Links 2/27/18

Loneliest tree in the world serves as a perfect record of how humans have permanently altered Earth International Business Times

North Pole surges above freezing in the dead of winter, stunning scientists WaPo

Impact of warming seas felt by northeastern fisheries Toledo Blade (GF).

Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions Science. “A detailed mass balance demonstrates that the use of volatile chemical products (VCPs)—including pesticides, coatings, printing inks, adhesives, cleaning agents, and personal care products—now constitutes half of fossil fuel VOC emissions in industrialized cities.”

Ancient Elephants and Mastodons Were Totally Down With Inter-Species Boning Gizmodo (original).

Self-Proclaimed Bitcoin Inventor Accused of Swindling $5 Billion of Cryptocurrency Bloomberg. Bitcoin = prosecution futures –Yves Smith, 11/18/13.

U.S. to overtake Russia as top oil producer by 2019 at latest: IEA Reuters. Resouce curse, here we come….

California OKs Autonomous Car Testing Without Backup Drivers US News. So I guess the only regulation will come from the trade press….

Exclusive: Secretive U.S. security panel discussing Broadcom’s Qualcomm bid – sources Reuters


Syria: Putin orders five-hour daily ceasefires in eastern Ghouta Guardian (KW).

Will the U.S. Help the Saudis Get a Nuclear Weapon? Editorial Board, NYT

Turkey’s president tells 6-year-old girl she’d get honours if martyred Sidney Morning Herald (KW).


HNA via GAR? The mystery of Deutsche Bank’s largest shareholder FT Alphaville. “This should not be a difficult question and, at first, the answer seems straightforward: China’s HNA Group [whose rise] from a small regional Chinese airline to one of the country’s most prominent overseas deal-makers has left many observers asking several questions about a group whose true ownership is shrouded in mystery. Not least among them: what actually is HNA?” HNA, apparently, has a “complicated group structure.” Oh, good.

End to term limits at the top may be start of global backlash for China, analysts say South China Morning Post

China’s Stability Myth Is Dead Foreign Policy

The Chinese Century? The National Interest

Seeking Healthier Soil, China Expands Crop Rotation Plan Sixth Tone


Pro-EU Tory faction to join Labour on Brexit in threat to May FT

Tories seek legal advice on vote after Jeremy Corbyn backs customs union Guardian

Denmark’s prime minister casts doubts on Margrethe Vestager’s EU career Altinget (FJ). FJ: “The tentacles are coming for Magrethe Vestager. The Danish government is advertising its intentions of looking into replacing Vestager with a more ‘suitable’ person (if the price is right or maybe they got a telephone call from the singularity cult – – since according to ancient myths and legends told to children, we don’t do corruption in Denmark :).”

Angela Merkel names CDU members of possible German Cabinet Deutsche Welle

Italian election: voters frustrated with shallow recovery FT

New Cold War

Q&A: What the battle of memos on FBI surveillance showed AP

How Trump Conquered Facebook—Without Russian Ads Wired. Politics is the story hook for the more interesting details of Facebook’s advertising infrastructure.

Trump Transition

A “view” from the courtroom: The dog that didn’t bark and Argument analysis: Gorsuch stays mum on union fees SCOTUSblog. The Janus case. Silver lining if unions “lose”: They stop enabling the Democrats and refocus on the workplace.

* * *

What the SCOTUS decision means for “Dreamers” Axios

Koch Bros related group calls on Congress to protect Dreamers (!) Tampa Bay Times

GOP senators: ‘Dreamers’ deal will likely end up in funding bill The Hill

* * *

The Real Game Trump Is Playing on NAFTA Poltico. Important, and a salutary reminder that much of Twitter’s content is composed of bright shiny objects.

Trump is tearing up the system that protects ordinary Americans from financial scams Vox (GF).

Trump-backed gun measure faces hurdle from three Republican senators McClatchy

WH quietly issues report to Congress showing benefits of regulations The Hill (UserFriendly).

Health Care

Why are Democratic party thinktanks still not backing universal healthcare? Adam Gaffney, Guardian

A Better Single-Payer Plan David Leonhardt, NYT. Medicare Extra, still germane. I don’t know whether it’s sheer ignorance or breathtaking effrontery that leads Leonhardt to call a plan that preserves employer-based insurance “single payer,” but I suppose Medicare for All advocates can take comfort with the theory that he’s trying the hijack the branding. Those who suspect that Neera Tanden’s “progressives” at CAP are running Medicare Extra as a bait and switch operation to sabotage single payer, exactly as the same crowd did in 2009-2010, should read “Bait and switch: How the ‘public option’ was sold,” followed by “Reply to critics of “Bait and switch: How the ‘public option’ was sold” from PNHP’s Kip Sullivan. Perhaps Tanden thinks that, after a nearly decade, she can pull the same play out of the same playbook and nobody will notice. Of course, maybe this time around, “progressives” are sincere. They could signal it by defenestrating a prominent anti-#MedicareForAll Democrat. How about Gretchen Whitmer? See next–

Blue Cross Pressures Employees to Donate to Opponent of Single-Payer Candidates Truthout. Sadly, the headline whitewashes the role of the Democratic favorite, Gretchen Whitmer, whose father, Richard Whitmer, was president of Blue Cross of Michigan for 18 years and even has a building named after him on Blue Cross’s campus. And, of course, ka-ching.

