Links 12/11/17

Natwest train their customers to be bad at security. Ben Goldacre (Richard Smith).

Bitcoin on track to topple global economy in five months Macrobusiness. Useful aggregation. “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

Bitcoin feeding frenzy being fuelled by 15x leverage, says exchange FT. “Supply seems to come from Chinese bitcoin miners and a few early holders.” Hmm.

Why bitcoin fever is a bubble waiting to burst South China Morning Post. “Fiat currencies do have an inherent value. The US dollar, for example, has value because the US government insists that Americans must pay their taxes in US dollars.” Boom.

Bitcoin futures are about to go live, and they could change the game for cryptocurrencies Business Insider

Putting a price on Bitcoin The Economist

Fired Tech Workers Turn to Chatbots for Counseling Bloomberg

US economy faces a painful comedown from its ‘sugar high’ Larry Summers, FT

Tech’s new D.C. partner: Charles Koch Politico

Inside Oracle’s cloak-and-dagger political war with Google Recode

Power Failure: How utilities across the U.S. changed the rules to make big bets with your money Post and Courier

Net Neutrality

Time to release the internet from the free market – and make it a basic right Guardian


Ireland warns May over Brexit deal The Times

The Brexit impact on Ireland goes far beyond the immediate border question Institute for Government

Chemical and pharma groups call on Gove to stick to EU regime FT

The tragicomedy of Brexit looks a lot like Game of Thrones Handelsblatt. Clickbait headline from Handelsblatt (!).

Six months on, Grenfell Tower fire survivors are left demanding answers Guardian

The Corbyn Doctrine Jeremy Corybn, Jacobin

17 Oligarchs Who Are Shaping Eastern Europe OstPol. They seem nice.


The Case of the Missing Barrels LRB. Fun stuff. Thanks, Hillary!

Yemen’s dangerous war Le Monde Diplomatique

The pundits were wrong about Assad and the Islamic State. As usual, they’re not willing to admit it Los Angeles Times

It’s Time To Admit The First Intifada Was Nonviolent – And Led By Women Forward


The Daily Fix: Worries about the safety of bank deposits may further erode the economy of trust The Scroll (J-LS).

Has Caste Discrimination Followed Indians Overseas? The Diplomat


Sri Lanka hands over Hambantota Port to Chinese company on a 99-year lease The Scroll

As long as it catches mice:

Recycling Chaos In U.S. As China Bans ‘Foreign Waste’ NPR (Re Silc). Oh, great. More out-of-state waste for Maine’s landfills.

Trump Transition

Congress Buys a Little More Time for Childrens’ Health Insurance Program Bloomberg

Shutting Down The Government Over DACA Is A Risky Bet For Democrats Politico

Pentagon Announces First-Ever Audit Of The Department Of Defense NPR

Tax “Reform”

GOP Sen. Susan Collins: Not sure if I will support tax reform plan CNN. Susan Collins, drama queen. Who knew?

As tax plan gained steam, GOP lost focus on the middle class WaPo

How the Tax Plan Will Send Jobs Overseas The Atlantic (Re Silc).

US graduate students in uproar over proposed tax hike Nature. Rightly.

Health Care

The Feminist Case For Single Payer Jacobin

New Cold War

Tillerson: Biggest Snag in U.S.-Russia Relations is Ukraine, Not Election Meddling Foreign Policy

The Nuke ‘Treaty That Ended the Cold War’ is Unraveling Scott Ritter, The American Conservative

U.S. Demands NATO Action on Russian Missiles Der Spiegel

Democrats in Disarray

DNC Unity Reform Commission Takes a Whack at Superdelegates The Intercept. Why should superdelegates exist at all?

Why Democrats win even if they lose in Alabama Politico. Winning by losing might work when you’re playing 11-dimensional chess. I think a win is a win and a loss is a loss. Ideally, parties display adaptability after losing. But not if they won’t recognize their losses.

Schiff: Republicans using Mueller team firings to discredit institutions The Hill. Schiff: “I think this president, in astonishing speed, has remade the Republican Party in his own deeply flawed image, and that will be ruinous to the Republican Party.” Liberal Democrats just can’t let go of the seemingly sincere belief that there are (or were (or will be)) reliable Republican interlocutors to be had. It’s like our decades-long quest for the mythical “moderates” in the Middle East, which also goes all the way back to Reagan. I mean, who are these flawless Republicans? Denny Hastert? George W. Bush? Ronald Reagan? Eisenhower, maybe. But that was a very long time ago.

Sex in Politics… Not

The Unsexy Truth About Harassment NYRB. Well worth a read.

How Politics Might Sour the #MeToo Movement Politico

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley: Trump’s sexual misconduct accusers ‘should be heard’

An Abomination. A Monster. That’s Me? Frank Bruni, NYT

Guillotine Watch

Woman threw a tantrum after they wouldn’t give her more champagne on a plane, and had to pay $5,871 for causing an emergency landing Business Insider

Class Warfare

HOUSEHOLD WEALTH TRENDS IN THE UNITED STATES, 1962 TO 2016: HAS MIDDLE CLASS WEALTH RECOVERED? (PDF) NBER Working Paper 24085. Betteridge’s Law triumphs here. Page 3: “Median wealth in 2016 was still 34 percent down from its peak in 2007.” Page 10: “Then, from 2013 to 2016 the Gini coefficient showed another small gain, to 0.877. However, the share of the top one percent experienced a huge increase, from 36.7 to 39.6 percent. The share of the next 19 percent went down, so that the wealth share of the top 20 percent advanced only 1.0 percentage points and that of the bottom 80 percent decreased by 1.0 percentage point.” (This is the Gini coefficient for household wealth, which the author seems to have calculated.)

Who are the poor Americans? BBC

Mortality from opioid addiction quadruples Modern Health Care

We Will Not Be Your Disposable Labor: Graduate Student Workers’ Fight Goes Beyond the GOP Assault Truthout

It was hard to find cheap housing in the Keys before Irma. Now, there’s ‘nothing’ Miami Herald

Artisans Produce Up To 60 Percent Of Our Apparel — So Why Don’t We Talk About Them More? Fashionista (J-LS).

AI is now so complex its creators can’t trust why it makes decisions Guardian (DL). Unsurprising. If you regard that as broken, then AI is broken by design.

Deep Learning is not the AI future LinkedIn (DL). From August, still important. “For many tasks, Deep Learning AI is or will become illegal, not compliant.”

A Log Splitting Device Designed for… Children? Core 77 (Re Silc). Re Silc: “I saw an eight-year-old boy and his nine-year-old sister helping dad field dress a deer a week ago. I bet they can use a chain saw too NOW.”

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Ignacio

    re: Power Failure: How utilities across the U.S. changed the rules to make big bets with your money Post and Courier

    Clean coal plants? What the hell is that????

    1. WJ

      A Log Splitting Device Designed for… Children? Core 77 (Re Silc). Re Silc: “I saw an eight-year-old boy and his nine-year-old sister helping dad field dress a deer a week ago. I bet they can use a chain saw too NOW.”

      Out, Out
      Robert Frost

      The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
      And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
      Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
      And from there those that lifted eyes could count
      Five mountain ranges one behind the other
      Under the sunset far into Vermont.
      And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
      As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
      And nothing happened: day was all but done.
      Call it a day, I wish they might have said
      To please the boy by giving him the half hour
      That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
      His sister stood beside them in her apron
      To tell them “Supper.” At that word, the saw,
      As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
      Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap –
      He must have given the hand. However it was,
      Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
      The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh,
      As he swung toward them holding up the hand
      Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
      The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all –
      Since he was old enough to know, big boy
      Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart –
      He saw all spoiled. “Don’t let him cut my hand off –
      The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!”
      So. But the hand was gone already.
      The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
      He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
      And then – the watcher at his pulse took fright.
      No one believed. They listened at his heart.
      Little – less – nothing! – and that ended it.
      No more to build on there. And they, since they
      Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

      1. a different chris

        The color (colour?) picture at the beginning has the log in the wrong position. I first thought they somehow did it differently Down Under but the later, b&w outdoor picture has it right. Not sure why anybody here should care, but it bugged me so I had to vent.

        1. diptherio

          I noticed that too…but then I thought, a spring-loaded wedge powered by a half dozen 4 year olds can probably split a login horizontally as well as vertically…as long as the wedge is going with the grain, and not perpendicular to it.

      2. Dan

        Chopping/splitting firewood with an axe or sledgehammer was one of my household chores starting around age 9… So yes, kids can handle tools. But with one of these dad could have started me at 5!

    2. Louis Fyne

      another aspect only alluded to in the article (and would require a whole ‘nother long article—allowing utilities to separate their power generation arms from the power transmission arms.)

      Heads I win for utilities, tails you lose for customers. courtesy of state lobbyists and Dem and Rep state politicians

      and it’s a shame that the US can’t build a nuke power plant on-time and on-budget. (I’ll take 1000 megawatts of nuclear power over 1000 megawatts of natural gas-generated electricity….obviously until truly clean energy becomes widespread)

      1. witters

        Yep, you’re right. I took a glance and too quickly leapt to the wrong conclusion – thought it was an Eastern Barred Bandicoot.

  2. hunkerdown

    For context, Schiff was one of the neo-McCarthyist sponsors of the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act. Perhaps, in Schiff’s and other corporate Democrats’ mind (note singular), corporate Republicans are reasonable interlocutors, and their institutions are creditworthy, and that softball “attack their strengths” is all Democrats have. (But have you seen the other guy?)

    1. KTN

      There seem to be fewer headlines pertaining to Schiff since he was laughed off the Tucker Carlson show. That performance was underwhelming, to say the least.

      Schiff has been the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee during a time in which that committee has done, perhaps by design, almost nothing in the way of oversight. (Chair Nunes, in attempting to ascertain whether the FISA process was abused to spy on an incumbent’s political opponents, appears to be trying to restore the oversight function in relatively good faith. One can say without irony that the odds that Nunes is acting in good faith are bolstered by his referral to the Ethics Committee.) Anyone who has poked around origins of RussiaGate senses that Schiff is a key player there, and has contributed to wasting a year of public attention on a crumbling witch hunt. Again, this may be by design, and in this era of accelerating decline it would only be natural for Congressional leadership to be the point people for Mockingbird 2.0, rather than its unravellers.

      The idea that Schiff is truly concerned about the Republican party in any high-minded way is ludicrous. Lamentations over the retirement of ‘moderates’ such as McCain and Flake, published by such journalistic stalwarts as CNN, are completely at odds with the passage in both houses of the tax deform bill. The bill has as yet literally nothing do with Trump, but everything to do with far-right Republicans in the Congress utilizing a party member in the White House to achieve longstanding aims. That the legislation aims to do nothing more than reward donors and ensure future campaign contributions was openly admitted by Lindsey Graham and Chris Collins. (Incidentally, the deplorable Steve Bannon wanted to raise taxes on the top bracket.) Schiff’s only concern is that Republicans aren’t doing enough to hold up the Emperor’s belt loops, and lie with a little more class.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        “Moderates such as McCain”

        I get a “moderate” episode of emesis just by reading that phrase.

        I thought when we were under the Cheney regime we had the most easy-to-identify snarling corporo-fascist imaginable, and that good people everywhere would unite and produce an actual alternative.

        Redux: we now have an even more easy-to-identify corporo-fascist, this time of the narcissistic buffoon variety, and we produce ?What? to oppose him? Hysterical red-baiting? And we tolerate debate in the public sphere that calls McCain “moderate” with no derisive howls of laughter?

