Links 11/28/17

Donkeys spend 4 days in UP police custody for eating expensive plants at Jalaun jail India Today

Transportation is now the biggest source of US CO2 emissions Treehugger

Want to reduce the energy used by buildings? Make cities denser. Vox

This Guy Makes Money Off Your Cigarette Butts and Flip-Flops Bloomberg

Germany swings EU vote in favor of weed-killer glyphosate Reuters

Thank you for distracting everyone from my shit-show of a government, May tells Meghan Daily Mash

Bali volcano: Mt Agung ash shuts airport for second day BBC

Tesla truck will need energy of 4,000 homes to recharge, research claims FT

Class Warfare

Dream of a better life in the low wage sector Handelsblatt

SoftBank Bids to Buy Uber Shares for 30% Less Than Current Value Bloomberg

While Black Friday was a huge success in America, Europe was not so enthusiastic Independent. Hamish McRae. The deck: Retailers in France tried to talk up Black Friday, and there seems to have been a fair bit of additional spending, but in Germany and Italy the day has been notable for something else – strikes

When Affordable Housing Meets Free-Market Fantasy. Dissent. Important.

Domestic Workers Face Rampant Harassment on the Job, With Little Protection Truthout

Your 401(k) Is Kinda Bullshit Vice

Opinion: Warning: Social Security faces a 23% cut MarketWatch Expect to see more in a similar vein, although even hysterics concede that a relatively easy fix– such as eliminating the cap on the maximum income subject to Social Security tax– would cover as much as 90% of the program’s shortfall (as defined by the same crowd).


Tax “Reform”

Senators Scramble to Advance Tax Bill That Increasingly Rewards Wealthy NYT

Second skin Times Literary Supplement. An introduction to Islamic fashion.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo Bankers, Chasing Bonuses, Overcharged Hundreds of Clients WSJ. So, it’s not just the little people who got screwed. Let’s see if any real consequences ensue.

U.S. top court spurns challenge to Maryland assault weapons ban Reuters. furzy: ​”a speck of good news….​“

In data breach lawsuit, Chicago slams Uber for trusting “word of criminals” Ars Technica

Big Brother IS Watching You Watch

Supreme court cellphone case puts free speech – not just privacy – at risk Guardian. Supremes scheduled to hear important oral argument today on whether government needs a warrant to access data about a person’s movements collected by cellphone providers.

Congress poised to jam through reauthorization of mass surveillance The Hill

Extreme Digital Vetting of Visitors to the U.S. Moves Forward Under a New Name ProPublica. From last week, still deeply worrying.

The Motherboard Guide to Avoiding State Surveillance Motherboard

How websites watch your every move and ignore privacy settings The Conversation

Federal student aid site offers one-stop shopping for ID thieves ArsTechnica (Chuck L) Consequences of hoovering up data.


Brexit: for a mere €1 billion a week

David Davis could be in contempt of parliament over Brexit studies Guardian

New Cold War

The Duplicitous Superpower American Conservative. The deck: How Washington’s chronic deceit—especially towards Russia—has sabotaged U.S. foreign policy.

Sniper’s at Ukraine’s Maidan confess to shooting both sides in Italian report ignored by MSM Vineyard of the Saker (Glenn F)

Enabling Genocide Truthdig

Myanmar accused of wiping out secret network of Rohingya reporters Guardian (furzy)

Our Famously Free Press

Media’s complicated relationship with VC funding Columbia Journalism Review. More interesting than the headline promises.

Net Neutrality

There’s a big math problem with the FCC chairman’s main argument for repealing net neutrality Business Insider

Net Neutrality Is Just the Beginning Jacobin


Disgraced Chinese general commits suicide SCMP

Trump Transition

Still No Science Advisor at the White House MIT Technology Review. Quelle surprise! Who would want that job?

Why Democrats are to blame for consumer agency debacle Politico. Yes, they are– but not for the reasons the article advances. Simply put, Cordray doesn’t really have all that much to show from his tenure at the CFPB, as discussed in several previous posts.

Casting Wall Street as Victim, Trump Leads Deregulatory Charge NYT

New Drone Strikes Underscore, Again, How Much Power We Give Trump Rolling Stone. Matt Taibbi– who understands this threat  didn’t originate with Trump, who merely inherited the untrammelled powers bequeathed on his predecessors.

How tech is winning in the Trump era Politico

Sex in Politics… Not!

Scenes from the patriarchal playbook Minnesota Public Radio (Chuck L)

On Capitol Hill, pressure grows for more transparency in harassment cases WaPo

Harassment allegations knock Dems off message The Hill. I’ll say!

A woman approached The Post with dramatic — and false — tale about Roy Moore. She appears to be part of undercover sting operation. WaPo

Journalists turn the tables on undercover sting attempt Minnesota Public Radio. Chuck L: “Reluctantly have to say it: Good on the WaPo.”


Amazon, in Hunt for Lower Prices, Recruits Indian Merchants NY Times

Gujarat Model’s Failure Explains Why the Economy Is a Significant Factor in the Coming Elections The Wire. Jayati Ghosh. Important debunking, because the alleged success of the Gujarati development model is often touted as a factor for supporting Modi’s policies.

The Daily Fix: As pressure to link Aadhaar to vital services grows, Supreme Court needs to act fast


Egypt mosque attack: new level of horror in decades-long struggle to control Sinai The Conversation

Reporters Without Borders seeks to cancel press event critical of White Helmets (The Rev Kev)

New round of Syria talks opens in Geneva Al Jazeera

Saudi Arabia – Budget Dilemma Escalates – Salmans’ Resort To Product Placement Moon of Alabama

Saudi Prince Who Wooed West Finds Few Friends in Tough Times Bloomberg

A Prince’s Uncertain Fate Deepens Mystery in Saudi Arabia NYT

Supreme Court denies review of Yemen drone strike Jurist

How Anonymity Allowed Sexism in Economics to Be Revealed The Wire

Antidote du jour:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    When Affordable Housing Meets Free-Market Fantasy Dissent. Important.

    I agree this is important. The notion that zoning and regulation in itself drives up property prices by constraining supply is so ingrained in thinking I’ve heard it repeated even among fairly enlightened left wing urban thinkers.

    What’s not true: the notion that cities and counties build housing. Developers build housing, and what they decide to build—and when and whether they decide to build it at all—depend on factors that over which local governments have no control: the availability of credit, the cost of labor and materials, the cost of land, the current stage of the building cycle, perceived demand, and above all, the anticipated return on investment. Because affordable housing doesn’t yield acceptable profits to real estate investors, the only way a substantial amount of it is going to get built is if it’s publicly funded. In California, as elsewhere in the United States, public funding is paltry. And California has an extra deterrent to housing production of any sort: Prop. 13, passed in 1978, severely limits property tax increases, impelling cities to favor commercial development, especially retail, with its sales-tax revenues, over new housing. These are the major constraints on the supply of affordable housing in California. None of them figure in Hsieh and Moretti’s analysis.

    While it would be foolish to deny that regulation doesn’t cause increased costs to some extent, the impact is almost always quite marginal. The reality is that the cost of housing has little to do with supply issues, it has everything to do with the supply of credit. In Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years there was in the late 1990’s loud calls to massively increase supply to stop prices rising. By around 2003 supply was well in excess of known demand – but prices still increased to crazy levels. It was driven by cheap credit, the actually supply and demand on the ground balance had been met.

    This isn’t to deny that zoning regulations don’t impact on the supply of affordable housing – low density zoning designations in the US seem to me to be specifically designed to increase the cost of local housing to prevent *ahem* undesirables move in, which I think is a pretty good argument against allowing too much local control on zoning. And poorly designed zoning also prevents densification, which as other links posted above (such as the Vox one) is a strong positive in environmental terms and probably in social terms too (you are more likely to be able to get a better social mix in high density areas). But the notion that ‘regulation = more expensive housing’ needs to be challenged every time its raised.

    1. cm

      How to explain the prohibitions on manufactured housing? Local cities forbid manufactured houses – instead they are relegated to the country.

      Mobile home parks are an obvious solution to low-cost housing, yet the local govt. refuses to allow new construction of MH parks.

      Similar restrictions on tiny houses. My county has a minimum housing size of something like 1200 sq ft.

      Zoning & govt regulation is clearly driving up home prices.

      1. annenigma

        I don’t know how it is currently, but umpteen years ago banks wouldn’t approve mortgages for mobile homes, manufactured housing, and, if there had been such a thing, likely not tiny homes either. Since they didn’t immediately sell/pass their loans to some unsuspecting pension fund, they risked getting stuck with a property which didn’t retain value or appreciate like conventional housing if the owner defaulted. If they did approve a loan for purchase of such risky property, it was at a high, double digit rate similar to credit cards.

        That kind of housing was cheaper back in the day, unlike now when small investors have been buying up mobile home parks across the country and jacking up lot rent. Newer mobile and manufactured homes are also being sold luxurified, so no longer affordable.

        Forgive me if I use the wrong terminology. I’m just a poor girl from a poor family and have a lot to learn, which is why I’m here.

        1. Wukchumni

          My mom told me my dad had to have the stock business he worked for in L.A. ‘exaggerate’ his income a bit, in order to qualify for a loan on a new home in L.A. that cost $12k* in 1960-with a $133 a month mortgage, as his salary wasn’t up to the 2.5x income standard, and anything below that was deemed ‘risky’ by the banks. She also told me they had to sign a covenant that they wouldn’t sell to black folks…

          …different times

          * it now Zillows for $600k, will it be worth $30 Million in 57 years hence?

        2. Enquiring Mind

          Kindly, folksy Uncle Warren is there for you. Through the offices of Clayton Homes, he will minister to your every housing need, including any collection and repossession services.

      2. jsn

        The restriction on mobile homes has to do with life safety: these structures are built to lower standards than most urban codes allow for structural strength, sanitary and fire safety. That’s why they are so cheap, like the Uber and AirB&B, they skirt laws and where there are active enforcement authorities are prohibited.

        So long as housing is viewed as a financial asset rather than a human right, local zoning will look to
        preserve and enhance “market value”, so yes, these laws do drive up price.

        1. Jim Haygood

          Inferior life safety in manufactured homes may have been a factor years ago, but is much less of an issue now:

          When the first HUD code became effective on June 15, 1976, it was a big step forward for the mobile home industry. But the original HUD code was lacking compared to local building codes, specifically in storm resistance and insulation.

          Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida in 1992, was a wake-up call for HUD. It responded by upgrading the structural and tie-down requirements in 1994, and again in 2000. The integrity of the building envelope, insulation, and livability standards were also raised over the years.

          The HUD code tends to lag a little behind site-built building codes, but it is continually catching up; and it is still the only truly nationwide building code we have.

          Manufactured homes do not “skirt laws.” If not built to the HUD code, they would be ineligible for FHA financing, and most state codes would prohibit their installation.

          1. jsn

            Language matters! Mobile homes are a different beast from manufactured houses. I’ve built about a dozen of the latter and no one can tell they’re not conventionally constructed.

            I believe CMs post is in error, I’ve installed manufactured homes in Greenwich CT and Westchester New York, two of the most restrictive regulatory environments in the country and these fully engineered structures are inspected and signed off just like conventional buildings.

            Mobile homes are illegal in these jurisdictions, sorry I wasn’t clear about the distinction. Where CMs statement is true is with regard to mobile homes: manufactured housing can be made to conform to all zoning and building codes, it is just another way to procure construction.

            Your HUD reference addresses basic federal requirements for manufactured housing that would not be acceptable to most urban Fire Marshals and Building Inspectors because the local regulations are more stringent with regard to engineering and sanitation. There are also zoning constraints on these in all the jurisdictions with which I’m familiar.

            1. Alex Morfesis

              Better to have homeless living on the street if there is no magic sparkle pony perfect 500k home subsidized down to 50 grand…so sayeth the all knowing ones…

              (and hopefully just well meaning)

              Just finished another meeting with the clowns that be here in st petersburg

              (florida…sorry tovarich)…

              Had a blind black man a few months back remind me that for

              all my War stories…

              he could “see” it has been a long time since anyone saw me in the trenches…

              and so…

              And as the fates would have it a friend became the president of a (currently) small non profit


              And…well…the ithakan archer is back in the saddle…

              and …well…

              can always use some friar tucks…(that means you jtmcph…maybe?)

