Links 3/15/18

Pre-Columbian people spread fruit species across Latin America Ars Technica

As the cost of dog cloning drops, here’s which breeds lead the pack MarketWatch

Cold-blooded? Study finds female pythons care for their young Japan Times

Exclusive: Wells Fargo faces sanctions for auto insurance payouts – sources Reuters

Despite woes, Wells Fargo gives CEO a $4.6 million raise Mercury-News. Attaboy.

Senior ex-Equifax executive charged with insider trading Ars Technica

Toys R Us planning to liquidate its US operations ABC

Hedge fund Alden siphoned 100s of millions from newspapers in scheme to gamble on other investments, suit says News Matters

Denver Post Lays Off Thirty Employees, Nearly One-Third of Newsroom Staff WestWord

Google, Facebook and Apple face ‘digital tax’ on EU turnover FT

Venezuelan Debt: Further Thoughts on “Why Not Accelerate and Sue Venezuela Now?” Credit Slips

National Security Agencies Have Spoken: Private Equity Ownership Imperils America Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect


Unilever Chooses Single Base in Netherlands in Blow to May Bloomberg

Meet the Brexit negotiators: David Davis and Michel Barnier FT


Even A Big Four Audit Can’t Nail Down Kingdom Holding Numbers Francine McKenna, Forbes. Still germane.

A Bogus ‘Compromise’ Senate Bill Would Prolong Atrocities in Yemen The Nation

U.S. troops involved in at least 10 undisclosed firefights in West Africa: report MarketWatch. Africa seems like a promising theatre for conflict investment, and probably safer than Ukraine or the South China Sea.


India’s PNB uncovers more fraud at troubled Mumbai branch Reuters


Is Beijing planning to take Taiwan back … by force? South China Morning Post

China’s Credit Crunch The Diplomat

House Proposal Targets Confucius Institutes as Foreign Agents Foreign Policy

Arms trade growing rapidly in Asia and won’t stop anytime soon Asian Correspondent

Korea Aims to Avert a Youth Unemployment ‘Catastrophe’ Bloomberg. Yeah, but are young Koreans out hopping trains?

Night of the demons Jakarta Post

Bali switches off internet services for 24 hours for New Year ‘quiet reflection’ Guardian

New Cold War

British PM May expels 23 Russian spies but stops well short of bothering Putin Reuters

Are ‘Novichok’ Poisons Real? – May’s Claims Fall Apart Moon of Alabama

The Real Collusion Story National Review. A long read, worth a cup of coffee, amazingly enough.

The rise of Putin’s young technocrats FT

On the Russian Presidential Campaign Trail in Siberia Part Two: Putin, Grudinin, Titov and the Meaning of Life Medium

Trump Transition

Haspel Nominated to Lead CIA, Pompeo to Replace Tillerson The Cipher Brief

Taibbi: Trump’s CIA Pick Took Part in Silencing Torture Suspect Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone. My head is spinning on this one. Obama admits “we tortured some folks” but prefers to “look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” Obama appointed Bush torture advocate John Brennan as a key advisor. Then Trump appoints a another torturer — one very well-respected by the “intelligence community” (see link above) — and everybody loses their minds. Wouldn’t it have been simpler to try all the torturers as war criminals back when we had the chance? Some kind soul should survey all the MILOs running on the Democrat ticket, and ask them what they think about this. Just to clarify where we are.

Don’t Bork Gina Haspel Rich Lowry, Politico. “[T]he interrogation program [sic] wasn’t a rogue operation. It was approved at the highest level of the U.S. government.” Say it, Rich. Say it with me. “I was….” “I was only….” “I was only following….”

Ex-CIA chief Panetta backs Haspel nomination CNN. Remember Panetta at the Democratic National Convention? When the Sanders supporters chanting “No more war” were drowned out by Clinton supporters chanting “USA! USA!” Good times…

There’s a new secretary of state. Who cares? Politico

* * *

Senate passes rollback of banking rules enacted after financial crisis WaPo. Minsky moment, here we come!

Highlights of the Senate banking bill Politico. If “highlights” is the word we want…

Trump names CNBC host Larry Kudlow as economic adviser, White House confirms USA Today

EPA drops rule requiring mining companies to have money to clean up pollution Chicago Tribune (DK).

Visas Issued to Foreign Students Fall, Partly Due to Trump Immigration Policy WSJ


OnPolitics Today: America’s future walks out USA Today

Health Care

CMS star ratings disproportionately benefit specialty hospitals, data show Modern Health Care

Neoliberal Epidemics

Concern at rising infant mortality rate in England and Wales Guardian

Class Warfare

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes says the 1 percent should give cash to working people Recode. That’s called noblesse oblige, one of the less malevolent aspects of feudalism. One imagines Hughes tossing coins to the peasants from his gilded coach…

Busting the Myth of ‘Welfare Makes People Lazy’ The Atlantic

Verizon Will Fix Broadband Networks, Landlines to Resolve Investigation ExtremeTech

About a quarter of U.S. adults say they are ‘almost constantly’ online Pew Research Center

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


    1. integer

      The 2014 Litvinenko investigation, which was purportedly opened in response to MH17 being shot down in Ukraine, resulted in “an amendment to the country’s Criminal Finances Bill inspired by the Magnitsky Act that would allow the government to freeze the assets of international human rights violators in the UK” being passed in 2017. Just as Bill Browder was responsible for the Magnitsky Act being implemented in the US, he was one of, if not the, main driving force(s) behind this amendment being implemented. Here is an open letter he wrote to David Cameron in 2016:

      There is a way to punish Russia for Litvinenko’s murder. So why not act? The Guardian

      Dear David Cameron

      I’m writing on behalf of all British activists who fight for justice against dictators around the world. Your government’s decision to not punish Vladimir Putin and senior members of his regime for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko will put the lives of many UK activists and regular citizens at risk.

      The main tool you have is imposing visa sanctions and assets freezes on top Russian government officials who bear responsibility for the Litvinenko attack. This would strike at the achilles’ heel of the Putin system.

      It is fairly clear that the plan was to stir up discontent among Russian oligarchs, many of whom have significant financial interests in the UK, in order to cause tension between Russia’s oligarch class and Putin, with the end result being the political destabilization of Russia. It is also fairly clear that the above-mentioned amendment did not result in any significant measures being taken by the UK government against the wealth of Russian oligarchs, and thus, as far as Browder and the interests he represents (the CIA) are concerned, did not have the desired effect. Hence, they are trying again. Yesterday Navalny, who was allegedly mentored and financially supported by Browder, made reference to the aim of domestically isolating Putin when called for further sanctions:

      Top Putin critic Navalny calls for UK to sanction oligarchs over spy poisoning ABC News

      “One scenario, as it seems to me, is Putin’s comfortable scenario,” Navalny said at the Moscow office of his organization, the Anti-Corruption Foundation. That would mean “quite standard responses,” Navalny said, such as diplomatic punishments or symbolic sanctions, that he said Putin expects.

      “There is a second option,” he added, “that would really be painful for Putin and his corrupt circle that consists of applying targeted sanctions on those oligarchs and state officials whose families have been based for a very long time in Great Britain.”

      “It will lead to the creation of an anti-Putin coalition, one in the shadows for now, inside the Putin establishment,” Navalny said. “Up to now, they have seen that Putin solves problems, Putin is able to do whatever he wants —- to shoot down airplanes, to start wars, to lie in every interview, in every conversation with world leaders — but in a remarkable way he gets away with everything.”

      “And here will be the first example,” Navalny added, “if it will all be proved, where it leads to some kind of consequences.”

      1. begob

        I imagined they’re hamstrung, because presumably they have to establish at least beneficial ownership to the court, but if property is held by off-shore haven companies that’s unknowable. But the procedure puts an onus on the legal owner, and a failure to discharge that leads to a presumption:

        The UWOs require the properties’ legal owners to explain the provenance of the particular funds used to purchase them, if the value is more than GBP50,000 and that sum is disproportionate to their known, lawfully obtained income. Many of the associated issues at the court’s discretion, for example how long should be allowed for the person named in the order to provide an explanation. The orders themselves may state the time allowed, but that and other details might well be challenged – quite likely, given that responses may be used as the foundation for further investigatory or enforcement action, says law firm Clifford Chance.

        The NCA also obtained interim freezing orders against the two houses.In cases such as these, the authorities must decide within 60 days of the subject complying with an order whether to take further investigatory or enforcement action, said Clifford Chance. Failures to respond adequately or at all may give rise to presumptions that particular property is ‘criminal property’ for the purposes of subsequent civil recovery proceedings.

        Would I be wrong thinking Abramovich is a prime target, since he’s still tax domiciled in Russia?

    2. ahimsa

      I am flabbergasted at the British premier’s war posturing. The arguments and evidence appear to the neutral observer to be wafer thin.
      At least there are a few skeptical opinions about the Skripal case being printed in MSM:
      Mary Dejevsky at the Independent
      Seamus Martin at the Irish Times

      But the articles at Moon of Alabama are simply devastating. Succinctly put:

      Theresa’s May claims that the Skripals were poisoned with ‘Novichok’ agents is highly questionable. Her claim that only Russia could be responsible for the Skripal incident is obviously bollocks.

      1. Montanamaven

        I had a very consternating discussion last night with a Jazz musician in his Fifties. He asked me what I was reading (I was reading NC and Moon of Alabama) and I said, “I’m reading about the alleged poisoning of 2 Russians in Britain.”
        “Oh,” He said, “The Russians most definitely did this.”
        “How do you know that?” I replied.
        “I read it in the news.”, he said.
        “What News?”
        “The WSJ and The NY Times.”
        “Why would you believe anything in The NY Times? I said.
        “Why not?”
        “Um WMDs in Iraq. You remember it was Judith Miller in The NY Times that said it was a fact.”
        “Oh, yeh, now I remember,” he said.
        ‘And the vial of powder that Colin Powell showed the U.N.”
        “I don’t remember that, “ he said.
        “You don’t remember the Secretary of State lying or presently a false narrative to the UN about uranium being slipped into Iraq for bomb making?
        “You know it wasn’t that long ago. USAians sure have short memories. And why do you want to start WWIII? You know Russians know how to die in large numbers and we don’t. So you should maybe do a little more reading on this thing in Britain. And watch the Putin Interviews with Oliver Stone. Stone is a hero of mine and didn’t deserve to be trashed by Stephen Colbert”.
        Then he proved himself a total cultist by saying that he never liked Stephen Colbert until Colbert starting trashing Trump, so I gave up, paid my check, and went home.

