Links 4/19/17

Lambert here: I share the frustration with the news flow that Yves expressed yesterday. I can’t help but think that the international news — genuinely gobsmacking, multi-threaded, and filled with political risk though it may be — is for those very reasons a bright shiny object distracting us from more important stories, especially in global finance and changes in the Constitutional order. “It’s noisy…. Too noisy.” So herewith…

Giant Peanut-Shaped Asteroid to Pass Harmlessly by Earth Wednesday Good news!

The fearless market ignores perils ahead FT. “But Vix is also one of the finance industry’s biggest enigmas. This should be a moment of potential peril for markets, with US interest rates rising, heightened geopolitical tension and a populist outsider in the White House. Yet Vix has remained largely tranquil.”

Goldman earnings miss punctures banking sector optimism FT

Run, Goldman, run Reuters Breaking Views

Private Equity Winces as Companies Do the Splits Bloomberg

Could Pepsi Make Things Right With a Logo That Actually Made the World Better? Advertising Week

Last Friday, Apple received a permit to officially experiment with self-driving cars. Why should consumers buy an Apple car? Inc. “I’m willing to bet that Apple will excel in the user interface, the iTunes- and App-Store-like infrastructure.” IMNSHO, iTunes is a Font/DA Mover-grade modal cesspit — old-time Mac user: “Ouch!” — and a miserable UX where Apple dumps random functionality (like photo transfer), and the Store is a search cluster where it’s impossible to find anything you don’t already know exists. (Meanwhile, the iOS dudes and dudettes are gradually deprofessionalizing and crapifying OS X (where all the good ideas were invented by Douglas Engelbart a generation ago, anyhow)). Having the geniuses at Apple design the interface for robot cars would be like putting the glassholes at Google in charge of designing the interface for integrating real and virtual reality. A “hamburger all over the highway” moment waiting to happen….

Baidu to Open Source Its Self-Driving Technology WSJ

Frankie goes to Hollywood Agence France Presse


Hollywood’s New Script: You Can’t Make Movies Without China WSJ

United chief met Chinese officials over dragged passenger Reuters

Unpacking China’s Curious ‘Ivanka Fever’ Foreign Policy


The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur: Analysis of the Times and Locations of Critical Events in the Alleged Nerve Agent Attack at 7 AM on April 4, 2017 in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria Theodore Postal, Washington’s Blog. Important! And, as usual, you’ve got to read the small, independent blogs if you want to keep up.

US seeks political solution to Yemen conflict: Pentagon chief Press TV (Furzy Mouse). Note the source.


Theresa May calls a General Election: how newspapers and world leaders reacted Telegraph

What Does the U.K. Snap Election Mean for Brexit? Bloomberg

It’s looking pretty certain that the Tories will win the general election 2017 by a landslide Business Insider

Brexit upheaval reduces number of new laws to 20-year low FT


Unprecedented politics Le Monde Diplomatique

The Turmoil In France The American Conservative

Disillusioned voters in poor suburbs could swing France’s election FT

Who will vote for Marine le Pen? The issues that could divide the Front National New Statesman

‘Give us France back’: Le Pen delights frenzied crowd in Paris with anti-immigration speech The Local

France’s Melenchon returns with campaigning hologram France24

Picnicking with France’s left-wing presidential candidate Melenchon Deutsche Welle

French leftist Melenchon: I am not Alexis Tsipras Ekathimerini. More to the point, France is not Greece.

France’s Bernie Sanders Started His Own Party and Is Surging in the Polls The Intercept. Dunno about the headline. Projecting our electoral politics onto another country is rarely a good idea.

Health Care

Bare Market: What Happens if Places Have No Obamacare Insurers? NYT. “Why be at zero — why not come in and charge a freaking outrageous price and be the one?’ said Jonathan Gruber, a health economist at M.I.T who advised the Obama administration when it was developing the Affordable Care Act. Then he answered his own question: ‘Many mysteries of life can be answered with the statement: Insurers are bizarrely risk-averse.'” Help me.

Sorry, Republicans, but most people support single-payer health care WaPo. So Clinton (“never, ever”), Feinstein, Pelosi, and Schumer are all Republicans? Good to know.

Single-Payer Health Care Is Seeing Record Support in Congress Truthout. This post is HR676-centric, and rightly (but I can’t find that Sanders has, in fact, introduced his own bill).

New Cold War

FBI used dossier allegations to bolster Trump-Russia investigation CNN

2016 Post Mortem

Hillary in 2020? Nothing’s far-fetched after Trump Boston Globe (Furzy Mouse).

Will The New York Times Ever Fix Its Clinton Problem? Charles Pierce, Esquire

KING: Now is the perfect time to discuss how and why Bernie Sanders could’ve beaten Donald Trump NY Daily News

Sanders: I don’t consider myself a Democrat The Hill (PU). “‘If the Democratic Party is going to succeed – and I want to see it succeed – it’s gonna have to open its door to Independents,’ [Sanders] continued. ‘There are probably more Independents in this country than Democrats or Republicans. It’s got to open its doors to working people and to young people, create a grassroots party. That’s what we need.'”

Jon Ossoff takes first in special election, forcing a runoff for a seat the GOP’s held for decades Daily Kos. As one would expect, Kos has most egregiously triumphalist attempt to spin a Democrat loss as a victory. The runoff was not “forced,” since it was a foregone conclusion that an establishment Democrat-backed so-called insurgent would finish in the top two in a race with 17 other candidates. If there is a positive message, it’s that Ossoff exceeded expectations set by polling. But a moral victory isn’t a victory! Second, just as with Clinton 2016, the Democrat establishment has again failed to flip enough well-to-do suburban Republicans to bring home the bacon. Which won’t prevent them from doubling down, and starving all other candidates (Thompson; Quist) to try again, and again, and again, and again.

Trump Transition

Aircraft Carrier Wasn’t Sailing to Deter North Korea, as U.S. Suggested NYT

The tool company Trump just visited has an unsettling relationship with its blue collar franchisees Business Insider

White House scuttles Paris climate meeting Axios

Trump orders review of visa program to encourage hiring Americans Reuters (Furzy Mouse).

Jeff Sessions Is Keeping Junk Science in America’s Courts Rolling Stone. More precisely, “forensic science,” which often isn’t.

How Berkeley became epicenter of violent Trump clashes Los Angeles Times (Furzy Mouse).

Corporate Lobbyists Funnel Cash To House Democrats Amid Push To Pass Trump’s Business Initiatives International Business Times

Nonprofit Working To Block Drug Imports Has Ties To Pharma Lobby NPR (KS).

Argument analysis: Justices stay late to hear argument about deadlines for investors opting out of securities class actions SCOTUSblog

Death of New York judge found dead in river is suspicious, police say ABC

Guillotine Watch

Wealthy dog owners in India are using matrimonial ads to find the perfect mates for their pets Quartz

This Man Can Help You Escape the IRS Forever Mother Jones (JR).

Class Warfare


The Automation Grift: The Robots Are Hiding From The Data But Not From The Pundits, Part 1 The Minskys

Where Have All the Shop Clerks Gone? Strategy+Business. Chilling allusion.

Poverty, open sewers and parasites: ‘America’s dirty shame’ FT. Under the topic heading: “Neglected tropical diseases.” Because America is already great. I mean, at least in the wealthy suburbs with access to clean water.

A pain in the night and a harrowing drive: A crisis in rural health care puts mothers-to-be on a risky road Stat

In defence of liberalism Prospect

Our cult of “genius” is blinding us to true genius all around, say Leonardo da Vinci’s biographers Quartz

The world as 100 people, glimpsed over 200 years of history World Economic Forum

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Donald

    That Charlie Pierce article on the Clintons and the NYT epitomizes in some ways what is wrong with American liberalism. Yes, the NYT has gotten some big stories wrong on the Clintons and btw, a great many other things. This doesn’t mean there is some mysterious inexplicable reason why people perceive the Clintons as greedy opportunistic politicians who have helped lead the country rightwards and have favored every stupid war we have engaged in for the past 17 years. People see the Clintons as greedy opportunists because they are obviously greedy opportunists and not because the NYT so often gets things wrong.

    At a comment section on another blog a clueless person said Trump’s bombing of Syria showed that Trump was more militaristic than Hillary. I pointed out the facts regarding Clinton and Syria and a third person jumped in to defend Clinton and citing ” the Clinton Rules.” So citing Clinton’s actual record, including the call to bomb Syria before Trump did it, was an example of the “Clinton Rules”. Criticism of the Clintons evokes this kind of kneejerk response with some people, whether the criticism is accurate or not.

    1. pretzelattack

      the times inadvertently got something right in their haste to smear the clintons; they are greedy opportunists. but all’s right with the world–the clinton’s and david brock and the neocons, together at last, as it was always meant to be.