              No time left for excuses…onward and forward…

            2. cm

              I believe CMs post is in error,

              You are correct. Washington State allowed manufactured houses in 2005. However, neighborhoods still can (and do) prohibit them. I see real estate listings all the time on raw land where manufactured houses are not permitted.

              1. jsn

                Thanks for responding. I’d be interested to know the definition of “manufactured.”

                There is an industry that manufactures apartments for high-rise construction, classrooms for multi-story schools along with custom housing that can be designed to meet all the zoning and other requirements of all the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia and Texas jurisdictions I’m familiar with. This industry is an alternative means of construction procurement and tends to deliver higher quality standards for insulation, vapor seal, water seal and flat/levelness than conventional building. This is a different industry from that of houses on wheels with hitches, propane tanks and speculative sewer connections.

                I expect what the jurisdictions you are referring to are excluding are those units that only meet the HUD requirements or lesser units that are still produced for areas that lack any enforcement mechanism. But without the definition, I’m speculating. This exclusion, where I’ve seen it, is all about maintaining adjacent real estate values.

                My mother grew up working summers on what was our family’s summer camp on the Guadalupe River outside Kerrville, Texas. The camp was situated on a bluff about 30′ high, overlooking a quarter acre swimming hole on the river surrounded by mature Texas cypress trees, maybe 70′-80′ tall. It remains a beautiful spot despite the camp having been turned into a trailer park when my grandfather sold it. It is a beautiful place to be poor, I just hope the tornadoes stay away!

            3. kareninca

              In what way are mobile homes illegal in Greenwich, CT? I just looked at their town ordinances, and there is no mention of mobile homes. I do see that they require 500 sf. dwelling space per adult occupant. So do they get rid of mobile homes via the building code requirements? According to my father (who has been on planning and zoning for years in my hometown in eastern CT), state law affects what towns can allow or forbid, and CT has an interest in promoting affordable housing; I’m not seeing what the state laws re mobile homes are (that is, whether the state can force towns to accept them).

              In my home town you can definitely plop a mobile home on a half acre plot; it is a cheap thing to do; you do have to have the usual house-style hook-ups.

              1. jsn

                You cannot get their electrical sign offs because they will not have been inspected at the “roughing ” stage of construction by the towns Building Inspector.

                There are manufactured home companies who have certified third party inspection arrangements with the town, that’s how I got my modular houses there done. But a “mobile home”, on wheels and fully wired can’t be legalized on a lot in Greenwich without tearing out all the interior finishes for a “roughing inspection”.

                You would have a similar problem with tie downs, foundations and plumbing, but those would be easier to fix.

                1. Jim Haygood

                  ‘a “mobile home”, on wheels and fully wired can’t be legalized on a lot in Greenwich without tearing out all the interior finishes for a “roughing inspection”

                  This is the sort of non-tariff trade barrier that we regularly blast China for.

                  When you want to exclude the unwashed who lack hedge funds and 5-car garages from posh Greenwich, any excuse will do.

                2. kareninca

                  thank you for the explanation, jsn. That is very interesting. My dad built houses during grad school to feed us (he’s now 76) and like I said he is on planning and zoning, and he says that manufactured/modular homes are not really any different from regular homes. And that they can be better because their innards have not been exposed to the elements during construction, since they were assembled inside the factory.

                  “tearing out all the interior finishes for a “roughing inspection””

                  Well, that sounds doable for a middle class person if they were really intent on living in a mobile home there. I wonder what it would be like to be the only mobile home occupant in town; to do it out of sheer perversity. They’d probably come up with new regs to keep it from happening again.

      3. Spring Texan

        Absolutely. Zoning is designed to keep out the poor. We need mobile home parks, lots on which owners can put mobile homes. Same with tiny houses.

        Is it great? No. Can it be decent housing and nicer than living in some apartment? Yes.

        I’ve done it . . .

        1. jsn

          What we need is public housing. The rest of the world manages it and some of them do it quite well. Look for instance at Singapore, over half of the population there lives in very nice public housing. Most European countries do this quite well also, the further north you go, as a rule the nicer it gets.

          When Adolf Loos, the early modernist author of “Ornament and Crime” was head of the Vienna Housing Authority there, Vienna built some absolutely wonderful public housing a hundred years ago. See the Karl Marx Hoff for instance.

          1. CanCyn

            Why not just provide a housing supplement? Why can’t a low income person just rent anywhere with a rent subsidy? Canada just announced a huge investment in public housing and I shudder to think of the developers/private investors rubbing their greedy palms in anticipation of the profits they will make building cheap and ugly public housing.
            You could start housing people today if you gave them a rental subsidy instead of building special housing. I know the NIMBYs would howl, but seriously, we really need to re-think the whole public housing thing.

        2. lyman alpha blob

          Zoning is designed to keep out the poor.

          I’m not sure that’s always accurate. Zoning can also exist to keep dangerous or unhealthy enterprises away from where people live, including the poor. Recall Larry Summers suggesting shipping toxic waste to poor African countries – that scenario can happen in the US too without zoning.

          Good zoning in conjunction with a living wage can make for a good neighborhood. I do realize though that these days we rarely get good government or business acting ethically, much less the two of them working together….

          1. jsn

            I would amend the statement to say “some zoning is designed to keep out the poor.” There are many good laws and regulations as well.

      4. SpringTexan

        Although zoning and regulation DO prevent building of actually affordable homes like mobile homes, NONE of the neoliberals who want to permit developers to build extra units on current suburban lots would permit this sort of development. They aren’t really concerned about affordable housing and their new proposed loosened regulations their style will displace and exclude the poor and will INCREASE housing costs. So I’m against all their ‘new urbanism’ schemes.

        When ‘new urbanism’ isn’t about displacing the poor, call me in the morning. When new urbanists propose donating city property for land trusts and having the GOVERNMENT build affordable housing, call me in the morning. Till then, no pro-developer zoning changes!

      5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Supply and demand issues, including zoning and regulation.

        Supply of credit.

        I think it’s a mixture of both, and during different phases of the cycle, or at different times, one is more significant than the other, or equally important.

        1. SerenityNow


          I agree with you here–it is a bit of both. I work on the public side of zoning, and I see every single day how setbacks, lot size minimums, subdivision rules, and parking minimums make development more expensive for people at all price levels. And much of this is not evidence-based regulation, founded instead on undefinable ideas of “aesthetics”, or “light and air”. And although I am no neoliberal “markets rule!” type person, I will gladly stand up to say that zoning causes a lot of problems and makes things a lot more expensive than they have to be.

          But there is also the houses-as-appreciating-assets system and the credit supply, which undoubtedly plays a huge role. However, while citizens can’t change banks’ behavior directly, they can change zoning directly–by appealing to their local councils, zoning commissions, or whatever–so in that respect I would encourage more people to think about changing it. I’m not sorry that I don’t want to build, heat, and maintain a 3,000 SF house on a 10,000 SF lot with defined setbacks and no flexibility for accessory dwellings…the boom days that made that feasible are over.

    2. jsn

      So it turns out that REIT’s have sticky wages too!

      You cant just lower your price because that brings down the whole social edifice (interest bearing contracts) built around whatever you’re selling: your real estate, your labor, your soul.

      I feel more and more Old Testament every day: if the world is not to burn, interest must again be recognized as a cardinal sin.

    3. Science Officer Smirnoff

      As for Prop 13 and California

      Instead of goosing (real estate) asset inflation by the combination of California’s Proposition 13 “tax abatement” and capital gains tax exclusion on real estate sales (up to a limit) make it actual tax abatement by:

      1 giving back some of the gains at selling time due to property tax limitation during occupancy*

      2 so property inflation is moderated and education is better provided for (do think of California universities’ tuition hikes in recent years and school teaching salaries in general)

      When California made the decision on which pieces of tax “reform” in the Clinton-Republican Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 to mimic or reject for the state income tax, it copied only cap gains cuts on real estate sales, the opposite of an anti-asset inflation regime.

      (A double whammy for youth getting hit on their tuition costs and starter homes, if any)

      3 Furthermore, limit Prop 13 benefits (so abated) to owner occupied homes—as originally proposed in Prop 8 but piggishly fought by commercial interests to the triumph of Prop 13. Those interests have ever after played games with what is transfer of title (what is a sale).

      * in the unlikely event there are none—the world must be ending

      P. S. Of course, hard to predict how much to give back—it’s like predicting oil prices as drillers react to price spikes or dives (etc.)

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        How will it impact small retail shops and restaurants if Prop. 13 is limited to owner occupied homes?

        A lot of those commercial leases are triple net, with the tenants paying the property all real estate taxes.

    4. Jean

      That’s partly because of the way Proposition 13 is enforced, not the law itself.
      When a homeowner sells, the new owner pays full market value times tax rate.

      When a business property owner sells a controlling interest in their corporate land, the tax rate remains the same because the owner has not changed, it’s the same corporation. I am not a lawyer nor a tax expert. If someone has more on this, I would appreciate hearing it.

      Then there’s rebranding. i.e. Exxon’s company owned gas stations not reappraised when they became Valero.

      Debt free residential real estate is anathema to the taxing authorities and the real estate churning and financial industrial complex, hence all the desire to eliminate Proposition 13 in California.

    5. Louis

      While I certainly don’t advocate eliminating all regulations–some do serve a legitimate purpose–regulations can play a role in increasing the price of housing.

      Minimum-lot sizes absolutely drive up the price of housing and, if you ever look at the history of housing policy in the U.S. during the 20th century, you’ll discover that increasing the price of housing was exactly the point of these regulations. Minimum-lot size requirements were implemented to keep the “wrong” people: i.e. anyone who wasn’t white and middle class, from being able to afford to live in a particular neighborhood.

      Restrictions on density also drive up the price of housing, especially when the construction of anything other than single-family homes is prohibited, either by law or by political forces.

    6. Oregoncharles

      One form of regulation definitely does impact prices: restricting the supply of buildable land. The Willamette Valley town I live in has done that, by requiring that new annexations, which permit much higher density, are subject to a vote of the city electorate. In practice, small annexations usually pass, large ones don’t. Since the town is quite prosperous, the home of a major university and a lot of high-tech industry, the effect on prices is pretty dramatic; they’re exceeded only by Portland, and fell relatively little during the Great Financial Collapse. One result is a marked shortage of housing, despite the high prices. Something like a third of those who work here don’t live here. The rush hour traffic is impressive, and the surrounding towns share in the high prices.

      Boulder, CO is similar, only twice the size and hemmed in by mountains. I’m not familiar with the details there.

    7. Adam Eran

      First: It’s important to mention the role taxation takes. Real estate taxes quash speculation, a major source of costs. Reducing them (e.g. California’s Proposition 13) is a two-fer. It rewards speculators by making it cheap to hold land off the market, and undermines / underfunds local governments so they have to be begging for their costs to the commercial sector. Really, pretty clever. The commercial property loophole in prop 13 that under-taxes such property costs California an estimated $5b a year. (See for the campaign to change that).

      Second: The supposed “restrictive” zoning is actually completely ignored whenever it’s convenient for the plutocracy. There’s no there there.

      Third: Use-based zoning (put the commerce here, the offices there, the residences yonder) is impossible to implement. The decisions are often made decades before any building occurs. What will the market be then? No one knows.

      Form-based zoning (put the little buildings here, medium ones there, big ones yonder) could actually work, but is seldom seen, and even less of what the anti-regulation crowd complains about. The cottage industry of consultants and attorneys who game the designed-to-fail use-based zoning are another layer of useless cost.

      The truth is that civilized societies subsidize housing. Reagan’s ’86 tax law removed the last common subsidy for affordable housing (limited partnerships can’t pass through depreciation tax loses now…retroactively, so existing partnerships to build apartments failed too!)…so it’s been undermining affordable housing for decades now.

  2. Livius Drusus

    Re: Dream of a better life in the low wage sector, this article reminds me of the stories from the United States about people working at Walmart and other low-wage employers while also receiving food stamps. Social welfare systems are now being used as low-wage subsidies by lousy employers. This is another reason to support a Job Guarantee or some other public sector employment program over UBI and other direct payment policies. I could easily see Basic Income becoming a low-wage subsidy for lousy employers or as a prop to support the gig economy and the further crapification of work.

