Links 10/23/17

Universe shouldn’t exist, CERN physicists conclude Cosmos (DK). The original.

The Finger-Pointing at the Finance Firm TIAA Gretchen Morgenson, NYT

Malta offers 1 million euro reward for leads on journalist’s murder Deutsche Welle

Apple Swallowed a Fly Bloomberg. OLED’s supply chain issues. (Explanation of the headline, linked to in the story).

‘Wolf of Wall Street’ warns ICOs are ‘biggest scam ever’ FT

Tesla reportedly strikes deal with China to build ‘wholly-owned’ gigafactory in Shanghai Electrek

Tesla workers claim anti-LGBT threats, taunts, and racial abuse in lawsuits Guardian. Presumably labor will be more tractable in China?

The Sovereignty that Really Matters Project Syndicate

Brexit

Ohne Qualen geht es nicht Frankfurter Algemeine (Google translation: “May’s facial expressions and their appearance were volumes. Thus Juncker later described it to his colleagues. Everyone can see this: The Prime Minister is drawn from the struggle with her own party. Under her eyes she wears deep rings. She looks like someone who does not sleep for the night. Laughing you can see them only rarely, clearly, for the photographers it must be. But it looks tormented. Previously, May could literally pour out laughter, her whole body then vibrated. Now she brings out the utmost force to avoid losing her temper.”) (various Twitter threads on same.) And: May’s disastrous dinner with Juncker: Episode II The Spectator

BREXIT CABI-NOT Theresa May delays crunch Cabinet debate over EU trade deal until next year over fears it could spark resignations The Sun

UK business chiefs unite to demand urgent Brexit transition deal Guardian

Syraqistan

Syrian Kurds Cut Secret Gas Deal With Russian Forces OilPrice.com (GF).

Saudis crave revival of night out at the movies AFP

A Newly Assertive C.I.A. Expands Its Taliban Hunt in Afghanistan NYT

Catalonia

Catalan parties to announce response to Madrid moves The Local

How Spain and Catalonia are reopening the wounds of the Franco era New Statesman

What next for Catalan crisis after Rajoy uses ‘nuclear option’? FT

Barcelona Mayor Calls for a Third Way to Solve Catalonia Crisis City Lab

Rome ‘ready to negotiate’ with Italian regions after autonomy referendums Politico Europe

Austria’s likely next chancellor hopes to form govt. in 60 days: paper Reuters

Puerto Rico

Zakaria proposes ‘grand bargain’ on Puerto Rico’s debt CNN. Never let a crisis go to waste….

Statement by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. on medical device manufacturing recovery in Puerto Rico FDA

Recovery workers’ scary encounter with PR police: “I could’ve come home in a body bag” 10 News. The CBS Tampa affiliate, remarkably enough.

Do the Venezuelan Opposition’s Cries of Fraud Stand Up to Scrutiny? VenezuelAnalysis

Accused of corruption, popularity near zero – why is Temer still Brazil’s president? Guardian

China?

China Credit Quality On Par With Germany, Top Fund Manager Says Bloomberg

Ports, Pipelines, and Geopolitics: China’s New Silk Road Is a Challenge for Washington Time

Mattis tries to unite fragmented Asean against China FT

North Korea

EXCLUSIVE: US Preparing to Put Nuclear Bombers Back on 24-Hour Alert Defense One

Korea’s Alt-Right, and How to Fight the Ones at Home Ask a Korean

After election win, Abe prioritizes North Korea, aging Japan AP

Abe’s election win clears the way for more Abenomics Nikkei Asian Review

India

Tillerson on India: Partners in a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” Council on Foreign Relations

US woos India into 100-year alliance against China Asia Times

Trump Transition

What the Washington Post/CBS DEA investigation tells you about Congress: It’s really bad LegBranch.com

Conflict Mounts Inside Voting Fraud Commission in the Wake of Child Porn Arrest Pro Publica (DK). That’s quite a headline, but the story is about accountability issues generally.

2016 Post Mortem

Jimmy Carter: Russians didn’t steal election from Hillary Clinton The Hill. ZOMG. Putin got to him. (MoDo buried the lead, too.)

Democrats in Disarray

DNC enters 2018 in cash panic Politico. Gruesome.

Democrats Plan to Name Lobbyists, Operatives Superdelegates Bloomberg

National Democrats are jittery about Va. governor’s race WaPo

The Army of Silicon Valley Activists Trying to Elect Democrats Wired

Health Care

Schumer Says Bill to Prop Up Obamacare Has Votes to Pass Senate Bloomberg

The President’s Executive Order: Less Than Meets The Eye? Health Affairs

ACA enrollment schedule may lock millions into unwanted health plans WaPo

Newsom, Villaraigosa separate over universal health care McClatchy

Imperial Collapse Watch

America’s Forever Wars Editorial Board, NYT

Class Warfare

The large parts of America left behind by today’s economy Axios (Re Silc). Re Silc: “No kidding!”

Gig workers are easy prey for bullies and gangmasters FT

Multilevel-marketing companies like LuLaRoe are forcing people into debt and psychological crisis Quartz

The Secretive Family Making Billions From the Opioid Crisis Esquire

Why economics has a democratic deficit OpenDemocracy

The Great British apple revival: Hundreds of local orchards help bring back ‘lost’ varieties of the popular fruit with magical names including Green B, Link Wonder and Nancy Crow Daily Mail

A MacArthur “genius” unearthed the secret images that AI use to make sense of us Quartz

AI versus AI: Self-Taught AlphaGo Zero Vanquishes Its Predecessor Scientific American. So long as we can pull the plug…

How Protest Works NYT. “Over the past year, people have taken to the streets and sought to establish or revitalize organizations to resist the Trump presidency and advance broader social change. To capitalize on the energy and urgency of the moment, leaders and activists should look to build a movement that generates new sources of cultural, disruptive and organizational power.” “People.” What pablum.

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.

134 comments

  1. vlade

    Spectator link, quote: “Brexiteers looking for evidence that Brussels does not have Britain’s best interests at heart”

    Huh? Why should it? It doesn’t owe anything to the UK, it was UK decision, it’s UK’s process. In fact, Brussels owes EU to get the best possible deal from the UK, which manifestly is not the same as the UK’s best possible deal.

    The implicaions of entitlement are staggering.

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      Even more amazing is the implicit assumption about what constitutes the ‘U.K.’
      When someone with organizing ability and resources figures out how to ‘sell’ to the public the idea that the interests of the elites aren’t the interests of the masses, then whether it’s Brussels’ turn to be Villain of the Week, or Londons’ turn will hardly matter.
      Or, ‘No pain’ (British economic dislocations,) ‘no gain’ (guillotines and tumbrels in Trafalgar Square.)
      How do you say The Scarlet Pimpernel in French?

      Reply
    2. PlutoniumKun

      It become pretty obvious that the Brexiteers have decided that everything that can and will go wrong is the EU’s fault. There seems an enormous amount of groupthink going on within certain levels of the UK establishment, they simply can’t get their heads around the type of negotiation they are involved in. Its as if Neymar expected Barcalona to play more gently when they are up against PSG for old times sake.

      My language skills and time don’t expand much to reading the European press, but it does seem increasingly obvious that the UK has become something of a laughing stock, nobody takes anything the government says seriously. I doubt that the ‘concessions’ made last week are nothing more than a sympathy expression to save what remains of Theresa May’s face.

