This Is How The US Postal Service Loses So Much Money

Authored by Justin Murray via The Mises Institute,

Lately, when he isn’t trying to blame China on America’s competitiveness woes, President Donald Trump has become obsessed with the online retailer Amazon. While there’s speculationthat Trump is using the reins of government to carry out a personal grudge because Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, also owns The Washington Post, the more recent obsession is based on his belief that the United States Postal Service is subsidizing Amazon’s activity.

The claim is that, based on a cost-plus method of pricing, Amazon is being subsidized $1.47 per package delivered by the USPS as a last-mile carrier. With an estimated608 million boxes shipped by the online retailer in 2017, Trump is implying that Amazon has shorted the postal service by $893 million.

Considering the USPS lost $2.7 billion, this further implies that Amazon is a key reason why the USPS is struggling financially. Trump goes on to state that Amazon should fork over the entire $2.7 billion to cover the difference.

A key problem here is the assumption that businesses operate on a cost-plus basis. This kind of thinking is a result of how warped government operations are, which frequently engage in cost-plus kinds of contracts. Cost-plus contracts are where the government agrees to cover all the applicable costs of performing the work plus a guaranteed profit. These forms of contracts are relatively unusual in the private business sector, where bidding on price are the primary form of activity. Because of the nature of cost-plus, and how they will frequently go over-budget because there is little incentive to control costs of performance, companies generally don’t engage in them. This means, in the world outside of tax-funded activity, the USPS has to compete with other package carriers like UPS and FedEx and doesn’t have the luxury of guaranteeing itself a profit on every activity.

When it comes to the USPS, the organization has significant fixed costs. In business planning, prices are usually lower-bound by the variable cost of activity. Any revenues that are collected above and beyond the variable costs are able to contribute toward fixed expenses. This is referred to as the contribution margin. Because the fixed component exists whether the product or service is sold or not, companies will be pressured to lower prices until they reach this contribution margin is exhausted. Companies then hope to generate sufficient volume at this margin to cover the fixed expenses. If the choice is between no sale and a sale below an optimal price with some contribution margin, the organization will usually go with the lower than optimal price to at least slow the resource deterioration.

The reason the USPS is in trouble and is struggling to cover its estimated $29 billion in fixed costs is because of its status as a partial legal monopoly. From the own words of the USPS, Congress has granted, with criminal penalty, the USPS total monopoly over the delivery of letters, with some carve-out exceptions (such as urgent or free of charge). Like most monopolies, the USPS had little incentive to keep costs controlled. In 1999, the USPS even went so far as to shrug off the burgeoning Internet, e-mail in particular, as some fad and engaged in sorting facility expansions with the expectation that letter volume would continue to grow. Since peaking in 2001, the number of letters delivered by the USPS has since collapsed to nearly half as much in 2017. The USPS costs, however, continued to increase, from $62 billion in 2000 to $72.3 billion in 2017, despite the collapse of business volume. The USPS was only able to remain solvent by leveraging its monopoly status by driving up the price of stamps from $0.34 for a first class stamp in 1999 to $0.50 later this year. But even this is running into limitations as the decline in mail volume accelerates.

This monopoly, however, doesn’t cover package delivery, putting the USPS in a strange position of having a legal monopoly on only part of its business. This creates the impression that the package business is subsidized by the letter business since the prices on the letter side aren’t limited by a competitive force. This then creates the further impression that the expenses, which were never controlled because of the historical reliance on letter delivery, should be evenly applied to package delivery as well. Thus the assumption there is a subsidy at all when in reality the costs are grossly overinflated due to a lack of market discipline.

When a private business is threatened by decreased volume, they usually have to trim operations to adjust their size to meet the new market demands. The USPS, on the other hand, does not do this. The organization continues to operate on the assumption it must make daily deliveries, six days a week, to every address in the nation. Even the old rural excuse has become weakened as the nation becomes more urban (assuming it was ever justified to tax city residents to provide city amenities to those who elected to live in remote places). Not that rural residents need a monopoly organization to deliver junk mail.