        Maybe a brilliant hacker could arrange so his “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” song gets looped anytime his image appears on the web. Mix it with Hilary’s cackling laughter as she described the violent death of thousands of Libyans. Would that scare the bovine masses enough? Alas, probably not.

    2. JohnnyGL

      I think that’s a misreading. Schiff wants to grab the mantle of “defender of the deep state/permanent govt”. His audience is the FBI, CIA, judiciary based on those remarks. He wants to be seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’ by the establishment.

  3. HopeLB

    Thanks for the Baffler link yesterday! This one is very good also;

    “Many futurists and trend-spotters fret about the advent of artificial intelligence as if it will, in one fell swoop, usher in a brave new dystopian future. But that future has already arrived. On a day-to-day basis, we’re living with the consequences—or rather, the unyielding domination—of the first fully functioning artificial intelligence system known to humankind. It is not secret, it is out in the open, and all of us are a part of it. You may know it as the sprawling, omnivorous system of economic production that goes by the name of capitalism.”

    And following on its heels;

    And there was this , The High Cost of Denying Class War
    Dec 8, 2017 Yanis Varoufakis ;

    1. a different chris

      The Occulus Grift article, decent as it is, reads even better if you assert that the “AI” referenced doesn’t stand for “Artificial Intelligence”, but instead stands for “Ant Intelligence”.

      Little suckers beat us to everything, methinks. And they didn’t need hardware to do it.

      I like the visualization of Masters of Capital, Gates, et. al., as big bloated Hive Queens.

    2. JEHR

      HopeLB, the Oculus Grift Shivani article scared me spitless! That is the most frightening, logical and chilling article I have ever read. Talk about already being defeated. The thing is that AI is also a creature of human beings and human beings should be made responsible for their creations. (Yeah, you say, just like the bank CEOs were responsible for the bank fraud and look what they got away with!)

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Google Deep Mind is beating the pants off of the best chess computer program (called Stockfish). Stockfish was programmed over a period of years by the best minds in chess and by loading thousands of previous games and results. It recently trounced the fifth-best player in the world.

        Deep Mind by contrast was fed simply the rules of the game. It prepared by playing games against itself for a total of four hours.

        It is stunning the chess world, especially by its propensity to favor board position over material advantage, in other words it sacrifices pieces more freely than was otherwise considered good strategy.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Which wins, if you clone Deep-Mind, and let Deep-Mind-Clone go up against Deep-Mind?

          In the world of robots, how does one gain competitive advantage?

        2. pretzelattack

          from what i understand it was also playing a much weaker version of stockfish. not sure how much is hype, here.

  4. Wukchumni

    There are interesting aspects in regards to ‘recyclables’ ending up in the dump, as China says ixnay on the trash, eh.

    Recycling was the one individual thing done en masse by Americans who represented that some effort was being made in making a difference, but that was then and this is now. If you get told to throw plastic in the landfill gyre presently, it’s akin to surrendering and being just another schmoe that never bothered making any effort.

    I know a fair swag of people that fit the profile of the ‘serious recyclers’ from Portland in the linked article, really obsessive types out to save the world one empty plastic mayo container @ a time, what happens to their psyche, when there’s no plan B?

    Another angle being that selling recyclables is one of the few ways for the homeless to make money, meager as it is. I see appropriated shopping carts full of $3.62 worth of recyclables all the time in the hands of the homeless on the streets here in the CVBB. Can you think of any other possibility for them to make money in an industrious fashion aside from begging?

    1. Jef

      “…if you get told to throw plastic in the landfill gyre presently…” Might one think twice about aquiring that plastic in the first place? Let us hope, pray, and advocate for this.

      Also, at the height of recycling success less than 10% of what people “recycled” was recycled. The other 90% is either burned or dumped, often ending up in waterways and then the oceans.

    2. Jean

      Aluminum cans are valuable and always will be.
      The energy saved by recycling an aluminum can equals the contents of the can full of gasoline.

      Glass cullet is used for lots of products and for enhancing asphalt.

      Plastic bottles are useless unless recycled into lower grade plastic.
      The article talks about contamination of plastic bottle bales.

      How about a five dollar deposit on all plastic bottles with the manufacturer being responsible for the reuse?

      1. joe defiant

        I’m convinced the only thing that will stop plastic manufacturing is explosives. I would love to see a large increase in deposit prices. But the majority of plastic would be unaffected unless the deposit also expanding to all the other plastic containers with no deposit. How did it become an arbitrary deposit on beverage containers but not for example yogurt containers or protective packaging on just about everything?

        1. Jean

          It originated in the multiple reuse of soda bottles back in the day. Three cents for little ones, a nickel for the quart size. That coincidentally was the price of a full sized candy bar.

          The deposit assured their return to the store. Plastic technology hadn’t advanced much fifty years ago. Yogurt, milk and cottage cheese was sold in waxed paper containers with pull off paper lids back then and there was no or little protective packaging.

          Jesus, am I really that old?

        2. lyman alpha blob

          Some areas do have deposits on other containers. Maine used to have deposits on plastic laundry soap bottles and other containers although a quick search seems to show that it’s back to being just for beverages now.

          My guess is that the deposit is mainly on beverages because those are considered non-essential items. But ketchup is a vegetable or some such nonsense so no deposit on all those plastic containers.

          Supposedly it’s what the consumers want, but I don’t remember anyone asking me if I preferred despoiling the planet to glass.

        3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I think it has to do with life style.

          A slower life would eliminate a lot of packaging.

          Time to wash coffee cups, instead of using foam cups.

          Time to buy meat every day, without the need to shrink wrap it.

      2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        What about some simple product packaging laws a la Germany.

        When you buy a broom in Germany it comes with a small paper leaflet stapled on, that’s all. When you buy one in the U.S. it comes with a big plastic container covering the entire brush part. (After a short period of time has passed that container can be found in the stomach of a dolphin).

    3. Elizabeth Burton

      Methinks there may be an attempt afoot to make it seem as though recycling will no longer be possible, because there’s nowhere to send the stuff. Here in Austin, though, the outlook is a bit more positive.

      1. Wukchumni


        Your link doesn’t exist…

        The lions share of recyclables were going to China, anything we did here was mostly for public PR~

  5. allan

    `Recycling Chaos In U.S. As China Bans ‘Foreign Waste’ ‘

    In the book Poorly Made in China: An Insider’s Account of the Tactics Behind China’s Production Game
    by Paul Midler, there is a story from the late nineties – early aughts about a Chinese recycling firm
    putting in low-low bids to recycle office paper from multiple Wall Street firms.
    Taking the shipping costs into account,
    Midler couldn’t figure out how they could possibly make money.
    When he checked out their facility in China,
    he saw a huge warehouse where the papers were being sorted and organized into files.

    To paraphrase Mao,

    The weeds of socialism are better than the crops of capitalism,
    but need to be fertilized with due diligence.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Sorry, but I think that people are looking at this story all wrong. This was never a story about recycling chaos caused by China stopping the imports of garbage but more about first world countries not wanting to deal with the extravagant levels of waste that our consumer societies produce by shoving it into third world countries. I read once that about 95% of consumer purchases in the US, for example, are no longer still in that consumer’s home by the time that six months have gone by.
      Does anybody remember the Lawrence Summers Memo ( at all? You remember Larry ( don’t you? The Memo starts off by saying “Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]” but I suggest a stiff drink before going on further. Here you can see the seeds of the overseas shipping of waste.
      As far as real recycling is concerned then, and I mean REAL recycling, then all I can suggest is

      1. fresno dan

        The Rev Kev
        December 11, 2017 at 8:30 am

        Yes, Rev Kev, I remember that Summers memo very well. That and this story exposes the (dare I say it) dirty secret of “growth” and yet more growth.

        And, the bizarre belief in “growth” despite decades of data of how few people growth actually helps…
        so its a twofer – despoiling the planet and screwing the people

      2. joe defiant

        Couldn’t agree more. There are wastelands in africa with old unwanted electronics, wastelands in China with unwanted crap, I’m sure there are many more all over the world. We exploit people to make this crap then send it back when we no longer want it. It’s so disgusting it’s unbelievable. I once saw a newsclip making fun of Bangladeshi people for wearing t-shirts of super bowls never won. They pay slave wages to make the tshirts in advance with both teams winning then send them back the team that lost. Then americans laugh at them for wearing “funny” clothes. Shit is so disgusting.

      3. Jean

        And the U.S. imports their uneducated ditch diggers and hopes that their market value exceeds their social costs.

    2. crittermom

      allan: “… When he checked out their facility in China, he saw a huge warehouse where the papers were being sorted and organized into files.”
      Wow. I guess we finally know where all those notes, deeds & records of our payments on our mortgages the banksters ‘couldn’t find’ went!

  6. JTMcPhee

    Re: out of state waste in Maine landfills —

    “If you don’t control your borders…” and the rest of us refuse to control our consumption…

      1. JTMcPhee

        Who has “agency” in this situation? “WE” are somehow “required” to keep on buying stuff and stuff and more stuff, all “conveniently” packaged in plastic and junk, which we talk glibly about recycling which is a sham, and eventually ‘throw away” all that now inconvenient stuff and the crap it came packaged in for corporate convenience?

        Lots of ways to (try to) “control corporations,” but it’s pretty clear that “getting our (sic) representatives to pass laws” banning and outlawing and regulating this and that is not among them.

        I don’t see a whole lot of humans getting serious about not sh!tting in their own nest, which looks pretty likely to be the only one “we” are going to get before “we” choke and die on our own collective waste of a world. And it is not a defense of patent species-wide very bad behavior that “I am personally, on my own, in my own little way, so very careful about not contributing more than I can conveniently avoid in the way of ocean trash and landfill volume and greenhouse gasses and crapification purchases based on wants rather than needs. And i recycle!”

        1. joe defiant

          Who would stand and watch as a small group of people poison their and everyone elses lands and destroy their food supply and make their lands unlivable for their children? Give them their money and support and continue to make them rich. Only us.

        2. JEHR

          We, consumers, could rebel before we leave the store with our purchases enclosed in infernal packaging: Buy your stuff; tell the storekeeper that you do not want the extra packaging; and take the plastic, paper, etc. off the purchases and leave them for the store to “recycle.” I think it would eventually make a difference.

      2. Bill

        I am finding it more and more possible to buy in bulk and avoid packaging, clam shells, bottles, etc, and there are even cardboard packages for liquid detergent. I have to make choices though, and it narrows my consumption, although I find I do not miss things as much as I imagined I would. I am saving money also, and the food tends to be fresher. I shop at the food co-op.

        1. joe defiant

          I was banned from the local food coop for advocating BDS during meetings when Schumer and the other NY politicians made BDS illegal in New York.

            1. joe defiant

              Yea, park slope is the one. I go to the Greene Hill food co-op now and am waiting to see how the Central Brooklyn food co-op comes along. The green hill one is not much different, same type of people realIy. I was ready to join and help get the Central Brooklyn food co-op organized and opened but when I went to a meeting I found out they are being “mentored” by the Park Slop co-op so decided to wait and see what happens before joining. The Central Brooklyn one looks more promising I am hoping they cut ties with park slope once they open because it’s definately more targeted towards less wealthy people. A co-op for poor and working class people…

              I can’t afford to buy everything at Park Slope or Greene Hill only certain things usually anyway. The Central Brooklyn one that they are trying to open is going to focus on more affordable stuff. I know you can save money in the long run on some of the bulk stuff but sometimes you can’t afford to buy two months worth of everything all at once even if it’s cheaper…

              1. Oregoncharles

                There is another approach to “bulk” items that saves on packaging: the store pieces out the wholesale amount by the pound (or as appropriate); buyers bring their own container (I keep a number of them premarked for a specific product), &/or the store washes returned containers for in-store us. Even mayonnaise is available this way. This allows you to buy the amount you actually want, saves on packaging, and is generally a bit cheaper; but it does require quite a bit of management – it’s an entire department in our co-op.

