Links 11/24/17

How Sweden’s arctic ‘millipede town’ Kiruna is slowly moving CNN

‘It’s wild’: Wacky weather in Nunavut breaks records CBC

The Uncertain Future of Bitcoin Futures Bloomberg. Yves: “And Levine likes everything Wall Street does, particularly ‘innovations’.”

Has the Silicon Valley Hype Cycle Finally Run Its Course? Vanity Fair (Re Silc). Wait, let me ask my pet AI…

Facebook (Still) Letting Housing Advertisers Exclude Users by Race Pro Publica. There are days I think all Silicon Valley really has going for it is impunity.

Tech meets tradition in a new wave of Islamic finance Nikkei Asian Review

What to Expect From Asia’s Big Central Banks Reshuffle Bloomberg

Letting the Air Out of Bonds Handelsblatt Global

Orbitofrontal Cortex: A Neural Circuit for Economic Decisions Cell. Readers?


Corbyn has seen the light on Brexit. Now he’s taking the fight to the Tories Guardian. Yves: “Important.”

TAKEGOVER Leave campaign boss Michael Gove has won Theresa May’s backing in a cabinet tussle over clean break from EU The Sun

The real price of Brexit is hidden in the Budget small print The New Statesman

A shortage of trained personnel will fuel UK’s post-Brexit customs crisis’ The Loadstar

Predictions for the UK economy may be gloomy but are reasonable FT

The Fantasyland version of Britain is alive and kicking – and driving Brexit Open Democracy UK

Today the UK died a little Medium

Social Democrats considering renewed ‘grand coalition’ with Merkel: reports Politico

Five Signs a New Grand Coalition is in the Cards Handelsblatt Global


Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at Last The Moustache of Understanding, NYT

EXCLUSIVE: Trump’s ‘ultimate deal’ seen as ultimatum to Palestinians Middle East Eye

Syria – This U.S. Occupation – Or “Presence” – Is Unsustainable Moon of Alabama

Libyan government says investigating migrant ‘slave market’ reports Reuters

Battered Bangladesh risks everything on unsafe factories Lowy Institute

LME probes cobalt supplies after complaints over child labour links FT


What a debt crisis in the provinces says about governing China The Economist

China cuts import tariffs, including on baby milk powder South China Morning Post

Investors place bet on Chinese drugmakers FT

Chinese police detain seven in multi-billion underground currency scheme Reuters

The Chinese classical-music revolution up close The Spectator


Every second person in India has been duped, says a new study Quartz. Not cloned; scammed.

Can biodynamic farming solve India’s agricultural woes? Deutsche Welle

New Cold War

Special Report – Nuclear strategists call for bold move: scrap ICBM arsenal Reuters

* * *

Facebook will let users know if they liked Russian-linked election propaganda ABC

The Memo: Mueller probe grinds on, with no end in sight The Hill. Cf. “Though the mills of God grind slowly, Yet they grind exceeding small.” –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Retribution.

Trump Revealed Israel’s Secret Syria Raid to Russian Diplomats Newsweek

Tax “Reform”

Corporate Taxation in a Modern Monetary Economy: Legal History, Theory, Prospects Rohan Grey and Nathan Tankus, Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity

Sex in Politics…. Not!

How DC Predators Target Interns The American Conservative

Trump and the ‘information cascade’ created a cultural reckoning Gillian Tett, FT. Tett invokes the Hegelian dialectic (!).

Anita Hill and her 1991 congressional defenders to Joe Biden: You were part of the problem WaPo

We’ll Be Paying For Mark Halperin’s Sins For Years To Come Buzzfeed

10 big things: America’s polarized politics Axios. Interesting list, but the final item — “1. How American politics went batshit crazy” — “in the past 24 years” treats liberals and Democrats as having no agency whatever in the process. That seems odd.

Democrats in Disarray

DNC’s fundraising woes continue with worst October in 15 years CNN

Democratic Party: Discouraged, Disgusted, Dysfunctional Counterpunch (Re Silc): Re Silc: “Last para. True on so many issues, not just sexual assault.”

Donna Brazile: Bill Clinton Should Hit the Campaign Trail for Democrats in 2018 The Intercept

Is Roy Moore Losing? FiveThirtyEight. Several polls show a steady erosion of support for Moore. OTOH, the accuracy of the predictions turns on assumptions the pollsters make about the composition of the electorate. Pollsters got that wrong in Virginia 2017 (to the advantage of Democrats) but also in 2016 (to the advantage of Republicans).

The Values That ‘Values Voters’ Care About Most Are Policies, Not Character Traits Politico. Suggesting that liberal cries of “hypocrisy!” are misplaced, unless their goal be virtue signaling.


This literal gravy train is here to ruin Thanksgiving The Verge (with video). In general, I am here for trains.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade in NYC had police snipers and heavy security Business Insider

Thanksgiving help for the homeless: ‘We haven’t seen numbers like this since the Great Depression’ Los Angeles Times

Guillotine Watch

‘Entitled’ Beverly Hills parents drive kids’ soccer ref to quit: ‘I despise you’ Guardian

Class Warfare

Study: 26% of Hurricane Harvey Reconstruction Workers Said They Experienced Wage Theft or No Pay Latino USA

Workers at Amazon’s main Italian hub, German warehouses strike on Black Friday Reuters

Wealth inequality has been increasing for millennia The Economist. Applies the Gini coefficient to neolithic societies.

Why did we start farming? LRB. James C. Scott’s Against the Grain.

From inboxing to thought showers: how business bullshit took over Guardian (Plutonium Ken). Wait, let me consult a thought leader….

Antidote du jour (via):

It’s not the tryptophan, or the carbs, but the cat nature. And thanks to Richard Smith for giving me the chance to level up my cat game with this anti-antidote:

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. FelicityT

    What Price Humanity? – Dissident Voice

    The concept of entitlement came up in a thread in the Unemployment & Happiness post comments (and here it is again re: link about soccer ref and entitled parents) that got me thinking more about what I feel we are entitled to as members of a monetarily sovereign society in 2017. Figured I’d share my current list (likely far from complete) and would be interested to see what others’ lists might look like.

    We are entitled to…
    … clean air and water
    … healthy ecosystems
    … an environment not bathed in toxic man-made chemicals
    … shelter
    … not go hungry
    … affordable, healthy food
    … free public transportation
    … free healthcare
    … free lifelong education
    … a universal basic income
    … cleaner, sustainable energy
    … a society with minimal inequality
    … opportunities to engage in meaningful projects
    … privacy
    … uncensored access to information
    … unmonitored tools of communication & collaboration
    … public, communal spaces
    … meaningful protection of and space for our non-human kin
    … a dark night sky
    … adequate aid in the event of natural disasters
    … an absence of unnecessary struggle & hardship
    … non-self-funded additional support in old age or in the event of disability
    … a fair and equal legal system
    … free access to art and other forms of culture
    … unfettered ability to share and modify art and other forms of culture
    … not having our collective resources used to inflict harm and suffering on other societies
    … not be forced to engage in exploitative wage labor in order to survive

    The last one might be misunderstood by some readers so please note that one is NOT the same as not working or contributing to society. An illustration: there’s a large difference between cleaning toilets for a private employer who is then selling your services for a much greater rate, funneling that extra income into the pockets of CEOs & shareholders and cleaning toilets for the public community center. Or between stocking shelves at Walmart and stocking shelves at the community food bank.

    1. GF

      I like Franklin Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights as stated January 11, 1944 in his message to the US Congress on the State of the Union:

      “The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

      The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

      The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

      The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

      The right of every family to a decent home;

      The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

      The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

      The right to a good education.

      All of these rights spell security.”

      1. Tomonthebeach

        Of course both lists of “Rights” are naive in that the vast majority of humans do not enjoy anything like these so-called rights. What they really represent is a socialist Nirvana unlikely to be found outside of Norway.

        Alas, the US cannot even assure basic civil rights like racial equality much less “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Most Americans have “freely” indentured themselves to the financial sector so that they might pretend to own a house in which to raise their offspring, and a pick-up in which to commute to work in order to earn income to make loan payments on the house and the pick-up.

        1. FelicityT

          I certainly cannot argue that these would be lofty goals and difficult to achieve given the current ideologies which control power and the narrative. But I don’t think we should allow such individuals and groups to dictate our goals. If we do that we’ve already failed.

          It would seem to me that such ideas can only be deemed unreasonable if you adopt the viewpoint of the oppressor. Looking at it from outside that viewpoint and taking into account the very real, unavoidable planetary limits that we face, the naive, unreasonable course of action would seem to clearly be the status quo.

          1. jgordon

            FYI, I was fully a Hugo Chavez supporter until just recently, and 2003 documentary on Chavez and Vezuela, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, was one of my favorite movies of all time. I celebrated how Chavez’s policies brought all the things you could wish for to the Venezuelan poor. Let’s contrast this to today where people there are eating family pets and chasing down zoo animals for food, not to mention the legions of liberated urban poor who are now conscripted to do manual labor on farms. All that money Chavez liberated from the rich in the 00’s and lavished on the poor really helped them, eh? Now they get to experience thrashing wheat like medieval serfs thanks to that education. This is the observable reality that caused me to view the left ideas in a more skeptical light.

            So just out of curiosity, which ideology would you prefer to base society around? Before you answer I would like to point out that Venezuela is hardly an isolated example. Throughout the entire 20th century every time the left tried to implement their equality-laden worker’s paradise theories a figurative dumpster fire was only result.

            And Norway and Sweden are fine examples of countries that have been implementing the ideals of sharing, openess, and tolerance for decades–the result being that their societies near ungovernable collapse as they are left defenseless before a barbarian invasion.

            The left ideas of diversity and inclusivity, along with the pernicious doctrine of equality of outcome, appear wonderful for the first few years they’re tried whilr there is still plenty of saved up capital to redistribute to the needy, but they always end up weakening society so that ruthless strong men take over from within or hyper-masculine men (say, from the middle east) take over from without. If you’re planning some new kind of society where this won’t happen I recommend you look towards a more right wing model for your utopia.

            1. FelicityT

              First, I’d like to offer a counterexample of Venezuela to the one you’ve presented. Now I’m not Venezuelan, have never been to Venezuela, and know no Venezuelans, so there is a limitation to my understanding and ability to separate truth from lies. However, I’m also aware of the many cases of the ideology which dominates the US has great incentive to make other ways of organizing a society seem to be failures and they control the mass media and creation of narratives to a great extent.

