Links 4/1/18

At the Tower of London, a Ravenmaster for the Digital Age Audobon

Iceberg armadas boosted monsoon rains in a different hemisphere Ars Technica

A Dangerous Antibiotic-Resistant Gene Has Spread The World. We Now Know Where It Started Science Alert (DL).

Morningstar ratings prompted $533bn of fund flows last year FT

How Fortnite leveled up, broke records, and changed gaming Vox. Amazing numbers.

The robots are killing Tesla Business Insider (DK). On the report from Bernstein’s analysts, covered Friday here.

Self-driving cars can’t be perfectly safe – what’s good enough? 3 questions answered The Conversation (DL). Yves: “Key point re pedestrian vulnerability buried in here.”

Puerto Rico

Government agencies to be sold or eliminated in Puerto Rico Noticel

Unable To Prove They Own Their Homes, Puerto Ricans Denied FEMA Help NPR

Mexico: The electoral price of impunity FT


The time for revoking Brexit has passed Wolfgang Münchau, FT

Protestors occupy Holt / Farndon bridge as it is selected as ‘Brexit Hard Border Trial Site’ (in Wales). Over traffic, apparently. With a summary of the UK government’s “explainer document” for trialing soft and then hard border checks. UPDATE Thanks to reader Clive for the alert, I apologize for being fooled by this story on April 1. However, I’m sure readers who have been following the Brexit saga can see why I found the story completely plausible. What a time to be alive!

The Italian Malaise Verso


Trump says we’re leaving Syria ‘like, very soon.’ Bad idea. Editorial Board, WaPo. Oh.

Don’t Expect Trump’s New Hawks to Save the War in Syria Bloomberg (JT McPhee).

Israel just killed 15 Palestinian protestors – and a prominent Corbyn supporter got called anti-Semitic for mentioning it Evolve Politics (CL). And then there’s this:

Here is the copy.

Good to know. I saw the IDF’s Tweet go by, as did other NC readers.


I gave up my IBM job to become an organic farmer—and learned a bitter truth Quartz

Nepal’s fertile but forgotten wetlands Third Pole


Nobody Knows Anything About China Foreign Policy

A Malaysian Insta-City Becomes a Flash Point for Chinese Colonialism — and Capital Flight NYT (PM). I don’t think much of the headline, but there’s a lot of detail in the article that Asia hands may wish to comment on.

Is Southeast Asia’s Military Modernization Driven by China? It’s Not That Simple Global Asia. “[I]n Southeast Asia, most of the defense budget is allocated to routine expenditures, particularly personnel…. Given the historical prominence of the military in the political development of Southeast Asian states, personnel spending has a ‘path-dependent’ quality vis-à-vis the defense budget.”

New Cold War

Ominous cracks show in the West’s united front against Russia WaPo

Skripal: the West escalates, but where is the proof? The Interpreter. From the crazed Communists at the heart of Australian’s national security establishment….

Moscow confronts London with 14 questions on ‘fabricated’ Skripal case RT (KW).

A Look at the Russian Presidential Election From Crimea TruthDig (DG). From an international observer.

Oral evidence: Russian Corruption and the UK, HC 932 House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (Richard Smith). Richard Smith: “Unexpected entertainment: the sudden dumping on Liam Fox, who, as usual, deserves it. Note also that these guys aren’t necessarily convinced about the Putin-Salisbury connection and don’t mind saying so. Lastly it should be ‘Tallberg and Uniwell’ not ‘Torberg and Uniworld,’ mishearing by the transcriber; an extreme connoisseur’s point, admittedly.”

Trump Transition

Trump is right about Amazon The Week. Another controversy that died as quickly as it blew up?

Congress gives science a record funding boost Science

Inside a Secretive Lobbying Effort to Deregulate Federal Levees Pro Publica

Federal workers spill on life in Trump’s Washington Politico

Facebook Fracas

Facebook Employees Are Reportedly Deleting Controversial Internal Messages Fortune

Are you ready? Here is all the data Facebook and Google have on you Guardian. “Google offers an option to download all of the data it stores about you. I’ve requested to download it and the file is 5.5GB big, which is roughly 3m Word documents…. Facebook offers a similar option to download all your information. Mine was roughly 600MB, which is roughly 400,000 Word documents.”


Guns in the Family Boston Review

Black Marjory Stoneman Douglas Students Say Police at School Make Them “Feel Like Prisoners” Teen Vogue

Marching for the Democrats: Another Farce on Washington? Black Agenda Report

Imperial Collapse Watch

Mobbed Up Harpers. “America has not been in Afghanistan for sixteen years; it has been in Afghanistan for one year, sixteen times.” A must-read.

Class Warfare

Some Kentucky schools have already canceled classes Monday ahead of a rally in Frankfort Courier-Journal

Arizona teachers demand 20 percent raises, more money for students AZ Central

It’s Oklahoma’s Turn to Strike Jacobin

* * *

These are the ways student loans stop people from buying a house CNBC (KW).

For First Time, Tuition Is Public College’s Biggest Revenue Source Governing

Maine’s Radical Democratic Experiment Politico and The second most important election of 2018 is this June in Maine Vox. On Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), which both party establishments are fighting, and which pesky voters keep demanding.

How Nashville Became One Big Bachelorette Party Buzzfeed. Apparently, the “bro” subculture is gender-fluid.

Desexing the Kinsey Institute NYRB

I’ve decided to reclaim my life – by using an old Nokia phone Guardian (BC). A phone you can drop without risking the money you had saved for your deductible. What a concept.

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. UserFriendly

    Maine’s Radical Democratic Experiment Politico and The second most important election of 2018 is this June in Maine Vox. On Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), which both party establishments are fighting, and which pesky voters keep demanding.

    Party establishments hate change period and voters hate the status quo. Neither of those things make ranked choice voting less awful. It can make it so you get a better result by not voting, and it will require centralized counting which makes it hard to audit.
    STAR voting is infinitely better.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Agreed, which is why I will be voting in favor of this in June. Again.

        Maybe at some point the state can get around to implementing the other big issue voters approved in 2016, legalization of marijuana, which they are still wringing their hands about and haven’t done yet.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Sounds like the initiative for legalization wasn’t well written. Or the system is different – in Oregon, initiatives that pass are the law. The state legislature can repeal them or send them back for another vote, but the voters almost always just double down.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I know that this may be asking a lot but after reading how the Russian election was held in Crimea, would it be out of the question for states like Maine to have a citizen’s referendum to bring in hand-counted paper ballots, sealed plexiglass ballot boxes, CCTV cameras positioned to oversee the voter registration tables and the ballot boxes and maybe ramps for those in wheelchairs, parents pushing baby carriages and the elderly or infirm?

      1. Brian

        How about hand counted ballots mailed or dropped at a supervised site where the votes are counted by people and only the totals appear on machines? If you are on file, you get your ballot by mail, with security screening, you return it, with security screening (to prove your identity) And thats it. No one has to appear, no one has to risk bad weather or taking kids, or finding a place to park or vote, ever. (Oregon)

        1. Oregoncharles

          I’ll vouch for mail voting. One advantage is that you vote at leisure, at home, which encourages thoughtful voting. Though I don’t mail mine in, I drop it in the box outside the courthouse. On Election Day, there’s a stream of last-minute voters past that box. It does give the day a more ritual quality.

          It solves the problem of centralized counting that UserFriendly raises against RCV, up above, too. Everything goes directly to the county elections office. As it stands, the ballots are counted electronically, but they are hand-marked paper and are saved for 5 (?) years for audits or recounts. And the process is public, and not connected to the internet.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In a neighboring state, Vermont, there is another electoral issue.

      Namely, a 13 yr. old is running for the governor there.

      The question I have is, if a 13 yr. old can run, why can’t 13 yr old’s can’t vote?

      Also this – can a 9 yr old run?

    3. mcdee

      We finally had our first Ranked Choice Voting in our city election here in Santa Fe, ten years after it was approved by the voters in a referendum. We had 5 candidates for Mayor. I’ve been voting since 1968 and this was the cleanest, most issue oriented election I can remember. No attack ads, no name calling, etc.Candidates don’t want to alienate an opponent’s voters who might then not include that candidate in their 2nd, 3rd, etc choice. Voting went through 4 rounds and Alan Webber eventually won with 66 per cent. It did take til after midnight to announce the results. I was opposed to the idea at first but am now a supporter.

  2. Wukchumni

    Good to know. I saw the IDF’s Tweet go by, as did other NC readers.
    Even after getting a sect change, fascism still can’t pass in address.

  3. Wukchumni

    Jesus Aceves was driving three of his fellow farmworkers to the tomato fields in the early-morning darkness when he saw lights flash behind him.

    ICE agents pulled him over and asked for his license, registration and insurance and, most forebodingly, whether the men were in the United States legally.

    Aceves and his passengers were taken to an immigrant detention facility. But none of them had been the target of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    Three of the men had no criminal records. The most serious blots on the 44-year-old Aceves’ record were several convictions — the most recent in 2012 — for driving without a license.

    That morning, an ICE spokesman said, agents went to a Kern County residence where they thought an immigration target lived. One of the men who got into Aceves’ car matched that person’s description, he said. The ICE agents followed.

    The arrests were part of a larger sweep in California’s agricultural heartland that has sent fear through the Central Valley, where for generations, immigrants here — both legally and illegally — have picked crops. In some fields, almost all of the foreign workers are in the country without legal status.

    While many immigrants have been on edge since President Trump vowed a crackdown on illegal immigration, the recent sweeps have been particularly concerning because they included the arrests of people not specifically targeted by ICE.

    The concern extends to farmers, who fear more sweeps will drive away labor at a time when some are struggling to get enough workers to pick the crops.

    In the early afternoon, Melitón Ferred took a water break. His lower back ached after hours of work. Ferred, who emigrated from Veracruz 13 years ago, said just being a Latino — and particularly one working in the fields — made him feel like a target.

    “Who is going to work the fields? No one,” he said. “This is a difficult job, and all of us are from Mexico.”

    1. Kurtismayfield

      Jobs that demand someone work illegally, or below livng wages, should not exist. If you have to hire two people illegally to do 12 hour days, then maybe you need to hire three people legally to do 8 hour days. Yes I know this means that costs for agricultural products will rise, but if you need a permanent underclass to run your business maybe we should be looking at the business model.

      1. visitor

        Notice that the events reported took place in California. That region where agriculture has been using up scarce water without paying the full costs for it — for decades.

        A sector that only thrives by exploiting natural resources and human work without even paying their actual costs is intrinsically unsustainable, therefore it does not make any economic sense whatsoever, and hence must be left to get extinguished.

      2. WheresOurTeddy

        Maybe take some of the money subsidizing all of our sugar merchants and subsidize making fruits and vegetables affordable, while increasing wages for citizens able to do the work for 8 hours a day.

