Links 2/10/18

Meow-ch! Shocking image shows a cat with a dangerous SNAKE coiled around its neck Daily Mail

Student who says she flushed hamster down toilet in Spirit Airlines flap has a replacement rodent, lawyer says USA Today (resilc)

Scientists studying psychoactive drugs accidentally proved the self is an illusion Quartz (David L)

Teens Are Running Away from Home and Spending the Night in Dressers at IKEA Vice

The U.S. dropped to 12th place in countries with best patent systems Axios (resilc)

How quantum dots supercharge farming, medicine and solar, too CNET (resilc)

Russian Nuclear Scientists Used Supercomputers To Mine For Cryptocurrency International Business Times (Kevin W). “Prosecution futures.”

Bitcoin dives as regulators call for cryptos to be reined in Financial Times

French Farmer Makes Fresh Start in Diary Production in Russian Village Sputnik International


Djibouti is Becoming Gateway to Africa for China Der Spiegel (furzy)

The US and China are overhauling their approaches to diplomacy and foreign service, in entirely opposite ways Quartz (resilc)

North Korea

‘Trump’ and ‘Kim’ thrown out of Opening Ceremony Reuters (Kevin W)

Pence skips Olympics dinner in snub to North Korean officials Guardian. Resilc: “How tragic for the world.”

Pence’s Olympic mission: Countering North Korean propaganda Washington Post (Kevin W)

Here’s why Trump can’t find a US ambassador to South Korea South China Morning Post (furzy)


Win for German armored vehicle maker could leave British firms out in the cold Defense News (JTM)

Brexit: into the grinding machine Richard North

Senator Rubio calls for military coup in Venezuela Defend Democracy

New Cold War

Why ‘Russian Meddling’ is a Trojan Horse Counterpunch


Another Unnecessary War LobeLog (Chuck L)

To War, To War, This Country’s Going to War” – TTG Sic Semper Tyrannis (resilc)

Israeli warplane crashes amid cross-border escalation with Syria DW

Russian fleets control ports of Lebanon Defend Democracy

Trump Transisiton

Trump does not approve release of Democrats’ rebuttal of Nunes memo USA Today (furzy)

Donald Trump’s Thinking on Nukes Is Insane and Ignorant Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone. Lambert: “Again, Obama builds the car, the Trump drives it.”

More than 100 New York City attorneys protest after Ice arrests Bronx man Guardian

Developers Seek $6 Million Tax Break for Trump-Managed Hotel New York Times (resilc)

Rachel Brand, 3rd ranking official at Justice Dept., is stepping down CNN (resilc)

Supreme Court on the verge of reversing some of its old decisions USA Today (furzy)

The Democrats’ DACA leverage has all but disappeared New Republic

Sex in Politics…Not!

Rob Porter’s history of domestic abuse wasn’t a secret. Slate (Chuck L)

Second White House official departs amid abuse allegations, which he denies Washington Post

The Whole Fish Is Rotten, Not Just Rob Porter Charles Pierce, Esquire

Media Ignoring Puerto Rico’s ‘Shock Doctrine’ Makeover FAIR (Chuck L)

The Equifax hack could be worse than we thought CNN

LL Bean dropping its unlimited returns policy CNBC (resilc). They got of pensions too!

Mr. Market Had a Sad

What the Headlines about Tesla, Snap, and Twitter “Earnings” Should Have Said Wolf Street. EM: “Clearly markets need to fall a lot further than they did this week to put a dent into this kind of stupid.”

Why Stocks May Still Have a Long Way to Fall 24/7 Wall Street. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard loves this sort of monetarist view of markets. I’ve never been a big subscriber, but included for those of you who have an appetite for it.

Stocks Rebound to Draw Curtain on Wild Week Wall Street Journal

Era of market tranquility comes to an abrupt end Financial Times

Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange (and possibly Herbalife) team up to help organised crime John Hempton (AFXH). Aieee.

Uber-Wayo Settlement

Uber Agrees to Pay Waymo $245 Million Equity to Settle Suit Bloomberg

Uber needed to settle Alphabet’s lawsuit Recode

Hubert Horan’s comment:

This should be seen as a big win for Uber. The case was always going to be settled; these are pretty close to best-case terms for Uber. It was abundantly clear that Kalanick had pursued Levandowski and Otto in order to get Google’s IP and the benefits of what Google had learned about robotcar technology up to that point. However the legal case always hinged on the emergence of a “smoking gun” that would convince jurors that Uber had actually incorporated the stolen IP into its product. This settlement demonstrates that Google hadn’t found that smoking gun.

Google had originally demanded a settlement of $1 billion in cash and terms that would have eliminated any possibility that Uber could be a player in a future robotcar industry. As the weakness of Google’s court case became obvious, they proposed settling for $500 million, but quickly accepted Uber’s counter-proposal. Today’s settlement will cost Uber a lot less than the $245 million headline amount (assuming Uber eventually goes public at a valuation significantly lower than $70 billion), won’t cost Uber any short term cash, and will allow Uber to continue to pretend that robotcars could be a major source of future growth. Uber won’t even have to pay the $600 million cost of the Otto acquisition, since Levandowski had been fired. It removed the biggest obstacle to a future Uber IPO, and allows Uber to push the PR narrative (laid out in the Tech Crunch and other similar articles), that Uber has expunged the bad practices of the Kalanick era, totally turned the corner, and the settlement illustrates the management genius of new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi (even thoughhe had nothing to do with Google’s failure to find a smoking gun).

Class Warfare

SILICON VALLEY’S TAX-AVOIDING, JOB-KILLING, SOUL-SUCKING MACHINE Esquire (Kokuanani). This loses me on the pop explanations of why these companies are successful….

Let’s Cancel Everyone’s Student Debt, for the Economy’s Sake New York Magazine (UserFriendly). Wellie, this analysis is getting out of the leftie ghetto, which is a good sign.

Antidote du jour (Lawrence R). A Shire? Whatever breed it is, get a load of those shoulders.

