Links 7/24/2017

Top cat: Alaska mourns Stubbs, feline mayor of Talkeetna Deutsche Welle

U.S. Foresaw Better Return in Seizing Fannie and Freddie Profits Gretchen Morgenson, NYT

Collapse of ‘safe-haven asset’ bubble looms Nikkei Asian Review

Two top Wall Street chiefs celebrate $314m share bonanza FT. “Dimon and Blankfein lead way with stock gains boosted by Trump effect on markets.” Ka-ching.

Going Cashless? Bad for Tax Cheats, Privacy, Poor Bloomberg. Correction: Bad for the sort of tax cheat who doesn’t have an acountant or tax lawyer.

Uber-rival Grab rakes in $2.5bn in fresh investment FT. Grab is in Southeast Asia. Are the economics different from Uber’s, for any reason?

The balanced budget paradox Real World Economics Review (MT).

Yes, ancient civilizations on Mars sounds crazy. And yet… Ars Technica. Well, Podesta believes in UFOs….


Trump pulls plug on CIA’s Syrian “revolution” WSWS (MT). “Preparations for a wider war.”

Say Goodbye to Regime Change in Syria Scott Ritter, The American Conservative

Syria Summary – Consolidating The West – Marching East Moon of Alabama

It’s Time To Raise the Level of Public Debate about Syria Tim Hayward. Must-read on the “intermedia.”

The Unending Failure of the Afghan War Consortium News


Do UK readers agree with Cheung’s tweet? And who is Damian Green?

Frankfurt Is the Big Winner in Battle for Brexit Bankers Bloomberg

Macron’s Francafrique Al Jazeera (MT).


In China, Herd of ‘Gray Rhinos’ Threatens Economy NYT

My journey to a Ugandan ghost town The Economist

VPN crackdown ‘unthinkable’ trial by firewall for China’s research world CNBC

Lost your phone in Japan? You’ll probably get it back Al Jazeera

New Cold War

White House Signals Support for Bill on Russia Sanctions WSJ

EU ready to retaliate against US sanctions on Russia FT

* * *

Collins tells Trump to “step back” and not comment on special counsel’s investigation CBS

Donald Trump’s Defenders on the Left Peter Beinart, The Atlantic. Blumenthal and Greenwald, so pass the popcorn.

What Watergate and Whitewater tell us about Trump’s drip, drip, drip CNN

Trump’s Businesses Have A History Of Money Laundering Charges International Business Times

Trump Transition

Donald Trump will ‘dial back’ his Twitter use, says Anthony Scaramucci Sky News

New comms director Anthony Scaramucci says he wants briefings back on-camera as he compliments White House makeup artist and tells Jake Tapper he looks ‘tan and refreshed’ Daily Mail

Trump’s ‘Great National Infrastructure Program’? Stalled NYT

Trump’s Special Ops Pick Says Terror Drones Might Soon Reach the US from Africa. How Worried Should We Be? Defense One (Re Silc). I can see the gaslights flickering all the way across the Atlantic…

The voter-fraud commission relies on some really dodgy studies Economist

Health Care

5 reasons why health care bill would fail, 3 why it may not WaPo

Obamacare vote short on details: ‘I don’t even know what we’re proceeding to next week’ Chicago Tribune

Trump to visit WV for Boy Scout Jamboree Williamson Daily News. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va, BCRA defector: “‘I’m thrilled President Trump will be making his first trip to West Virginia as president on Monday,’ Capito said in a release. ‘At the Jamboree, the president will have an opportunity to see the future leaders of our country. I look forward to welcoming him to the Mountain State.'” It’s a private event, but so if Trump wishes to bring pressure to beat on Capito, it’s unlikely to be in front of the Boy Scouts…

How Behavioral Economics Can Produce Better Health Care NYT. Of course! [slaps forehead]

Our Famously Free Press

Google’s New News Feed Is Scary-Good at Personalization Slate

Leftwing Breitbart? Chapo Trap House is strong new voice in resistance to Trump Guardian

Democrats in Disarray

Dems to announce ‘A better deal’ economic agenda on Monday: report The Hill. Right as the health care battle swells to a crescendo…

Dems want to rebrand as the economic party Axios (Re Silc). Re Silc: “Dump the war party part too, please.” Lambert: “Show me the money.”

‘This Week’ Transcript 7-23-17: Jay Sekulow, Sarah Sanders, and Sen. Chuck Schumer ABC. Dayen: “There is something happening in the Democratic Party.” Maybe:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Some may wonder [if the new Democrat “Better Deal” agenda is] going to be bold enough. I mean even your New York colleague, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, talking about health care, says if you really want to get prices down, you have to go to single payer health care.

Will Democrats unify behind single payer health care?

SCHUMER: Well, our economic agenda — we’ve talked so much about health care that we are not going to address that in this agenda.

Or maybe not.

SCHUMER: Then we’re going to look at broader things — single payer is one of them…

STEPHANOPOULOS: So that is…SCHUMER: — Medicare…

STEPHANOPOULOS: — on the table?

SCHUMER: — well, a — sure. Many things are on the table. Medicare for people above 55 is on the table. A buy-in to Medicare is on the table. A buy-in to Medicaid is on the table.

“Many things are on the table.”

Democrats Want a Socialist to Lead Their Party More Than a Capitalist Newsweek. Change vs. more of the same…

The Millennials are the American Earthquake Corey Robin (MR). Must-read. Note that both Sanders proposals for free college and Medicare for All enable voters to avoid getting into debt, but totally write off the already indebted. A debt jubilee would accomplish that, but that’s not “on the table,” or anywhere near it.

When student debt payoff becomes complicated by identity theft LA Times

Oh, Jeremy Corbyn Medium. Same issue as in this country; college debt.

In the state with the highest medical debt, it’s the middle class who carries the burden STAT

Wisconsin Company First In US To Microchip Employees Mankato Times (DC Blogger).

Herointown, N.J.: The dead, 5,217 and counting Newark Star-Ledger (Re Silc). Jackpot…

Class Warfare

Brazilians funneled as “slaves” by US church, ex-members say AP

San Antonio death toll in ‘horrific’ human trafficking reaches 9 San Antonio Express-News

* * *

National Weather Service cancels its union contract AP

The GOP debate over a minimum wage for cops and deputies Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Next Leap for Robots: Picking Out and Boxing Your Online Order WSJ (Re Silc). Re Silc: “Zero jobs except prison guards and cops soon.”

* * *

America’s hidden philosophy Aeon (MT)

Distributism Isn’t Outdated The American Conservative. “For Chesterton, ownership is a self-evident good, which therefore shouldn’t be abolished but widely distributed.”

General Equilibrium Effects of (Improving) Public Employment Programs: Experimental Evidence from India (PDF) Karthik Muralidharan, Paul Niehaus, Sandip Sukhtankar.

Forty mayors go back to school The Economist. “The school for mayors is not about promoting any particular policy… Instead, the programme is more about how to think like a CEO.”

For Whom the Wall Fell? A Balance Sheet of the Transition to Capitalism Branko Milanovic, The Globalist

Competence to Stand Trial Evaluations of Sovereign Citizens: A Case Series and Primer of Odd Political and Legal Beliefs Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. Surprisingly good background on “sovereign citizens,” and well worth a read.

The Mystery of Why Japanese People Are Having So Few Babies The Atlantic

Cleveland doulas fight infant mortality in their neighborhoods, one birth at a time: Saving the Smallest Cleveland Plain-Dealer

Wonder Woman Is Propaganda TNE

The artificial glacier growing in the desert CNN. Not really glaciers: ice stupas.

Live-tweeting the #Detroit67 riots, 50 years ago today Detroit Free Press

‘Game of Thrones’ recap: In ‘Stormborn,’ the battle for the Seven Kingdoms truly begins WaPo

Antidote du jour (via):

Fiona and Bibi.

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. voteforno6

    Re: U.S. Foresaw Better Return in Seizing Fannie and Freddie Profits

    Whoah. It seems that the U.S. government acted in a very thuggish manner. I’m kind of curious to see how far up the food chain that one goes. Acting in this manner, I have to think that they had no plans to allow Fannie and Freddie to regain their independence. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were planning on selling them off to Wall Street.

    1. Tom_Doak

      It does sound bad. On the other hand, perhaps they should have let both enterprises go kaput before taking them over, so there would be no “shareholders” to argue. And are the shareholders who are suing the same ones who owned stock in 2008, or are they vultures who bought for pennies on the dollar and are looking for a nice profit now?

      1. voteforno6

        A lot of employees and former employees took a hit on their retirement money with this as well.

        1. MikeW_CA

          Buying stock at a low price does not make people vultures. Buying stock in dead or dying companies does. Vultures buy stock that is priced low because the prospects for the company’s success are low. Their stock investments are risky, and that’s fine. Investors should be free to make risky bets.

          The objection people have to vulture investors comes when they use their access to political power to improve the prospects of their risky investments, or when they argue to authorities that they deserve the use of public power or resources to advance their interests at the expense of the interests of other stakeholders such as employees, vendors, creditors, or even earlier investors.

        2. Anon

          …because they may have bought the stock for nefarious purpose: to facilitate standing in court and a possible windfall profit if they win a convenient verdict.

  2. Livius Drusus

    Re: Distributism, I am not sure what to think about it. You hear about real-world examples of cooperatives working well, like in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the Mondragon Corporation in Spain. But they still have to compete in the global economy and I believe that even Mondragon has had to outsource some of its work to Poland due to competitive pressures.

    Also, I don’t think cooperatives and self-employment schemes can really do much to solve the unemployment problem. You will still likely need the government to step in as the employer of last resort in order to hire off the bottom. Plus, distributists underestimate how hard it is to be a successful small business owner. Most people are probably not cut out for it and would probably rather just have a job instead of a business that they have to worry about 24/7.

    People tend to romanticize small business ownership but it is often harder and less pleasurable than people think. My grandfather left a good blue-collar job with decent pay, benefits and union protection to start a restaurant and it was the worst decision of his life and nearly ended his marriage to my grandmother. He just wasn’t cut out for it.

    1. Marco

      RE Emilia-Romagna: Maybe when they can issue their own currency and reclassify as an autonomous province? Unlike England I’m sure the new citizens of E.R. can grow enough food to feed themselves?

      1. Oregoncharles

        England can’t grow enough food to feed themselves? I guess I saw that hinted at elsewhere. I was told, years ago, that England was very densely populated and farmed – but it’s a mild climate, a lot like here. I strongly suspect they aren’t really trying. Traditional estates might have a lot to do with it.

