Links 9/18/17

House finches add cigarette butts to their nests to avoid ectoparasites Journal of Avian Biology

Central bank cryptocurrencies Bank for International Settlements

Consumers, but Not Executives, May Pay for Equifax Failings Gretchen Morgenson, NYT

If Someone Calls You From Equifax To Verify Your Account, It’s A Scam Consumerist

The learned helplessness of Equifax TechCrunch (AF).

Big Tech makes vast gains at our expense FT

The Silicon Valley Backlash Is Heating Up Bloomberg

Inside the new battle against Google Politico (NF).

US Senate investigators train sights on Facebook FT

Smartphones are driving all growth in web traffic Recode

Ray Dalio Says He’s Ready to Give Away Bridgewater’s Secrets Bloomberg. Yves: “That means he thinks they’re not worth much any more.”


Syria Summary – Eliminating ISIS’ Remains Moon of Alabama

Good news from Syria Sic Semper Tyrannis

REVEALED: Both sides of Gulf crisis listed as ‘priority markets’ for UK arms export push Middle East Eye (MT).

Greek backtracking on reforms may prolong next review: ECB official Reuters


Brexit: unleashing a wildfire Pete North Politics Blog

Brexit IT trainwreck at Customs (Richard Smith):


Xi clobbers dissent in final stretch to party congress Nikkei Asian Review

New rail routes between China and Europe will change trade patterns The Economist

North Korea

Tillerson Vows ‘Peaceful Pressure Campaign’ Against North Korea Bloomberg but Trump mocks ‘Rocket Man’ Kim Jong-un as advisers issue warnings Guardian

No, We Cannot Shoot Down North Korea’s Missiles Defense One

The Russia-China plan for North Korea: stability, connectivity Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

UNSCR 2375: What Just Happened Here? 38 North

Trump Transition

McMaster says no redo on Paris climate deal decision WaPo

What to expect from Trump’s UN meeting Axios

Democrats in Disarray

Bernie Sanders on Some Supporters Not Voting for Clinton: ‘No Kidding!’ NBC News

Can You Win in Trump Country with a Bernie Sanders Platform? Vice. Paula Jean Swearengin v. Joe Manchin.

WHY COMPETITION IN THE POLITICS INDUSTRY IS FAILING AMERICA (PDF) Katherine M. Gehl and Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business School

Our Famously Free Press

How a new generation of left-wing podcasters are dethroning Rush Limbaugh and right-wing talk radio The Week

The best political impression of the year is being performed on a cult-favorite leftist podcast Business Insider

Press regulator censures Mail on Sunday for global warming claims Guardian

Request denied: States try to block access to public records AP. That’s very bad.

Governments turn tables by suing public records requesters McClatchy. Ditto.

Health Care

Don’t Look Now, But Full Obamacare Repeal Is Back On The Table HuffPo. Cassidy-Graham.

Like Other ACA Repeal Bills, Cassidy-Graham Plan Would Add Millions to Uninsured, Destabilize Individual Market CBPP

Senate GOP tries one last time to repeal Obamacare Politico

Bernie Sanders’ Single-Payer Proposal Puts Spotlight Back On California’s SB 562 International Business Times

Does Single Payer Pay for Itself? Econospeak

There Is No Conflict Between Promoting Single-Payer and Defending Obamacare Washington Monthly. There is if ObamaCare is where you want to stop.

Hurricane Alley

Why Didn’t FPL Do More to Prepare for Irma? Miami New Times

Solidarity After the Storms The New Republic

The Ecological Is Political Jacobin

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Meta-analysis of field experiments shows no change in racial discrimination in hiring over time PNAS

From hangout in a park to a smash-up on the Loop, protests of Stockley verdict move from disruption to destruction St Louis American. Low numbers.

Case study of LAPD and Palantir’s predictive policing tool: same corruption; new, empirical respectability Boing Boing (MT).

Class Warfare

The Juggalo March Is Not a Joke City Lab with associated Reddit thread (must-read).

Whoop whoop Vice

The middle class rocks — again Robert Samuelson, WaPo

The New Elite’s Silly Virtue-Signaling Consumption The American Conservative

Out of the Wreckage by George Monbiot review – the thrill and danger of a new left politics Guardian

Worker-owned enterprises as a social solution Understanding Society

Amid Opioid Crisis, Insurers Restrict Pricey, Less Addictive Painkillers NYT

American growth pessimism may be overdone FT

How Civilization Started The New Yorker. This whole “agriculture” thing may have been a mistake.

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


    1. Jim Haygood

      Some of the evacuees (those who can afford to fly to Miami or New York) will never return.

      Puerto Rico’s depopulation — currently running at nearly 1.5% annually — likely will accelerate.

      How’s that colonial experiment workin’ out for us?

      1. Jess

        Due to climate change and sea level rise, Puerto Rico will one day become the new 50th state, right after the scattered remnants of what was Florida become the Georgia Keys.

  1. Bunk McNulty

    From the Juggalo March on Washington:

    “Think about this: the dream for this entire demographic of people is just having health insurance. Something that simple. Being able to see a doctor if you need to. That’s where they are. Hoping for something that working poor people have in every other rich country on earth.”

    And here’s Paul Ryan, telling The Great Untruth.