              Venezuela’s Communes: A Great Social Achievement

              Now to address your question: what ideology would I like to see? Well first, I’m no fan of labels and there’s no labelled ideology existing that is perfect. Rather than advocate for any particular label I prefer to advocate for policies and outcomes. So I wish to see the policies and outcomes I list in my initial post.

              Left and right wing, placed on a single-dimension continuum is far too narrow and restrictive for the real world in many cases.

  2. ex-PFC Chuck

    Thanks for the link about the millipede town of Kiruna, which was of interest to me first as a U.S. citizen of 100% Swedish ancestry, and also because it reprises what happened here in my home state of Minnesota a century ago when the town of Hibbing was sitting atop a massive lode of high grade iron ore. It was moved in 1915. A quarter of a century later Hibbing became the home town of one Robert Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan.

    1. subgenius

      Kiruna is a pretty odd place…there are parking bays for dog and reindeer sleds at the airport, a zero-g training ‘vomit-comet’, some cool architecture (wooden church, ice hotel down the road in Jukkasjärvi), and the whole place looks like Mordor…

      I love it up there, particularly in the winter…but doubt I will be able to afford to go back – the Arctic is not a cheap place to spend time.

      1. rusti

        I love it up there, particularly in the winter…but doubt I will be able to afford to go back – the Arctic is not a cheap place to spend time.

        In the summer months (or year-round, if one is sufficiently stoic) one can exploit the Freedom to Roam for a very cheap trip. There are also cabins with minimal facilities that one can stay in, but those can add up after a week or two, whereas a quality tent will last for years.

        Norway especially is wonderful for bicycling tours and hitchhiking / hiking, although one has to plan carefully because the distances between villages is large.

        1. subgenius

          Oh yeah there is no ‘trespass’ just be mindful of people’s homes etc and be a good guest..I have stayed in other people’s off grid cabins while sledding.

          It is good in the summer…a view like lapporten is amazing

          But winter…it’s even more amazing ..because you can go by dog sled! And aurora borealis..The best I ever saw was about half way from Jukkasjärvi to lapporten travelling mostly on frozen river, I have never seen anything that remotely captures how incredible it was

          here’s a real time example but limited colour (the alpha7 s series are amazing..)

          This shows more of the spectrum

          I recommend going with a stash of single malts, imported duty free.

          And taking the train from.Stockholm.

  3. diptherio

    Thanksgiving help for the homeless: ‘We haven’t seen numbers like this since the Great Depression’

    Thank goodness our economy is doing so well, or those numbers would be even bigger…[/sarc]

  4. timbers


    Syria – This U.S. Occupation – Or “Presence” – Is Unsustainable Moon of Alabama

    MOA makes me feel like I’m smart, because It’s almost comical to watch the U.S. quagmire itself into Syria against all sane odds.

    The irony is that the U.S. has brilliantly snatched a larger defeat from a certain defeat in Syria by going out of it’s way to quagmire itself into Syria in yet another lost cause in creating Kurdistan, a land locked area surrounded by states hostile to it’s existence. The more the U.S. doubles down on creating Kurdistan the more a big chunk of the Middle East – Turkey, Iraq, Iran – line up behind Russia and Syria.

    Putin must have broken out the finest vodka to toast thanks to America’s blundering into Krudistan and allowing Russian influence to grow by extra leaps and bounds in the Middle East. Maybe Putin can also think about cutting the Russian defense budget too because of U.S. ineptitude.

    And after Obama said Putin would be “isolated” we see how isolated Russia is (and where’s the U.S. in all this?):

    Yesterday’s meeting was the launch event for the main diplomatic campaign to end the war. Today Putin held phone conservation with U.S. President Trump, the Saudi King, the Emir of Qatar, the President of Egypt and the Prime Minister of Israel. Tomorrow he will meet President Rouhani of Iran and President Erdogan of Turkey. In parallel a meeting of high military officials of the Syrian-Russian alliance takes place. Saudi Arabia is cleansing the “High Negotiations Committee (HNC)” opposition group it supports. The uncompromising head of the HNC, Riyad Hijab, was fired. The groups meets in Riyadh on November 22. On November 28 another round of talks under UN supervision will be held in Geneva. Russia is planning to host a gathering of about 1,300 Syrians representing the revamped opposition on December 2.

    Syria’s will to fight, the reliability of its allies and Russian military competence have turned the war around. The Putin-Assad meeting in Sochi sets the foundations for a lasting peace.

      1. timbers

        But make it actually mean something – take away Obama’s Nobel Peace prize specifically to take it away, but also to give it to Putin.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Something important to note is the meeting in Sochi between Russia, Iran & Turkey taking place. The key point about the Sochi meeting is the fact the the chiefs of staff for Russia, Iran and Turkey are also meeting. That makes it a professional military meeting to coordinate strategy and tactics within political boundaries. I am guessing that one aim will be to put the Syrian Kurds back in their box in the same way that the Iraqi Kurds overreached and were put back to their original borders. The Iraqis will coordinate with this group as they will not tolerate pockets of Iraq or any portion of it’s border to be controlled by ISIS or any other group at all. After all, the Russia–Syria–Iran–Iraq coalition is based in Baghdad as well as Damascus. The rebel group in Riyadh, even though backed by the UN, can be ignored in their demands that Assad step down with his regime and that they take over instead. You might even see a formal pact between Iraq, Iran and Syria arising out of the carnage in a form of mutual protection. With ISIS dying, the locals are going to be looking for the people that made ISIS possible by recruiting, training, equipping and paying for it. And they won’t have to look far.

    2. Andrew Watts

      It’s a mistake to equate the Iraqi Kurds with their brethren in Syria. Ethnicity doesn’t trump all, The dialect of the language isn’t even the same and that isn’t even pointing out all their sociopolitical differences. I am tired with pointing out that the Syrian Kurds aren’t interested in pushing for independence so whatever.

      1. timbers

        Be that as it may (or not) that’s not why the U.S. is doing it’s quagmire thingy in Syria.

        And it’s a mistake to equate what the U.S. military is doing in Syria has anything to do with equating or not equating Kurds with Syrians or anyone else for that matter.

        It’s all about regime change in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Russia and the massive blood shed and lost lives that would bring about. There is also a good case to be made this is more of the Israel/Saudi/U.S. agenda of chaos and eternal war and paving the expansion of Greater Israel.

        1. Andrew Watts

          Well, the Kurdistan issue was central to your claim of regime change. But forget it. The US military didn’t have any involvement in regime change operations in Syria. That was the CIA’s domain under it’s Timber Sycamore program. They didn’t hand over anti-air weaponry either which could’ve been a game-changer especially after the Russian intervention. Washington repeatedly finds itself in many different quagmires because it doesn’t have any idea how to get what it wants and often has no clue to what they actually want.

          There wasn’t ever a scenario where Assad was going to flee or peacefully step down during the war. It doesn’t take a genius to speculate that this is all a matter of personal honor for Assad either. His older brother was supposed to be in the line of succession until he died in a car accident. I’m pretty sure there’s some part of Bashar al-Assad who wanted nothing more than to remain a doctor for the rest of his life.

          (edited/added) This reply sure got weird in a hurry, huh?

          1. timbers

            No you are again incorrect. Kurdistan is not central to my alleged “claim” of regime. Regime change is central to the Military/CIA/US Govt goal of regime change.

            1. Procopius

              I think regime change has been the neocons’ goal since at least 1998, when PNAC was announced. One of the cables leaked y Chelsea Manning was from the American ambassador in Damascus, reporting on his activities destabilizing the government, which apparently started in 2003.

              I agree, the Americans seem not to know what they want.

  5. The Rev Kev

    DNC’s fundraising woes continue with worst October in 15 years
    Really? Might that have something to do with the fact that this same organization hoovered up 99% of funds raised and funneled it to a Washington candidate – and left all local organizations up a certain creek without a propulsion device? If I was a democrat and found that nearly all the money that I donated never went to my local candidates but mostly went into Brooklyn consultants fees, I would not be a very happy camper!
    And Brazile is saying that they should bring back Bill Clinton to hit the campaign trail in 2018? Tell me – what would that look like? Would you have him flying around the country on the ‘Lolita Express’ with a new generation of female interns? Do you think that if he brought his wife along that it might attract notice when people see that there is always an ambulance hovering nearby on standby?
    I know that you have to be 35 to run for President but at this stage perhaps they should put an upper age limit of, say, 65 years to get some ‘young’ blood in. Maybe make that the rule across the board for Congress and the Senate in order to get rid of more than a few octogenarians. At this stage, it couldn’t hurt.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      …put an upper age limit of, say, 65 years to get some ‘young’ blood in.

      Or perhaps in this age of austerity, the case could be made that we as a nation can no longer afford cadillac health plans for congress members and they’ll have to settle for the same crapified health care the rest of us get. That ought to keep so many of them from reaching 80 in the first place.

    1. Romancing The Loan

      Thanks for the link and resultant discovery of Kristine Mattis’s splendid writing. Reminds me of a more highbrow Caitlin Johnstone.

    2. UserFriendly

      I get frustrated with people that call for the abolition of plastics. Many plastics are recyclable, I’d be fine if they pushed more responsible use of plastics but these people are always on the extreme. Just try and imagine modern medicine without plastics. Or reverting to glass containers that require massive heating to make, and weigh a ton more adding to CO2 emissions during transportation. Not to mention plastics themselves are a carbon sink. Also, there is some interesting work going on with using plastic membranes to desalinate water. Yes there are problems with plastics but rather than try and mitigate problems and keep some of the massive advantages it’s always eliminate, and that is a losing battle.

      1. Massinissa

        It is irrational, but its probably because they’re justifiably terrified of all the plastic that is covering the ocean floor now. Plastic crap flooding the oceans is perhaps one of the least talked about threats to earthly life right now.

        1. UserFriendly

          Yes, it is, and I’m sure a lot more people would be willing to talk mitigation and restoration than abolition.

      2. FelicityT

        I’d agree that a complete ban on plastic currently would be a poor choice and restricting to certain applications is the solution for now. I’ve seen more environmentally friendly plastic or plastic-like substances mentioned in various places but it’s often hard to tell if it’s just PR and marketing nonsense, whether the full impact of production is taken into account, and so on so whether there are actually viable alternatives remains to be seen.

        I think the ban response probably comes about because the average person’s interaction with plastic is largely not the uses you highlight. For example a typical trip to the supermarket, even using reusable totes, yields numerous pieces of plastic of the type that many municipal recycling programs do not accept.

