

The attack shattered a central part of the Israeli social contract: the idea that — within living memory of the Holocaust — the army could keep its citizens safer than Jews who live abroad.

…& the present is by definition more pressing than an aftermath…but…the after being imagined has a tendency to be blind to some of the emergent properties of that pernicious present of ours?

Earlier in the war, Mr. Netanyahu attempted to deflect criticism of his leadership by saying, in a social media post, that military leaders had failed to warn him of an imminent Hamas attack. Following criticism, he deleted the post and apologized for his comment.

Analysts say that these moves by Mr. Netanyahu and his supporters have helped dampen wider criticism of the military leadership: The prime minister’s critics are wary of anything that would allow Mr. Netanyahu himself to escape accountability.

The broadsides by Mr. Netanyahu’s supporters against the military leadership constituted “an act that stoops to a new low,” Ben Caspit, a biographer and critic of Mr. Netanyahu, wrote this week in a column for Maariv, a right-leaning newspaper.

“It isn’t going to absolve Netanyahu of his responsibility,” Mr. Caspit wrote, adding: “He is the prime minister and he bears overarching responsibility for security. He personally said as much on dozens of occasions.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/02/world/middleeast/israel-hamas-attack-intelligence.html

…maybe it’s just me…flailing away to try to find ways to make something overwhelming fit into some sort of comprehensible context…but I can’t help thinking analysts who find themselves with a cassandra complex must have a weird sense of solidarity…like the ones who briefed that ukraine wasn’t going to get invaded & the ones who dismissed this memo…or…indeed…the not insignificant number of amateur observers who tried to say they saw it different…it doesn’t look too good for the eye of the beholder when the code of hammurabi gets invoked

The approximately 40-page document, which the Israeli authorities code-named “Jericho Wall,” outlined, point by point, exactly the kind of devastating invasion that led to the deaths of about 1,200 people.

The translated document, which was reviewed by The New York Times, did not set a date for the attack, but described a methodical assault designed to overwhelm the fortifications around the Gaza Strip, take over Israeli cities and storm key military bases, including a division headquarters.

Hamas followed the blueprint with shocking precision. The document called for a barrage of rockets at the outset of the attack, drones to knock out the security cameras and automated machine guns along the border, and gunmen to pour into Israel en masse in paragliders, on motorcycles and on foot — all of which happened on Oct. 7.

The plan also included details about the location and size of Israeli military forces, communication hubs and other sensitive information, raising questions about how Hamas gathered its intelligence and whether there were leaks inside the Israeli security establishment.

The document circulated widely among Israeli military and intelligence leaders, but experts determined that an attack of that scale and ambition was beyond Hamas’s capabilities, according to documents and officials. It is unclear whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or other top political leaders saw the document, as well.

…throw in a blind eye turned

Then, in July, just three months before the attacks, a veteran analyst with Unit 8200, Israel’s signals intelligence agency, warned that Hamas had conducted an intense, daylong training exercise that appeared similar to what was outlined in the blueprint.

But a colonel in the Gaza division brushed off her concerns, according to encrypted emails viewed by The Times.

“I utterly refute that the scenario is imaginary,” the analyst wrote in the email exchanges. The Hamas training exercise, she said, fully matched “the content of Jericho Wall.”

“It is a plan designed to start a war,” she added. “It’s not just a raid on a village.”

Officials privately concede that, had the military taken these warnings seriously and redirected significant reinforcements to the south, where Hamas attacked, Israel could have blunted the attacks or possibly even prevented them.

Instead, the Israeli military was unprepared as terrorists streamed out of the Gaza Strip. It was the deadliest day in Israel’s history.

…& its a sure bet we’ve an unholy mess on your hands

On July 6, 2023, the veteran Unit 8200 analyst wrote to a group of other intelligence experts that dozens of Hamas commandos had recently conducted training exercises, with senior Hamas commanders observing.

The training included a dry run of shooting down Israeli aircraft and taking over a kibbutz and a military training base, killing all the cadets. During the exercise, Hamas fighters used the same phrase from the Quran that appeared at the top of the Jericho Wall attack plan, she wrote in the email exchanges viewed by The Times.

The analyst warned that the drill closely followed the Jericho Wall plan, and that Hamas was building the capacity to carry it out.

The colonel in the Gaza division applauded the analysis but said the exercise was part of a “totally imaginative” scenario, not an indication of Hamas’s ability to pull it off.

…still…if being right is its own reward…I have to imagine that your average cassandra would probably prefer some just deserts be served…possibly in the form of a dish famously best served cold

“We already underwent a similar experience 50 years ago on the southern front in connection with a scenario that seemed imaginary, and history may repeat itself if we are not careful,” the analyst wrote to her colleagues.

…something something…history…something…first as tragedy…something something…farce

The failures to connect the dots echoed another analytical failure more than two decades ago, when the American authorities also had multiple indications that the terrorist group Al Qaeda was preparing an assault. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were largely a failure of analysis and imagination, a government commission concluded.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/30/world/middleeast/israel-hamas-attack-intelligence.html

…&…I know that particular bit of linear progression is generally credited to a certain brumaire by a karl with a k…but…if only to make some paltry amends for the part where this is going up half-finished & full of misery…here’s something about something that took the thing as a title & ran with it a few interesting places…&…if you like that…there’s a whole rabbit hole of similar clips about all manner of interesting stuff…which might be entirely more edifying than the rest of what I end up filling in underneath it?

…just…avoid the evil eye

It’s a feeling that if I experience happiness, then God (or Whoever Is in Charge) will see me with my guard down and will just pluck me right out of my plane seat. You may have heard of the Jewish superstition “bringing down a kinehora,” or the Evil Eye. It will put you in your place if you get too comfortable, express joy or expect good things to happen. I have spent a lifetime avoiding its gaze, usually by the age-old, foolproof method of spitting three times through my split index and middle finger when I state something positive. “I think my sinus infection is finally gone! Puh, puh, puh.” It’s so ingrained, I don’t even realize I am doing it half the time.