    1. DJG

      Yep: The City Lab article by Mark Byrnes and the Reddit thread are brilliant. The dynamism of the Juggaloes is worth noticing and contemplating.

  2. ambrit

    A quick note before work.
    The “New Yorker” piece has much to quibble over.
    First, there is dispute over exactly where and when “settled agriculture” came about. Some, as in “Eden in the East,” argue that ‘civilization’ developed or was in the process as long as twelve to twenty-five thousand years ago. The evidence has been, the argument goes, covered up by the sea level rises attendant to the end of the Ice Ages. So, in this view, agriculture in the Middle East and elsewhere is an import from places like Sundaland and Doggerland, places now inundated.
    Second, the evidence suggests that, even if the ‘hunter gatherer’ lifestyle is physically robust, the social conditions are often brutal. In North America, inter tribal warfare seems to have been a constant, driven by resource shortages bought on by climate fluctuations (weather.) A near constant in the so called “primitive” cultures is an almost pathological distrust of strangers and out groups. While courtesy and largess is promoted as a ‘primitive’ virtue, such are usually associated with individuals or small groups passing through. Movements of whole tribes or clans often created long tailed population shifts, with attendant misery.
    Finally, the new agriculture allowed population expansions, which, though not a ‘good’ in and of themselves, were responsible for the rise of our “Moderne” culture. I value my high tech quasi-misery. We wouldn’t be posting and commenting here without the “Agricultural Revolution.”

    1. PlutoniumKun

      While there are hypotheses about other sources of settled agriculture, so far as I am aware they are purely speculative – all the evidence points to the Fertile Crescent as the home of modern settled agriculture and states. As the article says, even if there were other areas of dense settlement and agriculture, they were not based on grain, and grain appears to have been uniquely suited to the development of centralised states, taxation, and heirarchies.

      And there is little or no dispute that in terms of human welfare, settled agriculture was a step backwards. All the archaeological evidence points to hunter gatherers as having been healthier physically than early agriculturalists and of those societies as being more egalitarian. But there is, as you say, plenty of evidence that they were very warlike (at least in some places). But then again, so were early agricultural societies, although it seems likely warfare took a different form.

      Its not in dispute that if humanity didn’t take the route to agriculture that we wouldn’t be sitting here at computers having this discussion. But I do think its a reasonable question to ask as to whether that transition made us healthier and happier.

      1. cocomaan

        All the archaeological evidence points to hunter gatherers as having been healthier physically than early agriculturalists and of those societies as being more egalitarian.

        I’m not sure it’s that simple. Every one of those hunter-gatherer societies turned to agriculture sooner or later. Some at the point of a sword, sure. But others entirely embraced technologies like livestock.

        Jared Diamond talks a lot about how hunter-gatherers used farming technology more than we give them credit for. Grain is the basis of storage and specialization, but plenty of hunter-gatherers were creating crops, weeding them, and then coming back to harvest.

        Ted’s point downthread is spot on, too. Grains arose in several places. Mediterranean climates are great for annuals that can be domesticated, but grains arose in other places too.

    2. Ted

      Several questions from a bone fide anthropologist who has been teaching human origins for decades. Which agricultural system? where? when? (there were several independent developments of agriculture in the first millenia of the holocene globally). And which hunter gatherers, where, and when? (We have no idea just how many likely 1000s of distinct hunter gatherer groups there were prior to agriculture, there is not enough evidence to make blanket statements about what their many lives might have been like.). These sort of speculative totalizing statements about the human past might best be left in the 19th century gentlemen’s clubs of New York, Paris, London, and Berlin where they originated. And with all due respect to Plutonium, all the evidence clearly shows that modern states emerged independently in several world regions …

      1. Juliania

        I recommend the consideration of the Chaco Canyon community that is given in David E. Stuart’s “Anasazi America”.

        I don’t think agriculture can be blamed for the problems of a collapsing society. Agriculture is simply man’s ingenuity towards the preservation of diminishing natural resources.

        Hunter gatherers may be well fed, but they eliminated a lot of easy prey like the auk and moa in the process.

        1. Wukchumni

          “Anasazi America” is one hell of a book…

          The Chaco culture is eerily similar to ours in that they had peaked as a culture when climate change came calling~

          If you haven’t been to Chaco Canyon yet, I urge a visit.

          America’s Pompeii, quite simply.

          1. Anon

            Agreed. And this time of year is best. Fewer tourists, abundant sunlight, and relatively warm nights.

            My last visit a Park Service Interpreter (a real Puebla descendant) took our small group to some rarely seen kiva areas that had a wonderful aura to them.

            To do Chaco Canyon justice you need to read up and spend a week.

            1. Wukchumni

              Quite often here in California when a new retail strip mall opens up, they’ll use a faux rock facade (made out of concrete, no doubt) in some fashion, that greatly reminds me of all my trips to Chaco Canyon and the magnificent buildings there, as the look is eerily similar.

        2. witters

          Juliana, you might Bill Gammage’s “The Greatest Estate on Earth: How Aborignines Made Australia (Allen & Unwin, 20011). It will show that as a general claim, your claim (“Agriculture is simply man’s ingenuity towards the preservation of diminishing natural resources”) is false.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Good to hear from a bone fide anthropologist.

        For many, including me, agriculture was thought to have started in a singular region, at around roughly a certain time in prehistory. Recently, a link was posted about earlier evidence of farming in tropical areas.

