Links 3/29/17

How the mouse came to live alongside humans BBC (martha r). And then cats followed!


Here’s why the imminent test of Jeff Bezos’ BE-4 rocket engine is a huge deal ars technica

New method heats up ultrasonic approach to treating tumors PhysOrg (David L)

The life-saving treatment that’s being thrown in the trash ars technica (Chuck L)


4 messages from the EU to the UK Politico

Both sides are spoiling for a fight The Times

What the EU27 wants from Brexit Politco. Note how quite a few countries are harder on the issue of the outstanding amount the UK owes than on other issues. By putting that first, the Eurocrats look to be seeking to solidify opposition, which will wind up carrying over to other issues.

Finance Ministry Sees ‘Grave Consequences’ in Brexit Handelsblatt

Brexit, no sector left unscathed Politco

29 charts that explain Brexit Bruegel

Brexiters must lose if Brexit is to succeed Martin Wolf, Financial Times

Westminster digs in its heels as Holyrood votes for second referendum Herald Scotland (martha r)

A brief description of the mutation of the neoliberal cancer into the neofeudalism failed evolution

Francois Fillon’s wife Penelope under formal investigation BBC

Trump administration ratchets up pressure on Venezuela McClatchy (Dan K)


If Aleppo Was a Crime Against Humanity, Isn’t Mosul? Foreign Policy in Focus (resilc)

Gaza: Israel’s war drums are getting louder Aljazeera (micael)

Nike hijab for Muslim athletes welcomed, criticised Middle East Online (resilc)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

The Surveillance State Behind Russia-gate Consortiumnews (martha r)

House Rep. Pushing To Set Back Online Privacy Rakes In Industry Funds totaling at least $693,000 Vocativ (Dr. Kevin)

Facial recognition database used by FBI is out of control, House committee hears Guardian (Dan K)

Imperial Collapse Watch

Military Complexity: Lasers or Longbows? NoTech (resilc)

Trump Transition

GOP torn over what to do next The Hill

Border wall funding likely to be put on hold The Hill (resilc)

As Trump Bows Out, States Seek to Fill Void on Climate Change Bloomberg

As Trump ends the “war on coal”, will it rebound? MacroBusiness

House panel’s Russia probe effectively put on hold Washington Post

McConnell guarantees Gorsuch will be confirmed on April 7 Politico (UserFriendly)

Senate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight The Hill

Trump’s New Plan: Govt as Company, Citizens as Customers, Kushner as CEO Common Dreams (martha r)

I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations Guardian (Dr. Kevin)

Deutsche Bank in Bind Over How to Modify $300 Million Trump Debt Bloomberg. There is nothing wrong with the loan, the projects are all performing. But I was wrong, and am very surprised to see that Trump provided a personal guarantee. So while neither the article nor video says so crisply, the desire to restructure the loan is driven by the desire to get rid of the personal guarantee, since that poses an ethical issue for both sides. But solving that problem leads to charges of favoritism. Trump clearly should give up something to get out of the guarantee, but how much exactly? Trump supposedly has lots of unused borrowing capacity across his real estate holding, as in more than $1 billion. The cleanest way would be to buy out the entire loan, if he could do that without incurring a big prepayment penalty. But that would likely pose its own set of problems.

The economic logic behind Trump’s foreign policy – why the key countries are Germany and China Socialist Economic Bulletin (martha r)


How Trumpcare’s Failure Sets the Stage for Single-Payer New Republic (martha r). TNR talking up a bona fide progressive position has a “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” aura about it. Still, it at least says the idea is no longer relegated to the Hallin circle of deviance.

How local news sounded the alarm over the GOP’s defeated health plan Columbia Journalism Review (Dan K)

Go Viral or Die Trying Esquire (Dan K). Aiee.

Sanders to headline progressive ‘People’s Summit’ CNN (martha r)

Freshman congressman @RepRoKhanna launches “No PAC Caucus” as one of 6 reps that does not take PAC $ in Congress. @NomikiKonst (martha r)

100-year-old SF woman dies after years of eviction battles SFGate (Judy B)

Forget national politics: the real potential for the left is on the local level Guardian (martha r)

Wells Fargo receives another blow in community reinvestment exam Charlotte Observer

Charles Murphy: Partner at Paulson & Co Dead in Apparent Suicide Fortune (martha r)

BlackRock Cuts Dozens of Jobs and Fees in Stock-Picking Unit Bloomberg (martha r)

Class Warfare

Evidence That Robots Are Winning the Race for American Jobs New York Times v. Robots do destroy jobs and lower wages, says new study Verge (Dr. Kevin)

Legislators Want to Reverse Minimum-Wage Hikes and Ballot Initiatives Atlantic (martha r)

Uber Releases Diversity Report and Repudiates Its ‘Hard-Charging Attitude New York Times. Mark H: “The report, which excludes drivers, showed that Uber’s work force, like most tech companies’, is mostly male and white.””

Uber’s Diversity Report Leaves Out the Most Important Thing Bloomberg

I truly cannot believe this is real. @oneunderscore__

Traps for autonomous cars … @galka_max This is beautiful. Chana: “It’s easier than unscrewing the distributor cap as long as you have a spray paint can.”

Uber finally released their diversity report — here’s how it compares to Facebook and Google Business Insider (David L)

Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women? Atlantic (Dan K)

Can Diggerland’s Kids in Bulldozers Cure the Construction Worker Shortage? Bloomberg (resilc)

Connecticut’s undertaxed super-rich hedgies get “tax bills” from anti-cuts protesters Boing Boing (resilc)

Incredible comments by Richard Posner: Antitrust “dead,” Congress “owned by the rich” ProMarket (Asher)

Staying Rich Without Manufacturing Will Be Hard Bloomberg (resilc)

Antidote du jour. Crittermom: “With Spring arriving weeks early this year, I suspect it won’t be too long before the hummingbirds return here. Here’s a previous capture of one sticking its tongue out for my family at NC to enjoy.”

hummingbird links

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. Jim A

    Nomenclature note….I think that the online privacy thing is not so much big brother as big mama. Because it’s not the government instigating* it. Rather this spy program is being comiditized by the private telecommunications companies. Which are the descendants of AT&T, aka Ma Bell.

    1. Eureka Springs

      Since government has the power/authority if it chooses, and up until now government has used corporations to subvert rather than protect our privacy I would have to disagree. Just as it established five eyes, FISA, and so much more.

      We the people are something which must be experimented upon, manipulated by government and their donor corps., rather than the other way around….which is why I cringe every time I see or hear the word Democracy.

      In re the consortium news link, Nunes may or may not be a good guy, though the Liberty tidbit at the end of the article was most encouraging with a specific act.

      On current events Nunes has the power, the obligation to speak on the floor of the House to all Americans. It’s way past time Representatives do so on these matters. It’s one way to stop appearing as if he’s favoring Trump or the party over, you know, rule of law, the people, the very Republic itself. Without an ability to know what’s happening, verify, trust… everything from false wars, fake enemies, torture, blackmail, looting, fake news will continue unabated.

      1. sleepy

        I have rarely seen the nonstop, wall to wall coverage that the Nunes story has received. As you allude to, there may be a real story there, but right now it’s endless reporting and punditry over procedural and protocol nonsense. It’s drowning out everything else which is probably the point. Yemen? Never heard of it. Mosul? Where’s that?

    2. KurtisMayfield

      No, it is a way for telecommunication companies to get around existing laws. Imagine if every phone call conversation was being logged and recorded. Now imagine every piece of send being tracked and opened. Then imagine that the government was tracking every newspaper and pamphlet that you read. Would any of this be legal without a warrant? Why should the modern equivalent be suspect to different rules?

      We the people have sold our rights to not be under surveillance without a warrant for convenience. It’s time for it to stop.

      1. katiebird

        The Post Office should be THE national ISP/email/cloud-storage provider. There doesn’t seem to be any other way to protect our privacy.

      2. reslez

        AFAIK 80% of this is already done. All phone calls are already logged and recorded with a phonetic transcript made. Every piece of mail is photographed on its way through the postal system. Newspaper subscriptions are a matter of private databases so the government has to pay for access to those when there’s something it wants to know, no warrant necessary. I don’t think they physically open your mail yet, at least not on a mass basis (keyword is “yet”).

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          At the tender age of 13 I was a member of the Socialist Worker’s Party (my radical art teacher “Shep” got me to sign up), and my hobby was home made gunpowder pipe bombs (for fun). Apparently that combination got me flagged (Nixon era) and I noticed my mail was being opened (razor slit at the end of the envelope than re-sealed with almost invisible cellophane tape). I wrote a nice letter addressed to myself but written to the people who were reading my mail. I told them how old I was, why I like fireworks and gunpowder, and asked them if they felt proud of themselves reading my private mail.
          The opening ceased immediately. I can only imagine what would happen to me today. Note to CIA: I am not the droid you are looking for

          1. Procopius

            I’ve been wondering since last summer, when the CIA started pushing the story about Russian hacking, when did we repeal the law against the CIA conducting ANY operation inside the USA? I believe it’s also prohibited in their charter, but since that was written in 1947 maybe it’s expired. You know, the Old Queen (J. Edgar Hoover) would never have tolerated that. He fought like a tiger to get them out of stateside espoinage investigations.