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Foppe

    So how badly would federal interest rates hikes affect the corporate loan market, assuming indebtedness has also increased there (because the parasites wanted more money to be used for dividend/buybacks)? (And secondarily, how would wage growth, as it would also affect the balance sheet? Not that I’m arguing against them, ofc., but I’m curious how much more fragile the system is now that 0 wage growth has been the norm for so long.)

    1. JohnnyGL

      I commented on this topic, yesterday. It’s worthy of more discussion as I suspect there’s lots of lambert’s ‘bezzle’ buried in here.

      So far, the rate hikes haven’t hit leveraged loans yet because of interest rate floors on old loans and because spreads are compressing as the fed hikes. This can’t continue.

      I was surprised that the money spigot stayed open for the oil patch when prices nose-dived, but we may yet see the expected carnage that we haven’t gotten so far.

    2. djrichard

      Fed Reserve interest rate shouldn’t really impact longer term corporate debt (as opposed to short term paper).

      Longer term corporate debt is more dependent on what the 10Y yield is doing. In theory, that yield goes up when there’s more demand for cash – more longer term debt is being floated in the marketplace, so existing cash has to be spread around more thinly. But right now, I’m guessing it’s being driven by “bond vigilantes”, who are sending a message, rather than actual increased demand for cash.

      Wage growth negatively effects cash flow. But the question is, how much real wage growth is there. Even if there is wage growth, cash flow is being positively impacted by tax reductions. And then cash flow is reduced when corporate debt needs to be rolled over at a higher yield. In which case, corporations aren’t likely to take on more corporate debt for stock buybacks. Otherwise, balance sheet shouldn’t be impacted unless cash flow is/goes negative.

    3. james wordsworth

      Rising interest rates will have their biggest hit on pension funds. Funds have benefited from declining rates (rising bond prices) and rising stock prices. Rising rates will reverse both and make it harder for them to achieve their benchmarks. Add in that pension funds are not recipients of vast sums of new money as boomers retire, and so will not benefit much from higher rates in the short term on new investments.

      In this market it is going to be extremely difficult for any fund to make the 7% or thereabouts return their models need. This is the real source of coming problems from higher rates – that and the reset on US debt as so much of the national debt is short term (2 years and under).

  2. The Rev Kev

    Pence skips Olympics dinner in snub to North Korean officials

    I think that someone just got triggered. His stony behaviour is probably not making him many friends in Korea but what may have pushed him away from attending this Olympic dinner was a desert, called “A Plate of Hope”(, served at this dinner. It featured a map of Korea with chocolate barbed wire dividing it and by pouring on a hot sauce, the barbed wire between the north and south melted away.
    I do not know what the protocols are like but bailing out on the official Olympic dinner to have it with the American team instead (the largest sent in Olympic history) probably caused some loss of face and was a sign of disrespect. One thing that I noted at the opening ceremony was the feeling of both pain and unity featured. Then again, that might be just what I think that I am seeing. North or south, both sides still know that they are both Koreans which means something to them. Would you believe that under international sanctions that the North Koreans are not even allowed to import even hockey sticks for their teams? When they were in Australia, they had to lend them good ones but had to take them back when they went home. The two teams were even forbidden to swap stuff like uniforms and pins as that would be ‘sanction busting’. Watch this space.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Pence grew up in a white bread household in the midwest where spicy food was the alien swill of people who hate America. :-0

        1. Wukchumni

          His kisser tell, is his countenance has the look of somebody all backed up and far from a toilet. To the proles though it practically reeks of grit & determination, in terms of how it plays to the audience.

    1. John

      I must be out of touch. There must be a new rule book. Is it now considered diplomatic and wise to be disrespectful of your host because you do not like the guest list?

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        LOL, “diplomatic”, how quaint to hear that word again, with State Department officers now on an arms sales bonus comp scheme we should just retire the whole concept that we use words any more to advance our foreign policy goals. “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran…”. Countries now have two choices: A. Submit; or B. Death From Above. I guess there is also choice C.: Buy lots of arms and help us with Death From Above on your neighbors.

      2. Tooearly

        Indeed. As an American I felt ashamed to be represented by this morons failure to stand when the joint Korean teams entered into the stadium

    2. Darius

      Boy. That wapo story was a beat sweetener. Wasn’t it? Took Pence’s BS at face value and quotes “experts” to back him up. The commenters rightly ridicule the televangelist wannabe, but it was like they didn’t even read the story.

    3. Carolinian

      The opening ceremony was like a big middle finger to Trump and Pence. On the other hand they did build a Olympic stadium in the shape of the Pentagon.

      TPTB are going to be a big panic if it turns out all these countries we are “defending” would rather make peace.

      1. Louis Fyne

        …..olympic stadium in the shape of the Pentagon.

        if I recall correctly korea’s national flower-bald eagle equivalent is shaped like a pentagon. rose of sharon/syrianus hibiscus?

        But don’t hold me to this interpretation

      2. Octopii

        None of the US viewers actually watched much of the opening ceremony – we all had to turn it off due to inane commentary.

        1. Lemmy Caution

          I was waiting for Katie to say something about the curiously empty stadium. Guess those LED lights at each seat were there to simulate the electricity generated by a packed house.

  3. Jessica

    Scientists studying psychoactive drugs accidentally proved the self is an illusion Quartz (David L)

    Just for precision, Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, was a Tibetan (Vajrayana) Buddhist, not a Tibetan Zen Buddhist. Vajrayana and Zen Buddhism are quite distinct.

    1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

      If Penrose, Hammeroff & Bandyopadhyay. are correct they should also be talking about the deeper level of microtubles rather than neurons, which increasingly appear to be where the real action is. I am not including the above researchers within the scientific establishment, but they might be applying the received wisdom in which neurons have been decided as the be & end all, in order to calculate the level of computation needed for a conscious AI – in terms of the brain being subject to classical physics with no quantum input.

      They basically detest the above trio as adding microtubles which appear to function on a quantum level to the equation, as it increases the order of magnitude needed for a fully conscious AI, to probable impossible levels. It would be nice if the researchers of the above could get together with Hammeroff & Co., as they have also made some interesting discoveries on how hallucinogenics effect the brain, but at a deeper level than neurons.

