Links 2/14/18

Blind, bisexual and polyamorous goose involved in love triangle dies, aged 40 Indy100 (Scott)

West sent lizards as nuclear spies, claims Iran defense official ars technica. Surreal, but Bill B, who has serious tech chops, writes: “If this is bogus, what were activists doing with a bunch of lizards?”

Watch this emotional moment when this woman takes her first breath after a double lung transplant BoingBoing (resilc)

Five quirky things to do instead of having a personality Daily Mash

What Would It Mean for Astronomers If the WFIRST Space Telescope Is Killed? Space (Kevin W)

25 Years of Data Shows We Missed Something Important About Sea Level Rise Science Alert (David L)

Will Astronomers Be Ready for the Next ‘Oumuamua?’ Scientific American (Kevin W)

Scientists Have No Idea Why This Enriched Uranium Particle Was Floating Above Alaska Gizmodo (David L)

Incredible video reveals terrifying robot dog that can open doors Thai Tech (furzy). Lambert featured this gimmick yesterday, but important to note negative prospective customer reaction.

Verizon to stop honoring FCC restriction on not SIM-locking phones because nothing matters anymore Android Police


Limiting Chinese Aggression: A Strategy of Counter-Pressure American Interest

Why press freedom is at risk across Southeast Asia Nikkei


Boris says EU laws ‘intolerable’ after BrexitForeign Secretary draws red line in warning that Brussels’ influence could hit trade deals Telegraph. Some readers contend that Brexit will not happen or it will be “Brexit in name only.” Wake up and smell the coffee. The ultras have too much share of mind for that to happen.

FAQ: How customs unions work Politico

Resist a US trade deal. Your life may depend on it Guardian (PlutoniumKun)

Oxfam sex scandal: Charity chief Mark Goldring knew of allegations The Times. Not the first time, either: ‘Sometimes when I’m alone with my baby, I think about killing him. He reminds me of the man who raped me.’ Washington Post

New Cold War

Is Dissent A Russian Plot To Undermine Midterm Elections? Shadowproof (UserFriendly)

Russia Sees Midterm Elections as Chance to Sow Fresh Discord, Intelligence Chiefs Warn Russia Sees Midterm Elections as Chance to Sow Fresh Discord, Intelligence Chiefs Warn New York Times. Help me.

Ex-CIA analyst: Trump giving Russia ‘green light’ to interfere in US elections The Hill. UserFriendly; “Kill me.”

South African police arrest 3 in raid on Zuma allies Financial Times


Israel PM Netanyahu faces corruption charges BBC

Russians killed in clash with US-led forces in Syria Middle East Online (resilc)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Computerized Criminal Behavior Predictions Are No More Effective Than Untrained Humans: Report Alternet

Trump Transition

White House plays defense after FBI testimony The Hill

Trump wants to slash food stamps and replace them with a ‘Blue Apron-type program’ Washington Post (furzy). Help me. First, the box looks guaranteed to produce more Type II diabetes, not that it’s easy to eat on a low income and steer clear of cheap, high glycemic index foods. Second, what about people who have allergies? Third, clearly no one proposing this has ever been poor. How do they propose to deliver the box safely? I don’t know a lot of poor people who live in doorman buildings or have servants waiting to receive deliveries at their house or trailer….or parked car.

Trump’s plan to replace grocery food stamps with boxes of canned goods is an insult to the poor Independent (resilc)

Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America White House (Kevin C)

Intel Director Dan Coats: National Debt Poses ‘Dire’ National-Security Threat Daily Beast (UserFriendly). People in the intelligence community should stick to lying about what they can pretend they know about, like WMD in Iraq.

Trump spars with GOP lawmakers on steel tariffs The Hill

5 Ways Democrats Empower Trump Daily! Lee Camp

Top ICE Lawyer Accused of Stealing Immigrants’ Identities Daily Beast. Resilc: “Is he from Baltimore?”

Corker May Reconsider Decision to Retire From Senate, Aide Says Bloomberg

Booker to stop accepting donations from corporate PACs The Hill (UserFriendly)


Fake News

Censorship, witch hunts and dirty money at the New York Times WSWS (Wat)

Panel says company misled Puerto Rico on $133M rebuilding contract The Hill (UserFriendly)

Exclusive: U.S. gunmaker Remington seeks financing to file for bankruptcy: sources Reuters (JTM)

Former employee sues Vice, accusing it of pay discrimination against women Guardian

Uber booked $2.2 billion in sales last quarter — but it still took a $1.1 billion loss Business Insider (David L). Hubert Horan will have more to say about this soon…

Wholesale Power Generators to Get Hurt by Grid Batteries Wolf Street (EM)

The Next Recession Is Gonna Really Suck MSN (UserFriendly)

US watchdog probes possible manipulation of volatility index Financial Times. Finra just about never gets out of bed. This must be driven by some big guns in the industry.

Guillotine Watch

Meet the Sacklers: the family feuding over blame for the opioid crisis Guardian

Trump budget could lead to millions of global deaths Guardian. Um, I am sure our wars have done that, so where were they on cutting military spending?

Class Warfare

Employers lying about the flat wages growth in Australia Bill Mitchell (UserFriendly)

Landlord Who Destroyed 5Pointz Must Pay Graffiti Artists $6.7M Vice (resilc)

The nation’s biggest warehouse project meets a legal obstacle Grist

The mini crash and class warfare Al Jazeera (resilc)

Sign and send a message to Congress: Stop Donald Trump’s Tip Theft Attempt Economic Policy Institute

Antidote du jour (Matt K). And shame on you if you thought this was Photoshopped!

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. ep3

    Yves, here’s another snap article from the NY Times

    This article sounds like it was written by the Trump PR people. First it starts out with this “box” idea, which is extremely popular with trump supporters (“I see food stamp people buying mountain dew and t-bone steaks with their money, they should only be able to buy the basics!”). Then it has generic/vague responses from various democrats where their reactions are of confusion and lack any response or counter-proposal, as well as comments from a few republicans that imply “not to worry, this won’t happen, we won’t implement the box…we are just going to gut all funding from SNAP, because lazy”. Finally, sprinkled thru-out and building to the end is mention of severe cuts to the SNAP program. Yet nothing stating what those cuts would be. All that is mentioned is a dollar figure.
    This just makes me sick. When all that needs to happen is cut back a tiny bit in defense spending and these programs are paid for. Of course all of this comment is coming from a dirty librul (me) that thinks every american should get SNAP benefits, as part of living here and to show we really care about life.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      (Organic) SNAP benefits for all Americans.

      That should be as important (if not more) as free college.

      When something is available to all, the budget cutters will be less reluctant to take it away.

      1. Rojo

        Absolutely. “Programs for the poor are poor programs”.

        And the Keynesian multiplier effect for food stamps is through the roof.

    2. fresno dan

      February 14, 2018 at 7:43 am

      This is one of those things were the ideology that the modern American economy supplies plenty of good paying jobs to everyone who wants to work is just pure propaganda. The trend that more and more people are eligible for SNAP is because the economy fails to supply employment to more and more people. Sure, one can go on and on about the contrived “unemployment” rate and ignore the participation rate, as well as the fact that a good number of participants ARE employed. The labor market SCREWS labor, and that is why wages are not high enough for many people to eat.

      When bread is no longer part of bread and circuses, will that finally be the impetus for real change?
      I don’t know – I have a friend who goes on and on about all the lazy people – but his precarious employment and lack of full time employment is due solely to his advancing age and through NO FAULT of his own…..
      what is that about motes and logs?

      1. JTMcPhee

        “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

        “Temporarily embarrassed millionaires” can be mean, in all the senses of the term. Especially the churchgoing ones. All those Xtian churches and pastors, finding support for all the stuff that is totally at odds with what’s in the Gospels, by reference to the Old Testament, the marketing materials in Paul’s Letters, and of course Revelation, that odd text that so mysteriously made the cut when the Church Fathers were assembling the Holly Bibble from all the available sources.

          1. JTMcPhee

            Of course. Though that concern, that altruism if one will, is mostly limited to fellow Israelites. And as for all the rest of the non-Israelite tribes and nations, they either get tricked out of their stuff, or put to the sword. Eye for an eye, spare the rod spoil the child. Though there s that stuff about Jubilee, and some good semipornographic imagery too. And interesting ways to cleanse oneself of a variety of sins, to get admitted back into the encampment. Mostly it seems to be about establishing the right of old guys to rule over everyone else. Because YHWH said.

        1. jrs

          it might be more true that socialism doesn’t take root presently not because people see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires but because a socialist outlook without a real socialist movement (and we don’t have one) is an actual adaptive negative in surviving the world as it is. Or so I often suspect.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s interesting we often neglect to propose free income or nutritional programs to include everyone.

      Is the assumption that people will work less hard or be lazy, or insufficient government money for implementing?

      Examining assumptions can be educational.

      For example, what is being assumed if a male co-worker won’t want to be alone with a female co-worker?

      “You think I am going to lie later?”

      “No, just a witness in case of any mis-understanding.”

      “Do you worry about that with a male co-worker? Or only with women?”

      Or is the assumption that our culture has gone…well, oppressive, that that is normal for a man to be that cautious? Is it oppressive like living under a totalitarian regime, but only not quite like that?

      1. yamahog

        The assumption is that there’s an asymmetric risk profile for a decent man meeting a woman alone in a professional environment.

        The upside is what – expediency and marginal efficiency for the employer?
        The downside is loss of career and reputation.

        I’m surprised that any heterosexual man has professional interactions 1:1 behind closed doors with any woman.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Is there also an asymmetrical risk for that woman?

          The downside is what we have been reading in the news.

          A woman asking not be alone can point to the news. A man asking not to alone? “Do you not trust me? Do you think I’m going to lie?” How does a man respond in that situation? Only when with a woman?

          1. yamahog

            There isn’t a risk to meeting with a decent man. There is a risk to meeting a would-be attacker.

            The risk is that it can be hard to know which men are decent and which are attackers.

            I can see how a man would take offense to a woman requesting not to meet 1:1, but I can also see how a woman would take offense to a man asking not to meet 1:1. If the counterparty does take offense, it’s probably evidence that the party’s fear is justified.

            though having a 3rd party isn’t a pancea, it’s an easy way to avert the most sordid behavior. But this is a hard problem, if there were easy solutions it’d be solved already. There is some cost for anyone to request a 3rd party, but it’s worth bearing. Anyone who requests a 3rd party and then has to justify their request is playing a dumb game – the only question that matters is whether or not the request will be respected.

            1. JTMcPhee

              Let’s get on with the atomization. Never meet in person with anyone. All interactions via recorded electronic communications. Nothing to it, problem solved.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                That leads to the ever more frequent issue of lacking trust in the society in general.

                It’s oppressing that way.

                Or maybe we live in an unworkable working world.

              1. yamahog

                The only way to find out if a request will be accommodated is to ask. If it’s not accommodated, one might have to make a hard decision.

            2. Oregoncharles

              Ummm – you’re going to drag another person away from their own work to “witness” your tete-a-tete?

              Employers have grounds to object.

              I’ve been assuming that the policy was never made explicit; if it is, it’s very insulting, as MLTPB is pointing out. The reality is that, yes, some men familiar with the workplace are afraid she’ll lie about it. (The assumption that women are angels who would never do that is anti-feminist – and easily disproven.) Of course, she has more grounds to want a protector.

              One of the things Weinstein did was send away potential witnesses, making them complicit.

          2. beth

            What about two men and a woman? I often had that situation when I worked in business? Who was at risk? I am thinking of two specific men.

      2. Anonymous

        It is normal practice for men not to have business meetings with women alone unless there is some sort of visibility. Many executives record their private meetings. There is really no other defense in the case where an unsubstantiated accusation can destroy a career.