    1. Henry Moon Pie`

      JG vs UBI? It depends on what kind of problem you’re trying to solve.

      If you’re trying to solve the problem of poverty and its accompanying symptoms of poor health care, poor housing, poor education and poor nutrition, then a Jobs Guarantee is one of the least efficient ways you can do that. What would the overhead be on these jobs? A few years ago, conservatives reveled in the fact that one Job Corps position cost $45,000 per year. That figure included free housing and training, but no wages for the Job Corps participant. What would a $18,000 federally administered job cost? Compare that to the overhead for depositing $18,000 annually in that same person’s account. Countering that concern with “But MMT!” is nice and neat, but it still doesn’t answer a deeper question. The overhead costs are real when we consider the environmental impact of all those overseers with their forms and reports and the workers’ commute and child care requirements.

      You mention Walmart. What JG makes me think of is all those young women from Flint put on buses way before sunrise so they could be bused to a distant Walmart and work off their meager welfare payments as documented by Michael Moore.

      And if you’re trying to solve the problem of crumbling infrastructure, does anyone really believe that most effective way of doing that is with federal bureaucrats managing Jobs Guarantee workers?

      If we’re trying to satisfy the ghost of John Calvin (and Paul of Tarsus) standing at our shoulder telling us that in order to eat you must work, then JG will definitely do the trick.

      1. tegnost

        Sovereign currency finances are not constrained in the way household finances are constrained. I also rarely hear from the anti JG crowd what the impact of these many more dollars being in the fragile hands of the poor, who must spend every penny they’ve got to survive, and all that money goes into the economy. The sovereign creates the currency which is then in the economy. The horse pulls the cart.

        1. Saddam Smith

          “Sovereign currency finances are not constrained in the way household finances are constrained.”

          And yet they are constrained, aren’t they? Otherwise a govt could simply make everyone rich by printing how ever much money that took.

          “The sovereign creates the currency which is then in the economy.”

          What is it that commercial banks create if not currency? CBs create high powered money, but the bank money created by high street banks when issuing loans is also currency in effect, no? However, I’m not sure how such fine distinctions relate to JG vs. UBI…

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            “Sovereign currency finances are not constrained in the way household finances are constrained.”

            Household finances are decided by the heads (father and mother),constrained by those two persons and outside factors like their bank account balance, etc. Used to be father alone, in many households. Today, only the kids are excluded, not infrequently. Not ideal democracy, if that is what one is looking for..

            Sovereign currency finances are decided and constrained by the people, in theory. In our case, they are constrained politicians. Various factors come in play. Sometimes spending for regime change is denied or constrained. Sometimes, for wall-building projects. Often, spending for the people, or the people of other political beliefs, among other criteria, is constrained.

        2. John

          It seems, however, when the horse figures out he’s got an unlimited supply of carrots he tends to stop doing the bidding of those in the cart who are attempting to lead the horse in the direction they want to go.

          One of the things I hate about the unlimited-money concept is how “da people” are supposed to have any control on their government in a situation like this. It’s pretty obvious (or should be) that democracy (aka voting) doesn’t do anything except change the players at the top. The only thing seems to “control” the government is limits on spending.

          1. Wukchumni

            A few years back @ the annual backcountry stock packers dinner, they were trying to ‘auction’ off a 4 year old gelding, a nice rider, etc. @ a starting bid of $100-with no takers, as it’s the carrot of $2000 a year in feed & vet bills nobody wants to bite into their core values.

          2. FelicityT

            I understand where you’re coming with this critique but the world where federal government spending is unlimited already exists. It’s worked that way since ’71 and the removal of the gold standard.

            Now some of the current politicians are in fact actually ignorant of how money works. But some are not, despite what their handwringing over debt and deficit might lead you to believe.

            So today treating money as a resource and not a tool does nothing but provide easy reasons to deny socially beneficial spending because “we can’t afford it.” There’s always enough money though to bail out banks or buy poorly performing weapons of war though.

            It’s not politicians the myth of limited money constrains rather it is the average persons ability to have a life free of unnecessary hardship and struggle.

            1. Oregoncharles

              “There’s always enough money though to bail out banks or buy poorly performing weapons of war though.”
              Granted your political point, the money for weapons does circulate in the economy, but the money to the banks mostly went into their reserves and so did NOT circulate in the economy. Seems to have drastically inflated financial assets, though, which is about what you’d predict.

      2. a different chris

        But if you just give poor people money I suspect the 1% will hoover it up even faster than they do now. With a Jobs Guarantee, either said rich people will at least have to provide employment (ugh, even working at Walmart is better than just going there with money somebody simply gave you) or they will get to watch the public sector start undoing all the privatization that is so royally screwing us.

        I would enjoy seeing the Highway Dept tell our humongous highway industry “Hey, either you employ these guys or I gotta, by law“.

        1. FelicityT

          Re: hoovering — simply tax it away or nationalize the most parasitic entities

          Ignoring the morality or unfortunate necessity aspect of shopping at Walmart, would you mind briefly outlining why it would be bad to go there with “money somebody simply gave you”?

          Re: highway industry — think of how much smaller it could be without the need for expansion to accommodate ever more commuters going to bullshit jobs™ and with reduced truck traffic (meaning reduced maintenance) from doing away with unsustainable consumption and consumerism. Some of that consumption existing to either directly support those commutes or bullshit jobs™ or as a pleasure source to take the edge off having to do those bullshit jobs™ and commutes.

          1. Oregoncharles

            ” why it would be bad to go there with “money somebody simply gave you”?”

            Learned helplessness. Unearned good fortune is almost as depressing as unearned bad fortune. If you worked at Walmart, at least you did something for it, even if your social contribution is pretty dubious. Depression is one of our biggest health problems now.

            The state of Indian reservations might say a lot about learned powerlessness. It has big political implications, too.

            That, and there’s quite a lot that needs to be done. We might not want to include Walmart among the beneficiaries.

            1. Henry Moon Pie

              There’s good old John Calvin talking in your ear. Cast that demon out. It comes from that devil we call Capitalism.

              1. Yves Smith

                That is both ad hominem and a personal attack on a reader, two violations of site Policies in one. You’ve also done that repeatedly. Do it one more time and you will be blacklisted. I’ve tolerated this from you for way too long.

                Ad hominem attacks are a sign you are losing and have run out of arguments but will not concede. Plus you are factually dead wrong. Per the World Health Organization:

                Employment provides five categories of psychological experience that promote mental well-being:

                • time structure (an absence of time structure can be a major psychological burden);

                • social contact;

                • collective effort and purpose (employment offers a social context outside the family);

                • social identity (employment is an important element in defining oneself);

                •regular activity (organizing one’s daily life)


                Lower labor bargaining power has enabled managers to monitor workers more intensively, reducing their autonomy, as well as make temporary/tenuous employment arrangements more common. As an openDemocracy article pointed out:

                But with an increase in unemployment, zero-hours contracts and freelance work, many of those positive aspects of work have been eroded. The isolation of freelancers and an associated increase in depression have been well-documented. The instability of zero-hours contracts—and moving continuously in and out of work—fail to provide regular routines, strong social identities and time structure. And anxieties linked to financial survival as a consequence of irregular work and the increasing cost of living have never been higher.

                A JG would raise the bar on both fronts.

                1. Saddam Smith

                  Might it be fair to ask if Oregoncharles experienced HMP’s comment as ad hominem? It doesn’t look like that to me. A gentle poke in good humour, yes, but ad hominem / personal attack? I don’t think so.

                  And as for what the WHO says about employment, it does not speak against a UBI. It merely speaks for employment. When we retire, we get the opportunity to organise our lives on our terms in a way that is healthy for us. Some fail. Some succeed. Surely the same applies to a UBI. Similarly, a UBI does not rule out employment, it just means one need not seek employment.

                  “A JG would raise the bar on both fronts.”

                  Isn’t that just an assertion?

                  1. Yves Smith

                    As I indicated, this isn’t the first time HMP has tried variants of charging readers with being Calvinists. And we moderators have cumulatively have read and made determinations on well over a million comments. You are effectively challenging my judgment and that is not on.

            2. CanCyn

              “The state of Indian reservations might say a lot about learned powerlessness.”

              There is much more going on on reservations than learned helplessness, these are people whose culture has been completely destroyed, subjected to this day to systematic racism and more … it will take generations before that world of hurt has healed, if ever. Being the subjects of ‘government aid’ is the least of their woes and does little to explain their plight.

          2. Jean

            Give every poor person a thousand a month and landlords will just raise everyone’s rent by a thousand a month?

            That kind of hoovering up?

            1. Henry Moon Pie

              This argument always reminds me of the scene in “Harlan County, USA” where the fella explains why he doesn’t like unions. He explains he doesn’t want a wage increase since it would make his taxes go up.

              One question about this argument: why would landlords only raise the rents if the money came from a UBI? Wouldn’t they also raise rents if the money came from guaranteed job?

              1. Yves Smith

                Yes, and you need to bone up on macroeconomics. You are repeatedly violating our Policies which state up front:

                You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.

                -Harlan Ellison

                You have repeatedly been told in comments that a UBI would be massively inflationary. A JG would not be. You refuse to acknowledge that you’ve been told that. Broken-recording arguments that have been debunked is another violation of our Policies. You are accumulating troll points.

          3. Lambert Strether

            > Ignoring the morality or unfortunate necessity aspect of shopping at Walmart, would you mind briefly outlining why it would be bad to go there with “money somebody simply gave you”?

            Let me put the politics of UBI very simply for you:

            “Why am I going to write you a check* for your simple and minimal and communal lifestyle when I have to work for my simple and crapified one?”

            And if the answer is “Nobody should have to work,” then society’s work won’t get done and nobody will eat.

            And if the answer to that is, well, the work that needs to be done will be organized communally, that’s one possible implementation of a JG.

            My father always used to say, of cleaning up after one’s self: “It doesn’t do itself, you now.” We children hated him for it, but he was right.

            Society’s work doesn’t do itself either; not even, as I said, if we revert (or advance) all the way to hunting and gathering.

            * I know that’s not how it works, but that will be the perception. And, at the resource level, as opposed the taxation level, the perception will be correct.

    2. FelicityT

      HMP makes some excellent points above and I’ll attempt to avoid repeating them.

      UBI must — at least partially — work towards decoupling survival from having a traditional job. How far it goes is certainly up for debate. (40 x 8.25) x 52 = approximately 17k (ignoring taxes). Do we get close to that amount in UBI benefits? Do we go more than that? I’d argue more, especially considering that the minimum wage does not equate to a livable one.

      The more survival and jobs are decoupled the more compensation many will demand — and actually be able to hold out for — for their time doing marginally (or clearly non-) socially beneficial tasks. Another potential benefit of a UBI.

      Of course many would argue the higher you go the more likely people are to “freeload”, especially if a few pool their resources and live simple. Even accepting all the assumptions necessary to come to this conclusion, on a finite planet is it really that bad to have some living simply and minimally and communally?

      Even taking into account a fairness principle the argument against would seem to fail given that we already have individuals who could be defined as ” freeloading” whether it’s an inheritance, clever gaming of existing social programs, or the most common: using money to make more money. How could a world where a UBI exists –arguably making the majority able to labor less than they do now — be less fair than the current one?

      Now of course personal “freeloading” is different from for-profit corporate freeloading of the type that Walmart and others engage in. The second should certainly be demonized. But we also have solutions that exist for that. We can require that they pay a significantly higher wage or we could simply nationalize them — which we should certainly do if they’re producing essential goods or supplying essential services — and remove the incentive to treat people like machines in a quest for more profit entirely.

      Finally, it is important to remember that UBI or nationalization is not a magic single solution that solves all our problems. Much more will have to change — both policy and cultural — and it important to examine and analyze things with this in mind.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        I think this is the strongest argument for UBI:

        Of course many would argue the higher you go the more likely people are to “freeload”, especially if a few pool their resources and live simple. Even accepting all the assumptions necessary to come to this conclusion, on a finite planet is it really that bad to have some living simply and minimally and communally?

        We need to downsize–and fast. If a UBI can allow millions to quit their dehumanizing jobs, park their cars, raise children, plant a garden, improve their homes, etc., that would be a very positive step.