      They have it seems through Penrose’s direction adopted a plan of fourteen experiments to prove their case, so far six have been successful & initial criticism such as quantum computation cannot function at body temperature have been disproved by the discovery that it does function within photosynthesis. One of the biggest critics, namely MIT’s Max Tegmark came up with his own theory which was described as idiotic by Penrose due to the fact that if it were valid it would disqualify any quantum action anywhere.

      I find it fascinating which explains my waffle & I will continue to watch with interest. It might not lead anywhere concrete but if true it will bring a whole new understanding of that organ which some it seems would prefer to see as not much more than an advanced computing device. I would also bet on Penrose & Co. rather than the likes of Tegmark, who stated that good science should be located by following the money.

      1. Self Affine

        I would have to agree with you on this and go with Penrose

        Quantum effects are deeply embedded in life. An example is quantum coherence in photosynthetic light harvestig (see Anna J.M. BioScience 64: 14-25)

        It would be unrealistic to think that life doesn’t use quantum effects for its own benefit. This would possibly include entanglement effects for signaling and quantum computing type ultra fast decision making structure.

        Lot’s to think about and very interesting.

        1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

          I first became aware of OR from reading Penrose’s book ” The Emporer’s New Clothes ” – the emporer being those who sought to create a fully conscious AI. Hammeroff had read it earlier, contacted Penrose as he had the mechanism that would fit the theory presented in the book, which led them to work together.

          Unlike the materialists & the AI vested interest who have launched vicious attacks against them, I think their work is at least attempting to do justice to consciousness & that incredible organ the brain, unlike the others who it appears to me are cheapening both, in order to fit their own ends.

          Sir Roger is unfortunately looking rather fragile these days, but an institution named after him will it seems carry the work forward step by step, in what used to be seen as the proper scientific approach based on experiment. I must admit to being charmed by the concept that the brain at it’s core works as a quantum orchestra, which would probably explain why music is such a deep & intrinsic part of the human experience. There are also spiritual ramifications by the plenty.

          Anyhow, here is Hammeroff’s website – I like the guy as he is a scrapper & perfectly compliments Penrose.

          1. Stephen V.

            Really appreciate this exchange Eus and Self.
            My quiet mind has little patience left for an approach which assumes the so-called objective world is devoid of consciousness. ..not to mention life!. And which seems to contradict itself by ascribing agency to neurons….And we see how well this has worked in Economics.

          2. Plenue

            Penrose himself is a materialist. He’s basically just trying to invoke quantum magic to keep the idea of free will viable in the absence of a supernatural soul.

            There’s also not a shred of evidence for the idea that random fluctuations in the microtubules impact anything the neurons do.

            1. Self Affine

              You aren’t disputing that there are quantum effects in life then?

              As your comment on evidence: there are others who have a different point of view about ORCH, microtubules and evidence for quantum effects on neurons; In particular Stuart Hameroff.

              When you post that there is not a shred of evidence, that’s tantamount to a practical refutation of the ideas postulated by Penrose, Hameroff, et. al.

              Ok, I haven’t reviewed all the literature and only read the articles on the Elsevier Science Direct site, including the replies to criticism.

              Maybe you could educate me a bit on the lack of evidence since this is a topic I’m kind of interested in.

              1. Plenue

                I’m disputing that there’s any evidence that quantum effects matter in the human brain.




                Also, I’m going to reiterate the point that Penrose himself is a materialist. Whether he’s correct or not, he is suggesting things in the realm of (quantum) physics, not metaphysics. If the ‘AI vested interests’ are wrong, it’s only in that they haven’t considered factors on an even smaller scale, and their goal may not be achievable as a result.

                1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

                  The first link you post is from Tegmark in 1999 which Penrose considered ridiculous to the extent that he dissuaded Hameroff from writing a paper as a refutation. As I stated before OR has been under constant attack & you have listed some of it.

                  Perhaps you are correct, but it is my opinion that you are not, which is based on other evidence that is listed on Hammeroff’s website.

                  I suggest that as our positions are obviously poles apart on this subject & therefore any further argument on our part would be pointless & others of course can make up their own minds.

                  I will add this rather long video which despite the formats limitations, covers OR very well & Hammeroff addresses the Tegmark paper at around 1.07.00.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It’s always been a mystery why the mind does not understand how the mind works.

        And the mind gives us a hint, in the saying, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be doing it.

        What happens when that knowledge is revealed – that virtuous minds shall vanquish all greedy minds?

        1. Bill

          I tend to think that the true self (or virtuous mind) will just have to stop participating. if the “mind” offers “suggestions”, we all have a choice. We just need to know we have a choice. It is true, the “mind” threatens dire consequences for non-participation. If the “mind” is a hive consciousness that has appropriated human beings like humans domesticate chickens and pigs and cows, breaking that symbiosis is truly difficult and terrifying on an existential level.

        1. Expat

          Hey, I have worked with hundreds of people who obviously had no soul. Of course, I was a trader for twenty years so that explains a lot.

      1. Self Affine

        The title is mis-leading, I agree.

        Science never proves anything – only Mathematics can do that. What we have are hypothesis, theory, observation, models, etc. (scientific method) – in other words a method for understanding.

        Nevertheless, interesting stuff that may lead to a more comprehensive theory of mind and not to be dismissed out of hand since very little is actually provable in a rigorous sense and if we had to rely on that criterion we would know almost nothing.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          Science never proves anything – only Mathematics can do that.

          Well sort of. Mathematics does itself depend on any number of axioms.

          Some food for thought along those lines is Ted Chiang’s short story Division by Zero which I highly recommend to those who just can’t get enough math in their fictional literature ;)

          1. Self Affine

            Sort of in the context of axioms and logic.

            Sure, and that can be questioned as well – if you look at Goedel’s Incompleteness, the Turing Halting Problem and all of that – there’s plenty of stuff within Mathematics that’s difficult to say the least.

            Just pointing out that the lack of formal proof is not a requirement for knowledge. Because if it were, we would know nothing (and I think we actually do).