    2. JohnnyGL

      Institution building is a good idea for social cohesion and to strengthen community bonds and resilience, regardless of whether it does much to increase overall aggregate employment. Multinationals can pack up and leave with relatively little notice. Cooperatives are enmeshed into the area.

      And yes, starting a restaurant is often a recipe (pun!) for disaster. The key is to admit defeat and shut down before too much damage is done on a personal level.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        Food for thought. Maybe I’d better spend some time on this subject, perhaps I can ketchup.

        1. Anonymous2

          Distributism must imply a very wide distribution of wealth if it is to work IMO. Without that, the big battalions will have too many advantages. I can see in theory a world where it could work, though suspect it would probably be less efficient at driving forward technological change, but maybe that could make it a good system for us to aim for? How much more technological advance do we actually need?

          In some ways it would take us back a long way in time, before wealth began to be concentrated.

          A very wide distribution of wealth would in itself be a social good IMO and, I think, in the view of many who visit this website.

    3. jrs

      “Plus, distributists underestimate how hard it is to be a successful small business owner. Most people are probably not cut out for it and would probably rather just have a job instead of a business that they have to worry about 24/7.”

      this might be a more valid argument if people didn’t inherit businesses but they do and I don’t even mean big businesses. But they just happened to be born with the “magic business genes” but mere workers aren’t. Ridiculous, completely and utterly ridiculous. Yes I would say starting a brand new business can be hard. But everyone who happens to be the bossman in a business being more qualified to run it than the workers, uh no, not really.

      But the competitive nature of capitalism making cooperatives easy to compromise I think I do agree with and so one can go straight from sympathy with cooperativism to sympathy with state communism (not the worst examples of course) in their evaluation of what should be done instead of capitalism.

    4. diptherio

      I don’t think cooperatives and self-employment schemes can really do much to solve the unemployment problem. You will still likely need the government to step in as the employer of last resort in order to hire off the bottom.

      You are probably right about that.

      distributists underestimate how hard it is to be a successful small business owner.

      Which is actually one reason why worker co-ops are better than traditional small businesses. Most people aren’t cut out to be a small-business owner, if they have to do it by themselves. But in a co-op, you don’t need to have ALL the skills needed, just some of them; you have other people to share the responsibility for keeping the biz going. It’s the “stone soup” model of business.

      For these reasons, and others, worker co-ops have a much better survival rate than traditional small businesses:

  3. nippersdad

    This looked like a good companion for the Schumer piece. Interesting that this should come up now that they have no possibility of implementation; just something to take back off the table one their majorities are regained?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      (Whole grain) bread you can eat.

      Circuses you can only watch, with or without hunger pangs.

      This feels more like the latter. For an efficient joy-of-living person, he/she can get the same amount of pleasure, or perhaps even more, watching grass grow.

  4. gonzomarx

    If you can find a way, watch. Interesting and hits some NC points.
    Tries to cover a lot in an hour and should of been in three parts.

    Accidental Anarchist: Life Without Government
    Carne Ross was a career diplomat who believed western democracy could save us all. But after the Iraq war he became disillusioned and resigned. This film traces Carne’s worldwide quest to find a better way of doing things – from a farming collective in Spain, to Occupy Wall Street to Rojava in war-torn Syria – as he makes the epic journey from government insider to anarchist.

    I think the west is only ever going to give the Kurds weak support, can’t have a good example now can we!
    Looking back I think we can now see how important Occupy was in sowing seeds that have taken root in the last couple of years.

  5. PlutoniumKun

    In China, Herd of ‘Gray Rhinos’ Threatens Economy NYT

    Some of the graphs and charts in this article are really eye-opening. Its a strong reminder that debt isn’t just a problem in the banking system or (in China) local governments, but sometimes corporate debts can run out of control and be just as big a threat to stability. But the good thing is that the Chinese do seem determined to keep their proto-oligarchs firmly under control:

    Last year, the chairman of Anbang, a fast-growing insurer that paid $2 billion for the Waldorf Astoria in New York, held court at the luxurious hotel, wining and dining American business leaders. Last month, the chairman, Wu Xiaohui, was detained by the Chinese police, for undisclosed reasons.

    Fosun, run by a professed “Warren Buffett of China,” made multibillion-dollar deals for Club Med, Cirque du Soleil and other brands. The company was recently forced to deny speculation that its chairman, Guo Guangchang, who was briefly held by officials in 2015 for unknown reasons, was in custody again.

    Its good to see that they are making the CEO’s visibly responsible, but I wonder if this could backfire, resulting in a flight of the rich and corrupt from China leaving havoc in their wake.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I fear irrationality or “known unknowns” has to come into account. Has the U.S. foreign policy establishment behaved rationally?

      Spreading chaos when your empire largely runs on soft power isn’t rationale and demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of that empire. Putin’s Moscow could easily be in the empire. The planners in China and Russia need to understand short term corporate interests dominate. Until Libya, the U.S. empire was pretty tolerable. Libya demonstrated the rot was bipartisan, and the U.S. had no better angels. Given the U.S. deal made under Shrub with Libya, would you expect an empire built on soft power to undermine that deal at the first opportunity? Maybe undermine it, but tear it up entirely?

      From a branding perspective, the U.S. is an empire that doesn’t grasp it’s an empire, just an exceptional leadership class of American exceptionalists (they hate Trump because he pulls the curtain back). Functionally, Washington is incapable of dealing with the necessity of lasting empires to be two way streets. The joke about the People’s Front of Judea is relevant. Empires last because they bring roads, hospitals, etc…soldiers of the Empire aren’t seen as occupiers but as marks to spend money in local garrison towns.

      Moscow and Beijing saw the new emperor kill a new but loyal member of the Empire, Gaddafi, then watched the next emperor quote Julius Caesar as a victory claim ignoring Caesar’s boast was in response to how in the middle of a Civil War he took his army and smashed an invading army three time his size, just as well equipped as his. The irrational nature of the U.S. means any world leadership needs to be eternally vigilant. Remember Obama and Hillary were supposed to be the “smart” ones. Now Trump has three carriers threatening North Korea for reasons…

      1. Carolinian

        We were set up as a republic, not an empire and the fundamental contradiction of the last seventy years perhaps stems from the US desire for “soft conquest”–trying to run other country’s lives while prating about democracy. The Brits, by contrast, had their own myths about the “white man’s burden” but at least they were a lot more honest about empire including calling it an empire.

        1. Olga

          Except there is nothing particularly “soft” ab the US empire and its ways… just check out the blood-letting in 1965 Indonesia (never mind Vietnam, and all the rest). And yes, I think we now live in a time when the accumulated weight of all the inherent contradictions (whether in foreign policy or domestic economic policies) is bubbling up to the surface… Kinda like the super volcano – just waiting for the big one.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            For the scale of the empire, its soft. The UK is part of the Empire. Canada, Mexico, Australia, France, Germany, and on it goes. They are part of the empire. They aren’t junior partners. They are vassals. We let them have their little Blue Raj’s, but they all bend the knee for an opportunity to have Michael Bay send them a Transformers movie.

            The empire was largely built on soft power. Vietnam and the like were barely blips here in Latinum. It was entertainment on the nightly news to warm us up for the sports scores.

            Rapists are tolerated in places such as Okinawa as an example, but Tokyo doesn’t live under the boot in any real sense.

          2. ChrisFromGeorgia

            Certainly nothing soft about its ways, although one might argue the results seem to be getting softer and softer.

            While Clinton/GHW Bush were at least able to push around the schoolyard weaklings (Milosevic, Noriega,) the record since then is looking awfully unconvincing.

            Iraq a total mess and now aligning more with Iran; Afghanistan a never-ending quagmire; nothing accomplished in Libya save aiding a murder of a head of state, and now, after wasting billions and countless lives, we find out that “Assad must stay.”

            The street cred factor is definitely approaching zero.

        2. Synoia

          Two points:

          1. We were set up as a republic, not an empire – not so. The structure of a Federation of States and admitting newly conquered territories is Empire Building. The basic structure of the United States is an empire, and the practice was the white people would expand and control it.

          2. We were set up as a republic, not an empire and the fundamental contradiction of the last seventy years perhaps stems from the US desire for “soft conquest”–trying to run other country’s lives while prating about democracy. – Which underscores the essential deceit in the US’ behavior.

          If the United States were a true “federation of states” it would offer statehood to expand its reach. It does not. It pretends to offer democracy, but only on its terms which is not democracy.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I think I’d have hard time saying we’re a vassal state.

            Maybe it’s just me.

          2. Carolinian

            I’m not sure Manifest Destiny was quite the same as what the Europeans were doing but in any case the government the founders created was more concerned with managing conflicts between the states that already existed. When lands were taken from the Indians or the Mexicans those regions were folded into the country as a whole (and the Indians and Mexicans who still lived here eventually became voting citizens).

            Gore Vidal said that WW2 was the pivot point when the country changed from a republic–however imperfect–into an Empire. He blamed FDR and perhaps most especially Truman.

    2. ex-PFC Chuck

      The link “It’s Time To Raise the Level of Public Debate about Syria” should also be filed under Empire Collapse. It should also be added to the lists of “Must Reads” for the month or year, if there were such things. The money quote is not just about Syria but also the propagandizing that’s been inflicted on US citizens since at least the dawn of the 20th century. It’s buried in Footnote 1:

      . . the truth will be what it is forever, without any input from anyone, whereas a lie becomes increasingly high maintenance in the face of simple questioning. It is endlessly difficult to maintain the back story, and then the back story’s story, and so on, until the effort required to avoid self-contadiction simply becomes too much and the simple truth just comes out again, like a plant through cracked tarmac. That is why the propaganda campaign needs to be so vast and long term. It is a gargantuan feat that we only see the tip of. We see the movie, we don’t see the entire production process.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Yes, the effort required to avoid self-contradiction is very taxing, mentally…and physically.

        Physical exertion, then, leads to a greater need by the body for air and oxygen…thus, a longer nose.

    3. Andrew Watts

      I read that Army War College study but was confounded by all the corporate speak. They frequently refer to such terms/phrases as “managing our risk portfolio” and other abstract nonsense. It made me think that being enamored with abstract thought is a sign of decline or institutional dementia.

      It wasn’t until halfway through that I realized that this was exactly what Lenin was talking about when he said that imperialism was the highest form of capitalism. The study was written with all the corporate babble because they have internalized the view that their “defense” (read: “imperialist”) operations are for the sole purpose of profit.