Puerto Rico

Citigroup Drove Puerto Rico Into Debt. Now It Will Profit From Privatization On The Island. The Intercept. From last week, still germane.

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

The Feds Can Now (Probably) Unlock Every iPhone Model In Existence Forbes (WB).

US state legal supremos show lots of love for proposed CLOUD Act (a law to snoop on citizens’ info stored abroad) The Register

Apple confirms it now uses Google Cloud for iCloud services The Verge

Class Warfare

In West Virginia, Historic Statewide Teacher Walkouts to Head Into Fourth Day Common Dreams

When is a strike not a strike? Preston County News-Journal

Buying Power: an often neglected, yet essential concept for economics The Minskys

You’re more likely to achieve the American dream if you live in Denmark World Economic Forum (Altandmain). Mission accomplished!

Hundreds lose New Zealand drivers licenses in bribery scandal The FCPA Blog. So that’s why the squillionaires are moving there! It’s not the hobbits at all!

SSC Journal Club: Cipriani On Antidepressants Slate Star Codex (UserFriendly). Original from The Lancet.

Food for Thought: Was Cooking a Pivotal Step in Human Evolution? Scientific American. As opposed to takeout?

Antidote du jour (via):

Bonus antidote:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Links on by .

About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Jim Haygood

    Battle of the investment analysts:

    BlackRock Inc.’s bullish case for U.S. equities over their European counterparts last week has prompted a rebuttal from Russell Investments.

    For Russell’s Wouter Sturkenboom, U.S. fiscal stimulus will increase inflation, the budget deficit and interest rates. This poses a risk to the valuation multiple behind strong returns in U.S. stocks.

    BlackRock’s global chief investment strategist, Richard Turnill, argues that earnings growth matters more than valuation at this stage of the economic cycle. BlackRock downgraded its view on European stocks to neutral, while for Russell Investments they are the “clear” preference over their U.S. peers.

    As with journos, listening to analysts can cost you big money. Their abstract debates can be resolved with the classical tools of the shadetree economist: a spreadsheet, a jukebox and a barstool.

    Gary Antonacci’s GEM model — fully detailed in his book Dual Momentum Investing — simply compares the 12-month rate of change in the US S&P 500 and the ACWI ex-USA index. As of last night, the S&P 500 is up 19.9% from last Feb 28th, while the ACWI ex is up 24.0%. Ergo, own the ACWI ex (available in an ETF).

    This chart shows the crossover last year which flipped the model from the US into the ACWI ex:

    It ain’t rocket science, but it ain’t bad. *drops another quarter in the jukebox*

  2. Wukchumni

    North Pole surges above freezing in the dead of winter, stunning scientists WaPo

    In a related story, Santa Claus’s workshop was flooded out, but luckily the elves were making jetpacks @ the time and were able to fly off to safety.

    But seriously, the climate change bringer of our destruction up north is something 99.99999999% of us have never been to or seen in person, almost like a deity in that regard.

  3. PlutoniumKun

    SSC Journal Club: Cipriani On Antidepressants Slate Star Codex (UserFriendly). Original from The Lancet.

    This is fascinating, especially this paragraph of the Slate Start Codex critique:

    Further investigation reveals that once you convert Cipriani’s odds ratios to effect sizes, the two studies are pretty much the same – in fact, Cipriani’s estimates are (slightly) lower. That is, “the study proving antidepressants work” presents a worse picture of antidepressants than “the study proving antidepressants don’t work”. If I had realized this earlier, this would have been the lede for this article. This makes all the media coverage of this study completely insane and means we’re doing science based entirely on how people choose to sum up their results. Strongly recommend this Neuroskeptic article on the topic. This is very important and makes the rest of this article somewhat trivial in comparison.

    When I first saw the report on the Lancet Study i thought ‘well, so much for all those anti-drug arguments’, it seemed pretty definitive. But it seems the question is still wide open. It seems the drug industry is extremely good at getting the message out it wants, even if the science says something different.

    1. Steve H.

      Neuroskeptic article.

      Odds ratios go back to Pierce and are usually considered a mode that our cognitive biases process better than percentage variants (66% tracks as about 50/50, while 2-to-1 odds sound pretty good). The numbers in the Lancet study confirm your epiphany: “all antidepressants were more effective than placebo, with ORs ranging between 2·13 (95% credible interval),,,” The thirteen there is not the positive outcome, those odds suck. I guess if you’re desperate you’ll take the long-shot, but again, those odds suck.

    2. Croatoan

      Read Johann Hari’s book “Lost Connections” for more on this topic.

      While I think Hari is right that antidepressants do not work for the majority of people, I think he is wrong on why they do not work. The fundamental problem with mental illness is one of Oxidative Stress. Antidepressants in almost all cases lower some type of oxidative stress. Go ahead, look in pub med. Stress, bad diet, pollution, all cause oxidative stress. The metabolism of serotinin creates H2O2. O2- inhibits Tryptophan hydroxylase. Some of us can handle the oxidative stress better than others.