    4. yamahog

      It’s unfortunate that people treat SNAP social acceptance as a hard problem to solve when it’s actually quite easy to address.

      Right wingers who work and have a tax liability are upset that folks who work less (or not at all) eat better than those with a tax liability. And honestly, I get it. I ride public transit and see welfare recipients with more and better material things than myself – in apparently ever aspect of their life. I have roommates, an 18 year old car, a $30/mo prepaid phone and golden handcuffs. I don’t have a problem with people having nice things, I just don’t want anyone I’m sponsoring to have nicer things than me.

      If we could cut out rent extraction and make it better to be a worker, it’d do a lot to resolve the animosity that workers feel towards welfare recipients who have nice things.

      1. Harold

        How can one tell if someone is a welfare recipient on public transit? Or anywhere? Seriously would like to know.

      2. windsock

        Doing my best to be courteous ad constructive: how do you know those people on the bus with better things than you are welfare recipients? How do you know having better things applies to “every aspect of their life”? Why should not a welfare recipient have nice things in one area if they choose to under-emphasize other areas of their lives? You have room mates – do they have a family or sleep 8 to a room? You have an 18-year-old car – do they have one at all if they are on public transport? Whatever happened to personal choice and agency? Do welfare recipients need to be denied choice so they can be demonstrably more miserable than you? What you are saying is you don’t want any welfare recipient to look as if they are enjoying their life and getting anything out of it, despite being on welfare, because you are working and you are not.

        Sorry, don’t mean to be rude but it’s a pet peeve that those who are or welfare are supposed to be impoverished in spirit and aspiration as well as in material goods because someone else is paying tax.

        1. yamahog

          Pattern matching mostly, I don’t think my accuracy is near 100% but I bet that I can beat random odds. I might be wrong about the fraction of welfare recipients who have more material abundance in their life than myself but I’m certain that there are welfare recipients who have nicer cars/phones/living arrangements.

          But sometimes I also take them on their own accord – A lot of people yammer on the phone. In the past week I’ve heard some unemployed mother talk about picking up her kids from daycare, and I heard another guy argue over the value of food stamps with what was presumably a drug dealer.

          Though people on some forms of welfare pay reduced fares – it’s easy to pick out those people because they have to flash some ID to the bus driver.

          I’m not bothered by the people who make sacrifices in one area to make another area better – more power to them. What bothers me is that some of them apparently have to make fewer sacrifices all together.

          “Do welfare recipients need to be denied choice so they can be demonstrably more miserable than you?”

          I’d certainly feel better about the welfare system if people on welfare were more miscible than the workers who support them. It should suck more to be on welfare than have a job – I don’t want to incentivize welfare.

          What you are saying is you don’t want any welfare recipient to look as if they are enjoying their life and getting anything out of it, despite being on welfare, because you are working and you are not.

          That’s hysterical and contrary to your commitment to be constructive and courteous. I just want social stratification to work properly between the working class and the welfare class – I think the right social arrangement is one where folks on welfare enjoy life less (and have less nice stuff) than the working class. I don’t want it to be arbitrarily bad, but I do want the working class lifestyle to be conclusively better.

          Whatever happened to personal choice and agency?

          That’s a two way street, I have agency to call for better social relations and I think that making it better to be a worker than a welfare recipient is good. If welfare recipients want a better life, I encourage them to work for it.

          Sorry, don’t mean to be rude but it’s a pet peeve that those who are or welfare are supposed to be impoverished in spirit and aspiration as well as in material goods because someone else is paying tax.

          That’s a straw man of my position. How many times do I have to say it? I want workers to have better lives than the welfare recipients they support. I don’t demand suffering, I just ask that it’s better to work than be on the dole.

          1. ambrit

            Interesting dialogue. I’d add to the “welfare” category, the denizens of the class of people described by the phrase, “socialism for the rich.” You know them; the aparatchiks of businesses that get tax breaks from the government, or tax rebates to locate a plant or office in a certain region, or those with preferential tax treatment for various reasons. Now, how to make their lives more miserable than the ‘working class?’ This stacks up as a call to action for ‘direct action’ aficionados.

            1. yamahog

              Why stop there? Anyone who makes their living in an industry with a principal/agent problem must bear the same scrutiny.

              In my state, an inner city school teacher makes 45k-65k/yr. How much would they make if the children paid them? $0-$100? How much would they make if the children’s parents/caregivers paid them? $1000-$10000?

              Everything above their clients’ ability to pay is government largess.

              1. ambrit

                Ah, but we’re falling into the discussion of “public good” versus “private good.” That’s a legitimate argument. I’m just arguing from the “socialist” side of that issue. There is society, after all. That thing that makes life above the hunter gatherer level feasible. Indeed, the hunter gatherer level requires socialization to be effective as well. The evil genius of the ultra individualist clique is that they have so far convinced a big part of the population that their personal selfish interests are in the general interest. A con job if I ever saw one.

            2. Amfortas the Hippie

              here’s a database, searchable by county, of the rural version of “…the aparatchiks of businesses that get tax breaks from the government, or tax rebates to locate a plant or office in a certain region, or those with preferential tax treatment for various reasons.”


              for a low population area like mine, I can look through that database and learn that the locals who shout the loudest about “welfare queens” are themselves getting rather large gubmint handouts…often for not growing goats or whatever(which is a real, eco-friendly practice, I just allege that it is abused)
              A couple of folks out here…hateful and mean and plugged into the right social circles…get up to 3/4 of a million.

          2. windsock

            All I can say is :

            1) thank you for your considered reply, and it is clear our positions are irreconcilable. because you don’t seem to acknowledge anywhere in your reply that being on welfare does suck for many/most recipients but

            2) some welfare recipients will be in a position of state dependency because of illness or disability. They are unable to work. That makes life miserable enough without you wanting “social stratification to work properly between the working class and the welfare class”. The “working class” can become the “welfare class” by the whim of a corporate employer, or the fate of an infection or accident. Be careful what you wish for.

            1. yamahog

              you still don’t understand my point.

              I want the worst worker to be better off than the best welfare recipient. I’m fine with an arrangement that makes it arbitrarily good to be on welfare so long as every worker has it better.

              1. Amfortas the Hippie

                so…Punish the poor.
                make being poor even more unpleasant than it already is, so that “they” will be encouraged to work.
                so no “there but for the grace of god go i”?
                No “least of these…”?
                as if poverty is a choice.

                1. jrs

                  of course in reality it makes working conditions worse, this cutting welfare, because it makes people even more desperate for jobs, and when employers know people are absolutely desperate well they treat them accordingly. Bargaining power 101.

              2. Basil Pesto

                It’s such a facile and unhelpful premise for an argument though. Do you want the most down-at-heel worker to be better of than the most ‘high roller’ welfare recipient (fine, a bit facetious, let’s go with the “better off”)?

                Setting aside the (very valid and important) considerations laid out above about those who would very much like to work but are unable not physically or mentally able to, this leads to some other rhetorical questions:

                How is this “better off”ness quantified? Which government agency should be responsible for making sure the misery hierarchy is in order? Do we perhaps refer to those silly “happiness indexes” , which typically just double as Danish tourism brochures, as a metric for better-offness between the social strata? If one of the most destitute workers is deeply in mutual love with someone, but the most well-off welfare recipient is desperately lonely, who is “better off”?

                Ratger than relying on piecemeal anecdotal evidence, before advancing your argument the following question needs to be asked: *as a whole*, is the lowest rung of the working class worse off than the (“highest rung of”) welfare class? As far as the United States goes, I don’t know the answer, but honestly, I feel like once you’re at that pathetic level it’s probably much of a muchness (I use ‘pathetic’ in the original sense of the word, rather than the contemptuous sense it’s taken on today). We should be working towards a better society for all.

                It seems to me that the only way to be absolutely certain that the unemployed are worse off than the employed at all times and in all respects (except for those individuals benefitting from “private welfare” ie the largesse of their family) is to abolish all welfare programs altogether. But that’s no way to run a society.

          3. marym

            For starters, the distinction between recipients of SNAP (or other programs like Medicaid) and people who work and people who pay taxes) is a false one.

            Most SNAP recipients who can work do so. Among SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, more than half work while receiving SNAP — and because many workers turn to SNAP when they are between jobs, more than 80 percent work in the year before or after receiving SNAP. The rates are even higher for families with children. (About two-thirds of SNAP recipients are not expected to work, primarily because they are children, elderly, or disabled.)


            Most people also pay taxes. (Link).

            Even if your perception is true that someone you happen see in public is on welfare, not working, and not paying taxes); and has something you perceive as nicer than what someone has who isn’t on welfare, that doesn’t mean the person with something nice has a better life, better prospects, more nice things, more choices, or less incentive to work harder than a poor but working person.

            And if your measure of a better life is being able to buy some junk food or a nice shirt once in a while, that’s hardly a robust defense of the interests of workers.

            1. yamahog

              You’re right to call out the false distinction. However, many of the programs are means tested and benefits reduce as the recipient’s income increases. There are benefit cliffs – where people are better off making less money than more. The existence of those benefit cliffs clearly shows that in some instances, welfare discourages work and in some situations, welfare is preferable to more work.

              If we moved to something that was purely additive like UBI, I’d be completely fine. I don’t hate the poor, I just hate that the working poor can be worse off than the lazy poor.

          4. Anon

            Yamahog, you may be a prisoner of Amerikan culture. Goal in life is not more things, but more/better health/happiness and awareness. Altruism is essential at some point in life, as we’re all going to fail somewhere.

            Think of this: ALL the social programs in the US cost the taxpayers about $1 Billion per year; Trump has proposed miltary funding of $700 Billion. The reason we see more SNAP participants is that Defense contractors have all the “high paying” jobs. More social spending increases the number of jobs for a broader range of the population; not just Defense techies.

            So, your ire towards welfare recipients is misplaced. Focus on wasteful war spending and life in the US can get better for you (and many others).

            1. yamahog

              If those are the goals of life, they can be pursed without welfare. People managed to carve out decent subsistence living in the past, they can return to it now. The folks on welfare might be prisoners of “Amerikan” culture that encourages them to seek material abundance.

              All social programs cost much more than $1 billion dollars. SNAP, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Pell Grant program individually cost more than $1 billion/yr.

              Yeah, the military is overfunded by about $650 billion IMO but that’s not germane. Even if we had a budget surplus, it’d still bother me that the working poor can be worse off than the lazy poor.

              1. todde

                and when you take a bunch of people off the dole, all you will do is drive down wages for the working poor.

                We going into debt buying the shit we already produce, more people working isnt going to fix that.

          5. Oregoncharles

            One basic income proposal came from, of all people, Milton Friedman, and precisely expressed your proposal. It was called a Negative Income Tax. That is, everyone received a basic income; then, a percentage of earned income above the basic was “taxed” away – that is, deducted from the basic income – until the basic income was gone, after which they started paying taxes. Those who work benefit from their work, and there’s a fairly smooth transition. (One problem with most welfare schemes is that ALL work income is deducted, so there’s a disincentive to work; or, there’s an abrupt transition where the welfare payments are cut off.)

            Nixon actually considered proposing this, as an alternative to welfare, etc. The problem is that it’s hard to make the numbers work out.

            1. Amfortas the Hippie

              they settled on the Earned Income Tax Credit…which is about the only Milton Freidman idea I like.
              I rely on it, in fact…to pay down what little debt we sometimes have, and to pay up the car insurance for a year…practical things.This year it’s debt retirement and seeds and fruit trees and getting my wife to the doctor for the first time in 3 years.
              I’m waiting for them to kill that program, too.