  6. Carla

    The Real Democracy History Calendar, Entry for July 24

    1998 – “Rethinking the Corporation” talk by Virginia Rasmussen, Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD) principal. Rasmussen’s talk, during Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom conference, July 24-31, Baltimore, MD, included the following:

    “I think we would agree to describe the reality that flows from this corporate power as anti-democratic, anti-community, anti-worker, anti-person and anti-planet…Given our relative consensus on this situation, what should we be asking and doing about the corporation?…To effectively begin the work of countering what amounts to global corporate tyranny, we’ll need to do two kinds of defining: what we wish to see in the future, and what we are seeing in the present…We’ll never move these corporate behemoths out of our way with the poking sticks and thin willow reeds available to us through regulatory action…Nor will we gain their everlasting mercy with pleas for social responsibility or requests to sign a corporate ‘code of conduct,’ or the pitiful pleading for side agreements on free-trade pacts…Our colonized minds make it difficult to cut through our experience and envision real democracy. We’ve got a ‘cop in our head,’ and the cop comes from corporate headquarters…What must be done?

    “When those of us who believe in an empowered citizenship see corporations spewing excrement and oppression with ever greater reach, we need to ask, ‘By what authority can corporations do that? They have no authority to do that. We never gave them authority.’ And we must work strategically to challenge their claims to authority…”

    View year-to-date listings in the Real Democracy History Calendar:

    Copyright © 2017 Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy. All rights reserved. POCLAD, P.O. Box 18465, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

    1. PhilM

      Nobody ever has to “give authority” to anybody. All they have to do is refuse to fight a daily, relentless, exhausting, apparently pointless, definitely counter-productive struggle against authority.

      1. clinical wasteman

        All the more reason to welcome a document of decision to fight like the one Carla posted here. Not winning outright in a mere (NO irony!) 19 years is NOT the same thing as refusal.
        It’s true though that “authority” (a euphemism for violence) doesn’t need to be given/permitted by those on the receiving end. Capital and its various police forces (broad sense) have never stopped expanding their “authority”/power since several centuries before anyone alive today was born, but that’s definitely not because a lack of furious resistance everywhere at every stage, even if “resistance” (not to speak of “The R*sistance”: the surviving Italian and Yugoslavian Partigiani should sue!) looks comparatively feeble now in certain parts of the world.
        A more disturbing question is: considering the heroism (a word that normally makes me gag, but it’s suitable here) and cumulative strategic insight of countless insurgencies from the joint slave-indentured revolts of the 17th century in Caribbean and North America onwards* and right through to the late 20th century (my internal jury is still out on the 21st), what more can be done that wasn’t already defeated?
        Of course the answer isn’t “nothing”, but it may be something like “nothing that can be known in advance”, which makes the collective (i.e., always, international), attempt to do it anyway all the more intimidating. “Knowing in advance” is sometimes just sterile theorizing, but not always; and brave, doomed ignorance is something the world’s proprietors love to see in their enemies.

        [*On the first “multi-ethnic” plantation revolts and the subsequent full racialization and quasi-industrialization of Caribbean and American slavery, see Peter Linebaugh and CLR James, among other. Yes it’s an arbitrary starting point, but it coincides with the early formation of 1. “capital” and 2. “race”]

  7. Jason

    Regarding Wonder Woman… the reviewer does not appear to have stayed until the end of the film, which delivers a message that war is something human beings are pushed toward by great, terrible, and alien powers, but that we still have the choice to reject it.

    Or maybe that just isn’t a message the New Republic wants to repeat.

    1. DJPS

      “the reviewer does not appear to have stayed until the end of the film”…

      Having sat through it myself, I can’t say I blame them!

    2. Annotherone

      Yes, that’s how the linked review struck me too. We saw the movie, out of curiosity, and rather surprisingly, were the only audience members – it was a late afternoon showing on a Monday. I wrote the following as part of my own blog review:

      “There are some mildly funny exchanges, between WW and Steve the pilot, and others in the 1918 scenario at various points, as WW encounters human nature at its worst, but also at its best. Some more serious exchanges come later between Ares [aka Mars, god of war] and WW, as he explains to her why humans must be destroyed because of their many and varied failings. They are a failed experiment, he declared. WW does not fully disagree but also points out that humans are capable of good things too, as she has experienced, and that there is a choice they all make, some good, some bad – importantly not always bad. She adds that it’s love, and only love, which will save them (us!)”

      Reviewers always see what they want to see – whatever fits in with their own political, religious and world views. :)

    3. john

      If somebody goes and watches Wonder Woman and finds “propaganda” (AND writes about it, no less) they’ve got an even worse case of Political Morality OCD than I do.

    4. Andrew Watts

      It’s propaganda. That movie turned World War I into a morality tale of good v. evil in some kind of noble struggle. I suppose that’s the only way to square the whole intervention of the Gods plot line but there wasn’t anything even remotely manichean about WWI. The European empires began a war to see who would dominate the planet after having ravaged the easy prey who wielded less technological means. The irony is that this struggle ended several of them and put the rest into terminal decline.

      As an anti-imperialist I cheer on the collective suicide of the old European empires during WW1. I’m just sorry the United States decided to intervene late in the game and for the domestic oppression that followed. Ahh, the good old days when mocking or criticizing the president was a violation of the Sedition Act! /sarc

      The filmmakers probably thought they were being clever by setting it during World War i given this was the first movie in a series of Wonder Woman movies. WW1 = Branding ya’ll!

  8. WobblyTelomeres

    re: The balanced budget paradox

    I have been wondering just how much of, this confounding idiocy by our elected officials, some of which have economics degrees and/or MBAs from good institutions (yes, I’m considering Trump and Shrub as outliers), can be traced to our political farm system.

    That is, if we groom our politicians at the local level, then state level, before launching them at the nation, they arrive in DC with years, decades, of experience in environments where balancing the budget, be it a city, a county, or a state, is critical to the fiscal health of the entity. Considering the well-documented “loss in plasticity” of the human brain as one ages, it becomes glaringly obvious why they can no longer grasp notions such as the paradox of thrift – even if they once displayed full comprehension of the concept on a mid-term or final.

    Here in Alabama, we have a prime example of this problem with our 5th district representative, Mo Brooks, who is always, ALWAYS, glad to remind anyone who will listen that he graduated from Duke with highest honors in economics. Duke! Economics! Why, oh why, we ask ourselves is he pushing for a balanced budget amendment? Well, okay, some of us. Correction, a scant few of us in AL-5.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I think the notion of ‘balanced budgets’ as a good thing is baked in to us almost from childhood. Of course, anyone with a knowledge of Keynes should at least question the notion. But the Germans, to take one example, are if anything even more obsessive about the notion (the so-called Swabian Housewife, etc).

      The thing is, I’ve had this discussion with people with economics background/knowledge, and they will almost always acklowledge after a brief argument that balancing budgets is a pointless aim in itself, and will often be counter productive. But even after acklowledging the point there will always be a qualification of ‘yes, but… in the real world….’ or ‘but politically speaking….’ And so it goes on.

      1. a different chris

        The problem with having an open acceptance of a balanced budget is that the “right people” won’t necessarily get the newly-created cash.

        Thus our military exists independent of a balanced budget, but anything for the poors is given the gimlet eye.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Republicans are what they are. You can’t fight the wind.

      The problem with Team Blue is due to having less money than the Republicans over the years and other wretched ideas they recruit local, vapid non-entities to run for office interested in buying a title who can self fund and won’t have any embarrassing pictures such as marching for a good cause. “Go along to get along” types. They don’t join the most hideous GOP groups, but they run in similar circles. When they rise, they aren’t interested in helping new candidates because Team Blue didn’t help them and generally they have no moral center beyond the “go along to get along” philosophy. Throw in the Jrs and Mrs Clinton, who were elevated due to celebrity, and you have a rotten party where Bernie Sanders is the ideas man.

      Al Franken quickly established himself as a leading policy wonk on Capitol Hill. It would be okay if he was seen as a voice for issues off the Versailles grid or a tireless deal maker, but he is just a comedian. He isn’t an expert on anything by any traditional standards. The Congress is so damn stupid and lazy a smart guy like Franken isn’t simply recognized as a smart guy but as an expert.

    3. Benedict@Large

      The fact is that most people (and that includes economists) simply don’t get macroeconomics, and even among economists, could not provided a definition of it that most people could understand, and this leads to biasing every answer as if macro were simply micro, but with big numbers.

      Consider this. Much of the field of economics is slaving away, trying to find what they call the microfoundations of macroeconomics. A noble pursuit, I suppose, but no one has settled the question as to whether macroeconomics even has microfoundations, or alternatively whether microeconomics might have macrofoundations instead. Indeed, no one has even asked the question, such is the bias towards micro.

      1. a different chris

        >whether microeconomics might have macrofoundations instead.

        Oh wow eyes opened. I never thought of that.

        So it seems like it’s like (if I can give the usual horrible analogy) trying to think about the way fish breath without starting with the fact that they live in water. The macro tenets underlying society push the micro behaviors, starting with the basic flavor of inside/outside of the law, and if you had a different macro your micros would not at all be the same.

      2. clinical wasteman

        Admittedly a lot of the “settling” was done before those terms were coined, but I’d say the question was settled in favour of macro-origin by Adam Smith (notwithstanding the bogus anthropology and the parables of the lonely “entrepreneur”), Ricardo and Marx in the 18th/19th centuries when it was called Political Economy/”critique of Political Economy”. (“Critique” in that sense didn’t mean complete abolition, any more than Kant wanted to abolish “Pure Reason”. Which is not to say Marx didn’t want to abolish Kant.) Then the logical and historical priority of “macro-” was confirmed in the 20th by the likes of Keynes and Galbraith (despite willing service to opportunistic policy and other quirks), and also by all serious, i.e. broadly materialist, historians outside economics departments. (The latter are now largely outside history departments too, purged for much the same reasons as macropolitical economists.) “Microeconomics” is a relatively newfangled “disruptive technology”, about as useful as a “smart” refrigerator other than for the purposes of perpetual supply-side retrenchment.

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      There is a season for everything.

      When faced with excess money in the economy, there are 2 choices:

      1. Tax people
      2. Run budget surpluses

      For some reason, the first is mentioned as if it’s the only option.

      I guess it’s never a bad time to buy fewer F-35s.

      Heads, I spend more.

      Tails, you hand over some money to me (for me to destroy in my fireplace).

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        I think we feel the same way about the F-35s, Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), and emerging supercarrier class (eg USS Gerald R. Ford). Annoying is that the MIC, having discovered the political power of distributing the manufacturing of military hardware across multiple states, have now expanded to global involvement of manufacturing the ultra-expensive hardware:

        In case you missed this tidy little rant from yesterday:

  9. PlutoniumKun

    The artificial glacier growing in the desert CNN. Not really glaciers: ice stupas.