      Most antidepressants. like Amitriptyline mention in the article, work by increasing H2O2.

      Understanding this fact enabled me to get off of several medication for schizoaffective and panic disorder.

  4. Tony Wikrent

    Regarding How Trump Conquered Facebook—Without Russian Ads:

    So, if I read that right — an effective boycott of simply not clicking the “like” icon will derail Facebook’s algos. But would that be enough to force Facebook to back down?

    1. Carolinian

      How about an effective boycott of not using Facebook at all? If you know you are being manipulated you have the choice of ignoring he manipulators.

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        You also have the option of learning how to use the manipulation tactics to foil the manipulators. One of the reasons the Republicans have been so successful is that they used PR with consummate skill. The Republican Lite party, on the other hand, chose to ignore that particular tool in favor of “fighting them with facts.”

        Don’t get me wrong—sometimes providing facts works. If the audience is primed for them. For the bulk of the media-brainwashed masses (and I don’t use that as an insult but rather am angry that we are in that condition), you have to fight propaganda with propaganda.

        Social media, properly used and targeted, can be a powerful tool. Right now, especially for progressive Democratic candidates fighting the machine, it’s the only real tool they have that doesn’t break their budget. One has to train oneself to recognize the trolls, which are clearly breeding under their rocks at the behest of any number of special-interest groups, and refuse to engage. If one does choose to engage, one does so not to convince the troll but to offer some of those facts, which may or may not even address what the troll said.

        A regular columnist cross-posting his work to my news group on Facebook recently advised that Facebook refused to allow an article he did about the fight for rights in Ethiopia expanded distribution on the grounds it “violated community standards.” It didn’t, of course, because those community standards are so flexible their meaningless other than “this is something we don’t want people to see.” Frankly, despite their noble framing, I think this is also what the new newsfeed algorithm is for.

        I do know that said news group, after an initial flurry of “membership requests” comprising mainly spammers from foreign countries, hasn’t seen a single new signup for months. This despite people asking for and receiving the link, people who I know are prime potential members. Odd, that.

    2. Avalon Sparks

      I still have a Facebook account, but haven’t posted or even gone to Facebook since last October. I went in this week to get a friend’s phone number they had IM’d previously. When I checked MY recent activity it showed I had ‘liked’ 3 posts in the past month. The posts I supposedly ‘liked’ were from friends (actual people I know). One was a pontificating, judgmental one about people that receive govt assistance pulling themselves up by their bootstraps (rolls eyes) – that I never would have clicked the “like” button on. So irritating, I actually went through all three and removed ‘my’ “like” check.

      I don’t think my account was hacked and nothing else appeared to be amiss. I can only conclude Facebook is ‘liking’ posts for me. It doesn’t make sense that some hacker would get into my account, read through posts from friends and hit the ‘like’ button on a few of them. It definitely wasn’t anyone else in my household, that I’m sure of.

      F – Facebook!

  5. Steve H.

    NAFTA: “Perhaps most striking has been the Trump administration’s dollar policy. With occasional deviations, the United States has favored a strong dollar since at least the early years of the Reagan administration, with officials believing a strong currency was important for international financial stability and served as a bulwark against inflation. But at Davos last month, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin explicitly abandoned that policy. “Obviously, a weaker dollar is good for us as it relates to trade and opportunities,” he said at a news conference aimed at pitching the United States as an attractive investment location.”

    Investopedia: “The status of the dollar as a world reserve currency is bolstered. While some countries, including Russia, Iran and China, have questioned the status of the U.S. dollar as the de facto world reserve currency, a strong dollar helps keep its demand as a reserve high.

    This seems to be a prime root of the inter-elite split affecting us. Yves: “To be the reserve currency issue, you need to be willing to run trade deficits on an ongoing basis so there is plenty of your currency in foreign hands. That is equivalent to having your domestic demand support foreign jobs, or exporting jobs.”

    My too-simple story is this: there is a CIA-WallSt axis which supports exporting jobs to keep fiat dollars in demand, which allows infinite bribes and cui-bono makes super wealthy people super-duper wealthy. But the social instability resulting from choices going back to the early 70’s (at least) are now seen in terms of human ecology and increasing mortality. Those more skilled at local dominance are now in a position of power and engaged in a serious struggle with those who benefit from global (full-spectrum) dominance.

    Very interesting in the story about how the threat of withdrawing from NAFTA is altering corporate behavior. Power is curious these days. A Kardashian clan member tweets and Snapchat loses 1.3 billion in a day. It’s restabilised quickly, but boy I wish I’d known about that before it happened, I could’ve gotten rich shorting the stock, eh?

    1. Wukchumni

      I think one of the keys to keeping the Breton Woods agreement that the Dollar would remain the world’s reserve currency, is our attempts to make it the official currency of other places, especially those laden with proven oil reserves such as Ecuador (mission accomplished), Iraq (that one didn’t work out so good) and Venezuela (a work in progress).

      Oil is the really the de facto currency in the world, and can’t be created by a human bean banging away on a keyboard, conjuring it out of thin air.