      1. The Rev Kev

        They’ll get around to it. I saw an hour or two ago that they have already dragged out the old disproved allegations of Russia hacking the electrical grid from a coupla years ago. It’s deja vue all over again.

  1. Kukulkan

    Not sure how to recommend links, but the following might be of interest:
    The Ignoble Lie – How the New Aristocracy Masks its Privilege by Patrick J. Deneen.

    The ruling class denies that they really are a self-perpetuating elite that has not only inherited certain advantages but also seeks to pass them on. To mask this fact, they describe themselves as the vanguard of equality, in effect denying the very fact of their elevated status and the deleterious consequences of their perpetuation of a class divide that has left their less fortunate countrymen in a dire and perilous condition. Indeed, one is tempted to conclude that their insistent defense of equality is a way of freeing themselves from any real duties to the lower classes that are increasingly out of geographical sight and mind. Because they repudiate inequality, they need not consciously consider themselves to be a ruling class. Denying that they are deeply self-interested in maintaining their elite position, they easily assume that they believe in common kinship—so long as their position is unthreatened.

    1. barefoot charley

      Well said. The chief problem with so-called meritocracy is what Obama illustrates: it plucks talented kids out of the gene pool, acculturates them to think like their social superiors, enables them to work for and even in exceptional cases to become them–and this is called equal opportunity rather than cultural stagnation. Like the medieval church making bright peasant boys into server-clerics, furthering equality is not among the outcomes.

      1. Anonymous

        Exactly. Obama is a case in point being half-African American and coming up through an elite educational path from prep school to law school. To tout an Obama like figure as having started out with the footing of an average American of any race is misleading, to say the least. He was more of an insider than anyone save HRC. This is why the diversity agenda is so popular with elites: it allows them to look good without the trouble of actually doing good.

      2. Mark P.

        The chief problem with so-called meritocracy is what Obama illustrates: it plucks talented kids out of the gene pool ….

        Um. Obama’s white grandmother, who did the most to raise him, was a vice-president of the Bank of Hawaii. He was plucked straight out of the FIRE one-percenter elite and accordingly went to Harvard.

        Also, what talent?

        1. Procopius

          He’s a very good off-the-cuff speaker, and smart. Don’t try to deny it, he’s very smart. He just doesn’t reach conclusions that I would like him to.

  2. larry

    The most plausible hypothesis for me about how the nerve agent got into the UK is by someone surreptitiously planting it in Skripal’s daughter’s belongings shortly before bringing them into the country when she visited. Only someone who knew she was going to visit and when would be able to reasonably accomplish this. This reduces the number of plausible suspects. You wouldn’t need much of the agent, which would have likely been in powder form, so could be easily be concealed while within a degradable container during transit. One expert in this field has said that he doesn’t think it was a professional hit.

    1. Olga

      Your comment would make sense if there were proof that a chemical agent was indeed used. The Brits have released no evidence. All we have is May’s hysterical accusations. There is no public proof of any chemical agent, so any speculation about how it got there is pointless now (or a diversion).

        1. ahimsa

          How about the fact that:

          As recently as 2016 Dr Robin Black, Head of the Detection Laboratory at the UK’s only chemical weapons facility at Porton Down, a former colleague of Dr David Kelly, published in an extremely prestigious scientific journal that the evidence for the existence of Novichoks was scant and their composition unknown.

          – Moon of Alabama

          See also Tim Hayward, Doubts about “Novichok”

          1. larry

            Well, now. Thank you for that, ahimsa. This definitely puts a cat among the pigeons. This supports Corbyn’s stance even more, if true. I am not saying Black’s statement is false, only exercising some caution. I had a look at your Hayward link and it seems to support the possible expert who said that this did not look like a professional hit. Neither did the Litvinenko case. Whether the Kremlin is involved or it is the consequence of a grudge held against Skripal, and if whoever is involved has a degree of contempt for the UK’s security procedures, then professionals don’t need to be involved.

            On the other hand, based on the symptoms of Skripal, his daughter, and the officer, it does appear as if a nerve agent of some kind was used whether novichok or not. Of course, we haven’t been informed of the detailed symptoms either. In addition, the Soviets were researching anthrax, along with other like agents in their bioweapons program, some years ago in Sverdlosk and a mutant strain was accidentally ‘created’, which they then harvested. As far as is known, there is no antidote for this strain of anthrax.

            One conclusion I would draw from all this is that it is not unreasonable to think that the Russians had in their possession a bioweapon of some kind that they themselves produced and not unreasonable to believe that these weapons may not be under their complete control.

            1. Olga

              If not yet apparent – the question one should be asking in cases such as this is “cui bono.” Even if someone in the Kremlin wanted to off the ex-spy, why would any official (with all that is likely at his/her disposal) do such a sloppy job two weeks before a presidential elections and a few months before WCup? Really… Suspend all disbelief in search of monsters…

            2. ahimsa

              I don’t doubt that the Russian state had the capability to do what has been suggested. But the contention that they are the only actors capable of such an attack or that they are the only suspect with a motive and therefore must be guilty, I find this nonsensical.

              That the UK would make such sabre-rattling noises to Russia based on such sketchy reasoning is frightening. It really does look like they are looking for a fight.

              1. larry

                It has distracted from the shambles that is Brexit, which might have been the excuse they were hoping for.

              2. Lambert Strether Post author

                > It really does look like they are looking for a fight.

                Or, on behalf of faction in our own “intelligence community”/The Blob, setting up a fight for us. The “Special Relationship,” and all that.

            3. lyman alpha blob

              Also, to attribute the nerve agent to Russia, UK analysts would have to have knowledge of how Russian nerve agents are constructed. If Porton Down have that information and the wherewithal to analyze a sample and find that the chemical composition matches, it would seem to follow that the UK would also have to have the capability to manufacture the same nerve agent themselves. As would many other individuals and nations. The name may mean ‘newcomer’, but from I’ve read this technology was new 40 years ago.

            4. Procopius

              “… based on the symptoms of Skripal, his daughter, and the officer, it does appear as if a nerve agent of some kind was used …” and then, “Of course, we haven’t been informed of the detailed symptoms either.” The dissonance, it burns. Well, the good news is you appear to be trying to argue in good faith. So many people nowadays don’t.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Until there is a proper investigation under the auspices of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which the British are balking at, everything is just innuendo. That I can tell you a lot about as I spent half an hour this afternoon shoveling heaps of it out of our horse stable.

    3. integer

      Now it’s being reported that “novichok” was applied to Skripal’s car door. Funnily enough, there is a scene in the movie “The Jackal” where the character played by Bruce Willis sprays an unidentified nerve agent on the door handle of his own car to stop some hijackers from stealing his new kit. Kinda reminds me of this:

      It was such obvious bullshit’: The Rock writer shocked film may have inspired false WMD intelligence The Guardian

      The man behind 1996 thriller The Rock has expressed his amazement a key detail from the plot was apparently used by an intelligence agent to fabricate evidence which aided the case for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

      “What was so amazing,” said Weisberg, “was anybody in the poison gas community would immediately know that this was total bullshit – such obvious bullshit.”

      I’m starting to think some people in MI6 really like watching movies. I bet they love James Bond.

      1. Bugs Bunny

        The Jackal is an excellent thriller. Bruce Willis action movies are one of my guilty pleasures. The scene where he shoots the execrable Jack Black with the giant automatic rifle is worth the price of admission.

        1. jgw

          “Move closer to the car. Hurry before you bleed out.”
          Interesting psychological manipulation by the guy who just blew his arm off.

    4. Oregoncharles

      Just a technical point: “Novichok” is a two-piece formula – has to be mixed at the point of use (so, not very stable). That means it has to be a liquid. If it was powder, it wasn’t Novichok.

      But the government is being very cagey about the details, so this is all just speculation.

    5. c_heale

      The most plausible hypothosis is the shit is about to hit the fan regarding Brexit and May etc. want a distraction (well, that and the ongoing cold war against Russia). I also note that it looks like Ghouta is about to fall to government forces and maybe that has something to do with it.

  3. Jim Haygood

    Flyover ingrates:

    The most dangerous outcome for Republicans in Tuesday’s special House election was not the prospect of a Democrat taking over one of their seats.

    It was the shrugging off by voters of the party’s biggest legislative achievement: the tax cut measure that Republicans hoped would be their major campaign message as they head toward a midterm election.

    It stalled as an election issue in Pennsylvania, leading Republicans to shift away from it late in the campaign in search of another topic.

    Enough silver-haired, cloth-coat Republicans [Nixon was the last president to balance the budget before Clinton] remain to make “trillion dollar deficits forever” a less than compelling rallying cry for the R party.

    Next year’s crackpot fiscal stim makes LBJ’s notorious “guns ‘n butter” blowout of the 1960s look like an inadvertent checking account overdraft.

    A hundred and sixty years into their cozy, faux-competitive duopoly, neither legacy party is capable of strategic thought, much less restructuring a floundering, value-subtraction national security state which now rules them rather than the other way round.

    If you’re watching from Pennsylvania or Kansas or Idaho, the R party are heedless carousers swilling the last chilled champagne on the deck of the Titanic whilst keeping the lifeboat keys hung safely round their necks.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Next year’s crackpot fiscal stim?

      Its a long time to next year, and other disasters are competing to be number one, and only one to occupy our attention.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Wukchummi, are you a Russian agent? Because I just spotted a Russian character in your post!

        It’s that backwards “R” that sounds like “ya.” It’s the Russian word for me.

        Which means that I am also a Russian agent! Eeeeek!

        1. ambrit

          Have no fear gospodin. If Comrade in hiding fresnodan can traipse about in his secret radio ‘bunny slippers,’ than you can do your patriotic duty without fear.
          Save America from itself! Start today!