        In fact, forget turning 2 12s into 3 8s. let’s put 4 Americans to work for 6 apiece, since we’re evidently so soft and can’t work outside anymore for some reason and agriculture would collapse without our permanent foreign underclass.

        Sorry, I forgot to include a way for someone in the middle to grift in my model there so obviously it’s a non-starter…

        1. Kurtismayfield

          That is the thing.. any model that we propose has to include grift! I have been thinking about Job guarantees and I was thinking that without the grift no one will sign the bill.

          I have proposed to people that I know that expand WIC to everyone, but make it so that you have to purchase no processed foods. Just produce/meats.. it will subsidize farming and get people to purchase these items. No income requirements too.. definite material benefits (and health benefits if people eat more produce).

          1. Procopius

            One of the biggest mistakes the Democrats have been making for the last forty years is “means testing.” I don’t care if a guy who makes a high six-figure salary gets a high Social Security pension. It’s not a waste because some bureaucrat thinks she “doesn’t need it.” Social Security is not supposed to be welfare. It’s an earned benefit which we pay for throughout our working lives. If they would take the cap off FICA and change the schedule of benefits to proportional to last three years’ earnings or whatever I’m down with that. No “means testing.” It’s expensive and does not “save money.” I would like to see everyone made eligible for SNAP. No “means testing.” The biggest reasons for problems with ACA are because of the complicated “means testing,” to determine who is eligible and who is not. I don’t remember the history of that particular paradiddle, but I’ll bet it was New Democrats who demanded it. Same with free tuition for all public universities. No “means testing.” I don’t care if your parents make $10 million a year. If they want to send you to a tuition-free public university instead of Harvard or Dartmouth, fine. It should be their right as citizens, no matter how much or how little they make. We can afford it.

        2. Wukchumni

          The telltalegate sign that citrus is ripe for the picking, is the trailer that deftly holds not only a port-a-potty, but also a dozen 15 foot long tapered ladders on either side for a total of 24 of them, that field workers ascend after finding a place to carefully rest it upon the mature orange tree they’re harvesting from in 25-50 pound increments, going up and down the ladder all day long inbetween walking the bounty over to bins and disgorging it, before it’s on the way to the packing room where it’ll be graded and washed.

          The weight lifter doing all those reps mentioned above will pick about a ton of oranges a day for $12 an hour, the packing room worker receives about the same salary.

          Maybe if we can persuade lazy white people who heretofore haven’t participated in picking, that harvesting is an outdoor gym where you can make money working out while working on your tan, they’d replace all of the Mexican workforce, toot suite!

          1. Procopius

            When I was in the Army I worked for a few years in a tiny agency that evaluated and procured computer systems. One of the engineers there was the son of migrant workers. I remember one weekend he visited his parents. When he came back he commented that he had spent both days helping them pick whatever it was they were picking that week. I suspected his back ached from the unaccustomed stoop labor, but he didn’t indicate it.

      3. Jean

        In California, Christopher Garlic Farms could not find enough field workers after immigration sweeps. Garlic was rotting in the ground.

        Then some genius there decided to pay workers more. Hundreds of legal residents and citizens lined up and all the jobs were filled. Garlic went up a few cents a pound.

        The apologists for “migrant rights” are basically promoting cheap labor for the oligarchy under the guise of humanism.

        1. Procopius

          That’s interesting, and I believe it. The usual story they tell is that they offered more money and no Americans would do the work anyway. I have always doubted those claims, although knowing my own physical limitations I was not sure they were false.

          1. Wukchumni

            There being no industrious Mexicans handy, sometimes foreign tourists in NZ make a little income whilst on vacation, picking apples @ the minimum wage of $14.75 NZ per hour.

          2. JBird

            I think it is a lack of respect for manual labor, the intensely hard work, and the abysmal pay combined. Some of my relatives did work in orchards, and in fruit canneries, although they left as a soon as practical.

            If you look at pictures of farm workers back in the mid to early 20th century, you will see an awful lot of pasty white Americans doing the work. Then the rest of the economy got better, the pay in the rest of the economy got better, and the native workers pay was undercut by often illegally imported immigrants.

            There is a corporatized system to move cheap, illegally hired, really underpaid, and sometimes virtually enslaved workers. Whole companies in the business of moving, hiring, and sometimes paying the workers, and the companies who hire, or subtract, the labor know this. Don’t think they don’t It’s one of the reasons that this whole campaign of ICE goons just dragging and often imprisoning people right off the streets makes me angry.

            Aside from the brutality, cruelty, and unfairness of it, it is that the most vulnerable, least responsible “criminals” and their families who are suffering. I am a supporter of much stricter immigration, and perhaps deportation, but this is just evil in service to profit. Once (Hah!) there is a real, and strict, crackdown on the sleazy, often rich, and certainly corrupt employers, and not the often desperate and poor employees, then and only then will I have any respect for this whole effort.

      4. subgenius

        I saw a (huffpo) report that claimed the living wage in California is $30.46/hr (I think).

        Minimum wage is what, a quarter of that?

    2. Brian

      For each arrest of a farmworker, and agent of the arresting agency is required to replace them in the fields until the farmworker is indicted or returned to work at full pay.
      Maybe that way the food will get harvested.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Where is going to work the fields?

      In North Korea, it’d be soldiers, when necessary (which happens not infrequently).

  4. Clive

    The Brexit Wrexham Border Occupy Story was an April Fool (now showing as such on the original link)

    But, really, with Brexit, how can you tell?

    It made me wonder if the entire thing might not have been an April Fool from the UK government that everyone in the press office was then too embarrassed to ‘fess up to. How many others could there be like that? Bush’s Iraq WMD claims? Hillary running for president? We may never know. I am sure observant readers can think of many more potential candidates.

      1. Craig H.

        If you don’t get fooled at least once it wasn’t a real April Fools Day.

        In Colombia they don’t do April Fools. They do Innocents Day on Dec 28. It is a memorial of King Herod executing all the boy babies in Judea going after the baby Jesus. Which is pretty weird but it sure makes April Fools Day look half baked.

        This is from March 29, not an April Fools’, but everybody on the internet needs to at least see the headline:

        Alt-Right Furries Are Raging Online, And Leftist Furries Wonder What Is To Be Done (Huffington Post)

  5. notabanker

    “I quit my job to become an organic farmer growing a crop I know nothing about and was shocked when I couldn’t sell it for the same price they get in retail”

    Welcome to the real world and good luck. Seems maybe IBM isn’t the best training ground for taking commoditized products to an open market.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Indeed. Growing up in a dairy farming family who aren’t getting rich any time soon, my takeaway from that article was that techies in other countries are just as clueless about how anything really works as they are here in the US. Why did he think all those other Indian farmers were committing suicide? Or was he too busy playing with apps to notice?

    2. Jef

      No farmer I know, and I know hundreds all over the country, will plant seed one until they have a buyer already contracted to buy. Far as I know this is true everywhere.

      If you end up with a quantity of product, any product, and need to go around and sell it you will get hammered on price, especially if it is perishable. So it seems like he still hasn’t learned the lesson he needs to learn.

      1. J Sterling

        To be fair to the guy, it was his broker who insisted, and the broker did say the worst that could happen is you got some material you could mulch back in. I think the broker was right to say plant something, plant anything, now. The broker was probably frustrated with this dude who wanted to let the land sit idle just because he hadn’t finished reading books. He didn’t sound ready to hit the ground running.

        You probably know farmers who’ve been round the cycle more years than they can remember, of course they have a buyer lined up for the next crop. But they might not have for their very first. Or they may never have had a first, if they inherited the job and got a smooth handover.

      2. Oregoncharles

        On the way to the wildlife refuge nearby, last fall there was a field full of bright orange squashes – which rotted there, and ultimately were tilled in. It was bizarrely beautiful, but very sad. Evidently they don’t ALWAYS line up a buyer beforehand – or something went very wrong. Even the gleaners didn’t take them.

        1. J Sterling

          Every now and again there’s a pro-immigrant-labor scare story about CROPS ROTTING IN THE FIELDS! somewhere, as if that can’t be found somewhere in any given year. All it takes is a miscalculation, it’s normal.

    3. beth

      I felt no sympathy for the farmer who didn’t research even the basics before planting & harvesting his crop. Also, had he checked out to see if the seeds were organic? No information.

      Then after he harvested, he gave away approx 1/2 of his crop for free. It didn’t sound like he had to work or had any financial needs. All in all, it didn’t compute.

    4. Oregoncharles

      That’s what Growers’ Markets are for – of course, selling at one is real work. The bigger farms hire people for that.

  6. J Sterling

    I was waiting for some punchline, payoff, or insight from the Indian farmer story, but in the end all he did was complain about the difference between what the farmer gets and what the consumer pays. Well duh.

    I can’t believe he didn’t research the business before quitting his tech job and buying the land.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      The article should be retitled “I was surprised that inventory risk correlates to prices and therefore margins”

      1. evodevo

        Lol …srsly, these city slickers seem to think all you have to do is drop the seeds in and -> money!! And this guy didn’t stick around to watch the bugs/diseases eat up next year’s crop … slacker!

      1. Wukchumni

        An orchard of pistachio trees consisting of say 2,000 of them sprang up out of the dirt @ the base of the foothills here 5 years ago, and they are about 4-5 feet tall and not much there yet-the look is like that of a bare root fruit tree you’d buy @ HD or Lowe’s, versus the pistachio tree orchards we see on Hwy 99 that are fully grown, about 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide.

        It might take a decade to get those few thousand trees to produce, with a pittance coming in on pistachios.

        Not many business models based upon that ROI.

        1. J Sterling

          European late medieval/early modern countries with coasts and hence navies used to mandate planting oaks, because you couldn’t trust the medieval market to provide, in a matter of national security. You could trust them to sell you the timber, as long as your ancestors had forced their ancestors to grow the trees for the future.

          Free Market Capitalism has never been a sustainable working system.

      2. Lee

        As people cursed with a love of working with our hands, we welcome our new techie overlords to our neighborhood, chock full of old houses in need of work. Simple things like gravity, mass, the nature of materials, inertial force, three dimensionality, not to mention the art of social interaction, befuddle the poor, sweet things.

    2. WheresOurTeddy

      It’s even funnier when greenhorns try to be green thumbs in the pot industry in Northern California, grow terrible garbage even teenagers turn their noses up at, and then are shocked they can’t get $1800-$2000 a lb.

      Farming is HARD. Very few people are good-to-great at it. Those that are have usually been doing it a LONG time and have failed a significant amount along the way. Have our tech titans so completely run out of Juicer-Os and apps to nowhere that they’re compelled to pour their money into the ground like common terrans?