        I’d also agree the solution isn’t necessarily making everything glass either. With the above grocery example, the most obvious solution would seem to be along the lines of bulk bins, loose produce (though hard to find certain items not wrapped in plastic ), reusable produce bags, etc.

        Beyond the easy grocery example the most prudent solution might be: have less stuff (which is basically what the author argues) and hang onto it as long as possible (not always easy with planned obsolescence and poor build quality).

      3. FelicityT

        Another issue re: recycling is that while many things may theoretically be recyclable it is not always profitable to do so. There really needs to be a federally run (or at least federally funded) recycling program which would take the dollar cost out of the equation and allow the focus to solely be on the environmental benefits.

      4. c_heale

        Many plastics are recyclable but it’s not being recycled. Plastic is an existential threat to many forms of sea life, and maybe to us. There are plastic molecules in every part of our environment, and these do not break down for a long time.

        The human species survived without plastic for millions of years. ‘Modern life’ is a strawman argument. What is modern life? Industrialized life? We had medicine before ‘modern’ industrial medicine. It can be argued that stone age humans were healthier than modern day humans, so our ‘modern’ society is perhaps not that healthy. Desalination is not energy efficient and can never provide sufficient water to meet the needs of a large population.

        The less plastic we use, and put into our environment, the better.

  6. Meher Baba Fan

    Yves Smith , el_tel

    Tim Tams . Some Australians do a ‘Tim Tam Slam’ which is using the biscuit as a straw through which to drink ones coffee. Take a tiny bite from diaganol corners then suck the drink through! I believe one needs to be quick before the Tim Tam disintegrates.
    PS finding chocolate by definition is difficult in US, England and Aus. It is mostly ‘confectionary’ which means the percentage of sugar is greater than the cocoa.

    1. el_tel

      Yeah I knew of that but never tried it. I’m a “vanilla type” myself and love TimTams unadorned but have been curious about the Slam for a while now!

    2. Oregoncharles

      There is really excellent chocolate available at our local co-op, and probably most natural foods stores. The brand names I can remember are “Theo” and “Equal Exchange,” but there are more; I’ll repost after I go to the store and note down more. Not cheap, of course, but gratifyingly intense. Some go up to 80% chocolate. Chocolate is now graduating into the kind of gourmet distinctions we see with wine or coffee, down to individual plantations.

      However, my real favorite are the 100% chocolate liquor wafers – baker’s chocolate. No sugar at all. Besides brownies, I put them and a bit of molasses in my oatmeal or farina in the morning. Makes quite a morning pickup.

      I’ve never seen Tim-Tams; I wonder what the American equivalent is?

      1. Yves Smith

        Tim Tams are high quality mass market biscuits, or cookies as we call them here. Chocolate outside and chocolate filling. Not much biscuit :-). Not at all like our Oreos.

        I hate pushing a chain, but Trader Joes has an 85% house brand chocolate bar that is terrific. I usually find over 77-78% chocolate content to be too bitter, but this is an exception.

        1. Meher Baba Fan

          Thanks everyone. I have found the chocolate containing chocolate liquor, to be the most amazing, on top of the usual cocoa butter as an ingredient. Have only found that in Europe, not even Lindt adds chocolate liquor. I mean in just a standard slab of 85%. keep an eye out for that extra ingredient, it seems to indicate quality.

  7. Bill Smith

    Special Report – Nuclear strategists call for bold move: scrap ICBM arsenal

    The Russians have already replaced their early warning satellites after a gap of more than a decade.

    However it has been assumed since about 1969 the start of any nuclear attack from the Soviets would launch from first the Yankee then later the Delta ballistic missile submarines off the east coast of the US. Now it would be the Typhoon or Borei class SSBNs or even a SSN with some kind of missile.

    Originally the time from SLBM launch to the denotation of the warhead over Washington DC was estimated be 15 minutes. However once the Soviets figured out depressed trajectories for their missiles the time from SLBM launch to denotation went down to 5 minutes.

    Other sources put the start of a nuclear attack on the US by the Soviets / Russians to be the denotation of small nuclear devices simultaneously in the Washington DC and New York embassies. This would be followed up by SLBM and ICBM launches.

    1. Synoia


      Other sources put the start of a nuclear attack on the Russia by the US to be the denotation of small nuclear devices simultaneously in the Moscow, and St Petersburg embassies. This would be followed up by SLBM and ICBM launches.

      We have to consider which of the Great Powers is the more aggressive, and which powers have used nuclear weapons in war.

      1. Bill Smith

        I was responding to an article that talked about a Russian ICBM attack on the US but yes, a scenario could be built more or less as you say. But the US does not have an embassy in St Petersburg. The Russians effectively get two in the US. One to the US and one to the UN.

        Moscow also appears to be much further from the sea than Washington.

    2. Kurt Sperry

      I’ve always assumed there will be significant nuclear explosives built into all the major embassies of the nuclear states, smuggled in piece by piece in diplomatic communication if necessary. Prepositioning and physical control defeats all countermeasures.

      1. Bill Smith

        This was supposed as far back as President Kennedy. He is quoted as having beent told there was one in Soviet embassy.

        This belief is likely part of the reason (and that DC is so close to the sea) that US would be decapitated in the openings seconds of a nuclear war. There is not likely to be 30 minutes of warning as depicted in Hollywood. Thus starting with President Eisenhower the authority to use nuclear weapons has been pushed down and out of Washington DC. Parts of Eisenhower’s, Kennedy’s and Johnson’s instructions have been declassified. They basically worked like this: If the Soviets nuke the US you can nuke the Soviets and Eastern Europe. Not China unless they nuke us. Then later Eastern Europe was removed from the list. So only the Soviets and China in response to them nuking us.

        The UK is alleged to have a fairly simple contingency plan for the release of nuclear weapons by the four Vanguard SSBN’s in case London disappeared. “There is a sealed letter from the PM in the safe in the captains’ cabin…”

        The Russians have supposedly kept much closer control to the top on the release instructions.

        i don’t think too many of the nuclear states would have done (embassy based weaponry) this as it seems pretty risky getting the parts in and out – having to update the weapon once decade or so. Plus in a lot of cases it makes no sense.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Hey, wouldn’t it have been funny if when the US illegally seized the San Francisco Russian consulate they thought that they might have discovered a nuke to embarrass the Russians on the world stage with – and then came up with zip?

  8. el_tel

    re Corbyn and BREXIT

    Interesting regarding his evaluation of the “BREXIT-centred Labour strongholds” – he must have some newer data that support what others have found (and which played out at the General Election) – namely that losses there by a pro-REMAIN (or at least “ambiguous”) stance are not large enough to offset gains elsewhere. That may or may not be true (but likely to become more true over time given current mess) – but he should keep in mind what happened in Mansfield when an overly REMAIN candidate (in a safe as house Labour seat) got kicked out and a Tory was elected for the first time in history. He still needs to tread carefully, but the Tories are certainly helping him. Thoughts from people like the Colonel, anonymous2, Vlade and PlutoniumKun will be valuable here….

    Of course what he *doesn’t want/need* is to be suddenly plunged into the nightmare of having to conclude negotiations himself and expose his party to the scrutiny that has so far concentrated on the Tories! (apols if appears twice – delete if so – skynet is on the warpath it seems today!)

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Well, I’ve no insight into what data Corbyn has access to, but just from anecdote, the overwhelming majority of Corbyn supporters I know are firm Remainers. Given his dependence on younger voter enthusiasm, I thought his decision to be… well, whatever he was (I found it hard to work out what his stance was supposed to be) was dangerous and could lead to widespread disillusionment among the very people he had enthused.

      But it is certainly true that he had to play a careful game with those working class labour voters who were Brexit mostly because they saw the EU as an ‘elite’ plaything.

      But if its true he is changing now, he may well have (accidentally or otherwise) timed it to perfection. Once it starts hitting working class communities – as it most certainly will – it is vital that he makes sure the Tories ‘own’ Brexit.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Guardian comments (when the Grauniad’s rulers allow them) are hardly lay-down probative, but the 2600+ comments sure contain a lot of food for thought, and apparently the concepts and insights that headline here at NC are gaining some traction “amongst” the cousins across the pond…

        One wonders if stuff like awareness of the potentials (and pitfalls) of sovereign currency, maybe some recognition of the realities of limits and the evils of the neoliberal frame (becoming increasingly toxic not only to mopes, are rising? Possible paths to a post-looter society, increased autarky, a vast reduction on the idiocy of “supply chains?”


        1. PlutoniumKun

          Much as I hate going BTL in most sites (apart from this one of course), the Guardian BTL can be informative if you ignore the troll bait articles. During the US election the comments were remarkably consistent in attacking the Guardians pro-HRC line and its determined effort to sideline Sanders. The few (obvious) attempts by Hilbots to join in were subject to almost universal derision and pretty much hounded out. I’ve also noticed how there is constant BTL pushback against the social warrior aspect of Guardian reporting – and not just by right wing trolls, most are very obviously left wingers furious at the more debased forms of upper class feminism that dominates Guardian commentary.

          I’ve also found BTL comments on Brexit in the Guardian to be far better than its reporting – clearly there are a lot of people who are aware of how bad it will be in reality and find it a useful forum for venting their frustration and explaining clearly why its not going to work. There are a lot of illuminating comments from people who obviously work in small businesses with European clients and are furious at the impact it will have on their jobs and lives.

          1. Sid_finster

            IMHO the Graun comments (albeit increasingly rarely allowed and increasingly aggressively censored) are far more enlightening than the actual reporting.

            The actual reporting is useful only to learn what thrle party line for Atlanticist yuppies is at any given time.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            One of the better reasons to read the Guardian (at least on a Friday) is Marina Hyde, and she’s in top form today.

            Today, then, Theresa May arrived in Brussels to make the EU another offer they can refuse. Think of her as Non Corleone. According to reports, Michael Gove has in effect won the battle over a hard border in Ireland, by persuading the prime minister to reject regulatory harmonisation with the EU.

            This makes a hard border inevitable – although, would you believe, the cabinet’s brains still can’t face up to what a “hard border” has to be. A recent paper by their weirdo thinktank crush, the Legatum Institute, suggested that the border could be patrolled by drones and zeppelins. “These solutions are subject to a number of limitations,” ran the small print – “not least weather and cost”.

            Assuming that you have found the right cocktail of neuron-dulling substances that works for you, you’ll be relaxed that one of Britain’s Brexit “solutions” depends on the weather. I mean, what could really go wrong? The idea that a country whose rail network can be halted by leaves is considering trusting border control to a load of gazillion-pound airships that don’t really fancy it if it’s raining is too O’Hindenburg for words.

