Links 2/4/18

The chicken and the Rottweiler: An unlikely friendship CBC

Nigel, the world’s loneliest bird, dies next to the concrete decoy he loved WaPo. If those concrete decoys had been robots, everything would have been fine.

Wage Inflation is Finally here, and it’s Toxic for the Fed Wolf Street

Markets are at a treacherous junction as bond yields rise FT

Jeff Bezo’s Amazon HQ2 is a ‘money losing investment for taxpayers,’ warns top Fed official CNBC

‘Crypto crazy’ Japanese mystified by virtual heist FT

Making a Crypto Utopia in Puerto Rico NYT

Obama Alums Are Pushing Fracked Gas Exports. That’s Exactly What Trump Wants DeSmogBlog

Reagan made a massive environmental mistake. Trump is repeating it, only worse LA Times


Brexiteers plot to install ‘dream team’ at No 10: Boris Johnson, Michael Gove — and Jacob Rees-Mogg as chancellor The Times

Taking their knives to Mrs May’s toga won’t solve all of the Tories’ troubles Guardian

Brexit immigration white paper to be delayed until autumn FT

What the polls do and don’t tell us about the battle between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May The New Statesman

Macron’s Attack on Workers Jacobin (J-LS).

Ordoliberalism and the alleged aberration of German economics Handelsblatt


Russia strikes back as Syrian rebels take credit for shooting down fighter jet, killing pilot WaPo. With a surface-to-air missile. I wonder where they got it from?

Secret Alliance: Israel Carries Out Airstrikes in Egypt, With Cairo’s O.K. NYT


Cats, rats and what a fistful of dodgy dollars in the desert tells us about China’s banking system South China Morning Post

Tillerson to Latin America: Beware of China The Atlantic

Venezuela Skirts U.S. Sanctions With Chinese Oil-For-Cash Loans


Aadhaar Opponents Must Move Beyond Surveillance Fears and Focus on the Law’s Flaws The Wire. “Aadhaar” is India’s universal ID system; see NC here.

India healthcare: Will the ‘world’s largest’ public scheme work? BBC

New Cold War

Russiagate is Dangerous, Will Washington Get the Memo? TRNN. Lol no.

16 Bombshells in the Nunes Memo the Media Do Not Want You to Know About Brietbart. I almost never link to Breitbart, but this is at least fun. Especially #16.

The Nunes-Ryan Civil Liberties Sham Marcy Wheeler, HuffPo (Kokuanani).

Trump’s Unparalleled War on a Pillar of Society: Law Enforcement NYT. Lambert here: The “pillar of society” headline is for a news story, not an Op-Ed, mind you. And nobody who watched Obama militarize the police and orchestrate a 17-city paramilitary crackdown on Occupy should be surprised that these are liberal Democrat views.

Snowden Bashes Nunes: I Was More Careful With Gov’t Secrets Than You Are Daily Beast. Yves: “Snowden here is explicitly rejecting the idea that the intelligence agencies are democratically accountable and can have their decisions over-ridden. What he did is in no way analogous to elected officials in an oversight capacity taking action.”

It’s Time to Audit America’s Secrets Eric Posner, Foreign Policy. IOW, a second Church Committee.

PART 4- The Arctic dimension The Saker (KW).

Trump Transition

Tax bill beginning to deliver bigger paychecks to workers AP

The 420

Girl Scout sells more than 300 boxes of cookies at San Diego marijuana dispensary 10News

Sports Desk

The search for Jackie Wallace Times-Picayune

I’m the Wife of a Former N.F.L. Player. Football Destroyed His Mind. NYT

Could a Vaccine Protect Players from Concussions? Wired (Re Silc). Yves: “I happen to know people who are working directly on the concussion issue. This is vaporware of the worst kind.”

Why NFL Ratings Are Plummeting: A Two-Part Theory The Atlantic

From Minneapolis to Inglewood, the shifting politics of NFL stadium design LA Times

Guillotine Watch

A tiny Ohio village turned itself into a $3m speed-cam trap. Now it has to pay back the fines The Register

Class Warfare

Austerity is an Algorithm Logic. Here is the headline from Boing Boing, which is much better: Australia put an algorithm in charge of its benefits fraud detection and plunged the nation into chaos (JVB). But Logic‘s original doesn’t just say “Kafa-esque,” it shows it.

Hey Democrats, the Problem Isn’t Jobs and Growth James Kwak, Baseline Scenario. “All these moderate Democrat congressional hopefuls (who keep calling me to ask for thousands of dollars without having the faintest idea what I believe in)…” Thousands of dollars? Really?

Data is the new lifeblood of capitalism – don’t hand corporate America control Guardian

The Amazon worker: paid £18,000 a year to shift 250 items an hour Guardian (JT McPhee).

There Are 2 Vacant Investor-Owned Homes for Every Homeless Person in America GritPost

Commentary: There Are Still 40 Million Slaves Worldwide. How Can We Free Them? Fortune

Liberalism is the most successful idea of the past 400 years The Economist

My Inheritance Was My Father’s Last Lesson To Me And I Am Still Learning It Buzzfeed

What Is The Last Question? The Edge

Antidote du jour (via):

Bonus antidote. Upping my cat game:

Double bonus antidote:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. timbers


    Shorter Team Obama to FISA Court on FISA warrant….

    “We want to spy on Trump because we think he’s conspiring w/Russians to meddle in the election by getting dirt on Hillary because of a report Hillary got by conspiring w/Russians to meddle in the election by getting dirt on Trump.”

    Makes sense to me!

          1. timbers

            Do you think they will ever see the irony that it wasn’t Russia that meddled in the U.S. election, but America that meddled in the U.S. election?

        1. Louis Fyne

          I’ve watched all the Mad Max movies and ‘escape from new York’. i know what to do after the apocalypse.

          let’s nuke some Russkies!

        2. JBird

          Please, I don’t need any of my Cold War era nightmares again. This is crazy talk. Are they reading up on General Curtis LeMay?

          A nuclear war with any major nuclear power would create damage and casualties at least on the of scale of World War Two, and some of radiation, and smoke, would spread to much of the planet further causing damage, sickness, and death. Even fifteen minutes of research would tell you that. Hell, look at pictures of Nagasaki and Hiroshima after their destruction from what is consider small, tactical level weapons.

        3. VietnamVet

          The “Mad Maxers” who believe that “real men go to Tehran” have a fundamental problem. Without the draft, NATO armed forces are not large enough to fight a conventional war with Turkey, Iran or Russia. Since Jimmy Carter, the USA has used proxy forces to fight their wars. The Soviet Union collapsed. But, Russia resurrected itself and countered back in Syria and Ukraine. The Cold War 2.0 has restarted. If a full blown war breaks out with Russia, it is impossible to rebuild Hitler’s 4 million man invasion army which lost. The war will have to go nuclear. Therefore, strike first. At best, kill 21 million people. At worst, pave way for the rise of the cockroaches. Democrats who are scapegoating Russia are certifiably insane.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      If that sounds like 11 dimensional chess, perhaps we should pay a visit to the world renown grand master of that game.

      1. dcblogger

        Judging by all the Republican retirements, they don’t believe those polls. Judging by all the small donor $ pouring into the campaigns of Democratic challengers, neither does anyone else.

  2. Henry Moon Pie

    Could fit under Sports Desk or Empire Collapse:

    Downward Spiral


    As the league’s patriotic play-acting so stridently reminds us, football is a uniquely American game, in ways that both flatter and put the lie to a number of treasured national myths. But after its decadent zenith, the league is showing signs of a very particular and very particularly American kind of decline. In the ways that blank greed and unaccountability have warped and weakened both the league and the sport itself, we can see a funhouse refraction of what corruption does to societies. In both cases, rich men’s self-serving smallness and single-minded dedication to their own narrow interests have put a broader future at direct and dire risk. In both the NFL and the similarly beleaguered American republic, change has never seemed more urgent or necessary, or more difficult to bring to pass. And in both venues of bloated, wobbling patriotic spectacle, the last and greatest reason for hope is the certainty that a present that so poorly serves so many cannot also be the future.