      1. Wukchumni

        I’m figuring that each apple harvested last year on the all cats and no cattle ranch here cost me $28.17 on the basis of what I have invested in trees, fence posts, chicken wire, ground covering, irrigation, fertilizer, etc.

        But, what orcharding has taught me in terms of being patient?:


        1. Oregoncharles

          Hopefully, those trees will continue to fruit for many years, with no further need for fencing, etc. Where you are, you probably will need to continue irrigating, though. Have you reached the point of pruning them yet? That’s a big job every winter – I still have quite a few trees to get through, mostly for customers.

          1. J Sterling

            Just investing money in assets is an annual cost, even if you don’t have to re-do it each year. I took Wukchumni to mean each apple came at an opportunity cost of say 4% a year’s worth of about $700 of investment, even if the investment never depreciates.

            This is one of the ways large businesses get local communities to pay their costs: they persuade local politicians to buy the land the businesses are operating on, and rent it back to them. But the rent is not worth the cost of the land, so the local community is bearing the opportunity cost of that.

          2. Wukchumni

            I’m hoping they’ll be there in 2066 or perhaps 2166?

            Seeing a 140 year old apple orchard hidden away in the National Park was a bit inspiring. I’m headed back up with 2 friends in a few weeks to see it leaf out and if there’s any blossoms?

            An older friend remembered eating apples from the trees, say 60 years ago. They were small, but tasty.

            Pruning takes time, and thankfully i’ve got lots of it. Also weedeating (after the March miracle storms suddenly they’re 3-4 feet tall), fertilizing, and checking the drip lines all the time.
            The beasties like to chew into poly plastic in the heat of the summer, so i’m always splicing new lengths with couplers.

            The bigger issue this year is snakes and their early-ish arrival. A neighbor killed a 50 inch rattlesnake on their property a few days ago, and i’ve seen 4-5 little non rattlers, 8-10 inches long on my property.

            In the past snakes haven’t been so prevalent, but maybe they are just the latecomers to last year’s population explosion of most of mother nature’s clients after the long drought ended?

  7. begob

    I think the Farndon bridge link is April Fool’s.

    The Richard Smith link is interesting on London money-laundering, particularly the comments on political will, but I got the impression the witnesses accept Russian complicity in the Salisbury organophosphate mystery.

  8. visitor

    Government agencies to be sold or eliminated in Puerto Rico


    (1) Every entity that might throw a profit is privatized (water, power, roads, airports, harbours, hospitals, pensions);
    (2) planning is left to the federal government of the USA (statistics, planning);
    (3) most entities related to arts or history are abandoned;
    (4) as well as those related to health prevention and consumer protection;
    (5) as well as economic development and policy (industry, agriculture, infrastructure, insurance);
    (6) as well as the supervision of activities linked to betting (horse racing, cockfighting, boxing).

    Do those in charge of reorganizing Puerto Rico want it to end like some sort of Honduras? Because they might well end up with the equivalent of the MS13 as an unwanted “bonus”.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      If I didn’t “know better,” I’d say it sounds like someone has decided to conduct an “experiment.”

      1. WheresOurTeddy

        Your screen name seems apt for this topic, as Puerto Rico is basically “District 12 – Take 1″…

      1. jawbone

        I kept telling friends to watch closely how Puerto Ricans are being treated by FEMA, that it’s a trial run for how to now do much to help states after weather emergencies etc. That is going to be the future for any area or even full states who don’t kowtow to the rabid right.

        Plus, there’s the “Hurry Up and Die” side effect as more and more PR citizens won’t be able to afford necessities. Just a little collateral damage.

        I figure some eager beaver rightwinger will demand new legislation to take away the right to vote from Puerto Ricans who move to the mainland. Yeah, that’s the ticket…. If they move to the mainland, they’ll keep their right to vote in PR elections, but not for local, state, and Federal elections.

        Repubs must be replaced with actual progressives, not Corporatist Dems.

        1. Daryl

          The US spent trillions on hospitals, schools etc in Iraq. Granted that it all went to scammers. But much more than has ever been lavished on Puerto Rico or any of the states in recent memory.

      2. polecat

        Perhap it really IS time for a constitutional convention, considering the general trend of ‘disfunction’ .. I mean, if Federal policies continue to crapify further .. towards outright sh!tifucation, why NOT call for a motion allowing the various States to go their own way, or re-group however they see fit ? It appears we’re following that trejectory anyway …. why not be civil about it, rather than fall onto a possible civil war senario …

          1. Procopius

            Also, too, the result of a constitutional convention might precipitate a civil war rather than prevent one. Kind of depends how blatantly rapacious it is.

    2. Olga

      Arts are useless, don’t you know… But seriously, I wondered whether this will be some sort of a test case… (or is it canary in the coal mine?).

  9. Alex

    I wonder, what else could Israeli government/military do faced with people trying to cross the border? Not 5, 10 or 50 years ago but specifically when thousands of people try to damage the border fence throwing rocks and at least in one case shooting towards you? Let them all in and hope that not a single Israeli will be hurt?

    Also imagine what would happen if thousands of people tried to breach the border of Russia (for example descendants of Germans who were expelled from Koenigsberg/Kaliningrad, for example) or the US.

    1. voislav

      The comparison is disingenuous. Russia is not controlling import and export of goods from Germany, for example keeping it from importing enough fuel to provide stable electrical supply for its population and preventing it from having even a semblance of a functioning economy. Israel still controls many aspects of the Gaza economy, including borders and maritime traffic.

      Gaza and Israel are not separate countries, quite the contrary. By international law, Israel is an occupying force in the Gaza strip and the West Bank, which comes with certain obligations. Israel is not meeting these obligations, on the contrary, it’s exploiting the natural resources, especially land and water, while not providing for the welfare of the population. Israel makes all the important policy decisions regarding the Palestinian territories while Palestinians have no input into Israeli politics, not even limited representation.

      So Palestinians have every right to protest against Israel, as Israel is treating these territories as colonies, effectively governing them with only token input from the inhabitants. Until Israel completely abandons its occupation, including any control over Palestinian external borders, these issues will persist and Palestinians will have every right to protest.

    2. pretzelattack

      thousands of people were throwing rocks? link for somebody shooting at idf? and was this before or after the snipers gunned down people walking away?

      1. Alex

        Even the Guardian had to acknowledge that hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks.

        At one of Friday’s protests, Israeli soldiers had lain atop a towering sandbank that overlooked Gaza. A few metres ahead, a metal fence demarcating the border stood firm. And in front of that, hundreds of young Palestinian men began to throw rocks.
        [Israe] pointed to incidents on Friday including what it said was an unsuccessful “attempted shooting attack by a terror cell”.

        But again, you’re missing the point. My question was what other country would behave differently in such circumstances

          1. Alex

            Not a single one of your involved an attempt to cross a border. If you don’t see a difference try to do it in any of these countries

            Also kinda funny to use Egypt (with hundreds of protesters killed in the course of the last revolution and the coup) or Ukraine (with over 100 killed during the Maidan) as examples of how to deal with protesters.

            1. pretzelattack

              did they attempt to cross a border? do you have any independent support for “hundreds”(changed from “thousands”) threw rocks, and if they were fired on first?

              1. visitor

                From what I read, the Israelis prevent Palestinians to come closer than several hundreds of meters from the Gaza/Israel border. In other words, Palestinians are denied the right to move around on their own land.

                The claims of attempts to cross the border are a distraction. That border is closed with walls and high fences anyway.

              2. Alex

                Well, if the Guardian (which is famous for its love of Israel) wrote about hundreds there must have been thousands there

            2. bob

              bullets crossing a border = good
              people crossing a border = bad

              I know, I know, that people word here is problematic from your perspective.

            3. JBird

              Personally, I would use Bloody Sunday as an example of the what, why, and how. The British military wanted to teach those troublesome protesters and civil rights activists, who were using the same tactics as the American Civil Rights Movement, a lesson.

              Instead it was the start of “the Troubles” as just everybody became radicalized especially with the first investigation coverup. The British army and government used much the same excuses which a probable majority didn’t believe at the time.

        1. Katniss Everdeen

          A few days ago there was a story about a school district somewhere in the land of the free, home of the brave that decided to keep buckets of rocks in classrooms, to be thrown defensively at school shooters armed with “military assault style” weapons looking to kill children.

          If memory serves, that “solution” was resoundingly mocked as, well, bound to be stupidly ineffective against such overwhelming firepower. (I would imagine that throwing rocks at snipers with sniper rifles / sights would prove to be even less, um, “effective.”)

          I could be wrong, but I don’t remember anyone suggesting that a heavily armed maniac would consider hurled ROCKS a serious threat to his personal “safety and security.”

          1. John k

            In the us a child in a playground is sufficient threat to a police officers life to justify shooting the child. Ditto a black man running away. Ditto on old man sitting in his garden.
            Throwing rocks? That would authorize armed response against both the thrower and anybody else in the neighborhood.
            Why complain about what the Idf does? It’s all been SOP here for years.
            007? Any tin badge is license to kill here, certainly if the departed is a person of color.

        2. Jim Haygood

          Despite Trump’s hyberbolic tweets today, do you think US Border Patrol is going to fire into Mexico at the refugee caravan approaching from Honduras?

          No bloody way — it would be an act of war.

          Israel and the US collaborate to keep Gazans stateless, but lethally firing across the de facto border on the absurd excuse that rock-throwing might “damage the fence” is equally an act of war.

          Better hasbara, please.

        3. pretzelattack

          the guardian is not the gold standard for accurate reporting, witness their support for the iraq war, the white helmets in syria, etc. etc. etc. and i notice you’ve moved the goalposts from thousands of people to hundreds of people, and you don’t mention the israeli snipers targetting people who in some cases were not even “armed” with rocks, nor do you address the question of who attacked first.

        4. Lee

          Depends on whether or not one questions the legitimacy of the existence of said country built on land taken with force by foreign invaders. Alas, unlike Europeans in the New World, Old World Zionist share the same immune system with those whom they have dispossessed, and will therefore have to do their bloody work without the assistance of deadly diseases.

    3. marym

      It was a peaceful, unarmed protest, not an invasion.

      As far as what what Israel can do, maybe for starters not keeping people in an open air prison; lifting the blockade; respecting the right of return; democracy; refraining from land confiscation and from periodically destroying people’s infrastructure, homes, markets, farms, schools; not murdering children playing on a beach; and not preventing people from traveling for medical treatment.