            Is there an international prize for imbecilic fantasy border plans born of jingoistic folly? If so, we just bumped Donald Trump down into second place.

        1. makedoanmend

          This gives me hope (on a very,very low level expectation spectrum) since it suggests (and I’m not attributing any correlation whatsoever) that lengthy experience, used properly, might be a benefit to a politician and those who seek to support them. Of course all too often extensive experience has not been used wisely or for the benefit of democratic peoples. It has been used for self promotion and career opportunities – Blairism.

          Both Sanders and Corbyn strike me as being very human. I.e. flawed. But both seem to have extensive knowledge gleaned from extensive experience of politics and how to use the very fragile levers afforded them when opportunity arises to do so.

          For far too long those on the Left have sought some coherent, all-encompassing story that explains everything, all the time. Then, someone thinking they’ve rationalised all human endeavour and the nature which permeates all endeavour (beyond human instantaneous understanding), tries to shoehorn all activity or experience into their rational orbit – often with severe reactionary consequences.

          Alternatively, when supporters with their range of base-line thoughts and expectations are not satisfied or disappointed with their candidates, who always don’t make decisions that are apparent to non-politicians, they roundly declare the candidate fatally flawed, and they declare they can no longer have anything to do with this flawed creature. Sure aren’t all politicians the same?

          Class war has been surreptitiously waged for decades but is now declared openly. And those who declared are winning, hands down. When the fight is in front of one and the fight is deadly and dirty, you don’t ask your neighbor about the purity of their thoughts, you ask them if they are prepared to defend themselves. Two defenders are better than one. (very, very politically speaking – nil violence.)

    2. Anonymous2

      Sadly I cannot offer anything of value.

      I know some people who know Keir Starmer well and think he should be Prime Minister. And I have met John McDonnell before he became famous and liked him. There is no doubt he has a loose mouth, though, which catches up with him. Otherwise, without having made a study, I suspect he may have been demonised by the press for obvious reasons.

  9. Pohzzer

    It was obvious to me six months into Obama’s first presidency it was his intention to destroy the progressive movement, which he did, very thoroughly. The present state of the democrat party can be laid directly at his feet. I doubt if 1 in 100 ‘leftists’ would agree.

    Heck of a job there Obammy.

    1. nippersmom

      This “leftist” agrees completely, which is why, although I voted for him in 2008 (with strong reservations even then) I never even considered voting for him in 2012.

      1. Pat

        I thought of him as slightly better than Hillary and certainly better than “bomb bomb bomb Iran” McCain. Still 2008 was my only vote for him as well. While his policies alone would have guaranteed that, I do give myself credit for having noticed his leading the charge on the destruction of the Democratic Party and picking candidates who would screw most of the population rather than represent them.

        1. Kurt Sperry

          Full of naive hope I voted for Obama in 2008. A year later I disappointedly described him to my friends as “George W. Bush in blackface”. Some saw my point; some didn’t.

      2. SpringTexan

        Me too, I also voted for him in 2008 though I couldn’t quite see what people saw in him, then was horribly disappointed and that was the last time.

    2. Eureka Springs

      I think the Progressives themselves (both voters and congresscritters) post 2006 got what they deserved in both the D party and Obama by not learning, not responding to their own failings in their own caucus. Time and time again we see the design and intent of the Party itself is to pull the rug from under the peoples feet. Whether Prog, Social Dem or any other slight differential from war, neoliberalism, top-down, money rules. The absence of true democratic process will always fail the people in the type of organization the D party is. Even Sanders who wanted to change emphasis on some issues doesn’t get the structure is itself systemically flawed. Following the rules and the platform process all while being constantly reminded there is nothing binding representatives to said rules or platform once established says so much. And the manipulation of the voting process within the Party on every level ta boot. It all says so much.

      Stand for nothing in earnest, fall for anything. But hey, keep organizing, false negotiating, contributing, voting the same way expecting different results. Maybe one day they will let you have a conversation or a seat at a table… but the rug will always be pulled from under your feet if you disagree with the owners.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > in the type of organization the D party is

        The Democrat party is a very curious beast. It’s not a profit-making entity (at least at the insitutional level). It’s not a non-profit. It’s not a membership organization with dues (like the DSA or unions). Whatever it is, as the Beck’s lawsuit got on the record, it can pick whatever candidates it wants.

        This is a political science-y question, but what is the Democrat Party? What is its legal status? Does it even exist? Who, for example, owns their trade dress?

    3. ambrit

      Not only did “O” move to neuter the “progressive” wing of the Democrat Party, as his cabinet and advisor picks telegraphed, but the Dem Nomenklatura wasn’t seen to be pushing back.
      And, (for some definition of ‘leftist.’)

      1. Synoia

        A US political definition:

        A rightist: Takes the large donors’ money in the Right Hand.

        A leftist : Takes the large donors’ money in the Left Hand.

        With predictable results.

  10. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: From inboxing to thought showers: how business bullshit took over Guardian (Plutonium Ken).

    Interesting, funny, pathetic and so obviously true. It reminded me of the current “predicament” in which the democrat party finds itself with respect to its lack of “message.”

    If we hope to improve organisational life – and the wider impact that organisations have on our society – then a good place to start is by reducing the amount of bullshit our organisations produce. Business bullshit allows us to blather on without saying anything. It empties out language and makes us less able to think clearly and soberly about the real issues. As we find our words become increasingly meaningless, we begin to feel a sense of powerlessness. We start to feel there is little we can do apart from play along, benefit from the game and have the occasional laugh.

    I’d nominate the word “wonky” as the next generation of organizational bullshit speak, made necessary when the first gets exposed for the meaningless gibberish that it is.

    1. Enquiring Mind

      One of my jobs was in a company that forbade posting of Dilbert cartoons. That made the employees mock the dynamic duo at the top even more, and resulted in people keeping track of their BS sayings in staff meetings. It got to the point where direct eye contact was avoided with fellow trackers so as not to burst out laughing and give away the game.

    2. John Wright

      I remember a game that circulated around the company I worked for in the 1990’s.

      It was called “Bullshit Bingo” and ostensibly could be played during meetings.

      The bingo sheet had all the current business buzzwords arranged in boxes, and supposedly one would cross off buzzwords heard during a meeting and when a row/column/diagonal was crossed off, one would yell “bingo”.

      I don’t remember actually seeing this happen in a meeting.

      One engineer wrote a small program to randomly connect management phrases into a sort of management memo. Each time the program was run, the program produced a different “motivational” gibberish.

      Again, this goes back to the 1990’s.

      I’d imagine the problem is only getting worse as more new MBA’s are getting minted.

      1. Ned

        I nominate the word “excited” as the main mouth virus coming out of corporate America’s news releases and interviews.

        “We are so excited about the release of this new shit sandwich at McDonald’s…”

    3. icancho

      in Britspeak, “wonky” has nothing to do with politics or policy. OED tells us it means:

      Of a person: shaky, groggy; unstable. Of a thing: faulty, unsound; unreliable.

      But, come to think of it …

    4. Mel

      I suspect it’s brought on by people trying to manage things they can’t recognize. In the case of businesses, it might be industrial processes, or technical systems. In the case of the Democrat Party it seems to be voters. If you create totally new language to describe your job, it makes it tough for other people to decide that it’s not themselves who don’t understand.

  11. a different chris

    The Toynbee article is “important”, and Britain is indeed (family blog)ed, but give me a break:

    >The European model beckons as the enlightened, internationalist, progressive vision

    Seriously? Two words: Wolfgang. Schauble.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Lots of talk about the ‘orrible pain and destruction that Brexit will no doubt cause. A lot of very smart people are laying out every bit of dysfunction and difficulty that the years of setting up and enforcing and rendering inevitable of the Great Unification of Europe have rendered unavoidable. The human part of the world (almost all of it , now) seems bound to be a very different place in a relatively few years, in no way a straight-line projection even of the disruptions that are already being “baked in.”

      There are people, ordinary people, living on those “sceptered islands,” with all their problems and prejudices and any other quaint Britishism one might pick from the lexicon, who if they don’t just die of the disruptions of climate and disease and explosive demolition and genetic manipulation, all that stuff, will need a modus vivendi if “the species” is going to survive. I have a question for all the smart people to ponder, too, as they compete to describe the desolation that the Brexit thing will cause: What can be learned and saved from the anticipated (and warranted, in my mind) rubblization of “the City,” and unfortunately too the regions, counties, districts and parishes? Is autarky possible any more, and if so, for what sizes and structures of political economic units?

      One wonders if the Rabble who voted Brexit might have some sussurus of collective wisdom, not just some wistful and false apotheosis of “Imperial glory” and suchlike, coming from some reservoir of race memory of pre-Roman or pre-French times, with all their barely Neolithic features and horrors, which might have been stable if ugly for long periods.

      What good might come from disestablishment of the “ties that bind?” Remembering that those ties were intended from the git-go to be leashes and ligatures that let the Few more easily drive the many into the pens and cribs? Maybe an acceleration of development of smaller, more stable, less consumptive and destructive units of self-government and “political ecologies” rather than “economies,” those constructs that get rightly excoriated here and elsewhere?

      Of course given the “arcs of history,” humans apparently are subject to the “Fermi paradox” in a big way…

      1. Oregoncharles

        Speaking of autarky, Britain is the homeland of the “Transition Towns.” I haven’t heard much about that lately, but this might be a good time to get cracking.

      2. Christopher D. Rogers


        Many thanks for calling those in my country who voted in the majority to Exit the EU a “Rabble” – I’m confident in Wales, as in the North East, North West & Midlands we’d all approve greatly of your comments, which drip with contempt for all those who have lost out considerably after 40 odd years of neoliberal economic slaughter, the same slaughter the flyover states in the US have endured.

        It goes without saying, many who voted to exit the EU did so for reasons other than opposition to migration – it does help to visit these places and actually talk to the remnants of the working class, which to be honest are detested by the metropolitan liberal elite. Having spent approx. 3 months this year in my country of birth, specifically travelling across the South Wales Valley’s, I can assure you the economic picture is dire, despite the region gaining some EU financial assistance as one of the most deprived areas in the UK & EU itself – sticking plaster efforts don’t work I’m afraid to say!

