Links 3/20/18

Query for readers from Yves:

Readers, per my post yesterday, Verizon is getting rid of copper in my local central office. Some readers have confirmed my take that this is illegal under common carrier regulations, and separately also not be allowed under the recent New York state copper settlement agreement. But Verizon appears to be taking advantage of the fact that the deal has been agreed but not yet approved by a court to establish “facts on the ground.”

So I’m still limping on the connectivity. Both my options, FIOS and Spectrum, get generally crappy reviews and have bad customer service. My experience with cable, and it seems to be true with FIOS, is they have just as many outages as DSL, and the outages last longer when they happen. I know some readers have piped up and claimed they’ve never had outages, but my building staff says tenants have complained about both FIOS and Spectrum outages. There are more complaints re FIOS, but that could be sample bias (with only 65 units in my building, having even one or two tenants with high service expectations on one or the other would skew results) or the caliber of customer service once you have an outage v. the amount of actual downtime. The latter is far and away the most important consideration for me, and despite DSL being antique, it performed well, including relative to cable from Spectrum when I’ve been staying with family or friends who use that for their broadband. (And do not forget that I listed wanting POTS for safety as a big reason to want to stick with copper, but that’s beside the point going forward.)

But for NYC readers only: If you have FIOS or Spectrum, how many outages have you had in the pst year or two? How long have they typically been? And can you get answers from tech support or customer service when they happen?

Thanks! –Yves

* * *

Back From the Brink: The Exmoor Pony EcoWatch (GF).

Whistleblowers Sue City’s Top Health Insurance Providers WNYC. “The case was brought under the New York State False Claims Act. If found guilty, the three companies could be on the hook for three times the damages incurred by the government, up to $4 billion.”

Pennsylvania says bankrupt refiner owes $3.8 billion in taxes: filing Reuters

Nota bene: Toys don’t fung Felix Salmon, Nota Bene

How Your Returns Are Used Against You at Best Buy, Other Retailers WSJ

Bernie Sanders’ Economic Inequality Town Hall Draws 1.7 Million Live Viewers HuffPo (video). Not front-paged online at WaPo, NYT, or Google News. Odd.

Self-Driving Uber Car Kills Pedestrian in Arizona, Where Robots Roam NYT. An “emergency backup driver” was behind the wheel.

Intelligent to a Fault: When AI Screws Up, You Might Still Be to Blame Scientific American. Important, if AIs are going to drive our robot cars.

The Machine Learning Reproducibility Crisis Pete Warden’s Blog. Ditto.

Rivals Chip Away at Google’s and Facebook’s U.S. Digital Ad Dominance, Data Show WSJ

CalPERS retirees are suddenly worried about their pensions. What happened? Sacramento Bee. With video. CalPERS management? Just a thought…

California treasurer thwarted in push for CalPERS gun divestment Reuters. “Thwarting” a California treasurer in a public vote is a big deal.


One in 7 EU companies moves supply chain out of UK FT

Brexit: Michel Barnier says draft transition treaty mostly agreed Deutsche Welle

Nicolas Sarkozy in police custody over 2007 campaign financing FT


China will ban people with poor ‘social credit’ from planes and trains The Verge

China, US flex muscles at G20 meeting as trade war looms South China Morning Post


India struggles to discipline its state-owned banks Nikkei Asian Review

Facebook-to-Votes Scandal Turns Spotlight on Cambridge Analytica’s India Inroads The Wire

New Cold War

“No Patients Have Experienced Symptoms Of Nerve Agent Poisoning In Salisbury” Moon of Alabama

Facebook Fracas

(See Terry Pratchett’s The Truth for a discussion of “fracas” vs. “rumpus.”) I’m actually a little baffled about where to file this material, since as an event the fracas begins as a “2016 Post Mortem,” but then ramifies outward to questions of valuation, the melding of the press, opposition researchers, the political class, and the intelligence community, besides raising privacy issues.

Revealed: Trump’s election consultants filmed saying they use bribes and sex workers to entrap politicians Channel 4. Cambridge Analytica, who bought the Trump campaign’s Facebook advertisements. Among other things?

Top hole crisis management:

* * *

Trump campaign phased out use of Cambridge Analytica data before election CBS. So if they were that good…

Follow-Up Questions For Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Trump Campaign on Massive Breach Just Security. “Breach” is a misnomer, since that implies that Facebook’s database was hacked via an intrusion. Instead, data was gathered on the Facebook platform under false pretenses.

Facebook may have violated FTC privacy deal, say former federal officials, triggering risk of massive fines WaPo. At $40K per violation, that raises questions about Facebook’s valuation.

Facebook data storm wipes nearly $37bn off market value FT

Facebook’s rules for accessing user data lured more than just Cambridge Analytica WaPo

Europe’s data protection authorities eye Facebook, Cambridge Analytica Politico

Cambridge Analytica’s Ad Targeting Is the Reason Facebook Exists Motherboard

Trump Transition

Trump Hires Lawyer Who Thinks the FBI is Framing Him New York Magazine

I went to prison for disclosing the CIA’s torture. Gina Haspel helped cover it up. WaPo

Dem leaders pull back from hard-line immigration demand The Hill

As Saudi Prince Visits U.S., Shale Transforms Oil Relationship Bloomberg

IEA says Canadian crude-by-rail shipments to more than double to 390,000 barrels a day BOE Report

Imperial Collapse Watch

Happy Fifteenth Anniversary:

This War Will Destabilize The Entire Mideast Region And Set Off A Global Shockwave Of Anti-Americanism vs. No It Won’t The Onion. From 2003, still germane.

* * *

The Pig Empire Prepares For War Nina Illingworth. “[H]istory shows us the inhuman political calculus of a major military conflict with Russia, Iran or both may actually represent a short term boon for all of the floundering right wing governments involved.” Strangely, Illingworth doesn’t point out that it’s the Democrats who have made the running on the Russian War scare. Like Iraq, the war effort is bipartisan!

Pentagon partners with Uber for on-demand helicopter extraction Duffel Blog

Happy Tenth Anniversary. Thread:

Puerto Rico

A Cartoon History of Colonialism in Puerto Rico Village Voice

Which Towns in Puerto Rico Should CBS News Correspondent David Begnaud Visit? The Puerto Rico Data Lab

Class Warfare

Concentration in US Labor Markets: Evidence From Online Vacancy Data NBER (PDF). Important.

Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys NYT

In Appalachia, Coding Bootcamps That Aim To Retrain Coal Miners Increasingly Show Themselves To Be ‘New Collar’ Grifters Belt Magazine. From January.

Charting History–With a Little Voyeurism–in Google Maps The American Conservative

Five Minutes Motherboard. “After the big one.”

Antidote du Jour (via):

Bonus antidote:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Ford Prefect

    Re: Internet connectivity

    Another reason why I view going to major eastern seaboard cities akin to visiting third-world countries when I travel there from upstate NY. I was just visiting one of my kids in another eastern seaboard major city last week and had numerous, numerous disconnects of my VPN so I spent half of my work time just reconnecting to the Comcast wifi.

    Returned to FIOS in upstate NY and no more disconnects.

    So internet, traffic jams, incredibly crappy roads (especially in NYC), unbelievable bureaucracy (hello NYC Department of Buildings), mass transit that often has delays, fires etc. all give these cities a distinct third-world flair. Fabulous for the 1%, not so good for the rest.

    I avoid eastern seaboard airports like the plague for connections due to frequent delays, missed connections, and generally poor airports, Flying through select “fly-over” hubs is usually much more reliable.

    1. Pelham

      Agreed. I live upstate and have reached similar conclusions. Which is saying a lot given the fact that this region has been clobbered pretty hard over the past 40 years in the global/gig economy. But is there any region or city that does function pretty well? Maybe Minneapolis? Or not.

      1. Ford Prefect

        Most of the Fortune 100 plants in our area closed in the 80s and early 90s. By 2008, the old plants were actually filling up pretty well with small businesses, so we didn’t go through massive layoffs unlike the early 90s. House prices didn’t go up in the housing bubble and didn’t go down in the housing crash. A $60k income will buy you a decent home in a decent school district. In 2009 I was laughing about the fact that our economy had sucked for so long that we had adapted and we now had a diversified economy that many other areas now wanted.

        Many people left the area, especially the younger folks, but if you have a good job, either blue collar or professional, then you can live comfortably. The poor in the urban centers and rural areas can be very poor with a lot of family challenges. However, a full-time job a couple of dollars above minimum wage can pull you into lower middle-class, especially if you do not have a child.

        In general, I would say we have been in an equilibrium state for about 15-20 years. Local taxes are way too high, mainly because the county taxes pick up a big chunk of the NYS Medicaid funding. Shifting that to the General Funds would completely change the picture on local taxes and make these areas much more competitive.

    2. Altandmain

      Yikes, sounds like life is a lot worse in the big coastal cities than in Canada.

      It used to be that well off people in Canada, especially Atlantic Canada, would move to the US because the opportunitues and living standards were just better than what Canada had to offer. For a very long time, Canadians were worried about the risk of a massive brain drain.

      With the exception of the technology industry, where many Canadian graduates move to San Francisco or Seattle to work for companies like Google or Amazon, that doesn’t happen as often now.

      Our telecommunications giants in Canada are quite bad, but I hear that the American giants like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon are far worse.

      You do get the feeling that the US is regressing in many ways. Poor quality infrastructure that is in a state of decay, a much weak social safety net, constant fear of illness, high rates of gun related fatalities, dysfunctional government, police forces that are excessively warlike, and for many, the declining state of living resemble a developing country.

      I’m glad my family moved, but it seems like it is creeping northwards and into Europe as well.

      1. rd

        Canadians believe government can actually function which many Americans don’t believe. As a result, many Americans work hard to disprove that government can actually function. This appears to be one of the best explanations of the current Congress.

        Canada developed a social contract over the past 60 years where Canadians pay taxes and expect to get decent government functions, including universal health care. That struggled in the late 70s and 80s but seems to have rebounded over the past 20 years or so.

        1. adrena

          Keeping our superior healthcare system requires constant vigilance. US and Canadian corporations are waiting in the wings ready and eager to claim a piece of the healthcare pie.

    3. jackiebass

      I live in a small city in upstate NY on the PA border. I’ve had Time Warner now Spectrum internet service for 6 years. It has only been out once for about 2 hours. I have two complaints.It is expensive. The other is they advertise 100 mbps starting speeds. When I test mine , the best I get is 37 mbps.