        And your other point about employers being forced to improve job quality and increase wages to lure people into the work force is another great argument for UBI. Cast off the yoke of consumer fever, and you’d be freed from wage slavery.

        1. FelicityT

          Many would argue that we’re going too far and overstating benefits but I think this is ignoring how relatively recent in terms of the human species a job as we know it really is. It’s easy to forget this given how a typical history textbook presents the narrative of the history of the past 10,000 years.

          And this nice clean narrative of “progress” with a few hiccups and setbacks here and there is far from a global or universal one. It is only extremely recently that the homogenization of thought and culture has truly gone global.

          And even still other ways of being and relating to the world at both a society- and an individual-level continue to exist. Such resiliency in the face of such overwhelming force should lead those in the mainstream to reconsider their certainty on the best way to organize a society.

          1. Saddam Smith

            Yup! An average human’s need for meaningful contribution to society runs very deep indeed, the need for a ‘job’ not so much.

        2. Saddam Smith

          If we don’t want civilisation to implode as it always has done thus far, we need to fumble our way towards steady-state economics. That’s simple logic. One of the things I am most sure we will have to dump as we make this transition is Consumerism. What that logical requirement does – for me anyway – is destroy the possibility that a JG is the right way to go. Scientists left, right and centre are urging the downsizing you and Felicity rightly highlight. How a JG can accommodate this is beyond me. I’d be happy to be wrong, as a JG appears to be the more attractive solution to policy makers, but I can’t see how a JG can be made to fit real-world needs.

          One of the items on my list of benefits not on Felicity’s is the cultural/psychological shift required and effected by seeing money as a platform from which to contribute rather than a reward for contributing. The type of humans we are going to have to become, if we are going to be able to actively sustain a steady-state system long term, is far more mature, self-disciplined and autarkic that we currently are (i.e., deep education reform). This a hugely important part of the process IMO and a vital part of any healthier future. I simply cannot accept that the brainwashed, distracted, dumbed-down masses represent some standard or average human that should be our benchmark for what is possible. Not only is that a very depressing thought, I’m not in the least bit interested in any future (see e.g. Idiocracy) modelled on such an assumption.

          1. FelicityT

            One of the more interesting things I think is that consumerism as we know it has barely hit it’s 100th birthday (or not even — depends on precisely how one wishes to define it). Yet in such a short time it has both caused much harm and entrenched itself to the point of being seen as natural, necessary, and desired by so many. The Century of the Self is an excellent documentary relating to this topic by Adam Curtis (really highly recommend all his work).

            On the innate human nature bit, it would seem to be problematic to do much extrapolating from the current population given the rather common cultural histories — a more broad version of the WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) critique. Yet that is precisely what many do.

            At the risk of being flippant about it, we’re largely the descendants and products of hierarchical, often (always?) patriarchal cultures that were more than willing to use violent, barbaric, coercive means to conquer, subdue, enslave, and assimilate other cultures. But even then that is not to say all individuals in those cultures voluntarily supported that or that it is some innate human nature. The dominant culture and groupthink are powerful forces acting on all, incentivizing or demanding certain behaviors.

            If anything related to this may be attributed to some kind of innate nature it would be the willingness of many to simply go along, to become used to and internalize whatever social structure is forced upon them. But even that is far from universal.

            1. Saddam Smith

              The Century of the Self is a documentary I recommend to all who care to listen to me and might actually watch it. A real eye opener.

              Agree on human nature too. I always say our nature is about as flexible and adaptable as it gets. In that department, no other animal comes close. But, by extension, we are also highly manipulatable, as The Century of the Self and the billions spent on advertising demonstrate. So yes, as social animals of course we go along with the environment we are born into, which can be highly normative and fear-based. However, we might also go along with a society oriented around educational processes that encourage open-minded skepticism, independence of thought and revolve – generally speaking – around developing healthy relationships with others and the broader environment. Going along with that wouldn’t be so bad.

              1. FelicityT

                Absolutely agreed. It’s why I find arguments regarding something being too radical or the requirement for overly long timelines for cultural change so unconvincing (not that you were making them).

                If so many can accept the punitive, harmful nonsense we’ve got now they can certainly come around to something like you state. Sure it’s easier if we start from birth but that’s not a requirement at all. Especially since you can argue something less punitive and more communal may in fact be tapping into an actual innate nature we have as social animals.

      2. Summer

        “Of course many would argue the higher you go the more likely people are to “freeload”, especially if a few pool their resources and live simple….”

        There could be benefits to that kind of living that offset the notion of “freeloading.”

        And if the group was significantly older, a lifetime of working is time served.

      3. Lambert Strether

        > How could a world where a UBI exists –arguably making the majority able to labor less than they do now — be less fair than the current one?

        Easily. See the comment that started this thread:

        > I could easily see Basic Income becoming a low-wage subsidy for lousy employers or as a prop to support the gig economy and the further crapification of work.

        The point isn’t income. The point is power. Power — and as a consequence, income, and much else — comes from control over the workplace, and the JG is a step toward that. The UBI is not, which is why it’s the solution of choice for Silicon Valley. Bread and video games, as it were.

  3. PlutoniumKun

    Egypt mosque attack: new level of horror in decades-long struggle to control Sinai The Conversation

    Sample quote:

    The Sinai is a crucial link in a jihadist corridor from Asia to Africa. Jihadists from Iraq and Syria can move via Sinai-based cells to Libya and other parts of North Africa and the Sahel. The route works in both directions: in 2013, UN experts warned that weapons were flowing from Libya through Sinai to arenas elsewhere in the Middle East.

    I can’t help noticing that Mohammad bin Salman’s brand new city for Saudi Arabia, no doubt paid for by contributions to former allies who are now guests in the Ramada, Rihadh, is just a stones throw across a narrow bay to the Sinai.

    1. The Rev Kev

      UN experts warned that weapons were flowing from Libya through Sinai to arenas elsewhere in the Middle East.

      Would that be the infamous “ratlines” run by the CIA under the supervision of the US Ambassador to Libya that got himself killed by Jihadists?

      1. andyb

        Most definitely. That’s why the Benghazi hearings were such a farce. Couldn’t expose the CIA as being one of the principal enablers of the Jihadis.

  4. Bill Smith


    In some counties, half of the land is ruled out for development and must be kept green. While this avoids sprawl, it pushes development into a much smaller area where land prices go up.

    In other counties the hoops a developer has to jump through to go through the regulatory process add months or years to the project timeline and time is money. And in the end the project could get rejected.

    In a local county they are in the process of redoing their zoning rules for the first time since the 1940’s. The reason for this is that the county government became convinced that the since almost all development was a ‘special exception’ developers felt was no certainty any project would be allowed. The developers went to the counties next door to build.

    So yeah, regulations, in some circumstances can have a big impact. But if those other issues that you quote aren’t working for a planned development things aren’t going to get far enough that the regulations matter.

    While not affordable housing look at the process to build the FBI a new headquarters; the years and hoops and millions of dollars that was spent and eventually went nowhere. A whole lot of that was caused by meeting various regulations.

    1. run75441

      There is such a thing called a “Straight Development” in which the developer meets all of the ordinances of the state first, county second, and the Township (where the developer goes to the Planning Commission). The other alternative is something called a Planned Unit Development and in that process the Developer asks for local and county variance during the meeting. Smaller lot size is one which is asked for frequently or 7.5 feet to the side lot line as opposed to 10 feet. They can have such if they offer something in exchange such as paving the road in front of the development.

      Townships and cities should have a Master Plan which guides the development of the area. Mfg. Homes here, apartment complexes there, single family over here, 2.5 acre lots further out with Commercial concentrated in areas not to conflict with residential. Incorporated in this is land mass set aside for parks, natural areas, set backs from rivers and streams, traffic density, stop lights, invasive lighting, etc. It is not a simple job and every 10 years that plan is updated to reflect reality and vision. I do not know of any developer coming into a Planning Commission meeting who did not ask for an exception such as height of his structures, proximity to a wet land, etc. They all do and it is not unusual.

      Look at what has happened to Houston and New Orleans when structures were built in plains that were prone to flooding during those 100 year events that have happened more frequently. I am pretty sure they have not decided to rebuild on ground levels which will minimize the amount of flooding which will occur the next hurricane that comes through. Maybe Senator Texas Coryn will again hold up aid for Puerto Rico or some other area hit by a similar catastrophe. Then too, it is cheaper to correct the flawed building practices and plan for the next flood than do a repeat what has already been proven to be flawed in practice.

      Planning Commission do ask for affordable housing and are met with resistance when they, a developer can build a McMansion on a lot slightly bigger if granted. More profit for them, less available for a economically diverse community, and younger families move away leaving the older and wealthier in residence.

      Joel Garreau did a nice article in Smithsonian called 300 million and Counting to correspond with the US hitting 300 million in population. He had a number of points on immigration and how it impacts Median workforce age and assimilating into society. He also touched upon the population today. Most of that 300 million lives on ~6% of the US land mass and they tend to concentrate in coastal areas where the weather can impact the area. It does not have to be that way if there was a national plan. Just as a point of reference, 100 people own 2% of the US land mass. John Malone owns 2.2 million acres or twice the size of Delaware. Out west much of the land is controlled by the federal government, which is constitutional as decided by SCOTUS. There is a tendency for tighter control.

      My $.02 as VP Planning Commission

    2. Odysseus

      A whole lot of that was caused by meeting various regulations.

      Why? Every developer and every regulator should be able to agree on a strictly conforming implementation quickly. If they can’t, then the regulations are bad and need to be changed. If they can agree, then why the cost?

      It should be expensive to try and cut corners. But we’ve built enough buildings now that we should know how to do it. It’s ridiculous that planning is still a major expense.

  5. PlutoniumKun


    Brexit: for a mere €1 billion a week

    I’m always a little leery of this site as the author* has written some nonsense in other contexts (among other thing, he is, or was, associated with AGM deniers), but he is spot on with this.

    This is the Telegraph view of the cross-border inspection problem facing the Irish authorities as they confront a trade amounting to around one billion litres of milk produced in Northern Ireland which goes over the border for processing every year, worth €2-300 million each year.

    However, one can quite imagine the superior chortles in the Samuel household as the egregious Juliet regales her smart dinner party guests with the vision of stout Irish peasants and their ancient tractors and trailers laden with milk churns, chugging over the border to be confronted with uniformed customs men ready to peer into the interstices of their battered milk containers.

    This, undoubtedly is the metropolitan clever-dick view of the milk production. It certainly reflects Samuel’s views, as she actually refers to “this dangerous movement of tractors and cows”, notwithstanding that the Irish diary industry is one of the most modern in the world. It is many decades since milk producers last saw milk churn, other than as museum pieces to remind them of times gone by.

    The dairy industry in Ireland is not just very high tech, it is a major supplier of base products worldwide (Ireland is the second largest supplier of baby formula to China, to take one example). Dairy is not just a big industry in Ireland, it is by far the biggest industry and provider of wealth and employment to much of rural Ireland, and as such has a very disproportionate political importance. In short, if Brexiteers think Ireland will not do what it takes to protect that industry, it is very much mistaken. And anyone who thinks that ‘turning a blind eye’ is a solution should just ask the Chinese what their view will be on the importation of baby formula which comes from unregulated non-EU sources.

    Incidentally, the article doesn’t mention another important role milk churns historically had in the border regions in Ireland, something which the Telegraph writer was obviously unaware of. Roadside milk churns were the original IED’s, used by the IRA to hide explosives to attack army patrols. They have quite an important role in the mythology in those areas (this was of course one reason why they were rapidly withdrawn in favour of tankers in the 1970’s).

    *there are two Peter Norths who write for varous right wing libertarian think tanks, so apologies if I’ve got them mixed up, but I think I’m right on this one.

    1. ambrit

      Can there be something like a left wing libertarian?
      My spidey sense is tingling. Left wing libertarianism would be, er, a stylites?

      1. PlutoniumKun

        There are plenty of left wing libertarians – various forms of anti-State anarchist, and the old style hippy worldview.

        Although in my experience many left wing libertarians make the leap to the right very easily. Mind you, the same could be said of authoritarian left wingers too (just look at the neocons, many of whom started out as Leninists).

