Links 11/12/17

Answering the question that won me the Ig Nobel prize: Are cats liquid? The Conversation (J-LS).

We’re in bubble territory again, but this time might be different Martin Wolf, FT

Central Banks in the Dock Project Syndicate

Big box stores are costing our cities far more than we ever imagined. Strong Towns. The box stores ate the downtowns, and now e-commerce is trying to eat the box stores. What then?

You’re Not Alone: Some Users Report the Screen on Apple’s iPhone X Freezes in Cold Weather Fortune. Designed by Apple. In California.

This Chatbot Will Help You Sue Anyone MIT Technology Review. Lawsuits at scale! What could go wrong?

Meet Tug, the Helpful Robot Rolling Its Way Into Hospitals and Hotels Around the World WIRED. Because everybody knows patients need less human contact.

How to Make Cars Cooperate NYT

IBM Raises the Bar with a 50-Qubit Quantum Computer MIT Technology Review. The image of the computer is beatiful.


Tory turmoil as 40 MPs say May must go The Times

Boris and Gove’s plot to ‘hijack’ Number 10 exposed: Menacing secret memo to Theresa May dictating terms for a hard Brexit triggers new Cabinet rift Daily Mail

Why Labour Leave believe the Government must prioritise preparing for a no-deal outcome Brexit Central. Handwaving not limited to Tories, apparently.

How Sicily Became Ungovernable Der Spiegel


Greed and intrigue grip Saudi Arabia FT. This is, apparently, news.

What are the Saudis really up to with Lebanese ‘hostage’ Hariri? Asia Times

Prince Salman wields his sword in the house of Saud Lowy Institute

North Korea

Death’s Dusty Measure 38 North

Trump tweets he never called NK leader Kim ‘short and fat’ Korea Herald. A fine example of paralipsis!


China doesn’t like Trump’s North Korea talk. But some Chinese do. McClatchy (DK).

Alibaba Singles’ Day Posts Record 168 Billion Yuan in Sales Bloomberg (E. Mayer). E. Mayer: “So much for ‘bare branches day’, 11/11, remaining a ‘counter-cultural antidote to the sentimentality of Valentine’s Day’ – it’s now just another excuse to mobile-shopping-spree binge. But 700 million packages to be shipped, holy cow.”

A localist approach to Chinese politics Understanding Society

Trump’s Post-Pivot Strategy The Diplomat

The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been resurrected — and it’s happening without the US Vox. Note that this is not a “final deal.”

No deal is better than a bad deal: Why Canada won the TPP stand-off Globe and Mail


DeMo fails to check black money The Tribune (J-LS).

Smog-cloaked Delhi looks with envy at Beijing’s cleaner air FT

New Cold War

Donald Trump believes US intelligence claims Russia meddled in election, but slams Putin ‘haters’ South China Morning Post vs. Trump backs US intelligence agencies but keeps faith with Putin vs. Trump on Putin Election Meddling Denials: He ‘Means It’ Roll Call vs. Trump Points To Falsehoods In “Russian Hacking” Claims – Media Ignore What He Says Moon of Alabama

Trump Transition

How Trump Is Quietly Dismantling the Architecture of Global Governance The New Yorker (Re Silc).

Trump Is Rapidly Reshaping the Judiciary. Here’s How. NYT and Trump judge nominee, 36, who has never tried a case, wins approval of Senate panel Los Angeles Times. A protege of Luther Strange, interestingly enough.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Roy Moore promises ‘revelations’ on women’s motives surrounding allegations Birmingham News

Roy Moore’s alleged pursuit of a young girl is the symptom of a larger problem in evangelical circles Los Angeles Times (AF).

Speaking Truth To Power On Sex Abuse Rod Dreher, The American Conservative. “But I am pretty sure that Evangelicalism will lose significant numbers of its younger people over all this tribalism. That would be an enormous tragedy.”

Why politicians got away with sexual misconduct for so long WaPo

The Republican Party Today Is Similar To The Democratic Party Of The Late 1850s HuffPo. And when the Democrats cracked up, it wasn’t the Whigs who picked up the pieces, either.

Zuckerberg says he worked out why US is so divided FT. Not the Russians?

No, the Divide in American Politics Is Not Rural vs. Urban, and Here’s the Data to Prove It Colin Woodard, Medium. Interesting and sadly buried behind Medium’s pay-wall, instead of being readable at Woodard’s blog.

The Democratic Socialists Scored Some Big Wins. Here’s What They’re Planning Next. In These Times. I’m seeing lots of brake light clinics on the Twitter (“lots” being in the tens, not the hundreds or thousands, but still). And one flu-shot clinic (interesting). Universal concrete material benefits, especially for the working class.

Health Care

Funding For ACA Sign-Up Campaigns Varies Widely From State To State KHN. Some people go to Happyville. Others go to Pain City. And it’s all random!

How Universal Health Coverage Can Be Done Right Health Affairs

Imperial Collapse Watch

Giving the Game Away Paul Street, Counterpunch (Re Silc). See also this review by Street of Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power.

Guillotine Watch

Why have we built a paradise for offshore billionaires? Thomas Frank, Guardian (KW). Because we haven’t finished their colony on Mars?

Suicide rate among wildland firefighters is “astronomical” Wildfire Today (FarWestTX).

For Medical Purposes Only Handelsblatt Global

Class Warfare

How Many Hours Americans Need to Work to Pay Their Mortgage Visual Capitalist

E-sport popularity mushrooms but money lags behind France24

‘If I’m stratum 3, that’s who I am’: inside Bogotá’s social stratification system Guardian

Brexit, Trump, and ‘methodological whiteness’: on the misrecognition of race and class British Journal of Sociology

The Mythical Whiteness of Trump Country Boston Review. A look at J.D. Vance and Hillbilly Elegy.

Forming a Picture of the New Philanthropist NYT

A brief history of the “walking simulator,” gaming’s most detested genre Salon. “Detested” by whom? I had no idea the Pentagon “considers video games one of their key recruitment tools,” but it makes sense.

How the English language has evolved like a living creature Science

The First Climate Model Turns 50, And Predicted Global Warming Almost Perfectly Medium

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. el_tel

    re universal health care coverage

    I don’t disagree with the pitch of the article. But from a career in health economics I know Americans (or at least those who purport to represent Americans) don’t like many of these ideas. e.g. the FDA pumps huge amounts of cash into studies to value patient reported outcomes but there’s never been an officially endorsed study to “value” health nationally.

    Now, in an MMT world the USA could probably get by with little rationing…. but when budgets are still a bugbear where do you draw the line? One example from personal experience – my antidepressant is first generation (50 years off patent) but still costs the UK NHS £1000 post month. why? because there’s no national generic provider to compete the price down to £20. why? because doctors have been taught it’s an “evil” drug and most people on it are old (and likely to die soon). BUT it’s the most effective antidepressant ever invented and recent work shows the side effects are vastly over – estimated. Can we re-educate doctors as well as change national guidelines on cost-effectiveness? Because otherwise you end up with similar oligopolistic practices the NHS faces.

    1. diptherio

      What do you mean “in an MMT world”? We do live in an MMT world. Imho, the Health Affairs proposal is trying to be too clever for it’s own good. The young and healthy do not need to “subsidize” the cost of care for the old and sick. The wealthy do not need to subsidize the poor. The Federal gov’t can directly fund a universal health care program just like they directly funded the bailout of Wall Street. No taxes and no borrowing necessary.

      Besides having a single-payer system for care provision, I think we’d be smart to make medical training and education cheap/free. The Federal gov’t should make sure anyone with the desire and ability to become a medical doctor (especially a GP) is able to get their education without going into debt, so later on they won’t feel required (or justified) to charge outrageous amounts for their services.

      1. el_tel

        ok sorry let me clarify – yes we DO live in an MMT world but politicians put artificial constraints on spending.

        1. el_tel

          it is one of the reasons I simply can’t work within the dominant paradigm in the uk…. “does this treatment achieve less than £x cost per quality adjusted life year gained” when x is arbitrary and based on a failure to recognise MMT. Simply wrong and hurts people. I won’t do it.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Self-restraint is key here.

          “We could have as many aircraft carriers as we want, as long as we don’t overtax resources and cause inflation, but we limit ourselves to 10. We come in peace. You just don’t appreciate…don’t understand.”

          “But no, we are not losing even one in order to fund healthcare. You have to have self-control like us.”

          1. el_tel

            Agreed. But there are so many obstacles to overcome: (1) Getting people to accept MMT for health; (2) Understanding what health impairments should be addressed first (assuming a maximin type approach to improving health); (3) Changing the supply function so doctors are not in hoc to pharma and pushing new but arguably worthless interventions; (4) Stopping advertising direct to patients so *they* don’t get bamboozled and misinformed (self-restraint there).

            So much reform required on the supply-side, the demand-side, and the “institutional side”. All issues that I find are not discussed in much/any detail when I see (as a Brit) the new discussions over single-payer in the USA. And just to be clear – single payer does NOT have to replicate the UK/Aus/other model and I am not advocating these models (though there are things that can be learnt from the mistakes from all these systems)….but these issues must be dealt with if health is to be properly addressed.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              I believe

              1. You don’t have money for health care until you reduce military spending.


              2. You get money for health care without reducing military spending….when the MIC releases classified MMT files. And we find out not-reduced-military-spending is actually an euphemism for even more military spending (It’s not reduced!!!).