    2. fresno dan

      April 19, 2017 at 7:29 am

      It took me a long time to understand and than accept, but beliefs come before facts for most people. It is a rare person who will admit their won error and than revise their ideology. Humans are religious beasts, and just like people belief in certain economic cults or sects, certain people believe in the cult of Hillary – ‘Hillary said it, I believe it, and that settles it…’

    3. Plenue

      From the Pierce piece:

      “Full disclosure: I have not yet read the book. Allen and Parnes are both good, reliable reporters, and I have no doubt that all of the anonymous backstabbing, ass-covering, and score-settling in the book is accurately quoted and a further clear example that the members of the consultant class have the fundamental loyalty of a brood of vipers.”

      My first thought upon reading this is of Germans inventing a myth that they’d been stabbed in the back. My second thought is of Bill O’Reilly obliquely discussing sexual harassment allegations against him by lamenting a lack of loyalty among Fox employees.

  2. MoiAussie

    US seeks political solution to Yemen conflict: Pentagon chief

    It’s hard to tell if this and similar reports represent an about face or a cover for increased US involvement.
    3 weeks ago, the WSJ reported in US Boosts Military Backing for Saudi-Led Coalition in Yemen that Mattis was pushing for greater military support, possibly boots on the ground. A Counterpunch article from today US Moves Toward Major Intervention in Yemen suggests the same. As with Syria, perhaps more boots on the ground is seen as necessary to ensure the “right” political solution is reached.

    1. Carolinian

      As with today’s story that Trump’s “armada” is actually sailing away from Korea, perhaps it’s time to conclude that the reality of Trump’s foreign policy is, and will continue to be, completely opaque. This was true during the campaign too BTW. Many would claim to be spokespeople for Trump only to turn out to be marginal figures or talking out of school. The phenomenon is probably due less to Machiavellian strategy and more to the fact that Trump himself doesn’t know what he is going to do next.

      But what increasingly does seem to be true is that Trump is inclined to do as little as possible while appearing to be doing something. Thus the shocking betrayal of the Tomahawk strike is also the tactically meaningless shooting up of an empty airfield. And if the above analysis is correct then a boots on the ground escalation in Yemen seems most unlikely.

      Or not. Like I say, opaque.

      1. fresno dan

        April 19, 2017 at 9:15 am

        I would hypothesize that the Trump “doctrine” is OFFICIALLY contradictory. Yup, the official policy is to be all things to all people – they will do the opposite of Obama while doing exactly what Obama did….or vice versa….
        And if THAT doesn’t work, they will say exactly what Obama said – they just didn’t explain well enough what they were doing….

        1. Carolinian

          Alastair Crooke in Consortium suggested that Trump’s whole run for president was to spite Obama after that correspondent’s dinner humiliation. By this theory Trump sent the Tomahawks because Obama didn’t. Of course Obama is just as petty, and is likely the source of the Russia scare witch hunt.

          1. JustAnObserver

            So we get single payer ‘cos Obama threw it into the ditch and Hillary said `never, ever’ ?

            1. Knot Galt

              I think Trump might be our first “read-the-small-print” President.

              Take Single Payer for example. Ain’t gonna happen. That would be taking things too far! As it is turning out, even Trump has his limits. Only on certain things. And only those things that work against your favor. And, you won’t see it when it is coming. Assuring Trump wins. We are all losers in his book.

              That is the Art of the Deal, my friends.

        2. Whine Country

          It appears to me that Trump’s policy is to have no policy. It is obvious that his schtick is to make decisions in real time according to his reading of the tea leaves, with input from his “trusted” advisers. Everything is a “deal” to him and, you know he as just real good at the art of the deal. It appears opaque because it does not exist to him. I would describe it as “Let’s burn that bridge when we come to it”.

        3. Ernesto Lyon

          The fact that Trump and a stalemated congress will get little done is a feature, considering that most of what politicians do now is seek to mine the public for the benefit of their sponsors.

          Trump fiddling about is a good thing only because the alternatives will seek to take us further in the wrong direction. Politicians with the nads to truly “drain the swamp” are nowhere to be found.

        4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          He is contradictory, just like those who to oppose him, at every turn.

          It’s just math or logic.

          Trump is for A and -A.

          When he is for A, they are against A.

          When Trump turns around and advocates for -A (180 degrees), they for against -A.

          1. Adam Eran

            I’d suggest this is a variation on the bargain bazaar of garage sales. If you find something you want, then the best strategy is to find fault with it so you can get it at a lower price.

            It’s not policy, it’s poker.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              It’s a little more.

              Here, the seller seems contradictory. And the buyer joins in.

              Trump will lower or hike the asking price. Those on the other side then mirror him in the opposite direction.

              When Trump lowers the asking price, they will complain it’s low and want to pay a higher price. (“No. Too cheap. I don’t want to buy)

              When he hikes the price, they want it lower.

              Just so they can be against, at every turn.

      2. philnc

        Or maybe people inside the government, possibly including Trump, still get the importance of operational security. Surface ships, especially really big ones like aircraft carriers, a particularly vulnerable when the enemy has anti-ship missiles and knows you’re coming. A lesson the British Navy learned the hard way in 1982.

        Rather than the incompetence of the administration, the mis-reporting here seems to confirm the gullibility and a lack of investigatory effort by the press and their “expert” commentators. But we already knew that from their uncritical parroting of administration talking points on events in Syria last week.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          It’s more than reporting and mis-reporting by the press.

          They have been active players in actuating events.

          The road-to-Damascus in the last few months seems like this:

          Warmongers —-> Press —–> Epiphany —-> the Adminstration

        2. Mark P.

          the mis-reporting here seems to confirm the gullibility and a lack of investigatory effort by the press and their “expert” commentators.

          The lack of investigatory effort is a failure — by all the big outfits like the NYT — to figure out they could at any time simply go online and look up all U.S. carrier deployments, including the Vinson carrier group, at this site here —

          Think about that. That’s how stupid and lazy the press is.

          They then copy each other’s blunders. That would be how this particular stupid story happened — one source came up with it without bothering to check and the rest copied that first article.

          1. jsn

            They’er not stupid or lazy, they’re just 22, I know several of them.

            They’re great kids and they think they’re working for a great institution, but they don’t know anything that wasn’t taught to them by some hyper competitive private school who’s mission is to groom them to conform to the interests of our “establishment”, and your link isn’t in the syllabus at Princeton. I’m not kidding, they’re just well meaning kids (well, some of them: the rot is at the top).

            To this mini-Punch has reduced his inheritance.

      3. oh

        Unlike Lord Obama and the great communicator Reagan (Obama’s idol) ,Trump does not have a host of political advisers who chart his every move and script his speeches to gain maximum advantage with the correct amount of spin.

      4. zapster

        I’m a lot less worried about what Trump will do than what his now unleashed generals will do without any pushback from the White House.

    2. Procopius

      If you read Sic Semper Tyrannis, col pat lang believes the Saudis are terrified of sending their own army into Yemen because any significant number of casualties (and the Houthis would inflict enormous casualties on them) would lead to serious political unrest in their Kingdom. He said a couple of years ago the Saudis pulled their “army” back from the frontier because they lost 65 men. I would not be surprised if the Pentagon wants to send a few battalions of infantry. At this point, with the Houthi starving and sick, they might actually be able to win — temporarily. So if they pull out after a week they might be able to claim a victory, which by this time they badly want.

  3. Linda

    PepsiCAN. Devil’s advocate.

    If I’m walking down the street with a drink, or in the office lunchroom, do I want to be making a statement? What percentage of people actually wear statement t-shirts? At 7-11, do I want comments on my political leanings from the cashier as I make my purchase? (Recalling Starbucks’ start a conversation idea.)

    Then there’s the guy who was unaware and just picked up a can of Pepsi to find out later he’s advocating for No DAPL.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      I couldn’t figure out what the flag one was about. Flemish independence?

      I drink carrot juice myself.

        1. Linda

          Looking at this more. The Menominee Nation flag features the Thunderbird, but in this case, the Thunderbird would be meant to symbolize Native Americans, as the Thunderbird is important in Native American lore, so is not suggesting just the one tribe.

          1. Procopius

            I don’t want to be too dogmatic about this, but I’m fairly sure it’s not part of Navajo or Hopi mythology. Don’t know about Apache. Navajo and Hopi are very different from each other. Just as with languages, the Amerinds had enormous differences in religions. The term Native American is about as meaningful as Asian American.

            1. Linda

              Thanks, Procopius. I’m sure not an expert on this topic. I think the ad makers intended to represent Native Americans. Maybe a better symbol could have been selected.

        2. Bugs Bunny

          Thanks for the clarification.

          I remember when I was a youth there were printed vinyl wraps that you could put around a can of beer to make it look like a soft drink.

          Maybe someone could sell those for causes.

      1. Knot Galt

        The logo reminded me of the red cross slash through the circle; as in ‘not allowed’. Call me old school, but it ain’t gonna get me to buy any pepsi anytime soon.

        1. Procopius

          I’d just as soon drink Pepsi as Coke, which is to say if there isn’t anything else around, including plain water. At the same time I don’t want to hear any “socially responsible” messages from them.

