Links 1/10/17

The Strange Case of the Minnesota Iceman Scientific American

Deputies mistake kitty litter for meth; after 3 days in jail, suspect cleared ArkLaTex.com (Re Silc).

Summers Warns of Financial-Crisis Risk From Trump Economic Plans Bloomberg

FBI Arrests Volkswagen Executive in Emissions Scandal WSJ

Global carmakers navigate a tricky road to new Trump reality FT

Why Uber lost $2.2 billion in 9 months Vox. Nice shout-out to Hubert’s five-part series at NC (start here), but there are issues… which I’ll let readers weigh in on. This caught my eye: “An obvious objection here is that Uber’s investors are not idiots.” Plenty of investors are idiots. It’s not at all obvious that Uber’s investors are not.

Waymo unplugs self-driving cars to deny hackers access FT

Facebook is going to start showing ads in the middle of its videos and sharing the money with publishers ReCode. “Its”?

Why Facebook should hire a chief ethicist: Column USA Today

Apple’s desensitisation of the human race to fundamental security practices Troy Hunt (DK). To be read on conjunction with Apple Store photo ring scandal in Brisbane: Privacy commissioner weighs in Brisbane Times

Why 2017 is Blockchain’s Make or Break Year CoinDesk (RS).

Bring on the Bots American Banker

Syraqistan

Pakistan fires ‘first submarine-launched nuclear-capable missile’ Reuters

U.S. Pilots See Close Calls With Russian Jets Over Syria WSJ

Syria and the Left Jacobin

Concluso il voto online: il M5S sceglie di passare nel gruppo di Alde al Parlamento Ue La Stampa (DG); the Google translation. DG comments:

So the Five Stars leave behind the fringe-y-ish euroskeptic contingent to link up with the likes of Mario Monti, the U.K. Lib Dems, the German Free Democrats, the Basque Nationalist Party, filling a place that Di Pietro and Italia dei Valori tried to hold.

Hmmmm. At least, Five Stars is good on civil rights, civil liberties, and parliamentary procedure, except when Grillo is having a tantrum.

So: I am skeptical. They may now be stuck where the Lib Dems are–minor partners in government, permanently. That may be where Grillo likes to make his stand, but it makes them about as relevant as the Lib Dems. As many Italians have pointed out, the Five Stars like being dissidents, but they have little interest in governing. One of the more notorious recent cases was when they did so well in the last parliamentary elections, yet when they showed up in parliament, none of them had started drafting bills to present for debate. So they lost control of the debate.

China?

Real estate all over the world could tank as China curbs capital outflow Business Insider

Alibaba’s Ma meets Trump, promises to bring one million jobs to U.S. Reuters

The Cost of India’s Man-Made Currency Crisis Editorial Board, NYT

Our Famously Free Press

It’s time to retire the tainted term ‘fake news’ Margaret Sullivan, WaPo. That was fast,

Trump Is Letting Go the People in Charge of Maintaining Our Nuclear Arsenal [Updated] Gizmodo. Scroll down for “[UPDATED].” The game is hard enough without the constant own-goals (as in WaPo’s debunked Vermont power story, and the Times getting the wrong Russian compound slated by Obama for closing, on page A1).

2016 Post Mortem

Obama retools his political operation for post-Trump Politico. “Though OFA has been mostly quiet over the past two months and made no formal announcements, its Chicago headquarters has been filling up with new hires, including several old campaign aides, who are planning to focus on the mechanics of campaigns, from running Obama-style persuasion programs, integrating data and running paid canvassing operations. Though the first goal is designing the program for what they’ll aim to make hundreds of workshops nationwide, there’s already talk about moving toward endorsing candidates.” In other words, Obama plans to suck away any oxygen that Our Revolution and Brand New Congress have been able to get.

Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama Cornel West, Guardian (GF).

Decolonizing Obama n+1

Future Crimes Counterpunch. Well worth a read on Obama’s legacy, being manufactured even as we speak, despite the unhelpful headline.

Repealing the ACA without a Replacement — The Risks to American Health Care Barack H. Obama, J.D., NEJM. A trifecta — see the next two links — as Obama performs an amazing dominance display over the credentialed classes that form the Democrat base.

The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform Barack Obama, Harvard Law Review

The irreversible momentum of clean energy Barack Obama, Science

Obama Says Americans’ Skepticism Gave Campaign Hacks a Boost Bloomberg. “Very engaging and gregarious.”

Russia wanted payback, not a President Trump Globe and Mail

Trump Transition

Republicans Want Revenge for Obamacare and It’s Making Them Do Stupid Things Brian Beutler, The New Republic

The political downsides to [ObamaCare’s] approach were fairly obvious at the time, and have become more clear as the law’s been implemented. It’s complex and inequitable; it doesn’t cover everyone; it turns people into customers in an amoral and unpopular market, rather than into users of a simple public utility. But the upside was that it could be slowly blended into the existing fabric of the health system without rending the whole thing and starting over. It’s not a single patch in a strange patchwork. Removing the stitching won’t just re-create a hole, but leave the rest of the quilt more tattered than it was before.

I’m not sure “quilt” is the right metaphor. I think what Beutler is saying is that we can’t kill the (neoliberal) metastatic tumor without killing the (neoliberal) primary tumor, which would kill the patient. It is what it is. We are where we are.

Most memorable lines from CNN’s Bernie Sanders town hall CNN

How to Understand the Trump Brand in 2017 Advertising Age

Donald Trump will win his battle with the spies FT

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, expected to join White House as a senior adviser McClatchy. Like RFK, I suppose.

Jared Kushner to transfer Observer interest to family trust CNN

Exxon’s Rex Tillerson and the rise of Big Oil in American politics Informed Comment

Inside Rex Tillerson’s Negotiating Style: Cozy With Power, Unbending and Theatrical WSJ

Steven Mnuchin is About to Get Eviscerated by Senate Democrats Vanity Fair. The mills of God grind slowly…

16 Celebrities React to Meryl Streep’s Moving Golden Globes Speech Elle

Brown Is the First Senator to Say ‘No’ to Jeff Sessions The Nation

Women’s March on Washington Opens Contentious Dialogues About Race NYT

After Trump’s inauguration, Republicans are set for historic success if only… McClatchy

Imperial Collapse Watch

Pentagon successfully tests micro-drone swarm France24

Untangling the Web: A Blueprint for Reforming American Security Sector Assistance Open Society Foundation (PDF of the report). Sentence one of the Introduction: “The United States needs a new framework for partnering with security forces overseas. Since 9/11, it has spent more than $250 billion building up foreign military and police. But that hasn’t always left the United States safer or its partners more stable and capable. From attempts to build whole armies in Iraq and Afghanistan, to efforts to help Yemen or Nigeria fight terrorism, the overall return on investment has been poor.”

“Poor” for whom?

Class Warfare

Florida restaurant wants employees to pay out of pocket for doing a bad job Orlando Weekly

10 YEARS LATER: What Happened To The Former Employees Of Enron? AP. Some of the executives went to jail. Fancy that!

Quantum computers ready to leap out of the lab in 2017 Nature

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

Lambert Strether has been blogging, managing online communities, and doing system administration 24/7 since 2003, in Drupal and WordPress. Besides political economy and the political scene, he blogs about rhetoric, software engineering, permaculture, history, literature, local politics, international travel, food, and fixing stuff around the house. The nom de plume “Lambert Strether” comes from Henry James’s The Ambassadors: “Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.” You can follow him on Twitter at @lambertstrether. http://www.correntewire.com

203 comments

  1. Jim Haygood

    From attempts to build whole armies in Iraq and Afghanistan, to efforts to help Yemen or Nigeria fight terrorism, the overall return on investment has been poor negative.”

    Military empires do not pay for themselves, a fact so fundamental it should be taught as Econ 001.

    You won’t read this in any textbook, though. Like journos, economists are paid to serve the state.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      The British East India Company did ok for itself for a couple of centuries.

      Mind you, as usual with these things, the company allowed itself to be taken over by the taxpayer as soon as it lost its profitability, which largely coincided with the Indians getting their act together and fighting back.

      Reply
        1. Lee

          “… as every colonized people eventually do.”

          Not in the New World. I assume you are familiar with Guns, Germs, and Steel and perhaps Germs, Seeds, and Animals. If it weren’t for the one factor named in both titles, your statement would probably be true for the world at large. What a difference an immune system makes. This in no way dismisses the bad intentions of Europeans toward New World indigenous peoples but simply and largely unintentionally amplified it.

          Reply
    2. cocomaan

      I jumped into the report, just reading the executive summary. My favorite part follows. This is just pure gold.

      The structural dysfunctions that most significantly undermine the effectiveness of U.S.
      security sector assistance include: shortcomings in personnel and bureaucratic structure
      within and across agencies; a mismatch in planning cultures and budgeting timelines; a lack
      of prioritization; and a dearth of key data.

      That’s right, folks. Failings in empire building result from our satraps not knowing how to use flip charts and macros in Excel and not following our fiscal year.

      This report is a monument to neocon stupidity.

      Reply
  2. PlutoniumKun

    Re:

    Real estate all over the world could tank as China curbs capital outflow Business Insider

    I found this quote interesting:

    Since most countries don’t track foreign ownership of residential real estate, there’s little data to predict how much of an impact it will have. However, companies like Juwai have demonstrated that the number is higher than most governments are willing to admit. Only time will tell if domestic buyers continue to push the trend without Chinese yuan-hedge bets.

    Maybe there is someone, somewhere, who does have solid figures on this, but I’ve certainly found it hard to find raw figures on the impact of Chinese property purchases worldwide. Anecdotally, Chinese purchases of foreign property are like Chinese investments in the domestic stock market – driven mostly by ‘regular’ investors, not the big or ‘smart’ money. And as such could be very vulnerable to random and chaotic moves according to sentiment or rumour.

    As an example, I know several Chinese who have purchased property in London and elsewhere in the UK over the years as a hedge and as a way of hiding money. I’ve been wondering how they will react to Brexit and a plunge in sterling. Will they panic and sell? Or will they see a drop in sterling as an opportunity to buy up more London property cheap? So far, they seem to be hanging in there to see what happens. Chinese money has the potential I think to be a strong pro-cyclical force in property in the event of major changes or reversals in many regional markets worldwide if the herd decides that market X is a goner, better to sell up quick and put it in Market Y.

