Links 12/20/17

Derailed US train lacked automatic safety system BBC. Only in America…

Bitcoin Tumbles From Record in Biggest Slump Since Futures Bloomberg

Bitcoin: The Most Impressive Speculative Bubble In Modern History American Conservative (Marshall). Note Whalen is a hard core libertarian. Key sentence: “Bitcoin is an old fashioned fraud clothed in the new age wonder of technology.”

The bitcoin premonition Ed Chancellor, Breaking Views (Scott)

Restoring research that could make deadly viruses more transmissible NPR. Chuck L: “Criminal”.


China shows its green roots on road to contradictions Pepe Escobar, Asia Times (J-LS)

North Korea

U.S. Blames North Korea for Massive Cyberattack in May Wall Street Journal

H.R. McMaster, Threat Inflation Advisor American Conservative

ECB sued over decision to freeze help to Greek banks during crisis Reuters. As I said at via e-mail to Chuck L:

Not gonna go anywhere.

As we wrote at the time, the ECB was violating its own rules in supporting the Greek banks. The facility it was using was ONLY a two week facility, to be used ONLY for solvent banks on a short term basis, and was reapproved every 2 weeks by the ECB board.

The ECB stopping doing the Greek banks a favor they never should have done is not illegal.And I dimly recall that they did have justification for deeming the banks not to be solvent when they had pretended that they had been solvent. The hard part the ECB has legally is defending its former position of keeping the Greek banks on life support for so long, not for cutting them off.


Gibraltar becomes latest sticking point in Brexit talks Financial Times. Rajoy is taking lessons from Ireland.

Theresa May rebukes EU’s Barnier over ‘bespoke’ Brexit trade deal Sky News. There needs to be a new vocabulary to describe the stupidity and lunacy in the Government and UK press. It is an order of magnitude or two worse than anything you see out of responsible (or even irresponsible) adults. It’s as if one is dealing with badly spoiled three year olds who believe in magic and also believe that if they have a temper tantrum, the grownups will capitulate. What does May think she is accomplishing with this sort of thing? So she extends her time in office by weeks or months to create an even bigger train wreck? Or is she really just utterly incompetent and incapable of listening?

More of the sort of thing above: Theresa May says we can have a special deal for Britain’s banks after Michel Barnier declares war on the City Sun

And even more: David Davis to warn EU it cannot cherrypick in Brexit trade deal talks Guardian (vlade). How do you people in the UK not hang your heads in shame? At least we in the US know that Trump is an embarrassment. Brits present themselves as smarter than that.

An update on a tweet from yesterday, courtesy Joel:


Who Wants War With Iran—and Why? American Conservative

Chinese companies poised to help rebuild war-torn Syria Asia Times (resilc)

Imperial Collapse Watch

The New National Security Strategy Paves A Path To Isolation Moon of Alabama (Chuck L)

Avoiding Nuclear War Is Our First Priority Paul Craig Roberts. Chuck L: “10+ days old but still pertinent.”

MoD failure to provide F-35 cost estimate is unacceptable, say MPs Guardian

Tax “Reform”

The G.O.P. Tax Bill Is Unworkable New Yorker (furzy). Hate to tell you, but this is normal for tax overhauls in the US. The 1986 Tax Reform Act required a big tidying-up bill in the next year. If Cassidy had established that the inconsistencies were way worse than in the 1986 bill, he might have something, but he appears not to have even considered the question. And he’s not objecting to inconsistencies, he’s objecting to the way it allows even more creative ways to avoid paying taxes, which is a feature, not a bug.

Tax Bill That Will Further Enrich the Wealthy Is Close to Becoming Law Rolling Stone (resilc)

Trump’s new global vision lacks coherent global strategy Asia Times

Trump Plan Sees National Security As a Zero-Sum Game New York Magazine (resilc)

Senate passes tax bill, pushing it closer to Trump’s deskn The Hill

House Likely to Hold Another Vote to Pass Tax Bill After Hitting Parliamentary Hurdle Wall Street Journal

The GOP’s Tax Bill Kicks Puerto Rico When It’s Down Huffington Post (marym)

Will Passing The Tax Bill Help The GOP In 2018? Probably Not. FiveThirtyEight (resilc)

U.N. Special Rapporteur Says Tax Bill Will Make the U.S. “World Champion of Extreme Inequality” Democracy Now! (Glenn F)

Tax bill is nothing short of wholesale looting Economic Policy Institute

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson says he’s seriously thinking about running for US president in 2020 Associated Press

The Misguided GOP Attack on Government Bureaucrats Washington Monthly

Abortion fight threatens Collins deal, risks shutdown The Hill

Koch Brothers Are Cities’ New Obstacle to Building Broadband Wired (resilc)

Democrats Tie Virginia House After Recount Decided by Single Vote Daily Beast (resilc). After this, you can never say an individual vote doesn’t matter.

Sex in Politics…Not!

Microsoft backs bill to give harassment cases their day in court, waives its own arbitration clauses GeekWire (Chuck L)

Wall Street Returns To U.S. Shale With A Bang OilPrice

How Basel rule changes could trump tax reform as driver of US bank payouts Risky Finance (Richard Smith)

The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of the U.S. Antitrust Movement Harvard Business Review (resilc)

Retiring Early Just Might Kill You, Says New Research Bloomberg

Class Warfare

Uber dealt blow by EU court ruling that it is transport service Reuters (Richard Smith). SoftBank’s investment, assuming it closed, is already in the red, although Uber is trying to claim the economic impact isn’t large because it is already following locak taxis regs in lots of places. Really?

Uber is officially a cab firm, says European court BBC. Clive:

Uber’s trying to manage the optics is priceless “yeah, well, we never said that we weren’t regulated as a taxi service in a lot of markets so nothing to see here, move one” — of course the whole reason they fought this all the way to the ECJ was as a test case to try to escape registration requirements and regulations being imposed imposed on them at a city/country level by any jurisdiction.

Here is the press release, with a link to the ruling in it: According to Advocate General Szpunar, the Uber electronic platform, whilst innovative, falls within the field of transport: Uber can thus be required to obtain the necessary licences and authorisations under national law

Drug and Alcohol Deaths at U.S. Workplaces Soar Wall Street Journal

Hard Times in Trump Country Intercept (resilc)

The Ghost of the Mechanical Turk Jacobin (resilc). Ugh.

New York City Moves to Create Accountability for Algorithms ProPublica

One in every 200 people in UK are homeless, according to Shelter Guardian (JTM)

First vending machine for homeless people launches in UK Guardian (JTM)

Cultural Appropriation, Cultural Exploitation, Cultural Genocide: Problems of Neoliberal Diversity Management Zero Anthropology. UserFriendly: “Bullzeye”.

Antidote du jour. From the National Geographic wildlife photographs of the year winners, this by Melissa Stevens (hat tip Lawrence R):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here

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  1. scoff

    The value of paper

    Election security experts warn that computerized ballot tabulators – such as those used in Broward County – can be hacked and reprogrammed to award more votes to one candidate and withhold votes from another.

    The safeguard against such hacking is to use paper ballots. If necessary, the paper ballots can be counted by hand and the hand-counted vote totals compared to those recorded on computerized tabulators.

    Well, maybe.

    1. sylva

      Fact of the matter is, electronic will be the way to go. Open source, highly encrypted, multi-nodal system would be best so even if hackers penetrate, there would be backups to confirm votes.

      Could even be a realtime voting system these days, where you are given an automated call to confirm your vote was correct and also confirming you are a real person. SS # would be used to register online.

      Paper is, first of all, not an anything proof tech. People should be able to vote from their phones/pc on a secured connection, not spend hours in line. You would get very high voter turnout. Tons of people I know dont vote due to location, work schedule etc. Its a stupd system.

      Also, paper can be lost, miscounted, etc. No way that you can “track” your vote, when the hell did that ever happen? They will always be able to manipulate your vote anyways, because all you hear is the outcome and many times it is different from the exit polls.

      1. Joel

        >>SS # would be used to register online.

        You realize you just discovered a way to abolish the secret ballot and at scale?

        You should work in Silicon Valley! A new frontier in privacy destruction!

        By the way, Massachusetts is 100% paper ballots and few people wait in line to vote. I never have in my entire life, because working class left-of-center inclusive town that wants people to vote.

    2. Chris

      Paper ballots still work, and are hard to hack if they’re done right.

      In Australia, voting is compulsory, and completed by writing preference numbers, 1-n, in a box next to each candidate’s name. The voter places their completed ballot paper in a locked box. At the close of polling (6pm) the ballot boxes are unsealed in the presence of scrutineers from at least the major parties. Ballot papers are then tallied, and first preference votes counted (with the scrutineers still observing).

      It’s an uncomplicated, transparent and observable process. Most technology mediated options rapidly become obscure, opaque, and open to manipulation.

  2. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves and Vlade.

    With regard to “how do you people in the UK not hang our heads in shame..”, in the past week, I have spoken to three people in senior positions at their firms, head of regulatory risk at a big insurer, partner and manager of a fund at an alternative asset manager, and board member and head of regulatory change at a small fund manager. As per the above chronological order, the insurance guy thinks the EU needs us more than the UK needs the EU, the wannabe mistress of the universe at the asset manager thinks the US and China are where the action is, not the EU, and the board director thinks that as long as the UK does not go protectionist, then it will be fine and can be a pioneer for free trade. The first two are a bit ra ra, but the last has no such excuse as he’s one of the top lawyers in the City. Even in the City, I would say that many, if not most, people I come across have no idea of the difficulties ahead. Oddly, it’s dawning more and more on people in the provinces who have nothing to do with the City.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Its maybe a bit of a tangent, but I’ve always been interested in Japanese history, and I’ve read a few books on mid-20th Century Japanese history. One thing that has fascinated historians is how in the 1930’s Japan managed to persuade itself that a war with the US and other colonial powers was not just unavoidable, but potentially a good ‘cleansing’ thing. And this wasn’t just the militarist extremists – even anti-war moderates and left wingers became part of the groupthink, such that many reported that on hearing the news of Pearl Harbour, they described their emotion as being mainly relief – a feeling that at long last, the inevitable has happened.

      This was despite the reality – which just about every educated Japanese knew – that the US alone had an economy about 10 times that of Japan and vastly greater reserves of oil, metals and manpower. Everyone knew this – they just somehow managed to unknow it when it came to making decisions. They also knew – thanks to their experiences in Manchuria and Mongolia – that the Japanese army was way behind the western powers in terms of equipment and tactics. Even in a straight even fight against Russia they got badly kicked. So even though the Japanese Navy was superb, nobody could have been under any illusions that somehow the superior fighting qualities of the Japanese soldier could somehow make up for other inadequacies.

      A lot of writers ascribe this as something uniquely Japanese, the sort of thing that happens in a highly consensual based society, but of course reseachers on group think and other forms of mass delusion can give plenty of other examples, although few which lead to such appalling bloodshed.

      Now I’m not suggesting that Brexit is as bad as going to war against someone 10 times your size. But I do wonder if future historians are going to look at the period 2016-2020 in the UK and shake their heads in wonder at the sort of mass delusion that gripped Britain. All the information is right there, available. The unbelievable incompetence of the government – and at this stage its gone beyond being funny, now its just pathetic – is there for everyone to see. But a whole swathe of the establishment just seems to be shrugging its shoulders, assuming all will work out somehow in the end. It really is bizarre.

      1. Tom

        Very interesting thought. I think for one think that the most important issue in Britain is immigration. There is the sense of losing one´s country to strangers. There has been no rise of a xenophobic party as of yet because all that xenophobic energy has been redirected at the EU. If there is no brexit there will be a heavy price to pay. If there is a Brexit people will see that there is no solution. Nothing has gotten better. So they will go to the next level: attacking people who are citizens but who are not ethnically English.
        In the back of everything is the fact that GB has never really come to terms with the fact that it is not an empire anymore. People just don´t understand that GB is no more than a middling power.

        1. Enquiring Mind

          England relies on its old friend, Admiral Channel, with Captain Chunnel in a supporting role.

          Seeing the unrest in France after the Camp of Aints was dispersed to the unwilling and unsupported cities (with seven mayors, Rennes, etc, suing those idiots in Paris about the problems) would be somewhat sobering. Reflecting on the unrest in other areas of undocumented settling in Germany, Sweden and elsewhere must have people in Folkestone and environs contemplating their own resettlement further north so that they are not overwhelmed in the event of some breach, Eurostar nova or lorry parade.

        2. Chris

          There is the sense of losing one´s country to strangers.

          So true.

          Romans (twice)
          Dutch royalty
          German royalty

          Not to mention the Huguenots, and the Spanish Jews with their fish and chips…

      2. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, PK.

        Your last three sentences are spot on. I would just quibble with “for everyone to see” and “whole swathe of the establishment”. I don’t think most Brits see it as they are struggling with “nearer crocodiles” and the MSM is either BSing in favour of hard Brexit or obsessing with Trump, so not informing the public. It’s not just the establishment shrugging its shoulders. I reckon much, if not most, of business and the public are, too.

        A friend, also the son of immigrants from Mauritius, is an historian and currently serving at the UK mission to the EU. He hopes to teach this period and dine on it when he resumes his first love at Cambridge, especially when the thirty year rule expires.

        1. Anonymous2

          I agree with you Colonel. At the time of the referendum, people spoke, with some insight, of the London bubble, where people in the capital did not understand the problems experienced in the rest of the country, but I think there is also another, English bubble, where the people around the country do not understand either their own country or the world around them. This is the product IMO of decades of dishonest reporting by the major newspapers which has given the English a completely false picture of themselves and their neighbours, towards whom they feel superior and suspicious simultaneously.