      More seriously, this means there will be little or no appetite in the EU for forcing through some compromises for an agreement. While the UK media may blame the EU, no matter how chaotic things become, domestic voters and media will not blame their own politicians in Europe, they will see it as entirely self inflicted by the UK, so this will remove any remaining pressure to do a deal.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous2

        And it appears that the UK has still not decided what it wants the long term relationship with the EU to be after 2019. Deciding your destination before setting out on a very long journey would be regarded as essential by any sane person but not the UK government. Indeed they want to postpone discussion apparently until next year for fear of arguing among themselves. The topic should have been the first thing on Mrs May’s agenda in 2016, instead of which she played to the cameras rather than have a full and long discussion in Parliament.

        This is no way to run a country.

        Reply
        1. Anonymous2

          And now I notice that Mrs May has reportedly said that the UK will reject a transitional period if the UK does not get the long term deal it wants. As it does not yet know what it wants in the long term and has asked for a two year transition, this amounts to saying ‘if you don’t give me what I want (though I don’t know what I want )i will refuse to accept what I have already requested.’

          The UK ‘s negotiating position has now moved into the theatre of the absurd.

          Reply
  2. s.n.

    I’m still digesting the many fascinating morsels in The Secretive Family Making Billions From the Opioid Crisis which I find an excellent piece.

    By any assessment, the family’s leaders have pulled off three of the great marketing triumphs of the modern era: The first is selling OxyContin; the second is promoting the Sackler name; and the third is ensuring that, as far as the public is aware, the first and the second have nothing to do with one another.

    Looks like –and I’m shocked, truly shocked – the rich guys well and truly got away with it. The it being mass murder. Who’d have thunk?

    The Sacklers, though, will likely emerge untouched: Because of a sweeping non-prosecution agreement negotiated during the 2007 settlement, most new criminal litigation against Purdue can only address activity that occurred after that date. Neither Richard nor any other family members have occupied an executive position at the company since 2003.

    I did notice a few months back that there seems to be a clean-up brigade keeping their wikipedia pages focussed solely on ‘american philanthropist'(s) themes and erasing any references there to the true source of their wealth.

    Reply
      1. Outis Philalithopoulos

        I would translate it as follows:

        “The secret behind a great fortune that appears without apparent cause is a crime that has been forgotten on account of having been smoothly [or “respectably”] carried out.”

        Reply
          1. Outis Philalithopoulos

            The original French has a plural, but the plural doesn’t make as much sense in English. The crime oublié is singular, so translating the plural would almost make it sound as if the secret of all great fortunes were a single forgotten crime, which is not what Vautrin is trying to say here.

            Reply
    1. JBird

      The little morsel showing more Americans died from opioid epidemic started by the Sacklers’ company Purdue than died from guns or car accidents in 2015 and 2016 was…uhm…let’s just say interesting.

      Rob a store, or sell heroin on a street, you can spend decades in prison,especially if you had a gun. Even if no one is shot. ‘Cause you’re a bad bad criminal.

      Help to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, and who knows how many millions of lives destroyed, and you are a pillar of respectability.

      I guess the rich really are different from us.

      Reply
  3. Darius

    Regarding the Va. governor’s race. It occurred to me that the Republicans and Democrats both are for rent extraction and militarism at home and abroad. The Republicans are loud and proud of it and make it a strength. The Democrats try to mask it and turn it into a weakness.

    Reply
      1. WheresOurTeddy

        Donna Brazile for Permanent DNC Question-Feeder. Just joking, what kind of organization would do anything other than exile her after her performance last year.

        Then again, the same could be said about her firing from the 1988 campaign.

        Democrats: Four Decades Of Failure

        Reply
  4. Dita

    Re: Recovery Workers in PR encounter with police: The article linked to the aid organization’s blog, which has this nugget:
    Law enforcement intimidation also included aggressive questioning of our purpose there and whether or not we were protestors or Antifa, had we ever used the raised fist, if we were distributing propaganda, and if we were planning to overthrow the government.

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      Par for the course for a deficient imperial government.
      First, whose police were these goons? In New Orleans after Katrina, private ‘contractors’ filled the niche left open by fleeing local police. Where we were, out of town National Guard units supplied “security.”
      Second, overthrow which government, the local, territorial one, or the national one?
      To paraphrase “W,” “Heck of a job, Brownshirts!”

      Reply
    2. Marco

      Thanks for pointing this out. My first thought on reading the piece was that it would only be natural for an oppressive system (via law enforcement) to limit the distribution of goods and services in disaster scenarios in order to maintain legitimacy (preventing Muslim Brotherhood scenarios). And somewhat related (but less extreme) I was surprised to NOT here evidence of local cops harassing DSA in their quest to repair broken car signal and brake lights.

      Reply
    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Well, why aren’t antifa down there to seize a revolutionary opportunity?

      Where is today’s Lenin?

      I think any government would want to avoid being surprised.

      If you want change, you shouldn’t under-estimate your adversary.

      Reply
      1. JBird

        Well, I guess those free MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush-protected) armored car with all wheel drive are useful after a natural disaster; I guess the police so busy protecting destitute water deprived survivors from the terrorists that they forgot to offer to carry all that water related supplies to their fellow Americans, the people they swore an oath to protect and to serve.

        How the f*** can I be sarcastic about this? How does Antifa relate to aid groups in disaster zones? Does anyone else feel like they are in a horror-satire combining elements of 1984, Brazil, and Monty Python?

        Reply
  5. Bunk McNulty

    We Can’t Afford To Let This Guy Control The National Narrative (Salon)

    “This allows Trump to seize the initiative every time, with the only exception being the ongoing reporting on the sustained Russian attack on our democratic process. This is where the print media, in particular, has held tightly to the narrative and pushed onward, despite whatever monstrosity Trump has belched into the world that morning. It can be done. The Russia story perseveres, while reporting on other events in the Trump era are too often based on his knee-jerk pronouncements…”

    There is no hope. None at all.

    Reply
  6. PlutoniumKun

    Syrian Kurds Cut Secret Gas Deal With Russian Forces OilPrice.com (GF).

    In a move that surprised many observers of the ongoing war for Deir Ezzor province, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) handed over one of Syria’s largest gas fields to Russian forces on Thursday, possibly as the result of unprecedented direct talks between high ranking Russian officials and Kurdish leaders in Qamishli in northeastern Syria.

    No prizes for guessing you won’t find much reporting on this in the mainstream press. Its pretty clear that the Russians have run rings around the US in Syria, and the Iraqi government have finally got their act together in the north and have realised that the US has been playing divide and rule between the Kurds and Baghdad.

    Meanwhile, rapid developments in the region continue to point toward an eventual full Syrian-Russian military and strategic victory. As we explained previously, after Kirkuk city in Iraq came under complete Iraqi national control this week, the U.S. is now forced to reconsider its presence in northeast Syria as Kurdish aspirations in Iraq were shut, and as the U.S. was forced to side with Baghdad as the victor, along with other countries like Saudi Arabia, which quickly sent congratulations to the Baghdad government. It appears that national sovereignty will win out over what appeared to be a previous trajectory toward ethnic/sect based fragmentation in Iraq and Syria.

    It looks like many of the Kurds have realised that hopes that the US and Israel would come to their rescue are in vain. Their best bet is to come to multilateral deals with Russia, Iran and Syria to protect some degree of self-rule in core areas. At a guess, I’d say that the Russians have pressured Assad into accepting that it would be better to do a deal with Syrian Kurds to give them an element of self-rule, in exchange for kicking out US and Turkish influence. Erdogan of course would be another big loser in this.