  2. Mary

    NY Times article on racism’s effect on Black boys is worth careful reading and thought. For me, it argues for major and long-term work to make neighborhoods healthier places to live, meaning places with good schools, access to capital to finance local businesses and community institutions, amenities, safety. In other words, places where kids thrive.

  3. Jim A.

    Two notes about FIOS service that probably apply, even though I live in Maryland. YOU are responsible for replacing the backup battery in the unit, and in my experience, they need replacement more often and don’t power the unit as long as the Verizon states. OTOH, I was surprised to discover that my FIOS box works with my old, dial telephone.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      My problem is with the local power company, Southern California Edison. In the last three months or so, they have had scheduled power outage three times already. No idea what they are doing, but that seems a little too often.

      1. Westcoastdeplorable

        Edison scheduled an all-day outage here a few weeks back. It was on a Monday from 8AM to 4PM. As I work from home, I pushed projects back and planned on spending the day reading a book.
        8AM came, no outage. Visited the Socaled website, no explanation. The power stayed on all day.

      2. ocop

        My WAG is that they are performing much deferred distribution system upgrades to make up for under investment over the last decade and deal with a truly difficult to manage surge in rooftop PV (which at higher penetrations such as what CA is beginning to see can introduce all sorts of difficulties).

        Although I would guess PG&E might be in worse shape than SCE in terms of deferred capital investment because of their early 00s bankruptcy.

    2. djrichard

      I just added this to yesterday’s thread, but adding here too.

      You can do a search of reviews just for your zipcode. If you click on a review you’ll see a scale to the right which also includes a scale on connection reliability.

      See Enter your zipcode and then just click on the first “go” button, after the “Tech” dropdown – you don’t even need to select anything in that dropdown unless you want to filter the results even more. The results are limited to recent reviews; so you’re not getting reviews that go far back in time.

        1. Tom Denman

          I switched from Verizon DSL to Spectrum in 2015: I’ve only experienced one lengthy outage (according to news reports the problem was with a network backbone provider, not Spectrum). Once in a while during the wee hours there will be a five minute service interruption (presumably scheduled maintenance).

          So far I haven’t had an issue that required tech support or service (I probably soon will now that I’ve said that). My only complaint is that Spectrum’s e-mail servers are always painfully slow (one reason I use a separate e-mail provider).

          Back in the days I was with Verizon their FIOS telemarketers phoned weekly (once when I called for DSL tech support I was “accidentally” routed to a FIOS salesman). They only stopped dunning me after I told them that if I heard from FIOS again I would bundle my telephone and internet business with my cable TV company.

          About three years later I received a letter from Verizon saying they would soon discontinue their copper wire service and gave me a deadline to adopt FIOS to avoid an interruption in service. The N.Y. State Public Commission told me that “yes, they can do that.” That’s when I made the move to TWC/Spectrum and I haven’t looked back.

    3. Arizona Slim

      Another thing about FIOS: If your router/modem dies, don’t expect any help from Verizon. Oh, they’ll try to sell you a new one for $150. But you can buy the same unit for around $100 on Amazon.

      This is a summary of what I experienced while visiting Mom over the holidays. Ran all over hell’s half acre trying to find her a replacement unit. I finally went to the Big Evil River and ordered one. It arrived two days later, I plugged it in, and the thing worked like a charm.

  4. Quentin

    Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League before the criminal invasion of Iraq: ‘It will open the gates of hell!’ At that time I found the formulation rather bizzare, theatrical, at the least. Now it seems measured understatement.

    1. RUKidding

      Agree with Mr. Moussa. I felt similary at the time, despite BushCo jubilantly informing us hapless rubes that the Iraqi’s would greet Team USA! USA! USA! with rose petal parades (I truly think they said something along these lines). Yeah, NO!

      What a clusterfeck. And how many *millions* marched around the globe against this senseless, greedy, grifting War Crime invasion based on lies, Lies, LIES? And whaddid we get? Over a million dead, and I’m STILL waiting for my Iraqi War Inc Oil “dividend” that W so gleefully “promised” us… with his fingers crossed behind his ratbag back.

      Pallets of Yankee Dollar$$ shipped “over there” … and who knows what happened with that money? Torture happened, and now we get one of the Chief Torturers as the head of one branch of BigSpook, Inc. Yay, Yay, USA. puke

      Your tax dollar$ at work. Please don’t bother to “Learn” me about how MY taxes don’t pay for War, Inc. Whatever… they do in some ways.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Iraqi’s would greet Team USA! USA! USA! with rose petal parades (I truly think they said something along these lines)

        Here’s the history, via Counterpunch in 2004. The background:

        Against an impressive amount of warnings, from a wide variety of sources, including the intelligence community, as to the complexity of the Iraqi situation and the high risks involved in letting loose, imprudently, the long-compressed popular dynamics in that country, the Bush administration chose to listen only to a very specific set of “experts”: the Pentagon’s friends among the Iraqi opposition in exile. The most symptomatic of them in my view is Kanan Makiya-a man who has much been quoted as part of a neocon cabal led by former “Trotskyites” that took the helm of U.S. foreign policy, according to a somewhat phantasmagoric view propagated by both liberal and conservative circles.

        Makiya was recruited at Brandeis University after becoming the anti-Saddam Hussein intellectual par excellence for the media, which-after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990-upgraded to the best-seller list his Republic of Fear, a labored description of Baathist Iraq inspired by both Arthur Koestler and George Orwell. He turned from Trotskyism and friendship with people like Tariq Ali (and myself) into becoming the house intellectual of Ahmad Chalabi, the famous Iraqi crook and Donald Rumsfeld’s buddy.

        The quote:

        And when asked if he agreed with the statement made the day before by Vice President Cheney that American forces will be “greeted as liberators” in Iraq, Makiya replied: “I most certainly do agree with that. As I told the President on January 10th, I think they will be greeted with sweets and flowers in the first months and simply have very, very little doubt that that is the case.”

        And how could he disagree with Cheney? The latter himself had given Makiya’s expertise as his key reference in making his prognosis. That was on NBC’s program “Meet the Press.” When Tim Russert, the interviewer, insisted, asking what “if your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors,” Cheney replied:

        “Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq. And like Kanan Makiya who’s a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi, he’s written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want is to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.”

        “Sweets and flowers” then went viral and became a catchphrase symbolizing the absurd pretensions of the Iraq invasion.

        * * *

        Those of us who remember the run-up to the Iraq war — it happened when I was just starting out as a blogger, and gave impetus to what we then called “the blogosphere” — can’t help but be struck by the similarities between that engineered war scare and this one (including the role of the compliant press and the British intelligence agencies, as well as the unanimous approval of war by elites*). The differences are:

        1) Bush tried to present and plant actual “evidence” (even if it was shot down) like the yellowcake uranium, the aluminum tubes, and all the rest of it. Today’s effort simply relies on unverified and unverifiable leaks from the intelligence community (along with viral videos).

        2) It was clear for a solid year before the shots were fired that Bush was going to war regardless, because there was a massive effort to pre-position the materiel. I don’t see that prepositioning going on now, suggesting that the current crop of warmongers doesn’t want boots on the ground**, but that means drones and air strikes (i.e., not holding ground). How does that work?

        3) That the elites want a war, any war, is confirmed by the constant shifts in which foreign power the 5 Minutes of Hate is targeted at. Russia? North Korea? Iran? It doesn’t matter, so long as we get a war with one of them! The Bush administration targeted only Iraq, from the beginning.

        4) The United States, as a result of Iraq, may be stronger militarily, but is visibly weaker in every other way (and we haven’t won any wars at all since 1945, have we?)

        * Most of whom were not held accountable in any way and are still in power (including the torturers). They consider themselves immune, so why wouldn’t they start another war?

        ** And where would they get them? I’m convinced, FWIW, that the flyover states are tired of this crap, and that’s where the troops come from. Crossed fingers that Sanders is edging toward making an anti-militaristic case to them in terms they can accept, and that his Yemen bill — shot down by Democrats, naturally, since 5 Republicans crossed the aisle to support it — is an opening move.

    2. John

      It’s past time to push the political window in the correct direction. (The political science term for the “window” of acceptable discourse has slipped my mind.) For the invasion of Iraq, this entails creatively imagineering appropriate punishments of the kingpins for aggressive war.

      Germany and Japan had the daylights bombed out of them during the final months of WWII. We really don’t want our metropolitan areas to suffer the same fate. So we probably want more than the ordinary execution that followed the Nuremberg Tribunals. Crucifixion would be ideal if not for the religious symbolism and imagery. But then there’s the rack. And one can web-search other interesting, fetishistic execution methods from Renaissance history.

      The cost of the war will be paid in blood and guts, not money.

      Just remember: “War is Hell”. Think of the 12yo son blown up in an aerial bombing, or the 10yo daughter’s left arm and leg blown off.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > The political science term for the “window”

        “The Overton Window.”

        I’ve thought a lot about this, and while I think it’s a useful metaphor, the Overton Window is only two-dimensional. I think political conflict takes place on a plane (a terrain) and not a line (binary thinking). A lot of our stressors come from the effort of forcing multiple dimensions into two.

  5. PlutoniumKun

    Re: Brexit:

    One in 7 EU companies moves supply chain out of UK FT

    Brexit: Michel Barnier says draft transition treaty mostly agreed Deutsche Welle

    Its all quite curiously low key. I can find very little real detail in the news today, but it seems that the negotiators are quite confident that a deal is almost done on a transition period. The UK has conceded on pretty much every key element so far as I can see. But even the Brexit hardliners seem to be only putting up token resistance. Are they saving up their ammo for later? The DUP have been surprisingly quiet too, are they still trying to take in the implications? I wonder if the hardliners have been persuaded that if they agree to this, then their nirvana has only been delayed by 21 months.

    1. David

      I posted a link to the text yesterday, and there was some reasonable quick commentary from experts on the Grauniad and Independent sites. The general consensus was that the UK had given way on almost everything, which seems to be the case from the amount of green in the text.
      Richard North has a typically cogent analysis this morning, and I think he’s right about the unreality of the whole situation. The muted reactions in the media seem to be a product on the one hand of shock, on the other of an inability to comprehend where we have got to under this government, and on the third, a sense of relief that immediate disaster has been averted, even if the Northern Ireland question remains unsettled, and could sink the whole thing.
      I think what happened is that the EU put a gun to the government’s head, and said, if you accept basically everything else now, we’ll give you more time to find a political fix for the NI question. May accepted, because it’s a stay of execution and more months, perhaps a year, in power. She’ll sell various communities in NI and Scotland out to do that, without a second thought.