          1. Wukchumni


            It’s a says-pool out there…

            Ask not what your internet can do for you, ask what you can do for the internet.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            If I could only say, from Russia with love, in Russian,I think I would be able to make many friends there.

    2. Susan the other

      I dunno. WaPo’s not very hysterical these days. It sounds more like a Minsky antidote than Minsky here we come. (Speaking of antidotes, those saddlebags full of lambs look motherly; hope they are not destined for Easter dindin.) But back to my stream of consciousness du jour: It’s the New Banking movement – interbank liquidity guaranteed so nothing gets log jammed. Why not deregulate the banks? Derivatives are a sticky spider web of risk control; guaranteed paralysis; maybe even government backed collateral – just bundle those “instruments” into a bonded security of securities. Eventually the bold heist of sovereign money by private banks and their central banksters will come full circle because controlled theft and deception will have become so ubiquitous that everybody and their dog will be at least an inadvertent beneficiary. So it’s a benign long term plan. Just deregulate those banks; let them create credit out of thin air and co-mingle their investments and their deposits. Because guaranteed liquidity the world around. (China just formed a new financial agency combining insurance and banking – sounds like a new derivatives industry to me.) So it’s OK if you closely regulate the markets. Even Kudlow – the king of king dollar economix – is saying just let it rip. Small banks are sitting ducks? No problem. There might be a silver lining. Or specifically, a green lining. Since to save the planet at this point bank profits (the old fashioned way) are impossible. Only non-profit enterprises will save the planet, or better still, government policies and long term projects. And etc.

  4. todde

    The 1% couls.just pay us more and charge us less…

    And trump nomination of a torturer is brilliant. What are the dems going to do, Attack the IC?

    1. lyman alpha blob

      That, and/or we could just tax them.

      The notion that the rest if us should let them get stinking rich and then depend on their largesse is absurd.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > That, and/or we could just tax them.

        Yes, we should offer tax credits for not torturing. That should align incentives properly. I’m sure such a proposal would win instant and unanimous bipartisan support.

    2. Allegorio

      You really think that the Dems have a problem with torture? They are the exceptional people after all, chosen by God to rule over the Nations!

  5. Jim Haygood

    Here’s a clever form of disguised tariff retaliation:

    U.S. tech companies could end up paying billions of dollars in new taxes under a plan the European Commission is considering, according to a report by the Financial Times late Wednesday.

    A “digital tax” would be be assessed against companies’ revenues rather than profits. The tax, likely to be set at 3%, would apply to tech companies with more than 100,000 users in Europe. It would cover everything from ad revenue at Google and Facebook to subscription fees for companies such as Apple and Spotify.

    The tax, which may be announced next week in Brussels, is estimated to raise about 5 billion euros a year, the FT reported.

    Companies hate gross revenue taxes, which are payable even if they’re unprofitable. Of course, the tax burden will simply be passed on to hapless European consumers with price hikes.

    Tant pis, c’est la vie as the late Johnny Hallyday used to sing.

    1. Frenchguy

      Oh no, Google and Facebook are going to hike their prices !

      Anyway I think they can absorb a bit more taxes, according to the FT:

      In a draft legal text, the commission notes that while traditional companies have paid an effective tax rate of 23.3 per cent, digital companies — which often operate across borders — pay on average 9.5 per cent tax in the EU.

    2. Altandmain

      In the case of the technology industry, I think that a gross revenue tax would be the most appropriate measure.

      Another hard question – why aren’t the CEOs of the tax evasion companies in jail? There’s one set of rules for the rich and the rest for us lowly peasants.

      1. John k

        Can’t jail them if they’re complying with the tax rules.
        Course, can’t jail them anyway, they’re wearing white collars.

    3. HotFlash

      How about, instead of framing this as a tax, we consider it a royalty? Eg, fees for mining the citizens’ eyes and data.

    4. Yves Smith

      No, I am sure this has been in the works for a while. There have been many official studies and symposia, and I forget the term of art, but it was something like “base expansion” for the way companies that do substantial business in a country don’t pay much in the way of taxes. Consumer business is a really sore point. Even the IRS has been looking at it. A simple revenue tax is an obvious solution.

    1. Anke

      Behind closed doors investors are honest with themselves and aware of the low quality of some of their investments. However, they become prisoners of their own promises and, of course, the high salaries which are risk-free, I.e. most of it comes from management fee, not carry. I know junior investment professionals who still believe in the fantasy that they will get rich from carry… And these are the ppl hired for their “business sense”.

      Regarding the LPs, I used to think they were clueless and misinformed, but now I think at least some of them knowingly invest in these ” opportunities” because they need to deploy the money. If they do not do this, there will be no reason for them to be promoted. So after making bad decisions to advance in their careers, they then have to accept all sort of outrageous excuses and go along with the GPs because they cannot admit their own errors.

      Theranos is just a drop in the ocean. It fell because they went too far with the publicity. But are investors (the institutional types and their advisors) truly that innocent? I doubt it. I only del sorry for those who rely on the advice of their “expert advisors”.

      1. Loneprotester

        Good points! Makes you wonder if they have detailed timelines on their calendars with estimated time before self-destruct marked clearly (along with plans to jump ship to another job just in time)?

        1. Anke

          I think many have this strategy in mind. This is the reason behind 2-3 year stints with several companies. By now, however, it might be so late in the cycle that many will be left without a chair when the music stops.

          Recently, GMO’s James Montier wrote a great article on the current cynism in the market:

          It is a great, easy read and very accurate.


          1. John k

            I enjoyed it.
            Hard to say about accurate… he just says better to be safe than sorry, which has been my policy, missing the bull and, if the bear shows, him too.
            Kinda like waiting for Godot…

    2. Loneprotester

      You should check out the angry (justifiably so!) calls for her to be jailed and barred from boards for life on the comment thread of this morning’s FT article. 7 years for pharmabro and a slap on the wrist for the $700 m. bottled blonde fraudster make an ugly point/counterpoint for modern “justice” in the US.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        In “reporting” this story, cable news is running video of elizabeth holmes, in various iterations of her steve jobs costume, graciously accepting the adulation of luminaries such as bill clinton, and running the gauntlet of flashbulbs accorded super-celebrities on the red carpet.

        It’s genuinely creepy watching her self-confident yet demure reaction to all the fawning, knowing, as she did, that the whole thing was a complete scam.

        Whether all her powerful enablers were hoodwinked or willing participants, I’d imagine the last thing they want is to have the nature of their associations with her exposed in a trial. Her “punishment”–just go away–is more about them than about her or her crime, I’d guess.

      2. FluffytheObeseCat

        I’ll be more impressed when the commentariat of financial publications starts calling for the heads of dozens of unremarkable suits….. instead of a flamboyant douchebro and a too pretty, too youngish woman. Right now, only the Martha Stewart types are going down, and they count for nothing.

    3. Louis Fyne

      Martha Stewart goes to jail for perjury.

      But grifting hundreds of millions of dollars = 6 digit fine + a promise to not visit the crime scene for 10 years.

      Curiously no Trump outrage over Theranos’ easy treatment from the pundit Left. And I guess the San Fran SEC office has been 100% regulatory captured?

      1. Yves Smith

        It’s more complicated than that.

        Stewart authorized a trade in a company in which she was a director in which she arguably had inside knowledge. She’d also been a broker early in her career, so she couldn’t claim she didn’t know the rules.

        She could easily have groveled: “I was in a cab, between meetings. My broker called with a news development. I authorized the trade not even thinking and only too late to cancel it realized that it was a mistake” and paid the fine. Instead she fought.

        My dim recollection is that she got a plea bargain, but I am certain records were doctored too. That is a really big deal.

        Having said that, I agree the punishment for Holmes was ridiculous. As a reader who has worked in finance said via e-mail:

        The cockroaches are rushing to settle charges before the window closes. The speed of settlements is increasing at the SEC because folks know that Clayton is so friendly to them that once the window closes they may not get another shot. %00,000 penalty for defrauding 700MM. Great to do business in AMERICA!

          1. Loneprotester

            Yes. But I believe the states need to bring the charges and what are the odds of CA doing that?

            1. Oregoncharles

              Didn’t Theranos operate, defrauding customers, in all states? Every AG in the country could prosecute.

      2. Procopius

        I’ve always been dissatisfied with that conviction. It may be true that Martha Stewart was guilty of inside trading, but IIRC what she was actually convicted of was lying to an FBI agent. You know, the FBI has a policy of never making a recording of an interview. Instead the agents are “trained” to write detailed notes after the interview. As Comey claims to have done after his interviews with Trump. In Stewart’s case, IIRC, the agent admitted she did not write the notes until several weeks after the interview, and the conviction hinged on just a couple of sentences which the judge took the agent’s word for. I may have been misinformed, and perhaps there was substantial evidence against Stewart, but I think she just decided they were going to get her one way or another and accepted this as probably a better outcome than if she was prosecuted for real crimes.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      If you’re gonna give a guy a 35% raise for running a criminal enterprise, the least you can do is think of a good euphemism for “crimes.” I guess “woes” is as slime-free a euphemism as any.

    2. Summer

      It’s really about the secrets they keep and replication of the same will to cheat and steal throughout the organization.
      That’s what the “compensation” is for.

    3. voteforno6

      Maybe this really was a punishment – his raise would’ve been bigger, had they not been caught.

    4. Arizona Slim

      Hmmm, revenues were flat. Sounds like the first derivative of the revenue curve is at zero. And about to go negative.

    5. Oregoncharles

      IOW, they approve of the way he ran the business. Does that put all the directors on the hook for any crimes committed? What about personal liability – directors have far more than stockholders.

  6. Kukulkan

    Reading The Real Collusion Story from the National Review it occurred to me: why doesn’t the British government just get Christopher Steele — he of Trump dossier fame — to give his assorted contacts in Moscow a ring and ask them how and why the Russians poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. I mean, if Steele is so good he could unearth all that juicy info on Trump from England with just a few phone calls, then finding out the truth about the Skripal poisoning should be a piece of cake. Especially if the Russians are involved.