  4. Kokuanani

    If you want to know where the robotic and blind Clinton supporters hang out, look at the comments to the Charles Pierce article. He laments how unfairly critical the NYT has been to Her Highness, and his commenters join in the wailing.

    There was a point at which I liked Pierce, but that’s long passed.

    1. Quentin

      Kokuanani, Thanks for warning me about Charles Pierce’s blindspot regarding Mr. and Mrs. Clinton. You’ve saved me time and irritation. I used to look forward to his opinion pieces, too.

    2. flora

      Her Highness’s whole campaign amounted to “I’ve worked hard, I’m experienced, it’s my turn”. Her turn? The middle and working classes have been waiting our turn on the economic up escalator for the last 30 years. It’s the neoliberal DLC’ers like her who have been economically crushing the middle and working classes. Her turn? When is it our economic turn ?

      1. Procopius

        Don’t overlook the side message from the DNC, DCCC, and DSCC, “We’re not as bad as them.” I don’t really remember if that was Hillary’s message or not, because I don’t really remember if she had a message.

  5. Arizona Slim

    Overheard yesterday: One end of a LOUD phone conversation where that was full of Trump bashing. “He’s an egomaniac!”

    My retort (from across the room): “So was Nixon. And Johnson,”

    I’m not a Trump fan, but his Resistance [TM] lacks a sense of history. And whenever I see one of those Resist yard signs, I say, “Conduct!”

    I’m still waiting to hear about what The Resistance is for.

    1. Deadl E Cheese

      They’re for restoring a sense of tony to the White House rather than Trumpian vulgarity. The actual policies don’t matter so much so long as the person fronting the policy is calm, intellectual, and civil. Being ‘cool’ and ‘historical’ is a plus, too, but not necessary.

      If Mike Pence or Paul Ryan slithered into the White House instead of Trump, the Resistance would melt into ether.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Many of “The Resistance” types would have said crazy stuff about other Republicans.

        “The Resistance” is clearly an attempt to connect the DLC with the good guys in the new Star Wars.

        Is it any different than “Darth Cheney” and such? Again the unhealthy obsession with a toy line rears it’s head.

        Yes, Shrub was clearly a mean spirited Calvinist nut, but back in the 00’s, it was apparent many anti-Shrub people only cared because Shrub wasn’t on their team. Since he’s out of the game, it’s okay now. Obama could praise Reagan in front of people who “despised” Reagan for the same reasons: appropriating Star Wars branding.

        There would a “Resistance,” and it would still be stupid.

    2. Darius

      We’ve had freaks in the White House but no one close to the Trump order of magnitude. That said, no one ever more richly deserved to lose than the SS Hillary.

      1. witters

        What, pray tell, is a ‘freak’ in this context? And how is its ‘order of magnitude’ measured?

    3. Gary

      At least LBJ and Tricky had IQ’s above room temperature and knew what the capital “F” they were doing.
      The resistance started as a way to shine a light on how the Trump administration is not normal. What ever exactly that is…

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Trump is a typical Republican. Its why trying to appeal to Mittens voters is idiotic. Except for his crassness, Trump’s ignorance fits in well with the GOP for decades. So what? He skipped cotillion and fits every other terrible Republican archetype.

        No, I don’t see Shrub as a goofy artist. Hes a war criminal and ignorant one at that.

      2. different clue

        #TheResistance is simply a Clintonite Restorationist personality-cult operation. It is designed to “flood the zone” to prevent any real political evolution to something better from ever emerging.

    4. BeliTsari

      The Resistance™ sells the top 20% to the 0.01% (nobody missed how much right wing money flowed into these jackals’ pockets, when Romney lost. Brock’s folks wanted to monetize Trump’s ‘miraculous’ victory, mau-mau affluent liberals, terrorize women, minorities… basically, to cash in on a thrown election?) It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion, they’re FOR milking our kleptocracy?

      1. ambrit

        In this context, “natural order” should be capitalized as it represents a theological avocation; hence Natural Order.
        So, to take your argument to it’s logical conclusion; Liberal Restoration = Reaction.
        Ain’t words grand!

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          I particularly noticed Wellesley College’s formulation of the natural order: “accepted progressive norms”.
          A profound tragedy, when a university campus becomes a nexus of thought control and orthodoxy…instead of the exact opposite.

  6. lyman alpha blob

    A few observations from a provincial curmudgeon in NYC this week –

    Overheard a couple talking about the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue over dinner last night and they had bought the hype hook, line and sinker – they mentioned the need to find a permanent place for it, seemingly no knowledge that it was a marketing ploy by an investment firm, etc. Went to see it myself and the plaque on the ground in front of it I’d seen in some pictures was not there – maybe State Street is quite happy with people not knowing its origin. I did mention to my wife while there that it was a marketing ploy by an investment firm with $2.5 trillion in assets (rather loudly I might add- trying to get the word out and my other ideas at publicizing this were nixed by the kid who didn’t want to be publicly embarrassed by her dad). Not sure how many in the crowd of tourists heard or cared – the crowd around the bull was much larger than that around the girl and the former were mostly interested in taking posterior photos while kneeling and gently cupping its testicles!

    Tried to ride the bus and pay with cash and found out you had to either pay in quarters (who carries $2.75 in quarters around?) or use a swipe card purchased at a metro station. We’d walked from midtown to the Met and the bus driver was nice enough to let us ride back to midtown without paying. Thank you sir for being nice to ignorant tourists! Now knowing this, we went to get tickets for the subway the next day only to find that you know had to purchase them from a machine as there were no human beings performing this task any more that we could see. The line was rather long and didn’t move quickly as people had to take time to figure out how to use the damned machines which were not all in working order to begin with. I was suggesting to my better half that it would be a lot quicker if we could simply deal with a human being but a millennial in front of us complained that there should be an app for purchasing tickets because of course the solution to inefficient technology is moar technology.

    Oh, and it took all of about 30 seconds to hail a cab the old fashioned way. Familyblog Uber.

      1. jrs

        having seen neither in person, I have to say I prefer the bull. Fearless girl looks like a lawn ornament that should be next to a bronze frog by someone’s fake pond.

    1. ambrit

      Being a semi-rural cynic myself, I find the “fascination” with “apps” evinced by the younger cohort curious. They are smart enough to navigate and use IT, but incurious when it comes to the essentially depersonalizing aspects of the technology. Heaven forfend that random curmudgeons ask “appistas” if they even understand the RFID implant chip nature of apps. Someone is collecting and using all of this “personal data,” generated every time one not only uses an app, but every time ones iPhone “shakes hands” with a cell tower. IT has begun to realize the potential of the Panopticon.
      Your comment about there being no live attendants to collect fares and make change in the NY Subways shows how far the “cashless society” movement has come. As mentioned above, every swipe of the “boarding pass” to enter the subway is recorded and collated, somewhere. Next, look to see the idea of “metered travel” introduced so that the hapless “consumer” must swipe a card to not only enter the public transit system, but to leave it too. Then, both ends of ones’ travel will be recorded, and analyzed. What do those displaced subway workers now do for a living? Steal Uber taxi hubcaps?
      Here’s to the anonymity of cash!

      1. Carolinian

        Pre-computer Panopticons like the Soviet Union and and Nazi Germany depended on your neighbors to spy on you. So perhaps modern machine spying is less sinister in that all that data will go into an impossibly large haystack and be lost by the nerds who think this is a good idea. It does seem stupid that NYC, with its hoards of tourists, would force subway riders to buy tix by machine. Locals who have already scaled the learning curve must find this very trying.

        1. fresno dan

          April 19, 2017 at 9:36 am

          I tend to agree Carolinian – for Amazon and who knows who else who knows where I am every second – what are they actually getting out of it???
          (actually, I don’t carry my cell phone with me….which kinda bite me on the as* cause a winery I was visiting, when I got there the sign on the door said, “I am in the vineyard – call this number and I will get there lickety split for a tasting….) So…no wine tasting for me :(

          For all the tracking, as far as I can see, I get a zillion computer commercials for a new watch….after I have already bought a watch….and no matter how many commercials I get, I’m not gonna buy another….

        2. different clue

          The data isn’t being stored for actual analysis to find actual bad guys. The data is being stored to ex-post-fact retro-cherrypick data from the datapile to use in persecuting someone who the government decides to persecute.

      2. polecat

        In America, only ‘outlaw’ areas, such as the ‘stans’ …you know, fly-overstan, rural/urban interfacestan, skid-rowstan, former middle-classstan … will cash be allowed … but only after that RFID neck tattoo, that you and all of your fellow miscreants have worn on your neck since birth, is removed ..
        And in That world, many types of i-shit will be looked upon as a form of plague.

        1. fresno dan

          April 19, 2017 at 10:29 am

          “…but only after that RFID neck tattoo,…”

          What an optimist – anal probes for everyone! ….except, ironically, the 0.001% biggest as*holes.