        If a particular development is believed to be challenging, it’s easy to think that it occurs rarely and a single origin is likely.

        At the same time, it’s uplifting to think that all humans are equally intelligence, smart, talented and creative, and as the invention or the development of agriculture was an important event, it happened independently in different places, by different groups of humans.

        That it should come to pass that there were several independent developments of agriculture in the first millenia of the holocene globally prompt these questions – why all around that time? was it an inevitable development (due to, say, global climate or increasingly complex societal factors, among many others), for otherwise, some might have occurred 100,000 years earlier or some 50,000 years later.

        That they all occurred in the first millenia seems to suggest diffusion from a single point, most likely via random luck and not by some proto-ueber-menschen, and not independently. That, of course, is the easy conjecture, and not always the most reliable.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Te New World was almost certainly an independent development.

          OTOH, given the chance, people move far and fast, so the various Old World areas where civilization started up were probably in some degree of contact. Certainly Mesopotamia and Egypt were, and the Indus Valley isn’t very far from those, especially by sea. China may have been isolated, but it wasn’t in historical times.

          As far as I know, America was the only civilization that was effectively isolated. It seems to have started a bit later, but not all that much; hardly surprising, considering people had arrived quite recently into a hunter’s paradise. Not much motive to cultivate crops in those conditions..

    3. justanotherprogressive

      There seems to be a lot of misconceptions floating around about our early ancestors, but it seems to me that the New Yorker article is pretty much in line with current thought on the beginnings of agriculture – until he starts attempting to place cultural values from our times onto those early peoples. But Scott’s book does sound interesting – I may have to read that and determine if he actually says some of the things attributable to him or if that is the author of this piece’s interpretation.

      There is much evidence that our early ancestors never ate just meat – from the recent garbage piles that have been discovered, it was pretty evident that our ancestors had been eating grains from the beginning – and that makes sense. Animals eat grasses (grains) so where you find herd animals you will also find edible grasses like oats and barley. And sooner or later, early man would have figured out that grasses were growing in their garbage piles from the grains they threw out.

      It is hard to know who were the first farmers because each group of early man came to farming in their own time. Incas discovered farming but of course, not at the same time that those people living in the East or in what is now Iraq discovered it.

      To say that some civilizations were “primitive” is to place your own beliefs on other people. I don’t know what “primitive” means – except as a word with negative connotations compared to what we think of ourselves. Early man also had very rich cultures and complex thinking, as do those few hunter-gatherer groups that exist today.

      And to say that they had a pathological distrust of strangers and others groups? There is no evidence of that. There is evidence that hunter-gatherer groups often came together – but we don’t know yet for what reasons. As far as warfare amongst Native American tribes? – I think you need to look more closely at that because it wasn’t “war” as we know it today – it was more of a “counting-coup” type warfare, where one tribe invaded another tribe’s territory and then left, doing minimal damage and destruction. But remember, Native American tribes were far larger than the the small clans that existed pre-farming….and we don’t yet know if that matters.

      Yes, being a hunter-gatherer was hard – and the fossil evidence shows many many broken bones and many many young deaths, but farming was hard too – just in a different way and the chronic damage to the bones of early farmers show that farming was much more labor intensive. And populations had to grow because of that. But early man realized that grain didn’t rot as fast as meat does so that in times when meat was scarce there was always grain to depend on. It was a trade-off. For better or worse? Who knows? It was just different and gave rise to a different way of living.

      There is so much more to be learned about ancient man – we haven’t even seen the tip of at iceberg yet. But let’s not put our own cultural values onto our ancestors – it does a disservice to them and to us….

      1. Bunk McNulty

        I find myself thinking of Bernard Bailyn’s description of pre-colonial native american life in The Barbarous Years: The Peopling Of North America:

        “None were free from the threat of violence—the unpredictable and uncontrollable violence of the natural world, the unfathomable violence of inner lives that exploded so strangely in dreams, the violence of border wars that erupted repeatedly, year after year, and the psychological violence endemic in cultures that demanded heroic invincibility and endurance and that familiarized children with excruciating cruelty.”

        The New Republic’s reviewer calls this “overstated.” Even so, it sounds, um, unappetizing, and if nothing else puts H. Rap Brown’s “Violence is as American as cherry pie” comment into longer perspective.

      2. Softie

        Another wonderful book is Edward O. Wilson’s The Social Conquest of Earth. According to Wilson, our early ancestors had became omnivores since Homo Erectus after millions of years being vegans. What made their brain to grow larger in size is not due to proteins from meat they ate but rather the social organization needed and social intelligence required for hunting. Hunter-gatherer bands and small agricultural villages are by and large egalitarian. And that is the first stage of civilization, followed by chiefdoms and states. Each stage adds more complexity and more refined division of labor, perhaps more unhappiness.

        Jean-Jacques Rousseau had it right the root evil of social inequality is private property. Two hundred years later, his famous insight deeply influenced Karl Marx.

        1. visitor

          Two hundred years later, his famous insight deeply influenced Karl Marx.

          You surely mean just a hundred years later? Rousseau lived 1712-1778.

      3. Oregoncharles

        Primitive means “first”. I don’t consider it pejorative, by you could use “primal” instead.