Repeal the Postal Service’s Monopoly

So what’s the answer to the failings of the USPS? Repeal the Private Express Statutes and let the USPS loose to manage its own affairs without Congressional interference in its operations. As Lysander Spooner famously proved back in 1844 with the American Letter Mail Company, the private sector can not only deliver the mail, it can deliver the mail profitably for a fraction of the cost of the postal service. This solves two problems:

  1. The appearance that Amazon is subsidized through the USPS is eliminated

  2. Profitable, stable delivery organizations can come into play

Repealing the private express statutes and getting government out of the mail delivery business may also very well save the USPS as not only can the USPS get out from under populist mandates, such as the overly generous retirement program and maintaining an absurd number of postal service locations; the USPS maintains over twice as many postal stops as McDonald’s has restaurants. It will also open up the market to more competition and competition breeds superior operations for competing members as creative methods of operation are more likely to be identified and can be mimicked, leading to superior operations for all players.

In the end, the “problem” with Amazon is self-inflicted by the government insisting it operates a monopoly letter carrier. Trump can fix the problem with one fell swoop by pressuring Congress not to pass laws imposing higher rates on Amazon delivered packages, which will only accelerate the failure of the USPS since Amazon would just pick an alternate carrier, but to open up unrestricted competition in mail delivery and cut the USPS loose from the government tether. It certainly worked out well in New Zealand.

Nearly One-Third Of Americans Believe Facebook Has A “Negative Impact On Society”

Chamath Palihapitiya, former Facebook vice president for user growth, isn’t the only one who believes his former employer is ripping apart the fabric of society.

Palihapitiya triggered an unexpectedly intense backlash after revealing that he feels “tremendous guilt” for his role in building the social media giant, warning that, if you feed the beast, that beast will destroy you…”

“I feel tremendous guilt.”

“I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That is truly where we are.”

“I would encourage all of you, as the future leaders of the world, to really internalize how important this is.  If you feed the beast, that beast will destroy you.  If you push back on it you have a chance to control it and reign it in.”

“There is a point in time when people need a hard break from some of these tools.”

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works.  No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”

“So, we’re in a really bad state of affairs right now, in my opinion.  It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”

“And, I don’t have a good solution.  You know, my solution is I just don’t use these tools anymore.  I ahven’t for years.  It’s created huge tension with my friends.  Huge tensions in my social circles.”

…He later walked his comments back after twitter users suggested that he maybe donate some of the money he made off the enterprise to a worthy cause.

And now, shortly after it published reports about a survey showing 10% of US Facebook users deleted their accounts in the wake of the company’s latest data-privacy scandal, Recode is back with another scathing story about Facebook’s public identity crisis.

Tavis McGinn, Mark Zuckerberg’s former personal pollster, conducted a survey that exposes just how reviled Facebook is in many parts of the world. Indeed, up to 33% of responds in Australia, Canada and the UK say Facebook is having a “negative impact on society.”

Americans have a similarly negative perception of FB, with just 32% (about 54 million people) of the population also believing that Facebook has a negative impact. For context, that makes Facebook more popular than Marlboro cigarettes, but worse than McDonald’s.

FB

In fact, the only countries where distrust in Facebook was relatively low were countries like Japan, where few people use Facebook.

McGinn, who recently opened his own polling firm after leaving Facebook after six months, said he didn’t ask what, specifically, these negative impacts might be – but he says he has an idea.

“In the U.S. obviously we’re very focused on election interference, and in the U.K. they’ve been focused on that as well with Brexit,” McGinn told Recode. “But there are also things like, ‘how does it affect children, how does the platform create addiction, how does the platform encourage extremism, how does the platform push American values onto other countries?’”

There’s also the issue of Facebook’s data policies, which McGinn, who spent three years at Google, says are a result of Facebook’s DNA.