                We also buy wholesale lots (bags or boxes) of certain staples, like oatmeal or toilet paper, but this does require both an up-front investment and storage space. It saves us 10%, though. It’s like shopping at Costco.

                Re-use or avoiding packaging altogether (I use large bags and boxes as mulch in the garden, which I couldn’t with plastic jars) are the real keys to saving resources.

                You might want to involve yourself with the new co-op just to advocate for best practices.

  7. The Rev Kev

    Re 17 Oligarchs Who Are Shaping Eastern Europe

    This story is all well and good but probably no-one here would know any of these people from a bar of soap. Wouldn’t it be even more interesting to have a story called “17 Oligarchs Who Are Shaping Western Europe”? Oh, that’s right, we never use the word oligarchs here – we call them billionaires instead. Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if in the media you started to see references to “oligarchs” like the Kochs and Musk and Thiel, etc?

    1. Vatch

      I often use the word “oligarch” to describe the ultra-rich people who own and control much of the United States. Pages 59-63 and 211-253 are explicitly about the United States in the book Oligarchy, by Jeffrey Winters. I encourage others to use the word in the U.S. context as well. Let’s get people in the habit of thinking about the ultra rich in the U.S. as oligarchs. Bezos, Gates, the Kochs, and the Waltons are most definitely oligarchs, as were the Rockefellers, Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and the Vanderbilts in earlier years.

      1. Buckeye

        “Oligarch” doesn’t carry any emotional punch ( except for intellectuals). Use a different Greek word to describe the rich elites ruining the world: “Tyrants”.

        1. Mark P.

          I often use the word “oligarch” to describe the ultra-rich people who own and control much of the United States.

          What’s wrong with kleptocrats?

          It is a kleptocracy. They are kleptocrats.


      2. Bill

        Mercenaries, anyone? What are these people in Congress these days, and the lobbyists, and anyone who will take the job and work for any side [like Pai for instance–he’s clearly not one of the waspy establishment, but he’s taking the pay to do what he’s told. I am not even going to mention the O-word]? I am reminded of Terump saying of Roy Moore, like ah, so what if he diddles children, we need our kind of [mercenary] in there doing our job. Ethics and morality have no place in government or business.

        1. Wukchumni

          I found it hilarious that in our wars in the ‘stanbox, we had Erik Prince’s merry band of 30,000 mercenary men-as luck would have it, the same exact number, as Hessian mercenaries here back in Revolutionary War days.

          1. Vatch

            Interesting comparison. Are you sure there were that many Blackwater employees in the Middle East? I know there was a huge number of civilian contractors, but didn’t a lot of them work for other companies?

  8. ratefink

    I mean, who are these flawless Republicans? Eisenhower, maybe

    Outing the MIC at the very end makes up for toleration of McCarthy and eight years of Nixon? I dunno, my vote goes to the Little Flower

    1. Wukchumni

      Ike got the ball rolling on our chief executive whacking off repeatedly, chasing down the object of their desire, while trying to squeeze a small object into a fitted hole.

      I wonder how his tee times compare to the current occupant?

  9. Livius Drusus

    Re: Why Democrats win even if they lose in Alabama, I don’t think that Moore winning gives the Democrats a slam dunk issue. The political class, namely activists, journalists and political operatives overestimate how much people care about these accusations of sexual misconduct. The idea that the Democrats can brand the Republicans as the pervert party because of Moore and ride that to victory fails to take into account that the Democrats already tried that strategy with Trump and failed.

    People care more about the economy and health care than about sexual misconduct claims. You won’t see these kinds of attitudes in the media but a lot of people shrug these accusations off or don’t care or explain them away if they like the candidate or think they are fabricated by the other side. I am not saying it is right but I think my suspicions on this issue are accurate.

      1. edmondo

        OTOH – some of us saw Her Majesty as even more immoral than the alternative and voted that way. Would do it again tomorrow.

        1. FluffytheObeseCat

          Hillary Clinton is very far from a moral exemplar. Howevah. Donald Trump has her beat, hands down, on matters of self-dealing and personal self-aggrandizement. You can kid yourself til you’re blue in the face, and you won’t change that. You can rant about everything from Benghazi to cattle futures, and she still comes out looking like a rose compared to Trump.

          He is and always will be one helluva heel. She is corrupt, and officious, but unremarkable as high ranking politicians go. That’s our problem, really, in a nutshell. She’s Beltway-normative.

          1. Pat

            We will have to disagree about that.
            Outright corruption see the Clinton Foundation, warmongering ending in death and destruction see Honduras and Libya, Obstruction of Justice see just the email stuff, but you can go back to various White House investigations, self aggrandizement they are on a par – people didn’t come up with that most qualified person to run for President on their own – she approved it. And when it comes to upturning the election system, not one thing has come out on Trump that makes him worse than Hillary Rodham Clinton and the DNC fixing the primary.

            No she is not unremarkable, she is highly efficient, deeply immoral somewhat sadistic sociopath who would have done well as a mafioso Don, but went into politics instead.

            1. HopeLB

              Agree! There is something to the framing, sadistic sociopath vs, narcisisstic insecure brat. Trump, unlike Hillary, projects a real need to be loved while Hillary projects entitlement and the will to power.

            2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

              Sometimes facts are useful things…like the sweetheart deal Bubba organized in Rwanda, where he convinced the bloodthirsty dictator to hand out a very rare mining concession for all of the nation’s gold. Bubba’s best mate (and top Foundation contributor) picked it up for something like $120M, then sold it for $5 B-B-B-billion about 12 weeks later.
              No. Hilary and her entourage do not have any “moral high ground” to claim. None.

          2. Massinissa

            Good GOD a year later and we are STILL arguing about which one was the lesser evil.

            I am glad I didn’t vote for EITHER of these people.

    1. joe defiant

      Because people aren’t stupid. It’s a red line of immorality to lust after a teenager but dropping bombs on thousands of teenagers is wonderful. People don’t fall for this selective morality.

    2. JohnnyGL

      Any ‘winning strategy’ that relies on scare-campaigns about a Republican boogey-man is NOT a winning strategy.

      How’d it work out in 2016?

      It worked for Dem consultants, who like to scare donors into big fundraising numbers and then pilfer most of it for themselves….and pretty much no one else.

      1. joe defiant

        I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s supposed to work. The democrats don’t want to have to win and then not implement all the stuff they promised to do. It’s much easier to keep their supporters working for free and sending money with the evil republican in charge.

  10. fresno dan

    In a bid to make parents aware they must teach their kids sign language, a woman from Parkton, Maryland, posted a picture on social media of her son sitting with a Santa Claus, making the “help” sign.

    Kerry Spencer said the picture was taken at Provo Town Center Mall in Provo, Utah, when her son, Samuel Spencer, was one year old. Samuel is now 13.
    Enslaving elves, abusing reindeer, and breaking and entering on a global scale. And the man (damn hippie) needs a shave and a haircut.
    As usual, The Simpsons’ get it right – see the episode (Homer’s Phobia) where John Waters saves Homer, Moe, and Barney from Santa’s reindeer….

    Merry Christmas!!! So glad I can say that after the oppressive Obama regime where people who said that where shipped off to the gulag (do I really need to tag this with a sarc?)

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I watched the 1947 “Miracle on 34th Street” the other night. Kris Kringle was definitely guilty of Assault in the Second Degree.

      Assault in the Second Degree: NY PL 120.05(2)

      “If you have the intent to cause only a physical injury (such as a black eye, split lip or deep bruise) and you actually cause this type of injury to another person with the use of a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon, then you would be guilty of Assault in the Second Degree. Unlike subsection one (1), the level of injury cause need not be ‘serious injury.'”

      Under current laws and their enforcement and depending on the judge — Kris Kringle could get sentenced to up to 7 years in a New York State Prison. He might be able to get into a psychiatric program by pleading guilty but insane. The Post Office wouldn’t be able to help him with that plea. [I was walking in NYC a couple months ago and it sure looked the Post Office building used for “Miracle on 34th Street” was shut and possibly scheduled for demolition (?)]

      Out with the old and in with a new Christmas Spirit in America. HoHoHo!

      1. Wukchumni

        Good one!

        It’s interesting to have straddled eras of please touch me! & he touched me-so he has to resign!

        When I was a kid, the sexual revolution was in full swing, and social mores were so liberal it was amazing. In 1973 a couple of NY Yankee players traded wives & families before the season began, and i’m not sure if the deal included a concubine to be named later, but it wouldn’t have been surprising.

  11. Colonel Smithers

    Further to the link about caste discrimination outside India, the UK in this instance, caste discrimination followed Indian migrants to Mauritius.

    As indentured labourers arrived in the mid-19th century, immigration officials noted the castes of the arrivals. These British colonial records are classified as state secrets. Books about the caste system in Mauritius, often using Indian records, are banned from publication and / or distribution.

    Why? Many Hindus adopted higher castes upon arrival or some time later, often when they had become sirdars on the sugar estates or small scale farmers and businessmen. In that regard, it’s similar to the French settlers or their descendants who adopted the particle “de” in the former and current colonies or petits blancs who pretend to be aristocratic or grand blanc, descendants of settlers given concessions by the French East India Company or monarchy, outside the current and former French colonies.

    Further to the classification of caste records in Mauritius, the Hindu community, which comprises about 45% of the island’s population, is exploited by two political dynasties who have no qualms about playing the caste or race card at election time, including for election to head the local horseracing club and university student association.

    About 15 years ago, colleagues and I, who are not of Indian origin, were staggered by the bust ups between two Brahmin women, both team supervisors, and a Dalit man and Bengali Muslim man, managerial practice and insults we thought illegal under UK law. The Dalit was not above making comments about Pakistanis.

    1. Sid Finster

      Were not several US colonies and states founded on the principle of “here, you too can be an aristocrat, just as long as nobody finds out otherwise!”

    2. Sid Finster

      A separate comment: as a practical matter, a lot of things that are illegal under UK law aren’t, if the accused will have the opportunity to pull out the race card.

      n.b. Victoria Climbie, RIP.

  12. Wukchumni

    A Log Splitting Device Designed for… Children? Core 77

    A very cool design, and when a gaggle of kids is using it, the look is more of a ring around the rosie. The gist of the article is about children pushing boundaries, i.e. risk, to learn limits. They mention that the very same split wood is used by kids to start a fire, and what a perfect training duo in pushing the envelope. Fire can be beneficial or not so much, and the line drawn between the two isn’t defined, even among adults. It’s pretty common for city people to build giant campfires in the National Park @ car campgrounds, bigger always being better, the mentality all too often.

    In this day and age of virtual everything, old tried & true virtues are their own reward.

    1. Carolinian

      It may be time to un-train people about fire making skills before they burn down the West. However there’s no question that camping people tend to be pyromaniacs. You often get the impression that the only reason they put up with the bugs and the hard sleeping is so they can make a big campfire.