    Its not the first time I think that this has been linked to here (the idea, not the article), but I think its fantastic. A few years ago I was in Ladakh – the traditional villages are amazing. They’ve maintained a good quality of life despite incredibly harsh conditions – very cold, very dry, very short summers. Partly, they do it through very rigid controls on joint property and on population growth. They’ve built amazing little canals that run for many miles from villages to the ends of corrie glaciers, collecting the water for the villages use. But the glaciers are visibly retreating and its obvious that when they go, so will the people. The only alternative I heard talk about there was mega-dams to replace the larger glaciers – and these would be mostly to ensure flow downriver for India. So its great to see a low tech approach like this. But its obvious that the ice stupas haven’t yet been built on the scale needed, we can just hope they work when scaled up.

  10. Old Hickory

    This is good for a horselaugh (from Beinart’s piece in The Atlantic):

    “Blumenthal is right that Democrats don’t have ‘a big economic message.’ But that’s not primarily because of the Russia scandal. Parties that are out of power rarely have a clear agenda. It’s hard to develop a clear message when you don’t have a clear leader. Narratives emerge during presidential campaigns. And the early evidence is that the progressive themes Bernie Sanders pushed last year—single-payer health care, free college tuition, a $15 minimum wage—will carry more weight inside the Democratic Party in 2020 than they did in 2016.” “Will carry more weight.” Sure. And he’s wrong about the “clear agenda.” The Dems have one, it’s just not in any way progressive.

    1. DJG

      Poor Beinart. The problem is that Greenwald has also insisted on the rule of law.

      Another delicious quote:

      “But it’s one thing to oppose defending the American empire. It’s another to oppose defending the American homeland. By intervening in the 2016 election, Russia did not threaten American influence in Afghanistan or Ukraine or Syria. It threatened America itself.”

      So who do we send out to defend the Heimat? The ghost of Joe McCarthy? Grizzly momma Sarah Palin?

      You can’t make up blubbering like Beinart’s blubbering. It does not bode well.

      1. JohnnyGL

        Yes, I made the mistake of reading that Beinart article, too. It’s godawful. Do they not have editors at the Atlantic? He drops ‘fake news’ like that the Russians intervened in the French elections which was completely contradicted by the head of French intelligence, as I recall.

        Then there’s this howler of a paragraph….

        “It’s easy to say that because America’s intelligence agencies were wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, progressives shouldn’t believe them now. But there are critical differences. In 2002, the intelligence agencies faced intense pressure from the Bush White House and Pentagon to make Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs seem more menacing. They faced no similar political pressure to exaggerate the severity of Russia’s election meddling.”

        Perhaps Beinart should take a look at the CIA’s massive program to arm Syrian rebels? Yeah, the one Trump just shut down, admirably. Maybe there’s a few gravy trains that some important people wouldn’t like derailed? Maybe look at a few of the Russophobic statements Brennan and Clapper have made? Beinart can’t claim to be a journalist acting in good faith and completely hand-wave off the idea that there’s NO WAY anyone in intel world has an agenda.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          RE: the French elections

          I was discussing the Russia, Russia, Russia nonsense with some of those “love me I’m a liberal” types yesterday. I made the point that Obama also interfered in the French election by expressing a preference there and one woman started in on how the Russians tried to damage Macron with last minute leaks. I asked her if she really believed that and when she said she did, I pointed out that the French government didn’t. She had a look of total confusion on her face and the subject was quickly changed.

        2. Tom Denman

          > Do they not have editors at the Atlantic?

          Editors? My freshman comp instructor would never have allowed any student to get away with the flaccid reasoning in that piece. For example Beinart writes:

          “As with climate change, the evidence that Russia interfered in last year’s election appears quite strong. The CIA, the FBI, and the NSA all believe ‘with high confidence’ that ‘Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016’ designed to ‘undermine public faith in the US democratic process.’ The CIA and FBI also believe with ‘high confidence’-and the NSA believes with ‘moderate confidence’-that Putin was trying to elect Trump.”

          The only “evidence” provided here is that U.S. intelligence agencies “believe” it to be the case, and they do so “with high confidence.” It seems that when discussing this topic, one need only use the word “evidence” without having to offer any.

          As for the reference to climate change, my instructor would doubtless have drawn a fish symbol in the margin, denoting the employment of a red herring.

    2. Cat Burglar

      Watching skilled hands at work is always an education, so I liked Beinart’s piece in The Atlantic. Oooo — a foreign head of state favored one US presidential candidate over another, mounted a propaganda campaign to influence public opinion, and — maybe, but I can’t show you evidence — scouted around inside some state and county election computer systems. I’m so scared. Never heard of anything like that before; glad I live in a nation that would never do that to any other country. Beinart has to work hard for his money! Imagine having to make that case before a relatively educated readership.

      The article reads as part of the monolithic message discipline behind the Putinghazi scandal — it must take an amazing network of patronage and string-pulling to sustain the tone.

      I’m guessing that the DNC and donors have twigged to the fact they are going to lose enough Sanders voters to make a difference in the next election. So that is probably why the only positive Dem policies Beinart lists are from the Sanders platform! The ideological olive branch on single payer, free tuition, and the minimum wage has been extended to the left wing of the party (Senator Harris saying she agrees with single-payer as a concept) with a tag hanging off it (“values”, “will fight for”, and of course: “will carry more weight”) that reads: just don’t expect us to do anything.

  11. PlutoniumKun

    The Mystery of Why Japanese People Are Having So Few Babies The Atlantic

    Key quote:

    But there’s another, simpler explanation for the country’s low birth rate, one that has implications for the U.S.: Japan’s birth rate may be falling because there are fewer good opportunities for young people, and especially men, in the country’s economy. In a country where men are still widely expected to be breadwinners and support families, a lack of good jobs may be creating a class of men who don’t marry and have children because they—and their potential partners—know they can’t afford to.

    Its long been seen in demographics that rapidly dropping birth rates are associated with economic uncertainty, in particular among younger people, but its nice to see someone state what should be obvious – that a key issue is that women will very sensibly not choose to reproduce with men who can’t support a family.

    The usual explanation given by demographers and economists is that ‘couples’ can’t afford to raise more than one child in societies with poor job prospects (i.e. eastern or southern Europe) or poor maternal support (much of developed Asia). In Japan there are multiple factors at work – very poor maternity leave, poor promotion prospects for women and so on, but the key one is that men just can’t support a family. I think this is a phenomenon which is growing more and more widespread, throughout Asia, Europe and the Americas.

    There are obviously cultural issues at work – in other countries a response would be more single women having children by themselves (usually only an option with good jobs for women and/or very strong social welfare support), or for people just to have children anyway (as in many very poor countries).

    1. BoycottAmazon

      I’d add that potential parents of lower income in developed Asian economies see children as a horrible ROI. Far more expensive to raise than in USA for example, because of the enormous education costs, housing costs, etc; yet it’s easy to predict that most of these unborn children would be worse off than their parents, and certainly in no condition to help ease their parents financial burdens in old age, but rather become an additional burden in themselves. These potential parents know that their lack of connections would also seriously handicap their child.

    2. Louis Fyne

      —The Mystery of Why Japanese People Are Having So Few Babies The Atlantic—

      in addition to the standard reasons cited, an aspect of the cost factor that articles don’t flat out mention. Raising a kid in East Asia on a median income looks bloody impossible.

      Visit the median newlywed’s house and try raising 2 kids on the median income in a 600 sq ft/55m^2 apartment. Or try walking to the corner grocery store towing a 2 year old cuz you don’t have childcare (which historically would have been given by a relative). (not to mention edu costs as the kids grow)

      The answer is easy but sometimes avoided by pundits cuz it means their top 1% will have to pay more. Make it cheaper to raise kids by throwing out moaaar tax credits. Cash rules everything around me.

      But I guess it’s easier and cheaper to blame Japanese men for playing too many video games.

      ps, ecologically/pragmatically East Asia is doing (arguably) the right thing by right-sizing their populations (arguably coerced by economic trends). so pundits who complain about the West/East Asia having less kids better not be complaining about CO2 footprints from the developed world. The developed world would be stabilized/shrinking if not for migration.

      1. clinical wasteman

        Louis, please don’t construe this question as snark just because it comes from an incorrigibly pro-immigration immigrant.
        But: is it well documented somewhere than migration is a major cause of ‘developed-world’ pre-eminence in the matter of spewing CO2?
        I had always thought it was because of, well, ‘development’, i.e. the cumulative effect of many decades of intensive industrial production, intensive (i.e. indirectly fossil-fuelled) agriculture and fossil-fuelled utilities and transportation, all on a scale without compare anywhere else in the world until 5 historical minutes ago. The growth rate in ‘western’ emissions may (or may not) be starting to level out, but all that stuff is still largely in place, so it can’t be called a thing of the past even if use of renewables etc. is regarded as more than cosmetic.
        I don’t have any statistics to hand either, so correct me if this is wrong, but Australia would seem an obvious example of a place with a tiny population and near-insuperable barriers to immigration, but one that still manages to make an outsize contribution to CO2 emissions thanks to its highly developed fossil-fuelled economy (car-crazed if not all that industrial) and its mining sector, which vomits great gouts of carbon on site and then exports the material for more fossil-based production elsewhere.
        For the historical reasons already mentioned, I don’t think it makes sense to take emissions trends of the last few years in isolation: the ‘developed’ world has already done the vast bulk of the damage, most of it in the post-WW1 age of border control, and furthermore those engines of damage are mostly still running. But even if there is evidence of a recent correlation between emissions trends and immigration, it still doesn’t automatically follow that those statistically marginal numbers of ‘incomers’ are the cause of the difference in themselves. For one thing, if they really do that much damage just by living, working and (if they’re lucky) consuming, they would be doing that wherever they were. So why single them out? Reshuffling the rankings of emissions by country invites deckchairs/Titanic metaphors where planetary survival is concerned.
        And then also, might not that sort of correlation, if it exists, be explained by the way ‘development’ tends to attract people who would otherwise have to live without it, so that the full-scale fossil economies, rather than the migrants as such, would still be the cause of disparities in national “performance”, for whatever those are worth in the long run?

        1. WobblyTelomeres

          Hope you don’t mind an interloper in your conversation, but it certainly read to me that Louis was not blaming immigrants for “major cause of ‘developed-world’ pre-eminence in the matter of spewing CO2”. Rather, I read his post as stating that population has a direct relationship to CO2 production and that if it weren’t for immigration, the population in Japan would decrease.