    1. The Rev Kev

      With its on-field rough play and its huddles, I have heard American gridiron described as incorporating the worst two aspects of American life – violence and committee meetings.

    2. integer

      It’s a bit tangential, however I note that there’s been a lot of talk about brain damage in the NFL. I’m not going to provide a mathematical proof, however I am pretty sure that the polycarbonate (or whatever it is that they are made of) helmets are contributing to this. When helmet-on-helmet collisions occur, the hardness of the helmets and the elasticity resulting from their somewhat spherical design will result in a significant impulse being sent through the head of the players. For the same reason the front end of cars are designed to crumple during collisions to absorb the impact (i.e. in order to spread the force out over time), it would be a good idea to have helmets with a softer outer layer, even if this was just added onto the outside of the current design.

  3. allan

    From the James Kwak piece:

    … We live in a deeply unfair and unequal world. Children born into rich families have the best educational and extracurricular opportunities that money and well-educated parents can provide. Children born into poor families, not so much. There are exceptions, of course, but few people born into the bottom quintile (by lifetime income) can realistically compete with those born into the top quintile. …

    As if on queue, from the AP: School system’s appeals process leaves some minorities out

    It’s an annual rite in Fairfax County, which has one of the wealthiest, best-educated populations in America: Hundreds of second-graders troop off to private psychologists for IQ tests to prove they’re worthy of advanced academic programs in the public schools.

    The competition is fierce. Acceptance, some parents believe, can be the key to getting into prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a magnet school that routinely sends graduates to the most competitive colleges.

    “I guess I never made the cut,” said Aaron Moorer, who is African-American and eventually graduated from Mount Vernon High with a 3.8 GPA. “I never made the special class.”

    Moorer’s family wasn’t aware that hundreds of families file appeals every year, armed with private exams costing more than $500, to persuade bureaucrats their child is deserving. This system exacerbates a problem plaguing gifted-and-talented programs across the nation: Black and Hispanic students almost never file the appeals that can secure their admission. …

    Shouldn’t the modern Democratic solution be a public-private partnership to empower those students
    by nudging them into microloans to pay for the private exams,
    loaded onto JPMC debit cards and nondischargeable in bankruptcy?

    1. Octopii

      We know kids at TJ, and have a few acquaintances who went there. They are simply different – technically brilliant, sure. Perhaps not so brilliant socially. I would not say that going to TJ leads to success in all aspects of life, although it seems to provide a good shot at a top-tier university. It is certainly a pressure cooker, as are many public schools in this area. There are far too many adolescent suicides in Fairfax County.

    2. WheresOurTeddy

      “Shouldn’t the modern Democratic solution be a public-private partnership to empower those students
      by nudging them into microloans to pay for the private exams,
      loaded onto JPMC debit cards and nondischargeable in bankruptcy?”

      I sense a disturbance in the Force, as if numerous Democrat consultants all picked up the phone at the same time…

      1. ObjectiveFunction

        “I sense a disturbance in the Force, as if numerous Democrat consultants all picked up the phone at the same time…”

        ROFL! You win my interwebz today mayte!

  4. The Rev Kev

    Brexiteers plot to install ‘dream team’ at No 10: Boris Johnson, Michael Gove — and Jacob Rees-Mogg as chancellor

    This should be fun, especially when Boris reminds you of a Trump but with unkempt hair. I understand that there is a clip of these three people hard at work together at

    I see from those Antidote du jours that our feline overlords are still at it.

    1. Anonymous2

      I interpret this bit of news as Murdoch running a flag up a pole to see how many people salute. The newspaper is of course one of his and Gove is one of his puppets
      whose function would be to keep Johnson from getting any ideas that he was in any way a free agent once he was in No 10. JRM would of course be another guard on the prisoner in Downing Street.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Do people like Murderdoch and the Kochs never just die? And if they do, do the corpses rot like the mopes’? And why does it seem that when Current Peak Looters appear to die (make very sure they are actually dead, don’t do like those dopes in the thrillers who fail to administer the coup de grace, like Michael Douglas to Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction”), there are always new sociopolitical wedgies of Innovators, Disruptors and Looters always upcoming in a steady flux, ready to bezzle (is it ok to “verb” bezzle, like so many nouns have been “verbed” and so many good useful verbs have been “nouned”?) and scam, seemingly as Athena, “born fully grown, armed and armored, from her father’s brow,”

        1. Anonymous2

          Murdoch does seem to have been around for ever does he not? He played a role in Whitlam’s removal in 1975 which shows IMO that he does not change.

          His mother lived to over 100 so he may be around for a good few more years. Frightening to think what mischief he might still have planned.

            1. integer

              Murdoch did originally support Whitlam, in the hope that he would contain the rising class struggle in Australia. This changed once Whitlam had made it clear that he would act in the interests of the Australian people.

              Murdoch editors told to ‘kill Whitlam’ in 1975 Sydney Morning Herald

              Murdoch was far from the only player in Whitlam’s removal though.

    2. Wukchumni

      If one of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s kids marries Mary Smith-Jones, does the offspring become named Alfred Rees-Mogg-Smith-Jones, and then he meets and marries Linda Dunhope-Gairhaven, and their kid is named Val Rees-Mogg-Smith-Jones-Dunhope-Gairhaven, and so on. And before you know it a few generations later, you’ve got a dozen hyphenated names for a last name, but it never seems to go that far, why?

      1. WheresOurTeddy

        As the fiancee (34M) of a hyphenated woman (30F), we’re picking one name and going with it once we tie the knot. We decided to go with her kickass maternal grandmother’s maiden name, as my parents, her dad, and her maternal grandfather are not worth being named after.

        So we had my name and a hyphen name and chose “none of the above”. We think of it as our version of Ellis Island, where we get to be who we are and want to be, not who we were and had to be. Past is prologue but it’s not who either of us are.

        We’re also expatriating within the next 36 months too, so maybe we’re just not nostalgic types.

    1. JohnnyGL

      I’m hoping that this palace-politics food fight morphs into a complete revulsion for the general public and they adopt a “throw ALL incumbents out” approach in 2018.

      There’s a lot of inexperienced grass-roots supported candidates running for the 1st time, and I’d like to think/hope there’s a good opportunity for them to find space in a political context that is really itching for a fresh set of people to get involved.

      There might be a possibility where voters are energized, but hate dem party hacks. This is the sweet spot.

      1. Ed Miller

        Not going to help. We would just get a freshman class for the overlords to consume. Overthrow Citizens United win at the Supremes. Defund all alphabet agencies. Then we might have a chance.

        Na ga happen. We are “family blogged”.

        1. integer

          Overthrow Citizens United win at the Supremes. Defund all alphabet agencies. Then we might have a chance.

          This brings up an issue that I’ve thought a lot about recently: that for meaningful and lasting political change to occur, not only do a set of changes need to occur, but these changes need to occur in a specific sequence. Just like putting on one’s pants before one’s underwear is a foolish thing to do, putting all of one’s energy into electing candidates (who purportedly hold views that are aligned with whatever values one holds) into office before dismantling (or at least establishing their full accountability to the public) the structures such as the intelligence agencies, MIC, corporate media, SuperPACS, think tanks, etc., that wield an enormous amount of unelected power to shape the discourse on any issue that concerns them, is foolish, at least imo. Yes, there is a certain chicken-and-egg element to it, however bipartisan action from the citizens of the US to tackle these issues before worrying about partisan politics seems like a good plan to me. Of course, with the D party supporters accusing R party supporters of being Russian trolls or bots, Putin lovers, etc., this is unlikely to happen. Divide and conquer is a powerful psychological tool, and those who fall for it the hardest seem to be the most shrill in their proclamations of their righteousness; a by-product of cognitive dissonance I guess. Sigh.