        Now, given many of my peers and kin folk in Wales have not had a wonderful time of neoliberal economic prescriptions or effects of globalisation, that has witnessed what few decent jobs remained off shored to the Far East, and what few jobs remain ensure they are at the bottom of the wage league in the UK, is it hardly surprising when the likes of the Kinnock clan, Blair’s, Mandelsons, Cameron et al instruct them to vote one way, they actually do the polar opposite, regardless of the economic harm that may be further inflicted. Again, most have bugger all to lose & saw zero gains being in the neoliberal cabal known as the EU – hence the vote I’m afraid.

        Now, and has been detailed here and elsewhere, we are witnessing the hash our elected government is making in negotiations with the EU to have an amicable withdrawal, whilst also realising the EU certainly will not make withdrawal pleasant as a reminder to other member states not to question membership of the EU, its economic policies & its wanton thirst to join the ranks of the warmongering nation states. Indeed, to do so ensures you are treated like Greece, which is now an economic vassal state of the EU – buy hey, the EU is great and has everyones interests at heart. Please tell that to all those who have suffered in order that EMU can proceed, despite all known defects in the Euro project, and that’s before we discuss economic liberalisation & further convergence criteria at the heart of the Lisbon Treaty, which by the way when combined together carry all the hallmarks of the neoliberalism that as wreaked havoc across many areas of Europe.

        As a final point on this issue, let me say its been an awakening to learn just how dysfunctional the UK has become after 40 years of neoliberalism, the institutional rot, countrywide systemic risks and complete lack of investment in anything that would benefit the body politic. We are the world’s 6th largest economy & can’t be arsed to train enough folk to man our NHS, never mind other Institutions and businesses – again all exposed by the Brexit negotiations – this despite the fact that some 50% of our youth attend higher education, or have advanced through HE in the past decade.

        Somehow though, according to one narrative, we are supposed to trust the very persons, institutions & businesses that have left many prostrate and without hope. Well, I don’t trust them & neither do many others across the UK.

        Oh, and if we think we’ll suffer because of Brexit, which we definitely will, the reality is we’ll be suffering a great deal more when the ecological disaster awaiting us finally strikes – one just hopes my country finally awakens and is prepared for that reality.

        1. Saddam Smith

          Well said.

          Humanity is in a deep pickle. Getting out of it will be painful one way or the other. The only things I know for sure are that perpetual growth cannot be sustained, and that trying to sustain it against all logic and wisdom accumulates monstrous ecological debt we will have to pay. Soon.

        2. Allegorio

          I do believe the most obvious reason for voting for Brexit was to get rid of David Cameron. I would say an irresistible reason.

  12. fresno dan

    We’ll Be Paying For Mark Halperin’s Sins For Years To Come Buzzfeed

    Three weeks ago, numerous women stepped forward to accuse him of extraordinary acts of assault: …..

    But I’m not here to talk about that. I want to talk about the deeper, subtler, more insidious effect Mark Halperin had on our politics — one which we’ll be paying for for years to come.

    The Note purported to reveal Washington’s secrets. In fact, its purpose was the exact opposite: to make the city, and US politics, appear impossible to understand. It replaced normal words with jargon. It coined the phrase “Gang of 500,” the clubby network of lobbyists, aides, pols, and hangers-on who supposedly, like the Vatican’s cardinals, secretly ran DC. That wasn’t true — power is so diffuse. But Halperin claimed he knew so much more than we did, and we began to believe it.
    The Values That ‘Values Voters’ Care About Most Are Policies, Not Character Traits Politico. Suggesting that liberal cries of “hypocrisy!” are misplaced, unless their goal be virtue signaling.

    This constituency’s loyalty to a man who is accused of preying on teenage girls might seem like a head-scratcher, or even hypocritical, coming as it does from the ranks of “values voters,” who place issues related to traditional sexual morality at the heart of their political agenda. But there are several reasons that are consistent with their political history and worldview that explain why they’ve decided — so far — to double down on Moore.
    But were Bush’s personal faith and religious convictions the motivator, or were voters referring to specific policy positions that were undergirded by their own religious faith?

    Subsequent research indicated that the latter was more common. In a survey conducted just after the 2004 election, Pew asked voters who said moral values were the most important issue to them in the election what concerns fell under the umbrella of “moral values.” Forty-four percent mentioned specific issues like abortion or gay marriage, while 23 percent referenced personal characteristics of the candidates.

    The two referenced articles seem to me to re-enforce one another – the purposeful (driven more by ratings, advertising, and revenue than ideology – no one here believes the media is “liberal” do they?) need to evaluate things through a contrived lens of chastity than a pragmatic examination at who gets what.
    I don’t like Moore or his political positions. However, one could scarcely discern from Cable TV that the political issues in Alabama consist of more than whether a molestation occurred 40 years ago, or that to disqualify ANY politician based on 40 year old allegations is a very slippery slope. Why is Juanita Broaddrick getting more of a hearing now – shouldn’t she have to wait the full 40?

    To reiterate, I believe the women – but just like most of these women supposedly voted for Trump, there are issues beyond sexual propriety that motivate people. To refuse to see that Alabamians will hold their nose with Moore because of Moore’s policy positions just strikes me as pure obstinacy in covering the issues that drive politics.

    1. SpringTexan

      Yes, on “a pragmatic evaluation of who gets what.” Politics is all about power, and using it.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Operationally, these following two are similar, aside from whether one is more credible or not.

      Did Hillary lose because the late breaking FBI news?

      Will Moore lose because of his own late-breaking allegations?

      That is, how effective is throwing out something the other side has not sufficient time to disprove.

  13. Wukchumni

    Back from a week of soaking in natural hot springs…

    Had so many interesting conversations, and the best was a couple hour early a.m. soak @ Saline hot springs with a division commander for large blazes in California, and he’s been a fireman for 38 years, so he knew the business like the back of his hand. I asked him about the wine country fires and the role power lines played, and he said he couldn’t figure out why they weren’t all underground-as is common in many countries, as all there are is advantages, such as the impossibility of 70+ mph winds (one of the main issues for the fire-along with ridiculously low humidity levels, he said) arcing the lines, and longer lasting due to everything not being exposed to the elements, how much nicer it made neighborhoods look, etc.

    He told me something about large wildfires as of late, I found interesting. It’s pretty normal for them to ‘go to bed’ @ night and get going again as morning light comes along, but he related this year in a couple of blazes he was the division commander on, that they didn’t subside all that much, and in one case the nighttime fire was @ times larger than the daytime one, something he’d rarely encountered before.

    1. Ned

      The influence of large timberland owners who are politically connected has a lot to do with why power lines are on wooden power poles instead of underground.

      Viz, One Charles Hurwitz…

      Oh, and from the Links article, the biggest example of bullshit language ever…

      “In the late 18th century, firms were owned and operated by businesspeople…” Firms were owned by men, not business people, no matter how much you huff and puff and wish it were so. and try and control how people think through the reformation and steering of words.

  14. IsotopeC14

    I wish they would stop the biodynamics hoax. It makes logical sustainable farming appear idiotic to doubting Thomas’s. Burying a poop filled horn on the Astral Ley Lines is certainly a suspect farming practice. Lots of idiotic winemakers in the US follow this, rather than consult professional fermentation scientists…

    1. meeps

      Well said and thanks for the laugh! Biodynamics is superstition masquerading as science which, sadly, almost guarantees it will be tried before resorting to, you know, proven methods.

      1. Meher Baba Fan

        meeps & isotope

        have you tried gardening or pest control using biodynamics? have you compared biodynamic products with conventional? i respect your right to an opinion but i feel you are very much mistaken. There are plenty of things we cant explain but dont write it off unless you’ve done your homework ;-)

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          It’s possible that science is 100%, always more reliable than superstition.

          But we only get today’s best explanation with science, and hoping, always, that there is progress tomorrow, that is, a better best explanation in the future.

          As such, we can’t definitively rule out superstition is not better, in some cases. For example, a stopped watch can be right, once in a while.

          So, a reasonable person keeps a reasonably open attitude.

          And we have to be thorough with our investigation when absolute claims are made.

        2. Ned

          He appears to claim that man can improve on billions of years of evolution of ecosystems with profit making chemicals and procedures. Maybe not, that’s the trouble with double negatives and comment trees.

        3. meeps

          I am a gardener and I never use biocides of any kind. As noted below by subgenius, there are established methods of natural farming such as those documented by Masanobu Fukuoka in his wonderful book, One Straw Revolution. Biodynamic farming, however, differs from natural farming.

          Since you ask, I did investigate ‘biodynamic’ farming about a decade ago. I can’t cite book titles or authors because the claims being made were so disreputable that I discarded them. The books came with astrological charts for timing seed planting and harvesting. Which of the following conditions is more likely to prevent a germinating seed from emerging from the soil? Jupiter’s mass and position at sowing or the mass and position of the farmer, whose weight compacts the soil directly underfoot? If someone can establish a line of evidence confirming that extraterrestrial bodies figure more prominently in plant or soil health than local factors/conditions, I’ll be thrilled to stand corrected. Until then, I prefer to work with what can be properly evaluated and understood.

          As you indicate, there are limits to scientific knowledge. Good scientists do not make claims that extend beyond those limits and, furthermore, are mindful of the feedback. Much harm is being done to the environment because such rigor has been abandoned by people who should know better.

          In my reply to IsotopeC14 I laughed at biodynamics but I assure you it’s not because I take the issue of modern agriculture lightly. So here is what my serious side has to say. My sibling contracted an infection, pseudomonas aeruginosa–a soil bacterium–during a series of surgeries this year. This bacterium is super-resistant to the “last resort” carbapenum class of antibiotics being used to (unsuccessfully in her case) fight the super-resistant strains. These antibiotics are so potent they cause seizures, nausea and vomiting so they are only being administered to the “young” and “healthy”. After more than six months of ‘treatment’ her infected bones are essentially dying.

          Naked Capitalism posted a link about the risks just this month (Nov 15th in the archive, I believe) from Drug-resistant ‘nightmare bacteria’ show worrisome ability to diversify and spread. I followed the internal links. The Epidemiologist’s antibiotic resistance page states at the bottom, “Other work and interests of the group include the role of agriculture in the origin and dissemination of resistance, which is almost certainly important but difficult to pin down precisely due to a lack of adequate data.”

          Please forgive my lengthy response as my ire is not directed at you. But I cannot abide the attitude that because there are unknowns that it is okay to make things worse by guessing. It’s precisely because people have been throwing horrors at the food system without a care for consequence that these problems have scaled beyond the capacities of modern medicine to cope. No more snake oil, please.

          Please delete if this posts twice. I think skynet ate the first. Thanks.