    4. Alex morfesis

      Meh…Palestinian politicians don’t want peace as there is no money in that and they would have to actually explain where the money is going…a few thousand people running at a border… Wow…minor league baseball game crowd getting a little drunk is really going to do what exactly with all those millions of Israelis on the other side of the fence…or is being Palestinian some type of virus and all one has to do is expose enough Israelis and they will all evolve into zombies and…then what for the next episode…

      Beer is the answer…yazeus was born in Bethlehem… Moses/Mosul (whoever that was) never stood in yerosalyma…and the profit mo and his fellow prostraters expect the rapture to come when yazues shows up in Damascus and visits the remains of John the Baptist kept there…

      Meanwhile the folks a few time zones over are wondering why they all say namaste…and have no clue why yerosalyma is even being discussed..

      It is

      “namaste mazi”…

      so we may be together as one…

      So who owns or controls yerosalyma is based not on much of anything other than some convenient conventional narratives…

      So the answer is beer. Beer in the desert…and the desert too…

      Beersheba for yerosalyma… Maybe a player to be named later…and some cash for the luxury tax…

      No red sea for you mister bee bee

    5. lyman alpha blob

      Oh I don’t know, maybe simply not shoot them? Treat them like human beings?

      And then maybe obey international law and stop stealing their land, burning their orchards, and razing their homes and Israel wouldn’t be faced with crowds of protesters in the first place.

    6. Sid_finster

      Change the names of the characters and you sound like a German justifying the murder of Poles “Because they refuse to leave our Lebensraum!”

    7. JTMcPhee

      Hi Alex, thanks for the reminder that hasbara, intentional our out of habit, is alive and well. And as to entities that are engaged in efforts to “influence American policy and elections,” there’s this recent article among a host of others under the search term “Israeli propaganda:”

      There’s a whole lot of Israelis (not the Arab and Druze ones who are excommunicated and subject to subjugation) who are actually into maybe making Israel something other than another South Africa from the Good Old Days, out of the ethical roots of their great teachers like Maimonides, and out of justifiable knowledge that their rulers are setting up the explosive gaseous exhalations that seem likely to lead to one enormous “blowback.”

    8. Olga

      Your seeming defense of the killings is indefensible… Other countries have not constructed/maintained open-air prisons across their borders.

    9. Oregoncharles

      We’re going to find out, when that caravan of Central Americans reaches the US border. I don’t think they’ll be shot down by snipers, though, even under Trump. The Israelis are, well, truly exceptional.

    10. integer

      Boycotting Israel Is the Right Thing to Do Unz Review

      Israel is particularly fearful of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement because its non-violence is attractive to college students, including many young Jews, who would not otherwise get involved on the issue. Benjamin Netanyahu and his government clearly understand, correctly, that BDS can do more damage than any number of terrorist attacks, as it challenges the actual legitimacy of the Israeli government and its colonizing activity in Palestine.

  10. Enquiring Mind

    The levee story reminded me of a silly M&A due diligence exercise from long ago. Our firm was interested in buying a competitor, whose headquarters was located less than half a mile from a levee. When we asked the sellers about their disaster recovery plans and procedures, the response was that they’d back up trucks. Those trucks were to be used to fill over one million files, to relocate to a then as yet-undetermined location. Some simple math, prepared with a straight face, helped them to see why we thought that their plans were somewhat deficient.
    A greater fool ended up buying their company, and we kept our powder dry.

  11. The Rev Kev

    How Fortnite leveled up, broke records, and changed gaming

    Anybody interested in seeing what one of the Fortnite: Battle Royale games look like, you can see an example at which is played by Aculite, a Canadian player and an English friend named Tomographic. Edited, so goes for about 20 minutes. Spoiler alert! They won.
    Now I know that in the past I have slung off about the idiocy of the media in America so just to prove that the Australian media is equally moronic, a few days ago two different current affairs program put out a story saying that this game should be banned. I won’t comment but I would suggest watching a gamer’s reaction over at and towards the end he rightfully starts to lose it over the Australian media’s idiocy.

    1. Plenue

      Ahahaha, oh man. Of all the games to fear-monger about, they choose Fortnite? That’s only slightly less ridiculous than if they tried to engineer a moral panic over Splatoon, which they would probably describe as an animal abuse, cephalopod/child murder simulator.

    2. Andrew Watts

      I have to admit I haven’t heard of Fortnite before. This must be what the kids are playing at a time when crypto-currency miners are driving up the cost of a decent mid-ranged graphics card. The possibility that a free-to-play first person shooter could rack up 100 million USD a month is why EA approached Star Wars Battlefront 2 as a potential cash cow for investors. Totally unthinkable to this former player of Counter-Strike’s pre-retail beta which was a free download as long as you owned a copy of the original Half-Life.

  12. Darius

    The Skripal thing came about because Brexit was going badly for May and the Torys needed a distraction. No? The Western media did as was expected and ran with it. The ultimate target was Jeremy Corbyn. Amirite?

    1. Sylvia

      Bingo–and it appears to be working, for now. This works especially well if you throw in the accusation of “anti-semitism”.

    2. begob

      Don’t get ahead of it – there is an investigation going on. Who knows – maybe we’ll see a public inquiry, with compensation to small businesses in Salisbury, and a final recognition that Blair needs to be prosecuted for the demons he released.

    3. integer

      There are other theories. Here are three:

      Sergei Skripal was involved in some capacity with Christopher Steele’s Trump dossier and had become too much of a liability, possibly because he had been found to have been negotiating his return to Russia using his daughter as a proxy.

      It was a precursor to a false flag chemical weapons attack in East Ghouta that had been planned by the US, UK, and possibly France. The Syrian army discovered and seized two jihadi chemical weapons labs on the 12th of March, which was shortly after the Skripal incident had gone global.

      The US and UK were simply pissed about Russia’s new arsenal and Putin’s imminent election, so sought to isolate Russia from the international community.

      It’s worth noting that these theories, along with the Brexit theory, are not mutually exclusive, and if there’s one thing the Western elite know how to do well, it’s how to obtain maximum advantage from their treacherous schemes.

  13. Louis Fyne

    —. I’ve requested to download it and the file is 5.5GB big—

    A little clickbait-y. I downloaded my stuff after seeing that article.

    It’s going to be that big if you get a copy of all your email + attachments + photos/video.

    The actual biographical stuff about you is much, much, much smaller. And if you were even mildly defensive about sharing your personal info, it should be useless from a marketing perspective, ie fake birthday, fake employer, not uploading the biographical info of all your contacts, etc.

    My real beef is that they log your IP and generate a fingerprint of your browser, presumably for targetd advert. No MSM articles are mentioning that.

    1. Mark Gisleson

      I was very late to cell phones, buying an iPhone in 2013. I turned off the location finder immediately. When I checked Google Maps, it could not show me any place I’ve traveled to, saying it had no records.

      Well, I’m sure they have some records, just not ones they’ll show me. I don’t care. Anyone using my data for marketing purposes is pissing their money away. I don’t shop and I don’t buy anything I see advertised.

  14. Craig H.

    > Google offers an option to download all of the data it stores about you. I’ve requested to download it and the file is 5.5GB big, which is roughly 3m Word documents…. Facebook offers a similar option to download all your information.

    You trust them to disclose all of the data?

    There is an applicable quote from 20 year old Zuckerberg which cannot be displayed during the family hours.

  15. PlutoniumKun


    Self-driving cars can’t be perfectly safe – what’s good enough? 3 questions answered The Conversation (DL). Yves: “Key point re pedestrian vulnerability buried in here.”

    The issue of ‘whose’ safety isn’t new, although its frequently overlooked. The article alludes to it, but there is plenty of evidence that increases in car safety actually don’t make roads safer overall due to risk compensation – it simply displaces risks – in this case to pedestrians and cyclists. There is significant evidence that, for example, safety belts displaced a lot of risk onto pedestrians as it encouraged faster driving – but that this was hidden in the statistics as walking and cycling reduced in the most dangerous areas. I know at least one risk researcher who would only partly joke that the best safety device for roads is to place an 8 inch sharp blade into each steering wheel pointing directly at every drivers chest. He acknowledges that this might increase the death rates among drivers, but as they’ll all be driving much more carefully the death rates of passengers and pedestrians will plummet.

    So even if self driving cars can be demonstrated as statistically ‘safer’, it can’t be guaranteed they will actually reduce road deaths. You may get all sorts of behavioural changes by drivers, cyclists and pedestrians around self driving cars (not least people getting used to stepping in front of them, confident that they’ll brake. Its quite likely, for example, that drivers will learn that they can ‘bully’ self driving cars out of their way by cutting in front of them.

    1. Lemmy Caution

      Right, lots of unknown knock-on effects of autonomous vehicles. Would passengers feel safer in robot cars and be less inclined to use seatbelts? Would the overall miles driven increase to the point of offsetting any reduction in the current number of fatalities?

      And what happens in inclement weather? The Waymo autonomous vehicle safety report says that its system work in light to medium rain. What happens when one of its cars drivers into a heavy downpour on the freeway. The report says that its programmed to safely pull over to the side of the road. It doesn’t say what happens when dozens of robot cars all decide to pull over to the side of the road because their sensors are all degraded by heavy rain.

      The report also says the robot cars will slow down and pull over in a snowstorm. Good luck getting anywhere reliably during winters out west our in the Great Lakes snowbelt states.

      1. Emorej a Hong Kong

        Slowing down on a freeway can be scarier (due to risk of being rear-ended) than riding out a spell of bad visibility at relatively “normal” speeds.

        That’s actually one scenario where it would be nice to know that all the robots (at least compared to unpredictable people) are likely to be slowing down.

        1. Ed Miller

          There is a good point here – that technology can see better in low visibility conditions. However I see the best path is driver assistance, not self-driving cars.

        2. Lemmy Caution

          You touch on another key point about robot cars — to what extent will they be communicating with each other, espcially during critical manuveurs like the one we’re talking about (all deciding to slow down/pull over on the freeway shoulder upon entering snow squall). Who decides how that works?

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Different makers will likely have different, proprietary algos.

            ‘Betamax or VHS?”

      2. carycat

        Plenty of people have driven behind a big truck that is spraying dirty water from the road, not just behind their lane but the ones to the truck’s left and right, and then the truck hit a big puddle on the road to know what to expect. Even with wipers on “fast”, you are going to have zero visibility for significant slices of time until you can get out from under and/or use your windshield cleaning fluid at a great rate. A windshield has enough surface area that you can at least peer through some random less obstructed spot. Any optical sensors will be toast in this environment. But I am sure the laws will be rewritten that anybody not in a more expensive / higher status autonomous car will be legally at fault for not yielding right of way.

        1. Lemmy Caution

          Excellent point about the road spray — there are those sloppy winter days when you need to hit the windhshield fluid and wipers almost constantly — will the robots be programmed to pull over every time the sensor lens need cleaning?
          Mom, we stopped again!
          Timmy, it’s your turn to clean the Lidar — quit whining and grab the bucket and rags.