    2. UserFriendly

      Polls this early out are not a very strong indicator. Lots of little things can cause bumps or a change in trajectory. IMO the combo of people seeing a slight bump in their paychecks and Trumps not awful SOTU speech gave them a bump in the polls; sort of like how the national conventions give respective parties bumps in the polls. It will likely sink back down once everyone remembers that Trump is brash and that a raise that covers your annual costco membership or 2/3rds of the increase in your health insurance premium hasn’t really helped much. Besides, content people are much less likely to vote, especially in midterms, than angry people and no one is angrier than the hysterical dem base.

  5. fresno dan

    Girl Scout sells more than 300 boxes of cookies at San Diego marijuana dispensary 10News

    DUH – Why didn’t I think of that!?

    1. John Zelnicker

      @fresno dan
      February 4, 2018 at 8:11 am
      Sadly, the Colorado Girl Scouts have forbidden their scouts from doing this. They’re missing out on a lot of revenue by doing so.

      1. fresno dan

        John Zelnicker
        February 4, 2018 at 9:34 am

        So…..there is still hope for a fresnodan cookie emporium in Colorado…..

        1. Kurt Sperry

          And the cannabis variety du jour here on the West coast a few years back was called “Girl Scout Cookies” too.

        2. Procopius

          I’ve always thought the real gateway drug was milk. 100% of opioid addicts drank milk as babies. Also, 100% of marijuana smokers, too.

    2. JTMcPhee

      Offered as a sort of joke by a doctor in Florida: Plans to open a mobile medical MJ clinic in a motor home kind of thing, Class A large of course, with a taco truck as a towed vehicle. Synergies, my children! Franchising Opportunities! Profit!

      Why have legalization of MJ and also LGBTQRST marriage become a thing? Because so many strait-laced pinch-faced hypocritical closeted and covert “Judeo-Christian conservatives” just love them their pot, and in the search for love, companionship and meaning, are of the alt-relationship-and-preference sept, it seems to me… Roy Cohn, anyone? Too bad “working class” and “mopedom” are not likely to become seed crystals for the precipitation of healthier livable comity-centered structures…

  6. integer

    The Syrian Madhouse Gets Even Crazier The Unz Review

    Last summer, I was positioned just across the border from the Syrian town of Afrin around which Turkish and Kurdish and, possibly, American forces, are now poised for a head-on clash. It seems crazy to me that anyone would want to fight over this one-donkey farm town. We were there on a mission to rescue wild animals trapped in a zoo in war-torn Aleppo, Syria.

    Why on earth are at least 2,000 US troops mixed up in this fracas in darkest Syria? Because the pro-Israel neocons in Washington, who pretty much run US foreign policy these days, are determined to have revenge for the defeat of US-backed rebel forces in Syria. So it’s once more into the breach near Afrin and the town Manbij though America has zero national interests in Syria. The US first tried to overthrow Syria’s governments in Damascus in 1948 because it was too independent and flirting with the Soviets. Today’s intervention is part of Israel’s plan to fragment Syria and gobble up its water and fertile land resources

  7. Wukchumni

    What Is The Last Question? The Edge

    “Are people who cheat vital to driving progress in human societies?”

    If Wall*Street hadn’t cheated so much over the past decades, NYC might more closely resemble Detroit. And the companies they keep tend to respond in kind, cheating the future by emphasizing short term performance.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      A giant step of progress vs. a series of small steps of progress.

      It’s like in Calculus, a curve can be made up of a series of straight lines, approximately, to a very good degree of likeness. We think we are heading straight to the Progress Paradise, by taking a series of progressive steps.

      And after 10,000 years of progressing like that, the path is shown to be crooked.

      Small errors accumulated…and yesterday’s best explanations turned into more problems to be solved by today’s best explanations (but it doesn’t stop there, or today…unfortunately, and the cycle repeats).

      So, if progress itself is iffy, it’s less of an issue whether cheating quickens it or not.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It’s crooked, after 10,000 years, in the sense that, there was no Man-Made Global Warming then, and there is one now.

        1. Wukchumni

          10,000 or 1,000 years ago, if a human back then saw how we lived now, they’d rightly call us sorcerers.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            And 2,000 years ago, they would call us gluttons.

            “Buy not what you want, but what you have need of.”

            1. Wukchumni

              “And 2,000 years ago, they would call us gluttons.”

              …not so much

              “The festive consumption of food and drink was an important social ritual in the Roman world. Known in general terms as the convivium (Latin: “living together”), or banquet, the Romans also distinguished between specific types of gatherings, such as the epulum (public feast), the cena (dinner, normally eaten in the mid-afternoon), and the comissatio (drinking party). Public banquets, such as the civic feasts offered for all of the inhabitants of a city, often accommodated large numbers of diners. In contrast, the dinner parties that took place in residences were more private affairs in which the host entertained a small group of family friends, business associates, and clients.

              Roman literary sources describe elite private banquets as a kind of feast for the senses, during which the host strove to impress his guests with extravagant fare, luxurious tableware, and diverse forms of entertainment, all of which were enjoyed in a lavishly adorned setting. Archaeological evidence of Roman housing has shed important light on the contexts in which private banquets occurred and the types of objects employed during such gatherings.”


              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                Still, it’s democracy and everyone contribute these days.

                That is, per capita consumption is higher.

                Take for example, socks. How many pairs does a typical person go through in life now, versus 2,000 years ago?

                Or disposable (infant and adult) diapers.

  8. fresno dan

    Hey Democrats, the Problem Isn’t Jobs and Growth James Kwak, Baseline Scenario. “All these moderate Democrat congressional hopefuls (who keep calling me to ask for thousands of dollars without having the faintest idea what I believe in)…” Thousands of dollars? Really?

    from the article:
    Growth and jobs are not the problem.

    Sure, all things being equal, more growth and more jobs are better than less growth and fewer jobs. But if you look at recent history, we’ve had enough growth. The problem, as is well known to anyone (except centrist Democrats, apparently) is how that growth has been shared. Since 1980, real per capita gross domestic product — total economic output per person — has grown by 82% (1.7% per year), while real median household income has increased by only 16% (less than 0.5% per year). Over the same period, the proportion of household wealth owned by the bottom 90% has fallen from 32.9% to 22.8% (see Saez and Zucman, Appendix Table B1). In other words, if wealth inequality had not increased, ordinary American families would have 44% more stuff—more housing, more education, more health care, more retirement security—than they actually do today. That’s a lot of stuff.
    On top of the skills problem, there is the problem of capital and labor. In the contemporary economy, an increasing share of the surplus goes to capital and a decreasing share to labor.
    I know I harp on this, but inequality is not some natural evolution of the economy as inevitable as the tides. Every working day men (mostly) in 2000$ shoes and 5000$ suits go to work on K street in Washington DC to assure that those that got get more, and everybody else gets less. They don’t get paid for failure…..
    More jobs, more growth, more education ain’t gonna fix it.

    1. JohnnyGL

      Yep, good point. Mark Blyth likes to say this about trade deals, too. Paraphrasing, “thousands and thousands of pages written by high priced attorneys working for years to construct the rules of the WTO, did that kind of thing just happen by itself?”

    2. JTMcPhee

      And those well-shod and bespoke-accoutered K Streeters, and their appendages in the Legislature, are also concentrating all their considerable, expensively educated intellects 24/7, and working double tides, to make sure that all their activities and “revisions” and predations are either “all nice and legal, see?” or immunized from prosecution, or even if some investigator or prosecutor slips his or her leash, and some daring judge and/or jury convicts under not-yet-changed laws, that “damage to reputation in the community is deemed a sufficient punishment…”

      1. visitor

        Kafka wrote of the emerging Prussian state apparatus,

        Actually, he wrote based on his experience with the well-established and pernickety Austro-Hungarian bureaucracy, which was renowned for its many absurd and picky regulations. Other writers — like Jaroslav Hašek (author of famed soldier Švejk stories) or Joseph Roth — never failed to highlight the organizational and regulatory nonsense of the KuK state apparatus. Austria still has a reputation amongst other German-speaking countries for a fussy bureaucracy.