    Reply
    1. Jim Haygood

      An unintended consequence of the OECD’s Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) on bank accounts is that property owned through a trust is now the last way on earth to park substantial wealth in a market that has the capacity to absorb it.

      And it’s not just China. Americans can submit to the onerous reporting requirements for overseas bank accounts … or they can own property overseas which, if not rented, probably wouldn’t have to be reported at all.

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        And if they do have to report rents, then there is an incentive to leave a property empty, which is one reason for all those dark unlit windows in many parts of night time London.

        Reply
          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            You could describe it as the rise of “proto-money” as the “real thing” gets debased to oblivion. Houses, art, stocks, water rights in developing nations, of course desperate investors convert cash to proto-money when real (and even nominal) cash yields are below zero. They don’t get paid for time preference, investment hurdle rates are all screwed up, it’s global whack-a-mole just like Argentine depositors lining up to withdraw funds from Bank A in the morning because Bank B’s daily rate might let them get to the end of the day without showing a loss. Go to Uruguay for the day and buy a Mercedes, maybe that will hold its value. Desperate times, courtesy of Maestro/BenB/Janet

            Reply
    2. allan

      From the article:

      Each Chinese citizen can trade up to US$50,000 per year, and only that much can leave the country.

      Coincidentally, US$50,000 per year is roughly the cost of sending an out of state (or country) student for a year at a top public university in the US. Tuition, fees, room and board (“room” often being an upscale apartment), and car (in many cases). Private universities would be about $30,000 more.
      If the Chinese foreign exchange limit is ever significantly lowered, American (and Canadian and Australian) higher education is going to be living in interesting times.

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        That’s a good point.

        I know quite a few Chinese students in Ireland, and their main reason for choosing Ireland over their preference of the USA or UK (and almost all would prefer to be in the US or UK) is that:

        1. Irish Universities are generally significantly cheaper for foreign students.
        2. The Irish visa system is quite relaxed about allowing students to work part time (and, as is frequently the case, ‘part time’ means doing 2 or 3 part time jobs).

        The situation is quite similar in quite a few other European countries, especially those where the Universities don’t see foreign students as cash cows to be milked. So there is something of a hierarchy of Chinese foreign students across the world, according to the basic costs per annum of living and studying in those countries.

        This is significant I think because these students are very often the ‘go to’ person in an extended family for everything for shopping for milk formula or rolex watches, to investing in property. And in turn as they settle they often set up businesses based on trade and investment between their new home country and China. The dynamics are really quite complex, and given the sheer scale of these informal financial flows, its become I think a sort of international ‘shadow banking system’ which operates outside the normal channels. As such I think its something of a potential black swan which could become destabilising, but its almost impossible I think to predict. But it does show I think that something which seems independent of normal financial news – such as the flow of international students – could become a deciding factor in which countries do ok, and which will get walloped in the next financial crisis.

        Reply
    3. RenoDino

      Why is Chinese money pouring out of the country? Is it simple diversification or something more worrisome? The global financial class that is benefiting from this capital flight is saying it is the former. But since when is it normal to pay currency mules to strap money to their bodies to smuggle it out of the country?

      There is a level of panic and desperation to this strategy that signals a crisis on the horizon. I think the Chinese have good reason to fear that their currency is essentially worthless and they are acting accordingly. They’re converting it to hard foreign assets like real estate before the country’s debt bomb explodes. It also gives them a panic room in a foreign country when the government really cracks down to stifle an uprising.

      The Chinese can’t vote, but they can vote with their feet and their money and it’s pretty clear what think is going to happen next.

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        The Cultural Revolution is within living memory of many Chinese and the various catastrophes of the mid-20th Century are not so long past.. The general assumption of most Chinese I know is that periods of stability and growth in China are always ended with a catastrophic leap backwards – and that has been China’s history for centuries. Most Chinese consider having money and an investment, along with, preferably, a trusted relative, abroad as a sensible hedge against political and economic turmoil. Its not just the rich – plenty of Chinese of modest means do their best to have a toehold in another country.

        Of course a lot of it is just plain old fashioned hot money, shifted around the world to keep a step ahead of the authorities.

        Reply
      2. Larry Y

        They see real estate and financial bubbles. And like many cultures everywhere, it’s traditional to plow money into real estate and gold. I seriously doubt it’s the political dissent.

        Many want something better for their families, in terms of quality of life. Got to leave China to deal with the pollution (air, water, food), and to get education opportunities (better English language skills, top-tier colleges in China like Tsinghua and Beijing U. are impossibly competitive to get into, curriculum flaws).

        Reply
        1. Procopius

          I don’t think it’s political dissent, either. The Kuomintang was a lot worse than conservatives have allowed people in the U.S. to learn. The Cultural Revolution was very bad, but it doesn’t seem likely to ever be repeated.

          Reply
      3. RabidGandhi

        Also, while there are billions in assets fleeing China, I doubt most Chinese (with a median income of approx. $10k) are offshoring much of anything at all. The capital flight, rather, represents the “voting with their feet and money” of a relatively small oligarchical élite.

        Reply
        1. PlutoniumKun

          I wouldn’t be so sure of that. I don’t know the figures (I doubt if anyone does), but I personally know Chinese people of fairly modest means who contribute. It can be, for example, an extended family clubbing together to buy a property through one son/daughter/nephew who is studying in Australia, or just people doing a little under the counter trading via a friend or contact in the west. As an example, I know a Chinese woman here in Ireland who is buying a small apartment with money mostly chipped in from family and friends back in China – and I know her family are not wealthy. They trust her, so giving her some of their retirement savings to invest in a property seems a better bet to them than a Chinese bank. Another friend in New York has a small business on the side buying everything from jewellery to handbags in sales to sell on to contacts in China, who in turn sell them or use them as business gifts (avoiding very high sales taxes ). Expensive branded products in China often operate as a sort of repository of value. Individually, its small beer, but collectively it could add up to a very significant source of financial flows.

          Reply
    4. Arizona Slim

      I live near a house that was purchased by Chinese investors. Place had been empty for a couple of years, and had been represented by two different real estate agents.

      The investors don’t appear to be the same people as the ones living there. The occupants look like they could be students at the University of Arizona.

      Any-hoo, this youthful crowd got busy and started remodeling the interior of the house. One of my neighbors is a commercial interior designer, and she has been monitoring the remodeling process. Her conclusion: They don’t know what they’re doing.

      Be that as it may, the house is back on the market, and the asking price is almost three times what the investors paid for it. I seriously doubt that it will sell for that price.

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        If it does go for three times the original price, it may well be a sign that its a money laundering scheme. In Canada they’ve found that – with the inevitable complicity of banks – Chinese students have been buying houses on large mortgages, which have then rapidly been paid down in repeat small sums. The houses are then sometimes sold and the money recirculated back to China (or elsewhere) as the profit from clever property speculation. I would guess than mutual purchase and repurchase schemes on an informal basis would be one way to increase the speed and efficiency of the laundering.

        Reply
    5. craazyboy

      Horrors! Exporting Chinese millionaires to whole world is unsustainable. Economic Theory suffers another black eye.

      Reply
    6. armchair

      The complaint about data is important. My understanding is that Big Data is working very hard with its quantum computers to solve every problem in the world. First, they need to figure out your favorite fro-yo toppings. After that maybe they work on understanding patterns of real estate ownership, or maybe they’ll have to work out what your favorite pizza toppings are.

      Reply
      1. Procopius

        Aren’t they going to have to figure out a way to clean the data first? I don’t think there’s a way to combine data from Amazon with data from Facebook with data from the IRS. Yet. I think there’s a reason why they haven’t been able to upgrade the air traffic control system in forty years.

        Reply
        1. fajensen

          That’s the “beef” behind the “Fake News” panic.

          See, We have all these Brainiacs hooking up all possible incarnations of machine intelligence to the fattest internet feeds that VC money could buy and only now they find out that a large part of that information is garbage (and maybe the machines will kill us all on false evidence, like we did with the Iraqis).

          Reply
  3. Jim Haygood

    Dr Hussman (a solid macroeconomist, if not much of a market timer) lands some hard licks on Trump’s incoherent economic policies:

    Large and sustained increases in U.S. gross domestic investment have always been achieved by financing a substantial portion of the increase with foreign savings. Booms in U.S. gross domestic investment are systematically associated with “deterioration” in the trade balance.

    GDP growth is the sum of employment growth plus productivity growth. Strong employment growth typically emerges when there is a relatively large pool of available and unemployed labor. Strong productivity growth requires expansion in gross domestic investment, which in turn is enabled by deterioration in the trade deficit.

    As a result, rapid productivity growth typically begins from points where the trade deficit is relatively narrow or even in surplus.

    At present, we’ve got a low unemployment rate and a rather deep and persistent trade deficit. Rapid growth will emerge from much different conditions than we observe at present.

    http://www.hussmanfunds.com/wmc/wmc170109.htm

    As Dr H says, you can’t slash the trade deficit in an imported capital-dependent economy like the USA, USA! and expect it to grow like a weed. Ain’t gonna happen.

    Since the ruling Repugnicans don’t grok macroecon, it’s still reasonable to pencil in a recession in 2017-18.

    Long term, to make the US grow, its value-subtraction military empire has to be slashed hard. First to go would be NATO’s ridiculous Keystone Kops, who are currently invading Poland (I’m not making this up).

    Since that’s not even on the table for now, might as well brace ourselves for a ball-busting recession.

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      Our shape shifter president-elect seems to have contradictory positions on almost every issue–cut back NATO while expanding the US military, declare himself a peacemaker in the Middle East and then insist that he’s an Israel firster etc. Clearly this is someone who is making it up as he goes along so predicting what he’s going to do may be pointless until he actually does it.

      But it’s Obama who is trying to create “facts on the ground” with the NATO buildup. Crystal ball wise we’ll know more in ten days.

      Reply
      1. Katniss Everdeen

        But it’s Obama who is trying to create “facts on the ground” with the NATO buildup.

        No kidding. Seems pretty extreme for a commander-in-“chief” who’ll be out the door in 10 days, and missed, in that capacity, by pretty much no one.

        Considering the information from a week or so ago that the pentagon essentially ignored obama’s “policy” in Syria and did what it wanted, I’m wondering if he’s even aware of what’s happening in Poland or Moldova or Latvia or wherever. When your legacy is such a turd, polishing it up is more time consuming than maybe you first thought.