“The culture has always been focused on driving usage, on getting more people to use and how to get them to spend longer on the platform,” he said. “It influences every decision, large and small.”

And here’s the kicker: McGinn conducted his poll in January and February. Which means that, judging by the decline in user engagement – which had already been on the decline before the Cambridge Analytica scandal – negative perceptions of the company have probably worsened.

The Systemic Racism Of American Gun Control

Authored by Steve C. via Free Market Shooter blog,

Imagine if you will, centuries of racially-targeted denial of a well established, and popular civil right in the United States. Within this context, imagine that going back to colonial times, that it was at times legal to physically attack or even kill a free black person who was practicing this right, or that later state constitutions would outright prohibit the exercise of this right if you happened to have the wrong skin color.

Imagine too, the US Supreme Court determining that citizenship rights could not be extended to free persons of color, lest they exercise this fundamental liberty. I am of course, talking about the right to keep and bear arms, which in a nutshell has laid out the horrors of systemic racism applied to that right from the colonial era to the Civil War.

In 1857,  Chief Justice Taney wrote in the infamous Dred Scott case, that to extend citizenship to the “negro race” would allow black people to “keep and carry arms wherever they went.” This, along with voting and free speech, was problematic to white America at the time. Fear of slave revolts was so powerful, that even free blacks were to be denied basic civil rights, lest they perhaps attempt to overthrow slaveholders.

After the Civil War, when thousands of freed slaves had served in the Union Army, and learned the use of arms, the situation was no better. As former Confederate states rejoined the Union, they quickly imposed onerous restrictions on the bearing of arms, with the understanding that they would not be enforced against white citizens. In 1870, the state of Tennessee banned ownership of all but the most expensive handguns. By 1907 five southern states had outlawed handguns altogether  (South Carolina, 1902) required their registration (Mississippi, 1906) or had instituted full or partial bans on inexpensive handguns (Tennessee in 1870 and 79, Arkansas in 1882, and Alabama in 1893).

In each case, these laws were explicitly race based. Other southern states would over time admit that their gun laws were specifically designed to limit or prevent black citizens from acquiring or bearing arms, or would enforce such laws only along racial lines. In 1911, New York City passed the infamous Sullivan Act which was an open effort to disarm Eastern European immigrants, and other persons not wealthy or politically connected enough to acquire a permit to carry a pistol. As late as 1968, many believed the Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed less to control guns, and more “to control blacks”.

Thomas Nasts 1878 political cartoon vilified white supremacy and reveals how helpless recently freed blacks were in some parts of the South

Into the 1980’s and 90’s further attacks against poor (and usually black) persons and their right to keep and bear arms continued. Many state housing projectsattempted to ban the possession of guns in public housing, while in 1988 Maryland imposed a ban on inexpensive handguns, perhaps the most modern and recent ban on guns based on price.

Florida at one time, went so far as to require a license to own “Winchester rifles” or other repeating rifles. This law, first enacted in 1893, and revised in 1901 was an insidious way to prevent minorities from gaining access to modern rifle cartridges like the .30-30 Winchester or modern bolt action rifles chambered for the same cartridge as the US Army Springfield. By attempting to bar blacks and other minorities from accessing modern repeating rifles, Florida was seeking to ensure they would remain helpless against a tyrannical state, and white supremacists. Needless to say, white people never had trouble gaining permission to own modern repeating rifles during this time.

The National Firearms Act of 1934, or NFA was the first attempt at a national set of gun control laws that applied in all states. While not overtly racist, it targeted “gangster weapons”, and also would have originally placed handguns under the same strict regulation as machine guns and other NFA items. However, then, as now, “gangster” is often a polite way of describing an ethnic minority or minorities who are seen as undesirable. In the early 20th century, this was often Eastern European immigrants, which New York City’s Sullivan act targeted, in what may have been the first case of racist gun control laws targeted at Europeans.