        2. Paul Cardan

          To the contrary, it’s perfectly good English to say that sciences such as chemistry and physics give us proof for all sorts of things. Saying so amounts to asserting that claims have been made by chemists and physicists for which sufficient evidence has been provided. Very often, assertions to this effect are true. Mathematics (which, incidentally, is sometimes reckoned to be a science), also offers proof, but what’s called proof here is different than marshaling evidence for claims about gravity waves, water on Mars, or life on other worlds. So, if you choose to treat mathematical proof as the one true proof, you certainly won’t find very much proof in a natural science. But that’s only a product of first having narrowed the meaning of ‘proof’ by stipulation.

          As for ‘mind’ and ‘self,’ it would probably pay to give the words some thought before setting out to show that the mind or self is either this or that neurological thing, process, or whatever, or an illusion that we’re all somehow built to entertain, maybe even an illusion from which we all need to be liberated via meditation, close readings of Buddhist scripture, etc. ‘The mind,’ for instance, is a very odd combination of words. I’d wager that we learn to use it rather late in the day (perhaps by taking a philosophy class or reading an article like the one in question), long after having first learned to use ‘mind’ in utterances like ‘mind your own business,’ ‘never mind,’ ‘mind your manners,’ ‘it’s been on my mind,’ ‘that’s not what I had in mind’ and so forth. These are not descriptions of the state of some mysterious substance, nor recommendations to put that substance to some use. But ‘the mind,’ especially when used by philosophers, cognitive scientists, etc., is clearly supposed to name some such thing. Similar considerations hold for ‘the self.’ Before walking down what may very well prove to be a garden path with these people, I think we should first consider the possibility that they’re beguiled by their own language.

          1. witters

            I agree with you Paul, but I have found people find it much more exciting – in situations that allow free-throw sounding-off – to use big, vague, terms with capitals (“Mind!” “Consciousness!” etc.) so as to generate an aura of ineffable but Deeply Serious cogitation (Sandbox metaphysics, perhaps.)

          2. Oregoncharles

            Indeed. I think that “mind”, “self,” or “consciousness” (all roughly equivalent) are the magical element, rather than “quantum,” which is certainly real on a physics level. The problem, as always, is extending it to the macro – that is, humanly detectable – realm.

            Those words are intentionally undefinable, not scientific concepts at all, and so a wild goose chase.

      2. Expat

        I agree. The researchers say that reality is a human construct along with “self”. Then they say that taking drugs creates a new level of reality and consciousness. Huh? It seems more likely that hallucinogens simply make the mind alter its creations.
        This kind of pseudo-scientific claptrap has been explored over and over by scientists and frauds, especially since the 60’s and the introduction of psychogenic drugs (legal and illegal) into mainstream America. Ken Kesey and Timothy Leary have drawn the same conclusions as the authors without wrapping it up in “science”.
        My guess? These researchers got high and watched “Altered States” on someone’s old Betamax.

      1. Paul Cardan

        There are other possibilities. Here’s one: it’s gibberish. ‘Self’ is sometimes used to emphasize some other part of an utterance, functioning a bit like an exclamation point. The word seems to have originated as a reflexive pronoun and went on to form part of other reflexive pronouns, like ‘himself.’ Either way, emphatic or reflexive pronoun, ‘self’ is not a name for objects of a special kind, the selves as opposed to the non-selves. To treat it as if it were is to misunderstand what we do with this word. Asking “What is the self?” is like asking “What is the !” or “What is the itself? I understand what it is (a table), but what is it’s itself?”

        Here’s another possibility: someone who insists on using ‘the self’ could explain that it is for them a sort of variable, the values of which answer “Who” questions. But in that case, given some context, there’s nothing mysterious about the self. No one need read up on the latest neuroscience to come up with good answers to such questions. Imagine someone at a wedding asking “Who are you?” The best man could probably answer “the best man” without having read any Damasio at all.

        I believe Donald Davidson once said that the challenge in philosophy is to maintain the sense of excitement while preserving intelligibility. With ‘the self,’ you’re probably going to have to sacrifice one or the other.

          1. HopeLB

            Upvote! But I can easily see how language and the referent of a word is where the quantum particles really come into play (and they do seem playful).

        1. Oregoncharles

          Agreed. It’s essentially a religious word, unless we impose a concrete, restrictive meaning.

          For instance, we could define it as “the functioning of the brain” – the process that occurs in the structure. then it’s electrically and chemically detectable, but too vast to compile.

    2. knowbuddhau

      Thanks for the warning! That’s right, Zen arrived in Japan from its source in India, where it’s called dhyana, via China, which imbued it with Daoist and Confucian qualities into chan.

      Everyone thinks the Dalai Lama is the pope of Buddhism. BTW don’t be fooled by the avatar. I’m not a Buddhist, although I might play one here now and again. I’m zen. What’s zen?

      If you want to look deeply into the self-emptying Void, out of which all is arising, back into which all is falling until there is no you looking in or it looking back, there’s just the looking, that’s easy.

      Look into the spaces between the lines. Or even the words, but that makes it hard to read. If there weren’t any sentences or words, there’d just be emptiness. In this here dancing of forms and no-forms, what was formerly emptiness becomes now self-emptying.

  4. Collapsar

    If Uber gets its IPO done, will its $70 billion valuation land the company’s shares in the S&P 500? If that happens, investment funds that index to the S&P 500 will be buying Uber shares automatically. That will just prop up Uber’s shares and a lot of people’s retirement plans are going to end up holding that garbage.

    1. John Zelnicker

      February 10, 2018 at 8:35 am
      Not likely. S&P 500 stocks are not chosen only for size.

      “There are guidelines for stocks for the S&P 500:

      Market cap should be $4.6 billion or more
      Stock should be liquid with at least 100% annual turnover of float shares
      U.S. company
      Public float greater than 50%
      Financially viable meaning four consecutive quarters of positive earnings under GAAP
      Contribute to the maintenance of the sector balance of the index compared to the market based on the market value of the ten GICS® sectors.”

