Links 12/30/17

W.V. Elk Herd Inspires Hopes of Economic Renewal, if not Ecological Redemption Daily Yonder

Oh snap: How a shrimp closes its claws fast enough to vaporize water Ars Technica

This 19th-Century Illustrator Found Beauty in the Slimiest of Sea Creatures Smithsonian

US retail’s turbulent relationship with private equity FT

Yield junkies Reuters

The cost of bitcoin payments is skyrocketing because the network is totally overloaded Business Insider

Ukraine kidnappers release hostage after $1m bitcoin ransom paid Guardian (JT McPhee).

Does a lower “total cost of ownership” boost electric car sales? Ars Technica

Scientists Question Safety of Using Waste Water From Oil Fields on Food NBC

Birkenstock just won a major victory in its feud with Amazon Reuters

Amazon Alexa and Google Home fall short of real conversation FT

Cannabis-Industry Lawyer Raises Questions After His Bank Terminates Account The Recorder

South Florida’s Real Estate Reckoning Could Be Closer Than You Think Bloomberg

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico authorities say nearly half of electricity customers still lack power more than three months after hurricane AP. We posted recently on ripple effects from Puerto Rico’s power problems.


For the Russian Military in Syria, Old Habits Die Hard War is Boring (PD).

Neoconservative Delusions On Azerbaijan LobeLog (Re Silc).

Iranian cities hit by anti-government protests BBC

Tehran police: No more arrests for flouting dress code AP

Saudi Squeeze on Alwaleed Has More at Stake Than Money Bloomberg

Special Report: In a hospital ward in Yemen, the collapse of a nation Reuters


Read Lord Adonis’ letter to PM in full as Labour peer quits as Govt’s infrastructure tsar Sky News


After the Miracle: Labor Politics Under China’s New Normal Catalyst

The Battle of the Breadbaskets Is Coming to a Head Foreign Policy

Plastic Film Covering 12% of China’s Farmland Pollutes Soil Bloomberg

Internet Tightens: Popular Chinese WeChat App to Become Official ID WSJ

China’s Communist party raises army of nationalist trolls FT

Growing discord in Malaysia’s paddy industry Straits Times

Tax “Reform”

New tax law spells big changes for companies’ approach to executive compensation Francine McKenna, MarketWatch

This Tax Loophole For Wealthy Donors Just Got Bigger NPR. “If your income is high enough, you can actually make money by giving away money to support scholarships to private schools. The states affected by this provision are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia.”

Losing Students, Private Schools Try to Change WSJ

800,000 Washington residents owe student-loan money — to the tune of $24B Seattle Times

Let’s allow our kids to use some of their future Social Security earnings to pay off their student loans FOX. Man, they’re really trying to clear the board, aren’t they?

This breakout ‘Star Wars’ star used her salary to pay off her student loans CNBC. So that’s what it takes. Becoming a movie star.

Trump Transition

Trump wants Postal Service to charge ‘much more’ for Amazon shipments Reuters (E. Mayer). E. Mayer: “Classic Trumpian good/bad logic – on the one hand, there is no need for USPS to ‘break even’ – governmental subsidization of postal service to all citizens makes both good economic sense and is one of those duties all governments should assume, of course with a view to doing so with reasonable efficiency and technological modernity. OTOH, if USPS is in fact giving Amazon a gigantic subsidy as the rock-bottom-pricing-deal stories about that special arrangement suggest, it’s perfectly reasonable to revisit said deal.”

Trump Tweets About the Bitter Cold and Global Warming, Confusing Weather and Climate

In 2017, climate change vanished from a ridiculous number of government websites Grist

Where is Trump’s Cabinet? It’s anybody’s guess. Politico. “A Politico review of the practices of 17 Cabinet heads found that at least eight routinely decline to release information on their planned schedules or travels.”

Inspector general says mishandling of sexual harassment complaints at Justice Department is a ‘systemic’ problem WaPo

The woman who collects clothes of sex assault victims BBC. No, it’s not what she was wearing.

The Forgotten Man The Baffler. Murray Rothbard.

Democrats in Disarray

Can The Democrats Win Back The Bernie Supporters Who Wanted Change And Then Voted For Trump? Down with Tyranny (MR).

Third Parties, Your Time Is Now Truthout

RoseAnn DeMoro Has Political Enemies Everywhere. But the Nurses Union Chief Might Save Our Health Care. Mother Jones (MR).

Editorial: Reversing the Illinois exodus Chicago Tribune

Class Warfare

Against Identitarian and Generational Divide and Rule Paul Street, Counterpunch

Arbitrary Rule The Nation

What Happened to the 40-Hour Workweek? Counterpunch

The great error TLS

The Most Expensive Mile of Subway Track on Earth NYT

Why the horror industry is becoming a profitable genre BBC

What Would You Pay to Keep Your Digital Footprint 100% Private? HBR

Call of Duty gaming community points to ‘swatting’ in deadly Wichita police shooting Wichita Eagle

Artificial intelligence is not a substitute for common sense The Slovenia Times (Re Silc).