        Reply
    2. RabidGandhi

      Hussman contradicts himself in the passage you quote. The rule he himself sets is:

      Strong employment growth typically emerges when there is a relatively large pool of available and unemployed labor.

      Which he uses to draw the conclusion that

      At present, we’ve got a low unemployment rate and a rather deep and persistent trade deficit.

      Except the unemployment rate (maniplulated into veritable rubbish by Clinton) does not indicate whether there is a “relatively large pool of available and unemployed labor.” The stat he should be using is the Employment-Population ratio (EPOP), which indicates the US does in fact have a very large pool of available, unemployed labour.

      Reply
    3. craazyboy

      As Dr H says, you can’t slash the trade deficit in an imported capital-dependent economy like the USA, USA! and expect it to grow like a weed. Ain’t gonna happen.
      =============

      I think in this case Dr H is confused over “capital stock” vs. “capital flow”. Last I checked, personal net worth in the USofA totaled up to $80 trillion. Not to say that the 90% would know that.

      Reply
    4. Oregoncharles

      Dr. Hussman is about as clear as mud, but I think he’s saying that employment growth and and productivity growth are reciprocal and opposed – which makes sense, since “productivity growth” is really just job destruction. Consequently, it’s a negative unless you have full employment. REAL, not fake, full employment. He seems unaware that our present “full employment” is fake, which is why Trump won.

      Trump wants jobs, not productivity growth. In fact, politically he has to deliver that or lose the next election (remember, he lost this one.) GDP is much less important to him politically. Arguably, at this point GDP is mostly a negative, because it includes so many bad things (like growth in illness).

      Trade is one issue where progressives tend to agree with Trump. He’s already done the bets thing he’s likely to do, by blocking the TPP and TTIP. Note that that category has almost dropped off the Watercooler. If he can follow up by trashing or reworking the other “free trade” agreements, so much the better. That will induce some volatility, but it’ll be a net positive on jobs.

      Reply
      1. aab

        (remember, he lost this one.)

        Um, what? (I know, I used that already today.)

        I believe Trump won the election. Losing the popular vote is irrelevant. What am I missing here?

        Reply
    5. Matt

      “GDP growth is the sum of employment growth plus productivity growth. Strong employment growth typically emerges when there is a relatively large pool of available and unemployed labor. Strong productivity growth requires expansion in gross domestic investment, which in turn is enabled by deterioration in the trade deficit.”

      Hmmmm. “Large pool of available and unemployed labor…” How about the lowest labor participation in rate in decades. Over 95 million people that are not working or have given up on the idea of finding work. So there is your large pool of available unemployed labor.

      Hmmmm. “Strong productivity growth requires expansion of gross domestic investment.” Have you seen the hundreds of billions of dollars being promised from companies in domestic investment since Trump became the President elect?

      I voted for Obama in 2008. I voted for Trump this year. I am not a republican or a democrat, but I think it is pretty clear that trumps policies of deregulation and lowering taxes have businesses extremely excited and will definitely stimulate the economy. You can say what you want about pollution and climate change consequences of his policies, but you cannot say that his policies will lead to a recession.

      Reply
      1. aab

        I don’t think we have evidence yet of any productive domestic investment. If they “repatriate” cash to build toll roads and the like, that’s not going to do much. I’m not knowledgeable enough about such issues to have anything useful to say about the construction jobs involved in building a toll road, but since it would be mostly tax breaks rather than public works, and wouldn’t be permanent employment, I can imagine it might not be sufficient to overcome all the other fundamental problems in the overall economy.

        Even his big Carrier win turned out not to be a win — almost all those jobs are vanishing anyway. Jawboning companies into making token efforts is still better than what Obama did and Clinton would have done, but it may not do that much.

        Reply
      2. Procopius

        Well, assuming he succeeds in getting large tax cuts for the wealthy and lowering the corporate tax rates, I can indeed say that his policies will lead to a recession. On the other hand, who knows what policies he really wants? If he gets that “tax holiday” through to have multinational corporations “repatriate” their profits to their American branches, they’ll only use them to buy back their own stock and give large bonuses to their executives. That’ll give a short term boost to the stock market, further distorting the price structure there. There’s no indication of a recession now, but we’re about due for one — seven years since the “official” end of the last one — and I expect there is going to be some kind of major disappointment this year.

        Reply
    6. Procopius

      I don’t think they’re “invading” Poland. I thought they were using Poland as an assembly point so they can move an already massive force into Estonia, pause briefly to see if the Russian Federation will capitulate (unconditional surrender), and from there over the border into Russia. They hope that will let them flank the Russian Army, which is concentrated facing Ukraine.

      Reply
  4. voteforno6

    Re: Why Uber lost $2.2 billion in 9 months

    This article is a compliment, I think, to Mr. Horan’s series on Uber. It seems to have reached enough people that Vox felt compelled to run that story. I find that Vox story to be rather superficial, though. The writer seems to think that it was Uber’s smartphone app that shook up the taxi industry, not the company’s predatory pricing model. Also, he seems to be putting a lot of stock in autonomous vehicles. I highly doubt that Uber had intended all along for self-driving cars to rescue it; that it’s throwing so much money at them now seems more an act of desperation, not a well thought out business plan. The final part of that article that I found absurd, though, is the author’s argument that maybe an Uber monopoly would be a good thing. Really? He seems to think that the company should be treated like a utility. The problem with that, though, is that such state-sanctioned monopolies are strictly regulated, and that runs counter to Uber’s corporate culture.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      What the mainstream writers desperately want to avoid concluding is that the key element of these companies are the apps, and since these are cheap and easy to create and run they can only be made super profitable through monopolistic or predatory behaviour.

      But as the likes of Uber and AirBnB do serve a public need and purpose, the logical extension of this conclusion is that they should be run as non-profit public utilities, operated within the local, regional or national regulatory context.

      Reply
      1. Romancing The Loan

        If the cab companies had put their heads together and duplicated the idea of the app (and given the drivers smartphones if they didn’t have them) that let you hail the closest cab to your location then Uber would not have grown the way it did, imo. The cab companies brought out their own app, but all it did was email the dispatch office. I live in Boston and after moving half a mile southwest onto the bleeding border of gentrification I went from seeing cabs everywhere to a ten minute wait for one, and principles quickly went out the window and I use Uber all the time now.

        Reply
        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          The other issue is the economy is so bad people will set themselves up as cabbies hoping to make tips.

          In a better economy, Uber wouldn’t have an available workforce.

          Reply
            1. ambrit

              Uber is advertising for “partners” like mad around here, which is kind of a sign of how desperate people are. The cab company in this small metropolis is run by a West African immigrant who owns two or three minivans and hustles like mad. More of a “jitney” service really. Uber is really trying to capture and extract “rents” from Systeme D.
              Rather than thinking “employees” of a fast food restaurant, I’d say, think of a fast food restaurant where the “employees” have to supply their own deep fryers and grills.

              Reply
        2. Octopii

          In Paris the private company “Taxis G7” app is much like Uber, and works as you describe. When in France I never had any cause to try Uber, as G7 is so good. Prompt, courteous Drivers in three-piece suits driving nice cars for a reasonable (for Paris) price… but we could never do that in America.

          Reply
        3. RabidGandhi

          Except what truly sets Über apart in the market is its lower price, something that the cab companies cannot offer because (1) they follow regulations (proper insurance, inspections, etc.); (2) they are unable to grift their employees to the degree Über gets away with; and (3) they are not backed by venture capital willing to take brutal losses until all competition is destroyed.

          Thus it’s not about the app– but even if it were, the app would be open source and available to all cab companies if it were not for the nanny state giving Über copyright protection.

          Reply
          1. Romancing The Loan

            Lower price had nothing to do with my switching over, however, and I suspect that holds true for others as well.

            even if it were, the app would be open source and available to all cab companies if it were not for the nanny state giving Über copyright protection

            This is wrong in many and varied ways.

            As far as I know Uber does not have patent protection covering how their app works, which is the only form of intellectual property law that would apply here. Copyright covers creative works such as books, movie scripts, etc. You might have copyright on the precise source code of Uber’s own app but that would be useless for anyone else to use anyway since it’s got “Uber” all over it. In other words there was absolutely nothing stopping cab companies from hiring a programmer and duplicating Uber’s rather simple setup in their own application.

            (FYI, the third and final form of intellectual property law is trademark protection for brand identities. When criticizing the “nanny state” it is helpful to know the first thing about it.)

            Reply
            1. pictboy3

              While there is some crossover between the two, code is actually considered to fall under the auspices of copyright, not patent, so Rabid is correct. Where they try and draw the line is that the actual coding is protected by copyright, while what an app actually does (the processes) is not. I’d have to dig back into my copyright textbook to give you the legal analysis, but I’m fairly confident that the law treats code as copyrightable.

              Edit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_copyright just for some brief skimming to get the basics.

              Reply
        4. PlutoniumKun

          Hailo in the UK and Ireland does exactly that – its very popular. There is an equivalent in China which successfully repelled Uber. I don’t think Hailo was initiated by taxi-drivers – it was an independent start-up. But its very popular with the drivers I’ve talked to, they reckon its increased their business significantly. It only works with licensed cabs, so its no cheaper than regular taxi’s, its just a lot more convenient and safer (it identifies and records the driver, something female friends have told me they really appreciate).

          Reply
        5. Propertius

          The cab companies brought out their own app, but all it did was email the dispatch office.

          This is a particularly bad idea if your cab company’s “dispatch office” is located several hundred miles away in a different state (I live in Colorado, and my cab company’s “dispatch office” is in Phoenix).

          Reply
        6. Montanamaven

          The ARRO app in NYC works very well. You can hail a cab and put in a code and your fare plus tip is paid. It also will send a cab to you. But in Los Angeles I use Uber because the Taxi drivers are mean and incompetent. Go figure.

          Reply
      2. allan

        Cuomo pushes for ride-sharing services outside NYC [WXXI]

        The ride-sharing services have been trying unsuccessfully to expand to areas outside of New York City. Upstate and parts of Long Island are among the last places in the country not to have access to companies like Uber and Lyft.

        Andrew Cuomo, in a State of the State speech in Buffalo, said that it’s time that changed, calling it an “unfair duality.”

        “If it makes sense for downstate, it makes sense for upstate,” Cuomo said.

        Cuomo said he believes the ride-sharing services could create thousands of jobs, cut down on drunken driving and even boost tourism and attract more business and gatherings to upstate New York. …

        And even cures the common cold.