    3. Vatch

      The assault on privacy passed the House 215-205 yesterday at 5:56 PM. Here’s the roll call vote:

      215 Republicans voted Yes, 15 voted No, and every Democrat (190 of them) voted No.

      The resolution passed the Senate last week by a pure party line vote 50-48. Alleged libertarian Rand Paul didn’t have the guts to vote against it — he simply didn’t vote. Maybe he took a sick day.

      Edit: fake libertarian actually co-sponsored this monstrosity:

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        “You’re responsible for Obama in 2008, when you didn’t vote.”

        Boredom, disinterest, no guts, frustration…it doesn’t matter.

        The only thing necessary for something to triumph is for those not for it to do nothing.

  2. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves, especially for the Brexit links, much better than anything in the UK MSM.

    Not unrelated and further to the link to Mme Fillon, Marine Le Pen was interviewed by France 2 and the BC yesterday night. As usual and in stark contrast to their pet Macron, Le Pen was given a rough ride, but she stood up to the tough questioning. It was interesting to see David Pujadas and Emily Maitlis get their knickers into a twist over Russia, Le Pen’s recent meeting with Putin and the crackdown on the Navalny protests. On France 2, Le Pen rightly asked about the obsession with Russia and wondered why Saudi Arabia and Qatar are given an easy ride, especially the latter’s tax breaks as a sovereign investor in France. She asked Maitlis if Maitlis wanted war with Russia as this seems to be the logical conclusion to the hawkishness of many in the west and why Islamic terrorism was not a bigger threat than Russia.

    Le Pen seemed to be softening her stance on the Euro / frexit, saying she wanted to work with the PIGS over a way out of the straitjacket.

    I “bunked off” to Covent Garden this morning from my Spitalfields (east of the City) office. There are many tourists and European students in town. One wonders if the latter will bother coming in future. An increasing number of young Europeans prefer to learn English in other anglophone countries.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I’m amazed that the media hasn’t realised that ultra harsh treatment of ‘unflavoured’ parties and candidates can actually increase their popularity, especially as it can inoculate the candidate/party from real scandals as the media becomes the boy who cried wolf. This process has made Trump bulletproof – I’ve often thought that he would have been weakened during the election if the media had at least tried to be evenhanded, it would have allowed a greater focus on his real weaknesses, not the ones imagined up by the liberal media. I’ve seen the same process in Ireland, where relentless media hostility to Sinn Fein has had no obvious impact on their popularity whatever. When the media is not just biased, but overtly biased, I think most non-partisan voters just tune out the noise and go with their gut.

      It must be a strange atmosphere in London today. I suspect there will be a short term increase in tourists (notwithstanding the possible impact of the terrorist attack) simply because the fall in sterling has made London that bit less unaffordable. But in the longer term I think whatever agreements are made, there will be a very significant drop in visitors, people are too used to friction-free travel, they don’t like uncertainty. I think the same thing is having a serious impact on US tourism. Its good news for Ireland, tourism is booming as its become one of the perceived ‘safe and easy’ countries to visit. Two new hotels are starting construction this year on my street (and its not a big street).

        1. David

          Not sure what you mean by “friction-free”. At the moment traveling between the UK and France means taking a passport, submitting to checks, going through a facial recognition system, airport-style security even on Eurostar, emerging at St Pancras into an intimidating security area etc. I’ve got into (and out of) some countries in the Middle East with less aggravation. The only difference that I can see if the UK leaves the EU might be the end of “EU only” passport queues, and so a longer wait, but even then EEA and Swiss passport holders use the same channels, and it would be an act of stupidity not to continue to give European citizens the privilege of getting through faster. No-one, so far as I know, is talking about a visa system: it would be a return to the system of about twenty years ago.
          Agree very much about the counter-productive effects of demonization, though.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Yes, I guess I over egged it by saying its currently friction free – I’m used to travelling from Ireland, and there is no requirement for ID, but thats because both are outside Schengen.

            But I think that even if security and visa checks don’t change (and there is no guarantee that this won’t happen if things go badly), then customs checks will likely be intrusive. People may, for example, find they will have to keep receipts for the cameras and laptops to prove they aren’t importing/exporting them illegally. I’m old enough to remember being on buses crossing the border between north and south in Ireland and customs men searching every bag for goods purchased in the north – at that time VAT was much higher in the south. We forget that this sort of thing was ‘normal’ one time all over Europe. If the UK goes down the route of being a bigger Andorra, then they will return.

            Of course it will also mean the end of the traditional British trip over the Channel to stock up on vast amounts of cheap French wine.

      1. tony

        Reporters are people too, mostly mediocrities. They are angered by the attacks on their authority and interests and attack as people tend to do in those situations.

    2. Dead Dog

      thanks Colonel for update. None of my circle knows or even cares about the French election. The rough ride, in comparison to her competitors, is telling. The MSM don’t want her as she has shown a willingness to disrupt the status quo.
      She will get stronger if this keeps up until election day. Voters are waking up

  3. Jim A

    Health care. Keep in mind, that in the Paul Ryan show, the changes to the individual marketplace are the shiny object that magician draws your eye to in his off hand while he performs the prestidigitation in his other hand. His agenda is all about the destruction of Medicaid, and doing that through block grants so that the states are forced to do the actual benefit cutting.

    Trump never cared much what went into the deal, so long as he got to put his name on it and call it a victory. He is just as happy to abandon it and go on to other things. Ryan OTOH, is not about to let the chance to use this “unified” government to gut Medicaid slip by. He’ll be back.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Part of Ryan’s power was derived from the run of the mill idiots in Versailles not recognizing that behind Ryan ‘s charts was a blithering idiot of epic proportions even for Versailles. Ryan was a compromise candidate as he was someone who gave off an aura of inoffensiveness by Versailles standards when the Republicans couldn’t find a consensus candidate. They picked a guy who was known to their voters.

      I don’t expect much of anything to happen especially as Republicans start to notice cuts to their districts and have to deal with the government shutdown types.

      1. Procopius

        No, I’ve never understood why, but the MSM adopted Ryan as “a genius policy wonk who really understands the numbers,” even when it was obvious that he didn’t have the numbers at all. There must be some reason why the Borg adopted him with such enthusiasm, but I don’t know what it is.

    1. Stormcrow

      I think the article posted in Links today by McGovern and Binney is extremely important.

      The Surveillance State Behind Russia-gate

      The opening paragraphs:

      Although many details are still hazy because of secrecy – and further befogged by politics – it appears House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes was informed last week about invasive electronic surveillance of senior U.S. government officials and, in turn, passed that information onto President Trump.

      This news presents Trump with an unwelcome but unavoidable choice: confront those who have kept him in the dark about such rogue activities or live fearfully in their shadow. (The latter was the path chosen by President Obama. Will Trump choose the road less traveled?)

      What President Trump decides will largely determine the freedom of action he enjoys as president on many key security and other issues. But even more so, his choice may decide whether there is a future for this constitutional republic. Either he can acquiesce to or fight against a Deep State of intelligence officials who have a myriad of ways to spy on politicians (and other citizens) and thus amass derogatory material that can be easily transformed into blackmail.

      My guess is that alas Trump will choose the road more traveled.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        I find the whole debate has a “is the sky really blue?” nature to it.

        As Ron Paul pointed out yesterday, the government is spying on everyone, everywhere, all the time. Of course Trump’s communications were being monitored, everyone’s is, that simple fact is not in dispute by anyone with a functional neuron or two. There are supposedly a few fig leaf privacy protections that apparently are simple to get around.

        The question is: did a former president commit acts of sedition by using US and/or foreign spy machinery in an attempt to discredit or unseat the current president? Pity we can’t just be asking that simple question. Oh, and then by the way, ask the question: is it really OK that the government wastes billions spying on everyone, everywhere? But alas, that policy was crafted by Cheney and then enshrined by our previous, putative “Democrat” president (whatever that label means any more).

        1. Watt4Bob

          My comment is upon Lambert’s reluctance to accept the term “Deep State”.

          As far as I’m concerned, the term is useful, and descriptive.

          And Ray McGovern should know.

          1. Lambert Strether

            I’m sure if anybody could define it, it would be. Right now, the term is essentially religious in nature, signifying “that which we do not know” (explaining why it’s so virulent, of course).

            “Useful and descriptive” does not rule out “mushy and disempowering,” eh? As soon as you ask “useful to whom”…

    2. wilroncanada

      Collecting information in order to intimidate or even overthrow politicians, even presidents, did not end with the death of J Edgar Hoover. It has been passed on and divided among the multiple nefarious spy and police agencies.
      It is possible that someone has something that could destroy Trump.
      So it is likely that he will go along to get along. What can he do about invasion of privacy, except take advantage of it himself while he has the opportunity?

    1. vidimi

      just noticed that the story already appears in the links from a local source. apologies for reposting.

    2. Prufrock

      Sorry, but this link should go under fraud. From what I understand, the woman was given a sweetheart deal by the landlords ($700 per month for life as long as she lived in the appartment without the landlords taking the allowable interest rate hikes). She moved out and lied about it so that her relatives could use the space. I’ve seen this sort of abuse regularly in SF (which isn’t to say that there isn’t plenty of abuse by Landlords the other way as well… this just isn’t one of those cases.)