Dave Barry’s 2017 Year in Review: Did that really happen? Miami Herald

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Plenue

    >Call of Duty gaming community points to ‘swatting’ in deadly Wichita police shooting Wichita Eagle

    Was only a matter of time before this happened.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      This story has completely left me with questions about reporting in our country. An unarmed man gets shot on his front porch by the police, and the story becomes about swatting? I am sorry, but if the cop actually had his safety on, or you know actually held his fire, then there would be no dead unarmed man on his porch. Yet all of the press is on the swatting.. this story should be about “Unarmed man gets shot by police answering front door”.. not swatting.

      1. cnchal

        From what I saw, he was still in his house when he got shot.

        When he came to the door, the officers ordered him to raise his hands, which he did, and then dropped them, which is when he was shot.

        I agree though. The MSM totally misdirects the public and instead of holding the police accountable for gross negligence, the blame is on a loser gamer.

        It is clear that police departments everywhere have become rogue powers onto themselves, with assists by the corrupt media and politicians.

        Within the Nina Turner interview of Erica Garner, Erica talks about the “good cops” on the forces and makes the devastating point that there are no good cops if they are silent witnesses to criminality by fellow officers.

      2. JBird

        Yeah, swatting is bad, but what is worse is that to much, maybe most, of the police their safety is far, far more important than the lives of everyone else; police usually know when they are going into a possibly dangerous situation, are not only armed with body armor, guns, clubs, and frequently tasers/speller spray, supposedly trained, and frequently use overwhelming numbers.

        Yet, it’s clueless Joe Six-pack often completely surprised that is blamed for doing anything that might, maybe, somehow in someway be considered a threat to someone that gets him killed. It’s kind of like blaming a mugging or rape victim because maybe they didn’t do everything to protect themselves rather than the perpetrators.

  2. WheresOurTeddy

    Can The Democrats Win Back The Bernie Supporters Who Wanted Change And Then Voted For Trump?

    Not if you shove another neoliberal like Kamala Harris down our throat. Or Clinton II. Or Obama. Or Kerry. Or Gore. Or Clinton I…

    Absent fixed primaries Sanders is president RIGHT NOW. But that is a brighter timeline we don’t get to live in. For another 3 years at least.

    1. Jean

      Kamala Harris, the only “Democrat” that Steven Mnuchin donated money to…

      You forgot ‘Perpetual Student Debt Joe Biden’ in your list of D-plorables.

    2. Procopius

      I don’t think he would have won the nomination even if the primaries hadn’t been fixed. He had to start too late. Looking at how his numbers kept going up as he gained name recognition and people heard his message, if he had been able to start a year earlier … Well, the counterfactual can never be proven.

  3. allan

    The Gambler’s Ruin of Small Cities

    A cry of non mea culpa from Prof. Krugman.

    … Notice, by the way, that globalization and all that isn’t central to this story. If I’m right, the conditions for small-city decline and fall have been building for a very long time, and we’d be seeing much the same story – maybe more slowly – even without the growth of world trade. …

      1. The Rev Kev

        Nonsense man, I will not hear a bad word spoken about our Paul. He is a touchstone in my life. I listen to what he says – and then know straight away that one should do the opposite of what he says. You don’t always need someone who is sometimes, right sometimes wrong on a subject but someone who is always right or always wrong on a subject is worth their weight in gold.
        Take this article. The implications of what he is saying is that there is no use giving resources to small cities like Rochester as they are a lost cause but that those sources should be devoted to megacities. Like New York City. Where Paul lives.
        I love this guy. When he says things like “In the modern economy, which has cut loose from the land”, I think isn’t it true that supermarkets only stock three days food on their shelves? Where does he imagine that his food comes from? A series of replicators ( And isn’t it true that only in megacities can you have a story like “The Most Expensive Mile of Subway Track on Earth”? See what I mean? Pure gold.

        1. ewmayer

          This being year-end, it seems appropriate for readers to post links to their all-time Krugman’s-greatest-hits articles. Here is mine – I still can’t help but get a bit dewy-eyed when I re-read that paradigm of perspicacity, that luminary of logic, wax insightful on the big macroeconomic issues of our time. How right he was! We *should* allow mass-scale deregulation, consolidatation and financialization of all our major industries, given how spectacularly the free-market efficiencies pioneered by the firm in question have helped consumers and the overall energy economy.

          1. The Rev

            Some targets are so easy to shoot that all you have to do is to put your hand over your eyes and shoot in some random direction. Paul was so embarrassed by that article that you pointed out that he tried to defend himself from that article and his ties to Enron some time later ( He was even once quoted as saying: “I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society.” Yeesh!
            Happy New Year for 2018, by the way, to all readers and commentators and especially the good people at NC.

          2. tegnost

            wow there’s just too much there to even pick an outlandish line. The market, enron as a lodestone for the future market, deregulation stopping monopoly corporations because of the market, did I mention the market? And ridiculing Paul Samuelson? I mean, who would do such a thing, because markets???…ok ok there’s one that can’t be left on the cutting room floor
            “The retreat of business bureaucracy in the face of the market was brought home to me recently when I joined the advisory board at Enron”
            did I mention the market, because no one should forget about the self driving market
            Information technology deconstructed rather than reinforced the corporation?
            That’s pure gold, and at the time I was reading reading krugman regularly, and then one day in his blog he said if this kind of thing is interesting to you then you should check out CR and NC. The seeds of his own destruction, I mean deconstruction

            1. JohnnyGL

              Since people are tossing out their favorite Krugman-isms….I gotta get in the game.