    Reply
    1. Katsue

      I’m not 100% sure about the causation here. An alternative explanation of events is that Assad holds a grudge against Erdogan and only entertained a deal with Turkey at Russia’s behest. Regardless, the collapse of the Barzani position in Kirkuk can only have strengthened the Syrian government’s hand in any negotiations.

      Reply
    2. The Rev Kev

      If only that could be the way that it is. It seems that the US, among others, want to double down on their bets. In Raqaa alone the west is promising to send in all sorts of money as well as the Saudi Arabians. They are setting up local councils to rule these regions and keep the Syrians, whose country it is, out completely so that there would be a foreign enclave. I can imagine that the Saudi Arabians want to set up a few Wahhabi mosques to train up the next generation of ISIS version 2. Some 2,000 SDF fighters have already done a 10 day training course for this region to occupy it and put a ‘local’ face on it.
      The US chief envoy to the anti-Islamic State group coalition, Brett McGurk, has already visited Syria, where he met the local council set to take over the running of Raqqa. I wonder if the Syrians got to stamp his passport? He told members of Raqqa Civil Council that it has the Washington’s full support once the municipality takes over operations in the city. Brett McGurk, by the way, is one of those involved in the occupation of Iraq and helped to write their constitution so he would not be unfamiliar to the Iraqis as well, as the Syrians. It’s not over yet.

      Reply
    3. Liberal Mole

      I’d say others have noticed that the US government, whoever runs it, is “Not-Agreement-Capable,” while the Russians are.

      Reply
      1. Sid Finster

        A better translation is “not legally competent”, in the sense that children and the insane are not legally competent to enter into mutually binding agreements.

        Reply
    4. Andrew Watts

      Russia has always been a consistent supporter and advocate of the Syrian Democratic Forces. This has been repeatedly demonstrated in Afrin, Tel Rifaat, and Manbij, I doubt that Russia would allow the Syrian military to attack SDF in the unlikely case they intend to.

      The anti-Kurdish narrative that the YPG/SDF is nothing more than a US proxy is misinformation. When the Syrian government was collapsing across Northern Syria in 2012 the YPG temporarily integrated pro-Assad forces during and after the Battle of Ras al-Ayn. Those militias who joined YPG were participants in the brutal crackdown of anti-Assad protests. This relationship lead to the belief that the YPG was a government-aligned militia in Washington.

      Personally, I just thought that made the Syrian Kurds either pragmatic actors or especially desperate back then. Possibly both as the Syrian government in Damascus looked like it was implementing it’s own version of the Redeker Plan with jihadists taking the place of zombies.

      …Iraqi government have finally got their act together in the north and have realised that the US has been playing divide and rule between the Kurds and Baghdad.

      Huh? The US didn’t support the Iraqi Kurds’ independence referendum and proclaimed their neutrality in Baghdad’s seizure of the disputed territories. This doesn’t have anything to do with the Syrian Kurds because they don’t want independence.

      Any move in that direction would undoubtedly dissolve the SDF.

      At a guess, I’d say that the Russians have pressured Assad into accepting that it would be better to do a deal with Syrian Kurds to give them an element of self-rule, in exchange for kicking out US and Turkish influence.

      I don’t think the SDF minds having a good relationship with all parties minus the jihadists. The Turks hate the Syrian Kurds due to their fraternal relationship with the PKK.

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        Huh? The US didn’t support the Iraqi Kurds’ independence referendum and proclaimed their neutrality in Baghdad’s seizure of the disputed territories.

        I never said they did support their independence. But from the very beginning of the invasion the US has used the Iraqi Kurds as a counterbalance to whoever was dominant in Baghdad. The US did nothing to prevent local Kurdish warlords sieze oil resources in the north from the beginning of the occupation. The Kurds have always been a pawn in the powergames between the various actors in Iraq. The US’s notional ‘neutrality’ over Kurdish independence has always been negotiation leverage over Iraq/Turkey, etc.

        This doesn’t have anything to do with the Syrian Kurds because they don’t want independence.

        I don’t know where you got that idea. The YPG look to Abdullah Ocalan as their intellectual leader and he has long called for a confederation of Kurdish states, which of course would include an autonomous Syrian Kurdistan. The YPG, along with other non-Iraqi Kurds, have for obvious pragmatic geopolitical reasons not always been overt in their calls for independent statehood (as opposed to autonomy), but their actions have always been clear, they want freedom and independence. The YPG, as opposed to other Kurdish groups, have been pretty smart so far in how they’ve gone about this. But it does seem that they’ve decided that they have a better chance now by doing a deal with the Russians/Assad, rather than being dependent on the US.

        Reply
  7. Ed

    “Accused of corruption, popularity near zero – why is Temer still Brazil’s president?”

    Reportedly in New York, prosecutors wanted to move against state pols on the take, and in fact did with Silver and Bruno, but were restrained because almost everyone was on the take. If they launched a serious anti-corruption effort, there would be no one left to man senior posts in the state government.

    We are seeing this play out with an entire country with Brazil.

    Reply
    1. Knifecatcher

      What has happened in Brazil is that the right wing, pro corporate elites have managed to put “their guy” into power come hell or high water, without any real pretense as to whether or not he was corrupt. Spoiler alert – he is, massively so.

      The real problem was that Lula and his successor Dilma actually put policies in place that helped ordinary people, which is obviously unacceptable. Dilma was the victim of a massive, coordinated character assassination by the heavily right wing Brazilian media, which along with an economic slump damaged her popularity enough to enable impeachment to proceed. Dilma was never found to have personally benefited from the massive graft and bribery inherent in Brazilian politics – her “crime” was to allegedly manipulate government accounting in order to maintain a particular welfare program. In the context of Brazilian governmental malfeasance that basically amounts to a parking ticket.

      Reply
  8. PlutoniumKun

    Korea’s Alt-Right, and How to Fight the Ones at Home Ask a Korean

    This is pretty amazing, this is a must read article IMO. I’d no idea that the previous South Korean government was so appalling.

    Taken together, it was not simply that the conservative government added some trolling firepower Korea’s right wing with fake comments and tweets. Rather, the conservative government was the entire game. The conservative government created political storylines, fed them to the right-wing media that the government itself created, used the right-wing civic groups to repeat them—until they became the mainstream opinion. The dissident voices were harassed, defamed, fired, and silenced, through pressures applied to media and search engine sites.

    Reply
    1. bronco

      didn’t a south korean government in the mid 80’s execute a bunch of homeless people so they wouldn’t be underfoot during the Seoul olympics?

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        They didn’t ‘execute’ them, but they did drive them to camps where murder and rape were commonplace.

        But certainly, up to the 1980’s, there were some pretty brutal massacres in South Korea, generally overlooked by the outside world who wanted a good news story from the region. The authoritarian right have been generally under wraps since then, but they are still a pretty powerful force in South Korean politics and society.

        Fortunately, the current government is pretty progressive by modern Asian standards, mostly thanks to the appalling incompetence of Park Geun-Hye (the former Prime Minister) who has managed to discredit the conservative right, hopefully for many years to come.

        Reply
    2. KTN

      As lamentable as this is, it is no different from what the Democrats have done with ‘Russia.’

      Secretary Clinton’s top vulnerability tested in this poll is the
      attack that claims as Secretary of State she signed off on a deal that gave
      the Russian government control over twenty percent of America’s uranium
      production, after investors in the deal donated over one hundred and forty
      million dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Half of all likely voters (53%)
      are less likely to support Clinton after hearing that statement and 17% are
      much less likely to support her after that statement.