        At that time, Prussians were instead criticized or derided for their staunch militarism and their imbuing every aspect of social life with militaristic practices. Prussian bureaucracy actually had a fair reputation for efficiency and steamlining amongst all German bureaucracies.

        1. clinical wasteman

          Yes, “emerging Prussian state apparatus” is about 200 years out (depending when you think Prussian apparata really got going) and a long way away. Prussian admin only made it to Prague in 1938.
          On the Distressed Baroque Habsburg alternative, Karl Kraus is best of all, only Robert Musil comes close. On the postwar/s remnants of Austria, Thomas Bernhard & most of all the great Elfriede Jelinek. (Also Leonardo Sciascia if Italy/Kingdom of the Two Sicilies counts as post-Habsburg.)

    3. Ted

      Add in the article from above “Austerity is an Algorithm”, and you can see more clearly how inequality is engineered. It is not an accidental outcome of a natural process. Of course, at least in the Anglophone world, bureaucracy has been algorithmic since it was perfected by the Brits and their emulators in America, Australia, and New Zealand. Kafka wrote of the emerging Prussian state apparatus, but I thing Prussia was less complete than what the Brtis acheived and its children emulated. Anyone who has had to deal with the agents of the state would know this experience. What the LOGIC article shows is not just the algorithmic nature of welfare bureaucracies, but that it is becoming automated. It also suggests that this is another engineered outcome by the IT borg who have become the darlings of all English-speaking bureaucrats everywhere.

      It suggests to me that AI stands not for “artificial intelligence” (ha!) but “automated insensitivity” or “assinine intrusiveness” or “anti-human imbecility” … I am sure others have ideas for what AI stands for.

    4. jrs

      even more accurate of course if it said: all incomes being more equal we wouldn’t need so much growth, and that would be a good thing considering it is destroying the biosphere.

      1. fresno dan

        February 4, 2018 at 11:43 am

        February 4, 2018 at 3:35 pm

        I agree with you guys – 50 years of data, growth don’t fix nuthin’

  9. JohnnyGL

    James Kwak from Baselinescenario…….that’s a blast from the past. It’s been years since I’ve read much from that one or calculatedrisk. He’s got good stuff, though. I thought he’d stopped writing for awhile.

    I used to like Ed Harrison from Creditwritedowns, but it’s all paywalled, now. He had a great post about how hyperinflation only happens when there’s a major loss of capacity (due to war, or other cirumstances).

    1. John Zelnicker

      February 4, 2018 at 8:52 am
      Harrison is right.

      In the Weimar Republic it was due to the French taking over the Ruhr Valley where 80% of Germany’s industrial capacity was located.

      In Zimbabwe it was the land redistribution to inexperienced, untrained farmers with the result that agriculture collapsed and they couldn’t feed their people, and had nothing to export.

      1. Wukchumni

        The lion’s share of hyperinflation experiences post WW2 have been limited to mostly 3rd World countries, although some interesting players show up every now and then, it’s been usually African, Asian or Latin American countries that print until the cows come home.


        Is hyperinflation as we knew it possible if cash is out of the picture, as money?

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          The Rapa Nui kept building maoi. The Mayans were building more temples as their agriculture went into overreach.*

          All you need are elites who find the rewards of overshoot more attractive than the rewards of living within their resource base.

          (*Or that was my latest read on the history, lotsa new interpretations every day nowadays, love it.)

          1. ObjectiveFunction

            … The newly Buddhist kingdom of Bagan, which had grown fabulously wealthy as rice bowl for India, bankrupted itself within 3 generations building its famed 3000 temples.

            The kingdom collapsed so quickly that for centuries historians assumed it had been sacked by Kublai Khan, or had suffered a climate catastrophe.

        2. The Rev Kev

          You know, that is a real good question that and I mean real good. Is this why the push to get rid of physical currency?

      2. JohnnyGL

        That’s the one!

        I wonder about Harrison’s take on Venezuela. I suspect he’d argue it’s not a true hyperinflation.

        Clearly, it’s a combo of the balance-of-payments issues (though imports have been crushed in recent years) and the awful currency policies….which leads to knock-on effects like smuggling….which ramps up over time….sucking resources away from productive activities and into higher-margin activities like MORE smuggling….leading to lower FX reserves as the capital controls leak like a pasta colander….more devaluation, and so on it goes…

        I’d say that’s definitely an inflation-depreciation spiral, but maybe not a true hyper-inflation.

        Not truly confident in this being the whole story, but it’s at least partially there.

        1. Wukchumni

          Most hyperinflation episodes are over in a year or 2, and then a new currency is issued and problems usually subside, but not always.

          Argentina & Venezuela have had hyperinflation for going on 35 years now, and only for a short period when the Argentine Peso was pegged to the U.S. Dollar, did hyperinflation not pose a problem to their economy.

          Is isn’t as if both countries don’t have a wealth of exports, that in theory would have kept their currencies stable from a trade standpoint, but no.

          Mexico had hyperinflation for about a dozen years, and now it’s ‘stable’ currency-wise, but the country is a mess.

        2. John k

          Weimar was a war shortage case, our milder 70’s case was 4x oil price increase plus embargo.
          Zimbabwe and Venezuela are crony looting (in the latter case special exchange rate allows looters to convert local currency to Grand cayman banks) combined with gov policies that destroy local food and other production.
          All inflation begins with shortages, no matter whether hard or soft currency. French Revolution started with local drought and crop failure, gold price inflated enough to allocate available food to the rich.

          1. Wukchumni

            No shortage of money in France circa 1790, and it had nothing to do with gold. Assignats, bay-bee, QE that started out small @ 400 million livres, and the last issuance was 33 billion livres.

    2. fresno dan

      February 4, 2018 at 8:52 am

      great minds think alike…..who knows why we share the same views on Kwak and Harrison ;)

  10. Eureka Springs

    Here is a link to the original Church Committee reports.

    Some of my problems with calling for yet another committee:

    The first committee, particularly congressional responses to it led us to precisely where we are today. Secret law, secret court, secret police, police/agencies who are still expected to police themselves, a legislative and executive branch unwilling and at this point perhaps incapable of performing their duties. And government agencies who literally hacked into Senate computers when the torture report was near completion and got away with it.

    There is no good reason to pretend a congress and executive who just pushed through 702 (see Emptywheels Huffpost article linked today) are in anyway going to do something decent about it. There is even less good reason to negotiate with /keep these secret agencies intact.

    We already know much of what should be done from all past mistakes, both before and after Church. Another committee is a waste of time – another delay of game.

    Government secrecy must die. Take these cameras off the street intersections and put them in every government cubicle in the land! Permanent live stream.

    1. apberusdisvet

      The blatant in-your-face totalitarian agenda began in the 70’s when, for some reason, Civics was removed from High School curricula. Coincidentally, all teachers became unionized. Hmmm. Thereafter, it appeared that there was more subtle indoctrination than education. College Board tests and scores got watered down. Few graduating high school seniors could compose a letter or determine the area of a square; thus ill prepared for college. Remedial classes at universities for incoming Freshmen exploded. It’s only become worse. Our graduates are not able to compete in high tech jobs; thus the call for millions of H1b visas. When I was in high school, the US was first among nations in math and science; now we are not even in the top 20. It appears that our government wants an illiterate, easily propagandized populace to incrementally assume total control over every facet of our lives. The various intelligence agencies have obviously been a factor in this slow walk to totalitarianism. What’s worse is they have absolutely no accountability and their actions are unconstitutional; there is no recourse for US citizens except revolution. Yeh; good luck with that in the face of militarized police forces and a corrupt justice system.

      1. jrs

        The call for millions in H1B visa’s has nothing to do with whether Americans can compete in high tech jobs. Though I do wonder how stupid they would have to be to want to – yes get a career where you will constantly have to compete with ever growing numbers of H1Bs and be considered over the hill by 35. Now that sounds stupid.

      2. Darthbobber

        Wow. The intelligence agencies unionized the teachers? That’s sinister.

        I think it all started going downhill when the kids no longer walked uphill in the snow both to and from school like we always did.