    I’m sure Steele’s contacts would be more than willing to give him all the details. I mean, they had no compunctions about blowing what is described as a carefully prepared long-term plan starting in 2011 to compromise Trump, who the Russian security services knew, even then, would win the 2016 Presidential election; so why would they balk at revealing the details about this latest dastardly plot?

    1. Loneprotester

      Quite so!

      But now Trump is throwing the full weight of the US behind May and Macron is doing same in France. Sure would be nice to know what convinced them. Also, will it be enough to change the Putin’s Puppet narrative? If Trump is going to rally the cavalry (which is 99% American, as usual) he will want some solid support domestically and internationally. Keep an eye out for Stormy sightings. If she disappears it will mean he is now a “wartime president” for better AND worse.

      1. Procopius

        Never going to find out what convinced them. England is not going to release any evidence or even describe it, They were convinced by the prospect of some shameful deal or other.

    2. Carolinian

      That article is long and covers familiar territory but it’s a great blow by blow description of how to create press propaganda. The other takeaway is a feeling of wonder over what has happened to the storied New Yorker where William Shawn was once deathly afraid of doing anything that would hurt the mag’s reputation.

      Nobody knew better than Simpson, a highly experienced reporter, that Steele’s claims were unverifiable and, therefore, unprintable. The best he could achieve was an article that reinforced the main suppositions of the collusion thesis — an article such as “Trump and Putin: A Love Story,” which David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, wrote and published in early August. “Putin,” sees in Trump a grand opportunity,” Remnick explained. “He sees in Trump weakness and ignorance, a confused mind. He has every hope of exploiting him.”

      Remnick stopped just short of claiming that Putin was actually blackmailing Trump, but his depiction of their relations matched, in general, the story that emerged from Steele’s reports.[…]

      Did Remnick personally rely on a Fusion GPS briefing? We do not know. Jane Mayer, a staff writer for the New Yorker, recently confessed that she received a briefing, in September, directly from super spy himself — so the potential for communication certainly existed.

      Thus we have some interesting background to the recent New Yorker attempt–written by Jane Mayer–to defend Steele. Perhaps the reason fact checking is no longer a thing is that Remnick is confident he won’t be called on it by his “making their own reality” readership. But is there also the worry that if Steele goes down then “Russia expert” Remnick goes down with him?

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > it’s a great blow by blow description of how to create press propaganda

        And all the players are twisty as corkscrews, without exception. While people like Seymour Hersh and Thomas Frank can’t get published in the United States.

        We shouldn’t deceive ourselves that only liberal Democrat do this, of course. If the jackboot were on the other party’s foot, the NR would be the first to defend

    3. VietnamVet

      The National Review article on the Real Collusion is stunning. The Elite are engulfed by delusion and projection. Reality has been flushed away. Corruption rules. This is mafia corporate families fighting each other over their cut of the $8 billion-dollar election scam. Government is, at best, an enabler. Steele’s Dodgy Dossier became the basis for the Clinton propaganda campaign that Trump is Putin’s Manchurian Candidate. This truth must be hidden just like the Rat-Line of Libyan arms to Syria when she was Secretary of State. Andrew McCabe will not be fired but retire into obscurity. Anyone who can prove that the Dossier is fiction will go into hiding, keep quiet and, if found, silenced by a Russian “newcomer” nerve agent attack. Oligarchs are going to the mattresses.

      NBC News tonight reported on U.S. troops in the oil fields of Eastern Syria facing Russian mercenaries and Syrian forces. Their Kurdish proxy force is leaving to go to the war with Turkey. No doubt, they are digging fox holes and waiting for WWIII with Iran and Russia to start.

  7. lyman alpha blob

    RE: As the cost of dog cloning drops, here’s which breeds lead the pack MarketWatch

    This one may be more suitable for the Guillotine Watch. Check out the picture of Streisand’s dogs in their stroller next to the elaborate grave of their genetic donor. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to kick a little dog more after seeing that.

  8. Jim Haygood

    American values:

    WASHINGTON—Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged lawmakers on Wednesday to reject a bipartisan proposal that seeks to cut off American support for Saudi Arabia’s controversial three-year war in Yemen.

    In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Mr. Mattis warned that the proposal would undermine American interests in the Middle East, jeopardize the country’s partnership with Saudi Arabia and increase the risk of a regional war with Iran.

    Mr. Mattis made the personal appeal as part of an aggressive Pentagon effort to derail a resolution that could come up for a vote next week, when Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in Washington to meet with President Donald Trump.

    Piles of dead brown bodies — whether at home or abroad — are a silent signifier of American values.

    1. Loneprotester

      There is no longer any pretense that politics stops at the water’s edge, and this will have catastrophic repercussions for US policy going forward (until we succeed in crashing the car into a concrete wall-perhaps along the southern border?-while struggling to grab the wheel from our foes).

      No one in America cares about Yemen. No one. We do, however, have a stake in a rapidly modernizing Saudi Arabia. Nor should it be supposed that undermining the author of those needed changes in SA will magically right the situation in Yemen. Grow up, America.

      1. FluffytheObeseCat

        What is the true value of the stake that we have in a “rapidly modernizing” monarchy in the Gulf?

        We have measurable interests in almost every foreign nation. But, we don’t have a ‘stake’ in the KSA that is worth the damage we’re doing re: our other interests across the globe. They have already impacted our interest in our base of operations in Qatar. Just how much more do we “need” to do on behalf of the ruling Salman faction in KSA?

        Our present administration seems to be ‘pursuing our interests’ in Saudi Arabia to the detriment of the greater national good. For reasons that do not stand up well to scrutiny.

      2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Yes by all means let’s support the beheading medieval Saudis no matter what they do to their impoverished Yemeni neighbors, what’s a few thousand dead Yemeni children, anyway? Besides there’s good *money* in incinerating grandmothers in the desert, doncha know, yep that’s the America the world has come to know and love so why let them down? I know, let’s make the Saudis the head of the UN Human Rights Commission while we’re at it, hardee har har maybe they can show the world the right way to use a sword to behead a homosexual.

        So America “growing up” means the complete abandonment of the last vestiges of any of our moral principles, mm-hmm, I get it.

      3. Procopius

        The repercussions are not going to be catastrophic. I wish I could say the same for some of the other moves they’re making, particularly provoking Russia and China. As for Yemen this is only a little different than funding the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua. At least we are told that KSA is paying for the munitions we’re sending to them. We’ve been doing this stuff since McKinley and the blowback never hurts the people responsible.

  9. Mikerw

    As a true dog lover, they are way better than people truth be told, I cannot describe how against cloning dogs, or any animal, I am. We have already done huge damage to certain breeds (e.g., pugs, Boston Terriers, bulldogs) in search of dog show perfection by inbreeding. 100% of these breeds have health issues. Why, lack of genetic diversity.

    Are we so vain as a species that we need to further harm these great animals that many anthropologists believe were a critical component of developing human society.

    1. Arizona Slim

      What people do to dogs is ridiculous. Not just the inbreeding, but expecting the dog to be a surrogate friend or a child.

      1. j84ustin

        My dog was not my surrogate friend. He was simply my friend.

        That being said, I would never clone him even if I could – and after grieving his loss, I have lucked into another shelter mutt who is my friend and companion.

        1. RMO

          Well said. The relationship we can have with dogs is one of the many things that brings joy to life.

    2. nycTerrierist

      With so many lovable pooches killed year round
      just because they are homeless — it’s a tragic waste for a dog lover
      to clone – or even shop – for a dog rather than adopting a rescue.

      don’t get me started on puppy mills…

  10. hemeantwell

    Re the antidote:
    Umm, in my possibly idiosyncratic state of mind those lambs look like they are being “taken off somewhere.” Analogies aplenty.

      1. kukuzel

        Also, they need to be kept warm. My grandparents had sheep and goats, and in the winter on the coldest days they would bring in the very young lambs and kids inside the house. The house had a large open lobby that was heated. The lambkins would stand there bleating, a bit nervous, is what I remember.

        I was probably before school age at the time and I loved having the animals in the house, it was an amazing sight to me to see them there.

        This was a few decades ago in a country behind the Iron Curtain. That house now is in ruins and a handful of people live in the village.

  11. Kevin

    Complaining about taxes is an American pastime. Maybe we should be more focused on the idea that
    we don’t pay too much in taxes; we just elect corrupt politicians, on both sides if the aisle, who treat our tax dollars as “free” money.

    $31,000 diner set anyone?

    1. Loneprotester

      You meant dinner, right?

      $400 billion for a couple thousand new fighter jets, and you want me to care about a roomful of furniture? A couple million for redecorated offices–big no. Table and chairs? Ok. I’d like to see the outlay for furniture for other heads of agency in DC. Doubtful you could get a conference table and chairs for less than $10k. So now we’re squabbling over the difference. Much, much, much less than a rounding error in the HUD budget, let alone an agency that matters.

      Remember: every time we attack an appointee we make it that much harder to convince good people to go into public “service” and guarantee that only self-dealers and crooks end up in DC.

      1. Kevin

        Nope, I meant “Diner set “- refers to dining room table, chairs, hutch etc.

        Your point is valid – however, best of luck getting anyone to pay attention to the defense department spending. start with low-hanging fruit and work your way up.

        Could not disagree more with your attack argument. If Carson’s spending was given a pass, you really think he would have stopped spending? Carson and his wife will give pause now ONLY because he was called out.

      2. Merf56

        It is the blatant personal aggrandizement that the ‘dining set’ illustrates that garners the attention and the outrage. Clearly we all know forkfuls of cash to the MIC is more important. The fact that these Trumpian acolytes think making money and buying personal luxuries off the government test overtly is no longer a problem IS a big problem and the most easily understood aspect of the level of overt grift practiced in Washington.

    2. Louis

      I would take it a step further and say that wanting something for nothing is, pardon the cliche, as American as apple pie. In the public sector, this mostly commonly occurs in wanting services but not wanting to pay the necessary level of taxes to fund them.

      In the private sector, particularly in brick and mortal retail, people say they want customer service but have demonstrated time and again that they aren’t willing to pay for it.

      If a store paid their employees a living wage, gave them the proper resources and training necessary to do their job, and maintained adequate staffing levels, prices would go up. While a few people might be okay with this, many (if not most) customers would leave for a store that was cheaper.