Today, the NFA continues to burden law abiding Americans by vilifying safety equipment such as suppressors, and making it difficult to acquire rifles and shotguns with short barrels. All this, due to racially driven moral panics over Prohibition era “gangsters” who often ran the gamut of socially unacceptable ethnic origins.

Today, there is a great deal of heated debate on the way police treat ethnic minorities lawfully bearing arms as opposed to how they treat white people. In the 1960’s and 70’s, active and openly armed resistance played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement, and the Black Panthers most famously took it to to extremes by openly bearing arms at several state capitol buildings. It should be noted, that in California and Washington State, that action resulted in new laws about the open display of guns, but modern day (and mostly white) open displays of arms under similar circumstances have not been met with new legislation.

Members of the Black Panthers protest for gun rights in Olympia, Washington – 1969

We might speculate that modern day attempts at gun control are race neutral, but if you consider that most, if not all gun control is driven from major population centers, and that “tough on crime” is just another racist dogwhistle, then we can start seeing the more implicit gun control. Rarely do these sorts of laws openly target rural areas, but “inner city gun crime” is regularly trotted out as some sort of crisis to stamp out – and if it happens to disarm law abiding minorities, who cares?

One might ask why in the enlightened 21st century, there is still fear over armed minorities. The answer remains the same. An armed person is free, but a disarmed person is a subject. The War on Drugs succeeded in destroying the inner cities by breaking up families, and disenfranchising millions of minorities, and on the heels of this, modern day gun control has succeeded in leaving only criminals and violent gangs armed. Today, as in the harsh years of the 19th century, racism requires minorities to be unarmed, and unable to fully stand up for themselves, or their rights, lest they too gain their place in the sun and walk as equals in American society.

The question then, is how to combat this pervasive, systemic racism? The very political party that claims to support the best interests of American minorities, also is the one that openly, and actively seeks to disarm them. The Democratic Party’s open assault on gun rights even has a paternalistic ring to it, that is straight out of the 19th century. We must ban guns “for the children” or “to protect our communities.” From their lofty (and mostly white) seats of power, they demand the inner cities and urban areas of America surrender their arms, their liberties and their rights in order to “fight crime”, and in return, they are met with hostile police forces, an ongoing war on civil rights disguised as a war on drugs, and the assurance that the government will protect them. This of course, being the same government that has spent hundreds of years actively suppressing these populations. How it is different today is beyond me.

Today, it is expected ethnic minorities will be left wing leaning, and it is expected if you are left wing, you are anti gun. It is a perfect formula that took centuries to perfect. How better to disarm a people, than to convince them to support that idea themselves? It is insidious, twisted and a violation of all basic moral and legal ideals which this country was founded upon.  Landmark Supreme Court decisions like Heller and McDonald have established once and for all that the 2nd Amendment applies to ALL states and ALL Americans. Places like Chicago and Washington DC have grossly abused these rulings by imposing strict limits on carrying guns, and imposed excessive financial and regulatory burdens on acquiring permits to carry a gun. Other states like California and many East Coast states already do the same. It is the same, age old tactic. Pay lip service to civil rights, but make sure that only the well to do, and well connected can actually exercise them.

What then can be done to combat the deeply rooted racism that is at the heart of gun control in modern America? This is a very complicated question, as the very idea of minorities organizing for their interests has been seen as threatening by many people over the years. However, there are now a rock solid set of Supreme Court cases which make it patently clear that the right to keep and bear arms is a right for all  Americans to enjoy. There are many pro-gun groups which actively promote the right to keep and bear arms, and increasing minority membership in them is a net positive for all parties involved.

The divisive nature of American politics today often pits people with shared common interests against each other, if they happen to espouse different beliefs in other areas. While many rational Americans agree about some things, they do not agree on all, but in the arena of gun rights, all gun owners should welcome each other, and put aside other political differences to promote gun rights for all people. This may be the biggest stumbling block to overcoming the deep seated racism that is modern day gun control. Far too often I have seen so-called conservativesreject gun owning allies, because they voted the wrong way. Divisive and emotion driven political beliefs on non gun related issues keep gun owners apart from each other, and this wedge is almost assuredly a deliberate action to keep people from coming together in common purpose.