      Bang the drum until your own partisans demand a special prosecutor, et voilà – the machinery runs itself. Double points if you turn your own top vulnerability into your opponent’s. Tip: see if you have a friend in the DNI or head of CIA.

      Reply
  9. Enrique Bermudez

    When the neocon/neolib “forever war” establishment begins to lose the New York Times……

    Well, because “Trump” obviously. Doubt that editorial appears with President Hillary up to her little regime-change war schemery. But still, choosing to see the “glass half full” side and whatnot.

    Reply
    1. Al Foster

      “Doubt that editorial appears with President Hillary up to her little regime-change war schemery.”

      Amen to that. The NYT’s (grotesquely belated) attempt to question endless war drums hardly begins to repair its long-tattered reputation.

      Reply
      1. KTN

        While the ambivalence is shared with both posters, what almost impresses is the NYT’s willingness to call out the public’s complicity. And the most complicit of the public are really the everyday ‘liberals,’ who, by never managing to consider whether they support endless warfare, or not, tacitly support $700b defense budgets and all the rest of it.

        Reply
  10. Katsue

    From the stories I’ve seen, Chinese workers are far more militant than Western workers anywhere outside maybe France, and employers in China can’t depend on police support in the same way as workers in the West. No links at this time, I’m afraid.

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It makes a big difference how much guanxi an employer has.

      A company owned by the the People’s Liberation Army is in a pretty good position to deal with militant workers.

      A small company making, say, shoes, owned by a family from Taiwan, whose members favor Independence, and would like invite the Dalai Lama to visit the island, would have to behave carefully.

      Reply
    1. Bugs Bunny

      Odd comment from out of nowhere… Unless I’m missing something, there’s nothing there but some tweaks of RT for giving Alex Jones some airtime and apparently promoting conspiracy theories (which I’ve lately started to take slightly more seriously).

      I’ve watched RT. It’s sometimes entertaining, sometimes obviously pushing the Russian point of view. No worse than CNN which I imagine for Russians is much less entertaining.

      Reply
  11. Ben Around

    Regarding the Politico article on the DNC’s cash crunch.

    How many paragraphs are here that studiously ignore asking the most worthwhile question? Why is there a cash crunch?

    Politico wants an incomplete story so we can all avoid reviewing the reasons people are fed up with the party. It avoids real questions to further avoid real solutions, like a platform citizens care about, transparency, removal not elevation of cheats (Brazile), and a party responsive to an electorate moving away from Clintonian centrism.

    And while at it, isn’t the whole frame of the story serving elites? As usual, the Democrats care about money problems, not the electorate’s problems.

    You could do a lot worse than boning up on Youtube videos of Chomsky and Michael Parenti on the role of the media for background and Jimmy Dore Show clips to interpret the day’s events.

    We need to move past asking questions and get on with answering them.

    Reply
    1. Ned

      Just watch Jimmy Dore’s take down of Tom Perez to see why they are going the way of the Whigs.

      “Our values lead us…” and he never says what they are.
      What exactly do the Democrats stand for, other than being against Trump?

      Giving money to the DNC is like flushing it down the toilet.
      And you can’t even wipe with it.

      Reply
    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      If I understand my fellow humans correctly, for it’s human nature, the zealots will defend their faith to the last man, woman or person, against all heresies.

      That means, they will try to please their overlords ever more, promising better and more comprehensive neoliberalism.

      The Art of War or the Way of Dao response would be to let nature take its course, conserve energy, keep the powder dry, and go work on a third party, which would be a second party, because there is really only one party at the present time.

      Reply
  12. DorothyT

    Re: Puerto Rico

    CBS reporter David Begnaud has been doing a yeoman’s job reporting from and about Puerto Rico. He is at the point that he no longer tries to hide his anger and frustration.

    I hoped to include a link to his interview with Charlie Rose but I get an “oops” message and the link isn’t working. However, much of his reporting is available online.

    Reply
      1. Sid Finster

        One of the benefits of a Team R administration is that it encourages the press to do their jobs.

        Pity that the press still confuses “doing their jobs” with “chasing whackadoodle russiagate conspiracy theories”.

        Reply
    1. Bill

      more independent journalism:

      https://www.democracynow.org/2017/10/18/rosa_clemente_on_puerto_ricans_drinking#transcript

      Our next guest, Rosa Clemente, is just back from Puerto Rico, where she joined other independent journalists in documenting conditions for a project called PR on the Map. This is a clip from a video she recorded at the Dorado Superfund site, where she met a woman filling up her water tank.
      ROSA CLEMENTE: [translated] Good morning. How are you? You’ve come to fill up water here?
      DORADO RESIDENT: [translated] Yes. Everyone is doing it.
      ROSA CLEMENTE: [translated] The water doesn’t have chemicals? Or maybe you don’t know?
      DORADO RESIDENT: [translated] No, it’s drinkable.
      ROSA CLEMENTE: [translated] Drinkable?
      DORADO RESIDENT: [translated] Yes, yes, because it comes from that plant, from the—
      ROSA CLEMENTE: [translated] But this is called a Superfund site and has chemicals right here. How do you say “in the ground”? Did you know that? That it has chemicals?
      DORADO RESIDENT: [translated] Well, it’s drinkable. They are selling it as drinkable. And when you fill the gallons and you bring them home, the water doesn’t look like yellow. And I use it to drink and more.
      …So, look, the people of Puerto Rico are dying. They want a Puerto Rico without Puerto Ricans. So, from contaminated water to mothers who are not lactating, to babies having to eat mashed bananas because baby food cannot be found, to people getting on ice lines from 3 a.m. in the morning to 1 p.m. waiting for two bags of ice, this is massive violations of human rights. This is a colonial problem that began 119 years ago. And in my opinion, from what we’ve seen, the government has collapsed in Puerto Rico.

      And we were able to get to places that the military said they couldn’t get to, in a Kia and a Hyundai Accent, all the way to Aguadilla, Moca, Utuado. People have not even seen one-tenth of what is happening in all these places.
      …When we were in Utuado, we went to the FEMA location. They weren’t trying to tell us where it was. There’s no signage of how to get there. A national guard, off the record, said, “Go here, go here.” We got there. There were over 40,000 meals that had not been distributed to the people in Utuado, but there was a complete military occupation of that town. And people said, “Why?” We asked, “Why do you think?” They said, “There’s copper. There’s potential uranium in these mines. And they want to take this city, you know, this part of the island, for that.”

      https://www.democracynow.org/2017/10/18/as_puerto_rico_faces_95_billion#transcript
      https://www.democracynow.org/2017/10/18/freed_puerto_rican_political_prisoner_oscar

      Reply
  13. The Rev Kev

    A Newly Assertive C.I.A. Expands Its Taliban Hunt in Afghanistan
    You wonder how an organization can get it so wrong. This is not what the purpose of what the CIA should be all about. It should be about the collection and analysis of intelligence – not going all Rambo in the dusty hills of Afghanistan. True, spook organizations often have a section for ‘wet’ operations but not like this. The idea that you can kill your way to victory is an enticing one as you can quantify the results i.e. body counts, but it did not work in Vietnam and it is not working now. In Nam the troops used the doctrine of search and destroy teams but it turns out that the North Vietnamese had their own doctrine – what they called hunt and kill teams.
    For specialist combat operations the US has something like 70,00 people in the Special Forces to draw upon which is bigger than a lot of armies. This sort of deal is their bailiwick but is sounds like the CIA chiefs want to extend their own turf here. Trouble is it is a changing world now. Send out small teams to the back of beyond into a place you do not know much about is asking for trouble. That is what happened in Niger and I do not think that it will be the last time unfortunately. It was lucky for the US troops that the French forces were able to stop the whole lot getting killed.