    2. Clive

      I’ll need to reread it several times to make sure I’ve not missed anything but there seems to have been sufficient dollops of eurofudge to keep everyone happy for a couple of years and thereafter in a semipermanent state of muddling through:

      Article 13


      1. If the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties liable to persist, the Union or the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate measures. Such safeguard measures shall be restricted with regard to their scope and duration to what is strictly necessary in order to remedy the situation. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Protocol.

      2. If a safeguard measure taken by the Union or the United Kingdom, as the case may be, in accordance with paragraph 1 creates an imbalance between the rights and obligations under this Protocol, the Union or the United Kingdom, as the case may be, may take such proportionate rebalancing measures as are strictly necessary to remedy the imbalance. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Protocol.

      Article 15

      Subsequent agreement

      Should a subsequent agreement between the Union and the United Kingdom which addresses the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, avoids a hard border and protects the 1998 Agreement in all its dimensions, become applicable after the entry into force of the Withdrawal Agreement, this Protocol shall not apply or shall cease to apply, as the case may be, in whole or in part, from the date of application of such subsequent agreement and in accordance with that agreement.

      “measures as will least disturb the functioning of this protocol”? What is it, Sleeping Beauty or something?

      And don’t get get me started on the whole of that Article 15. I can’t believe they kept straight faces when they issued that doozie. They were channelling Humpty Dumpty with that one:

      When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things?”

      Yes, Alice, they can indeed.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I suppose the big question is why? The UK has lots of motivation to fudge like crazy, but the EU doesn’t. I can only assume they’ve decided that the extra time is in everyones short to medium term interest.

        1. Clive

          I agree. It didn’t actually hurt the EU anymuch to make the whole Brexit situation more loosely coupled. They’ve kicked a few cans you could easily stub your toe on quite nastily down the road in the case of a hard Brexit (properly checking imports at major hubs like Europoort Rotterdam and — and I’ll call confess I didn’t appreciate the importance of this one — a sudden cliff edge stop for fishing rights) and got the U.K. to pick up the cans it certainly didn’t want left lying around (current EU budget round payments and future U.K. obligations to the EIB and pension liabilities).

          And it acknowledges that the end of 2020 is a long way away, politically. Theresa May will probably be gone, Arlene Foster might not be around so the DUP could wise up (finally…), there might have been a snap UK election, the Commission has got itself into an uncharacteristic tight spot with the bungled Japanese corporate non-governance governance style Ascension to Heaven of Martin Selmayr (which does strongly suggest it has got itself spread too thinly to keep everything on an even keel all at once, especially with big time stealers like Brexit to deal with) and political instability in Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain needing to be handled.

          Putting Brexit to bed for a year or so just seems in everyone’s interests right now. And as Brexit is simply not going to go away, this Draft Withdrawal Agreement seems to not displease anyone to a sufficient degree that it’s mostly liveable-with. And the U.K. government also seems to have finally woken up to the fact that it’s about the best they can expect to get.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I think, with regard to your last line, is that while the senior negotiators have woken up to the fact that this is the best they can get, they seem to have done precisely zero to ease the way to a climbdown (unless the relative quietness of the hard Brexiters means that they’ve been quietly lobbied and agreed that there will be another time and place for a battle over this).

            I assume we’ll know when May faces Parliament next – either the Tories will do a big show of solidarity in the face of the Russian hordes, or there will be blood on the carpet.

        2. David

          All my other posts today have disappeared into moderation. Perhaps this one will make it through. I think the answer is that the EU wants the most graceful Brexit possible to limit the damage and inconvenience to its members. By accepting so much of the EU draft text, the UK government has effectively committed itself, but also any conceivable future government after an election, to a series of things the EU wants, and been obliged to give up a number of things they were not prepared to accept. You can’t row back from that kind of agreement, even if, technically, nothing is agreed until everything is. If there is a final agreed text, we now have a good idea what it will look like. The NI concession as I have said in another comment earlier, is essentially meaningless. It simply gives more time for realignment of political forces before something like the EU draft text is accepted by the UK.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Yes, it does seem that they have been entirely boxed in, but at the same time, the EU has not dropped the guillotine on them.

            I think we’ll have to wait and see if this provokes a genuine rebellion. It would be a sign of unusual competence from May if she manages to keep everyone on board with this number of concessions.

          1. David

            I think it could be, in the sense that Brexit was always primarily a political concept, very vaguely defined, rather than a thought-through economic and political strategy with identified benefits. BINO could actually be sold on this basis, in the sense that, once the UK is out of the EU, the essential political objective will have been met, irrespective of the practical consequences. And I think the rather downbeat reaction to the government’s total surrender this week can only make BINO as an option more likely – all smoke and mirrors in the end, perhaps.

            1. Yves Smith


              They can’t do BINO. The EU has been very clear that any “future relationship” has to fit within existing parameters. The UK’s red lines mean a Canada type deal, and even if they relax them, the best they get is Norway. That is NOT BINO.

              And if they were to rejoin, they have to accept the Euro. Those are the current rules.

              1. David

                You and I know that. I was making a different point, that there is constituency which will be satisfied if the UK is “out” of Europe. They are quite numerous and pay little attention to the detail of negotiations. They are focused on leaving Europe, not on the future relationship, which is a different issue. In other words, it is theoretically feasible for May’s government to claim victory, independently of the content of the withdrawal agreement, on the basis that the UK is now “out” of Europe.

              2. Oregoncharles

                Ahh, accepting the Euro would be deal-killer, I assume. If that’s immutable, then no canceled Brexit.

                Joining the Euro at this juncture would be very foolish. Oh, well, it is May’s government, so maybe.

        3. Oregoncharles

          The EU’s actions imply that they think they have a lot to lose. I saw one example, which I can’t remember right now. The German automakers might be a factor. And the EU citizens living in the UK are hostages of a sort, especially the ones from places like Poland that aren’t eager to get them back suddenly.

          But all of that is just speculation. I think analysis of what the EU has to lose has been lacking here, because Yves doesn’t think there’s that much. I’d have to take her word for it, but the EU itself doesn’t. I keep remembering that Britain is one of the Big 5 economies, although not in the Euro. What’s missing from this picture? Is the EU just turning out to be a big softy? Hoping Brexit will be reversed (which I still think likely)?

          1. Yves Smith

            Huh? The UK capitulated on everything that mattered. And we’ve written repeatedly that the German automakers are firmly behind Merkel. The UK press has acted as if the German automakers would rise up and they haven’t. You have to stop believing what you read there.

    3. RabidGandhi

      Every European newspaper I read said the UK had caved on all of its red lines. True as that may be, getting the EU to kick the Irish border can of worms further down the road (until the DUP can be soothed or tossed overboard) seems a slight victory for May, but more important was the EU letting the UK negotiate treaties prior to Brexit, which could be a huge opening for the government, if they can get their ducks in a row.

      May’s job will now be quelling dissent from Brexiteers as the reality sinks in. Rees-Mogg called the agreement unsatisfactory but acceptable, while Farage called for the PM to step down.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, that seems the consensus, but the response has been unexpected low key – I think reflecting a lot of puzzlement with what this actually means in reality. I think the big question is whether the government can sell this to the wider Tory party.

        1. The Rev Kev

          If there was only some way to distract the populace while all of this was going on. Something that will have all the TV, radio and newspapers all fired up and unified as a nation. Something outrageous that could be turned into a three-ring circus, preferably involving lots of military and their toys but without all the costly messiness of an actual war. Something that would take all the oxygen of the Brexit negotiations/cave-ins.
          Nope, too much for me. Guess I need to have a brain the size of a planet to come up with something like that.

  6. Gee

    The Verizon cord cutting – sorry to hear. T-Mobile has a plan for unlimited hotspot data plan for their smartphones. “hotspot” creates a wifi you can access with any computer. I think they call it the “international” plan and its a $30 add-on. Totally worth it.

    Yves I know you hate smartphones but the hotspot data feature is alot faster than DSL. I have the same privacy issues with smartphones as you do if not worse. Get a used samsung version 7 and use it for hotspot and calls only. I dont even have a google acct active on mine, and the location tracking is turned off.

    1. hunkerdown

      One could just as well or better pick up a USB LTE modem aka “air card” for one’s laptop on the order of $30 and get an extra data SIM for it, which was only $10/mo atop my T-Mobile unlimited plan. Bonus: when it’s unplugged, you can be somewhat more sure it’s unplugged.

      (Of course, if you buy a non-carrier-locked smartphone, hotspot/tethering features are built into recent Android releases and, if you use a VPN atop that, nobody will or can be the wiser.)

    2. Yves Smith

      I know you want to help, but how many times do I tell you what my priorities are and I get advice that is not consistent with my preferences?

      I do not want, need, or value more speed.

      And I am not getting a smartphone. I am not willing to be GPS located (and your phone DOES do that all the time, Fox ran a recent story showing that using a “man in the middle” box to show that).

      1. pricklyone

        Yves, I think perhaps he meant you would leave the phone at home. As your internet connection.
        You are already “located” at your address, by your copper connection. If the phone, or smartcard, stays there with your PC, what is the difference?

        1. Yves Smith

          I don’t understand your point at all. Someone’s home address is known and has pretty much always been public (court records if you own your house, in phone directories unless you paid to be unlisted) even before the Internet. I publish my business phone and address various places.

          It is a completely different matter to have your phone spying on where you go during the day, all day, with time stamps of where you have been, which is what geolocation does. If you leave your phone home, that does not happen. If you have a smartphone but leave it in a Faraday bag a lot, you cut down the completeness of the record a lot (provided you are not pulling out your phone every two nanoseconds). If you have a dumbphone, they geolocation is less accurate (only to within 100 feet) plus unless you become a target and the authorities get a warrant and track you all the time, your phone company retains data only on when you’ve used the phone, so they can retrospectively locate you only when you were calling or getting/sending texts. And if you have a dumpphone, taking the battery out also stops geolocation.

  7. Pavel

    I note that #DeleteFacebook is now trending on Twitter. Lots of unhappy current and ex-FB users commenting, e.g.:

    Hey @facebook I deleted my account today. F*** you for selling me out and playing a huge part in our current disaster. I pray I am not the only one. #DeleteFacebook

    In general people aren’t too happy with Zuck and especially in light of the fact that FB apparently knew this was going on in 2015 but did nothing.

    Disclaimer: I’ve never had a Facebook account :)

    1. Robert McGregor

      I wonder how this affects the “Zuckerberg for President in 2020” campaign? I haven’t heard much about that lately.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Being young, healthy and wealthy, there are many options for people in that position.

