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Connections between Addiction, Depression, Policy, and Modern Life [Johann Hari + Glenn Greenwald / Intercept]

Excellent video interview [45 mins] with author Johann Hari. Well worth it.

Recorded in Brazil but also directly relevant to the US, Greenwald and Hari talk about addiction and depression, atomization of modern society and widespread psychology of discontent, social media functioning as  a substitute for those factors missing in people prone to depression and addiction, drug policy and drug-war, how they impact right-wing politics in places such as the US or Brazil, and how since the early 2000’s, some other countries have a more successful policy model which dramatically reduced crime and harm from drug addiction.


Plug for books by author: ‘Chasing the Scream‘ and ‘Lost Connections



arrest of Huawei CFO/heiress

I’ve been happily away from political/IR blogging for a while, but depending on how this turns out, it may be the biggest geopolitical event of the year. At least for symbolic value.

Meng Wanzhou is CFO and daughter of the founder of the #1 telecom equipment company in the world (and #2 phone maker after Samsung). She is accused of involvement in trade with Iran – a charge that is purely extraterritorial and based on ad-hoc laws created exclusively for geopolitics rather than a criminal element.

If Meng is extradited to the US, it will be a crossing of the Rubicon, in my opinion. But extradition is a long way away at the moment, and all the signs are already pointing to a rapidly intensifying conflict, so it’s just a matter of time anyway. I’m not looking forward to any such thing, and I don’t think any sane person would. However, geopolitical sanity is in short supply this century.

Canada is currently under a lot of pressure from the US, and not just the Trump administration. Belief that Iran is of central importance to US strategic position enjoys broad bipartisan support in US government, and that will pretty much drive what Canada does. Canada-US trade is about $500B, Canada-China trade is around $60B (wiki). So it’s easy to see where how that line of influence plays out. The other angle is Canadian real estate, with Toronto and Vancouver experiencing some of the most intense home price increases (source). Wealthy Chinese are said to make a notable contribution to those markets, although there’s no obvious reason to believe that the Chinese government would target overseas property ownership, as it is a vital form of individual and family safety-net enjoyed by elites of all nations.

20181210: Monitoring the situation…

Perspective on this (j sachs/project syndicate) – talks about how it is a radical departure from norms, in the relationship between the US national security state and high level officers of major global businesses.

NYT article indicating that Meng should not expect a fair hearing in Canadian court (that is, examination of evidence or jurisdiction), in extradition proceedings. Nor will she in the US, since the Iran sanctions laws are specifically formulated to put political and personal pressure on foreign businesses (what would be called blackmail / extortion if other countries did the same thing) – to shut down trade with a particular nation.

20181211 14:30 Eastern time – looks like her offer for $15M bail is being taken seriously – and may be accepted once technicalities are ironed out. (?) – (based sketchy live notes from here: ). (Other live ish coverage from the Vancouver Star). Also US press has conspicuously dropped this as the lead story, compared to previous days.

18:00 Eastern time – UPDATE – granted $10M bail ($7M cash), restricted to local area.

election results, reaction

UPDATE – Sinema (D) wins AZ!   bonus video (catching balls from various sports dropped from 165m dam)!

Final results are not in yet, but it went pretty much as expected.

Not even close to a complete reversal of the disastrous 2016 election, but a positive step in that direction.

Looks like Democrats will have a roughly 30 seat majority in the House, which means the more draconian aspects of Trump’s anti-immigration policy won’t get funded. Otherwise I don’t think we’ll see all that much difference there to be honest — I think Republicans did expect to lose the House this election (a completely standard pattern in US midterm elections) – so they forced thru their biggest priorities such as the tax cut. Beyond that, most of the goodies for the MIC/defense-contractors, pharma, finance, telecom monopolies etc have bipartisan support anyway. There are some specific energy industry issues that have a noticeable partisan split (e.g., Democrats prefer railroads to pipelines for oil transport, and Republicans vice versa). Maybe we’ll have some last-minute government-shutdown type drama next winter, but we’ve seen all that before.