…there’s a lot of awful to be found…which can feel pretty awful…but…much as misery loves company…it’s not as though being miserable is good for anyone

There is a word for this: cherophobia, or fear of happiness. While it is not a recognized mental illness — it is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — research suggests it is a real issue for many people.

In a 2016 meta-analysis, Sam Winer, associate professor of psychology and director of clinical training for the doctoral program of clinical psychology at the New School for Social Research, introduced the theory of reward devaluation, which suggests that some people who are depressed avoid feeling positive because of past experiences with negative outcomes. People who were depressed and anxious seemed to be on alert for bad things that might happen; they feel that things can be too good to be true and that there has to be a catch. But it was only the depressed individuals who avoided positivity altogether. As a character in the prison movie “The Shawshank Redemption” puts it: “Hope is a dangerous thing.”
[…]
In a previous review study, Joshanloo and a co-author reported that across cultures, there are “a range of different reasons why people claim to be averse to happiness, including that: being happy causes bad things to happen to you, being happy makes you a worse person, expressing happiness is bad for you and others, and pursuing happiness is bad for you and others.”
[…]
Joshanloo notes that effectively addressing fear of happiness requires a holistic and multistep approach that begins with self-awareness and recognizing one’s reluctance to embrace and enjoy happy experiences.

It is critical to distinguish whether this fear of happiness exists alongside other mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, or whether it exists in isolation. He says: “It would then be useful to explore the causal factors behind fear of happiness, which vary from person to person. Understanding these underlying roots empowers individuals to embark on a path of informed and deliberate steps to confront their aversion to happiness. Enhancing emotion regulation skills always helps to reduce fear of happiness and increase experiential openness.”

…&…I know…it can all sound a bit confected when you’re feeling conflicted & conflict abounds as its consequences rebound…& it all gets you down…but…well…I like to believe there’s some method to my madness

Joshanloo notes that effectively addressing fear of happiness requires a holistic and multistep approach that begins with self-awareness and recognizing one’s reluctance to embrace and enjoy happy experiences.

It is critical to distinguish whether this fear of happiness exists alongside other mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, or whether it exists in isolation. He says: “It would then be useful to explore the causal factors behind fear of happiness, which vary from person to person. Understanding these underlying roots empowers individuals to embark on a path of informed and deliberate steps to confront their aversion to happiness. Enhancing emotion regulation skills always helps to reduce fear of happiness and increase experiential openness.”

…but even if you pooh-pooh the woo-woo…some things are arguably worth asking yourself

Payton has learned to overcome her fear habit by asking herself four questions proposed by Byron Katie, an author who suggests that people recalibrate their thinking to challenge and lessen the harmful effects of long-held beliefs: Is it true? Can I absolutely know it’s true? How do I react — what happens — when I believe that, and what would you be without the thought?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/wellness/2023/12/02/fear-of-happiness-anxiety-perfectionism/

…not to put too fine a point on it, though…I guess my reaction to some stuff I find hard to digest…is to wind up using this place to cram it into a different kind of digest…which I’m only part way through at this point…so if you’re up early enough to endanger the early worm…there’s liable to be more to come…so…apologies in advance…not least if you didn’t get to approach it in installments?

Let’s stop the wishful thinking and face the stark reality: There is a clear path to dictatorship in the United States, and it is getting shorter every day. In 13 weeks, Donald Trump will have locked up the Republican nomination. In the RealClearPolitics poll average (for the period from Nov. 9 to 20), Trump leads his nearest competitor by 47 points and leads the rest of the field combined by 27 points. The idea that he is unelectable in the general election is nonsense — he is tied or ahead of President Biden in all the latest polls — stripping other Republican challengers of their own stated reasons for existence. The fact that many Americans might prefer other candidates, much ballyhooed by such political sages as Karl Rove, will soon become irrelevant when millions of Republican voters turn out to choose the person whom no one allegedly wants.
[…]
The magical-thinking phase is ending. Barring some miracle, Trump will soon be the presumptive Republican nominee for president. When that happens, there will be a swift and dramatic shift in the political power dynamic, in his favor. Until now, Republicans and conservatives have enjoyed relative freedom to express anti-Trump sentiments, to speak openly and positively about alternative candidates, to vent criticisms of Trump’s behavior past and present. Donors who find Trump distasteful have been free to spread their money around to help his competitors. Establishment Republicans have made no secret of their hope that Trump will be convicted and thus removed from the equation without their having to take a stand against him.
[…]
In fact, it has already begun. As his nomination becomes inevitable, donors are starting to jump from other candidates to Trump. The recent decision by the Koch political network to endorse GOP hopeful Nikki Haley is scarcely sufficient to change this trajectory. And why not? If Trump is going to be the nominee, it makes sense to sign up early while he is still grateful for defectors. Even anti-Trump donors must ask whether their cause is best served by shunning the man who stands a reasonable chance of being the next president. Will corporate executives endanger the interests of their shareholders just because they or their spouses hate Trump? It’s not surprising that people with hard cash on the line are the first to flip.

The rest of the Republican Party will quickly follow. Rove’s recent exhortation that primary voters choose anyone but Trump is the last such plea you are likely to hear from anyone with a future in the party. Even in a normal campaign, intraparty dissent begins to disappear once the primaries produce a clear winner. Most of the leading candidates have already pledged to support Trump if he is the nominee, even before he has won a single primary vote. Imagine their posture after he runs the table on Super Tuesday. Most of the candidates running against him will sprint toward him, competing for his favor. After Super Tuesday, there will be no surer and shorter path to the presidency for a Republican than to become the loyal running mate of a man who will be 82 in 2028.
[…]
But Trump will not only dominate his party. He will again become the central focus of everyone’s attention. Even today, the news media can scarcely resist following Trump’s every word and action. Once he secures the nomination, he will loom over the country like a colossus, his every word and gesture chronicled endlessly. Even today, the mainstream news media, including The Post and NBC News, is joining forces with Trump’s lawyers to seek televised coverage of his federal criminal trial in D.C. Trump intends to use the trial to boost his candidacy and discredit the American justice system as corrupt — and the media outlets, serving their own interests, will help him do it.