    3. Procopius

      Recently I’ve seen references to it not as a “dining room table,” but as a “conference table.” $31,000 is still absurd.

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Is Beijing planning to take Taiwan back … by force? South China Morning Post

    Was this what Putin was talking about when he mentioned keeping one’s nose out?

    1. Jim Haygood

      Taiwan has been ruled separately from China since 1895, when Japan took control for 50 years, followed by de facto independence under the Kuomintang post-WW II.

      Despite having a common origin, cultures diverge enormously after five generations.

      China reclaiming Taiwan is about as realistic as Portugal taking back Brazil, Spain re-establishing rule over South America, and Britain redominionizing Canada after hiving off Quebec to France.

      Global trends run quite the opposite direction, toward greater regional autonomy instead of less.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Mexico will have a harder time to have Texas or California back.

        While in Taiwan, millions see themselves as part of China, with de facto retreat to the island post their Civil War, and not intention whatsoever of independence by the KMT.

        For the US, the question is whether this is an exceptional case where we stick our nose in.

        1. Merf56

          I think our deal maker in chief ought to make a deal giving Texas back to Mexico whilst keeping California…. maybe we could throw in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as a sweetener………

          1. ambrit

            Listen mister, LaMA is destined to be the African States of America one day. All of the pre NAFTA locals are united against the AlSur immigrants.
            Many would append Georgia and call it LaMAG. I have heard Atlanta described as the ‘Black Capital of America.’

      2. PlutoniumKun

        Its even arguable that Taiwan has a ‘common origin’ with China. For most of its history almost all the island was controlled by the ‘aborigines’, a pacific people. It was only in the late 19th Century that they were brought under Taipei’s control (at this time Japanese). The majority of ‘incomers’ over the centuries came from Hokkien, which while now in ‘China’ was at that time a different nation with a distinct language. The ‘mandarin’ element are mostly the descendants on the post WWII refugees from the mainland, the only real ethnic ‘Chinese’ on the island.

        By any reasonable standards Taiwan is an independent country with a long cultural and ethnic distinction from ‘mainland’ China. China’s claim is entirely spurious with no more standing than that of former colonists Portugal and Japan. All the evidence suggests that the Taiwanese population want it that way.

        But the reality of geopolitics is that China will gradually strangle its independence through bribing its elites and creating economic and military facts on the ground. I think its very unlikely the US really would intervene in the event of a military take-over, China is already too strong militarily within that zone.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Earlier than the 19th century.

          From Koxinga, Wikipedia:

          In 1661, Koxinga defeated the Dutch outposts on Formosa,[2] and established a dynasty which ruled the island as the Kingdom of Tungning from 1661 to 1683.

          His mother was Japanese. So, maybe there is a claim for Japan.

          And this, from the same article:

          During the Siege of Fort Zeelandia, Koxinga executed Dutch missionary Antonius Hambroek and took his teenage daughter as a concubine.[39][40] Other Dutch women were sold to Chinese soldiers to become their wives.[41] In 1684 some of these Dutch wives were still captives of the Chinese.[42]

          Here, it’s possible then that the Dutch can make a claim as well.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Compare that with this from Wikipedia, the History of Ireland (1536-1691):

            From the mid-16th and into the early 17th century, crown governments carried out a policy of colonisation known as Plantations. Scottish and English Protestants were sent as colonists to the provinces of Munster, Ulster and the counties of Laois and Offaly (see also Plantations of Ireland). The largest of these projects, the Plantation of Ulster, had settled up to 80,000 English and Scots in the north of Ireland by 1641. The so-called Ulster Scots were predominantly Presbyterian, which distinguished them from the Anglican English colonists.

            Or the history of America…or Australia.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                It turned out that they found people who lived in what is now Dublin were form all over different places in Europe, Hanover, Spain, etc.

                This was, I don’t remember, before 500 AD, or before Aidan of Lindisfarne, I think. And so, what does it mean to be Irish?

                In the same way, Scotland were peopled by the Picts and migrants from Ireland, etc. In fact, the word Scotia came into being only later.

                That’s all I can remember, after watching BBC’s History of Scotland.

          2. Andrew Watts

            The Qing dynasty invaded and destroyed the Kingdom of Tungning which undermines the ‘China only has a century long claim’ to Taiwan.

            I don’t think China will invade Taiwan any time soon unless they declare independence and even then it’s dicey. I’m pretty sure the claims that Taiwan has nukes are true.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              That kingdom was ‘destroyed,’ or more precisely, Koxinga’s son surrendered to the Qing dynasty, who also subjugated the other, but aboriginal, kingdom on the island, the Middag Kingdom.

              From Tungning Kingdom, Wikipedia:

              In 1683, after the Battle of Penghu, Qing troops landed in Taiwan, Zheng Keshuang gave in to the Qing Dynasty’s demand for surrender, and his kingdom was incorporated into the Qing Empire as part of Fujian province, ending two decades of rule by the Zheng family.[10]

              Several Ming dynasty Princes had accompanied Koxinga to Taiwan including the Prince of Ningjing Zhu Shugui and Prince Zhu Hónghuán (zh), son of Zhu Yihai. The Qing sent the 17 Ming princes still living on Taiwan back to mainland China where they spent the rest of their lives.[11]

              Following a long tradition, dating back to the Shang dynasty, the previous imperial family members were treated very nicely and with respect (sometimes given a duchy).

              In fact, I saw a late 19th century/early 20th century photo of the head of the Ming imperial family residing in Qing capital Beijing, whose main job was to perform rituals to appease Heaven (and so the Qing government could keep an eye on them).

              As for the Russian connection, it is there in the Wiki article’s next paragraph:

              Zheng Keshuang was rewarded by the Qing Emperor with the title “Duke of Haicheng” (海澄公) and he and his soldiers were inducted into the Eight Banners. Troops who specialized at fighting with rattan shields and swords (Tengpaiying) 藤牌营 were recommended to the Kangxi Emperor. Kangxi was impressed by a demonstration of their techniques and ordered 500 of them to reinforce the siege of Albazin against the Russians, under Ho Yu, a former Koxinga follower, and Lin Hsing-chu, a former General of Wu. Attacking from the water using only the rattan shields and swords, these troops cut down Russian forces traveling by rafts on the river, without suffering a single casualty.[12][13][14][15]

              But the article has nothing on any Vietnamese connection.

              In fact, I learned (from elsewhere, a travel documentary), that some of the soldiers and generals of the Tungning Kingdom then moved to a place somewhere in the Mekong Delta (don’t remember the name and can’t find it on the internet).

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                I think this is the city – My Tho.

                From Wikipedia:

                Mỹ Tho was founded in the 1680s by Chinese refugees fleeing China, when the entire country became a colony of the Manchu-led Qing Empire in 1683. The area, at the time, was once part of the former Khmer Empire and it was annexed to Vietnam in the 18th century. The city is named after the Mỹ Tho River. In Sino-Vietnamese script, the name is given as 美萩 (beautiful tree).[5]

                Due to its proximity to Saigon, Mỹ Tho was the traditional gateway to the Mekong Delta. In the 17th century, the city had become one of the biggest commercial hubs in today’s Southern Vietnam.

              2. Andrew Watts

                Interesting. While I knew there were survivors of the Ming Dynasty I didn’t realize that they accompanied the Qing invasion or that their line continued into the early 20th century. It’d make sense for the Qing to keep them around. It’d reinforce their inherited claim and ensure a degree of continuity at court. The mandate of heaven may have been withdrawn from the Ming but they still governed a fascinating era of Chinese history.

      3. Oregoncharles

        China had no better claim to Tibet. Force majeure, if the rest of the world lets them.

        1. Daryl

          Don’t worry, I’m sure Democrats would be just as hardline about that as they are about Russia.

          Least till they realize that China could cut off the flow of Apple products.

  13. Pavel

    Thank you Lambert for your very justifiable rant re the hypocrisy of the Dems regarding the Haspel appointment. Obama should be in jail as well as the other torture proponents and defenders; he blatantly failed to investigate and prosecute self-confessed torturers as well as those in the CIA who destroyed evidence of the crimes. Under international law he was required to do so.

    “We tortured some folks.”

    Bah bloody humbug! A pox on all their houses.

    1. Jim Haygood

      those in the CIA who destroyed evidence of the crimes

      Rumor has it that Gina Haspel has been nominated for this year’s Lois Lerner award for strategic document destruction.

      Classification is for wimps. Real men (and women) keep a burn barrel proudly displayed in their office.

      1. Carolinian

        Not to defend Trump’s choice but is it realistic that any alternate pick was going to “reform” the CIA? They have been a rogue agency from day one.

        1. Carolinian

          Mondoweiss suggests major Trump donors Adelson and Marcus may be behind the Iran obsession.

          Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who spent $35 million via untraceable dark money groups to elect Donald Trump[…]Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus, who placed second in the Trump campaign sweepstakes by spending $7 million to pro-Trump outside spending groups


          fervent supporters of Israel, the only country in the world that is trying to smash the deal.

          Nikki Haley has also reportedly received considerable support from Adelson in the past which may explain why an ex SC governor is styling herself a foreign policy expert.

          Of course suggestions of a quid pro quo are purely speculative but in a political system where money rules suspicions are always going to arise. Foreign bribery is a major theme of the press attacks on Trump and his policies–domestic bribery not so much.

        2. Andrew Watts

          Calling the CIA a rogue agency ignores the role the executive branch played in the systematic torture of prisoners. Why should anybody in the executive branch including Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld be let off the hook? A better question is why didn’t Cheney know those simpletons wouldn’t screw everything up regardless in the War of Terror? He’s been around Washington long enough to know about the CIA’s lack of competency.

          1. Carolinian

            Since much of what the CIA does takes place in secret it’s hard to make a case for democratic accountability regardless of whether they are acting on the president’s orders or, as has often been alleged, on their own initiative. The country got along just fine for most of its existence without a CIA. It can do so now.

            Of course if we were actually at war with a major power it might be different. But we aren’t unless our ceaseless foreign meddling starts one. If a hammer only sees nails it could be time to get rid of the hammer.