          6. Yves Smith Post author

            You really do make stuff up. There is just about nowhere in the US that allows for reduced fares for welfare recipients to ride public transportation. And you don’t show ID. You get a reduced fare card.

            Those people who are showing ID are almost certainly either transit system employees who are off duty or immediate family members (this used to be a perk negotiated by the NYC transit union, I think it has been discontinued). Other municipal employees might be eligible. Far and away the most likely are cops and firefighters.

          7. Lambert Strether

            Consider kicking up, instead of kicking down?

            A few shop-worn and tendentious anecdotes aside, it’s extremely hard work to be poor. Welfare is time-consuming and hard to get; it’s also deliberately demeaning, and stigma has health effects.

            On the positive side, in the age-old JG v. UBI argument, UBI proponents might consider whether getting their program passed is going to be all that easy…

      3. makedoanmend

        ” And honestly, I get it. I ride public transit and see welfare recipients with more and better material things than myself – in apparently ever aspect of their life.”

        Do these welfare recipients wear T-shirts that declare their status? Maybe they are marked with a special letter? Or do you have special spidey senses?

      4. Kevin

        “…folks who work less (or not at all) eat better than those with a tax liability.”

        Just once, I would love to see someone provide the data, any data, that backs this up….
        (cue crickets)

        1. yamahog

          Come to Minneapolis, we can eat rice and beans and then go to Seward co-op and watch people use SNAP to buy nicer food than we just ate. I’m serious.

          1. RUKidding

            I don’t know about that. Where I live, the people I observe using SNAP to buy food are usually in the Dollar General or Grocery Outlet, and they’re not buying “better food” than me, albeit, frankly, I don’t pay a huge amount of attention to what they’re buying. I have enough to do in my own life that I don’t really have the time to monitor what others are doing.

            Seems to me that you have a choice of what food you buy, while appearing to spend time trolling the expensive stores to locate SNAP recipients buying “better food” than you. Maybe a better choice for you is to focus on what your food choices are, so that you feel satisfied with what you’re buying.

          2. Harold

            What do you consider “nicer food” than rice and beans, exactly? Just had rice and beans last night, btw. What kind of material things are you talking about? Care to specify?

            What is it about social stratification that you consider desirable?

          3. barefoot charley

            There are better things to think about, but in my occasional visits to Whole Paycheck in its glory I saw people buying astronomically priced food, often junk, with food stamps. I noticed because it slowed the line.

            But I think poor people have a right to eat good food. It makes me sick that their role is supposed to be to consume crapified corporate poisons grown by big-rigged rural debt peons with noxious chemical fertilizers and subsidies for exactly the wrong practices and products. Why doesn’t anyone ask me?

            1. Harold

              Yes, and they should wear special clothes so we can immediately identify where they stand in the social hierarchy — and preferably have no teeth.

              1. jrs

                I’m not sure how it’s so easily identified even so, how easy is it to tell EBT cards from credit/debit cards? I don’t think it’s easy. Haha, maybe those whole paycheck customers weren’t really food stamp users at all, but were paying via credit or bank debit card and that is what actually slowed the line!

                1. JTFaraday

                  The reason you know the food box will never come to be is that Jamie Dimon will lose his EBT card cut and Walmart will go out of business.

          4. Kevin

            Sure, I often leave work and hop on a plane in the middle of the day at the urging of complete and total strangers.

            Your seriousness is not what’s in question here, it’s your accuracy.

            All I read is someone making an awful lot of assumptions.

          5. Homina

            Sounds like you’re kind of a chump for working since you think people on welfare have better food and possessions than you and since you place so much value on food and possessions. I’d advise a serious accident or crippling illness, then you can finally enjoy the comfort of a life on welfare.

            1. yamahog

              I think my life is much better than most of the people who live on welfare. However, I don’t think my life is better than everyone who lives on welfare which is my chief complaint.

              And I hardly place tremendous value on possessions – I’m very frugal because I understand how bad it can get if my luck changes, I’m saving for the day my luck changes.

              1. jrs

                saving will only save you from immediate homelessness when your luck changes (though savings do run out … so eventually it might not even save you from that), but from utter despair if you are not able to land work (or for some people work in their field which they often have years of experience in) not so much.

          6. JTFaraday

            “Come to Minneapolis, we can eat rice and beans and then go to Seward co-op and watch people use SNAP to buy nicer food than we just ate. I’m serious.”

            So quit your job and enjoy the good life. I’m pretty confident that no one in your workplace needs you there sucking all the air out of the room. :)

          7. UserFriendly

            Come to Minneapolis, we can eat rice and beans and then go to Seward co-op and watch people use SNAP to buy nicer food than we just ate. I’m serious.

            Has it occurred to you they might live within walking distance and not have a car? Or someone who is in between jobs?

      5. RUKidding


        Due to how I’ve chosen to lead to my life + a LOT of luck, and yes, hard work & choosing to be frugal, I’m actually reasonably well off. Yet my car is ALSO 18 years old. I have, until recently, had roommates, and I often ride public transportation.

        I have no idea who is or is not on welfare. Nor do I particularly care what they eat or wear or own.

        Until recently, I had a friend who got SNAP benefits. She no longer does bc she died (of old age, mainly). My friend worked hard all her life, mostly at 2 jobs. Worked until she was 82, and despite being frugal (her last car, purchased used, was around 18 years old, too), she had a heck of a time making ends meet once she could no longer work due to mobility and medical issues.

        I guess I shoulda been super angry with her because she had the temerity to live in a house that her parents’ willed to her upon their deaths. Probably she shoulda been living in a cardboard box under a bridge in order to be “worthy” of getting those SNAP benefits.

        And so on…

      6. Romancing The Loan

        Since the obvious flaws in this argument have been pointed out already, let me just add that it sure sounds like making SNAP benefits universal would neatly address this person’s objection to the program without even having to debunk what makes that objection misguided.

      7. a different chris

        You say “apparently every aspect”…. but you are on a bus. Yeah you have an 18yr old car, but they probably have no car. The can’t make insurance payments, they don’t live somewhere you can park it, they can’t afford maintenance.

        Ah, but these “welfare recipients” (how do you identify them? Do they have marks on their forehead… oops don’t wanna give Pence any ideas..) wear nice clothes? Don’t we import from the Pacific Rim those exact “nice things” — clothing — really cheaply? Should they dress down, thereby killing any chance they might get offered a job and lose those awesome welfare bennies?

        Please stop punching down.

        1. JTFaraday

          Here’s the thing I always wonder: If one punches a deplorable, is one punching down or punching up?

          A lot of deplorables have mental deficiencies. Does one take that into account? etc.

      8. WheresOurTeddy

        Your anger should be going up toward the people who like things this way, not down to the people in survival mode.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Exactly. How easily us mopes can be hornswoggled into kicking sideways and downward, even while the cretins who rule us are squeezing our throats. “I can pay half the working class to kill the other half.” Cue the evil laughter…

      9. XXYY

        I think a lot of this feeling (which is legitimate, but also opportunistically accentuated by the right wing media and the right generally and used to bash the poor and the guv’mint) is due to the fact that social support systems in the US are frequently means tested. This means that people who are “poorer than me” are getting “treated better than me”. This situation does go against the grain, no matter how much we intellectually understand that poor(er) people need more help than rich(er) people.

        This resentment does not come up for benefits that are provided to all, e.g., Social Security, primary education, police and fire protection, roads, etc. No one ever has to watch their own house burn down while the, means-tested fire department hurries to put out someone else’s fire; we trust the fire department to have all of our backs and treat us equally and fairly.

        This factor alone is a very good reason to avoid means tested benefits and instead provide benefits to the entire population. Single-payer, for example, will avoid this kind of trap.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          That is one reason why one-time basic income money to everyone is preferable to student-debt jubilee.

          And also why free-food-for-all will benefit more (as in ‘everyone’) than free college for those who can graduate from high school and want to go that route.

        2. jrs

          truthfully I think it’s accentuated by the fact work in the U.S. is often heck and with almost no enforced labor protections either. So it’s often a horror show (abuse, bullying, really long hours, wage theft, illegal and unethical behavior, and if even if you escape all of that at least mindnumbing boredom). And so it seems better not to work. Actually neither work nor non-work and non-income is particularly good in this slave colony. But non-working (and living in poverty) can seem good when your job is heck.

        3. JTFaraday

          It is true that I felt like I got my citizenship back when I finally collected unemployment. Yahoo!

    5. rd

      Its like Community Sourced Agriculture (CSA) for poor people!

      Big Agra will be fighting to get high fructose and other processed products into those boxes, so it probably all won’t be kale and root vegetables.

    6. marym

      As you point out, Trump’s budget proposes billions in reductions to food programs. There’s no reason to think Congressional Republicans want less. More from your link:

      …the idea, according to two administration officials who worked on the proposal, was a political gambit by fiscal hawks in the administration aimed at outraging liberals and stirring up members of the president’s own party working on the latest version of the farm bill. The move, they said, was intended to lay down a marker that the administration is serious about pressing for about $85 billion in other cuts to food assistance programs that will be achieved, in part, by imposing strict new work requirements on recipients.

      There are many arguments of logistics, nutrition and decency against the food boxes.* But even if the Democrats manage to mumble a few of them, we must be cautious that the D’s don’t take the bait and make “defeat the horrible food boxes” the goal while they compromise away more of the safety net.

      * Here’s the first of a 13-tweet thread by a journalist for the Atlantic, Annie Lowrey. She lists 60 arguments re the unworkability of the food boxes. (Because of all the replies, it doesn’t display as a thread, but if you scroll thru her tweets they’re all together).

      She managed to put this together early in the day yesterday, while the Democrats are of course without a unified response, a commitment to protect and expand the safety net, or a coherent vision for anything.

      1. a different chris

        And if the Demos were even smart, they wouldn’t fire directly at the heartlessness of stripping food from “the poors”.

        They would go right to the Midwest heartland, where all the money actually winds up, and say “hey WTF are you going to stand for this? Why do you vote for these people?”

        1. beth

          Yep! It gets very clear if we watch how many Ds vote FOR this kind of issue. If I had the time I would check the votes in Congress each time and post it here.

          We have a local pol running for Party Chair in my city who claims he wants change. This is what he says: “This is just embarrassing: How (our city) Democrats are Destroying Themselves” and then quotes the local newspaper to say: “Dysfunctional (our City) Democrats have only themselves to blame for the mess they’re in” ” and “The dysfunction in the party comes at a time when (our county) Democrats could be the envy of their counterparts across (our state), if not the country.” Then he lists the current corrupt Ds who are supporting him.”

          I think he is going after Bernie voters who are young or people who are too new to the city to know who these people are. What do you think?

      2. JTFaraday

        I think the D-Party is going to let the Repugs enact, and certainly at least attempt to enact, any and all of their most repugnant ideas between now and next fall and 2020. This will enable them to run on their One Big Idea– just look at the other guys.

        But, and one can scoff at this, the whole mass mediated environment has changed over the years and now grassroots politics is starting to change as well. We all need to push forward knowing that this is what the establishment is going to do.

    7. cyclist

      In the Independent’s article about the food box proposal, Mulvaney is quoted as saying that savings would result due to the USG’s ability to buy food at wholesale. Wow, just think if we could apply that same principle to the purchase of pharmaceuticals for Medicare and Medicaid!

      BTW, whey I was a kid, the poorer people in our neighborhood were given ‘surplus food’, which was really more of an agricultural subsidy. Giant unlabeled cans of peanut butter, huge boxes with ‘American cheese’, flour, etc. with warnings that it was not for resale.

    8. Elizabeth Burton

      As someone who would have been a hungry child during the ’60s had it not been for the government commodities program, I wish people would stop framing their objections to this on the basis of “humiliating for the poor.” I hate to break it to people, but all the “social safety net” programs are humiliating to apply for and receive. Take it from someone with experience.