              1. el_tel

                Well I’m not in a position to advocate for/against this being a Brit…..but it certainly sounds like a way to concentrate minds :-)

        3. Vatch

          we DO live in an MMT world but politicians put artificial constraints on spending.

          The politicians are the ones who make the laws (with major intrusive help from lobbyists, of course), and many of the people who implement the laws are also politicians. Those constraints on spending are the current reality. We do NOT live in an MMT world in regards to government spending.

          MMT is all about “can” and “could”, and not about “is” or “does”.

        4. John k

          There are no constraints on war spending.
          The 20%, who enjoy well paid jobs from armament spending, are at war with the 80%.
          MMT says we can fund both without inflation so long as we do not run into real limits such as labor, but the 20% do not believe that.
          In the short term there would be labor shortages among health care providers if we expand coverage to all, can’t move those in insurance or bomb making to doctors quickly, but this corrects in a decade.

          1. Altandmain

            One of the biggest distinctions between the Sanders and Clinton base was income. I think that the reason why is because for the upper middle class, from their point of view, everything is fine.

      2. Carla

        @diptherio — if only we would start calling it what it is — Modern Monetary Reality (MMR) — instead of constantly reinforcing the myth that it is a “theory.”

            1. el_tel

              maybe just Modern Money (MM)…. would have distinguished it from old non-fiat refined etc….. just a suggestion

            2. Carla

              Modern Money Reality. It would be a huge step to just get 10 percent of the population to understand that this is the way money actually works right now.

              Not sayin’ it necessarily should work this way; but just understanding that it does helps to explain so much about our world and life as we are living it.

            1. Vatch

              No, because it’s not the reality. It’s a desirable possibility. It would make it easier to have a single payer system of health care in the U.S., and it would reduce the cost for students of post-secondary education. But that’s not how the system works currently.

              1. Carla

                Yes, it is the way it works. But because so few people understand how money works, they use it against the rest of us. OF COURSE the federal government spends money into existence. That’s why we never have to hold a bake sale to fund a war.

                1. Vatch

                  Yes, I know that the government spends money into existence, but that doesn’t validate MMT. MMT enthusiasts frequently claim that taxes do not fund the monetarily sovereign federal government, but taxes do fund most of the monetarily sovereign federal government. The only part that taxes do not fund is the fraction that is funded when new money is created. That creation of a new dollar only funds a single dollar of federal government spending. Future spending with that dollar is funded by taxes.

                  Furthermore, if MMT were a description of what is, instead of what might be, the government wouldn’t have to borrow to pay for the money that it creates. But the government does borrow huge amounts of money, and that money is periodically repaid, along with interest. Then new money must be borrowed to cover what was repaid. That is not part of the MMT description, so MMT does not describe what is.

                  During WWII, millions of people bought war bonds — metaphorically, this was your bake sale on a grand scale.

                  1. jonhoops

                    Show me the accounting link between the taxes collected and actual funding of govt. programs. It doesn’t exist. There is no mechanism funneling money collected back into the Federal budget.

                    1. Vatch

                      You’re joking, right? Federal accounting is a complete mess. And even if it weren’t a mess, there wouldn’t be a one to one correspondence between individual dollars collected and dollars spent. Money is fungible. No private corporation has such on-to-one accounting.

                      The federal budget debt ceiling proves that the U.S. government depends on taxes to fund most of their operations. That’s the way it currently is. Please note that I’m not one of the people who say that taxes MUST fund the federal government. I understand that MMT is quite feasible; it’s just not what is currently happening.

    2. el_tel

      Upon re-reading the Health Affairs article it made me more depressed. How are “consumers” (patients) meant to judge quality? I myself, as a trained health economist with 25 years of experience almost fell for for the old “ooooh nice new building, everything seems so efficient” effect when choosing a general practice to register at. If I’d done what I tell everyone to do and checked NHS statistics I’ve have learnt it was an appalling practice on all the outcomes that *matter* – twas only a receptionist who quietly told me “don’t choose us, we’re [family blog]” that caused me to go elsewhere. Overall patient-weighted quality measures are now available and it’s up to people to use them. This is a UK context and maybe US patients are better at this, I don’t know.

      Measures of patient health gain require the valuation studies that the US refuses to condone – the single payer people are going to have to be ready to counter more of the “death panels” memes that opponents will roll out as a caricature of these. In fact interventions for old people tend to have very large QALY (quality-adjusted life year) gains – the gain in quality is very large for, say, total total joint replacement, offsetting quality-adjusted life expectancy gains for a lot of other interventions in areas like cancer.

      But the bottom line is that health is going to have to be quantified across the nation – and the only (non-US) globally accepted measure is the QALY. Now there are certainly issues over *who* values (say) depression versus pain – elsewhere it’s “the nation as a whole” and maybe this conflicts with American individualism (I don’t know). Personally I have views that allow for personal valuation which make me persona non grata in a lot of the health economics world….maybe I should have been born in the USA….but these issues MUST be dealt with if more memes are not to kill the latest single payer drive at birth.

  2. voteforno6

    Re: DSA

    The DSA may not technically be a political party, but they sure are punching way above their weight class. I’m interested to see how far they can take this.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      If it helps, 56% of the candidates fielded this year who are DSA members won, as compared to 20% last year. We’ve created a committee specifically for recruiting and supporting candidates that will be building on what was learned this year to see if more can be achieved.

      Most candidates run as Democrats, but a few as Socialists where that is recognized as a party.

        1. Darius

          They could. Since DSA isn’t a party, they can endorse Democrats, independents, or whoever is advancing the cause.

  3. Wukchumni

    Suicide rate among wildland firefighters is “astronomical” Wildfire Today (FarWestTX).

    I’m not surprised all that much, as fire season only lasts about half of the year, and firefighters go from doing the most physically draining thing imaginable on the body-skirting danger and sleep for prolonged periods of time all the while, and then it’s all over and there’s 6 months of being on the shelf. Not too many job descriptions like that.

      1. Wukchumni

        The bulldozer is often dispatched to cut fire lines when the terrain calls for it, no reason why that couldn’t be accomplished off-site by a robo-dozer operator, but it’d be too specialized for AI to do it alone.

          1. JTMcPhee

            Dangerous to even start down that road, fire break or whatever. DARPA will be the big beneficiary.

            Not to mention more displaced humanoids…

    1. Anon

      The ones I grew up with became ski instructors (bums?) in Sun Valley, Idaho in the 70’s, during the “off-season”. Eventually becoming “permanent locals” as they age-transitioned.

  4. George Phillies

    No the Divide in American Politics…

    Perhaps I did something right, but I did not encounter a paywall. His division of the US into segments is a bit different than some other places. He says that in much of the US, if you use his partitions, the cities and rural areas in most places voted the same way. There were two exceptions. One was the Midwest as he defines it, which is not the way many readers would define it.

    1. DJG

      One of the things that struck me is that his regions correspond to U.S. dialects and their regions. The upper Midwest is still an extension of New England and upper New York State and still speaks modified Yankee.

      His posting is valuable as a reminder that the U.S. has several distinct cultural regions and not just Dixie.

  5. Scott

    I haven’t signed up for Medium, so I don’t haven’t read his article, but Colin Woodard had an article in the Portland Press Herald earlier this year that discussed many of the same subjects that the Medium article appears to discuss.

    There is a lot of good material in terms of both data (which suggests that the frame used to analyze the data is as important as the data itself) and the reasons for the swings. It’s well worth a read.

  6. FDW

    So the Naked Capitalism gang has heard about Strong Towns. They’re an interesting bunch. Though they might be kind of difficult to understand, I think they present an interesting (if incomplete) vision on what America can be.

    Out of all the people there, I find Johnny Sanphillippo to be the most interesting, even more so than founder Chuck Marohn. Johnny’s posts are the kind of stuff that should really be featured here more. (Because it’s the kind of stuff that will make you mad)

    1. beth

      Yes, at least two of us on NC have heard of Strong Towns. I know Chuck Marohn does not understand MM [MMT], but many of his ideas reinforce the concept that cities/towns need to create more friendly places for “all of us” not just the elite. What a concept. Where I live some of us are working hard to get a majority of these thinkers on City Council, whether they are Rs or Ds.

        1. Darius

          4. Strong Towns is radical thinking in many ways, even if conservative on macroeconomics. It is about the only philosophy with I know with true cross-ideological appeal. Basically that the postwar automobile-centric suburban paradigm isn’t sustainable fiscally. From an MMT perspective, I would say it’s a massive mis-allocation of resources. It’s one thing that makes me skeptical of massive infrastructure programs. They probably would continue to subsidize massive new sprawl on metropolitan edges with big boxes and cul de sacs.

          One fun fact, even the most neglected slummy old downtowns produce more tax revenue per acre and public investment than the bright shiny heavily subsidized big boxes.

    2. Altandmain

      I have as well.

      They tend to be very fiscally conservative (as opposed to the pro-MMT NC base), but they do make some interesting points. I don’t agree with all of their fiscal conservatism, but a lot of what they say “makes sense”, for lack of a better term.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        MMT principles don’t really apply to local and state budgets denominated in USD. Local governments operate thus a lot more like the mythical “household budget”.