…earlier in the week the whole mismatched means of comparison thing reared its ugly head a few times…& this one’s not so different that way

Biden, as some have pointed out, does not enjoy the usual advantages of incumbency. Trump is effectively also an incumbent, after all. That means Biden is unable to make the usual incumbent’s claim that electing his opponent is a leap into the unknown. Few Republicans regard the Trump presidency as having been either abnormal or unsuccessful. In his first term, the respected “adults” around him not only blocked some of his most dangerous impulses but also kept them hidden from the public. To this day, some of these same officials rarely speak publicly against him. Why should Republican voters have a problem with Trump if those who served him don’t? Regardless of what Trump’s enemies think, this is going to be a battle of two tested and legitimate presidents.

Trump, meanwhile, enjoys the usual advantage of non-incumbency, namely: the lack of any responsibility. Biden must carry the world’s problems like an albatross around his neck, like any incumbent, but most incumbents can at least claim that their opponent is too inexperienced to be entrusted with these crises. Biden cannot. On Trump’s watch, there was no full-scale invasion of Ukraine, no major attack on Israel, no runaway inflation, no disastrous retreat from Afghanistan. It is hard to make the case for Trump’s unfitness to anyone who does not already believe it.

…that that part apparently holds water in what passes for reality continues to boggle my tiny mind…but

Trump enjoys some unusual advantages for a challenger, moreover. Even Ronald Reagan did not have Fox News and the speaker of the House in his pocket. To the degree there are structural advantages in the coming general election, in short, they are on Trump’s side. And that is before we even get to the problem that Biden can do nothing to solve: his age.

Trump also enjoys another advantage. The national mood less than a year before the election is one of bipartisan disgust with the political system in general. Rarely in American history has democracy’s inherent messiness been more striking. In Weimar Germany, Hitler and other agitators benefited from the squabbling of the democratic parties, right and left, the endless fights over the budget, the logjams in the legislature, the fragile and fractious coalitions. German voters increasingly yearned for someone to cut through it all and get something — anything — done. It didn’t matter who was behind the political paralysis, either, whether the intransigence came from the right or the left.

…they say you need to pick your battles

Today, Republicans might be responsible for Washington’s dysfunction, and they might pay a price for it in downballot races. But Trump benefits from dysfunction because he is the one who offers a simple answer: him. In this election, only one candidate is running on the platform of using unprecedented power to get things done, to hell with the rules. And a growing number of Americans claim to want that, in both parties. Trump is running against the system. Biden is the living embodiment of the system. Advantage: Trump.

Which brings us to Trump’s expanding legal battlefronts. No doubt Trump would have preferred to run for office without spending most of his time fending off efforts to throw him in jail. Yet it is in the courtroom over the coming months that Trump is going to display his unusual power within the American political system.

…so…when to stoop so low is your trademark…I guess your betting on being underestimated by those in whose estimate you are the very definition of held in low esteem

Trump will not be contained by the courts or the rule of law. On the contrary, he is going to use the trials to display his power. That’s why he wants them televised. Trump’s power comes from his following, not from the institutions of American government, and his devoted voters love him precisely because he crosses lines and ignores the old boundaries. They feel empowered by it, and that in turn empowers him. Even before the trials begin, he is toying with the judges, forcing them to try to muzzle him, defying their orders. He is a bit like King Kong testing the chains on his arms, sensing that he can break free whenever he chooses.

…that’s just how the avatar of offensive opprobrium & overweening arrogance rolls in his own personal shit-show…& if that should somehow become the only show in town?

If Trump does win the election, he will immediately become the most powerful person ever to hold that office. Not only will he wield the awesome powers of the American executive — powers that, as conservatives used to complain, have grown over the decades — but he will do so with the fewest constraints of any president, fewer even than in his own first term.

What limits those powers? The most obvious answer is the institutions of justice — all of which Trump, by his very election, will have defied and revealed as impotent. A court system that could not control Trump as a private individual is not going to control him better when he is president of the United States and appointing his own attorney general and all the other top officials at the Justice Department. Think of the power of a man who gets himself elected president despite indictments, courtroom appearances and perhaps even conviction? Would he even obey a directive of the Supreme Court? Or would he instead ask how many armored divisions the chief justice has?

Will a future Congress stop him? Presidents can accomplish a lot these days without congressional approval, as even Barack Obama showed. The one check Congress has on a rogue president, namely, impeachment and conviction, has already proved all but impossible — even when Trump was out of office and wielded modest institutional power over his party.