        I think there are a few causal links that might have more explanatory value.

        1. integer

          I don’t know the myriad of factors that led to US teachers unionizing (and FWIW I think you are straw manning apberusdisvet’s comment), but anyone who thinks the CIA is not actively involved in cultural “nudging” is naive.

          How the CIA Secretly Funded Abstract Expressionism During the Cold War Open Culture

          The artists themselves were completely unaware that their work was being used as propaganda. On what agents called a “long leash,” they participated in several exhibitions secretly organized by the CIA, such as “The New American Painting” (see catalog cover at top), which visited major European cities in 1958-59 and included such modern primitive works as surrealist William Baziotes’ 1947 Dwarf (below) and 1951’s Tournament by Adolph Gottlieb above.

          The CIA Reads French Theory: On the Intellectual Labor of Dismantling the Cultural Left The Philosophical Salon

          It is often presumed that intellectuals have little or no political power. Perched in a privileged ivory tower, disconnected from the real world, embroiled in meaningless academic debates over specialized minutia, or floating in the abstruse clouds of high-minded theory, intellectuals are frequently portrayed as not only cut off from political reality but as incapable of having any meaningful impact on it. The Central Intelligence Agency thinks otherwise.

      3. Massinissa

        If civics was removed from high school curricula in the 70s, how did I take a required civics course at my public Georgia high school back in 2008?

        1. ambrit

          I don’t think that a course in “American Exceptionalism” is quite the same as what we all had to master back when mastodons roamed the plains. s/ (Not the peanut Plains, of course.)

      4. Procopius

        The U.S. has not been “first among nations in math and science” in my lifetime. In 1950 people were complaining how poorly American schools were teaching math and science.

    2. JTMcPhee

      As to cameras in every government cubicle: In the modern real world, of course, there will be no cameras and algos observing the motions and corruption of the upper reaches — more likely just an extension of Amazon/Hole Foods marionette tracking of every keystroke, belly scratch and “deviation from standards” of working mopes. “Modern Times” meets “Brazil!”

      And of course the lower-level mopes in “government service,” many of them are actually there to promote the general welfare, as best they can. But almost all of us apparently are trainable, via “incentives” and “abuse,” to recapitulate the Milgram experiments…

    3. WheresOurTeddy

      The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment…

      For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence—on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations… Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed….

      ….Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed—and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian law-maker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment—the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution—not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”—but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mould, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion. This means greater coverage and analysis of international news—for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security… And so it is to the printing press—to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news—that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.”

      – JFK (link)

      1. foghorn longhorn

        Hey John, old buddy, all that transparency sounds really sweet.
        Why don’t you come on down to Dallas and we’ll, uh talk about it.
        Never forget

  11. The Rev Kev

    Commentary: There Are Still 40 Million Slaves Worldwide. How Can We Free Them?

    To be honest, I think that there is a lot of merit in how the Royal Navy dealt with slavery in the 19th century. There was actually a blockade of Africa ( by the newly formed British West Africa Squadron after 1808 which was eventually joined by the United States with its African Squadron ( Slavers faced boarding and capture by cannon-laden warships and gangs of British bully-boys armed with pistols and cutlasses and the US wasn’t shy about seizing slave ships either.
    Slavery is still a multibillion-dollar industry with estimates of up to $35 billion generated annually. How about the west put this scourge down once more. Make the trade uneconomical. They know who is doing it and where but it is not really a priority of course. Target their finances like they do terrorism and put the big boys on the Interpol list. After all, mobs like ISIS raised a lot of money selling captured women into slavery. Would you believe, in passing, that the last country to have legal slavery did not get rid of it until 2007? Unacceptable. If the will is there it can be done. The article has some good ideas at the end but it sounds too much like incrementalism subject to political expediency.

    1. Procopius

      Targeting the finances of terrorism doesn’t seem to have been very useful. I suspect that’s because they haven’t been very diligent about it. After all, about 90% of it is done by our “friends and allies” in the Gulf States in the name of charity. Also, it seems to be unthinkable to actually punish any banker for engaging in it (gotta help them make a living, after all). However, from time to time I do hear a snippet about some Turkish “fixer” who is on trial for helping Iran. Not much, though. Perhaps the six owners of our media prefer not to mention the possibility as then people might want more of it.

  12. cocomaan

    Another week, another Amtrak crash.

    I think this might be a good subject for NC to tackle. There’s crapification going on, in the form of bad switches and lousy traffic controls, but this isn’t Whole Foods employees being stressed. This is resulting in destruction.

    The workers say they weren’t trained. This isn’t an accounting firm where you can get an accounting degree before recruitment and muddle through your job. Where are these people supposed to get trained in how to run a train other than in the train company?!!?

    Trains used to be my go-to. My wife and I took a train from NYC to New Orleans in 2010 or so, a 30 hour trip or so. The “Crescent Line” was an amazing experience. I don’t think I’d do that today. I don’t need to live with some crippling injury. When they say “80 people were injured”, some of those people will never be the same.

    1. Big River Bandido

      Amtrak is not a story about “crapification”, but about “Imperial Collapse”. And Amtrak is one of the best metaphors for imperial collapse in this country, because it started so early in the neoliberal era (1970) and because the issue of rail transportation is so critical to the infrastructure of a truly functional nation.

      1. cocomaan

        Sure, I can get that. What astounds me is that Amtrak is so used by those in the “Amtrak corridor” yet continues to collapse.

        1. Arizona Slim

          And where is Amtrak Joe Biden in the midst of all these train wreck stories? He seems awfully quiet.

          1. UserFriendly

            Can you imagine if the train to the GOP retreat had been much worse and had mass casualties? That would have been an actual constitutional crisis and would have almost certainly have ended up with a dem takeover of both houses of congress. Of course I’d be just as happy if the collision was between a train carrying all the dems with one carrying all the repubs. Actually that would have me laughing so hard I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

            1. Amfortas the Hippie

              we were hanging around the hospital when that happened(son’s minor surgery, delayed doctor= all day affair).
              all public tv’s are tuned to Fox in Texas for some reason.
              so it was everywhere we turned.. a sizeable portion of the gop congressional herd was in a train that hit a garbage truck.
              Remember that this is Texas….everyone around me all day long…nurses, doctors, volunteers, patients, patients’ families…everyone had a snide remark about how they needed a bigger garbage truck, or how that we had potentially lost so many gop critters was an unalloyed good thing. palpable disappointment that the only casualty was the driver(was he a hero? this was actually voiced by a big redneck guy,lol)
              Of course, I immediately thought the same thing(paul ryan on a train that crashed? is he dead?”) but I kept my mouth shut.
              That all and sundry in that place felt similarly was astonishing.
              the gop crisis of legitimacy is deeper than the media, etc would have us believe.

        2. Octopii

          The Washington DC Metro also continues to collapse. It is rotten to the core, having been used as a jobs program by incompetent leadership. Now the union runs the show, fighting dismissal of several inspectors that signed off on out-of-spec tracks year after year with falsified data because they were too lazy to actually go out and measure. Trains haven’t run via automatic train control in years because there is apparently nobody who can get the electronic systems functioning again. WMATA is a pain in the neck to work for, from personal experience on a construction team – they have inspectors checking for every item on the bill of materials but they don’t understand the systems in the building and how they should function when operating correctly or not.

          It is a microcosm of the failure of America. Don’t think the WMATA leadership and union leadership aren’t taken care of very comfortably. The current head of Metro, Paul Wiedefeld, is paid $397k/yr, and the last figure for Jackie Jeter is $171k. Staff routinely “earn” massive amounts of overtime, yet the system remains in disarray.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Do they already know the cause of this new tragedy, or do we still keep in mind the recent news about the you-know-who bad guys now targeting our rail?

      1. cocomaan

        Apparently two trains were put on the same track…

        Are you referring to the garbage truck from last week? I’ve heard that was a crossing switch problem.

    3. Rosario

      We get what we pay for.