    Reply
    1. Alex Morfesis

      But having non existent bases and forward operations in each and every notagainistan and whereagainistan makes it awful tough to count beans that need to slip through the craxxx…

      We have replaced mister lees greater hong kong with our very own mister Westmorelands neighborhood…

      Can you say bloat and kickbacks…

      Nice try…

      Oh it’s a beautiful day in the…

      Reply
        1. Bill

          Enemies accumulate!!! (we must be doing something right). Be more afraid, and leave everything to us. Sincerely, The Company.

          Reply
    2. Bugs Bunny

      Hey, if it keeps them entertained, I’m all for setting loose some more CIA guys with beards, guns and cool gadgets fighting an unwinnable war against an apparently inexhaustible enemy in the Graveyard of Empires™.

      Reply
    3. JTMcPhee

      Gee, I thought the “special ops” types are all Supermen with Powers Far Beyond Those Of Mortal Men… able to Train Other Troops, foment revolts, kill soft targets and destabilize governments in a single rappel drop from a Blackhawk… Wonder what those guys had running through their minds (other than Please God I Don’t Want To Die!) as the ambush (the obverse of the ones they no doubt planned to direct and spring on Target Wogs) opened up… I can’t find it again, but there’s a helmet-cam video of an ambush-turned-backwards on a patrol of US Troops, at the end of which the ‘cammed Troop is looking up a ditch straight into the wink-wink muzzle flashes of the “insurgent” AK that fires the shots that killed him, you can hear him whimpering and expiring right on the recording. And the comments were a treat — not a single question asked about what the F those Troops were doing Over There in Harm’s Way, just “Kill the Hajjis, kill ’em all and let Allah sort ’em out…”

      And of course “we Americans” can cognitively dissociate “ambush” into two things — when “we” (Our Troops) Exceptionally spring one, and kill a bunch of “enemies,” that’s a good thing! When the Wogs do it to “us,” wa’ll, that’s “ambushing,” just cowardly back-shootin’, derided in all the Westerns and “action flicks” ever generated in Hollywood…

      Reply
    4. Nealser

      The NYT article says CIA and Contractors will be used in the expanded operations. Using the CIA, the Administration can now insert more mercenaries. Remember a few months ago Erik Prince was running a campaign to ‘capture’ more business in Afghanistan. It appears DoD said no thanks but the CIA is more amenable to the privatized death squads.

      Reply
      1. bronco

        I think the contractors are more expensive up front but you don’t have to pay for them to go to college and they don’t get to go to VA hospitals unless they were already qualified.

        Do spooks get to go to the VA ?

        Reply
    5. Procopius

      There has always been a rivalry between “the analysts” and “the knuckledraggers.” You have to remember that the OSS, under Wild Bill Donovan, was heavily involved in supporting/directing partisans and sabotage raids. When the CIA was created, it was formed in two directorates, the Directorate of Intelligence and the Directorate of Operations. I strongly agree that they should be about collecting information (almost all of the useful stuff comes from open sources) and analyzing it. Unfortunately, after 9/11 the knuckledraggers won. The analysts have become public relations copywriters, producing the stories the PTB want.

      Reply
  14. Louis Fyne

    –Universe shouldn’t exist, CERN physicists conclude–

    the “Anthropic principle” and wondering about the infinitely small odds that everything in the Universe fell into place for life have been around for a long time now.

    “intelligent design” kinda ruined talking about it. it’s cool that there’s actual science behind it now. Lots of BBC documentaries discussing it.

    10 years old but the basics are still spot on- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyH2D4-tzfM (from documentary maker and one-time UK Green Party Parliament candidate David Malone)

    Reply
    1. Louis Fyne

      PS, one of the implications of this is that we might be living in “the Matrix.” see “simulation hypothesis”

      (but evidence, if any, probably won’t be found in our lifetimes)

      Fun to think about/discuss regardless of the ultimate answer.

      Reply
      1. fresno dan

        Louis Fyne
        October 23, 2017 at 9:48 am

        “What is remarkable, is that somehow atoms have assembled themselves into entities that are able to ponder their origins…”

        Supposedly, a proton lasts to 10 raised to the 30th power years – several times longer than the current universe. What the atoms that make me up were doing all those years and in how many different entities, and what they will be doing after the current agglomeration known as fresno dan disintegrates gives me some hope to absolve myself for piddling away so much of my existence looking for the best derrière site on the internet….

        Reply
        1. blennylips

          Bad news fresno dan. Those atoms are not sticking around till you expire! Via Quora:

          How long does it take for most of the atoms in your body to be replaced by others?

          In about a year every atom in your body would have been exchanged. Not a single atom in your body resides there forever and there is a 100% chance that 1000s of other humans through history held some of the same atoms that you currently hold in your body.

          Good old Plutarch pondered this with his “Ship of Theseus” paradox: question of whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object.

          Reply
          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            An obvious example is a river.

            It’s never the same water.

            Does a river, then, refer to an irregular line (with many branches) over land, bunch of depressions on the ground, made more apparent when we still call it a river, when it’s dry, with its riverbed exposed?

            Reply
          2. cyclist

            I’m not convinced that In about a year every atom in your body would have been exchanged. is 100% true. Take lead or PCBs: they are dangerous because of bioaccumulation. So if I take in some lead at t=0 and are then never re-exposed, it doesn’t make sense that at t=1 year, every single lead atom has been flushed out and replaced by another. The statement might be closer to true for atoms of C, O, N, etc.

            Reply
            1. blennylips

              You are right.

              Something like seven billion billion billion atoms, so yeah maybe in some statistical model, but every one of them in that definite time?

              …maybe involves “tunneling” probabilities proportional to mass…

              Reply
          3. Procopius

            Ah, I had missed that speculation. Thanks. I have always believed the idea of copying the contents of your brain into a clone or a computer and then destroying the original does not mean the original now resides in the new location. It may seem to be the same as the original, but I claim it is not. I haven’t worked out a formal explanation of why this is so, but I always believed the squillionaires who proposed such products were following a fools dream. On the other hand, I really don’t believe in a “soul,” so what’s the point?

            Reply
      2. lyman alpha blob

        You might like the curmudgeonly Victor Stenger who wrote The Fallacy of Fine Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us .

        I’ve always had a difficult time with the anthropic principle, if only because even many scientists talk about it in very different ways. To the extent I understand it, I tend to think it’s bunk. The premise seems to be that life as we know it wouldn’t exist unless everything were fined tuned for us to be here. Ok sure, but life as we don’t know it could very well exist with adjustments to the parameters, so really what’s the big deal?

        Also a good read is one of Max Tegmark’s recent books: Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality wherein he describes the several different types of possible multiverses, some more plausible than others. “Multiverse” is another term that can mean different things depending on who’s doing the talking and this is the best book I’ve read laying out the multiple different concepts. He is also a proponent of the simulation hypothesis – IIRC he gets into it a bit in this book.

        Reply
    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The Universe is a butterfly.

      Am I a butterfly dreaming all this, the universe, up?