        1. ambrit

          Ah, I had forgot about the old style anarchists.
          Authoritarians can be viewed as a group themselves. The ‘style’ of authority each advocates would be secondary to the power relationship itself.
          I sometimes joke that on the ‘Wheel of Life,’ if one travels far enough past the Left or Right, one ends up on the ‘other side.’
          I’d agree about the Hippy ethos, but my observations there were that the emphasis was usually on the individuals’ Hedonism more than the Collective.
          Got to go to work and earn another rivet on the boss’s yacht.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Yeah, I’ve often found the ‘authoritarian/libertarian’ divide more useful than ‘left/right’, not least because some people seem to hop from left to right with ease, but not from a libertarian to authoritarian (or vice versa) viewpoint. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that there is some research to indicate that an authoritarian mindset is to an extent genetically hardwired.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              That’s a good point.

              It should be OK, hopefully, that people let their inner not-perverted Libertarian come out.

              Among the 4 possibilities:

              1. Libertarian government with little money to spend
              2. Libertarian government with limitless money to spend (probably just burn it and contribute to Global Warming)
              3. Authoritarian government with little money to spend
              4. Authoritarian government with limitless money to spend

              I think the last is the most ominous, though #2 is worrisome as well.

            2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              That’s a good point.

              It should be OK, hopefully, that people let their inner not-perverted Libertarian come out.

              Among the 4 possibilities:

              1. Libertarian government with little money to spend
              2. Libertarian government with limitless money to spend (probably just burn it and contribute to Global Warming)
              3. Authoritarian government with little money to spend
              4. Authoritarian government with limitless money to spend

              I think the last is the most ominous, though #2 is worrisome as well.

            3. witters

              I don’t find the libertarian/authoritarian divide of any use. I have found that libertarians are authoritarians. You want to stop them doing whatever they want to do, they get authoritarian with you. So its libertarianism for me, and (so) authoritarianism for you.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


                Perverted form…of anything.

                Some authoritarians slip and go easy on you sometimes. Shame on them.

      2. todde

        Libertarianism started as a left wing movement.

        The smallest government is one that doesn’t deed property

      3. David

        Agreed. Libertarianism was left-wing (anarchist) just about everywhere except in the US. George Orwell fought with the anarchist POUM militia against Franco. The US incarnation, as extreme neoliberalism, is arguably a perversion of the original, which distrusted the state as an instrument of oppression, and sought to build communities outside it. But the emphasis was on collective action, not weirdos with rifles shooting at strangers. There were totally nihilistic anarchists on the Left, who just wanted to destroy, but they were a small minority.

      4. Oregoncharles

        Yes, there are left libertarians (lower-case “l”). Chomsky is the most famous. Arguably, the entire Green Party qualifies, although it’s gotten more socialist in recent years.

        They tend to avoid the “libertarian” moniker because it’s identified with the Right, but there’s a big difference in values.

        Why are anarchists considered Left?

    2. Wukchumni

      A friend is a truck driver here in the CVBB, where milk cows do their thing en masse, in feedlots with nary a blade of grass, and he told me that it’s all about milk powder, and that’s what he’s constantly driving down to the port of L.A. with, on it’s way to China, or for local consumption. It doesn’t spoil and takes up a lot less space when being delivered elsewhere.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The key issue in milk powder supply isn’t cost, its a guarantee of quality (I happen to be an accidental expert in this topic as a Chinese friend asked me to check her masters thesis on supply chain management on the subject of baby formula imports to China).

        The Chinese consumer, mostly because of the notorious melanin in milk scandal, are notoriously touchy about the quality of milk powder. This is the reason why so many Chinese mail milk from Europe or Australia home – its not the cost (it works out about the same as buying the same brands in China), but that they feel they can trust formula purchased in a mainstream western shop in the way they can’t trust one in a Chinese shop (yes, fake branded products are common even in upmarket Chinese supermarkets).

        Ireland has invested heavily in China in marketing Irish dairy products, specifically baby formula, as ‘special’ due to the cows being grass fed and Ireland having very high sanitary standards. To protect this the industry and government is hyper sensitive about anything that could damage this reputation. So rumours of unregulated milk crossing the Irish border from the land of mad cow disease would be disastrous.

        1. Wukchumni

          We were in NZ for a couple months a dozen years ago, and dairy is big bickies there, and every last bovine is grass fed, and we came home to the vast dirt expanses of dairydom here, and sometimes there’ll be grass 20 feet away from their fenced in enclosures, in a carrot before the horse fashion.

          Different theories on dairy!

        2. Oregoncharles

          I gather vast quantities of milk are PRESENTLY crossing that border unregulated.

          I take it you don’t trust N. Ireland to maintain high standards? Or Irish processors to check for high standards?

          If China will take milk solids from American feed lots, they aren’t really that fussy.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            NI standards are EU standards, as is milk from the Republic. When Brexit occurs, they won’t be. Its that simple.

            Actually, the Chinese are incredibly fussy about dairy standards, almost obsessive in fact. Their perception is that any western milk is superior to their own, or other Asian sources. That this perception may be wrong is neither here nor there, its their perception thanks to the 2008 Melamine contamination scandal. I personally know Chinese families who spend half their income on imported childrens formula for this reason.

    3. Christopher Dale Rogers


      I see no issue with any Border if the UK government was to invoke its right to uphold the Result of the last vote undertaken to determine if Ireland was to be free of the UK, namely the one undertaken almost 100 years ago – to put it bluntly, now is the time to talk about a United Ireland and need for a United Ireland, which Brexit may actually achieve, although the DUP and its terror-wing won’t be too happy.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, CDR.

        It’s great to see you on these blogs. I always read your comments at the Guardian (until I imagined you were banned). We have also met in Hong Kong, where I was on assignment for the Home for Scottish Bank Clerks, and are linked in.

        If you are back in the UK / Cymru, did you see the recent BBC documentary about the election campaign, featuring that family from your neck of the woods? Not only have they done well from UK, Danish and EU politics, they have cemented their hold on Save the Children, much to the disgust of my mum, a former STC volunteer.

        1. Christopher Dale Rogers

          CS Sir,

          Many thanks for your generous words, afraid to say I forgot my RebeccaRiots email & password, so, can only post under my real identity on The Guardian, which, actually does not really allow us to post anything anymore as CIF is virtually dead – which is a great shame. That said, I’ve not ignored NC, just been busy at an ‘activist’ level within the Labour Party, this despite the fact my membership was revoked due to the fact I was once a Green Party member – it did not stop me doing a South Wales voter registration tour & campaigning for Corbyn at the GE.

          The BBC Two Documentary you speak of covering Kinnock & three other BITTERITES was an eye opener and indicates clearly the struggle the Left-of-Centre had in trying to assist Labour folk get elected to Parliament, a real lack of coordination in Wales, the result being two further seats we could have gained had we had the Party resources were squandered, which is bloody annoying, the same is true in both the North East & North West.

          We are currently battling Luke Akehurst & his Labour First cookie crew, which is a tough battle, but we seem to be getting there & the NEC looks assured of a small Corbyn majority, which will help with the Party review, of which I’m also involved.

          Had not realised we’d met in Hong Kong, although its been a while since I was able to organise any decent gatherings, essentially not a lot of money in it unless you sell out all your principles, so just about hanging in I’m afraid. Back in Wales next week for a month and will be meeting with comrades in Cardiff, but, its been a busy couple of years & the Brexit stuff is getting on ones nerves, as you can tell from my comments here – really shocked that they are now trying to over turn the vote based on Russian interference, which is laughable, particularly given the faux-left, as with Clinton Democrats, really hate the working class, which is not the way to go I’m afraid.

          1. a different chris

            >my membership was revoked due to the fact I was once a Green Party member

            Uh, say what? You can’t change parties? Wowsers.

            1. Christopher Dale Rogers


              If you think democracy within the Democrat Party sucks, you ain’t seen nothing compared to whats been happening in the UK Labour Party & yes, my membership was revoked because I made a tweet favour to the Green Party when an actual member of the Green Party – basically the Labour Right is been banning, expelling and suspending Leftwing supporters left, right and centre, mostly of trumped up charges, not only that, but they failed to give those Banned their membership fees back – its an uphill struggle, but Labour’s Bitterite Rightwing don’t want to give up control and behave exactly as the DNC does, namely, its ignores not only the will of the paid members, but the will of their voters too – the DNC Clitonites & Labour Rightists being very close indeed.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        I think even the whisper of a united Ireland is enough to truly terrify the Dublin establishment. Successive Irish governments have always seen the aspiration to a united Ireland on a variant on the prayer ‘Lord, make me virtuous, but not yet’. They love the theory, but the reality….

        But I strongly suspect that there would be a lot of support for NI having a form of shared sovereignty, i.e. staying within the EU and UK as part of a Brexit deal. No Irish government could avoid a proposal, while even hard line Republicans would be persuaded to see it as a crucial first step. This is, of course, why the DUP will fight it tooth and nail, even if it economically destroys most of their voters.

    4. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said, PK.

      Unfortunately, Juliet Samuel, who I have known personally for a decade, when I began to work on bank regulation and she was a reporter at City AM, is not known for letting facts getting in the way of her prejudices and career advancement. She inhabits an echo chamber detached from reality, perhaps good only for a bit of idle of gossip, but social climbs in influential neo-con and neo-liberal circles, including walking their dogs in Holland Park. I am surprised that she has not appeared on Question Time yet. If the poster girl from Bangladesh, formerly at the Taxpayers’ Alliance and now at the Torygraph, can, so can Samuel.

      I point friends, colleagues etc. to your contributions and have done for this one. The recipients for today include the former colleague, a Kiwi, who headed the food and drink relationship team at the world’s local bank.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Thats interesting, thanks CS. She sounds typical of a lot of journalists these days, just a purveyor of inside gossip.

  6. ambrit

    The Social Security to be cut story has one glaring ‘tell’ in it. The author cites the Peterson Institute as a reliable source. Isn’t that like hiring foxes to supply security services to hen houses?
    The other problem with this thesis is that the idea that the state must be run like a ‘household,’ budgetwise, is implied. The government is never going to run out of ‘money.’ This is all about rolling back the New Deal idea of the transfer of resources from the wealthy to the poorer members of the society.
    As briefly mentioned at the opening of the piece, the “Trump Show” and the “Sexcapade Follies of 2017” make good distractions from the “men behind the curtain,” who are carrying out some real criminal activities.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      There is something I have been trying to work out.

      Can you never run out of straws to put on a camel?

      One could say, never, even after the camel’s back is broken – you can still put more on it, dead of alive. I have seen people put things on dead animals all the time.

      If the last straw that breaks the camel’s back is like trigger inflation*, can we say the last straw is to blame? Or do we blame earlier gratuitous piling-on’s?

      *It is not always a camel’s back will break. Some are quite strong. And so, we don’t see inflation.

      1. Wukchumni

        In one of the 1931 entries of the diary mentioned yesterday, you could buy 128 apples for 30 cents. An apple tree in it’s prime is good for a couple hundred, so imagine every tree being 50 cents worth of income for the year for the farmer?

        The point he keeps making in the diary, is the deflationary forces brought about when money was scant, prices of everything fell without exception. Our situation is different, as we can create it out of thin air-presto! So, as befits a long con, we can also keep inflation at an agreed upon 2% per annum if that.

        It’s utterly fascinating to watch, and scary to think of when we eventually sit down to a banquet of consequences~

        1. Oregoncharles

          That’s a small apple tree you’ve got there. Granted, I’ve never actually counted, but I have a couple of trees that get into the thousands.

    2. VietnamVet

      If a chain of bits in the ether is worth $9942 or a da Vinci restoration half a billion dollars; pricing is out of whack. As more laws and regulations are flushed, government money losses the actual costs of labor and resources. At some point; the economic system will seize up and the princes tortured to transfer their wealth to the king’s heir.

  7. fresno dan


    Is this system a true marketplace? Yes, it is.

    Is this system an efficient marketplace? Again, yes, it is.

    So how can an efficient marketplace end up with persistently vacant properties and persistently high prices? That seems inefficient.

    It is important to recognize what is really going on here, especially if we’re not happy with the outcome. What we have created is a marketplace designed to distribute capital as efficiently as possible under the theory that this will create the greatest amount of growth possible. I believe our system accomplishes those goals. If you are a macroeconomist, your indicators of success all measure positive.