      As compared to Nordic rail? See below:

      When is the last time you saw such thorough maintenance being done on US rail? Robust ballast, concrete ties all precision set, well graded with a work crew monitoring the process front to back.

      And recently Trump wonders why people from Norway/Sweden/etc. don’t want to immigrate to the US. This is part of the answer. S***hole indeed!

    4. WobblyTelomeres

      I think y’all can guess why this happened:

      A CSX employee (probably) forgot to throw a switch after moving his train onto a shunt. The Amtrak engineer had, roughly, 150 yards to stop his train. Ain’t gonna happen. The CSX employee will have to live with the loss of life for the rest of his.

      Of course, everyone will point the finger at Amtrak. Typical. Cut the budget until it breaks, then yell, “It’s broken!!!”. Amtrak does not own the track. Amtrak does not own the switches.

    5. VietnamVet

      America is falling apart. This will not be mentioned unless in the back of the NTSB report two years from now. Hunter Harrison (72) was selected last year to be CEO of CSX (on whose tracks the SC crash occurred) to boost profit at North America’s least efficient railroad. He died on the job of natural causes. Not before firing middle management and workers, elongating trains, and pissing off shippers so bad that they lodged a complaint with the Surface Transportation Board and switched to transportation by trucks.

      Amtrak and the computer rail accidents put lie to media themes that this is the most perfect of all possible worlds. Peons (the rest of us) don’t matter in the grab for the most wealth.

  13. fresno dan

    Trump’s Unparalleled War on a Pillar of Society: Law Enforcement NYT.

    So I am reading the Fresno Bee which has a NYT story: Girls molested as FBI’s Nassar case plodded along

    “Maggie Nichols who was not contacted by the FBI for nearly 11 months after the information she provided sparked the federal investigation.”

    How long after accusations are made (remember, 3 victims had come forward at this point) is an efficient competent interview of the accuser conducted to be considered “good” police work. I don’t know, but 11 months strikes me as excessive.
    One of the things about every soldier and every police office being propagandized as a hero is that it distracts from evaluation of how well they DO THEIR (actual) JOB – not the pretend social control ersatz job of “hero”
    Hmmmmm….Coach Belichick – do your job

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think the coach would say, to make that highlight catch, you have to practice the basic stuff for years and years.

      In this case, the basic work involved a not-always-celebrated timely interview, away from the limelight.

    2. WheresOurTeddy

      I’ll say it, since I have no reverence for the enforcement arm of the Oligarchy:

      Anyone else think the non-interest in prosecuting child rapists is that there’s usually no property to seize during the investigation? And that they’re often people in influential positions and thus more likely to have the $$$ to lawyer up?

      After the last year, I am left with the same thought regarding the FBI the 2 Bobs from Office Space had during their employee evaluations: “What would you say….you *do* here?”

      1. fresno dan

        February 4, 2018 at 2:07 pm

        I tend to agree. Hard for me not to believe that as part of our propagandazation of everything RAH RAH America there wasn’t some UNDUE care in looking into anything that could besmirch the vaunted OLYMPICS. WE employ child molesters as a matter of course and can’t figure it out for years???

  14. lakecabs

    I find it strange that no one seems to think concussions have an effect on NFL viewership. This has been in the news for a few years now.

    There are many kids choosing not to play. I have a 15 year old who cares very little about football.

    His friends and him are crazy for basketball a sport they choose to play.

    1. Arizona Slim

      And I have several middle aged male friends who are glued to the TV whenever a soccer game is on.These guys are not immigrants, they were born and raised in the US.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        The ball actually go up and down the field! So many times that I tried watching a bit of football: Q: What’s going on then? A: Time out.

        I suspect that’s one reason soccer is a less played sport in this country. I’ve noticed that the games played at the municipal parks tend provide a chance to swig your beer between plays. You can use the QB’s beer as an optional blocker in flag football.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Eh…I mean there is that, but (maybe its not the same), I think boxing and UFC style matches tell me this isn’t the case. To see the effects of boxing we need not look beyond the former Senator Harry Reid. The joke is in poor taste. I assume he was always awful. What happened to boxing? It wasn’t punch drunkness. It was moving to paper view. The ease and work necessary to watch the important matches changed.

      There is the baseball situation where local game broadcasts are crushing it while national broadcasts are withering. Even without streaming or the Red Zone, how many games are on basic cable during the week? Like fifty now. Thursday, 4 on sunday every week, random Saturday day games when college winds down, and Monday night. What is the chance you can plan watching your favorite team? I still watch the Pats when they are on and saw the end of a humorous first half between the Steelers and Bungles (please never change). Like the baseball situation, why turn on random games when I can watch a team never quite put it together and lose in the wild card round? Or why leave the games on in the background if the Pats will be on at 4? Yes, I used to watch the games leisurely in the background with the intent to catch highlights or cuts ins. Unlike boxing, the ease of watching one’s favorite team changed. With the various packages, hitting a sports bar to watch a favorite team is so much easier now. Its not a chance they have an extra game.

      Not that I am dismissing the concussion effects. I see similar viewing habit changes in a concussion linked sport and one without concussions (or many concussions). I’m also of the opinion there was an artificial inflation created by the big push of fantasy sports in recent years. I feel like people who otherwise would watch watched games to see how their teams were doing.

    3. Mo's Bike Shop

      I was continually recruited by the JHS and HS coaches 40 odd years ago. Even my teenage sense of immortality said this is a bad idea.

      And a sport should really be more mentally engaging.

      1. WheresOurTeddy

        went to a “footbaw” school in CA. I was 6’1″ as a freshman at age 14.

        Second day of school, freshman football coach says “You look like a wide receiver”.

        My response: “How odd. I’m actually a point guard who doesn’t smash his head into things on purpose.”

        He ended up being the basketball coach too. Dammit.

    4. Wukchumni

      You might surmise with so many evangelicals playing (every time an evang player does something good-they point towards the heavens with one finger, they never bother with formalities of devotion when the desired result doesn’t happen though) in the NFL, that it could be perceived as a turn-off to heathens such as me.

    5. Heliopause

      Please read:

      And keep in mind, this was a down year for the NFL. In a down year the NFL is not just the biggest sport on TV, it is the biggest entertainment property, period, by a wide margin.

      There are many factors in the ratings decline; concern over physical brutality, backlash to the kneeling players, the two largest markets having terrible teams, and more. But when a property generates this unfathomable quantity of cash it’s not going to be allowed to die a quick death.

    1. anonymous

      Didn’t everyone grow up on “The Limits to Capital” and “The Conditions of Post Modernity”?

    2. Paul Cardan

      Yes, I’ve read Harvey. The Limits to Capital is probably his best work. It’s also the book he wishes more people would read. I’ve also read Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism and skimmed through parts of his commentaries to Marx’s Capital. All good, though, in my opinion, he doesn’t take Sraffa seriously enough. To see what I mean, Robin Hahnel’s Radical Political Economy is worth a look. Like Harvey, he’s very clear; unlike Harvey, he’s concise. For a summary of Hahnel by Hahnel see “Where Sraffa Serves Better than Marx.

      RE “Make the Left Great Again:” Nancy Fraser’s concept of progressive neoliberalism is very useful.

    3. UserFriendly

      The golden age of conservative magazines is trying to paint every far right shill for capital and empire as truly deep thinkers that are ever so troubled by Trump’s brash norm smashing is typical of WaPo. Could you ever picture them doing a survey of actual left publications that didn’t attack them as Russian stooges via propornot? Sure, there are a handful of conservatives that are genuine critical thinkers who I could have an intelligent conversation with, but it certainly isn’t the embarrassment of riches that article paints.

      Big fan of Bill Mitchell though, I read all his blog posts. If I had any money I’d buy his book, or at least a pdf / ebook of it so I could text to speech it (which is how I read everything because my ADD is so bad I can’t not be doing something else as I read).

  15. Craig H.

    I love reading the edge questions and answers every January. (It is already 4 Feb time flies like a banana.)

    Scott Aaronson: Can we program a computer to find a 10,000-bit string that encodes more actionable wisdom than any human has ever expressed?