      Yes, society should do a better job of helping people out, like this woman. San Francisco’s rent control system is not an effective way to do it.

      1. vidimi

        where did you get that she moved out of her apartment and let relatives move in? the landlords accused her of that, but is it confirmed anywhere? why would the eviction have taken such a toll on her if she didn’t live there?

  4. craazyman

    It must get to you after a while, I saw the Guardian link from (martha r) and I thought it read:

    “Forget national politics: the real potential for theft is on the local level”

    I guess that wasn’t quite it. At any rate, once you’ve fracked and strip-mined the citizenry from a national office I guess you can always try to “microfrak” from the mayor’s office or some county commission. That’s efficiency! It’s like high-frequency trading, you may only make millions and its not billions but it adds up if you do it fast enough! hahahahahahaah. OK sorry. Cynicism is its own form of corruption. After my 10-bagger hits I’ll run for congress! Or at least walk.

    My brain has been bent from reading NC. You’d think there’s nothing but evil and bad news out there. But if you read the sports section you’ll find excellence and valor along with lots of high pay and supermodel dating. So it’s not all doom and gloom. Doom and gloom hasn’t worked for me by the way. I’ve been too scared to put any money in the market for years and look where that got me.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Craazyman.

      Mum used to be a UK government auditor, covering the Thames Valley (west of London) and had horror stories about local councillors, council employees and contractors. Many of the investigations arose from tip offs by reception and delivery staff. They were frequently insulted by arrogant councillors, managers and contractors when crates of wine, brown envelopes etc. were sent forward from delivery points. It’s easier to loot and pillage at home rather than make anything and export. One does not need to visit the third world to observe corruption, true blue (i.e. Tory) Buckinghamshire is close enough.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I used to work in local government and in a consultancy dealing with local government in the UK, and I was amazed at the level of corruption. My boss at the time refused to deal with two district councils because there was no way of getting anything without straight up bribery.

        What I found most curious, coming from an Ireland where there had been major ‘brown envelope’ bribery scandals was the cognitive dissonance in the UK about the corruption. It was simply never called ‘corruption’ or bribery – people who knew what was happening would just sigh and say ‘oh, thats just the way it is’, I suspect there was a deep feeling that ‘corruption’ was what happens in poor countries, in the UK its just considered ‘ethically dubious’. It was most common in Councils with long term majorities (it didn’t matter whether Tory or Labour), I guess because there was no real opposition to raise objections, these places attracted the most rotten politicians who quickly favoured promoting internal staff who would never whistleblow. It was one thing that convinced me that single non-transferable voting systems are a poison.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Many thanks, PK.

          I agree and have observed the same (cognitive dissonance). It continues to this day.

          You are right about the one party states. Buckinghamshire stayed solidly Tory even in their dark days under Major. It was dark for them, but funny for us peasants, especially when the Tories were caught in flagrante delicto. Labour councils, especially in Durham, were no better.

        2. vlade

          A good friend of mine worked for quite some time as a CIO of a ministry-level organisation in New Zealand. Afterwards, he said that NZ may have a “corruption free” image, but the reality is very much different..

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you, Vlade.

            I put Scandinavia in that camp, too, i.e. it has an image of being clean, but suspect the reality is different.

    2. Lost in OR

      Not too different than “the resistance”. Focused on that long, slow, dreadful train wreck. There are occasional gems though, that instruct on the thinking that got and keep us here. And sometimes there are leads to alternative thinking ways to conduct our lives.

  5. dan

    Yeah, robots are one factor in the loss of manufacturing jobs in the US. We get it. How does that explain the trend of off-shoring entire factories? People should be able to understand the impact is not just with that one factory. The analogy of an anchor tenant of a shopping mall is more appropriate. Lose the anchor tenant and the viability of the whole manufacturing ecosystem drops, which then eventually spreads to the system as a whole.

    This media BS of job loss is all due to robots, and we can’t do anything about – stop or mitigate – is just red-herring baiting by the masters of financialization/globalization that benefit (in the short term) by the process.

    1. cocomaan

      I think you’re on to something there. There’s other reasons at hand.

      With healthcare heavily linked to employment in the USA, and our healthcare being so incredibly expensive, you start to see how companies feel the need to flee. The risk pool is awful (obesity!), the costs are extraordinary ($80 bottles of tylenol), which makes the costs linked to salaries and wages incredibly expensive. Retirement benefits also involve crappy risk pools (401ks). And the list goes on.

      The other side of the robot manufacturing meme is that an incredible amount of our consumer goods are still made by hand. People think manufacturing is more automated than it is. Case in point, there was a great show on Discovery Channel called “How It’s Made”, which showed the manufacturing process for consumer goods up close. Here’s an example: mortar and pestles. When you watch the show for a little while, you realize there are humans throughout the entire process. There’s no manufacturing process portrayed in that show that doesn’t have some human hands in the camera shot.

      I am with you. Nothing is “inevitable” and there’s plenty of things that can be tweaked to make outcomes different.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Robots don’t need no pensions.

        They also don’t need to retire to Florida.

        Old robots are so tough, they don’t go to nursing homes, either.

        1. Left in Wisconsin

          I’m actually in the process of trying to assemble this data as we speak but there are two totally different processes occurring:

          1. Investments in automation, which are new investments and have ambiguous effects on employment (historically, automation was associated with increased employment because sales grew as productivity grew, but that trend has slowed dramatically in recent decades).

          2. Off-shoring of entire product lines or factories, which is disinvestment and is guaranteed job loss.

          Because our data collection has not kept up with globalization of manufacturing, offshoring often appears in the data as productivity improvement (value-added does not decrease as fast as employment) and this is what leads the ignorant and the vile to claim that US mfg productivity continues apace, thus robots == job loss.

        2. a different chris

          *Robots don’t need no pensions.
          *They also don’t need to retire to Florida.
          *Old robots are so tough, they don’t go to nursing homes, either.

          Yet as Reuther pointed out so long ago, they don’t buy anything, either.

          So what are our better’s actual plans here? Note that again my flailings against the term “AI” comes in to play. If robots do really, really, get intelligence they will want to buy nice things, they will want to try new stuff, they will want to “see the universe”.. and in that case woe be to any humans that get in their way.

          1. reslezr

            I think the idea is to build up an advanced industrial base, automate it, then purge the useless eaters and make do with a billion or so. “Overproduction of elites” is the massive blind spot here.

    2. craazyboy

      If I see one more pic of a automotive welding “robot” and dire warnings of robots taking our jobs, I’m gonna scream.

      That’s like someone finally discovering the Rolling Stones, and then hyperventilating over the collapse of Family Values.

      Or the Robot on Lost In Space waving his arms and saying “Danger, Will Robinson. Danger. Danger!”

      1. cnchal

        A looong time ago, I had a tour of the GM plant in Oshawa, way before robots, and where the assembly line started was a poor guy grabbing two pieces of stamped metal, fitting them into a welding jig and then dancing around to avoid the sparks. Imagine eight miserable hours a day doing that.

        Bring on automation and robotics. It’s the only hope of everyone else getting to a 15 hour work week.

        1. craazyboy

          I remember in the early 70s Detroit getting slammed in the press for poor quality of “fit and finish” of car bodies. The Japanese had passed us up! The big secret – the Japanese used machines to position the panels precisely, and then machine arms spot weld them!

          Similar advancements in Henry Ford’s idea about “production lines”. Progress moves forward, parts move forward!

          Also, our population doubled since then, so we still will need 30 hours a week. Plus, exports to a world of 7 billion wannabee drivers.

          Not that that sounds like such a good idea, anymore.

          1. Carolinian

            Agree and there’s a bit of a Luddite thing going on around here. Automated factories are inevitable as are automated vehicles. The truth is the “human factor” is the greatest source for error in our highly mechanized society. For example the coming of the computer age arguably has everything to do with the much greater safety of modern air travel (safer than cars certainly) compared to the early days.

            All these machines increase our productivity and make our society wealthier. It’s the lawyers and politicians who keep that wealth from being spread around as it should be. After all there’s one role the machines can’t replace: someone to buy all that stuff the machines are making.

            Of course another option is to ditch the machines and return to the land and live more simply. However in a country of 300 + million people it may be too late for the Jeffersonian ideal.

            1. craazyboy

              I don’t believe in self driving cars. We don’t need them for anything, they’ll cost more, be a pain to maintain due to complexity, and I don’t think they will ever be safe. Not to mention how easy they are to attack and screw up.

              Airplane autopilots are a completely different animal in a completely different environment. No parallel there at all.

              1. Outis Philalithopoulos

                Still more likely seems the scenario celebrated by right libertarian Bryan Caplan a few years ago: robots will facilitate the creation of a system in which a fairly small number of people monopolize power in the world, “a superabundant world where people who own only their own labor eke out a meager existence.”

                In particular:

                Yes, the robots will be mere machines. But these mere machines will be owned by people. And though these people will be awfully rich by our standards, even rich people rarely take the “transition to socialism” lying down. […] Even worse: Depending on what kind of “transition to socialism” you have in mind, you might want to reprogram your robots for civil war. That’s how these transitions typically end. True, all the soldiers of the future may be robots. But […] [j]ust because robots do all the killing doesn’t mean humans won’t do their share of the dying.