              “Nationalization {of banks} is actually as American as apple pie.”


              For those who might think he was drunk when he advocated it….here he is again, a month later….


              Early 2009 was a time when a lot of ‘serious people’ had convinced themselves, and each other, that radical change was needed. It really hammers home the amazing act of preserving the status quo that Obama pulled off. Of course, it was the Democratic Party that suffered in 2010 because of Obama’s refusal to nationalize the banks, capture the upside for the public, and force losses on shareholders and bondholders (which is where they belonged).

        2. Objective Function

          While I too have spit out my cofveve reading Krugman in the past, I didn’t get an “implied” Darwinian policy prescription from this particular piece.

          He is simply making a rather trivial observation that human polities rise and decline over time for various reasons. Then, rather than reach a conclusion*, he chucks his lovable Special K hand grenade…. ‘and why da hell should we [luminaries] give a hoot what plays in Peoria!?’ The Prof would argue that’s just to provoke readers to think for themselves, but it’s really just lazy journalism, shoving a quart into a pint pot.

          * Richard Florida has made an entire career trying to identify common drivers of urban rise and decline, but as others point out here, it isn’t so easy to reduce to a predictive equation: multiple causation, and variables confounding each other.

    1. Oregoncharles

      I’m living in a very prosperous one, and the other Oregon small cities are doing fine, too. What cities is he talking about?

      1. ambrit

        Try the American Deep South. I’d also worry about what population constitutes a “city.” As for ‘amenities,’ well, better put your money where your heart would be.

          1. ambrit

            Oh my. The ‘Metropolitan Statistical Region’ I dwell in doesn’t rise to the status of “City” under that definition.
            Hmmm.. How about Clifford Simaks’ “City” versus William Faulkners’ “The Town.”

  4. The Rev Kev

    Re Let’s allow our kids to use some of their future Social Security earnings to pay off their student loans

    When I first read this I was outraged. Americans students had been unfairly burdened with debt that was now impacting the real economy and now this clown is trying to lean on them to give some ‘forgiveness’ of debt in return for slaving away in the economy in their twilight years. He even claims to have student debt himself though I do not know why he should after a six year stint as an army officer and a string of high paying jobs since then.
    And then I had an inspirational moment. They should bring in this act and students should totally take advantage of it up to the maximum of $40,150. Why the change of heart? Simple. It has been obvious for years now from NC that both your Democrats and Republicans have been trying to destroy Social Security in your country. The preferred manner is to turn it over to Wall Street to bilk it of every loose dollar and then crash and burn it. Considering that retirement for these students is decades away and that both parties will probably succeed by then, there will no social security down the track so if students take advantage of this offer it will not effect them as there will be no retirement.

    1. John Merryman

      Quite true. A healthy society provides its youth with the tools to perpetuate the community. Our society is consuming its own.

    2. Aumua

      Certainly if they are able to reduce, destroy or push back the social security then whatever loan forgiveness benefits that were promised under such a law would be revoked.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Better approach? #juststoppaying — #justsayno.

        Can’t be paid? Won’t be paid. Stop transferring wealth to the parasites who operate the fraud machinery. Especially if that includes helping them kill SS and other social programs: “You got your discounted payout and served the market back in 2018. The remedy for you educated mopes now, in 2038, is ‘just die.'”

  5. Wukchumni

    Let’s allow our kids to use some of their future Social Security earnings to pay off their student loans FOX.

    Oh, everybody default and nobody pay a dime
    Everybody default this time
    Trying to save the student body tonight
    Oh, everybody default this time

    The devil he told us to enroll
    Biden he told us to enroll, enroll, enroll
    How to owe the debt forever
    Everybody default tonight

    Big Brother he told us to go long
    Big Brother he played that higher ed sing song
    How to keep that student debt alive
    Oh, everybody default this time

    Got a monkey on your back
    Got a mo, mo, mo, mo, monkey on your back, back, back, back
    Gonna change old ways tonight
    Everybody default this time

    Trying to save the student body tonight
    ev-ev-ev-ev-ev-everybody default and not pay a dime

  6. flora

    My list of NC’s 2017 highlights in no particular order:

    NC stared down the WaPo over its McCarthyite smear of NC through the Propernot fake news “story”. WaPo blinked and then became the “fake news” joke themselves.

    Ongoing reporting about CalPERS, Private Equity, and Pensions.

    Reporting on Brexit and its relationship to neoliberal economics in both Britain and the EU.

    Reporting on the TPP and TTIP “trade” deals.

    Debunking neoliberalism’s “intellectual” underpinnings, and debunking junk economics in general.

    It’s been a raucous year. I’ve had to hold back my comment words more than once, and I am glad the mods don’t have a freezer. *

    At the end of 2017 Trump is still the president. Hillary is still the Miss Havisham of politics – jilted at the polling places, still refuses to accept what happened, and now spends time plotting “revenges”.

    And NC is still the must read reporting site.

    * I really am glad the mods don’t have a freezer. ;)

    1. Richard

      When NC was attacked by the post, this led me to start reading nc. I know that is not the most common effect of a shameless smear, but there you go.
      Anyway, I definitely agree that was a highlight!

    2. Joel

      “Hillary is still the Miss Havisham of politics”

      sexist much? J/K that’s just what the hillbots would say.