Another traditional check on a president is the federal bureaucracy, that vast apparatus of career government officials who execute the laws and carry on the operations of government under every president. They are generally in the business of limiting any president’s options. As Harry S. Truman once put it, “Poor Ike. He’ll say ‘do this’ and ‘do that’ and nothing at all will happen.” That was a problem for Trump is his first term, partly because he had no government team of his own to fill the administration. This time, he will. Those who choose to serve in his second administration will not be taking office with the unstated intention of refusing to carry out his wishes. If the Heritage Foundation has its way, and there is no reason to believe it won’t, many of those career bureaucrats will be gone, replaced by people carefully “vetted” to ensure their loyalty to Trump.
[…]
A final constraint on presidents has been their own desire for a glittering legacy, with success traditionally measured in terms that roughly equate to the well-being of the country. But is that the way Trump thinks? Yes, Trump might seek a great legacy, but it is strictly his own glory that he craves. As with Napoleon, who spoke of the glory of France but whose narrow ambitions for himself and his family brought France to ruin, Trump’s ambitions, though he speaks of making America great again, clearly begin and end with himself. As for his followers, he doesn’t have to achieve anything to retain their support — his failure to build the wall in his first term in no way damaged his standing with millions of his loyalists. They have never asked anything of him other than that he triumph over the forces they hate in American society. And that, we can be sure, will be Trump’s primary mission as president.
[…]
It is worth getting inside Trump’s head a bit and imagining his mood following an election victory. He will have spent the previous year, and more, fighting to stay out of jail, plagued by myriad persecutors and helpless to do what he likes to do best: exact revenge. Think of the fury that will have built up inside him, a fury that, from his point of view, he has worked hard to contain. As he once put it, “I think I’ve been toned down, if you want to know the truth. I could really tone it up.” Indeed he could — and will. We caught a glimpse of his deep thirst for vengeance in his Veterans Day promise to “root out the Communists, Marxists, Fascists, and Radical Left Thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our Country, lie, steal, and cheat on Elections, and will do anything possible, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America, and the American Dream.” Note the equation of himself with “America and the American Dream.” It is he they are trying to destroy, he believes, and as president, he will return the favor.
[…]
But that’s just the start. After all, Trump will not be the only person seeking revenge. His administration will be filled with people with enemies’ lists of their own, a determined cadre of “vetted” officials who will see it as their sole, presidentially authorized mission to “root out” those in the government who cannot be trusted. Many will simply be fired, but others will be subject to career-destroying investigations. The Trump administration will be filled with people who will not need explicit instruction from Trump, any more than Hitler’s local gauleiters needed instruction. In such circumstances, people “work toward the Führer,” which is to say, they anticipate his desires and seek favor through acts they think will make him happy, thereby enhancing their own influence and power in the process.

Nor will it be difficult to find things to charge opponents with. Our history is unfortunately filled with instances of unfairly targeted officials singled out for being on the wrong side of a particular issue at the wrong time — the State Department’s “China Hands” of the late 1940s, for instance, whose careers were destroyed because they happened to be in positions of influence when the Chinese Communist Revolution occurred. Today, there is the whiff of a new McCarthyism in the air. MAGA Republicans insist that Biden himself is a “communist,” that his election was a “communist takeover” and that his administration is a “communist regime.”
[…]
So, the Trump administration will have many avenues to persecute its enemies, real and perceived. Think of all the laws now on the books that give the federal government enormous power to surveil people for possible links to terrorism, a dangerously flexible term, not to mention all the usual opportunities to investigate people for alleged tax evasion or violation of foreign agent registration laws. The IRS under both parties has occasionally looked at depriving think tanks of their tax-exempt status because they espouse policies that align with the views of the political parties. What will happen to the think-tanker in a second Trump term who argues that the United States should ease pressure on China? Or the government official rash enough to commit such thoughts to official paper? It didn’t take more than that to ruin careers in the 1950s.

And who will stop the improper investigations and prosecutions of Trump’s many enemies? Will Congress? A Republican Congress will be busy conducting its own inquiries, using its powers to subpoena people, accusing them of all kinds of crimes, just as it does now. Will it matter if the charges are groundless? And of course in some cases they will be true, which will lend even greater validity to a wider probe of political enemies.
[…]
Indeed, who will stand up for anyone accused in the public arena, besides their lawyers? In a Trump presidency, the courage it will take to stand up for them will be no less than the courage it will take to stand up to Trump himself. How many will risk their own careers to defend others? In a nation congenitally suspicious of government, who will stick up for the rights of former officials who become targets of Trump’s Justice Department? There will be ample precedents for those seeking to justify the persecution. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, the Wilson administration shut down newspapers and magazines critical of the war; Franklin D. Roosevelt rounded up Japanese Americans and placed them in camps. We will pay the price for every transgression ever committed against the laws designed to protect individual rights and freedoms.
[…]
The Trump dictatorship [would] not be a communist tyranny, where almost everyone feels the oppression and has their lives shaped by it. In conservative, anti-liberal tyrannies, ordinary people face all kinds of limitations on their freedoms, but it is a problem for them only to the degree that they value those freedoms, and many people do not. The fact that this tyranny will depend entirely on the whims of one man will mean that Americans’ rights will be conditional rather than guaranteed. But if most Americans can go about their daily business, they might not care, just as many Russians and Hungarians do not care.
[…]
But even if the opposition were to become strong and unified, it is not obvious what it would do to protect those facing persecution. The opposition’s ability to wield legitimate, peaceful and legal forms of power [would] already have been found wanting in this election cycle, when Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans threw every legitimate weapon against Trump and still failed. Will they turn instead to illegitimate, extralegal action? What would that look like?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/11/30/trump-dictator-2024-election-robert-kagan/

…you see what I mean? …I mean…you work with what you got…& when that kind of thing hits the mess of preconceptions & preoccupations foisted on my feckless ass upsides the upbringing, so to speak

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48419/this-be-the-verse

…well…the best I can do in the raise a smile stakes would be to say that if you’ll believe ol’ joe biden is up there with ol’ joe stalin…or any of the working definitions of communism required for that appeal to a red scare to make you see red…then there’s so much wool over your eyes it constitutes a fire hazard…& you probably think this asshole is a fucking business genius to rival the count of mar-a-cristo

For a company he bought for $44bn (£35bn) last year, bankruptcy might sound unthinkable. But it is possible.
[…]
Although we don’t have the latest figures, last year around 90% of X’s revenue was from advertising. It is the heart of the business.

On Wednesday Musk more than hinted at this.

“If the company fails… it will fail because of an advertiser boycott. And that will be what bankrupts the company.” he said.
[…]
In 2022, Twitter’s advertising revenue was around $4bn. Insider Intelligence estimates this year it will drop to $1.9bn.