    3. Massinissa

      Its actually really refreshing to see conservatives like the ones on Strong Towns complaining about wealthy interests not paying enough in taxes. Mainstream conservative talking heads and journos would argue that its a GOOD thing these big box stores don’t pay more taxes…

  7. Moocao

    Re: Meet Tug, the Helpful Robot Rolling Its Way Into Hospitals and Hotels Around the World

    Did anyone ever ask if these robots are actually useful on a long term basis?? I know of 2 large hospitals that abandoned the use of these “pioneering” robots due to innate deficiencies (software glitches, IT downtime, elevator malfunction (these buggers need dedicated elevators, retrofitted with signal receivers), laser port dust, maintenance failures, improper power management, location storage issues, etc), human interaction problems (trolls that block the way, someone decided to put a sticker at a laser port, kids that decide to press all elevator buttons on the dedicated elevator), and more importantly, delivery problems for medications (if a robot is stuck somewhere, the RN isn’t going to wait 30 minutes to get it. He/she will go get the med, and you have just experienced a duplicate waste).

    This robot IS NOT COST EFFECTIVE. I feel like if you get past the “shinyness” of a robot, really a HUMAN has a much better ability to make alternative plans to make something happen, and overall cheaper IF YOU CANNOT DEDUCT CAPITAL INVESTMENT COSTS. The only reason why Hospital Admin would think this tug is useful is to eliminate costs, specifically labor costs, and eventually a decade later someone does a retrospective review and finds that if you add in everything up, the robot costs more.

    1. m

      I have only seen in a tug once in 10 years of moving around. It seemed like a novelty at a small hospital in a rich area in NE. Patients & visitors thought it was neat. It kept getting stuck in the elevator/corners and would need help from a human to get going again. Robots will come for our jobs, HA!
      On rare occasion the Da Vinci would freeze.

    2. cocomaan

      A lot of the automation stuff is snake oil, I think. It’s a way to market yourself as old parts of your bottom line (like advertising) dry up.

  8. Henry Moon Pie

    Reading Trump’s tweet about it being a good thing to have a good relationship with Russia actually gives me a little hope this morning. It sure wasn’t Kennedy’s AU speech, but it was more sensible than anything that ever came out of Bush, Jr. or Obama during the last decade. The MSM seems to have blown a fuse trying to figure out how to report it. Some are trying headlines that completely contradict the substance of the article. All are burying it at the bottom if possible. It’s such an obvious piece of common sense that just reporting it straight would have too much of a “damaging” effect on public opinion, I’m sure.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Wonder if they fear, if they don’t report in line, being lumped in with the collusion conspirators.

      “Conspiracy against the United States.”

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        I do believe fear is a factor. We’ve seen a couple of “accepted journalists,” Cilizza and Halperin, be ostracized for daring to say that there was a possibility that Trump could win. They were subjected to first degree assault-and-twittering. Halperin, of course, had other issues. Then there have been occasions when really persistent journalists have had some nasty accidents or become suddenly suicidal. And in this age, why not indict journalists for contrarian reporting? It’s gotten to the point it wouldn’t be surprising.

        Most of the ones at “the top” seem more driven by money and fame than informing the public anyway. And the shortest route to those destinations is “read (or write) what you’re given.”

  9. sbarrkum

    re: Trump Is Quietly Dismantling the Architecture of Global Governance

    Wasnt that one of Trumps campaign promises, the US would no longer be the worlds (moral) policeman.

    “This argument is hard to accept, since the U.S. played a central role in crafting the rules of E.I.T.I. (The Trump Administration did say that, while the U.S. itself won’t follow the rules, it will continue to encourage other countries to follow them.) “

    1. Sid_finster

      We are not and were not the world’s policeman. We advertise ourselves as such, much like the Mafia did.

      And just like the Mafia, we in fact act as the world’s protection racket.

      Hence the shrieks of outrage when some people won’t pay and cannot be made to do so.

        1. Toske

          Indeed. There’s a staggering number of parallels between mafias and governments and how the two operate. Not that I’m advocating for “smaller” government, just less corrupt, less mafia-like government.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Smedley Butler, famous Marine general, pointed this racket out in simple, visual terms maybe 80 years ago. But the monster has brawny arms, mmassive legs, and no compunction about killing anyone that seriously stands in the path of the giant snowball rolling downhill toward the cl

  10. el_tel

    re may must go

    I wonder if Anna Soubry is one of the 40. She knows full well what her constituency wants and bucked the trend against the tories last time around (am glad my bets at the bookies didn’t include her). She is immensely popular around here (as is Ken Clarke, the king of europhilia) and isn’t afraid to be bolshy to keep votes at the expense of local tory associations. Yes she is a “character” but we like characters here in Nottingham and the East Midlands at large. *IF* anyone in the tories is going to be a major figure in any split you can bet Anna will be in the vanguard.

  11. Wukchumni

    We were out for 3 days on a backpack to Willett hot springs, a just reward for walking 10 miles to get there. Must’ve soaked for 10 hours in total, and conversation is simply divine with others that went through a similar 20,000 step program. The cast is always changing, and there were from just a few, to 9 in hot water @ any given time, and nobody has a smartphone dangling from their wrist…

    We noticed many young people on their 1st backpack trip, more so than any destination we’ve been to. It was gratifying to see, and there’s a quiet boom going on outdoors, while most other physical activities we used to do (bowling-tennis-dancing-running-bicycling-etc) have fallen far from the height of their popularity, and are continuing their descent.

    In the tub, I asked a gaggle of UCLA students how backpacking appealed to them, and a couple of them almost shouted out loud ” No Connectivity!”, and by default, the wilderness (ycmv) is the last place standing~

    1. Wombat

      Sounds awesome! Although the thought of all those people…i’d much rather hike 15 miles to be alone at a 12000′ lake. I read your outdoor depictions in the comments all the time, so I assume you might have some ideas. What are some ways we can fight Sec. Interior Zinke’s efforts to “give” our federal lands “back to the states”? After all as you are finding, the youth are shunning the country clubs and beach resorts of the elites and boomers and flocking to the outdoors. How can we protect what we the people have left?

      1. Wukchumni

        Being alone in a picturesque place is a special experience, I walked with a friend a few months ago to the prettiest of the chain of Mosquito* lakes, #3 out of 6, and on a 9 mile roundtrip dayhike we saw not another soul.

        Willett is a social hot springs, and banter comes with the territory. I wonder if our conversation flowed in a similar vein to the various temperature Roman baths in Pompeii?

        Most people camp down by the Sespe river and walk up the tortuous last 1/2 mile to the hot springs, but there’s one camping spot 200 feet from the hot spring, and if you get that one, you’re golden, as getting up cold and walking up to warmth is easy-peasy.

        We were by ourselves soaking for almost 3 hours yesterday morning, and usually this hot spring is 106, but it was only 102 maybe, so you could stay in for a long time.

        The best way to beat Zinke and his ilk is having young people in particular aware of what they stand to lose if they aren’t careful, and there’s no better way than deep exposure to it, and i’m seeing big numbers of people, probably 60/40 female/male (hint to those 20 something males looking for somebody) and the book/movie Wild had a lot to do with it. A dreadful film from a seasoned backpacker’s standpoint (and yeah I get it, she had no idea what she was doing) and I liked how Reese walked through the desert for a month w/o a hat and managed to stay pasty white, hooray for Hollywood!

        Last year the ranger @ the Mineral King station told me in July, they issued 463 overnight wilderness permits-as opposed to 332 the previous July. That’s nearly a 40% increase.

        * an unfortunate name that lives up to it’s moniker in July-August, when V-pack formations make skin strafing runs with laser like precision

        1. wombat

          Ahh. I spent a night at mineral king. Hiked to eagle lake. This was in the drought of ’12 though, so the stream that runs underground and back above was dry :(.

          Anyways, I somewhat agree about awareness, but when the young and powerless are aware it may not change anything in the short term. In Zinke’s case we had awareness and a public outcry. The awareness prompted opacity as it often does: A couple million calls to the interior office between Trump’s initiation in April and Zinke’s announcement in August, which the interior chalked up to some green nuts (arc); then Zinke released an opaque letter saying some federal lands would be carved nonetheless, and lacking any specifics whatsoever. Perhaps the future extractors are already making plans. I will keep doing my part for raising awareness; are there any unbeholden groups that we can trust? Is sierra club or others trustworthy of donations?

          1. Wukchumni

            MK has 2 dozen sinkholes such as the 2 coming from Eagle Lake. The right one was in use this summer with the massive snowpack melting out. Usually it’s dry. Mother Nature-engineer.

            The 2 groups you hope to not run into are either Sierra Club or a Boy Scout troop. That’s not to say there aren’t perfectly good SC or BS groups out there, but more of the other kind.

            The Sierra Club is pretty useless organization from a political standpoint, once upon a time it flexed it’s wings, but that was then and this is now.

            We have to start somewhere as we’ve reached a nadir when it comes to stewardship of our public lands in the hands of politicians that only use it to deploy lip service and nothing more-or worse yet a chance to steal from the public purse, and yet there’s no instant accomplishment possible here either. It’ll take time, and patience in the face of what wicked this way comes to the wilderness, is the best option.

            37 out 45 people including us out on the trail in 3 days time, were under 30 by my unofficial count. They’re all ad hoc ambassadors that will be part of the new movement that must come from the internet via word of mouth and pictures and videos. A much vaster playing field than the Sierra Club, and relevant to these times.