          1. Noenemy

            So sorry to hear of you sister’s painful separation from health. Our modern food production methods are indeed horrifying.

    2. Vatch

      I’ve read about Ley Lines. They are very powerful — wait a minute: those books that I read were fiction. Never mind.

    3. cyclist

      The natural wine movement, including biodynamic agriculture, probably got a foothold in Europe, particularly France, before it came common in the US. While I think biodynamics is a bunch of BS, it does mean the grapes are grown in a very hands-on way, free of nasty chemicals, which is why I think many of the wines are successful. ‘Professional fermentation scientists’ sometimes recommend some rather dubious industrial oriented methods – oak chips, MegaPurple, enzymes, reverse osmosis, etc. which don’t always result in distinctive products.

      1. IsotopeC14

        Ask these same winemakers if they spray “Bordeaux blend”, its listed in the US as “organic” even though it is copper sulfate. Unless you grow it yourself, you really don’t know what is on your fruit and veggies.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      I know people who swear by biodynamics, and it’s hard to argue with the size of their vegetables. OTOH, when I try to get them to explain how biodynamics actually works, I get a lot of hand-waving. In the same way, when permaculture sticks to the soil, and plants, and thinking about horticulture in multiple dimensions including time, I’m fine with it, but every so often a mystical strain pops out — burying strange artifacts in the ground, and so forth. That part is not for me.

  15. Wukchumni

    I see that Joe Barton’s shortcomings were exposed and he threatened to go to the Capitol police if the woman he was having an affair with while married, let loose with more lewd.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Do we really care about affairs if they are consensual? I haven’t followed this closely, but apparently Barton’s affairs were. I think it’s pointless to skewer the Republicans about hypocrisy when there’s so much of going around.

      1. Wukchumni

        It’s been a fascinating which hunt so far, and Barton will escape the dragnet more than likely, sadly.

  16. Craig H.

    Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at Last The Moustache of Understanding

    I would rather read the Daily Mail on this subject than Thomas Friedman. I do not want to read the Daily Mail on this subject. Moustache of Understanding is a good one that I have not heard before.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Moustache of Understanding is a good one that I have not heard before.

      I think Atrios coined it, back in the day, but I’m not 100% sure. Atrios did, however, justly select Freidman as “THE ONE TRUE WANKER OF THE DECADE” in 2012 (although it was a crowded field). Reading the post, where Atrios is in fine form, reminds that Friedman’s “Suck on this” moment came… on Charlie Rose.

  17. Andrew Watts

    RE: RE: Drums Along the Euphrates – TTG (from yesterday)

    Every party in the Syrian Civil War has made evacuation agreements with Islamic State despite the hypocritical outrage of various conflicting parties at the time they’re made. It’s amusing that Sic Semper Tyrannis would post that claim by Magnier and then follow it up with speculative analysis.

    The US/SDF and Russia/SAA forged a de-confliction agreement months ago. The general assumption before this official confirmation was that territory north and east of the Euphrates was the US/SDF zone, minus the City of Deir Ezzor, and anything south and west belonged to the Russian/Syrian/Iranian zone. Armed groups allied with Assad can’t complain they lack air support since the Syrian government in Damascus was a party to this agreement. But that isn’t stopping them from whining about it on social media apparently.

    The SAA & friends is lucky that the US didn’t use the alleged violation of this agreement to bomb them. When the SDF battled IS for control of the Deir Ezzor industrial zone located to the north of the city Russia allegedly launched an airstrike or two and the SAA shelled their positions.

    1. andyb

      To me, anyway, it is amazing that the obvious truth of the powers behind the rise of ISIS haven’t been more thoroughly exposed, although many have tried only to be ignored by the Establishment press. I believed the propaganda until the curious episode of the dozens of brand new yellow Toyota pickups with machine gun mounts (done at the factory?) were totally unmolested for several days crossing the desert into Syria, while US aircraft carrier strike forces sat idle. even though the US has unprecedented satellite surveillance over the entire region. You would think that any investigative journalist would ask which factory produced the vehicles, who paid for them, and why didn’t the US military respond?

        1. Andrew Watts

          The lack of Toyota trucks is a serious crisis in modern military history. The war between Chad and Libya is called the Toyota war for a reason.

    2. The Rev Kev

      I am not sure if some of what you say passes the test. Does it make sense for Syria to agree to take only the areas west of the Euphrates and let the SDF take the east which is where some of the most important oil fields in Syria are located? Oil fields that Syria will need to pay for reconstructing the country? And just who do the SDF work for exactly again? More telling, who finances it?
      West or east of the Euphrates you are still talking about the country of Syria and the Syrians haven’t fought for six desperate years to let a foreign country set up illegal bases and try to seize their oil. The SDF has already seen what happened to the Iraqi Kurds when they seized large tracks of Iraq only to lose it almost overnight and the areas that the SDF are taking on the east bank have few Kurds actually living in these areas. If they are smart, they will negotiate. If not, they will be blockaded.

      1. Andrew Watts

        I am not sure if some of what you say passes the test. Does it make sense for Syria to agree to take only the areas west of the Euphrates and let the SDF take the east which is where some of the most important oil fields in Syria are located? Oil fields that Syria will need to pay for reconstructing the country?

        The SDF already had control of the majority of Syria’s oil fields up until the agreement. Your outcome already happened when SDF captured Syria’s largest oil field in late Oct. The Omar oil field might be the biggest oil field in Syria but the fields up north are newer and there’s more room for the expansion of production from what I understand.

        The Syrian government in Damascus derived a lot of it’s pre-war budget from the export of natural gas even though Syria only exports a small amount. Most estimates range anywhere from 30% – 50% of the government’s budget. My guess is that it’s on or below the lower end of the various estimates. It is still a significant amount.

        And just who do the SDF work for exactly again?

        Oh, please. Go back and read up on 2013 during the Syrian Civil War and you’ll discover that the groups who make up SDF were fighting for survival against the jihadists after the government in Damascus withdrew most of it’s forces from Northern Syria.

        More telling, who finances it? West or east of the Euphrates you are still talking about the country of Syria and the Syrians haven’t fought for six desperate years to let a foreign country set up illegal bases and try to seize their oil. The SDF has already seen what happened to the Iraqi Kurds when they seized large tracks of Iraq only to lose it almost overnight and the areas that the SDF are taking on the east bank have few Kurds actually living in these areas. If they are smart, they will negotiate. If not, they will be blockaded.

        The SDF is financed through Informal taxes, oil sales, and the government in Damascus pays for most government workers/services in SDF territory. I’m not sure how much international aid is making it to Northern Syria but the UN is running a fairly large IDP camp in Ayn Issa so external aid is an important factor. The US/Coalition paid the salaries for some of the Arab groups in SDF and I think they probably bribed some of the tribes in Raqqa/Dez.

        I reject all these comparisons between the Iraqi Kurds and what’s going on in Syria. Assad isn’t Abadi and independence isn’t an issue. It’s more of a constitutional reform problem that nobody knows the endgame to. If the Syrian Arab Army and friends ever attacked SDF they probably wouldn’t have Russian support and they’d undoubtedly face the prospect of American retaliation given Washington’s desire for regime change. It’d be an opportune moment for the dip—- imperialists when Islamic State wouldn’t be a barrier to proceeding through with it.

        By the way, this isn’t about seizing anybody’s oil. Russia is the leading investor in Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil industry and they played a major diplomatic role in keeping KRG’s oil flowing after the Kirkuk crisis. I’m only assuming that Russia will retain the same high-level status in Syria too but it’s a fair assumption to make. I have no doubt that Putin tolerates America’s presence in the short term but wants to replace the US as the SDF’s benefactor in the future.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I think that I might have to respectfully refute several of your points. First, some background. Both Russia and Iran were invited into Syria by the Syrian government so that they are both there under international law. The US has not been and is in the position of being invading occupiers just like the Turks, and that includes all those illegal bases that operate in SDF & Jihadist territory and no, there is no UN resolution justifying those bases like Tillerson claims. The SDF may have been fighting Jihadist back in 2013 but that was four very long years ago and a lot has changed since then. Now they work for the Coalition. The US has attempted to seize and control the border between Iraq and Syria (Al-Tanf is one example) and they tried to use the SDF to seize the border near Al Qaim to block the Syrians and Iraqis meeting up but they were beaten to it by both sides.
          If you look at the map at you will see that the SDF have expanded way south into areas that have never been Kurdish. It was only at the instigation of the US coalition that they expanded so far so to deny Syria control of their oil fields as the Syrians were heading towards them. If the SDF were working for themselves, they would have never gone so far south considering that they have Turkey breathing down their necks in their homelands back north and that they may be attacked there by them. Brett McGurk, US Presidential Envoy to the International Coalition, is trying to set up a US controlled government through the SDF around Raqqa which is also a place that has a majority Arab population which should be noted.
          As for SDF finances, remember when the Iraqis took back the parts of Iraq that the Iraqi Kurds had stolen. And then it came out that its finances were a shambles and was broke in spite of shipping the oil off to Turkey and Israel? What is the bet that the finances for the Syrian Kurds will not stand up to scrutiny. I would hazard a guess and say that there is a lot of Saudi money flowing through to keep the Syrian project going. Lots of the areas seized by the SDF near Dez were bribed as you pointed out and it is rumored that that is where the money is coming from. Also, as far as this ‘agreement’ is concerned I would like to ask agreement with who? Several times the US has announced that it has agreed with Russia on something and Russia has had to say no, we never agreed to that and the ‘agreement’ to have the Euphrates as a border between the two forces is one example. So, agree to disagree?

          1. Andrew Watts

            First, some background. Both Russia and Iran were invited into Syria by the Syrian government so that they are both there under international law.

            International law recognizes the right of self-defense. When IS used Syrian territory to invade Iraq and threaten surrounding countries that right kicked in. The UN Security Council also endorsed action taken against IS without specifying the exact legal nature or basis of that action. Of course that justification doesn’t last forever.

            The SDF may have been fighting Jihadist back in 2013 but that was four very long years ago and a lot has changed since then.

            Not really. They’re still fighting against the same enemies and maintaining a tense cease fire with the government in Damascus. The only difference is that they are more politically and militarily organized now with the added benefit of US support. You might find it hard to believe but Arabs and leftists in the Middle East aren’t exactly big supporters of American imperialism.

            The US has attempted to seize and control the border between Iraq and Syria (Al-Tanf is one example) and they tried to use the SDF to seize the border near Al Qaim to block the Syrians and Iraqis meeting up but they were beaten to it by both sides.