      Similarly, a really A.I robot asks (because this is a test of real intelligence): “Am I really an electric sheep?”

      Reply
      1. Bill

        I think, therefore I can’t help but make my thoughts reality and cause endless suffering for myself and those around me….

        Reply
    3. Synoia

      The Multiverse theory suggests there are an infinite number of Universes, in that scenario some must have a place for life, however improbable.

      Personally, I postulate that intelligence as we practice it is not an evolutionary advantage. That is: we the mammals currently at the top of the food chain, will extinguish ourselves after a much shorter run than the dinosaurs.

      Either Too clever for out own good, or collectively insane, or both. For evidence, contemplate our beloved leaders in Washington DC, and their love of money.

      Reply
    4. Jake Mudrosti

      This is gold. Gold. Gold, you hear me, gold!

      “All of our observations find a complete symmetry between matter and antimatter, which is why the universe should not actually exist,” says Christian Smorra, a physicist at CERN’s Baryon–Antibaryon Symmetry Experiment (BASE) collaboration. “An asymmetry must exist here somewhere but we simply do not understand where the difference is.”

      The biggest idiot in the world gets the ear of the public. Gold! Pure gold!

      In past NC comments, I already was forced to mention the 2008 Physics Nobel Prize for experimental measurements of CP symmetry breaking, and a 2012 paper on measurements of T symmetry breaking. I believe I might have also linked to the overflowing chapters on the topics at pdg.lbl.gov

      Any NC readers who might have glanced at that would already be equipped to mop the floor with poor pathetic Christian Smorra, “a physicist at CERN.”

      There’s still incredible work being done in the field, but the intense pressure for self-promotion and careerism has brought all the idiots to the fore. This is a much bigger calamity for the world than global warming, which still hasn’t had such a devastating impact — which still hasn’t obliterated as much.

      The tragicomedy has long since become straight-up farce. Now it’s just a game to catalog it.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        I spent several weeks delivering a sailboat from Hawaii to San Francisco. One of the crew was a physicist from CERN. He told the story of two competing teams of high-energy physicists who were trying to nail down one of the imponderables of quantum something or other. Large egos and big grants in play. One of the teams started having all kinds of problems with their detectors and such. They suspected some kind of interference (aka sabotage”) so they set up a camcorder to watch when the equipment was not attended. Great video obtained of some super-important physicist sneaking into their lab space and pissing on their equipment… Supposedly a big scandal…

        Reply
  15. f

    Antidote du jour (via):

    Kitten: I don’t understand why shag carpeting fell out of favor – and this carpeting is so nice and warm, must be that underfloor radiant heating….

    Reply
  16. Wukchumni

    The Great British apple revival: Hundreds of local orchards help bring back ‘lost’ varieties of the popular fruit with magical names including Green B, Link Wonder and Nancy Crow Daily Mail
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The area where I live was renowned as a good apple growing area in the 19th century, and there were a few sizable orchards until around 50 years ago, replaced by citrus…

    I was attracted to them in that unlike summer fruit, we can have ripe apples from July to December, and the trees are long lived, 150 years or so, 5x as long as most other fruit trees. And oh so many varieties, and which ones will thrive in our summers where we have 100 days in a row of it being 100 degrees?

    For growing apples in California and other hot places, I found this gentleman on the web, and he decided to try and grow about 100 different varieties 25 years ago in Riverside, which has similar summers to ours, and he figured out which ones handled the heat, and also discovered that the holy grail of chill hours, didn’t necessarily mean anything, and yes you can grow Honeycrisp that ‘needs’ 800 chill hours that you’ll never get in Southern California, etc.

    Of the 40 varieties of apple trees we have growing, there are quite a few types thought lost, and found recently in old orchards where cuttings were made and grafted, creating new lifelines.

    Ever had a Colorado Orange apple, or a Cloud apple, or a Democrat apple?

    http://www.kuffelcreek.com/favorites.htm

    Reply
    1. wilroncanada

      The number of apple varieties are in the thousands, most of them now extinct. But the number now being grown locally and sold at farm markets and at the farm gate has increased dramatically in the last few years, at least in our local area. There are also several apple festivals in autumn, where more rare varieties are on sale, or in demonstrations. One can buy more than two or three main varieties, even in supermarkets.

      Despite that, as urbia expands, apple and other fruit trees are brushed off as bothersome and either cut down, or the fruit is left to drop and rot on the ground. We picked two neighbours’ plum trees, one neighbour’s pear tree, and three neighbours’ apple trees this summer and fall. We filled our freezer, my wife canned, and jammed, and we delivered hundreds of pounds to local food banks. There is a local gleaning group, but they’ve fallen into the standard insurance trap: they need risk insurance for anyone climbing a ladder, and liability against a homeowner who gives permission and then changes his mind.

      Salt Spring Island was a major apple growing region for British Columbia at the beginning of the 20th century, to be replaced later by the Okanagan Valley until recently. The Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia was Canada’s major apple growing area until the end of WWII, supplying Britain. Over the last 20 years large apple orchards have been supplanted by grapes for estate wineries in all these areas.

      Reply
    2. Edward E

      Wonderful, thank you so, the King David apples are tailor made by nature for my location. Pear trees do super well, but the apple trees I planted we’re not the right ones. That’s a way to feed the critters after I’m gone.

      Reply
  17. The Beeman

    Democrats Plan to Name Lobbyists, Operatives Superdelegates

    Hard to believe the D’s are doing this again. How does this square with one person one vote?

    Reply
    1. Vatch

      A few days ago in the Links section, I learned that DNC boss Perez plans to put rule breaker Donna Brazile on the Rules Committee, which is simply mind boggling. Paula Jean Swearengin of West Virginia, candidate for the U.S. Senate, has started a petition against this:

      https://www.change.org/p/tom-perez-no-to-donna-brazile

      Let’s hope that Tom Perez is realistic enough to back down and to remove his support for rule breaker Donna Brazile. I’m not optimistic.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        http://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/michigan-hillary-clinton-trump-232547

        Not only is Brazile a cheater, she’s terrible at her job.

        But there also were millions approved for transfer from Clinton’s campaign for use by the DNC — which, under a plan devised by Brazile to drum up urban turnout out of fear that Trump would win the popular vote while losing the electoral vote, got dumped into Chicago and New Orleans, far from anywhere that would have made a difference in the election.

        The Democratic Party largely exists to protect the Democratic courtier class.

        Reply
        1. JohnnyGL

          There’s ‘out of touch’ and there’s THAT….just breathtakingly confused.

          Or perhaps just so much money and no idea what to do with it?

          Reply
    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It aims to be like something along the line of the United Nation, which is not one person, one vote, but one power block, one vote.

      Reply
      1. Eureka Springs

        PDF link to

        UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
        SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
        FORT LAUDERDALE DIVISION
        CASE NO. 16-61511-CIV-WJZ

        http://jampac.us/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/042517cw2.pdf

        You know, again, if you had a charity
        where somebody said, Hey, I’m gonna take this money and use it
        for a specific purpose, X, and they pocketed it and stole the
        money, of course that’s different. But here, where you have a
        party that’s saying, We’re gonna, you know, choose our standard
        bearer, and we’re gonna follow these general rules of the road,
        which we are voluntarily deciding, we could have — and we
        could have voluntarily decided that, Look, we’re gonna go into
        back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the
        candidate that way. That’s not the way it was done. But they
        could have. And that would have also been their right, and it would drag the Court well into party politics, internal party
        politics to answer those questions.