          In a way, perhaps the politicians are not quite as stupid as they appear, merely unprincipled, for they are seeking to attain or hold on to office and do so by playing to the gallery’s prejudices, probably knowing that they are taking advantage of a very widespread delusion. To my mind it is what happens when a country develops, as England has, a deeply dishonest political and journalistic culture. I put much of the blame on Murdoch, Dacre and the other oligarchs who own the press. They have created a culture where only the politicians who pander to the illusions can prosper. It is profoundly dishonest and damaging, to my mind.

          The brainwashing has been less intense and therefore less effective in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which is why I believe the referendum result was different in that country and that province.

          1. vidimi

            I made a similar point below, but you elaborated on the role of the media more. the problem goes back to Murdoch indeed, when he started supporting the thatcher regime in the 70s.

      3. John

        In actual fact, WW2 was a “cleansing” thing for Japan, just not in the way their delusions anticipated. And in a similar manner, Brexit, as another twitch in the death throes of neoliberalism, will “cleanse”, but probably not in the way a lot of neoliberals think.

        1. Joel

          ^^ I was going to say the same thing about the US Civil War.

          The key there was the controlled/censored press in the breakaway states and taboos on stating the obvious.

          Because of the censorship and taboos (backed up by informal violence) they missed the two obvious facts that eventually doomed them: 1) Lincoln wasn’t about to let them get away with it unopposed, whatever Buchanan might do; and 2) the slaves would walk off the plantations (if not exact revenge first) once they were within walking distance of the Union lines.

      4. Altandmain


        The more I consider this, I think that the British government never prepared itself for the possibility that Brexit might win. They were completely unprepared with the true implications of what they had asked their electorate to vote on.

        I also agree that the British people have their own delusions. I think that this may be because the British Empire was the predominant superpower in Europe, particularly after the defeat of Napoleon. Not until the rise of Germany would that be challenged. Actually, arguably, Germany has “won the peace” after WW2 and sustains huge export surpluses. The thing is though, the memory of the UK being dominant remains in the minds of the British people, who still see themselves that way.

        The thing is, though, as you note, unlike Japan, a very collective society, the UK is more like the Western world, more individualist. I’m forced to conclude that individualist societies are as vulnerable to collective delusions as collectivist ones.

        A big issue that remains is that the anger that spawned Brexit, particularly the declining economic fortunes of much of the UK, remains largely unaddressed. The Tories are unlikely to address these problems, quite the opposite to be honest, they may very well enact policies that worsen these problems. The British elite have been completely incapable of acknowledging that large sections of the British people have been devastated by neoliberalism. That I think is another big problem and purely self-inflicted.

        As bad as the situation is in Canada (we have an awful mainstream media and politicians and corporate “leaders”), at least there is some discussion about this. Here is an example:

        Macleans is a pretty mainstream, pro-neoliberal magazine, but even they seem to realize that inequality was the root cause of the problems with Trump and Brexit.

        Apart from perhaps Jeremy Cobryn and the Green Party, I don’t see this conversation happening in the UK.

        The big problem is too little money going to the bottom 90%, and too much going to the top 10% (especially the top 1%). The financialization of the UK’s economy leading up to Brexit was especially severe, when combined with the UK’s decline in manufacturing that has been going on for decades.

        1. vidimi

          the guardian, much like macleans in the UK, also gives lip service to inequality. Britain has a greater concentration of wealth than does Canada, but it also, at the moment, has a more credible left and a better established social state (the NHS, were it to be properly funded would probably be the best health care service in the world, and brits have around 5 weeks vacation compared to 2-3 in Canada).

          1. Altandmain

            It’s a fair comment.

            I agree that vacation is something Canada needs to do better, and yes the NHS puts the Canadian provinces to shame. Well, it would be were it not underfunded, but so is the Canadian system.

            On the Canadian left, the big issue in Canada is that the NDP has thrown away what would otherwise be a great opportunity and wasted it with identity politics. The other I suppose is that if the left begins to gain mainstream, the media will begin to attack it like crazy.

            It just sucks that neoliberalism has infested everywhere …

          2. vlade

            I disagree on NHS.

            While the specialist care is indeed very good, the first-level care (by which I mean the GP system) is stuck (system-wide) in early 20th century, when a GP could be well expected to be a cradle-to-grave first stop (becasue, as a friend of mine – a GP – said, you had say 50 recognised and treatable diseases, and the rest were “no idea what’s wrong with you, you get better or you die, not much I can do” ).

            Some years back I made a donation to the Great Ormond Street Hospital, and then got their quarterly newsletter. It had the expected how-GOSH-saved-a-very-sick-kid stories, but the most interesting aspect for me in all of them was that all started with a massive GP failure, and a fight of the parents to get to a paediatrician – who then overruled the GP’s “nothing to see here”, or even worse an entirely wrong diagnosis, and sent them to GOSH.

            What I couldn’t understand was that no-one else seemed to see this extremely consistent pattern in all the stories (of which I then saw a few more, again with the same pattern).

            The GP system needs a very massive rework, but there’s a very strong vested interest resistance to it I understand.

            1. paul

              The GOSH has a great and deserved reputation.
              It however has to push its own purpose as an institution. Its got TV adverts and brand recognition to prove it.
              GP’s would love to refer everybody to a specialism within a spectrum they cannot hope to master.
              GP’s have always been the gatekeepers to access to a limited resource.
              GOSH can open their own GP resource and sift it themselves for inner London or promote clearer guidance (including 100% remote accurate diagnosis within a 10 minute window with no previous relationship).
              There is the option of promoting a non competitive, non incentivized, results based referral process, but that is too old fashioned.

              1. vlade

                Again, I disagree. A number of countries (where often I’d argue the system works better) have system where you have two-level specialists, where one is more general and works as the gateway to the second level. Or you can think of it as a specialist GP (which is a bit of a contradiction in terms but..).

                For example, you may have paedatricians “GPs”, who look _only_ after <18 (or whatever is the cutoff in a given country). Similarly, you might have first-line gyneacologist, ENT, physio, psychologist etc. – cases where most of the GPs can add only little value as a first line, as even first-line is fairly complex – and, importantly enough, for some of which (psychologist, physio, gyneacologist) there is value in long-term relationship with the patient.

                Nothing to do with competition. Plenty to do with current NHS GP incentives though, when GPS are paid per-patient seen (no matter if it takes 3 or 30 minutes).

                1. paul

                  GPs are paid per patient on the list, (£146 per year last I looked) not per consultation and take up about 8% of the NHS budget.
                  I think they do pretty well within those constraints.
                  The idea of specialist GPs certainly has merit, but that would require
                  a: more funding or
                  b: funding taken from another NHS sector
                  Neither very likely in the current environment.

                  Thank God the NHS is devolved in Scotland.

                  1. vlade

                    Ok – seems my info on GP pay was wrong.

                    I don’t think either of us can state that the “specialist GP” care would definitely require an increase in funding (and how large one).

                    First, it would alleviate some of the GP problems – the largest saving here would be if the number of GPs could go down, with GPs at least partially replaced by the specialist ones. Of course, it could possibly suffer from the “when you build a bigger highway, all you get is a bigger congestion” problem – but from that problem, the health services will likely be always underfunded compared to what it could do.

                    Secondly, it would certainly allow a number of problems to be captured earlier, when they are cheaper to treat.

                    I don’t have any idea how it would all pan out TBH, but I do think that saying “it would be more expensive” is really just a guess.

            2. PlutoniumKun

              Ah, the NHS GP service is indeed an interesting topic (I’ve family members deeply involved in it, so I’ve had a bit of insight to it).

              The GP services is very much the jilted bride of the NHS. Right back to the origin of the NHS GP’s were essentially bribed to become part of the system (a now long dead doctor I know said his family income more than doubled as he turned into a contracted employee of the NHS). But they never really resolved the issue of how to integrate the GP service into the overall health system. The NHS is essentially a system of hospitals, with all other services sort of tacked on, with their relationship never quite resolved.

              Another key issue is the excessive generalisation of GP training. There is a big gap between the knowledge of a GP and the knowledge of a specialist, with many patients falling in between. GP’s are under a lot of pressure not to pass on too many patients to hospitals for unnecessary tests, but inevitably this means that problems are not always picked up.

              An area familiar to me is with asthma. For literally decades, poorly trained GP’s were diagnosing asthma as bronchial infection and giving antibiotics rather than treating it properly, with only extreme cases being passed on to respiratory specialists. It took many years before a fairly satisfactory system was set up whereby asthma sufferers could get good specialist care without having to be sent to hospitals.

            3. vidimi

              that is a fair point. my wife always complained about how it was impossible to get preventive care in the UK, but I chalk it down to underfunding. maybe there is more to it, though.

              1. paul

                If you spend less than other countries it’s no surprise there are shortcomings in certain areas.
                If you have a minister in charge who regards the NHS as a ’60 year old mistake’ and believes as much of the budget as possible should end up in places like necker island, it is even less surprising.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          The more I consider this, I think that the British government never prepared itself for the possibility that Brexit might win.

          Much worse than this. They didn’t prepare for the reality of Brexit 18 months after the vote! They only had their first cabinet meeting to discuss what they want this week! And I see in a tweet the BBC senior political correspondent actually described May as a ‘mistress of fine detail’ or words to that effect which shows how deep the delusion goes in the UK establishment.

          As Yves has pointed out repeatedly, Brexit might – just might – have been manageable if from the day of the vote the government embarked on a war level of mobilisation. A massive recruitment of qualified staff to manage the transition, emergency action to secure short to medium term measures to ensure minimal disruption to supply chains, a highly aggressive diplomatic offensive to secure the types of terms and conditions the UK needed to survive the first 5-10 years without a firm position in world trade. But they did – quite literally – nothing.

          1. JTMcPhee

            They should just send the Royal Navy to enforce the imperial preferences… How about a nice blockade? What are those Tridents for, if not to enforce the imperial will? Haw haw…

            Too bad human societies never seem to accumulate any understanding of how to get on with things without committing seppuku at the bidding of their lords and masters…

      5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It’s not possible until it is done.

        And so the 20th century is not the 12th, and with modern warfare, it might not be possible for another Mongol takeover of China.

        But there persisted a fable, for close to a thousand years, in the lands north of the Great Wall among the tribes about their totemic hawk attacking a swan.

        Here is a picture of a Liao-dynasty (established by the Kithans who were related to the Mongols, but were sworn enemies of the next dynasty to rule Northern China, the Jurchens) jade work memorializing the story, from the Met Musuem:

        The hawk is actually a gyrfalcon (Iceland’s National Animal), legendary among those tribal warriors, for its toughness, despite its small size, and is called Hai Dong Qing in Chinese, with the earliest mention in Shan Hai Jing (Classic of the Mountains and Seas).

        The Last (Manch, not Han) emperor once said that the bird was the totemic bird of the Manchus.

        Back to the jade work itself and the legend.

        The Swan here is the fat swan and refers, obviously, to the decadent and obese China, ripe for taken.

        The gyrfalcon, though paled in comparison size-wise, will take down the Swan, every single time.

        That must have inspired Hideyoshi’s dream of conquering China….because Jurchens, Kithans and Mongols had shown him it was possible.

        And that must have made Nurhachi believe he could lead the Manchus to enjoy the fat Swan as well.

        Was it the same idea for the Japanese in the 30’s and 40’s? Could a small Judo expert take down a big Western boxer? Could a tiny Chinese martial art master take on muscular European fighters? Was it all about one’s spiritual discipline?

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Correction. It is made of crystal, not jade, the usual suspect.

          The work is even rarer, in this case.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          Certainly, the hard core militarists thought little Japan could beat the mighty empires by way of samurai spirit and so on. But my reading of the history is that most of the military were surprisingly realist. They were avid readers of western theory. They also, lets not forget, had been at war for nearly 10 years in China and so on, and had struggled horribly against a pretty useless Chinese army that had nothing but numbers on its side. They had been wiped out when they stupidly provoked a border war against the Russians. Their airmen struggled against the US Flying Tigers over Beijing. The Navy was top class, but all the top Navy men knew that this bought them a couple of years of victories, with an inevitably defeat when faced with a war of attrition (the top brass had quite correctly predicted 2 years of victories after Pearl Harbour, but then…. only troubles). They knew the outcome of the war. But still nobody seemed to say ‘stop’.

          1. vlade

            I believe that Yamamoto (who was US schooled, and knew US Navy etc. first hand) believed that Japan only stood chance it it managed to completly neutralise the US Pacific fleet, especially the carriers, as it could give it enough time to entrench in Pacific and sue for peace.

            IIRC, when he was told the US carriers weren’t at Pearl Harbour, he declared that the war was lost, and it was now only a question of time.

            1. PlutoniumKun

              I think there are several quite conflicting accounts out there about what Yamamoto thought and said (he was certainly very knowledgable about America). But he was certainly aware that Japan could not win a war of attrition. I suspect his view was that the only way of winning was to paralyse the US fleet for the initial Japanese surge and then hope that they could lure the US into a major battle where they could both deprive the US of footpads in the western Pacific and make the Americans decide it wasn’t worth the time and money to pursue a long war.

              Essentially, the strategy was to hope that the enemy was both stupid and not 100% committed to victory. Not a great strategy, but probably the best they could hope for.

              There was a counter factual essay a while back on the warisboring blog which looked at possible strategies the Japanese could have pursued. One was a more gradualist offensive attack, biting away at US/British/Dutch possessions, making them too expensive to hold on to. Essentially, going to war in such a way as not to provoke your enemy into going into a full mobilisation. Which, some would argue, is exactly what the postwar Yoshido Doctrine entailed in reality, except it focused on economic, not military doctrine.

              1. vlade

                I believe that if Japan destroyed US carriers, it could clear out and keep out any US troops in the Pacific (IIRC, US delivered 2 fleet carriers in 42 and 2 in 43 before going full on in 44/45), as it would be pretty much impossible to run any transports to anywhere.

                That said, I very much doubt US would just roll over then as Japan sort of expected, so I suspect the war would have end the same way it did, but maybe took a bit longer.