    4. Lee

      IIRC, in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel he tells how if two traveling aboriginal New Guineans encounter one another on the trail at nightfall, they will stay awake if necessary for hours in an attempt to identify a common relative. If they fail, neither can trust the other not to murder him in his sleep. OTOH, there used to be signs posted here in the US warning African Americans not to let the sun set while within the city limits. Now at least the signs have come down.

    5. John k

      Problem isn’t Ag, but penicillin. Until then pop grew very slowly, most kids didn’t get to breed. Better if effective birth control came earlier, and if religions didn’t fight it, along with many rulers.

  3. cybrestrike

    Definitely have to agree with that. Has David Faris ever heard of Chapo Trap House, The Discourse, Benjamin Dixon, or Lee Camp? Doesn’t seem like it.

  4. The Rev Kev

    Re: The New Elite’s Silly Virtue-Signaling Consumption
    A fascinating insight into a sub-culture as described here. Thing is, near the end the author described these communities as “Untethered from their localities, they are being transformed into an archipelago of analogous islands.” Yeah, right! And may I suggest a page at which shows you exactly where that got them? Looking at it I can see those archipelago of analogous islands now.
    They may consider themselves a form of elite by retreating into their own group but by abandoning most of their fellow citizens, they are becoming a bit clueless on what is happening in the rest of their countries. Thus elections present them with totally unexpected results. As proof, may I refer to the Brexit vote, the last UK election and last, but not least, the results of the last US election? I’m not sure if they understand what happened (pun unintended) to them yet. Reality will slap you up the side of the head every time.

    1. Anonymous2

      With Brexit it depends which elite you are referring to. The power elite – Murdoch, Dacre, the Barclays -are happy as Larry with the result .

  5. michael hudson

    I’m appalled at the awful “How Civilization Strarted” right-wing article. It revives the “Oriental despotism” idea of Wittfogel in a new guise, simply saying that all government power to regulate, to cancel debts, to redistribute land to the population, to mobilize labor to build infrastructure, to give it beer parties and great feasts, is all bad. What is good, it seems, is to let oligarchies emerge and reduce the hitherto land-tenured population to bondage.
    The article imagines that slave labor built the irrigation canals and other infrastructure. The recent colloquium that I co-edited, Labor in the Ancient World, shows that this was not the case. that land tenure was assigned in exchange for the ability to provide corvee labor and fight in the infantry — and hence protected from foreclosure by creditors.
    I could go on, but you get the picture.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Speaking of beer parties and great feasts, 2,500 on the spoos [S&P 500 index] reminds one of the portentous Dow Thou of our yoof.

      Not enough official sponsorship to blow it on up to 3,000, I reckon. But you never know how desperate the folks in charge might get.

      Your faithful correspondent

      Rocket Man

    2. Anon

      Well, right from the getgo the author misundersestimates science. Science is a method of observation and testing (repeatedly, if necessary). The creation of the wheel may have derived from the simple observation that circular objects roll (with less resistance than skids). Technology is the application of that concept to a real world utilization: developing a wheel that will do functional work (rotate on a axle w/o breaking).

      So science has very much to do with technology. However, today’s science is more comprehensive than ever because technology has given us better tools to observe and compare.

      1. Oregoncharles

        The model for the wheel was probably the use of round logs to move large stones. A bit of a nuisance, since they have to be constantly moved back to the front. They become a wheel when an axle and bearings pin them in place.

        Incidentally, very mountainous civilizations like the Incas and Tibet didn’t use wheeled vehicles even though they knew about them, because building roads was too destructive. They used feet, whether human or animal, instead. Bit of a hint there.

  6. BrendanB

    I submitted the Juggalo links and was at the rally on Saturday for a minute. It was at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, and the Trump rally was just a few hundred yards down the Mall, with the Hispanic heritage event a street over. Very interesting juxtaposition of the three events. They all seemed to be saying something similar, that they are human beings worthy of being heard.

    The Juggalo phenomenon is interesting; they come from my hometown in suburban Detroit and appeal to the kids downriver from Detroit and in the inner suburbs that are now pretty run-down. It’s a community for people without a community. The kids tend to be poor, with not a lot to be proud of and often picked on in school.

    I think it’s great that DSA is involved with their efforts and seem to be willing to stand with a wide variety of groups. Momentum seems to be building rapidly there.

    1. Patricia

      Thanks for those links, Brendan. I have a friend who was raised downriver Detroit and juggalos became a thing when she was young. She stayed away because they were wildly misogynistic at the time–part of the nihilism, she supposes.

      It seems that they’ve matured and yet kept together as a group, which is amazing.

      1. Massinissa

        They seem to attract a whole lot more women than they used to, too, which is impressive. Also a surprisingly large number of Native American juggalos, apparently. Makes sense, they have even larger problems of being isolated from the larger society than the working class whites do.

      2. Oregoncharles

        Keeping women away makes for very boring parties. Not a long-term proposition; eventually the guys catch on.

  7. DJG

    The article about house finches using cigarette butts to line their nests and keep down parasitism is bracing, even if it isn’t much more than a squib: It implies that birds understand cause and effect at an advanced level. It also implies that birds have a culture: Knowledge is being transmitted.

    Which leads to an environmental ethic: How can anyone justify impairing and destroying fellow creatures such as these?