        Cuomo is trying to position himself for 2020 as the innovator with a conscience.
        Preet Bharara might have other plans for him.

        Reply
      1. KurtisMayfield

        Ars Technica has been a good place to give comments on our future “self-driving utopia”. The readers there are so blinded by their technological solutions that the do not consider the ethical concerns of the technology sadly.

        Reply
        1. JTMcPhee

          Micro drone swarms, fiber optic “TUNA” networks all over the oceans (http://www.gopbriefingroom.com/index.php?topic=242893.0, one has to love the source), the Pakis and Israelites with their sub-launched “nuclear-capable” missiles (and the US and Brits and the rest with their life-ending “deployments”) — “So blinded by their technological solutions (sic) that they do not consider the ethical [or even common-sensical] concerns of the technology…” Because “capability” is the magic word in all things war-tech…

          That’s it in a nutshell.

          Rice bowls for the planet-busters, filled to overflowing, as they build a dead-end ‘future conflict scenario’ that morphs daily from bad to worse. Over a substrate of a political economy that is all predators and parasites and metastatic tumors eating the heart and guts out of what was given so fortuitously to the life on this planet…

          Reply
    2. Eclair

      I walk through the gigantic local supermarket’s gigantic parking lot, filled with shiny new steroidal SUV’s and muscular trucks (we live in a ‘booming’ economy area) and here is what I see:

      Billions of tons of raw materials that have been forcibly extracted from the earth, carted to opposite ends of the planet on fossil-fuel burning transports, purified, forged and manufactured in plants powered by vast amounts of fossil fuels, shipped back to the opposite ends of the planet on fossil-fuel powered ships, trucks and trains and then sold, to people who must borrow money to buy, so that they can spend a few years burning gasoline and emitting poisonous carbon monoxide (among other pollutants) before they are trashed, crushed and dumped into some landfill.

      People drive themselves; people call a taxi or Uber; the cars drive themselves. What is the difference? The entire cycle is insane and unsustainable.

      I bypass the food market and head straight for the liquor store.

      Reply
      1. Webstir

        I posted this yesterday, but again, I marvel at all of the economic geniuses who are blind to — or willfully blind to — the influence of the physical sciences on their dismal “science.” Which, as it turns out, is not science by any stretch of the imagination, but rather post hoc rationalizing. Until there is a mainstream economics based upon such trivial considerations as say, umm, lets see … the 2nd FUCKING LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS, we are doomed as a civilization to continue on a path of smaller and smaller returns on investment. Here’s a great video by Steve Keen explaining the fundamentals, but there is a growing number of “heterodox” economists beginning to think along these lines: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS_Xbfl03mc&feature=em-subs_digest-g

        Reply
      2. olga

        Sounds like parts of Texas – and I often feel that way, too
        The picture is pure insanity
        And most are complacent, accepting, and think this is the only way to live
        While a few recoil in horror

        Reply
        1. Anonymous

          Much of Los Angeles:

          giant expensive SUVs (Range Rovers, MBZ, BMW, Lexus, etc) w/ single occupants, zooming up to red lights.

          Climate change?

          You can be sure they all voted HRC

          Reply
      3. Mike Mc

        Likewise – ‘lucky’ enough to live in a decent size metro area that’s weathered (mostly) the 21st century recessions, as have I.

        As an old hippie/green/Boomer, I despair of seeing our consumerist society maintaining the ideology of the cancer cell – endless growth at least until the host is consumed.

        In our case, the host – Earth – is teetering on the brink of not consumption but rather incapable of sustaining the unsustainable… us! “There are no jobs on a dead planet” – Earth First

        Reply
    3. ChrisPacific

      He also keeps calling Uber a “ride-hailing” app. My recollection is that it’s not and they don’t claim to compete with hail-on-the-street type service. It’s a ride booking app and they compete with dispatch services.

      As a contrarian piece to the Horan analysis I think it’s worth reading, but if that’s the best pro-Uber case that can be made I find myself unconvinced. Possibly technologies such as GPS and mobile devices have transformed the taxi market into one with strong network effects that will end up dominated by local monopolies, but if I was an investor I’d want to see some evidence that was actually the case before betting billions of dollars on it. And while I agree self-driving cars will eventually transform the market, I doubt that it will be soon enough to save Uber – even assuming that Uber will have a competitive advantage in the self-driving market, which is very much in question given that they have made a virtue of not owning and operating their own fleet.

      The whole thing is very reminiscent of the kind of analysis I used to see all the time during the dot-com bubble, especially this part:


      An obvious objection here is that Uber’s investors are not idiots. They know perfectly well that “lose money on every ride and make it up on volume” isn’t a viable business model.

      No, but they are good at conning themselves into thinking that business models are something they aren’t – typically with thinly-supported plausibility arguments and ‘underpants gnomes’ style imagined rosy futures with no concept of how to get from A to B. If I was to make a list of every company in the 2000s with multi-billion dollar market cap that turned out to be running on precisely this model, I’d need extra sheets of paper pretty quickly.

      Reply
  5. UserFriendly

    hahahahaha
    Trump meets with Alibaba’s CEO as a giant long deserved Fuck You to Bezos. I bet he regrets buying WaPo right about now.

    Reply
        1. ambrit

          A sidelong reference to Richard Pryor’s album monologue about visiting the Voodoo Woman? “Mudbone- Little Feets.” (That poor polar bear.) [No link because it really is NSFW, plus, the routine is twelve minutes long.]
          Also, Meryl Sheep was an irregular character on Sesame Street.
          Roger Ebert once gleefully remarked on the show he had with Gene Siskel that when they were lampooned by Mad Magazine, they had officially “arrived.” Being spoofed by Sesame Street had the same cachet, once upon a time.

          Reply
  6. UserFriendly

    (rewording to escape skynet)

    HaHaHa Trump gave a much deserved middle finger to Bezos by meeting with Alibaba’s CEO. I bet the editors at WaPo are getting an earful.

    Reply
  7. SoCal Rhino

    Bring on the bots:

    If you have ever used technology within a large bank you might be a tad skeptical about these claims, which is not to suggest that jobs won’t be lost.

    Also, from what I’ve seen so far, the “AI” being unleashed right now is more like slightly more powerful Excel macros. But bitcoins! VR! Uber, disruption!

    And still email stability is an elusive goal.

    Reply
    1. lyman alpha blob

      I would think jobs would be eliminated which is why this part didn’t make any sense:

      “Bank executives say they’re going to take those people and put them into high-tech, high-pay jobs to help us code, help us do this, help us do that. It’s just not going to happen,” said Christine Duhaime, a lawyer in Canada with a practice in anti-money-laundering, counterterrorist financing and foreign asset recovery and the founder of the Digital Finance Institute. However, “the bank may end up with the same number of employees,” as it sheds customer-facing jobs and hires trained software developers to code.

      Why would any business get rid of lower paid employees to add the same number of presumably higher paid employees plus a bunch of new equipment/technology?

      Reply
  8. DJG

    Obama, OFA, and his sudden desire to be published: The traditional role of a retired U.S. president has been to be decorative. Is there precedent for Obama’s behavior? And why is he trying to lead the Democratic Party now, when he couldn’t have been bothered, lo, these last eight or so years? (Is Obama the new Taft?)

    Further: Just as the Clintons made sure to hollow out the rising middle-aged group of Democrats who would be considered presidential timber, so that we were left with Martin O’Malley and non-Dem Bernie Sanders (who in effect led the party base) won’t Obama smash down the careers of those who should now be on the rise?

    And, local angle, this operation is going to be in Chicago? Welcome to twenty more years of Rahm.

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Obama craves the celebrity and attention. One problem is he doesn’t have any shiny baubles to pursue and will lose interest. Without attention and real gains, he’ll lose interest.

      Michelle isn’t running, and the CGI didn’t take off until after Kerry lost when Hillary was an investment opportunity. Bill didn’t settle in Harlem because he was trying to be hip. He put his office there because it’s what he could afford.

      Reply
    2. Anne

      One thing I think you have to consider is that Obama is only 55 – he is not leaving office well into his 70’s and ready for the rocking chair. Also, consider the post-presidential lives of Carter and Clinton: I don’t think you can say that either of these former presidents retired to become mere decorations.

      That being said, I don’t think it would be a terrible idea for him to step away from political life for a while and allow space and time for the party to try and find itself – if either of those things is even possible. I have some concerns that Obama is champing at the bit to be in a different kind of spotlight, but I have no doubt he will be seeking the light. He’s going to be in much demand, will make a ton of money giving speeches and talks, and I suspect he will get much pleasure from taking some of that air out of Trump’s sails; can’t wait for the Trump tweets on that!

      And considering he has already written three books, I don’t think his need to be published is as much sudden as it is that he once again feels he has much wisdom and insight to bestow on the world, and the sooner the better.

      I sincerely hope he has no plans to mentor the next crop of Democrats; the last thing we need is more neoliberal widgets coming off the political assembly line.

      Reply
      1. Katharine

        I certainly agree we don’t need more people who have had his kind of mentoring, but it does seem to be his intent. I don’t know if that is for Lambert’s suggested reason:

        In other words, Obama plans to suck away any oxygen that Our Revolution and Brand New Congress have been able to get.

        I’m not sure Obama could actually produce that result, as the people who are interested in Our Revolution and Brand New Congress would run from OFA. Surely if no other good had come out of the past two years the lines are at least more sharply drawn now.

        Reply
        1. Steve C

          He’ll do whatever it takes to burnish his legacy. If that means publish another book, so be it. The grift continues.

          Reply
    3. Arizona Slim

      Obama needs to get on the phone to Jimmy Carter and get some advice. Not that Jimmy will tell him to start pounding nails at Habitat, but I think Jimmy will tell Obama to do something VERY different with the next chapter of his life.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Jimmy was very bright and at his core a decent person, despite being a terrible President. Obama is neither. Advice from Jimmy wouldn’t resonate.

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          Yes, well, I’ll cut Carter some slack. You try to navigate the shark and piranha infested waters after your administration has been stabbed in the back by both the opposition party and your “own” MIC. (In a just world, Reagan should have been prosecuted for treason because of the Iran-Contra deals and the deals struck before the presidential election that kept the Teheran hostages in prison long enough to make them usable political pawns. Then he should have been shot.)
          The lesson here is that b——s thrive in Washington and “good guys” truly do finish last.

          Reply
        2. MLS

          Advice from Jimmy wouldn’t resonate.