            Whatever American intentions were the SDF stopped short of the Syrian-Iraqi border. Their positions were closer to Abu Kamal and they only had to dash through empty desert to reach it. Besides the Syrians and Iraqis did meet up. The Iraqis even allowed the Syrian Army to launch their attack on IS from Iraqi soil.

            If you look at the map at you will see that the SDF have expanded way south into areas that have never been Kurdish.

            The Syrian Democratic Forces isn’t composed entirely of Kurds. The Kurds hold dominant military positions within the organization but Arabs are the majority. There is even a large minority of Arabs in YPG. Additionally, the Shammar wanted to attack IS in Deir Ezzor before the liberation of Raqqa. The other Arab tribes from Hasakah / DeZ province like the al-Baggara and al-Shaitat were in favor of this course of action.

            The oil fields are a useful chip at the negotiation table with the government.

            Brett McGurk, US Presidential Envoy to the International Coalition, is trying to set up a US controlled government through the SDF around Raqqa which is also a place that has a majority Arab population which should be noted.

            No, the civilian council in Raqqa follows the same model of governance that the Federation of Northern Syria established a long time ago. If any American is responsible for this development it’s Murray Bookchin. McGurk’s role is to show American support for the enterprise and offer material aid.

            Also, as far as this ‘agreement’ is concerned I would like to ask agreement with who?

            The deconfliction agreement between the US and Russia.

            As for SDF finances, remember when the Iraqis took back the parts of Iraq that the Iraqi Kurds had stolen.

            You made a huge speculative leap there. It’s why conflating the people or situation in Iraq/Syria is a huge mistake. It also rings like the me-tooism of the anti-SDF/YPG theories commonly seen on social media. Neither Washington or the Gulf States supported YPG early in the war. They were viewed as allies of Damascus. In reality, the Kurds saw the war as an Arab problem and most Arabs in Northern Syria wern’t prepared to join the armed uprising against the government even as they protested against it.

            The Saudis had their own pet rebel groups in the densely populated areas of Syria. It wasn’t until Washington began to focus on the Islamic State around the time they seized wide swaths of Iraq and the battle of Kobani that support for the Euphrates Volcano alliance began.

            So, agree to disagree?

            I’ve never questioned your honesty even though I think you’re wrong. Does that count?

  18. Andrew Watts

    RE: Syria – This U.S. Occupation – Or “Presence” – Is Unsustainable

    I don’t think that “b” of Moon of Alabama actually believes the title to this editorial. There wouldn’t be any reason to worry about the long-term US presence otherwise. It’s also doubtful that Iraq will close it’s territory or airspace to US forces. I even think there’s a measure authorizing the long-term presence of American troops on Iraqi soil currently under debate in the Iraqi Parliament. It’s obvious that Iran wields a great deal of influence in Iraq but that doesn’t make it a tributary state despite whatever anybody thinks.

    The war against the Islamic State isn’t over at any rate. Their semi-conventional forces have mostly been dispersed in Western Iraq and North Eastern Syria but they still have covert pockets of guerrilla forces as the Syrian Arab Army and friends found out in Abu Kamal and al-Qaryatayn when they were recaptured by IS after their initial liberation. The US can make a reasonable claim to be conducting stabilization operations in the short term. Additionally, this effort in Northern Syria, besides deterring a Syrian/Turkish attack, might be the only aid that Syria receives from the West given the outcome of the Syrian Civil War.

    “Only about 2-5% of the Syrian population are of Kurdish-Syrian descent.”

    The general consensus based upon an old census before the war was that Syria’s population is around 10% Kurdish. It’s probably over 10% given the high birthrate of the Kurds but demographic statistics are difficult to measure in any country with ethnic strife.

    “To disguise its cooperation with the Kurdish terrorists, the U.S. renamed the group into the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF).“

    The SDF evolved from the military alliance known as Euphrates Volcano. (Arabic: Burkān al-Furāt) The alliance was forged between the remnant of anti-jihadist FSA rebels, Arab/Kurdish tribes, and the Kurdish YPG who were all co-founders of the SDF. This development is in spite of whatever some idiotic SOCOM general has to say. The Pentagon initially tried to re-brand the SDF as the Syrian Arab Coalition at the time to obscure the failure of their train-and-equip program which cost the US hundreds of millions of dollars and to disguise their support for the Kurdish YPG.

    The Turks have never been happy with the relationship between the the US and Syrian Kurds and so American support for the SDF has been niggardly up until the campaign for Raqqa. During the liberation of al-Shaddadi the Pentagon handed over around 50 tons of ammunition. That might sound like a lot but it only lasted around 10-12 days. It’s probably a good thing the battle only lasted for about two weeks.

    I’m not touching the whole “YPG = PKK” argument except to say that even Erdogan has made a clear distinction in the past and I find it ridiculous to think that a bunch of libertarian socialists rule themselves in a centralized manner. Especially when it isn’t organized that way politically.

    “The Russian Ministry of Defense accused the U.S. of blocking the lower airspace over Abu Kamal while its Syrian allies were trying to liberate it.“

    The Russian MoD can claim whatever they want. That doesn’t mean they’re a reliable source. Their post on social media that claimed video game footage proved US-IS cooperation was hilarious. The fallout from the incident forced the government to launch an investigation according to RT.

    You don’t embarrass a man like Putin in such a public manner without some heads rolling.

    1. Sid_finster

      The war against ISIS would have been over years ago, if our gulfie tyrant friends would stop arming and propping up ISIS.

        1. The Rev Kev

          As well as Jordan and Israel too. With weapon stocks coming from the US, NATO, Israel, the Gulf countries and the seized weapons stocks form Libya after its destruction. It was an international project.

  19. TomOfTheNorth

    Re: ‘Entitled’ Parents Drive Ref To Quit
    You might infer from the column that this phenomena is confined to the Elite 1%.
    It can be more accurately described as a 10% issue: in my experience,10% of parents w/kids in sports are insane, across all socio-economic strata.

    I had a family bring a 4 yr old to his first ice hockey practice (had never skated before) dressed in a complete goalie kit. Chest protector, blockers, the works – including the face mask w/a cobra graphic.
    They were adamant that their son WAS a goalie.I felt bad for the kid but it was pretty funny!
    All he could do in that gear was flop around on the ice. He was unable to roll over, let alone stand.

    While this was an exteme example due solely to the age of the child, we’ve all read horror stories of fights at little league games and the like. This is not new. It’s widespread and almost supports a case for detached parenting.

    Over the years I’ve observed that the emotional ‘investment’ of this subset of crazed parents w/kids in sports revs way up around grades 4-5. This parental ‘excess engagement’ is one reason attributed to high youth sports departure rates around aged 12. I’ve had a suprising number of parents w/athletically average & nominally engaged children assert the only barrier between their child and a D-1 full ride was (insert name of coach, ref, program here).

    It really is a mania of sorts. But if you’re truly adamant that your kid gets a D-1 full athletic scholarship, your best sport bet is, statistically speaking, is fencing.

    1. Meher Baba Fan

      Andre Aggassi, as an infant in a cot, was made to hold tennis balls by his parents. if you are into tennis or even if you are not his autobiography is enthralling. (i am not into tennis

      1. Arizona Slim

        My mother was a public school teacher for 22 years.

        During her career, she met one of Kobe Bryant’s teachers. Poor kid wasn’t allowed to do anything without clearing it with his dad. Mom and her colleague didn’t agree with this approach to parenting.

  20. epynonymous

    An old chestnut for me.

    Whenever a parade float accident happens, the whole thing is covered up.

    It happens every third year or so. Broken glass and sometimes even fatalities.

    The parade stops, but the TV coverage never does. They just cut the footage around the incidents and bury them.

    If you see the same six floats for twenty or thirty minutes, now you know why. Just don’t expect the news to tell you.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Excellent comment. Explains why I saw all those Simon Stalenhag-like images of half-inflated cartoon creatures go by on the the Twitter, and then couldn’t find any links about them.

  21. FiddlerHill

    Re; the Wapo Anita Hill story: I understand its emphasis on how Hill’s courage and the Senate Judiciary Committee’s despicable treatment of her was a seminal moment for women. But those hearings were also, I think, a devastating indictment of DC politics for a lot of us men as well. I know I was personally and literally depressed for months afterwards, even wrote a letter of apology to Anita Hill to assure her that many, many men were also appalled by her treatment. The twisted thinking and vitriol of the Republicans on that committee was shocking, though not unexpected. But the passivity of the Democrats — in letting the Republicans do what they did to Hill and in failing to defend her — was even more demoralizing. Joe Biden’s pompous, hypocritical politeness was insufferable. For me, I look back and think those hearings may well have been the moment I became convinced that the American political establishment was irredeemably rotten to the core.

    1. MichaelSF

      a seminal moment for women

      That’s an interesting term to use, especially on the topic of Anita Bryant.

    2. John Wright

      I remember the Clarence Thomas hearings and watched the diminished Ted Kennedy do little as he was compromised by his own problems with women at the time.

      When G.H.W. Bush told the nation that Thomas was “the best man for the job” he should have been challenged to define what “best” meant.

      Smiling Joe Biden has little in his record to be proud of (Iraq war votes, catering to the financial industry, “tough on crime” bills), very much like HRC.


      “Biden wrote the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which deployed more police officers, increased prison sentences, and built more prisons. The bill helped reduce the crime rate, but critics say that it “created a financial incentive for jailing people and keeping them there for longer periods of time” which had a disproportionate impact on minorities.”

      But the media seems to view Biden as some sort of experienced wise man rather than a politician who has consistently emphasized principal over principle..

      For sports the media reports statistics on performance, why don’t they do the same for politicians who harm the country via financial deregulation, punitive criminal laws, costly/unethical wars and handouts to businesses?

      Ted Kennedy voted against the Iraq war, something Biden, Clinton and Kerry voted for.

      Where are the wise, thoughtful politicians who will lead the USA in the future?

  22. millicent

    re orbital frontal cortex and “good” economic choices. Disclaimer: the computational model upon which this whole endeavor is based made me quit about 25% of the way in. This is an example of how AI has infiltrated how we think about the brain and the way it works in animals (not just humans).

    The frontal cortex, in this case the orbital frontal cortex, is the new homunculus, the little man in the head, that is the “explanation” for how we (choose?) to act. This is an old discredited idea, now given new life by trying to give it a location in the brain and, of course, an algorithm.