      1. Jef

        What keeps the dollar as the world’s reserve currency?

        You can buy oil in any currency in the world but it is “priced” in dollars.
        Oil is the most traded item in the world.

        That and it is backed up by the worlds largest military X 10 which is run by those belligerent enough to use it.

        1. John k

          Foreign wannabe savers pick the reserve currency when they stuff something in their mattress. To get the green paper they want they have to send us lots of whatever stuff we want, meaning we have a trade deficit. Can’t have one without the other…

          And the biggest exporters, China and Germany, are mercantile, meaning that’s the way they want it, the last thing they want is a trade deficit.
          Great for our consumers, not so good for workers, though we could at any time put them to work on overdue infra.

    2. Jim Haygood

      Yves: “To be the reserve currency issuer, you need to be willing to run trade deficits on an ongoing basis.

      More on this subject — another shadetree economist, Daniel Nevins, rummages through the dusty archives to develop alternative theories of money, inflation and groaf. From his email last night [no link available]:

      The gods baited Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz with ninety-four years of M63 data [bank-created money]. Friedman and Schwartz wrote up the data in their magnum opus, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 [published in 1963; thus “M63” — JH]

      Most economists were unaware of the differences between [M2] and the M63 measure that Friedman and Schwartz studied, and they might still be unaware. Even Friedman and Schwartz gave no indication they considered the differences significant.

      Bank-funded spending might lift real GDP or inflation, or both, but [either way] we can find a correlation with nominal GDP as long as we define money as bank-created money (M63), not M2.

      [Also] data show the foreign sector mostly draining dollars from our real economy and then investing them in our financial economy. Essentially, America’s trade deficit is deflationary.

      So my suggested inflation indicator is easy to calculate—we add M63 growth to the trade balance and then subtract real GDP growth. M63 growth and the trade balance measure spending injections and leaks whereas real GDP growth tells us about the supply side. I haven’t yet shown the theory works, though, and I’ll do that in Part 3.

      Maff, money and uncle Miltie … me like!

        1. JohnnyGL

          One issue off the top of my head that I can recall was that Monetarists assumed velocity was fixed, hence their obsession with money supply.

          During the 80s, velocity fell quite a bit. It did again post-crisis.

          I think another argument would be that money supply follows, it doesn’t lead. Can’t remember where I read. It’s been awhile.

          1. Jim Haygood

            Bank-created money is not the same as money supply, which is much larger in size. One source for bank lending is the FDIC’s Quarterly Banking Profile. It’s a quite different time series than the money supply data published by the Federal Reserve.

            Another economist who’s laser-focused on bank credit is Paul Kasriel, formerly of Northern Trust. He shows a solid correlation between bank credit + monetary base and nominal GDP. Chart:


            Nevins hasn’t revealed details of his M63 series yet, but presumbly it does not include the monetary base as in Kasriel’s formulation. We’ll see.

        2. Jim Haygood

          Nevins is not relying on Friedman and Schwartz except for their “bank created money (M63)” data. To my knowledge no one has challenged F&S’s time series, derived from monumental, years-long hand data collection from Treasury and Federal Reserve archives.

          Nevins’ proposed inflation indicator is his own. Details on its past performance will follow, says his email.

          If it works, great. Nevins’ formulation is so much simpler than the NY Fed’s underlying inflation index, which uses over a hundred (100) input series with changing weights that are not even disclosed — so it can’t be replicated without a roomful of frayed-collar PhD Econs to adjust the knobs and dials and replace burnt-out vacuum tubes. :-(

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            In the extreme case, a sort of reducio absurdum, if all new money is spent on foreign made products, and the foreigners then spend it among themselves and use that money to lubricate or facilitate their trade activities, that is, let that new money achieve its global-ness, never to return home, which is its destined fate, and no American sees that money, then its’ either zero-flation or de-flation.

            Zero flation if it creates new demand (on those foreign made products) that is otherwise not there.

            De-flation if it re-directs intended demand to another supply source (foreign) from the original one (domestic).

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        If a reserve currency issuer needs to run trade deficits, the next question is, how much?

        How much will determine if we need to

        1. run deeper dificits
        2. we are Goldilocks…not too much, not insufficient
        3. run surpluses to reduce deficits.

        1. John k

          Depends on how desperate foreign savers are. If scared of their own currency they want more of what they trust. Imagine the rush if eu begins to fall apart…
          Us talking down dollar, but savers create floor.

          1. Wukchumni

            Something most countries do, but we never have done yet, is repudiate older U.S. currency. The way it’s usually done, is the public is allowed 5-10 years to cash them in, and then after that they have no value. All Swiss currency from about pre 1980 has no value, aside from a slight collector value.

      2. Skip Intro

        So being the reserve currency issuer not only dooms a country to exporting productive jobs, it also subjects it to increasing financialisation, which means a healthy domestic population of rentier parasites skimming their cut from the real economy…

        1. John k

          We can create jobs here, e.g much needed infra, until we run out of workers.
          (We will run out of workers or materials before we run out of dollars.)
          No inflation until real worker or other shortage occurs… true unemployment probably at least 9% now.
          We can easily have both a trade deficit and full employment.