      1. Collapsar

        “Financially viable meaning four consecutive quarters of positive earnings under GAAP”

        Well that’s the end of that. Good to know.

      2. Jim Haygood

        Way cool, John, that you found the Indexology blog. Thought I was its only reader. ;-)

        My dream job would be that of David M Blitzer, the silver-haired guy in the bow tie who heads the committee.

        It’ll be eleven GICS sectors as of Sep 30th, when Communication Services debuts including Facebook and Alphabet. Sector balance is more art than science. But they make lovely trading vehicles. *sighs*

        1. Louis Fyne

          there are already 11 GICS sectors. i believe the current telecom sector is being morphed into ‘communication services’

          but don’t hold me to this. i keep forgetting where i left my keys

  5. Fraibert

    I’m sad to see that LL Bean changed its return policy. But, to be honest, I had always wondered when that change would happen. Maybe I’m just too cynical, but I had long suspected that it would be heavily abused to the point where the company would feel compelled to get rid of it. (Long ago, Sears had a similar policy of customer satisfaction, as well as Nordstrom up to a fairly recent time I believe, and both are gone.)

    It was nice seeing retailers who went that extra mile for customer satisfaction, but the customer needs to behave decently and I guess it just wasn’t happening in too many cases. It also sounds like in too many cases the “customer” wasn’t even a real LL Bean customer.

    The pension change on the other hand…not feeling that’s as justified.

    1. petal

      I stopped shopping there years ago because clothing would be poorly made and/or wear out in no time fast. Seams split after a single wear, holes after a month of basic light wear, stuff like that. Eventually I said to myself that I’m not going to waste my good, hard-earned money on stuff that didn’t last (and it did cost a fair bit). When I was growing up(I’m ~40), their products lasted forever. They seem to have gotten away from what they were good at and started chasing the all-mighty yuppie dollar with costly fast fashion made in 3rd world sweatshops, expensive gadgets for the outdoors, jeggings, super tight clothes that aren’t for normal people that actually work, instead of the classics that never go out of style. In my rural area, if I’m looking for an outfit or a piece in an emergency, they are the store of last resort and if I end up there I usually end up striking out anyway. However, most of the Dartmouth students have those expensive LL Bean boots to wear with their Canada Goose coats. Now the boots are coming in ridiculous garish color combinations-totally something you’re going to wear in 5 or 10 years. I can understand the no returns after a year policy, but ditching the pensions is not okay. Just gives me another reason to not shop there. It’s really too bad. They used to be great.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Agree on everything – return change OK, but not the new pension policy – but I do have a better opinion of the quality of their clothes. They aren’t made locally anymore just like most everything else, but I do find them to be very durable, especially compared to the alternatives. I still have a wool sweater I bought from them 30 years ago (although admittedly I wear it less often than I used to which may account for some of its longevity) and their felt-lined khaki pants are a great to have for Maine winters. I generally have a couple pairs that I wear regularly in the winter and can usually get a few years out of each pair.

        One other nice thing about LL Bean clothes is that for the most part nobody knows I’m wearing LL Bean clothes. The pants and shirts at least have no visible logo on the outside (although their boots do have a small logo on the back), something which is increasingly harder to find. I really dislike clothes with prominent logos. If people are going to be walking advertisements, they ought to be paid to wear the clothes. Somehow capitalism has pulled a fast one, using the Bernays sauce to convince people that sporting the right logos is fashionable and they should pay a premium to do so.

        1. Katniss Everdeen

          My significant other agrees with you on the “walking advertisements” of prominent logos. Whenever we get new tires on the car, he insists they be mounted with the logos facing in so that no one sees them.

        2. petal

          I had a purple backpack from them when I was a kid that was fantastic-it survived everything I could throw at it for so many years and I even took it to Australia in college. There’s a picture of it next to “durable” in the dictionary. The clothing I bought there during college was great and has really held up, but some time in the last 10 or so years, quality took a real nose dive(at least for women’s clothing) so I stopped buying there. I wish they’d go back to basics/what they were really good at. They also used to carry a great travel alarm clock, but alas, no more. Not fancy enough.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            I haven’t. I stopped buying them because they changed the cut of their women’s turtlenecks, as many have, to use a lot less fabric: shorter torso, so you can’t tuck them in, and even shorter turtleneck (I like 4″ which used to be standard and is now impossible to find).

            1. HopeLB

              Agree(profusely!)! Designers design to limit cost in materials, hence the hip huggers which hit nerves on your hips and mid riff shirts, to say nothing of the overly thinned sleevel that cuts off circulation. Good thrift store shopping is the key to avoiding these fast fashion/low quality/earthdestroying trends.

  6. Jim Haygood

    Well it ain’t as fun no more when the bloom’s off the rose is it?

    Still all five of craazymon’s components (including two for the benchmark) remain plusitive y-o-y, though the ol’ Bloomberg Agg (investment grade bonds) has taken a fearful hit.

    & here they is …

    I know … it’s only rock ‘n roll. But I like it. :-)

  7. s.n.

    Andrew C McCarthy’s latest installment, well worth scanning:

    Grassley-Graham Memo Affirms Nunes Memo — Media Yawns

    I spent many months assuring people that nothing like this could ever happen — that the FBI and Justice Department would not countenance the provision to the FISA court of uncorroborated allegations of heinous misconduct. When Trump enthusiasts accused them of rigging the process, I countered that they probably had not even used the Steele dossier. If the Justice Department had used it in writing a FISA warrant application, I insisted that the FBI would independently verify any important facts presented to the court, make any disclosures that ought in fairness be made so the judge could evaluate the credibility of the sources, and compellingly demonstrate probable cause before alleging that an American was a foreign agent. I was wrong.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      I’ve gotten used to many incredible things being completely ignored by the overworked and distracted denizens of our former Republic but this one takes the cake.

      Let’s see:

      Let’s hand hundreds of billions of dollars to the banks that brought on the biggest economic crisis since the Depression: Yawn, that’s cool

      I know, let’s give the government unlimited power to spy on our personal lives: Grggg, fine by me

      So let’s allow the president to go to war and bomb countries without the Congress or the people having any say: Pfft. Did you see Beyonce’s new haircut?