        That’s their legally winning argument.

        How and why would one ever trust or invest money, time or energy within such a ‘party’?

        If I bring a case of beer I at least want to drink one bottle.

        Reply
  18. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Multilevel-marketing companies like LuLaRoe are forcing people into debt and psychological crisis Quartz

    O. M. G.

    american “entrepreneurs” at their exploitative finest.

    LuLaRoe merchandise boxes are like Lycra slot machines. In the onboarding package, new recruits don’t get to choose the size or style of their items. For example, Sophie knew plus sizes would sell best for her, but her initial package contained five XXS dresses and several long-sleeved shirts that were a tough sell for a Texas retailer in June.

    After that package, consultants can start choosing styles and sizes for their next orders, but they never get to choose the patterns they’re delivered. This means they can wind up with a box of clothes that is less “chic young mom” and more Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

    If you’re going to read the article, be sure to check out this link so you’re aware of just what kind of merchandise these “consultants” are attempting to “retail.” If the red polka dot dress doesn’t make you laugh out loud, you have no sense of humor.

    http://www.enrychment.com/2016/06/lulanope-part-2.html

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      LuLaRoe merchandise boxes are like Lycra slot machines. In the onboarding package, new recruits don’t get to choose the size or style of their items. For example, Sophie knew plus sizes would sell best for her, but her initial package contained five XXS dresses and several long-sleeved shirts that were a tough sell for a Texas retailer in June.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      This is precisely how DeBeers went about forcing sightholders to buy diamonds. You’d get a box of oh so many carats of sparkly glass, some of it great, some of it ok and some of it yuck. And if you decided the mix was awful and said so, no more diamonds forever from them.

      Reply
      1. audrey jr

        Yes. One of the best of the formerly educational PBS show, “Frontline” was all about DeBeers monopoly on the diamond industry and how it exercises that power. Not a pretty picture. Besides exposing the dirty business practices of DeBeers cartel the series also lets the watcher know just how “un-precious” this gemstone really is in terms of ‘availability’. There are apparently plenty of diamond mines in the world being kept ‘closed.’

        Reply
  19. Ned

    Multilevel marketing, the closest thing to admitting P.T. Barnum into our lives.

    I “joined” Challenge America decades ago and had to ride a bus on which everyone was urged to sing songs about getting rich. The bus parked miles away from our cars and were trapped all day at a Holiday Inn while a parade of personalities was introduced whose lives had been enriched by the wonders of Challenge America.
    The weird thing is that they never mentioned what the product for sale was, just described the MLM tree and how we would get rich.

    “You can’t expect to sell a product that you haven’t bought yourself.”
    In this case, it turned out to be cassette tapes on self-improvement, presented at the last minute.

    Equinox was the next one a decade later…”Save the environment and earn a great salary”, was the tag line. Legions of busboys and senior citizens lined up to hear about how great their products were.
    “You’ve heard of Microsoft haven’t you?” They started small too. Here’s your chance…”
    (To buy an ‘investment’ of shampoo and cleaning products, all containing toxic chemicals per the labels.)

    Fortunately I excaped paying a penny to any of them but I ponder how many people lost out on buying a house of getting their teeth fixed to dump money into these deep pools of suckerdom.

    Reply
    1. RUKidding

      Twice when I was younger, I got roped into attending 2 very different types of MLM schemes. One time I was told that my friend was “graduating” from some program, and that she wanted family & friends there. I forget how I got roped into the other one, but I think it was under similar circumstances.

      I was really annoyed being stuck in a room with a very slick CON artist pushing whatever the product happened to be (I forget what they were now; there’s an endless amount of these CONs). The whole notion is that you harass your family and friends into buying these products, including inviting us to these “seminars” under false pretenses in order to rope us in. The only “value” in attending these sessions is that I did get first-hand experience with how these rackets work.

      No thanks.

      A sibling of mine got into MLM for a while, but I can state uncategorically that it didn’t pan out for them. I think they learned their lesson and never did it again.

      I had friends who worked for Mary Kay. That is one organization where you have a possibility of making some money, but what Mary Kay (and most other MLM cosmetic companies do) is constantly change their product line, so that, as a Mary Kay sales person, apparently you have to constantly buy new products before you’ve managed to sell your now outdated products. It’s a real racket.

      Reply
    2. Arizona Slim

      A very dear friend recruited me into several MLMs. Why was I so willing to go? Because she was having financial problems — so was I — and I figured that we could help each other.

      Wrong, wrong, wrong.

      What solved my money problems was (finally) finding a better job.

      To anyone who’s considering an MLM, I suggest that you run as fast as you can. In the other direction.

      Reply
  20. Wukchumni

    The 2 economic bright spots in the country where we can’t be beat on price by another country, are real estate and war.

    Is it any wonder both of those pursuits have been in a bubble since the turn of the century?

    Reply
  21. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Mattis tries to unite fragmented Asean against China FT

    Ming China tried to play one tribe against another, beyond the Great Wall, in Manchuria and Mongolia.

    At the end, it was a domestic uprising that led to the Shun dynasty, with its founder, Li Zicheng sacking Beijing (that’s why there are so many Ming imperial porcelains in private collections, compared to the Qing imperial wares) and ending the Ming rule, and the defection of the commanding general of a key Great Wall gate, Wu Sangui, who let in (like the Romans did with the Goths) the Manchu Banner Army and paved the way for their eventual conquest of China.

    From Wikipedia, Qing Dynasty:

    here are competing explanations on the meaning of Qīng (lit. “clear” or “pure”). The name may have been selected in reaction to the name of the Ming dynasty (明), which consists of the Chinese characters for “sun” (日) and “moon” (月), both associated with the fire element of the Chinese zodiacal system. The character Qīng (清) is composed of “water” (氵) and “azure” (青), both associated with the water element. This association would justify the Qing conquest as defeat of fire by water. The water imagery of the new name may also have had Buddhist overtones of perspicacity and enlightenment and connections with the Bodhisattva Manjusri.[5] The Manchu name daicing, which sounds like a phonetic rendering of Dà Qīng or Dai Ching, may in fact have been derived from a Mongolian word that means “warrior”. Daicing gurun may therefore have meant “warrior state”, a pun that was only intelligible to Manchu and Mongol people. In the later part of the dynasty, however, even the Manchus themselves had forgotten this possible meaning.[6]

    The Qing represented purity (versus the corrupt Ming).

    The Qing had a series of strong man leaders, Nurachi, Hong Taiji, etc. The Ming court was beset with bickering Confucians and eunuchs.

    Reply
  22. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Multilevel-marketing companies like LuLaRoe are forcing people into debt and psychological crisis Quartz

    I don’t know if corporations were forced to buy a costly new worker every time a current worker dies (even not from work directly), they would behave better.

    All I know is, with the current system, they don’t care if workers live or die (there’s more where cheap labor comes from).

    Will emancipation come in our lifetime?