The company has two major outlays. The first is its staffing bill. Musk has cut X to the bone already, laying off thousands.

The second is servicing the loans Musk took out to buy Twitter, totalling about $13bn. Reuters has reported that the company now has to pay $1.2bn or so in interest payments every year.

If the company cannot service the interest on its loans or afford to pay staff then, yes, X really could go bankrupt.
[…]
According to the New York Times, which got hold of the pitch deck Musk was giving to investors last year, X was supposed to bring in $15m from a payments business in 2023, growing to about $1.3bn by 2028.

X is also sitting on a huge treasure trove of data, and its vast archive of conversations can be used to train chatbots. Musk believes this data is vastly valuable.

So X does have potential.

But in the short term, none of these options plug the hole advertisers have left.

It’s why Musk’s profane outburst was so baffling to many.

“I don’t have any theories that make sense,” Paskalis says. “There is a revenue model in his head that eludes me.”

Could X go bankrupt under Elon Musk? [BBC]

…looking around

But OpenAI is tossing a lot of alarming stuff over the fence. Musk is gone, and Altman is no longer casting himself as humanity’s watchdog. He’s running a for-profit outfit, creating an A.I. cookbook. He’s less interested in peril than investors, less concerned about existential danger than finding A.I.’s capabilities. “When you see something that is technically sweet,” Robert Oppenheimer said, “you go ahead and do it.”

The government has nibbled the edges of regulation, but the quicksilver A.I. has already leaped ahead of the snaillike lawmakers and bureaucrats. Nobody, even in Silicon Valley, has any clue how to control it.

OpenAI’s wild ride two weeks ago was farcical — a coup against Altman that collapsed and turned into a restoration. But it was also terrifying because it showed that we are totally at the mercy of Silicon Valley boys with their toys, egos crashing, temperaments colliding, ambition and greed soaring.
[…]
As with Shakespeare, personality clashes are shaping life-or-death decisions in the battle over A.I. One thing that may have touched off the rebellion against Altman was that he diminished Sutskever’s role at the company.

We still don’t know exactly what happened. Did the board see some progress in the A.I. algorithm that jolted them enough to fire Altman for fear he was pushing products without enough regard for safeguards?

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/02/opinion/ai-sam-altman-openai.html

…so…what with one thing or another

But it may not be easy to disentangle the government from Musk’s sprawling tech empire, which includes commercial spaceflight firm SpaceX, prolific satellite internet service Starlink, electric automaker Tesla, medical device company Neuralink and the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter.

Many of those businesses are so dominant — SpaceX built the only U.S.-made spacecraft that has launched astronauts to the International Space Station, and Tesla claims 50 percent of U.S. EV sales and a vast charging network — the federal government would face steep challenges to find other private sector partners to replace them, analysts said. (Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos owns a competing commercial spaceflight firm, Blue Origin.)

…from the horse’s [ass’s] mouth

“Essentially I handed a loaded gun to those who hate me and arguably to those who are antisemitic, and for that, I’m quite sorry. That was not my intention,” Musk said. “I did post on my primary timeline to be absolutely clear that I’m not antisemitic and that, in fact, if I am anything, I am philosemitic.”

In the same conversation, he told advertisers who had left X because of his offensive posts to “go f— themselves.”

“I have no problem being hated,” he added. “Hate away.”
[…]
SpaceX won a pair of NASA contracts worth roughly $4 billion in 2021 to build a human landing system for the Artemis moon missions. The company in 2014 sued the government to halt a lucrative space contract by the Air Force awarded to a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Later that year, NASA chose SpaceX and Boeing as the winners of nearly $7 billion in contracts to launch crewed space missions. Only SpaceX has successfully carried crews to the International Space Station since, and earned tens of millions of dollars flying cargo missions to the space station.

“One of his strengths is his ability to take advantage of the federal government as a funding source for his efforts,” Lewis said. “A lot of the success that he’s known for started out with a healthy dose of federal funding, and he wasn’t shy about demanding more.”

Starlink has contracts with the Defense Department, though the value and scope of those deals have not been publicly disclosed.

Meanwhile, Tesla and its industry-leading electric vehicle charging network are key to the Biden administration’s goals to increase consumer EV adoption. Under the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, one of President Biden’s chief legislative victories, Congress approved $5 billion in new spending to build a national EV charging network.

Tesla has been the early leader in that program, winning tens of millions of dollars in funding to improve its already impressive network and open it to non-Tesla vehicles. In June, Ford, GM and Rivian signed agreements to use Tesla’s charging technology for their new EVs, dramatically increasing Tesla’s competitiveness for federal charging dollars. Honda signed on to Tesla’s charging system in September.

“They’ve got this figured out,” said Julian Bentley, an independent clean energy and EV consultant. “They’re able to put these in at a fraction of the cost of everybody else, because they just do it better.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/12/02/elon-musk-congress-antisemitism/

…if you can claim the same subsidy but the economies of scale just scale up your profit margin as they ratchet down your marginal cost…you look to have a lot of gravy on that train…rendered from the public purse…which is of course exactly the playbook that shut-up-donnie’s dear ol’ dad employed as a definitive source of enrichment from which a fortune (or several) was “made”…so…between this sort of thing

Never before had a president used his constitutional clemency powers to free or forgive so many people who could be useful to his future political efforts. A Washington Post review of Trump’s 238 clemency orders found that dozens of recipients, including Arpaio, have gone on to plug his 2024 candidacy through social media and national interviews, contribute money to his front-running bid for the Republican nomination or disseminate his false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

…from the same WaPo piece

Experts say Trump’s abuse of the pardon power while in office was unprecedented in modern times.

“The Arpaio pardon previewed a whole different approach, in which the clemency power was going to be widely used to reward cronies and score points with constituents,” said Larry Kupers, who led the Justice Department office that reviewed clemency requests but left halfway through Trump’s presidency in protest of his approach. “It looked so transactional, in that it was furthering his own interests.”