      We’ll let local police forces just confiscate your assets at roadside stops. Meantime we’ll arm them like an occupying military and let them shoot first and ask questions later: Burp.

      The president used the FBI to try and hijack a presidential election: At the sports bar CNN told me the Russians did it. Hey how are the chili fries here?

    2. fresno dan

      February 10, 2018 at 9:26 am
      I’ve said it before – McCarthy seems to be one of the vanishingly small number looking at this with some rigor and intellectual honesty, some real knowledge, and a commitment to reality. And something as rare as 4 leaf clovers – the ability to admit error.

      Of course, the Trumpists have no conception that perhaps the FISA PROCESS of SECRET COURTS is the problem….. no problem spying on your opponents; privacy for me, but not for thee

      1. marku52

        Nor do the Dumbocrats see any problem with the secret courts.

        Pelosi: “Trump is an illegitimate fascist”

        Renew secret spying powers for him? No problem.

    3. marku52

      Yes, the very dossier that Steele himself disavows, once he was accused of libel in a British court.

      “Well no, it’s not verified, no.”

      But the FBI uses it, and a news story based on it as circular verification, and gets the FISA court to renew 3 times on it.

      But then again, that rubber stamp court approves approx 99.99% of applications. They’d eavesdrop a ham sandwich if the FBI asked nicely.

  8. Wukchumni

    Headed off to hurl myself repeatedly down rather steep embankments whilst attached to a long pair of parallel planks set onto my feet, at a decent rate of speed.

    1. Oregoncharles

      And you just had to tell us that you’re having more fun then we are. Personally, I’m sitting here nursing a head cold that’s had me out of action for 3 days.

  9. The Rev Kev

    Russian fleets control ports of Lebanon

    This could be an eventual game changer. Lebanon just signed its first offshore oil and gas exploration plus production contracts for two energy blocks with a consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek. The Israelis are furious as they want those blocks for themselves and are threatening death and destruction over it. So it is not about supposed Hezbollah missile factories but all about hydrocarbons in spite of what you hear in the news.
    Lebanon does not really have an armed forces. Its Airforce only has propeller planes & helicopters (I think its last jets until recently were Hawker Hunters from the 1950s), its Navy has mostly patrol & intercept craft and its Army has mostly left-over junk for major weapons systems like old M113 armored personnel carriers. It has been kept deliberately week as it borders Israel and the west wants the Lebanese armed forces to concentrate on suppressing Hezbollah going by speeches that I have read.
    If the Russian start to move in this may see not only Lebanon start to get better equipment but any Russian ship in port would potentially have an aerial protective screen over a wide area which any attacking force would have to take into consideration. As to how this plays out, back in 2013 the US Navy fired two missiles towards Syria and a Russian ship either in port or off the coast shot them out of the sky. Interesting times ahead.

    Nice Gypsy Cob for tonight’s Antidote du jour by the way.

    1. David

      Lebanon does have a reasonably capable army, which has fought Daesh with success, and is the single greatest force for keeping the country together. It is increasingly getting modern equipment, including Blackhawk helicopters and drones, as well as more modern AFVs. Agreed this is partly about oil, and this article from L’Orient-Le Jour explains quite a lot of the detail, and the greater willingness of the Lebanese to stand up to their neighbor.
      But neither the story in the link nor the original actually explain very much, and it looks to me as if all this is is an attempt by the Russians to get talks going about cooperation and use of Lebanese air and maritime space. There’s nothing that says Lebanon will agree, and anyway there’s an election coming ….

      1. The Rev Kev

        Don’t get me wrong here. I am not taking anything from the soldiers and officers of the Lebanese armed force. The trouble is that you can only do so much with junk equipment. When the Israelis want to lob a few missiles at Syria they do it by flying over Lebanon and firing from there and the Lebanese have nothing to stop them with. Things are starting to change though. They apparently did well with their fight with ISIS on their border and helping the Syrian army clear out that nest of vipers.
        Something else is changing I see. During the last invasion by Israel the Lebanese armed forces were ordered to stay in their barracks – and still got attacked by the Israelis anyway. I see that a few weeks ago that orders were given out by the Lebanese government. If the Israelis invade again like they have been hinting, then they have been ordered to fight. So, not only will the Israelis have to fight a well equipped and battle-hardened Hezbollah but also the Lebanese army.

    2. integer

      So it is not about supposed Hezbollah missile factories but all about hydrocarbons in spite of what you hear in the news.

      I think the above significantly downplays Israel’s history of hatred for, and fear of, Hezbollah. It’s possible that Russia’s move into Lebanon is a (somewhat symmetrical) response to the US and their proxies allies prevention of the Syrian government accessing its northeastern oil fields, the revenue from which would go a long way to further stabilizing Syria. The catalyst was probably the Su-25 that got shot down a few days ago.

      On a related note, Moon of Alabama has a good rundown of the recent developments:

      Syria – Is War With Israel Imminent (Updated)? Moon of Alabama

      The interview with Elijah Magnier is worth watching (linked to in the above MoA article). Magnier talks about the Block 9 gas field dispute at around the 13 minute mark.

      1. integer

        ‘This is for the boys!’ Video allegedly shows Su-25 pilot’s last stand with grenade explosion RT

        A video claiming to show the last stand of the Russian Su-25 pilot shot down over Syria Saturday has emerged online. It shows Arabic-speaking militants chasing a man who shouts a phrase in Russian before setting off a grenade.

        On a tangential note, I’m seeing murmurs around the web about Netanyahu will be resigning on Monday over corruption charges. Not sure how reliable the sources are but it’s something worth keeping an eye on.

  10. roadrider


    Yes, Mr. Galloway – they are evil.

    1. cnchal

      Mr Galloway misses the trees and forest.

      Never once hints at the abomination that Amazon is, with the mental and physical torture of it’s warehouse employees, the Whole Foods rotorooter treatment, to the mental cruelty imposed on it’s office drones, which he feeds his students to.