            1. polecat

              … And are those ‘Thermian’ fair tacos you like to pine over, with those sucker-like appendages of your’s ??
              … but I digress ..

      3. JeffC

        Swiping both to enter and to leave the Washington, DC Metro (subway) system has been required for many, many years. It’s how they know what to charge your Metro card: they know exactly what trip you took. I suspect something similar is done in many cities.

        However, you can purchase a Metro card with cash, so there’s privacy if you want it, modulo all the surveillance cameras.

          1. philnc

            And the scale of the NYC subway system dwarfs both of those by many orders of magnitude both in geographical size and ridership. Over five million riders every day on 600 miles of track, stopping at 425 stations.

            A very long time ago, at the beginning of the Age of Reagan, there were toll takers and transit cops in every station. But austerity budgets and heightened danger for increasingly isolated toll takers (some of whom were literally burned out of their toll booths) made it impossible to maintain that level of service. Maybe, someday, when the City and State of New York are willing to adequately tax those who benefit most from the whole governmental system, we could see a restoration of that service.

          2. ambrit

            Ouch! I’m way behind the curve out here in the sticks. Thank’s for the updates. When Metro cards can only be purchased with some other sort of exchange card, then the Panopticon will prevail.

        1. polecat

          I now think that everyone on Capital Hill drinks nothing but Brondo !!

          ….. maybe they should hit the toilet water instead .. they might gain some sense, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it Scro !

      4. oh

        I noticed that parking garages at department stores in Seoul, Korea use license plate readers to correlate your entry and your exit (to collect the payment when you leave). Technology!

        1. skippy

          The parking industry shifted to readers due to stop loss concerns and data retention to organize traffic flows in dialing in rates for maximizing profit.

          disheveled…. its all about bonuses and investors…

    1. cnchal

      This is an interesting article, thanks.

      Time is money, or so it’s said. With nearly a quarter trillion dollar stash, we learn that there is a time shortage within Apple!

      Apple Industrial Design and Apple management have spent the better part of the past 10 years focused on devices designed to move hundreds of millions of people beyond the Mac. However, this strategy did not address 30M Apple users dependent on pro Mac hardware and software. While this segment only accounts for 4% of Apple’s user base, it is responsible for creating content consumed by the other 96% of Apple users. These content creators have played a major role in Apple’s mobile success.

      The new Mac is a maintenance expense for Apple.

    1. oh

      The CEo should go but he’s not going to fire himself. He’ll say “ta ta” when his golden parachute is good and ready.

    2. Yves Smith

      Funny, if I had been in Dr. Dao’s shoes, one of my conditions for settlement would be that someone be fired, presumably the gate agent that called the cops (or if someone high up ordered or approved it, then them).

    1. Kurt Sperry

      Generally everything after a question mark can safely–and should–be removed from shared URLs.

      1. craazyboy

        But a well read, sensuous, yet classy Nakedness.

        As opposed to Breitbart where on Saturday night they get Neked, drink shots and beers, then yell “YEHAW!!!” in all caps whenever hitting the post button using whatever weapon they have in hand.

        Or DailyKos where they wear gym locks on their Sack’s 5th Avenue locking corsets. The so called “men”, too. All their comments get reviewed by Focus Group for one week before the approved and professionally edited version is posted along with a rotten tomaato icon rating of either 4 or 5 tomaatos. The rest are printed out, then carefully deleted, and returned by the post office with First Class postage due.

    1. ambrit

      Glad to see you back.
      Isn’t a “stoopidfone” (TM) by definition unable to access the Internet???
      I need some help with my vocabulary, obviously.
      Be well. Enjoy spring, or, early summer, if your weather, (Atlanta, isn’t it,) is anything like ours here in South Mississippi.

      1. abynormal

        Hey Ambrit! This sorry excuse for a phone not only changes my spelling but also whole sentences. This weather is hell…I’ve had 2 bout’s of the flu within 6wks. Miss Y’all Muches.

        Hi5 Lambert…will get over to your Tip Hat soon. Been crazy but the sun is finally shining down on me….hope the same for YOU.

        1. Carolinian

          We relative newcomers were wondering when you’d come back. Things are a bit weird down in Atl these days, no?

        2. petal

          aby! Glad to see you! Hope all is well, have been thinking of you and wondering how you’ve been.

        3. ambrit

          Hey back Aby! Be extra careful with those flus. We had one bout, but of not too strong a variety. Lots of minerals, vitamin C and hydrate!
          Stay well.

      1. ambrit

        Woah there! We didn’t sign up for episodes of the “Pan-nadicon!” (If I dropped my towel, I’d be arrested for false advertising.)

  7. MoiAussie

    Class warfare, 420 dept. Kelly signals Trump administration is heading for a marijuana crackdown

    “Let me be clear about marijuana,” Kelly said during comments at George Washington University in D.C. “It is a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs.”

    Kelly said that until Congress passes a law to change marijuana’s federal status, “we in DHS are sworn to uphold all the laws on the books.”

    Perhaps most tellingly, Kelly said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, would continue to use marijuana possession and distribution convictions as “essential elements” for deportation of undocumented immigrants.

    For those who need a reminder, tomorrow is the day to make a personal protest about this issue.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I hope he knows it’s a sacred medicinal herb used by people here for thousands of years.

      Sacred, not casual.

      Casual is more a modern concept.

      Everything used to be sacred…to hunt, you are thankful for Nature’s abundance, her gifts, knowing something a plant or an animal must die for you to live.

      It’s not a casual thing.

    2. River

      Gateway drug what a joke. All those oxy junkies didn’t get hooked from smoking pot. They just visited the doctor.

      1. polecat

        I think the whole damn White House has been taking the black acid ! … forget brown stuff …

    3. PKMKII

      They did not get the kind of attention that the white working class or neoreactionary Trump supporters got, but there was a Pro-Trump Libertarian contingent as part of his base. If the administration does go on a pot crackdown, I expect them to turn on Trump.

      1. neo-realist

        I see this more as payback by the Trump administration against the blue states, the ones that have primarily legalized cannabis. I don’t believe that the administration believes in blowback to its re-election hopes unless there were serious legalization movements in the red states that got him elected.

        1. Pat

          Funny, I see most anti-marijuana stances by politicians (Republican and Democrat) to be fueled by the knowledge that there is a ton of money to be made by large campaign donors if only actual marijuana remains illegal if they manage to produce a synthesized version that is remotely as effective as the original. But that all goes by the wayside if marijuana is legalized, even with rules about growing your own.

          I’m not discounting the drug war’s effective means of kicking the lower classes, especially minorities. NOR am I ignoring that it is a big factor in the profitability of private prisons, but especially with their move to being all about detention of immigrants, it is becoming more obvious this is to protect Big Pharma – at least to me.

          1. Tim

            Trump is the law and order President, but as to why Mj is still a schedule 1 drug can only be because of Big Pharma.

            Part of the definition of Schedule 1 is the claim it has no known medical uses, and by catch 22 because it is schedule 1, the federal government can not experiment and test with it to determine medical uses.

        2. different clue

          Michigan helped get Trump elected. Michigan has legalized marijuana for medical purposes.
          There is a movement in Michigan to get a legitimate recreational-legalization initiative on the ballot. ( Legitimate means “legal for natural persons, not just corporate persons. Legal to grow for personal use, not just legal for a few favored insiders to grow for sale to everyone else.”)

  8. Toshiro_Mifune

    IMNSHO, iTunes is a Font/DA Mover-grade modal cesspit

    No argument from me on this point. Further, it’s been a mess for so long most people have forgotten that it used to be pretty good when it was just for music. That was 10 years ago though.
    Apple has been stumbling badly with UI/UX design for a while now. Unfortunately (or fortunately for them) they’re still better than most of the other options. I don’t know how much longer that will last though. Someone has to smell the blood in the water.

    1. XXYY

      I don’t understand at all the idea, which occasionally pops up, that Apple should build a car. There seems to be this idea floating around that all you need is a popular brand and you are qualified to do anything. Literally anything.

      Pro tip: Building a car is hard! It requires a huge capital investment, a large engineering staff of people who know what they’re doing, tremendous manufacturing facilities building a dedicated product, a large marketing and sales effort, showrooms or some other gigantic distribution network, and a big and costly system for doing warranty repairs and other needed maintenance funded by the manufacturer. Like any other complicated engineering effort, it often takes many years of failures and missteps before your product finally gets in the groove, accompanied by substantial brand risk. And the odds of failure are high.

      Cars are particularly difficult because they are a mature technology and the field is filled with other companies who have been doing it for a long time and doing it very well. These would be newbie Apple’s competition.

      Apple has literally nothing to bring to the party when it comes to building a car other than a brand and a logo. (For that matter, since Jobs the company seems less and less capable of doing things well even within their area of expertise, cf their decaying desktop systems.)

      Could we please apply some minimal sanity here?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I think elitism is at play here. Cars are fixed by mechanics with greasy hands, not Silicon Valley nerds. I bet the average mechanic doesn’t even watch Maddow.