      Imagine them reacting to that gem if they respond to the Vanity Fair joke about knitting by hounding the magazine’s (female) editor off Twitter.

      1. HotFlash

        Perhaps they would be OK with ‘Ms Havisham’? And thanks, Flora, still laughing. The parrot was excellent, too.

  7. ewmayer

    Alert to fellow beer lovers:

    Our local Costco [San Jose, CA area] is selling Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA, an extra-hoppy seasonal brew, for just $17 a case, a 3-for-the-price-of-2 sale versus their $25-a-case prices for other varieties and breweries. I stocked up. Even without the membership discount it’s a great price.

    1. Carl

      Wow! Never thought I’d see this on NC, or get to comment on it. For everyone’s edification, Costco deals are extremely YMMV. Especially so in this case: Costco does take into account the tastes of the local market, and sometimes they miscalculate and some products don’t sell. Hence, the clearance deals which pop up. That being said, I got almost the same deal as ewmeyer at my local Costco, but a bit better: $14.97/case for Sierra Nevada Celebration, a truly excellent seasonal. None of the other Costcos in my area had it, it was just at this one store.

  8. Wukchumni

    There’s a Unabanker who’s sure his trail will go cold
    And he’s boarding a stairway to a haven
    When he gets there he knows, extradition is a no go
    With a word he can get what he came for
    Ooh, ooh, and he’s boarding a stairway to a haven

    There’s signs all is not well, but he wants to be sure
    ‘Cause you know sometimes absconders have strange leanings
    It’s obvious he cooked books, but there’s never any jail time
    Sometimes all of our thoughts are a given

    Ooh, it makes me wonder
    Ooh, it makes me wonder

    There’s a feeling I get when I look to invest
    And my spirit is crying he’s leaving
    In my thoughts I have seen rings of deception
    And the voices of those who lack standing

    Ooh, it makes me wonder
    Ooh, it really makes me wonder

    And it’s whispered that soon, if we all call the tune
    Then justice will lead us to reason
    And a new day will dawn for those who stand for right and wrong
    And the bloggers will echo with laughter

    If there’s a bezzle in your hedge fund, don’t be alarmed now
    It’s just a spring clean for the has beens
    Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
    There’s no time to change the road you’re on
    And it makes me wonder

    Your conscience is long gone and it won’t go, in case you don’t know
    Ill gotten gains is calling you to join in
    Dear Unabanker, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
    Your runway lies on the downwind?

    How did he wind on down this road
    On ill gotten gains considerably larger than his soul
    There walks a Unabanker we all know
    Who sprouts white lies and wants to show
    How everything still turns to gold
    And if you listen very hard
    The tune will come to you at last
    When he is gone and that is all
    To be a crook waiting for the plane to roll
    And he’s boarding a stairway to a haven

  9. mpalomar

    The Foreign Policy article The Battle of Bread Baskets on the direction of agriculture is, to my thinking, terribly misguided regarding the need for the US to, “maintain its competitive edge in the face of a strong Chinese challenge for agricultural dominance,” by pursuing Monsanto type intellectual property advantages; and instead of rethinking dubious agri-industry, tech strategies, doubling down on them.

    Wrong headed, short sighted, Washington wonk, gobbledygook that passes for serious thinking, the kind that has led to top soil depletion while embracing an ecocidal reliance on fossil fuel, chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

    Nice sloth.

    1. Mike Mc

      ^x1000. Posting from the heart of Big Ag in eastern Nebraska; wife inherited half of a small (for 21st century) farm in eastern Illinois so now she reads ag market reports.

      Commodity ag is killing the Gulf of Mexico along with big parts of the Mississippi River Valley, and threatening the Great Lakes.

      Growing corn and soybeans over and over and over – while stripping top soil and pouring the herbicide and pesticide onto Monsanto’s wholly owned seeds – has reduced much of the ‘nation’s breadbasket’ to ag wasteland. Small towns are fading if not already gone. Big farm owners from Wisconsin that are land-locked (can’t buy or lease any more land) are actively shopping for and buying smaller farms in Illinois to do something with All. That. Money.

      However, Corn Belt and other Big Ag states need to plan for both a drier (aquifers going dry) and wetter (more rain events and floods) climate, and possibly MUCH higher input costs when gasoline/diesel/natty gas prices start to rise (or skyrocket with Mideast war) plus fewer people eating meat, making corn and soybean prices continue their slide…

      Here in Nebraska, planting industrial hemp means not having to pump out aquifer water and virtually eliminates pesticide/herbicide need (thus cost), while other alternative crops like milo (sorghum), oats, buckwheat mixed with more food crops – truck farms – might keep America’s breadbasket feeding the world and the nation a while longer.

  10. pat b

    I would disagree with Yves article on Self-Driving cars. Yes, some LIDAR is 75,000 dollars
    but new LIDAR from Quanergy is targeted at $250/sensor. They want to get to $99/sensor.
    Also Yves scoffs at Color recognition in self driving sensors. IMHO Color is very important.
    Color recognition is needed to recognize stop lights, stop signs, green lights, directional arrows.

    Now, we will see self driving work it’s way in, both as a bottom up technology (Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane departure, advanced navigation, Platooning) and a top down approach ( Tesla Autopilot)…

    I suspect the bottom up approach will work better.