      3. The Rev Kev

        You know, you’re right. I had considered how these self-driving cars would be incapacitated by heavy rain or snow falling but your post brought up another possibility. Picture a heavy snowstorm in the northern US (I am reliably informed that this does happen from time to time). Now picture the authorities faced with the problem of hundreds of drivers stranded all along the length of a highway because their self-driving cars bailed and pulled over to the side and the snow is getting heavier and heavier. Would the authorities have to ask the drivers of “dumb” cars to stop to pick up all these people as they do not have the resources to rescue them all? If any of these stranded drivers got picked up by an Uber driver, they had better hope that they have a big dollop of cash with them as they will be charge sky high rates by Uber.

        1. Pat

          Will Uber still have drivers by that time? I was under the impression they were one of the groups really really interested in this boondoggle.

    2. JTMcPhee

      “Bullying” the autobots will only “work” until the coders and lobbyists for the AV Industry figure out how to fix the problem — change the laws, and maybe laser cannons? Rig up the weapons systems being built into the “autonomous combat machines” now being fielded by all the a@@hole military brass tired of sassy “subordinate” human troops on a mount on the roof, a version of the ‘technicals,”, that are so common in urban warfare in all the places that profit-seeking geopolilticians have burned down and blown up? Read it and weep?

      And so the Luddites will have to figure out tech means to drop sabots in the machinery…

      And lay off the Luddite shaming already, ok?

    3. Ed Miller

      The issue of “whose safety” in the short video caught my attention when the issue of programming choices was addressed. I hadn’t thought much about scenarios in the past because at this point I have no trust in this technology. Although the author seems to view vehicle control programming from the view of what works best in general I see a potentially darker future.

      Programming choices regarding who lives and who dies is fraught with moral hazard once the programming can be changed by those who have the financial resources to buy custom design. I don’t see how this can be stopped without strict regulation by competent authorities. With the current trends in government I don’t need to expand on this for all of you to see the implications.

      This comment is by an retired electronic engineer with some programming experience (essential to do the engineering) and lots of experience working with programmers.

      Even without the darkest of scenarios this article convinces me that safe, self-driving cars won’t happen until many lives are lost. The technology wonder boys and girls will push until everything is broken. Spoken as a once-believer.

        1. JBird

          What I see on all these fashionable efforts to make autonomous machines is folly. Not the attempt really, but the failure to actually think about all the possibilities good and bad for them. Life, and especially wars, are complex, confusing, and often unknowable, so the solution is to put “intelligent” machines programed with the biases of its creators, using neural nets, or thought processes, that are understood less than already poorly understood human ones, that act and react faster than any human? From cars to flying death machines, and without any of the wisdom or common sense of even the average person.

          Oh, nothing can go wrong here. I am sure we could have used them during the Cuban Missile Crises, or at Checkpoint Charlie.

          It like the current neoliberal effort to get rid of people from the system.

  16. No reason

    Harper Afghanistan story is really horrifying. It really shows again that people are being killed in Afghanistan for morally repugnant reasons = any reason except for making the world a better place.

    Sweden sent troops to Afghanistan and over the years the reasons have changed as expected when there is no convincing reason (for non-psychopaths, that is)
    – revenge for 9/11 (whatever Sweden had to do with that)
    – capture Osama bin Laden
    – fight terrorism
    – liberate the Afghan woman
    – state building
    – stop the drug trade
    – guarantee education for women
    – ”to make a difference”

    Fun fact: the number Afghans killed by Swedish forces is secret.

    Guess that this is the stink you get from being an ally to US.

    1. apberusdisvet

      In your list you forgot the opium production, guarded by US troops; the monies therefrom used to fund black ops and control of politicians globally.

      1. No reason

        Helping CIA drug trade has for some curious reason not been forwarded as an argument neither by the government nor any of the most bomb-happy parts of the media in Sweden to justify the Swedish military presence in Afghanistan.

        Sweden does have the second highest rate of drug overdose deaths in Europe though.

    2. JTMcPhee

      Hey, the problem is that the Imperial military just needs better PowerPoints, or generals smart enough to decipher the ones they contract for with British consultancies who get to claim copyright, even, for their “works for hire:”

      “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war:’ US generals given baffling PowerPoint presentation to try to explain Afghanistan mess

  17. Marco

    Reclaiming life with a dumb phone. Curious how many NC regulars access this site with a smart phone

    1. Arizona Slim

      I plead guilty to reading this post with my smartphone. Which means that I am hereby sentenced to buying the appetizer plate for the April 6 Tucson NC meetup!

      1. RMO

        I have a smartphone and I don’t use it for internet browsing. Even my bottom of the barrel laptop has a 13″ screen, a touchpad that reliably tracks my fingers, a mechanical “mouse button” and an actual physical keyboard. Even the biggest, newest and most hyped smartphone can’t come close to it for functionality. The only times I’ve ever used the internet browser on my phone have been when I’ve been out and about and found myself with the need to look up something right then – a business address or telephone number. That happens about four times a year. Other than that I use it as a phone and just a phone. GPS, location, data all turned off.

        Why do I even have a smartphone? Well, last time I needed to replace my phone all the flip phones that were available seemed a little too flimsy at least compared to my old LG.

        1. gepay

          I am one with the guy who said, “they’ll have to put in prison before I get a cell number.”
          The evidence builds that ubiquitous microwave radiation is hazardous to one’s health. Instead of finding out what frequencies are worse or safer at what levels, they just try to hide the ill effects.

  18. PlutoniumKun


    Nobody Knows Anything About China Foreign Policy

    I think this can be filed under ‘what can possibly go wrong?’ Its interesting that in private even CCP leaders acknowledge that they have huge knowledge gaps in what is really going on in their country.

    The government’s solution to this is an increasing faith in big data, a belief that by circumventing lower-level officials it can gather information directly from the source. Huge amounts of money are being poured into big data, including efforts at predictive policing and the widespread monitoring of dissidents. The government requires Chinese firms, and foreign firms with a Chinese presence, such as Apple, to store and hand over data on a vast scale. But big data itself is prone to systematic distortions, misplaced trust, and the oldest rule of coding: garbage in, garbage out.

    Probably the big advantage China has had historically is that a lot of power is in the hands of local leaders who really do have a good idea of what is going on in their local patch. But as the country centralises, they are in danger of losing this. It may be that (as with Japan) their economic boom may end with a hubristic assumption that a three decade trend line is going to keep on at the same rate and speed as before. Its always those unknown unknowns that get you.

    1. Alex

      a lot of power is in the hands of local leaders who really do have a good idea of what is going on in their local patch. But as the country centralises, they are in danger of losing this

      If this is true this is fascinating because it is another example of cycles in Chinese history. I was recently reading about Song dynasty, how they centralised everything to avoid having powerful regional authorities that brought down the previous dynasty. Obviously this policy led to its own problems with the local governments having neither resources nor initiative to defend the borders.
      Another parallel with Song time is that it was another business-friendly period in Chinese history (being no less autocratic than others at the same time).

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Historically, yes and no.

        Instead of states (like here in America, where a governor is elected by the people of that state), the administrative equivalent were either provinces or prefectures whose top officials were appointed by the central government.

        So, power flowed from the capitol. But that did not mean a lot of power could not be in the hands of local leaders, after their appointments.

        Enter the Censorate. From Wikipedia:

        The Censorate was a high-level supervisory agency in ancient China, first established during the Qin dynasty (221–207 BCE).

        The Censorate was a highly effective agency during the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). During the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), the Censorate was a branch of the centralized bureaucracy, paralleling the Six Ministries and the five Chief Military Commissions, and was directly responsible to the emperor.[1] The investigating censors were “the eyes and ears” of the emperor and checked administrators at each level to prevent corruption and malfeasance, a common feature of that period. Popular stories told of righteous censors revealing corruption as well as censors who accepted bribes. Generally speaking, they were feared and disliked, and had to move around constantly to perform their duties.

        The Warlordism of the early 20th century occurred many times in China’s history, even during the Song dynasty, perhaps (the famous general, Yue Fei* is from time to time referred to as a warlord, see this from weaponsandwarfare dot com: IMPERIAL CHINA MILITARY. … In the Song the troops of the standing army were poorly paid and used … The execution of Yue Fei, the most prominent of the warlords, …).

        *By the way, this bit is interesting from his Wikipedia page, referring to the famous tattoo on his back by his mother:

        The Kaifeng Jews, one of many pockets of Chinese Jews living in ancient China, refer to this tattoo in two of their three stele monuments created in 1489, 1512, and 1663. The first mention appeared in a section of the 1489 stele referring to the Jews’ “Boundless loyalty to the country and Prince.”[29] The second appeared in a section of the 1512 stele about how Jewish soldiers and officers in the Chinese armies were “boundlessly loyal to the country.”[30]

        And part of one of the stele monuments is reproduced in the article.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think because they want to know more than their Western counterparts, in that relative sense, they confess not knowing much (but not nothing…hard to believe they know nothing, or nobody knows anything).

      With the Hukou system (see Wikipedia) alone, they know a lot.

  19. The Rev Kev


    A coupla days ago, Fox host Laura Ingraham went after 17 year-old David Hogg – a Parkland survivor – and mocked his 4.1 GPA and how he was turned down by four different colleges. Hogg (perhaps being familiar with Sean Connery’s Chicago Way) put on Twitter Laura Ingrahams 12 top advertiser’s Twitter contacts and suggest people contact them. The advertisers then proceeded to carpet-bomb Ingraham by pulling their accounts. Jimmy Dore did a 5-minute clip at (Warning! Language alert) and what happened next was even more funny.
    To tell you the truth I had barely heard of Laura Ingraham so went to Wikipedia where I found out that she was editor for Dartmouth College’s independent conservative newspaper – the Dartmouth Review. Good for her I thought until I found out that she had a reporter infiltrate a LGBTQ meeting, have it taped, and then outed all the people there to their friends and family as being gay while hiding behind freedom of the press. It was at this point that I knew all that I needed to know.

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      She’s taking a “vacation” now. It would seem the marketplace of ideas has spoken.

      The Hogg kid is a grandstanding silver spoon trying to deflect the failure of the FBI and police BECAUSE GUNZ YOU GUYZ (I support the 2nd Amendment unequivocally, Jefferson called it “the teeth of the constitution”), but damn if he didn’t outflank her impressively on this one. She’s getting O’Reilly’d.

      Did not know the thing about Ingraham outing all those people. What a dirtbag.

      1. Arizona Slim

        I remember reading the Michigan Review during visits to my alma mater. Yawn.

        Say what you want about the Michigan Daily, but at least those kids can write engaging stories.