      I’ll also just note in passing that a package of pasta can be stretched, if need be, to maybe make up two days’ meals. For considerably less than most of that “fresh produce” so many of the outraged are hung up on. Canned peas are better than no peas at all.

      On the other hand, I posted this on that social media site most people here hate, just as a passing ponder:

      1. Jeff Bezos and Amazon received a $600 million contract to provide “computer services” to the CIA.

      Jeff Bezos buys the Washington Post.

      The Washington Post is suddenly awash with “information” from “intelligence sources,” none of which are, of course, identified and so impossible to verify.

      The Washington Post becomes ground zero in the attacks on alternative media and the chief propagator of the Russiagate hypothesis.

      2. Amazon receives preferred provider status from the federal government with regard to procurement.
      Amazon buys Whole Foods.

      The Trump administration composes a budget that drastically cuts the SNAP program, announcing there will be a revival of a version of the old commodities program that ran prior to the creation of the food-stamp program. These food packages are to be delivered to households on the SNAP program.

      Amazon announces it plans to establish its own delivery service, to be used instead of UPS and FedEx.

      Anybody else seeing a trend here?

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        I posted approximately the same scenario earlier today in another space.
        (great minds, and all..)
        and you’re spot on about all the social welfare programs being condescending and mean. the default assumption is always that if you’re trying to get benefits, you SIMPLY MUST be a criminal, looking to pull one over on the hard working taxpayers, in order to hang from the gubmint teat.
        This attitude is built in to these systems.
        even people on some form of assistance themselves are prone to it.

      2. JTFaraday

        Interesting comment. But what about Jamie Dimon’s EBT card cut?

        Also seldom discussed re: cutting Medicaid. What about all the private sector middlemen that administer it? State of NJ has 3 or 4, I think, which is supposed to make it look like “market competition.”

        1. BlueMoose

          Loud is right. I was standing in my backyard one fine October evening admiring the stars when I heard what sounded like several energetic teens sporting 2×4’s going at it. Turned out just to be a couple of moose jockeying for position before the late night grunting session began.

  2. David

    The FT story about Zuma and the Gupta family has an unreasonably bland headline. The Guptas, a group of Indian brothers, are far more than “allies” of Zuma. They are enormously wealthy and powerful, and have huge influence in the government, to the point where they have been accused of “state capture” by Zuma’s (numerous) opponents, in the ANC and elsewhere. The SA media is speculating that Zuma could be forced to resign as President by the end of the day: something the ANC has been trying to force him to do, but that he has so far resisted. The BBC has a good summary here:

    1. Mark

      “Attracting atomic waves” is silly, but animals can still accumulate particles by ingestion/inhalation. There is precedent to using wildlife to understand nuclear testing with an Iranian connection. Following early Soviet nuclear tests, the US gathered migrating birds from northern Iran; the birds had flown through the Soviet test area, and analysis of their blood and tissues provided clues about the bomb. By the same token, if you tested enough animals around Washington state, you could likely conclude that there was something different about the Hanford area. The Iranian story has some problems though. If the lizards were to be released, enough would have to survive and be trapped in the future. If they were native lizards that were trapped, then Iranian security should have seen teams of “ecologist spies” setting traps and returning to them to collect the animals.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        perhaps errant children of the davos set out for a romp who have misplaced their human suits.

    2. rfdawn

      Or those environmental “tourists” were lizard poachers. Yes, really. And maybe the local activists were chasing them. All this might have been happening in some weird location that most people wouldn’t visit.

      1. rfdawn

        might have been most likely was
        Areas off-limits to humans often being rich in wildlife. For some reason.

  3. Bill

    re replacing SNAP with no-choice food box. I’ll bet there’s a contractor (Trump sycophant) just waiting to rip off the gummint for that one…and put outdated and rotten food in it from some suspicious source to maximize their profit. it’s another victory for capitalism!

    1. nippersdad

      First thing I thought of was Amazon and Whole Foods. Good way for Bezos to make money on the food he doesn’t sell and to socialize the cost of his delivery business.

      1. Dan

        Hmm. Actually might be cost effective. They can deliver the food boxes to both Amazon and Walmart warehouses and the employees can pick their box with their paychecks….

    2. 3.14e-9

      Bill, “outdated” food is perfectly good. “Expiration date” is a myth, with a few exceptions, e.g., infant formula, refrigerated dairy products, and, of course, meat. There is no official FDA definition of “expiration” or any of its variants, “sell by,” “use by,” “best before,” etc. In most states, it’s legal to sell “outdated” food, other than the aforementioned exceptions.

      I first learned of this in an NC link (one of the many reasons I love NC, always ahead of the trend) and then began researching it when I discovered a “discount” grocery store two blocks from my new apartment. The first thing I noticed was that most items were past their “pull date.” While it didn’t faze me at all – I’ve had stuff sitting in my cupboard for longer than that – I did wonder about the legal liability, so I researched it and found out that pull dates are bogus. There’s some speculation that the food companies started the practice as a way to get people to throw stuff away and buy more, but I wasn’t able to verify that.

      There seems to be some stigma to these food items (and the stores that sell them), like it’s the stuff the rich didn’t want, so it gets pawned off on the poor. Not true. In the past few months, I’ve bought nitrite-free bacon, organic whole wheat crackers, organic frozen kale, an 8-ounce mini wheel of imported cheese for $1, and my prize, a 1.5-pound pork roast (frozen), sustainably raised without hormones or antibiotics, for $3. Irony of ironies, it was packed for Blue Apron.

      My SNAP allowance used to get me not quite halfway through the month. Since I started shopping at this little store, I can stretch it into the third week, and I’m eating higher-quality food. Plus, I’m supporting a local family business, which moved into one of the many empty retail spaces in our decimated downtown. I don’t have to drive to get there, either, and can walk there even in a snow storm.

      I’m working on an article for my little local weekly in hopes that more people will be aware of this, although I do wrestle with the notion that if the secret gets out, prices will go up, people who can afford retail will start shopping in these stores to help save for the 60-inch TV, and those who most need it will lose an advantage.

      Here is a good article from Fortune featuring a restaurant in Boston that gets ingredients near their pull date. It’s from last year but still relevant:

      1. Bill

        Food that is lifeless never goes “bad”, this is true–and I think that was part of the point of the food in the boxes. I am on SNAP and I buy fresh food. I can’t eat canned and processed food, or dairy made from cow’s milk, my gut can’t process it. If people think I am overindulging by eating fresh lettuce, fruit and veg and fresh tofu etc., there is nothing I can do but say I am not chronically ill and am taking no pharmaceuticals, and I am in my 60s, so I’m not a drain on the health care system. IMO, no on can really process processed food properly, but our economy is now dependent on people eating industrial food. Maybe that’s why the push behind the boxes. More people are starting to eat healthier. I don’t know, nothing makes “sense” to me any more.

        I found this info to be helpful:
        Confusion over date labeling leads to billions of pounds of food waste every year. Bob Brackett, PhD CFS, Director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology and IFT member explains the difference between “use-by,” “sell-by,” and “best-by” dates.

        This label is aimed at consumers as a directive of the date by which the product should be eaten; mostly because of quality, not because the item will necessarily make you sick if eaten after the use-by date. However after the use-by date, product quality is likely to go down much faster and safety could be lessened.

        This label is aimed retailers, and it informs them of the date by which the product should be sold or removed from shelf life. This does not mean that the product is unsafe to consume after the date. Typically one-third of a product’s shelf-life remains after the sell-by date for the consumer to use at home.
        This is a suggestion to the consumer on which date the product should be consumed to assure for ideal quality.

        Brackett also points out that smell and taste are not good indicators of whether or not a food is safe to eat.

        This infographic on FutureFood 2050 includes statistics about global food waste.

        Source: Bob Brackett, PhD, CFS, Director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology and IFT member
        FutureFood 2050

        1. 3.14e-9

          Bill, thank you for those links. It’s interesting that Brackett gives those fairly detailed explanations without disclosing that the dates are determined by the food processors and manufacturers. You can find that in the info-graphic. It’s as good as an admission that the dating system was initiated with something other than consumer safety in mind.

          Take, for instance, the statement, “after the use-by date, product quality is likely to go down much faster and safety could be lessened.” This is marketing language, with no supporting research (that I could find; an exhaustive search might turn up something). “Quality,” as determined by what and whom? What is “much faster?” A day, a week, five years? Safety “lessened” compared to what? If bacteria have been destroyed before packaging, how are they suddenly going to spring back to life a few years down the road?

          The other giveaway about motive is Brackett’s background — he was a senior vice president at the Grocery Manufacturers Association and worked at the FDA — and the Institute’s partners, which are the FDA and the food processing industry. The membership list includes ConAgra, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle — you get the idea. There are a few organic food members, but they’re probably not “sponsoring” major research projects.

          FWIW, my Army unit in the mid-1970s ate C-rations while out on maneuvers. I don’t remember the exact dates on the cans, only that they were something like 20 years old. Of course, as you say, it’s “dead food.” But I’ll tell you what, when you’ve been outside all day in a minus-40 windchill and there’s no mess hall, canned peanut butter, crackers, and cheese-food product qualify as “nutrition.”

          Does this mean I think it’s OK to provide food boxes in place of SNAP or leave the poor with all the “outdated food?” OF COURSE NOT! But it’s not going to happen anyway, so rather than wasting time and words on what a stupid idea it is, I thought this would be a good time to discuss the amount of food Americans waste in the mistaken belief that “outdated food” is no good. Thanks for giving me the opening.

          1. Bill

            to give you the opening for championing “outdated food”? not my intention at all. and I wonder about your motivation. that if you’re really hungry or starving, it’s really great? Then why should people have to eat “outdated food” as a regular thing? and don’t forget, the sources and history of ingredients of that food are impossible to trace. As an old grandmother from Hungary said, “I like to look my chicken in the eye before I eat it.”

      2. Lord Koos

        We are very grateful for our local Grocery Outlet discount supermarket (referred to as GrossOut) as there are often some real bargains on high quality food to be found there. If it wasn’t for G.O. and Costco we wouldn’t be living nearly as well. We aren’t on the SNAP program, so far.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      With any government project – whether it’s this one, or one to stimulate the economy – the government being ripped off is always one concern (even if money is not an issue, theoretically, and not funded by taxpayers).

      With this idea, we can separate into two parts.

      1. Is this idea itself simply a crazy one? Has anyone tried it before? In Vermont maybe?

      2. Does it depend on execution and who is doing it? Is the idea a good one if we have caring progressives running the government, but the same idea a bad one if we have Republicans?

    4. FluffytheObeseCat

      What is more likely are SNAP ‘food boxes’ filled with non-nutritive pseudofood. Blocks of fluorescent orange ‘cheese food’. Tetrapaks of watery 2% milk. Spongey, stale, sliced white bread. Jars of ‘peanut butter spread’ diluted with cheap oils and water. Canned meat of the pink slime persuasion.

      The kind of ‘food’ the poor are supposed to love.

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        The cheese that used to be included in the “surplus food” packages was pure American cheese, and actually tasted better than the stuff from the supermarket. The peanut butter was also unadulterated.

        Look, I get it. People hate the idea because it’s being presented as another Trump idea, but as noted its basically a revival of an older program in place before there were food stamps and SNAP. Oppose it, by all means—I think it’s a lousy idea because if it were going to be initiated, it should supplement SNAP, not replace it.

  4. allan

    Weird Freudian slip (or not) by former House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers,
    interviewed on NPR this morning (transcript not yet posted).
    Saying in passing that some of what Trump has done vis-a-vis Russia has been good
    (from Rogers’ hawkish point of view), among other things Rogers listed “arming the Ukrainian rebels”.
    Or so it sounded like.