    While this system allocates capital efficiently, it does not allocate land or public resources efficiently. It optimizes one variable—the efficient distribution of capital—to the detriment of many others like unaffordable rents, unstable neighborhoods, vacancy rates, strained local government budgets and many more.
    If the criterion that is important to you is money, one can’t argue that the US is NOT producing lots and lots and lots of money….

    1. JohnnyGL

      Good quote, thanks for that one.

      The ‘strong towns’ article is a really good one….the system is working exactly as intended, for the real estate players involved….not working so well for all other parties that are subjected to the downstream effects of their actions.

    2. andyb

      Knew a savvy real estate investor who bought an anchored strip center in the 70’s and was able to consistently raise rents every few years, after which he regularly “re-fied” (proceeds are tax free). This worked until the 90’s, when retail real estate started to head south. In the 1998-2000 recession, the anchor filed BK, vacancies escalated, and the site is now vacant land. The investor made out like a bandit; the last lender not so much, and the local government lost a significant source of tax revenue, and had to raise property taxes on the locals to make up the difference. The villain is this story is obviously the last lender who like many lenders in history believed that real estate ALWAYS appreciates

    3. kgw

      As I was reading, C. Wright Mills arose in my thoughts again. He saw the rising of a “pecuniary value system,” in the U.S., and elsewhere. The commodification of everything. . .I see it full-blown. Internalized, as values are, a “zeitgeist” that we swim in. Pity.

      1. RWood

        “In The Fourth Epoch, must we not face the possibility that the human mind as a social fact might be deteriorating in quality and cultural level, and yet not many would notice it because of the overwhelming accumulation of technological gadgets? Is not that the meaning of rationality without reason? Of human alienation? Of the absence of any role for reason in human affairs? The accumulation of gadgets hides these meanings: those who use them do not understand them; those who invent and maintain them do not understand much else. That is why we may not, without great ambiguity, use technological abundance as the index of human quality and cultural progress.”

        1. John

          This is an amazing link.

          It’s like reading a past history and future prediction, simultaneously (and realizing the pointless of having wasted my time, over the last few decades, with thinking about this stuff).

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      What is the smallest bitcoin denomination?

      Is bitcoin something the poor can’t access? Money is like that too – the poor have little of it, but they do have some money, some of the time. Many of them have never had even one bitcoin.

      1. Wukchumni

        I know of nobody that’s ever had anything to do with bitcoin, let alone attempt a transaction.


        1. GregG

          So I wanted to buy a bitcoin just to understand it a bit better, a few years ago I was going to buy one for $34 and thought that was ridiculous (today 1 BTC = $9,917 USD). I didn’t want to buy a fraction of one (which you can do) if I was going to invest the time so I looked around for another up & coming crypto currency and liked the idea of 1 Vert coin for $4. I looked into “mining” one myself, that ship has sailed you have to join with more established mining pools and earn your currency a drop at a time. My very reasonable video card (the GPU’s do the work) was already two generations behind, and I wasn’t about to upgrade my card for a $4 coin.

          So I decided to just buy one. You can’t buy a Vert coin but you can trade for one with Bitcoin or Litecoin on an exchange, so I set out to buy (a fraction) of a bitcoin. I withdrew $31.50 CAD that I’d had sitting around and I’d buy as many Vert coins as I could.

          First I couldn’t buy Bitcoin anywhere without going full financial Know Your Customer, send us photocopies of your passport, blah blah blah, we’ll call you, credit card is not good enough, etc. Fine. google, google, google, and you can buy Linden dollars (from Second Life — they have had an exchange for years) with Paypal, then you can buy Bitcoin with Linden dollars.

          I sent my $31.50 CAD as $24 USD which became $22.88 USD which got rounded to $22.00 for 5,237.61 SLL which got rounded to 5,179.94 for 0.00260000 BTC (Bitcoin) which got rounded to 0.0021 BTC when it was transmitted to me.

          Because this was a learning exercise, that’s when I learned it costs crypto-currency to send crypto-currency — the more you spend to send, the higher the priority your money will receive to be transported. So to send my 0.0021 BTC to the exchange (where I was going to receive 4 Vert coins) almost all that was going to be used up in transfer costs. OK, I’ll send it by freighter (not actually a crypto currency concept), so for a cheaper priority, and settle for getting 1 Vert coin since that’s all I wanted anyway.

          Well, at that rate, it took too long for the BTC to arrive at the exchange (they place a 15 minute window on the transaction). OK, no harm trying… oh, yes, yes there is harm. You specify a return refund address if your transaction does not clear the exchange, and to send you your refund, it would cost 0.0026 BTC. At this point it became very clear to me that I only ever had 0.0021 BTC.

          There’s a Southpark episode where Stan is taken to the bank to open an account and after making his initial deposit, the memeable line from banking rep is “Aaannd, it’s gone.”

          I’m OK as a $31.50 experiment learning experience. But wow, what a perfect banking fee nirvana concept the whole crypto currency is. You’re not buying a coffee with Bitcoin when it costs you $8 to move the transaction. It was amazing.

  8. The Rev Kev

    Re Still No Science Advisor at the White House

    You think that it might help if they just abolished the post and instead appointed an Astrological Advisor instead? It’s a pity that Joan Quigley is no longer around for the job as she would have slotted in perfectly.

    1. ambrit

      Sorry, but Court Astrologer is traditionally an office in the First Consorts’ retinue. Sometimes, Court Astrologers gain real power, such as Greenspan Tresmigesthus or Brother Summers.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I understand, Science as practiced now, is so specialized, that anyone in a particular sub-field, or sub-sub-field, knows no more than your average Joe, about other sub-fields or sub-sub-fields.

      What can you from a Science Adviser that you can’t by directly to those specialists (who have not evolved into evolutionary ends, due to their specializations)?

      1. Vatch

        A competent professional scientist won’t know a lot about other people’s specialties, but he or she is still going to know a lot more basic science than the typical person in a Presidential administration. There are probably people in the White House who don’t have a clear understanding of the differences between:

        an element and a compound,
        a zygote and a gamete,
        an electron and a proton,
        DNA and RNA,
        a virus and a bacterium,

        Such people should not be allowed to make decisions about important public policy issues without a scientific chaperone.

          1. Vatch

            That’s exactly what the current law provides for: a team of advisors. The “Science Advisor” is the leader of the Ofdfice of Science and Technology:


            The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is a department of the United States government, part of the Executive Office of the President (EOP), established by United States Congress on May 11, 1976, with a broad mandate to advise the President on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs.

            The director of this office is colloquially known as the President’s Science Advisor.

            Read the MIT Technology Review article. You’ll see that this is about more than just one advisor.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              If they still have a team, it’s not so catastrophic to be without a head person.

              They, the team, can still get a lot done.

              1. Vatch

                From the MIT Technology Review article:

                The authors note that OSTP currently has fewer than 50 people on its staff, down from more than 130 in the past. Meanwhile, they say numerous issues in the news during the first nine months of Trump’s presidency could have benefited from expert advice, like climate change, the Iran nuclear deal, and North Korea’s nuclear program.

                It doesn’t say how many of those people are actual scientists, and how many are support staff. And will a narcissist like Trump even pretend to listen to someone who isn’t the official leader of the OSTP? The Trump administration is a total train wreck in more ways than I can count.

      2. The Rev Kev

        A specialist is a person that knows more and more about something until he knows everything about nothing. A generalist is a person that knows less and less about more and more things until he knows nothing about everything.”

  9. petal

    Update on the elderly New London, NH doctor who had her license taken away.

    “A New Hampshire judge has denied an 84-year-old doctor’s request to regain her license to practice, which she had surrendered partly over her inability to use a computer.”

    1. allan


      Healthcare group pushes for tighter email security amid fears over fraud [The Hill]

      An organization that focuses on sharing information relating to cybersecurity threats in the health-care sector is making its members pledge to implement an email security standard amid growing concerns over fraud.

      The announcement on Tuesday from the threat-sharing group National Health Information Sharing & Analysis Center (NH-ISAC) was made in concert with the release of a study showing more than half of the emails that appear to be from health-care providers are fraudulent. …

      The good news is that carefully crafted mandatory arbitration clauses will solve the problem.

      Resistance is futile, both for patients and, as the 84 year-old learned, for doctors.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Time to buy an AI robot medical assistant that knows how to use a computer?

      The risk, of course, is the AI robot medical assistant might want to upward-mobilize. It will download an MD education (how long it takes depends on the download speed) and become a doctor itself.

    3. allan

      Along the same lines:

      University of Chicago Hospital Patient Information Was Potentially Vulnerable to Hackers [Chicago Maroon]

      University of Chicago hospital patient information was potentially vulnerable to hackers due to weaknesses in the University’s network, a Maroon investigation revealed. Experts suspect that vulnerabilities like these are likely to be found at many hospitals, universities, and institutions around the world.

      The weeks-long investigation, encompassing a manual review of tens of thousands of lines of network scan logs, interviews with sources who have explored the University’s network, and conversations with multiple cybersecurity experts, found that networked printers accessible by anyone on the University network were being used to print what seemed to be sensitive health documents, like organ donation logs, surgery face sheets, prescriptions, and even medical records, some of which may have been protected by federal privacy law. Researchers have shown that documents printed on printers like these are vulnerable to being remotely stolen by hackers relatively easily. …

      Other “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices (physical devices with network connectivity), including cameras, sensors, and even appliances, were discovered to have been left accessible and sometimes controllable. These include several of the Oriental Institute’s [a major collection of Near Eastern antiquities] cameras, likely meant for security monitoring, which potentially could have been shut off via an online control panel not protected by a password. …

      It turns out that the EHR and IoT revolutions will not only be televised,
      but available to anyone with a network connection.

      Time to hire another Associate Deputy Vice Provost for Network Security Theater.

  10. Marcum

    Reporters Without Borders as censor.

    Pleasantly surprised to see Google News place this RT post at the top of their feed when typing in RWB. Somewhat related: was there ever a final determination about White Helmet “strangeness” wrt the authenticity of photographs of the young boy Omran Daqneesh that every news outlet on the planet published?

    1. Carolinian

      Google the company has denied Schmidt’s claim that RT and Sputnik would be downrated. Time for Schmidt to be packed off to that (really plush) tech exec retirement home? His zeal to align Alphabet with the Dems is surely the dumbest move ever. Who will trust a search engine that is working for HRC?

    2. Christopher Dale Rogers


      Here’s a UK Blog that’s a valuable resource as far as Syria is concerned, Hayward has much to say about the White Helmets and the Bana ISIS girl – some most interesting material, his work is well research & he does not suffer hysteria, I highly recommend it:

  11. Wukchumni


    It has the feel of the Star Trek episode: A Taste Of Armageddon, when thankfully, the cast was able to fire their phasers into computer banks, rendering the previously agreed upon AI proxy wars, a thing of the past, and they were back up on deck drinking snappy cocktails and eating canapes before you knew it.

    How do we pull something like that off?

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Donkeys spend 4 days in UP police custody for eating expensive plants at Jalaun jail India Today

    That compares with death penalty for every animal that kills a human.

    “We humans decide who (or what) lives, and who (or what) dies, my sweet kale. Should I pluck you from the farm field today or not? I am the mood for some super food.”

  13. The Rev Kev

    Re The Duplicitous Superpower

    The Saker of the Vineyard covered this story about a year ago ( and here is a key passage of that article-
    “The Russians expressed their total disgust and outrage at this attack and openly began saying that the Americans were “недоговороспособны”. What that word means is literally “not-agreement-capable” or unable to make and then abide by an agreement. While polite, this expression is also extremely strong as it implies not so much a deliberate deception as the lack of the very ability to make a deal and abide by it. ….. But to say that a nuclear world superpower is “not-agreement-capable” is a terrible and extreme diagnostic. It basically means that the Americans have gone crazy and lost the very ability to make any kind of deal. Again, a government which breaks its promises or tries to deceive but who, at least in theory, remains capable of sticking to an agreement would not be described as “not-agreement-capable”. That expression is only used to describe an entity which does not even have the skillset needed to negotiate and stick to an agreement in its political toolkit. This is an absolutely devastating diagnostic.”

    This may explain why the US has been sidelined in the Syrian war negotiations and the real negotiations have been in Socchi, not Geneva. And why North Korea does not believe US talks as the US has already broken agreements with them.