          Immigrants from developing countries do not carry around a predisposition to produce more CO2, rather, it is the environment/culture that they migrate to that contains a predisposition to produce more CO2. Such as the US.

          Imagine a culture where everyone walks to work.
          Imagine a culture where everyone takes public transportation to work.
          Now, imagine someone from one of these two cultures arriving in the US and having to (a) own a vehicle or know someone that does and (b) having to ride in said vehicle to get to work as (c) Richie Rich ain’t gonna pay to let the poor ride around for free (effing freeloaders!).

          I believe that is what Louis was saying.

          Louis: if I’m wrong, please, please correct me.

    3. Darius

      Another factor in Japan and Mediterranean countries is that working women aren’t valued. This is in line with poor benefits for working women.

      I’m curious about the US, though. Benefits here suck. Could the absence of demographic implosion in the face of stagnation be due to the Family Medical Leave Act and the fact that some employers offer parental leave?

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The standard explanation I’ve seen for those developed countries that have maintained fairly high birth rates is that they fall into two categories:

        1. Countries like Sweden or France which have very high levels of State support for maternity leave, early childcare, etc., or,
        2. Countries with ‘flexible’ and fairly robust labour markets, allowing women (in particular) to dive in and out of work to have children – e.g., USA, Ireland, UK.

        The countries with particularly low birth rates tend to feature a lack of official maternity/child support, along with very rigid traditional work regimes which discriminate in particular against working mothers. This includes a swathe of countries from Estonia down to Romania, across Italy and Spain, and in Asia, almost all the developed Pacific countries. Interestingly, most demographers think China is falling exactly into the demographic pattern of Japan and South Korea – i.e. very low birthrates, for probably the same reason.

        I think family support is another key issue. I know that in Ireland birth rates, while generally very high, actually rose briefly after the end of the Celtic Tiger. The speculation was that people were too busy before to have children, but deciding that even with unemployment problems looming, they’d take advantage of the extra time. Noticeably, as the economy has improved, average marriage age has become significantly older, indicating that younger people either don’t have the time, or the resources to marry.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        Another factor in Japan and Mediterranean countries is that working women aren’t valued.

        They aren’t ‘valued’ either in South America or the Gulf States, but that doesn’t stop a high birth rate. If their husbands can earn enough to raise a family, that can result in very high birth rates among the middle classes. Its the combination of poor options for women, and the lack of men with sufficient income to raise a family that seems the key issue.

        1. FluffytheObeseCat

          Religious and cultural norms also have a huge impact on birth rates, worldwide. In the U.S. Evangelicals, Mormons, Mennonites, & Muslims all have larger families than the average. In my childhood Roman Catholics did too, and probably still do, if only because a slim majority of Latin immigrants still identify as Catholic.

          Families tend to be larger in subcultures where women gain prestige and some power over their lives through motherhood…… and little else.

          The US has been below replacement rate since the Great Recession. Our status as a developed country with a high-ish birth rate may be a thing of the past.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            In Europe there is almost no relationship with religion. The lowest rates are found in catholic countries such as Portugal, Spain and Italy, but the highest rates are also in catholic countries, Ireland and France. In general, birth rates are higher on average in the cool northern protestant countries, while distinctly lower in the former communist eastern/Greek Orthodox countries.

            Of course, a more refined look at the figures may show some patterns emerging (as an obvious issue, it may be that immigrant and/or muslim communities distort these figures), but its hard not to draw the conclusion from European figures that on this continent at least, economic and social issues are far more important than religious norms.

    4. Arizona Slim

      Hasn’t the US birth rate been in freefall since the onset of the Great Recession?

      1. Vatch

        i wouldn’t say that it has been in freefall, but births have been dropping. In the U.S., births and the birth rate had a peak in 2007.

        Most recently, 1,240 births per 100,000 (12.4 per 1,000):

        But births still exceed deaths by a significant amount, as there are 823.7 deaths per 100,000:

        The U.S. birth rate still needs to be lower (so does the death rate).

        1. DH

          The GOP is trying to raise both the birth rate and the death rate, one by withholding family planning services, especially from the poor, and the second by eliminating health care insurance from millions of people.

  12. David

    RE: the Atlantic piece

    Okay, and back to my self-imposed boycott of reading anything pushing the nutter “Russia” hysteria. As it inevitably annoys me to no end.

    This was no exception. “Officials” in France claim Russia “meddled” in their election? Wasn’t more or less the exact opposite the actual case? Unless “officials” include every last fringe idiot with a twatter account, then?

    And exactly zero mention of how more or less every country “meddles” in the elections of others. Let’s just skip that and go right to the “Pearl harbor” hyperbole. Because, uh, “Donald Trump: bad” must define everything one is about or thinks and nothing else whatsoever must matter a whit.

  13. a different chris

    >Next Leap for Robots: Picking Out and Boxing Your Online Order

    Haven’t followed the link yet, but I doubt it has any reference to Walter Reuthier’s (spelling?) famous observation.

  14. Louis Fyne

    — Grab is in Southeast Asia. Are the economics different from Uber’s, for any reason?—-

    Cars are cheaper (pesky safety regulations). Are there daily caps on hours driven? Maybe opportunity costs are different?

    In the end though the long-run economics probably are the same—-too many drivers (zero barrier to entry) will be chasing too few fares. But the house always wins.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      One of Uber’s claim to fame is the ability to get a cab when it’s hard to get get a cab, but cab companies don’t compete with peak traffic hours because the wear and tear on the cab is too high from stop a day go traffic. Airports and train stations run their operations to avoid surge traffic or at least they have been around long enough for scheduling to have worked itself out.

      A surge in drivers for the drunks is nice, but that’s not a business the size of Uber’s investments.

      The various international Ubers are just local pop-ups started by people who used an Uber in the U.S. on a trip saw a chance to make a buck.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      In most of SE Asia the standard ‘taxi’ is a guy on a moped, they are found at almost every junction. Unregulated and very cheap. I can’t imagine an Uber-alike being able to compete. My guess is that the the selling point is that a push for more, not less regulation on cabs and moto’s of all sorts could provide an opening for a company like that. Sort of regulated, but not too much, but enough to wipe out the informal competition.

      1. Lee

        I should start offering taxi rides on my motorcycle. Here in the SF Bay Area we have stop and go traffic at all hours and I’m quite good at lane splitting. Scary thrills galore for which I can charge extra.

      2. Louis Fyne

        For anyone who’s a long-tail risk-chicken like me, avoid riding in a tuk-tuk and never rent/ride a moped. obscenely high traffic accident rates by western standards (even in cars)

    3. ook

      Cars are definitely not cheaper in Singapore.

      I’ve used Grab in Thailand and Singapore. They are fully integrated with local taxi companies and limo services so Grab is a convenient way of ordering a real taxi. Ordering a taxi through Grab and ordering a car through Grab, there is about a 10% cost difference at most (except during peak periods, when taxis are cheaper).

      1. notabanker

        Agree with you on Singapore. Cars are definitely not cheap.

        When Grab first started up years ago, it marketed direct to the taxi drivers as an addition to the proprietary app(s) to increase demand exposure. For the rider, it acted as an aggregator, and literally showed all available taxi’s in the area while you waited for one to respond to your query. They may be integrated with the taxi companies now, but I had several conversations with drivers that had signed up their phones for the app. Was fairly commonplace for a driver to have multiple phones on their dash along with the company radio display.

        I don’t remember the pricing being any different from the metered fare, although it may have been. Certainly not a large difference to be noticeable. As a full time taxi / public transit rider who knew 100’s of people that chose the same, it was an extremely popular app in peak times. It was fairly commonplace to have 2 or more taxi apps going at once during the evening commute hours, especially if it was raining.

        Last time I was in Bali, there was a fairly organized campaign against the taxi apps. All the villages we drove into had the red circle with a line through it over the Uber (and others) logo.

  15. Christopher Fay

    The cadaver is on the table. We’re establishing regional panels to see if it has a pulse.

  16. Richard

    Going cashless! Why is it for every stupid, crackpot idea we shoot down, like tpp, the overlords have 2 or 3 waiting in the wings. Open your living room to bezos. Give over any hope of sovereignty, or of local or national reform to tisa. Give up all your cash and let us take care of everything! And Jesus, Russia is like an effing orchard, full of trees bearing stupid idea fruit for our politicos.
    Where is our own legion of crackpot ideas, I ask? I fear a crackpot gap! Quick, everyone come up with one.
    On any ballot, a space marked just “no”, and if that wins everyone has to go back and try again, with new candidates.
    Personally, I don’t think that’s crackpot.

    1. Vatch

      On any ballot, a space marked just “no”, and if that wins everyone has to go back and try again, with new candidates.
      Personally, I don’t think that’s crackpot.

      I agree; it’s not a crackpot idea. It might force the political parties to nominate decent candidates. But it probably won’t happen, so we need to find another way to get decent candidates onto the ballot in the general election. More people need to vote in the primaries — if that doesn’t happen, we’ll still be subjected to trashy candidates from both the Republicans and the Democrats in most elections.

      1. Richard

        Get more crackpot Beef! We really want that one, so ask for something beyond it! Crazyish, but still in the realm of something that could actually happen. I am halfway serious about this.
        Like this: We really want free health care for everyone, so maybe we ask for I’m thinking of now I got it NO ONE employed by the federal government gets health care coverage better than the exactly average health care plan in our country. Exactly average determined by a group of 50 citizens chosen by lottery, a sort of national jury. And it stays that way until we decide to turn it off.
        Wow, now I kind of like creating crackpot ideas. This must be all Abbie Hoffman did all day!

        1. Ulysses

          “This must be all Abbie Hoffman did all day!”

          What did you want him to do after all his books were stolen??!?

          Abbie was actually pretty resourceful:

          “Hoffman apparently fooled more than just the local people. US Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) of New York, before whom Hoffman once testified at a hearing on winter navigation, said through an aide that he had no idea the environmental posing as Freed was Hoffman — “and no one else did either.”
          And after a 1978 meeting on the same topic New York Gov. Hugh Carey commended him for his “keen public spirit in providing leadership” on environmental matters.”

    2. clinical wasteman

      Ok then, how about: reverse property qualification for voting. Whereby, if you own more than [x, to be determined] in asset value, you’re quite powerful enough already and have no need to be enfranchised as well.

      1. Richard

        Now you’re riding the trolly; an extreme suggestion with a rough moral logic. Now, if we can get the overlords and their flunkies to overreact to enough half-mad ideas like this, then the more sensible proposals should meet less resistance. Hand counted paper ballots here we come!
        I am now more than halfway serious about this.