Republicans are picking up 2-3 seats in the Senate, depending on how Arizona goes (due to that state’s logistics for so-called “late-early” ballots).

The extra Senate Rep. votes, could make a small but noticeable difference in any Supreme Court confirmations, should there be any — the number of “defectors” needed to defeat a confirmation vote has now doubled from about 2 to about 4.

On other matters, such as budgeting priorities, the impact is smaller, since one of the Rep. Senate pick-ups was Indiana, which was a DINO seat anyway.

Looking ahead, the 2020 Senate map will be a complete reversal of this year’s situation. Most of the Senate seats in play will be Republican, and a good number of them were elected to blue/purple-states in 2014, which was a strong Republican year — a lot of those won’t have the same kind of support again. Barring a major screw-up (always a possibility), the Senate should easily turn Democrat in 2020.

Democratic pick-ups for Governors could have an under-appreciated impact, if used wisely.

On a state-by-state basis, Trump’s net-approval polling was actually relatively high in the contested states.

Republicans did outperform polls in places like MT, MO, TN. In other words, the “likely-voter” models that are the unavoidable source of systematic error in all the polling (beyond the statistical MOE) definitely need some better calibration for 2020.

Beto made a race out of it in Texas. I hope we will be seeing more of him.

Ballot initiatives are worth following up on – I think several distinctly red states voted for referendums in favor of medicaid expansion. Pay attention centrist Democrats – health care and government funded services are a winning issue with most voters – don’t listen to the loudest voices of the center-right/libertarian ideologues!

Also, more marijuana legalization. Good!

Florida’s felon re-enfranchisement is a big deal! Possibly a game-changer for the state.

165 meter dam + bowling ball + trampoline…

Something to kill time before results to come in:


US: final reminder – go vote

tommorrow Tues Nov 6th. that’s it.

topical (ish) fiction: Lisa and the Stranger [Caitlin Johnstone]

Just came across this, from 2-3 wks ago. Short story by the political / anti-imperialist commentator.


Pretty cool I thought.

US: Vote Tuesday Nov. 6th (second to last reminder)

Just checking in… If you’re in the US go vote.

If you have an all day mountain top retreat on Tuesday, get an absentee ballot – look up the board of elections for your locality (typically county level), they’ll have instructions. Easiest to go in person to the office.

Predictions: not much changed vs past weeks. As others have said, the polls include assumptions about “likely voter” turnout based on past elections, that might not hold true this time, and might deviate from the established patterns differently in different parts of the country. I think Republicans have a shot to outperform in a couple states where independents are mostly white and breaking to Democrats in polls (MO?, MT?), while Democrats could do well where independents are more Latino (Southwest, TX, CA). The Latino population is a younger overall, and just as a result of this is less likely to vote, but Trump has done such a thorough job being an ass, that is where the Democrats have significant upside potential. Personally I think turnout will be high nationally on both sides, so I do think it will come down to the regional breakdowns. I think Democrats will clean up in the House. Senate as predicted elsewhere, Republicans pick up 1-2 seats.


Leaves fell all at once, basically in the last 3-4 days. Almost no red or brown leaves, all yellow, and a touch of green. Like you just got out of the elevator on the Yellow Floor at a the world’s biggest paint store. Shades and gradients on each individual tree, I don’t think I’ve seen it like this in a long time. Primary-schoolbus-yellow, tan, sungold, but also lemon-lime (on maples!), copper, and in the right afternoon light, some sunlit emerald tones I can’t even name.

I already had 3-4 different campaign visits knocking on my door / leaving flyers in the final weekend from a variety of local campaigns. I’m getting these obnoxious Tom Reed (R-NY23) ads on YouTube. I guess if you got the cash spend it. Curious how that race will turn out. This district’s demographics are in his favor. Fortunately, his campaign is mostly too cheap to pay for the kind of ad you are forced to watch until the end.

Also, while driving thru Jersey the other week, I caught a Spanish language radio ad for the beleaguered Bob Menendez, complete with merengue music (I think?) … Work it Bob!

I’m planning to vote Democrat at the Congressional district / State Assembly / State Senate / local levels, and 3rd party (Green) at the NY State level.