            In what shape or form it manifests itself, who knows?

            1. wombat

              Where I frequent in SW Colorado I find more middle aged folks, but when I am on the main trail or the 14ers I do encounter a larger percentage of younger kids. Yet it is only a matter of time before the younger folks discover the social trails and desolation that the 13ers bring.

              Many lands under threat right now are not the most popular. I am sure the Grand Canyon and Yosemite are safe for now. We need more numbers aware of the unknown treasures. One of the monuments potentially targeted is the Organ Mountain Monument in NM – truly beautiful, rugged, pinnacles 20 Miles West of El Paso.

              Thanks for the Beta on the organizations. In the meantime, we will just be the squeaking wheels contacting congressional offices, BLM, interior about the importance of the lands. Also ensuring we sign every trail register along the way, validating the land’s usage.

              1. Wukchumni

                It used to be everybody was over 40 and lily white as a rule of thumb in the High Sierra, although it’s changing. Leading the charge is educated Indian-Americans from Silicon Valley and environs. In the past 2 years i’ve encountered 40 or so.

                The area we were at isn’t that well known, if you asked 1,000 Los Angelenos within a 3 hour drive of the trailhead where Willett hot springs is?

                I’d guess 998 our 1,000 wouldn’t know.

                BLM isn’t much. 1 of 3 BLM law enforcement officers covering a nearly 100 mile long stretch of BLM land from Bakersfield to Visalia, gave a talk @ our town hall meeting. It’s grossly understaffed here.

            2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

              Suggest “Hot Water Beach” in New Zealand sometime if you get a chance, you dig a hole in the sand at the surf line, the cold ocean water cools the hot (volcanic) fresh water you’re sitting in from time to time. No mobile phone signal either.

        2. Eclair

          In the mid-1980’s, a backpacking trip to the Mosquito Lakes gave me my first exposure to the dreadful beauty of a starry sky. We had driven up from Los Angeles after work, so we arrived at the trailhead parking lot around midnight. We had moved to LA from Rochester, NY and were used to seeing dull black/gray night skies; ever-present clouds in Rochester and smog in LA. I got out of the car, stood and did a backbend stretch … and almost fell over. The stars were fearsome, about 10 feet away and brilliant against the blackness of space.

          Last fall we camped at a hot springs in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, a hundred miles from light pollution. Same experience; I crept out of the tent at about 2 am and just worshipped the awesome night sky … until the 19 degree temperature drove me back to my sleeping bag.

          These are sacred places; blasphemers and desecrators should be strongly discouraged.

          1. Wukchumni

            We like to get high during the Perseids and it’s always the same time around Aug 10-12 or thereabouts, and it’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get…

            So about 5 years ago we’re going off-trail to Ansel lake, and run out of energy and ambition not necessarily in that order, after we come over White Chief pass, and on the topo maps you get a lot of no-name lakes, usually way off-trail, and here was one we loved, all of 100 yards long, with an island @ the 20 yard line and a shallow lake, perfect for a swim! It was rimmed by pine trees around the periphery, and we found a perfect perch to lay our heads 30 vertical feet above the lake on top of a granite outcrop, and were treated to a nice show that night, with 4-5 a minute @ the peak, and it dawned on us to look down at one point, and we were watching the reflection of the shooting stars in the water as they streaked across the sky.

      2. diptherio

        Actually, Zinke claims that he’s opposed to transferring Federal lands…although you wouldn’t know it by the way he votes…

        Zinke has repeatedly stated his opposition to the sale or transfer of public lands ownership to states. But in June Zinke did vote for a House bill that would allow state leaders to manage some federal parcels as demonstration projects.

        Zinke is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of Interior, pending Senate confirmation hearings.

        Following the House vote, Montana’s Republican Senator Steve Daines said, “I continue to strongly oppose the transfer of federal lands to the states while fighting to improve the management of those lands.”

        Democratic Senator Jon Tester called the move, “an underhanded assault on Montana’s outdoor economy.”

        Both the Montana Wilderness Association and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers expressed strong opposition to the House vote on the proposed rules change.

        I can’t find anything on his official position that’s more recent. Interesting that the Repubs in MT are not willing to publicly support transferring ownership.

        1. Wukchumni

          It’s hard to fathom how low he’ll Zinke, but if somebody wants to build a shopping mall on the National Mall, it might be a possibility.

  12. Livius Drusus

    Re: No, the Divide in American Politics Is Not Rural vs. Urban, and Here’s the Data to Prove It, yes regionalism is still important. I am from the Midwest and I find that sometimes people are surprised to find out how mad we still are about NAFTA and trade. West Coast liberals sometimes don’t understand why trade and manufacturing are big deals here and why we are not as keen on the promises of the “new economy” as Californians are.

    There are other issues too like religion. The South is still very religious which is why I think any liberal running there will have to be like John Bel Edwards the governor of Louisiana and combine some social conservatism with economic populism to win.

    1. DJG

      Livius Drusus: I’m from Chicago, and the old graveyards here are filled with people from Vermont, upstate New York, and Massachusetts. They moved directly west. So the region called Yankeedom is familiar. Just south is that Midwestern region, which is highly evident in Illinois. And then you have Greater Appalachia, which explains the complicated politics of southern Illinois, a part of the state that is lightly populated and has been economically feeble for some 100 years. So the blogpost was “enlightening” for me because it confirmed what I have been observing: Northern Illinois from Chicago west to the Quad Cities is culturally one region, with shared history and shared politics.

    2. Altandmain

      Same. Working in the automotive industry I do not believe that the people on the coasts truly appreciate the damage that they have done with their neoliberalism and free trade agreements.

  13. The Rev Kev

    Re Big box stores are costing our cities far more than we ever imagined.
    That’s crazy how little tax that these places are paying into the community. I mean, all that infrastructure to support those box stores such as roads, traffic, fire fighting, etc have to come from somewhere so if it is not the box stores, then that can only mean that it is coming from local rate payers – either through higher local taxes or reduced services. And that is not taking into account all the revenue lost when the opening of the box stores caused so many small stores on main street to close down. It seems to be how modern billionaires want to run the economy. By having society pay for most, if not all, the costs of doing business and reaping all the profits all for themselves. It explains why workers in these high-tech corporations need taxpayer funded food stamps to supplement their meager wages. E-commerce is just taking this model online.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      Add one more element the billionaires are employing to max profits while screwing everybody else: “self-service.” Our closest Target has now gone full self-checkout. The customer next to me noted out loud that there was change remaining from the last customer. I suggested that that was his pay for checking himself out, and then opined that the next step would be that we would be required to unload the trucks to get to the goods we sought.

      I think it all began with McDonald’s requiring us to bus our own tables.

      1. MtnLife

        I had to shop at a big box store recently with one of those self checkout areas that one of their associates tried to steer me to. I replied that if they weren’t paying me to check myself out there was no way I was going to take their job away from them. The associate smiled, opened up a lane just for me, and checked me out.

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          I like to ask for “training” since I’m an unpaid employee.

          Engaged in a multi-year process of rehabbing an old house in an urban neighborhood, I unfortunately spend a lot of time at Home Depot, often our only option for lumber other than Lowe’s. Home Depot is pretty much at the stage where you have to unload a truck to get what you came for. They don’t hire anywhere close to enough employees to get restocking accomplished.

          1. ambrit

            I am here to testify from the low end of the ‘boxx store’ continuum that this is a feature, not a bug.
            Perhaps if we got rid of the “share price” mythology, we’d have a chance.
            The actual functioning of the emporium has become secondary to the financial manipulability of the corporation.
            How about we take all stock options and the like and lock them up for some period of time, ten years sound good? That way, executives have an ongoing need to continue the successful management of a healthy business.

            1. zer0

              A great idea. Along the lines of prosecuting fraud under grand theft auto laws (as in how much money = time in jail). It will never ever happen in America as we know it today though.

              I was doing some consulting work recently for a few firms in the Midwest. As part of a study, I was going through all manufacturing businesses and found that around 87% of them were owned by private equity at least TWICE. 95% are currently owned by PE firms.

              America is so amazing at creating middle men, its becoming a reality in every single business. Instead of a single C suite that parasitically sucks the money/innovation/people out of a business, its multiple C suites now. Sometimes literally 3 or 4 levels of corporate, from immediate corporate, to conglomerate, to PE boards. Its an entire multi-faceted club of people making anywhere from 10 to 100x the amount of the average family in America. How in the world will you get them to go away?

              The income tax rate is a great example: you go to 25% at 40k/year. Then its measly increases. If you really look at it, any family making under 100k/year in America is poor: they cant save, they cant afford education, etc. So really, there should be no taxes, no added pressure on families making so little. Yet of course, its completely flip-flopped. The families making 200-300k/year pay 30%, only 5% more. And there are hidden benefits, like capital gains. No family making under 100k/yr can invest to any meaningful degree, but once you get to the 200-300k/yr then it becomes possible.

              My anecdote is this: 3rd year out of college I got a 20k raise. I was excited. I thought ‘finally, I can begin to save for a house’. When I got my first pay check I did a doubletake: my income after taxes had only gone up by $500/month. My friends made the joke that now I could save up for that new Samsung TV. The next few years I saw soda-taxes, entertainment taxes, etc, eat up my bonuses/raises.