        Taking the first flight to Mars in 2020 is only just one of the numerous options available.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I set up an account (I think, not sure if I finished it) there years ago. May actually have visited once, but ever since, I have been receiving emails from them, even though I haven’t been there for a long time. I don’t even remember my password. So, I am not sure how to delete that account. I would think my account should be inactive, and they would let me alone. Do I have to do something to delete my account?

      1. RUKidding

        Yes, you absolutely MUST DO something to delete your account, and my understanding is that it is a deliberately complicated process (I don’t know for sure, as I never ever created an account there).

        There is a way to recover your password (or create a new one), I’m sure. I don’t know how Faceborg does it, but usually there’s a place where you can click on something saying “I forgot my password,” and you enter your email address. They’ll send you a link by email to recreate a new password, so that you can get to your account… in order to delete it.

        Good luck!! Others who have accounts are likely to be more knowledgeable than me and can chime in with useful pointers.

      2. HotFlash

        I have deleted my FB account twice in the past three-four years, carefully following the directions both times. However, certain sites will still trigger a request to “log in via Facebook” complete with a view of my page, so I have to conclude that it is still there. Hmmm.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Thanks to you and RUKidding.

          The first thing to do, must go there to my new password.

    3. RUKidding

      Reason NUMERO UNO why I have NEVER had a Faceborg account. I NEVER trusted skeevy skanky criminal crooked Zuckerberg, nor did I trust his “product.”

      Too ripe for the plucking.

      Color me utterly unsurprised.

      1. rd


        No Twitter, MySpace etc. either. I had to sign up for Google to have a gmail account, so they got a fake birthday.

    4. Procopius

      I’ve had a facebook account for some time to keep in touch with people who are scattered all over the world, including cousins in the U.S. I haven’t been able to figure out why it’s such a big deal, but I’m an old, so even though I’ve been dealing with computers since 1976 I’m pretty socially inept and probably don’t “get” social networking. I can imagine one of my cousins, a very smart woman with a PhD in Economics, persuading me to change my mind about some point, but I can’t imagine some ugly meme/photo/graphic affecting me in any way but offending. I have a wide assortment of sources which I have assigned appropriate levels of trust on certain topics. I regard almost every announcement by a government official as a lie, also almost all stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post, especially if their sources are “requesting anonymity” for any reason. I happen to think that advertising is generally pretty ineffective, but the advertising agencies have sold themselves as essential to every business. All these “powerful” people are just members of a small in-group doing favors for each other. They provide no value to society, and since Raygun have actually been actively harming society.

    5. Arizona Slim

      Another update from the Slim Gives Up Facebook for Lent file: I’m finding that I’m building genuine friendships with people who were acquaintances before March 6. (That was my first full day away from the Borg.)

      Lent ends on April 1, and the Tucson NC meetup is on April 6. Come to that meetup and I’ll give you a personal update on how the Facebook Fast is going. At this point, I’m planning to keep it going. Because I am having too much fun!

    6. BenX

      “#DeleteFacebook is now trending on Twitter”

      Wherefore art thou, irony?

      People are slowly waking to the fact that their personal data is not worth nothing and can be used against them. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, all your phone apps – they should pay you a royalty every time they sell your data (which is often), or at least allow you the option not to release your data. Or better, stop disgorging your life into corporate databases.

      What’s your “social score”?

    7. Elizabeth Burton

      There is a growing movement designed to persuade people to abandon Facebook and Twitter, playing heavily on privacy concerns and the implication that intelligent people will do it. The problem, as Caity Johnstone and I agree, is that most of the people who need to hear from alternative news sources and commentators aren’t going to switch to some obscure geeky social media option in sufficient numbers to make those alternatives viable for our purposes.

      Given the constant focus in the corporate media is how stupid people are on the major social media networks because they’re always being persuaded to this and that by Russian trolls, it’s no surprise to me that people who avoid, say, Facebook are totally ignorant of the fact there is a very vibrant community of people who aren’t Clinton cultists with severe cases of Trump derangement syndrome who are working daily to ensure others are aware of alternative narratives. If the people who are most likely to be encouraged to pause and think by those narratives are instead driven off, the narratives have been very effectively muzzled.

      And the establishment knows it. I’ve said before I do not believe the sudden emergence of social media founders and executives urging people to give up what they founded is an accident. And yes, I have a large roll of aluminum foil handy, but the more I learn the more it becomes clear to me that throwing “conspiracy theorist” at anyone who has qualms about what seems to be a sudden sharp focus on scaring people away from something that can be very useful to rebellion.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > something that can be very useful to rebellion

        I doubt that is the case with FaceBook or Twitter, given that all the data collected either already is or wil go to those who want to suppress any rebellion. See Yasha Levine’s Surveillance Valley; the Internet was designed to do just that. Leaving security features out of the basic architecture was not an accident.

  8. Michael Hudson

    Dear Yves,
    I live in Forest Hills, and have Spectrum outages every three months or so. Usually for a day at a time, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. But regularly
    I’m told that Time Warner has brought in cheaper labor from outside New York (California often is cited) and workers are sabotaging it.
    There’s no FIOS out here. My copper land line always works.

    1. Enquiring Mind

      Time Warner victim, er, customer here. As a coping mechanism, I reboot my system periodically. Our local environment seems to slow down on schedule so that by Thursday that reboot becomes a necessity.

      Separately, I recommend that everyone continue to be aware of any potential browser updates. These past several days have seen a flurry of activity as companies attempt to address ongoing security and other matters, somewhat beyond the old Patch Tuesdays. The usual caveats apply regarding whether to update and after which version so that you aren’t too much part of an unannounced beta test. Also consider some browser refresh or default restoration options based on your specific user needs.

      1. Synoia

        Time Warner victim, er, customer here. As a coping mechanism, I reboot my system periodically. Our local environment seems to slow down on schedule so that by Thursday that reboot becomes a necessity.

        I had that problem. I bought a new cable modem and the problem went away. The cable modem appears to lose sync on a number of channels on the cable.

    2. Huey Long

      Mr. Hudson,

      1800 Spectrum technicians represented by IBEW Local 3 have been out on strike for nearly a year over union security and healthcare issues. These techs worked primarily in Brooklyn and Spectrum has been relying on out of state strikebreakers to maintain their cable network.


  9. Wukchumni

    Five Minutes Motherboard.

    Great article, and truth be said we’ve only really had ‘play’ earthquakes hit us during our lives-they do a fair bit of damage but nothing really in the scheme of things, and when the last one hit L.A. 24 years ago, the authorities felt the need to pad fatality numbers by including those that had a heart attack and perished right around the same time as the temblor.

    It feels similar to how one would’ve thought of a tsunami taking out a large amount of people, before the big one hit late in 2004. Just something you never gave any thought to, in terms of what it could do.

    That said, we’re in a very earthquake safe part of California, where the largest one historically that I could find hitting here was a 4.1, which is the equivalent of a carnival ride, no biggie.

  10. Stephen V.

    I’m actually a little baffled about where to file this material, since as an event the fracas begins as a “2016 Post Mortem,” –Lambert

    Might I suggest Clusterfrak. … but I’m afraid it might just become a black hole of singularity.

  11. scott 2

    I live in one of the first areas that ATT installed with DSL in 1998 (IIRC). Every few years the wires get corroded and the service gets intermittent, but other than that it’s been great, if you think 3 MB/second for $30/month is a deal (we don’t stream TV). I’ve heard from neighbors that our wires won’t be replaced with fiber, that we’re going directly to 5G. Goodbye cheap internet.

  12. lakecabs

    I have Spectrum for internet and home phone. I won’t switch my business lines to it. Att more reliable landlines.

  13. Queenslawyer

    I have spectrum in queens ny. Internet only package though they are constantly tring to upsell tv stations.

    We have not had many service outages that we’re not power outages. However, the modem supplied by spectrum does go on the fritz quite often. Just unplug and it usury works, but a tax on time and also very inconvenient when, say, reading naked cap in bed!

    Formerly TWC, spectrum is just as bad in terms of Custer service

    Unfortunately it’s my only real choice as Fios is not in my building and RCN amazingly was a bigger crook with worse service than spectrum (ie, slower speeds)

    I have thought about nyc mesh more than once but find I’m uncomfortable with the tech savvy part I’d have to play

    There really are no good options I’m afraid

    1. rd

      “and it usury works”

      Wins the award of the Best Typo of the Year as it is actually correct in an alternate read of a typical cable company bill.

    2. freedeomny

      I am also in Queens – I have internet only through Spectrum. I don’t often have outages, but I find that I do have to reboot my modem fairly often….sometimes every week. I do have Fios in my building, but when I once called to get pricing…they asked me for my social security number….which I thought was pretty outrageous.

  14. Scott

    The refinery bankruptcy seems to be a pretty big deal, because while the company didn’t pay taxes for over two years, it did pay $590 million in dividends. I understand that stiffing vendors to pay dividends is standard for PE firms, but I’ve always thought that taxes were a little different. I’ve seen small businesses and their owners have fines, liens and even jail time for similar activities.

    1. Mel

      That’s the beauty of corporate personhood. When old bad decisions catch up with it and life gets awkward, you can just kill it off, and all the consequences are magically gone.

      1. rd

        The corporation may get jailed over failure to pay taxes. Incarceration will be low cost though as the filing cabinets holding the incorporation papers don’t eat much or need exercise.

      2. a different chris

        For sure. Consider this:

        “said Ward. “Given the value of the company, there’s no way the liability can be in the billions.”

        So if I’m broke, there is no way that I can owe any property tax on my home, right? Oh wait, I’m a real person oops.

  15. Lemmy Caution

    RE Self-Driving Uber Car Kills Pedestrian in Arizona, Where Robots Roam

    According to the article Exclusive: Tempe police chief says early probe shows no fault by Uber in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, Tempe, Arizona Police Chief Sylvia Moir has reviewed video of the accident and says,

    “I suspect preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident …” Moir said.

    Police also noted that the victim was probably homeless and was also jaywalking.

    The police haven’t released the video yet, although “From viewing the videos, it’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway,” Moir said.

    It very well may be that the video shows that this was an unavoidable accident. But the article hints that the video might have been taken by the robot car itself. If so, it raises the question of who is entitled to view the video.

    1. Louis Fyne

      speculation is pointless—-but i thought that’s what the lidar-radar is for. to supposedly be foolproof and avoid precisely these types of accidents.

      the victim was walking a bicycle, surely the lidar would have picked that up

      1. rd

        The car was apparently doing 40 mph. A car at that speed needs 76 feet of stopping distance for the physical stopping and an additional 88 feet of stopping distance due to human reaction time for a total stopping distance of 164 feet.