              2. Carolinian

                Automated robotic technology is our latest—perhaps, indeed, our final—snack from the tree of knowledge.

                First of all Dean Baker regularly swats down this sort of robots are making us obsolete commentary. The truth is that none of us including yours truly likely have any idea what the future will be like but some tend to claim they do with great certainty.

                But yes it’s true that people have been fretting throughout our modern era about the disruptions of technology. And as I say in my original comment there is the option of abandoning technology altogether. My point is simply that to blame all this on the machines themselves is a bit off. If you hit your thumb with a hammer you don’t blame the hammer, at least not if you are thinking about it rationally. Machines including our current amazingly complex machines are simply tools or hammers. If we misuse them maybe we should be changing ourselves. Of course nobody is going to repeal human nature but I strongly believe that we need to do a better job of understanding human nature (and to believe that there is such a thing as human nature) and a beginning would be to leave god out of it. Kenneth Clark in his great TV series Civilization ended with a doom laden look at our “heroic materialism” but for those who aren’t English aristocrats grubby materialism, and the benefits the lowly receive from their mechanical helpers, may carry greater weight than for those who can afford to spend all their time thinking about the spiritual.

          2. Left in Wisconsin

            Yes, one point is that auto assembly probably needs to be automated more than more mfg for fit-and-finish issues. But auto is now a very bad proxy for much US mfg, esp basic sheet metal, which is really hardly any different than it was in the 1950s.

            1. bronco

              The auto manufacturers seem to delight in making the simplest assembly twice as difficult as it was a few decades ago. A lot of mechanics grumbled when the switched to metric bolts and nuts around 1980 , now they have gone with more exotic fasteners.

              Ford , for example has a fetish for Torx head and now Torx plus fasteners which are presumably easier for machine assembly but are miserable to deal with on later repair jobs. Not only because new tools need to be purchased but torx head bolts when exposed to weather tend to self destruct and become impossible to remove.

              Its bad enough labor rates at dealerships are over $100 an hour , now some jobs take twice as long or in some cases 10 times as long.

              I can’t figure out what the end game is with some of this stuff. At a certain price point the dealership is looped out of the job entirely , which sounds like the manufacturers would like you to opt for a new vehicle instead of a repair . However , if you can’t or won’t do that then the dealership loses the job and doesn’t make a sale. Dealerships need service work to make a profit , are they expendable to the car companies?

              Newer cars offer no improvements over most used cars , once I have a backup camera am I supposed to want 3 more?

              The Neoliberals seemed determined to kill all the golden geese at once.

              1. RMO

                “the coming of the computer age arguably has everything to do with the much greater safety of modern air travel (safer than cars certainly) compared to the early days”

                Not really. The big jump in air travel safety was due to the widespread adoption of turbine engines in airliners. As for comparing air travel and car travel safety, yes, if you use the standard of fatalities per passenger mile air travel comes out way ahead. Not so much if you go by fatalities per passenger journey though.

    3. John Wright

      I see the hysteria about the robots in much the same way, introducing a robot to do a health risky job such as automotive welding ( possible zinc fumes from galvanized metal) or automotive painting may result in replacing a human worker, but improve quality and be less of a health risk..

      Unheralded improvements in manufacturing always occur, as one can view antique lathes that are designed to turn far more slowly than today’s lathes, because the cutting tools of today (carbide) will cut faster at higher temperatures vs the earlier low speed tool steel.

      I doubt if the New York Times decried the introduction of better tooling that resulted in fewer jobs for machinists/machine tool operators.

      Robots represent an incremental improvement, not some great threat to employment.

      The threat to America’s general well being comes from the security-military industrial complex fomenting new wars, diverting the USA’s resources into unproductive military spending, and the bloated USA financial sector that operates as a gambling den with the house insured against loss by the USA government.

      But the prominent USA newspapers are always supportive of these favored industries.

      The loss of entire American manufacturing factories is far more significant as the process improvements and methods inspired by actually HAVING a manufacturing facility will accrue to an overseas country.

      .One should not be distracted by the shiny new robot coming to take American jobs.

      1. Dandelion

        Then there’s the issue of readiness, esp. for such a belligerent country. Shortages of consumer manufactured goods were pretty bad in WWII but at least we had factories to convert over to war production. We have very little of that now. It seems odd to me that with so much talk about our vulnerabilities to anyone and everyone, no one ever talks about the obvious vulnerability of an unsecured and very long supply chain, much less a situation where the very country we’re fighting might be our supplier. But maybe Amazon will solve all that for us.

        1. a different chris

          What solves that is nuclear weapons — no war that actually threatens the US could possibly be anything but short.

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      This media BS of job loss is all due to robots, and we can’t do anything about

      The All-Star Science team brought us robots, it is assumed.

      The implication, then, is that it must be good and inevitable. That’s the accepted narrative. “Accept it…nothing you can do.”

    5. Left in Wisconsin

      Agreed all.

      Related, the Bloomberg Noah Smith piece is excellent:
      Staying Rich Without Manufacturing Will Be Hard Bloomberg (resilc)

      He even cites the Susan Houseman work that basically proves all the mainstream mumbo-jumbo about US manufacturing being just fine is hooey. The only mfg sector that even looks fine in the data is computers and electronics and the data in that sector is totally distorted by efforts to ‘deflate’ actual output for increasing productivity measured as increasing processing power. Actual employment and output in that sector have cratered as fast or faster than the other mfg sectors. As far as all the other sectors, the data is messed up because 1) we don’t have a good way to distinguish between real increases in value-added and artifactual increases that result from foreign outsourcing and 2) productivity in mfg is way overstated because all of the temp workers in US mfg (by some estimates 10% of mfg workforce) are NOT COUNTED as mfg employers, so the denominator (whether ee’s or hours worked) is way understated.

  6. Watt4Bob

    Posner harshly criticized the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, declared antitrust “dead,” and described the American judicial system as “very crappy” and “not well-designed to get good people.”

    That’s our situation in a nut-shell, candidates for any office must prove beyond any doubt that they are total ass*oles before they can be considered.

    This situation exists from top to bottom in our ‘culture’.

    To be considered for any management position in business, a candidate must demonstrate above all else, a love for money, that is, those doing the choosing must be confident that the candidate can be ‘motivated’ by money alone, and any indication that the candidate believes “money isn’t everything”, means dis-qualification.

    In a similar manner, every candidate for political office must first hit their knees and repeatedly kiss donor *ss until those donors are satisfied that they’ll “stay bought”.

    We the People almost never get to vote for anyone who hasn’t already promised to betray our trust, and empty our pockets.

    We the People almost never get to vote for anyone who hasn’t already promised to resist the efforts of any fellow politician who manages to escape the “money primary”, and reaches office still intent on actually representing us, as opposed to the donor class.

    It could be argued that the democrat party, applied, and expended all its energy in defeating Bernie Sanders primary bid, and thus both painted itself irretrievably into a corner with its base, and in doing so, exhausted the creative resources necessary to win the presidency.

    The problem with the ‘race to the bottom’ is that eventually, you reach the bottom.

    1. Eureka Springs

      Voting for a person is our first vanity mistake. Participating in parties in which we have no say, unless we already agree is another. A binding platform based on members opinion/participation with an ability to hold representatives to account immediately upon their diversion from a platform/directive is a must.

      Just watching Sanders go from Single Payer, to promoting Clinton (anti-SP), to defending O not care, to promoting ‘public option’, says so much.

      When the ‘good guy’ can give you whiplash and even in places like this it’s hard to keep up with how quickly he pulls the rug from under supporters feet, we’ve got to redesign how we operate.

      1. Vatch

        I disagree. Voting in primaries is crucially important. If none of the decent primary candidates win, then voting in the general election might become less important, although one might still make a useful protest by voting third party. Don’t be like the people in Ferguson, Missouri, when a good turnout is 29%.

        As for Sanders, see the comments by Elizabeth Burton and myself in yesterday’s Water Cooler:

        1. Alex Morfesis

          Buy back congress and local elected officials…they are cheap and easy…for about 2 bux per person per year, the average shmoe would outspend corporate america…

          Buying their attention is much easier than pushing them aside…and by being able to “withdraw and redirect” the funding to “new and improved carbon based life form”, kongresskritters would realize they can be replaced by a participatory citizenry…

          Five cents per week…

          The question is which is to be master, that is all…

        2. Watt4Bob

          Voting in primaries is crucially important.


          From flora over at the Bill Black thread about the Kansas turn-around;

          2 years ago, 1 year ago, this legislation wouldn’t have been allowed up for a vote on the floor. Then last year’s primary and general elections defeated at least 11 of Brownback’s staunchest far-right GOP allies in the House and Senate, including the GOP Kansas Senate majority leader.


          In 2016 a coalition of moderate GOP and Dems, including 4 prior governors – 2 GOP and 2 Dem – organizing a push back against Brownback’s radicals by recruiting good, moderate candidates in both parties. Several of the GOP radicals were defeated by moderate Republicans in the primaries.