  20. Arthur J

    I don’t understand how you get that data in the Guardian article. First, you have to have a Yahoo/Google account. So does that mean if you don’t sign in to Google, then they don’t track you ? So I did sign in with my ancient Yahoo account that I only use to access a few newsgroups on Google. No results for me on data, or in my location. The Yahoo history says “Search history isn’t viewable when signed out.”. So I find it a little hard to take complaints about lack of privacy seriously when you voluntarily signed up for these services.
    Presumably the lack of information is because I never sign into anything on any mobile device, and my PC browser is loaded with all the things to stop snooping, NoScript, Privacy Badger etc.

  21. RenoDino


    Watching Trump’s uncontrollable outburst on leaving Syria reminds me of a hostage trying to communicate that he’s being held against his will. It will not be enough to prompt a rescue, but it will really piss off his Deep State handlers.
    For now, that’s all he can do.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s a bit surprising that the recent news about Bolton.

      I had expected the reverse.

    1. Edward E

      Happy Easter to you too, and everyone here.

      If you make it to the White House Easter Egg Roll this year I heard there’s something special going on. The winner gets to pick which cabinet member will be getting Thumphammered next.

      1. ambrit

        First past the post strikes again!
        Silly me. Here I was thinking that the American government was supposed to be a crowdsourced project.

        1. Edward E

          Don’t know if crowdsourcing has made it past thumper ratings yet, I’m too far away…

          All we have way out here is our old Bubba sources. It was an honor being called an idiot by Lambert.

      1. ambrit

        It’s a big world!
        At the Easter Vigil service we went to at Phyls favourite RC church on Saturday evening, the Monseigneur lit the Paschal candles from a blessed wood fire. My thought then was, “Shades of Ahura Mazda!” Then, when the big candle entered the church proper, the Deacon called out, “Behold! The Light of the Lord!” One cannot get more direct a syncretism than that.
        That old motto, “All are One” can be taken literally.
        I know now that I wasn’t wasting my time when I read those Dr. Bronners soap bottles while ‘enthroned.’
        And, ‘post pagan?’ More like crypto pagan.
        I’m game.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I thought the low profile was to avoid a big argument about separating state and religion.

      1. ambrit

        Lots of ways to parse that problem MLTPB.
        Some here would assert that Government is being run as a quasi religion, or cult. If HRH HRC were to be included, the correlation would be explicit.
        I can remember when Alan Watts and Dr. Suzuki were considered fringe elements of the culture. Now they are pretty mainstream.
        You and I know that, (notice the blatant attempt to invoke ‘in-group’ thinking and some shameless pandering on my part,) that Religion is not necessarily identical with Spirituality.
        Being a somewhat conflicted non-conformist, I have seen up close and personal what religious conformity can do, both good and bad, to a culture, and the individuals enmeshed in it.
        Finally, sometimes, a little hope and joy are needed. I’ll say that these times we live in are crying out for love and goodwill.
        Be thou of good cheer!

      1. Susan the other

        Same here. An aristocratic llama, a beautiful matriarch of the farmyard complete with long blond hair and pointy horns, a macho back and white rooster, a skeptical pinto goat, and a golden-fleeced sheep. They look so independent. And French.

      2. Jeremy Grimm

        The antidote looks to me like a group picture from a reunion for the still living Bremen Musicians along with some visiting friends.

    3. WheresOurTeddy

      Likewise! Zombie Jesus is the best Jesus. But as Carlin asked years ago, when will he bring the pork chops?

    4. Annotherone

      Yes, Happy Easter y’all! It seems low-key this year. I posted some famous Good Friday paintings on my blog on Friday, then had to go check the calendar 3 times through the day to make sure I was on the right date – could see no mention of Good Friday anywhere else. Maybe I go to all the wrong places. :)

    5. ewmayer

      I prefer “happy first Sunday following the first full moon following the northern hemisphere vernal equinox”, which captures the delightfully intricate rule for the date of Easter Sunday.

    6. Pat

      And a Happy Chocolate Bunny Day! It may be commercial but chocolate bunnies rock!

      Just hope most of the folk at NC are getting to experience the start of spring.

  22. PlutoniumKun


    Mobbed Up Harpers. “America has not been in Afghanistan for sixteen years; it has been in Afghanistan for one year, sixteen times.” A must-read.

    Wow, a must read indeed. Jaw dropping stuff. I thought I was cynical about these things, but sometimes you can’t be cynical enough.

    Afghans who find bombs landing on their heads may not necessarily understand that at least some of their plight is a byproduct of US military personnel practices, notably the competition-based system for promotions. “If you get violent,” the US officer quoted above explained to me, “if you call in an air strike, not only do you get a combat ribbon and possibly an award for valor, but it also makes your report a combat report. When you have multiple combat reports and others do not, you’re more competitive for promotion and assignment to prestigious billets.” So even though the best course of action might be nonviolent, the culture is predisposed toward violence. “When you suggest doing something else,” the officer told me, “guys will say, ‘You’re overthinking this. These people just need to be killed.’ ”

    General Nicholson has said that the strategy endorsed by Trump last summer puts our side “on a path to win” in Afghanistan. He is at least the eighth senior American commander to pledge impending victory in those sixteen years of war. He will doubtless not be the last.

    This bit also caught my eye:

    In fact, he recalled, there was a period when British troops in Helmand, influenced by Mir Wali, were assaulting Akhundzada’s territory, while the Americans, under Akhundzada’s spell, were doing precisely the opposite. They were carrying out “operations that were making our allies’ lives harder and vice versa because we were caught in the middle of a civil war between two Mafia families.”

    1. JTMcPhee

      After a career supporting and furthering the extension of US imperial and commercial hegemony leading various parts of the US Marines in the conquest and oppression of mopes across much of the planet, Maj Gen Smedley Butler concluded that the practice of what we suckers call “war” is “nothing but a racket.” For those who haven’t run across it, here’s some detail:

      Amazing how Nobody (or Hardly Anybody) Cares that this seminal truth is still the operating system for this whole Milo Minderbinder Enterprise…

      “It’s a Jobs Program! It’s the beating heart of our economy! And has been, since [you fill in the date]!” Free Enterprise and War, a Dangerous Liaison
      By Robert Higgs | January 22, 2003

    2. Katniss Everdeen

      “It’s very hard for people to integrate truth into the narrative,” Martin told me…..


    3. David

      I’ve seen this in Afghanistan, and it’s sadly true. But actually it’s true everywhere. Back in the days of Empire, colonial administrators would spend a large part of their lives in the same country and, for better or for worse, pick up something of the local culture and the political situation. These days, a year in the country is quite a long time – six months is more normal, with weekends in Dubai to break the monotony.

      1. Olga

        G. Orwell’s Burmese Days talks about just that (i.e., serving the empire in a far-away land). It is well worth a read… as all empires, it ends on a sad note.

    4. Susan the other

      Yes. A good article by Cockburn but I did catch the haze of an airbrush. 16 years; unaccountable trillions of dollars, no clear-cut goal and no way to measure success. You can get a clearer picture watching Kabul Kitchen. Poppies can be grown anywhere, it’s a shame that opium becomes so lucrative and deadly; it makes ruthless sociopaths rich. It could be controlled, standardized, taxed and secured for its usefulness. But somehow the US military stays in Afghanistan and dorks around without a clue or a goal for 16 years? I don’t think so.

    5. ewmayer

      Note to anyone who sees the please-subscribe stuff at bottom of article’s first page – I had no trouble viewing the remaining 5 pages simply by tacking on /2, …, /6 to the url. (I didn’t see actual clickable links for those in my FF rendition, and when I told NoScript to temporarily allow JS for the page all that produced was a really annoying “please subscribe for the low, low price of $45.99 per year” popup.)

      1. gepay

        It is, of course, a coincidence that when the CIA was operating in Laos and southeast Asia, 70% of the world’s opium for heroin came from the Golden Triangle. And now that the US is in Afghanistan 90% of the opium for world’s heroin is grown there.

  23. The Rev Kev

    “Facebook Employees Are Reportedly Deleting Controversial Internal Messages”

    I know that I am a bit of a Luddite but haven’t these people heard of Snapchat? You know. Where a short time after you send something it disappears (until it turned out that it did no such thing). But wait! They own Instagram! They could put a function on it to do the same and then they could message each other to their hearts content knowing that all these messages will be self-deleting. But even I know that that would never work. You know why? Facebook could never bring itself to truly delete anything permanently!

    And just what is with those animals in tonight’s Antidote du Jour? They creep me out. It’s almost like a bunch of farmyard animals have worked out who their true enemy is and getting into formation. Was this image found on the mobile of some trampled farmer somewhere?

    And happy Easter to you ambrit and everybody.

    1. O4amuse

      I do not know the source, but I ve seen them before. There are several different poses of the animal friends in and around the field and farm.

  24. JMM

    Regarding the size of the data Google has on you: you have to include there all the photographs, e-mails and documents that people upload on a regular basis. It’s not that Google has that data on you, is that you give Google all that data, which is quite different.

    Eventually, I hope we’ll come to a point where we will think before signing up for a new service: how is this company making money? In the case of Google, they’re an ad network, and so is Facebook. It’s not even that “we are the product”, which at this point has become a cliché. We’re unpaid labor.

  25. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I gave up my IBM job to become an organic farmer—and learned a bitter truth Quartz

    Does one give up a burger-flipping job to become a real estate developer?

    The ‘give up’ implies a hierarchy of jobs. Here, IBM job > organic farming.”

    “I escaped from a satanic mill to a small organic Eden – and learned a bitter truth.”

  26. Brian

    If either of my comments are not seen today, it may be due to delay. It showed that they were posted in the year 6983. Please be patient.

    1. Yves Smith

      I got a weird message like that too but it was OK when it posted.

      Maybe someone at WP put in a April Fools’ Day “feature” in the last upgrade?

  27. marym

    Medium post by a founder of Moms Demand Action, established after Sandy Hook with with a focus on “common senses gun laws”

    …The unlawful shootings of Black and Brown people by law enforcement is gun violence. If we want to end gun violence, then we have to fight the systemic racism that can cause it, too.

    What happened to Stephon Clark in Sacramento is unacceptable. We have to say “never again” to police violence, too.

    (Note for the cautious: I get some browser error accessing Medium posts, though it doesn’t seem to do any harm)

  28. Jim Haygood

    The WSJ rudely mocks the R party’s pickup-truck-drivin’ base:

    When LBJ sought to retaliate against European import restrictions on U.S. frozen chicken, a United Auto Workers chief caught his ear with complaints about a Volkswagen pickup truck then arriving on U.S. shores. Voilà. Fifty-five years later, the 25% “chicken tax” is why the Big Three have morphed into lucrative pickup-truck companies attached to semi-embarrassing sedan businesses that barely break even.