      1. Wukchumni

        We occasionally car camp in Sequoia NP to get some altitude in us before we head into the higher climes on a backpack trip, and one time we were @ Dorst campground, and I sleep in a hammock, and all night long, there were little bursts of car alarms going off, and I couldn’t figure it out, until I realized it was tourons ad hoc loud noise maker device if something went bump in the night, when you were in your tent.

        1. Carolinian

          Yes of course but we have Coleman stoves now and down sleeping bags. And while camping is a way of enjoying a simpler form of life it’s worth pointing out that the true outdoors people like the American Indians made tiny fires out of sticks that served their purpose. Unfortunately a lot of people who camp aren’t there for nature at all but rather to carouse and drink beer. This has always been true but the West seems to be much more fire prone now.

          1. Wukchumni

            It’s fascinating to watch the different ways of camping here in the NP. In lower altitude car camping, Hispanic families dominate the action, and you might have 6-10 people at 2 sites, and they are in tents, and they’ll have $857 worth of gear and everything is family oriented, and it looks like they are having a grand time.

            Whereas up in the higher climes, Bob & Betty Bitchin’ are ensconced in their $85,700 RV that ensures that nature won’t intrude on them in any fashion, but it has push-outs if they want to get closer to the action.

          2. Lee

            Rain shadows from high mountain ranges make lands west of the 100th meridian much drier than those lying east of it. Prior to the era of Smokey the Bear, intentional Native American burning, to increase grazing land for prey animals, and wildfires were regular events. Contemporary ignition events, caused by humans or lightning, combined with many years of uninterrupted build up of fuels, further combined with suburban and rural sprawl results in awesome conflagrations. I lost my home and nearly my family in a house fire. It was caused by a fault in a natural gas line owned and operated by Pacific Gas & Electric.

          3. joe defiant

            Sure wildfires out west are the fault of simple people making campfires. Clear cuts, overdevelopment, and industry have nothing to do with it.

              1. joe defiant

                “It may be time to un-train people about fire making skills before they burn down the West. However there’s no question that camping people tend to be pyromaniacs. You often get the impression that the only reason they put up with the bugs and the hard sleeping is so they can make a big campfire.”

                Perhaps I misunderstood.

                1. Carolinian

                  Both things can be true. I know someone who works for the FS in Arizona and most of the fires out there are human caused. Add in a lifetime of camping and I can anecdotally relate that campground campers are into campfires, often bonfires.

                  1. joe defiant

                    The FS definition of “human caused” is cigarettes, backfiring vehicles, and campfires but not covering the terrain in wine orchards, diverting rivers and streams and building dams, overconsumption, overdevelopment, and causing climate change correct?
                    If I pour gasoline all over my property and my neighbors cigarette gets blown over by the wind did he cause the fire?

      2. bronco

        you are confusing camping people with your garden variety drunks. There is a certain amount of overlap but they aren’t exactly the same.

      3. diptherio

        In Boy Scouts I learned: “An Indian makes a small fire and stands close. A white man makes a big fire and stands far away.” Moral: don’t make a white man fire.

        1. MichaelSF

          The way I heard that was the Indian stays close to the little fire to be warm, the white man builds a big fire and gets warm carrying wood to it.

          1. diptherio

            The moral was, if you make a big fire you’ll end up standing back from it, and one side of you will bake while the other freezes. Plus, you have to chop more fire wood. Be smart, be efficient, don’t act like a white man.

            1. joe defiant

              The quote is actually from a “celebrity tracker” fraud called Tom Brown. He claims his Apache grandfather called Stalking Wolf taught him the quote as well as made him go on a vision quest and other assorted nonsense. The trouble is Apaches don’t even practice vision quests and “Stalking Wolf” is not a tradition Apache name and no one has ever heard of this person.

              I won’t argue the meaning of the quote since it’s not an actual “parable” or traditional wisdom and it’s meaning is subjective.

              1. diptherio

                I mentioned I learned this in Boy Scouts, right?…ok, then. I don’t think anyone’s every accused BSA of being overly accurate in their portrayal of Native American culture.

              2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                In the 50’s movie, Imitation of Life, a mixed race daughter looked white, but was beaten by her boyfriend, when he found out.

                Today, we have moved forward (a bit). Looking white has its usual and numerous advantages, and the 50s’ DNA issue (as portrayed in the above film) 1) is today more socially tolerated and accepted (with exceptions of course), and 2) allow one to access many programs that address past injustice, such that, the girl in the film would be white for practically all purposes, and might even qualify as a minority.

                That’s what Tom Brown with his Apache grandfather remind me of…progress.

    2. MtnLife

      I think one of the best aspects of my childhood was the amount of controlled danger that I was exposed to. At 6 I was handed a short handled axe and coached on how to split wood for our Russian fireplace. In the next year and a half I would learn to shoot both guns and bows, have my own knife, and learn to make proper campfires. 10-12 was learning chainsaw use, rappelling, and my first strong wind/current solo canoe outing. Being exposed to these things in a controlled manner really improved my risk assessment and decision making capabilities while allowing me to feel like I could contribute in a meaningful way. I feel it also instilled a can do attitude being able to safely accomplish things many people are averse to. I don’t think this is limited to the higher functioning kids either. I’m raising my wife’s nephew, who has an IQ of 68, in much the same manner albeit a little delayed. He may have trouble adding to 20 but he’s a solid kayaker, I can tell him to split wood/start a fire without supervision, and handles a battery powered chainsaw well enough that I’ve let him fell a few 30-40′ trees. Loves to mow and weedwhack – just got him his own angle grinder to sharpen the blades himself. The school wants to coddle the [family blog] out of him and let him slide on everything (“oh, that’s too hard for you? That’s okay, you’re special”) whereas I’m at least providing functional skills and a sense of accomplishment that he doesn’t get at school because he isn’t pushed.

      1. Lee

        People averse to working with their hands or look down upon those who do such work are not to be trusted. To paraphrase: if you can’t be handsome, charming or witty, you can at least be handy.

        1. diptherio

          From the Red Green Show: “If the women don’t find you handsome, at least they should find you handy.”

          And of course, the Men’s Prayer: “I’m a man, but I can change…if I have to…I guess.”

        2. joe defiant

          Everyone suspects the plumber or mechanic of ripping them off but their banker, doctor, insurance agent, and investment agent (or whatever people who take others money and invest for them are called I never had enough to think of doing a thing like this) are trustworthy people. Just watch TV and every sitcom joke and advertisement will tell you so.

      2. Wukchumni

        I too was exposed to as much controlled danger as I dared do, and one moment in particular was when a few of us 11 year old boys were shooting our bows in what passed for the backcountry in the wilds of L.A., and one of my chums decided with all his might to point an arrow straight up in the air and let fly. There was palpable fear as we scrambled away from being it’s downward entry point. Needless to say that never happened again.

        My parents always gave me a long leash, and never put a collar on my activities, and like you, as I did more things in a physical manner, my confidence kept building, and most importantly, I became comfortable with heretofore unknown new activities & challenges-not afraid.

      3. Tom

        I work at a U-cut Christmas Tree farm every December. Yesterday I saw a 15-year-old boy sitting cross-legged in front of a tree, holding a bow saw in the middle of the bow (instead of the handle at one end), trying to cut down a tree for his Mom. He had been at it for 10 minutes and made a 1-inch notch. I was surprised that he had absolutely no idea of how to use this most basic tool. After a quick demonstration of the proper technique he finished the job like a champ.
        A while back there was a link at NC (I think) to an article about how Home Depot was holding clinics for millennials, teaching basic tool usage — how to use a hammer, how to use a screwdriver, etc. I thought it was a joke. Now I think otherwise.

        1. petal

          Not a joke. Have come across ones(supposedly well-educated) that don’t know how to change a battery in a smoke detector(had to call her mother), change light bulbs, or use basic tools such as screwdrivers to do very basic things. Can’t think their way out of a paper bag. If the world goes to heck, they’re toast.

          1. joe defiant

            I have come across a ton of wealthy old people who will pay me to change the battery in their fire detector, change the temperature on their thermostat, get their remote control to work (change the battery) and such. I tend to think its more of a class thing. Middle class and wealthy white people don’t know how to do such things. I have never met a young “millenial” poor person who could not do all these simple things on their own.

            On my block the poor kids still play in the street and go play basketball in the park. Its middle class kids who cannot go outside because its unsafe. The middle class parents gentrifying and moving into the neighborhood even call the cops on parents letting their children play outside on their own.

          2. Lord Koos

            While visiting a colleague in St Louis several years ago, we jumped in his car to go somewhere and it refused to start. I was stunned that he had no idea how to use jumper cables to connect two batteries.

        2. Brucie A.

          It’s possible to get into Stanford having only just recently learned what an engineer is.

          “In my senior year of high school in Rhode Island, I decided to apply to Stanford as a long shot. I requested that my favorite teacher write me a recommendation, and she asked me what I wanted to major in so she could include it in the letter. She suggested engineering, and I thought it was a train conductor and that it was a weird thing for her to say.

          1. Bill

            woman. and fav teacher was a woman. and good for her teacher to have encouraged her to take a plunge into a field no man would have recommended for her. And good for her to have hung in there and reached down inside herself for the courage to finish.

          2. a different chris

            Not sure this woman isn’t a good match for engineering for the wrong (but typical) reason, she’s a high functioning idiot:

            >my son, for instance, was recently freezing bananas with nitrogen, then smashing and shattering them. ….My son is obsessed with the fact that humans share 50% of their DNA with a banana!

            Which he is freezing and smashing. Your son may be a psychopath. He will do well in this Brave New World.

      4. Ancient1

        Self sufficiency was taught on the farm years ago when all work was manual. No powered automation. I grew up with these farm experiences. How to manually milk a cow. How to harness a team of mules and to know the difference between a doubletree and a singletree. How to plow a straight furrow. When to plant and when to harvest – sometimes with the sign of the moon. You learned these things in order to survive. The banker or the landlord was always there with their hands out.
        Now, some don’t how to handle a screwdriver or how to appreciate the seasons. How often have you looked up at the sky or have you seen the night sky at 3:00 in the morning? What have we humans lost by not managing our lives better than we have?

        1. a different chris

          One thing that just drives me crazy: farming came before banking. But without banks people nowadays can’t farm. They talk about getting the bank loan every year, it’s as much a part of the process as the seeding and harvesting itself.

          How the (family blog) did it come to this?

  13. Summer

    Time to release the internet from the free market – and make it a basic right Guardian.

    Turning ISPs into public utilities…that means AT&T, Verizon, too?

    Seems that whatever happens, the main thing is also to enforce anti-trust laws. Before another subsidized dime is handed out, break up the monopolies.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Everyday, we remind ourselves of the need of trust busters.

      Break that mother of all (fill in the blank) into many baby (fill in the blank).

      1. Summer

        I’ve always thought a first step in breaking up these companies would be through the government contracts (especially Defense/Surveillance) that are awarded to the lot of them! That’s a big reason why they got so big.

  14. Tom_Doak

    Regarding the tax cut estimate of $100 billion for the estate tax repeal, if it’s supposed to be over the ten-year reporting period, that sounds awfully low to me. Wouldn’t Jeff Bezos falling down the Capitol Steps rake in more than $10 billion under the current structure? Or is this a “realistic” view that most of the world’s wealth is hidden offshore or tied up in foundations, so the estate tax really doesn’t tax them anyway?