    There is a lot of stuff here. It’s pretty easy to navigate in current format. They have the contributors in alphabetical order by last name. Hence Aaronson gets to go first. I bet he loves that format. You can easily find Pinker on page ten.

    How can we empower the better angels of our nature?

    Oh man hasn’t he been going on about good angels for long enough already? < —– This would be my edge question if I were brilliant enough for the edge to ask me for my opinion. Seriously. Good angel and bad angel are stock characters in cartoons for six year old children. And Professor Pinker has been going on and on about our better angels it seems to me for the entirety of this millennium. Some gig that guy has got.

    1. ChrisPacific

      Haha. “Can we outperform the human brain in 10000 bits or less?” Funny stuff.

      If people can get away with posing questions like this without being laughed out of the room, then the AI hype train has advanced a lot further than I thought.

  16. Watt4Bob

    The final question?

    Why is there such widespread public opposition to science and scientific reasoning in the United States, the world leader in every major branch of science?

    It seems obvious to me that the public’s skepticism is, and always has been carefully nurtured by TPTB in order to allow for their continuing immoral, and ultimately, irrational behavior.

    A rational and numerate populace, trusting of their own ability to understand mundane political reality would naturally find a way to counter the negative impact of the bad behavior of a small minority of their brethren.

    Thus the entirely natural growth of what could be called the political wisdom of the crowd, must, from the point of view of the criminal element that has captured our political systems, be countered in every way possible by the careful, calculated encouragement of ignorance

    It helps immeasurably that the rational and numerate are often somewhat more successful, allowing for the leverage of envy to work its magic.

    I had to dig through three pages of ‘final questions’ to find one which seemed important enough to work on.

    But that leaves with a question;

    When will the rational and numerate wake up, and quit working to further the interests of the criminal element that more and more, threatens not only the well being of the ‘ignorant’, but their’s as well?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think it’s healthy to be skeptical about the marriage between Man and Science and also healthy to be skeptical about whether we can remember that every scientific theory or law is tentative, today’s best explanation, and therefore that knowledge is partial.

      We say we know that, and then, we forget or ignore it.

      As a species, when it comes to Science, some of us either take the extreme on one side, and others, the other extreme.

      1. redleg

        Science is a method of analytical inquiry, not a subject. This method is based in skepticism. Consider the method:
        1. Idea or problem
        2. Formulate a hypothesis
        3. Test the hypothesis
        4. Analyze results and repeat
        5. Feed back into 1.

        The shift in educational focus over the last few decades away from critical thinking and towards “skills” (coupled with the decline of apprenticeships and trade schools) has led to a society where critical thinking is in short supply.
        I’m not sure what the solution is at this point, but ending MBA programs and the genetic manager takeover of schools would be a great start.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          A method or a tool.

          Is it the person or the gun?

          Is is the corporation, or the billionaire, or the method?

          Should we ban guns?

          Should we ban the method?

          At the end, for me, the focus is on humans and human nature.

        2. Paul Cardan

          I realize that simplification is an inevitability on this board, but this is an over-simplification. Science is based as much on trust as on skepticism, since even asking a question or thinking of something as a problem worth solving requires judgments concerning what’s really going on and what’s worth doing. These judgments, better called pre-judgments or even prejudices, are typically taken over on faith from one’s teachers. No one in physics, for example, proves everything taken for granted in the field for themselves prior to taking a single independent step. Also, hypotheses often attract devotees due to offering a new picture of the things in question, a picture that promises fruitful future research. Aesthetic considerations also play a part, with scientists generally prizing elegance, symmetry, and simplicity. And scientists have been known to rightly (it turns out) stick to their hypotheses in the face of evidence to the contrary, trusting that, eventually, they’ll be able to somehow square their theory with the data. More faith.

          Furthermore, there is no one thing called ‘science’ nor one scientific method. What physicists do is rather different than what anthropologists do, and, though the activities of both issue in something that merits the laudatory expression ‘science,’ the results are quite different (and if the example of anthropology seems questionable, consider instead any clear-cut example of a social science).

          Finally, as cocomaan notes below, ‘science,’ the term, is often abused. It is, as I just mentioned, a laudatory term. That which is called science has a great deal of esteem; the title ‘scientist’ confers authority, as does scientific jargon for anyone who can appear to know how to use it. And so the term ‘science’ tends to be used in connection with stuff that doesn’t really deserve to be praised as such. Consider efforts on the part of academic philosophers to re-brand themselves as cognitive scientists. Or, even better, consider the pablum political scientists and economists routinely pass off as scientific research. Jargon aside (and graphs and equations, because math connotes science), their “science” often amounts to little more than expressions of a certain “common sense” which are not too different from what you can find in the NYT on any given Sunday. In other words, it’s the discourse of the dominant groups in this society, dressed up so as to cow. Where that kind of “science” is concerned, skepticism is warranted.

          1. Oregoncharles

            Actually, my anthropology advisor, lo these many years ago, insisted that it was really literature. I was shocked at the time, but now think that, while very valuable, it really is primarily literature – only possibility can be proved by its methods, and it’s chief finding is the sheer range of human experience.

            But for that reason, I’d like to see it widely read, so if calling it a science helps, so be it.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I think we have to be open minded about

            1. A broader view, involving simplifications (simplifying being a tool…it’s up to the user)

            2. detailed reasoning.


            And keeping the other in mind when engaged with one of the two.

            Go back and forth.

            1. Paul Cardan

              I’ve nothing against keeping things simple, especially when space is limited, as it is here. Has to be done. But over-simplification prevents us from even considering possibly good answers to the questions we’ve raised, like the questions about why some Americans are hostile to science and what’s to be done about it. If it’s assumed that science is just one good thing, then a bunch of answers, some worthy of consideration, are off the table from the get go.

        3. Sid_finster

          Critical thinking is neither wanted nor needed in today’s society.

          Witness the braying on both sides of any recent political scandal.

      2. polecat

        I see contemporary science institutions (as with others) as having become the ‘neo salon’, with institutions both public and private co-opted by calcification and greed …. with a big dollop of Bernaysian P.R. … never relaying in reasonible, and concrete fashion, ways that Jane & Joe Public can help to live a bit lighter in this world, because they, the science community, would have to scale-down Their working gig to reflect that, to have ‘skin-in-the-game’ as it were ….. and that’s just not gonna happen, until forced upon by circumstance !

    2. cocomaan

      It seems obvious to me that the public’s skepticism is, and always has been carefully nurtured by TPTB in order to allow for their continuing immoral, and ultimately, irrational behavior.

      I think the root of much of the public skepticism of science has to do with what they put in their bodies every day. The absolute travesty of the science/government collaboration on fattening the populace through bad information about fats and sugars, salt, meat, vegetables, corn corn corn and everything about food policy has really upset people.

      It also has to do with the fact that “science” and government gave us world-ending technology in the form of the atomic bomb. For years, government and military scientists put people in harm’s way, not understanding the nature of radiation.

      There’s plenty more examples of miscarriages of science that have created distrust. Experiments on prisoners and black people, done by our Ivy League schools. Psychology, which has a reproducibility crisis. And so on.

      Those advocating for “Science” and a scientific approach to all problems seems to think the disciplines can remain isolated in their own silos, independent and concerned with their own versions of the truth. That’s boneheaded. The people treating science as a religion, that is, something sacred, have to acknowledge that people have had their lives irrevocably changed by idiotic and irresponsible behavior by scientists. Particularly when those scientists served government interests.

  17. Lord Koos

    Wow, brilliant — $31 a night to stay in a slum dwelling! Maybe some of these poor folks can get their places listed on Air Bnb.

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      They should charge more, then rob you in the night for authenticity.

      Any rich schmuck who does this deserves whatever happens.

  18. Alex Morfesis

    Dear Edward (family family blog blog) $nowjob…what exactly is classified in that mamby pamby nunes memo or does one $wear allegiance at the alter of $tupidity when one takes a national $ecurity oath ??