      Finally, Amazon is now the largest recruiter of students from the brand-strategy and digital-marketing courses I teach at NYU Stern School of Business.

      Then there is AWS, with the government no doubt grossly overpaying for it’s services which subsidizes the money losing sales of goods, in addition to the the billion plus subsidy extorted from states and municipalities, and the billions extorted from the unlucky city wherever HQ2 squats, and a fat subsidy from USPS to boot.

      Our government operates on an annual budget of approximately 21 percent of GDP, money that is used to keep our parks open and our military armed. Does big tech pay its fair share? Most would say no. Between 2007 and 2015, Amazon paid only 13 percent of its profits in taxes, Apple paid 17 percent, Google paid 16 percent, and Facebook paid just 4 percent. In contrast, the average tax rate for the S&P 500 was 27 percent.
      $1.4 billion: Amount of U. S. corporate taxes paid by Amazon since 2008

      No irony there!

      In other words, Amazon is gigantic tax suck, and the stawk market values this suck in the hundreds of billions on it’s way to a trillion if the Wall Street con men are to be believed.

      And eclownomists talk about the rational market.

      Buy from Amazon and torture some folks. The upside? It’s cheap, with a fat government subsidy along for the ride.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        It’s hard to take anyone seriously who can write the following:

        The Four have so much power over our lives that most of us would be rocked to the core if one or more of them were to disappear. Imagine not being able to have an iPhone, or having to use Yahoo or Bing for search, or losing years’ worth of memories you’ve posted on Facebook. What if you could no longer order something with one click on the Amazon app and have it arrive tomorrow?

        Rocked to the core? Because you had to use a different search engine? Or had to go to the store to pick up a few groceries? The horror…

        I wonder how people who think this way treat a divorce or an eviction or the death of a beloved family member or anything actually important.

        1. Self Affine

          I’m sure everyone in Africa is dreading the loss of Amazon, not to speak of all the retail businesses that would riot in its absence.

          This author needs to get out more. Maybe rock climbing or camping would do him some good.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          As I was reading that I was thinking to myself: I don’t have an iPhone. I use Yahoo for search. I don’t do Facebook. I have so far bought precisely zero anything from Amazon, ever.

          So my core is already beyond the rockable reach of the Four Horsemen of the Technopocalypse.

          All four of these companies could go entirely extinct, and my life would . . . . not even notice.

      2. Katniss Everdeen

        And then there’s the insane amount of TRASH generated by packaging for shipping goods that are over-packaged in the first place.

        1. petal

          I am so glad someone else thinks about this! The amount of cardboard used for online order fulfillment….there has to be a graph somewhere. Every time my roommate gets a package(~twice a week whether food, or something from amazon) or I stop at the recycling dumpster and see all of those boxes, I think about it. I really despair.

  11. JohnnyGL

    Re: Rubio’s advocacy of military coups

    I’d support our brave soliders in Homestead AFB if they were to make a decisive move to usher Senator Rubio swiftly out of his current position as US Senator and straight to the unemployment office.

    How about a taste of your own medicine, Senator?

  12. Olga

    On the To War, To War, This Country’s Going to War” – TTG Sic Semper Tyrannis – I suppose it was always too optimistic to hope that the war against Syria would come to an end anytime soon. US can never forgive Russians for turning the tide, and is determined to reverse any march to peace. This will continue as long as the American public is content in its slumber. There is another good piece on the site:

    1. Ignim Brites

      Probably the best policy for the US in the middle east is to let Turkey, Russia, Iran and Israel fight it out for preeminence. The generals are not going to arrive at the conclusion though. Generals just don’t walk away from battles. But maybe the Rob Porter thing is an opening salvo in the battle to bring down the generals. He had to have been put in that position in order to be detonated.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      The only portion of the American public which was content in its slumber was the portion which voted for Clinton. The other portions of the public had either given up on contentment entirely, or were actively looking for a means of escape.

      Do you really think it was Trump that got the contented happy-camper slumber vote?

  13. Olga

    Not sure this was posted on NC – but worth a read:
    It lists a great quote from Mary McCarthy:
    “To blame our leaders, with their professional deformations, for not rising to the occasion offered them by the war’s end, in other words for not being different from what they evidently are, is a stupid exercise…. There is no doubt that Germany was profoundly changed and sobered by the Nazi defeat, but it would take an atomic catastrophe, I often think, for the US to recover from the American way of life—the production-consumption cycle that has become an almost biological fact, resting as it does on rapid obsolescence and replacement. Intermittent elections add to the helpless feeling of stasis and eternal recurrence. You watch the same old candidates—Reagan, Jackson, Kennedy, Humphrey, Wallace—on your new color TV set…. But for some un-Marxist reason, the constant restyling of the objects among which we live has no effect on the political superstructure, politicians being sent to the junk heap of history at a much slower rate than cars and ice-dispensers.”
    As may be discerned, not much has changed in the last 40 years…

  14. Useful idiots

    Venezuela: war is on its way. The Swedish tabloid Expressen is now publishing a series of articles from Venezuela focusing on drug gangs and food shortages, without a single word about the geopolitical reasons and the local oligarchs help to create this.
    Expressen has loyally pushed every invasion and war US has come up with as long as I have been aware.

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Djibouti is Becoming Gateway to Africa for China Der Spiegel (furzy)

    The US and China are overhauling their approaches to diplomacy and foreign service, in entirely opposite ways Quartz (resilc)

    Global reserve currency and trade deficits.

    Let’s say China sells $1 billion worth of Made-In-China baby formula to the US.

    They then use that money to buy a port in Africa or Latin America (that dollar based transaction settled in New York)

    And the money is next used by the port-selling nation to buy Chinese rice (transaction settled in New York).

    China then buys more ports everywhere.


    That initial $1 billion trade deficit never comes back to finance our Treasuries, but circulates to finance international trade (the intended purpose).

    We get a billion dollar worth of Chinese baby formula (by just printing it, so it’s a good deal), and we see the above links.

  16. WheresOurTeddy

    Pence didn’t stand for the Korean delegation at the Olympics.