            1. Procopius

              Riding the tiger is dangerous, but exciting. Getting off the tiger is much more dangerous.

    2. The Rev Kev

      That’s the trouble when you don’t convict and imprison war criminals in government. Sooner or later they keep rising professionally until they become Directors, Bureau Chiefs, etc and then put their whole organization on track to do the same sort of stuff, thus normalizing it.
      After WW2 the US military put on trial Japanese officers guilty of waterboarding POWs and I think that a few were actually executed for this crime. Now it is accepted, even though it really doesn’t work and will get you all sorts of awards. Gina Haspel, for example, has already been awarded the George H. W. Bush Award for excellence in counter-terrorism, the Donovan Award, the Intelligence Medal of Merit, and the Presidential Rank Award.
      Probably she’ll get the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a few other gongs before she is finished. Maybe a position at a prestigious university. Perhaps service with a few corporations on their boards. Who knows, maybe Hollywood will eventually make a movie about her life as I see more and more movies and TV shows about the CIA glamorizing them. She just can’t go to Europe is all as last I heard, there is a warrant out for her arrest there so probably no ambassadorships there.

      1. integer

        After WW2 the US military put on trial Japanese officers guilty of waterboarding POWs and I think that a few were actually executed for this crime.

        I guess the US must have already known how to waterboard. Meanwhile:

        Unit 731 (Japanese: 731部隊 Hepburn: Nana-san-ichi Butai) was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) of World War II. It was responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes carried out by Imperial Japan. Unit 731 was based at the Pingfang district of Harbin, the largest city in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo (now Northeast China).

        Instead of being tried for war crimes after the war, the researchers involved in Unit 731 were secretly given immunity by the U.S. in exchange for the data they gathered through human experimentation.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Oh yeah. Unit 731. I’ve read a bit about them. Lots of the doctors in that unit went on to have great careers high up in the Japanese medical establishment after the war. And most seemed to have developed amnesia about what they did in this unit. They even used allied POWS, including Americans ( for other test places), for their “tests” though I think it was mostly Chinese. The Chinese have not forgotten this unit.
          The thing that I remember most about this unit was their liking to perform live vivisections. Look the term up if you are not familiar with it.

          1. integer

            I am familiar with the term. FWIW there is redundancy in the phrase “live vivisections”. I have seen some pictures from Unit 731’s archives that were quite disturbing.

        2. Procopius

          I guess the US must have already known how to waterboard.

          Yes. There was some debate about it during the “Filipino Insurrection.” It was used by some troops to try to extract information from prisoners, who probably didn’t know what the soldiers were asking about. I haven’t been able to find any assessment of the reliability of the “information” they got. It seems that it is certainly true that if a prisoner does not give you the information you want, torture will eventually make him talk. Whether what he says is true, or not, is unknown. I believe it usually is not, especially when nothing is known about the background of the prisoner. For example, Gina Haspel and her superiors believed that Abu Zubaydah was a high ranking member of Al Qa’ida’s leadership, maybe even number three. Eventually, evidence was turned up that showed he was a low level clerk who could not have known anything about the things he was being questioned about. Of course Haspel and her superiors believed he was just trying to withhold information. During the Filipino Insurrection ten soldiers were court martialed for it, and Gen. Pershing forced one general to resign under threat of court martial.

          Donald Trump, who has apparently never suffered more pain than a hangnail, believes torture is acceptable and is a reliable way to make people tell the truth. He doesn’t admit that sometimes (often?) your prisoner simply does not know.

          ETA: The torture used by U.S. troops was slightly different that waterboarding, consisting of forcing water into the prisoner until his belly was distended and then beating him or jumping on his stomach.

      2. Katsue

        I don’t think there’s a warrant out for her arrest. An organisation whose name escapes me had a webpage where they asked the German federal authorities to issue an arrest warrant for her, but it would surprise me if they did.

          1. ambrit

            True COIN of the Realm? Or base COINterfit?
            Maybe we can “sweat” it out of her. (After all, she is “in the pocket,” is she not?)

            1. Wukchumni

              She strikes me as being more a ‘piece of 8’ now enshrined as the head honcho in the upper echelon of cabinet positions, in a version of March Madness not anticipated, and apparently brought on by Mercury in retrograde, for those that follow such celestial movements.

    3. JohnnyGL

      What does it say about my expectations for Team Dem that I was actually heartened that they went through the trouble of bothering to fake it?

    4. Andrew Watts

      The CIA Democrats are going to an even bigger pain. They’ll undoubtedly maneuver themselves onto oversight committees thus ensuring that any misdeeds are covered up. For all we know that’s already happened. It would explain why Congress went from pro-active and relatively proficient to a bunch of craven mediocrities.

  14. John M

    What are MILO’s in reference to Congressional dems (found in the Taibbi link)?

    What does this stand for?

    1. HotFlash

      Military/Intelligence/Law Officer — the DCC seems to be favouring a number of them as candidates for the upcoming midterms. WSWS had a series on the phenomenon.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Yes, and the Milo Minderbinder reference is intentional, see footnote [3]; “everybody has a share.”

        I might need something more evocative than “Other”; “Official [something]” might work.

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    House Proposal Targets Confucius Institutes as Foreign Agents Foreign Policy

    I don’t know much about that, but I understand that the mainline descendants of Confucius and those of his top disciples have or had always been given sinecure positions by past emperors.

    That’s honoring your DNA, gifting you a sliver spoon when you come into the world.

    And the current head is a male whose father was the oldest son of a father who was the oldest son of a father… And that goes all the way back to the Sage.

    Thus, demonstrating the Confucian importance of producing a male heir. It’s in some ways similar to finding a male boy to be the next Dalai Lama….the tradition so far (Now that feminism has served notice, perhaps the law of karma will be revised to reflect that).

    The family has outlasted many (or all, but perhaps there will be more in the future, or near future) other imperial clans.

    1. Oregoncharles

      I bet they faked it repeatedly – adoptions, or the like. That’s an extremely long line to be unbroken.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        You could very well be right.

        Then, we have the descendants of the Prophet, and they are revered by his followers.

        But what about the line of the Savior? Did they exist in one time? Did they really reside in France for a long time? Holy blood, holy grail?

        What if they actually stayed home, in the eastern Mediterranean?

        Would they be the ones throwing rocks at US-Christians approved tanks today?

        “The Little skinny guy throwing rocks at our Giant tourist bus, he looks so familiar. Have I seen his portrait somewhere? Like in the Vatican?”

        1. Oregoncharles

          I think the Prophet had a LOT of children, sort of like Genghis Khan, the father of Asia. But I don’t see why Confucius would have.

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Google, Facebook and Apple face ‘digital tax’ on EU turnover FT

    “This time, the tax is not about inflation.”

  17. UserFriendly

    Don’t Bork Gina Haspel Rich Lowry, Politico.

    HA! I really, really want Bork as a verb to catch on. It has such subtle sexual undertones.

    1. crittermom

      Thanks for that video. I enjoyed it.

      Eagles are amazing creatures.
      Unfortunately, I’d always seen them as a poor symbol of our country since they steal much of their food from other birds rather than catching it themselves. I’ve read about it as well as witnessed it myself numerous times. (I was amazed the Osprey near my former ‘home’ were able to survive, as I watched the eagles steal from them time & again. Poor Osprey)

      Now, sadly, it seems they’re the perfect depiction & symbol of the current state of our country.
      Sort of a reverse Robin Hood lifestyle. Take from the poor after they’re done the work & give to the rich.

      PS–I have a cat that very much resembles Gizmo named Stacher because of her mustache. She also responds to “Hey, hairy one!”.

  18. Louis

    The Rocky Mountain News went under about ten years ago and these cuts on the part of it’s only major competitor, the Denver Post, are not the first.

    A sign of the times I guess, though hopefully the Denver Post doesn’t go the way of Toy’s R’ Us.

    1. Wukchumni

      When the SD & LA fishwraps sold for $500 million as a package deal last month and the buyer agreed to assume $90 million in pension liabilities, you gotta wonder where the upside is to being in the latter-day telegram messenger industry?

  19. Wukchumni

    About a quarter of U.S. adults say they are ‘almost constantly’ online Pew Research Center

    Back from a wonderful 4 days of skiing in Mammoth, the last one benefiting from 8-12 inches of new snow (a March Miracle reminiscent of the 1991 one is currently underway) overnight, which makes for an exciting day for the over the hill street blues posse, or as we call ourselves on such an occasion: the mighty morphin powder rangers.

    Skiing @ a resort is interesting, in that you hardly talk to one another whilst in action, and when awaiting an aerial escalator to take you back on your appointed rounds, you’re generally too busy to fumble with a smartphone if you’re skiing as you’ve got a couple of poles in your hands, and if snowboarding, there’s a better chance of embracing the rectangle, but once on the chair ascending to the higher climes, I noticed that most everybody is online. I think a lot of it stems from the FOMOOF.

  20. Wukchumni

    Re: ewe donkey

    What a great image of something i’d never imagined existing heretofore as means of transport.

    Back in the early 80’s in NZ, there were something like 70 million sheep (now down to just 40 million) in the country, and I remember getting stopped in orderly lamb stampedes for as long as 20 minutes @ a stretch on the roads, watching the spectacle pass by, with alert dogs playing the role of cowboys, reining in the margins.

    A few years ago we were on a hut to hut traipse on the Routeburn great walk and I had a conversation with a gent that owned 4,000 sheep, and he told me that previously in decades past, the wool was 75% of the value and the meat 25% of the value of a sheep, but it had reversed itself on account of synthetic fibers taking the place of wool, combined with the world’s growing desire for nourishment.

  21. Jim Haygood

    How to ace international diplomacy without wasting your time on tedious homework — Trump at a fund-raising dinner:

    “Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy. Justin. He said ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,’” Trump said. “Nice guy, good looking guy, comes in — ‘Donald we have no trade deficit.’”

    “I said, ‘Wrong Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid. … And I thought they were smart. I said, ‘You’re wrong Justin,’” Trump continued.

    “He said, ‘Nope we have no trade deficit.’ I said, ‘Well in that case I feel differently,’ I said, ‘but I don’t believe it.’ I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said ‘Check because I can’t believe it,’” he said.