        1. Brian

          They will “interact” with a car mfg that shall remain nameless and they will build a car without Windows. There are plenty of car co’s that aren’t going to succeed and will be easy pickins for Apfelfahrt.

      2. Mel

        One model of the perfect corporation is a CEO, a secretary, and a file cabinet full of contracts. Plus, I guess, an entourage. All that engineering and manufacturing stuff can be contracted out. And that eliminates a whole species of risks, from ignition switches on up.
        I call it Market Delusion, but I’m not in the business.

      3. justanotherprogressive

        Had a talk with a couple of my sons who are “in the business”. Apple has no intention of building an iCar. What they want is technology and intellectual rights, i.e., they don’t want to sell you the car, they want to sell the whiz-bang technology to the company that builds the car….

        1. Kurtismayfield

          This, to them the parts of the car that actually make it a car are boring.. it’s the “brains” they are after.. they will contract out the manufacturer of the car and add their AI as well as paint it some bright color scheme and round off all the edges.

          It not like Apple makes any of their own computer parts.

      4. Toshiro_Mifune

        I respectfully disagree on this.
        Apple, at least potentially, brings a lot to the table other than just brand recognition. A traditional ICE powered car is complicated and expensive and difficult. However a battery powered self driving electric car (which is what Project Titan was supposed to have been) reduces a significant number of the components of the car. No cooling system, no oil system, no transmission, no I-4, V-6, W-8, fuel system, etc etc etc. A lot of what makes a car expensive to manufacture goes away. The primary concerns would be battery life, which Apple does know a bit about, electric motors at the self driving AI.
        Apple could potentially offer a lot with a car as an integrated iDevice, never miss a call (ok, maybe not great) all of your media can follow you on the road, a simple ‘Take me There’ button available for interesting places in news or magazine articles that sends directions to the cars. Hell, send the car to go pick up the groceries, and on.

        1. justanotherprogressive

          Then perhaps you need to explain WHY this would be a good idea for Apple financially? Tesla has never made a dime on its car development – all of Tesla’s money comes from speculation. Do you really think Tim Cook wants to take Apple and its fortunes down that route? I can’t see him doing that, can you? But I can see him going after the technology and intellectual rights because that makes sense for Apple – after all, Apple already does that…..and it doesn’t cost them that much and it doesn’t risk their company….

        2. oh

          Apple would probably subcontract the manufacturing to a Chinese company that will have nets to catch people that want to bail from the upper floors; Apple would be able to apply their existing manufacturing (outsourcing) model to the car and they can change the exterior ever so slightly and come out with a new model each year to sell to the Apple fanbois.

        3. zer0

          As an automotive expert (15 years industry experience), everything you just mentioned is blatantly false.

          1). Electric cars have just as many components as combustion cars if not more
          2). Electric cars USED to not have trannies, but they definitely do now (Faraday, Tesla, etc. all use 1 or 2 gear transmissions – if I could post pictures, I could show you the CAD models).
          3). Electric cars weigh on average about the same as combustion cars, and use oil and cooling circuits powered by electric pumps. In fact, some people say they weigh more. Anyhow, doesn’t really matter about the electric/combustion as the frame materials and so forth.
          4). The fuel system is the battery – which weighs and has a shitload more components than combustion engines, like transformers, chips, outer and inner shells, fire-retardant foams, etc.

          And finally….electric cars cost much more than combustion cars due to, if anything, low volume, high risk of patent liabilities, rare-earth metals, etc.

          There is a reason why car companies are worth $50 billion while Apple is worth $600 billion: its far far far harder to build & sell a car than a phone or a computer. You need tremendous amounts of capital & people to make a product that has very little margin and carries tremendous risk. Apple’s ONLY strategic move would be to downright buy an existing automaker, and as mentioned above, Apple is a software company trying to get into the self-driving electric car SOFTWARE patent market, not actually build a car. Just take a look at the graveyard of past automakers. Its stunning just how many companies/people have built cars, even great cars, yet made no money doing so.

          There is a big divide between silicon valley and highly engineered manufactured products. Huge divide. Its a divide between the virtual and the physical. On one end you can make a multibillion dollar app with just a few friends, some computers, and a free summer. On the other end, you would need hundreds of millions to just start, let alone 4-5 years where you will make almost no money. I don’t see Silicon Valley venturing very far into engineered manufacturing market. And Musk is a poor example: Musk is to Silicon Valley what Buffet is to Wallstreet.

    2. neighbor7

      Blood in the water… hamburger all over the highway… I think something happened in Mystic, Connecticut?

        1. UserFriendly

          If you had some hamburger helper you wouldn’t even need to fix dinner….
          Wait Mystic? you sure it isn’t a Beluga Whale?

  9. D. Battabong

    As an expat, born and raised in NYC, and happily living in France, Europe, planet Earth these last 25 years (and yes, I’m happy to have got out of Dodge when I did), I find Lambert’s/Yve’s apologies for the lack of really really crucially important americocentric news links due to the distraction of pesky international stories that you all felt you just had to include, both annoying and offensive. And I say that as a long time fan and supporter of NC.

    First of all, most of your links are indeed US-centric (so why the apology in the first place?), and second, in the grander scheme, America’s news is just not so awfully important as you guys think (although it is easier to sass, for sure). I come here to get a certain perspective on what’s happening in the world at large that I only find here. Big deception!

    1. vidimi

      i share your view about appreciating the non-US coverage more, but don’t begrudge the hosts for prioritising their own country one bit.

    2. grizziz

      I adore the international links to news and happenings. My take is that curating the links takes too much time away from Yves and Lambert to cover their beats.
      If you have have any links to blogs which cast aspersions on the nation-state system please let me know.

    3. Yves Smith

      You are misconstruing why we are tearing our hair.

      It isn’t the US v. international split.

      It is the political v. the finance and economics split. It is much harder for us to add value or sometimes even cull stories properly on pure politics than on “political economy” stories.

      And the preoccupation with international news (as in no matter where you are, news that is foreign for your country) does let your aspiring overlords engage in even more scheming against your interest because the news coverage is dominated by big (or just big-seeming) foreign events.

      1. D. Battabong

        Yves, thank you for addressing my plaint and clarifying. I think we are all on the same side here and I do hope you stop tearing out your hair. At least use scissors.

        What I can add is that Americans tend to minimise/ignore what goes on in the ROW (Rest of World, if it needs saying) unless it’s a potential target for US shock and awe or has food good enough for the NYTimes to devote an article. I feared you were transgressing. My apologies.

        And hey, while I’m here, I need to say that JL Melenchon is not, definitely not, the Bernie Sanders of France. Bernie would be pretty centrist here in France. Meluche’s plan B is to blow the whole thing up.

        1. uncle tungsten

          Thank you DB, for that tidbit on Melanchon. I gather he is much lefter than Bernie and the way the Guardian ignores him or slights him in a rare mention indicates to me that he is in with a chance.

          France is a critical fulcrum for the future of europe that the sparse rational commentary on this election in an english language is depressing. Do you have any comment sites that one can monitor?

          1. makedoanmend

            Yes, the coverage in the English language is pretty poor.

            I read the conservative Le Monde occasionally to see what French “popular” science is doing.

            It’s impossible to pass over the election. From what little I gleaned, Melenchon is being portrayed as a Left wing “populist”. As we know a populist is a slightly sullied appellation. (Code for: not an insider who may cause waves in the grand scheme?)

            As for the politician, himself, he made one very smart move. He distanced himself from every socialist formation in France to some extent. He is not being hindered from the tiresome and loathsome “talking points” that often dominate socialist dialogue; i.e. the meme that there is only one correct way to approach every issue or problem. (In fact, I’m finding that many socialists, especially strong democratic ones, might be better termed as floating independents these days as they abandon the formal parties.)

            Many other commentators are projecting their hopes and fears onto the man and politician.

            It seems all rather of a muddle at this junction of the election. If the polls are correct, it is Le Pen and one of three others, including Melenchon – the late arriving upsurger.

    4. UserFriendly

      I think it’s more that whenever there is a big shiny object the news is focused on, it almost always means there is something truly awful going on that they don’t want you to notice.