    Also, I happened to sit on the plane in Manchester the other day next to a young accountant preparing advice to a large company to move their domicile from Bermuda to a different Caribbean country so as to take advantage of their low 2% corporate tax rate — which includes the provision to make the election anytime before December 30 and book all profits there for the full calendar year! The big accounting firm she worked for seemed to have no qualms about such advice.

    1. edmondo

      Why would Bezos fall down the Capitol Steps? Those Congress critters are employees! They would go to him to find out how to vote,

  15. Alex

    Re 2 links on machine learning, it’s definitely good that finally people have started to think about issues associated with it, particularly the lack interpretability. One more option to make the automation decisions more acceptable and less prone to bias is to require the source code of all “important” algorithms to be published. Then they can be audited and bad ones won’t survive – like we see for open source software.

    1. a different chris

      But there isn’t any “source code” that describes how a trained neural net actually does what it does. There are just link weights, and good luck trying to make sense out of them.

      I have the source code for a barometer, but looking at it doesn’t tell me why it says it’s 1015.9 millibars right now.

      1. Alex

        I agree with you that link weights won’t explain you why a NN model behaves it does. However if you have them you can feed different data into the model and test it for various biases.

        Also most of the deployed models are not of NN type. In many cases it’s the good old linear regression and there the source code will tell you a lot about the model.

        1. a different chris

          True. Thanks for replying. I wonder how we force the owners of the NNs – banks, insurance companies, etc – to let us run those tests.

        2. Chris

          That may be the case in an overly generalised ‘average’ sense, but it reifies the ‘ecological fallacy’.

          Most of the interesting results will be from edge cases that even smart humans can miss. AI will never spot Taleb’s ‘black swans’.

    2. visitor

      I think the problem is much more fundamental and will not be addressed by cross-inspection of source code. As the article puts it:

      It’s not just a matter of lifting the hood of an algorithm and watching how the engine runs.

      The issue is that, as far as I know, no extensive mathematical theory or semantics of those novel AI techniques exists. For the time being, a deep learning network is, as the people interviewed in the paper state, a black-box.

      As an example, let us say that one of those AI systems learns by considering a set of examples E1, then E2, to recognize a set T of entities. Is the learning commutative? Does it make a difference to consider first E2 and then E1? Note that this is not how human beings learn: they usually start with typical examples with unambiguous, prominent characteristics, and then move on to more complex examples with subtler, ambiguous traits. Note too that if learning is not commutative, then one must be able to characterize the bias induced by the order of learning examples, and therefore we must be able to characterize before running the automated learning system each individual example with respect to fundamental properties that drive the learning process.

      As another example, assume learning with positive examples PE and negative ones NE to recognize targets positively PT or negatively NT. If we take any subset of PE’ from {PE union PT} and NE’ from {NE union NT}, with the cardinality of PE’ and NE’ identical to PE and NE, will the system have the same power recognition (measured e.g. by erroneous classification) for the resulting PT’ and NT’? If not, why not?

      If two identical systems fed two different sets of examples end up recognizing different target entities, what are the exact properties in the learning examples serving as input that led to the different classification behaviours? If an entity is recognized as “interesting” by a deep learning network, can it abstract out the characteristics from its neural structure and elucidate why it deemed it interesting?

      The desired properties from a DL system are probably more involved (these were just basic ideas jotted down), but the crux is that without such well-defined, mathematically tractable properties, interpretability becomes elusive. And you do not extract them by scrutinizing the source code.

      Notice that “expert systems” (the other big category of AI) can provide an interpretation and explanation of their “decisions” — the succession of rules applied, which evidence was used to trigger them, and the confidence level achieved at each step — but history has shown that, with complex rule sets, even domain experts may end up overwhelmed trying to understand the reasoning behind the AI result, and especially trying to figure out whether alternative paths and outcomes would be reasonable. But at least the mathematical theory and semantics (e.g. fuzzy logic) exist in that case.

    3. oliverks

      I have been enjoying some of the chess games played on alphazero. Deepmind have extended the MCTS to chess. To see an example game go to It took them 4 hours to self train (i.e. no knowledge of games played previously and no strategy) to become the presumed world champion in chess.

      I reviewed a number of the games, and came to the following conclusions

      1) Some variants of standard chess openings are not going to be seen in professional play anymore. They were completely destroyed through innovative techniques developed by the engine.
      2) Many rules, such as only move a piece once during the openning, develop the queen later, always castle if possible, will go by the wayside.
      3) It was remarkable how much strategy it had. It didn’t seem to choose the best move to “maximize” the position from an evaluation function, but actually seemed to have a goal of getting a pawn to the end, or trapping opponents pieces. You could see Stockfish often just move pieces around going nowhere, as if it were trapped in some local maxima.

      1. joe defiant

        I am no chess expert but I do play and am familiar with the basics, openings, etc. What I find interesting is how human play has become predictable and almost “robot like” in openings and even concepts and the computer was much more innovative and went away from the standard moves and “rules”.

        Thanks for posting that link.

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The ultimate source of value of a fiat currency (or any fiat or decree) is a government’s legitimacy and sovereignty authority.

    “You must use this money to pay taxes.”

    (A more pithy government might order, “You must use this money, period.”)

    “You must drive on the left side of the road.”

    “You must set the clock back one hour.”

    “You must love one another.”

    Why bitcoin fever is a bubble waiting to burst South China Morning Post. “Fiat currencies do have an inherent value. The US dollar, for example, has value because the US government insists that Americans must pay their taxes in US dollars.” Boom.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        At home, if you use something else to pay your taxes, the government doesn’t sent the military.
        It sends its agents. Domestically, it needs (or is backed by) prisons, their guards and jailers.

        Abroad, the currency is backed by the biggest military.

        “Use only government money. Don’t use money you forged, or you go to jail.”

      2. John k

        Not relevant.
        Russia is no. 2, but most don’t want to save rubles.
        The worlds savers have been selecting dollars for their mattress. When they decide they prefer yuan they will drive up that currency to the point China runs a trade deficit… we then get to have a trade surplus, as we used to have before ww11.

  17. funemployed

    Corbyn’s speech reminded me of something that’s been bothering me a bit: Yes, climate change is a massive and terrifying problem, but it’s only one aspect of a multipronged and escalating process of wholesale ecosystem destruction. The proliferation of plastics and countless seemingly indestructible toxins, topsoil loss, emptying aquifers, disappearing river deltas, the mysterious mass death of bugs (a much more serious problem than many realize, I think), the (perhaps related) reduction in vertebrate animals, breeding grounds for super-bacterias, the transforming of diverse and dynamic ecosystems into vast fields for monoculture, etc. etc. etc. are not caused primarily by climate change, but they very much make long term survival for most of us rather unlikely, IMNSHO.

    “Ecosystem destruction” doesn’t sound like it would catch on though. Any suggestions for a better catch-all term?

  18. fresno dan

    Why Democrats win even if they lose in Alabama Politico. Winning by losing might work when you’re playing 11-dimensional chess. I think a win is a win and a loss is a loss. Ideally, parties display adaptability after losing. But not if they won’t recognize their losses.

    If Roy Moore wins, they’ll spend the next year yoking every Republican they can to the accused child predator and a president who welcomed him into the GOP fold. They’ll be quick to remind everyone of all the other comments Moore has made against Muslims and gays and in favor of Vladimir Putin’s view of America as evil, as well as his rosy view of slave-era America.
    Hmmmm….if those are such winning issues, why aren’t the dems winning Alabama? Those are probably winning issues in places the dems already win – and I say only probably because it doesn’t appear to me that most people aren’t that concerned with the “red” menace. As everyone at NC knows, the sworn pledges of the dems not to bring up economic issues relegates them to 2nd strings republicanism. Who was it who said that the voters will never vote for an ersatz repub when they can get the real thing?

    AND, let me preface this by saying I despise both Trump and Moore. But I was listening to MSNBC and it is now a mantra to refer to Trump as the self admitted sexual predator.
    1. I am not a lawyer, so I don’t know if “grabbing them by the p*ssy” gets one legally designated as a sexual predator. Trump is a lout, cad, and scumbag with regard to women -political and moral judgments that I hold. It is possible he is also a felon, but that designation comes after a trial.
    2. There is a process for prosecuting people and we ignore or circumvent it at our own peril. Undoubtedly, women in the entertainment field (well, every field) are put in a no win situation when receiving a Trumpian caress (Sarc) – the victim bringing charges faces career destruction and financial peril, while the US legal system is well, well designed and crafted to protect billionaires. Does ANYONE seriously believe that Trump would have been subject to CRIMINAL prosecution from any of his accusers, and furthermore, would ever have faced any retribution by the US legal system WHAT SO EVER??? By relegating such behavior to civil trials, we engage on the turf of the billionaires….
    3. Hyperbole plays into Trump’s hands (maybe not the best choice of words….). Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy were sexual predators. Equating rude, obnoxious, and even illegal behavior with the sadism and mass murder of true predators diminishes the suffering of the victims and turns everything into an un-serious shoutfest.

    1. Carolinian

      If moral turpitude is sufficient reason for politicians to resign then most of the politicians in Washington should probably resign. After all droning innocent civilians and starting non-defensive wars, an international crime since WW2, are all perfectly ok with these moral arbiters–the nakedly ambitious Nikki Haley being one of the most recent. Meanwhile our economy is overseen by those same politicians and is often more a form of organized theft.

      As for sex, when the President was Bill Clinton, Dems and many of the left were singing a different tune. They even made jokes about it with Atrios calling Clinton The Clenis.

      Without a doubt making the harassment issue public is long overdue. However trying to leverage it as a way to gain political power is a lot more dubious and even cynical. The question of whether Trump should resign is something that should be decided by the American public, not Bernie Sanders.

      1. Pat

        The question of whether Trump should resign rests neither with the public or Bernie Sanders but ultimately with Trump. Everything else is merely opinion, largely individual regardless of whether the majority hold that opinion or not.

        Without a lot of other leverage, demands for resignation are just so much hot air. So on one level we agree – even if it is the honest opinion of the speaker or even a correct assessment of the situation, it is largely about either rallying or virtue signaling.

    2. Katniss Everdeen

      “…..if those are such winning issues…..” Exactly.

      But the dems have steadfastly refused to adopt the policy lessons that Bernie Sanders has repeatedly tried to teach them, and so those are the only “issues” they’ve got.

      They prefer to sacrifice Al Franken on their virtuous altar rather than to attack the abhorrent, reptilian, religion-addled moore on issues that would at least have a chance of resonating in one of the poorest states in the union, in a last ditch effort to resurrect their moribund, discredited brand.

      Far from being a “win” for the dems, it is more a reinforcement of the specter of a decrepit, bankrupt sellout of a political party that can’t even take a principled, credible stand when the political stakes are really not all that high. Would roy moore really be all that different than the cretin jeff sessions whom he would be replacing?

      If 2018 was really the prize, why not start right now becoming the party of Bernie that so many in this country want you to be, instead of the party of “when they go low, we go lower.”

  19. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    How did they calculate that?

    Woman threw a tantrum after they wouldn’t give her more champagne on a plane, and had to pay $5,871 for causing an emergency landing Business Insider

    Shouldn’t other passengers, delayed and otherwise inconvenienced, have something to add to that?

  20. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Bitcoin feeding frenzy being fuelled by 15x leverage, says exchange FT. “Supply seems to come from Chinese bitcoin miners and a few early holders.” Hmm.