    The methods of these will all impact employment fast. If Trucks can switch to Platooning we will
    see massive job losses in trucking.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Triple wagons are quite long enough, thank you. I, at least, would campaign seriously to make truck “platooning” illegal. I think that would be very popular.

      1. tegnost

        Oregon’s portion of I-5, as I’m sure you are aware, is very difficult driving, and also two lanes most of the way.. My poster child for an autonomous truck nightmare.
        For pat b, here is the full article…written, as is clearly stated in the post, by the ceo of a self driving car company
        read it and weep
        also, could there be societal consequences to all those disappeared jobs? Electoral consequences, perhaps? Just because it is possible doesn’t mean it will happen. (I notice your example is targeting a $250 sensor, not producing one…)

    2. Yves Smith

      People who are completely red-green color blind are licensed to drive. There is no color vision test for driving, just adequacy of distance vision. Did you manage to miss that stop lights have the light positioned uniquely, at the top, and you don’t need to see the color to recognize the stop light. Ditto stop signs, unique shape PLUS big word “STOP”.

      Re lidar, that view was not mine but of the CEO of a company which is a leader in self-driving cars and has every reason to put an optimistic spin on the state of play. And his figures were not for a single sensor but for the costs of one he deemed to be up to the required standard and to outfit an entire car.

    1. ambrit

      Oh my, haiku time
      The new year cozens
      NC points the way


      Rulers bark orders
      Deplorables gather round
      Wild flowers on graves


      Survival for you
      Gives me hope that this new year
      survival for all

      1. ambrit

        I must make amends. My first doggerel was not a proper haiku.
        So, instead of ‘funshi,’ I will amend the offending lines to read:

        Oh my, haiku time
        The new year coyly cozens
        NC points the way

          1. ambrit

            All hail our new overlords!

            The gnostest with the
            Mostest skews the paradigm
            Burma Shave, the end.

            Commentary as
            Fundamental effusions
            Precariat life.

            Every doggerel
            Shall have its’ day. The cats are
            Disbelieving it.

  11. JTMcPhee

    12/31 “Facebook deleting accounts at request of US and Israel-ites:” That must mean, of course, only “deleting” access by individual account “owners” and “friends.” Since FB will never delete the “content” in their servers, nor limit ‘government’ access to all that, and FB pretty surely as heck does not ‘delete” all traces of the accounts and presences and data of individual account “owners” at the request or demand of said “owners…” nor all the stuff fed to the NSA’s quantum silicon whatever eidetic memory…

    “All your everything now belong to US!”

  12. Wukchumni

    China puts US$15,000 annual personal cap on overseas bank card withdrawals SCMP

    My mom decided that a 5 bedroom house and a single 90 year old woman inhabiting it was a bit on the daunting side a few years ago, and her abode was in the SGV, less than a mile from a Buddhist temple, and it was a little sad, as I could never go home again, or hang out in the ‘forest’ of 13 giant sequoias my dad had planted in the late 1960’s after they bought it new.

    Previously every last house in the ‘hood had sold to enthusiastic cash buyers from the People’s Republic over a period of a decade or so, her neighbor on one side was a Chinese movie star agent back home, and on the other side, a Chinese family whose patriarch owned a manufacturing biz back in the mainland, you get the gist.

    So, we meet with her real estate agent, and I ask if the home is going to sell in the usual fashion to somebody Chinese?

    And he says, nope. They can only get $50k out of the country now, and if they have a few relatives, maybe $200k, and that doesn’t buy a lot of house in LA. He related that his competition used to be savvy Chinese-American real estate agents, but they turned out to be one-trick-ponies, as he flashed a gleaming smile our way, having eliminated them by their own device.

    And sure enough, the buyers were an American family with 3 kids.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The dream has always been, with 1 billion people, at $15,000 each, that’s $15 trillion we are talking about here.


    2. JBird

      Never mind all that. Thirteen sequoias?

      I love the tree but I never thought of them as yard trees as even one can easily take up an entire yard and crush an entire good size house if it fell. People don’t realize that in the right conditions they grow like some demented demon weed that never, ever stops growing. As I guess you found out.


      1. Wukchumni

        Giant sequoias were my dad’s pride and joy. I remember climbing all over fallen giants in Sequoia NP when I was a tyke.

        They destroyed a wall in the backyard about 25 years ago, as the roots never go deep, but spread out like kudzu. I think he planted 25 trees, but they have a low survival rate when not in their usual climes @ 5-7k on the western slopes of the High Sierra. I was 0 for 4 trying to grow them here.

        Sequoias are like an iron fist encased in a velvet glove, you can push the bark in about 1/2 an inch with just thumb pressure.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Our street, in the upper Willamette Valley, is lined with sequoias; and the house in front of us has a row behind it, as well. Given time, they’ll make a solid wall. They do very well here, even in our wet clay soils, which cause some trees to keel over when they reach a certain size. Fortunately, not the sequoias.

          And I’ve encountered the bark: the box elder bugs like to spend the winter in the deep cracks, and raccoons and/or skunks scratch it away to get at the bugs. They’re pretty messy trees; great heaps of mulch under them. Good for blueberries.