  10. SteveK

    Too busy to read much this morning, but always time for research in the margins. Here’s all of bills that Sander’s has introduced in current congress:

    1. S.806 — 115th Congress (2017-2018) College for All Act of 2017 Sponsor: Sen. Sanders, Bernard [I-VT] (Introduced 04/03/2017) Cosponsors: (5) Committees: Senate – Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Latest Action: 04/03/2017 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. (All Actions) Tracker:

    2. S.805 — 115th Congress (2017-2018) Inclusive Prosperity Act of 2017 Sponsor: Sen. Sanders, Bernard [I-VT] (Introduced 04/03/2017) Cosponsors: (0) Committees: Senate – Finance Latest Action: 04/03/2017 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance. (All Actions) Tracker:

    3. S.586 — 115th Congress (2017-2018) Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act Sponsor: Sen. Sanders, Bernard [I-VT] (Introduced 03/09/2017) Cosponsors: (1) Committees: Senate – Finance Latest Action: 03/09/2017 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance. (All Actions) Tracker:

    4. S.495 — 115th Congress (2017-2018) Medical Innovation Prize Fund Act Sponsor: Sen. Sanders, Bernard [I-VT] (Introduced 03/02/2017) Cosponsors: (0) Committees: Senate – Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Latest Action: 03/02/2017 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. (All Actions) Tracker:

    5. S.469 — 115th Congress (2017-2018) Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act Sponsor: Sen. Sanders, Bernard [I-VT] (Introduced 02/28/2017) Cosponsors: (21) Committees: Senate – Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Latest Action: 02/28/2017 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. (All Actions) Tracker:

    6. S.427 — 115th Congress (2017-2018) Social Security Expansion Act Sponsor: Sen. Sanders, Bernard [I-VT] (Introduced 02/16/2017) Cosponsors: (1) Committees: Senate – Finance Latest Action: 02/16/2017 Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance. (All Actions)

      1. polecat

        We need the rule of law restored … not umpteen gazillion NEW ones … !!!

        Someday, and it might be soon, that YUUUUGE, gigantically high stack of laws & statutes is gonna tip right over …. when one considers the multitude of local, county, state, and finally, federal laws that continue to pile up, it’s amazing society retains any ability to funtion .. at all !

        1. polecat

          uh … ‘function’ …

          See what I mean ! Time to go gulp down some water … like from the toilet or something …

  11. Frenchguy

    France’s Bernie Sanders Started His Own Party and Is Surging in the Polls The Intercept. Dunno about the headline. Projecting our electoral politics onto another country is rarely a good idea.

    Exactly, there are many differences. An important one is that Mélenchon has been from the start an apparatchik of the Socialist Party. He was elected to the French Senate as soon as he reached the minimum age. This is the perfect spot: no responsabilities (so all the time in the world for inter-party fighting) and lots of material perks.

    1. Benedict@Large

      Yes, the headline was click bait. Mélenchon has been a t forefront of liberal French politics for years, and so hardly should need a comparison to anyone else. Also, he’s well to the left of Sanders in his ideology, so I’d think Sanders being compared to Mélenchon would be a greater compliment than to Sanders than the opposite would be to Mélenchon.

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    ‘Give us France back’: Le Pen delights frenzied crowd in Paris with anti-immigration speech The Local

    No even tired, poor and sick American immigrants*, who are hoping to enjoy their wonderful health care system?

    Is it because they’ve never liked Americans, a few or a lot?

  13. Montanamaven

    Another interesting article from The Intercept. Glenn Greenwald Interview with Russian Bernie Campaign Advisor

    Russia is being cornered, he says, which, like even a small dog, is never good. Why not instead have a Marshall Plan like we did for our enemy Germany after WWII? That sounds good, as long as it’s not the same kind of Shock Doctrine neoliberalism plan for the Russian people that happened in the 1990s. But at this point even that sounds better than getting Montana blown to smithereens because we are the 5th largest nuclear “state”. (I think that’s right. US, Russia, China, North Dakota, Montana?

    1. djrichard

      The title of the article, A Bernie Sanders Campaign Adviser Was a Russian. Now He’s Speaking Out. emphasis mine.

      Dem [and GOP] establishment to themselves, “Ah, so Sanders does have a russian connection. Good to know for when he runs for president.”

      This isn’t about politics vis-a-vis Russia per se. This is about politics against anti-establishment types on the US political landscape.

      Anything that can be used to tar the opposition is fair game. Even if it has no bearing from reality.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        When they came for Trump’s Russian connection, you said nothing, or worse, called for investigation independently.

        Now, they are coming for you.

      2. djrichard

        as long as it’s not the same kind of Shock Doctrine neoliberalism plan for the Russian people that happened in the 1990s

        Of course it will be. And any resistance by Russia to that plan will validate that Russia is still an enemy not to be trusted. And anybody in the US who doesn’t concur with this can be portrayed as somebody not to be trusted as well.

        As far as the US establishment is concerned, that’s a win/win.

    2. Carolinian

      as long as it’s not the same kind of Shock Doctrine neoliberalism plan for the Russian people that happened in the 1990s

      But that’s exactly what it would be. I was unimpressed by this interview with a former member of the Putin opposition. The proper policy for the US re Russia would be to mind our own business.

      1. montanamaven

        Yes, mind our own business and maybe trade with them. This guy really rubbed me the wrong way with his “anti-Putin” rhetoric which as you say is a thinly veiled neo-liberal agenda. The Russian people by a healthy majority do not want to go back to the bad old days of the mid 1990s.

        I have been binge watching clips of Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, who most definitely will be the next president after Putin. Wow, is she not only articulate and fierce, but also passionate and moving. There is a montage of some of her best moments and at around 8 minutes in she talks about being literally a starving young person until she was given a student meal ticket to go to University in 1993. She says that she would rather go hungry again than return to the chaos and bad days of the mid 1990s. So this guy is dead wrong about what Russians want and he was leading Bernie in a very wrong direction. best of Maria Zakharova

        1. jo6pac

          That’s what got out of reading that. I do believe it will Maria or the new head of the Duma.

      2. Olga

        Concur… In fact, universe (or god) spare us experts like that! On Russia, he is just repeating long-discredited cliches. He is probably too young to remember that in 2007, Putin clearly stated Russia’s new approach to the world affairs – affirming its independence (the speech is worth watching if for nothing else than how McCain’s and B. Gates’ jaws dropped). So nothing much to do with the sanctions and/or being cornered. In fact, it seems to me that with its deepening strategic alliance with China, Russia actually has a much better sense now that a post-US-domination world is possible (and even necessary, lest we all end up vaporized). He does make some good points on the need to cooperate – but then, he clearly has not met the MICC.

        1. montanamaven

          I haven’t listened to that speech yet, but his speech for the anniversary of the UN was enlightening for me. He speaks of “sovereign democracies”; the idea that all nations have a right to determine what form of democracy they want to have. They could have a benevolent monarchy. Their choice. He said that is what Russia learned from their Soviet Union history i.e. not to force their ideology on others. Gee, learning from your mistakes. What a concept!
          And if anybody would like to see another narrative on Crimea other than the one that says Russia invaded it and annexed it against the wishes of its citizens, just watch this moving video on the 2014 May 9 Victory Celebration of the Liberation of Sebastapol at the end of WW II from the Nazis. Crimea is Russia. That is All. Maria Zakharova

    3. JustAnObserver

      Is it possible that Russia is, so far, the only country to have survived the economic and political Ebola of “Shock Doctrine” and to have at least partially recovered ? If so this would IMHO go a very long way towards explaining the RUSSIA hysteria that seems to be defining just about every reaction of the US nomenklatura. The idea that neoliberalism is a disease that can be survived must never ever be allowed to take hold.

  14. DJG

    The cult of genius and Leonardo. And melodrama. I find that the cult of genius is especially pronounced in the U S of A, where it ties in with celebrity, Romantic-era ideas of the role of artists and writers, and melodrama. At the time that Leonardo lived, Italy was awash in wildly talented people. (Luigi Barzini occasionally lamented the prodigious talents of the Italians as a group–except in the area of national governance.)

    Michelangelo was around, Leonardo’s contemporary, and also from a humble background, and if you read his letters, you’ll find a rather dull guy who complained a lot about being mistreated by patrons–who wanted to keep his fees low. Titian worked all the time. Raphael was considered somewhat charmed–but no more so than any of the others. (Even Galileo, whose life was spectacular in many respects, had a hard time pulling off enough melodrama to make himself a Romantic Genius.)

    But what Americans really want is melodrama: Witness the odd career of U.S. culture hero Artemisia Gentilleschi. She was Orazio’s daughter, and their paintings are barely distinguishable. But she as a genius, and he wasn’t. Somehow. Or Caravaggio. Caravaggio’s life was a disaster, so his paintings are constantly being upgraded by the critics and the public: Leonardo Di Caprio will play him in the movie, no doubt. As mentioned, Titian seems to have worked all the time, and he lived to be something like 98, so he isn’t movie fodder.

    And then there are all of the dozens and dozens of Italian culture figures ignored by the Anglo world, even as Leonardo’s great mysteries are plumbed by under-the-Tuscan-sun scribblers. Pietro Aretino, anyone?

    Ever hear of Isabella Andreini, a couple of generations of after Leonardo? Considered the greatest artist of her time?

    1. Science Officer Smirnoff

      (Luigi Barzini occasionally lamented the prodigious talents of the Italians as a group–except in the area of national governance.)

      As an aside to an aside—Machiavelli was born less than a decade before Michelangelo. There is a lot of good governance in his Discourses. But like Adam Smith, George Orwell and others he has been simplified and appropriated by the wrong parties.

      1. Ulysses

        “Like Adam Smith, George Orwell and others he has been simplified and appropriated by the wrong parties.”