  8. allan

    Secret Algorithms Are Deciding Criminal Trials and We’re Not Even Allowed to Test Their Accuracy [ACLU]

    … Take, for example, the case of Billy Ray Johnson, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a series of burglaries and sexual assaults he says he did not commit, largely based on the results of a proprietary algorithm called TrueAllele. TrueAllele claims to identify the perpetrator of a crime from a tiny, degraded DNA sample swimming in a larger soup of multiple individuals’ DNA. It’s an experimental technology, not at all like the DNA tests that have developed over the past two decades, which also have serious flaws. At Mr. Johnson’s trial, the court denied the defense team access to TrueAllele’s source code — information crucial to the defense case — all because the company that owns it cried, “Trade secret!” …

    Weaponized TINA.

  9. nippersdad

    That Gehlen/Harvard piece was a wild ride. While many of its’ recommendations were good ones (ranked choice voting, lowering restrictions to Presidential debates, open primaries, etc.) they never seem to address the problem that Third Way is the embodiment of the very unrepresentative Washington Consensus that they so decry.

    Were they to actually achieve some of the good recommendations they make, it seems unlikely that such atrocities as Pete Peterson’s Simpson/Bowles Commission would be the natural outcome that they foresee. This looks to me like an inside the Beltway joke that simply didn’t translate out here in the sticks.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      Having previously read lots of Michael Porter, I gave it a shot and it was as I suspected: just as with most good business school product (and Porter’s previous work on competition), the best of it was basic common sense (ranked choice voting, gerrymander reform, etc.), the worst of it was completely awful (lots of false equivalence between left and right; Simpson/Bowles is their go to example for “Practical and effective solutions to solve our nation’s important problems and expand opportunity,” I kid you not), and nothing in the report (problems, solutions, agents) suggests that our form(s) of economic organization are at all problematic or, indeed, that there is any problem at all that can’t be solved with the brilliance of HBS faculty. Also, lots of praise for something called “Govern for California,” which I had never heard of but sounds nefarious (and a visit to their website was not enlightening, at least not in a good way.) Anyone?

      Also, weirdly (or not), one of their 4 main objectives (in a screed about dysfunctional politics) is “Respect the Constitution and the rights of all citizens,” i.e. not “simplistic majority rule:”

      Finally, good solutions reflect the rights and interests of all Americans. Our constitution is designed to protect the rights of individuals and minorities, rather than for simplistic majority rule. Good political outcomes incorporate these principles and reflect the type of society America stands for, even though this can sometimes make achieving political solutions more complicated.

      This is typically the language of Mont Pelerin Society neoliberals – i.e. “hands off my property rights.”

      Of course, the word “socialism” does not appear anywhere. Overall, seems like probably a Pete Peterson project. So I’m predicting lots of interest in DC.

  10. Basil Pesto

    I went to add that “how civilization started” article to pocket, thinking it sounded familiar and, lo, I already had it saved from last week back when it was titled “the case against civilisation”. Interesting change. Maybe it should have also opened with “Trigger warning: homo sapiens”

    I know this is more replying to the heading/sub heading, but to characterise early agriculture as an “idea”, or a bad decision, attributes modern understandings and applications of the ideas of “intellect” and “consciousness” to our early ancestors, which doesn’t seem right. Could a case not be made that the development of agriculture was a biological outcome – something a part or consequence of our evolution? If we want to look for a biological analogue: is the beehive not a form of subsistence agriculture, or at least quasi-agriculture? As for whether it was a ‘good’ idea, it seems a pointless question unless you believe that the universe possesses some kind of inherent morality which, nope. It’s also like asking if the production of oxygen by cyanobacteria 2.3 billion years ago that caused the “Great Oxygen Extinction” (or oxygenocide, as I like to call it), killing loads of anaerobic organisms, was a ‘good idea’. It happened, and here we are.

    The story seems to float the idea that science began with the articulation of the scientific method, which I don’t think many historians of science would accept. Moreover, if we try and distill science to its most simple formulation, it could be argued that it is (highly developed) curiosity, or to put it in a linguistic system surely more complex than that our earliest ancestors has access to: the urge to ask and answer the questions ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ (and our answers and speculations to those questions have become increasingly sophisticated, and based on the accumulation and recording of the past answers to those questions). That seems to be an innate human behaviour and so I don’t really accept that there was a time where science didn’t precede technology.

    I hate it when people say “yeah but how great is civilization?”, which the article touches on, because here in Australia I’ve sometimes heard it argued as an ex post facto rationalisation for the various thuggeries of colonialism (I went to a wannabe-Eton private school, you see). But the idea that if mankind had developed (I’m not sure if the word “evolved” is biologically correct in this context) along a hunter-gatherer track instead of an agricultural one, that we would be living in a wonderful egalitarian utopia, seems hopelessly naive (one wonders what primatologists might make of the anthropologists’ idea). It’s also pretty unfair on our ancestors. It’s also ostensibly unprovable, but a hypothesis like that is always going to be seductive and appealing, which makes it easy to propagate (as opposed to, I dunno, a dissertation on the evolution of bee dicks. I like bees.) in, inter alia, magazines like the New Yorker. Possibly because it neatly feeds into the concept of equality that is in vogue in the academy and the popular culture, if not in practice.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The story seems to float the idea that science began with the articulation of the scientific method, which I don’t think many historians of science would accept. Moreover, if we try and distill science to its most simple formulation, it could be argued that it is (highly developed) curiosity, or to put it in a linguistic system surely more complex than that our earliest ancestors has access to: the urge to ask and answer the questions ‘how?’ and ‘why?’’