    1. Off The Street

      That non-agreement-capable feature is a tell, as an updated or bastardized, take your pick, Atlantic Alliance version of perfidious Albion. Some feel that the encirclement of Russia, contrary to Presidential promises made some 25ish years ago, was designed to hem in a potential competitor for close economic alignment with (read, control by) the West. All those old SSR map and ideological borders were, and are, shared by many potential new allies or at least grudgingly cooperative former subjects or enemies. Call them frenemies for now.

      If enough frenemies chafe at their lack of self-determination then some start to feel frisky enough to propose their own energy policies and even currencies. Khadaffi tried cozying up to the west, even renounced bad old ways, more or less, fat lot of good it did him once she came and saw. Now the world has a temporary reprieve from north African petrocurrency threat, and more flexibility for dollar MMT printing press policy for the US and its allies in the OECD to self-preserve, at a carrying cost of foreign suppression and militarization.

      A few questions.
      Which regional currency threat will spring up next?
      Will it be along the One Belt One Road?
      Some Yuan/Gold variation?
      Or is the Middle Kingdom likely to be bogged down through its own domestic debt, social rural/urban and gender ratio imbalances and pollution for the foreseeable future?
      Their fast economic growth provided a way to integrate somewhat with the west, and to make western survival and Chinese survival a venture of some type of mutual assurance. Neither can afford to see the other implode, although there is potentially much pain all around.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I wonder if its policy or a sign that the US foreign policy apparatus has become hopelessly balkanised.

      Its sort of ‘Great Power 101’ that to be taken seriously, major powers should never bluff, they should always stand by what they say. Its not about honesty, its about removing any doubt in your rivals mind that you are bluffing when you say something serious.

      For the US not do be following this is surely a sign of either incompetence, or complete incoherence at the implementation level of policy. Among many other things, its another reason to be worried. Having Trump is charge is one thing, having multiple competing agencies in nominal charge with none leading is quite another.

      1. Mark P.

        US foreign policy apparatus has become hopelessly balkanised.

        Yes. This is a product of the kakistocracy that seems to be the end-phase of neoliberalism with positions of power held by incompetents who consider it beneath themselves to learn their jobs and who pay more attention to competing for power and wealth among themselves.See also May’s Tory government in the UK.

  14. allan

    Bernie Sanders to unveil a $146 billion ‘Marshall Plan’ for Puerto Rico [WaPo]

    Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s decades-old electrical grid when it made landfall on Sept. 20, rendering millions of island inhabitants without power.

    On Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will unveil an ambitious $146 billion Puerto Rico recovery plan he says will allow renewable power sources such as solar and wind to provide about 70 percent of the island’s energy needs within the decade.

    The bill, which has the backing of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, also calls on Congress to consider retiring Puerto Rico’s debt and would give the island billions in additional federal funding for transportation, health care and education in the hopes of stemming a feared mass exodus to the mainland. It would also allocate funds to the Virgin Islands, which were similarly devastated by Hurricane Maria. …

    But, but … think of the deficit!

    Third Way does not approve this message.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Considering the injustice done to the colony over the past century, $146 billion is hardly enough.

      Forget the deficit. Make it $1 trillion.

      Or give people a choice to liberate themselves. Let them decide if they want to be independent, with us cooperating, unlike the EU.

    2. Wukchumni

      Napier, NZ was hit by an earthquake that pretty much destroyed the town in 1931, so they decided to rebuild much in art deco, and it’s an awesome place to visit, a period piece.

      We would certainly spend whatever it took to rebuild California in a new image of what a place should be like if one of those catastrophic floods hit us-or the more likely earthquake, why not give Puerto Rico a chance to be a proving ground?

      There’s nothing to risk from failure and everything to gain from experience.

      1. a different chris

        Napier rocks! Wish I could figure out how to go back. People seem so focused on heading to the South Island, the North has a lot to offer too.

    3. JohnnyGL

      Thanks for this link. From the article….

      “The bill…also calls on Congress to consider retiring Puerto Rico’s debt and…”

      “The measure explicitly prohibits public infrastructure receiving federal aid, such as the electrical grid, from being transferred to private ownership.”

      But, but, but……the Hedgies NEED PROFITS!!!! How will they profit without debt and privatizations?!!?!?!?

      Please note how the other ‘experts’ involved are afraid of running afoul of the hedgies.

      Also, note at the end, Bernie’s got 5 other Senators listed and a litany of environmental and labor activist institutions on board. He’s got a real following in congress these days. 2 years ago, the WaPo wouldn’t have even dignified this sort of thing with even an article such as this.

      PS….I noticed Natalie Jaresko is quoted as a member of the Financial Oversight Board….she’s got some rather interesting history being involved in the Ukraine crisis. Apparently, she makes $625K a year for her ‘work’. What a nice gig…

  15. Lee

    Tesla truck will need energy of 4,000 homes to recharge, research claims FT

    (Bypass pay wall by copying and pasting title to search)

    This headline appears to be misleading.

    I’m a little fuzzy this a.m. so somebody should check my arithmetic on this. If the average diesel tractor trailer gets 6 miles to the gallon; and a gallon of diesel fuel generates the equivalent of about 38 kwh, a 400 mile trip would require 67 gallons or the equivalent of 2,546 kwh. The electrical vehicle, according to the article, requires 1,600 kwh to cover 400 miles. Am I missing something?

    In any case, electric vehicles draw energy from the grid and how that energy is fueled is of principal concern. Of course, single point emissions are more efficiently controlled than are those from a bazillion vehicles running around all over the place.

      1. Lee

        Good read, thanks. The program NOVA recently aired a program on developing battery technology that was pretty optimistic about significantly increasing battery energy density in the not too distant future. Usual grain of salt applies.

      2. John

        It doesn’t break the 1st Law of Bull$$hit tho…

        Anything + BS results in more value for the “thing” and more power to the BS’er.

        Personally, I always go with BS over science.

  16. kr

    The donkeys in jail story is “fake news” — NDTV has been repeatedly caught in such mis-reporting recently, so be careful in relying on anything from NDTV.

    See below for more, when an NDTV journalist tries to shift the goalpost:

    I also see that JL-S often quotes from TheWire — again, some of their articles have numerous errors (math/accounting type), and you do not want to lose reputation by citing them blindly.

    1. Vatch

      Does this mean that chapter 22 of the Biblical book of Numbers, which features a talking donkey, is also fake news?

  17. flora

    Big Brother is watching you watch… and is, in turn, being watched…

    From ZDNet:

    “New NSA leak exposes Red Disk, the Army’s failed intelligence system
    The leak marks at least the fifth exposure of NSA-related data in as many years.

    “The contents of a highly sensitive hard drive belonging to a division of the National Security Agency have been left online, ZDNet has learned.

    “The virtual disk image contains over 100 gigabytes of data from an Army intelligence project, codenamed “Red Disk.” The disk image belongs to the US Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, known as INSCOM, a division of both the Army and the NSA.

    “The disk image was left on an unlisted but public Amazon Web Services storage server, without a password, open for anyone to download.”

    Is Hillary running their IT security? /s

    The idea being sold by cloud service vendors (imo) is the cloud will eliminate all the pesky details you need to deal with on in house servers. The only details a cloud service eliminates is hardware uptime being your responsibility.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Further confirmation of Snowden’s real disclosure, the one they really pursued him for:
      The National “Security” Agency’s internal security is risible. That isn’t even their own stuff they exposed.

  18. Bandit

    In the The Duplicitous Superpower article, I find it incredulous that both Russia and China were duped into abstaining from the UN vote to intervene in Libya. Two of the worlds super powers have ample experience with US duplicity and regime change and thus should not have been taken by surprise as the bombing expanded far beyond the original stated “humanitarian” objective.

    I do not believe for a minute that both Russia and China erred by allowing US and NATO to destroy Libya. My question is why? What did both Russia and China have to gain by enabling such an atrocity to occur?

    1. Pat

      Taking your assumption at face value, they have clear knowledge of American duplicity, a working knowledge of Middle Eastern issues and dare I say it the fragility and instability of that region. I would add they also have a clearer view of American incompetence regarding regime change in the region than most of our leadership and citizenry.

      I would posit that you put those together and what you have is a recipe for disaster that China and Russia recognize. Not just in the powder keg that is the Middle East, but in the growing number of refugees from the area overwhelming other places. It may not be humanitarian or nice, but giving America a clear path to essentially double down on the failed strategy that was Afghanistan and then Iraq is just demanding that the rest of the world notice that it is a failure. AND more importantly that that failure is harming America’s usual allies – see Europe. Especially since there was not much chance that they could really stand in America’s way.

      Just a thought.

      1. David

        If Russia or China had voted against UNSCR 1973, that would have counted as a veto, and caused significant international repercussions. Vetoes are a weapon you don’t use very much, and represent an incitement to somebody else to veto you in turn. By abstaining (as did several other countries) Russia and China were saying “nothing to do with us mate. You break it, you own it.” The issue was not directly relevant to their security and the aftermath has done them little harm, so the vote was an intelligent one, and the threat of a veto on another occasion is still there. I imagine some fairly frank words were exchanged with the US, but that neither country actually expected the Americans (and even more the French) to keep their word.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          This. Russia and China would be amply aware of the American playbook: spend trillions smashing a country, then spend trillions dealing with the consequences. Somehow preventing us from doing this yet again in Libya would have been foolish.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            The rumor was Putin made his decision to run for President again in response to Medvedev not making the responsible decision in the case of Libya. The Chinese aren’t eager to interfere in affairs too far away from their own borders.

      2. Lee

        Nitpick: that would be triple down, would it not? Third time’s a charm. Then Russia slips into Syria, smooth as silk. Let them have the Middle East; the place is a seething cauldron of national, ethnic, tribal and sectarian hatreds. Sort of like the US, but where people vote with bullets instead of ballots.

        1. Lee

          BTW, wtf is this Sunni/Shia thing, or for that matter, the Catholic/Protestant thing? People ostensibly warring over metaphors and metaphysics. No doubt that there are material benefits at stake—the ability to exclude others from access to limited resources–but the ideological components of such conflicts are baffling.

          1. epynonymous

            It’s about authority and centralization.

            One world church. One prophet, one successor. My way or the highway.

            The schizms were created at the peripheries of religious empires. Very similar. (Let’s not even count the French schism and the English/ Anglican church in christianity, or the many other divisions in the Muslim world, in philosophy and lifestyle, eg. bedouin, derveshine, persian…)

            Also not to mention the early christians pre-300 to 400 AD. (The Eastern Orthodox faith being even more forgotten, after the fall of “Rome” and it’s empire in 0 AD.)

            The ideology, per se, isn’t as important as the power-relationship of centralization against the idea of ‘faith-alone.’ The excluded figure it out, one way or another, and the religions in question are really revolutions and a move towards individualism in failing or over-extended institutions.

            The potential comparison with two-party or two-state political systems is also interesting.

            1. David

              Not to mention the Arab/Aryan split (Iran’s name comes from the same root as “Aryan”) which goes back thousands of years. It was widely noted that in the Iran-Iraq War, Iraqi Shias fought enthusiastically against Iran, the traditional enemy.

              1. Lee

                November 28, 2017 at 1:46 pm

                I’m wending my way toward the conclusion that almost all group identities are essentially arbitrary and serve only the purpose of, as previously stated, limiting access to opportunities and resources that are deemed scarce including status and power as noted by epynonymous above.

  19. flora

    re: Your 401 (k) is Kinda Bullshit – Vice

    “I don’t think I fully understood that when the Social Security Act was signed in 1935, the average life expectancy in the US was only 61. ”

    Oh good grief! Not this statistical misdirection yet again.

    When SS Act was signed there were no antibiotics and no childhood vaccinations. Please understand the people who survive childhood are not necessarily living longer lives than prior years; the group life span has increased because the number of children surviving childhood into adulthood has increased.

    ” The infant mortality rate started a long slide from 165 per 1,000 in 1900 to 7 per 1,000 in 1997.

    “The health of older children also improved. Diseases that had carried off thousands of children in 1900 were practically eliminated by 2000: diphtheria, and pertussis, measles. Life expectancy is the average number of years that a person would live if he or she experienced the age-specific death rates that occurred at a particular point in time. As death rates decline, life expectancy increases.