              Its a joke working in America these days. I feel like Im living in Sweden but without the vacation, free healthcare, free education, and amazing public transportation.

        2. Julia Versau

          My local grocery in Valparaiso, Indiana remodeled and put in 4-5 self-checkout lanes about a year ago. Now they are all inactive (or occasionally manned by humans for express checkout). Why? I asked one of the clerks. “Too much stealing,” she told me. I was not surprised.

          1. Norb

            Our local grocery store tried out the same thing years ago- with the similar results. The self-checkout was replaced with human staffed “express” lines. A single queue feeds 4, 15 or less item checkouts in addition to the traditional grocery lanes. Staffing is handled on an “as needed” basis with stock people doubling as checkout as traffic demands. Seems very efficient while still supporting a human staff. It must be noted that this chain is one of the few unionized grocery left in the area. Any coincidence?

          2. Scott

            This makes sense, but theft might also be a reason that self-checkouts are implemented in other stores. I remember hearing from a grocery store manager that for the first month after he started at a new store, multiple employees left in handcuffs for stealing from the till.

            1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

              Don’t forget the tribute that is paid to the Walton heiress, who is worth more than her 1.2 million employees combined. I would think the society would note that she has much much more than she can ever use, while most of the 1.2M live in working poverty. But as Thomas Frank pointed out, this is the paradise we have constructed for the billionaire and multi-billionaire class.

        3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          That’s a good reply.

          Not many of us can send our robots out to do the shopping for us.

          “My robot is trained to handle self-service.”

          “But dad, all my friends have shopping robots. When do we get one??!!?!?!?!??”

      2. Wukchumni

        You could almost trace obesity starting to go through the roof, to when they started having the customers pour their own soda @ fast food places, and everybody loves a free refill or 2.

          1. el_tel

            It’s why if my business fails I’m going to apply for a job in a funeral directors company.

            My logic? The two things you can’t avoid – death and taxes. I worked as an actuary and there’s no way I’m doing taxes.

    2. Carolinian

      The big box stores killed the dime stores. The malls killed the downtown department stores. But in a larger sense it was really the growth of suburbia and the American fondness for driving everywhere that killed off small town Main streets.

      And for those who think Walmart is to blame for all this, the above process was well under way by the time Walmart showed up (in my town anyway). Walmart’s role was to take the format pioneered by stores like Kmart and make it far more successful.

      1. GF

        The big box stores do collect a lot of sales taxes in states/cities that have sales tax. Whether the amount of tax collected is more than was lost when the local businesses closed would be interesting to know.

        1. Adam Eran

          Even better…at least in California…just about the only discretionary revenue local governments get (post prop 13) is sales tax. What happens when that vanishes? My prediction: austerity, the shock doctrine in cities and counties.

    3. Lord Koos

      Here in Washington state, Costco poured millions into a campaign to allow hard liquor to be sold in grocery stores & supermarkets, formerly only available in state-run liquor stores. They promised lower prices would result from this, and of course after it passed, taxes on booze skyrocketed, and we now pay almost twice as much as we did in the state-run shops. I generally liked Costco before this happened but it shows how much muscle these big box chains have when they need it.

    4. Jeremy Grimm

      Property taxes on the big box stores are much too low — but it might be worthwhile to examine the taxes on the downtown areas. Are they perhaps — much too high?

      Within states different cities have different tax rates per thousand depending on the assessed value of the properties. Local services cost much the same to provide regardless of location which results in high tax rates per thousand on properties with low assessed value. Poor areas with low assessed values on properties end up with less local services than more wealthy areas and a property tax system that strongly discourages improvements.

      The state where I live — instead of sharing state income tax receipts with poor areas to support a minimum level of local services — tends toward policy which worsens the discrepancies. For example there was a proposal on the ballot in our last election to support libraries — through the state matching of local funds allocated to libraries.

      I believe the Strong Towns site — at least the two stories I read — greatly oversimplifies the problem of big box stores and the destruction of downtown areas. There is the fairness issue the link identifies. There are also much larger fairness issues which deserve consideration.

  14. Jim Haygood

    Barry Eichengreen of Berkeley preaches the hoary old late 20th century central bankster gospel:

    “Compromising central bank independence in order to enhance political accountability would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Monetary policy is complex and technical. Returning control to politicians is no more prudent than handing them the keys to a country’s nuclear power plants.”

    Well, there they go again, claiming monetary policy is so complicated that economic deplorables without PhD Econ degrees should just keep their plebeian noses out of it, and leave the experts to their arcane deliberations.

    Actually, until the full-fiat era commenced in 1971, the planet had prospered for millennia with the barbaric relic, gold — no city-slicker eggheads required. Ask Barry why the Treasury still keeps 4,582 tonnes of it in Fort Knox.

    What’s so remarkably ill-timed about Eichengreen’s rear-guard outburst is that it comes as central banksters have ginned up a global bubble with their monstrous, wholly ad hoc QE experiment. When this epic foolishness finally hits the fan, its perpetrators will be more concerned with avoiding mobs and lampposts than with retaining their vanished policy independence.

    1. Wukchumni

      An interesting way to judge the barbarous relic, is by it’s spot price compared to that of a gallon of go juice. One useless item you pull out of the ground, compared to a very useful item from down under.

      1970: Au $35, Gallon of gas 36 cents = 99-1

      1980: Au $500*, Gallon of gas $1.19 = 425-1

      1990 Au $385*, Gallon of gas $1.16 = 325-1

      2000 Au $270*, Gallon of gas $1.51 = 175-1

      2010 Au $1275*, Gallon of gas $2.96 = 425-1

      2017 Au $1275, Gallon of gas $2.49 = 510-1

      * Average price for the year

      1. Jim Haygood

        The $35 gold price in 1970 had been fixed since 1934, despite heavy inflation during the intervening years. After Nixon finally threw in the towel in 1971, gold promptly popped to $185 in 1974, in the familiar “beach ball held underwater” phenomenon. Of course, gasoline popped too in Oil Shock I.

        Nevertheless, the current rather high ratio of Au to CL (the symbol for West Texas crude) suggests that oil may be too cheap. So do the ubiquitous 6,000-lb, 22-ft long crew cab pickups with fat earth mover tires, which should remind Boomers of their parents’ Chrysler “land yacht” station wagons with their billowing yards of sheet metal.

        Absurdly large vehicles and houses are inevitably punished by making them unaffordable to power or heat.

        1. Wukchumni

          I’ve never bought a barrel of oil, but i’ve bought a lot of gallons of gasoline & propane, and makes for the easiest long term comparison for the consumer.

          1. Adam Eran

            The price of a barrel of oil:

            1971: $1.75

            1973: (post OPEC boycott) about four times as much. Daniel Yergin says Arabs withheld no more than 3% of the market to get this inflation…which translated into stagflation.

            1982: $42 (about the current price adjusted for inflation)

            Reagan enjoyed the effect of lower prices because Alaska’s North Slope came online, postponing the effects of U.S. peak oil (1971).

    2. johnnygl

      And yet, that character powell has received accolades from both sides* (genuflects) and he’s far from qualified with no economics background. If eichengreen was taking himself seriously. He should be howling about powell’s lack of ‘complex, technical’ expertise.

      Also, regarding govt run nuclear plants, there is no evidence to support eichengreen’s assertion. It’s a purely ideological statement.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        LOL “central bank independence” LOL, the last central banker who acted even slightly “independently” was Paul Volcker. Was it hyper-political to gift Citibank $174B on the day when they could have bought 100% of the Citi Class A common stock for $4B? And think how much better off we would be today if Bernanke had had “The Courage Not To Act”.
        Independent? Ask yourself what Powell would do if he woke up and the “market” was down 10%. QE 4,5,6, ad infinitum, they’d call it something different of course, Financial Stability and Velocity Incentivization Credits Program

        1. zer0

          Its pretty common to understand too: how could they be independent when their personal gains are inextricably tied to the market? And with 0 prosecution to date, their compliance towards the banking cartel is reinforced daily.

          And Powell would no doubt pump more money into the air. I dont think anyone even knows what money really means these days. To think that it used to have some connection to the tangible.

    3. Enquiring Mind

      …4,582 tonnes of it in Fort Knox.

      Many are not so sure about how much gold is held at Ft. Knox, in Wall Street vaults or elsewhere in the US. Without some independent verification, why believe the pitch?

      1. Wukchumni

        Say, what if a neo-Goldfinger type were to do in all of the tax havens, rendering the value there worthless?

      2. beth

        You are asking the wrong people. Only Goldman knows how much we have so that can keep tabs on the price of their gold. Am I right, Jim? I read that Goldman is the banker that husbands gold but it is so long ago I would not be able to source it.

    4. David May

      “the planet had prospered for millennia with the barbaric relic”

      On which planet? Because on Earth it has been a disaster.

    5. The Rev Kev

      The Treasury still keeps 4,582 tonnes of it in Fort Knox.
      Apparently nobody has visited the gold in Fort Knox since the 1970s until this year ( but then you would have to trust the word of people like Mitch McConnell and Steven Mnuchin.
      I notice that this story here goes on about the history and the like but is a but thin on details of this year’s visit. You’d think that they would have a bunch of newsies film all that gold by the pile as publicity for the US and for international confidence.