…or…quid pro quo…quod erat demonstrandum…except…apparently not to the satisfaction of the courts…somehow

Many of the campaign donors, Republican operatives and media pundits who made his clemency list were well-positioned to return the favor. When mainstream social media sites banned Trump and TV networks limited his appearances after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, clemency recipients such as Stephen K. Bannon and Dinesh D’Souza extolled him on conservative platforms and offered him airtime. After some financial supporters pulled away, they wrote checks. And as Trump’s election-denying allies faced lawsuits and, in some cases, criminal charges, they continued spreading his bogus theories. One Republican consultant pardoned for a campaign finance crime, John Tate, is even working for Trump’s 2024 campaign, records show.

As former criminal defendants, these clemency recipients are particularly poised to amplify the former president’s attacks on a justice system that has brought 91 felony charges in two state and two federal indictments against him. Many of them are fueling one of the defining narratives spun by Trump for his 2024 campaign: a “two-tier” justice system in which the former president and his supporters are unjustly persecuted victims of a “political witch hunt.”

…uh-huh…talk about your delusions of grandeur

The Post examined all acts of clemency by Trump during his four years as president, including reviewing court documents and Justice Department records, and interviewing more than 15 people who took part in clemency decision-making, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations and avoid antagonizing the Republican front-runner. They said Trump relished the lack of checks and balances on his ability to issue pardons and commutations.

“It was like having a magic wand, which was his fantasy version of how all things should work,” one former White House official said.

“He would get really pumped about it because it was something only he could do. … It was like ‘The Apprentice,’” said an influential clemency advocate, referring to Trump’s reality television show, in which he single-handedly declared winners and losers.

…maybe that’s what has them all confused about the quid pro quo thing…after all…what’s good for the goose…is seldom to light a fire under itself

A presidential self-pardon is untested in the courts, and legal experts disagree on whether such a move would be constitutional.

“In my view, there is nothing to stop a newly elected President Trump from at least trying to issue himself a pardon,” said American University assistant professor Jeffrey Crouch, an expert on federal executive clemency. “What happens after that is anyone’s guess, but it would likely be the Supreme Court’s responsibility to decide at some point.”

…there but by the grace of good & what have you

When Trump announced the pardon in August, it violated nearly all of the requirements established by the Justice Department for clemency requests. Arpaio hadn’t filed a formal petition. He hadn’t expressed remorse. While the department’s guidelines establish a five-year waiting period after conviction or release from confinement before applying for a pardon, Arpaio hadn’t even been sentenced yet.

“Trump was not going to be hamstrung by guidelines written by some Justice Department lawyers sitting in a closet,” Arpaio’s attorney, Jack Wilenchik, said. “He’s going to do what he thinks needs to be done.”

Arpaio’s pardon was widely viewed as red meat for the president’s political base, which had embraced Trump’s campaign vow to build a wall along the southern border. But Trump was also “very personally” moved by the ex-sheriff’s legal troubles, said Sean Spicer, who served as White House press secretary during Trump’s first six months in office.

“The president felt as though Arpaio had been screwed over,” Spicer said. “And the president felt that he had been screwed over often in the media, as well, and so he felt that connection with him.”

Speaking broadly about Trump’s approach to clemency, Spicer added that he “has this soft spot for people he thinks have gotten screwed.”

…albeit that another way to look at that might be people who were very much guilty of something he’d like to be able to get away with…like…say…a little light arson

Less than a year after the Arpaio pardon, Justice officials were particularly concerned when Trump zeroed in on father-and-son ranchers convicted of setting a fire that consumed 139 acres of federal land in Eastern Oregon. Anti-government militants opposed to federal control of public land and conservative media were hailing ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond as heroes.

…it’s a…personal interest, I guess you could call it

Rosenstein resigned in 2019, and despite his request, the Justice Department was largely cut out from clemency decisions while Trump was in office, according to many people involved in the process. The wealthy and well-connected brought clemency requests directly to the White House, jumping ahead of thousands of people who had filed formal petitions with the department’s pardon office and in some cases had been waiting for years.

…with its finger on the skipping pulse of the pick-me contingent

A few months later, Trump freed Blagojevich midway through his 14-year sentence for trying in 2008 to sell Obama’s vacated Senate seat. Blagojevich had appeared years earlier on Trump’s reality TV show and had recently written a column from prison saying Trump was unfairly impeached by the House over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his 2020 rival, former vice president Joe Biden. After receiving the pardon, the lifelong Democrat declared himself a “Trumpocrat.”
[…]
Presidents from both parties have at times ignored the Justice Department’s clemency guidelines under the virtually unchecked power granted by the Constitution, but none in modern times as frequently as Trump. Only 25 of Trump’s 238 clemency grants, roughly 10 percent, were recommended by the department’s pardon office, “a historic low,” according to an analysis by the Federal Sentencing Reporter law journal.
[…]
He pardoned Roger Stone, his longest serving political adviser; Bannon, his former White House strategist; and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. He pardoned his 2016 campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and a foreign policy adviser and the Alabama chairman from that campaign. The first two members of Congress to endorse Trump, Reps. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), got pardons. So did Hunter’s wife, Margaret, along with a member of Trump’s golf club in Westchester, N.Y.; the owner of a half-dozen condos in Trump Tower in New York; and a top Republican National Committee fundraiser.

“What happened was a favorability and access process that wasn’t based on a particular philosophy about our penal code,” said Marc Short, who served as chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence. “It wasn’t a process that evaluated whether people accepted responsibility or expressed remorse. … Pardons were offered as favors for relationships inside the office.”
[…]
The flood of clemency requests from Trump friends and family members in the final weeks is described by Cassidy Hutchinson, aide to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, in her memoir. On Trump’s last day in office, as Hutchinson prepared to call Meadows, White House counsel Cipollone relayed a message to the chief of staff regarding the partner of Donald Trump Jr., one of the president’s sons.