      At that early stage, science seemed little different from philosophy and other fields, and indeed, those seekers of knowledge often dabbled in a continuum of inquires.

      And if Nature herself is multi-disciplinary, we do best to avoid artificial demarcations (I’m a scientist/I am a mathematician/I am a psychologist/’m a bird watcher/I’m a farmer/I’m a rancher/etc.)

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      But the idea that if mankind had developed (I’m not sure if the word “evolved” is biologically correct in this context) along a hunter-gatherer track instead of an agricultural one, that we would be living in a wonderful egalitarian utopia, seems hopelessly naive (one wonders what primatologists might make of the anthropologists’ idea).

      1. More egalitarian, or perhaps not.

      or more broadly, beyond humans,

      2. Less man-made damage to Nature. (Here, I believe, we are on a firmer ground for preferring the hunter-gatherer way of life for humans).

  11. Basil Pesto

    I made light of bee dicks but then I faintly remembered there actually was an article in the New Yorker earlier this year about duck penises. On the other hand, I think it was something like “what duck penises can teach us about the patriarchy” soooo…

  12. Howard Beale IV

    The recent announcement of the massive Equifax breach is a wake-up call for everyone – both consumers, Financial Services and every merchant in the United States.
    Equifax’s breach is every Financial Service Industry’s executives worst nightmare – and as an Information technology professional with over 35 years of experience having worked for some of the largest banks and payment card institutions in the US, I am both embarrassed, and furious. I’m embarrassed that my industry will be tarred once again as a big, bad evil monster that doesn’t care-as a matter of fact, I was notified by a relative that if one was to click on Equifax’s own website to register for their monitoring services you are notified buried in their Terms and Conditions that you waive the right to any legal action-“Nice”
    I myself had my data listed as being compromised – and, to add insult to injury this “Mass Compromise” now makes my life , as an IT professional doing Production Support, “Hell on Earth” – not only do I have to keep our core systems running in peak performance in order to keep to our tight Service-Level Agreements (SLA’s)we have with our Business Partners in the bank, but it also poses even greater challenges in that when the process to scan hundreds of millions of records to historical data to correctly identify impacted customers and reissue new payment cards, is no fun to tune around-the process jumps across multiple access paths, making tuning an impossible task-you just grunt your way through it and get it done. And-if there is any latent bug in that process, and it pops up during the process-it now becomes “All Hands on Deck” to fix-the last thing you want to happen is having to explain to Senior Executives why you had a Severity 1 incident during processing a Mass Comprise – I’ve been on too many Sev 1 calls and they are not pretty. And this is just only the technical side.
    A Mass Compromise also blows big holes in budgets bank-wide – and budgets already on thin margins, this blows up all matter of business plans.
    The representational damage to Equifax, having their “snake” get loose means in my personal opinion, that the firm must die. H. Ross Perot has a very famous quote: “When an EDS’er sees a snake he KILLS IT-at GM, when they see a snake, they form a committee on snakes, then hire an expert on snakes, and then spend the next six months trying to figure out what to do about the snake.”
    T.J. Rogers, CEO of Cypress Semiconductors, practices a philosophy of “No Excuses Management” (he even published a book of that title) – and for this incident – especially keeping in mind what Mr. Perot said about snakes – Equifax must die. A major credit bureau, having a mass compromise event, is simple a No Excuses event, and must share the same fate the befell Enron and Arthur Andersen.
    Equifax must be killed. No Excuses.

  13. Down2Long

    Wow. Chief Bank Tout Richard Bove goes sour on banks, sounds like former FDIC Vice Chair Thomas Hoenig: Banks cannot prove stock buybacks increase bank value long term; and Yves: Bulls think interest rate increases will increase bank returns, but higher interest rates also increase the banks’ cost of capital. As Yves used to say. “Wait til their interest rates go up.” Bove says banks need to increase their loan portfolios, just as Hoenig said, but they’re not, if they want to increase their value. In a nutshell, be says that no one is askinf banks what products are you selling? Well, as we all know TBTFs have gone into trading instead, but are bemoaning the lack of volatility as the reason their earnings are cratering – such as Goldman Sachs earnings in arbitrage, I mean trading, dropping almost 50% year over year, as the muppets flee the squid.

    I know the world has gone mad when I almost completely agree with Bove, but, as always with Bove he goes too far, saying that with “draconian regulations” the banks are essentially “nationalized” but still making record profits. Well, not to quibble, but losses are nationalized, not the profits.

    As Lambert would say, when you’ve lost Richard Bove…. I have seen him this bearish, not even during the crisis.He must be all-in short.

    1. cnchal

      I know the world has gone mad when I . . .

      It seems to me, that checking the price of your stawks to give you an instantaneous measure of “value” is like reading the speedometer to find out how much gas is in the tank.

  14. Wukchumni

    Found a 140 year old apple orchard hidden away in the back of beyond in the National Park here yesterday, consisting of around 40 trees, the majority of which the original trunk had long since died, with leafy suckers as tall as 20 feet emanating from the deceased member. A number of trees still had leafy branches from the original trunk. Wonder what variety they are?