  15. Edward

    “Trump tweets he never called NK leader Kim ‘short and fat’ ”

    What exactly is Donald Trump supposed to be? The man is not exactly Adonis and he likes to mock the appearance of others. People who live in glass houses…

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      He can call Kim short and fat.

      And that could be a compliment, depending on our own aesthetics. Or maybe it means nothing, if we don’t bother with people’s physical appearance.

      In this world we live in, to most readers, that would be an insult.

      That’s our world.

      And many suffer, without being called out loudly…only silence, from both those doing insulting (“We throw their audition photos in the trash can immediately”) and those suffering.

    2. JCC

      As a 64 year-old, I’m still trying to figure out why a 70 year old man would consider the adjective “old” an insult and find it necessary to disparage someone for using the word.

      He surely is old, but he certainly shows no signs of maturity.

  16. subgenius

    The only way lone skum can redeem himself at this point is to convince all the other billionaires to pay him to fly them to Mars…It would be like that Douglas Adams setup with the leaves…definitely a reality show I would watch. With a bit of luck he will go too, but I don’t think we proles could be that lucky, given our track record.

  17. Romancing The Loan

    The Boston Review piece is a great read. Darkly funny, too. Slice open Vance and you find a conventional white supremacist.

    1. zer0

      A conventional white supremacist and venture capitalist.

      And a terrible writer. To me his work (HBE) was more some sort of religious self-flagellation than a serious historical account of the rural Midwest.

      While the cities hate the rural countryside, they sure do like to take advantage of the towns by building their massive factories in areas where the people are desperate. The moral superiority over these supposed white supremacists is illusory: one only has to look at Hollywood to see the great morals of the city liberal.

  18. The Rev Kev

    Re What are the Saudis really up to with Lebanese ‘hostage’ Hariri?
    From what I read, and in spite of what the mass media are saying, this whole exercise is actually uniting Lebanon instead of throwing the whole nation into chaos. The younger people are joking that someone should get a message to Hariri to blink twice during his next video if he is being held hostage. They are also creating memes like an image of Hariri with the word ‘Help’ written on his digital watch. Funny thing here is watching countries like France say things like ‘oh yeah, he is like totally free and not being held prisoner.’ Somebody should tell the Saudis “Better luck next time!”.

    1. visitor

      Significantly, the same fate befell the official president of Yemen, Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who, just like Saad Hariri, is prevented from leaving Saudi Arabia. And, again like with Saad Hariri, is house arrest by Saudi authorities is justified by his being supposedly threatened by an assassination plot.

      In the few articles one can find about the case, it is reported that “two other Yemeni officials confirmed that Hadi, his sons and several ministers who are with him in Riyadh have been prevented from going to Yemen.”

      Obviously, MbS is playing a game with very high stakes.

    2. David

      Yes, this is certainly the impression you get from the Lebanese media (English and French anyway, but I don’t think the Arabic is any different). This story appeared in L’Orient Le Jour a couple of days ago, in the context of a surprise visit by Macron:
      OLJ is a pretty good guide to the thinking of the Maronite community, which supplies the President and the Chief of the Army. Aoun, the President, has said that he won’t accept Hariri’s resignation unless it’s given in person. It looks like another Saudi move coming unstick.

    3. Oregoncharles

      This is aproblem with authoritarian monarchs: eventually they start to believe their own self-promotion. MBS and his father believe that they actually have full control, and can’t imagine anyone, even in other countries, restricting them.

  19. Edward E

    First climate model turns 50: “But headlines are never as reliable as going to the scientific source itself, and the ultimate source, in this case, is the first accurate climate model ever: by Syukuro Manabe and Richard T. Wetherald.”

    Pretty soon, all 2% of the scientists who do not accept climate change will work at the EPA. Pruitt has cut the number of university scientists on the EPA science advisory board nearly in half and tripled the industry experts.
    You know, pretty sure I’ve found some Lovebugs invading the Ozark Mountains at 2200 ft elevation, all the way from Central America and the gulf coast. Just an hour from Branson, MO that’s getting pretty far north, kindly like they’re riding with the northbound kudzu.

  20. Wukchumni

    The First Climate Model Turns 50, And Predicted Global Warming Almost Perfectly Medium

    I grew up on Time-Life books, my mom never saw a series of them she didn’t like, and it made a good adjunct to the World Book encyclopedia, in that I could go more in depth on a host of subjects in a banquet for the brain.

    So, a few months ago @ our thrift store in town, there’s 6 of them from 1983 for a buck a piece, and I scoop em up and make off with my bounty, and one of them is “Ice Ages” and in it, they postulate that the West Antarctic ice sheet might start breaking off-with worldwide flooding circumstances, in 200 years.


  21. lyman alpha blob

    RE: New Cold War

    This Reuters piece has the quote that will make you choke on your Bloody Mary –

    Former U.S. intelligence director James Clapper had told Reuters: “The fact the president of the United States would take Putin at his word over that of the intelligence community is quite simply unconscionable.”

    Well I guess that settles it then!

    1. Enquiring Mind

      So much of DC in particular is consumed by opinion when many matters could be resolved by focus on facts. Too much obfuscation, too little clarity or objectivity. Why is there not more outrage at the absence of facts?

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      Sorry, but this is a flashback to Joe Lieberman in 2000.

      The election board determined that the ballots arrived too late. Can I show up a few days late at my polling place and cast a ballot? I’m sick and tired of the way a military caste is being created that is above the law in this country.

      And the usual BS in the article:

      But House Democratic leaders say the county registrar simply failed to pick up the ballots from the post office box, where they had arrived on Tuesday.

      Thomas says the Electoral Board has two Democrats and one Republican member, and he respects its decision.

      But Cole says that especially on Veterans Day, its simply wrong to deny troops the right to vote that many of them are overseas to protect.

      That’s the kind of lie that furthers American militarism, and that’s the last thing we need.

      1. JBird

        Why? If the ballots arrived on Election Day they should be counted. All American citizens have the right to vote regardless of their occupation.

  22. Louis Fyne

    —The box stores ate the downtowns—

    to be pedantic, pro-chain, auto-centric, beggar-thy-neighbor-with-the-newest-mall zoning decision ate the downtowns. (often due to local govs’ reliance on sales tax revenue)

    Retail chains were the weapon. Local zoning boards pulled the trigger.

    1. Lee

      “Pizzafication” was the term applied to this process some decades ago as it was happening in the Santa Fe, Taos area by Milagro Beanfield War author, John Nichols. It is close cousin to the term of art “crapification” oft used here to describe the products offered at chain stores, fast food franchises, and more recently via Amazon.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Think of those big boxes as concentrated goods stores.

      And we let them destroy all the little stores…many of us even actively participated in the destruction (sure, we have had to feed our families, so we remain silent…)

      The banality of greed.

      1. Lord Koos

        Bringing down the cost of household goods via big box stores and cheap Chinese manufacturing has allowed Americans to feel like they are still affluent, even as their real incomes have been falling for decades. All part of the plan. I think most people would like to support local mom & pop stores but they simply cannot afford to if they want to maintain the consumer lifestyle they’ve become addicted to.

        1. Octopii

          Consumer lifestyle is one thing; non-toxic food is another. And the mom and pop store near me that sells the best organic produce in town is very, very expensive. Local farmers markets are even more expensive, oddly enough. So yeah, we shop at big-box-ish corporate grocery stores more often than not.

  23. jfleni

    RE: Meet Tug, the Helpful Robot Rolling Its Way Into Hospitals and Hotels Around the World.
    Rerum Novarum – New Things? Not for the last forty or fifty years! I saw these robots in hospitals at least that long ago! Of course they call them different names now. B.S. forever!

  24. DJG

    Spiegel article on Sicily becoming ungovernable. “Becoming?”

    Sicily has had many, many diagnoses. It is something that outsiders do now and again. The Spiegel article doesn’t report much that is new. It is a good compendium of trends, because the players resemble players in Sicilian politics for the last five hundred years. I’m reminded of Luigi Barzini’s essay, The Eternal Baroque.

    Two of the best diagnoses of Sicily’s ills were written by people just enough removed from mainstream society to maintain objectivity. (And it is hard to maintain objectivity about the island, which is indeed a Paradise Ruined, embellished, though, by breath-taking mosaics and porphyry sarcophagi and marionettes and marzipan and ice-cream-for-breakfast.)

    Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s “Gattopardo,” The Leopard, is the most elegant explanation. Reading the famous exchange between Prince Fabrizio and Chevelley (the earnest Piedmontese nobleman) describes Sicilian history and is also a good warning to Americans: Everything must change so that everything can remain the same. (Thanks, Obama! You must like Italian literature, too.)

    So when we read that we have reached the end of history (not quite as much in vogue these days), we should be reminded that Sicily reached a kind of stasis five hundred years ago. There is been no history since. Just colonization (they called in the Catalans after the Sicilian Vespers). My mother’s father left the deep backwoods when he was about 16 to come to Chicago. He had no other way of entering history.

    As Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote: Sicily, that America of antiquity.

    The other good source is Mary Taylor Simeti’s On Persphone’s Island. Yes, Hades emerged from a crevice below Enna and kidnapped Persephone. And MTS has a good feel for how much the Mafia makes for a grim background, even as she describes the strengths of the average Sicilian.