                That leads me to a major miscalulation by pretty much everyone in the war (except maybe US vs Japan at the end), which was the will to fight on. Germany vs UK and Russia, Japan vs US, Allies vs Germany (the terror bombing) etc. etc.

      6. Harold

        They unexpectedly beat the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. This gave them an inflated overconfidence. However, the Russians turned around and beat them in 1939, so they should have had an inkling.

      7. Procopius

        That’s interesting. I haven’t read nearly as much as you, but my impression was that almost all the high command knew they couldn’t fight a war that lasted longer than about a year, maybe two years at the outside, and that they were sure to lose. I have read that Adm. Yamamoto said so openly. The thing that surprised them was the emotional response of the U.S. — “Didn’t they ever hear of Port Arthur?” — and the subsequent refusal of the U.S. to accept their surrender. Guess I need to read more, but I really want to find something on the Meiji Restoration, first.

    2. windsock

      I won’t hang my head in shame. I didn’t vote for Brexit and I didn’t vote for the Tories. I’m appalled at the way Brexiteers AND Tories behave and am working to get rid of them. I’ll probably fail but shame is not anything I need feel.

      I’m angry – but more about the complete lack of interest in domestic policies that Brexit is facilitating – the cruelty show and shambles that is Universal Credit, homelessness, housing and the NHS.

      1. Joel

        As an American, how many times have I been told collectively and individually by British people to hold my head in shame for something I had no part in?

        My Schadenfreude is held in check by the thought of the suffering this is going to inflict on the poorest and the damage to the US and the world’s economies. But it really is harder to sympathize with the British, than with, say, Greeks.

    3. begob

      Oddly, it’s dawning more and more on people in the provinces who have nothing to do with the City.

      Can’t say I’ve noticed this yet. A US bank has a large corporate centre near me, but apart from some concerns just after the Brexit vote there’s little talk of the possibility of job losses. Over the holiday I’m gonna have a sit down with a biggish wig from a European bank, whose immediate reaction was, “America, Here I Come!” – will report anything of interest.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you.

        By that I meant neighbours, fellow parishioners et al in mid-Buckinghamshire are noticing care home, construction and farm workers returning to eastern Europe, IT and other contractors rolling off contracts in the City and rents falling.

        Said wannabe mistress of the universe also wants to move to the US, but that is partly because she thinks it will be less difficult to bag a wealthy husband in NYC or Silicon Valley than in London. She reckons Paris and Frankfurt are dumps.

      1. The House that EU Destroyed

        EU have their fair share of twits as well in this mess. They are hellbent on making Brexit as hard and costly as possible just to make an example. Otherwise this neoliberal house of cards populated by lobbyist money receiving technocrats that think that they are too smart to change their ways would fall very rapidly.

        1. vlade

          If EU was hellbent on making Brexit as hard as possible, they just missed a massive opportunity.

          EU behaved rather consistently from the start, following its rules, and indeed on a few cases it actually was more accomodating to the UK than it had to, and that UK had any right to expect. Probably because they take pity on the incompetence.

          Regardless of EU, the UK _could_ have taken a number of steps to do thing massively better (first of all would have been delaying A50 trigger until a number of issues were pretty much ready – starting with a proper plan and a timeline), which it did not.

    4. WheresOurTeddy

      “The gods of the valley are not the gods of the hills, and you shall understand it.” – Ethan Allen, 1770

      1. Patrick Donnelly

        Lot of wisdom in that!

        The places of plenty may disappear, leaving an angry mob who know only that they were promised better!

        Any fool prospers in a rising market etc.

    5. Sid Finster

      Easy money is a hell of a drug, that’s why.

      Your masters and mistresses of the universe cannot and will not believe that the money fountain will be shut off.

  3. PlutoniumKun

    Chinese companies poised to help rebuild war-torn Syria Asia Times (resilc)


    “From the Chinese perspective, investment in Syria must be viewed within the larger context of the One Belt-One Road (Belt and Road Initiative),” Elazar said. “This is the heavily promoted, modern day version of the ancient Silk Road.

    “It is likely that China is hoping to turn Syria into an important terminus of its economic web, perhaps centered around the Mediterranean ports of Latakia and Tartus,” he added.

    So, let me see. The US provoked a civil war in Syria to take down Assad (undoubtedly a very bad guy). To do so they allied with Al-Q (you know, the guys who did 9/11). The US’s allies got beaten militarily – total unambiguous defeat by an alliance of Assad, Russia and Iran. The Syrian Kurds now seem likely to do a deal with Assad to keep some type of self-government within Syria.

    And now the Chinese in particular, and no doubt the Russians and Iranians too, will profit from the rebuilding, as Syria regains its strategic location as a key hub for trans-Asiatic trade, but will do so firmly within the Russian/Chinese orbit of influence.

    So who gets fired for this? Who takes responsibility for starting a war and then losing it? And not just losing it, but greatly strengthening your supposed enemies and rivals? And more importantly, why is a supposedly free press not asking such obvious questions?

    Yeah, rhetorical questions I know, but its striking how the mainstream media are just pretending a huge military and strategic defeat just did not happen. How many failed generals in the past must be postumously green with envy at the ability of the Washington establishment to just gaslight everyone into thinking that defeats are victories.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Well of course the Syrians would take the Chinese and Russian deals. The Chinese might even build a base in Syria to protect the infrastructure that they will build which would ruffle more than a few feathers. A few months ago the west offered aid in rebuilding Syria – BUT so long as Assad and all his allies stepped down from power and places made for the so-called opposition paid for by the Saudis. Even now, after the Jihadists have been defeated, the west is still demanding that Assad step down.
      Another factor for the Syrians is that the US has apparently been bombing Syrian infrastructure to make life more difficult for the Syrians after the war wraps up and have been killing Syrians by the hundreds in reckless bombing attacks (eg Raqqa) so there is no love lost for the countries that turned Syria into an abattoir. The Syrians know who their friends are now.
      Oh, I can answer your question as to who is taking responsibility for the defeat in Syria. The past fortnight the big-wigs have been going around and saying that the US and the Coalition were responsible for defeating ISIS and that Russia and the Iranians (and the Syrians) had nothing to do with it so there was no defeat – it was a victory that ‘we’ won.

        1. SKM

          So did Macron,in his stand-up TV interview he claimed “the coalition”had won in Syria and it would all be over (??) by Jan/Feb, no mention of the Russians. The demonisation of Russia has reached amazing proportions on the French MSM – even France Culture (cultural station of Radio France) has shamelessly parroted the Russia did it theme in gutter press levels of journalism… gobsmacking

      1. Sid Finster

        Hell, the United States even blocked the export to Syria of landmine removal equipment by NATO countries and wannabes.

        In case anyone still doubts the United States’ humanitarian motivations.

        1. Procopius

          Shit, they still haven’t provided any ordnance removal assistance for Laos, where they dropped more than two million tons of ordnance, including lots of cluster bombs.

    2. Jim Haygood

      Blast from the past:

      WASHINGTON (Sep 18, 2014) – The Senate gave final approval on Thursday to President Obama’s plan to train and arm Syrian rebels, endorsing a key plank of the president’s strategy for taking on the Islamic State.

      The leaders of both parties stood with Obama despite questions they had about his plan to arm moderate [sic] rebel groups and warnings that the plan could backfire.

      Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the military had presented a detailed Syrian plan to Obama on Wednesday during the president’s visit to Central Command and was awaiting his sign-off.

      At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry sought to push back on an argument by some in Congress that Syria’s rebels lack moderates.

      The definition of treason in the US is “giving aid and comfort to its enemies.” Fortunately enough admins & Kongress Klowns were involved so that no one was actually responsible for the debacle which followed.

      1. ChrisFromGeorgia

        That is a good reminder.

        I remain skeptical that there was ever any legal authorization for the arming of the “moderates” for the reason that no declaration of war (against the legitimate Syrian government or Assad) was ever made by Congress, instead relying on the shady AUMF made way back in 2001 to justify the war in Afghanistan (and later, Iraq.)

        Regardless, no one will be held accountable for the money wasted and the deaths of many innocent (and not so innocent) folks in Syria. China and Russia win, and get to enjoy whatever spoils there are.

        1. Procopius

          My objection to use of the AUMF is that we were treating a direct descendant of Al Qaeda as an ally, while attacking an entity that hadn’t been existence until three or four years after 9/11. It doesn’t matter, though. We live in a country of personalities, not laws.

    3. Harry

      To be fair being in the Russian sphere was the syrian status quo. Nothing ventured!

      What this error has done is kill 500k people. Create a whole bunch of new jihadis do attack Paris Brussels and London, and polish up Putins prestige.

      Neoliberal/neoconservative incompetance. Why do these people have jobs?

      1. Skip Intro

        Creating new jihadis is their jobs guarantee. How long can they keep doing this before we realize that they may be dishonest about their goals, rather than incompetent in achieving them.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        -field tested russian weapons
        -drove Tehran to Moscow and Beijing
        -lost Turkey and probably egypt
        -broke an agreement with gaddafi while putin kept Russia’s word
        -allowed israel and s.a. to both waste resources and weaken isolate themselves
        -drove iraq to the sco order
        -helped to elect gross leaders incapable of building alliances
        -over extended and exposed a bloated mic to still lose.
        -Obama had a chance to remake America’s image. He was he was gifted a nobel. This was an opportunity to undo 43 lost.

      3. GuyCybershy

        “Looking at this broad landscape of failure, there are two ways to interpret it. One is that the US officialdom is the most incompetent one imaginable, and can’t ever get anything right. But another is that they do not succeed for a distinctly different reason: they don’t succeed because results don’t matter. You see, if failure were a problem, then there would be some sort of pressure coming from somewhere or other within the establishment, and that pressure to succeed might sporadically give rise to improved performance, leading to at least a few instances of success. But if in fact failure is no problem at all, and if instead there was some sort of pressure to fail, then we would see exactly what we do see.”

        1. Chaos is the Goal

          The perpetual war doctrine means that chaos is the goal. Otherwise you won´t have perpetual war. They are very successful in this.
          Chaos is the goal.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            And Americans like chaos and blood and loss and failure. Because if they didn’t, they would say something. Which they don’t.

      4. Procopius

        Because they do the things rich people believe are “realistic,” or “pragmatic,” or “the way the world really works.” Actual results don’t matter. The rich still get richer.

    4. Carolinian

      So who gets fired for this?

      She already got fired in the last election. Turns out there is some karmic justice.

    5. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said, PK.

      One good thing about having a passport from a country that few people have heard of, or confuse with Mauritania, is that one can visit places considered out of bounds to and / or not flavour of the month with / in the west.

      As Roman Catholics, we could worship and drink freely in Syria. Mum did not have to cover up. We could not do that in Saudi Arabia. This was after the western MSM had started the narrative for war. We wondered what the hacks and pundits, including JK Rowling and “Saint” Jo Cox, were on when hearing and watching their BS.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        PK, I forgot to add something which I never saw addressed in the western MSM.

        Many Syrians studied in Russia, especially officers from less well off and often Sunni backgrounds. Many married Russian women. In addition to political ties, there are ties of blood. Russia would never have abandoned them.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          In 2001 I spent a few weeks cycling around Syria. A wonderful country and also, by ME standards, very liberal and welcoming in the core areas (people along the coast and on the Jordan border seemed a bit more wary). In Damascus cafes I was regularly asked by groups of casual young people – male and female – to join them for a beer. Although I was warned never to mention politics.

          I spent hours exploring the astonishing Krak de Chevaliers, never guessing that it would be back in use soon – apparently its been badly damaged.

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you, PK. Splendid.

            One hopes we can return.

            You should also try their main allies in the region and further north. They are nothing like what the MSM BSs.

          2. Olga

            So if you’ve been to Syria, how do you conclude that Assad is a bad guy? Anyone who knows even a bit about Syria, and is not blinded by the odious and long-running western propaganda script, would have a hard time making such a vacuous (yet, somehow, obligatory in the west) comment. Syria is, in fact, a very complex society, with many minorities, and Alawites have been relatively benign (particularly, as compared to the opposition – just to remember, Hafez al-Assad tried to negotiate with the Muslim Brotherhood, until they staged an assassination attempt against him in the early 1980’s). Are some Syrians disgruntled? Yes – just like in every other country. Is the elite guilty of hogging opportunities for itself? Probably – not unlike any other country. But those things should not target the country for destruction…

            1. Sid Finster

              Olga, I think it is something that one is required by law to say, lest you be accused of being unpatriotic and a PutinPuppet(R).

              Sort of like one must preface any criticism of Team D with “I am not a Trump fan but…”

              or, for that matter, the way people used to say “I am not a racist, but….”

            2. PlutoniumKun

              I’m well aware of the complexity of Syrian society. The Assads have kept Syria stable and moderately prosperous for years and they deserve credit for that (and for saving the Lebanese from themselves). They are no more brutal than any other regime in the region, but that doesn’t get away from the reality that Assad father and son have for years run a chain of torture centres and have never hesitated to torture and kill opponents, including of course the notorious slaughter in Hama in 1982. I’ve met many Syrians in Syria and in Lebanon, and long before the war there was a real fear of the secret police, and that includes people I’ve met who are supporters of Assad (they support him because they knew the alternative was much worse).

              1. The Rev Kev

                We should not forget about those torture centers that the US had no problem in shipping Al Quada suspects to them for the Syrians to interrogate so that they wouldn’t get their own hands dirty. Outsourcing at its finest.
                As for Bashar al-Assad, I wouldn’t go too hard on the bloke. Remember he wasn’t suppose to have this job. He was working as an ophthalmologist in London when his brother Bassel, who was being groomed to take over, was killed in a car crash.
                He and his wife Asma are very popular in Syria and from my perch, the Syrians want them to stay. Especially after their Horatius at the bridge fight to stop Syria being turned into a Jihadist bloodbath. They certainly do not want a government-in-a-box parachuted into them courtesy of the same people that financed, trained, equipped & transported 100,000 Jihadists into Syria to wreck bloody havoc there.