      2. Ulysses

        Medieval Florence actually had something inspired by that idea, with the Anti-magnate Ordinances of Justice. Unfortunately, their selective application made them problematic.

        From Dino Compagni’s chronicle:

        “E al loro uficio de’ Priori aggiunsono uno con la medesima bal? che gli altri, il quale chiamorono Gonfaloniere di Giustizia (Baldo Ruffoli per Sesto di Porta Duomo), a cui fusse dato uno gonfalone dell’arme del popolo, che ?la croce rossa nel campo bianco, e mille fanti tutti armati con la detta insegna o arme, che avessono a esser presti a ogni richiesta del detto Gonfaloniere, in piaza o dove bisognasse. E fecesi leggi, che si chiamorono Ordini della Giustizia, contro a’ potenti che facessono oltraggio a’ popolani”

        1. Outis Philalithopoulos

          The passage is pretty interesting. There are problems with how some of the special characters in it are displaying on my machine. Here’s a translation for those who don’t read medieval Italian:

          And they added a new office, with the same authority as their other Priors, which they called the Standard-bearer of Justice (Baldo Ruffoli, for Sesto di Porta Duomo), [and this man] was given a banner [a “standard”] of the coat of arms of the people, which is the red cross on a white field, and [he was also assigned] a thousand foot soldiers all armed with said ensign or coat of arms, who were to be ready at any call from said Standard-Bearer, in the town square or wherever it was needed. And laws were made, called the Orders of Justice, against any of the powerful who committed indignities against the people.

  17. JohnnyGL

    Anyone else finding themselves annoyed at people like Nick Brana and their ‘draft Bernie’ agenda?

    My point to Mr. Brana….if you want to create a new party, go create one yourself. I suspect Bernie himself would make a similar point. To paraphrase Lambert regarding the Greens, don’t look to parachute in a celeb so you can jumpstart your agenda. Looking for a bailout like this is disempowering and relies too much on having a ‘savior’, an idea of which many on the left have been critical.

    DSA is out there trying to build a movement and create a party. Bernie wants to wage civil war within the Dem party. Who’s right? I don’t know, so why not do both?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Because the U.S. is too large and lacks sufficient divides within the population (Catholic/Protestant on top of left/right divides) to promote a multi-party system. Fighting for the soul of Team Blue takes resources away from a “second party” and founding a second party takes resources away from trying to get Chucky Schumer and Pelosi to learn. A house divided can not stand.

      Sanders, Obama, and Dean all represented fights for the soul of Team Blue. Too many people see it as a rotten structure.

      1. Darius

        Flexibility is key. Run people in Democrats’ primaries where appropriate. Run independents or Greens where appropriate. A new party is pointless. A non-party party like DSA is the way to go.

        Forget about Schemer and Pelosi. They’ll never learn. I wish someone would take a kamikaze primary run at Ben Cardin in Maryland.

      2. JohnnyGL

        Disagree on this…I don’t think this is a zero-sum situation. I don’t think it’s possible to unite all opponents of corporatized dems around one given strategy. There are those who have forever sworn off the Dems, and there are those that think starting a new party is nearly impossible.

        Let people try whatever they think will be effective. If an idea doesn’t get traction, it’s easier to shut it down and join an existing thing that’s gaining traction.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I’m also of the opinion that Schumer, Pelosi, Hillary and others like them, will not learn deep down.

          Maybe in a different school they might…when they stop thinking they are the teachers.

          “I teach you. You don’t teach me.”

      3. a different chris

        >Because the U.S. is too large …. to promote a multi-party system.

        Not arguing with you, but doesn’t this just make you bang your head? It’s like saying “Walmart is too large to offer a wide range of goods”. WTF.

        1. jrs

          the U.S. is actually too large to be governable, it would run better if it was the size of Switzerland or something period. Too large and actually TOO ideologically diverse. Maybe someday the little people, at least, might agree on common values (and maybe still have no say) but right now that seems a long way off.

          But the main reason we don’t have a multi-party system is because we aren’t a parliamentary system is my understanding. So it’s structure.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Switching to a parliamentary structure is often proposed, but its an easy answer. A closer inspection of parliamentary systems reveal two large parties operating. Many third party candidates are scooping up the American non-voter, and the third party people are either ignored or entrusted to maintain the status quo. It might seem to be “multi-party,” but its still a center left and center right organizing structure.

            There is evidence Parliamentary structures and more importantly proportional representation as opposed to SMDP produce legislatures more representative of the population versus the results of a presidential election beauty contest (yep, Hillary and Donald…). The U.S. Senate is an obvious anachronism of slave power in the U.S. Abolishing these kinds of structures is more important than worry about the number of political parties. PR would produce more competitive races.

            Many third parties around the world revolve around a foreign power. Russia means jack to you and me, but I can understand why people in Eastern Europe might care. Frankly, its shocking there aren’t anti-American parties in Canada and Mexico.

            1. DH

              I think the chaos around Brexit in Britain is exposing some of the issues in parliamentary systems. I have lived under both a parliamentary system and the US system, and it all boils down to whether or not there is a coherent social contract in place between the various groups in the population and how the politicians are interacting with those groups. They both have good times and bad times. I wouldn’t say that we have a coherent governing system in the US right now, but I am sure it will improve at some point.

              1. NotTimothyGeithner

                The transformation of the Labour Party into Tony Blair’s “I wanna be like Bill Clinton” party represented the break down of the social contract. Instead of having a broad based center-left party, citizens began to look for the exits. Nostalgia and celebrity kept the lid on, but in a sense Brexit and Scottish nationalism (there will always be cranks), they are about the out sized power of “the City” and lack of widespread prosperity as a result.

                Young people were worried about the loss of free movement and access to jobs in the EU, but if this wasn’t a very direct concern, Brexit would be even worse which is why Corbyn isn’t suffering from his less than pro-EU stance.

              2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                One remedy I have not read discussed here is this: the best-two-out-of-three voting.

                Or the best three out of five format.

                It doesn’t address all the problems…just the one with accidental winners.

                1. NotTimothyGeithner

                  Its called PR, proportional represenation. We use SMDP, single member district plurality.

                  Mixed would be the preferred method as true PR systems would depend on the list making of party leadership, leading to a decrepit enterprise not capable of recognizing the needs of locals.

                  The goal would be to abolish the Senate go to 500 House members for 100 districts with five Congressmen per each district based the top five vote getters and every citizen gets three votes over how many candidates might choose to run. We might have to screw around to handle Alaska and Hawaii due to their geography.

                  1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                    Like voting on the same propositions one month apart, for 3 months?

                    Since the choices are only two (yes or no), we don’t have to carry over the votes from one game to another.

                    With multiple candidates, we have to carry over, not just adding up the number of wins, but numbers of votes.

            2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              results of a presidential election beauty contest

              An exceptional kind of beauty contest where viewers linger to debate what if another beauty had won.

          2. DH

            The smaller size must explain why Kansas and Illinois are much better run than the federal government.

          3. NotTimothyGeithner

            In Switzerland, the divides are Catholic/Protestant, French/German, and right/left where they live in regions where everyone is Catholic and German who divide in left/right or Protestant and French and divide into right/left. They go to Geneva to hash out their differences.

            These ethnic divides don’t exist. Conservative mormons, catholics, jews, protestants work together to oppress women.

            1. john

              They are also “surrounded by those other people”.

              I suspect the only time a society’s smart-n-savvy predator class looks out for the interests of its prey class is when they need the protection from foreign smart-n-savvy predators. (The prey class is always good cannon-fodder).

              It’s interesting watching the unification of the EU smart-n-savvy predator class in their enjoyment of feasting upon all the prey in the EU.

            2. visitor

              In Switzerland, the divides are Catholic/Protestant, French/German, and right/left

              It actually is French/German/Italian — yes, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland has a very peculiar economic and political position.

              Apart from that, there is another important divide: large city/countryside.

              1. Richard

                Just an aside, a Swiss parent in the second grade class I teach corrected me when I said I knew their country was tri-lingual. Romansch (sp?) is the 4th language spoken in Switzerland.

                1. visitor

                  Spoken by less than 1% of the population, it does not really count as a major national division factor.

        2. NotTimothyGeithner

          The ability to organize is lost, largely because multiparty systems revolve around a unique third rail or are split on ethnic lines. Organizing is hard work, and the energy and direction involved requires unceasing dedication. Is every African-American black? Does “black” have political significance? How many African-Americans would be Republicans if the GOP wasn’t so racist? How many African-Americans who support charter schools would be “black” if they weren’t trying to get their kids into the charter school? I use “black” because “black” and “not black” is the defining characteristic of the U.S. Sorry every non-black person, you are white somewhere in the U.S. If African-Americans can’t maintain solidarity for their issues along racial/ethnic lines who can?

          Certainly, there is room to protect social security or free speech, but AARP and the ACLU are there. The might drift between partisans politics, but they seem to remain above the fray. Those organizations suck oxygen out of the room too for third parties. How do you or I communicate with all the members once we win a battle or an issue become moot??

          Some parties have personality structures, but they were largely just quibbles over personality. The Gaullists were replaced by like minded people who were just younger. Yeah, they were in different “parties,” but if they had primaries, they would have been in the same party and replaced through primaries or party congresses.

          In the case of Wal-Mart, the ability to offer more varied goods in response to the customers would mean adding individual purchasing officers and restructuring their whole warehouse operation and supply chain. They made their money on bulk purchasing versus responding to customers whims.

      4. Terry Humphrey

        I believe Obama is the present soul of the Democratic Party. Talk “Hope” but say “Nope” unless it is a lucrative corporate hand out.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > DSA is out there trying to build a movement and create a party. Bernie wants to wage civil war within the Dem party. Who’s right? I don’t know, so why not do both?


  18. Steve Roberts

    Max Blumenthal and Glenn Greenwald aren’t interested in unsubstantiated propaganda. They’ve repeatedly bashed Trump but just as often require FACTS over rumor and speculation. On the Russian break in of the DNC, Greenwald has repeated demanded proof and not speculation and no proof has been presented yet. If people will remember, Obama went on national television and proclaimed North Korea hacked into Sony and announced sanctions against the country. Two years later it turned out nobody actually still believed North Korea was ever involved and the original “proof” turned out to be secret evidence from secret sources who had a motivation (think Iraq war reasoning). The sanctions against North Korea are still in place. Lots of people have been making similar demands on the Syria rebel support for years but in today’s world if you even meet with someone from the Syrian government you are attacked.