    3. JohnnyGL

      One underrated aspect of Reagan’s time in office was how his administration shoe-horned the USD lower against the JPY during the late 1980s, post Plaza Accord. German re-unification after 1990 required a big spending binge from the government, pushing up the old DM. This also meant lower USD. The last time the USA actually closed it’s CA deficit was in the mid-90s when tech manufacturing picked up.

      Japan’s devaluation shortly thereafter, followed by the round of devaluations from the Asian Crisis brought that brief era to an end and ushered in a new ‘strong dollar’ policy.

    4. John Merryman

      It’s the basis of colonialism, having the colonies dependent on the motherland’s money. Easier than outright slavery, for sucking value out of the community.

      1. Steve H.

        That’s the clan aspect. She herself never needed to, as long as her peoples knew. And we don’t get to know.

        Twitter is a tougher nut, how many Kardashians will it take for a billion dollar bite out of that apple?

    5. Odysseus

      My too-simple story is this: there is a CIA-WallSt axis which supports exporting jobs to keep fiat dollars in demand, which allows infinite bribes and cui-bono makes super wealthy people super-duper wealthy.

      Meh. The World Is Not Flat. Wages are not the same the world over.

      So plenty of arbitrage opportunities exist.

      You don’t need a conspiracy theory to recognize that a lot of people would like to see a world that’s a lot flatter. And Joe Sixpack doesn’t think in those terms, so much of what is destroying the future of the working class is not talked about openly.

    1. marym

      Thank you.

      That list of 8 flaws, starting with

      CAP’s plan will continue to leave people without health insurance

      is great (or rather, horrible).

      This is the first time I’ve seen the acronym NIMA – National Improved Medicare for All for a true single-payer universal plan.

  6. The Rev Kev

    North Pole surges above freezing in the dead of winter, stunning scientists
    Impact of warming seas felt by northeastern fisheries

    Whenever I read stories like these, I always get an ominous feeling about what is happening. Too much a case of “Ask not for whom the bell tolls…” for my liking.

    1. Wukchumni

      Not too worried about eventual sea rise here in the Sierra foothills, but more the knock on effects to the disruption of cycles that we came to know as regular.

      A good many fruit & nut trees on the Central Valley floor blossomed 2-4 weeks earlier than they normally would’ve have on account of spring-like temps that fooled the trees, combined with a cold snap this past week that killed the embryonic food within on a good many of them.

      I get the feeling a good part of our lives in the midst of the crisisalis will be akin to listening to a radio that’s frequently out of tune.

  7. Wukchumni

    New Zealand, ranked the least corrupt country in the world, has cancelled hundreds of drivers licenses after an investigation revealed widespread bribery involving driving tests.

    The number of applicants submitting Indian licenses increased from 70 to 772 from 2013 to 2015, raising suspicions the Indian licenses might be fakes.

    “A briefing note to former Minister of Transport Simon Bridges in 2016 shows there has long been concern about the increasing use of Indian licences to obtain licences in New Zealand,” the local report said.

    It wasn’t so much the squillionaires, more like Raj and his uncle Raj and his brother Raj, et al.

    The NZ I knew before the housing bubble was the epitome of an honest country, but as they say-money corrupts, and their real estate bubble was widespread throughout the country, nearly every Auckland property owner almost a millionaire, for instance.

    1. Conrad

      The very same Simon Bridges became leader of the National Party yesterday.

      I think the Corruption Perception Index lags horribly, and we’ll see New Zealand’s score drop significantly in the near future as a whole lot of mortgage fraud comes to light after the housing market loses steam

  8. Wukchumni

    We’re set to receive the 1st stage of a March miracle when 2-3 feet of fresh snow will fall in the largely barren High Sierra during the first days of the month.

    We like to ski among the giant sequoias in the Giant Forest and haven’t been able to do so this year yet, dense columns of red set above a carpet of white, makes for a most interesting contrast.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Is that the same storm that’s due to hit AZ tonight? We’re supposed to have rain in Tucson and snow on the mountains near the city. I can’t wait to enjoy tomorrow’s mountain view.

      1. Wukchumni

        We had almost an inch of snow here in the a.m., something that happens every couple of years @ this lower altitude. Some of the feline accoutrements @ the all cats and no cattle ranch had never walked on snow before, it was fun to watch their reaction.

        The bigger system comes in Thursday through Saturday…

  9. L

    You could file this one either under Health Care or Class Warfare: Apple to launch ‘technology enabled’ healthcare service (the Guardian).

    Apple is apparently planning a “Concierge-like” health center for employees and their families in Cupertino and Santa Clara. I call this class warfare because Apple is famous for not paying local taxes and thus starving actual local hospitals of money. Google starved public transit of funds and then launched their own employees only bus service. Apple is now launching employees only health. Clearly the transition to feudalism and company towns is well on its way.

    1. Schtua

      I can only assume that injuries from walking into glass walls and doors will be considered pre-existing conditions, or perhaps user error, rather than iatrogenic.

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Ancient Elephants and Mastodons Were Totally Down With Inter-Species Boning Gizmodo (original).

    Sometimes such acts, between various species, not just the two above, do breed and sometimes not.