          I think this is accurate, and honestly, I can’t really picture Obama seriously asking anyone for advice. He’s too certain that he already knows everything.

          Reply
        3. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          “Terrible”? He ran the world’s largest war-mongering machine, tanks bombs soldiers and guns around the globe, for four years without letting them fire a single shot in anger. That’s “excellent” in my book.

          Reply
    4. Knot Galt

      From Pity the Sad Saga of Barack Obama, “The age of Barack Obama may have been our last chance to break from our neoliberal soulcraft. We are rooted in market-driven brands that shun integrity and profit-driven policies that trump public goods. Our “post-integrity” and “post-truth” world is suffocated by entertaining brands and money-making activities that have little or nothing to do with truth, integrity or the long-term survival of the planet. We are witnessing the postmodern version of the full-scale gangsterization of the world.”

      Surely, this is what he will continue to champion; the legalization of Corporate Gangsterism. As Lincoln had said,” you can’t fool all the people all the time” ; citizens will start putting two and two together soon enough? Very quickly(I hope), there are more of us who won’t be giving him the time of day that being POTUS afforded him. He will not be relevant after Jan. 20, 2017 and the longer he stays involved in the DNC will only further diminish the Left.

      Reply
      1. djrichard

        Posted this above, but moving here. “We are witnessing the postmodern version of the full-scale gangsterization of the world”.

        I would say that it’s always been a gangster world. It’s just must more obvious now say compared to the 70s when people had decent jobs. If people had decent jobs, then all this kleptocracy would have been a non-issue. Well it still would have been an issue, but nobody would have cared as much.

        So in that sense, I see Trump as a mafia king pin who will be re-establishing the mafia order (the common good) along what people expect their mafia to do: give them jobs and an income. Frankly Obama didn’t have the type of personality needed to take on the mafia houses; he came into office and blinked. I’m not sure he even made it that far; I think he came in as a servant to the mafia houses from the get go.

        Reply
  9. DJG

    Speaking of fake news, the original fake news was that the boy from Stratford wasn’t Shakespeare. Of course, serious scholars like Stephen Greenblatt in his Will in the World have no use for the argument that it was the Duke of Marmite or the Earl de Vere or Walter Raleigh. And Marlowe, who is good on actions, just doesn’t have a lyrical bone in his body. But the “theorists” went on and on.

    Now for some physical evidence and coincidences in research that are intriguing indeed.

    https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/jan/08/sherlock-holmes-of-the-library-cracks-shakespeare-identity

    Ripeness is all.

    Reply
      1. fosforos

        All the needed proof of authorship is conspicuous right there in his will: “My Second-best Bed.” Anyone could write the commonplace phrases “I will sleep in the ground” or “When I am laid in earth.” Only the author of Hamlet could conceivably express that pious thought by characterizing his marriage-bed as his “Second-best” bed!

        Reply
        1. Oregoncharles

          I thought it was an insult to his wife, but perhaps I’m no longer attuned to convoluted Shakespearian language.

          Reply
  10. Barmitt O'Bamney

    Deputies mistake kitty litter for meth
    I think Heisenberg, who was the go-to guy on uncertainty, and killer blue shards, would join me in wondering whether the mere act of observing the meth transmuted it into kitty litter. Can we really be certain that it could not have happened, and could the deputies take the chance of being wrong? Our partnership for a Drug Free America embraces both zero tolerance policies and the Cheney Doctrine (that is, if there is a 1% chance of your wild fantasies being right, by all means do wrong). That extends to kitty litter. I saw that bag they seized. Tell me you would not want to impound that up your nose.

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I don’t know much about those deputies.

      But, people who do drugs might just mistake kitty litter for meth, though if you make the same mistake, it doesn’t imply you’re necessary on drugs.

      In any case, know the risk if you do drugs.

      Reply
    2. ambrit

      The coppers that I have known all had a pretty good ability to tell real drugs from ‘fake’ ones. The sale of ‘fake’ drugs is a thriving, though small, cottage industry.
      Either this bust was done by a rookie, or the ‘victim’ pissed the police off in some way.

      Reply
      1. Jim Haygood

        Just think how big a Gulag we could build if kitty litter WAS a controlled substance — jobs out the wazoo.

        And why not — most of the other substances on the list are equally arbitrary.

        Reply
        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          Nah, the Calvinist in us tends toward only outlawing those substances that might cause pleasure and pain relief, can’t have any of the pleasure stuff creeping into society, before you know it they’ll be seeking contentment and happiness too.

          Reply
          1. ambrit

            True. Ingesting Soma has always been maligned. That goes all the way back to Homer. That means that it is an ancient Greek precept and thus essential to our Western way of life.

            Reply
      2. Barmitt O'Bamney

        I’m surprised no one in this thread has noticed the flagrantly obvious racial profiling of the driver by law enforcement. Of course the crystal stuff in the sock had to be meth, not kitty litter – just look at the driver’s white skin. Tells all you need to know.

        Reply
    3. carycat

      Don’t discount the possibility of the stuff being seized just got flipped. Non-taxed income for the fuzz and no charge to the perps. Only the lawyers and private prisons lose out.

      Reply
  11. PlutoniumKun

    Re:

    Syria and the Left Jacobin

    Interesting read, and I think the conclusions will upset a lot of people.

    In the general enthusiasm here to see the collapse of the attempts by the usual suspects to bring down Assad by way of arming Islamacists, its easy to forget that Assad and his regime are by no reasonable definition ‘good guys’ (and neither of course was Gaddafi in Libya). Yes, he’s the legitimate leader in international law, and the regime was never that any worse than pretty much any other government in the region, but his victory is a pretty thin one for anyone who’d like to see a genuinely open democratic and non-sectarian movement in Syria and the wider region. The only good reason to cheer the victory over the various manifestations of Al-Q and Isis by Assad is that just maybe in the long run in a more secure Syria there could be scope for grassroots movements to generate real reform and change.

    But that’s a long, hard road, and there will always be a conflict between the stability offered by strongmen like Assad and Gaddafi and democratic change, which always opens the door to religious extremists and ultra conservatives as much as it does to trade unionists and left wing reformers. I wish there was an easy answer, but I don’t think there is.

    Reply
    1. Donald

      The article has a point regarding people on the left who see Assad as a hero, but goes off the rails when it suggests we listen humbly to Syrians and then, presumably having listened to the right ones in a multi- faceted civil war, we show our solidarity by giving them antiaircraft missiles. Yeah, that’ll work out great. For one thing, most of us individual citizens don’t have such things in our closets, so in reality he wants those humble Westerners who have figured out from helpful Syrian activists who the good guys are, to lobby the government and then a President Trump or whoever will then direct the CIA to arm those and only those moderate Syrian rebels worthy of it. A brilliant idea. Wonder why nobody ever thought of it?

      Snark aside, the Kerry tape making the rounds on titter and in some rightwing blogs shows Kerry admitting that we and the Saudis provided huge amounts of aid to various rebels and what happened was Assad’s supporters provided more aid.

      Reply
      1. Donald

        One reason I am an anti- interventionist is precisely that I don’t think we Americans have the wisdom or competency or the right to jump into other people’s civil wars and pick out good guys to be armed. It doesn’t become a good idea because it gets dressed up with lefty lingo about solidarity. And anyway, it is ridiculous. Of all the issues lefties need to be taking on, do we really want to tell the American government that supplying weapons overseas is a great idea– we just need to pick out the correct recipients?

        The Kerry tape I mentioned–

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=e4phB-_pXDM

        It is full of juicy details– admitting that the aid arms race just leads to more deaths, plus the admission that we watched Isis rise hoping it would pressure Assad, onl to see Putin come in precisely for the reason of fighting Isis.

        Reply
        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          Wondering how our national story would be different if there had been blue helmets separating the sides during the 1861-65 unpleasantness. Maybe better! 2 Americas, Trump could rule the rural, Southern, agricultural bits, Hilary could run the techno, industrial coasts.

          Reply
          1. Oregoncharles

            If secession had succeeded, our lives would be a bit simpler but there would not be a United States. Certainly the West Coast wouldn’t be putting up with the East Coast and Midwest. It would have fallen off in the days of the Pony Express.

            Reply
      2. PlutoniumKun

        I’d agree. In a mess like Syria it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to intervene successfully on behalf of the rebels even if you had the best of intentions. I think that only practical way to stop the war is do what the Russians have done – made sure the accepted government maintains its control.

        I’m not ideologically anti-intervention in all situations. I do believe that historically there have been times when there is clearly a justification for militarily intervening on one side or another in civil wars, or even when there isn’t an existing war. The Vietnamese removal of Paul Pot comes to mind as an unambiguously good thing (even if they were motivated by the KR killing of Vietnamese civilians, not his murder of Cambodians). But I think it was Chomsky (or maybe Pilger?) who recommended that the medical injunction to ‘first, do no harm’ should be a guiding light to outside powers. Throwing more bombs into a bad situation can only be justified when there is an overwhelming moral and militarily practical case for that intervention – and those situations are really quite rare.

        Reply
        1. pictboy3

          The problem is that, in situations like these, in order to have a good chance at a successful intervention, you need to do it sooner rather than later.

          One of the biggest reasons that anti-American groups became so powerful in Afghanistan during the 80s, was that we did almost no vetting ourselves and instead passed our money to the Pakistanis to distribute among the anti-Russian fighters there. Because the Pakistanis have a vested interest in promoting jihadist groups, of course those were the ones that they funneled the cash to. The whole thing was exacerbated by the money pouring in from the Saudis and the other Gulf states, which only strengthened jihadist groups more. By the time we realized that we shouldn’t be farming out the role of supplier to people who really hate us, it was too late. All the oxygen of resistance was sucked up by jihadist groups and we couldn’t make a dent in that trend after years of letting it go on.

          My opinion is that something similar has happened in Syria, and the interviewee’s commentary seems to somewhat confirm my theory. It took at least two years for Obama to authorize any kind of lethal aid to the Syrian rebels. Meanwhile, the Saudis and Turks and Qataris were pouring in money for Salafist groups that would change the character of the resistance. I have no doubt part of this chance in character was due to Assad’s own tactics, but people often overthink the motivations of people on the ground. If Assad is bombing your family and killing your neighbors, your first priority is to fight back, and you probably aren’t going to give a damn about who it is your fighting for, as long as they have the means to do so. The radical Islamists had the means because other nations were funding them, and the secularists didn’t, because we wouldn’t fund them. So naturally, the same thing has happened there, jihadists have sucked up all the oxygen on the anti-Assad side, and we’re sitting there trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together.