Racism is a vicious, ugly and horrible blight on American society, and now more than ever it must be stamped out, and gun rights taken back from laws rooted in keeping slaves and free blacks under control, or in suppressing the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society. Civil rights are for everybody, and everybody must come together to defend them.

For more reading about the roots of racism in American gun control, I recommend Clayton Cramer’s The Racist Roots of Gun Control, and Robert F. Williams’ Negroes With Guns as well as Akinyele Omowale Umoja’s We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement.

Americans Are Increasingly Dying Earlier In These States

For some time, we have understood that prime-working-age Americans (20 to 55) are more frequently dying younger, although the scale and nature of the problem have remained somewhat of a mystery. There has been increased speculation from the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) confirming a downtrend in American life expectancy, which could be due to soaring wealth inequality and an out of control opioid epidemic. However, some experts believe there is much more to this troubling story, as structural decay is becoming more evident in America’s middle class.

A new study published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association digs beneath the American heartland and identifies which states are encountering the highest premature deaths among younger generations, and why.  As per The Atlantic, the study reveals a “profound disparity among the states” when it comes to “life expectancy.”

Since 1990, researchers identified 21 states that have encountered an increase in the death rate among prime-working-age Americans. The study details the top five states – Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wyoming, which the odds of early death increased by 10 percent in that timeframe. Meanwhile, California and New York had a lower probability of premature deaths in the same period. Researchers note the specific risk factors, such as high body mass index (BMI), alcohol, opioids, suicide, and kidney disease were the leading factors in early deaths.

The Atlantic points out the ten states with the highest probability of dying young:

“In 2016, the 10 states with the highest probability of premature death among 20- to 55-year-olds were West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arkansas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina.”

Meanwhile, here the states with the lowest probability of premature death:

“The 10 states with lowest probability of premature death among this age group were Minnesota, California, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Hawaii.”

Ali Mokdad, a University of Washington epidemiologist who co-wrote the study, said in a statement, “Overall the nation and some of our states are falling behind other, less developed countries.”

“The strain on America’s health resources is getting worse, and the need for prevention services and greater access to and quality of medical care is increasing,” he added.

While The Atlantic links the idea “Americans are self-medicating their misery with alcohol and drugs,” there is also reason to believe that poor diet is a significant factor in premature death. Alzheimer’s disease and opioids have become an increasing cause of death and disability, but poor diet still maintains the number one slot for the leading cause of death, followed by tobacco use and high blood pressure.

“To an increasing degree, overweight, obesity, and sugary diets are driving up health-care costs and are costing Americans years of healthy life,” said the University of Washington’s Chris Murray, who also authored the study, in a statement. “They are undermining progress toward better health.”

As the Washington Post notes, American exceptionalism is dying:

“But by 2015 that gap had flipped. The average American born that year could expect to live a little less than 79 years, while the typical baby born in an OECD country had an expected lifespan of nearly 81 years.

Americans are dying young, in part, because of deliberate policy choices we’ve made over the decades: rejecting single-payer health care. Cutting taxes for the rich. Shunning universal basic income. Abandoning universal child care.

While America helplessly slides into an irreversible terminal decline, you must wonder what this all means to me… apart from structural deterioration of the younger generation — forcing “your” life expectancy to decline for two consecutive years, well the only thing that seems to matter these days in the tweets by President Trump… The Dow… the last time that US life expectancy dropped for two straight years, there were years of stock market declines…

American exceptionalism is dead, the empire is cracking, and as the Journal of the American Medical Association study explains: Americans are increasingly dying younger.

Luongo: Trump Is Done, Mattis Won

Authored by Tom Luongo,

Friday night’s attack on Damascus was chilling.  No question.  It dredged up the worst possible scenarios from our sub-conscious and for a few hours made them real.  Now that the dust has settled, and we see what’s occurred (and what hasn’t) it’s time to draw some conclusions.

First thing’s first.  I reiterate what I said earlier in the week.  Trump is finished.  Read my article carefully, then overlay two things I didn’t talk about.  One, Trump is impulsive and easily manipulated. 

Two, Trump is ultimately a coward and an appeaser, just like The Saker pegged him to be after bombing Al-Shairat last year.

All bullies are cowards.  That’s why they bully.

Because of these personal defects, he gave his resignation speech last night.  Be it later this year when he’s impeached/forced to resign for a war crime or in January 2021 after losing to a baked potato, the anti-interventionist crowd who elected him will remember this for a long time.

I want to remind you of what happened last year with Al-Shairat.  Trump bombed it while having dinner with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping.  A light show of sound and fury which ultimately did very little damage. 

But, it did not signify nothing.

It signified that Trump is out of his depth in foreign policy.

A few months later Seymour Hersh, one of the few journalists left in the U.S., published his expose of what actually happened which led to the decision to bomb Syria.  It was at this point I realized Trump wasn’t fit to conduct foreign policy.  Trump wanted to go to war fully and was talked out of it by his military advisers, namely Gen. James Mattis.

Mattis of Grave Import

Mattis gave Trump the option he took.  A big light show which the Russians allowed to occur so Trump could get some relief from his detractors and satisfy himself that he did something in response to what he perceived to be a morally reprehensible act.

No 4-d chess. No back door coordination with the Russians.  Just a man with a deep sense of morality that needed to feel powerful.

Now fast forward to last night.  Same story.  Different circumstances since now Trump is even more isolated, more paranoid, more betrayed at every level by his political opposition. Do you think he hired John Bolton because he’s become more nuanced in his foreign policy approach?

If you do, then you aren’t just an idiot.  You are an heir to the throne of the kingdom of idiots.

Sometimes when we do this type of analysis we forget about the men we are actually dealing with versus who we are personally.  It’s easy to overlay our own abilities onto a public figure and think that if we can see this, he has to be able to.

But, that’s the wrong approach.  Trump is what he is.  And re-reading Hersh’s account from last year reminded me of what we’re dealing with here.

They were dealing with a man they considered to be not unkind and not stupid, but his limitations when it came to national security decisions were severe. “Everyone close to him knows his proclivity for acting precipitously when he does not know the facts,” the adviser said. “He doesn’t read anything and has no real historical knowledge. He wants verbal briefings and photographs. He’s a risk-taker. He can accept the consequences of a bad decision in the business world; he will just lose money. But in our world, lives will be lost and there will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong. He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: ‘Do it.”’

His refusal to act against his domestic enemies who are obviously guilty put him in the position he’s in now, having to trust the word of the worst people in U.S. policy-making, the John Bolton wing of the establishment.

To survive last year, Trump made a deal with them.  The military would be in charge of foreign policy.  Trump would get to play president working on domestic issues.  But, during that time things got even worse.

Yes, he got some major domestic wins.  He outlasted his opposition long enough to reveal the depths of their depravity and mendacity.  But, all that time the center of the foreign policy establishment in Washington closed in on him.  And the siren’s call of moralistic intervention to stop Iran and/or Russia was consistently impressed on him.

The Big Show

So, here we are again.  Trump’s enemies know how to get him triggered to do something stupid and against his good instincts.  Then compound this by telling him the Russians are the problem.  They are lying.  They’ve betrayed him too.

He has a near obsession with being the anti-Obama.  It defines so many of his actions.

It’s why he’s willing to tweet out a complete reversal of what he advocated for in 2013, for Obama not to bomb Syria.  He was right then.  But, as president, he’s defined Obama as his shadow, everything he’s not.  And with good reason, Obama is likely behind much of the opposition he’s dealing with every day.