    One can look at the former as the earliest form of birth control.
    “Intimacy for the sake of intimacy…to be liberated.”

  11. rd

    Another climate change article from the Toledo Blade:

    I think this is emblematic of both the hysteria around climate change while also discussing serious consequences of climate change.

    On the hysteria side,

    “Justin Richardson, a biogeochemist and assistant professor in the University of Massachusetts Department of Geosciences. “No forest is ever stagnant, and there are always new species moving in and old species moving out, but those changes normally take tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years to take place.””

    Wrong! The forests he is looking at in New England are only about 10,000 years old in total. The 10,000 years before that was some boreal forest and arctic tundra, and before that there was a mile of ice for the previous hundred thousand years. The New England forest he is researching actually had to migrate from Florida and the Gulf Coast to get to New England. The astonishing thing is how fast that actually occurred.

    On the other hand, the potential for release of lead in soil from car exhausts as the forest changes is a potentially nasty condition that will be a combination of climate change and past pollution.

    So the climate has changed significantly in the past. We appear to be causing and/or accelerating more warming today. Many of our ecosystems can adapt fairly quickly to this change, but many of our activities are disrupting and weakening these ecosystems, making them less resilient to change with potentially bad consequences. Over-fishing of cod had weakened the cod ecosystems dramatically over the past 50 years. Climate change is now piling on and playing a role in preventing cod’s resurgence, although in many areas other fish (e.g. dogfish) had already moved into that ecosystem niche.

    We need to sort out the good, bad, and indifferent without un-grounded histrionic statements.

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    You’re more likely to achieve the American dream if you live in Denmark World Economic Forum (Altandmain). Mission accomplished!

    If I lived in Denmark, I would probably dream in Danish dreams.

    And so, I likely would want to achieve the Danish dream (whatever that is).

    1. Wukchumni

      How do the Danes make those butter cookies and package them in a decorative metal tin and sell em’ here for $2.99, and make a profit?

  13. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    End to term limits at the top may be start of global backlash for China, analysts say South China Morning Post

    If amendments to their constitution can be pretty much decided in a central committee, people everywhere, in all nations,have to wonder if a corporation acquiring a significant asset in their nation is not connected deeper, in many and not particularly transparent ways, with China’s highest authorities.

    Of course, one potential benefit of a great helmsman (or helmswoman) is that, for example, universal health care (provided by barefoot doctors, maybe) can be approved and implement quickly, even in just one day.

    1. John k

      Once you are all powerful, all it takes is the decision to shift resources from the rich to the poor.
      Not seeing much of that here, maybe Xi will see things differently. But I doubt it.

    1. JohnnyGL

      I was actually going to drop that same link.

      Albert Hunt….the centrist of centrists. If they’re worried, that lifts my spirits.

      I don’t want a dem wave, I want an internal dem takeover. If I can’t get a takeover, which is hard in one election cycle, then I want to at least get a beachhead that frightens the leadership or even knocks out either Pelosi or Schumer.

      Getting a wave election isn’t a priority, getting control of the party is. If we have to shrink the party further to aid in the takeover, then so be it.

      1. jo6pac

        Yes, progressives have worked hard in Calif. to get control of the party to only be beaten back by nancy p. I do hope they can pull this off this time. If they do I might even vote for a demodog if they remain progressive.

  14. petal

    Mountains of rubbish left behind by hurricanes in US Virgin Islands
    “But after back-to-back hurricanes pinwheeled across the Virgin Islands in September, Smith feels like he’s buried under piles of sheared metal roofs, waterlogged appliances and crumpled mango and bay rum trees that have been dropped off here.”

    At the bottom: “Mapp said he even considering shipping the debris to Haiti, where there is a burgeoning waste-to-energy industry, but officials concluded its government likely doesn’t have the manpower to unload the mountains of rubbish in Haitian ports.”

  15. Stephen V.

    Sorry. Desperate for humor here. This is Kunstler in fine style
    Everything about the lumbering, blundering occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue drives his Dem/Prog opponents — or #Resistance, if you will — plumb batshit: [snip]
    And the list goes from there, including the term *schmeikler.* My Jewish bona fides being thin (me a goyim 1 year in a jewish college frat).. …I had to resort to wikipedia:
    a worthy excursion if only to learn the difference between schlamiel and schlimazel among others.
    My partner and I concluded that a Schmeikler is one who wields a schmeckel but would be glad to defer to our NYC betters on this one.

    1. ewmayer

      If I had to guess I’d surmise that schmeikler is the Yiddishized form of the German Schmeichler, though based on the usage examples I found the meaning may have also been shifted from the German “flatterer or sycophant” more towards a schmoozing-style flatterer. (And similarly schmoozing sounds to me like it may be an adaptation of the German Schmusen, “smooching”.)

  16. marym

    The McClatchy post referenced in the links says Trump supports a Senate bill for fixes to the current background check.

    The NPR post quoted below says he supports a House fix with the addition of allowing interstate concealed carry.

    He had lunch with the NRA yesterday.

    Trump started out voicing support for several options that crossed party lines. But lately the bipartisan message has gotten muddled. For one thing, Trump has been spending more time with the National Rifle Association, and it’s beginning to show.