          1. Wukchumni

            They rival the pigpen of trees-Eucalyptus, in that there’s always a bit of a mess around the base as the bark shreds off, along with many hundreds of their progeny laying around that resemble 1/3rd size scale WW2 hand grenades, most of which never get the pin pulled on them-as they need fire to crack open the key to releasing & germinating the seeds, which like the cone are diminutive. The denizens in the forest make short work of some pinecones in looking for nourishment, but rarely mess with the tough nut that sequoias are. You’ll typically see many years worth within a 50 foot perimeter from center.

            The lowest altitude-biggest sequoia in Sequoia NP is one we call Low Rider, which resides @ 4300 feet @ Ladybug Camp* on the south fork of the Kaweah. It’s about 10 feet in width and around 230 feet high. It’s situated on a slope, which always gives the illusion of the tree being bigger than it is, a bonus.

            It’s one of the few sequoias I know of, where you can be sitting in that duffy porch @ the base, and then 45 minutes of trail walking later up towards the Homer’s Nose grove, be equidistant with the top of it, a 1/2 mile away as the crow flies.

            One thing ancient sequoias fail miserably at generally, is being photographed.

            They’re just too big and there isn’t a canvas large enough digitally to really accommodate their girth, when pesky little humans are playing paparazzi.

            * if you want to see ladybugs by the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands-this is your place from now to February, sometimes when we get near after a 2 mile hike in, we’ll have to turn around-as with every step on the trail, you’ll kill 50, that’s how thick they can be.


        2. JBird

          Coastal Redwoods are much more forgiving than the mountain species. Same problems mind you, although they focus more on growing up instead of out than do Sequoias. However, they really do prefer mild moist climates like the Pacific Northwest, and since they often live where the soil is of poor quality, mutual dependence on the whole ecosystem to recycle nutrients is required. Rather like the Amazon. It’s looks like the soil must be great when it’s actually poor. In the Bay Area where they predominanted before they were logged out, despite the mild climate, it can be frustrating to have a garden. It’s predominantly clay. Thick, gooey, non water absorbing nutrient poor clay and one has to do much work making it not.

          1. MtnLife

            The problem with redwoods/sequoias in California is when they are planted in an urban area. They need to be in a mature forest that’s cramped for light and space to grow properly (i.e. Slowly). Urban trees grow too quickly due to excessive space, light, access to water, and other nutrients causing them to be much weaker (and more hazardous) than their forest cousins.

            1. blennylips

              This is a great place for a tip if the hat to Judith, who, back on August 4, 2017 at 3:14 pm, recommended “The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature” by David George Haskell. I just finished it.

              He explores an island of old growth forest by visiting the same spot for a year. A superb writer, IMO.

              A few quotes from the book:

              The study of twigs seems esoteric. But this impression is dangerously wrong. Counting back through bud scars, tallying yearly growth, I not only see the struggle among native and foreign trees, I read the ledger of the world’s atmosphere.

              Storms in the forest have a more primal character than storms playing over tamed urban land. A vigorous cloudburst is exhilarating, a burst of sensory delight with its leafy smells, gray light, and chill. But a full tree-ripping storm pushes the senses beyond exhilaration or thrill, into fear.

              The study of twigs seems esoteric. But this impression is dangerously wrong. Counting back through bud scars, tallying yearly growth, I not only see the struggle among native and foreign trees, I read the ledger of the world’s atmosphere


            2. JBird

              That makes sense as I think Redwoods are a niche species. Cool, moist, often cloudy/foggy areas with poor soil. Most plants especially trees really don’t like that. Right outside the coastal strip it’s oak and grasses as the soil might be the same but it is both hotter and colder, much drier, more varied water fall.

              I see a lot more variety either in the urban areas or in the zone between Redwoods and oaks. Funny. I really don’t notice just how many varied little micro climates are tucked into the Bay Area

  13. Wukchumni

    As Cell Service Expands, National Parks Become Digital Battlegrounds Government Technology

    Sequoia NP used to not allow tv’s in motel rooms within the NP, it was kind of strange when you were ensconced in one and the big cabinet where in theory there should be a tv, was just an empty void. Then about 15 years ago they gave in and installed them, and then came connectivity, and it’s pretty common to see tourists wiling away the day keeping up on important stuff like a cat in Norway that looks like it has Angela Lansbury’s countenance, or other minutia. It’s limited somewhat, but you can get there from here in the frontcountry, and non-existent in the backcountry comprising of some 400,000+ acres.

    I was walking a 60 mile stretch of the PCT with a friend doing the whole enchilada earlier in the year, and we went from Big Bear to interstate 15, and it was so odd to see a good many thru-hikers with a smartphone in hand along the way, as there was connectivity most every day, somewhere.

    Hard to say if that will happen in Sequoia-Kings Canyon NP, but there used to be a fairly extensive phone array connecting remote backcountry ranger stations once upon a time, and what a piece of work that must’ve been, running wire all over the place. It was abandoned sometime in the 1960’s and all pulled out, as they went to repeater stations on peaks around the NP and walkie-talkies for communication, which is still the standard today.

    1. Carolinian

      I don’t really see what the objection is unless the towers themselves are unsightly or obtrusive. People talking loudly on the trail are just as annoying if one prefers silence. And better that someone lost in the woods can use a cellphone than that the government has to go all out looking for them.