    “‘Well sir you’re actually right. We have no deficit but that doesn’t include energy and timber … And when you do we lose $17 billion a year.’ It’s incredible.”

    It’s incredible.

    Or as Gomer Pyle used to say, “Well, sha-ZAY-um!

  22. JimTan

    “As the cost of dog cloning drops, here’s which breeds lead the pack”

    Interesting. If this gets cheap enough, then I’m pretty sure that big ag will consider cloning livestock.

  23. Wukchumni

    Reading Frederick Taylor’s book: “Dresden Tuesday, February 13, 1945”, it shed a new light on ‘defenseless Dresden’ in that the SS headquarters there had an electric guillotine that severed several thousand from the neck upwards, that is after nearly torturing them to death.

    It’s a slippery slope we are descending…

  24. Brian

    “Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes says the 1 percent should give cash to working people Recode. That’s called noblesse oblige, one of the less malevolent aspects of feudalism. One imagines Hughes tossing coins to the peasants from his gilded coach…”
    (after running them over and causing grievous bodily injury)

    1. JBird

      Say what you will about the old World Aristocracy, noblesse oblige actually meant that they actually acknowledged that they were fortunate and should pay it back some how.

      What does it say when feudalism, which was replaced by capitalism, and the old aristocracy with its concept of noblesse oblige, which both died in the First World War, are in someways more humane, compassionate, even more honorable in the best senses, for all their awfulness than the current elites and their neoliberal ethos of neo-Social Darwinist presumptive class superiority derived from inherent efforts, and talents, not from inherited class supported advantages like better schools, healthcare, or social connections.

      1. Procopius

        I’ve been reading Henri Pirenne’s Economic History of Medieval Europe. It seems noblesse oblige started disappearing as commerce revived and money became more important to the elite than the labor of their serfs and the food or utensils they supplied. Then in the fourteenth century you had the Great Famine of 1315-17, which may have killed as much as a tenth of the population, followed by the Black Death, which reduced the population (and labor supply) so much that towns were no longer willing to return serfs who had run away from the manor. Even other manors were willing to accept them and install them in vacant cottages. As money became more available and the bond between seigneur and villein became weaker, the concept of noblesse oblige became anachronistic.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      We, regular Americans, had no idea what was happening in those places.

      Everything seemed so normal to those living through those years then.

      Looking back, we can see the banality of anti-terror, pervasive throughout the whole populace.

      The whole nation, then for them, and now for us.

  25. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Visas Issued to Foreign Students Fall, Partly Due to Trump Immigration Policy WSJ

    If education is hardly affordable for Americans, it’s unconscionable to debt-enslave students from countries that can’t just create ‘out of thin air’ US fiat money.

    And if they don’t need to incur debt, if they’re from the top 1% of their countries, it’s still unconscionable.

  26. Jim Haygood

    Ed Yardeni’s fundamental economic indicator remains at its high today, as a drop in unemployment claims (signifying strength) and a pop in industrial materials prices offset an easing in consumer comfort. Chart:

    Sending a rather different message is the Atlanta Fed’s GDP Now, which sank to a feeble 1.9% yesterday. However, for several years there’s been a distinct pattern of weak first quarter GDP, which may be a statistical artifact of faulty seasonal adjustment.

    Or maybe it’s real, as denizens of the Sprawl are knocked to their knees by the snow load. :-(

  27. nycTerrierist

    Looks promising. Biden (and his bleep-eating grin) can’t be busted too often:

    ““My frustration,” writes Peter Schweizer in his new book, “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends,” “is not that the solid reporting on Trump has been too tough, but that the reporting on the Obama administration has been way too soft or in some cases nonexistent.” The author of the 2016 sensation “Clinton Cash” says Trump and his children didn’t invent the blurring of government and business, and details a number of ethical violations on both sides of the political aisle. One example: the little-noticed private equity firm run by the sons of Democrats Joe Biden and John Kerry, as detailed in this exclusive first excerpt.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Don’t quote me on this but does not the law allow those in Congress to partake in things like share trading on decisions that they themselves make in Congress? I won’t use the term ‘insider-trading’ here. OK, yes I will.

        1. JBird

          Why, yes. It most certainly does! There have been a (very) few stories looking at how Congresscritters’ “investments” do really, fantastically, wonderfully, and fabulously well once in office. Across the board in both parties for years if not decades.

          Just who are the crooks, cheaters, and welfare queens?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Clinton: “They went after me…all this time, until now.. because I was a woman. But I was not doing anything different.”

      But in reality, the Swamp is big enough to corrupt all of us…all of us, not just some less exceptional among us…the shining grail…so tempting….my precious one…the power of a monetary sovereign…

      1. Arizona Slim

        Hillary, your “because I was a woman” excuse is getting old. Really old.

        Better excuses, please.

    2. Procopius

      I’m suspicious of the jamoke who wrote Clinton Cash. I haven’t read the book, but from the reviews he seems to have included a number of falsehoods and misrepresented other things. On the other hand I’m absolutely in agreement that the Democrats’ corruption has been shamefully under- or un-reported.

  28. Jim Haygood

    Speaking of private equity, KKR (formerly Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) sees the same risk of “recession 2020” that I do:

    KKR writes that with tax cuts taking effect in 2018, the chance of a near-term recession appears quite remote.

    Interestingly though, when we extend the model from 0-12 months to 24 months, the risk of recession increases materially. One can see this in Exhibit 65. We link the uptick in the model’s cautionary outlook in late 2019 and beyond to a structurally peaking U.S. dollar, a flattening yield curve, higher unit labor costs, and some reversion to the mean in both consumer confidence and home building expectations.

    KKR politely refrains from mentioning the Fed’s mad science experiment of normalization (i.e., dumping bonds into a market flooded with new issuance). But a primitive version of normalization in 1937 — hiking the discount rate and reserve ratio simultaneously — gave us a humdinger of a recession.

    And I’m confident that it can do so again. :-)

    1. ambrit

      Comrade Jim;
      Having recently ‘worked’ at an emporium ‘managed’ by KKR, I can assert with some confidence that KKR can speak with complete authority about wrecking things.
      The head honchos at KKR had better steal a page from the Sacklers’ playbook and look into hiring some bodyguards, or, in a reversion to an earlier usage, Henchmen.
      E Deploribus Multifarum

      1. Jim Haygood

        “KKR cares” because their leveraged, junk-bond financed companies are more vulnerable to going under in a recession than prudently financed businesses.

        Not that you or I approve of their activities, but KKR does have an economic incentive to keep a jaundiced eye on any deterioration in the economy before it bites them in the arse.

        1. ambrit

          I’m not sure that I agree there Comrade Jim. From what I glean, KKR has teams of ‘managers’ who ‘guide’ companies whom KKR buys controlling interest in, or acquires in other ways. Their main income, from what I’ve read, comes in the form of bonuses and stock options. Now, the length of time that these ‘managers’ are forced to keep their optioned shares before divestment would be key here. Thus, if one were to discern when the ‘management’ team acquired their stock trove, and how long before they could unload said stock will give the investor a rough estimate of how long KKR will be forced to ‘care’ about any company it ‘manages.’
          This might be a viable strategy for a short seller to time their financial finagling.
          The dismantling of otherwise survivable businesses in ‘hard times’ would also be a profitable enterprise. One form of insurance fraud was, and is, wrecking.
          I have learned from first hand experience that KKR doesn’t give a d–n about the labour which works in the companies that KKR ‘manages.’ Definitely short termerism in charge. All else is consigned to the nether regions.
          The wiser denizens of the KKR and other Disaster Capitalist businesses will have already set up their bolt holes in the Sangre de Christos, in anticipation of the deleterious effects of the coming GFC Squared.

  29. Jean

    “Senate passes rollback of banking rules”
    Without getting into the slippery slope of investment advice, how do normal working class and professional people prepare for the upcoming Minsky Moment?

    Everyone I talk to over the age of 25 is aware that things are soon going to blow up economically. Perhaps that apprehension is just a form of denial that things are going to keep getting worse and worse and worse for the rest of their lives without a resolution?

    1. JBird

      Perhaps it is a desire to get as much out from the creaky, tottering, smoky, soon-to-be-flaming-pile-of-rubble building? That’s my guess.

      The approaching storm is harder to ignore than 2008 isn’t? I think it was Chris Hayes who said that (paraphrasing) the wealthy, elites, everybody was trying to get as much as they could before it all comes down during one of his interviews on the booktour for Twilight of the Elites.

  30. barrisj

    Re: US military unreported “firefights”…as previously noted, Africom have quite a few JSOC goon squads planted round the Sahel for “anti-terrorist” operations, which presumably include Berber insurgents opposing local govt. incursions into tribal areas. Niger seems to be seat of operations away from Djibouti, and Africom sees a yuuuge opportunity for US interference as the ME “theatre” shrinks away from American influence. Nothing like autocratic governments to offer plentya fertile grounds for arms trading and US military “trainers” to keep the ol’ imperialism’s jawb growth in expansion mode.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      U.S. troops involved in at least 10 undisclosed firefights in West Africa: report MarketWatch. Africa seems like a promising theatre for conflict investment, and probably safer than Ukraine or the South China Sea.

      The Middle East is the Big Apple…if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

    2. Darthbobber

      This war isn’t working. The scam emails keep coming. I assume this is what it’s about?

  31. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Bali switches off internet services for 24 hours for New Year ‘quiet reflection’ Guardian

    If the patient can do it for a week or a month, then, we will know he/she is on the way to recovery…to liberation.

    “You’re free, free at last!!!”

    1. Wukchumni

      I really think one of the reasons for an uptick in people backpacking in the wilderness*, is it’s one of the last bastions of not being connected, a dry county in a sea of saloons if you will.

      * your wilderness mileage may vary depending on how close it is to the tendrils of technology

    2. Arizona Slim

      I’m here to tell you that my Lenten fast from Facebook is going quite well.

      Instead of logging into the Borg, I’m having lovely conversations with people I seldom spoke with before. Spending more time on my strength training. And just having more time for doing enjoyable stuff. Like going out for ice cream with a friend. It may be a blustery day in Tucson, but we are NOT going to miss our ice cream.