  19. Kristiina

    TURNING THE INTERNET OF THINGS INTO THE INTERNET OF US! – this from following the link to swedish company in the article in Mankato Times about microchipping workers. The swedish company Biohax international is doing the chips, according to the article. The website is not convincing. Amusing to followers of internet of things development, though. What could go wrong, indeed? Instead of horrible doomsday scenes I start to envision an absurd chaos, the new normal in many places already. “Sorry, we’re out of coffee today, my microchip only permits me to sell selzer today. Apologies for the inconvenience. Have a happy stay, and tell your friends about us!”

    1. Kristiina

      Oh, there is a Vice article in the Biohax international links, and the contact person for company…wait for it….”Österlund, who normally runs a tattoo studio in Sweden”. Ha! The future of microchipping right here.

    2. flora

      Biohax? Bio-hacks? Will black-hats try hacking the bio-hack? That’s almost as good a name as Grab is for the Asian Uber. Almost as good a name as the mythical Dewey, Cheatem & Howe law/accounting firm.

  20. Benedict@Large

    Dems to announce ‘A better deal’ economic agenda on Monday: report || The Hill

    Better than what? The Republicans? Hell, just do nothing, Dems, and you’ll be better than the Republicans.

    Oh wait. That was their plan, wasn’t it?

    P.S. Someone at a presser asked if healthcare was to be included in that Better Deal. Nope. I guess that ObamaCare’s gotta be good enough for us Poors. Heck, if the Rich didn’t have better healthcare, they’d hardly be able to tell us apart from them, now would they.l

    1. jrs

      a better deal, not a good deal. But what do you want out of a (somewhat kinda) liberal party anyway? That’s what liberals ARE.

      They fully accept your role as a permanent peon, or of a cow being milked, the only question is whether or not happy cows give more milk. But that you are to be milked is not in question, or that workers are to have few rights is not in question, but merely whether they are to beg constantly for the Dems to slightly increase the minimum wage or something.

  21. Anonymous2

    Brexit – yes the tweet does confirm the idea that Green is Deputy PM for May here.

    I do not know much about Green other than that he is said to be a friend of May (is there such a person now?) and a passionate Remainer. Which may tend to support the idea that the Government will aim for LINO (Leave in Name Only). The way it may seek to achieve this is to ask for ‘transitional arrangements’ to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union which then get extended indefinitely. Talk is already of these being set to last until 2022 which is the last date another UK election can be held. If they can find a way to push transitional arrangements past 2022 then it may be game over, as the next election could be 2027, by which time people will say the 2016 referendum result is hopelessly out of date.

    The question is: will the EU play ball with this, if it is indeed the plan?

      1. Anonymous2

        It is very interesting IMO that he is deputy chair of the Brexit committee. OK, May is chair, but I would have expected Davis, whose portfolio it is, to be deputy.

        The chair in cabinet committees has much power as they control the agenda, the papers brought for discussion and of course the course of the discussion. They probably also control, with the secretariat, the drafting of the minutes.

  22. Altandmain

    More Americans Want To Forgive Trillion-Dollar Student Loan Debt Than Want It Repaid

    California homeowners are getting older and taking homes into the grave. Property turnover has fallen substantially since 2000.

    New WikiLeaks emails show CNN, NBC and Washington Post worked with DNC to influence election

    Not a surprise.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Do Americans want healthcare-for-all, or FREE healthcare-for-all?

      They should poll that.

      1. Anon

        It appears most Americans want “Medicare-for -All”. Which isn’t free, but less costly than the current privatized program.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I’ve read that for some who are already on Medicare, including all the parts, it’s not cheap, and doesn’t coverage everything 100%.

          Why would people turn down the free version (perfect, to me, for now) of Medicare-for-all (good)?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Are we talking about Bernie Madoff level of success here in cranking out great unemployment numbers?

      A good rule of thumb, for people in this business, is this – Don’t make it look like it’s too good to be true. Be modest.

      1. LifelongLib

        From a quick glance at the article, it’s the usual thing of not counting people as unemployed who’ve given up looking, want full time but only have part time work etc. that gives the low number (as in the U.S. stats).

  23. dcblogger

    I listened to an episode of Chapo Trap House and found it incoherent. It was like a group of drunken college freshmen. I cannot crititque it because it was so incoherent.

    1. JohnnyGL

      That would explain why New Republic would like to elevate them…you want the cartoonish versions of your opponents to be the face of the opposition.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Some of it is shooting the breeze and making fun of the usual suspects. It’s not all like that, though.

      (The early episodes I didn’t listen to, though.)

    3. CraaaaaaaaazyChris

      I listened to about 4 episodes of Chapo at the beginning of this year and also found it incoherent. I listened to another episode (125) this week (because I liked the “bend the knee” meme I was reading) but still found it mostly unlistenable. They just don’t sound prepared to do a show … they ramble and go into the weeds and just waste lots of time, is my take.

      I also started listening to Street Fight Radio, because it shows up in the ‘dirtbag left’ articles I keep reading. SFR sounds much better than Chapo to me (after half an episode). They seem unscripted, but prepped enough to be having a conversation that is interesting to listen to (even not knowing the show-specific memes they drop in).

      But just want to add, in a ‘because markets’ vein, the only media sources I pay money to are Naked Capitalism and the No Agenda podcast. No Agenda is definitely not ‘dirtbag left’ … they straddle the dimensional divide, but I think it’s fair to say they lean right. In any case, I put my money where I see the value, and these 2 outlets are where I see it now….

  24. JoeK

    I liked the article about lost items in Japan. The name of the shop in Osaka re-selling unclaimed goods gave me a good chuckle, it translates as “Sanctuary for Items lost on the Railways.” One hears the phrase “wasuremono ganaiyouni gochuuyikudasai” (don’t forget anything) at the end every train ride (and the same thought when exiting a taxi, leaving someone’s home…) and yet I’ve left my thermos or phone on the train so many times…..and always gotten my items back.
    A factor not mentioned in the article is, I think, the relatively high level of conscientiousness amongst the vast majority of Japanese people: simple consideration for how others’ may feel or be affected by one’s words and actions.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Too much water can kill you.

      Or too much oxygen.

      And also, too much consideration for how others feel can become peer-pressure.

      At the end, it’s about balance.

      One can not say progressivism, conservativism or libertarianism is good or bad, in and of itself.

      1. JoeK

        Well conscientiousness is a good value–to me, regardless. But had I wrote on and wanted to make more points that one you made was already in mind. There’s a some showing off in that regard in Japan, and a kind of one-upmanship. So, a not untypical example, I recall seeing a subway employee come down to the platform and hand a woman her purse which she’d left at the ticket gate; her expressions of gratitude were over the top—too much thanks, too many times. That’s the flip side and it does get tiring, having to overdo expressions of thanks or apology lest they not be considered insincere (how ironic).

        Overall, though, the quiet and clean trains, no pushing in line, the general (by no means always) “please, you first” mentality, I’ll take it over the alternative (often the opposite) one finds in the Middle Kingdom. When I fly from mainland China to Japan I have to immediately rewire my public behavior patterns and dial up the consideration for others from about a 4 (any more can lead to misery) to a 9.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Still, over-dosage of politeness is preferable than getting screamed at buzzed or high party goers, or getting shot by a blocked driver in San Francisco.

          1. Plenue

            Is it? Because with the Japanese I find that politeness is so ubiquitous that it’s basically been reduced to a social reflex. It’s meaningless. The example JoeK gives, was that actually a case of one-upmanship, or is it that because Japanese habitual apologize and give thanks for absolutely everything, when there comes a time when they genuinely mean it they feel compelled to go out of their way, often to comical extremes, to get the point across that they aren’t just going through the expected motions.

    2. mpalomar

      No one has seen or returned Tepco’s lost fuel rods but not sure they want them back either.

  25. Terry Flynn

    re Behavioural Economics

    I’m sure there are some well designed studies but in general this field is awful in terms of design of studies and interpretation of results.

    Top math psychologists have been looking at ‘design/context’ factors in explaining behaviour since the 1950s – but just search for names like Luce and Marley in the average behavioural economics bibliography. Not there? Move right on – McFadden had the good grace in his 2000 ‘Nobel’ lecture to acknowledge them for getting there first. (The joke among the math psych community is that Kahneman got the ‘Nobel’ only because Tversky died and that he was the preferred choice.) Incidentally that winning model – Prospect Theory – is demonstrably based on flawed statistics as it assumes homoscedasticity on the latent scale – i.e. that we are as ‘sure’ of the value of a prospective gain as we are of the value of the loss of something we already have experience of – intuitively unappealing and which if not true, disproves the conclusions Prospect Theory makes. And, indeed, which has been disproved time after time in choice modelling – see my post the other day for the link to all the studies that have manipulated this. IIRC a guy from a US uni when presenting to us in Sydney showed that no more than 17% of people follow decision rules that are genuinely consistent with prospect theory (in it’s ‘proper’ form adjusting for heteroscedasticity etc).

    TL;dr – economists can’t design a proper controlled study for toffee – it’s not part of their training – and don’t understand the statistics behind models that rely on discrete choices. The guy Cameron brought in to bring in behavioural economics to govt very quickly ended up in Sydney plying his wares. (!)

    1. Terry Flynn

      Incidentally if you’d like to try a study (still active though a lot of the university-logo jpegs no longer load) to illustrate the kind of difficult decisions you SHOULD be forced to make in end-of-life to obtain valid insights (and we did it with around 1100 older Aussies, 300+ aged over 75) then the ‘test-link’ is still (for some reason) live – ignore the ‘litmus’ charts – that was more ‘see-if-it-works- territory. The attitudinal comparisons in the 13 initial sets were most informative….you can click on your ‘scores’ after the 13 sets to see your ordering (-1 indicates you ALWAYS chose it as ‘least agreed with’ no matter what it competed with, +1 the opposite)

      Twas a proof of concept study but spawned a whole subfield of what choice modellers now do and what behavioural economists just don’t understand (the variability *within* a person).

      1. Terry Flynn

        George Loewenstein was ‘keynote’ speaker at the 2013 Choice Modelling Conference in Sydney. He, well let’s just say “wasn’t well received”. That end-of-life study fails on so many levels I don’t know where to begin…..assessing satisfaction using existing Likert based systems is perhaps the worst. P149 (chapter 7) of shows how to avoid the multitude of priming/statistical errors these people make in assessing end-of-life care preferences.