    Today, the chicken tax goes a long way toward explaining U.S. pickup-truck culture—why millions of Americans clog up suburbia with overbuilt, inefficient, single-person transportation vehicles disguised as “work” vehicles.

    These trucks are sturdy enough for the work they seldom do, but are also the most ungainly, ill-handling vehicles on the road for the purposes to which they are actually put. And for the privilege, their buyers pay markups in excess of $10,000 a truck, keeping the manufacturers swimming in profits even while the Big Three dole out sedans to the public practically at cost.

    The chicken tax explains why, even though trucks are the most profitable and largest-selling vehicle category, Americans have only six brands to choose from—and 30-plus brands of sedan.

    He’s a drug store truck drivin’ man
    He’s the head of the Ku Klux Klan
    When summer rolls around
    He’ll be lucky if he’s not in town

    — The Byrds

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      In 2006, during a 2.5 hr drive home from airport, my married friend with 1 child picked me up in his brand new Suburban (approx $40K at the time with his selected features).

      We got to talking, and by the end of the ride he admitted that it was worth a “$10,000 status tax” to drive the Suburban he didn’t need (hauled nothing, not outdoorsy, works from home, 1 child) instead of a sedan or minivan (they ended up having 1 more kid years later).

      Most people with an SUV or pickup don’t need one. 95% of them will never leave pavement. Americans care far too much what other Americans think, and far too little what the rest of the world does.

  29. DJG

    The Italian Malaise. A good summary. It also is enlightening for U.S. readers if you think of Berlusconi as Trump all’italiana or the forerunner of Trumpism, and it also helps to understand that the Partito Democratico, now in disgrace, was self-consciously modeled after the U.S. Democratic Party. Flash back to Renzi’s trip to visit the Obamas.

    The Lega is not the same thing as the U.K. Tories. The Lega is more malign, although because we live in a baroque era, there is political kitsch as camouflage: Bossi making pilgrimages to the source of the Mighty Po in Piedmont to taste the sacred waters. Green neckerchiefs. An imaginary country, Padania, which would be like Austria but even less vital.

    Quote to consider from the article: “Ultimately, M5S’s concern is to maintain a ‘catch-all’ identity, and this forces its MPs to abstain on divisive issues like gay rights or migration. Its online Rousseau platform, the hub of its ‘direct democracy’, stands above an atomised and passive membership, who never meet or take important decisions, and vote in very low numbers. The assumptions behind the movement, such as they exist, are in fact curiously technocratic and neoliberal, postulating a rational administration of the state denuded of politics or what they call ‘ideology’.”

    Yep, M5S claims to be in favor of civil liberties and civil rights till it was faced with passing a bill about same-sex marriage and until “ius soli” came up, which would have made naturalization of native-born children of immigrants. Unlike the USA, Italy doesn’t have birthright citizenship.

    So: Salvini is an operator and rather dodgy indeed. M5S has strong tendencies toward “qualunquismo”–which is a distrust of institutions but also translates as “whateverism.” What could go wrong?

    1. MisterMr

      I also think that the article is a good summary of italian politics, but there are a pair of sentences that threw me off:

      “and Italians lack even a UK-style welfare state”

      “However at this juncture the Italian left has historically authored few social democratic victories, such as the NHS in the UK, […]”

      I’m quite sure we have an NHS in Italy, and also a welfare state:

      I think the article exaggerates more than a bit.

      It also ends with this sentence:

      “Positive change, or even for voters to turn away from M5S, requires the overcoming of a long cultural counter-revolution and the creation of some new force able to combine a credible path to social progress with a galvanising national identity. The PCI was once an example of this. But to do so in the present demands a break with the minoritarian attachment to a language and imaginary that belong to the 1940s more than our own time.”

      This is pure third-way-ism, and is the main political idea of the currewnt center-left, starting from at least Occhetto, to D’Alema, and now to Renzi.

      F**k no. We need socialism/social democracy, we don’t need a new shiny thing that surprisingly gives all the advantages of socialism/social democracy but isn’t socialism/social democracy, because such new, shiny thing doesn’t exists, and smells much like neoliberal left anyway.

  30. bob

    ““Key point re pedestrian vulnerability buried in here.”

    They’re already trying to spin this vulnerability into liability.

    “he jumped in front of my car”

    Clearly this driving platform is being abused by walkers

  31. Oregoncharles

    That photo is an amazing achievement: how did they get them all standing together, and all looking at the camera (by waving food around? Food for all 4 species?) It must be somebody’s livestock collection – the Highland cow (or bull) is especially striking. I remember seeing them, just once, in Scotland. I assume they keep some around for the tourists.

  32. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Unable to prove they own their homes:

    José López doesn’t have a deed for the little house at the edge of a dairy farm where he was raised and still lives — only the stories his grandfather told him about how the house came to be.

    It began with an agreement between gentlemen 39 years ago. His grandfather, a foreman on the farm, needed a house for his recently divorced daughter, López’s mother. So he asked the farm’s owner if he could have a little corner of the sprawling estate to build her one.

    “My grandfather worked on the farm for 44 years,” López said, “and his boss was a good man. He said yes.”

    In the four decades since, the family kept the modest house up – adjusting the floorplan, rebuilding the balcony.

    At least the boss should have known that a real estate transaction must be documented and recorded.

    How does the boss or the current heir/owner prove ownership? They must have recorded it publicly.

    1. visitor

      At least European countries basing their judicial system on the Roman-Germanic law have a long-standing rule that allows the possessor of some real-estate to become a legal owner, despite the lack of formally notarized paperwork, after a certain time when the possession has been general knowledge and never opposed.

      It is called “Ersitzung” in German, “prescription acquisitive” in French, and, from the translations I saw, “usucapion” in English. Does anything like that exist in US/California law?

        1. visitor

          The page you reference indicates that one of the criteria is continuous possession for a period of five years.

          Under those circumstances, I understand that “California courts are loath to grant a quiet title action based on adverse possession”; countries with civil law generally require 30 years of undisputed possession of an unregistered real-estate for ownership to be recognized (and usually 10 years if there was paperwork and acquisition in good faith, but the seller was not, e.g. was transferring a property that he did not have the right to alienate).

        2. Fraibert

          Adverse possession under the English common law was, if I recall correctly, 20 years. Over time, it has become generally shorter in the U.S. (I think usually in the ballpark of 7-12 years, depending on the state.) To me, California, based on Jim Haygood’s link, is notable both for the very short period of time (presumably due to the dense use of much land?) and for the requirement that taxes be paid (generally speaking, payment of taxes is relevant evidence, but not a definitive requirement for adverse possession).

          Puerto Rico, at least for real property, apparently has a civil law system (i.e., based on Roman law, instead of English law), which means that the adverse possession equivalent is probably closer to something like that in Europe. I can’t readily find enough information to say more than that.

          One quirk in the U.S. common law system is adverse possession has to be established in what is (at least formally) an adverse proceeding. Essentially, you either (1) file a quiet title action in court against the legal owner of the parcel you claim belongs to you or (2) when you are sued for trespass or what not, you counterclaim that the land belongs to you by adverse possession. Even if you and the legal owner of the land agree that the relevant parcel belongs to you, you might have to file a quiet title action to get a legally definitive determination that the parcel is your’s, unless the formal landowner cooperates in getting the proper documentation filed.

          1. Grebo

            Adverse possession under the English common law was, if I recall correctly, 20 years.

            12 years (I was a squatter once). The Tories have made it harder to achieve since Thatcher but I believe the period has not changed.

    2. Oregoncharles

      My niece the lawyer has waxed very eloquent on handshake agreements, especially affecting real estate. They’re an employment guarantee for her. “Never, ever do that.”

      Apparently it’s quite common in P.R., especially on plantations. I’m guessing the boss still owns it.

    3. JBird

      All neoliberal privatization and selling of everything is starting to look like what happened in the South when all the Indians were invited to leave and have all their land stolen. There is also th example of the theft of most of the local Mexican citizens’ land after the American conquest despite the signed treaty saying that ownership would be recognized and honored.

      Of course the American courts often took a suspicious amount of time in their judgments that usually did not honor ownership. It was common that the land was held and used communally much like in Britain before the Enclosures. Also, as in Puerto Rico, the chains of ownership could go back four or five centuries, or where the immigrant Spanish married into the local community as in the Southwest, damned near a thousand years. So often no records, or actual paper to write on, no courts without days, weeks, or even months of travel. Even when there were clear written proof, that was not a guarantee.

      Americans and Europeans both have this weird cultural blindness when it comes to written records, and ownership of anything, in that in much of the world that is not so. In the United States, it was common not to have a birth certificate into the 20th century, and there are Americans who still don’t. Records of land ownership were often poor even though they were better kept because of money, but still.

      So I no problem believing that there might be little or no documentation because Puerto Rico, like parts of the American mainland still is, much like the third world. Since banks flat-out just stole homes from perhaps millions, and certainly hundreds of thousands of Americans, using false records and perjury, perhaps our esteemed Elites wish to do it again? After all almost nobody except a very small handful of very low level flunkies were even charged, despite all the evidence.

      Neoliberalism my a@@, it’s neo-colonialism, or for Puerto Rico just colonialism.

      1. visitor

        Americans and Europeans both have this weird cultural blindness when it comes to written records, and ownership of anything, in that in much of the world that is not so.

        There was not much of written records in most of Europe for most of its history either. Landowners would pass on their properties (farm, fields, etc) to their descendants, or sons in law, without registering anything — and this is why those “acquisitive prescriptions” exist since Roman times.

        One of your remarks is probably more to the point regarding colonial times:

        It was common that the land was held and used communally much like in Britain before the Enclosures.

        Indeed, and European powers did not recognize many of those communities as entities that could enjoy property rights. For instance, tribes were not recognized as legal persons; hence, land owned by tribes became “terra nullius” automatically. Apart from the fact that in some cultures land was not considered to be something that could be owned (just like individual human beings cannot be owned in modern legal systems).

        1. JBird

          Yes, corporations and the wealthy aristocracy, were considered people with the rightful ownership of the land, but not the Indians, local settlers, and tenant farmers, and villages; they mostly had some recognizable claims dating as far back as when Old English was spoken intelligibly with Old Norse. But somehow no rights, or at least less than a corporation.

          Schools, even higher education, don’t make of an effort to explain how methodical the thieving was. When efforts are made to do so, it often is simplified into Evil Europeans the Vile Exploiters of Defenseless Virtuous Native Victims.

          Reducing the whole tragic yet glorious, rich, fascinating story into a cartoon does nothing good.

  33. Oregoncharles

    “On Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), which both party establishments are fighting, and which pesky voters keep demanding.”