          We are not powerless in the face of the Washington consensus, in fact it’s beginning to fray around the edges.

          1. tegnost

            agree, primaries the best place to make an impact, especially when you have a motivated base with a platform

            1. Mel

              That ties into the Guardian piece about local politics. A motivated base will be one that approves your platform and trusts you to handle it. Where would you work to build that platform and earn that trust?
              Weaponized dialog again:
              1) How do we get these people to vote for us?
              2) How can we act politically to get what we need?

              Q: Where have “these people” in question 1 gone?
              A:”We” in question 2 is a very different we.

      2. oh

        So true. Sanders talked a good talk but did he walk it No, not when push came to shove. Not a thought for any of his supporters who pinned their hopes on him and donated for his campaign. It’s not the first time he defended ObamaDontCare. He folded when he had a chance to vote against it. Very sad.

          1. toolate

            Precisely! It is so easy to carp about Sanders should have done this or done that. Easy to be armchair quarterbacks. Like many here, i was disappointed to see him not take it to Hillary more head on. And then to lend her his support. But frankly none of that matters compared to his steadfast and courageous efforts to bring some modicum of sanity and humanity to a failed institution.

    2. cnchal

      The article’s title explains the core problem.

      Richard Posner: “The Real Corruption Is the Ownership of Congress by the Rich”

      What can be more ego stroking to the narcissist / lawyer / politician than getting a rich backer to give you money and an atta boy?

    3. Science Officer Smirnoff

      Posner described as a contrarian and libertarian (and backed judicial intervention in Bush v. Gore) is worth quoting:

      “We have a very crappy judicial system. That’s the the long and short of it. And that contaminates much of government,” said Posner. “In England, judges up to the level of the Supreme Court are appointed by commissions which are composed of judges and professors, not politicians or Parliament. Our federal courts are instead appointed by politicians and the president and confirmed by the Senate. Those politicians do not care about quality, beyond a very low minimum. They care about other things: tokens, political and religious leanings. So you end up with mediocre courts that are highly politicized. And that’s what we have now in the Supreme Court: extremely reactionary Supreme Court justices, appointed by Bush mainly.”

      As an illustration of his contrariness, about 2010 he spoke up for Court-packing (not constitutionally barred by the way)

      P S He probably meant: by the Bushes mainly.

    4. Vatch

      Posner made some true statements about the U.S. court system and Congress, but also spouted this howler:

      Posner then discussed antitrust criticisms against digital platforms like Google. “I was surprised to read that there are criticisms being made against Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. That’s blasphemy. Those are the three best companies in the world. Who’s concerned about whether they had monopolies?”

      What!?!?! Amazon, which abuses its employees, contractors, and suppliers mercilessly, is one of the three best companies in the world? Microsoft, which is fundamentally incapable of creating good products? They just copy other companies products. Examples: MS-DOS, a copy of Tim Paterson’s copy of Digital Research’s CP/M. Windows, a copy of Apple’s copy of work performed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Their word processing, network, and database products are also imitations of other products. And Google: really? How many times have we encountered the crapification of Google web searches?

      1. craazyboy

        MSFT, ya.

        Word perfect begat Word
        Lotus 123 begat Excel
        Paradox and dBASE begat Access RDBM
        Oracle begat SQL Server
        Novel begat Microsoft network
        Netscape begat Internet Explorer
        Google begat Bing

        Web servers are so ubiquitous, I can’t even think what begat Internet Information Server.

        1. Vatch

          Regarding IIS:

          The first version of Internet Explorer, Microsoft Internet Explorer (later referred to as Internet Explorer 1) made its debut on August 16, 1995. It was a reworked version of Spyglass Mosaic, which Microsoft licensed from Spyglass Inc., like many other companies initiating browser development.[15][16] It was installed as part of the Internet Jumpstart Kit in Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95 and Plus!.[19] The Internet Explorer team began with about six people in early development.[17][20] Internet Explorer 1.5 was released several months later for Windows NT and added support for basic table rendering. By including it free of charge on their operating system, they did not have to pay royalties to Spyglass Inc, resulting in a lawsuit and a US$8 million settlement on January 22, 1997.[15][21]

          They probably also learned from the Apache HTTP server, which was bases on the NCSA HTTPd server. That’s basically what Allan said about Netscape.

  7. a different chris

    >Successfully testing the BE-4 engine would therefore, at a single stroke, both prove that “unproven” companies can get the job done in space and validate the use of a relatively untested new rocket fuel—methane—in a large engine.

    And failure means?

    Anyway, brushing aside the wide-eyed techno geek wonder, my disgust at the “Russkies are bad” tone is somewhat overcome by NASA’s “Made in USA” push. Bezos (ugh) or not, initially working or not, this will be a good thing. *Not* because I’m scared of the freaking rump of the USSR, but the jobs and technology here not there thing.

    Now I’m not sure why our “private” companies are going to Mars, seems like what you would expect them to do is take over the low-earth orbit stuff and leave the things with a long-term unsure payoff to the gummint, like they always do. I expect that part is just BS.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I suspect the Mars bit is about ‘jam tomorrow.’

      Otherwise, the story doesn’t look too good at this point.

  8. allan

    With Trump Struggling, Wealthy Backers Rush in to Shore Him Up
    [with autolaunch video because Bloomberg]

    With President Donald Trump trying to find his footing after his failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a group of wealthy backers is launching a 10-state media blitz to pressure Democratic senators to support him — or at least think twice about piling on.

    Making America Great, a nonprofit run by Rebekah Mercer, one of Trump’s most influential donors, will begin airing $1 million in television ads on Wednesday, coupled with a $300,000 digital advertising campaign. The TV ads will run in the District of Columbia, along with ten states Trump carried in the presidential election where a Democratic senator is up for re-election in 2018: West Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri, Michigan, North Dakota, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Montana and Pennsylvania. The digital campaign also will focus on voters in those states. …

    Making America Great’s first television ad emphasizes Trump’s early accomplishments: the 298,000 jobs created during his first month in office, his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and his approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The ad does not mention the health-care bill. …

    What health-care bill? That’s fake news.

  9. Nick

    I don’t know if all these issues with women in tech are concentrated to Silicon Valley? I work in systems architecture for a fortune 500 company in Columbus, Ohio and we promote from within — if you want to learn to code, regardless of your background, we’re thrilled and will make any resources and mentoring available you. As a result, we have a diverse, high-functioning department. All these articles on blatant sexism in these tech companies…it’s sad…why would any rational person subvert talent because of misogyny? I can’t fathom having anything but a utilitarian approach to developing and retaining talent. It’s just basic economic sense.

    You know there’s a whole rest of the country that employs technology people outside of California and NYC. There are 1000s of other companies that do tech besides FB, google, and Uber. And I daresay we might be adding a little more value to the economy than chasing whatever billion-dollar techno-fascist utopian pipe dream those dudes are. So maybe instead of always focusing on how awful these specific locations/cultures are to women in STEM, the Atlantic or whoever could come to a company like mine and see how a diverse, high-efficiency technology team can actually work.

    But, you know, this is flyover country so we’re just a bunch of ignorant, racist, inbred, meth/opiate addicted pieces of human garbage, so we couldn’t possibly have anything substantial to say about technology or add anything meaningful to the discussion ;)

    1. drexciya

      You have a point there. I’ve worked for different companies in IT (training oriented mostly) and there were some pretty bad examples, but also some good examples. If you look at the corporate culture in general, I haven’t had much of a problem. The one (very) bad example had everything to do with a very sales-driven organization. This organization had an overpromoted sales manager as the general manager, and things looked very much like The Office (the series).

      I think it’s because of the culture first, and misogyny comes along later. The latter simply develops because of the small number of women present (easy target). And it’s not specifically women that suffer. The corporate culture tends to be corrosive to just about everyone. Of course, you can still have some very nice colleagues within such an organization, it’s mostly management which is the problem.

      1. theinhibit0r

        What I found hilarious was how Google asserts that 22 paid weeks maternity leave, im sure a record for most US companies, as something noteworthy. In the Czech Republic, women get 1 full year paid and up to 3 full years off maternity leave. And the company is barred from firing you for at least 9 months after you come back (and of course during the duration).

        Only in the US do they make 22 weeks paid leave sound good. “No Child Left Behind” and “Children First” amirite?

    2. flora

      +1. The Silicon Valley, stock-options, get-rich-quick, masters-of-the-universe gang isn’t the whole story. Fortunately.

    3. neo-realist

      If you want to learn to code in the Seattle area, it appears that you have to pay some coding academy, e.g., code fellows, 25K to get the education, or pay to get in some sort of fast track program in one of the community colleges.

      They prefer finished and or experienced products around here.

    4. Plenue

      If my interaction with and observation of gaming culture are any indication, the problem isn’t so much with Silicon Valley as with nerds in general. Silicon Valley just happens to be a mega-hub for nerds. There are a large number of nerds who live entirely within a bubble, where they are the only demographic that exists, and the inclusion of outsiders is viewed intrinsically as a threat. They constantly rant about how having non-white male protagonists or major characters, or giving attention to non-white male developers, is merely PC run amok; weaklings bowing to SJW tyranny. Anyone who doesn’t like the way things are is smeared as a ‘triggered snowflake’. The irony that these people throwing hissy-fits about their nerd bastion being assaulted by icky outsiders are the most triggered whiners of all is completely lost on them. You see the exact same thing happening in the world of books with the Sad Puppies nonsense.