    Something about gambling and China.

    Is it a government policy or a cultural thing?

    1. Wukchumni

      I was in Macao several times in the early 80’s, a couple hour hydrofoil ride away from HK, and the only thing I really knew about the place before visiting, was in regards to a Grand Prix car race there, and the idea the Portuguese owned it, and it had interesting architecture.

      So, the 1st time I go, I get off the ship, and the customs office is a shed, I kid you not, and the Grand Prix course?

      As I recall, it was as if an 11 year old kid went onto the road with a can of Krylon and shakily painted a ‘start line’ on the pavement just beyond the ‘customs shed’. We’re talking sleepy Asian Portuguese colony.

      The main draw back then-as now, was the casinos, as there were none in HK and the PRC?, fughedaboutit!

      The houses of chance were so tired-looking, it made North Las Vegas seem glamorous in comparison. I was gambling @ the Lisboa, playing blackjack, and the table I occupied was full of the usual compliment of 6 players, but here was the twist…

      Anybody could bet on your hand that wasn’t seated at the table, so you might have 4 or 5 wagers along with yours out on the soft velveteen layout-although regardless the amount wagered by me compared to others-I was in charge of hitting or staying, and when the dealer showed a bust card and everybody stayed on stiff hands, anticipating that said dealer would commit hari-cardy, saving us, the congregation of 20 or so behind me would all start yelling:

      ‘BONK BONK BONK BONK’ @ the top of their lungs, until the cardsharp in front of us revealed the underpinnings of his hand.

      Chinese are mad gamblers, ye gads!

      As I understand it, Macao looks nothing like i’ve described, an upscale Vegas now, and it’s the only part of China where gambling is allowed, sort of how it used to be pre-Atlantic City, here.

      That would give bitcoin even more allure, in that it’s a chance to gamble, where it’s otherwise verboten.

      1. Jean

        See the Russian Roulette scene in “The Deer Hunter” for an example of that.
        Goggle it. Easy to find.

  21. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Sri Lanka hands over Hambantota Port to Chinese company on a 99-year lease The Scroll

    Aren’t 99-year leases national disgraces, for any country?

    1. PlutoniumKun

      The Chinese have learned well from their past contacts with Imperial powers. The pattern is pretty clear – give cheap loans to local ‘businesses’ for major infrastructure investments, which then fail to generate sufficient return to pay back the loan. Then do a ‘deal’ to wipe out the loan, which in effect means the Chinese will own a highly strategic infrastructure asset on a key point on the New Silk Road.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Australia leased the port of Darwin to a Chinese company two years ago and five years before that leased the port of Brisbane to an investment group. It is a way for politicians to get a splash of cash and let their grandchildren deal with the consequences.
      Sri Lanka may be a different kettle of fish. Here China may be collecting on a debt. People may have forgotten but there was a civil war in that country for decades. India went in but broke their teeth there and had to pull out. It was China that aided the government both militarily and diplomatically (by stopping sanctions, etc.) to finally close out that war. At the time I saw how the western powers were quite comfortable for the war to go on for a coupla more decades but were appalled to see the war come to a relativity quick end. Very instructive that.
      In the end they tried to get back at Sri Lanka by squawking about human rights violations in the final campaign and ignoring the previous decades but it was all over, red rover.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Well, it is true that China set up a huge wooden horse in Canberra just last night to honour the Australian-Chinese relationship

  22. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    AI is now so complex its creators can’t trust why it makes decisions Guardian (DL). Unsurprising. If you regard that as broken, then AI is broken by design.

    I suspect the forbidden fruit in the Creators’ garden for the AI robots’ untrustworthy free will.

    Perhaps time to kick them out.

  23. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Recycling Chaos In U.S. As China Bans ‘Foreign Waste’ NPR (Re Silc). Oh, great. More out-of-state waste for Maine’s landfills.

    Will there be illegal foreign waste smuggled into China?

    Will a waste-wall work?

    1. Wukchumni

      The TEUfel in the details is, that fully capable containers are headed back to the People’s Republic empty, in lieu of putting something in them, that’s how little the Chinese want to play on our debris field.

  24. The Rev Kev

    The pundits were wrong about Assad and the Islamic State. As usual, they’re not willing to admit it

    This whole story would be funny if it was not for all the death and destruction that has happened to Syria. Trying to topple Assad who was defending his country against Jihadists would only have resulted in an ISIS-ruled wreck of a country and millions more refugees heading to Europe trying to escape wholesale slaughter. You want to know what is funny? The Pentagon said that it would take years or decades to defeat ISIS. The Russians did it in two. Now both the Pentagon and France are claiming that they defeated ISIS all by themselves ( and that Russians haven’t done zip to help.
    The campaign to defeat ISIS should be a textbook study in itself as the Russian operation was only ever a shoestring operation (economy of force?) with about three dozen aircraft. I am not taking anything away from the Syrians or Iranians here but it was the Russian airpower which set the battlefields. Just to complete their operation, they have just announced that they are now withdrawing as ISIS has been defeated so as not to get themselves bogged down for decades in a foreign war by letting the Syrians get dependent on them. I suspect that they have studied the Powell Doctrine (
    I am willing to suspect, though, that this campaign will be ignored by the Pentagon. Why? A little anecdote. The well-renowned US soldier David “Hack” Hackworth went to the Pentagon after a tour of duty in ‘Nam. In the Pentagon Library he was shocked to find French combat reports of their fight against the Vietnamese and the tactics used by them a decade earlier. They were exactly what he had come up against down to a tee and they could have read as current American reports. What really shocked him was the Library records showed that nobody had ever read them so the US went into Vietnam blind when they had all this information already available. That information could have saved thousands of American lives. Maybe a variation of the not-invented-here syndrome?

    1. Sid Finster

      I suspect that the real reason that the Russians are leaving is to take away the United States’ latest excuse for remaining in Syria “We gotta stay (uninvited) until ISIS is defeated!” then “We gotta stay, lest ISIS come back!”

      Of course, the United States has absolutely no intention of leaving, and will not listen to shame, to morality or or to reason.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I think pulling out is the ultimate way of signalling victory for Putin. He knows well that the US blob was rubbing its hands at the thought of having dragged Russia into a new Afghanistan. Instead, he is rubbing their noses in his victory. And as MoA has pointed out, the indications are that the Syrian Kurds are slowly moving to cosy up to Russia, everyone wants to be with the winner (and they know Russia will stop Assad from overextending himself). So simply by taking the pressure off, Putin succeeds in isolating the US presence in Syria.

        Also, I think he has to keep the Russian military onside, and they will not want to waste men and resources unnecessarily in Syria, its been a very expensive business for a struggling economy.

        1. Bittercup

          The timing of it also may be relevant to Putin’s bid for presidential re-election in Russia. The Syrian involvement was kind of a tough sell domestically in the first place, few people actually had any appetite for military interventionism, and there were immediate fears of terrorist retaliation (Chechnya is still very fresh in people’s minds…) and getting bogged down Afghanistan-style. In addition, there’s a political subset of people who are very upset that the rebel-held Ukrainian territories aren’t getting the same military or diplomatic support as Syria, despite actually being populated with ethnically self-identified Russians.

          Anyway… back in Sep/Oct 2015, in order to garner support for the Syria intervention, Putin claimed that it would be quick and limited (I don’t remember the exact phrasing, but it was a talking point). This is him trying to deliver on that.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            In another time, long, long ago, the announcement of the total vanquishment of the enemy would be a national cause for wild celebrations. Soldiers would steal kisses in the street, parades would be had, everyone would breathe a sigh of relief because we were all going to get back to work, play, family. We would “de-mobilize”, all those swords would quickly be turned back into plowshares, those GM factories spitting out tanks would make useful things again like cars and tractors.

            So ISIS is defeated. Osama is dead and his tribe is scattered to the wind. So when do we stand down? And if we won’t, why not?

    2. WJ

      That LA Times Op-Ed would be *perfect* if I could be certain that the last clause of the sentence below is intended to be read ironically rather than straight. Or perhaps the addition of that last clause is the price one must pay for being allowed to air such otherwise inconvenient arguments about the powers that be:

      “By now it should be obvious that the Syrian Arab Army has played a role in degrading Islamic State in Syria — not alone, of course, but with Russian and Iranian partners, not to mention the impressive U.S.-led coalition.”

      Indeed, it is better if we *not* mention the role played by the “impressive U.S.-led coalition” in Syria. Ahem.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      “What really shocked him [US soldier David “Hack” Hackworth] was the Library records showed that nobody had ever read them so the US went into Vietnam blind when they had all this information already available.”

      This sentence from your comment shocks me and leads me to more deeply wonder about the intentions, competence, and sanity of those who rule us. Every time I watch the “Fog of War” I grow more melancholy.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I went to Hackworth’s memorial website where a major part of his columns are posted [strangely all the links I tried after the middle of 2002 are all broken]. I read a few of the columns and these two jumped out at me:

        Beware of Mission Creep []
        “Perhaps our only hope is that the vets of wars past will rise up and say: ‘Stop mission creep in Afghanistan. We’ve been there too many times before. No more unnecessary white crosses and stars. Punch ’em hard and get out while the getting’s good.'”

  25. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Comics needed.

    17 Oligarchs Who Are Shaping Eastern Europe OstPol. They seem nice

    How many oligarchs does it take to shape America?

    1. Vatch

      How many oligarchs does it take to change a light bulb?

      Answer: None. They have people to do that for them.

    2. Lord Koos

      Well, we have the Mercers, The Adelsons, the Kochs, Murdoch, etc.

      Which makes me want to paraphrase the NRA thing about the “good guys with guns” who come to the rescue — where are the good guys with billions? I’m thinking if you get to be a billionaire, you maybe can’t be a very good guy…

      1. John k

        I’ve wondered the same thing… so if you make the money you must be an a’hole… but we don’t see the heirs doing any better.
        We know power corrupts… money, too, because it brings power?

  26. Vatch

    Here’s a detailed insightful interview with Bertil Lintner about the Rohingya crisis in Burma. There’s a lot in the article that I did not know:

    Three selections from the article:

    As a long-time observer of Myanmar, what do you make of the current crisis?

    Well, it is not a new issue. Basically, there are two questions here. One is of illegal immigration – whether it is real or imagined. And the other is the question of Islamic militancy. On August 25, this group that calls itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in English attacked police posts in Rakhine state. That provoked a massive response from Myanmar’s security forces. More than 600,000 Rohingyas have since fled to Bangladesh.

    Of course, the humanitarian aspect is very important here. People have been subjected to enormous brutality by the Myanmar Army. But it does not really stop there. Following the military crackdown, a spokesperson for the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army actually said in an interview that the attacks were aimed to invoke a response.

    What do they gain form it? One, international attention. Two, more money from funders in West Asia, mainly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. And three, they can expect many more angry young men to join them. Maybe they got a little more than they had bargained for.

    They may not have anticipated such a vicious response from the Army, but they have achieved all those three aims, I would say. And, of course, the people who are suffering are these ordinary people – poor Muslim peasants from the north-western corner of Rakhine state. And they have now become pawns in a much larger game.
    . . . . . .

    If they [the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army] are a motley group of people who are probably not even from Rakhine, what brought them together to fight for an independent Rakhine state?

    Well, the rank and file of the group does include several local recruits. There are angry young men who are fed up of being treated the way they have been treated for years. But why would Pakistani and Uzbeks and Malays come there? Those guys are actually talking about a jihad.