    And what level of insanity does it take to imagine journalists with possible personal financial difficulties are somehow more secure and trustworthy than a public elected official ??

    Too much time spent at
    cafe mu-mu…

    Time to come home, do some time and find some small liberal arts college to take up space in and get old at…

    you just blew past your sale by date…

    hopefully your grandfather the admiral can hook you up with some club fed treats…

  19. ChrisPacific

    Nigel (short for “Nigel no mates”) was in the news quite frequently here. For most of his life he was the only inhabitant of the island. In the last few months three newcomers arrived, but he wanted nothing to do with them, preferring to spend time with his concrete ‘mate.’ (Change is hard for all of us, it seems). The rangers were hopeful he would eventually get over it, but time was not on his side.

    Watching a flock of gannets fishing is quite an experience (I’ve been fortunate enough to see it from close range a few times). They wheel around at a great height, and every few seconds one will fold its wings and dive into the water like a missile. They are big birds – not quite albatross-sized, but nearly – which makes it quite spectacular to watch. They can apparently catch fish up at depths of up to 20 metres using this technique.

    1. The Rev Kev

      You know what is so stupid about this whole thing? The fact that the US Embassy didn’t come down on her like a ton of bricks for bringing the US into disrespect. Talk about young and entitled. If she had been successful, then US embassies around the world would have found themselves on cash-only contracts with the cash up front. They wouldn’t have been able to by a pencil sharpener without coughing up the hard stuff first. As Danny Glover just said about her diplomatic immunity: “It’s just been revoked”.

  20. UserFriendly

    That defence of liberalism in the economist is nauseating. If anyone wants a pallet cleanser.
    The Blathering Superego at the End of History

    LIBERALISM IS NOT working. Something deep within the mechanism has cracked. All our wonk managers, our expert stewards of the world, have lost their way. They wander desert highways in a daze, wondering why the brakes locked up, why the steering wheel came off, how the engine caught on fire. Their charts lie abandoned by the roadside. It was all going so well just a moment ago. History was over. The technocratic order was globalizing the world; people were becoming accustomed to the permanent triumph of a slightly kinder exploitation. What happened? All they can recall is a loud thump in the undercarriage, an abrupt loss of control. Was it Brexit? Trump? Suddenly the tires were bursting and smoke was pouring into the vehicle, then a flash. The next thing they could remember, our liberals were standing beside a smoldering ruin, blinking in the hot sun, their power stolen, their world collapsing, their predictions all proven wrong.

    That is just the first paragraph and the rest is great.

    1. marku52

      Thanks, that was intensely amusing.

      “The trouble with liberalism’s enemies was no longer that they were evil, although they might be that too. The problem, reinforced by Daily Kos essays in your Facebook feed and retweeted Daily Show clips, was that liberalism’s enemies were factually wrong about the world. Just take a look at this chart …

      This shift was a necessary accommodation to the fact that, beginning with Bill Clinton, the slim ideological differences that existed between the Democrats and the GOP were replaced with differences of style. Clinton’s “Third Way” promised to be every bit the dupe-servant of war and profit its rivals were, but to do it with the measured confidence of an expert. The New Democrats would destroy the labor movement, but sigh about it. They would frown while they voted to authorize the next war.”


      1. UserFriendly

        If that was the section you were drawn to might I suggest “The smug style in American liberalism” by the same writer, Emmett Rensin. I’m making my way through his back catalog because I think nearly everything he writes is brilliant and unfortunately the shitty media men list apparently blew up his career at the ripe old age of 27. I have no clue about the validity of the claims but I know I will sorely miss his writing. Anyone capable of writing such amazing barn burners at such a young age was bound to go on to great things.

        I can be a bit stubborn because most of my opinions I’ve come to through careful consideration. I had come to a hard no on punching Nazis until I stumbled onto this thoughtful discussion on the topic that he, a hard left writer, got published in Foreign Policy (or as Lambert calls it ‘The Heart of the Blob’) months before Charlottesville. Now when it comes to punching Nazis I’d say it depends on the situation. It’s a very rare writer that gets me to change my mind.

  21. ewmayer

    For those of you avoiding the Super Bowl or looking for something else to switch to during the overdose of ads, I note that Hallmark Channel is showing Kitten Bowl V, “Displaced kittens rescued from the country’s most recent natural disasters vie for the National Championship of Feline Football trophy and a loving forever home in which to display it.”

    1. Octopii

      I enjoyed Justin Timberlake’s halftime show, especially the Prince tribute. Less enjoyable are the military and patriotic tie-ins, and watching these men slowly destroy their brains out there — Mr. Brandin Cooks in particular early in the first half.

      1. ewmayer

        Being a poor excuse for a knee-jerk patriotic ‘Merican uber-consumer I skipped all the pregame hype and jingoistic flag-waving, didn’t tune in until the pigskin was actually about to get kicked, had a 2nd show on a different channel lined up to switch to during the ads (that’s where Kitten Bowl came in handy), did a roughly 45-minute-long session of household chores to fill the overlong halftime show – sorry, Justin Timberlake! Ended up watching ~3/4 of the game, inckuding the painful-to-watch concussion to Cooks which ended the Super Bowl for him – hope he’ll be ok, he has the whole off-season to recover, important because repeated concussions are apparently the worst as far as permanent injury goes. (Though we now know that even a single one can leave permanent damage.) The game itself turned into a real barn-burner, congrats to Philly, unlike Atlanta last year, their D managed to not get completely physically exhausted by late in the 4th, rather they rallied and basically sealed the win with the strip-sack of Brady and several other fine plays. Don’t even think Pats fans can begrudge them the win.

        As for Kitten Bowl, super-cute, celebrity hosts included Dean “Superman” Cain and NFL great Rodney Peete playing ‘analyst’. They basically had a little mock football field turned into a cat playground – goalposts covered in climbable carpet remnants, various cat-curiosity-irresistible on-field obstacles, and of course adoptable black & white dogs as referees. :) The rescued cats, especially the ones who lost limbs (even a couple double-hind-leg amputees, who were shown coping amazingly with their handicaps using front legs/claws and body english) were heartbreakingly cute. I snark on Hallmark a lot (cf. my Thanksgiving post in NC Links) for their sugar-coated holiday romance-film drivelfests, but this was for a good cause, well played, guys.

    1. allan

      In the 2016 Dem primary in MD to replace Barbara Mikulski in the Senate,
      black female progressive Donna Edwards, who had endorsed Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary,
      was not returned the favor.
      The entire Dem power structure came out instead for white male fundraising ATM Chris Van Hollen.
      And that included both Clinton and the (so-called) Congressional Black Caucus PAC.

      1. john k

        But it was given that Donna was a progressive.
        Doesn’t matter what a progressive does for dems, dems are obliged to oppose all progressives as worse than a rep because donors. Perfectly logical, the donors are donating to both parties, the critical thing to them is policy, neolib policy.
        Similarly it is wrong to say dems have no interest in policy. They have great interest in promulgating the donors’ desired policies.
        And I suppose it is wrong to say all dems oppose progressives. Maybe just 2/3 of them.

  22. allan

    Mulvaney determined to strike in US:

    U.S. consumer protection official puts Equifax probe on ice – sources

    Mick Mulvaney, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has pulled back from a full-scale probe of how Equifax Inc failed to protect the personal data of millions of consumers, according to people familiar with the matter. …

    The CFPB has the tools to examine a data breach like Equifax, said John Czwartacki, a spokesman, but the agency is not permitted to acknowledge an open investigation. “The bureau has the desire, expertise, and know-how in-house to vigorously pursue hypothetical matters such as these,” he said.

    Three sources say, though, Mulvaney, the new CFPB chief, has not ordered subpoenas against Equifax or sought sworn testimony from executives, routine steps when launching a full-scale probe. Meanwhile the CFPB has shelved plans for on-the-ground tests of how Equifax protects data, an idea backed by Cordray.

    The CFPB also recently rebuffed bank regulators at the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency when they offered to help with on-site exams of credit bureaus, said two sources familiar with the matter. …

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