    It’s against the law to mess with anything historical in the NP, but there appear to be grafting possibilities up the ying yang if one was interested in acquiring apple stock on an IPO. (intentional parting out)

        1. Wukchumni


          I’ve had around 1,000 black bear encounters in the Sierra and aside from one growling at me (that was a bit unnerving) always a pleasant experience.

  15. Cynthia

    Re: “There Is No Conflict Between Promoting Single-Payer and Defending Obamacare”

    Well, that’s true only if you design a single-payer system that chock full of administrative bloat and nonproductive rent-seekers, which is how ObamaCare was designed. That is why healthcare costs will continue to skyrocket and quality of care will continue to deteriorate if we design a single-payer system which is patterned after ObamaCare.

    People who think otherwise, people like David Atkins, the author of this story, just don’t get it. They don’t get it at all. They wrongly believe that just by having a government-run healthcare system, healthcare costs will magically go down and quality of care will magically improve. Nothing could be further from the truth. In order to design a government-run healthcare system that reduces healthcare cost without compromising care, it must first destroy the revolving door that exist between government and corporate healthcare. But that can’t be done without first destroying ObamaCare. After all, ObamaCare is the reason why government’s overly cozy and incestuous relationship with corporate healthcare has only gotten even more cozier and incestuous. Much more cozier and incestuous. In other words, our healthcare has become chock-full of administrative bloat and nonproductive rent-seekers all because Obamacare intentionally made it that way.

    Keep in mind, there are two basic reasons why ObamaCare has remained popular for most Americans. First of all, it provides enormous federal subsidies to low-income Americans, enabling them to have more or less affordable healthcare, in terms of premiums as well as co-pays and deductibles. And as the number of low-income Americans has increased, as it has done under President Obama, ObamaCare’s popularity only increased. And of course, healthcare corporations, insurers and providers alike, love these subsidies, too, perhaps even more so. After all, all of this free money from Uncle Sam has allowed them to skim even more off the top without having to work for it, much less earn it. This is the very definition of corporate welfare, making Obamacare a huge contributor to our corporate welfare problem.

    Another reason Obamacare has remained particularly popular is the fact that it has produced a lot of jobs, and not just jobs, but good, high-paying jobs. Never mind that these job gains have added to our healthcare cost problem in a very negative way. Never mind that most of these jobs have done nothing to improve care. As long as Obamacare continues to prop up the overall jobs’ market, no one seems to care how unproductive these jobs are.

    Which is get to my biggest beef about Obamacare. Speaking as someone who has worked for decades on the frontlines of care, I have seen tons and tons of money and resources shifted way from direct patient care to the back office and to the growing class of managers to point that delivering care has become literally unsafe and third-world like. There is more money than ever in healthcare, but percentage-wise, less of it than ever is making its way down to the direct patient care level. This is one of the largest unspoken fallacies of Obamacare: you can’t improve care, much less reduce cost, by packing the back office full of paper shufflers doing far less productive things like coding, “pre-certing,” care management, utilization review, and joint commission nonsense, leaving only a skeleton crew of nurses and doctors to provide care for a growing list of patients, and working with equipment that’s either broken or outdated. If Berniecare, or for that matter, Trumpcare can reverse this picture, I’d be for it. If Berniecare or Trumpcare can whittle the back office and the managerial class down to a skeleton crew and beef up the frontlines with more nurses and doctors and provide them with updated equipment that works, I’d be for it.

    1. Bill Carson

      “Speaking as someone who has worked for decades on the frontlines of care, I have seen tons and tons of money and resources shifted way from direct patient care to the back office and to the growing class of managers to point that delivering care has become literally unsafe and third-world like. There is more money than ever in healthcare, but percentage-wise, less of it than ever is making its way down to the direct patient care level.”

      Not to highjack the topic or your most excellent point, but this is the exact same problem we are seeing in higher education, as the number of administrators and administrative salaries skyrocket, and yet students are taught by low-paid teaching assistants and adjunct professors….

      1. Cynthia

        I’m not surprised by this, Bill, at least when it comes to teaching hospitals. After all, teaching hospitals have maintained a close relationship with universities in order to not only hype their status as a “prestigious” hospital, but also to make it easier to get federal grant money. Also, Medicare/Medicaid reimburse teaching hospitals at a much higher rate on the assumption that teaching hospitals are more expensive to run because they are having to spend so much money on training newly “minted” doctors and nurses to become full-fledged doctors and nurses. The truth is that teaching hospitals use newly “minted” nurses and doctors as cheap labors and shift that extra money from Medicare/Medicaid to pay for overpaid, under-worked back office jobs and a fat and bloated management structure.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Enormous federal subsidies…

      More public spending can be good, but not when it’s wasted like that (that = not reducing health care costs).

      It reminds one of how Ulysses S. Grant fought some of his battles which often came with a lot of carnage. Sometimes, it was simply the nature of war. At times, the Butcher claim gained credence when it was just simple waste, like at Cold Harbor, where, courtesy of Wikipedia, Grant said of the battle in his memoirs, “I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made. … No advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained.”

      It looks like with Obamacare, we have spent lots of federal money while gained no advantage in defeating rent seekers.

      Let’s hope we don’t botch the job this time.