    But even though Trump says he wants “comprehensive” background checks, he has only supported a House bill that would tweak the current background check system. It would not make it universal nor close the gun show loophole, like the bill that Toomey sponsored with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V. in the months after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

    The House bill, which is backed by the NRA, also includes a provision to loosen existing gun restrictions. It would allow people with permits to carry concealed weapons in their states to carry anywhere in the country — even in states that don’t offer concealed carry privileges. That provision is opposed by Democrats in the Senate.

  17. allan

    Anti-Semitic incidents skyrocketed in New York []

    The number of anti-Semitic incidents in New York soared 91 percent between 2016 and 2017, part of a national trend and the most of any state in the country, a report Tuesday found.

    The Anti-Defamation League said in 2017 it recorded the largest single-year increase of anti-Semitic incidents since it started keeping track of the data in the 1970s.

    In New York, the number of incidents rose from 199 in 2016 to 380 last year. …

    Up 4-fold from 2016 to 2017 in Westchester, Rockland and upstate combined. In other words, post-election.
    A certain segment of the population clearly now feels it has a safe space.

    1. integer

      I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions; there have been numerous documented episodes of false-flag anti-Semitism.

      Here’s one example:

      Jewish Center Bomb Threat Suspect Is Arrested in Israel New York Times

      JERUSALEM — A months long wave of bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the United States that prompted evacuations, heightened security and fears of rising anti-Semitism gave way to an unexpected twist on Thursday. The person responsible for many of the threats, law enforcement officials said, was half a world away, in Israel, a Jewish teenager.

      Here’s another:

      GW Student Who Complained of Anti-Semetic Graffiti Admits Responsibility WaPo

      A George Washington University student who told school officials that someone had drawn swastikas on her dormitory room door was actually responsible for the incidents, a university spokesman said today.

      The student, who was not identified, had complained that swastikas appeared on her door over a period of several days last month. A hidden camera positioned in response to the postings in Mitchell Hall, one of the school dormitories, led police to interview the student, who admitted responsibility, according to spokesman Tracy Schario.

    2. Oregoncharles

      Israel has been provoking anti-Semitism for quite a while, presumably in the hope of increasing Jewish immigration.

      I assume the provocation is intentional; it’s in their interest.

  18. marym

    Day 4 of statewide teachers’ strike in WV

    Why West Virginia Teachers Are On Their First Strike In 28 Years

    …in interviews, school employees who traveled from across the state to Charleston said the fight was about much more than their paychecks. West Virginia is one of the few U.S. states with a falling population. As the state grapples with a severe teacher shortage, many educators worry their younger peers will continue to flee for greener pastures, with long-term consequences for successive generations of students.

    As one protester’s sign outside the capitol succinctly put it, “Country Roads: Leading teachers out of West Virginia.”

  19. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    California OKs Autonomous Car Testing Without Backup Drivers US News. So I guess the only regulation will come from the trade press….


    1. Can a, say, 12 year old, ‘drive’ a self-driving car? Is a license required?

    2. When you are involved in an accident with one of those, how do you exchange license information?

    3. What happens when a self-driving has a flat tire? Do you have to do the new tire yourself?

    4. Is it self-driving, self-driven, driverless or autonomous car?

    5. Can you send the car by itself to get a burger from a drive-through? Do we foresee lots of reckless consumption of energy here?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > When you are involved in an accident with one of those, how do you exchange license information?

      You don’t. Since algorithms cannot fail, you the human are obviously at fault. And the robot car will already have sent all your information to the police, and the insurance companies (plus your bill).

      Kidding! I think.

  20. Edward E

    Antidote du jour is about the same effect I get when watching Fox News. Or NASCAR

    In ‘democratic’ Britain, no term limits for prime ministers and its head of state is a monarch.
    China doesn’t want to be the next hegemon. They want a fair multilateral monetary system where no one country can run the printing presses to Mars for war.

    1. John k

      Actually we’re not printing enough to satisfy us and foreign savers, who continuously drain cash from the economy, made worse by the upward drain of rent to the rentier class.
      Middle and lower classes are broke…
      Monopoly game ends when one player has all the hotels… what is their value when nobody has the money to stay there?
      A fair monetary system must first have the trust of the worlds savers.

      Note that some like to save Swiss francs, but they want a trade surplus… to meet foreign demand they print like crazy to meet the demand, taking in 4x as reserves. China could do this, but nobody wants yuan anyway.

  21. a different chris

    Not sure what the surprise about the Koch’s wanting Dreamers is? The more that come in at the bottom the more the 0.1% can play them off everybody else. Why would the Koch’s be any different?

    It is a funny aspect of “money”, though, isn’t it? In most wars the more people you have on your side the more likely you are to win. But this war manages to take the side that has the numbers and make it attack itself.

  22. allan

    DCCC Advised Candidates Not To Discuss Gun Control Policy Right After Vegas Shooting [HuffPo]

    The morning after the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas, a member of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s press staff warned House candidates and their staffs not to “politicize” the shooting that day. Politicization, according to the DCCC official, included talking about gun violence prevention policy.