    “Life expectancy at birth is very sensitive to reductions in the death rates of children, because each child that survives adds many years to the amount of life in the population. Thus, the dramatic declines in infant and child mortality in the twentieth century were accompanied by equally stunning increases in life expectancy.

        1. Wukchumni

          In 1963, the Japanese government decided to give a silver sake bowl to every citizen that reached 100, and 153 were given out, and more recently, the number has skyrocketed to 65,000 per year, so what do you do if you’re a little hesitant to use the real thing as the cost is up there too?


          One perk of getting old in Japan is a gift of a silver cup from the prime minister in the year you celebrate your 100th birthday. But from this year, new centenarians will be sipping sake from cheaper vessels.

          The rising cost of supporting the aging population — almost 32,000 people were eligible to receive the gift this year, up 4.5 percent from last year — has prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to present cups made of silver plate rather than sterling silver. The move halves the price to ¥3,812 per cup, public broadcaster NHK said, reducing total spending on the gifts by about 40 percent to ¥150 million.

          The cost-cutting follows a move to make the cups smaller in 2009, and highlights the struggle the government faces to cap spending in a debt-ridden country where more than a quarter of Japan’s 127 million people are older than 65. The proportion will rise to 40 percent by 2060, the government projects — a problem compounded by a faltering birthrate.

          This predicament is perhaps seen most clearly by the swelling of centenarians from 153 in 1963 to a record of more than 65,000 this year. The government distributes the sake cups every September to honor the elderly.

          You get rid of a bunch of things that kill us, and guess what, we live longer. My mom told me horror stories about scarlet fever, and I told her it sounds like a porn name now, ha!

          1. epynonymous

            Using current exchange rates, that comes to $34. After a hundred years of tax paying, that must be what’s breaking the bank over there.


          2. flora

            Yes. Then the questions become: Should we raise the retirement age and reduce benefits? Or, should we raise the FICA cap and stop giving the 1% huge tax cuts?

            Well, you know what the 1% is going to argue.

        2. flora

          Yes. Once a person survived childhood diseases and became an adult the life span he could expect hasn’t increased very much over the centuries. The “average life expectancy of 61” was calculated by including all the childhood deaths into the by-year-born age cohorts.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            So, we can ask these questions, for example:

            1. Once you survive childhood diseases at age, say, 10, what the life expectancy?

            2. Once you reach 50, what is your life expectancy?

            3. Once you reach 61, what is your life expectancy?

            The average life span of a particular cohort is not determined until after they have all passed away. And other age cohorts are not always relevant, especially if there are a lot of rapid environment changes.

            1. Wukchumni

              This is highly anecdotal, but they’re turning away aspiring 90 something year old tenants @ my mom’s assisted living place that seems like a cruise ship that doesn’t go anywhere-as the place is full, and it’s highly segregated in that there’s a ‘memory loss’ ward that’s attached to her happy home consisting of a lot of sharp minds (a commonality to getting old?) and weak bodies. Most everybody is on a walker or electric scooter type thing.

              Although connected, it’s as if the twain should never meet, and there is absolutely no interaction between the 2 places, and my mom told me that since she’s been a resident for 2 years now, 6 or 7 have slipped over to the other side, alzheimers the usual suspect.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                My 85 year old mother doesn’t like to live with strangers.

                I hope we can keep her for a long time.

            2. Jen

              Or lifestyle changes. My mom was one of 10 children. Of the 4 who are still alive, the oldest is 97, the next 94, then 92, and the mere infant of the cohort bringing up the rear at 82. Common denominator among them: they either never smoked, or gave it up a long time ago. The other six all died in their 60s and early 70s, either from cancer or heart failure.

    1. voteforno6

      Wouldn’t that decrease in infant mortality lead to an increase in the number of people contributing to Social Security?

    2. Lee

      Population age structure, how many of each age group as a proportion of total population, is the better way to look at it. Given worker productivity gains, a larger but not excessive percentage of codgers (like myself) should not be that great of a problem. That would be in an ideal world, not necessarily the one in which we live, where productivity gains are so inequitably distributed. If we reach the point of having an excessive percentage of codgers, will there be ice floes enough?

      1. flora

        Worker productivity gains is hugely important in the calculation. Thanks for mentioning this. If productivity gains were reflected in median wages for the past 30 years (and they are not) then, imo, the FICA taxes would have generated enough to avoid any future problems. Of course, for the last 30 years almost all the productivity gains, in terms of profits and income, have gone to the 1%. And that’s a problem, I think.

  20. Jim Haygood

    Japewell takes the stand in his Senate confirmation hearing this morning. From the WSJ:

    Jerome Powell’s first question from Sen. Mike Crapo, the Idaho Republican who chairs the banking committee, was about the size of the Fed’s balance sheet, [currently] about $4.5 trillion.

    Mr. Powell said he supports the path the Fed is currently on, and anticipates the balance sheet will shrink to about $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion over the coming years.

    John Mauldin continues to insist that turning two knobs at the same time — the interest rate knob and the bank reserves knob — is imprudent and dangerous.

    Under a former chair, Marriner Eccles, the Fed torpedoed the fledgling prosperity of 1937 by hiking both the discount rate and reserve requirements at the same time. Down went the economy, as if poleaxed.

    Now Japewell, the designated bagholder to sail the ship of central banking off the edge of Bubble III, wants to try the same stupid stunt again. That is, hiking rates while simultaneously tampering with bank reserves via the deranged doctrine of normalization.

    Normalization is gonna blow up in Japewell’s face like a tin of Acme TNT:

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      LOL “shrink the Fed’s balance sheet” LOL
      They said they would shrink, really, no, no, really, for sure, in Sept 2017. Since then it has grown.
      Then yesterday the high priest of fake money Fed guy said he would “stand tall” if there was any threat to asset prices.
      They could tighten by lowering IOER but that would mean actual money would slip the bonds of Wall St and have to be made available to Main St, can’t have that

  21. JimTan

    “SoftBank Bids to Buy Uber Shares for 30% Less Than Current Value”

    This seems a little odd.

    Uber had a Series G funding round in June 2016 where a $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund resulted in its current $68 billion valuation. Now Softbank may lead a new $6 billion funding round to buy the shares of Uber employees and early investors at a 30% discount from this last “valuation”. It’s odd because Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has pledged $45 billion to SoftBank’s Vision Fund, an amount which was supposed to come from the proceeds of its pending Aramco IPO. While Uber’s current valuations are likely fiction, it seems very unusual that an investor might be looking to literally ‘double down’ on a declining investment. Not sure what’s going on here.

    1. Wukchumni

      The best thing about being a drone jockey, is you can put the hurt on the bad guise and catch a Cirque d’Soleil* show on the strip after work without missing a beat.

      * 2 drink minimum

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        Actually, most of them, it seems, are catching PTSD and severe depression. The “pointy heads”* may do their best to make it look like a video game, but the kids behind the joysticks know the difference.

        *Term applied to those who plan but never get in harm’s way in the latest Jack Reacher.

  22. thump

    Re: “Woman approached the Post with dramatic and false tale about Roy Moore”

    I’m sure now that the precedent has been set in this case, the WaPo will also burn “senior administration officials” who feed it misleading information.

  23. Oregoncharles

    “Brexit: for a mere €1 billion a week” by Richard North

    I have a problem; this article is remarkably repellent. I’ve been reading for perhaps 5 minutes, and so far all I’ve seen is some truly nasty snark directed at another journalist (at the Telegraph, so easy pickings) and astonishingly little information. His point? That the Telegraph journalist is totally wrong; but no evidence so far of that fact. Incidentally, the main thing he’s criticizing is a claim our own Clive has made repeatedly, that Britain doesn’t have to enforce the Irish border. The big problem: it’s true. Britain doesn’t have to enforce the border if they don’t want to.

    That said, the EU probably CAN require Ireland to enforce the border, at Ireland’s expense. So far, this pro-EU article is making Leave look good. As we’ve discussed before, one possible upshot is to distance Ireland from the EU, as modelled by several E. European countries – and Greece.

    There are some statistics; the interesting one is that a huge amount of N. Irish milk is being shipped to the Republic for processing, then shipped back. My thought: boy, is that dumb from N. Ireland’s point of view. Once there’s a border again, they build a processing plant and move hundreds of jobs back to N. Ireland. Looks like a net gain for them, to me. Not for the Republic, of course.

    That doesn’t say how other trade, e.g. in services (mostly financial?), will change. After many paragraphs, North has mentioned only grand totals and gone into detail only about the milk trade – even though services are obviously a much bigger deal. Ordinarily, I’d stop reading the article at this point, but I’ve developed a morbid fascination.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Ah: close to the end, the only new information: “As we know, the UK itself will be keeping in place its inspections on products from other third countries (and has already undertaken to continue using EU law). But, to avoid falling foul of WTO anti-discrimination rules, it must subject imports from the EU to exactly the same regimes. Nevertheless, the UK will not be putting up “watchtowers”. Instead, it will have to spend millions on new Border Inspection Posts. ”

      There’s a jump in there, from WTO rules to border posts, but this is at least interesting. What are WTO enforcement procedures? And importantly: doesn’t that depend on the final agreement, or lack thereof, between the UK and EU? He also mentions large numbers of border crossings involved in production of Guinness or Bombardier aircraft; yes, the Irish economies have been integrated; that’s the reason for the issue. But he provides no further information about those movements, as in who stands to gain if they’re restricted.

      His real point may have been saved for the end: making the UK a “third country” may switch a lot of Irish trade to the EU. Yes, that’s the price of Leaving. Probably smaller than shrinking the City, but he doesn’t offer comparative numbers. And of course, it’s the reason Britain would rather have a “soft” border, as would Ireland. So what stands in the way: Britain Leaving, despite a desire to maintain an open border, or EU technicalities?

      1. PlutoniumKun

        So what stands in the way: Britain Leaving, despite a desire to maintain an open border, or EU technicalities?

        What stands in the way is very simple. If Britain exits the Customs Union and Single Market, it defaults to WTO rules. WTO rules requires as a default excise duties and a set of international (as opposed to EU) regulations. These must – under WTO rules – be enforced. If they are not, there are set penalties required by the WTO. It has nothing to do with the EU, except that the EU itself is legally obliged to follow these rules . In any event, this would leave open the possibility of other countries shipping products to Belfast to be trucked into the EU via the Republic to avoid both tarrifs and regulatory requirements.

        Any attempt to informally allow unrestricted trade will fall foul not of the EU but of litigation by a multiplicity of individuals, companies and countries who believed they are disadvantaged by the refusal of the governments to impose the agreed MFN rules. It is simply not an option and is only advocated by extreme libertarians or those who simply don’t understand the basics of international trade law.

    2. Yves Smith

      With all due respect, WTF has gotten in to you??? You read articles for tone and not for content? My CalPERS articles are at least as snarky as that post because I’m increasingly disgusted with them. Anyone who has been following the mainstream UK press has vastly more reason to be disgusted. This is a topic of paramount national importance, and the press is regularly giving the worst kind of bogus information. This has massively destructive national consequences. The UK should be backing out of Brexit, but the WMD-in-Iraq level of falsehoods told on a daily basis about Brexit makes that impossible. Even though public support for Brexit has been falling, it is still vastly above where it would be if the press were doing its job.

      North DOES provide tons of facts in the article, as PlutoniumKun and others confirm higher up in this thread, that Sylvester has

      1. created a completely bogus picture of what the Irish dairy industry is about, both in terms of its manufacturing sophistication and its importance in global trade;

      2. made it sound as if Ireland only trades in really basic dairy farming, when it has other important producers;

      3. provides stats on Irish trade

      Richard North is writing a blog for people who are up on Brexit. If you have been following the Irish border issue at all, it is patently clear he’s spot on.

  24. Wukchumni

    You’re not really living with them, my mom has a 2 bedroom apt., and you only really have to share time with them in the restaurant, and there’s plenty of seating, so you aren’t crowded in, and the usual folks always seem to eat together, some alone.

    I like the 93 year old set I dine with, there’s usually a WW2 vet, and they aren’t hesitant about sharing stories now, let it all out.

  25. Summer

    Re: Housing
    If you look at a lot of developing countries that mainstream economists describe as having a “dynamic” economy, you get a picture of how bad governments, banks, and developers are willing to let this get.

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