        Hopefully the car’s sensor and computer systems can cut the reaction time distance, but if a person stepped out less than 76 feet from the car, then they will get hit even with zero reaction time.

        I suspect this is an electric car and therefore very quiet. That probably played the biggest role in the accident as the pedestrian may not have heard the car coming and stepped out in front of it.

        1. Craig H.

          I am adjusting my bio detection habits to the quietude of electric vehicles. It was quite unnerving the first time I realized how much I relied my whole life on my sense of hearing to protect me from engine propelled machinery–especially in parking lots and parking garages.

          Surely some stupid engineer will recommend the fix is electric vehicles will have to go around beep-beep-beeping whenever they are moving forward or backward faster that three miles an hour.

          Five rules of defensive driving transfer pretty smooth to defensive walking.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Sounds a lot like victim blaming to me, as in she-had-it-coming. And the police saying that she was “probably homeless and was also jaywalking”? WT*? What has that got to do with the lidar not picking her up? Doesn’t lidar work in the dark? I know for a fact that radar does. Does that make her the first crash-test dummy/pedestrian?

        1. crittermom

          “probably homeless,,,”
          I agree. What does that have to do with it? Absolutely nothing. Or at least it shouldn’t have.

          Furthermore, I think they are pushing these autonomous vehicles out too quickly. That scares me.

          How long have airbags been in cars now?
          A friend was diligent about checking each time there’s a recall on them, making sure her vehicle was not on the list. It never was..

          Two days ago she emailed me photos of her now totaled car. A teenager admitted being distracted & took full blame for crashing into her. The airbags in neither car deployed. They each should have.

          So the auto industry thinks they have mastered the technology to put self-driving vehicles on the road when airbags have been installed for decades yet still apparently have glitches?

          1. Aumua

            They were probably homeless, so it’s not as big a deal as if they were you know, a real citizen or anything.

            1. Elizabeth

              Apparently, the bicyclist had dangling plastic bags on her handlebars – and was probably homeless. Yes, all the reports I’ve read sound like the victim had it comiing – if you’re homeless, you’re worth nothing in this society. It’s disgusting, and I hope Uber gets sued into kingdom come.

      3. OwenFinn

        Exactly – and, predictably, like most “accidents” involving cars, there is some serious victim blaming going on.

        “You can expect that Uber, local regulators, and tech evangelists will make much of the Tempe police report that the woman was outside a crosswalk, although North Mill Avenue—the eight-lane road the victim was attempting to cross—has only one crosswalk in nearly two miles of road, making jaywalking a requirement of the urban design.”

      4. Bill Smith

        If the person stepped into the lane of traffic 3 feet or 6 feet in front of the vehicle which was traveling 38 mph how fast how many feet would it take to stop the vehicle once the lidar signaled a warning?

    2. Skip Intro

      The car kills a homeless jaywalker and people are calling it a bug? What part of the neoliberal ethos is not clear here?

      1. Carolinian

        In my area there have been lots of incidents where people on bikes at night have been struck by human driven cars. In fact the human drivers around here seem to be ever more careless. Robots might be an improvement.

        1. Louis Fyne

          i 100% agree that robots eventually will be an improvement.

          the key point is that the scenario that involved the death of that lady should’ve been 100% baked into the software-hardware on a closed track. Dim lighting + glare + pedestrian on the side of the road + vehicle at high speed

          there is no excuse for that lady to be dead if the uber car was alpha-beta tested property on a closed track.

          lady whose life spiraled out of control due to a couple of run-ins with drugs, homeless, killed by the neoliberal-feted future.

          a sad allegory for our times.

          1. Edward E

            I’ve met a lot of great drivers, some extremely skilled drivers that are better than me and I have a lot of awards. When we get together the subject of people not getting taught very well always comes up. We’ve been on tracks simulating hazards, difficult maneuvering, wet wide open skid pads to learn chop steering and braking techniques. Things the average driver rarely gets to experience. Here’s one of the greats, whom I agree with a lot, he has a lot of postings besides just this one if someone wishes to take a deep dive.

            This Is the Human Driving Manifesto – The Drive

            “If our safety was the experts’ first principle, the billions invested in self-driving cars would have gone to subsidizing free professional driving school, raising licensing standards, and making critical safety technologies like seat belts, airbags, ABS and automatic emergency braking (AEB) standard as soon as they were invented.”

            About trade etc, saw a good one from Timothy Tan
            Russia is playing chess, China is playing Weiqi and the US is playing checkers
            But thinks it’s playing chess

            1. cnchal

              Thanks for the link. One of the comments there explains what separates the good drivers from not so good and what robots fail at miserably.

              From Alphastrike

              . . . The AI cars are a long way off from being able to guess which cars around you are going to be crappy drivers. Type and appearance of car combined with its driving micro mannerisms, and sometimes other details can make a difference.

              I would like to see robotic controlled vehicles have some type of visible indicator from any direction that it is under robotic control, sort of an AI dunce cap, so they can be easily identified.

              No doubt different manufacturers will have different characteristics in how they deal with surrounding traffic, unless the government steps in and mandates the same standards for all autonomous vehicles, which doesn’t seem to be what’s happening now. Also mandating that the algorithms used to program the electric and hydraulic systems that control the vehicle be made public seems unlikely even though they are used in public.

              It’s a free for all and people will get killed and hurt for many years to come.

          2. Carolinian

            Well there was a “safety driver.” Perhaps that person wasn’t paying proper attention.

            And as a lifelong cyclist (not so much lately) I’ve long been of the opinion that that expecting cars to respect cyclists’ rights is naive and riders should do everything possible to avoid cars and look to their own safety. Of course that’s not always possible and especially for pedestrians, but the reality is that car drivers are looking out for other cars, not the rarely encountered cyclist or pedestrian. Humans see what they are expecting to see and therefore may have their own “Lidar problem.”

            1. Edward E

              Robots will never be better than highly trained, attentive and skilled professional drivers. Electronics are not that reliable in my experience, may not get proper maintenance and will become more unreliable in the years ahead. We are entering a magnetic polar reversal on this planet. That means chaotic magnetic field strength for scores of years into the future. Radiation from our sun does a number on electronic equipment, I’ve experienced it several times. I once bought a new truck and in a month it came to a full stop on a busy two lane road because of a failed engine sensor in a solar storm. Had a street horn start blasting and wouldn’t shut off until I pulled up the hood and disconnected it. The key to success is keep it simple, train drivers well and require refreshment training periodically. Focus on health, proper rest, take breaks to relieve stress and take driving seriously.

            2. Darthbobber

              I don’t see how a safety driver is going to be any more alert and ready than a sentry posted somewhere where generally nothing happens (or a suburban school guard, for the same reason.)

              The needed level of readiness is almost impossible to maintain.

            3. Brooklin Bridge

              Driverless vehicles simply aren’t ready to be traveling around with or without human oversight where people can be harmed.

              That they are anyway is simply proof positive that the whole industry of driverless cars and all the dystopia that goes with it is going to be rammed down our throats with the soft gloves of PR as long as it works, and with raw overwhelming force if not.

              The legal issues alone would otherwise keep these missiles off public roads for another generation or two.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The best thing since sliced bread (yes, decades ago, and the rate of progress is bit slow, you might say) is divine.

      It is infallible.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        One suggestion, if I may offer it, is that, while those self-driving cars are infallible, humans are not.

        And, so, to help us very imperfect humans, we put a sign (lit for night time, and must be highly visible) that says, “DRIVEN BY A ROBOT” or something equivalent (BY A NON HUMAN, OR A SUB HUMAN) on each of them .

        Now, if I was crossing a street, at night, and saw one of them coming, I would be extra careful…so as not to make a mistake.

        1. Carolinian

          You’re absolutely right and when Mercedes put experimental self-drive cars on the road they were garishly colored and clearly marked.

          Many cyclists now carry blinking led lights even in the daytime. When introducing something unexpected or new the public needs to be warned.

    4. a different chris

      I dunno but seems hard for some wreck of a person to “come from the shadows” (whatever “shadows” even means in the context of an a machine that doesn’t have actual eyes), pushing a bike, so quickly that she gets broadsided. Usain Bolt might have a first step that quick, I suppose.

      The human driver wasn’t paying attention. So what? Not his/her fault, how can you when nothing happens for long periods of time. And note she/he is highly unlikely to be able to even stop the car as fast as the car could stop itself. We have completely reversed the skill set. Machines are best at insanely fast responses to simple combinations of inputs – something in front of it, stop (and do such a good job of anti-skid braking that those algorithms were made illegal in F1 because they were too much better than the world’s best drivers could accomplish).

      Humans are good at relatively slow assesment of and adjustment to the world around them. It’s getting dark or snow has started falling or kids play around here or all three so I will adjust my baseline strategy accordingly.

    5. Arizona Slim

      Okay, so people walk their bikes across roads and they aren’t in the crosswalk. Well, hang me, dang me. Because I’m guilty of the same offense.

    6. oh

      When the victim is homeless or poor, the local finest will always blame the victim. After all, this is the mentality that gives the police shoot black people first and then don’t even ask questions.

    7. lyman alpha blob

      My first thought when I saw the quote from the cop is that I want to see the agreement between Tempe and Uber that allowed them on the streets in the first place.

      Did the Tempe government agree to allow the cars on the road, using the citizens of Tempe as guinea pigs, out of the goodness of their hearts? And if not, what was the quid pro quo here?

      My guess is that if Tempe wants to cash in on the quo, then City of Tempe employees like this cop are required to toe the line and not make any noise that might put Uber in a bad light.

    8. ArcadiaMommy

      I’m certainly not defending Uber, but this area has a lot of odd interchanges between a large freeway, an expressway, major cross town streets, large office parks, multiple regular parks, two bridges, ASU, multiple small venues, pedestrian walkways, etc. It’s also very dark, then very bright, it’s just poorly designed for the multiple traffic situations.

      Someone posted a link to the street view, but I don’t think the collision took place there. I

  16. dk

    Yves, for internet service reliability, I have a little portable cellular wifi modem as my backup for home/office service.

    For $500/year (4G only, $600/yr for 3G/4G), you get a 30Gb/mo, uncapped, on the Sprint network.

    I’ve had this service since 2015, used it for home/office service several times (2 multi-hour outages this year already, although here in the high desert, equipment failures are more frequent due to environmental factors). While not quite good enough for hi-def video streaming, it’s sufficient for most web-related functions. Since it’s cellular, it’s best to set the modem by a window for best reception.