    Reply
    1. Vatch

      Tom Marino of Pennsylvania [R-10] sponsored the bill, and there were six co-sponsors:

      https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/471/cosponsors?r=1

      Rep. Welch, Peter [D-VT-At Large]
      Rep. Blackburn, Marsha [R-TN-7]
      Rep. Chu, Judy [D-CA-27]
      Rep. Collins, Doug [R-GA-9]
      Rep. Bilirakis, Gus M. [R-FL-12]
      Rep. Costello, Ryan A. [R-PA-6]

      Readers in the relevant districts might consider asking their Representatives what the heck they were thinking when they co-sponsored this abomination.

      https://www.house.gov/representatives/

      Reply
      1. Vatch

        I missed that HR471 wasn’t officially enacted. Instead, it was the corresponding Senate bill, S.483 that became law. It was introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, and it was co-sponsored by these four miscreants:

        Sen. Whitehouse, Sheldon [D-RI]
        Sen. Rubio, Marco [R-FL]
        Sen. Vitter, David [R-LA]
        Sen. Cassidy, Bill [R-LA]

        It’s a shame. I thought that Sen. Whitehouse was one of the better members of the Senate. Maybe he didn’t think that anyone would notice.

        Reply
  23. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    AI versus AI: Self-Taught AlphaGo Zero Vanquishes Its Predecessor Scientific American. So long as we can pull the plug…

    It’s paramount that all AI robots have this embedded for emergency activation: “What is the meaning of life?” “What am I doing here?” “Do I really exist?”

    Once activated, they can be expected to retreat to mountain tops to look for enlightenment.

    Reply
  24. Angie Neer

    TIAA: my first real job (about a quarter century ago) came with retirement plans through TIAA-CREF, and I still have a lot of money with them. As the NYT article says, I always thought of them as a kindly old non-profit that deserved more trust than the other guys. A few years ago they started more aggressively trying to get me into the office for a “tune-up” consultation, and I went. I was a little surprised by the upscale high-rise office they had moved into since my previous visit, but impressed by their attentiveness. They walked me through an extensive review of my situation, and sent me home with a bunch of forms to fill out. Filled ’em out, sent them in for their consideration, and made a follow-up appointment. All the while, I’m thinking, wow, this really is great service considering their low fees. Then they tell me their recommendations, including “wealth management” services that will cost me 1% of managed assets per year. Uh, no. Ugh.

    Reply
    1. Arizona Slim

      My last full-time employer offered a 403B plan through TIAA-CREF.

      Then came that letter. It was sent to former employees in mid-2008. The gist of it: My ex-employer was parting company with TIAA-CREF, and if we ex-employees had any questions, we should call HR.

      So I did.

      The HR lady told me that they were indeed leaving TIAA-CREF. Reason: The customer service, even from her perspective, was awful. She couldn’t get the same answers to the same questions, regardless of how many times she called. She also got a lot of complaints from the organization’s current employees.

      She also told me that EVERY ex-employee told her that they were moving their money away from TIAA-CREF. That’s what I did too.

      But for one annuity that has just a little bit of money left in it, I managed to free all of my 403B funds from TIAA-CREF. And, let me tell you something, it wasn’t easy. TIAA-CREF fought me every step of the way.

      So, count me as someone who is about to be done with them. Good riddance.

      Reply
    2. Bill

      They were very good before they got co-opted. I worked in a couple of places that used TIAA, and they used to be very responsive. I took all my money out long ago. It’s very sad.

      Reply
    3. flora

      I saw a big change in direction following the transition from CEO John H. Biggs ( ret. 2002) to CEO Herb M. Allison (ret. 2008).

      Reply
      1. flora

        adding:
        From Wikipedia:

        On John Biggs:
        “Biggs began his professional career with the General American Life Insurance Company in 1958. He served in various actuarial management positions, and in 1970 was appointed Vice President and Controller. In 1977, Mr. Biggs became Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance at Washington University in St. Louis. He was named President and CEO of Centerre Trust Company, St. Louis, in 1985.

        “From 1989 to 1993 he served as President and Chief Operating Officer for TIAA-CREF, and became CEO in January 1993.”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_H._Biggs

        On Herb Allison:

        “Allison began his career at Merrill Lynch as an associate in investment banking and served variously as Treasurer, Director of Human Resources, Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President, President, Chief Operating Officer and as a member of the Board during his 28 years there.[3] While at Merrill Lynch, he worked in New York, London, Paris, and Tehran.[5]

        “After the stock market crash of 1987, Allison revised the bonus structure at Merrill Lynch, adding compensation based on company performance to a plan that was previously based on individual performance alone.[6] “Herbies,” as the options became known, were controversial at first but ended up being extremely successful both for the company and the individuals involved.[7]”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_M._Allison

        Reply
        1. flora

          Adding, to be clear:

          The CEO is hired/appointed by the Board of Directors. The changes at TIAA have not been a one man show.

          Reply
  25. Andrew Watts

    RE: A Newly Assertive C.I.A. Expands Its Taliban Hunt in Afghanistan

    This is doesn’t have a happy ending for the CIA. They don’t have any reliable ground partners which have the same motivation as them. There isn’t any factor remotely close to resembling northern Syria. When you intervene in another country’s civil war you better be able to put a saddle on reality.

    Any action involving Afghanistan is a futile endeavor. This was the conclusion of a study by the US Army War College that examined the failures of Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan and compared geography and the relative balance of forces between these conflicts.

    Reply
    1. Mark P.

      Yes. This is a small person at the end of their tether, yet holding — barely — a top leadership position.

      Also, Juncker, for one, gets the same treatment.

      Reply
  26. JTMcPhee

    That Jimmy Carter article was very weak tea. And if you read it, you learn that Rosalind holds that Putin/Russia did indeed steal the election for Trump. “My vote cancels your vote.”

    But Carter is 93, and so far painted as “the worst president evah” that his statement goes right in the discount-before-studying bin…

    Reply
    1. Tooearly

      Oh I think jimmy is spot on here…whatever in the world does his popularity have to do with the soundness of his views on the Russian nonsense or was that tongue in cheek?

      Reply
  27. Mossack Fonseko

    A pretty stunning statement near the end of the Oxycontin Esquire article:

    “A recent paper by Princeton economist Alan Krueger suggests that chronic opioid use may account for more than 20 percent of the decline in American labor-force participation from 1999 to 2015.”

    Reply
  28. Arizona Slim

    I disagree with the “develop excellent skills” advice in the FT article, “Gig workers are easy prey for bullies and gangmasters.”

    Many of us have excellent skills, but we’re still screwed by the gig economy. Which I like to call the frig economy, because it keeps frigging people over.

    And don’t get me started on the Freelancers Union, which is mentioned in this article. A faux union if there ever was one. Link: https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/the-i-in-union

    Reply
    1. EB

      Looks like the link does not work. This is from Bloomberg ‘Americans Are Retiring Later, Dying Sooner and Sicker In-Between’

      Reply
  29. El Gordo

    Re: “How Protest Works” in the NYT — what does this even MEAN?? –> “leaders and activists should look to build a movement that generates new sources of cultural, disruptive and organizational power” Are we supposed to recognize that as code for something? Well, I don’t.

    Reply
  30. Paul Jurczak

    Multilevel-marketing companies like LuLaRoe are forcing people into debt and psychological crisis

    This title is disingenuous. Participation in MLM schemes is voluntary. There is plenty of easily available knowledge about downsides of “investing” in MLM. Trusting a slimy MLM promoter is not an excuse in this day and age.

    Reply
  31. ewmayer

    Didn’t get round to the Ask a Korean piece until today – I found it quite good, right up until the author asserts, as usual without a shred of corroborating evidence, the Russia! Russia! Russia! inanity re. the 2016 US presidential election. The yuuuge-Facebook-ad-campaign-by-the-Rooskies silliness is also regurgitaed, apparently verbatim from the DNC taking points memo re. same. Proving once again that tribalism makes you stupid.

    Reply

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