    I’ve looked at life from both sides now
    From WIN and LOSE and still somehow
    It’s life’s illusions I recall
    I really don’t know life at all

    1. integer

      Seeing as they are being attacked by the Social-National Assembly, “arming the Ukrainian rebels” would be a great thing to do. Unfortunately though, I suspect Rogers meant that Trump had stopped Putin from “arming the Ukrainian rebels”. In any case, Novorossiya appears to be quite capable of holding its own without any assistance.

      1. Sid Finster

        “Arming Ukrainian rebels” would be a great thing to do.

        On Sunday, I met a woman from Donetsk, in the heart of Novorossiya. We talked, and after she found out that I had lived in Russia and speak Russian and Ukrainian, she confided a secret in me – there are no Russian troops in Donbass. She never saw any, her friends and relatives living there never saw any, she doesn’t know anyone who saw any.

        She saw lots of local militias, and knows plenty of folks who fight Nazi Ukraine, all with the fullest support and love of the populace. “Russian occupiers”? They would be thrilled to have some.

        All the shelling of civilian dwellings? Coming from the Nazi side.

        So why was this a secret? Because so many Americans believe the propaganda, even those who know there is a war in Ukraine, and they get very butthurt at the suggestion that the United States is supporting, arming, financing and training Nazis.

        I assured this lady that this American knows that his government and press are lying.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          It’s too bad you can’t fold up a CNN broadcast and use it to line the bottom of your birdcage, that’s what they do with Pravda and Izvestia because they know they’re propaganda. But moving pictures of trim men in nice suits and women with great teeth are more powerful engines of credulity, alas

  5. Henry Moon Pie

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the food-in-a-box idea. The CEOs of the various incarnations of “dollar stores” will be in DC before long to head this off.

    That’s the way politics in ‘Murca works. If you’re poor and powerless, politicians could care less about you. But if you have some big shots that are sucking what little money you have, they just might protect you from further crapification in order to preserve their own precious profits.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Oh, I agree this is silly for a ton of reasons. But the fact they’d actually propose this with a straight face is remarkable. Makes The Wall look like the essence of probity.

      1. cocomaan

        I’m not really for government cheese, but I hope that this points out that our SNAP system is dismal.

        When I worked in the welfare system, I saw a lot of people using food stamps for really unhealthy food and suffering from obesity. I saw people have healthy food rejected by their EBT cards. When you’re in a food desert, it’s pretty hard to spend your stamps on anything but shitty food. The amount of soda purchased with food stamps would probably surprise people.

        1. JohnnyGL

          Coke, Pepsi, and the rest of the food conglomerates have too much at stake in the current system. Processed foods are a kind of sweet spot for them, super-high margins on things like soda, and practically endless shelf life for most of those products.

          Another note from the perspective of those using SNAP….

          For low-income people with kids, you need to save money and have a high degree of confidence that your kid is going to eat what you put in the lunch box each day. It takes time for kids (or anyone) to develop a taste for particular foods, and the shorter shelf life of things like, say, fresh strawberries, means there’s a substantial risk of having to throw away half a pound of food when you spent $4-$5 a pound on it, already.

          If you wash and cut up strawberries (that’s more prep time and money), send to school and the kid doesn’t eat it, you can’t send it again the next day. You CAN do that with a pack of pretzels or goldfish crackers, though.

          Poor people are usually time-constrained and often looking to minimize risk, not maximize nutrition or value-for-money.

          1. Elizabeth Burton

            Thank you. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to get past their middle-class food prejudices and understand the situation is far more complicated than just making poor choices.

        2. Edward E

          “We should give poor people a box of food because if we give them money they’ll spend it irresponsibly” says President (two scoops) casino gambling who chooses irresponsible food.

          The elk look like the ones around home.

        3. Yves Smith Post author

          Lambert has a tweetstorm in Water Cooler from someone who has worked with the poor for decades who disagrees with you on the soda issue but says he had some success even within the EBT strictures to getting people to eat healthier, or maybe more accurately, less unhealthily.

        4. JTFaraday

          “When you’re in a food desert, it’s pretty hard to spend your stamps on anything but shitty food. The amount of soda purchased with food stamps would probably surprise people.”

          But they didn’t put decent food in the box. They acted out their plantation overseer mentality, (which should be a classified mental illness in the US).

    2. Indrid Cold

      ADM and Cargill and the rest of big ag will fight it as well. It’s a subsidy for industrial food as well as people who are down on their luck

    3. MayM

      The boxes and their contents remind me of the Women Infant and Children (WIC) Food Program boxes my sister received each month in Vermont. The boxes contained cheese, orange juice, peanut butter, milk and cereal. There was very little choice in the contents though the boxes did at least provide local, hormone free milk and cheese. In Vermont, the home delivery program was phased out in 2016 in favor of debit cards and greater freedom in what to buy for program participants.

      It sounds like they want to transform SNAP into a WIC type program that forces commodity foods on the poor. This would obviously be bad for people who use SNAP, but it’s not some revolutionary new idea that has never been tried before. WIC did home delivery in Vermont for decades before the phaseout in 2016.

      1. fresno dan

        I can remember my mom getting “government” cheese

        She gave some to me, but I only care for cheese in small doses. I think she got 10 years worth, but she wasn’t suppose to eat too much cheese because of her cholesterol…..
        I bought some macaroni and cheese the other day….and the cheese was white – probably GMO cheese or something. I couldn’t eat it – macaroni and cheese should be orange, the way God made it….

        1. polecat

          You should be aware, fresno dan … that that orange coloring you sooo wuv, originated from some chem vat in New Jersey …
          God sure does have a sense of humour !
          Bon Appetit … ‘:]

          1. fresno dan

            February 14, 2018 at 10:54 am

            Next thing you’ll tell me is that the orange in Doritos, Fritos, and Cheetos doesn’t actually come from oranges…..and I would say where do those snackies get all their vitamin C?

            1. ambrit

              Oh fresno dan. You’re in California. Vitamin C is approved for substitution by vitamin T now. Besides, the synthetic colour industry is one of the last remaining markets for the coal industry. Keep miners in West Virginia working. Buy cheesy snacks!

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          An update version would be organic government tofu.

          It wouldn’t surprise me if they have that in Japan.

        3. Ed Miller

          Color in cheese is added, not natural. Here in Oregon Tillamook makes a nice white sharp cheddar that is very tasty. [I will note that some Wisconsin natives transplanted to Oregon claim there is nothing like Wisconsin cheese, but I suspect bias from growing up there. Wisconsin cheese and the Packers are their favorites for life.]

          I’m not a permanent fan like them. I mostly go with what works in the present.

      2. cgregor

        The WIC customers in Vermont chose the foods that were delivered, and the foods available were purchased by the program with prime consideration for the nutritional needs of pregnant and postpartum women and children up to the age of five. One can only shudder at what our Glorious Leader’s minions are going to do with their Cardiac Arrest in a Box program.

      3. Kevin

        The truly galling aspect of this for me is these same people pushing these programs hide behind the bible and insist they are “Christians”. I would love to understand the forces that led to the creation of this evangelical slime.

        1. JTFaraday

          Well, off the top of my head, I would say that flyover country evangelical protestant sects originating from the anglo-american sphere were low SES groups and this is what happens when you let them go along thinking this is what God wants. Nietzsche speaks of a slave morality in Christianity, and in the US it produces a nation of self righteous plantation overseers.

          I am actually kind of serious.

          1. JTFaraday

            By contrast New Englanders, who founded the nation’s only enduring major socialist institution and are often quite wrongly associated with the Weber thesis, believed you should work to glorify God and punished you for having the wrong beliefs. The brahmins and the plantation overseers battle it out still.

      4. Harold

        I was on WIC while a grad student. It was mainly milk and cheese. It was good quality cheddar cheese, not “cheese food”. One was allowed to choose it oneself.

        I found out about the program through a visiting nurse from the obstetrics division of the hospital. It was nice to have. That was quite a long time ago in North Carolina. I no longer see signs up in grocery stores saying “we participate in WIC.” I guess Bush or Clinton got rid of it.

        1. phemfrog

          I still, currently, see WIC approved food items at our local Walmart. They have a special pink sticker. There are tons of choices. Fruits and vegetables too.

          In north Texas, btw…

    4. MG

      Walmart will be.

      They are the largest grocery store by far with a 22% national market share and specifically stock their stores certain times of the month to carry excess inventory for Food Stamp beneficiaries.

  6. Marco

    RE Uber / Lyft losses. What would a sustainable ride-sharing (app-based ride-hailing) model look like? The easy answer perhaps massively funded public transit but a Lyft fare for 1.5 mile door-to-door trip costs $4. How can public transit compete with that. Also I know too many people in suburban/exurban locations who can’t afford to own a car anymore getting addicted to the cheap subsided pricing model. What happens when it all ends?

    1. Summer

      Looks like Uber/Lyft have a lot “riding on” driverless vehicles.
      For them, it couldn’t come fasr enough.

      1. c_heale

        What happens if driverless vehicles are more expensive (not including external costs like converting roads) than the current system of paying poverty wages to humans…

        Perhaps they just don’t have a viable business.

    2. JohnnyGL

      I wonder if the labor market tightens up a bit…..would that alone kill off the business model?

      People can only liquidate the equity in their cars for so long until it breaks down….

    3. Altandmain

      It would probably look a lot more like the current taxi system.

      The existing taxi model, although far from perfect is still a sustainable model or at least it was before the rise of the unsustainable Uber. It should logically be concluded that anything sustainable will likely resemble the existing taxi system a lot more than Uber. I’m not saying that such a system is perfect, far from it, but neither is Uber.

      For people who need to have a certain type of car all day, car rental services like Enterprise are pretty much in every medium to large sized city.

      1. John k

        Uber and amazon similar, both screw employees and charge too little to make money… amazon lost billions before breaking even on merchandise sales… what’s not sustainable is Uber’s price structure. Maybe 50% more…
        Uber fares need to be more like taxis, taxis need to be more like Uber… friendly, English fluent, etc…

    4. Yves Smith Post author

      It’s called a taxi company. They all have apps now.

      If you want sustainable, pay up. This is not hard unless you can’t wean yourself off neoliberal faux cheap.

      I would never use Uber. Don’t you get that they are using your data? They upload all your contacts unless you opt out, and most people miss that. And they track all your rides.

      1. Lambert Strether

        > they track all your rides

        You’d think that by now they would have leveraged that data in some way; they must have accumulated enough by now. A case of “crime makes you stupid”?

        1. ambrit

          Well, one way to leverage that particular data mine is in the form of “get out of jail free” cards from the government agencies tasked with keeping track of frauds and other financial badness. Say, Uber gives the raw data to an alphabet agency, which makes a deal with the state or federal agency in charge of policing corporations to ‘lay off’ Uber. Protect our sources is the name of this game.

  7. Ignim Brites

    “Russians killed in clash with US-led forces in Syria”. BBG reported 100+ irregular Russian forces killed. It looks like we are getting closer to the hot war with Russia that the MSM seems to want.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I wasn’t all that long ago that State Department spokesperson John Kirby promised that “Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and they will continue to lose resources — even, perhaps, more aircraft”. Sounds like a deep state promise to me. The US hit that area for about three hours in a massive attack to kill as many people as possible. The US would have to have been monitoring the radio frequencies so they must have know by Russian speakers that there were Russian contractors with that force, if not regular troops. I cannot see Russia letting this go unanswered or else it would be open season on any Russians in Syria. Russia may not be the same country that it was years ago but I remember reading of what supposedly happened when four Soviet diplomats were kidnapped in war-torn Beirut back in ’85.