    Do they enjoy popular support among people in the region who identify themselves as Rohingya?

    Not much. I think it is very divided. They are blaming the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army for the August 25 attack. They are saying, “Why did you do it, why did you provoke them?”
    . . . . . .

    The Western media has been particularly critical of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s handling of the crisis. What would you say?

    Although Myanmar had fair elections in 2015, the military is still in the driving seat with three important ministries in its hands. What is happening is completely out of her hands. So, she really cannot do much in terms of ordering anyone. The military takes orders from its commander-in-chief, not from any elected leader.

    She has to tread a really delicate balance. Let’s say she came out for the Rohingyas. It would be political suicide. It is clear where most of her electorate stands on the matter. If she came out in support of the hardline Arakan National Party, she would get flak from the Western press. If she does not do anything, she would get flak too, as she has. It is an extremely delicate situation for her.

    The only thing she could have done but has not is that she could have gone to Sittwe [the capital of Rakhine state] and met some elected politicians. She does not like the leaders of the Arakan National Party, so she will not do that. But she had to just show that there is a civilian space in Rakhine too. She did not have to say anything, she could have gone to a hospital, met people from all communities. In the process, she could have widened a very limited civilian space.

    Reality is complex.

  27. vlade

    Bitcoin meets leverage. Hilarity ensues.

    The one thing one hopes is that the ensuing hilarity is not going to sink some of th exchanges.. Bitcoin is an “asset” that can easily trade on 20k one day, and nil the other – in which case, no matter of the long’s margin would cover the costs. I wonder whether the exchanges do have some limits on open positions here or not.

  28. LD

    Wolff’s household wealth study doesn’t include defined benefit pensions, so people might have more “wealth” but less money.

    1. Vatch

      I doubt the study pays sufficient attention to offshoring by the rich, either. There’s some hand waving about this in a footnote (I have highlighted the naive portion of the text):

      37 Zucman (2013) presented convincing evidence that substantial wealth was transferred from domestic accounts to foreign ones over time (“offshoring”). In principle, offshoring should not present a problem for the SCF data since the SCF asks questions to domestic respondents about asset holdings in foreign accounts. This problem appears more germane to aggregate data like the Financial Accounts of the United States since these accounts are based on only domestically held assets.

      In principle this may not be a problem, but it practice it certainly is. The rich hide money offshore so that they can evade taxes and potential payments in divorce settlements. They’re not going to reveal the nature or extent of this money to a survey interviewer, out of fear that the IRS, a spouse, or ex-spouse might somehow gain access to that information.

  29. DJG

    The Corbyn Doctrine: Definitely worth reading. He puts together a diagnosis and prescription succinctly. It’s as if U.S. politicians, many of whom fancy themselves as wildly insightful, can’t identify a problem in a few words. And Corbyn places economics first.

  30. DJG

    The article about the Intifada and the role of women is worth reading: We receive so little information in the U S of A from the point of view of the Palestinians. The article sets conventional thinking on its head, which means that Clintonism and Trumpism in the Middle East are deeply flawed and thoroughly destructive. Of course, Obama took his usual hands-off approach to any problem that he found too complicated morally, but then he is an extension of Clintonism (and take a look at the L.A. Times article about Obama / Clintonism and received wisdom and the Syrian debacle and massacre). All of a piece.

  31. fresno dan

    Schiff: Republicans using Mueller team firings to discredit institutions The Hill. Schiff: “I think this president, in astonishing speed, has remade the Republican Party in his own deeply flawed image, and that will be ruinous to the Republican Party.” Liberal Democrats just can’t let go of the seemingly sincere belief that there are (or were (or will be)) reliable Republican interlocutors to be had. It’s like our decades-long quest for the mythical “moderates” in the Middle East, which also goes all the way back to Reagan. I mean, who are these flawless Republicans? Denny Hastert? George W. Bush? Ronald Reagan? Eisenhower, maybe. But that was a very long time ago.
    It is one of those things if you hold ?any? thoughts on a subject your going to run into some contradictions, some ying versus yang. I have read a fair amount of right wing stuff, and even “righter” stuff. And for years, it has struck me that there was a significant and ardent number of people in the repubs who are fervently anti-police (local and national police). This contradiction between the repub “establishment” and their “law and order” police support, always struct me as a volcano that would blow one day, even though it was never spoken of (DRAT! I can’t find a good youtube clip of the movie The Village – “of those of whom we do not speak”)

    But at some point, all these little ignored groups, who are the most reliable PRIMARY voters, are gonna be heard. So I think Trump can scoff at the “law and order” repubs with impunity. After all, if the system is rigged, wouldn’t it follow that the enforcers of the riggers are the police??? (and, I kinda agree that it is rigged – not the way Trump thinks it is, but rigged never the less)

    (people who are familiar with my posts know that I am critical of the police sometimes, and I would say there is a distinction between police misusing their power and not having police at all – – just to explain the nuances in my views of the police. But I have to say I am sympathetic to the right wingers in some respect simply because they didn’t buy whole hog the WORSHIP of the police and offered a tiny counterbalance among repubs who advocated dispensing with any constraint upon the police)

    It is an aspect of national political parties that they simply shut out the “crazies” in their own parties – but they are always there, and they are a significant part of the BASE. Do the people who believe in polygamy tend to be repubs or dems? But the stereotype of the “free love” dems still hold – I guess its all about respecting the sanctity of “marriage”…..
    How many confederate re-enactors are repubs? How many Union re-enactors are dems?

  32. Jim Haygood

    The tyranny of numbers:

    It turns out that more people watch Fox News when it has a lower channel number. Fox News’s average channel number is around 38 to 41. Lowering the channel number to 19 to 23 or thereabouts causes viewers to watch 2.5 more minutes per week of Fox News, on average.

    What’s more, it doesn’t appear that cable or satellite TV providers make channel position decisions based on local politics; they don’t lower Fox News’ channel number in conservative towns or countries or raise it in liberal cities. So people in areas where Fox News has a low channel number watch more of the channel for reasons that are basically random, and unrelated to the viewer’s personal politics.

    Benford’s Law strikes again!

    1. Louis Fyne

      to be devil’s advocate, having a non-premium cable channel package could be a proxy for older, lower-middle class.

      no cable = working poor or younger cord cutters (obviously not everyone who forgoes cable is working poor).
      2000 channels = top 20%
      basic cable = middle 1/3

  33. Pat

    Most amusing moment in the Paul Krugman/Chris Hayes conversation at the Y last night was a question about Bitcoin where Hayes admitted he had tried multiple times to figure it out and could sound like a wikipedia article about it but didn’t understand bit coin, and Krugman’s rejoinder that for the most part the investors didn’t either.

    Least amusing for me personally was Krugman’s response on what Democrats could and should do starting with ‘repairing the Affordable Care Act”. Hayes did not bother to follow up with a question regarding Medicare for All. There comes a point where understanding that neoliberal policies are not going to do it, and for the supposedly reality based community it should be long past that time. ACA is and will continue to be a loser for the Democrats, both politically and as policy because it provides little care and is not affordable for the majority of Americans. That Krugman seemingly cannot jettison the failed policies but calls for the media to be forced to give up false equivalencies (more better than the other guy stuff) is yet another sign that they just haven’t gotten it.

    1. fresno dan

      December 11, 2017 at 10:46 am

      Churning, Confusion And Disruption — The Dark Side Of the ObamaCare Marketplace – 12/10/2017 – Lambert Strether
      Great NC post yesterday on “the insurance market” not working. Maybe if Haynes and Krugman read NC they could put away their childish beliefs in the market.

      Before the 2008 Great recession, I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I saw the 2008 Great recession I became a man, and I put away childish things.

  34. Wukchumni

    Here’s the 1 page tax reform plan from Mnuchin, issued today…
    “Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy (OTP) has modeled the Senate Finance tax reform plan and overall has similar analysis to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) on a static basis, with a score of approximately -$1.5 trillion on a current law basis and approximately -$1 trillion on a current policy basis. The difference between current law and current policy is that current law assumes existing provisions that are set to expire, such as bonus depreciation, do expire; while current policy assumes these are renewed, as has often been the case historically.

    In addition to a static score, JCT calculated the increase in government tax receipts in the Senate Finance tax plan due to growth. They estimated $408 billion of additional tax revenue. Adding this $408 billion to the static score leads to a change in total projected receipts under JCT’s assumptions of approximately-$1 trillion on a current law basis.”

    “Yes! there will be growth in the spring!.” ~ Chance the Gardener

    1. marym

      Growth: (From Vox post quoting the Treasury document)

      Treasury expects approximately half of this 0.7% increase in growth to come from changes to corporate taxation. We expect the other half to come from changes to pass-through taxation and individual tax reform, as well as from a combination of regulatory reform, infrastructure development, and welfare reform as proposed in the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

  35. Michael Fiorillo

    On the Frank Bruni article: I don’t think most NC readers believe he’s a monster or abomination, just a mediocre toady to the rich and powerful.

  36. Rod

    Power Failure: How utilities across the U.S. changed the rules to make big bets with your money Post and Courier

    Our State Treasurer, Curtis Loftis Jr., comments directly on this Fraud and cites how more profit is expected to be extracted from the crime by its resolution. Another Crime next- more Moral than Legal.
    This is Modus Operandi–privatize the profit and socialize the cost–
    Shame is, the 10.2% Allowed Profit on Equity Invested–set by Public Utilities Law–just wasn’t enough.
    Y’know–spend a buck get ten cents back–spend a million take home 100,000$

    During the past decade, power companies and their allies spent $1.4 billion on federal lobbying, campaign records show. They gave $112 million to federal candidates. They shoveled millions more into statewide races. They poured money into campaigns of public service commissioners in Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama — states that elect regulators. Relationships got cozy.

  37. EoH

    Re Tax Reform and the WaPo lead that the GOP lost focus on the middle class. Excuse me, but when since Reagan has the GOP had a focus on the middle class to lose?

    As for Trump’s “distinctive brand of economic populism” that was lost on the way to the Forum, I have a bridge I’d like to sell to Damian Paletta and his WaPo editors. The two concepts would be hard even for David Brooks to pin together.

    It should be abundantly clear even to Bezos’s WaPo that Trump is only a brand. He has no program, no policies, no commitments. He has only electioneering phrases he learns by heart, unlike his speech in honor Medgar Evers, which he had to read with the help of a pointer.

  38. Eclair

    The Intercept reports on the rather ineffectual whacking of the DNC against the heinous ‘super delegate’ system. A year ago, it was right before, or maybe right after, the election, a local Democratic activist (although she was cold-shouldered by the party elite) in our Colorado town organized a series of breakfasts at a local cafe. Here, we disaffected and grumpy Bernie supporters could share our ‘concerns.’ I decided to give it a try, even though I had pretty much given up on the Democratic Party at that point.

    I found myself at a table with a stalwart Dem, who would ascend to the office of Democratic County Chairperson in a couple of weeks. I had run into her in a woman’s political group a few years back, and had been impressed by her air of knowing everything while saying and committing to nothing.

    We made inconsequential party chitchat, during which she made rather appalling statements against the current County Chair, who, she lamented, really had listened only to the concerns of ‘her people.’ Black people.

    So, in my socially awkward manner, I immediately began pressing her on why the Party’s Precinct Committee Persons (PCP) were elected with great fanfare, then disappeared from the scene, never to be seen again until they were up for reelection. I mentioned that I had never actually seen, or heard from, my local PCP, who I knew lived only a ten minute walk away from me. Why wasn’t she asking what my concerns were? I mean, she had, at the most, probably only about fifty people to canvass.