          There’s really only two options for the US at the moment in Syria, that would be a benefit to us. Option 1 would be to do a full scale, WWII style invasion and lock down the country, with enough troops to make sure we could effectively govern it. You’d need at least half a million troops and enough money to make it happen, not to mention competent people to make sure that we didn’t just make the populace worse off due to graft and allowing the same aholes to stay in charge and bleed people like they’ve always done. I think the downsides to that option should be pretty obvious to everyone, but I think that it would be a better course of action than our current plan, which is to have just enough skin in the game to piss everyone off, but not enough to actually do anything beyond keeping the conflict going.

          Option 2 is to just pull out completely and let the Gulf states and Turkey fight a proxy war with Iran and Russia. Or in other words, let them all kill each other until they get tired of it. There’s no direct downside to the US with this option, but it’s also pretty amoral, and it will make the refugee crisis in Europe ten times worse than it already is. As someone who thinks that the current European refugee policy is absolutely bonkers, I’d hate to see what happens to them if we did this.

          Reply
          1. RMO

            Just a reminder that the U.S. started supplying arms to terrorists in Afghanistan who had taken up against the Afghani government (one of the most important reasons for their turning to violence being their objection to the government educating girls) BEFORE the U.S.S.R. intervened and, in fact the U.S. started supplying those arms in the hope that it would provoke the U.S.S.R. into military intervention.

            Reply
          2. Donald

            This interview with Josh Landis contradicts the views in the Jacobin piece.

            http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/americas-failure-russia-success-in-syrias-war

            I know nothing about Syria, but based on the past hundred years or so I get very leery of leftist intellectuals who talk about people’s revolutions and how everything would have worked out great if only the right people had received weapons early on. As Chomsky of all people once said, the people who come out on top in a violent revolution are generally pretty ruthless — they had to be to win and the end result is some new autocracy.

            And I am suspicious of claimed counterexamples. Chomsky himself pointed to the Spanish anarchists, but they slaughtered Catholic clergy by the thousands.

            Reply
      3. Gareth

        “The article has a point regarding people on the left who see Assad as a hero”

        Just out of curiosity who on the left sees Assad as a hero? I’m still waiting to meet one although there must be some out there somewhere, probably Trotskyists. I consider the “stupid leftists who love Assad” trope to be just a variation on the “Putin lover/apologist” insult, designed to discredit left critics of interventionist US foreign policy.

        What really amazes me are those people who are still locked into the Arab Spring myth and somehow see the Jihadists as step forward toward the revolution. First, they argue, we get rid of the evil tyrant and that then magically makes room for the socialist revolution to take place. In the meantime Syria is destroyed. With revolutionaries like that who needs evil tyrants.

        Reply
        1. olga

          Agree – plus have we not learned from Iraq and Libya?
          Can anyone spell – democracy does not come at the end of a bomb or Kalashnikov!
          Elections in Egypt and Algeria brought to power Muslim Bro – how is that democracy?
          Americans need to give up the idea of telling others how to be
          And by the way- the Pol Pot intervention was prob the only one that worked – but by then, Camb. society was destroyed already (mainly by US bombs).

          Reply
          1. witters

            “Elections in Egypt and Algeria brought to power Muslim Bro – how is that democracy?”

            Um, they got the votes?

            What definition of democracy do you use? Espcially as whatever it is, it outweighs the vote?

            Reply
        2. Oregoncharles

          Ironically, the US has also intervened on the side of the only “good guys” (a lot of them women) in the mix: the Kurdish socialists. It would be heartwarming to see them come out with an autonomous state, though Turkey might invade – actually, it already has.

          Reply
        3. Donald

          I have encountered pro Assad leftists online in comment sections. They exist. I am aware there are people who oppose intervention without seeing Assad as a good guy– I am one of those.

          Reply
    2. Pat

      You know if I thought that America is really trying to help the people of Syria or Iran or Iraq or Libya or Haiti or Venezuela or….I might take all the Assad is a horror and we need to do something more seriously. But as you can see by that list, there is very good reason to think that “we”, as in the American leaders promoting this, care even less for the people of those countries than they do for the people of this country and they don’t give a damn about them. With few exceptions in the last 125 years, America intervenes when there is something in it for ‘our’ top corporations. And so we will happily support and arm assholes as long as they are willing to sell the resources ‘our’ corporations want to them for a price. So beheading people and destroying ancient artifacts no biggie, gassing people who cares, etc.

      IOW, I believe in staying out because the history is that we will merely allow a probably bigger group of assholes to replace the asshole who is there no matter what the people of the country want. Not to mention our spending a lot of public money to do it in order to enrich private companies and their individual owners or to do the dirty work of our ‘allies’ Israel and Saudi Arabia who have spent a lot purchasing their influence.

      There are multiple examples of true humanitarian issues that make Libya and Syria pale by comparison over the years, which are or were outright ignored by America, merely because there is nothing in it for the real rulers.

      Reply
    3. David

      I’ve head the same argument from a number of Syrians and others in the region, who were part of the original opposition. The problem is, it’s magical thinking: Assad will go (how?) and be replaced not by the most powerful and dedicated forces actually fighting his regime (largely but not exclusively Islamist) but by some kind of coherent, democratic, secular, well-organised and capable movement that doesn’t actually actually exist at the moment, but if it did would have to find from somewhere the capability to rule the country and dominate it militarily. Sympathy for the victims only gets you so far.

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yup – one thing I’ve learned over the years reading about the Middle East is that a lot of intelligent, articulate activists and writers from the region are often as detached from their own society as we often accuse the intelligentsia of the Beltway or London or Brussels or wherever. They are making judgements from the people they meet in their cafes and on their social media feeds, but they forget that the overwhelming majority in those countries don’t go on twitter, don’t discuss politics over a hookah pipe and strong coffee and have never heard of Edward Said. They are regular working people or farmers, love their families, but are often very conservative and are really only interested in the politics of who can provide a bit more money for those families. In short, they are as likely to support a reactionary like Erdogan or El-Sisi instead of real reformers if they are given a democratic choice.

        Reply
        1. olga

          Yes, they are (disconnected). I still remember an Iraqi academician (K something) making a strong case to overthrow Sadam H. He was quite instrumental in pushing for the war. Recently, though, he wrote about his regrets… given the disaster Iraq has turned out to be. A little too late, I’d say

          Reply
        2. hunkerdown

          Detached from their own society… the haunting moan of Calvinists intoning, “In the world but not of the world…” If liberalism were not in practice a secular-painted Judeo-Christian crusade (cf. R2P), perhaps non-Judeo-Christians wouldn’t oppose it. Not least because it wouldn’t be working primitive accumulation on them and their land under the self-righteous branding of evangelism and goodthink.

          Reply
    4. todde

      The problem is the Mid East isn’t filled to the brim with people wanting to fight/kill/die for democracy.

      So, in reality, it opens the door much more to religious extremists and not left wing reformers.

      The Grand Mosque in Mecca wasn’t taken over by advocates for democracy.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        What does “democracy” mean?

        The problem is foreign involvement on behalf of one side is inherently anti-democratic even if we create fraudulent voting exercises.

        All governments rule by the consent of the governed.

        Reply
        1. fosforos

          No one seems to notice that the Kurdish peoples of Syria and Anatolia have been fighting, with a socialist and democratic and anti-sectarian ideology second to no other, for autonomy within a confederated Middle East. For more than thirty years. Against multiple repressive, anti-democratic, Islamist or “secular” capitalist, regimes. And still being labeled “terrorists” by the US government and still being ignored by leftist beautiful souls. While Tsar and Sultan and Supreme Leader and President prepare yet another bloody betrayal of the Kurds.

          Reply
          1. Oregoncharles

            Yes, thank you for this reminder. I posted above that ironically, the US is supporting them – for now, anyway. But not for good reasons, so I’m afraid your pessimism is justified.

            OTOH: they’re now about the most effective military in the area. That’s why the US is supporting them, despite their socialist credentials.

            Reply
          2. UserFriendly

            Plenty of people are paying attention to the Kurds; I’d say that anyone that knows anything about the conflict thinks the kurds are the closest thing we have to an ally and is aware of how much they have been oppressed. There is roughly an article every few months that dives into to Rojava. Interestingly, lefty mag’s like Jacobin are more willing to criticise the Kurds for their early support of the regime. while the times barely mentions it and The Atlantic has nothing but praise.
            https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/11/rojava-syria-kurds-ypg-pkk-ocalan-turkey/
            https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/magazine/a-dream-of-utopia-in-hell.html
            https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/10/kurds-rojava-syria-isis-iraq-assad/505037/

            Reply
    5. a different chris

      >The only good reason to cheer the victory over the

      Stopping a hot shooting war isn’t even important to you? I would say it’s a pretty good thing, in fact the best thing.

      Dead people don’t really care about “scope for grassroots movements to generate real reform and change.” Blasted landscapes don’t sprout many “grassroots”, in fact.

      Reply
    6. Foppe

      I can’t really put my finger on why, but I got the feeling the interviewed person lives in lalaland, wrt the suggestion that “we” shouldn’t not intervene, given the russkis. Personally, the first thing on the agenda seems to me to defund isis, by taking KSA/Qatar/etc/West out. Next, Turkey, and talk to Russia.
      Not at all convinced there’s a point to violent removals. At best, it’s cosmetic (Egypt), at worst, the vacuum creates another iraq/libya/afgh.

      Reply
    7. Plenue

      It’s written in the style of the Louis Proyect school of Syria misrepresentation. I know of very few people who are claiming Assad is a good guy. What I see plenty of however, and this includes myself, is people who would rather have him remain in power than see this interminable conflict drag on, or worse yet the destruction of the Syrian government and the transformation of the entire country into a complete free-for-all. I am really getting tired of the willful ignorance and feigned perplexedness at the fact that the anti-war left wants a war to end.

      Also rolled my eyes at the claims of ‘Russian aggression’. The Admiral Kuznetsov and its fleet are literally steaming home right now as I type this, after being deployed for barely 2 months. Russia is there at the invitation of the legitimate Syrian government. Yes, it’s a dictatorship, but last I checked it is still the internationally recognized government. Defending an ally from the aggressive proxy forces of foreign powers is not itself aggression. And it’s not the ‘Syrian regime’ that is holding the Damascus water supply hostage and blowing up gas supplies in the middle of winter. No, that’s all on the ‘moderate, democratic, secular opposition’.