    I also use it travelling, it’s much more secure (and sometimes faster) than connecting a laptop to public or hotel/institutional hotspots.

    Most smart phones can be configured to operate as such a hotspot, but it’s a dedicated function (can’t make/receive calls), and usually requires an additional monthly plan. The Caylix modem service is comparably priced but more flexible to use, and has no cap, so no extra charges for exceeding 30Gb in a month.

    1. Yves Smith

      Thanks but the Sprint network does not work in my apartment. I tried Karma, which runs over the Sprint network. No signal in my apartment. I contact Karma to complain and they say, basically, “Well, our coverage map says it ought to work.”

      And this was not a device issue. Worked fine at Laguardia, the Dallas and Atlanta airports, and on planes in even more airports (when seated before takeoff).

      Lambert’s theory is that my building (the first elevator apt. building in NYC) was overbuilt and has so much steel in it that it is partway to being a Faraday cage. Most of the apartment is a dead zone on my 2G phone too.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        All those tin ceilings are terrible for sending/receiving radio waves. At a B&B in New Brunswick a few years ago I could watch the wifi signal strength on my laptop drop from stout to nothing as I descended the stairs from the lobby at the exact moment when I passed by the tin barrier. Under the lobby was the bar. Luckily, the proprietor was a member of the New Brunswick Scotch Appreciation Society (or some such name) and I soon quit worrying about the interwebs.

  17. Wukchumni

    I was on a backpack trip with a couple of friends 15 years ago, when Shock & Awe® rained down upon Iraq, and after the initial skirmishes with boots on the ground went well, it all fell apart quickly.

    Here on the home front, the housing bubble was accelerating across the country, and by the time the dark days of Fallujah meant that we had to destroy the city in order to save it, the bubble was fully engulfed.

    Were the 2 episodes interrelated, something gained to pay for the loss of innocents?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I thought the Housing Bubble was cooked up as a response to the DotCom collapse. Once, the first was out, they just kept going. Shrub wasn’t exactly popular having just stolen an election. He pushed for a major tax cut, and Greenspan was slashing the Fed rate throughout the year. Yes, he was a new President, but 43 tried to hit the ground running. My sense is many Republicans really believe Gore and company really were “tax and spend” Democrats instead of more polite GOP types.

      Its overlooked these days, but Bob Woodward revealed Rumsfeld wanted videos of targets for CNN knowing the 2004 election was around the corner. Keeping power was a major issue for the GOP.

      Imagine if the leading figures of the #Resistance were a fraction of upset at Bush V Gore as they are at the Hillary campaign not understanding the electoral college.

  18. rd

    Listening to Rep Jim Jordan – R-Ohio on NPR this morning complaining about the extraordinary length of the Mueller investigation “a year already”. aren’t these the same people who supported Ken Starr spending four years investigating the Clintons in the ’90s and four years investigating Benghazi from 2012 to 2106? Mueller has already come up with more indictments and guilty pleas than those 8 years of investigations produced.

  19. Wukchumni

    Another high school shooting spree, this time in Great Mills, Maryland.

    Details are sketchy, but as usual, the timeworn platitude plays out…

    “Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in a tweet Tuesday that he is “closely monitering* the situation.”

    “Our prayers are with students, school personnel, and first responders,” Hogan said.

    * ever notice how many clumsy spelling mistakes the media makes nowadays?

  20. subgenius

    Facebook seems to have offered various levels of data dissemination with various terms over time – as far as I understand it, these were tightened to a significant degree somewhere in the 2012-2014 period – I had access to secondary services based on facebook (instagram, twitter, etc) in 2014-15 that appeared to have fairly deep access (up-to the ability to run facial recognition based on tagged images in their various databases)

    Most the services had pretty weak semi ‘AI’ analytics operating on these data sets. I assume these have improved since (at the time I was amazed by how bad the analytics performed generally, although there were some rare and somewhat scary exceptions)

    I didn’t play with Cambridge Analytica, so can’t comment on their capabilities, but did play with some others that were impressive enough to indicate that CAs claims may be less oversold than some imagine

  21. travy

    downtown brooklyn is pretty solid with spectrum. maybe once a year we get a multi hour outage. anecdotally, further out seems spottier on cable. ymmv

  22. Wukchumni

    I have jury duty today, and as usual I am hoping to get on an interesting case, hopefully along the lines of somebody using a previously canceled stamp on a letter (a federal offense) or something similarly galling.

  23. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    China will ban people with poor ‘social credit’ from planes and trains The Verge

    China…social credit score…mobility banned by their government .

    US…financial credit score…upward mobility banned by our banks.

    1. Jean

      NeoFeudalism….a great way to keep the troublemakers from traveling to the cities as do tens of millions of Chinese workers.

      See the “Last Train Home” video on Youtube about the yearly trip back from the factory dormitories to the home villages. These rurals have seen the luxury cars, phones etc, and may want and demand the same back home in the sticks. That’s dangerous.

      By selectively blocking travel the cities can be more for the golden princelings and wealthy while assuring a lot of rural slaves.

      I wholeheartedly agree with banning smokers from trains. If we could just ban behavioral thugs from public transit far fewer people would need cars to commute in the U.S.

  24. The Rev Kev

    “Revealed: Trump’s election consultants filmed saying they use bribes and sex workers to entrap politicians”

    Very interesting account of that mob influencing elections in so many counties. I, for one, would very much like to know who is on their Client List. From the way that this mob were caught out by Channel 4, it seems that it was not only their blackmail victims who were caught with their pants down.

    In passing, I am calling tonight’s Antidote du Jour a South American Green-winged Macaw.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield

      I agree– based on those red lines around the eyes. The other possibility might be a scarlet macaw. Wish I could see the other side of the bird and had some idea as to size. But based on this view and those red lines, I’d go with your call.

  25. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys NYT

    What about black (or is it African American) girls?

    Why look at just boys? Is racism inherently gender-biased?

    1. Maty

      The full report, available at New York Time online, does analyze the same data for Black girls and finds that Black girls do not suffer the same negative trends.

    1. Jim Haygood

      “The “heat island” effect keeps temperatures in Phoenix above 37C (98F) at night in summer.” — The Grauniad

      Yeah, right! Wonder who made up that bit of apocryphal meteorological lore?

      The Phoenix overall record high of 122 degrees is now 26 years old. The city’s highest recorded overnight low temperature, meanwhile, is 96 degrees, set in 2003.

      Foreign observers can have somewhat fanciful notions about the American west. When Piers Taylor of the Netflix series The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes visited a custom house outside Tucson, he made the offhand comment that it never rains in the desert, so the roof doesn’t have to be designed for it.

      Probably he was there in June, the driest month of the year, not realizing that monsoon rains make August the wettest month (with the corresponding potential for rainwater collection and storage).

      1. Carolinian

        I believe it hit 120 or close to last year and 90s at 4am according to a friend who lives there.

        1. pricklyone

          I have a relative in Bullhead City, AZ. Another HOT spot. His take is that “official” temeratures always are lower than the highs shown by temp monitoring equipment in the private domain.
          I have been on his shaded patio, when the temps were easily 10deg F. greater than what the NOAA sensors at the airport were broadcasting.(Averraging several thermo measuring devices).
          Perhaps the PTB has an interest in not scaring off the snowbirds. Yeah, I’m a little foily…

      2. Thomas Jennings

        Jim – Do you live in Phoenix? Just wondering if it is your position that Phoenix (and other large cities in AZ: e.g. Tucson) does actually have a future? In other words, are you long Phoenix? I visit in-laws in Phoenix a couple of times per year, so just curious.

        1. Synoia

          Phoenix had a great future: Elevations in the greater Phoenix area range from 735 feet above sea level to almost 700 ft at Flagstaff.

          To where will all the coastal Californians relocate? Some percentage to Phoenix.

          And it will become much closer to the Ocean. After Mexicali floods, the Palm Springs will become a beachfront town., and the Gulf of California will probably cross the Mexico/US border.

          Which would makes the Gulf of Californian Illegal Immigrant to be held back by Trump’s finger in the new Trump Wall.

          1. Carolinian

            You seem to have a typo there. Flagstaff is almost 7000 feet.

            Downtown Phoenix is 1100 ft and sits in a bowl surrounded by mountains which aggravates the smog problem. Regular AZ visitors know about the “snowbirds” who only come in the mild winters and flee the scorching summers. The place is expanding at a terrific clip and only a matter of time before the water runs out (sorry Californians).

            Meanwhile back in SC we are all too soggy at the moment.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              California and Arizona…Water War.

              From the LA Times:
              Aug 30, 2015 – How a 1930s water war between California and Arizona delayed Parker Dam. “Water war” has for decades been a term used to describe the political battles over water in the West. But back in the 1930s, a fight between California and Arizona over water actually veered from cold war to hot war — almost.

  26. Sutter Cane

    I don’t have any trouble believing that Facebook is evil, but a lot of the reaction to the Cambridge Analytica story is a shade too close to Russiagate for my taste. As if “Russia stole the election!” was getting stale, so a new excuse was needed in order to avoid any introspection for Democrats. Now, “Cambridge Analytica stole the election!”

    Is there really any meat to this story? Even if we don’t dispute that yes, Facebook user data was used by the Trump campaign – would it have actually made any discernible difference in the election? Or a difference more important than, say, Clinton being a terrible candidate, or voter’s dissatisfaction with decades of neoliberalism?

  27. Tony Wikrent

    So, when will Democratic elites begin to ask: what is the connection between Cambridge Analytica and the British government?

    I doubt our “special ally” will be subjected to the same intense scrutiny as Russia has. This, despite the fact that Australian, hence British subject, Rupert Murdoch has done inestimably more damage to USA democracy the past four decades than anything Putin and Russia have done.

    Remember, Britain is a monarchy. Hence, government of, by, and for oligarchs, or “high net worth individuals.” Is it really coincidence that USA has ceased being a republican democracy and become an oligarchy controlled by “high net worth individuals”?

    “Special relationship” indeed.

    1. Grebo

      “Cambridge Analytica was founded by conservatives Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer.” — Wikipedia

      It is headed by a British former financial analyst and all-round dodgy geezer. He did go to Eton so will know a lot of top Tories.

      “In 1981, Murdoch bought The Times, his first British broadsheet, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen (and as a result, gave up Australian citizenship) in 1985 to satisfy the legal requirement for U.S. television ownership.” — Wikipedia

      You are right about the damage he has done, in the UK and Australia not just the US. You are a bit confused about the British and Australian political setup.