    “You and your candidate will be understandably outraged and upset, as will your community. However, DO NOT POLITICIZE IT TODAY,” DCCC regional press secretary Evan Lukaske wrote to candidates in the Northeast. “There will be time for politics and policy discussion, but any message today should be on offering thoughts/prayers for victims and their families, and thanking 1st responders who saved lives.” …

    Electoral incompetence and open corruption in one convenient package. What’s not to love?
    The DCCC: No better enemy, no worse friend.

  23. Lord Koos

    About the HNA Chinese airline mystery owners — I wonder if the real owner could be the Chinese army, the PLA, which is run like a business and which owns many many assets in China, which is rather surreal from an American perspective.

    “The profit-seeking commercial business empire of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) represents a unique example in the present day world. The PLA is the only agency that singularly controls the largest number of China’s business firms which span not only traditional sectors like agricultural and animal farms or mining raw materials but also high-tech areas like transportation, telecommunication, launching satellites, as also carrying out mass-production of popular consumer goods like bikes and television. The PLA has also built an important presence even in service sector industries like hotels, discotheques as also real estate, shares and securities. More than this, the PLA also controls a vast ocean of technical infrastructure, skilled manpower and other resources and it enjoys special privileges that make it not only extremely successful but also extremely attractive as a partner for joint ventures by other entrepreneurs both from home and abroad.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The Art of War, perhaps, in it, there is something about total war*, and you have to integrate all aspects, including business, which can be activated in the shooting phase of war time (meaning we are currently in the non-shooting phase…from that total, and continuous, perspective).

      *Here, total is easier to comprehensive. War, though, is mean in the broadest sense, to include shooting and non-shooting phases. So, an army, especially a people’s army, has to be concerned about protecting the nation and the people, including feeding them…maybe even making enough money on its own (and not be restricted by budget-conscious politicians) to provide, say, health care for the people.

      That would be quite a departure from the traditional doctrine of what an army should be.

      I wonder if the US Army will be reorganized to response to that challenge

      Would you go to a discotheque run by the Pentagon?

  24. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Loneliest tree in the world serves as a perfect record of how humans have permanently altered Earth International Business Times

    It’s a lone tree, but I don’t know if it’t the loneliest tree.

    Question. Does a tree say to itself, I am lonely?

    From the article:

    Human activity, the researchers say, has impacted the planet to such an extent that it is comparable to the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs to end the Cretaceous period and marked the beginning of the Palaeogene, noted a report in Live Science.

    Note it’s Human Activity, and not Conservative Human Activity or Progressive Human Activity.

    Perhaps we say, more blame can be attributed to some groups, and less to other groups. Then, we are back to, or come to, the question of how much…like too much water can be dangerous, too much oxygen can be too, as well as almost everything….to many gadgets, too many books, too much use of paper, or plastics, or fossil fuel, or even exercising too much. (That is, in many cases, a thing or an activity is not virtuous or not virtuous in and of itself, but amount of it that matters).

    And too many humans.

    Because to the planet, we are the Human Asteroid, though we won’t get a chance to kill dinosaurs.

    1. John k

      But we can’t be blamed for not killing those cute Dino’s, they’re all dead.
      OTOH, most living things are dying off, we might get some credit there…
      A silver lining from WWIII… human co2 emissions stop. Might save the corals…

  25. diptherio

    The convenience is going to be so amazing! I can hardly wait!

    The company knows the path to success is not just in Echo devices, and that Amazon can’t possibly make every gadget anyone wants to use. So they’ve created a new division called Alexa Voice Services, which builds hardware and software with the aim of making it stupendously easy to add Alexa into whatever ceiling fan, lightbulb, refrigerator, or car someone might be working on. “You should be able to talk to Alexa no matter where you’re located or what device you’re talking to,” says Priya Abani, Amazon’s director of AVS enablement. “We basically envision a world where Alexa is everywhere.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Only a select few are everywhere.

      Yahweh, Brahma, Shiva, Elvis, etc.

      So, that’s quite a lofty aspiration for Alexa.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Only a select few are everywhere.

      Yahweh, Brahma, Shiva, Elvis, etc.

      So, that’s quite a lofty aspiration for Alexa.

    3. tooearly

      “In general you could not assume that you were much safer in the country than in London. There were no telescreens, of course, but there was always the danger of concealed microphones by which your voice might be picked up and recognized; besides, it was not easy to make a journey by yourself without attracting attention. ” 1984

      Orwell never imagined folks would pay for the privileged of being spied upon 24/7

  26. Craig H.

    I looked around for the fox photo and maybe the photographer. The best candidate is a Russian news site. Link.

    I google translated the headline and the photo caption but did not get a photographer.

    Headline: In the bed to LONDONETS FOOD WAS TRIP

    Photo caption: Previously, “Bagnet” wrote that the crocodile was dragged by an Australian at the height of the party.

    I suppose some crucial details are lost in this translation. Bagnet is the name of the site. They served me ads for a stockbroker in English.


Leave a Reply

  • Keep it constructive and courteous
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Flag bad behavior
  • Follow the rules

Please read our Comments Policies here.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *