Links 10/15/17

Baby talk in any language: Shifting the timbre of our voices Science Daily

Airbus Corruption Scandal May Lead Straight to the Top Der Spiegel

Kobe Steel’s continuing scandals raise major compliance issues Japan Times

Saudi Aramco considers shelving international IPO FT. It seems like this deal has been hanging fire longer than Uber and Softbank.

The Amazon Effect: How taxpayers are funding the disruption of the U.S. economy The Business Journals

Google Has Made a Mess of Robotics Bloomberg. More money than sense.

Is AI Riding a One-Trick Pony? MIT Technology Review

Self-driving cars are on a collision course with our crappy cities The Verge

Driverless cars: the digital revolution, part two Gillian Tett, FT. Shockingly close to outright PR.

Puerto Rico

Will Puerto Rico Require Substantial Debt Forgiveness? Forbes

Puerto Rico Sets Goal of 95% Power Restoration in December NBC

General Details Progress, What Remains to be Done in Puerto Rico U.S. Department of Defense

How the Pentagon Spun Hurricane Maria Bloomberg

When Cartography Meets Disaster Relief City Lab

These Volunteer Nurses In Puerto Rico Fear FEMA Is Failing HuffPo.

New York Firefighters Clear the Way for Rebuilding in Puerto Rico The Daily Beast. If you factor out the oozing “feel good” triumphalism and sanctimony, there’s a lot of good data here, about stuff like clearing trees, and honey bees “confused” because “the hurricane had scoured” all the “nectar-bearing blooms.”

Masked and Armed With Rifles: Military Security Firms Roam Streets of San Juan Latino Rebels. Like Katrina…

Puerto Ricans put out of work by hurricane can’t even apply for unemployment benefits MarketWatch

Trump’s pick for DHS chief was at center of Katrina disaster WaPo. Of course, Katrina wasn’t a disaster for everyone

Elon Musk Is Not the Hero Puerto Rico Needs In These Times. Buries the lead: “As a result of Maria, the [Fiscal Control Board] has also invoked Title V of PROMESA, the bill that put the board in charge of the island. That provision gives broad mandate to a board-appointed official, revitalization coordinator Noel Zamot, to solicit and approve public-private partnerships without much public or environmental review, bypassing the island’s regulatory process almost entirely.” So, privatizing the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), would be straight out of Naomi Klein’s disaster capitalism playbook.

The Recovery n+1. “Disaster capitalism in Mexico City.”

North Korea

Engagement, Not Sanctions, Deserves a Second Chance 38 North

How Can North Korea Possibly Build Nukes? Because They Have 15,000 CNC Machines Core77 (Re Silc). Re Silc: “[W]e’re now seeing the true power of digital fabrication technology, perhaps not in a way that its creators intended.”


Nuclear industry scrambles to avoid Euratom cliff edge The Telegraph

MPs move to block May from signing ‘no deal’ Brexit Guardian

Hillary Clinton suggests the Tories lack ‘empathy’ in warning over ‘divisive’ Brexit rhetoric Independent. Hilarity ensues.

The Anatomy of a Failed Campaign Der Spiegel. Interview with SDP leader Martin Schulz.

Victory in Stagnation? Jacobin


Donald Trump to leave fate of Iran nuclear deal in Congress’s hands FT. “White House hopes to toughen overall US response without unravelling the agreement.”

Decades in the making: The Iranian drone program Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Safer at Sea? Pakistan’s Sea-Based Deterrent and Nuclear Weapons Security (PDF) The Washington Quarterly

China’s ‘Field of Dreams’ in Pakistan US News


China Backs Egypt’s UNESCO Leadership Bid While the US Withdraws Completely The Diplomat (Re Silc).

Xi Jinping’s debt-relief recipe: how China’s biggest bond defaulter unloaded its liabilities South China Morning Post

China Takes On Its New Tycoons WSJ

Trump Transition

The Case Against Using the 25th Amendment to Get Rid of Trump New York Magazine (Re Silc). Idea: Win elections?

Democrats in Disarray

Centrist Democrats’ biggest dilemma: Where are the big ideas? McClatchy. DLC grifters put out the begging bowl.

Birmingham’s New Mayor Randall Woodfin on How to Win the Political Revolution Down South (interview) In These Times. Important.

Bernie Sanders Isn’t Winning Local Elections for the Left The New Republic. Headline far less nuanced than the article, whose thesis is that “all politics is local.” Editors write the headlines….

Wary of Hackers, States Move to Upgrade Voting Systems NYT. In other words, Putin Derangement Syndrome feeds the e-voting grift. Well played, all.

Health Care

Trump Touts Executive Order As First Step Toward ACA Repeal, But Move Was Largely Ceremonial KHN. A good wrap-up of all the coverage, though “ceremonial” might be replaced with “performative.”

Trump just ignited a battle within the Republican Party about whether to save Obamacare Business Insider

Not Dead Yet: Obamacare Insurers Are Hanging In There NYT

In South Carolina, pregnant women are increasingly giving birth without prenatal care Post and Courier. Third World stuff.

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

GOP private-police bill could unleash mercenaries on Michigan towns | Editorial Detroit Free Press

The future of surveillance is hidden in airport ads Engadget

Imperial Collapse Watch

U.S. Losing Legitimacy as Corruption Fighter, Experts Say Foreign Policy

Class Warfare

Genes for Skin Color Rebut Dated Notions of Race, Researchers Say Portside (original).

The Union Option Jacobin. “Collective action is the best avenue to fight sexual harassers like Harvey Weinstein.”

Women Should Not Have to Choose Between Employment and Safety: In Garment Factories They Do The Fashion Law

GOP Backed-Privatization Brings Rural America To Its Knees Rannt (GF).

More Americans Are Getting Their Electricity Cut Off Bloomberg

Has the Left given up on Economics? The Disorder of Things

All Worked Up and Nowhere to Go The Baffler

Landscape architects now design for mass shootings The Verge (Re Silc). “If you build it, they will come….”

20 of America’s top political scientists gathered to discuss our democracy. They’re scared. Vox

Antidote du jour (via):

Beat that, hedgehogs!

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. Ruben

    Lower business activity increases uncertainty by reducing information flow, thereby feeding back into lower activity extending recessions..
    “Uncertainty Traps”, Pablo D. Fajgelbaum, Edouard Schaal, Mathieu Taschereau-Dumouchel.
    The Quarterly Journal of Economics 132, 1641–1692.

  2. Ruben

    Declining real interest rates lead to lower productivity growth due to miss-allocation of capital towards firms with higher net worth but not necessarily higher productivity, as shown by analysis of data from Spanish firms (Italian and Portuguese firms show similar trends, not so German, French and Norwegian firms).

    “Capital Allocation and Productivity in South Europe”, Gita Gopinath, Şebnem Kalemli-Özcan, Loukas Karabarbounis, Carolina Villegas-Sanchez.
    The Quarterly Journal of Economics 132, 1915–1967

  3. Ruben

    Analysis of Swedish database of citizens socioeconomic background and competence traits show that it is possible to develop a democratic system of governance based on inclusive meritocracy mostly because of strong positive selection of politicians from lower socioeconomic levels: resolution of a trade-off between competence and representation.

    “Who Becomes A Politician?”, Ernesto Dal Bó, Frederico Finan, Olle Folke, Torsten Persson, Johanna Rickne.
    The Quarterly Journal of Economics 132, 1877–1914

    Please let me know if these links are to material that it is too technical or otherwise not interesting and I will stop. Thanks and apologies in advance.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Well, I could understand the abstract, but couldn’t read the article. If you as a subscriber have the ability to unlock it for some period of time and paste that link, then others here could read it. Seemed interesting, but I would think in Sweden there wouldn’t be a big of a spread as in the U.S. so dunno if it generalizes.

      1. Ruben

        I’m afraid I don’t have the ability to unlock the article as you would like. I post the abstract as a hopefully sufficient source of info for general discussion.

        I think the results of the paper show if the following conditions are granted: (i) the state is sufficiently small, (ii) the population is sufficiently homogeneous, and (iii) the socioeconomic development is sufficiently high; then there is a good selection of politicians because voters strongly favour those coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, therefore finding a good compromise between competence and representation. Another example that comes to mind in a very different context is Uruguay, which would be a really good contrast case to study to examine the effect of condition (iii) above.

        BTW then I am agreeing with you that the result do not generalize to the U.S.A. because conditions (i) and (ii) do not apply.

  4. Wukchumni

    Self-driving cars are on a collision course with our crappy cities The Verge
    The road to America’s Switzerland in Sequoia NP has about 400 potholes & 698 significant curves, as it winds it way up to Mineral King 25 miles & 7,000 feet later. There’s no lane divider & nary a guardrail, heck sometimes there isn’t even enough room for 2 cars to be on the road in a given stretch. It’s not uncommon @ such an impasse, for one of the drivers to have to put their jalopy in reverse for a hundred feet, so both can continue on. It’s a white knuckler of a ride and near collisions come with the territory all the time, as there’s always another blind curve around the bend. A journey that would make a self-driving Suburu want to commit seppuku instead of soldiering on.

    1. Kevin

      I still have not heard one person say “I want a driverless car!”
      Where is the demand?, or better yet, who is trying to drive the demand and to what end?

        1. Procopius

          I don’t get why Uber wants driverless cars. For sure the initial cost is going to be high. They’re going to have to pay for gas, maintenance, and insurance. Under their present business model they don’t have any of those costs. I’m sure they’ve run the numbers and think it’ll be a winner for them, but I have a feeling they’re assuming they’ll be able to get away with not carrying insurance or being able to negotiate really, really low fuel prices based on their monopoly position or something like that. Their business model just doesn’t make any sense to me, but I suppose that’s why I don’t have millions and millions of dollars. Elon Musk’s business plans don’t make any sense to me, either, but at least his goals increase chances of the human race’s long term survival.

      1. JBird

        Perhaps, like with cigarettes, the idea is using advertising to create the demand. Program us into thinking that driverless cars are the greatest.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Bill Clinton was apparently the top pick on Angie’s List under the Handyman category…

      Always best to go with a subject-matter expert. Henry Kissinger is always available to consult…

    1. Quanka

      The graphic accompanying the Verge article is laughable bordering on absurd.

      When the cars become so good at “seeing” one another then it will free up more space … which will be used for more cars of course! And its not as though cars in America always get bigger, so that maybe all the free space is gone before we realize it?

      Or how about the biker who is supposed to let her phone “talk” with the car through bluetooth – theres no civil liberty concerns there, no sirreee.

      Notice the casually dropped “new loading zones” taking what is current public commons (the street) and turning it into private usage. Sound familiar?

      Oh yeah, In what unicorn world do Americans choose to convert parking spaces INTO bike lines? The person who wrote this must have been smoking something good.

      1. Meher Baba

        Uber does not have a future in self driving cars. They may not have a future at all. And google is currently being sued for IP theft their self driving car project- the outcome of which may either open the industry right up, or quite the opposite.

      2. scott 2

        Unless self-driving cars can see and avoid potholes, I don’t see how they would last. Horrible roads will be the undoing of this fad. Nobody believes that cities will fix their roads for self-driving cars, do they?

        1. Procopius

          Dunno. I saw a claim a few months ago that “governors” (no names mentioned or numbers given) were getting ready to “wire” their highways to make them more friendly to driverless vehicles. Yeah, right.

      3. lyman alpha blob

        That article makes a lot of yuuuuge assumptions, for example that cities will go out of their way to create the necessary infrastructure for the self driving car industry. And if this infrastructure is created, that it will actually work.

        As you noted, the space created will likely go to having more AVs on the road. Is there something magical about an AV that will make traffic jams obsolete? And here I was thinking it was the number of vehicles that caused congestion, not whether a human was driving them.

        If the future really is hiring out a vehicle rather than owning one’s own, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to simply expand existing bus and train services? Or is the drawback there that some tech millennial with stars in their eyes might have to sit next to a poor person?

        1. neighbor7

          I predict that fifty years from now (grid willing) we’ll look back on the hyping of autonomous vehicles the way we look back on fantasies of jetpacks, universal monorails, the suitcase car of the Jetsons, and innumerable other futurist predictions.

          Do any of these corporate fantasists ever walk around in cities to see how things actually are?

          1. clarky90

            Years ago a signifier of “power” was an elaborate and expansive hat. Nowadays, the people who imagine (legends in their own minds) that they are running the World, all travel by private jet or private helicopter. They are roughing it whenever they are forced to travel by limousine.

        2. Ned

          Neighbor7, about that self driving vehicle timeline–Reads like TechnoFableshit.

          “The cost of a shared ride is 1/3 of the cost of a private on demand vehicle…”

          So then, why aren’t transit rides prorated to the number of passengers riding it today?
          The technology is already in place with pre-paid ridership cards.
          Or, do taxpayers have to first rebuild our cities for the benefit of the overclass and their economic activity? The interest on the bonds will no doubt be tax free.

          “Drivers reclaim former commuting time for leisure and work related activities…”

          Yeah, and we were told that automation would create infinite leisure for former working people who would have so much time on their hands that they could all study the arts and philosophy. I’m old enough to remember those promises.

          Self driving anything is just another excuse to destroy the Middle Class and poor people’s mobility through the banning of car ownership, or making it so expensive that only the uberich will be able to afford it.

          More ominously, it will destroy millions of jobs and all the savings will float up to the top of the Rich People’s Party, or the Rich People’s Parfait to continue the metaphor.

          “She’s gonna throw rocks at you..r self driving vehicle” So will I.

          1. neighbor7

            I shouldn’t have included monorail–that’s a form of off-ground mass transit we could/should have had. As it is, Los Angeles’s current Westside subway extension will be completed in 2024 and STILL not reach LAX.

            1. Ned

              But, most importantly, the maids and gardeners from South Central and the Eastside can now quickly reach their jobs in Beverly Hills and the high income Westside more efficiently!
              None of them are going to LAX.

            2. Synoia

              I shouldn’t have included monorail–that’s a form of off-ground mass transit we could/should have had.

              If you can deliver points (track switching) with monorail systems they could work. No one has solved that problem, because physics, that is the need for a center of gravity below track level.

          2. Wukchumni

            We’ll have so much excess energy to do stuff in our cars-not having to drive them anymore, that it’ll be too cheap to meter.

        3. Craig H.

          Busses and trains are dirty. These people envisioning the shared personal automobile imagine them as clean. In reality they would be far far filthier, if they should ever come into being.

          When I commuted to work on the city bus the people at the stop and on the bus were largely interesting and friendly. The one time some guy puked on the bus the driver radio’d in a “yellow dog” call. It did take the cleaning crew ten minutes to show up. The driver told us some cock and bull story about the derivation of the yellow dog lingo while we were waiting. Luckily it was a nice day and hanging out on the sidewalk in the weather was not unpleasant.

          1. MichaelSF

            I think the slang used by SF Muni drivers is “hot lunch”.

            Will the automobile be monitoring internal air quality for that kind of thing, or will it just drive around all day with customers refusing to board?

        4. George Phillies

          “…wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to simply expand existing bus and train services? ”

          Probably not. For example, for the elderly, the age at which you should not drive and the age at which walking a few blocks to the bus stop become unmanageable (especially in places that are not flat and have winter) are very much the same. I do not mind hauling my groceries up from the garage, but carrying them a quarter-mile (especially when better bags were needed) would be unacceptable. There was a significant FL or CA study on this, some years back.

          1. JTMcPhee

            Re transport of the aged:
            In some communities in FL, notably “trailer parks” and 55+ places, and a subset of condo developments (not all, by a long chalk), informal groupings of humans will do cooperative shopping and help one another with travel to doctors and such. And there is Meals on Wheels.

            So far, I don’t believe there’s an app for that, or that some fin tech sh!t has figured how to monetize and rent that phenom. Though of course there’s the whole VC-PE-polluted range of “assisted living” and “step-down” institutionalized facilities, who will provide narrowly constrained “care” if you submit to the privatized “estate/death tax” of signing over your accumulated wealth and property to the rentiers…

            Of course, the fintech neolib atomization of the political economy leaves many to die alone in their digs… don’t waste efforts with Resist!(TM) — go Rebuild, where they are less likely to notice you.

      4. o4amuse

        It appears to me that in the unicorn world of the US state of Oregon the Dept of Transportation routinely converts parking spaces into bike lanes. …that unicorn world

        1. Oregoncharles

          Mostly, the bike lanes run between the parking lane and the traffic. That isn’t so good for the bicyclists, as a door could open in their face, but handy when you’re getting out of the car – you’re separate from the traffic.

          1. jsn

            New York: sidewalk; bike lane; painted door swing zone; parking lane; three car lanes on avenues.
            Bloomberg overstayed his welcome but did get bike lanes right

            1. Yves Smith

              I don’t mean to sound like a Luddite, but in fact bikes are not used in the winter (Dec-March inclusive, sometimes April), the worst of the summer, and when it rains (not just when it happens but on days when predicted). So in terms of how the city operates, bikes are a big net negative. You want people using more public transport, and the bikes reduce bus/train ridership and make it harder for buses.

              This wasn’t about Bloomberg liking bikes. Bloomberg has a pathological hatred of cabs, and this was about making it harder for cabs to ger around Manhattan and reducing their ridership. He would take the subway to work but I guarantee he also used a car and drive, so for him to target cabs is hypocritical. Mind you, I just about never use them but they are an important amenity, particularly for visitors.

              1. Oregoncharles

                The weather is less daunting here, so bikes are very practical. I have friends who don’t own cars.

                1. Yves Smith

                  Oh, I am totally on board with bikes in places with more hospitable weather. And I lived in western Oregon for a while, and the rain there is pretty mild (warm temps, usually not long in duration) and the temperature just about never goes below freezing.

                2. Procopius

                  Bikes would be very useful in Bangkok, except when it rains. The place is flat as a billiard table. In fact on the whole drive from Nakhon Sawan to Bangkok there is not a single grade significant enough to see except the ramps going up to the u-turn bridges, but it’s 250 kilometers, so I’m not likely to bike it. Motorbikes are preferred by far, and Bangkokians hate to walk. Bikes are mostly used by the upper middle class. I’m not sure if they’re status symbols or for the exercise.

            2. Pat

              Except for that turning problem which merges the bike and car lane AND his highly selective choice of streets for bike lanes and his agreement with Citibank where their citibikes take up both parking and the bike lane…

              Bloomberg was not really as interested in bikes as transportation as he was interested in getting his congestion tax.

    2. voteforno6

      Despite the triumphalism of the tech industry, I’m not so sure that autonomous vehicles are really that close to widespread adoption. Waymo has been making noises about starting a service in Phoenix – does that really scale all that well? Also, will they actually make any money with that service? At what point would it become profitable? They may very well run into some of the same problems that Uber has, in that regard. People seem to assume that autonomous vehicles would be just like regular cars, but would drive on their own. I’m not so sure. The companies developing these technologies would probably not be able to make any money, if they just sold the vehicles, if what Waymo is doing is any guide. These vehicles would require significant back-end support. It seems to me that they would need to have some sort of licensing / subscription model for these vehicles, and there would have to be enough of them in order to justify the investment in the back-end in order to make it economically feasible.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        We will see computer driven trains before computer driven cars.

        Wait, in April this year, Washington halted plans to return to computer driven trains. Not sure what the status is there.

        In any case, the next phase would be computer flown airplanes, and computer piloted cruise ships.

        Then, we might get dog-walking robots.

        After that, computer driven baby-strollers, and robot jockeyed Triple Crown winners.

        When the technology has been tested through these phases, I think we will see self-driving cars on our streets.

        1. clinical wasteman

          We’ve had computer (or possibly abacus)-driven trains in London since 1987 in the form of the Docklands Light Railway. A classic product of Thatcherite gall in that it was approved before the Canary Wharf financial complex, which then just had to be built because otherwise no-one would ride the trains. (Even the Wikipedia DLR page quietly admits this.) They run ok because, unlike a Google Cadillac, they’re on rails, and admittedly there’s an element of paleofuturist aesthetic charm. But one obvious consequence is that the few transport workers still employed on those lines are more or less full-time fare-collection/”antisocial behaviour” cops, expertise in the fraught business of running a rail network notwithstanding.
          Also, I think this has come up before, but it’s sad to see that the FT NYC bureau promotion — with lifestyle column attached — has turned the famous anthropologist G.Tett into a non-observing, fully enthusing Participant.

      2. g

        Recently took a tour of the Cruise (GM-acquired AV startup). Friends there told me that they’re only really getting into the hard problems now. My guess is full autonomous driving is still at least decade out from existing in consumer vehicles, but will probably exist in simpler forms before then (e.g. campus shuttles). The full autonomous vehicle future is too far out to predict.

    3. MRLost

      The article on self-driving cars never mentions the role of automobile insurance.

      In theory, no one is supposed to operate a vehicle on public roads unless they are insured for at least liability. Consider a world where there are two types of vehicles on the road: one type that never, ever cause collisions and one type that are capable of causing collisions. Which is going to pay the most for liability insurance? Once the safety record of driverless automobiles exceeds that of automobiles driven by people, which will be entirely an actuarial determination, the insurance companies are going to read the writing on the wall and increase the cost of auto insurance to the point that only professional drivers and the quite wealthy can afford to operate a personally owned car.

      My belief is that we are a long, long ways away from self-driving automobiles. But once the safety record of driverless cars surpasses that of cars driven by people, I will be all in favor of self-driving cars quickly becoming the norm. I ride motorcycles and bicycles and walk a lot and can attest that people are wretched drivers and a great deal of that wretchedness is caused by rudeness and thoughtlessness and ego, all of which will be absent from driverless cars.

      It will have an enormous impact on our society. Consider how many emergency room admissions are the result of automobile collisions. How many police are occupied dealing with automobiles and their incompetent drivers. The additional cost and complexity built into cars to shield the occupants in the event of a collision. It’s a long list. But if the switch to driverless autos results in measurably fewer injuries and deaths, then it will be well worth it.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        If and when autonomous vehicles become documentably safer than human piloted ones (and that’s a very low bar to clear, humans are awful drivers), it will make sense to adopt them on a large scale. Even if an autonomous car fleet gone bad were to kill 100 people every single day, that will still represent a worthwhile safety improvement. If they killed only 50 people a day, the case for them is pretty much airtight from a safety perspective.

      2. George Phillies

        There already is an insurance company that specializes in Teslas — this may have been on Bloomberg recently — and that now gives a rate reduction is you spend more time driving in “autonomous” mode. Under California conditions, assisted driving is already safer.

        However, having self-driving cars on the road will *not* increase insurance rates for human drivers. We have human drivers right now. We pay for insurance, most of us. The insurance companies do not lose money. Putting robot cars on the road will reduce, not increase the accident rate for human drivers. As a result the insurance rate for human drivers will fall, not increase.

      3. Heidi's Master

        The great thing about the insurance angle is that the average joe will save a lot of money on the insurance and the 1% will lose a profit center. I love it when the the powers have to take their grubby little hands out of my pocket.

    4. Lord Koos

      What I don’t understand about the self-driving car thing is, where is the demand for this technology coming from? Certainly not the people. Like many other so-called technological “advances” (which usually have unintended consequences), this is being foisted on the public whether they like it of not. It’s not like they have invented something really useful, like a new antibiotic. This money could (and should) be invested in public transport rather than more cars, which are the last thing most cities need.

      1. Wukchumni

        Hear, here.

        It almost seems like a re-do of the 45-33-cassette-cd way that music went, in an attempt to make you buy new stuff…

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Venture capitalists. Taxes being used to fund bus and trolley service isn’t a profit making opportunity. There is need for more buses between the hours of 7 and 10 and 4 and 7. What does a bus and driver cost? What about maintenance? If the facilities already exist, how much does adding five peak hour trolley style routes really cost? It comes back to how does a bus increase Jeff Bezos share price. I can’t hide profit behind R&D or pay for top performing talent.

      3. Chris

        Thanks for continuing to comment and provide links for Uber and driverless vehicles. My small family unit, 2, has a scooter and two cars.

        Each is used perhaps less than 5% of the time, but my costs for registration, licensing, insurance, fuel, tires and maint runs in the many $000s. I’ve never worked out our cost per km, but it’s a big chunk of our household budget…

        In a driverless (electric) car world, it wouldn’t make any economic sense for me to own a vehicle. If I want to go anywhere, I just summon a cab.

        Electric cars have far, far, far few mechanical components. And as battery costs and energy (renewables) continue to come down in cost, we will reach a tipping point where they are the only cars on the road.

        Some have said that computers do not have the ability to (as humans, consciously and unconsciously) process the hundreds of inputs we process while driving. Well, not quite, as there are companies already making processors which operate in the petaflops and have the capacity to drive vehicles better than you.

        Ultimately, the end game is for all driving to be automated, and, with humans off the road, no need for insurance, parking spaces, garage, tools, mechanics. Continuing our polluting ways with IC engines? I don’t think so, but you will still be able to watch them on the race track.

        See where I’m going with this? I think it’s going to happen much, much more quickly than we can imagine.

        Leading indicator – used car prices in Oz. When you can buy a luxury car (98 Mercedes Benz e320 Elegance) for five weeks’ average wages ($5k)…(Best car I have ever owned and there’s a long list there, including new ones). The Merc may well have another 20 years in it, but I don’t think I’ll be driving cars in five years. They’ll be driving me.

        my 2c

  5. semiconscious

    Driverless cars: the digital revolution, part two:

    ‘But there are potentially amazing benefits too. In a world of driverless cars, nobody would waste time looking for parking spaces. Busy parents could send an intelligent car to pick up their kids from school. The car could collect groceries. It could plug itself into the charging station. It might even be able to walk the dog…’

    ‘amazing benefits’. truly shameful/embarrassing. will never think of gillian tett in quite the same way again :) …

    1. Lee

      Those examples are indeed infuriating. Picking up my kids and walking my dogs are a couple of my favorite things. As for grocery shopping, I’m with Allen Ginsberg:

      A Supermarket in California Launch Audio in a New Window

      What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.
      In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
      What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!—and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

      I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
      I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
      I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
      We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier…

      For the whole poem go to:

        1. justanotherprogressive

          About grocery shopping?
          You will definitely have to point out those poems by Keats and Shelly, because I must have missed them…..

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Neruda had one, among other poems, about common things.

            Maybe good for self-improvement stores.

            I have a crazy,
            crazy love of things.
            I like pliers,
            and scissors.
            I love
            and bowls –
            not to speak, or course,
            of hats.
            I love
            all things,

          2. Ned

            Enumerations of life…

            If you must be up to date, I suppose there are poets who elaborate on click through rates and other such things.

  6. Jim Haygood

    Scary Halloween in Venezuela:

    Holders of Venezuelan bonds face an “existential crisis” because of doubts about the government’s ability to pay the $3.526 billion required over the next six weeks, said Antonio De La Cruz, executive director of the Inter American Trends consultancy.

    De La Cruz predicted the government will do everything possible to avoid a default this year because Maduro and his aides are convinced that they will not be able to remain in power if they default.

    “They need to push this off to 2018,” De La Cruz said. “For 2018, they expect a recovery in the price of oil and a drop in the debt burden, compared to what it was this year.”

    De La Cruz said he would not be surprised to see Maduro make further cuts in imports, currently already at just over 20 percent of the $60 billion mark in 2012. But the government could also decide to suspend all imports of food and medicine, De La Cruz added.

    While Venezuela bets on oil prices to rise, Saudi Arabia is considering to cancel the long-awaited Aramco IPO. Evidently the Saudis don’t see oil rising anytime soon, despite their breakthrough in securing some cooperation from Russia to restrain production.

    The recommencement of US oil exports in 2016 after a 40-year ban was a global game changer. And it happened under Obama, not Trump.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Is it not possible that one of the reasons the US started exporting again was precisely to stick it to Venezuela?

      1. Jim Haygood

        Compared to our Great Satan Putin, Venezuela’s Maduro is just a Little Satan:

        “We have the best technology, the best oil and over time we will drive out Russian oil, we will drive out Saudi, Iranian,” Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas said in an interview with Bloomberg. “It puts the United States in the driver’s seat of energy policy worldwide. It is a huge victory.” — Dec 16, 2015

        This month, less than two years later, Saudi king Salman visited Putin in Moscow to discuss their common interest in managing oil production.

        Well played, Joe Barton! Whut are y’all gonna do now?

      2. Pookah Harvey

        Here’s an interesting article on heavy vs light oil and why we are exporting the shale oil. It seems most of US refineries are conformed for heavy oil while European refineries use light oil (shale is a light oil). It seems the push for Keystone was to get a more “reliable” heavy oil source. Venezuela had been the major heavy oil source but after Chavez the oil majors became nervous. This article gives an explanation for the stress on the new pipelines (from a corporate and maybe conservative government point of view) It seems the Keystone Pipeline was a way to stick it to Venezuela. The article goes on to say that the majors are now nervous about environmentalists in Canada and the US and hope to reenter Venezuela. Venezuelan oil is also more profitable. I’m guessing this might be the reason for the big push from Trump against Maduro. From Oil Sands magazine

        Why Venezuela is Alberta’s biggest competitor”

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Engagement, Not Sanctions, Deserves a Second Chance 38 North

          Saddam and Qaddafi weren’t, and many others are not, special, or deserving of dignity, like comrade Kim.

  7. Darius

    The political scientists in the Vox article approach the question too gingerly. American democracy isn’t in danger. It’s in a free fall. Those guys are behind the curve.

    The Foreign Policy article portrays US corruption as a phenomenon that’s new with Trump. It’s been growing all along. Obama celebrated some of its greatest actors. All those foundation funding billionaires he worships. Trump just has no scruples about exploiting corruption opportunities to their fullest potential

    The Hillary article manages to ignore Jeremy Corbyn, as far as I can see.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I think that the political scientists in the Vox article were not just approaching the questions too gingerly but I had the distinct feeling in reading them that they were a bit out to sea as far as understanding what was actually happening. It was elites talking to other elites and the Vox writer trying to put an anti-Trump spin on the whole article did not help. They seemed to be more about what was happening than going into exactly why it was happening – unless that was just in the reporting.
      Perhaps this lot should indulge in a little out of the box thinking and have a few guest speakers attend to rattle some of their beliefs. Apart from our own Yves, how about a few other social critics that might wish to talk truth to power such as Jimmy Dore, Lauren Southern or even Paul Joseph Watson. Whatever your feelings about the last three people that I have suggested, they do have a habit of bringing up facts that cannot be simply ignored. I find it useful to follow people that I often do not agree with as that makes you think why you do not disagree with them.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I’m of the opinion people want to believe they are good. Discussing the aftermath of the conflagration is far more appealing than discussing why everyone invested in fiddle futures. Obama didn’t prosecute white collar criminals because it would be hard, and then the Democrats ran an unrepentant Iraq War supporter who didn’t even bother to review intelligence. Amazingly enough, Hillary lost voters to Trump in areas hit hardest by the Iraq War and the mortgage crisis. The Clinton campaign was a case of gross political malpractice. Even the best case scenario was stumbling into the White House.

        The Vox piece quotes Ezra Klein, the editor in chief of Vox.

        Here is Ezra from a few days ago. His job is to cover politics. Klein is willfully ignorant or a liar; although his tweet couches his surprise at how Hollywood kept an “open secret” in a coward’s phrasing. Weinstein was deeply involved in Democratic politics, even going so far as to suggest the Sandy Hook attacks levied against Sanders. Weinstein was a mover and shaker in the political world. Investigating a figure such as Weinstein would seem to be right up Ezra’s alley. So how does a political reporter explain missing this? Act as if no one knew. To explain Trump, politicos will try to blame it on rednecks and other “deplorables” outside of the American mainstream while ignoring their friends such as Senator Jeff Flake, a leader of the anti-Trump GOP, votes with Trump over 99% of the time. Trump is the inevitable end result of a decrepit “liberal class” occupying the space for a center-left party and an unchecked right wing. The people who should have demanded more out of the “liberal class” instead of whining about the GOP’s naturally terrible behavior or applauding Obama for feeling a sad about the innocents who died in his wars are desperate to deflect where the blame lies: the people who knew better but choose to be ignorant or behave like barbarians.

      2. Montanamaven

        Politics is not a science. Politics is about acquiring power and money. You are right. These yahoos should have invited Jimmy Dore and Lee Camp, far left comedians. Or listen to old George Carlin Taipei’s. Yves would be a good guest. Max Kaiser. And the great Glen Ford, smartest political writer on the planet.

        1. Plenue

          Isn’t Max Keiser a goldbug type? I’ve only ever paid any attention to him when he’s given people like Yves and Michael Hudson a platform to speak on.

          As for Glen Ford, at times he’s worth listening to. At others, he’s preaching about how the truth of Rwanda is 180 of the accepted narrative and the Tutsi were actually slaughtering Hutu’s.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Then take in what they have to say the rest of the time. It pays to listen to people that you disagree with as at least you get an insight into their worldview. You may not agree with what they have to say but there is always knowledge to be gained.
          I follow a military blogger some of whose views I literally hate and despise. Sometimes I totally agree with his views, especially his views on how corporate profits have been put ahead of soldier’s lives and safety. People are always a hodgepodge of views so it pays to listen to them.

          1. Plenue

            Or I can just not waste my limited time with people who are consistently disgusting as well as stupid. I’ll ignore the reichwing YouTube types for much the same reasons I ignore prosperity gospel preachers.

      1. Jeff W

        Yeah, my thought exactly. Twenty political scientists discussing US democracy and no one brings up these findings that go directly against the assumptions of a majoritarian electoral democracy?

        The political scientists or at least the article talks about “the erosion of democratic norms,” “the soft guardrails of democracy,” “Americans…becoming less committed to liberal democratic norms,” “institutional forbearance,” etc. How about some simple behavioral statements?

        When elected officials act in accordance with something other than what their constituents want (like, perhaps, what their donors want or at least allow), their constituents view that—correctly—as not democratic. If the elected officials are acting in ways that their constituents view as not democratic, those constituents will—again, correctly—view the system as being unresponsive to actions that would work in a democracy and act accordingly—that is, they become “less committed to liberal democratic norms.” In a system where something other than constituents’ behavior governs a lot of what elected officials do, it’s hardly rocket science that the people view that system as less than democratic—but I guess it is political science.

          1. Jeff W

            Descriptions masquerading as explanations.

            As the physicians in Molière’s Le Malade imaginaire (1673) “explained”:

            Why Opium produces sleep:
            …Because there is in it a dormitive power.

            Nothing new, indeed.

  8. Tom

    The Kobe Steel article provides a brief history of the company’s recent incidences of “improper conduct” but it doesn’t include an update of the current scandal.

    Initial reports stated 200 companies received improperly certified products; that number has since risen to 500 companies.

    The number of non-conforming product has risen from 2 as announced on Oct. 11 to 13 with the announcement of 9 more affected products.

    In addition to the “planes, trains and automobiles” industries identified as among those affected, later reports also identified Kobe Steel products destined for nuclear power plants, including at least one of the four Fukishima plants. So far no Kobe supplied parts have been installed at the reactor, so let’s hope that one is contained.

    One of the companies caught up in the “fake steel” flap is Boeing. One of the suppliers to Boeing is GE, which provides the engines. These high-speed turbine engines are made using extremely high quality Titanium or Titanium alloy metal components. Kobe Steel recently began providing these products to IHI a manufacturer working with GE Aviation to develop a new engine for Boeing 777X aircraft. Again, Kobe Steel has not identified any quality issues with their Titanium products (at this point), so let’s hope these products are up to specs.

    But I got curious about what GE had to say about the situation and couldn’t find anything. Then I noticed there are plenty of stories about the Kobe scandal on CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC and other outlets, but when I searched the MSNBC site, nothing – and I mean zero results.
    Same with NBC broadcast network — zero results.
    And local NBC stations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

    Again, no one has said anything about Kobe’s Titanium products being among the improperly certified products, so I don’t get why you can’t find a trace of the Kobe story on any of GE’s NBC news and media outlets. Seems weird, like the dog that didn’t bark.

    At any rate, that’s just a side story to the bigger Kobe scandal.

    It will be interesting to see what tomorrow will add to the ongoing story.

  9. Romancing The Loan

    The Vox article is remarkably un self-aware:

    “It’s not that Americans don’t believe in democratic ideals or principles; it’s that our beliefs scale with our partisan loyalties. Vox’s Ezra Klein explained it well in a recent column:

    People’s opinions on democracy lie downstream from their partisan identity. If it had been Trump’s voters who had seen the Electoral College, gerrymandering, and Russia turn against them, then it would be Trump’s voters vibrating with outrage over the violation of key principles of American democracy.

    Hypocrisy aside, the reaction of nearly half the country to Russia’s meddling says a lot about our attachment to core democratic values like free and fair elections.”

    Yes, yes it does.

    1. johnnygl

      LOL!!! Yes, it says more about ezra klein’s preferred tribe and their ongoing #resistancetofacts!!!

    2. FluffytheObeseCat

      Yes. Good catch. The scolding sentence about “reaction to Russian meddling”really caught my eye.

      The elite Democrat pseudo-left is as precious about Russian meddling as the Trump-Pence right is about stagy displays of rote patriotism at ballgames. A lot of huffy noise and stagy fury designed to disguise their grift. And their epic fail.

  10. Wukchumni

    Nice shot of the foxes…

    We had a family of 4 grey foxes living under our deck for about 6 months some years ago. They’re pretty diminutive.

    About 15 years ago I was on a long backpack trip with a couple of friends and we were way off-trail on the backside of Pants pass in the Kern-Kaweah drainage, when we saw a Sierra Nevada red fox with a white tipped tail scampering in front of us about 30 feet away.

    As luck would have it we ran into our friend who was the wildlife biologist for Sequoia NP a few days later, and she was rather incredulous that it happened, as there had been no reported sightings of one in Sequoia, ever. But 6 eyes were trained on that beastie, and the telltale tail told all, as it wasn’t a grey fox, nosirrreeebob.

  11. timbers

    Melting Antarctic

    Have not seen this at NC yet. It’s about satellite discovery of upside-down canyons in Antarctic ice. Seems important and related to past links on the subject.

    Just a simple forward projection using the pattern and rates of thinning observed by Cryosat and Sentinel-1 in this study would lead to complete melt-through of Dotson’s front in 20 or so years, and its rear in about 40 years.
    That is on the order of 170 years earlier than Dotson would thin to zero using the ice-shelf-averaged thinning rate. But as previously stated – the shelf is not a static structure and it will react to the formation of the canyon.

  12. NotTimothyGeithner

    Where are the centrists ideas?

    Centrist and the embrace of goldilocks (a thief and tresspasser) strategy to win elections as a be all and end all is their idea.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      And the one comment from that article delivers already..

      Give us a PERSON to vote for, and their platform WILL NOT BE that important.

      Personality politics is what has gotten us to this point. We need actual positions not personality. I also enjoyed how he called Sanders crazy in the first sentence.. yeah FDR Democrats are now “crazy”. Iwould reply back there but it involves FB.. yuck.

      1. Huey Long

        Unfortunately, talking policy with people in this country all too often devolves into shouting matches based on dogma and beliefs rather than facts.

        Personality politics is an outgrowth of this phenomenon where we end up supporting the candidate who best embodies those dogmas and beliefs.

        Until this changes we will continue to get bad policy dreamed up by the guys behind the curtain pulling the levers in Emerald City.

    2. Altandmain

      Their “ideas” are neoliberalism and class warfare on behalf of the rich. To cover up the unprecedented class warfare, they use identity politics. That is their “idea”.

      Needless to say, it is not very appealing to many people. Many upper middle class peoples who are not in am economically precarious situation, but that is about it.

    3. KTN

      The article conflates centrism and center-left, whether deliberately or out of good old ignorance, the latter being rather dismayingly high among political journalists in the US.

      ‘Centrist’ and ‘moderate’ refer to middle-of-the-roadism, which in the US is actually rather right wing compared to ‘centrism’ in other developed countries, naturally siding with decreased regulation/increased collateral damage usually borne by the poor, corporations and oligarchs on economic issues, with a fondness for militarism and military adventurism, etc. (Interestingly the anti-working people Macron alone has been able to successfully package this as ‘centrism’ and sell it a neutered & frightened populace.)

      Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is center left. To the left of socialism is traditionally communism, which it must remembered has never been re ipsa attempted.

  13. Timmy

    The following link (to a Wash Post story) seems like a substantive examination of the influence of pharma money on public policy and the opoid crisis. Perhaps I’m ignorant of some significant flaws. If so, I’d appreciate being educated to those issues.

    The lede: In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.

    By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight.

    A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.

    1. Wukchumni

      The obesity war has claimed far more victims than opioids, it’s just not as visible in terms of overdosing deaths.

      1. HotFlash

        Wukchumni, I am confused here. Do you mean it is obesity, the condition, causing deaths, or a war on obesity? And if the latter, I could use some ‘splainin’. Thanks.

      2. clarky90

        IMO, there is a multi pronged attempt to wipe us (the underdogs) out.

        For instance, here in NZ, unwanted species (deer, goats, possum, stoats, rats…) have been (1) hunted with guns, (2) trapped with live or kill traps (3) poisoned with aerial drops of 1080 (Sodium fluoroacetate). These days, there is less hunting and trapping, and more and more and more, poisoning. They fly over a forest and drop tons of poisoned carrots or poison bait. It is out of sight and out of mind. Except, our countryside and waterways are poisoned!

        The NZ native species that are under threat, are put on pest-free, off shore islands, or in mainland sanctuaries that are double fenced and electronically monitored.

        Back to people;

        In the West, deplorables are no longer lined up on the edge of pits, and murdered…(The Bolsheviks and Nazi did this!)

        However, we are being poisoned by cultural emptiness, opiates and corn syrup; slow acting, pervasive and lethal.

        The destruction of old cultures, by the MSM and Materialism, is the most toxic of poisons.

        Indigenous peoples sicken and die when their traditional beliefs are destroyed or appropriated.

        This is what normal old and middle aged human beings look like.

        “Three Indigenous Australians on Bathurst Island in 1939”

  14. Jason Boxman

    I just realized, as I expected, that we’ve already moved on past yet another mass shooting. I knew when dead kids prompted no course correction, nothing would. It’s a shame the moral vacuousness in our Establishment never surprises me anymore.

    1. Terry Humphrey

      The crowd in Las Vegas surely had more than its share of conceal carrying people, yet I’ve heard nothing about a good man with a gun being present and returning fire. I’m sure our trigger-happy police might have had something to do with that

      1. Huey Long

        Proof please?

        I know Nevada is a CCW state, but normally everyone is frisked going into large events like concerts these days.

        Second thing, at those ranges even if the whole crowd was armed with .45’s and returning fire they’d be lucky to hit the side of the Mandalay Bay casino, nevermind the shooter. Pistols are fine and dandy out to 50 yards but anything further out is rifle territory.

        1. Wukchumni

          About the safest place you can be from gunplay in these United States is on a cruise ship, funny that.

        2. Terry Humphrey

          I never argued they’d be effective. In fact that’s my point, if you get the drop on the “good man with a gun” it doesn’t work, at that is usually the case. As far as frisking for guns—given that crowd, do they turn them away? Do they check them like old West saloons? BTW I think silencers would be an advantage only to the bad guy with a gun.

  15. FreeMarketApologist

    RE: Google Has Made a Mess of Robotics.

    No mention in the article about what happens with the ownership of patents and intellectual property of the companies and projects that were shut down after being acquired by Google. Is the long-term plan perhaps to be purely a holder of intellectual property that they can then license and and collect royalties?

    Since these are early days of AI and robotics, they will be able to claim that their patent holdings are the foundational work on which other works are derived, and thus must be paid licensing or royalty fees.

  16. Alex

    Re Genes for Skin Color Rebut Dated Notions of Race, Researchers Say

    I read the article but I failed to understand what notions are actually rebutted.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      Oddly written. Seems like a different version might have been longer and it got edited down. I think the point is that ancestral species of homo sapiens also had skin color variation. Not sure how that connects to racism except to say once again that there’s no such thing as race, but there are some regional differences in morphology in humans.

      Also – Neandertals, while they had red hair, didn’t pass it on to us – unlike what was reported as “fact” in the science press a few years ago. However, their genes massively influence sleep cycles. This article is worth a read (very high level):

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        If the ancestral species of Homo Sapiens had different skin colors, which color did the first members of Homo Sapiens have? That they had to breed with the older species for a while could lead them to inherit all the colors, perhaps.

        Then one group migrated to Europe, perhaps lighter skin colors predominated among them.

        And another went to Asia, with slightly different colors.

        So far so good (unless the ancestral species’ skin color variation has nothing to do with ours today).

        What happened to the lightest and lighter colors in the modern human’s homeland, Africa?

        In any case, we modern people define outside and different with many other morphological features, than just skin color, and more than just physically, but also culturally, politically, socially, financially, etc.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          “Then one group migrated to Europe, perhaps lighter skin colors predominated among them.

          And another went to Asia, with slightly different colors”

          All Homo Sapiens were black by our modern terms 75,000 years ago after the bottle neck event. Caucasians started to appear over a 10,000 year period in the Caucuses and are descended from three men (very likely players) who lived around 45,000 years ago. Asians as we think of them are descended from various groups of caucasians and pre-Asian peoples, descended from Africans that moseyed across Asia sometime after Caucasians started to appear who also moseyed across Asia. Asian sub-races are various mixtures of these two groups, but they appear in the fossil record at dates after Caucasians appear. There are multiple major sub groups they have identified the origin area for.

          There are minor physical differences (nose shapes, length of legs versus the body size, hair diameter). Based on rates of genetic mutation and the fossil record, it looks like evolution from one species to the next is a rapid 1,000 year process, not a long gradual process from the origin of one species to the next. The “missing link” might last a single generation or not exist at all because of mutations.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            The ancestral species had skin color variation and the first Homo Sapiens humans in Africa were all black, was it that the ancestral skin color variation different shades of black, or that there were more colors and the early modern humans received only the black color?

            1. Mel

              I think we’ve had varied skin colors from the time our close cousins were lemurs, and back before that. No need to assume a pure ancestral breed at any one time. NTG said “black by our modern terms”.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                I noticed that (by our modern terms) too.

                Does it mean the skin tones of Koreans and Greeks, for example, were not around at that time, and weren’t in the previous (ancestral and earlier) color variation?

        2. icancho

          Here’s what I make of this report (and why it relates to racism).
          It’s been known for over 40 years that, in assessing a diverse array of genetic variants found among large population samples taken from many conventional “races”, the bulk of the totality of genetic variance in the entire sample is found among individuals WITHIN population samples— rather than, as a naive race model might predict, AMONG populations of differing “race”. This result at the very least greatly complicated our understanding of the nature of “race”, and, for many, strongly suggested that there is but weak biological reality to the conventional “races”— we are all much more alike than unlike.
          Those who nonetheless retained a conviction of a real biological basis of conventional races reacted by observing that much of the genetic variation assessed in such studies was of unknown significance, but that the obvious, genetically based, physical differences among races must speak to the long separation, and real distinctiveness or races.
          This new report, however, suggests that even the genes involved in the control of skin colour (or perhaps most of them) are common to all. This result further erodes the notion that conventional races have a real biological significance.

        3. giantsquid

          Surprisingly, 7,000 years ago the hunter gatherers inhabiting what is now Europe had an unusual combination of dark skin and blue eyes. Scientists had thought that light skin had become predominant in Europe much earlier. These people were descended primarily from the first modern humans to enter this region 40 to 45 thousand years ago, with some portion of their ancestry being Neanderthal. Two additional populations have since made substantial contributions to European ancestry: 1) Middle Eastern migrants who introduced farming to Europe, 7,000-9,000 years ago; and 2) Pastoralists from the eastern Steppe region in present day Russia and Ukraine – this latter group was a mixed population descended from hunter gatherers from both the Middle East and the Caucuses.

      2. Alex

        I think that regional differences in morphology in humans is a polite synonym of races :)

        Thank you for the link!

        1. Oregoncharles

          Yes. “Race” is the old word for “subspecies”; it still turns up in other contexts, like plant varieties. In practice, subspecies means “a visually identifiable regional population.” Visual, because they didn’t have DNA testing then. In that basic sense, there certainly are human races – quite a lot of them. It’s the use in the US that’s largely nonsensical, because we’re already so mixed. Any gardener knows that hybrids can be a good thing.

          In that sense, at least, the article appeared to say nothing about “race.” It does mention regional variations. The title is probably clickbait.

  17. Tim

    File this one under industry consolidation:
    w w w .

    The new Spectrum (formerly Charter, Bright House and Time Warner) is flexing it’s muscles now that it is more monopolistic than before.

    I’d be happy if they didn’t charge me $30 per month for a DVR that was designed in 2008. It doesn’t even do 1080HD, it upscales from 920 and does a horrible job.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      Enforcement of telecom industry regulations and competition laws mean that in France you can get “4-play” ie better than basic cable, 2mb/sec Internet, fixed phone with unlimited calls almost globally and cell with unlimited data and no roaming fee across Europe, all for…. about $60 a month.

      And the cable box records in 1080p for no extra charge. It also has a built-in Blu-ray player. And VPN – but you have to be a bit of a geek to get that working.

  18. Wukchumni


    During the school day, visitors have to pass through the gap in a rain garden to get to the hardened entrance, and they can be observed from inside during the approach, thanks to the Svigals + Partners design. Once inside, the doors close, and classroom doors deadbolt automatically. Windows are coated with a special hardened glaze, so that even if the window is shot, it would take an attacker 10 to 15 minutes with a sledgehammer to force open a hole big enough to crawl through. Delay animates everything about the design, to buy time for the people inside and mitigate the harm an attacker can commit while waiting for rescuers to arrive.

    Things sure have changed since the biggest scandal in the 5th grade was Billy bringing a fifth of purloined hooch to school from his parent’s stash, and 4 of us got hammered hanging out near the monkey bar during recess.

  19. Toske

    “Wary of Hackers, States Move to Upgrade Voting Systems”

    The more complex you make a system, the more weaknesses it will have.

    1. Glen

      Agreed. Pencil, paper, counters, observers.

      This is not rocket science. This is actually clear evidence that there are people actively working to screw voters, especially poor and minority voters. Who cuda known?

  20. Pat

    New York City have nots got a taste of demonetization crash and control when the MTA had a technology failure this weekend. It couldn’t take debit or credit cards and left a whole of people scrambling. Mind you the first and probably only response was s demand for upgrading the machines, not a worry about less humans to override the machines OR even scarier what happens with no cash, no humans and governmental shut down of a vital service for any number of reasons.

      1. Pat

        I bow to your knowledge as it could be longer, my metrocard doesn’t need to be reloaded (actually replaced*) until next week. I was basing this on a report I saw on the news this morning, which I admit I assumed referred to problems yesterday.

        *So looking forward to paying the extra dollar for a new card.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Until all the machines are Russia-proof, it’s best to do without them.

      That’s how the technologically meek, not geeks, will inherit the earth.

    2. Vatch

      I don’t live in New York, so I don’t know how this works. Is there a way to pay with cash? Your comment suggests that there is no way to pay with cash, but I’m not certain. Perhaps cash payment requires a person to stand in a long line?

      Anyhow, this is another fact that disproves Ken Rogoff’s theory about The Curse of Cash.

      1. Pat

        Many times there is no human, but most of the machines accept cash even though they do reject the bills quite often. The issue for me is more about the problem of becoming dependent on plastic and increasingly electronic payments and possibly being limited to them.

        This was just a very minor example of suddenly having no access to a possible necessity because of that dependence. While this was a result of choice, it shows how vulnerable people can be when that just the only way they have to pay. That they should fight being required to being limited to electronic forms of “currency”.

        1. Vatch

          Yes, cash is necessary. A cashless society would be a disaster in more ways than one.

          1. It would be vulnerable to system outages (Puerto Rico, for example).
          2. The Powers-That-Be could easily stifle dissent by freezing the accounts of dissidents.
          3. It’s unfair for financial firms to skim a percentage from every transaction, especially low price sales with slim margins.

    1. Vatch

      Ha! At first I thought you made a spelling mistake, but then I realized how appropriate your spelling is!

  21. Enquiring Mind

    Re Weinstein et al:

    At what point might there be a RICO or similar combined action? There must be some nexus of behavior that could fall under some statute that ropes in the perps and their facilitators and silent conspirators.

    1. Scott

      They probably could, but there is likely no will.

      I thought of the potential of using the RICO Act against Wells Fargo with the fraudulent accounts, but then thought of all the times that the Obama administration used the act against financial companies for their roles in the housing crash.

    2. mk

      The psychopaths have taken over and will be sure nothing gets in the way of their never-ending desire for pleasuring themselves.

    3. cnchal

      What creeps me out, is that the female faces of Hollywood were selected by Harvey after a field test, for their dreamworthyness.

      The “industry” knew, but kept silent, because Harvey is a genius and knows what sells. And Harvey only sold the good stuff.

  22. Katz

    Self-driving cars are on a collision course with our crappy cities The Verge

    Lambert’s insight about self driving car proponents’ inevitable push to “change the inputs” is holding up marvellously. This makes the self driving car a little bit like Hamlet: if only it could be bound in a nutshell, it could count itself king of an infinite space!

    1. BoycottAmazon

      Yes. How to legally program a robot to break the law and not get in trouble? I know of no one who fully complies with the law when driving in a way that is socially acceptably.

  23. Terry Humphrey

    I agree with Lambert, it was quite a disservice the New Republic headline writer did to the author, Ms. Jaffee. I’m sure many of us Bernie Bros are lighting up her twitter feed if they didn’t get passed it. Thanks for the clarification Lambert. In addition to Our Revolution she cites many in the Sanders Coalition, the DSA, Black Lives Matter and Working Families Party. Unlike the odious Neera, Berniecrats realize the advantage of a big tent in a Democracy.

  24. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    After this, will some on the island – not referring to Hawaii here – start (or resume) calling for their independence?

    Elon Musk Is Not the Hero Puerto Rico Needs In These Times. Buries the lead: “As a result of Maria, the [Fiscal Control Board] has also invoked Title V of PROMESA, the bill that put the board in charge of the island. That provision gives broad mandate to a board-appointed official, revitalization coordinator Noel Zamot, to solicit and approve public-private partnerships without much public or environmental review, bypassing the island’s regulatory process almost entirely.” So, privatizing the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), would be straight out of Naomi Klein’s disaster capitalism playbook.

    1. rd

      The obvious solution is for hedge funds and private equity investors to simply buy the island and develop it for high end resorts. The would have the connections and financial werewithal to lobby Congress to get real disaster relief to cover their redevelopment costs unlike the people living there who can’t vote in Presidential or Congressional elections..

  25. Bunk McNulty

    RE: 25th Amendment–I propose a 10 Million Person March On Washington. We’ll all stand outside the White House and chant “You’re Fired!” until he leaves. Then he can rant on twitter about the size of the crowd for the rest of his miserable life and leave us in peace.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      10 million chanting marchers seems too many people for DC to accommodate.

      You can overrun Wall Street with that army of pitchfork waving crusaders though.

      1. Pookah Harvey

        Economist Mark Blyth, the author of “Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea”, stated:

        “As I like to say to my American hedge fund friends, the Hamptons is not a defensible position. Very hard to defend a low-lying beach. Eventually people will come for you.”

        Go for the easy targets.

        1. Wukchumni

          All of my life, Americans have celebrated bling, the showier and bigger the better, style & substance supersized in a see me-dig me show d’force.

          When the shift hits the fan, it could be dangerous to be a peacock…

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Not as many buses to get there though (I think, not too familiar with that wealthy neighborhood).

  26. Wukchumni

    More Americans Are Getting Their Electricity Cut Off Bloomberg

    A friend is married to a woman from the Philippines and he had a retail business in Manila for about a decade and told me that you’d just get used to frequent electricity outages there, as it happened all the time…

    On the other hand, we own a cabin up in the National Park and there is no electricity, and everything is propane powered, the lights, the heater, the stove and the refrigerator, and when we bought it, essentially we were going cold turkey on a good number of things that can waste away a day very effectively, such as chatting on this tethered ball & chain.

    The internet is kind of a Cliffs notes, but instead of it taking 45 pages to read Huckleberry Finn, it now takes 4. This really messed up with my ability to read books, and one thing I cherish now is hanging out in the higher climes sans distractions, as it’s done wonders for me in that regard.

  27. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    In South Carolina, pregnant women are increasingly giving birth without prenatal care Post and Courier. Third World stuff.

    I wonder why there are not more Americans than people from overseas migrating to some of the First World cities like New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco.

    Is it because conditions are not as devastating, or they lack network support (“those of us from S. Caroline must stick together here in the Little South Carolina neighborhood”)?

    1. Wukchumni

      Just a few miles from where I grew up is the Pheasant Ridge apartment complex near the Puente Hills mall. We used to sneak on their tennis courts in the early 80’s and play there, but that was when people played tennis (anybody notice what a dying sport it is in terms of regular people playing now?) and now it’s a way center for pregnant Chinese women a few months out from giving birth, so as to get U.S. citizenship for their bundles of joy. You can drive by there at most any hour of the day and see women walking their baby bumps…

      A visual:×0.jpg

      1. Kurt Sperry

        We still see players using the public outdoor courts up here in WA State although there’s usually an open court somewhere, esp. on weekdays. Most of the more “serious’ players have a(n expensive) club membership at the local tennis club to play indoors year-’round. I’ll take a push broom to clear the water/leaves/fir needles/branches off the court in the winter. Playing outdoors here you can peak for a month or two out of twelve–if you are lucky. I started playing idolizing Stefan Edberg and playing serve & volley. Go Rog.

    2. Lois

      Moving is expensive plus living in those cities is expensive! Give up your family network to move somewhere you can’t afford?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Not as impossible, relatively speaking, compared to those coming from abroad.

        No need to learn a new language, for example, is one advantage. I was wondering, based on that and others, why there were not more.

        1. ArcadiaMommy

          My guess (based on having many relatives in the south and Midwest) is that they probably have had little or no opportunity to travel to these cities. They probably live 1-3 hours drive from a major airport. It’s likely that most of the people around them have never been to any major coastal city. They just have no idea what it’s like for some people in other parts of the country. And the flip side is also true: most of us in prosperous areas don’t really comprehend what is going on the “fly-overs”. My eyes were opened traveling through several midwestern states recently.

    3. rd

      “typically 30 years old or younger. They often had no health insurance and were classified having a “low socioeconomic status”

      Young, poor, and pregnant – not a good combo to find work in a completely unfamiliar expensive city, such as NYC.

      “Suzanne McDermott, an epidemiology and biostatistics professor at the University of South Carolina, said that some women intentionally forgo prenatal care because they don’t perceive it as being necessary, but more often, she said, it is an indication that they have no health insurance and live in poverty.

      Her office recently received a $14.8 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address childhood disabilities and birth defects.

      “It’s very hard to quantify how much (prenatal care) really benefits people because people who tend to go tend to take care of themselves,” McDermott said.

      Crosby, the DHEC spokesman, said the agency’s numbers show that most women who received no prenatal care last year were typically 30 years old or younger. They often had no health insurance and were classified having a “low socioeconomic status,” he said.”

  28. rd

    Re: Class Warfare

    In Syracuse, there is a grocery store in the inner-city that is family-owned and has been in business for almost 100 years. It recently announced that it was closing after a corporate-owned Price-Rite got serious NYS subsidies for siting a grocery store nearby. I understand the concept of food deserts, but it usually requires a lack of grocery stores to create a food desert.

  29. Basil Pesto

    From the Sunday funny pages:

    ‘Assange doing Putin’s bidding’: Clinton takes aim at WikiLeaks founder

    Hillary Clinton has attacked WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, labelling him “a tool of Russian intelligence” who is doing the bidding of “dictator” Vladimir Putin.

    In an exclusive interview with Four Corners, Mrs Clinton alleges Mr Assange colluded with a Russian intelligence operation to disrupt the 2016 US election and damage her candidacy for president.

    1. clarky90

      Normally, my car sounds, smells and feels fine. Smooth sailing! But, I am constantly vigilant for “out of wackness”. It is a 1996 Corolla with 350,000 ks on the clock, don’t yah know!

      Meanwhile, back at the ranch;

      What Happened is not one book, but many. It is a candid and blackly funny account of her mood in the direct aftermath of losing to Donald J. Trump. It is a post-mortem, in which she is both coroner and corpse. It is a feminist manifesto. It is a score-settling jubilee…. It is worth reading.”
      —The New York Times

      “What Happened is a raw and bracing book, a guide to our political arena.”
      —The Washington Post

      “The writing in What Happened is engaging — Clinton is charming and even funny at times, without trying to paint herself in too flattering of a light…. Ultimately, the book might be a historical artifact most of all — the chronicling of what, exactly, it was like to run for president as the first woman major-party candidate (and, yes, a Clinton as well). Plenty may disagree with Clinton’s opinions on what went wrong for her, but her story will still be an important part of that history when America looks back on the melee that was the 2016 election.”

      “An engaging, beautifully synthesized page-turner.”

      “What Happened” has a perfect 5 Star rating by Amazon readers/reviewers! Wow

      Except, when you read the actual reviews. They are scathing.

      A dormant volcano begins to shudder. Steam leaks out of fissures. Information (Like Amazon Reviews) must be coherent; But suddenly, it is not. Cultural “out of wackness”? Are wheels about to fall off?

    2. The Rev Kev

      Funny thing I read. Visa, MasterCard, Payal, AmEx, Mooneybookers, etc did an economic blockade against Wikileaks so Assange was forced to invest in Bitcoin as a result back in 2010. Assanga has just sent his deepest thanks to the US government, Senator McCain and Senator Liebermanan as he has now reckoned that he has made a 50,000% return on his investment.

  30. Ned

    Voting systems more secure against Rooskie hackers?

    How about paper ballots that can be numbered, recounted and not hacked?
    Didn’t they used to do it that way????

      1. The Rev Kev

        Even during the 2000 US election, tens of thousands of Democrat votes would disappear in the digital tallies in Florida and reappear as Republican votes or candidates that support like votes. Remember too Karl Rove’s election night melt-down over Ohio results? The story at might explain that one.
        Stalin once said that he did not care at all who voted in elections. He only cared about who actually counted those votes.With computers, you only need a small handful of people to do the same remotely. No, go for paper votes as that leaves an audit trail. Also, it makes good for prosecution futures.

        1. Oregoncharles

          More seriously: any system can be hacked, especially by those running it, so vigilance is always called for.

          I’m an advocate for Oregon’s vote-by-mail system. It means that a ballot is defined as a piece of paper marked by the voter. In my county, it’s a hybrid, since the ballots are counted by an electronic reader, then audited. They keep them for at least 5 years – the local elections director showed me the vault – so yes, they can go back and check.

          I know Lambert doesn’t like the early voting, and I see his point; it can be a problem. Personally, I wait till voting day and drop them in the box at the courthouse, for old times’ sake. And I don’t know how well the system would work in a crooked state.

  31. Wukchumni

    A dumb question:

    So, say you have 20 shares of bitcoin worth a cool $100k and you want to sell it all…

    What would be the procedure and would it be an all cash deal or a check or a bank wire, or what?

  32. Ned

    “Counties where a 60 year old American making $30,000 would lose $6,000 of subsidies (handed to insurance companies) under GOP legislation…”

    Yes, but how many tens of millions of jobs would be created in small businesses that could revitalize those counties if the business owners didn’t have to limit themselves to 30 employees or pay mandatory health insurance payments to insurers?

    Single Payer now!

  33. clarky90

    Media revelations: NYT editor admits YouTube content manipulations

    “Project Veritas Communications Director Stephen Gordon has told RT about an undercover video showing a New York Times employee, Nick Dudich, allegedly admitting to manipulating how the newspaper’s content is released and viewed”.

    More signs of, “systems failure.”

  34. JTMcPhee

    I read the linked paper on Pakistani nuclear weapons on submarines. Nice reminder that there are huge reasons to feel that our species has a death wish. All this RANDish babble about survivability of second-strike “capability” of weapons and delivery systems aboard French-and Chinese-built Paki-purchased submarines, and all the arcanae of command and deployment doctrine and technologies. A reminder that there are thousands of warheads, way more than needed to depopulate the biosphere, floating, flying and trucking around and just sitting in silos waiting for some code to go do megadeaths and nuclear winter-after-hell.

    We should weep for ourselves…

  35. Will Eizlini

    thank you all so much for your hard work. i cannot tell you how much your blog has been important for me. i’m proud to have contributed to your operations in the coming year

  36. Alka

    More Americans Are Getting Their Electricity Cut Off Bloomberg


    A companion is hitched to a lady from the Philippines and he had a retail business in Manila for about 10 years and disclosed to me that you’d simply get used to visit power blackouts there, as it happened constantly…

    Then again, we possess a lodge up in the National Park and there is no power, and everything is propane controlled, the lights, the warmer, the stove and the cooler, and when we got it, basically we were going immediately on a decent number of things that can squander away a day adequately, for example, visiting on this fastened ball and chain. The web is somewhat of a Cliffs notes, yet rather than it taking 45 pages to peruse Huckleberry Finn, it now takes 4. This truly fouled up with my capacity to peruse books, and one thing I esteem now is hanging out in the higher climes sans diversions, as it’s done marvels for me in such manner.

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