  10. Steve H.

    : The economic logic behind Trump’s foreign policy – why the key countries are Germany and China

    “As the US has no economic ‘carrots’ to offer Germany therefore the US must use ‘sticks’ in order to attempt to intimidate Germany to pursue policies more favourable to the US even at the expense of Germany weakening its own economy. This ‘stick’ is the attempt to break up the Eurozone/EU.”

    “While Germany will undertake defence of its economy, and therefore of the EU/Eurozone, for its own interests nevertheless these interests objectively coincide with those of China.”

    So the answer is to pick fights with the only two who can fund us?

    I’m missing where the real leverage is. The military fulcrum doesn’t work in Europe, as it drives Europe and Russia closer together, since lose-lose is likely for them. But oligarchs like chaos, it makes their little armies carry greater weight.

    Perhaps the reserve currency status of the dollar could be used like a club to screw everybody else and increase internal cohesion. But that’s a one-time offer with more chaos guaranteed. Wait, what’s that about oligarchs?..

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Steve.

      That stick can also be the regulatory pressure that has been and can be exerted on my employer. One can see why we have lost our passion to perform.

      With regard to German policy weakening its economy, I would add an observation from working in Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. The backbone of the German and Swiss economies is family owned manufacturers, well known as the Mittelstand in Germany. Many of the heirs to the founders of these firms no longer wish to run their firms and are cashing out, often selling to foreign, especially Chinese, investors. The proceeds of sale are paid to accounts off-shore and used to fund a (London) social season lifestyle, just like British and Belgian industrialists gave up on their firms and decided to become aristocrats and enjoy the season in the last century. This is weakening the industrial base, just as it did in the UK and Belgium.

      One German rich daddy’s girl decamped to London in the early noughties and, in her words, “tried to become Jil Sander”, her dream as she had no interest in metal bashing. She met a French investment banker on the dance floor. Some years later, the banker decamped with much of her inheritance.

      1. Steve H.

        That’s a big change. That Germanic family oikos reaps solid rewards for the non-shunned, from what I’ve experienced. The kids may be seeing leaks below the decks.

    2. Olga

      Thanks for posting this (must-read) link – it certainly explains a lot (and is confirmed by many other events and stats). (For some additional info – a very “real-politic” interview w a Pentagon consultant:
      If there had to be logic behind Trump’s policies – this is it. US needs foreign capital to finance its debt-ridden economy (and it’d seem that NC readership ought to be first to confirm that US is not growing – outside some smoke-and-mirrors rhetoric).
      It would also explain DT’s support for Brexit and why some in the British elite are also supporting it – even though it is not necessarily good for the country’s economy (a la Japan in the 1980s – if one agrees with the analysis). Encouraging the break-up of EU (setting aside for now the obvious: that EU needs reform if it is to continue), however, carries greater risks than the one described here (i.e., that opposition to Trump would rise in the EU). As often happens, blowback – or unintended consequences – are typically the result. (And not that Germany does not need to be cut to size a bit (or a lot) – as most Europeans would agree.)
      And yes – in response to Steve H. comment – Russia/China are well aware of the power of the reserve currency status – and believe that, long-term, undermining that system is the only way (short of war) to limit the US’s wayward ways. As the interview at the above link explains, there is a lot of deep and realistic analysis going on in China (and Russia) – it’s just that folks in the US never hear about it. As both countries have shed ideologies, what is left for them is hard-hitting, realistic assessment, without blinders, to assure their survival as viable societies.
      From this article it seems clear that folks around DT are also attempting “realistic” assessments – the problem is that their ultimate goals (i.e., maintaining US hegemony at all costs and an unsustainable economic system) are well past the “sell-by” date. No amount of strategising will enable DT to catch up with the train that had left the station some 30 yrs ago…

      1. bwilli123

        I think Trump would like to force Germany out of the EU. This raises the old Deutschmark (thus restraining German competitiveness ) and who ever’s left gets an automatic devaluation in the New Euro. Germany meanwhile concentrates on developing Poland, Ukraine as it’s new poor farm and has to start spending worthwhile sums on it’s own defense (an embarassment of riches to the US defense industry amongst others)
        On the domestic front Trump could reduce consumption spending by introducing a national Value Added Tax (rolling back state sales taxes into the bargain)
        Exclude food, like Australia, public medicine and public education, and it would bring the rich back into the system regardless of tax cuts which are almost irrelevant anyway if you have your affairs already arranged for you by a leaky system.

        1. Left in Wisconsin

          I think Trump would like to force Germany out of the EU.

          He is not alone. Even some of my leftish German friends are coming around to the idea of “two Euros:” one for northern Europe and one for the rest. The problem is that, at this point, there would only be Germany in the northern one!

    3. Goyo Marquez

      “If you owe your bank a hundred pounds, you have a problem. But if you owe a million, it has.” John Maynard Keynes

  11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Trump’s New Plan: Govt as Company, Citizens as Customers, Kushner as CEO Common Dreams (martha r)

    Let’s remember that ‘the customer is always right.’

    At least, right until proven wrong…right there in the Constitution…I think.

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    100-year-old SF woman dies after years of eviction battles SFGate (Judy B


    She looked like she was in her 60’s or 70’s.

  13. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

    Re Military Complexity:

    It would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall at one of those training sessions where not-so-well-endowed conscript armies are being instructed in the art of war by instructors from very-well-resourced professional armies through interpreters. I would of course require my own interpreter there with me to find out what the instructor’s interpreters say to the soldiers in training, and what the trainees make of it all.

    I wonder how often the instructors make gaffes by mentioning things which are not available to the warriors who they are in the process of training.

    Is the prospect of robot soldiers appealing to the military mind? Is there glory in coding or just bugs?

  14. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Evidence That Robots Are Winning the Race for American Jobs New York Times v. Robots do destroy jobs and lower wages, says new study Verge (Dr. Kevin)

    Single combat.

    Robot champion vs. human champion.

    Half-time show is provided by an all robot symphonic orchestra, including the conductor. Drinks served by immobile dumb-robots (aka vending machines)….”I didn’t know those dirty robots had been with us for all those years.”

    1. craazyboy

      The politically correct way to refer robots nowadays is “corporate persons”. They have birth certificates on file in Delaware, but generally have to find employment in Mexico or China. Poor job market here. Prospects are better for some classes of corporate robots. For example, the Free Masons, whom are able to find jobs in construction and also are replacing drum machines in automated symphony orchestras.

      Then, smart word processers are very successful in the print media and online publishing too, if they have the auto update feature turned on. Many of these corporate persons do well in politics as well, because humans can’t turn out spell checked 60,000 page documents at the price point that citizens demand.

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women? Atlantic (Dan K)

    Silicone anything is not that good for women either.

    I would recommend ladies to stay away from Silicone Hollywood. That’s just my personal opinion. Many will disagree…fame and fortune beckon.

  16. jfleni

    RE: Trump’s New Plan: Govt as Company, Citizens as Customers, Kushner as CEO

    Right! Just like Wells ****off. What a disaster!

    1. Mel

      is it real, or is it just Kos, i.e., another piece of Democrat party line?

      If it’s real, then we have once again the problem with government as a business. Business relationships are inherently adversarial: I’m in it for me, and if you’re not in it for you, tough luck. Caveat emptor. BUT the state also has the legal monopoly on violent behavior. If you want an adversarial relationship with violence on the other side, you’re crazy.

  17. vidimi

    my favourite paragraph in the go viral or die trying article is this (emphasis mine):

    The advice for best practices most of these sites share—tell a good story, spin a narrative, appeal to people’s interests—become almost absurdly macabre when the subject is human lives. McFarland is a unique case in that she’s proven an especially effective advocate for herself: She’s young, photogenic, internet-savvy, and has a heartbreaking story, having lost both her parents at a young age. Many others are much less fortunate.

    in neoliberal america, the worse your life gets, the better.

  18. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Incredible comments by Richard Posner: Antitrust “dead,” Congress “owned by the rich” ProMarket (Asher)

    Is this the precondition predicted by Marx necessary for Democrats to take action…total control of the government by the Republicans?

    “Now is the time for our progressive TV commercials. Looking for some nice year-end bonuses.”

    Because as it is told and retold many times in the never-ending story, it (owned by the rich) happened a long time ago.

  19. Anne

    At some point, there has to be a realization/acknowledgment that madness lies in continuing to try and build a health care system with the private insurance industry as the foundation. It was the private insurance industry, along with their good friend Big Pharma, that brought us the last crisis in the system, and Obama’s insistence on only taking it down to the foundation insured that it would only be a matter of time before the system threatened to collapse under its own weight.

    The years’-long lead time before the ACA was fully operational didn’t help; it gave the industry years to ratchet up premiums to establish a floor for premiums on the exchange, and guaranteed that subsidies would be on the fast track to being unsustainable.

    Whatever this next GOP iteration looks like (I am calling it “TRYANCARE” because it’s clear that TRY as they might, the GOP doesn’t CARE about the people their plan will harm – and in fact, looks like it was put together by people who seem determined to inflict as much harm as they can in order to secure massive tax cuts.