These things build up over time.  They paralyze a man as self-absorbed as Trump.  He’s no angel, but he was the best option we had in 2016.  Our options were Hillary Clinton or him.  We chose Trump.

But, make no mistake, we still elected DONALD TRUMP.

And that leads me to where we are now.

Yesterday I wrote that I thought Mattis and Trump were trying to run out the Neoconservatives clock on bombing Syria.  I was half-right.  Trump had already gone fully over to the neocons approach and Mattis talked him out of it.

Bolton pushed for a broader attack hard and Mattis put the kibosh on it because he’s the adult in the room.

If not, the Neocons would finally have the war they’ve been salivating for these past forty plus years.  But, things have changed.

Russian anti-missile systems are too strong for us to deal with.  It would take the kind of saturation bombing reserved only for Defcon 1 scenarios to attack Syria with the intention of ‘winning.’

The Syrians claim to have shot down 70% of the incoming missiles using old Russian anti-missile batteries, S-200’s, Buks, etc.  Even if they are exaggerating and only shot down half of the missiles.  It only makes the next steps clearer.  Russia will sell Assad S-300’s now.

Only Winning Matters

Looking at the results of the attack last night I fully believe it was another ‘Goldilocks Option’ from Mattis like last year.  While we may not have informed the Russians the attack was coming, France may have.  Moreover, France may have backed out of actually firing missiles at all.

If this was a serious attack on Damascus, which I don’t believe, then Syrians wouldn’t be dancing in the streets for having survived the U.S.’s impotent chest-thumping.

They would be mourning their dead.

We didn’t hit any Iranian, Russian or Hezbollah installations.  The Israelis will be incensed.  In fact, this was a no-winner outcome.  Everyone was weakened by this to some degree in the short term, except the target of the attack itself, Bashar al-Assad.

Assad will now move on to the next victory in the campaign to re-form Syria.  While Mattis just gave the rebels carte blanche to stage another chemical weapons attack in Dara’a, which is the next likely area to be cleansed of ‘rebels.’

But, that’s where Mattis is smarter than Trump.  He knows that even if one of Assad’s commanders went off the reservation and used chlorine gas here, something I give a 5 to 10% probability of, it’s not worth World War III over.  He knows that horrible things happen in war.  And that leaders and civilian populations cannot be held accountable for the deficits of one man or small cadre of men.

There’s no real option for us to go deeper into Syria, despite what the Israeli lobby and the Neocons in the U.S. want.  This attack didn’t help them.  By doing this Mattis continues to let Trump blow off steam, make his points and hasten the day that we can actually get out of the Middle East.

Trumped Himself

Meanwhile Trump just ensured that he has no bargaining power in North Korea, is aligned with the criminal U.K. government in illegally bombing a sovereign nation in violation of all international law and pushed Russia, Iran and China into a closer alliance.

His opponents will hang him with this strike.  Even if he was coerced into this against his will, it signals to the world he isn’t in control of anything and has no real power.  So much for the Art of the Deal.

Up until now, much of Trump’s successes have come from his allies supporting him by leaking damaging material domestically or covering for his mistakes internationally.  They did this because they believed him to be sincere in wanting to devolve the U.S. empire and bring rationality back to international politics.

And I still believe he is.

But, with his unwillingness to evolve and become better they aren’t going to let him get his wins anymore.  There’s no upside for Putin to let Trump take the credit for purging Syria of ISIS or brokering peace with North Korea anymore.

Trump is hopeless on the international stage.  Another false flag, another impotent light show.  He’s not Orange Jesus, he’s a deeply flawed, if well-intentioned man.  And it’s time we stopped the cult of personality and begin the hard work of Draining the Swamp.

That’s why he’s done.  And that’s why we’re not out of the woods yet.  For now, we can let out a breath but this isn’t over.

The neocons will push for Trump to fire Mattis next.  If that happens, duck.

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