        “E sanza dubbio, se si considerrà il fine de’ nobili e degli ignobili, si vedrà in quelli desiderio grande di dominare, ed in questi solo desiderio di non essere dominati; e, per conseguente, maggiore volontà di vivere liberi, potendo meno sperare di usurparla che non possono i grandi: talché essendo i popolari preposti a guardia d’una libertà, è ragionevole ne abbiano più cura; e non la potendo occupare loro, non permettino che altri la occupi.”

        (Discorsi, I,v)

    2. Vatch

      Isabella Andreini

      I looked her up. She was a writer and an actress. So she was an artist, but in the context of the Renaissance, one usually thinks of artists as painters or sculptors. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t ever heard of her, as it’s too late to see one of her performances. Have any of her writings been translated into English?

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I find that the cult of genius is especially pronounced in the U S of A, where it ties in with celebrity, Romantic-era ideas of the role of artists and writers, and melodrama.

      Here is to non-celebrityhood.

      To those whom we like and who are not celebrities, or that we like, but not are famous.

      No one’s work is less great for toiling anonymously. And it’s impossible for everyone of our multi-billion strong humanity to know everyone else; it is not possible that everyone is a celebrity…not for humans with the tiny brain we’re born with…for robots, I think, possibly.

      Rant over.

      Time for me to go back to pondering about the artisans who made the Xia dynasty bronze plaque inlaid with turquoise.

      “Can we appreciate beauty without knowing the name of the author?”

      1. JustAnObserver

        My favorite example in this regard are the great Gothic cathedrals raised during the middle ages. Hardly anything is known about the master builders and masons who designed and constructed these and yet they had to combine levels of engineering knowledge and aesthetic sensibility that still induces something close to awe as I walk around one.

    4. witters

      Ever hear of Benvenuto Cellini? – he even wrote an autobiography. Now there was your melodrama man!

  15. justanotherprogressive

    “But Vix is also one of the finance industry’s biggest enigmas…..” Is the Vix another calculated number subject to manipulation like the LIBOR was? That would account for its being an “enigma”.

    Who uses the Vix and for what? Perhaps I need a tutorial on the Vix? But please don’t quote me Wikipedia, CBOE, or Investopedia – I’ve read those – I want to know how the Vix really works……

    1. Jim Haygood

      Is the Vix another calculated number subject to manipulation like the LIBOR was?

      VIX is calculated from the prices of options on the S&P 500 stock index. Since these trade in large volume, it would be very difficult to systematically underprice or overprice the whole range of strike prices of index puts and calls.

      If that were to happen, options dealers can easily sell overpriced options (or buy underpriced options), hedge away the directional risk with S&P futures, then sit back and wait for their risk-free profit when market pricing is restored.

      For retail investors speculators, inverse VIX funds (such as XIV) amount to a highly leveraged bet on stock prices, by effectively selling portfolio insurance. XIV was smashed to a 60% loss between Aug 2015 and Feb 2016, but has more than tripled since then. Five-year chart:

      Next time stock prices head south, XIV and its demented little brothers could burn some market participants badly enough to create another LTCM scenario (Long Term Capital Management hedge fund, which blew up in 1998 on a scale that promoted Federal Reserve intervention).

      Meanwhile, check out the shiny nickels glittering in front of that oncoming steamroller!

      1. justanotherprogressive

        Thank you! It is becoming clearer now……but I still need to understand more of why the VIX has been so low lately, given what I’ve read about market instability…….

        1. vidimi

          i think it’s simple: the market is actually very stable at the moment. short of a nuclear strike on manhattan, not a lot can destabilise it right now.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        If that were to happen, options dealers can easily sell overpriced options (or buy underpriced options), hedge away the directional risk with S&P futures, then sit back and wait for their risk-free profit when market pricing is restored.

        X = The income of selling overpriced option


        Y = the cost of buying S&P futures (will it be overpriced here too?)

        The net is profit (or loss).

        How do we know X > Y?

    1. Montanamaven

      Ridicule didn’t work so well in the 2016 election. And if John Nichols et al continue with this line of attack, the deplorables will get the last laugh again.

  16. vidimi

    i think the point in drawing an analogy between mélonchon and sanders was to popularise the idea that it can be done in the states, too, and that sanders should start thinking about it more seriously. i didn’t see it as a way of explaining french politics.

  17. Vatch

    Jon Ossoff takes first in special election, forcing a runoff for a seat the GOP’s held for decades

    According to Ballotpedia (and my possibly flawed arithmetic), the Republicans got 97,997 votes, the Democrats got 93,911 votes, and there were 176 votes for independents. That means the Republicans got 51% of the votes, and the Democrats got 48.8%, with 0.2% for the independents. It’s close, but the Republican Karen Handel obviously is the favorite to win the runoff election on June 20.

    It would have been a heck of a lot more cost effective for the national Democratic party and the Kansas state Democratic party to have put an extra $100,000 into the James Thompson campaign. Considering how well Thompson did with almost no support at all from the party organizations, with that extra help, he would have won. There would be one fewer Republican vassal of the Koch brothers in Congress. Tom Perez of the DNC and Ben Ray Lujan of the DCCC are either inept, corrupt, or both. The Republicans are certainly corrupt, but they are not inept.

    1. curlydan

      yeah, the national Dems bet millions on Ossoff getting to 50% and essentially lost that bet. Now they’ll go back and spend millions more in June whereas Thompson and Quist got or will get virtually nothing.

      One of the main national Dems rationale (e.g. outside interference backfires in KS and MT) somehow won’t apply in GA as well? Yeah, right.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        But the “rationale people” who voted for Mittens, who picked Paul Ryan as a running mate, will now vote Democratic because of mutual love of lousy sandwiches and over salted soups at Panera! This was a meme on twitter last night.

        Now the Dems wont need “deplorables” (poor people) to vote for them because people so bizarre they voted for Bush, McCain, and Mittens will now vote for the man promising “the Silicon Valley of the South!”

    2. Yves Smith

      Yes, but Thompson was a Sandernista! National Dems will not back them or any progressive. When Alan Grayson was running for his second term in the House, the DCCC refused to give him a dime.

      1. Benedict@Large

        Yes, and Patrick Murphy’s entire resume blew up in his face a few weeks before that primary. Seems his daddy, a rich GOP south Florida developed, painted him as having all sorts of phony jobs in dad’s company that Pat never had. (Put a voting resume from a term in the House that mirrored what Allen West (who he replaced) would have done. And he was even a carpetbagger in that race, which he won by less than 1%.) Murphy was just one more incredible loser back by the DCCC and Barack Obama.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I believe they are stupid event, style movies. Ive only seen commercials and the amount Im forced to watch between turning the tv on and changing the channel. Its in the end no different than superhero movies except they use cars instead of superpowers. Thor, Captain American, and Iron Man. (Thank Jefus who white people. Marvel even makes Uhura wear green paint). I don’t believe the movies try to take themselves too seriously and move along to avoid questions about obvious plot holes.

      Also I remember an article about how the franchise is supposed to be huge with Hispanic and Asian youths in North America where much of the entertainment industry revolves around very white and classic black faces (despite “Oscarssowhite” largely focusing on blacks not being represented despite a small black population in LA skewing the numbers of Oscars in the other categories. Hispanics have a real beef.). This franchise features Vin Diesel, the Rock, and Michelle Rodriguez. I have now checked, but it features a woman from Panama and mutiple Asian male leads.

      Perhaps it was a long term accident, but the franchise features people who look like people not often featured in Hollywood. I enjoyed the first “Transformers” movie from 2007, but there is only one non-white character and it was black comedian playing a clown. Its about giant robots from space and stereotypes.

      As for the relative problems with “The Great Wall” movie, the movie going public does not want to be disappointed for the price of tickets relying on proven franchises, and two, who cares about monsters at “The Great Wall.” The Great Wall is baller in of itself. Monsters only take away.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I am surprised no one has proffered a ‘Muslim Eunuch Admiral Zheng He Discovered America’ script.

  18. Susan

    Re: Where Have All the Shop Clerks Gone?

    Here in Greater Cleveland we have plenty of these ‘dying malls,’ ‘dead malls,’ ‘once malls now turned inside out to big box stores’ that are now largely vacant. Visited a mall where the Macy’s is shuttered like a huge dark spot off the main corridor. In the same mall, Penney’s has 40-60% off signs screaming around the mall entrance. At the other end, Sears looks like it’s already gone outta business – hardly a person in sight and very little crappy inventory. It’s a familiar scene.

    Here’s what puzzles me, and you guys can surely explain it to me. After these places go into receivership, someone buys them. Why? Yes, I can follow that the PE companies say we restructure and recapitalize these deals. First stop for recapitalize – get the back taxes forgiven. But so many of them are in some 24 year old’s “portfolio” (see Joel Gorjian/Namdar Realty). Looking at his portfolio of crappy dying strip centers and really sad retail centers – following the news of delight “someone has finally PURCHASED our ailing commercial property” (they all say he will not disclose plans, or he has “big” plans), I can only see largely later that the ailing retail is still ailing, and then he sells it. I’m sure there’s some way he and those like him make money from this, but I’d appreciate getting a primer on just how exactly. The country and city out here in flyover America is littered with these failing bricks and mortar seas of pavement. Is there some benefit to holding this stuff?