  28. David

    The Sarkozy story is an important development. The former President is being held in “garde-à-vue” – ie in custody, probably for 48 hours. At the end of that time the police should either recommend that the magistrates bring charges or let him go. Of interest, Brice Hortefeux, Sarkozy’s longtime fixer and bagman, is also being interviewed as a “suspect libre”, ie he has been asked to attend for questioning as a suspect, but can’t be forced to stay in custody. Other members of Sarkozy’s clique are also in serious legal trouble, including Claude Guéant, who was his Interior Minister.
    When the first allegations of Libyan financing of Sarkozy’s election campaign in 2007 appeared, they tended to be dismissed as conspiracy theorizing. But both the police and the media, from their different perspectives, have been turning over stones patiently, and more and more evidence is emerging, notably from documents seized by the police. Watch the news over the next day or so to see whether Sarkozy is charged. If so, it will not just be the first French President sent for trial (he’s already been charged with lesser, unrelated offenses) , it will be a major question-mark over the 2007 election, and of course over the 2011 bombing of Libya, and why that happened.

  29. dontknowitall

    On Facebook and Cambridge Analytica let’s not fall into the trap that this was a Trump show exclusively. In fact Carol Davidsen who was the former head of the Obama 2012 analytics efforts just revealed yesterday in a series of tweets that they extracted by devious means the complete social graph of the US population from Facebook databases and as she says:

    “Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.”

    I doubt that Obama did not share the (updated?) social graph data with Hillary so what I don’t understand is the 2016 unsuccessful(?) effort by the Hillary campaign to get the Bernie mailing list even though Hillary had Google and Facebook in her back pocket (remember Eric Schmidt at the Hillary ‘Victory’ party in NYC).

    I was also thinking that one thing that is under the radar is the USPS database since for years now all mail covers are scanned so the Bernie mailing list can be reverse engineered from their database. Actually the USPS has recently taken advantage of the ‘service’ to make it available to residents who are absent and need to be notified by email of regular mail being delivered to their registered address. I use the service myself since I am away from home for long periods and need to know if something unexpected shows up. There are probably laws that prevent its use in that way but who knows…

  30. Jim Haygood

    A couple of disquieting parallels to the Internet Bubble which ended 18 years ago:

    1. At 75%, the portion of IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) with negative earnings is at the highest level since 1999. One is reminded of a 1999 commercial in which two tech bros are talking stocks. “I was gonna take a flyer on Jetson Datatech, but it’s got earnings.” “Dude … bummer!”

    2. On Jan 14, 2000 — in the same month Robert Shiller’s Irrational Exuberance was published — the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its cyclical peak of 11,723. A couple of months later, the poster child of the Internet Bubble, the high-flying Nasdaq Composite which contained many of those no-earnings IPOs, reached its final Bubble I summit of 5,048.

    In an echo of that pattern, this year the Dow’s last record high of 26,617 was reached on Jan 26th. Last week on March 12th, the Nasdaq rose to a record high of 7,588, three percent above its March 2000 high water mark after inflation adjustment.

    Ideally, a strong bull market exhibits across the board strength in all sizes and sectors of stocks. When strength in one index is not confirmed by another, it suggests narrow, fluctuating leadership and diminishing momentum.

    Now a lethal cocktail of reckless fiscal policy, a pending trade war, and a potential Watergate-replay constitutional crisis may finally have inserted the decisive poisoned banderilla into the neck of our beloved Bubble III, which is all that keeps America’s decaying Potemkin economy in the semblance of a recovery.

    1. ambrit

      Being a geezer from The Horizon, I worry that this Bubble Popping Ceremony will mimic what happened after the 1929 market breaks. We already have a cheap reproduction Herbert Hoover at the helm of the Ship of State. I can almost write in my head the press releases announcing cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, and federal matching funds for everything not MIC related in order to “keep the budget balanced in these hard times.”
      Our esteemed Fed picadors will have laughingly noticed that many of the vicariously valued viewers of this machismo sport were struck by the deflationary darts.
      We paid to see this show! Who do we importune to get our money back? Some suspect that the ‘money’ was never ‘there’ to begin with.
      From where I sit, near the bottom of the cheap seats, this Potemkin Village is in just a ‘shamblance’ of a recovery.
      Bring on the Bears!

      1. Sutter Cane

        I, too, find myself hoping that the inevitable crash comes sooner, rather than later, so that I will not be too aged and enfeebled to be able to shepard myself and my loved ones through it

  31. NoOneInParticular

    Re internet connection — I had FIOS for about a year in NYC and vaguely recall an outage or two but more significantly I found the connection to be subject to frequent hiccups that would interrupt streaming (even of audio-only sources). It was irritating enough that I switched to Spectrum which has not had such problems. By the way, the FIOS box, which was in the apartment when I moved in, is quite a large eyesore growing out of the wall. Your experience with DSL sounds better than mine during a stint in the upstate wilds; I was close to the phone company office but the connection was still unreliable.

  32. Summer

    Re: AI “learning”

    That phrase is all about programming us.
    Especially at this stage, to put it in true perspective, it is AI teaching.

  33. RUKidding

    RE: the SacBee article re CalPers retirees being worried about their pensions, one of the commenters to the artilcle links to yesterday’s NC article (also linked above) about the perfidious behavior of the CalPers Board turning off new Board Member, Margaret Brown’s mic and refusing to provide her with past info.

    Way to go, Yves!

  34. The Rev Kev

    “Nicolas Sarkozy in police custody over 2007 campaign financing”

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke. Sarkozy was right at the forefront of leading France into the destruction of Libya and he should be in a slammer at the Hague. Still, people like this are never brought to account for their war crimes so if he is in deep doo-doo, it must be for other reasons. Maybe Macron wants to remove him as a political threat down the track? Time will tell as stuff like this comes out eventually.

    1. Sid_finster

      I suspect that even before this, Sarko was the political equivalent of kryptonite to the French electorate.

    2. Procopius

      I had forgotten he was President of France then. What I remember is when he was leaving the IMF and was in New York for some reason, he was accused of raping a maid at his hotel. There was some confusion in her story and she had an unsavory boyfriend, and of course he’s rich, so the prosecutor decided to drop the case, but Sarkozy made a number of arrogant statements that convinced me he was guilty, and several stories emerged that suggested he had almost certainly done the same think in several other hotels around the world. I must say I’m enjoying the schadenfreude.

      1. Skip Intro

        Sounds more like IMF’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Sarko had french hotties throwing themselves at him, IIRC.

    3. voteforno6

      I have a hard time believing that this will go anywhere…I don’t think that the powers that be want to open up the can of worms that is Libya.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Q; What do you call Sarkozy in chains?
        A: A good start

        Next up: Bush, Cheney, Obama, Hilary, Powers, and Rice. In The Hague.

        Revenge is a dish best served cold

  35. Big River Bandido

    Funny that all this is coming up for you just at this moment, Yves. I had Time-Warner cable for about 10 years at my old apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens. They would have occasional service outages, mostly related to the wires out on the street, which were highly prone to storm damage. But I found they were quite diligent with customer service and it was never a big problem. Until they were bought out by “Spectrum”, and then all went to hell.

    Spectrum forced me to “upgrade” the modem we leased from them (they said it was out of date), and from then on connectivity was a constant on-off, worked-okay-until-it-didn’t kind of thing. Quite literally, my connection was broken every 2 minutes, forcing me to open my network preferences and run the diagnostic cycle. Nine times out of ten, this resumed the connection, but it was seriously annoying. I assumed (silly me) that it was just the new modem, so I called them up and told them to send me a replacement, which they did. It worked no better than the so-called “upgrade”, which convinced me that Spectrum was, in fact, throttling my service since I was purchasing an internet-only package at the lowest rate.

    When we moved to Forest Hills in the fall, the same problems continued. I was already turned off by Spectrum’s abuse of its labor force and its poor relationship with its labor unions, and we resolved to switch services. We finally ditched Spectrum about 3 weeks ago. On the “severance call”, I told them I was leaving because of the precipitous decline in service, their abhorrent customer service (every time you call you’re forced through a long series of automated responses, and then told that if you pay a bill with a live operator they’ll charge you an additional $4.95 or something), and because of the company’s mistreatment of its labor force. Spectrum, in turn, completely messed up our final billing (sending payments made on the new account to the old, and vice-versa), and despite cancelling our service back in February, they just sent us a *new* bill, with a past-due date for the previous month (which we had already paid). It took a 37-minute phone call last week straighten that out, and I won’t be convinced that all’s fixed until the actual final bill arrives.

    As for Verizon and service outages: a week after we had FIOS installed, we lost service and reported it to the company…they sent a tech out and within 3 hours they had rectified the situation (they said it was a bad splice on the fiber cable outside our apartment). That was an inconvenience, but I felt they handled it well.

    After the March 7 storm, FIOS was down again. The symptoms looked the same, but this time when I called, the earliest they could get a tech out to us was 48 hours later (the morning of Sunday the 11th). The appointment time came and went, we made several calls to Verizon (diverted to their answering service, which seems to be located in India) but could get no clear answer on what was happening. Finally, on one call the operator told us that the damage was on the street — due to the storm — and that a construction crew had been sent out to do repairs. These were finally effected around 8PM that day, and we got a text message telling us service had been restored.

    Since then our service has been fine. Can’t say I’m happy with Verizon, and in particular the fact that if you call them for service outages on a weekend, you get sent to a call center thousands of miles and several time zones away. But we *had* to switch, as Spectrum had become intolerable, and in this new area we didn’t seem to have much other choice.

    I wish New York City had good-quality municipal broadband. You would think there might be a market for such a product here.

  36. crittermom

    Love today’s antidotes. Especially the lady catching the (Red-tailed?) hawk coming in for her chickens. Hilarious!

    1. RUKidding

      Both photos are super, but I do love the look on the hawk’s face! Eh – wut??!!?


    2. Oregoncharles

      I keep wondering why it didn’t bite her. I caught a large woodpecker, once (it was in a building), and had to be very careful – that beak could do serious damage, and so could a hawk’s.

      The bird is largely hidden by her hands, but I think it’s smaller than a redtail. Cooper’s? The red breast looks distinctive.

  37. Peter Pan

    Five Minutes Motherboard. “After the big one.”

    This would make for the ultimate disaster film other than a meteor strike, ET alien invasion or full scale nuclear war.