    I wonder if Trump got on him for not standing at a sporting event. Those guys HATE that I thought…

    1. Lead Bow

      Haven’t seen this as I have no interest in Olympics of any nature, but when I heard that Pence had snubbed Kim’s sister and now read that he refused to stand for the Korean contingent I must wonder, as a non-American, if Americans realise how juvenile and petty this makes the US look to the rest of the world.

  17. WheresOurTeddy

    Re: Senator Rubio calls for military coup in Venezuela

    Bolivar is turning over in his grave being quoted by that imperialist little creep Rubio. I feel sick to my stomach.

  18. Expat2uruguay

    I’m not sure if this has been linked before, but if not I would like to recommend it. I found it at the Wolf Street blog after I follow the Twitter, Snap, Tesla link provided today.
    “Credit card debt and other revolving credit in Q4 rose 6% year-over-year to $1.027 trillion, a blistering pace, but it was down from the 9.2% surge in Q3, the nearly 10% surge in Q2, and the dizzying 12% surge in Q1.”
    He then goes on to document the rise in auto loan debt and student loan debt…

    1. Mark P.

      @ Expat2uruguay —

      Thanks for that. Not just the Wolf piece, but some of the comments — with added chewy details on the situation’s increasing craziness — are informative. In the rear-view mirror , the pre-2008 debt buildup looks very modest by comparison.

      Debts that can’t be paid, won’t be, of course.

      1. knowbuddhau

        I seriously think that, at a time when we need the most radically reformation of our relationship with nature in human history, all our petty ptb can think to do is (what looks to me like) one economic hit job after the other.

    2. ewmayer

      The post-GFC releveraging, especially in selected subcategories like student loans, is simply staggering. I also wonder how much of the revolving-debt rampage is due to ‘consumers partying’ a la Wolf, and how much due to folks who simply can’t make ends meet in the face of sky-rent rents simply running up the CC, since the alternative is homelessness?

  19. lyman alpha blob

    Har har! The line of the day comes from the Counterpunch piece linked to above –

    Assuming for a moment that not everyone is playing the Democrats’ one-dimensional checkers…

  20. allan

    Railroad agency’s acting chief resigns amid questions about his employment [Politico]

    A top official charged with overseeing the safety of U.S. railroads has resigned “effective immediately,” the Department of Transportation said Saturday after POLITICO raised questions about whether he had been simultaneously working as a public relations consultant for a sheriff’s department in Mississippi.

    Heath Hall became the Federal Railroad Administration’s acting administrator in June but subsequently appeared on at least two occasions in Mississippi media reports as a spokesman for the Madison County sheriff, in a community where Hall has long run a public relations and political consulting firm. The firm continued to receive payments from the county for its services from July to December, despite his pledge in a federal ethics form that it would remain “dormant” while he worked at DOT. …

    Why does Politico hate the traditions of rural America?

    1. VietnamVet

      It is tragic that the bi-coastal meritocracy so screwed up the heartland that Donald Trump was elected President. The black mark of serving in his Administration jams close the revolving door for the top 5%. Indeed, the owner of the Mississippi PR outfit with a contract with Madison County’s Sheriff that lost its Amtrak station to Yazoo City in 1995 ends up in charge of the safety of America’s railroads (when he was in the office) while Amtrak crashes monthly.

      Nothing is being fixed. The downward slope is approaching vertical.

    1. Oregoncharles

      In Oregon, the Green Party can’t nominate anyone until after the May primaries. I think that’s the reason Oregon isn’t on either of the lists. I know of one person running for Congress as a Green, but technically they’re running for the nomination (I doubt it will be contested – he did well last time – but I’ve been surprised before). I would hesitate to list him here or anywhere.

      However, this is a useful reminder that we need to send our nominations to the national web site. thank you.

  21. Lambert Strether

    > Brexit: into the grinding machine

    Slowly, inexorably, [May] is being pulled into the grinding machine of the EU’s legal machine, driven by her indecision and lack of resolution. And as the clock counts down, all we can do is watch in awe.

    The bad craziness is so bad I may have lost the plot here, but at what point does the UK simply run out of runway? Have they already?

    It looks to me like the only text with i’s dotted and t’s crossed comes from the EU, and all we have from the UK is handwaving. Does the May government even have the capacity to produce an alternative text? At this late date, or indeed at any other date?

    If not, the only deal on offer that anybody can actually sign is the EU deal.

    Which will not be acceptable within the UK, especially when it dawns on the voters that the May government in essence allowed the EU to dictate terms.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I’m not sure if there is a ‘point’ at which the UK runs out of runway, although certainly the need for some sort of progress by March is vital or everything will disintegrate. I think its certainly quite possible that we’ll hit a point soon where the EU just says ‘sign this, or forget it’, and March/April could be that point.

      In todays Observer, Andrew Rawsley (their political correspondent) argues that there are enough numbers in Parliament to simply force the government to accept staying in the Customs Union, although its not clear to me that the EU would accept all of the UK in the EU, preferring the NI option as a form of punishment. So this brings up the possibility of the EU presenting a proposal, Labour putting a motion to Parliament to accept it, with Tory rebels supporting it.

      It might be possible the EU would put something fairly favourable forward in that context (such as continued membership of the CU), simply for the pleasure of humiliating the government.

    2. Mark P.

      Lambert wrote: but at what point does the UK simply run out of runway? Have they already?

      Given the time constraints, I think they effectively may have — short of a second referendum and then an Article 50 reversal, which would entail a whole of crow-eating for the UK with the EU.


    3. PlutoniumKun

      The Observer sets out a handy timetable.

      It does look like the end of March is a crunch period for a relatively smooth agreed transition period. If that deadline fails, then really you are either looking at one of three scenarios:

      1. A crash into chaotic Brexit
      2. The EU setting terms which is forced on the cabinet by Parliament and the Lords
      3. A complete collapse of Brexit with a humiliated government (or successor government) basically begging to be let back in.

      I would have thought 1 was most likely, but looking at the tone of reporting, it seems there might be a growing wave for option 2.

Comments are closed.