    And the sulphur mines mentioned in the article are worth a search on the WWW: Naked miners from the age of six or so and up, working in conditions of extreme heat, humidity, and toxicity. A kind of enslaved working class, which was characteristic of the island.

    Yet Sicily in U.S. terms is a kind of eternal Alabama. And the populism of people like Musumeci and the Movimento Cinque Stelle will sell out the populace, much as George Wallace did and as Roy Moore now would like to do. It has in the past, and it will do so again.

    1. Wukchumni

      I loved Sicily…

      We roadtrip’d for 10 days searching out ancient Greek buildings, which are all over the place in every state of preservation from one that tumbled down in an earthquake about 1,000 years ago, to some that still have their original roof on them. We stayed at the Hotel KAOS (how could anybody forget that name?) in Agrigento and ate dinner outside and the mile long chain of 4 ancient temples, which were about 3/4’s of a mile away, was beautifully floodlit.

      Here, check it out…

      1. DJG

        Wukchumni: I was “kidnapped” by a poet in Agrigento. He was in the lobby of the hotel were I was staying as I walked in to ask about the brief power failure. My Italian didn’t fool him, I guess. He wanted to talk shop.

        I recall going to a restaurant called Aristos for dinner. Why not the best?

        1. Wukchumni

          We were in Agrigento in later September, and it was not quite deserted, but not many people either. I remember having my own temple, when we were walking around them.

          We were on a southwest road trip of 6 friends earlier in the year, with only enough time for a quickie overnight @ Chaco Canyon NM, and a tour of Pueblo Bonito great house the next morning, and that’s all there was when we were there, 6 of us.

  25. Wukchumni

    Our only chain eatery is a Subway, and it opened up against a very beloved local owned sandwich-salad place in town 4 years ago, and there were actual paid protest ads in our local newspaper against it, even before it went in, and all of the locals shun it now, and in a pinch a few months ago I went to the dark side and ordered a teriyaki onion chicken, and was customer #5 of 6, as 1-employee did it all so under the gun was she, you were partly pissed that it takes 12 minutes to order-but also cognizant that she was in a juggling act without end.

    I confessed my sin to the local sandwich shop and told them what I did and asked if they only have 1 employee a lot like that, from what they’ve heard?, and she told me the franchise has changed hands and the new owner is looking to make money by scrimping on humans, and they’d been told the same story.

    Score one for the best little sandwich store around these parts.

    1. voteforno6

      Something similar happened in my home town – a Krispy Kreme moved in, with their only competition a small, locally-owned donut shop. What they didn’t count on was that the small donut shop had been around for a long time, and was much beloved by the residents. The Krispy Kreme shut down, and the local donut shop isn’t so small any more – it moved to a new, larger, location, in the old Hardee’s.

    2. Octopii

      A Walgreens took over the space of a beloved antique shop in the neighborhood. Nobody goes there – it’s an informal but well known boycott. But Walgreens has deep pockets, so the store probably will stick around a while.

  26. Ned

    Re. Sicily and the “Mafia.”

    Is Mafia a Hollywood invented noun, designed to pin the crime tail only on Italians, or is it a conceptual fiction made of up multi culturally diverse individuals pursuing their own economic interests in various parts of the world, to and including Wall Street and corporate health insurance racketeer boardrooms?

    Mussolini destroyed the Mafia in Italy.
    After WWII, the U.S. was so anxious to thwart communism in Sicily that U.S. Sicilian speaking mafiosi, sometimes pulled out of prisons, were put in power to run the military government there. The rest is history.

    Just more U.S. foreign policy blow back, like the post-Shah Religious zealots running Iran.

    The mafia started as a guard service for lemon growers in Sicily.

    p.s. How did George Wallace “sell out” the population of Alabama?

    1. DJG


      The Mafia is a real thing, as is the ‘Ndragheta on the mainland, which, believe it or not, has a reputation as being crueler.

      Mussolini destroyed the Mafia? Likely an urban myth. Same with the lemon growers and the need for hired brigands.

      There is a distinct difference between eastern Sicily (Palermo to Cefaul to Caltanisetta to Agrigento) and western Sicily (Catania and Siracusa). The Mafia is much less powerful in eastern Sicily, although the exploitation is no less horrible. Look up those sulphur mines. And there are lemon groves in eastern Sicily, too.

      The mafia seem to have arisen because Sicily, which used to have more nobles per capita than just about anywhere, was poorly governed by said nobles, who didn’t tax themselves. And they didn’t tax the church, which, fortunately for Sicilians, at least offered some services. So the small middle class and the mass of peasants were constantly exploited and mistreated. The mafiosi in a sense are plantation overseers (to use a U.S. metaphor).

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The Mafia.

        In Japan, it’s the Yakuza.

        The Triads, in China, who played a role in the revolution to end dynastic rule.

      2. Nameful

        There is a distinct difference between eastern Sicily (Palermo to Cefaul to Caltanisetta to Agrigento) and western Sicily (Catania and Siracusa).

        Hmm, Cefalù and Caltanissetta are rather central Sicily (from an east-west perspective), with Palermo and Agrigento being west of that and Catania and Siracusa all the way in the other direction, on the eastern shore of the island. Small mistake, but it makes it a bit confusing to understand the rest of your paragraph :-)

      3. Massinissa

        Youre mostly on point with the history of Sicily, but also remember that for a long time Sicily was under foreign rule, such as the few centuries where it was owned by the Crown of Aragon. That was apparently when the earliest version of the mafia originated, it was originally an underground resistance group of sorts.

  27. KTN

    Re: TPP, etc.

    One only need read Foreign Affairs (‘Trump & the Allies,’ Vol. 96, No. 5) to see that the plan is to keep the TPP alive among the other signatory nations until the US can enter under a free trade ideolog- – oops, pragmatic, progressive president who ‘gets things (nevermind what) done.’ (Incidentally, this makes Canada’s theatrical gesture irrelevant.) The specious ‘case’ for the TTP (and TTIP) is outlined in McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century, although its necessity or even viability for the economic containment of China is not supported by argumentation – at all. Rather, in that book, the TPP is used a pretext to rescue Obama’s foreign policy legacy. Indeed, Obama’s few changes in the conduct of foreign policy were under immediate and obvious threat from the incoming administration as soon as it was clear that Trump had won the election, in plenty of time to influence McCoy’s work before it went to press. Not surprisingly, one year into the Trump presidency, the foreign policy discussion has still hardly advanced beyond ‘Trump different, bad!’

    From Vox:

    My colleague Zeeshan Aleem reported in January that if the US remained in the deal, it would have strengthened trade ties between 12 Pacific Rim countries accounting for 40 percent of global GDP — or about $27.4 trillion — making it the largest such deal in history. It also would’ve served as a counterweight to China — which is not part of the agreement — as the US would’ve more closely intertwined its economy with others in the Asia-Pacific region.

    This kind of reporting simply does not wash as such. It’s akin to stating that the Russian territory comprises 1/8th of the world’s inhabited land and passing the bare fact off as geopolitical analysis. So what? What’s not stated is whose interests are being used as bargaining chips in these trade deals – who’s being ‘sold out’ and to whom, in common parlance – and what those interests will or won’t net in return.

  28. JTee

    re. How the English language has evolved like a living creature.

    It seems that the researchers here are covering old ground first discussed by linguist Edward Sapir nearly a century ago. Yes, languages change over time, some relatively quickly (English), some more slowly (Russian). Is English “more evolved” than Russian? In what sense? The theory of evolution argues that changes in organisms allow them to better survive and reproduce. How can you apply that to language? Recently, the “foreign” phrase “spot on” has become nearly ubiquitous in American English in just over a decade. How is this phrase more suited to survival than “on the mark/exactly” or whatever was used before? This change can be attributed to adoption or sociolinguistics. Elites start using a phrase and then others follow suit. Sometimes it works the other way. People may adopt ways of speaking from marginalized communities, eg. low income whites adopting forms of English spoken by blacks. Languages change due to many factors. However, what evolutionary advantage do I receive (or does the language receive) if I use certain forms of English. I know how to speak standard American English, but I will be ridiculed, accused of putting on airs, if I say “whom”. I refuse to use “spot on”, but when you see it or hear it constantly, it becomes difficult. Using an evolutionary approach to language doesn’t give us a better understanding of linguistic change.

    1. el_tel

      British English has already changed significantly in the past 20 years, thanks to US films/TV. Colleagues presented a well-being instrument where the “top”(fourth) level was “a lot…” and the third (one down) level was “quite a lot….”. I ran a quick quantitative survey and found it didn’t work – the utility of “quite a lot” exceeded that of “a lot”. Younger Brits no longer use “old” British English in which “quite a lot” is less than “a lot” but follow American/Canadian/Australasian English in which the opposite is true. Turns out this is a well-known phenomena and my colleagues didn’t do their homework. Result? An instrument that is not fit for purpose.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        This is how ‘quite’ is defined: to the greatest extent; completely (American Heritage Dictionary, 4th edition).

        How is it defined in the UK?

        Quite a lot > a lot (It seems).

        1. Katsue

          It depends on the context. Saying that something is quite good is like saying it’s all right, usually you’re damning it with faint praise.

  29. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    You’re Not Alone: Some Users Report the Screen on Apple’s iPhone X Freezes in Cold Weather Fortune. Designed by Apple. In California.