    The Dem County-Chair-To-Be’s eyes began to flicker nervously, searching for escape. Realizing I had only minutes, I launched into my questions on the wisdom of keeping the super delegate system with its inherent undemocratic bias and disregard for the will of the voters. She muttered about ‘rewarding’ former party leaders for their loyalty and hard work and waved frantically at a person across the room, to whom she could escape.

    It was my final Charley Brown moment. For years I kept doing this, thinking that the Democratic Party leaders just needed a push in the right direction. That they really wanted to do the right thing. That they wanted to address the concerns of their people. That we could together make this a resilient and vital political force. Silly bear.

  39. allan

    Syracuse University rebukes Congresswoman Claudia Tenney for claiming it supports GOP tax plan []

    Syracuse University officials say U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney spread “categorically false” information this week about the university’s position on the Republican tax plan making its way through Congress.

    Tenney, R-New Hartford, defended her vote for the GOP bill in a live interview Wednesday on Utica radio station WUTQ-FM (100.7).

    “If this was bad for college students and colleges, why would Syracuse University, the largest higher educational institution in our region, why are they supporting the tax plan?” Tenney said.

    SU, in fact, has publicly criticized the Republican tax overhaul …

    “To be clear: To suggest that Syracuse University has endorsed or supports the tax reform legislation currently making its way through congress is categorically false,” SU Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie said in a statement Friday. …

  40. Synoia

    The Koch groups respond: “Understanding how people can be free to lead their best lives is foundational to what we do.

    Not having to pay rentiers would be a very good start.

  41. a different chris

    Corbyn’s stuff is good but this gave me a painful laugh:

    >Total British government aid to Yemen last year was under £150 million—less than the profits made by British arms companies selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.

    Milo Minderbinder to the rescue! — make sure the taxpayers give Yemen the same amount of money. That way they could keep fixing things up so our airmen won’t run out of targets! Oh, Jeremy, you thought that we would just stop selling them weapons? Silly boy.

  42. Comrade Pinko

    Someone with a voice of authority needs to take advantage of this #MeToo moment to give an epic speech to the nation called RESPECT IS A HUMAN RIGHT. Is Obama available or is he too busy collecting from the banksters he saved to help build his shrine to self? How about Hillary? Oh wait, never mind.

    This manifesto, done the right way and by the right person, could pave the way for a paradigm shift in terms of justice. It would also expose Trump, Moore, et al and tear them a new one, although in an indirect way.

    It would start by giving examples of all the forms that power takes, and give examples of abuse which evoke, but do not name, many of the perps. For example, power comes from wealth (Trump), status (Franken/Conyers), profession (Weinstein), military rank (officers TNTM), celebrity (Lauer), intelligence (Wayback Machine: BF Skinner – young autistic Temple Grandin), etc.

    Then it would go into how abusers of power believe in their own superiority and opportunistically exploit others to satisfy their own desires such as money, sex, more power based on their belief that those they exploit deserve it because of their innate inferiority, weakness, and stupidity. I’m sure certain people would immediately come to public mind when spoken off in a lightly veiled manner.

    It would then remind the public that sexual abuse is hardly the only abuse of power and address how financial power is even more commonly abused for gain – examples are everywhere (Banksters). War much? (Ruling Class). The point is that there’s a universal problem when it comes to abusing power for selfish gain and for subjugating, if not eliminating, those considered to be lesser beings. Bernie, are you available? How about Jane?

    It would remind people that abuse stems from power and that power corrupts, therefore there are likely no isolated incidents or single victims. Opportunities for exploitation are a feature, an entitlement and perk of power and often the incentive to seek more power. Because power corrupts, presumption of innocence should therefore not be afforded to those in power. Applying a higher standard by removing the faulty presumption of innocence helps them resist the temptations that come with power. It would also be reasonable to assume, given that power corrupts, that if even one abuse victim has the courage to come forward, we should assume there are ten more and look long and hard for them.

    Since there’s no longer any actual justice in our justice system other than for the powerful, that should help balance the scales. No more free pass. No more fairy tales. Only then will we come closer to balancing the scales of justice which have been tipped in favor of the powerful for far too long.

    When those in power step out of line, they should be kicked to the curb to make room for those more capable of respecting others as well as their power and position. They might then think twice about even seeking powerful political positions – although they can always continue to have surrogates to do their work for them (hello Obama and Jamie Dimon).

    That should help drain the swamp, open eyes, and empower the powerless.

  43. fresno dan

    Essentially, what the police told an innocent, law-abiding, intoxicated American was this: Follow my highly-specific, very strange instructions or die. There was no need to make him crawl. The police were in command of the situation. At no point is there a visible weapon. I have seen soldiers deal with al Qaeda terrorists with more professionalism and poise. When a man is prone, his hands are visible, and your gun is trained upon him, he is in your power.

    At trial, the officer testified that he though the suspect was reaching for his gun, and that if he had a chance to do things over, he’d make the same decision again. In other words, he presented the classic defense. He was afraid, so he fired.
    That’s especially true when the police — through their own incompetence — create their own fear. Philando Castile was shot even as he followed his killer’s instructions. Shaver died trying his best to comply with a highly unusual, complicated set of commands while under extreme duress. Scared cops still need to be competent cops, and members of the public shouldn’t face death because a police officer can’t keep his emotions in check. Finally, I know that police have a dangerous job, but they’re not at war. As I noted above, it’s infuriating to see civilian police exercise less discipline than I’ve seen from soldiers in infinitely more dangerous situations. Not one of the men I deployed with would have handled a terrorist detention the way these officers treated American citizens.
    I apologize – I am probably overposting on this
    But two points:
    1. In an earlier post, I pointed out that I am critical of the police sometimes
    2. I pointed out as well that a lot of extreme right wingers can be overly critical of the police (or any policing!). Now I don’t think French is a nutjob or overly extreme (a pejorative that some people assume precedes the adjective “right winger” automatically)

    There is a political correctness that used to come from the right to “support the police.” The fact that the “liberals” now are driving to enforce the orthodoxy of the infallibility of the police (really, the FBI) really is something I never thought I would see. But a lot of these stereotypes are due to our media culture, that is lazy, inexact, and constantly uses “shorthand” to make simple stories and promote “good guys.”

    AND, if there hadn’t been a video, would anybody have doubted that this would not have received any attention. So the question is, how long does it take for people to start thinking for themselves and shake off the years of “support the police?”

  44. Bill

    re artisan work protection:

    At stake are thousands of years of Indigenous designs and the future of the hand-woven textile industry in Guatemala. The fighters are the women artisans who weave time-consuming and valuable fabrics, but receive little back from either private sales or from a disinterested and racially biased government. They hope to protect their ancient designs from appropriation by “capitalists who steal and brand [the designs] as their own,” said Ch’umilkaj, a 22-year-old Ixkot leader.

  45. troutcor

    I just love the graduate student who spells it “priviledge.” A “scholar” indeed.
    Some truly honest questions need to be asked about the true value of a big percentage of graduate studies.
    How much is scholarship and how much is indulgent navel-gazing/narcissism?
    Garrison Keillor may be (mercifully) gone, but the overwhelming middle-class compunction to prove oneself to be of “above average” intelligence via dubious graduate program lives on.
    Coal miners and the like, remember, are dinosaurs who must stoically accept the fact that their livelihoods are going the way of the dodo.
    Semi-literate grad students in need of an ego boost, on the other hand, are OWED taxpayer assistance in joining their chosen ivory-tower profession. Regardless of its utility in a rapidly changing economy.
    Priviledge, indeed.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      1. to be above average intelligent.


      2. to be more moral. For example, never do things that would dirty the world or dirty yourself…like digging for coal.

      “I have an office job…a white collar job.”

  46. troutcor

    I just love the graduate student who spells it “priviledge.” A “scholar” indeed.
    Some truly honest questions need to be asked about the true value of a big percentage of graduate studies.
    How much is scholarship and how much is indulgent navel-gazing/narcissism?
    Garrison Keillor may be (mercifully) gone, but the overwhelming middle-class compulsion to prove oneself to be of “above average” intelligence via dubious graduate program lives on.
    Coal miners and the like, remember, are dinosaurs who must stoically accept the fact that their livelihoods are going the way of the dodo.
    Semi-literate grad students in need of an ego boost, on the other hand, are OWED taxpayer assistance in joining their chosen ivory-tower profession. Regardless of its utility in a rapidly changing economy.
    Coal miners are whining losers who need to get over their pending extinction; grad students are entitled to public funding of their every curiosity and whim.
    Priviledge, indeed.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Spelling is not an indication of intelligence or education. In English, especially, it’s a quirky trick of memory – and I say this as someone who has it.

  47. Rates

    “Bitcoin on track to topple global economy in five months”. In five months I think we’ll look back and see how literal and prescient it was. By that I mean, the explosion in Bitcoin might be the thing that takes all markets down.

    Don’t know how, but the frenzy over this thing is real. Friends, relatives, etc are checking their cell phones every minute, etc over the price action.

    Heard on the street (San Francisco): “My friend made 10 million from Bitcoin and sold them all”.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It could be that that person is anyone’s friend’s friend’s friend’s friend’s friend.

      That’s six degrees of separation.

      1. Rates

        Regardless, at this point it’s not hard to believe that there are a couple of people sitting on a 10 million dollar profit. After all the market cap is 250B.

  48. D

    Speaking of Recycling, it’s bleakly hilarious how so many who used to chide about Dead Trees and paper usage, have no issue with the hundreds of Amazon Boxes, sent to their doorstep. Sick to death of putting the minimal recycling the bins in this complex to find them all (even the ones for glass/metal/plastic containers) jammed up with full sized Amazon Boxes. It speaks to the persons mentality when they don’t even bother to flatten the boxes in consideration of their neighbors, let alone put them in the right bin.

    Won’t be feeling too much pity when those of that same mentality whine about the need to be spoon fed in their latter years after decades of using every technology available to avoid even having to get up from their chairs.

    It was instructive that the frightening Brain Implant Neurosurgeon, Eric C. Leuthardt, Yves linked to on the 7th – The Surgeon Who Wants to Connect You to the Internet with a Brain Implantproclaimed in 2011, regarding brain computer interfacing (BCI):

    A person could preheat the oven, check e-mail and settle the kids down with a movie without ever touching anything. How much time could we save and information could we process with the seamless transition from thought to action?

    Why in the world would one not want to settle their young children in for the night and sing them lullabies, kissing them goodnight? That’s what I read in between the lines. Then again, as Yves implied with that link, the war machine is most interested in these sorts of ‘technologies.’

  49. Plenue

    A simple question about Bitcoin: all these dollar millionaires and billionaires who got into it early. How do they go about cashing out if they wanted to convert it to real money before the bubble bursts?

  50. D

    Oops, brain fog. Speaking of the war machine and computer brain interfaces I forgot to include this paragraph which directly followed the quote from the 2011 piece I linked to in my last comment:

    The technology could advance the capabilities of soldiers in so many ways that Leuthardt’s research is partly funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, whose research arm has an “Augmented Cognition” program aimed to use the latest in brain computer interface technology.

    “For me, this is an exciting time, because it is only the beginning,” Leuthardt said.

    Yeah, the beginning of the end of humanity.

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