      1. Andrew Watts

        Poor logic. Your theory is that the Russians sat back and let their forces be attacked for three hours even while the deconfliction hotline was open before the attack took place? You know, Wagner was under contract with the Syrian government in Damascus and probably some private parties since at least 2015.

        1. The Rev Kev

          You do know that the Russians only have about three dozen aircraft in Syria. And that most of them are located in the west of Syria at the other end of the country. And that they would be under orders not to attack Americans directly? Still, in the words of my generation, payback’s a bitch! The Russian say that they are slow to mount but fast to ride. Be interesting to see what happens next.

          1. integer

            See the comment I left here (it is currently at the end of the comments section):

            Intel-for-Hire Undermines U.S. Intelligence (Part 2) Consortium News

            Note that my comment was made approximately 8 hours before “Andrew Watts” began making comments in this thread, after having been absent from the NC comments section for months. The guy sure does pop up at some interesting times. Must all just be a coincidence though…

            FWIW it is highly likely that the disinformation campaign about the casualty numbers in the recent incident in Syria originated in Ukraine.

            1. integer

              Wrt the disinformation campaign, see:

              U.S. Strikes And ‘Scores’ Of Killed ‘Russian Fighters’ In Syria The Saker

              SouthFront’s military experts aware of the situation say that the possible number of the casualties could be higher than 5, but not more than 15-20.

              The entire story about mass casualties of Russian PMCs is based on unconfirmed and fake data, that includes a few real facts like the US strikes, some PMCs casualties and the participation of the ISIS Hunters in the incident. The rest is an orchestrated campaign in keeping with the best traditions of propaganda.

              The goals of which would be that:

              – the US is able to fight back against the Russians in Syria;

              – Russia is not able to defend its interests;

              – the Kremlin is not concerned over killed Russian citizens or is not able to carry out any pay back.

              The last point I will make on this matter is that “Andrew Watts” has made a subtle, yet consistent, effort to discredit Moon of Alabama here for years now. Divide and conquer appears to be the goal.

      1. Ignim Brites

        If, as MoonofAlabama contends, Assad / Russian forces were setup, then that seems to make the case stronger that there will soon be a very hot war between the US and Russia in Syria. One interesting twist to this is that Israel might conclude that the US is a liability as it is very unlikely that the US public will provide enough support for the US side to prevail.

      2. Andrew Watts

        Ahh, from poor logic and bad reasoning we finally approach conspiracy theory territory. Thankfully Komsomolskaya Pravda and other Russian media sources provides a more plausible explanation. Used Google translate but a well deserved h/t to trycatch1 on reddit.

        “They simply rolled us over,” a source told KP. – First artillery, then helicopters … The number dead, of course, is neither 600 nor 200. But the American statistics is very close to reality. Surely they saw that we were preparing for an assault on our beachhead on the left bank (the main forces of government forces and their allies are on the right). It is no coincidence that the crossing of the Euphrates River was flooded in the floodgates the other day. Help to us would not have come even hypothetically. As a result, the 5th assault team was killed almost completely, burned along with the equipment. –“The Americans just killed us”

        Anyhow, the Syrian Democratic Forces control the dams on the Euphrates therefore they control the river itself and it’s water levels. Even if the attack was somehow successful they wouldn’t have been able to consolidate their gains and they risked damaging the ConocoPhillips plant in the process which is needed to make LNG for export.

        Moon of Alabama isn’t even aware that it isn’t the fields that’s the real prize it’s the refinery. Also one side is capturing vital Syrian infrastructure intact while the other is blowing it up.

    2. Andrew Watts

      You’re being unduly alarmist about the situation. Everybody is playing down this particular incident. The US Department of Defense (“WAAAAAAR”) isn’t even confirming or commenting on the identities of the attacking force even though it’s public knowledge that they were composed of Wagner mercs and tribal forces of a Baggara clan which reconciled with Damascus. Meanwhile the Russian MoD has stated that the attacking force wasn’t under their command and control. Nobody cares about a bunch of mercenaries or tribal auxiliaries and I have no trouble believing they launched this attack on their own volition. Local commanders on all sides of the conflict in Syria have a large amount of autonomy and freedom of action.

      Welcome to the future where foreign mercenaries working for multinational corporations or local business concerns are asserting their will over contested national territory, sectarian/tribal militias are independent of any centralized control, and charismatic warlords assert themselves through their own force of will.

      I miss the old days of Mormons taking over wildlife refuges in Oregon.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Maybe Halliburton will just bomb Gazprom then, the State can wither to insignificance and kabuki as the real world powers are finally revealed. Nations and sovereignty and diplomacy are sooo 2002, let’s put corporate logos all over the armies so we can keep track, companies can gush about their military wins in their annual reports, and stock analysts can scrutinize 13-D footnotes for things like troop strengths and competitor body counts. MSNBC will love it too! Forget all that drivel about innovating with new products and services, companies run by real men will just buy lots of drones and take out their corporate rival’s factories. We’ll be ogling the same grainy green videos of explosions and body counts but instead of chanting “USA! USA!” we can all yell “IBM! ATT!”

        Every day my own personal assessment of the kind of dystopia we’re heading for seems to get a tiny bit worse. That robot dog didn’t help

          1. Andrew Watts

            It isn’t likely that things will be that bleak. Most nation-states are viable and strong enough to crush any non-state actors who rise up against it. Nor do corporations inspire the kind of loyalty that countries command.

        1. Andrew Watts

          Apologies if I added to your despair over the future.

          If it’s any consolation this incident could be used to add more pressure on Damascus to cut a deal with the SDF. Hopefully it’d settle their outstanding differences but primarily be used to get rid of the Americans after IS has been eradicated. The Turks were also put on notice that attacking Manbij with it’s jihadi-rebel allies would be a very bad idea while the US military is around.

          It never bodes well for a declining empire when it has a defeated and/or humiliated military. It usually ends in a death spiral of mutual recrimination; coups, counter-coups, and civil war. Ending the Islamic State won’t leave the conclusion of the Iraq invasion on a high note, or with a necessarily satisfactory outcome, but at least it avoids the humiliation of a total failure. It was probably therapeutic for all those veterans of the Iraq / Afghanistan wars to be cheered on by the local Syrians.

  8. FreeMarketApologist

    If you don’t want to fool with the NYTimes paywall, the VIX manipulation article was also picked up by Reuters here:

    The letter from the law firm that submitted the whistleblower report can be found here:

    While they mention the TCR (“Tip, Complaint, Referral” form) they submitted to the SEC, they don’t substantially outline the mechanism of the alleged manipulation, only saying that the manipulation “led to multiple billions in profits effectively taken away from institutional and retail
    investors and cashed in by unethical electronic option market makers”, and complain that the documents that detail the mechanics and calculations of the VIX are complicated.

    I’m not a hardcore VIX/options person, so maybe there’s something there, but I’m skeptical.

  9. The Rev Kev

    Watch this emotional moment when this woman takes her first breath after a double lung transplant

    Incredible video of that woman taking her first breath. Trying to imagine what she was thinking I guess that she must have realized that now she was going to live and see her son grow up.

  10. Expat

    Trump’s Box o’ Food panders to the right-wing myth that all food stamp recipients use their stamps to buy cigarettes and Ripple. So, by delivering fresh, delicious and healthy food, we will be forcing these drunken minorities to feed their kids instead of getting high or something. So goes the popular right-wing belief.

    One of the criticisms of food stamps is the cost of administering the program. how will delivering real food to millions of people be cheaper? And who will choose the contents? ( I am guessing that content will be based on size of donation to the Republican party….lots of ketchup in the box, that good old Reagan vegetable!).

    Frankly, I don’t know why the right wing even bothers any more. It’s not as if anyone believes they care. Why not simply stop all welfare programs and tell the poor and sick to work hard and get better like rich people do! With all the money that is saved we can build more nukes and cut taxes to hedge fund billionaires so they can blow up the system once again.

  11. fresno dan

    The Next Recession Is Gonna Really Suck MSN (UserFriendly)
    When the next recession comes,….
    Those who don’t get benefits will have to settle for the sort of fake jobs our economy produces in abundance — a contract job in an Amazon fulfillment center, say, or a gig delivering groceries to people who still have careers.
    I’m thinking we already have these fake jobs during these SARCgoodSARC times. I fully expect mobile organ donation aka biomaterial monetization units to be the next stage…

    And when the bottom does fall out, what WILL they do??? Negative interest rates for …. how long?

    1. Sutter Cane

      This article fleshes out everything that flashed through my mind after the recent market drop. If one of these drops ends up being THE ONE, people are going to be in a world of hurt.

      Aside from the comfortable 1% and the struggling unnecessariat, it seems the remaining population that is holding onto “good” jobs is blissfully unaware of how bad things will get should anything happen to their good job. I sense that in the event of another tech crash, there are going to be a lot of people who are going to be surprised that they can’t easily find a comparable gig, and how little safety net exists should that job not turn up.

    1. ChrisPacific

      The photo on the article made me chuckle. I play a better than average euphonium, although I haven’t picked one up in a long time.

  12. Craig H.

    world’s biggest warehouse project . . .

    The warehouse complex, slated for completion by 2030, would encompass an area equivalent to 700 football fields — making it 25 times more massive than the largest warehouse in the United States today.

    Aye aye aye aye aye aye aye.

    According to the first link in the article the warehouse that is 1/25th this size is a Boeing jet hanger in Everett WA.

  13. Sid Finster

    Re: dissent is Russian.

    Why not just go all the way and say “Our Ignorance Is Our Strength!” or even “Just shut up and trust Big Brother!”?

  14. The Rev Kev

    U.S. gunmaker Remington seeks financing to file for bankruptcy

    How do you go broke making guns in America? Then I realized. That is one product that you cannot really crapify. It is a big community and word gets around rapidly on badly performing firearms or even badly designed ammunition. They have to be built to last and they last for decades as a minimum. They are, after all, high-precision machinery and people demand quality here and learn all about what they are buying. Imagine if people took the same attitude to everything that they brought.

    1. bob

      It’s just another PE story. Load the company with debt and then plead poverty.

      The final nail in the coffin was Trump being elected. No more threat of a Kenyan Muslim coming to take the gunz. Sales way down.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        Cerberus Capital Management. From Wikipedia, “Cerberus … is the monstrous multi-headed dog that guards the gates of the Underworld to prevent the dead from leaving”. Sounds about right.

    2. divadab

      How does a gun manufacturer go bankrupt? If it’s loaded up with debt by a parasitic buyout specialist – Cerberus Capital. These scum won’t rest until they have destroyed the productive capacity of the nation.

      1. polecat

        Until ???
        These folk are nothing more than necromancers !

        “Threshold -Take Us Through The Threshold !”

      2. Kokuanani

        The thought occurred to me that bankruptcy might also be a way to avoid lawsuits based on deaths caused by their “product.”

      3. subgenius

        Even I know you have to load with powder, not debt…Then again…if they loaded all ammo with debt, maybe people would stop dying…

    3. Craig H.

      > That is one product that you cannot really crapify.

      Saturday Night Special which is an expression I have not heard in a long time. Also Saturday Night Special which is a song I have not heard in a long time.

      For some reason the person who put that youtube together uses video from Grand Theft Auto which post-dates Ronnie Van Zandt by a long time.

      Anyway guns as a Veblen good is a subject that I have not ever seen done very well. One of the Barlow obituaries quoted him as saying he was skilled with a Smith and Wesson .357. Not skilled with a gun. Not skilled with a .357 (which is an ammunition, not a firearm). But skilled with a Smith and Wesson .357 [revolver].

      1. a different chris

        Doesn’t the M16 jam easily? We shouldn’t underestimate the ability of the MIC to do the impossible.