      1. Wukchumni

        The main objection would be people’s reliance on them as a safety blanket should something go amiss. I know the NP here isn’t all that fond of SPOT devices, as people activate them for some of the dumbest reasons imaginable, such as drinking unfiltered water, or having to walk ankle deep across a creek, that sort of tomfoolery.

        And every time you activate one, it sets off the Search & Rescue teams to go out and look for you, sometimes encompassing dozens of people.

        1. Wukchumni

          This is on the wilderness permit you sign @ the ranger station before heading into the back of beyond…


          Search and rescue actions are conducted on a discretionary basis. The level and necessity and of the response is determined trough evaluation of the situation by field personnel. Rescuer safety is always our first priority. These parks expect visitors to exhibit a high degree of self-reliance and responsibility for their own safety commensurate with the difficulty of their chosen activities. The higher risk the activity the more you need to be prepared for dealing with emergency situations.

          If you chose to carry a hand-held electronic signaling device, be familiar with its operation, limitations, and frequency of failure to transmit. Do not rely on it to summon rescue personnel or notify family that you are “OK.”

          Now, how do you think they’d feel about everybody armed with connectivity?

          1. Carolinian

            On the other hand if someone’s car is sitting in the parking lot and their relatives want to know where they are then they are going to have to go search for them anyway. And the linked story said emergency workers want the cell coverage and the NPS too presumably since they are allowing the new towers.

  14. Wukchumni

    A $125,000 Snow Machine* Is the Latest Toy of the Superrich Bloomberg

    There’s a circa 1960’s orange Tucker that’s been sitting in the parking lot of the administrative area of Sequoia NP for donkey years, going nowhere fast.

    Now I read that they are way collectible, i’ll have to ask about it and the particulars~

    They have a 20 year old Kässbohrer Pisten Bully currently, that they use to groom Mineral King road in the winter so to enable snow survey teams to get in and get a measure of what’s what, which is a blast to ride in and it has 2 ‘flippers’ that push snow off to either side.

    * Our snow-mo’s were a bit more on the reasonable side, about $4k a piece.

    1. JBird

      The article said they were essentially tractors (I’d have to say old ones). It’s bizarre to see vehicles that look less complex than my old VW bug, certainly not more than some older trucks I’ve ridden sell brand new starting at 125k. Not too shabby. I guess it helps to be one of last makers of vehicles that ride on the snow’s surface, instead of through it, and they make no more than a hundred a year. Supply and demand…

      1. Synoia

        An old tractor is simpler than a WV bug. No suspension, no heat , one seat no upholstery, basically an engine, gearbox two axles and a hydraulic system.

  15. ewmayer

    2018 will be a turning point for Bitcoin, says Roger McNamee | Coinpedia

    BTC shill: ‘If a mania goes on long enough, it becomes self-fulfilling. Even after a crash, what follows is a legitimate industry.’ You mean, like Beanie Babies? Or tulip bulbs costing an average worker’s lifetime earnings? Or those discounted postal reply coupons peddled by Mr. Ponzi himself? Yep, all those ‘industries’ are still going like gangbusters.

    1. Wukchumni

      Of them all, Charles Ponzi’s scheme made the most sense, arbitraging international postal rates, and he received immortal financial infamy as an added bonus.

  16. Synoia

    Thomas Frank: Obama Chose Wall Street Over Main Street

    It appears to me that in 2004 Our Government decided to perpetrate a fraud on the United States in a conspiracy with Wall St. Here’s what I perceive:

    The article is good, but, as always, avoids discussing the history between Wall St and the US Government, to whit: the 2005 revision of the bankruptcy code, and GWB’s reelection “ownership society” gambit to increase the percentage of home ownership for his reelection. That is it avoids discussion of the “root cause.”

    To increase home ownership requires loosening the underwriting standards for loans, and that indeed happened with the State Income and NINA (No income, No Assets) loan programs, which were introduced in 2004/2005, and marketed heavily by new loan originators such as New Century Lending.

    Obama failing to attack the financial industry is rational given the history between Wall St and the US Government. Attacking Wall St would require having Feddie Mac and Fannie Mae explain why they loosened the loan standards and why the SEC permitted the making securities of loans which were demonstrably sub-standard.

    The Mortgage Banker Association were the body who pushed for home mortgages not to be crammed down in foreclosure. Congress passed this change to the bankruptcy code, housing ownership boomed, and GWB was reelected.

    Obama could not possibly pull all this out into the open: The axe would have swung not only on the Bankers, but on the enablers as well, of which he and the Democrats in Washington were accomplices; incumbents were elected again for 2005.

    As far as I know there has never been an inquiry about who established and promulgated the new, deliberately neglectful loan standards, that is fraudulent, loan standards to solicit fraudulent loans.

  17. Synoia

    Fracking Boom Further Spurs Plastics Crisis

    When I came to the US I learned that US citizens (who are such bad people) generate 3 or 4 times the amount of trash as other countries.

    And I discovered I too generated much trash, but my, my wife, toddler daughter and infant son. were eating much the same food as we did in the UK.

    Being an engineer, I then Measured our trash production: I would take the grocery shopping, unpack everything to the next-to-last wrapping or completely unpack the groceries.