                1. PlutoniumKun

                  Yes, they are undoubtedly popular. I don’t have my Syrian contacts anymore, but the Assads were certainly considered the least worst of all possibilities by most non-Sunni Syrians, and a fair few Sunni’s too. It has to be said though that from my reading of the run-up to the war the system had been losing its touch, with a growing stultifying oligarchy which was slowly undermining the fairly fragile system of support for the poor. I suspect Bashar, having spent so much of his life outside Syria, would not have had the same feel for popular discontent as his father.

                  But to add to the comments above, its very easy to fall into the trap of ‘anyone who fights US/Israel imperialism and Isis must be good’. There really are very few good guys left in power in the Middle East. Given a choice, I’d rather live under a secular autocrat than the alternatives, but its still not exactly a great choice.

            3. vidimi

              the assads, bashar and hafez before him even more, are not good guys. they are dictators as were ben ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt. there are very few good guys in politics and once we start arguing that so and so isn’t a bad guy, we lose. that’s not what the argument should be about, however. Syria was a functioning country and the west broke it. it had an educated and liberal society that is now battered. the alternative for Syria and the region to assad is chaos. this is what the argument should be about.

            4. Procopius

              It was all about alternative pipeline routes. Certain people of influence in the US and KSA would have even more wealth if the pipeline route they favor were allowed, but Assad preferred the other route.

    6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The last time China had any presence in the area was during the Han dynasty when they first ventured militarily in search of Tian Ma (Heavenly Horse).

      (They were there also, during the Tang dynasty, but not as far west, it is thought).

      This time, they are going to the Middle East, in search of oil and money, maybe with an army.

      So, how does that fit with the End-Of-The-World Armageddon armies battling it out prediction? Is there to be one army from the east?

    7. Oregoncharles

      @PK: Well, Obama and the Democrats already got fired. Not that their replacement was any improvement.

  4. Mikerw

    A little surprised at the comment associated with the BBC news story about the train derailment. Overtime we have a train crash the media and experts bemoan that this system has yet to be implemented. Yet, with all the priorities we have for spending I would argue this is not one of them. Train travel is staggeringly safe. Just look at the data. For example

    I think the reason we focus on these systems as being needed is that a derailment makes for great pictures.

    1. Jim Haygood

      The larger picture is that the US is decades behind Europe and Asia in nearly every aspect of passenger rail transport. Despite having the technical and manufacturing infrastructure, it is simply not a player.

      Meanwhile New York’s subway limps along with 1930s signal systems. You won’t find such antiquities in any other advanced economy.

      We’ve got some great aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, though. :-)

      1. JacobiteInTraining

        As anyone who has ridden Amtrak in my area (PNW – and probably other regions though I only have recent experience here) knows, its not necessarily safety/derailments – although that is a factor – its the general lack of customer service, reliability, and enjoyability of travel.

        Making the trains run on time: For various reasons, not least the fact that the rails are single-tracked in many places, owned by freighters BNSF, and passenger trains nearly always have to pull off on a siding to wait for the freights to pass….it is frustrating to try and plan any trip around a timeline. In my experience, you usually have to expect delays at *least* in the 30 min range, and often in the multiple-hours late. Trying to drop off/pick up people…particularly elderly…around a *theoretical* arrival/departure time is an exercise in futility.

        Customer service: I’ve experienced the people *on* the trains to be mostly nice and helpful. The folks manning ticket windows at stations are often nice, sometimes not. Woe betide you when you need to use the 1-800 # to try and figure anything out.

        One time in the recent past, they ‘lost’ my elderly mom for nearly 15 hours….a windstorm blew down trees over the tracks down south around Lacey WA, (I was waiting at an unmanned station further north for pickup) and despite repeated calls to the 1-800 line, I received as many responses as to what was happening as calls I made. She was ‘on time’, then she wasn’t. She was going to be switched to a bus within an hour, then she wasn’t. She was on the bus, then she was in Seattle.
        Some hung up ‘accidentally’, some had no idea the train wasn’t even traveling. I stayed awake for 15 hours straight waiting….waiting….waiting….for her to finally arrive on a bus. I actually contemplated calling the State Police to file a missing persons report.

        Station unattended: Sure, Seattle’s King Street station has people, and a few of the stations going north or south do too….but many stations have little more then a building, with noone present or else only local train aficionados volunteering, and they don’t have anything to do with Amtrak they are just there to keep the homeless from peeing in the station, and to give you tips on what local restaurant to go eat at as you wait…and wait.

        More customer service: For some reason, there is a policy in place that when a customer doesn’t have their ticket scanned at their point of departure (and this scanning needs to get back into the main computer system) then the whole rest of that passengers journey is invalidated…and resold to someone else.

        OK, fine, I kind of understand this….however it has occurred multiple times in the last several years that either I, or a loved one riding on my dime, has gotten on the train at a whistle stop….confirmed their ticket was scanned by the conductor, and yet….something happened to prevent this from getting to the mother ship. Amtrak then promptly invalidates the rest of the trip and presto…when the person arrives at their next leg/train xfer, their ticket has been snaked out from under them. In some cases i have been made aware of this (via the text alert system) and been able to call the 1-800 # and get things straightened out, other times the person riding has had to just sit in the dining car since their seat is gone. See also ‘how much fun it is to ride as an elderly rider with no cell phone’.

        Gah, OK, I type too long. I could write for days about Amtrak. Once, many years ago, I remember seeing the words ‘Amtrak’ scratched out and vandalized on a door. It was re-written as ‘Anthrax’.

        Now I understand what the vandal was getting at….

        1. Wukchumni

          It’s been awhile since I was there, but when you’re @ Union Station in L.A., it has the feel of a place hardly updated from the late 1930’s, and if Clark Gable was waiting for a train presently, he’d fit perfectly.

          1. Enquiring Mind

            Our English friends were retirees from British Rail. When they saw the beautiful old Union Station and then found out how few trains passed through they wondered what else they would find in America that was, ahem, counter-intuitive.

          2. Oregoncharles

            @Wukchumni, the un-updated station: sounds like brilliant marketing to me, probably by accident, as long as it FUNCTIONS well.

            There’s a local, downtown hardware store that’s another example. The owners neglected to update the interior through the 50’s and 60’s when that sort of thing was happening, probably because they were too cheap. Now it’s an exercise in nostalgia to go in there – except that the stock is modern, and the people are very helpful. So it successfully competes with Home Depot.

        2. Joel

          Don’t get offended, but the standard line here in the Acela corridor is we can’t have good trains (except Acela itself) because our fares are subsidizing the rest of the country.

          What are ridership figures like out there?

      2. Tom

        I am something of a Metro aficionado. The New York subway is a marvel. At least the way it was designed. I know of no other metro in the world where you have a system of express and local trains. Simply fantastic. And what they made of it. What a shame. Very, very sad!!!

        1. Quentin

          Yes–an urban technological wonder for its time and now a poster example of the US’s general fall into all-encompassing decrepitude.

        2. Lord Koos

          If you think that system is a marvel, visit Bangkok, a city of 11 million people, where you can get around efficiently and cheaply, we were amazed and impressed. The subways and elevated trains are very well integrated with the airport, inter-city bus terminals, and the regional railroads.

            1. anonymous

              the Moscow Metro is amazing

              So is Russia’s high-speed Sapsan train

              Mexico City’s metro used to be good, haven’t been on it in quite a while

          1. Procopius

            The elevated trains and subways in Bangkok are the direct result of the ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawattra. The plans were on the books for decades but could never advance because of petty bickering and efforts of influential people to divert some of the money to themselves. Same with our current airport. Cobra Swamp. He also, before becoming Prime Minister, headed up the company that installed 5,000,000 telephone lines in Bangkok and another 2,000,000 “up-country.” There was a five year waiting list before he did that, mostly using part-time workers who worked full time for the Telephone Organization of Thailand. However we did have a good, if decrepit, bus system that was astonishingly cheap: 50 satang, half a baht, when the Thai Baht was equivalent to 4¢. Taxis are still comparatively cheap.

    2. Clive

      No, I completely disagree. The U.K. government conducted a lengthy and comprehensive inquiry into the matter of train protection systems and their respective cost/benefit calculations.

      The report came to a robustly argued and fact-based conclusion that for any passenger rail service automatic train protection was completely justified on any measure. This is because while accidents are rare in a system without train protection systems they are nevertheless cumulative in the damage done. And while each accident has a limited financial cost compared with the total installed system costs for train protection, the inevitability of future accidents in the absence of such as system means that over a 20 to 30 year timeframe there is a business case for doing it.

      This business case has a “payback” (cost avoidance) time way in excess of that normally considered by a for-profit commercial enterprise. It can only be brought about, therefore, by regulatory action. Also the indirect benefits such as increased ridership due to better user faith in the system is difficult to impossible to capture and calculate by the normal rules of investment decisioning.

      I know the neoliberal kool aid (the financialisation of everything) is tempting and ubiquitous, but it really isn’t good for you.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes – as the figures show, while trains are a very safe mode of travel, they are still (for example) more dangerous than buses, which in engineering terms makes little sense, so there are still plenty of things that can be done to make them safer, even in Europe where the systems are far better financed and managed (the Japanese system is of course as close to an ideal as you can get).

        Trains are to some extent hobbled by legacy issues. They are modern vehicles operating on 150 years old routes and even older design constraints such as track gauges. The protocols for train management are limited by the need to stick with fairly tried and true techniques developed in the 19th Century. The only truly ‘modern’ rail lines are those which have been built from scratch.

        Major accidents with modern trains have, I think significantly, usually happened at the interface between new lines with older established infrastructure (an example was the Santiago crash in Spain a few years ago, where a train derailed at the point where the modern automatic braking system had to transition to an older system).

      2. hemeantwell

        Thanks for the report link. I was interested to see how they costed fatalities, which they most certainly do, under the term Value of Prevented Fatalities. They get into a somewhat tenuous discussion of how the usual roadway VPF, 1.15M pounds, should be augmented by a factor of 2.8 because the public’s Willingness to Pay, the WTP, is higher for railways, so the railway VPF is 3.22M pounds. How they calculate the WTP is not exactly clear and entirely free of footnotes. I imagine this sort of calculation is inescapable under any social order with an all-encompassing system of valuation, but it sure doesn’t add to the mandated mood of the season.

        By both direct and indirect methods, researchers seek to
        ascertain the amount of money which the public is prepared to spend to achieve
        a particular safety benefit. The methods include revealed preference studies in
        terms of wage differentials and consumer market decisions. Alternatively,
        stated preferences can be ascertained through the testing of individuals’
        decisions on the monetary value of changes in risk. This is the preferred
        method of the DETR and has been broadly adopted by the HSE.

        1. Clive

          Yes, it was rather wanting to get to a specific conclusion then working the calculations back to justifying it. But it did illustrate the concept of capturing social benefits through a different measure of value. And while it smacked of plucking a number out the air then wrapping the decision-making process in economic theory cling film, it’s difficult to fault the premise that people have different risk tolerances and assignment of the value of a passenger depending on their mode of transportation.

          It’ll be interesting to watch how this notion plays out with autonomous vehicles. I expect them to be 100% fault free. Curiously I don’t have such a high threshold for human drivers. Intellectually inconsistent I know, but here I am thinking it.

          1. a different chris

            Not really inconsistent. When a human makes a “fault” he recognizes it and starts to take corrective action. Hopefully that changes a full-speed head-on collision into something a bit less destructive.

            The machine may not “think” it erred, why, it “believes”, would it have made a mistake? So no corrective action.

            Now there will be layers under that, and two machines, talking to each other, can “fix” a head-on situation where humans may not. But I’m just saying you aren’t totally wrong.

          2. el_tel

            people have different risk tolerances and assignment of the value of a passenger depending on their mode of transportation

            Very true – as are your points above about methods and how different figures can be conjured up. It has already been observed that the value-of-a-statistical-life is vastly different depending on whether you work within a “neoclassical willingness-to-pay” framework in travelling (the dominant paradigm in transport) or in the “extra-welfarist” framework used in health. In short, losing your life in a transport accident is valued massively differently from losing it due to a health issue. Now, there may be very good reasons why “society” believes this to be reasonable – you’ve already mentioned risk tolerances within the field of transport but there’s a whole discussion on this that society has never really properly had. But it is another illustration of why methods matter. Most of my career has been in valuing human lives and the methods typically used to elicit WTP (and willingness to accept – another method used in neoclassical economics which sounds more acceptable but is no better) are, when written out for the lay person, mind boggling (and rightly so). Anyone sufficiently interested should go read the “contingent valuation” chapter of a stated preferences book.

            However (and not a criticism of your post, more to do with the official numbers quoted), to talk about “the WTP” is just as disingenuous as use of the term “single payer” – there are a multitude of models/assumptions that can be made within each paradigm, which can lead to radically different conclusions/service configurations/problems. Indeed many of the differences between how “single payer” systems can lead to vastly different incentives (to do with drug pricing, etc) in Western Europe, Canada, Australasia can be traced to the different ways they have implemented “single payer” (although, as pointed out in a thread in the last couple of days, of course if you underfund a single payer scheme and introduce private sector players you’re asking for trouble no matter what).

            There are a whole heap of questions “society” has never been explicitly asked in making decisions regarding funding within transport, within health, and across the two sectors (which partly reflects governments in places like the UK using two COMPLETELY different and incompatible paradigms in making decisions in different sectors!) Questions such as:
            (1) Is a human life to be valued the same no matter what?
            (2) If not, what are the “context” variables that should make governments alter their priorities in sectors like transport and health? (e.g. ATP on the railways, whether the very old/smokers etc should have lower “weights” assigned to them in healthcare funding, etc etc).