        1. ambrit

          That was the original Army Ordinance “standardized” M-16. The original version used a faster, hotter burning propellant powder. The “official” army version dropped that to a ‘standard’ powder that burned slower and cooler. The ‘standardized’ powder loads clogged the ports in the barrels much faster to incapacitate the automatic loading mechanism, which ran on gasses from the burning powder driving a piston assembly to cycle the bolt assembly. The ports in the barrel were the weak link in the chain. When the ports became clogged, the cycling of the bolt assembly stopped. A jam. Rifle then has to be field stripped and cleaned. Doing that in combat can be injurious to your health.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Plenty of GIs died in ‘Nam because of those early version M-16s. Heard of a whole platoon wiped out because of this. It’s not like that they didn’t know what the rifle was like. Back in the early days of ‘Nam a soldier named David Hackworth was given an AR-15 (which evolved to the M-16) and told to try it out and assess by his General.
            He pumped a coupla thousands rounds through it in sand, mud, cold, rain, jungle, etc. when dirty, clean and whatever the situation it did one thing with consistency. “It jammed. Far more than it fired.” It required surgical cleanliness to work so giving it to a soldier was to send him on a suicide mission. The reports were sent in but two years later this rifle, now the M-16, was issued to combat forces in ‘Nam.
            Soldiers in the field would try to find any weapon to use except the M-16, even picking up the AK-47s off dead North Vietnamese. Jungle foliage would deflect the bullets and the Americans were fighting a jungle war. It was that bad. Years later Hackworth was still trying to fight this rifle while working at the Pentagon but was told “Don’t fight it – just buy Colt Industries”.

    4. rowlf

      Sorry Rev, but a lot of firearms are poorly made. Some cause of this is from making a product to a price point and some, like Smith & Wesson, is from crapifying their products. A lot of ammunition is made poorly too. In the past one would own a few quality firearms for different functions but now the marketing (thanks NRA!) is the new firearm of the month silliness and accessorizing your black plastic until it doesn’t work anymore.

      It is embarrassing when the US cannot send a competition team to international shooting events as there is a very thin farm league and precision shooting lacks a participation ribbon mentality. I’m fortunate to live in an area where there are still high school rifle teams.

      It has been interesting to watch the firearms enthusiast forums discuss the negative effects of lamprey financing on Remington as some commenters are stuck on dogma and some have open eyes and can really call it as it is. Several have stories of their own experiences with vulture capitalism to smack the Ayn Rand toe-suckers upside the head with.

    5. derechos

      Perhaps in part due to “ghost guns”. These are completely legal kits that allow anyone to assemble a fully operational gun in a few hours that requires no license and is completely untraceable. There are handgun kits, AR-15 and AK-47 kits available. Felons can build their own; no background check necessary. CBS News just happened to have a 3-minute segment on them last night and it is worth watching.
      Free enterprise at its best! (not)

      1. rowlf

        Why would criminals waste their time with a kit?

        A car theft gang in Atlanta was targeting vehicles that displayed 2nd Amendment, NRA and firearms stickers as there was a high chance that firearms were left in the vehicles. This cracks me up as even in the 1930s firearms writers warned not to leave firearms in vehicles due to theft.

        1. bob

          There were lawn signs all over upstate NY that said “repeal the safe act”, about a gun law in NYS.

          It was to my eyes the same thing-


          Locked cars-

          A lot of, if not most police departments allow service guns to be stored in the locked trunk of a car, personal vehicles included.

        1. bob

          No, they can’t be.

          There is a lot of vapor ware out there claiming that they can 3d print guns. They can’t, they’re just trying to sell 3d printers.

          It would be easier, quicker, cheaper and result in a better “gun” to go down the the local plumbing supply house.

    6. Altandmain

      Yes – gun owners are very knowledgeable about guns.

      While I recognize that many people in the US, particularly Clinton Liberals, are disdainful of gun enthusiasts, they are a lot more intelligent than many will give them credit for. They know from their years of experience how to tell a good quality firearm from a bad one. Word gets out pretty quickly in the gun community, even if it is a very large community.

      Let’s face it, private equity is in the business of buying a company, loading it with debt, looting it of anything productive, screwing over employees, then crapifying the product/service.

      Yes there are guns out there that are cheap, but in many cases, the community is aware. Not being a gun owner, I wonder if this is a case of a company that got bought out and tried unsuccessfully to cash in on its reputation.

  15. Alex

    Re Computerized Criminal Behavior Predictions Are No More Effective Than Untrained Humans: Report

    What is missing from this is what were the error rates and bias of the human-based system that preceded these algorithms.

    I wonder if a jury that familiarised itself somewhat with the circumstances of this particular case would produce a better prediction.

    However running an algorithm is much cheaper than recruiting real people so in general the an algorithm that is working as good as a human being would be considered pretty good. The prediction of recidivism is just too important though to leave it to the algorithm.

  16. dcblogger

    Democrats pushing the “Russia is interfering with the 2018 midterms” hysteria. Democrats are about to win very big. This makes it easy for Republicans to discredit that victory. As for the “intelligence” types pushing this narrative, for them it is all a meal ticket, so it is all good.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      He’s a zombie candidate. He was done when Zephy Teachout, a nobody with a weird name (she’s actually very smart and charismatic, but we are going with MSM/consultant class prejudice) spent all of $250,000 in a primary, and forced him to spend IIRC $11 million, or was it $25 million, to keep her to getting only 34% of the vote. Unheard of with an incumbent. Everyone knows he’s over but him and his hangers-on.

  17. UserFriendly


    I noticed that the only other outlet to run with that was PBS. I found a story in Yahoo that gave more of a perspective.

    Mattis told reporters that chlorine gas was known to have been weaponized “repeatedly” in attacks in Syria, but added: “We are even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use, and we are looking for the evidence.”

    The Pentagon chief cited reports from NGOs and rebel groups in the battlefield who say the chemical weapon has been used, although he stressed that the United States currently has no evidence to support those claims.

    “But we are not refuting them — we are looking for evidence of it since clearly we are dealing with the Assad regime that has used denial and deceit to hide it,” he said.

    Still seems like a big enough deal, but of course our neocon press core loves the white helmets too much to report on it.

    1. JohnnyGL

      Saw this the other day, and tucked it away to harass my congress-critters about it. I gotta find time to call them to discuss.

  18. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Limiting Chinese Aggression: A Strategy of Counter-Pressure American Interest

    Had Nixon not gone to China, what would the world be like today?

    Vietnam has never felt too comfortable with the Middle Kingdom.

    Japan could have exported more, without the Chinese competition, and her strategic importance even more obvious. Taiwan and Korea also would have exported more.

    Would the pro-USSR faction, even after Lin Biao, have gained the upper hand after Mao?

    1. gordon

      From the American Interest article: “… China is the common thread linking most of today’s challenges to the rules-based international order in what used to be called the “free world.”

      “Rules-based international order”??? How can Americans write like this after Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria? There are no rules. The US destroyed the rules. Now all we have are unrestrained Great Power interests, a situation identical to that which preceded WWI.

  19. allan

    CFTC Commissioner urges crypto companies to self-regulate [Reuters]

    Brian Quintenz, a Republican commissioner with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said the industry should consider adopting self-regulatory standards and industry-wide best practices while the government mulls its best approach in policing the new technology-driven space. …

    Self-regulatory … best practices … technology-driven space ….
    If Mr. Quintenz switched parties, the DNC would surely welcome him onto the 2020 platform committee.

  20. EoH

    Re the WaPo story on Trump wanting to replace Food Stamps with diet industry-like food boxes, it has all the earmarks of an outright cut, disguised as a “creative experiment to reduce hunger, er, food insecurity.” Presumably, the designers hope to keep people hungry and decrease the surplus population without having to take credit for it.

    It also looks like a disguised subsidy to Big Ag and Big Food processors. The food is extraordinarily high-profit, highly sugared and salted, processed “food”. Food substitute would be more accurate.

    Who would audit that these boxes are not a way to dump seconds and out-of-date inventory? Who picks up the tab for increased rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other metabolic disorders such junk food would promote?

    As Yves says, the delivery would be a wasteful nightmare, and add expensive administrative costs, while giving lucrative business to delivery companies, further undercutting the USPS. It would lower the amount of money available to buy real food. Later, it could be axed as unworkable, without replacing the food lost in the process. It would also be a useful tool to reinforce the Trump base’s belief that recipients of “luxury” food boxes are largely people of color, too lazy to work or shop or cook for themselves. All in, it appears to be another Republican, I Hate the Poor program.

    1. RopeADope

      Seems to resemble the Bakker Survival Bucket scam. For a large monetary gift to Trump they no doubt will be called the Trump End of America Boxes.

  21. voteforno6

    The Nation has a good overview on the failures of the Democratic Party over the past 25 years:

    Somewhere in Between: The rise and fall of Clintonism.

    This nugget was rather telling:

    But the deeper problem with Hillary—unlike FDR or Lincoln—was that she was an unpopular candidate because of her politics. The most shocking evidence of this is the decision by Clinton’s team to limit her campaigning in Michigan. “Our strategy was from all the data we saw,” one unnamed source from the Clinton world explained to Allen and Parnes. “Every time there was a mention of the election there, we did worse. To make the election a bigger deal was not good for our prospects in Michigan.” Perhaps their source wasn’t wrong: Despite having campaigned very heavily in Pennsylvania, she lost there, too—and it seems unlikely that any number of personal appearances would have helped her in those Rust Belt states.

    1. JohnnyGL

      HA! So the strategy was “be quiet about the election because if we talk about it, voters remember how awful we are”.

      No one in the campaign thought to try, “hey, let’s promise something different that will be popular”. Nope, Dems don’t even bother to make promises because donor class worries that public might hold them to account to keep those promises.

      Dem campaigns are only “look at my resume and see that how qualified I am”. Or, “look at my heart-warming personal story”. No policies or promises allowed! Substance-free campaigning, only!

    2. Jim Haygood

      [Hillary] was an unpopular candidate because of her politics.

      Voters decide who they like, not whose policy wonkery tickles their intellect.

      Hillary’s politics may have been stale, but they were utterly conventional Democratic boilerplate which would have been no hindrance to a well-liked candidate.

      Rather than a policy problem, Hillary had a character problem. Like her mentor Richard Rodham Nixon, Hillary was seen as dishonest, sneaky and conniving.

      Commentators wanting to bounce back from the 2016 defeat by technocratically adjusting the policy knobs, dials and levers are in reality delaying the exigent declintonization of the D party, a purge which should have begun promptly on Jan 20, 2001 upon the announcement of Bill Clinton’s corrupt pardons in exchange for paper bags of hundred-dollah bills delivered by Hillary and Roger Clinton.

      Lock her up.

      1. John k

        Unpopular character does not exclude unpopular politics just because they have been dem staples for a generation.
        But it took an unknown pol from a tiny state to make people, myself included, realize how useless dem policies are for everybody except the donor class.
        Remember her advantages… popular sitting and former presidents in her corner,
        MSM, all the supers, to say nothing of hand picking the least popular person in America as opponent…
        Bernie brought us the idea that dem policies should be better, which is now a problem for most dems incumbents. Throw the rascals out!

  22. nowhere

    Re: Robot Dog
    Not sure if anyone has watched the Black Mirror episode that is modeled on these dogs, but opening doors for wealthy New Yorkers ain’t the target market!

    This tech is being developed for the military. There are a lot of videos featuring, not only these dogs, but other “animals”. Do some video searches on Boston Dynamics.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      That is a fairly conservative assumption when it comes to any tech being developed.

      “There is no free, no-strings-attached, we-can-always-create-more money.”