    In the UK such an exercise generated about one half a carrier bag of “packaging.” Most food was not packaged, vegetables were not, meat was wrapped in waxed paper, and we shopped every day, with a shopping basket.

    In the US all food was packaged, and then in many cases placed in a separate plastic bag, with plastic trays with clear wrap, and so on. For every 4 bags of groceries we generated 3 bags of trash.

    Not only were the consumers were being blamed for generating too much trash, but we were also paying for packaging, which we would immediately throw away.

    1. ewmayer

      While taking my little 3′ cut Xmas tree out to the tree-recycling corral (area set aside next to dumpster and recycling bins) area of my apt complex today, I was struck by the sheer amount of recyclables in the dumpster – mostly trivially, easily-recyclables, given that bins for glass/plastic/paper and a huge dumpster-sized bin for cardboard are right next to the dumpster. So spent 10 minutes doing my appallingly lazy neighbors’ chores for them, pulling some cardboard boxes – including one filled with already-separated recyclables, no less! – out of the dumpster, flattening them and putting in the cardboard-recycling, then pulling out easily accessible plastic and glass bottles, including a large multigallon plastic water jug for an office-style water dispenser, and putting those in/next to the mixed recycling bins. Times like this I can’t help but wondering, this being a now-wildly-overpriced Silicon Valley complex filled with techies, at the sheer disconnect between the tech-smarts and political liberalism of the residents on the one hand, and the utter lack of common sense (it’s a lot easier to carry empty boxes out when one takes the few seconds needed to flatten and stack them into a compact stack) and regard for one’s fellow humans and the environment.

      Given that this is SF bay area, and it was a lovely day today, highs in the mid-60s – inclement weather was no excuse, either. Speculating politically incorrectly, perhaps the fact that said apt. complex has become dominated by H1-B families, mostly from India, since I moved here circa 2000, has something to do with it? If what I see here exemplifies environmental attitudes back in said country, I despair for it, with its massive and rapidly growing population density.

    2. bob

      Seen at a hotel “contental breakfast” – an apple, placed on a styrofoam tray, and then wrapped with plastic.

      It was so convenient that they even had a “To Go” sign above that, and other mummified, fresh fruit.

  18. Denis Drew

    Thomas Frank: Obama Chose Wall Street Over Main Street

    Just occurred to me while reading this: Without labor unions the middle class and upper middle class are as politically helpless as the poor.

    Why doesn’t everybody catch on that rebuilding US union density is the only salvation for the “rest of us” …
    and the only issue — if that’s all yuppie Dems like Hill might actually care about …
    to retake the voting majority.

    Franks complains about Obama not pushing strongly (or at all really) for card check. Card check is not going to rebuild America. Nobody ever dreamed it would.

    Why not take a leaf from the Repub anti-union playbook and shoot it back at them? Why not (once we get the Congress back) mandate union certification and re-certification elections at every workplace …
    … like Wisconsin’s Gov. Walker (Ryan’s evil nephew) imposing that on government worker unions who are not fully protected (according to the courts) by the First Amendment (even though the intent is so obvious the law could plausibly be thrown out such).

    I would allow employees to vote for one, three or five year certification, re-certification every time. This would cut out a lot of rancor among pros and cons over going union for the first time — smooth things in.

    Rebuilding labor power is the only way to rebuild America.
    * * * * * *

    Why Not Hold Union Representation Elections on a Regular Schedule?
    November 1st, 2017 – Andrew Strom

    1. JTMcPhee

      Maybe the some of the same reasons that national, state and local elections are not held once a year? Why give the powers that have so adroitly and consistently manipulated and battered us ordinary mopes into the pickle we are in, by constantly pressing for their gain and advantage in every possible moment, another annual bite at delegitimizing and disempowering what little organized resistance there might be? Via more of the “faux democracy” that has brought in “business ownership” of everything, especially that mantle of electoral “legitimacy” via success of their long-term project to attain “full spectrum dominance” over all the rest of us? We mopes are not very good at that long game, obviously. Why increase the chances to lose even more ground?

      Of course, it would be best if Mopedom could ever get together and learn to make asymmetric war on the looting elites, and make elections more of an honest expression of public will that actually directs toward public good and general welfare and global and local policies that actually move toward sustainable and healthy human presence on the planet. And, looking at what has happened to the “hard-won gains” of what we call the Labor Movement over the generations, enough of all of us are happy and shrewd enough to engage in mass corruption and self-pleasing and self-advancement, as soon as the opportunity presents, to make that kind of bettertopia nothing but a vain notion…

      1. Denis Drew

        It all happened like the slowly boiled frog thing — but if we wake up we can reverse it anytime we want — see above.

    2. JBird

      Why doesn’t everybody catch on that rebuilding US union density is the only salvation for the “rest of us” …
      … and the only issue — if that’s all yuppie Dems like Hill might actually care about …
      … to retake the voting majority.

      An extensive, extremely well funded, professional anti-union industry’s current nearly century to destroy all unions; it was combined with a similar campaign on not only the unions, but all broadly based social/religious/economic/political organizations that could be political empowering, as Communist and therefore subversive.

      It’s tinfoil hat territory except for being real.

      1. Denis Drew

        It all happened like the slowly boiled frog thing — didn’t happen in continental Europe (see Germany, see Denmark) — but if we wake up we can reverse it anytime we want.

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