            When you don’t do this you end up in the farcical situation (even by NHS standards) where the Thatcher/Major governments broke up the NHS to promote “competition”…this was continued and expanded upon by the Blair/Brown governments, then the Cameron ones….and now Notts is one of the pilot schemes which aims to, effectively “put all the pieces back together into one big budget” which is effectively how the NHS was run 30 years ago before we began this whole merry-go-round (but of course with a much lower level of funding than then). Of course the railways already had some changes (longer franchises, the Railtrack fiasco) to try to undo some of the damage, but it’s all very depressing.

            1. Clive

              Tell me about it. A colleague on the charity I am trustee of is on the board of a NHS national clinical priority setting committee as a patient representative. At our last trustee’s meeting she was despairing that the appalling chaos which was wrought as a result of the Lansley “reforms” (OMG, the stupid; I just can’t…) is still wending it’s way through the management. A whole load of new managers are installed, busily reinventing wheels and doing things which were tried then abandoned a generation ago.

              British Management — The Best in the World (TM)

              1. skippy

                “A whole load of new managers are installed, busily reinventing wheels and doing things which were tried then abandoned a generation ago.”

                Bringing a new [tm] youthful energy into the market place [tm]…

                disheveled… never knew malleability could be confused with energy, seems like a line out of Black Adder Goes Forth…. Good day Major Darling….

      3. VietnamVet

        All accidents are a series of screw ups. This one starts with the delusional ideology that markets are perfect. This has led to defunding of public transportation and government deregulation. Tax reform that passed Congress today will make it worse. Positive train control is installed and is in use in Western Washington by BNSF. The lead locomotive was brand new. All that was needed was for Amtrak to turn the positive train control system on. Except that takes initiative, training and money. It cost three lives.

    3. WobblyTelomeres

      I think the reason Amtrak is chronically underfunded (except for the Acela corridor which services N.Y.C. and D.C.) is that billionaires don’t need passenger trains.

        1. Lee

          I worked on a commuter profile study of sf bay are some years ago. The highest income group were those who commuted by train. A lot of the high earners were traveling between the bay area and the state capital in Sacramento.

        2. Enquiring Mind

          There is still a tiny Private Iron contingent observable at the end of some passenger trains. Rail fans see vintage cars, and passengers are in no hurry (nor could they be!) while they lounge in sumptuous interiors awaiting the next course from the chef in between sips of preferred beverages, then eventual disembarking and off to the car service.

          1. Lee

            And then there’s the Napa Valley Wine Train. Depending on the route, I imagine the scenery mith now be a bit different than that currently pictured on their site. I suppose they could switch to disaster tourism.

    4. Stephen Haust

      Besides that, we still have bends with a 30 mph speed limit.


      Maybe this is why train travel is staggeringly safe. Evidently true
      but convenient, comfortable, fast (say 200 mph) and frequent? No.

      1. Lord Koos

        It’s a whole lot cheaper to have the trains slow down as opposed to repairing or replacing the tracks and beds.

        But there is no excuse for the USA failing to deploy reliable high-speed rail.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          Certainly there is an excuse! It’s because we needed instead to deploy our multi-billion $ F-35 fighter jets in pitched battle with goat herders in the desert on the other side of the globe, this nefarious and insidious enemy was planning to use their transport vehicles to storm Washington D.C., enslave our women, slay all our men, and send our children into bondage. Their transport of choice? The F-150 (pickup truck).

          So in the battle between the vaunted trillion $ F-35 and the F-150, we lost. But at least we didn’t get reliable public train transport either.

      2. Joe Renter

        Which was the case the other day. I heard the train in question was going 79 mph in a 30 mph zone. First day of the new route to save 10 minutes to Portland. I was listening on my scanner app right after it happend. Tragic

    5. ewmayer

      There are a lot of “the US is woefully behind the rest of the world in train-tech” comments in today’s Links – while that may have some truth to it, it seems to miss the key issue in the present incident – the tech *will* be in place on the route in question quite soon, but start of service was rushed due to – of all things – perverse incentives from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (remember that?)

      This is AP via SJ Mercury News:

      Amtrak didn’t wait for system that could’ve prevented Washington derailment | AP

      The rush to launch service on a new, faster Amtrak route near Seattle came at a deadly cost: none of the critical speed-control technology that could have prevented a derailment was active before the train set off on its maiden voyage.

      Work to install the sophisticated, GPS-based technology known as positive train control isn’t expected to be completed until next spring on the newly opened 15-mile (24-kilometer) span where the train derailed, according to Sound Transit, the public agency that owns the tracks.

      The rest of the project was “under a very aggressive schedule,” according to documents posted on Sound Transit’s website. The terms and conditions for funding the $180.7 million project, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, required track, signal and other infrastructure work be completed by June 30, the documents said. Even a one-month delay would “significantly impact the project.”

      Note that I am not absolving Amtrak for what appears to be a thoroughly fubared roll-out, perverse incentives or not. But to start service without the PSC tech being completed and running sounds like possible criminal negligence to me.

  5. roadrider

    Re: Tax Bill That Will Further Enrich the Wealthy Is Close to Becoming Law

    Nancy Pelosi condemned the bill as “one of the most scandalous, obscene acts of plutocracy ever.”

    When you’ve lost Nancy Pelosi ….

    1. Pat

      I could hear her continue with “why didn’t we do that when we had the chance” as I read that.

      Funny how any more I recognize posing when I see it. At least the Republicans would throw in a meaningless promise by vowing to over turn it at the first opportunity rather than merely sputtering in faux indignation.

    2. allan

      Well, naysayers can say what they may, but a major campaign promise
      to the back row kids was fulfilled with the elimination of the carried interest exemp … oh, never mind:

      Gary Cohn blames Congress for keeping carried interest loophole [Axios]

      Highlights from our Axios interview with Gary Cohn, conducted by Mike Allen:

      If he could change one thing in the tax bill, it would be to have closed the carried interest loophole. He believes it is fundamentally unfair, and adds that President Trump agrees with him. “We probably tried 25 times… The President asked just this past Monday if we could still get rid of it.”

      As for why the loophole wasn’t closed, Cohn was more cagey. He blamed Congress but, when pressed, would only cite unidentified GOP House members from blue states. …

      Also too:

      Cohn claims that 90% of individuals will be able to file their taxes via postcard, which is a very heady prediction. …

      Very heady prediction. That’s the best you can do, Axios? Profiles in Beltway journalistic courage.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        1.. campaign promises are campaign promises. Voters can render their verdict the next time.

        2. The Swamp is the Swamp. One guy, or gal, is likely to be swamped. What one guy (or gal) wants to do (good or bad) has to be put through the Swamp’s sausage making factory. A good idea not favored has no chance. Neither has a bad idea, if it’s not the Swamp’s bad idea.

        1. allan

          “Voters can render their verdict the next time.”

          Sadly, not necessarily the case in the age of microgerrymandered districts.
          Doug Jones won the popular vote in AL by 1.5%
          but lost 6 out of Alabama’s 7 Congressional districts.

          In VA House of Delegates races, the Dems won the combined popular vote by 53.1%- 43.7%,
          but weirdly the House is split 50-50.

          And that’s before you get to voter suppression.

          So, no, voters might not be able to render their verdict the next time.

          But pay no attention to my rantings – all of this complaining about the sorry state
          of our electoral system is what Chief Justice Roberts calls “sociological gobbledygook”.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Well, voters can render their verdict or go home.

            The choice is up to all of us.

            “They will try to stop you. You do what you believe in.”

    3. allan

      And already the Peter Peterson lobby CRFB is spinning this as generational warfare rather than class warfare:

      Marc Goldwein‏ @MarcGoldwein

      Baby boomers are ultimately going to be the biggest winners from this bill in 2018, high earning bommers get the biggest cuts. In 2027, all seniors get cuts (lots of other taxpayers see small tax hikes)

      And guess whose going to pay the bill? not boomers.

      Nice roasting by his commenters, which is encouraging.

    4. sleepy

      There are a multitude of problems with the tax bill of course. But isn’t it a fundamental critique that 1. the US economy is operating at about 80% of full capacity 2. with the stock market boom and record corporate profits capital already exists for investment 3. the reason for lack of investment is lack of consumer demand, not lack of capital 4. the tax bill does nothing at all to address numbers. 1-3.

      Proponents of the bill suggest that overall wage earners will see an increase of $4000/yr in income as a result of “new investment”, you know, the old trickle down joke.

      If so, and since the tax bill is funded by deficit spending in any case which doesn’t seem to bother the repubs, why doesn’t the government just mail a $4000 yearly check to everyone? While a chunk of that would go to consumer debt repayment, some at least would increase consumer demand for goods and services and far more expand the economy than the faint hope of trickle down.

      Maybe NPR will do a segment on the idea!

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Unless they are concerned about consumer collusion with Russia and China, whereby, consumers will waste that money on Chinese imports, and in turn, Beijing takes the money to strengthen or fund their alliance with Moscow.

    5. lyman alpha blob

      Susan Collins’ PR machine is out in full force already. Maine’s republican senator is taking a page from the Clinton playbook and blaming any criticism of her support for the tax bill as ‘sexism’ –

      This was front page of the print edition today. Of course if you actually read the article, you’ll find that possibly one person asked one question that she didn’t like and construed as sexist, and that reporter is not named or quoted directly so it possibly didn’t happen at all and the Press Herald doesn’t seem to have bothered to find out if it was true before blasting the headline all over the front page.

      But one guy saying it isn’t news so better to paint with the broad brush like they did with the ‘Bernie Bro’ nonsense.

      Too bad Maine doesn’t have anything remotely resembling a competent opposition to Collins’ corruption. A competent press would be nice too.

      1. John k

        Competent corruption oppo… competent (and honest) press…
        This lament is not unique to Maine.
        Where, in these United States, would we find such?

    6. Synoia

      Tax “Reform”

      If corporations be people
      and all people enjoy “equal protection”
      how is the new (and old) US Tax system constitutional?

      Could the Lawyers in NC’s leadership or readership enlighten us?

      1. todde

        Equal Protection Clause applies to states, not the federal government. I know of no federal tax court cases that tried to assert the 14th Amendment into a legal objection to different tax rates.

        As far as States go, the Supreme Court has ruled that in tax matters, “legislatures enjoy the greatest freedom of classification.

        “The broad discretion as to classification possessed by a legislature in the field of taxation has long been recognized. . . . [T]he passage of time has only served to underscore the wisdom of that recognition of the large area of discretion which is needed by a legislature in formulating sound tax policies. Traditionally, classification has been a device for fitting tax programs to local needs and usages in order to achieve an equitable distribution of the tax burden. It has, because of this, been pointed out that, in taxation, even more than in other fields, legislatures possess the greatest freedom in classification. Since the members of a legislature necessarily enjoy a familiarity with local conditions which this Court cannot have, the presumption of constitutionality can be overcome only by the most explicit demonstration that a classification is a hostile and oppressive discrimination against particular persons and classes. The burden is on the one attacking the legislative arrangement to negative every conceivable basis which might support it.”

        Madden v. Kentucky, 309 U. S. 83, 309 U. S. 87-88 (1940) (footnotes omitted). See also San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U. S. 1, 411 U. S. 40-41 (1973); Lehnhausen v. Lake Shore Auto Parts Co., 410 U. S. 356, 410 U. S. 359-360 (1973).

        Equal protection does not require identity of treatment. It only requires that classification rest on real and not feigned differences, that the distinction have some relevance to the purpose for which the classification is made, and that the different treatment be not so disparate, relative to the difference
        in classification, as to be wholly arbitrary.
        Walters v. City of St. Louis, 347 U.S. 231, 237, 74 S. Ct. 505 (1954)

  6. Amfortas the Hippie

    re: the Intercept’s thing on West Virginia:
    I know a lot of folks around here just like her and the others in the article.
    everybody focuses on the embedded racism and underlying ignorance about the world. Those are very real, and unfortunate. However, such people are still people.
    for the most part, they work hard, and are not overtly as*holeish to others…they’re salt of the earth and decent people if given the chance.
    That’s the rub…for the last 30-40 years, the perception(as well as the reality) of these folks is that they have been left behind…dissed at every turn…and screwed with every job they’ve managed to get.
    Here, they work at the sand plant for a while, but then have some emergency…car breaks down, various medical issues(silicosis takes longer), or they miss a payment and wind up underwater(it’s often expensive to be poor))…and lose the job. Then it’s odd jobs, day labor, or part timing it at a convenience store for minwage(and stolen overtime), and once you’re down, you can’t ever get up.
    they rail about welfare…because they can’t get any.
    They holler about Obamacare…because it doesn’t exist here.
    They are told at every turn that it’s immigrants or brown folks who are to blame…but drink beer in the yard with their Mexican neighbors…never seeing the contradiction.
    The current mainstream Dem policy of just writing these folks off as irredeemable sheetwearing fools is gonna be counterproductive, medium to long term.
    There’s a lot of pain and suffering…and it’s unacknowledged, if not dismissed outright as well earned.
    This will make the various racial and social dysfunctions worse, and gives the white supremacists and other righty rabble rousers all the ammo they need to make new converts.
    Hopelessness and despair are key ingredients for fascism.

    1. The Rev Kev

      You know what I found really interesting about this article? The fact that a lot of these people had liberal attitudes and I mean real liberal. Not the upmarket types who profess that they are liberals but when things do not go their way, are all too ready to suspend the law, dump the US Constitution and put themselves in the camp of the neocons and deep state. Can you imagine a modern liberal saying the following line from that article?
      “We have the right to vote either way. I think that’s what people forget, to respect other people and their decisions, whether they’re right or wrong, whether they work out or not.”
      Or how about “I don’t see ISIS being as a big threat. Heroin’s killing more people than ISIS is.”
      Stuff like that can give you hope.

      1. Livius Drusus

        Many people who identify as conservative and even vote Republican are actually fairly liberal on economics. They are what some scholars call “populist” voters. They combine conservative positions on social issues with liberal positions on the economy and they make up a big chunk of the population, much larger than the socially liberal/economically conservative voters who the Democrats always chase.