    I was watching a movie called Two Horses of Genghis Khan, about the horse-head fiddle called morin-khuur. In a remote area in Outer Mongolia, the lady who was trying to locate the missing lyrics to the title song tried to send a message through her smartphone, but was not able to, until a local guy told her to hit the ‘send’ button, and immediately throw the phone up in the air, to get closer to the Sky God (I suppose). And that was how she was able to send a text.

    I guess, further north, in frigid Siberia, they’d have their own unique problems with smartphones but they, being ingenious humans, would be able to get around.

  30. oliverks

    I tried the Lawyer Chatbot just yesterday, and it was pretty unimpressive. Really it just asked you a few simple questions, and then filled out the forms without any validation.

    I tried asking questions of it, and it just placed the questions as the answers on the form. It was like a very simple turbotax, but dumber, not AI. However, the hype the guy is generating is phenomenal.

    1. oliverks

      I used the chatbot to prepare documents to sue equifax.

      Here is the transcript. The bot is in italics. My answers are in bold. It happily generated some forms.

      I am a bot to automatically sue Equifax for $10,000 in California. What is your full name?

      why do you need this?
      Thanks. And what is your phone number?

      What is your street name and house number?

      Did you even validate my phone number had digits?
      Which city is that in?

      Wait, we are still working on the phone number
      And the state?

      Did we just go through the fact that I am in California
      Finally, what is your zip code? I am looking forward to helping you fight corporate incompetence.

      If you get funding, am I encouraging corporate incompetence

  31. Norb

    Re: Big Box Stores.

    This is an interesting post confirming a discussion I had with a former colleague at work. With all my anti-corporate rantings, the most sympathetic person was a marketing director who had experience on city boards responsible for developing programs to attract business to the community. Our discussion focused on the need to attract and incentivize businesses that actually made things- focus on manufacturing goods and services that support the needs of the local community. My point was that businesses that made a permanent commitment to the community and proven financial benefit should be given priority. He related that in all his time spent on these boards, and the usual recommendations for tax and land giveaways, none produced the desired results. Fewer actual employment opportunities and continued budgetary shortfalls. While still 100% capitalist to the core, he saw firsthand the shortcomings and robbery incentivized by the current thinking and admitted it was a failure for the broader community. From my perspective, It was heartening to see influential community leaders finally seeing the shortcoming in the system and at least questioning the ideology, if not having a ready solution.

    Needless to say, in the company I work for, there is a split in the management on where to pursue future business opportunities. There is the corporate wing, who believe opportunities should be formed with major corporate players. The reasoning goes, stay alive by hanging close to powerful players. They are mostly one-dimensional thinkers, and from a workers perspective, completely self-promoters and corporate apologists. True neoliberals. The other faction, less influential, seeks diversity as a principle, if only shallowly recognizing that business should be sought from many diverse players, and not overly concerned with the direct welfare to the community. The workers on whole, just want to keep their jobs.

    It is an odd mix of the large and small concerning business perspectives, and in many respects very interesting place to work- seeing this struggle working itself out. In the end, my colleague was let go for another issue, but I always wonder if his anti-corporate sentiments, however slight, played a role in his dismissal. You know, must be a team player.

    As a visual learner, and making my living in the graphics profession, it is also interesting to see the power of graphs and visuals being used to communicate ideas. A picture is worth a thousand words, and if these tools can be put to use in order to promote a more just and sustainable future- all the better.

  32. clinical wasteman

    Sombre as fir-trees, liquid cats
    Moved in the grass without a sound.

    They did not know the grass went round.
    The cats had cats and the grass turned gray

    And the world had worlds, ai, this-a-way:
    The grass turned green and the grass turned gray

    [Wallace Stevens, The Man With The Blue Guitar XXV, 1937]

    1. moss

      This one I still recall from my schooldays:

      Cats no less liquid than their shadows,
      Offer no angles to the wind.
      They slip, diminished, neat through loopholes,
      Less than themselves; will not be pinned.
      – A. S. J. Tessimond, from his poem, “Cats”.

    2. ewmayer

      Nice sub-theme. Couple of famous poetic cat-and-fog analogies:

      The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
      The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
      Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
      Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
      Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
      Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
      And seeing that it was a soft October night,
      Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

      — T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915)

      The fog comes
      on little cat feet.

      It sits looking
      over harbor and city
      on silent haunches
      and then moves on.

      — Carl Sandburg, “Fog” (1916)

    3. Wukchumni

      “The problem of cat versus bird is as old as time. If we attempt to resolve it by legislation who knows but what we may be called upon to take sides as well in the age old problems of dog versus cat, bird versus bird, or even bird versus worm. In my opinion, the State of Illinois and its local governing bodies already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency.

      For these reasons, and not because I love birds the less or cats the more, I veto and withhold my approval from Senate Bill No. 93.”

      Adlai Stevenson

      Vetoing a Bill that would have imposed fines on owners who allowed cats to run at large. (23 April 1949)

  33. Oregoncharles

    From the New Yorker article on “global governance,” which is really about Azerbaijan and corruption:
    ” Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Abandoning E.I.T.I. is not for show; it is a move toward dismantling the architecture of global governance.”
    That’s a rather odd distraction. Withdrawing from EITI mainly because the oil companies don’t like it is an admission that the US is, and intends to be, about as corrupt as Azerbaijan – and potentially as authoritarian.

    Welcome to the 3rd World, gringos.

    1. el_tel

      Come….on we…..can all….whine…..about Shatner.

      (Please don’t have a young Kirk on the Farragut in Star Trek Discovery – franchise killer). /geek

  34. Wukchumni

    The halftime wrap on Fox NFL was on the dock in between a couple of monstrous warships on ‘Salute to Service’ weekend…

    …as they showed bombs caught on the field.

  35. Plenue

    “But I am pretty sure that Evangelicalism will lose significant numbers of its younger people over all this tribalism. That would be an enormous tragedy.”

    Would certainly make life marginally less annoying.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Yes, indeedy. Does anyone know how many people the Catholic Church lost after the priest scandal? The church isn’t going to tell us, but it might be deducible.

  36. Plenue

    >A brief history of the “walking simulator,” gaming’s most detested genre Salon. “Detested” by whom?

    By entitled neckbeards who view video games as a zero-sum industry. If someone is making something that isn’t within the narrow field of genres they have an interest in (which mostly revolve around violence), their ‘logic’ goes, it means, I guess, that labor and resources are being redirected to ‘casual games’ and the neckbeard is suffering as a result.

    The reality is that through a combination of easy to use tools and cheap digital distribution we’re living in a golden age of independent game development. A lot of it is garbage, to be sure, but a lot of it isn’t as well. The walking simulator is a sub-genre of a sub-genre, and is not some sort of existential threat to ‘mainstream’ gaming. That doesn’t stop entitled nerds from having giant hissyfits about them though, particularity Gone Home, which for some reason elicits particularly vile and hate-filled reactions. I bought it on sale and thoroughly enjoyed my three hours with it. The way the story emerges through exploration and interesting, and it even had an entire subplot you could discover along the way.

    “I had no idea the Pentagon “considers video games one of their key recruitment tools,” but it makes sense.”

    They consider it at least as important as films and television. Glorification of war and the military is utterly ubiquitous in video games. The US Army even funds its own video game, and has been for 15 years:

  37. Plenue

    >The Republican Party Today Is Similar To The Democratic Party Of The Late 1850s HuffPo

    It strikes me that we’re at a historic point where either party could essentially annihilate the other, if they would just show even a modicum more competence and/or desire. The Dems are historically weak and if the GOP would just get its act together and actually do something, ideally not completely evil and blatantly destructive, they could be permanently reduced to at most a regional party. Whereas the Dems are sitting on a massive potential wave of left-wing populism that they utterly and completely refuse to budge even the slightest to tap into. They could easily not only reverse their decline, but obliterate their ‘opponents’ by sucking away the economic populism that Trump relies on for support.

    As things stand now, it’s a race to the bottom for 2018 and 2020: whoever manages to suck slightly less than the other side will win. Or to put it another way, both parties are relying entirely on the other side self-sabotaging themselves enough that they win by default.

  38. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The First Climate Model Turns 50, And Predicted Global Warming Almost Perfectly Medium


    Does it mean it matters not that people tried, with efforts like the Clean Water Act signed in 1972 (2017 – 50 years = 1967), or does it mean the model predicted that future (what would happen in 1972 with the 1967 model) as well, and accounted for it?

    Did the model predict the 1987 Montreal Protocol, and account for that too?

    In both cases, if the model couldn’t predict what humans would do in the future, that would imply this: what we do, or at least what we have done, changes very little (this refers to the ‘almost’ in the headline) the 1967 predicted outcome.

  39. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Alibaba Singles’ Day Posts Record 168 Billion Yuan in Sales Bloomberg (E. Mayer).

    I don’t know if the Party is part owner or not. But it’s a good idea that no one, no entity, is bigger than the Party.

  40. VietnamVet

    I have to put in a plug for Thomas Frank’s article on paradise for billionaires. Most times when I write about oligarchs I go into moderation. Instead, he is published by the Guardian. Likely, because I point out that autocrats have bought the sovereign Democracies and Saudi Princelings are honorary western plutocrats. There are fewer now, but if they not sleeping on mattresses on the Ritz’s floor, they are so much richer.

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