“Hey Cass, while you’re on the phone with him,” Cipollone said, according to Hutchinson’s book, “Can you tell him we cannot pardon Kimberly Guilfoyle’s gynecologist?”

Trump pardoned them. Now they’re helping him return to power. [WaPo]

…that one goes on…nearly as badly as I am…but to finally get to “the” other thing

Super-wealthy individuals receive outsize attention in presidential politics. And virtually every prospective candidate wants the support of a well-funded super PAC and the vocal backing of the mega rich. The defection of a disenchanted billionaire is treated as bad news for any candidate. But what difference does all this make?
[…]
The goal of these rich Republicans is to find a credible candidate and consolidate behind that person to avoid a repeat of the 2016 primaries, when Trump was able to win against a divided field. That may be commendable but so far they have been no more successful in slowing Trump than the Republican establishment was in 2016. Billionaires influence Democratic presidential politics as well. Candidates have courted them assiduously as they competed for their party nominations in recent campaigns. But this dynamic on the left is not as pronounced as it has become in the Republican Party.

What all this says about the nature of politics today is far more concerning. Citizens — voters — do have a larger voice in the selection of presidential nominees than they did many decades ago, but billionaires get special treatment. The richest among us can influence who runs and who does not, who has the money to stay in the race and who does not. No one planned this. The system today is an accident of several seemingly unrelated changes.
[…]
That system began to erode about two decades ago as candidates with the capacity to raise money far beyond the spending limits opted out of the system. That allowed them to spend freely in the nomination contest. Over time, the whole system collapsed, putting candidates who could not raise huge amounts of money through individual contributions at a disadvantage.

In 2012, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which along with related court rulings that followed, once again changed the structure of campaign financing. One result was a new breed of entities called super PACs, typically backed by billionaires and multimillionaires, including “dark money” groups which do not report the names of their contributors. Some of these committees operated independently. Others were designed to supplement the work of national party committees or individual presidential candidates, though coordination was to be limited. Today, the super PACs supporting a candidate coordinate more closely than ever.

Why are super PACs funded by the super-wealthy so attractive to candidates? Federal rules limit contributions from individuals to candidates for federal office, including the presidency, to $3,300 per election. So an individual can give a candidate $3,300 for the primary election and $3,300 for the general election. If candidates seek out people who can give the maximum, that means every $1 million raised requires finding roughly 300 individuals to donate.
[…]
Few viable candidates run for president without a flush super PAC backing them up, which enhances the power of the mega-rich donors. They are courted by candidates, their family members and their top strategists, and sought out by political reporters as sources of inside information. Their opinions should carry no more weight about the strengths and weaknesses of a candidate than those of voters in Iowa or Michigan or Arizona. But their voices are amplified because they speak with dollar signs.

The mega rich are the new political bosses. Is that bad for democracy? [WaPo]

…while you’re doubtless wondering why I bother…much less bother you with this sort of endless post…I guess I’m wondering if we might not have maybe made a category error when it comes to how we measure the wealth of nations?

…I’ll go think of some tunes to look for…finally…but

https://www.thersa.org/video/animations

…in the meantime

…I’d recommend the reith lectures…’tis the season & all

…catch y’all on the flip-side?

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24 Comments

  1. In that graphic above, the one about miscreants pardoned by Trump, I think I would love to get to know Angela Stanton King. I know nothing about her, and didn’t google, but that headshot reminds me of more than one sitcom from the 1970s and the 1980s.

    Anyway, it seems to be kind of a slow Sunday here, so, in the interest of US-Canadian comity, can I offer this:

    Nova Scotia Curling Team Visits Syosset, Long Island

    From the article:

    “It’s a precision sport,” Harmon said, where “good aim and a light touch” are the necessary skills.

    But isn’t that so true about so much in life? When I was single and dating (“dating”) and, it turns out, waiting for BH to come along eventually, I used to deploy a good aim and a light touch. But in a different context.

    • …I don’t know much about curling…but I have enough kin what have kilts as to be at least passing familiar…& from what I gather the good aim & the light touch will only get you so far…what you really need is a dedicated team furiously scrubbing & sweeping to prepare the way……although I’m told the trouble is you just can’t get the staff these days…contextually speaking?

      …slow day seems to be about the size of it on my end, though…in that I appear to be slow on every front today…most likely including the uptake…but eventually I do mean to dig up some music to face…maybe more coffee would help?

      • Your relatives aren’t wrong. I’ve curled (terribly) and it looks easy but it is damn difficult as you need good sweepers to help adjust the direction of the rock if you misjudged the angle/speed just a tiny bit. Damn finesse game.

        You can’t just throw the rock in there blazing fast and expect good results.

      • Oh no, I meant on the commentariat’s end. I guess most people don’t wake up predawn on a Sunday morning (US Eastern Time, anyway) raring to read news recaps, especially Empire State-related ones, and then turning to the SplinterRIP D/S DOT roundup. And then sharing curling news from Syosset.

  2. Arrogance, ignorance, incompetence and especially racism have led many analyst down the road to ruin, and a nation by surprise. Especially racism… “OH THEY COULDN’T DO THAT! THEY’RE JUST /RACIST NAME/!”

    The US intelligence system failed at Pearl Harbor. The agents and military officers who saw what was going on in China in the late 30s to 1940 sent reports of Japanese competency and the deadliness/superiority of Japanese aircraft and pilots. The dumbshit folks who sat on their fat asses in the various military intelligence offices dismissed them as fabrications. They were the most shocked when the Japanese rolled Allied Forces in the Pacific for six months.

    Same would apply (with the same idiots who said Japan air forces didn’t have the range to attack the Philippines from Formosa/now Taiwan-they did actually) to the intervention of China in the Korean War. “There aren’t any Chinese Laundrymen south of the Yalu!”