      1. nowhere

        Generally true. My point is that the ability to open doors isn’t for anything as innocuous as being a “door dog.”

        It probably won’t be long until S.W.A.T teams are replaced with teams of robotic dogs doing forced entries.

      1. Jean

        Bring back the bolo, an Argentinian invention, three balls at the end of a piece of short rope connected in the middle. Whirl over your head and throw, it will snag the legs of any large bi or quadraped, certainly should work on mobile robots.

  23. Jason Boxman

    The Sarasota result is certainly surprising to me. It struck me as a rather conservative area when I lived there for 8 months. Any visit to the grocery store was met overwhelming with people over 60. I rarely saw anyone younger except for High School kids working after school jobs, many of whom flee as soon as they graduate. The city itself does have a few small liberal arts colleges. It’s also a very Christian area.

  24. Jim Haygood

    Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, warned Tuesday that the national debt is “unsustainable” and poses “a dire threat to our economic and national security.”

    With a BA in PoliSci and a law degree, Dan Coats has no credentialed finance expertise, though he did serve as assistant vice president of a Fort Wayne life insurance company (which probably involved emptying the waste baskets and cleaning up coffee spills).

    But the lay person’s instinct that unbalanced budget = BAD is entirely appropriate. To paraphrase a popular feminist bumper sticker,

    Well-indebted countries seldom make history.

    Since trillion-dollar deficits are likely baked in the cake for the rest of our blasted lives, ritually flogging the borrow-and-spend Republiclown party for its purblind profligacy can become an act of daily devotion to the Lost Cause of fiscal rectitude.

    1. nippersmom

      I’ve already instituted a “Russia! Russia! Russia” version of Godwin’s law in my internet interactions. It’s gotten ridiculous- every time someone disagrees with someone else, they trot out “fake news” or “Russian troll/Putin’s stooge”. Either of those “arguments” indicates to me that the person using it has no defensible point.

    2. Anonymous2

      All very depressing. The problem is that this shows the potential to be a running sore in UK politics for years to come. Implement on a 52% majority a decision which is going most probably to cause problems economically for years to come, giving masses of ammunition to its opponents, who have the majority among the young who therefore expect to be able to reverse the decision sooner or later. This is a recipe for internal division for years to come.

      The UK was approaching 15 bad years any way as the boomers retire and become a burden.

      The UK is screwed whatever happens. So, so screwed.

  25. beth

    Recognizing Populist Demand, Gillibrand and Booker Swear Off Corporate Cash / Common Dreams

    Does this mean that Gillibrand and Booker will not take PAC funds or Clinton Foundation Funds?

    1. DonCoyote

      Unfortunately no.

      See also for a further analysis of this for Gillibrand. I looked at Open Secrets for Booker as well. Short answer: no, they don’t get most of their money from corporate PACs (or at least from the Corporate part, but rather from individuals associated with the PAC (where it is PAC, GS and Prudential are both in for >$80K, no PAC necessary).

      e.g. Cory Booker’s top contributor is listed as NORPAC ($159K). NORPAC is not a corporate PAC (“working to strengthen US-Israel relationships”), so all of that money is “pledge-safe”, but even if it were corporate, $154K is listed as from individuals, and only $5K as from PACs, so Cory could still keep the $154K and say he is not taking corporate PAC money, just money from individuals who all happen to be associated with the same PAC. Funny how that happens.

      So the End Citizen’s United No Corporate PAC Money pledge (interestingly, dated last September so why is this coming out now), appears to be a nothingburger/cheap PR stunt to allow certain candidates to “stop suckling at the corporate teat” while keeping the $$ rolling in.

      Don “Mo’ money Mo’ money” Coyote

      1. ChrisPacific

        My immediate interpretation was “I will be asking my corporate donors to cover their tracks slightly better this time.”

        It’s somewhat depressing how little investigation it took you to confirm that.

  26. heresy101

    A recent example of batteries becoming the “peaker” plant of the future and effecting “markets” is with Arizona Public Service.

    Arizona Public Service will add a 50-megawatt battery system to its fleet for storing solar energy to use during evening peak hours.

    The regulated utility revealed Monday that it had signed a 15-year power-purchase agreement with First Solar for the dispatchable solar power. The storage system will be paired with a new 65-megawatt solar plant in western Maricopa County and should be up and running in 2021.

    Bids included conventional renewables, standalone batteries and natural-gas peaking plants, but First Solar’s hybrid solar-storage proposal won out.

    The solar plant will charge up the battery during the day and deliver power during the first few hours of the peak window, until the sun sets. That also allows the whole project to qualify for the federal Investment Tax Credit.

    Then the battery will kick in and discharge stored power through the rest of the window. It will come with 135 megawatt-hours, providing a bit less than 3 hours’ worth of duration at the full 50-megawatt capacity level.

    If they get to the $45/MWh level, this will be the peaker of the future.

  27. audrey jr

    There is a WIC store in a strip mall that I walk through everyday. There are fresh vegetables and fruit available for recipients of WIC there.
    The stuff looks pretty good to me. Quality wise, that is. I often wish I could run in and buy some of their fresh fruit but it is not a grocery store.
    I am pleased to see this is available to nutrition conscious families in my area.
    FWIW, I don’t know of any person receiving “welfare” any longer. Bill Clinton and his no good-nik neolibcons killed AFDC.

  28. Oregoncharles

    FYI: On Lee Camp’s website (5 Ways Democrats Empower Trump Daily! Lee Camp” it says Google, etc. are censoring him, so I tried a Google search. He’s well-represented – a sidebar bio and a whole series of URLs; one is a critical article (hardly surprising), but it leads with Redacted Tonight and his own website is about #6. An NC appearance is about 8th, but on the first page.

    I was surprised.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      But how did you search for him?

      If you search for him directly, I am sure Google won’t suppress that.

      It is if you search for stories where he ought to be first paged and wasn’t.

      The EU competition minister found that over 50% of the clickthroughs on a Google search go to the top link. Fewer than 1% come from the second page or later pages.

  29. ewmayer

    o “Watch this emotional moment when this woman takes her first breath after a double lung transplant | BoingBoing (resilc)” — Whoa, BoingBoing missed a chance for another fake-intimacy-conveying ‘this’ in their clickbait-headline. Here, let’s turn that knob up to 11: “Watch this emotional moment when this woman takes her first breath after this totally extreme double lung transplant!!”. Ooh, I might click that headline.

    o “Limiting Chinese Aggression: A Strategy of Counter-Pressure | American Interest” — Of course ‘Chinese’ and ‘American’ are completely interchangeable here.

    o “US watchdog probes possible manipulation of volatility index | Financial Times” — Want the real VIX manipulation? Here ya go, it’s called QE 4EVAH, on top of the [insert name of current Fed chair here] put.

  30. Jean

    On employers/owners stealing tips…

    The IRS now figures that the average tip is 8% of sales, therefore they withhold and tax on that.
    How will this be adjusted when tips are grabbed by managers and split up among kitchen staff, or just hoarded? Will the manager /owner pay the tax on the hoarded tip?

    The solution at present, if paying by credit card is to split your tip between 8% on the credit card that will be taxed anyway and pay the rest in cash.

    Better yet, pay the entire tip in cash handed to the server. If you are a big party don’t forget the busboy.

    Credit cards grab 4 to 6% of sales anyway, so if you care about not only the server and the owner of a family run non-corporate restaurant, you will pay for everything in cash.

  31. Patrick Donnelly

    Many commenters seem to think that war is to be won! They are the Americans, of course. War between Iran and Iraq was fought to reduce the possibility of regime change in each country. USA assisted this as they had designed each regime.

    The Vietnam war? Was it designed to be won? Really? When the natives were the target? Seriously? Afghanistan: likewise. The USSR was incredibly stupid to take this on. A CIA win.

    War is designed by those who own a country to ensure that the owners are better off. Peasants and borrowings are the cost of war. Unless they are actually a benefit as taxes are paid by the surviving peasants who are suddenly busy in an economy operating at 100%.

    Naive, but well educated people discussing war! How entertaining!

  32. The Rev Kev

    Incredible video reveals terrifying robot dog that can open doors

    Too many Luddites here. I look at that device and think that that would be a great platform for improvements. Every office building should have at least one. You could load the plans of the building in it so that it can find its way around the building. Maybe a few logic circuits so that it could learn how to use the elevators. Certainly a mike for detecting sounds and maybe an infra-red device so that it can find its way in the dark if it has to. Hey, maybe use Bluetooth so that it can hook into the security cameras in the building so that it knows what is going on so that can help out. Probably adding a motion detector could help do its job as well.
    You know what would be really cool? Adding one of those Elon Musk flamethrowers to it so that it could provide entertainment. That would be great. Hey, that reminds me about the danger of fire in a building. It might be an idea to add on a high-speed circular saw to cut through doors or walls in case of an office fire to create escape routes for people. For safety reasons. Probably should have a claw attached somewhere so that it can plug itself into a power outlet to charge its internal batteries. But you know what. Programing it would be really cumbersome but fortunately I know of an eastern European site where you can download an AI. It is beta version but it should be ok here. Just boot it up and you are ready to go.

    Beep. POST, check. ROM, instructions, check. Peripheral array, check. Sensor array, check. Cameras, check. Battery level, 98%, fuel tank, 99%, high-speed circular saw activated, targets acquired…

  33. Patrick Donnelly

    Monbiot of the Grauniad is a twerp.

    Antibiotics are not the holy grail of health. Even if they were still in dead animals. Farmers know that they mean that for example, chickens grow to harvest size twice as fast as otherwise….

    Antibiotics can be life saving for those in unsanitary conditions, provided the most useful are not used ad lib for animals or humans. It is simply nad sceince to argue otherwise, but the creation of fear is the most common psyop. Pharma loves this kind of talk as it can then justify more expensive, “better” antibiotics or other treatments.

    They should be handed out to all disaster areas to all survivors who continue to live there, ad lib. They aren’t because that would interfere with these false science stories.

    “Humans: a species dedicated to lying to the ignorant, in order to maintain authority”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You are embarrassingly wrong on this and look not to have even bothered to read the Monbiot piece. This is a violation of our written site Policies, as is your ad hominem attack on him.

      He is arguing about the routine use of antibiotics in farmed animals as a growth enhancer.

      You now have good odds of dying in a US hospital of MRSA due to antibiotic resistance. It is THE reason in the US not to go to a hospital. Similarly, one of the three reasons people are dying of The Flu in the US is sepsis. That is another result of antibiotic resistance.

      And it is 100% factual that the use of antibiotics on farm animals increases the rate of creation of antibiotic resistant bacteria generally. The CDC has even issued a warning:

      Moreover, your claim that this is a Big Pharma tactic is nonsense. Big Pharma has been utterly uninterested in developing new antibiotics because they don’t see enough money in it. This has been a subject of much handwringing for well over a decade.

    2. ebbflows

      Cheep across the boarder antibiotics revenge – ???? – can remember the AZ – Mexico buying spree in the 70s.

      Reminiscent of the early day WRT cocaine, yet at the end of the day its a fear based trade.

  34. Patrick Donnelly


    Agreed. It reminds us of the Velociraptors opening the kitchen doors in “Jurassic Crap”.

    The advance of robots is a political minefield: too many useless humans muttering and sending glances at their betters? Gosh, what harm could posssibly come of that?

    I bet we get a Treaty banning wars fought by robots. So that Humans can fight them instead!!! That would tell us a lot about wars?

    Peasants are useful ….. until they are not.

  35. Patrick Donnelly

    Chinese Aggression
    Another psyop. Always required to have external threats. Russia, N Korea, Syria etc.

    Eventually, once the target has a similar need to reduce their dissidents, a war can be arranged.

    Japan was an exception to this. WWII as a whole also.

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