    1. andyb

      The benefit is a tax loss, but you must have income. DUH! Other than that there will be ginormous losses for insurance companies and pension funds that together own over 50% of the underlying debt and/or outright ownership. The pension funds will go bankrupt and the insurance companies will raise insurance premiums at least a double digit increase every year, until they cannot anymore.

  19. jfleni

    RE: Jeff Sessions Is Keeping Junk Science in America’s Courts
    You guilty bubba because we say so!

  20. ChrisAtRU

    Mélenchon: Le Coq Sportif!

    “More to the point, France is not Greece.”


    Had an informative exchange with NC reader BugsBunny exactly one month ago about the position of the French left (then Hamon rising) in the election. Bugs, if you’re out there, has the man on the white horse officially reared his steed then?! ;-)


    1. Bugs Bunny

      My impression – as of today – is that JLM has officially assumed the position of Man on a White Horse for this first round. The “useful vote” on the Left will get divided between him and Macron, who this week has no real buzz but still enthusiasm among Parisian bobos (30k at Bercy rally).

      Poor Benoît Hamon. The PS have turned out to be traitors and he still campaigns with dignity.

      Fillon still has Catholics and LR die-hards with no compunction about the corruption accusations (“they all do it”) backing him with little regret and is probably the dark horse in the race.

      My 4-day Easter weekend in the countryside provides me with anecdotal evidence that out in the provinces it’s a 3-way race between Le Pen, Mélenchon and Fillon (based on vandalism to official election posters).

      Wait until Sunday night when I expect we’ll all be surprised. I won’t try to make a prediction. JLM vs. MLP in round 2 is – as of today – NOT out of the question, which is already a big surprise.

      1. David

        Agree with all of that. JLM against MLP has about, I would guess, a 20% chance of happening, but if it did it would blow the system apart. The real issue – almost the only issue on Sunday – is who gets into the second round. There are a variety of combinations, and the effects of some of them are going to be bizarre, to say the least. Beware that the winner of the first round may well lose in the second. There’ll be lots of tactical voting going on.

      2. vidimi

        my fear is that, because fillon’s supporters tend to be older misanthropes, they will turn out to vote in higher numbers than other partisans and he will win. he is the worst of the worst as far as i’m concerned.

  21. The Haspel Administration

    Interesting tensions emerging at the UNSC. CIA, on the run for systematic and widespread torture and murder, is now trying to make the UNSC poach on human rights issues. Bolivia comes out and explains why: in the UNSC, veto impunity and the ‘waterfall’ of associated prerogatives would let the US politicize or squelch human rights concerns. Russia paraphrases US jurist Robert Jackson to bring up the obvious: war is the origin of crimes of human rights in the UNSC’s purview. The UNSC’s job is to end wars.

    Michel Sison, Haley’s CIA ventriloquist, fed Haley her lines. With typical US caveman logic, the US wants human rights enforced by the body that can use and threaten force. They’re still unclear on the concept. Universal world standards for public participation and transparency are to be policed by the most nationalistic, least transparent, least accountable UN entity. For CIA’s Trump regency, human rights are a stick to beat enemies over the head, while international human rights review by elected independent experts is a threat.

    Guterres’ statement points to the most likely eventual outcome: continued focus on impunity while the General Assembly keeps the initiative.

    1. sid_finster

      It ain’t just the Trump administration.

      The neocons have learned to dress their rhetoric in some self-serving human rights talk.

  22. fresno dan

    Wasn’t paying attention when I posted this, so I put it
    “Against False Arrogance of Economic Knowledge – 04/19/2017”
    when I meant to put it in this Links section

    None of these practices is new, although their use has expanded over the years. What does seem to be new, as Bettina Boxall of the Los Angeles Times reported this week, is that some California farmers are now experimenting with flooding fields that have grapevines and almond trees growing on them. And in general, people in California are paying a lot more attention to groundwater than they used to.

    In 2014, the California Legislature approved a package of groundwater-management laws — long after most other Western states had done so — that are now slowwwwwly beginning to take effect. Local groundwater-management agencies are being formed that will have to come up with plans to reach groundwater sustainability within 20 years.

    You can look at this optimistically or pessimistically. With the population growing year, after year, after year, it doesn’t take high intelligence that water demand will exceed water supply. And yet CA government choose to deal with this freight train coming down the tracks in…..2014.

    1. JustAnObserver

      Oh come Mr. dan we all know that that CA residents are leaving in droves, droves I tell you, for the Libertarian Utopia of Texas. Greg `Goldbug’ Abbot says so. So there /s

        1. makedoanmend

          Maybe Texas does not have more water but the water there may be purer and maybe even life invigourating….(yon Texans, being on the whole very friendly and often entertaining company, never underestimate the natural wonders of Texas itself :-)

          1. skippy

            Know a lot about the place, including marginal taxation aka a dumb VAT/GST, too offset the C-corp beanies. Hope all goes well with the increasing congestion, after a bit, it will be at Calif levels.

            Not to mention all the influx will bring with it all the social mores of the interstate pop, couple of election cycles and were not in Texas anymore…..

            disheveled…. close retaliative had to move to Wyoming, getting too liberal for his tastes….

  23. Vatch

    Trump orders review of visa program to encourage hiring Americans Reuters

    Norm Matloff discusses this in this article. He starts out by indicating a huge omission in Trump’s executive order:

    Today President Trump issued his long-awaited Buy American, Hire American executive order. A number of people have asked me what this means for the H-1B work visa and related programs such as Optional Practical Training (OPT). Let’s take the latter first.

    As many of you know, OPT is an extension of the F-1 student visa. Though it was intended to give foreign students a chance to work in one-year internships after earning their American degrees, it became an unofficial supplement to H-1B. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both extended it much beyond one year, and it now serves in essence as a backdoor way to expand the yearly cap on new H-1B visas. There is no cap on OPT.

    So OPT is a major issue. However, it is not mentioned in the executive order.

    As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say:

    Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it’s always something — if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Capping OPT?

      Will he propose paying those on OPT more?

      Paying them more, so it becomes more costly that corporations forego that route, seems less confrontational than capping the program.

  24. allan

    Big money, big ego, big bills: how to get divorced Silicon Valley style [Guardian]

    … Given the complexity of their financial affairs, it’s common for Silicon Valley couples to hire private judges who are familiar with elaborate forms of stock compensation and investments or complicated child support issues. An added benefit is that such hearings, although technically public, take place in private offices.

    Beyond wrangling over RSUs and equity stakes, these judges frequently have to arbitrate in frenzied custody battles over pets.

    “My standard is the same standard I use for children,” said private judge Madeleine Simborg. “I do what is in the best interest of the dog. I look at each household and see what the relationship is like and see where the dog would be happiest.” …

    The rich are different from you and me. And so are their dogs.

  25. Kemal Erdogan

    Steve Jobs as genius? really! he is certainly a first class asshole but not a genius. My take is that one of he just got lucky with ipod

  26. Oregoncharles

    From “Unprecedented Politics,” on the French election: ” Since then, the right has only to overtake the PS in any election, national or local, to become the saviour of democracy, culture and the republic, in the eyes of almost all on the left.”

    A concise statement of the destructive effects of “tactical voting,” aka the spoiler effect or “lesser evil” voting. It is actually even worse in a top-two runoff such as France, and now both Washington and California,,use. The long time US example is Louisiana, not a recommendation. There is a technical solution: Ranked Choice aka Instant Runoff Voting, which eliminates the spoiler effect by giving voters a backup vote and guarantees a majority winner, all in just one election (hence “Instant Runoff.”) It’s been around a long time and is in use in a number of places, but is opposed by the “major” parties because it’s just too democratic.

    That said, the French election will be especially earthshaking if Melenchon comes from behind and gets into the runoff, against LePen. We will then see whether the Right is as “tactical” as the Left has been.

    1. vidimi

      latest news has fillon surging. having him advance into the second round would be a catastrophe, his views on russia notwithstanding. his economic policy is the worst of the worst and would lead to increased un- and underemployment, lower wages, small business closings, increased inequality, homelessness, etc.
      oh, and he’s dire on social issues and calls for assertive france on the international stage.

  27. Oregoncharles

    “So Clinton (“never, ever”), Feinstein, Pelosi, and Schumer are all Republicans? Good to know.”

    That’s been obvious since Bill was President; it’s the reason I’m not a Democrat.

  28. nihil obstet

    Here’s a good article on a subject that comes up a lot here: The United States of Work[The New Republic]. It does leave out one of the worst abuses of employment, the use of arbitration clauses to nullify employees’ rights to legal remedies.

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