    Although this is only part one & covers only Portland, I imagine more substantial damage. Not only would an earthquake of this magnitude or greater severely impact buildings & infrastructure, but imagine that it sets off all of the Cascade volcanoes from Northern California to Northern Washington state. Now you have ash that prevents air traffic, including helicopter assistance with emergency relief. There may be pyroclastic mud flows driving Westward toward the large cities. A tsunami may be heading Eastward toward some of the big cities. Now you have pincer movement of mud flows from one side and a tsunami from the other side. Yikes !!

    1. Louis Fyne

      many people have become oblivious to the power of Ma Nature.

      If you’re a fan of avoiding long-tail risks and live in earthquake country, no excuse to not have a simple disaster kit: first aid-tourniquet supplies, batteries, flashlight, water, a decent amount of gas in the car, etc.

      If-when the big one comes, people likely be on their own for hours as the emergency services will be too busy dealing with fires and extricating people from collapsed masonry buildings.

      1. ambrit

        Hours. Hah! After Katrina, our neighborhood was “on its’ own” for a week.
        If this exercise in Disaster writing did its’ research right, expect ‘Gilligans’ Island’ conditions to last a half year or longer. They did on the Gulf Coast in 2005. That assumes a functioning economy in the rest of the nation however. When Cascadia goes, how much of the national infrastructure goes with it? If Seattle goes dark, how much of the Internet goes dark with it? Etc.

      2. Oregoncharles

        We have friends and family at the coast. The coast range highways are unstable in the best of times. I think that after a magnitude 9 and tsunami, the coast will be partly isolated INDEFINITELY. Aid will come only from the sea, and maybe the air. And not from the valley, anyway, which will be in the shape Rothstein describes.

    2. Oregoncharles

      Fortunately, Oregon has no large cities exposed to tsunamis, but a legion of smaller settlements. Friends of ours live just within the tsunami zone, and he’s too old to move quickly uphill. Newport, mentioned in the article, would be hit but most of it is elevated (the touristy waterfront would be wiped out, and the bridges would go down). Astoria is also hilly, but the waterfront would be flooded. Seaside is the worst: it’s cut off from higher ground by a river with only a few bridges across it. A tsunami would wash completely over it. I wouldn’t live there in any circumstances.

      1. Synapsid


        Give a thought to Port Angeles, on the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula, and Victoria, which is the provincial capital of British Columbia, if a magnitude-9 quake triggered a tsunami. Think of that sucker coming into the Straits of Juan de Fuca, which would narrow it and thus raise it. Port Angeles and Victoria are both at sea level.

        My heart doesn’t bleed for Victoria since it, a provincial capital (!), is still dumping its raw sewage into the Straits last I heard.

        1. rd

          Most of the buildings in Port Angeles are pretty old. Many appear not to be built to decent earthquake standards. They will likely collapse in the initial shaking and then get washed away.

  38. Darius

    Regarding the MOA story, click through to the Craig Murray site and read some of the stuff there. I can’t avoid the feeling this is a Tory effort aimed at Jeremy Corbyn. Russia is the new cannon aimed at the left.

  39. Dilettante

    FIOS vs Spectrum

    Having switched from Spectrum to FIOS in Manhattan a few months ago – based on my experience, Spectrum has more down time and happens more often. When working normally, connection speed seems to be about the same. Navigating the TV is easier on Spectrum however.

  40. Jean

    Privacy and fake coins…

    I understand that Genghis Khan either allowed local tribal chiefs to ride and conquer with him or executed them based on their ability to solve a similar puzzle. They were given a stick and allowed to work the problem out in the dirt of a hut in which they were imprisoned. The objects were balls of dissimilar weight and you were allowed three moves to find the odd one.

    I cannot remember any more details than this. I lost the written solution years ago. Anyone remember it?

  41. Andrew Watts

    RE: The Pig Empire Prepares For War

    Meanwhile, back in reality…

    Merkley, colleagues urge White House to seek Russia talks

    Preliminary preparations for the New START treaty which the Russian media outlet TASS sees as encouraging. While our burgeoning stratocracy states it’s support for the Iran deal to the warmongers in Congress.

    I honestly can’t take anybody who says “Amerikkka” seriously.

  42. Oregoncharles

    That picture of the Skripals in the Moon of Alabama post: see the dispenser bottle in the foreground? Looks like they’re sitting at the bar, and the barkeep took the picture – part of his job. Or it could have been any random stranger. Much ado about nothing.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I don’t think so here. It looks like that they are sitting on chairs set against the back of the place as shown by the mirror reflection on the right. If you look between your heads, you can see the bloke actually taking the photo which looks like an actual camera rather than a mobile. By now Wiltshire detectives would have interviewed and gotten witness statements from all the staff and everybody that was in that place that day but I have not heard some bloke putting his hand up and saying that it was he that took that photo.

  43. JTMcPhee

    Re whistleblowers and striking back: Medicare and Medicaid programs get defrauded from all angles by all kinds of scams. A big one is pharmaceutical fraud, by Big Pharma. A little tiny pharmacy that started out in Key West, providing infusion meds to people with HIV, discovered one such scam, and its owners got together with a local “bulldog” attorney to bring a “qui tam” lawsuit naming the company. Qui tam is an action by a citizen ‘on behalf or relation of” a government, essential to embarrass and thus force the government to take action for violations of law that said government should be investigating and enforcing through government mechanisms. Here’s a pop version of “How Four Men Got Rich Exposing Pharma Fraud,” There is a lot more about Ven-a-Care if one cares to search on their name — they have recovered or catalyzed the recovery of billions in fraudulent claims for federal and state governments, and for what it’s worth, not much in our mindless age, have highlighted a lot of very bad behaviors. They are still at it.

    Here’s a link detailing qui tam law, and offering information on how to whistleblow by bringing such actions, and do it with less risk of “negative consequences” from either the government or the private interests who are involved in the scams: Note that as with the case flagged in this post, many states have false claim act statutes, not just the feds. Though I understand that ALEC and other Interested Parties are busily lobbying to un-legislate all of them, as a “druag on the market.”

    I’ve always wondered why there have been no or very few qui tam actions in relation to the whole FIRE scam, and of course the whole MICC scam. Maybe they play a harder game of ball than Pfizer and their ilk… but for all you risk-takers, think of the potential payday! Ven-a-care principals are now multi-millionaires, all for doing well by doing good…

    NB: I have no connection whatsoever (except possibly as one of the defrauded, or as a “customer” who was prescribed meds made by one of the scammers, or as an unfortunate citizen living under a regime that is might one say boughtandpaidfor) to any of the several entities highlighted in this comment

  44. Oregoncharles

    I read “5 minutes”, about the effect of a Cascadia Subduction quake on Portland – from a quake off Newport. We live just 50 miles, as the crow flies, inland from Newport. I’m not the only Oregon commenter; most of us will be dreaming about that article tonight, if we read it.

    Our soil is clay and would liquefy if wet, as it is now and probably would be in April. Our trees fall over on a regular basis. We’re between two rivers, the Willamette and a small tributary. We have friends at the coast, family in Portland and Astoria – which is built on hills and slides even without a quake. Maybe I shouldn’t have read that.

  45. Livius Drusus

    Re: China’s social credit system, stories like this make me almost wish for American hegemony to stay in place forever just so we can avoid Chinese hegemony. Even though I have praised some aspects of the Chinese system (like the “iron rice bowl’ state sector jobs that have already declined in number) they are outweighed by the authoritarianism and conformity that seems to run through much of Chinese society. The Chinese experiment disproves “end of history” narratives that economic development will inevitably produce freedom and democracy.

    The sad thing is that the United States already has something close to a de facto social credit system. Not only your credit score but your social media presence, work history, criminal record and even the kind of people you hang out with and your tastes in leisure activities are now grounds for denial of employment and social ostracism.

    For all of our purported tolerance and social liberalism 21st-century Americans strike me as more judgmental, uptight, conformist and status-conscious than Americans in the later 20th century. It is now OK to be openly gay but just make sure that you aren’t poor, have perfect teeth and work in a a handful of “respectable” professions. Please no “burger flippers.”

  46. geoff

    Not that I’m foily, but reading not even between the lines but explicitly stated in the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook story, is that CA’s parent company, SCL Group is a privately held (no doubt for reasons of deniability) division of British intelligence. So maybe we don’t need to worry so much about “Russian interference” in our elections as MI6’s?

    “Tamsin Shaw, a philosophy professor at New York University, and the author of a recent New York Review of Books article on cyberwar and the Silicon Valley economy, told me that she’d pointed to the possibility of private contractors obtaining cyberweapons that had at least been in part funded by US defence.

    She calls Wylie’s disclosures “wild” and points out that “the whole Facebook project” has only been allowed to become as vast and powerful as it has because of the US national security establishment.

    “It’s a form of very deep but soft power that’s been seen as an asset for the US. Russia has been so explicit about this, paying for the ads in roubles and so on. It’s making this point, isn’t it? That Silicon Valley is a US national security asset that they’ve turned on itself.”

  47. Darthbobber

    Illingworth does give a shout out to “snivelling Vichy Dems who are about to run a midterm ticket literally packed with ex-CIA swine”, and does mention the Banderastan coup.

    I think she probably just. didn’t notice that she didn’t have more detailed exposition about team d in this rant. She doesn’t have a pattern of going easy on them.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      No, I don’t think Nina goes easy on the Ds. But institutionally/structurally the Ds are players in the warmongering, even drivers, so they need to be part of the story. This was all coming, IMNSHO, the day The Blob forced Trump to defenestrate Flynn.

  48. Amateur socialist

    Your problems with internet service reminded me of a decade long hobby horse of mine: why do we have credit unions for finance but nobody has yet invented the communications union for cellular/internet access? I’d join the first one that offered service here in tech friendly central tx

  49. AdamCoppola

    when (and where) has science ever been reproducible?

    ml article suggests ml suffers from issues including insufficient and inconsistent documentation. these are issues i associate with early tools and craft. it’s as much a science as industry and without an industry standard mass production’s not gonna happen no matter how good individual machines are.

  50. RMO

    A new low has been reached with the Gina Haspell defenders. As if it’s not bad enough to pull the “just following orders” bit from the wastpaper bin of Nuremburg they’ve taken it to another level by using it not to claim torturers and war criminals shouldn’t be executed or locked away for life but that they shouldn’t even have the steady upwards progress of their careers impeded!

    I try not to succumb to hopelessness and nihilism and I still really hope the (large) part of the American public that supports the sorts of policies Bernie Sanders puts forth can effect a change of course in the near future but a small part of me is starting to worry that the perhaps the wings and empennage have broken free of the plane so it doesn’t much matter who is in the cockpit or what they do with the controls anymore…

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