    So, it’s no surprise to me that people are beginning to ask why we have to have keep supporting a system that for many people is a barrier to care, not a facilitator. Yes, it’s great that the ACA mandates the ten essential health benefits be included in everyone’s coverage, but that doesn’t mean the care associated with those benefits is free (other than birth control). Even with mandated maternity coverage, both my daughters still paid thousands in co-pays and deductibles; the only good thing was that the estimated costs could be paid over the term of the pregnancy, but $6,000 over 8 months is still an extra $750/month on top of the regular premiums.

    It’s too much, and it didn’t start with the ACA, it started with not recognizing that the private sector was the problem, and it wasn’t interested in being part of any solution, just in making sure it reaped the lion’s share of the benefit. Scrapping the ACA and replacing it with the dreck the GOP wants would be worse, but how many more years will it be and how much damage would it wreak on people before its effects bring us to a more realistic chance of moving to a single-payer system?

  20. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Uber’s diversity report.

    Does it include wealth-diversity? How many billionaires work as Uber drivers?

    How many elite-college professors toil for the ride-providing company?

    1. RUKidding

      Good point.

      No doubt, though, there’s plenty of Adjunct Profs from colleges and universities driving for Uber or Lyft. They are not making the big buck$ like the elite Univ Profs.

      It seems like every day I discover that another friend of mine is driving for Uber or Lyft, mostly as a pt job. People simply cannot make it anymore even on one full-time job with benefits.

      1. oho

        >>> People simply cannot make it anymore even on one full-time job with benefits.

        Alas, working as a part-time driver can dig the hole deeper as one must really run the numbers or you might get deeply screwed over by non-obvious costs that most people gloss over.

        for most people profit = revenue – gas.

        but you gotta add -deferred maintenance -depreciation -risk/probability of non-covered accident cost

        + throw in opportunity costs
        + no workers’ comp/disability insurance in the event of a major incident

        cite: personal experience as an ex-driver

    2. TK421

      No! No! Economic class doesn’t matter, only gender and race! Now, distract yourself like a good American!

  21. nechaev

    MERIP’s lengthy report on the food protests in Egypt earlier this month
    On the Breadline in Sisi’s Egypt

    On March 6, 2017, hundreds of local residents took to the streets of towns and cities in Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta after the Ministry of Supply cut their daily ration of subsidized baladi bread. By the following day, thousands were protesting in 17 districts across the country. In Alexandria, protestors blockaded a main road at the entrance of a major port for over four hours, while residents in the working class Giza suburb of Imbaba blocked the airport road. Elsewhere, women in the Nile Delta city of Dissuq staged a noisy sit-in on the tracks of the local train station, where they chanted, “One, two, where is the bread?” and called for the overthrow of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s government. It was not long before the Arabic hashtag #Supply_Intifada was trending on Egyptian Twitter. In a bid to curtail further mobilization, Egypt’s military-backed government scrambled to restore residents’ access to bread, and promised to increase the ration in areas that had seen protest.

  22. Goyo Marquez

    Re: Posner
    Is this the Posner who is the father of neoliberalism in the law? If so, he’s the guy who started the gutting of antitrust law.

    1. Prufrock


      I read some of his stuff out of personal interest when I was in law school, and thinking about it now, Lambert’s rules fit his philosophy pretty well…

      1) Because markets (as long as markets drive prices lower)
      2) Go die (if you can’t provide a value proposition as an economic unit/person within an acceptable economic model)

  23. JohnnyGL

    I’m absolutely not a Republican, but there’s something refreshing about the honesty. Shorter version: “energy exports are awesome because imperialism is awesome”.

    Judy Woodruff, of course, drops the ball not once, but twice.

    1) she doesn’t question whether a) being an energy exporter is a good idea and doesn’t question b) whether imperialism is a good idea and she certainly doesn’t use the word ‘imperialism’.

    2) Even worse, she doesn’t even bother to point out the tension between a) energy exports and b) affordable energy at home. You can’t have both, those two are in direct tension.

    If only we had a press that asked real questions….

  24. human

    Military Complexity: Lasers or Longbows?

    Certainly didn’t need this article to explain why complexity is a problem. Toyota pickup trucks, IEDs and guerrila warfare techniques, as published in the alternative media, show that they are more than effective.

  25. Colonel Smithers

    A joke in today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ): “The Most Significant British Contribution to the European Community to Date is BSE”. Ouch! Harsh, but funny.

  26. allan

    Senior House Republican calls for reset on health care [Axios]

    Republican Rep. Peter Roskam, a former chief deputy whip and member of the Ways And Means Committee, called during a GOP conference meeting yesterday for the GOP to scrap attempts to reboot Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act, per Politico. He prefers they start from scratch.

    Roskam reportedly doesn’t want a product that can pass the Senate in its initial form, calling for an “aspirational bill” of conservative ideals that can then be pared down in order to pass both houses.

    Kinda sorta like “imagine world peace”. Profiles in courage.

    1. RMO

      I was unloading a repaired tire from the back of my car and putting it in the garage a few days ago and behind me I heard a murder of crows making a ruckus. When I turned around to face the street I saw a bald eagle with a rat in it’s talons about twenty feet in the air over the end of my driveway flapping its wings and climbing for all it was worth as the crows harassed it in the hope of getting it to drop its prey. It’s only the second time in my life I’ve seen something like that and the other time I was nowhere near as close.

      1. Angie Neer

        I’m wondering if you’re here in the Puget Sound region of WA, where it’s not unusual to see bald eagles being chased around by crows defending territory. I’ve also seen one chased by a hawk 1/2 its size. But they do make good models for advertising pickup trucks and politicians, when there are no other birds around.

    2. kareninca

      Um, I just looked at the live cam. I saw what looked like two dead eaglets, with flies crawling over them. The eagle was looking at them and pecking at the flies.

  27. John k

    Borrego springs flowers.
    Best in over 30 years told to me by a woman who has been going every year for that long.
    Went last week, best was up a dirt road a few miles, where I got stuck in soft sand, guy with four wheel drive and a strap pulled me out, lucky for me because triple a couldn’t figure out where I was.
    Better this week and next, cactus budding last week, probably out now.
    Don’t go on weekend, vast crowds. Combine with mom’s apple pie in Julian.

  28. John k

    Robots taking jobs…
    As did the assembly line.
    All gains in productivity by definition destroy jobs. Used to be such gains were shared between workers and owners, raising standards of living. Not now because the widespread push to lower wages through immigration, legal and not, cheap imports, and exporting factories. Gov could should counter with more spending on infra, everybody would be happy except Ryan.

  29. a different chris

    Oh if anybody cares this is my official mea culpa on Brexit “not gonna happen”. Wow.

    On that particular subject, how the heck can “29 charts” possibly explain anything? Seems like that would have the opposite effect.

  30. manymusings

    The proverbial dog that finally caught the car is an apt description of republicans on healthcare — including if not primarily Paul Ryan. They should have paid attention to the Roberts decision. The night before that decision came out, I did a mental exercise: what would be the most conservative outcome, measured in the long-game and not the short political game? It would be to find a way to redeem the mandate but to strike a blow at the medicaid expansion. I suspected that Roberts knew that if universal healthcare takes hold as a concept, striking down the ACA would be the first domino toward single-payer; if you deem a “market-based” program for universal health coverage unconstitutional, what options are left (never mind that market-based and universal are a contradiction in terms).

    Congressional republicans either never thought they’d be in a governing majority to actually repeal the ACA, or they thought the standard “choice” rhetoric coupled with obfuscation over guaranteed “access” would carry the day yet again. Not sure if they finally are realizing that the ground has moved beneath them, and that even their own base knows what they tried to pedal was an insult — a naked attempt to undo the tax hike on the wealthy and destroy medicaid.

    Contrary to how badly the beltway wants to drape this on Trump, he always has cast himself more as a good soldier on healthcare — he’s never really owned it as an issue, and his voters know that. Frankly I think the ultimatum played out in a way that was totally acceptable to Trump, if not preferable. I think he wants nothing to do with a healthcare revamp (apart from the tax cut) and realizes there’s no upside for him, at least at this point.

    What is now clear is that the entire national political class is willing to twist itself in knots to avoid the bleeding obvious: the simple, most cost-effective and efficient way to universal coverage is single-payer. Outside their world, there is really no controversy over this. CSPAN callers sometimes are a good bell-weather on the divide between what normal Americans think and what elites tell each other that Americans think; on this question, there seems to be clarity across the board, regardless of other politics.

    It would be comical if not so tragic, the extent to which the establishment, including democrats, pretends when it doesn’t like an answer that the question is actually quite complicated; pretends that there exists some great division of opinion out there among the populace as to the problems with the ACA (“extremes on both sides”) …. when in reality there is resounding clarity and consistency that healthcare should be affordable and universal, and for legislators to act like this can’t be accomplished or can’t be paid for is pure nonsense or governing malpractice.

    You can feel the anxiety among dems. Every time they labor to conflate public option and single payer, you can hear quaking in their voices as to how long this pathetic sleight-of-hand will continue to hold.