        Here is a good article about working-class Republicans.

    2. Lord Koos

      In addition, they hear liberals going on about about the rights of gays, blacks, immigrants, etc, (and although these issue are important, it’s mostly empty virtue signalling), while rarely mentioned are the white working class, or poverty in white communities. And if they are mentioned, it’s as “deplorables” — divide and conquer, it never fails.

  7. Harry

    “There needs to be a new vocabulary to describe the stupidity and lunacy in the Government and UK press. It is an order of magnitude or two worse than anything you see out of responsible (or even irresponsible) adults. It’s as if one is dealing with badly spoiled three year olds who believe in magic and also believe that if they have a temper tantrum, the grownups will capitulate. What does May think she is accomplishing with this sort of thing?”

    This is caused by the UK elites having a different model of reality.

    Really, this and worse is to be expected.

  8. vidimi

    brexit is a very curious phenomenon. the tories’ actions, which seem so bewildering to outsiders, make sense when viewed in the light of the kind of british patriotism the tories had stoked since the 70s with thatcher. basically, Britons view of their country is one of a global power – that is, after all, the image they have had projected to them by the media for decades – a power that exerts its will as it pleases and forces other countries to bend their knee. since all politics is local, to stay in power, the tories need to cater to these delusions and, in doing so, are taking the country on a path to irrelevance.

    it’s indeed baffling to outsiders who rightly see the EU as the body with all the power, but to the british public drunk on delusions of imperial grandeur, the EU is bluffing and will sooner or later concede. it’s a game of chicken between a bicycle and a train, but the bicycle doesn’t know it’s a bicycle.

    1. vidimi

      also, this is nothing compared to what we’ll see when the US loses its primacy, which it is already starting to do. british patriotism has nothing on American exceptionalism, so the self destruction we will witness from a lessened America will surpass anything in the past.

    2. witters

      So the trouble is that brexit is “taking the country on a path to irrelevance”? What relevance are you after? Isn’t that remark an expression of just that tory “myth” you claim to see through and be free of?

      1. vidimi

        tory myth = mighty empire
        present reality = top ten economy in the world
        post-brexit future = isolation and international irrelevence

  9. gsinbe

    From the Bloomberg article on early retirement, “A new study from Maria Fitzpatrick at Cornell University and Timothy Moore at the University of Melbourne shows a striking correlation between Social Security claims for early takers and a jump in mortality.”

    And from this, Bloomberg would have us believe that retiring early is bad for your health?? Talk about confusing correlation with causality! Maybe those people taking early retirement are doing so for, oh, possibly, health issues??

    1. temporal

      I knew a guy in tough financial straits who had a family that rejected him because of his history with alcohol. As he neared the age of 62 he was truly looking forward to collecting on his social security and being able to stay alone in a cheap apartment. A series of mounting problems, including a serious accident with one of his feet, resulted in him almost collecting – missing his first check by a just a few months. People that can’t tell the difference between causation and correlation shouldn’t read studies.

      Taking the deal at 62 is generally a sign of desperation.

      1. Lee

        Have you done the calculation as to how many years it takes the deferred payment to equal the earlier payment option? I did it prior to opting for the earlier payment and IIRC, it takes about a dozen years. Ironically, I was less optimistic about my future than I am now. Fortunately, I have a pension and savings, so I’m less dependent on social security than a lot of people.

        1. hreik

          I did the calculation. I didn’t need to take it when I did (62) but decided it would take too long to make up the difference and I didn’t trust the Gubmint to not screw it up.

          1. Spring Texan

            To me if you can afford to wait (I can, I’m still working too), the question is not will you make up the difference. The question is, it’s worth it to wait if you can because you want to insure against the possibility that you live a long time. With inflation et al., a higher income is important.

            I’m trying to maximize my welfare, not the amount of money collected.

            If I die while behind in “making up the difference”, who cares?

            1. Spring Texan

              Now I’ll admit that if I got a terminal diagnosis tomorrow, then I would think why insure against living long? and would go file to collect now.

      2. Wukchumni

        I’m not anxious to get my annuity back when i’m 62, but it’s approx 2222 days, 14 hours, 37 minutes and 52 seconds away from it happening.

    2. Lee

      Or economic issues. Income and health are certainly linked. And lower income people are more likely to take early payment.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        It is a gamble. If you don’t think you’ll live to 80, you are better off taking it at 62.

        1. Lee

          At 62, I was depressed, going through a divorce, estranged from my kids and I had just recently quit drinking myself to death. I didn’t think I’d reach 80 and wasn’t particularly interested in doing so. At 70, I haven’t had a drink in years, have recovered from depression, I’m ok with the divorce, and I have strong relationships with my kids. I don’t think much one way or the other about reaching 80 but I do still buy green bananas.

    3. cojo

      From the article:

      The paper notes that the phenomenon may be linked partly to existing health problems that force some to stop working early.

      I think the only conclusion we can make from this silly data mining experiment is that people who start claiming social security early tend to die earlier. I wonder if these people are still working to make ends meet.

      I have another interesting correlation; countries with the highest longevity in their citizens tend to be European with strong social safety nets and lower average retirement ages.

    4. giantsquid

      Here’s a link to the paper:

      On reading the paper it becomes clear that the paper does not, in fact, show that retiring early “can kill you”. Rather, the authors cite several papers that show health tends to improve upon retirement, early or otherwise. They also note that:

      “Compared to individuals who claim Social Security at later ages, both male and female age-62 claimants are less educated, in worse health, have had lower earnings, and been more likely to work in physically demanding jobs (Li, Hurd and Loughran, 2008).”

      The Bloomberg headline isn’t just clickbait, it’s deceptive.

      1. sleepy

        Did the article address the fact that more than a few who find themselves unemployed at age 62, or earlier, even from a fairly well-paying job, and have eaten up their savings while unemployed, really have no choice but to take the early SS? That would seem a factor regardless of educational levels.

        1. giantsquid

          Not exactly, but the authors do make a case for the effect of involuntary unemployment on the mortality of males being similar to that which correlates with early retirement. However, my reading of the stats they present (from the work of others) is that involuntary unemployment seems to have a much stronger correlation with mortality than does early retirement.

  10. Hana M

    Is Paul Craig Roberts credible? I’m asking a serious question. He sounds reasonable on the power of the Military Industrial Complex and some of Trump’s actions. I had never heard of him before and maybe I’m brainwashed but I had long dismissed the ‘CIA killed Kennedy’ trope as the stuff of the tinfoiled conspiracy crowd. Is this for real?

    You can rescue yourself from the false report that Oswald assassinated President Kennedy by watching online the Secret Service agents, who protected President Kennedy in his open car from gunfire, being called away from the car so that the assassins could have a clear shot at Kennedy. You can see that the bullet hits Kennedy in the right front temple and blows off the back of his head. You can see his wife, Jackie, climb onto the trunk of the car to retrieve the back of the president’s head. So much for the fake story that Oswald shot JFK from behind. All evidence disproves the Oswald story. No evidence whatsoever supports it. This is the conclusion of many years of research by many authors.

    Many researchers have concluded that the Warren Commission knew that JFK was assassinated by elements of the military/security complex, but that the commission knew that it could not tell the American people in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis that the US government had just murdered the US president. At a difficult time in the Cold War, Americans would lose confidence in their own military and security services. I can understand a decision to cover up what happened.

    I’m always willing to have my preconceived notions challenged–otherwise I would never have discovered and come to value Naked Capitalism. Thoughts, anyone?

    1. vidimi

      the best research into the jfk assassination I’ve seen was from Australian detective colin McLaren. he makes a convincing argument that jfk was killed by a burst of fire from the sniper secret security agent George hickey riding in the car behind.

      however, he then states, presumably to stay in the CIA’s good graces, that it was an accident and the ensuing cover up was to avoid embarrassment.

      imagine the likelihood that the best trained sniper in the secret service accidentally fires off a burst of bullets that, by chance, happen to hit the man he was supposed to protect right in the head.

      1. Jessica

        The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government by David Talbot
        makes an excellent circumstantial case for who directed the executive decision to assassinate JFK.
        He is writing about the context of elite history not about the nitty gritty of exactly who did the physical killing and how.
        A fascinating way to read this book is to read it in parallel with Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.

    2. financial matters

      “JFK and the Unspeakable, Why He Died and Why it Matters” by James W. Douglass is also a well researched book on the topic. One of the main points to consider is that Lyndon Johnson put Dulles (the CIA head fired by Kennedy) in charge of the Warren Commission.

      A good book on Dulles is “The Devils Chessboard”.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        “Everything Is A Rich Man’s Trick”, on YouTube
        J.Edgar Hoover’s quote, declassified about two months ago, that “we must do everything to convince the American people that Oswald was the lone assassin” didn’t seem to move the needle much. But then what does, these days

        1. financial matters

          I’m about a third of the way through that video. Seems very well done.

          It is hard to move the needle. Nice to see the NPR takedown of Lee Camp get significant blowback.

    3. roadrider

      Yes, he’s credible on that point even though he’s repeating the conclusions that serious researchers of the case have reached and not his own original work. He’s wrong about the SS agent being pulled from the car – the researcher who first pointed that out (Vince Palamara) hs since backtracked on that as he found out it was merely a mix up in assignments to the various cars in the motorcade. However, Roberts is correct that Kennedy’s security was stripped (as Palamara has documented in his research).

      About the Warren Commission – not many people are of this but Gerald Ford, (WC member and secret back channel to J. Edgar Hoover) privately told French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing that the WC was a cover up (although I’m pretty sure he’s being less than honest about them not knowing who was behind the assassination):

    4. Matt

      I used to be really into JFK conspiracy theories, but now have come to the conclusion that Oswald was the lone shooter. Remember, the assassination occurred at the time when the CIA was moving heaven and earth to kill Castro (and repeatedly failing), with increasingly ridiculous schemes. Should we really believe these same people were able to pull off the assassination of a sitting U.S. president, fake autopsy photos and X-rays, arrange Oswald as a fall guy, and successfully keep conspirators from talking for over 50 years?

      I haven’t read it, but I heard Vincent Bugliosi’s lone shooter book is pretty good.

    5. Romancing The Loan

      On social issues (gender, mostly) he can get a bit nutty, but when he stays in his lane he’s quite good – and that lane definitely contains the Kennedy assassination.

      NC has been very helpful for me in finding conservative voices who are worth listening to on matters of foreign policy/MIC/deep state. For obvious reasons, they tend to be the former insiders with valuable knowledge.

      1. Hana M

        Thanks, all! I’ll check out some of those books. Romancing the Loan, I agree on NC and finding worthwhile conservative voices. I read the ‘About’ page on Paul Craig Roberts’ web site and the list of credentials is certainly impressive.

      2. michael hudson

        I often co-write articles with Paul Craig Roberts. The problem to which you refer is common among people who held as high a rank in government as he did: The degree of corruption, lying and outright evil is so shocking to most people that it traumatizes them — to the point where they suspect that this evil-mindedness is all around.
        that actually is a realistic position in today’s Deep State. So the motto is, “Be imaginative, and think dirty.” Thinking of a broad range of possibilities is the only way one can zero in on what awful plot actually is at work.

        1. Hana M

          Glad to meet you, Michael. I found my way to your web site and am enjoying the interview you did on TED TALK. I grew up in New York when there were breweries, coffee manufacturers, textile and garment centers so this really resonated:

          Yes, there used to be a manufacturing center in New York. There used to be an electronics center. New York was producing things. But for the last hundred years, real estate interests have deliberately deindustrialized the city in order to gentrify it to increase its real estate prices – and hence, the city as a mortgage market, a bonanza for bankers as well as real estate developers and landlords. Bob Fitch discussed this in his book The Assassination of New York. But this gentrification is euphemized as economic growth, as if it’s growth that has pushed up rents to $4,500 a month.

          What it really means is that the city unable to be part of the production economy. It can only be an extension of the financial sector siphoning off the economy’s surplus.

          Thanks for an illuminating talk.

    6. Jessica

      The “Warren” Commission was figure headed by Warren but actually run by former CIA head and JFK enemy Dulles.

      1. Lord Koos

        Yes, I think that is worth watching, even if not everyone will agree with it, it’s good to have one’s idea of history challenged.

    7. Oregoncharles

      Hana – as you’ve just seen (I assume this will end up at the end of the thread), speculation remains endless. No one knows, and few of us trust the official findings.

      PCR is inclined to ballistic writing, but he is a former government insider (Reagan Asst. Treasury Sec.). His opinions are worth considering.

      I used to be a photographer, so the terrible picture of him on his own website bothered me.

      1. wilroncanada

        Reply Oregon Charles
        Since about 2012, he seems to have seen the light, if one can looks at foreign policy ramblings of recent years.
        But, from my reading his articles over the years, he defends to the end of the earth the supply-side policies of Reagan (Mrs. and Bush?), which he was a major part of, if not designing, at least of implementation. He also takes particular pleasure in claiming the fall of the USSR on ‘his watch’, with the concomitant starvation of some 3 millions and the installation of the Yeltsin’s Kleptocrats.
        He has changed his vision of the ‘new Russia’ with Putin as saviour, just as the other western politics and media have branded him more and more an autocrat. I’m not sure if this is honest conversion or anti-mainstream positioning.
        Michael Hudson would be better able to talk or write about Robert’s current economic ideas as compared with his own.

  11. Wukchumni

    We dayhiked to a favorite hidden away campsite in the National Park yesterday, a place we call “Fallingwater”, as there are 3 waterfalls and 2 pools below the flat spot ringed by trees & nestled in between 6 waterfalls and 6 pools above. It’s in the lower reaches of where the Sierra ice age once shrouded the area @ 4,000 feet, and the sloped polished granite en route to the the higher falls & pools has the look of hammered pewter, from the gyrations of the glacier.

    We were dismayed to discover what was at our valhalla, and what we found was a ‘survivalist cache’, and of the “I have no idea what i’m doing” variety.