      And I very much suspect the objectivity and honesty and any writers who gloss over the issues of Erdogan and Turkey by claiming they just want an anti-Kurd buffer zone in Syria.

      Reply
      1. Foppe

        I had taken you to be making a historical reference, but I now see this person is still up and at it: http://bennorton.com/reminder-louis-proyect-has-expressed-support-for-al-nusra-al-qaeda-in-syria/
        bizarre. (I had never looked LP up before, mainly because of the name, which screams ‘branding’.)

        Part of the problem wrt the jacobin piece is that the interviewee conflates liberals and socialists/anarchists (not counting violent types like LP). But yeah, the account strikes me as problematic too. Wonder what to make of the fact Jacobin published it. Useful idiots?

        Reply
        1. Merasmus

          Louis Proyect is an intellectually and morally bankrupt worm. And I say that not because I disagree with him, but because of personal experience:

          During the weeks when the east Aleppo militant pocket was completely encircled and gradually collapsing he suddenly went completely silent on Syria. His last post on the subject was an article claiming that the claims by the Syrian government that there were far fewer than the 200-250,000 civilians left in east Aleppo that western sources were saying weren’t reliable. After the bulk of the pocket had been liberated and the reality was that the low estimates were quite accurate (ultimately around 90,000 people got out) I asked him if he still stood by the claims of the article. I came back the next day to find my comment had been edited to contain an anti-Jewish insult. I didn’t even know, nor do I care, that Proyect is Jewish.

          And I know this is a case of he said-she said, and I have no proof of what happened. It’s not like I took screenshots of my original post (why would I? I never suspected someone would be so ethically compromised as to edit a comment on their site like that), and those can be easily manipulated anyway. But I know what happened, and Proyect knows what happened. After that affair I realized Proyect isn’t even worth debating. He’s either just a very stupid, unscrupulous useful idiot, or he’s a paid agent of some group or other. Either way he isn’t worth spit.

          Outside of Syria, he’s mostly just a comically pretentious critic. He casts judgement on things he himself admits to not having actually seen (or seen to completion), and justifies it by bragging about how many movies he’s seen and reviewed, as if that somehow magically imbues him with taste or expertise. So, just what you’d expect from a smug advocate for Marxist Vanguardism. Observing and interacting with Proyect has further convinced me that Marxists shouldn’t be allowed to run even a lemonade stand.

          Oh, and he has the gall to claim that people who enjoy Tarantino or other violent movies are debasing and dehumanizing themselves by enjoying things that glorify violence. This coming from a man who once lamented that he didn’t have sufficient money and means to supply the FSA with anti-aircraft missiles so they could murder Syrian and Russian pilots more effectively. Screw you, Proyect. I once saw someone on his site describe him as a crypto-Takfiri. As good a description as any.

          Reply
    1. crittermom

      Thanks for the link.
      I was listening to it when a disruption of what sounded like a woman yelling halted the proceedings for a moment. Wonder what that was about?

      Reply
      1. dbk

        There have been two disruptions so far – the one you mentioned, and a second about fifteen minutes later by a male voice.

        Right now he’s vowing to respect everything he’s disavowed his entire career, including Roe v. Wade, the Voting Rights Act … responding now to a letter signed by 1400 law professors opposing his appointment, claiming that every single thing being used against him is false.

        Reply
    2. Anne

      Listening/watching reluctantly, as Sessions turns my stomach, and it’s galling to hear his colleagues talking about him in such glowing terms.

      Reply
      1. crittermom

        Agreed. (Trumps picks are a slap in the face).
        Haven’t gone back to it but curiosity still peaked over the disruption.
        Also wonder what a small child was doing there on her dad’s(?) lap during the proceedings?

        Time for a second large mug of cocoa & some music.
        Govt this early in the morning just upsets my stomach.

        Reply
        1. Anne

          Sessions introduced all of his children, their spouses and his grandchildren, so I suspect the young child you saw was one of the grandchildren (I was listening, not watching).

          I also didn’t see – just heard – the protesting and shouting, which turned out to be people wearing KKK robes…imagine there will be some video of that!

          Reply
              1. craazyboy

                I thought the Union wears blue sheets.

                If you wear red sheets – you might be a redneck!

                Why is nothing real anymore?

                Reply
                1. ambrit

                  Thank you, thank you, thank you! You just enlightened me to the “fakt” that “Rednecks” are Russian stooges! Reds!
                  We need to photoshop Putin sitting in the command seat of a BTR-80 wearing that “Make Russia Great Again” red baseball cap! With a few BTR-70s and an old T-34 up on blocks in the front yard of the Kremlin!
                  The Disinformation Nation at work.

                  Reply
                  1. craazyboy

                    Hell, fuggetabout old Russian weaponry. In Syria they used Russian Barrel Bombs! shit is getting scary. Can you imagine if Putin gave the KKK some Barrel Bombs and the unwoke dudes blew up a republican campaign center or something? that would show the republicans. poopy heads.

                    Reply
        2. dbk

          The small child was one of the nominee’s ten (!) grandchildren, several of whom were present for about the first hour or so of the hearings.

          There have now been four interruptions – during the last two, they cut the sound.

          I listened through my own Senator’s (Dick Durbin) questions, which involved a piece of legislation he had worked on with the nominee, but which has left 5000 individuals still in prison (the 100:1 crack cocaine mandatory sentencing, reduced to 18:1, but 5,000 people fell through the cracks), and the Dream Act, which if repealed will leave 800,000 individuals in the lurch, presumably while “comprehensive immigration law is being worked out by the Congress” (for the nominee to enforce in his new role as AG).

          Durbin was his usual low-key self, and didn’t get any kind of real answer to either question – incredibly frustrating for me (and, I would hope, for Durbin, at least at some procedural level).

          I just wrote him (again) and suggested that, while I understand he’s a civilized Illinoisan, that approach just wasn’t going to work for this cycle of nominees.

          I wonder whether I should start sending his office links to Question Time …

          Anyway, sorry to go on about this, and apologies to commenters who aren’t interested in the AG position.

          Reply
          1. cocomaan

            The Democrat response to Sessions appears to be non existent. There’s no there there, except for “he’s a racist”, which I thought we learned holds no water anymore.

            Reply
            1. Vatch

              I don’t know whether the accusation of racism holds water or not. These writers think it does:

              http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-jeff-sessions-race-civil-rights-20170105-story.html

              They might be correct. Unfortunately, I’ve become very suspicious of accusations of racism, which is sad, because racism is very real in some cases. Ajamu Baraka’s smearing of Bernie Sanders, and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s gleeful charges of racism against people who simply want a sustainable immigration policy, have made me very cynical about this.

              Reply
              1. craazyboy

                So true, and to make matters worse, Eric Holder was not racist, but quietly presided over lots of questionable policing actions and incidents these past two terms.

                Other than that, I know little of Jeff Sessions, but wouldn’t mind finding out more – before he gets confirmed. Like what does he think about elite white collar crime?

                Reply
        3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          From what I have seen, Trump enjoys making people do what they don’t want to do, like what he has done to his many primary opponents. “Come on over, Mitt.”

          I will be watching to see if his cabinet picks will acknowledge Trump’s position as the new sheriff in town. “Hey, Mike, I don’t care what you said before, I am against (or want better negotiated,,,what is, uh, better) TPP and other free trade deals.”

          Reply
        4. Vatch

          Trumps picks are a slap in the face

          Yes, several of them are so bad, it seems that Trump is just trying to see what he can get away with. I really hope that a large number of people will call their Senators’ offices to protest the worst of Trump’s choices. It’s especially important to call Republican Senators — put them on notice that people are paying attention.

          Reply
          1. a different chris

            >It’s especially important to call Republican Senators

            Especially since soon there won’t be any other kind.

            Reply
            1. Waldenpond

              That was my thought…. Trump’s nominees are atrocious and the D response that they need to hear the person out before voting is? the weak questions? the acceptance of statements they know to be untrue and refusal to follow up? the deflection that the R they allow through was not consistent with their statements?

              Reply
                  1. ambrit

                    I can smell the odour of sanctity even now, and her three “miracles” aren’t even approved yet.
                    The Dem party doesn’t seem to realize that they are being cast in the unenviable role of “Advocatus Diaboli” with this beatify Hillary movement. Every argument “they” make rebounds against them.
                    If the Demonize Trump movement succeeds, we will have an Avignon Presidency.

                    Reply
  12. Octopii

    With every incisive, bold, eloquent, rebellious piece by Cornel West, I become more and more ashamed that for many years I mistook him as “another angry black man.”

    Reply
    1. Katharine

      I was astonished by the statement that there were questions about whether it was a firing or a quitting. I think the boss’s saying, “Well, you don’t work here any more,” is pretty unambiguous firing.

      I hope everyone involved gets what’s coming to them (including straws).

      Reply
    2. reslez

      In some states it’s perfectly legal to deduct pay like this if the employee signs an agreement, and if the employee doesn’t sign it’s legal to fire them. I’m not sure whether it’s permitted in FL but given the serious lack of labor protections in a lot of southern states I wouldn’t be surprised. That said, it’s never legal to reduce an employee’s wage below the federal minimum wage, which for tipped employees like waiters is a whopping $2.13/hr.

      Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Without a designated leader such as Obama and Hillary, I expect the Team Blue types to play out the Obama v Hillary supporters greatest hits as each interest group jockeys for control. It was glossed over due to the Black Misleadership’s deep connections to Bill over the years and Toni Morrison’s unfortunate branding of Bill as the “first black President.” I’m sure there will be a flurry of “what happened to DKos” people as they are shocked by how people behave now that the neoliberals and grifters are no longer united under Hillary.

      “I’m the voice of the revolution.”

      “No, I’m the voice. ”

      “I’ve seen every episode of “Girls” on HBO.”

      “So not woke.”

      It will get worse before it gets better.

      Reply
  13. Bunk McNulty

    As Inauguration Day approaches, I offer this Modest Proposal: Let “Hail To The Chief” be replaced at all appropriate occassions by “I’m Rich.”

    “If I die, and Saint Peter don’t know how I feel
    I’m gonna get my manager to make me a rich man’s deal
    I want 60 from the top, and I want 40 from below
    Let Saint Peter know what’s happenin’ on that score.”