      My biggest regret is not starting this fast back on Ash Wednesday.

      1. Procopius

        If this is indeed a trend, my hope is that “smart” phones will soon be unsalable. I guess there will always be a demand for a search function, but since 1976 I’ve always found that no matter how addicted I am to a computer game, eventually I get bored with it. I can’t imagine playing games on my phone. I might play mahjong or solitaire on my tablet, but only if I’ve accidentally run out of books to read on it.

  32. Oregoncharles

    “Pre-Columbian people spread fruit species across Latin America”
    There’s at least one example from the US: paw paws, sometimes called “Indiana bananas.” Oddly, I never encountered them in Indiana, but I have eaten them out here. They’re very good, with a flavor that’s difficult to describe. Big seeds; I think they’re related to sapodillas and custard-apples.

    They, too, were spread by Native Americans, making for a rather odd distribution that puzzled botanists for a long time – they basically follow the river valleys, since that’s how people traveled. I don’t know why they haven’t been developed commercially; perhaps too fragile to get to market. Worth a try to grow if you’re in their range, though.

    As a bonus, they have few insect pests (just one spectacular butterfly) because the leaves are loaded with insecticide. I think that IS being developed commercially.

    American persimmons, native to the same Midwestern area, are also very good (they don’t ripen properly here in Oregon – I tried), and sometimes sold locally. They’re much smaller than the Asian ones. My mother made pudding with them that I loved.

    1. Wukchumni

      Loquats were sort of the unofficial fruit tree of Los Angeles, when I was growing up, every neighborhood had some or so it seemed.

      One of the few fruit trees i’m aware of that grows bearing fruit from a seed, as we found out when scads of trees sprouted up from the 1/2 sized hazelnut looking seeds we tossed down the hill from our loquat tree, when I was a yout. It’d be easy for the trees to spread out if left to their own devices, with a little help from mother nature’s denizens.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Apples, cherries, and plums all volunteer readily from seed here. I have a nifty new variety growing down by the river: an apple that’s deep red all the way through. Small, but quite tasty. Has red leaves, too. It volunteered under one of our trees and I planted it down below. Not the only one, but the most successful. A friend with a fruit nursery is growing it out.

          1. Oregoncharles

            Not my experience. Most seedlings come out different from the parents, like children, but seedlings from domestic trees are usually at least edible. Remember Johnny Appleseed? I’ve grown out peach seedlings; they were pretty tasty. Unfortunately they succumbed to a new blight. Italian prunes are essentially wild trees and come “true” from seed. I even have a seedling of our Brooks prune that matches the parent. And a volunteer cherry with small but very tasty black cherries. Don’t know yet about Asian plums, but I’m going to find out, maybe this year.

            1. Jean

              Well, In that case, I am going to save every prune plum seed and plant it with a short piece of bamboo marking its location.

              Johnny Appleseed was planting apples to mash, ferment and make booze out of, not to eat.

              I gave the guys at Mexican restaurant five bucks to fill me a five gallon bucket full of avocado pits. Planted them and waited. Nothing every grew, in spite of differing depth, fertilizer or not, water or dry.

              Sometimes it’s easier to just buy a tree and plant it.

      2. Synapsid


        Thanks for this, I hadn’t thought of loquats for ages.

        Ah, the memories from the Fifties in LA: No shadows on days with not a cloud in the sky, Mt Wilson invisible almost all the time except on New Year’s Day because everyone was home watching the tube except those of us camped out on Colorado Blvd for the Rose Parade…

        What on Earth were we thinking?

    2. HotFlash

      I don’t know why they haven’t been developed commercially; perhaps too fragile to get to market.

      They were evaluated by a Canadian botanist in the early 20th c as unsuitable for commercial growing because they do not ripen all at the same time, so there is no harvest season, don’t store but 2-3 days, and don’t ship well — actually, not at all. When I am so fortunate as to find pickable pawpaws, I don’t take more than I can eat or give away same day. These are not drawbacks for a backyard tree or food forest, however. I took a course in pawpaw (truly!) a couple of years ago sponsored by our local seed bank. The speaker raises pawpaw seedlings for propagation by historical and conservation sites and other fans of endangered native plants. He said that centuries-old trail networks that go right across the continent could be traced by the pawpaw groves that line them. His view is that the First Nations had developed these food forests for both local dwellers and to sustain travelers along the trail. He conjectures that Euro colonists didn’t recognise cultivation that did not involve fences, plowing and planting straight lines, to them it was all ‘wilderness’. Seems reasonable.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Thanks for the amplification.

        There’s a parallel from the Amazon: vast areas are actually “food forest” because of shifting cultivation – they didn’t cut down the useful trees when they cleared, so over many generations the percentage of fruit and nut trees increased. And of course, they knew how seeds worked, so it was all quite intentional. Just because they were “primitive” doesn’t mean they were stupid.

  33. Edward E

    It’s unlikely any future barriers to trade will be levied against Columbia or Bolivia now with Larry Kudlow heading National Economic Council. (Let’$ make $ome deal$)

    1. Darthbobber

      I really was hoping for “mad money” Kramer, but you take what you can get, I guess.

  34. JTMcPhee

    Re “firefights in Africa,” this funny quote from the article:

    One incident on Dec. 6 involved Greet Berets and Nigerien troops who came under enemy fire and killed almost a dozen militants believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State in West Africa, the Pentagon confirmed to the Times. No U.S. troops were killed or wounded in any of the incidents aside from the October ambush. The Pentagon did not say why the firefights were not disclosed. Niger is home to a large U.S. military drone base and little is known about shadowy missions there.

    We don’t do body counts any more. “Aside from the October ambush.” And a dozen “believed to be” wogs, more or less, here and there, and “shadowy” stuff. And how many of us can pay attention, or care about all this even if we do?

    1. barrisj

      Interestingly the link appears on the financial site, Marketwatch…ain’t nobody else on this this story…or even cares?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        We humans can march to Madness with our robots…unless we’re marching for Madness.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Good reading that. Would have liked it if they had mentioned that the files taken from the DNC were not so much hacked from some other foreign place but that the speeds involved show that it must have been downloaded locally onto a thumb drive.
      And I still reckon that the stuff these these yahoos were pulling is resembling treason more than any other thing. Fort Leavenworth should open up a whole new wing for people like these.

  35. Oregoncharles

    I know “Minksy” is supposed to be “Minsky,” in “Minksy moment, here we go,” but you might want to fix it for the sake of newcomers.

    1. ambrit

      If those waterways are ‘navigable’ which doesn’t require much in the way of draft, we’re looking at the ‘uber’ method at work. Break the rules for profit.
      By law, navigable waterways must be free and clear and have public access at every bridge crossing said waterway.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I’m on really shaky grounds here, but I seem to remember reading a very long time ago that in the US that jurisdiction for any navigable waterway rests ultimately with the US federal government. To make a pun, Federal law trumps State law.

        1. JBird

          I don’t know about any of this except to that putting up obstacles on fast running previously open rivers and streams is likely to get people killed especially after heavy rains. It is not always possible to just stop when canoeing or swimming and one could easily be trapped and drowned. Some people really have not thought this through.

  36. WheresOurTeddy

    Minor quibble – methinks the “dog cloning” article may be more aptly put under “guillotine watch”

  37. JerryDenim

    The Nation- “The Real Collusion Story”

    Interesting read with some great tid-bits that were very much new to me. I thought this one was a smoking-gun, barn-burner:

    In June 2011, a staffer encountered difficulty transmitting a document to her by means of a classified system. An impatient Clinton instructed him to strip the classified markings from the document and send it on as an unclassified email. “Turn into nonpaper w no identifying heading and send nonsecure,” Clinton instructed.

    Wow. Agency, intent, awareness of misconduct and instructions to a subordinate to cover their tracks. Nice journalism.

    One quibble though, there was another passage that just stuck in my craw.

    “During the 2016 election, Comey faced extraordinary circumstances. If he had followed the law to the letter, he would have toppled the leading candidate for president and decapitated the Democratic party.”

    Decapitation? That is such a lie. Comey faced no such choice. His famous press conference was more than a month before the DNC convention. The Democratic Party had a superior candidate, a candidate who would have won a fair and impartial primary process. This candidate was gassed-up and ready to stomp the bejeezers out of Trump. So no, a Clinton indictment would have been anything but a decapitation. It would have been a mercy killing of a 90’s-rerun, corrupt political dynasty long past it’s sell-by date. A Clinton indictment would have been a new lease on life for the Democratic Party and an early abortion for the gestating administration of Donald J. Trump the authoritarian vulgarian.

    Decapitation? Hardly. I’d say it would have been the exact opposite.

  38. Darthbobber

    Borking Gina Haspel. Nice to see the Good German defense being trotted out. I’ll skip that aspect, since I’m sure the obvious refutations will be pointed out by numerous others.

    BUT. The destruction of the audio and video of the interrogations. Are we now claiming that this was also authorized at the highest level? Because up until about 5 minutes ago the narrative had consistently been that that was totally rogue.

    Indeed, I believe prosecutors and grand juries were pursuing this right up until the moment that President Look forward not backward terminated the whole thing.

    Beside the other implications, I had been particularly interested in what the sole torturee to say Iraq had an active wmd program had been asked during those little sessions. Because I strongly suspect the record would have shown that instead of seeking information they were seeking confirmation of a desired narrative and letting him know what he needed to say to stop the torture.

    In the realm of evil things, this would resemble less the torture of moros in the Phillipines, and more the sort of “evidence seeking” that preceded a Stalinist show trial.

    1. Conrad

      I think you’re being too charitable. At least Stalin’s torturers had a showtrial script to fill out. After reading yesterday’s linked story about Haspel’s enthusiastic participation in the torture of Abu Zubaydah and seeing that he still hasn’t been charged (and is still being detained) one can only can conclude that they tortured that man for the sheer pleasure of it.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I have always felt, although with no evidence at all — except for a curious refusal by the authorities to trace the servers and the connectivity involved — that there was a live feed directly from the torture cells of Abu Ghraib to Dick Cheney’s office. He liked his intelligence raw, as I recall.

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