    There was a Igloo wheeled 40 quart MaxCold ice chest with a handle that had the lid ripped off of it by a bear, who also supplied about a dozen claw puncture marks on the side for good measure-along with ripping some of it in other places. It was full of hanky green water and a Brita countertop water pitcher filter in the muck. There was a gallon pot with a dead mouse in the bottom, the poor thing got in and couldn’t get out. A metal coffee cup completed the inventory of an urbanvivalist’s whet dreams.

    We didn’t have space for the rest of it, but I took one for the team, and rolled the ice chest 4 miles out of the backcountry to my car, must’ve been a sight to see if there was somebody walking towards me, but we were the only people on the trail yesterday.

    Now we have a reason to go back, so as to get the rest of the debris…

    1. Jim Haygood

      There was a gallon pot with a dead mouse in the bottom, the poor thing got in and couldn’t get out.

      Recently our volunteer group restored the water piping to fill a long-disused concrete livestock trough on a long-distance trail where water is scarce.

      Inside one end is a diagonally-shaped piece of expanded metal mesh, running from the water’s surface up to the rim. Small animals will fall in, so they need an exit ramp.

      1. Carolinian

        In my experience country folk are bigger slobs than the slickers. People who live in a place and grow bored with it often have no respect for natural beauty. Of course many others do not feel this way.

      2. Wukchumni

        The worry being, that said leaver of assorted garbage may return to find it all ‘missing’, and think somebody stole it, and feel the need to do it again. Ha!

    2. tegnost

      tangentially related to this I stumbled on a great live trap for mice out here in the cabins. Put an inch of peanut shells into a five gallon bucket and place it where the mice can get in, next to a chair or something. They jump in and can’t get out, I walk them to the other side of the island and release. Vacationers will come up and leave the doors open and the mice waltz right in, vacationers go home and I have (had) to slaughter the homesteaders, which is always a hit and miss effort, while the peanut shells (i use salted) in a five gallon bucket are foolproof. You have to check it every day, they do die eventually…

    3. Meher Baba Fan

      i was waiting for you to say ‘ And we found a chest full of bitcoin. Oh, and a trunk of Uber Options ‘

  12. Jim A.

    “It came after a “unified” Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the first formal discussion by ministers to thrash out a preferred divorce ‘end state’.”
    I am actually surprised that the UK has yet to figure out what it is even TRYING to achieve in negotiations with the EU. 27 different countries that have to come up with a consensus, are doing a better job of figuring out exactly what they want to achieve than the UK.

    It isn’t even that May is sitting on Father Christmas’s lap screaming “I wan a pony” again and again. It’s more like “I want a pony. Or maybe a real fire engine. No, a Submarine, that’s what I want.”

  13. Tom Stone

    I was listening to KGO radio the other day and they mentioned that 27% of the population of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties experiences food insecurity.
    A quarter of the population in two of the wealthiest Counties in the USA doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from.
    While I understand that Liberals need to focus on completely banning the few thousand assault rifles legally owned by civilians, that should be a relatively simple task even though they are owned by wealthy individuals…they have been registered with the feds under the provisions of the National Firearms Act of 1934 and it is reasonably accurate.
    Perhaps after that we can start focusing on less important issues like making sure people have enough food to eat, shelter, and medical care.

    1. Lee

      Among states CA has the highest gdp, the highest number of wealthy individuals, is 9th in median income, yet has the 15th highest poverty rate and the 8th highest gini coefficient. There’s just too damn many poor people running around and too many rich people not giving a damn for my psychological comfort. I’m keeping my guns.

      Happy holidays one and all!

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Hopefully diverting attention to focus those reactionary Deplorables will work.

        “Down with the statues!!!”

        “Down with religious superstition.”

        “Trust the Identify Politics Dictatorship.”

        “Long live Neoliberalism.”

        Always carry with you the little Green Book, The Sayings of Billionaires.

        We are experiencing our own cultural revolution, with our own Green Guards.

  14. Nick H

    Re: Cultural Appropriation.

    Amazing read, Zero Anthropology blasts it out of the park again. Really articulates well a lot I think is nascent in our minds as we move through this cultural moment. I’m sharing it far and wide!

    1. Lee

      So, all those hours I spent butt-planted on a zafu and chanting Buddhist sutras in Japanese was an evil act of cultural appropriation. Well, just phk me and the goat I rode in on and call me Howdy Doody. What utter, unmitigated bullshit. Who is coming up with this crap? Voluntarily adopted cultural cross fertilization in many instances enriches our lives.

    2. Paul Cardan

      Yes, excellent. I especially liked the distinction between the meanings of ‘cultural assimilation’ (the referent of which is sometimes also called ‘cultural imperialism’), ‘cultural exploitation’ and what ‘cultural appropriation’ should mean in contrast with the other terms. The whole article made me think that anyone concerned with the issues should read Bakhtin. Of course, this would never happen, since they’d likely have to read him in the English translations of Bakhtin’s Russian, and his Russian is often a gloss on the terms of art of early 20th century German philosophers, most of whom were Platonists, Plato himself having been something of a Pythagorean, a member of number-worshiping cult who’s founder may have been influenced by ancient Indian thought. So, an appropriation of an appropriation of an appropriation of an appropriation . . . Still, they should read Bakhtin, in part because he argues that much of what’s labeled ‘cultural appropriation’ is inherent in language use. To understand (and thus to learn) what another person is saying is to respond: to question, contest, elaborate, or say again in one’s own words, sometimes adding a certain distance (indicating that these are someone else’s words as well as one’s own – as with most any use of ‘universal concrete material benefits’ on this board), sometimes with no distance at all, but in every case using the terms or phrases again in a new situation and thus adding something new to what they mean. This is, I take it, what the author, Forte, is getting at when he talks about normal processes of cultural diffusion and acculturation. These are normal processes for a reason. Bahktin would also concur with the author’s idea that choice of terminology says a lot about the speaker. Who speaks in such a way as to blur distinctions between a teenager dressing up in native attire for a Halloween party on the one hand and a deliberate, institutionalized, unapologetic attempt to eradicate native culture on the other? Someone for whom the facts about genocide and imperialism would be inconvenient. That which cannot be said tends not to be thought. Who slips so easily from talk of cultural appropriation to talk of cultural exploitation, the sort of thing for which all “stake holders” should lawyer up? Someone who sees the economic everywhere and nothing else, someone for whom the economic is, by nature, exchange mediated by price determined by competition – as opposed to “unnatural” practices of sharing or redistribution among members of a community or between members of different communities.

      1. Lee

        Also, in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, he puts forth the idea that the technical advantages of the inhabitants of the Eurasian continent, as compared to other populations, were dependent, not only on the availability of resources such as storable grains and tractable animal species, but was also due to geographic features, such as latitudinal travel routes that allowed diverse populations to more easily share their variously developed advantages.

        1. Oregoncharles

          It is not a coincidence that civilization first developed at the crossroads of the Old World: maximum cultural exchange. The same thing happened in the New World: Mexico (Peru would be an exception).

        2. Synoia

          What! You can also walk from Cape Town to Nirobi, and not even get cold.

          You do have to Cross two E-W Rivers, the Limpopo, which is not so hard, but the Zambezi is difficult. East/West at the Equator is not so hard, especially if one uses the Congo River.

          His rational that “travel routes that allowed diverse populations to more easily share their variously developed advantages” is also true in Africa, but the Civilizations did not there develop.

          There has to be more than trade routes which drove Eurasian Civilizations.

          1. Lee

            Storable grains and tractable critters that produced significant food surpluses and also harnessed the superior strength of animals, were major factors allowing people to the time to think, and take experimental risks. These advantages were concentrated at certain latitudes and largely unavailable at others. Then, being able to travel these latitudes because of the east-west orientation of mountain ranges or similar facilitative geographic features, allowed for the transmission of innovative ideas and methods that had been variously developed among different populations. Also, quite importantly, these various innovations could then be combined to produce even more novel ways and means.

            Diamond maintains that physical circumstances such as the north-south orientation of mountain ranges in the new world and other geographical barriers in other parts of the world, as well as climate, such as near the equator, and the lack of certain animal and vegetable species, were each and all factors limiting technical advancement.

            Diamond’s central thesis is that his understanding of human technical and cultural development undermines the intellectual basis of racism. I believe that he succeeded. If you have not read Guns, Germs and Steel, I highly recommend it. Another good book in a similar vein is Alfred Crosby’s Germs, Seeds, and Animals.

            1. georgieboy

              Diamond does not come out so well with respect to group selectionism in evolution, an odd quirk given his stated goal is to show that people are the same everywhere. He shares that quirk, sadly, with SJ Gould.

              Take a look at Robert Trivers’ auto-biography, Wild Life, for some commentary on this topic. In it, by the way, Trivers delivers the most telling blows against the NYTimes-approved image of Gould’s personal integrity and professional credibility.

              1. Wukchumni

                Sometimes the messenger brings news, and when Christy Turner’s, Man Corn: Cannibalism and Violence in the Prehistoric American Southwest came out, the Anasazis aboriginal ancestors weren’t keen on learning about an empire in it’s death throes thanks to a lethal combination of being post peak as climate change came calling.

                Must’ve been horrific the fairly widespread cannibalism, and all they had was stone age weaponry with which to feast upon one another. Ours is a bit more updated.

          2. Oregoncharles

            There were civilizations in sub-Saharan Africa; they just get less publicity.

            Tropical conditions may limit the early development of civilization; in S. America, it occurred in the mountains – as in Mexico.

            That said, Eurasia is a good deal larger than Africa. Furthermore, the Fertile Crescent and Egypt, which is in Africa, were exposed to influences and population from Africa, as well as Eurasia.

            One concern is that civilization developed later in the Americas; the difference is well within the margin of error, but there is an obvious reason: people arrived in the Americas much later. Furthermore, they arrived into a hunter’s paradise, where the animals didn’t even recognize that very odd top predator. It wasn’t until they’d used up the easy pickings that they went on to harder stuff.

            1. Joel


              * America’s earliest proto-civilization, Caral, was near the coast, in a temperate desert area, not in the mountains.

              * Civilization did NOT develop later in the Americas. Caral was about 3000 BC, roughly contemporaneous with proto-civilizations in Egypt, Iraq, China, and India.

              * American megafauna went extinct over 10,000 years ago, so that shouldn’t have had any impact on what happened 7,000 years later. At any rate, civilizations are characterized by farming rather than hunting.

              * Sub-Saharan Africa apparently had no cradles of civilization, but neither did Europe. Greek civilization was made possible by Egypt’s and Babylon’s clearing hte way. Kush, Nubia, etc. maybe deserve to be as well known as Greece but not as well as Egypt or Sumeria.

              1. Oregoncharles

                Thanks. I’d never heard of Caral; I’ll have to look it up. I seem to be out of date on this stuff. However, “temperate desert” supports my thought that the tropics didn’t promote the beginnings of civilization. Deserts did.

                In my defense, the Americas were a few centuries behind Europe technologically (especially military technology) at the time of contact. But then, so was much of the rest of the world. A historian noted that Europe was able to conquer so widely because they’d practiced on each other so much.

                I meant that the availability of easy hunting delayed the advent of farming, which is much harder work, until the easy hunting, and for that matter gathering, was over. It’s also of note that the native Americans came from the far NE of Siberia, as far as you can get from the origins of civilization and an area where there is no farming to this day – it’s too cold.

              2. Oregoncharles

                From Wikipedia, on Caral (Peru, so equatorial, but in the desert): ” date of 2627 BCE is based on carbon dating reed and woven carrying bags that were found in situ. These bags were used to carry the stones that were used for the construction of the temples. The material is an excellent candidate for dating, thus allowing for a high precision. The site may date even earlier as samples from the oldest parts of the excavation have yet to be dated.[6] The town had a population of approximately 3000 people.”

                Article states it’s about the age of the Great Pyramids.

          3. Lee

            Also, civilizations did develop in Africa and everywhere else. Technical development is not necessarily synonymous with civilization. Are the Inuits uncivilized? The operate successfully in concert with each other, under extremely difficult circumstances that, by our standards, limited their technical development. Are nations that have developed and are prepared to unleash weapons of mass destruction on one another civilized? I think we need other words for what we are talking about. The term “civilization” is fraught with judgments that are not necessarily based in fact.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              When I hear the word ‘civilization,’ I reach for my halter, says the nomad.

              If farmers hunter descended from hunter-gatherers, where did nomads come from?

              Were the first nomads escaped farmers, who ran away on horseback?

              Or did hunter-gatherers evolve straight into horse-riding nomads?

              1. Lee

                While I will not attempt to answer your excellent questions, I will make a book recommendation that in a stream of consciousness kind of way tangentially relates to them.

                To vastly oversimplify, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn puts forth the thesis, through a talking Gorilla, that the Old Testament was originated by hunter gatherers and misappropriated by agriculturists (leavers and takers, respectively). It’s actually quite brilliant IMHO as is the sequel, Story of B wherein the philosophically inclined prey animals to not begrudge the predators for eating them.

                1. todde

                  good book

                  gun, germs and steel is another more academic book about how civilazations advanced as they did.

              2. Oregoncharles

                MLTPB – I believe the usual theory is that pastoralists (nomads) mostly developed from farmers. I suspect that’s mostly guesswork, though. Not a lot in the archaeological record on that one. I might be out of date on this point, too.

            2. Oregoncharles

              Lee: “Civilization” means the practice of living in cities. Don’t confuse it with the self-glorifying use meaning “cultivated” or “well behaved.” The Inuit are probably considerably gentler than most civilized people – they had to be. If anything, civilization PROMOTES barbaric behavior.

              So no, the Inuit were not civilized. They were hunter-gatherers, the primal human lifestyle.