        One of the biggest predictors of what you want in end-of-life care is whether you’ve talked to a medical doctor about what exactly is involved……everyone loves the “CPR success” etc in TV programs. Do you know how often end-of-life interventions work to put you into a life that is worth living? Let’s just say it ain’t very different from zero. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say “if you talk to an end-of-life physician you’ll write an end-of-life care directive that very clearly says ‘pull the plug on me’”. That study was one of the reasons I was disgusted with academia – studies that are demonstrably wrong and increase pain and suffering among people, who, if properly informed, would never ever choose it. There are now studies that show that response times to statements about end-of-life (building on 40 years of work showing how response times provide valid inferences about attitudes – are, ironically, via his ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ decision-making, the first valuable contribution Kahneman has made to the field.

  26. DH

    Re: The unending failure n Afghanistan”

    The primary lesson to me from Hue in the Tet Offensive is that it is very hard to win a war when the government you are supporting is so unpopular that you can infiltrate and entire division and its equipment through the countryside and into a city and nobody breathes a word of warning. It is pretty clear htat the national Afghan government is so corrupt and unpopular that the Taliban and Al Qaeda have been able to swim in the “sea of the people” in many areas. That will be very difficult to defeat with the current national government in place.

    I think we missed an opportunity with the Taliban. They were probably “vaccinated” against allowing outside terrorists setting up shop in Afghanistan once it caused the US to invade. I am sure that they would function as an immune system preventing outside terrorists setting up shop in the future as they probably just want to stay in their little region, not export terrorists to Europe and the US.

    We went into Afghanistan to prevent terrorists from attacking the West. That mission morphed into creating democracy, education for women, etc. These are all laudable goals but there are many countries around the world that don’t have these and we are not invading them to institute them. If we had really cared about these issues in Afghanistan, we would have been doing something about it after the Russians left or when the Taliban were blowing up Buddhas.

    The big problem the West runs into with wars is when there is confusion about the meaning of success. There was no confusion about what the target endpoint was for WW II which allowed for relatively clear strategies (most mistakes were relatively tactical regarding how to implement the strategies). Immediately afterwards, the failures of the peace after WW I were still fresh in memories and therefore the post-war reconstruction was designed to avoid that. The Cold War and Iron Curtain laid out some vague outlines, resulting in unclear objectives in Korea and Vietnam, resulting in poor strategy decisions. Afghanistan and Iraq have clearly followed in their footsteps of assuming that the obvious desirable endpoints are the relatively Western values of democracy etc. which is not necessarily the case.

    1. a different chris

      >assuming that the obvious desirable endpoints

      Or is that just a cover story for endless war?

    2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Linking to the superb work of Sydney-based journalist and explorer extraordinaire David Adams. His film about visiting Afghanistan during the Taliban rule is heartbreaking, yes an opportunity lost. His films and adventures are really stunning:

    3. mpalomar

      “We went into Afghanistan to prevent terrorists from attacking the West.”
      I don’t think so, Afghanistan was about imperial rage. Perhaps if the US had taken down Saudi Arabia.

      Also some in the Intelligence community and elsewhere were extremely wary of creating terrorists by massive military blundering. The Taliban was also trying to negotiate a deal with the US.

  27. LT

    Re: Yes, ancient civilizations on Mars…

    When I read these types of articles, the impression is left that many scientists, academics, dreamers aren’t looking for “intelligent” life, past or present, as much as they are looking for their human reflection.

    This part:
    “Other astronomers have suggested looking for lights on Kuiper Belt Objects that “may serve as a lamppost which signals the existence of extraterrestrial technologies and thus civilizations.”

    That makes the presumption that the life form would have eyes that need lights the way we do. Eyes that evolved here on earth as particular adaptation.

    It also makes the presumption that all advanced life forms would think technology is the ultimate signifier of “intelligence.”

    Space and other planets do not need us. That’s the main reason we are here and not there.
    The only thing that needs humans is other humans.

  28. Oregoncharles

    “Donald Trump’s Defenders on the Left Peter Beinart, The Atlantic”
    Odd. The Atlantic provides no way to respond directly to the article. Not only no comments, but no “contact us”, nor on Beinart’s personal page. I could probably go to the home page and contact them, but it’s pretty clear they aren’t interested.

    Perhaps because they know they just stepped in a large pile. Beinart does admit that he “mistakenly” supported the invasion of Iraq. So why should we give his assumptions about Russia the slightest credence?

    I’m late to the game, so I won’t try to repeat what others have already done – here, where the Atlantic’s editors don’t have to worry about it. If you’ve done the work, you might want to send a copy to the editors via the home page – assuming that’s even available.

    1. Plenue

      I’m not aware of any defenders of Trump on the left. What I do see though are plenty of people who don’t think stopping Trump is worth tearing the republic apart or utterly destroying your credibility with a never ending series of lies and distortions.

  29. Oregoncharles

    From the article on Chapo Trap House: ““Bend the knee gets read as a sexual reference,” the New York magazine and All the Single Ladies author Rebecca Traister wrote in an email quoted by the New Republic. “Not because people think it is literally about sex, but because it conveys a hunger for dominance and submission, which is very quickly heard as gendered and sexual.””

    That’s quite a trigger for me. It’s classic dishonest propaganda. First, look at the multiple steps of logic in the last sentence. The straw man “which is very quickly heard” (an enormous presumption) is piled on top of the straw man “hunger for dominance and submission.” What does Ms. Traister think politics is about? And if she reads sex into it, isn’t that about her, not Chapo Trap House? (OK, I won’t get raunchy with that, but you can if you want.)

    Furthermore, the whole critique is illiterate. “Bend the knee” is a royalist reference that goes back at least to Shakespeare. In fact, it’s a reference to Her Majesty Hillary’s attitude. Is Traister really that illiterate, or just dishonest?

    Unfortunately, there’s a long tradition of misreading in feminist critiques; I guess that means they’re normal. But it’s still aggravating, because ultimately it undercuts the cause.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Bend the knee gets read as a sexual reference

      That’s from Rebecca Traister, and it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard, because — family blog types stop reading here — it’s bend “the knee,” singular. If there is a sexual repertoire or fantasy that involves going down on one knee, I have [cough] yet to see it, though it’s a complex world full of exotic and imaginative acts.

      And I know, because back in the early 2000s, when we in the blogosphere made jokes about the relationships between sources and reporters, or power relations in Washington generally, we would recommend “kneepads,” plural, for both knees.

      One despairs at the quality of the discourse.

      1. Plenue

        It’s a boondoggle. It’s an attempt to divert focus away from the actual substance of what is being said by attacking the metaphor used (how very post-modern). By pretending to be outraged by the ‘shocking sexual imagery’, they avoid having to dispute the central thesis that the people who just lost five elections in a row need to STFU and let someone else have a go at being in charge.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          It isn’t even sexual imagery. It’s as if — family blog readers stop now — Traister heard “taking a Jesuitical position,” confused that with “missionary position,” and got all upset. There’s a partial verbal congruence, that’s all, plus an active and weird imagination overheated by polemic.

          1. Plenue

            Oh, I know. It’s a Game of Thrones reference. But twisting it into something sexual is part of the fake outrage. I’m not giving them any benefit of the doubt on this: they know exactly what it actually meant, and they know exactly what they’re doing by misrepresenting it. It serves to shift the focus to tone policing, rather than substance.

            I’m reminded of the leaked Victoria Nuland audio from the Ukraine affair. The media managed, by focusing on her ‘naughty language’ (“F**k the EU”), to shift focus entirely away from the fact that the leaked conversation was about who should be in the freaking post-coup government.

  30. Oregoncharles

    And again from the Chap Trap House article: ““The fear is we’re going to do 68 over again and that’s the argument the Clintonists will make,” Mason said. “That a battle within the Democratic party will help elect a conservative militia that will then, despite being a sociological minority, craft the institutions so they can remain a political majority.””

    In the first place, the Left lost in ’68; the Dems then elected a very Clinton-like despised, worn-out nominee, with the results we know. (Sheesh – that was the 1st election I voted in. I voted for the pig – the real one.) So the analogy is the opposite of what the Clintonites claim.

    In the second: ” the Democratic party will help elect a conservative militia that will then, despite being a sociological minority, craft the institutions so they can remain a political majority.””” That’s exactly what’s been happening, for almost 50 years now. When the Dems weren’t doing the damage personally, like Bill clinton and Obama. Why anyone thinks they can “reform” or “recapture” that monstrosity is beyond me. (To be clear: I know why they think that, but I disagree strongly – to put it politely.) Sanders gave it the old college try, and he lost. The money bats last.

  31. Oregoncharles

    ” A debt jubilee would accomplish that, but that’s not “on the table,” or anywhere near it.”
    Hey, Lambert: you do know that was a centerpiece of Jill Stein’s campaign, right? It may be a small table, but that was definitely on it.

  32. nihil obstet

    On the treason of those who aren’t defending the homeland against Russian meddling in our elections — I’ll believe that they’re really upset about foreign influence when they address Nixon’s sabotage of peace talks for electoral advantage in 1968 and Republican agreements with Iranians to hold hostages until after the 1980 election. (Best discussion of these I’ve seen is Robert Parry’s 3-part Truthout excerpts The Original October Surprise) As to any hacking or releasing info that the Russians may have done, if the hacking was illegal, prosecute. Otherwise, why object more to info from foreign sources than from American sources. Must we now protect ourselves from outside information like totalitarian states which censor foreign news?

    To maintain a corrupt electoral system with voting on manipulable electronic machines and financed by dark money is to welcome cheating, as though American elites have our interests at heart.

  33. ChrisPacific

    RE: Schumer and “many things on the table”:

    I have an image of one of those scenes from Fear Factor where the contestants are challenged to eat live bugs and all manner of unpalatable stuff. Bon appetit, Chuck.

  34. Plenue

    >Distributism Isn’t Outdated The American Conservative.

    G. K. Chesterton, meh.

    Anyway, what is this conservative obsession with finding a right-wing justification for sensible policies? Why not just admit the left has a point, at least on whatever that particular issue is.

    Closely related is the pathological fear of ‘the state’. Credit to Sheldon Wolin, who pointed out the very important point that in a representative democracy, the government is supposed to be the practical exercising of the peoples sovereign will. When you say “government is the problem” what you’re actually saying is that “the exercise of democratic power is the problem”. Conservatives are forever obsessed with this nightmare vision of the state, and always seem hellbent on reducing or eradicating it, but somehow the notion of making it more representative of, and accountable to, public will never seems to come up.

  35. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit

    Competence to Stand Trial Evaluations of Sovereign Citizens: A Case Series and Primer of Odd Political and Legal Beliefs Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. Surprisingly good background on “sovereign citizens,” and well worth a read.

    Thank you!

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