    3. Knifecatcher

      This is a feature of Obamacare, not a bug. Obamacare includes a mandate called the Medical Loss Ratio stating that between 80-85% of premium dollars (depending on insurer size) must go toward patient care and improvements. This sounds good but is actually incredibly generous – historically that number was well over 90% for most insurers.

      It gets worse, though. The system includes numerous ways to game that number. To give one example, I have firsthand knowledge that if an insurer outsources their IT to a third party they can move all the costs of processing claims from the overhead / profit / management bucket into the patient health care bucket. So something like building a web portal for insurance customers is counted the same as setting a broken arm from a MLR standpoint.

  16. rd

    Re: The Middle Class Rocks Again

    It is not surprising that white males wages have stagnated over the past three decades. White males are now competing with everybody instead of just white males. The Supreme Court decisions in the late 50s and early 60s started to pave the way for non-whites to go to university. Title 9 etc. helped open the door to women as well. The “Women’s Lib” movement of the 60s and 70s also told women that they could do more than teach, nurse, or type, so they were more likely to go to university for STEM and business.

    When I emerged as a Caucasian male into the engineering work force in 1981, my civil engineering graduating class of 50 had two white women, one black male from Nigeria, and a handful of Middle Eastern and Indian males. I think we had one Hispanic as well. Everybody else was a Caucasian male like me.

    1989 was when I ran into my first woman engineer in a company I worked in, at a client, or at an engineering teaming partner company. Eight years with the only women were bookkeepers, secretaries, receptionists, and graphic artists. They started to pop up in the work place regularly after that. Now, about half our technical hires are women. I still rarely see blacks or Hispanics, although Asians and Middle Eastern immigrants regularly show up in small numbers.

    I am convinced that one reason for the significant rise of productivity in the 80s and 90s was that universities and employers were able to recruit from the top 10%-25% of ALL high school students instead of just the top 10%-25% of white males in the 1970s and 1980s. That one-time change in the workplace demographic would be tough to repeat on a large scale now since the university demographics now look much more like the country’s demographic than they did in 1970.

    So basic economic principles would indicate that increasing the supply of labor for a labor category would reduce the price of that labor category, and that appears to be the case for white males. The unique advantage that men have over women is strength, which is much less relevant today given increased automation and shift to white collar work.So in general, we just have to compete on a relatively level playing field which is how it is supposed to be.

  17. Edward E

    Well my smartphone is not driving much growth in web traffic. Voyager 1 left the solar system 3 years ago this week and it still gets a better signal than my Campbell Soup™ Can phone in this massively electronically overdone semi twuck. We were all hoping that Madman Over The Water would help get rid of some of this junk and regulations too. Not looking very promising.

  18. Oregoncharles

    Yes, I’ve thought for a long time that civilization was a disaster. Using “civilized” to mean kind or well-behaved is pure propaganda.

    By the same token, “primitive” is not pejorative. Rather, it’s the model for how people were meant to live (granted that there’s been significant adaptation since civilization, for instance in the ability to digest starch).

    The conclusions from that are pretty open; we aren’t going back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle without shedding a vast amount of population, so only under extreme duress. “Model” is the operative word: what can we learn from the primitive? That’s what anthropology was about.

  19. D

    (Oh d_mn, correction, the above linked piece does not have the word “Previous” in its title.

    Other than having way too many things on my alert people I care for list, I haven’t a clue as to why, in my hurry, I had that word included in the title.

    Sorry, I did not “nest” this comment, I’m utterly unable to, due to being on dialup. I can’t afford anything but dialup, can’t even update my browser as a consequence; further I don’t even want to if I could, at least I avoided the criminal Microsoft 10 unsolicited download. I have an East Coast friend, similarly financially broken, despite education, who now has an utterly useless computer due to an utterly unrequested Microsoft 10 download (There are those handful who should be in jail, and not running the world at large) while trying her very best to care for a child with a rare genetic disease.

    I do appreciate concern, but please, don’t offer up tons of advice, unless you’re on dialup and have successfully solved the issues associated with it.

    Last, but not at all least, you are so welcome, Edward E.)

    1. Edward E

      So sorry what you’re dealing with, I see hard times in a lot of the neighborhoods in this country. So much so that I always leave out with some spare cash to give to folks who have a handicap or that appear to genuinely deserve a little help. Keep up the good work and I’ll look for you.

      Sympathize with your dialup difficulties too. For two or three days I’ve messed up a certain joke about Kim Jong Un being called ‘Rocket Man’ by Trump who = madman Madman Across the Water (1971) With Lyrics! – Elton John

      They’re really trying to provoke and provoke each other every day every way and whoever attacks first will lose big, an example jfyi: Markets shun Nord Stream 2 amid US threat

      One EU backer of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline has said US sanctions have made it “almost impossible” to borrow money to fund the project.

  20. D

    International wireless legislation regarding health concerns, via the Environmental Health trust (ehtrust) :

    No surprise that the US is far behind on that score, wouldn’t want to damage that GDP™ – which, when really high for a given state (CA, TX, NY, FL, IL, PA; all connected with Atlantic/Pacific coastlines, or the Great Lakes, and National Borders) always correlates with horrifying rates of in-State poverty and homelessness (UTTERLY INVERSE TO WHAT THAT HIGH GDP IS CLAIMED TO SIGNIFY), right next door to a handful of Billionaires and Millionaires, despite those States’ obvious financial dominance in the US.

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