    Again, the Yom Kippur War. The Syrians and Egyptians spent several years planning the attack that nearly devastated Israel in 1973. Intelligence agents and military officers in the field repeatedly warned their bosses. Their bosses replied basically that the /Racist/ are too fucking dumb to do anything like that… (Sound familiar?)

    Same again in 2006 in Lebanon when Hezbollah fought back against Israel and in some places stopped their forces cold. Israeli intelligence didn’t think they had that kind of ability.

    Or when the Ethiopians stopped the Italian Fascists cold in 1936 despite being outgunned by a modern European (read white) army.

    Or the Mujahedin who stopped the vaunted Soviets in Afghanistan who failed to appreciate that their ancestors manhandled the Brits and Alexander the Great.

    On a personal level, I’m guilty of turning a blind eye because I ignored warning signs that Former Housemate was stabbing me in the back. It’s not that I thought I was “superior” to him, but I didn’t think he was a craven jealous shithead (turned out he is.)

    Or my bosses at the current place who thought I was just a fucking moron who didn’t have the ability to tangle with them in the office politic not realizing that I spent 10 years at a snake pit known as Nortel and played office politics well enough to help take down a couple of VPs to prevent he and his coworkers from losing their jobs. Or that I wasn’t mean/vengeful enough to tangle them head on at the risk of losing potential promotion (I am that mean and stupid.)

    Or Nortel thinking that Huawei wasn’t going to eat their lunch and our fucking idiot CEO ignored warnings from our network security boys that they were trying to hack into Yahoo messenger to get into our network. This was allegedly how Huawei stole all the key files (including one file I helped develop for the sales teams) for Nortel’s Bell/Telus bid from our CEO’s laptop. This gave them the key info on how to undercut our bid and led us right to Chapter 7 (it turned out we counted on that money to keep us going.)

    • …or…as I recall being recalled when russia’s tanks were stalling out on their original advance this go around in ukraine…the ones who figured that frozen lake in finland wasn’t thin ice in a tracked context?

      …I forget if that’d be the winter war or the continuation war…& I think it wasn’t a one-time thing tactically-speaking…but I’m pretty sure I’m thinking of this time?

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

      • @Brightersideoflife, with it *being* the IDF, i’m not quiiiiite as sure if it was the Misogyny, orrrrr if it was Bibi’s cronyism…

        Back in March or so, the well-respected head of the Security forces stepped down/was fired, over what Bibi & his right-wing coalition were trying to shove through, regarding the Judiciary;

        https://breakingdefense.com/2023/03/israel-defense-ministers-firing-triggers-security-fears-reservist-call-ups-and-greater-protests/

        And the stooges Bibi replaced him with were… well, iirc, *one* of them was a legit war-criminal, tbh;

        https://www.sajr.co.za/former-military-accuse-bibi-of-damaging-israels-security/

        So, I *suspect* that rather than an “either/or” issue regarding the Misogyny, it’s honestly more of a “BOTH/annnnd” situation…

        Because the orthodox right-wingers Bibi put in charge ABSOLUTELY WOULD be disinclined to *ever* listen to a woman giving advice of z technical nature.

        *AND* they wouldn’t listen to *anyone* not Orthodox in their eyes–because they’re right-wingers….

        AND-and, they were *ALSO* incompetent Nincompoops, caught up in their own damn hype, too STUPID to ever *realize* what they didn’t *know,* annnnnnnnd since they were right-wingers & leaders in the settlement movement  STEALING of property & livelihood from the Israeli Arabs who already lived in the West Bank?

        They saw Bibi’s appointment to their positions, as an *opportunity* to fortifytheir stolen lands & take even more (a LONG time goal of at least *one* of those assholes,from what I’ve read & heard since Bibi re-took power🙃)

    • …it ain’t over ’til it’s over & all…& maybe I’m just blinding myself to the truth because I can’t face the prospect…but when I say I can’t believe it…I tend to mean it to mean I don’t believe it

      …there’s a lot of dust left to settle…& under all the smoke there’s a deplorable amount of foul play underway…but…in a sense I hope remains valid…if the choice remains as stark as one between trump & not-trump I’m pretty sure I’d struggle to get out of bed if I didn’t believe enough people could be relied on to pick not-trump to keep it from happening

      …weirdly enough it doesn’t really comfort me, though…I look at the legal hurdles in front of the man…& the form guide of his life to date behind him…& I find it a lot easier to believe he goes out like the over-blown santos-with-a-combover he is somewhere down the line…& I worry some combination of lizard-brain instinctive self-preservation & cutting bait could yet wind up being the other shoe to drop…& while I don’t pretend to know how that might go…in my nightmares he gets the ticket…they lock in joe for the rematch for all the marbles…then he goes down & a quick bait & switch later the election is not-trump vs ol’ joe & the status quo & all bets are final…but also off…by who only knows how much or in what direction

      …for a bunch of idle speculation it sure does seem to cost me a fortune in sleep-debts…but I figure at this point if it weren’t one damned thing it’d be another & if we’re all headed to hell in a handbasket…at least I’m in good company?

    • He’s not. All of that coverage is designed to make people think Trump’s got it locked up and there’s no point in voting because it’s inevitable.

      It’s not. He will not be president again. All of this squealing means absolutely nothing. The polls are beyond useless and most of them are partisan. It. won’t. happen.

  3. …I know I went a little overboard on the sage in the end…but…it was by way of narrowing the field after failing to make up my damned mind for way longer than was useful…but…it really has been a slow day for me…& another thing that I’ve bogged myself down in through nobody’s fault but my own would be getting distracted trying to remember which of the RSA videos I have or haven’t already seen enough times I’d expect to be able to remember…so…I know he’s another poet-slash-rapper type & all…but here’s one featuring that george the poet fella…& as far as I can make out his mama didn’t raise no fools, as the saying goes?

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