    Allahu Akbar. Shabbat Shalom. Honk if you love Jesus. Etc.

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      That Trump is rich, he is, presumably, if he is not carrying a lot of debt.

      Is money power? Most would agree, if not exceptionally. The exceptional might take exception to that.

      If he has got money already, why does he separately seek power, if money is power?

      “Hail To The Chief” is power on display. “I’m Rich,” is money on display.

      Knowing Trump, he probably will have a new song, about Foxconn and Alibaba kowtowing to his ‘Jobs Back To America’ initiative.

      And many Chinese back there to Ma: Why not 1 million jobs in China? We need jobs too.

      Reply
        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          And it manifests itself in even the most unlikeliest places…high and low, big and small, rich and not-so-rich, powerful and not-so-powerful.

          Reply
  14. Jim Haygood

    Today the Nasdaq 100 index is pushing farther into record territory, having broken through 5,500 last Friday.

    These are the glamour stocks of our era — the Fab Five of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and the Alphabet formerly known as Google.

    What’s it mean? Bubble III ain’t over yet.

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Our era of a thousand years.

      With many new holidays for our over-worked serfs.

      “Today is Smartphone Invention Day. No School.”

      “All self-driving cars are off today. It’s the anniversary of the birth of the first ever self-driving car.”

      “On this day many scores of years ago, mankind was first gifted with Social Media.”

      The early grabbers not only will be remembered, lionized, but their descendants will retain the wealth empires.

      Reply
  15. beth

    re: Steven Mnuchin (Vanity Fair)
    Are we now seeing the Dems caring about the subprime crisis a little late? Where were they years ago, when they could have done something about it? This is like getting religion on your death bed.

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Are they our true champions?

      Is it yet another case of ‘the champion secretly loves another girl, but will fight for the hand of the princess, in order to usurp the throne?’

      Reply
      1. beth

        I agree, they are not. Pretend and extend, as Yves likes to say. Will they do some good anyway in the short term? I do so hope.

        Reply
        1. craazyboy

          They’re ferociously digging into his background to see if they can bring charges of racism against him. Depending on what they find, they could arrest him for either 1st degree, 2nd degree, or 3rd degree racism. That would be soooo wokey.

          Reply
          1. ambrit

            Did you catch the caption to the picture in the Scientific American “debunking” of the bigfoot exhibit. The picture of the Yeti exhibit in the Carnival side show display wagon says that it was photographed in the little town of Wookey Hole, UK.
            Coincidences like this are a bit too “convenient.”
            The entire piece was an all too familiar “debunking” of non official approved scientific inquiry.
            Now apply this mind set to politics. Hmmm…

            Reply
  16. Buttinsky

    Here is David Talbot’s on-the-ground account of a skirmish in the ongoing battle for control of the Democratic Party in San Francisco. Local Democrats met on Sunday to vote for delegates to the state convention in May, and the “Reform” wing managed a majority despite the usual shenanigans of the party machine. Personally, I’ve given up completely on a party that regularly sends the likes of Nancy Pelosi back to Congress by some huge margin, if there’s an opponent at all, while trumpeting its “liberal” values. Facts like her complicity in Bush’s torture regime, her eagerness to bomb Syria, her ominous concern about “entitlements,” and her recent harangue of the press for accurately reporting pertinent information about Hillary Clinton are all irrelevant to the hypocrites of this great “progressive” bastion.

    I especially like the quote from newly elected state senator Scott Wiener. “We’re all going to unite against the existential threat to our democracy.” Wiener is an unprincipled hack from the Big Whore wing of the party whose only real agenda — like most politicians’— is his “career,” and whose donors prominently include real estate developers, Airbnb and the Police Officers’ Association. To him, of course, “our democracy” refers to his right to pursue a lucrative trade.

    http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/SF-s-Democrats-keep-up-the-internal-warfare-10846122.php

    Reply
  17. Katharine

    Re: Obama Says Americans’ Skepticism Gave Campaign Hacks a Boost

    I’m sure it’s what he says, but isn’t it odd that media all seem willing to refer matter-of-factly to those hacks that have yet to be shown to have occurred? They might as well take to talking about fairies at the bottom of the garden because they’ve been told about those.

    Reply
  18. Waldenpond

    2016 post mortem: just who has been promoted that is on the left in the D party? Ourrevolution is dark money. BNC is more and better Ds (again, who are they). DSA is a D group also doing more and better Ds (I already noted DSAers were announcing they are a big tent and it was important to support unions (no ownership of the means of production for you) and not to talk about socialism) and looks already co-opted.

    Obama is starting his own foundation and Sanders? Yesterday he went Russia, Russia, Russia. Sanders will work with Brock (https://medium.com/@DavidBrock/dear-senator-sanders-im-with-you-in-the-fight-ahead-ffd42ae989bb#.r91pffprf) and D base will continue to make excuses for Sanders.

    ‘Resist’ is already, just a few weeks post election, selling nothing but lesser evilism.

    Reply
    1. Roger Smith

      I was just about to share that Brock piece for anyone in need of a good laugh.

      “Looking back, I recognize that there were a few moments when my drive to put Hillary in the White House led me to take too stiff a jab. I own up to that, I regret it, and I apologize to you and your supporters for it.”

      Oh… okay, all good!

      Reply
      1. Waldenpond

        My favorite item of the day was Sanders stating Trump did something extraordinary… took on the R establishment, took on the D establishment, took on the media establishment and won the Presidency.

        I thought, well… at least Sanders stated something about the primary (if only to admit publicly what he privately agreed and never had the intention of doing).. winning requires taking on the D establishment.

        Reply
        1. Roger Smith

          Yes, that was interesting to hear him say. I wish he would have been truly up to the task but I agree that it doesn’t seem like he was.

          I just got an email that he is coming to my area (MI) this weekend… carting along Schumer, Stabenow, and Peters to defend a broken healthcare plan (ACA).

          “At a time when the United States remains the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all as a right, the Republicans want to end the Affordable Care Act (ACA), throw nearly 30 million people off of health insurance, make massive cuts to Medicaid, privatize Medicare, defund Planned Parenthood and raise the price of prescription drugs for seniors. At the same time, in the midst of a grotesque and growing level of income and wealth inequality, they want obscene tax breaks for the top one-tenth of 1 percent.”

          I don’t want Planned Parenthood to lose funding (I would like it even more if the gaps PP fills were not gaps at all and adequately addressed in our standard health system), but at the same time it was their leadership that cast their lot with Clinton. If they truly were worried about their future and client’s health maybe they should have thought a little harder and beyond their own inner-circle bureaucracy. I find it a little absurd for them to be railing the GOP at this point.

          Reply
    1. Pat

      Okay, the twitter comment about the “the last real and honest White House briefing is made to be about Streep” made me laugh. Talk about being blind, I don’t suppose that person should be told if there is never going to be another real and honest briefing the last one probably took place over thirty years ago.

      Reply
  19. reslez

    Discussion of possible tax law changes under Trump and the Republicans, interesting details I hadn’t really seen before: Trump’s war on private debt to reshape markets: James Saft

    “Under Republican House tax plans from last summer endorsed by Speaker Paul Ryan, the standard income tax deduction for married couples will almost double to $24,000.” – Followed by concern trolling by the author about how that would make the mortgage interest deduction less appealing, which would lower house prices. The reality is that cash-only buyers are an increasingly large part of the market these days. They’re not impacted at all by mortgage interest deductions. Millennials are less likely than ever to buy homes. Lower home prices might actually enable them to buy into the market and start families.

    The author moans about how cutting taxes will run up public debt. I don’t think MMT has any concerns about particular levels of federal debt. What concerns us is how all that untaxed money sits in the pockets of the rich, who use it to run up destructive financial bubbles and buy politicians.

    “Trump’s pre-election plans called for eliminating the tax deductibility of interest expense for corporations as part of a framework designed to encourage domestic capital expenditure while cutting corporate tax rates. A similar plan has been put forward by Ryan. … While companies pay an effective tax rate of 30.8 percent on equity-financed investments today, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, the tax cut of debt funding is actually -7.4 percent. Naturally, companies now favor equity over debt. Under Trump’s plans, both equity and debt-financed investments will incur a tax rate of about 10 percent.

    “Corporate debt issuance will sink like a stone. So will share buybacks, though they may get a short-term bump from money brought back under any U.S. tax holiday. The math of borrowing in bond markets to buy back shares will get a lot less pretty. That could hurt share prices.”

    I have no idea what this means: “the tax cut of debt funding is actually -7.4 percent”. As for the rest, private sector debt is already sky high. There’s a frightening amount of debt being incurred to finance unproductive stock buybacks. Trump may get in trouble for deflating the bubble but that seems like a fundamentally necessary step.

    If Trump were smart he’d hold the tax cuts hostage in exchange for getting his agenda through Congress — whether that’s protectionist tariffs, an actual infrastructure bill, or bandaging over the problems with Obamacare. Giving the rich a bit more in tax cuts to shut them up while we fix the country is a decent trade IMO. The .1% already have too much, a bit more isn’t going to drastically change the state of play. Whether Trump has any interest in governing like that I have no idea. For all I know he’s just another sellout neolib like Obama.

    Reply
  20. Oregoncharles

    “I think what Beutler is saying is that” he’s a neoliberal flack for the Democratic party, making a half-hearted pass at progressive legitimacy.

    He used to be in Salon’s stable of Dem party hacks. I stopped reading him a long time ago.

    Reply
  21. RMO

    “Summers Warns of Financial Crisis Risk…” Thanks for that! I really needed a good laugh today and than one had me rolling on the floor, gasping for breath the same way I did the first time I watched Fawlty Towers!

    Reply
  22. Adam Eran

    Wow! No other NC comments about quantum computing? It only obsoletes the encryption we’re relying on for network communications. The onerous task of long division is too long for conventional computers, but quantum computing could decipher all that encryption…couldn’t it?

    Reply
    1. Gaianne

      “quantum computing could decipher all that encryption…couldn’t it?”

      That is the main practical goal, yes, and the one reason they are pouring in all that money to try to do it.

      –Gaianne

      Reply
      1. craazyboy

        I guess soon we’ll be able to decipher all that encrypted traffic hidden by VPN networks, read header packets, and see if IP addresses really are from the Kremlin? Just guessing.

        But I think all internal biz communications will move to carrier pigeon and rice paper for industrial espionage reasons.

        Reply

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