            3. Kurt Sperry

              Look at all the amazing technologies the Inuit developed with extremely limited resources under extreme climatic constraints, stuff like light, seaworthy vessels, clothing capable of keeping one alive in sub-zero cold, all the complicated and highly developed equipment necessary for fishing and hunting marine mammals, it really is a wonder of technological improvisation of a very high order.

      2. Rhondda

        Thank you for this very interesting and thoughtful comment on the ZeroAnthropology article. It got me to thinking of mirror neurons and wondering if the “normal processes of cultural diffusion and acculturation” might have some basis in biology.

    3. Oregoncharles

      The “cultural appropriation” flap is infuriating. C. A. is what people DO, the essence of humanity. The key advantage of culture is that it is NOT restricted by genetic connection; it moves freely among people. Plus, there’s the fundamental reality that the whole thing is utterly racist. AND the people promoting it are wearing blue jeans and cowboy hats – the irony is overwhelming, but they don’t get it.

      If it’s mockery they’re complaining about, they have a case, and that applies to things like team mascots. But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

      1. sleepy

        For an obvious American example of the free movement of culture, just look at the history of rock n roll, a synthesis of blues with hillbilly/country.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Some black gospel in there, too – ever heard of Sister Rosetta Tharpe? She originated rock guitar – while singing gospel. Loud, enthusiastic gospel. Amazing performer.

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s case-by-case, I think.

      We don’t want to go to a, say, Native American site, and find all the souvenirs are made in, say, India.

      Or to a Chinese food restaurant chain that was bought out with Wall Street, menu perhaps designed by a Chinese guy, and in the meantime, take business away from Chinese restaurants run by Chinese families.

  15. Tertium Squid

    Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson says he’s seriously thinking about running for US president in 2020

    Since the biggest tell for presidential ambitions is furious denunciations of the mere idea of candidacy, this tells me that Johnson has no intention of running for president.

    1. Lord Koos

      I wouldn’t be too sure about that, Dwayne’s been talking about this for well over a year now. What I’m wondering is, who is encouraging him to run?

      1. Mike Mc

        That handsome fella in the mirror? Same guy that convinced our current President to run – very persuasive!

      2. Expat

        He’s been watching “Idiocracy”, thought it was a documentary, and said to himself, “If Camacho can do, so can I “

        1. Meher Baba Fan

          George Clooney may be interested. It was hinted in a recent interview in GQ or similar type of press

  16. Jack Lifton

    The article, “Cultural Appropriation, Cultural Exploitation, Cultural Genocide: Problems of Neoliberal Diversity Management,” is one of the best I have ever read on NC. Tucker Carlson has had on recently a Canadian talk show host who has been suspended for impure speech, and he frequently has Canadian refugee, Mark Steyn, but it wasn’t until I read this article that I realized how corrupt the New Canada of Trudeau’s neoliberals has become. My parents emigrated to the USA from Canada in the early 1920s. Thank goodness.

    1. j84ustin

      “Native entrepreneurs that have sprung up in the academy and law schools, who assume the right to speak for all Natives, and to demand their cut. Now we are told that what Canada has had all along is a long history of “cultural appropriation”—that it “exists” and “causes real harm”. Not to defend Niedzviecki—because he won’t defend himself, he simply admitted guilt—but how is what he described either “appropriation” or “harmful”? “Anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities”—that was his core message. The way “imagine” is used could imply “learning about” and “learning from” as well as “thinking about” and being “inspired by”. Do you really prefer to have white Canadians (the majority) who do none of these things when it comes to their indigenous compatriots? What is improved by such ignorance and avoidance?”

      There’s a difference between that, and sorority sisters wearing Native headdresses at a music festival. I find that the author of the article does not really see the two as incongruent.

      1. Lee

        I’m guessing the appropriation that matters most to aboriginal peoples is that of their land. It’s so much easier and less costly to not return or reimburse for lands taken than it is to not wear a feather in your hair.

  17. Jim A.

    After this, you can never say an individual vote doesn’t matter.

    Well if you live in a competitive district, anyway. And those are on the endangered species list.

    1. Eureka Springs

      And you buy into the lessor of two evil argument… which the ignored, ever increasing, majority does not.

      1. kurtismayfield

        I don’t buy the argument that Hillary “Goldwater girl” Rodham Clinton wouldn’t have done similar things. The ISP’s are willing to do anything to nix Title II now that cord cutting is reaching a dangerous pace for their business, and the Dems are just as much in their pocket (Wheeler was an abberation from the norm). She would have tried to “bargain” with the Republicans to get a slightly less crappy tax bill. CHIP would probably be saved at the altar of “means testing”.

        So no I don’t think changing my write in vote would have changed much.

  18. Phacops

    Re: Derailed US train lacked automatic safety system.

    The derailment is horrible. What amazes me is that it would be acceptable for any section of line used by passenger service to have a 30 mph limit outside of switching yards or stations. 80 mph is also damned slow for long-distance passenger service.

    So, America once again demonstrates its acceptance of a third-world infrastructure thinking that safety features rather than proper design, engineering and construction are needed.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      There is a safe speed commensurate with any level of design.

      Safety should be above all.

      If 80 MPH is too slow, is 200 MPH slow as well? What determines an acceptable long distance travelling speed? Because it’s done in China?

      Perhaps some think it’s third rate, if not third world, not being able to travel at 600MPH in a train.

    2. Jean

      Those are freight tracks. Only the politicos back east get the The Acelas.
      “Superior Comfort, Upscale Amenities, Polished Professional Service, at Speeds up to 150 mph. Acela Express offers hourly service downtown to downtown during peak morning and afternoon rush hours between New York, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and other intermediate cities,”

      The Interstate Commerce Commission used to mandate high quality passenger train service nationwide in exchange for the government having donated land to the railroads in the 1800s.

      Deregulating railroad passeger service was allowed because the federal government took over passenger service through AMTRAK which has been undercapitalized ever since, and whose trains have to give way to freight.

      1950s quality passenger trains and routes would be heaven IMHO.

  19. XXYY


    Restoring research that could make deadly viruses more transmissible NPR

    Smith’s 14th Axiom: Anything that requires perfect, flawless performance by humans or human creations to avoid disaster will result in disaster.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The number 1 gambling law: Anything touched by humans is likely to be disastrous.

      The odds should be in one’s favor by following that.

  20. allan

    Draft in haste, amend in leisure: The tax bill was hashed out so quickly in Gucci Gulch that the cap
    on deductability of state and local taxes might be overcome by states and localities
    if they’re willing to do a little fancy footwork:

    Martin Sullivan‏ @M_SullivanTax

    Giant loophole in bill? Effectively preserves SALT deduction. Charitable contributions can be made to federal, state, and local govt. See IRS Pub 526, 2016, pp. 2-3. S&L govt. can set up public purpose funds and give 100% (or 95%) credit against S&L tax. …

    Hard to believe that noted policy wonk Paul Ryan didn’t catch this.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Will state and local governments be charitable towards, say, the homeless?

      At the very least, let them use bathrooms in all public buildings, including public financed stadiums.

  21. Jean

    Economic Depression ahead?
    If you can’t blame it on ClintonBushObama–not acceptable to the Powers That Be and the Fiat Money System, or if you can’t blame it on Trump, not acceptable to the American people, then you can blame it on bitcoin’s crash.

    Maybe that’s why “No Anglo country has banned it and thus fanned it…?”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Looking at the stock ownership distribution, the higher stocks go, the more wealth inequality becomes.

      The interesting thing is that many are rooting for them go up more.

  22. Oregoncharles

    Someone told me a cougar (kitty in the tree) story that stuck in my mind. Oregon State foresters had built a deer fence around a section of forest to find out how much difference it made (judging by my place, a lot). But they didn’t get it quite right: there was a corner on a slope where the deer could get in, but not out. Pretty soon they started finding skeletons, mostly near the fence.

    One of the foresters, walking through on his research mission, happened to glance back after passing a low-hanging tree and saw a very fat cougar calmly watching him go by. I assume it was grateful for the deer trap they had made for its benefit.

  23. Pat

    I bow to the seers here that said the tax bill would make it through and that the tea party newbies and deficit hawks who have caused Ryan so many problems in the past would be silent this time.

    I was wrong, you were right. Kudos. Rueful kudos, but kudos none the less.

    1. JohnnyGL

      Tax Cuts are the ONLY thing that matters to Repubs. The donor class told them, “get it done”.

      Deficits don’t really matter (unless they want to cut something).

      1. Synoia

        Oh and they do want to cut. Every cut can and will be balanced by an increase….

        You don;t even need an economist (21st Century Fortune Teller) to discern the beneficiaries of the largess for “spending cuts,” nor be prescient about the probability of cutting the largest Government line item in the world.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          When you control the machine, and legal enforcement, you have lots of room to operate, regardless of monetary theories, which make for nice interior decoration.

          “Let’s spend more on that. I’m in the mood.”

          “But we will cut this…because we fell like it.”

      2. neo-realist

        Deficits matter to the extent that it creates a rationale for further cutting the safety net and quashing any ambitions of new deal/great society social and infrastructure spending, which the plutocrats hate—more taxes on them and less corporate welfare.

    2. todde

      I stand to win a nice chunk of money for christmas betting a few people that the tax law would be passed by year end.

  24. Louis

    Regarding the rumors that “The Rock” may run for president, we don’t need another celebrity with zero political experience in office, like our current president.

    I don’t care what party you run on, I’m not voting for any presidential candidate that hasn’t held prior office. If “The Rock” or Mark Zuckerberg have real political ambitions (i.e. not just a publicity stunt) they should run for something else first then and, if it goes well, think about presidential campaigns–it’s not like they are short on money to fund a campaign.

  25. Jessica

    About Cultural Appropriation, Cultural Exploitation, Cultural Genocide: Problems of Neoliberal Diversity Management
    in Zero Anthropology

    What is going on here is that “cultural appropriation” warriors are treating a problem of unequal power as a problem of inadequate political correctness which must be curated by those cultural appropriation warriors.
    The problem is not that white Canadians might incorporate influences and inspirations from First Nations’ art. The problem is that the First Nations have so much less power that such incorporation can deprive First Nations people of one of the few assets at their command (the ability to sell First Nations art) and also could conceivably overwhelm First Nations’ art and turn it into whatever best suits white Canadians.
    The solution is not racial isolation, but more power for First Nations people so that they can share their art without that sharing having a dire impact on them.
    This is precisely the way in which neoliberals serve their oligarch masters: they obscure the reality and importance of maldistribution of power. Of course, this is hardly unique to Canada.

  26. DonCoyote

    Research sensationalized by Bloomberg confuses cause and effect:

    We already know you’re better off financially the later you begin claiming Social Security. Now it seems there’s another reason to hold off on collecting those checks: If you retire early you’re more likely to die early as well.

    I won’t even get into all the other reasons why waiting might not make sense, but mistrust of government including grand bargain/chained CPI nonsense is high on *my* list. But how about personal knowledge of your health (or lack thereof?):

    Published in the same journal two years ago with that thesis. We know life expectancy is not rising for everyone anymore (think deaths from despair). So yes, it’s probably health issues that’re killing people (and making them file early), not filing early.

    1. Lord Koos

      If you’re not taking SS early, it would seem obvious that you’re already better off than those who do.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I’ts just hard for me to believe that, so as to have something to count on in retirement, it’s not too late to get into Bitcoin

    2. a different chris

      Lemme see, even without your last paragraph, if I retire “early” then for every week early I get 5 more days of retirement.

      So, even ignoring the age thing (what exactly do I expect to be able to do when I’m 83 yrs old?) how much earlier is it actually worth dying? Maybe the fun kills at least the well-off. It’s unfortunate the long-term unemployed were unable to enjoy that time, unlike say their Euro parallels.

  27. Cripes

    Strangely, my nephew cast the deciding vote in that Virginia election. Does this mean voting counts? Or does it mean it counts for the candidate and not the voters?

  28. Chauncey Gardiner

    Disappointed by Patrick Buchanan’s article in the American Conservative titled “Who Wants War with Iran, and Why?”. Seems to me that Buchanan did not answer either question, although I suspect he has some deep insights into both. I am very glad he posed the questions, though.

  29. Chauncey Gardiner

    Regarding the article about the Koch brothers opposition to building new publicly owned broadband infrastructure, I recall reading an article many years ago that the technology exists to deliver broadband internet services over existing electric utility lines. If so, why hasn’t this been done, especially in those cities like Seattle where the electric utility is owned by the city?

  30. Sid Finster

    Re: “cultural appropriation” and other thoughtcrimes.

    I am as white as a refrigerator and an American to boot, but I don’t get butthurt every time I see a non-American wearing a pair of jeans or a cowboy hat.

    1. George Phillies

      Curiously, I find complaints about cultural appropriation being stated in English. There is an interesting bit of cognitive dissonance here not being noticed. But I am delighted to have people complaining in my language.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It could be that they are not being polite.

        That is, if you want to insult a foreigner, you swear in their language so you know that they are aware you mean business.

        So, they make sure people here hear and understand the beef.

  31. George Phillies

    Retiring early… The original articles appears to have conflated “start collecting social security” and “retire”. These are independent actions.You are not required to retire to take Social Security, and you are not required to take Social Security when you retire.There are people who start taking Social Security as soon as possible, even though they are still working, and people who retire, but postpone taking Social Security until they hit age 70.

    Brexit…Gibraltar? What next, Sark? The UK territory on Cyprus? It continues to appear that the key phrase here is ‘slow motion train wreck’.

  32. Patrick Donnelly

    Greeks own and control the shipping, but they are registered in Panama.

    The EU should ban all Panamanian and other “flags of convenience” shipping from their waters. This might force the ships back into taxable status, addressing the Greek problem of wealth inequality.

    “I am constantly surprised” ! that this solution is overlooked when looking at the Greece problem. Having poorer countries contribute to the rescue of the Greeks is disgusting. Clearly, one in the ‘too hard basket’?

    Or is bribery endemic in the EU as well as Greece?

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