    Frontal functions (called executive functions) are, among other things, supposed to suppress “prepotent responses” so that the organism can make “good” decisions, good defined by cultural norms. It doesn’t take long to see how this is a conformity mechanism. Yes, sometimes functional for the individual but hardly optimal for creativity or species level adaptations.

    Having an executive in the frontal lobe who weighs appetites and value judgements according to a computational algorithm cannot explain how we act. Imagine an algorithm that would allow a bird to land on a small branch in changing winds.

    1. Synoia

      Human brains do not operate in the same manner as Computers (Turing machines).

      I do understand Turing machines, computers, as they have been and are my profession.

      A simple illustration:

      Turing Machines perceive motion through a set of changes in steam of static pictures.

      I sincerely doubt that our brains do anything similar. I never see wheels “turning backwards” except in film or on TV. Thus I deduce our brains do not process an image stream through a set of changes to static pictures.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The brain doesn’t know how the brain works (exactly, mostly or even rudimentary), as it seeks to understand how the world (apart from itself) works, and perhaps how the world ex-the brain interacts with the brain (which the brain doesn’t understand).

        Can we be confident of our understanding and perceiving reality/world/what-is-out-there this way?

        1. subgenius

          This can be thought of as an expansion of the concepts enshrined in Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem….it is impossible to explain and understand a system from within….

  23. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Wealth inequality has been increasing for millennia The Economist. Applies the Gini coefficient to neolithic societies.

    it’s hard to believe one caveman could have1,000,000,000 stone tools, while most others lived with zero to a few thousands of tools.

    Even hard to fathom one who could have just a few millions stone tools.

    1. Massinissa

      It was a Sufi mosque? I had heard of the incident but didn’t realize it was against Sufis, now it makes much more sense. Sigh… They aren’t even all that different than regular sunnis yet still they are persecuted by fanatics…

  24. Wukchumni

    “For 17 years, religious groups fed homeless people, and the city and private donors put up hundreds of thousands of dollars for social workers to find them housing and services.

    But Malibu United Methodist Church — facing pressure from the city — in recent weeks took a U-turn, deciding twice-weekly dinners for homeless people would stop after Thanksgiving. The cutoff came after city officials summoned organizers and suggested they were attracting more homeless people and making the problem worse.”

    When team dogma starts giving up on the homeless, we’ve reached a turning away point…

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      That’s shame on all of us.

      Do we open our homes to the homeless?

      Can one home or one city make any difference?

      Some are homeless; many are heartless.

    1. petal

      I have also been wondering about how the price of insulin has impacted owners of (and) diabetic pets. And for diabetic animals at shelters-are they being put down instead of being treated, or simply not adopted, because the cost is now to high? About 15 years ago we had a cat and a dog(lab) that both required daily injections of insulin. We bought it at the regular old pharmacy just like if it was for a human.

  25. Anonymized

    James C. Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed was eye-opening for me so I will read Against the Grain as well. Not sure if I should read Seeing Like a State first, though.

  26. Oregoncharles

    “Can biodynamic farming solve India’s agricultural woes? Deutsche Welle”
    Very interesting article. I’ve always considered biodynamics to be a core of organic insights wrapped in B.S. (literally). Very interesting that an eccentric German gardening system fits in so well in India.

    However, what really struck me was the picture at the top of the article. That’s a woman working the plow behind two bullocks. I have no idea how common that is in India, an extremely diverse culture, but in basic gender-role theory it’s revolutionary. Some background is required (painting with a very broad brush here). It appears that women invented gardening, and in fact dominate it in cultures that don’t use animals. Men moved in when large animals were domesticated and used in agriculture, because working large animals is dangerous. Because the birthrate depends on the number of females, not the number of males, males are expendable. Sure enough, in most species and most cultures, men do the dangerous stuff. That turns out to make for male dominance – which increased with the rise of field agriculture and civilization.

    The woman behind the plow is Nasari Chavan, who turns out to be a bit of a leader: “She now leads a collective of 150 farmers from her area that practice biodynamic agriculture. She saved her family from the brink, and she also earns a profit every year.”

    So I see two stories here: the rise of biodynamic/organic farming in India, and a grassroots change in gender roles that could be very good news for Indian women.

    Going back to the basics: when you’re severely overpopulated, as India is, it no longer makes sense to protect females. That can lead to severely devaluing them, as it has in India; but it can also make for more equality. Male farmers have been struggling in India, leaving women to take over.

  27. dcblogger

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to vote on its plan to kill net neutrality on December 14. People from across the political spectrum are outraged, so we’re planning to protest at Verizon retail stores across the country on December 7, one week before the vote and at the peak of the busy Holiday shopping season. We’ll demand that our members of Congress take action to stop Verizon’s puppet FCC from killing net neutrality.

  28. Oregoncharles

    About the article on Mark Halperin:

    Funny; I’m a politics junky, but I’d never heard of Halperin until his other career as a jerk to women caught up with him.

    IOW, I think this is almost as inflated as Halperin himself.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Most of these people we won’t miss. Halperin? Charlie Rose? Who cares? Addition by subtraction, so far as I’m concerned. Though no doubt there’s somebody equally vile to take their places. Of any gender.

  29. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Every second person in India has been duped, says a new study Quartz. Not cloned; scammed.

    If being fooled is the same as being duped, the Indians are lucky.

  30. Oregoncharles

    “Why did we start farming? LRB. James C. Scott’s Against the Grain. ”

    Basics, again. Doesn’t really answer the title question. Based on the condition of the places that have been civilized longest and the trap we find ourselves in, I’ve long thought that civilization (the practice of living in cities) is a disastrous mistake. It does support, for the time being, far more people than hunting and gathering would, so there’s an evolutionary logic to it; but for how long?

    1. Harold

      I think people like the taste of grains more than of root vegetables. Perhaps the calories are available more quickly, as in sugar. Rice, or example is extremely calorie dense.

  31. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Why did we start farming:

    The mystery is why cereal-farming came to be so dominant. Why hunter-gatherers passed up their affluent lifestyle in favour of far more onerous and risky existences growing a narrow range of crops and managing livestock is a fundamental question to which we have no good answer. Was it by choice, or was that first sowing of seed a trap, locking people into a seasonal cycle of planting and harvesting from which we have been unable to escape?

    Later, the author writes:

    Personally I find it difficult to resist the theory of unintended self-entrapment into the farming lifestyle, which was then legitimated by Neolithic ideology. We find evidence of burial rituals and skull cults throughout the Fertile Crescent.

    Unintended or intentional?

    Intentional, with power inequality among neolithic humans, many were trapped/enslaved?

    Farming also meant, for these early humans, gun-control or atlatl-control. And only the priest-kings and their armies could do the hunting and fighting.

    So, that’s the other conjecture – hunter-gatherers were coerced into farming.

    1. Oregoncharles

      The sequencing is wrong. There had to be farming in order to have priests and rulers.

      More likely the two evolved together: farming enabled differences in wealth that in turn gradually increased, leading to city-states that could coerce the farmers.

      The building of huge monuments, like the one described or Stonehenge, appears to predate actual cities, though. They seem to have an irresistible fascination.

    2. flickadee

      Took a botany class in undergrad in the aughts. Profs invited a pair of guest lecturers one day whose entire argument for why humans shifted from the relatively easy hunter-gatherer lifestyle to the much more precarious agrarian one was… access to a reasonably steady supply of alcohol (ie, grains)!

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I take the point — nothing wrong with beer! — but I don’t see how that can be right. For one thing, the transition took a long time, and states were fragile things, always collapsing. So the alchoholic high couldn’t have been that big a draw, no?

        Though one wonders, a la Botany of Desire whether grains co-evolved to make “better” beer….

  32. Jessica

    “From inboxing to thought showers: how business bullshit took over”

    The single largest reason for business bullshit is that most businesses need to pretend to society at large and to themselves that they care about their product or service but what the business is really about is making money by any means necessary.
    It is symptomatic that the author of the article never touches on this.

    Bullshit jobs may be related but they are distinct. Graeber is correct that they function to avoid massive unemployment, particularly among those with some level of education and social status, but the mechanism by which this came to be is unclear.
    To say it from the opposite angle: why don’t corporations and other institutions weed out the unnecessary bureaucracy, forms, etc. and put the savings into their own pockets?
    My best guess is that this reflects some fundamental defect in our institutions, a defect that does nonetheless have the partially beneficial outcome of keeping people employed.
    This fundamental defect may be a mismatch between the interests of corporations and other institutions and the interests of people in positions of influence within those institutions.

    1. UserFriendly

      Full pdf:

      In fact, bankers are allowed to make money out of thin air—but only if they lend it to someone.


      Instead of taxing the rich to generate money to build and maintain things like schools and roads, our government actually borrows money from the banks and the public pays the interest on these loans.

      Misleading. Taxes don’t fund spending and although bonds get sold through banks it isn’t exclusively rich people that buy them, retirement funds and public pension funds and other countries are some of the biggest buyers and bond issuance can actually be stabilizing for the economy. A big cause of the 2008 crisis was Clinton’s stupid surplus that stopped bond issuance so bank’s, newly deregulated by Clinton came up with Mortgage Backed Securities as an alternative.
      Section on Credit scores is mostly accurate but I think a bit overly optimistic about getting by with bad credit.

      Although American workers continue to lead the world in productivity, we haven’t had a raise since the early 1970s. Over the last four decades, we’ve been working longer and longer, trying to keep up with the rising costs of living— housing, healthcare, education. Yet we haven’t actually managed to keep up without plastic. In the early 1980s, U.S. household debt as a share of income was 60%. By the time of the 2008 financial crisis, that share had grown to exceed 100%. So, despite all our exertions over the last four decades, the 99% have only gone deeper into the red, in debt to the 1%. The reason is clear: we’re in debt be¬cause we’re not paid enough in the first place and there’s barely any “welfare state” left to pick up the slack.

      Spot on.
      Half way through the rest of the credit card section and it looks legit so far.

  33. Allegorio

    “1. Bitcoin futures have started trading on the CME Group Inc.’s futures exchange, which they are scheduled to do by next month.

    2. JPMorgan Chase & Co. has offered its institutional trading customers access to the bitcoin futures contract through its futures brokerage, as it is contemplating doing.

    3. Everyone has decided that bitcoin is dumb and its price has collapsed, as JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon has said it will.”

    Matt Levine has neatly outlined how Wall Street plans to destroy the challenge that Bitcoin poses to the banking system. The same way they have destroyed everything else in their way, futures contracts. Brilliant.

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