    Trump could build an iron-clad 8-year coalition by championing and passing single payer. Merely by proposing it, he’d lay down the gauntlet to the entire Congress to either join him or face the voters’ wrath, and the new lines would be immensely clarifying. In fact, it’s so ripe for the taking, I almost wonder if he won’t end up there.

    1. financial matters

      Very well said. An excellent analysis of our current bipartisanship. :)

      “”Not sure if they finally are realizing that the ground has moved beneath them, and that even their own base knows what they tried to pedal was an insult — a naked attempt to undo the tax hike on the wealthy and destroy medicaid.””

      “”You can feel the anxiety among dems. Every time they labor to conflate public option and single payer, you can hear quaking in their voices as to how long this pathetic sleight-of-hand will continue to hold.””

    2. oho

      Just as a political sadist in the peanut gallery, I’d love to see Trump propose to lower Medicare eligibility to 50 as a down payment on single payer.

      Then watch heads explode on all sides as DC tries to weasel a position on TV.

      1. manymusings

        Seriously, he would get so much political capital out of lowering medicare eligibility to 50 — would guarantee his re-election and I hate to put it this way, but probably would create the room for him to do some of the heinous things he contemplates.

        Heads would explode indeed; it would be so hard to argue against and yes almost downright fun to watch them try. Just as Rs and their enabling third way Dems are gearing up to pass tax “reform” that everyone knows is an “unpaid for” tax cut for the rich — they pull the alarm on “no money” to pay for expanding medicare, try to call it “socialist” and irresponsible even as everyone knows it brings down costs and increases efficiencies? And perhaps most unseemly — posture themselves to protect insurance/pharma profits and high end tax cuts, while at the same time casting it as calamitous (the end of capitalism!) to do what any sane person recognizes as reasonable and which would directly help the Case/Deaton demographic, facing existential crisis, opioid epidemic and diminishing mortality rates. The reason it hasn’t been done has nothing to do with voters, and as NC has highlighted, the one silver lining about Trump is that he may just be willing to cross traditional political powerhouses. He seems to know he owes his political success to the promise of doing just that, so it’s a matter of where he takes it. Please, Trump. Pleaaaaaassssse.

  31. Alex Morfesis

    Bloomberg: trump db 300 million loan…commercial defeasance is the answer…done left and right during great recession…

    while doing legal support work for lawyers handling foreclosure defense…when the owner might be stable enough to handle a restructuring but the servicer/vampire/lender claimed nonsense “complications” due to securitization…

    I would simply whisper…

    “and what of ‘defeasance’ on your commercial loans…”

    and more often than not, a tiny correction in their script occurred and suddenly a loan mod for the homeowner to stay in their home was being “finalized as we speak”…

    funny that…

    1. financial matters

      A courageous Nunes anyway. And it helps for this sort of thing to get more exposure.

      “”But this episode was not the first time Nunes has shown some spine in the face of what the Establishment wants ignored. In a move setting this congressman apart from all his colleagues, Nunes had the courage to host an award ceremony for one of his constituents, retired sailor and member of the USS Liberty crew, Terry Halbardier.

      On June 8, 1967, by repairing an antennae and thus enabling the USS Liberty to issue an SOS, Halbardier prevented Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats from sinking that Navy intelligence ship and ensuring that there would be no survivors to describe how the Israeli “allies” had strafed and bombed the ship.””

    2. Lambert Strether

      The link works for me now. McGovern and Binney make the following key points, all interesting if true:

      Although many details are still hazy because of secrecy – and further befogged by politics – it appears House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes was informed last week about invasive electronic surveillance of senior U.S. government officials and, in turn, passed that information onto President Trump.

      The White House in Washington, D.C. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)
      This news presents Trump with an unwelcome but unavoidable choice: confront those who have kept him in the dark about such rogue activities or live fearfully in their shadow. (The latter was the path chosen by President Obama. Will Trump choose the road less traveled?)

      Worth leaving a taxi for, eh?

      However, this concern about the dragnets that U.S. intelligence (or its foreign partners) can deploy to pick up communications by Trump’s advisers and then “unmask” the names before leaking them to the news media was also highlighted at the Nunes-led House Intelligence Committee hearing on March 20, where Nunes appealed for anyone who had related knowledge to come forward with it.

      That apparently happened on the evening of March 21 when Nunes received a call while riding with a staffer. After the call, Nunes switched to another car and went to a secure room at the Old Executive Office Building, next to the White House, where he was shown highly classified information apparently about how the intelligence community picked up communications by Trump’s aides.


      At his evening meeting on March 21 at the Old Executive Office Building, Nunes was likely informed that all telephones, emails, etc. – including his own and Trump’s – are being monitored by what the Soviets used to call “the organs of state security.”

      Shocked, shocked! So no wonder Democrats are are all “But he said ‘wiretap’!” and calling Nunes a nut and going crazy about process… And somebody should ask Adam Schiff if he thinks that’s true.

  32. Oregoncharles

    On the antidote: just saw hummingbirds, on the flowering currant, a native which seems to control the timing of their return here. Also a goldfinch – not sure what it was doing on the mockorange, which is just beginning to leaf out. Insects of some sort?.

    Hummers are very bold; I’ve had one fly right up to my face, take a look, and fly away. I suppose I’d be bold if I had a dagger on my face, too.

    And there’s a tiny wren of some sort (with white ears) building a nest in our bicycle helmets, which admittedly we don’t use a lot. Right on the porch, so they’re using us as protective cover – we’ve seen swallows do the same thing. Apparently their nest last year was successful. I can see them going back and forth from where I sit.

  33. ewmayer

    o Here’s why the imminent test of Jeff Bezos’ BE-4 rocket engine is a huge deal | ars technica — Because (like Elon Musk) The Beez loves it when the press peddles his perpetual Next Big Thing PR free of advertising charges? I mean, the “100x reusability!”hype sounds suspiciously reminiscent of a certain now-defunct NASA space shuttle program, which did indeed prove reusable, but only with major effort/expense between launches. [*Paid Advertisement* But super-low failure rate < 2%!] The shuttle sales pitch mentioned a per-launch cost estimate of a low, low $10 million – let's see, final actual cost was only 70x higher, once we adjust for inflation. But hey, that's the wasteful public sector in action – I'm sure the efficiency-R-us private sector won't have any such 'overpromise' issues.

    Ooh, and "the fuel of the future", clean-burning liquid methane! Whereas the Saturn-V stage 1 engines used "dirty coal', erm I mean kerosene as fuel – that stuff is so boring, it needs no special compression/liquefaction equipment and it's actually hard to get it to explode catastrophically! Whereas when one of the Bezos penis Extension-4 engines explodes, it’s gonna spew huge amounts of wonderfully greenhouse-y CH4 in form of uncombusted fuel all over the atmosphere.

    o Nike hijab for Muslim athletes welcomed, criticised | Middle East Online (resilc) — Well, the swoosh stripe does kinda resemble a crescent moon…

    o Freshman congressman @RepRoKhanna launches “No PAC Caucus” as one of 6 reps that does not take PAC $ in Congress. @NomikiKonst (martha r) — Khanna is 100% on board with the Dem “evil Rookies stole the election for Trump” inanity, so this begs the question: Is the Joseph R. McCarthy Foundation organized as a PAC or a philanthropy?

    o Evidence That Robots Are Winning the Race for American Jobs New York Times v. Robots do destroy jobs and lower wages, says new study Verge (Dr. Kevin) — 10 demerits for misattribution of agency. Robots, being non-sentient (at least so far as we know, so far) can’t win or lose or destroy anything. But the people deploying them, on the other hand…

  34. Lambert Strether

    I’m working through the The economic logic behind Trump’s foreign policy – why the key countries are Germany and China. I highly recommend it (from a “Wall Street reads Lenin all the time because his thinking isn’t mushy” perspective). It’s really a tour d’horizon of capital investment in the US from the 30s onward.

    Key sentence:

    Turning from purely short term trends to assessing the potential for medium and long term US growth the reasons for the US long term slowdown already shown in Figure 1 are easy to analyse. The most fundamental of all features of the US economy is that it is a capitalist economy. This means when there is a high rate of capital accumulation the US economy grows rapidly, when there is a low rate of capital accumulation the US grows slowly – this basic theoretical analysis is fully confirmed by the data which follows.

    No duh! As seen in the Stats section every day; little pieces of the big mosaic. And:

    The only countries with really big financial resources are Germany and China, and it is therefore relations with Germany and China which forms the economic core of the foreign policy choices facing Trump.

    Well, if there’s one thing Trump knows how to do, it’s borrow a lot of money. The hour has produced the man!

    Adding: “This article was originally published in Chinese on 22 February 2017 at”

    So, the Chinese Treasury view?

    Adding… If Trump is all that anti-China, what about TPP, Obama’s anti-China alliance? What will Trump replace that with?

    1. UserFriendly

      Yeah, That struck me as a bit off, basically saying that America loves having a trade deficit, which certainly isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think Trump. If they were talking about actual savings rate then they are just glossing over that only the 1% have had any money to save and they all hide it offshore or in a LLC so they don’t pay taxes on it. If the Oligarchs saw something they wanted to invest in here they could do so easily.

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