    Congratulations to Maine voters. Party establishments fight it because it breaks down the spoiler effect, which they complain about but value highly for protecting the duopoly. I assume the Maine Green Party is a big factor in pushing it – it’s a longtime Green initiative.

    My county, Benton, has passed RCV for county-level elections. Remarkably, the state leg. passed funding for implementation (a couple hundred thousand – chicken feed), mainly because our Dem representative pushed it. It won’t be implemented this year, I think, but for the next election – we hold a lot of them in Oregon. Should be interesting to see how it works out. There is also a campaign to get RCV in Portland/Multnomah County, the big city. Elections there are mostly non-partisan, but it would still help. Next step, the state, and I assume that’s when the opposition really kicks in, as it could apply to the Presidential race.

  34. djrichard

    Just finished watching the NetFlix series, “Wild Wild Country”, a documentary about a commune that was established in Oregon in the 1980s, centered around a figure who was worshiped. Highly recommend it. It is a wild story. I can’t believe I lived through this period without being aware that this was going on back then.

    Two questions I’m left with:

    – whether the commune was financially sustainable (in its hey day). An investigative reporter at the time concluded that it wasn’t.

    – whether the commune wasn’t really meant to be sustainable and more meant to be an experiment, to be a crucible for the participants on all sides. There’s some hints that this may have been motivating the figure who was worshiped (but a figure sort of off stage left).

    Anyways, it works on many levels, primarily as being a crucible. Still it has its moments of grace, particularly for the rank and file who were present in the commune and even for the higher ranks there. In a way, they created their shangri-la. A shangri-la with horrible community outreach to the community that they were co-existing with. It’s hard to not shake your head when watching and think “Idiots!”.

    1. Been There Done That

      I was there.
      The documentary was fascinating, but it was a collation of one-sided propaganda from those at the top of each side. Actual life by ordinary sannyassins on the Ranch was much more complex.
      In my personal experience and that of my friends, even during the height of the program to bring in homeless as voters, ordinary sannyassins and ordinary folks in nearby towns (other than Antelope) went out of their way to be friendly to each other. The desire for a big fight came from the top on both sides.
      The Ranch wasn’t even vaguely self-sufficient. Massive funds came in from other followers of Bhagwan world-wide, especially Europe. That is not any different from many other religions.
      I don’t buy the notion that Bhagwan intended so much trouble and rapid collapse. He seemed like a broken man when he went back to India and died a few years later.
      We thought of ourselves as better than everyone else and beyond their rules. A fair amount of that was actually wise, but we were arrogant and naive. There is some Bob Dylan song somewhere that says that if you are going to break the law, you have to operate according to a higher one. Among ourselves, we did that, but we failed in how we dealt with our neighbors.
      Much of the tactics that our organization’s leaders used would have worked fine in India. The arrogance was in not even trying to figure out the cultural differences. At that time, Oregon was the only state in the U.S. that had the kind of land use rules that so much trouble revolved around.
      At the commune in India, a couple of years before the move to the US, a bunch of us from many different countries were talking about where in our own countries we would like Bhagwan to move to. Only the Americans did not want Bhagwan to come to their country. We all said that there would be massive trouble and attacks from the fundamentalists.

      And it goes without saying that the scenes of naked therapy group participants that were spliced in semi-randomly were presented with no context whatsoever, guaranteeing that they would be misunderstood. Simply a cheap shot.

      1. djrichard

        Wow, pretty neat to have you posting. Too bad this might not be too visible given we’re already on the next day of postings already. I’m hoping this topic will come around again on this web site, so you can continue to share your experience.

        I think for a lot of people, the documentary will make them think of that line, “it is better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all”. So my full sympathies that you guys lost what you had. But also my envy that you did have that.

        Regarding the naked therapy stuff, I didn’t see it as gratuitously placed. I saw it both as a device to explain how alien your culture was to the surrounding culture in Oregon, but something you guys cherished as well (which was more interesting to me).

        If there’s follow up conversation in a future thread, would be interested in knowing of the current status of the community that are still participating. Whether it’s drying up on the vine or still flourishing or somewhere in between.


      2. djrichard

        P.S. this documentary came up in today’s water cooler: see

        P.P.S. there’s another Dylan lyric that I think is even more appropriate, “you’ve gotta serve somebody”. I think the Bhagwan and his followers figured out how to put that into practice.

        Unfortunately for the rest of us sorry SOBs, we’re left with choosing between serving corporations or serving the Fed Gov. Pretty sad. Of course, we could always do like Jesus did and serve God. Not too many do that. It’s enough to drive us SOBs crazy.

  35. Carey

    Even if self-driving cars proved to be safer, there is another issue that’s just as big: the necessary centralization of
    control for them to work, which could or would be applied to many other spheres… imagine the possibilities.

    Not to mention simply riding a bicycle as one of these things is overtaking you, hoping it chooses to see you…
    or not, depending on certain necessities of the moment.

    tools of the tools

  36. Plenue

    >Don’t Expect Trump’s New Hawks to Save the War in Syria Bloomberg

    Oh God. The portrayal of Obama as too hands off and not wanting to get involved in Syria is practically making my brains leak out of my ears. We spent billions of dollars training and arming ‘moderate’ rebels. Our Kurds controlled the majority of northern Syria. We started bombing, completely illegally, in Syria under Obama. We were within a hairsbreadth of invading the country because of Obama’s ‘red lines’.

    The blob is freaking insane and delusional.

  37. Zuluf 4

    “America has not been in Afghanistan for sixteen years; it has been in Afghanistan for one year, sixteen times.”
    Methinks this was borrowed from J L Carr’s ‘The Harpole Report’

  38. Altandmain

    From Jacobin:

    The End of History, Jacobin argues, has been disproven. The original End of History hypothesis was that globalization and free markets would lead to democracy, with the world homogenizing around the Washington Consensus. The idea that free markets and authoritarianism are quite compatible is something that Francis Fukuyama, the neoconservative that made the hypothesis, never considered.

    It’s amusing how willfully ignorant the neocons and neoliberals are, but this has very real consequences for the rest of us.

  39. djrichard

    Marching for the Democrats: Another Farce on Washington? Black Agenda Report

    When the MSM is spamming us into submission on something, my gut instinct is to run the other way. This seems to happen when we need a casus belli:
    – for the casus belli needed to regime change Saddam, the media spammed us into submission.
    – for the casus belli needed to regime change Trump, we’re similarly being spammed into submission.

    If your particular cause can be hitched to whatever the casus belli that the media is campaigning for at the moment, then you’re golden.
    – March for Life? Sure the underlying issues aren’t anything new. But is there ever anything new really? The question is, can we make hey out of it. In this case we can and we do.
    – BLM? Just like March for Life, this is not anything new. Indeed if BLM was just being rolled out now, it would have been ready made for spamming. But alas, it was rolled out during Obama’s administration, and it didn’t make good grist for what we were spamming about back then. But don’t lose hope, we may still get a new crisis that allows us to roll this out again. If we do so, we’ll have to rebrand it so that people don’t get confused on why it is deserving of spamming this time around compared to previous efforts when it wasn’t.
    – if you play your cards right, your pet issue could go here.
    – OWS? Gee sorry our sponsors aren’t interested.

  40. chuck roast

    Re: Federal Workers Spill on Life in Trump’s Washington
    My wife was recently in DC for the kids demonstration against gun violence. She cruised up to our old ‘hood on Connecticut Ave. We lived there all during the oughts. Loved it…great multi-culture; wonderful bookstores; the Red Line; beautiful built environment; lots of bright engaging people…and…a variety of fabulous residential buildings.
    She reports that all the apartment buildings have “For Lease” signs out. Absolutely unheard of in our day. All the buildings typically had a few apartments to lease or some apartments with expiring leases, but really, no need to advertise. Now, a spot in the lovely Sedgwick Gardens in Cleveland for two grand a month…amazing!
    So, I’m figuring that not only do people not want to work for Trump, but they are regularly getting 86ed as well as quitting. Add to that the position that aren’t being filled in order to maintain maximum inefficiency and voila…the real meaning of “drain the swamp”.
    And so it goes.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Maybe those vacant apartments are empty because the rents demanded are far in excess of the mopes’ ability to pay? Or because the property owner has other intentions for the building or the oh so very valuable land it sits upon? At least until the Potomac rises up to drown it>

  41. Pat

    More real life observation that tells me that things are not quite coming up roses in NYC, especially in regard to commercial real estate. For those who don’t live here or haven’t been paying attention there is a glut of commercial rental space even in usually highly desirable neighborhoods. There are sites that supposedly map the vacancies it has become so obvious. Just walk or take a bus down any major thoroughfare in Manhattan and to make it easy count how many blocks DON’T have a vacant store. I don’t travel enough in Brooklyn or Queens to have any sense there, but I’m told by those I’ve talked to about this that vacancies are obviously increasing there as well. Much of the speculation about this among those who watch has been that rents are growing so astronomically they are driving out all but the large chain stores. Recently I’ve noticed that may not be the whole story, although it is the case for most of the smaller individually owned and operated stores out there. Not only are banks downsizing, the major drug stores that popped on every corner are closing more and more of their locations.

    The most recent ‘large chain’ I have noticed dropping locations is Starbucks. Sure they haven’t closed any of the 5 stores within four blocks of where I live, but stores are closing. Two of my job locations have had a nearby Starbucks close, and I’ve seen about four more being dismantled as I traveled around in the last two weeks.

    Meanwhile construction continues at a mad pace. I’m really wondering how many of these buildings are soon going to be like so many of the malls and casinos built in the previous decade – costly ghosts and monuments to greed over common sense.

  42. dontknowitall

    “Ominous cracks show in the West’s united front against Russia” was a typical dishonest WSJ opinion piece. One would think that the UK had a victorious show of diplomatic strength versus the Russians in roping its allies in expelling a bunch of diplomats. Nothing could be further from the truth. The UK’s closest allies held their nose firmly and expelled the smallest number they could get away with while others didn’t bother at all (Austria, Greece and Portugal) because no one believes the story the Brits are peddling. However, they all understand the single most important function of this sad business is to knock Brexit off the front pages in the UK and allow May the political space she needs to give her pound of flesh to Brussels and try to save her job, the Russians be damned.

    For Portugal things got ugly as the Brits exerted petty revenge by putting out dark warnings of terror attacks in Portugal during the Easter holiday as many thousands of foreign tourists travel there for holiday. The Portuguese government studiously ignored it and it seems to have had no effect on the tourism business. Still, it was a nasty thing to do.

    Other than the large UK and US diplomat expulsions the number across Europe were rather small and show the Brits they better have actual evidence come the EU meeting on May 16 or things will get rather complicated. Trump’s assurance that he needs no evidence and he trusts the UK absolutely shows the exact opposite as it smells like the UK has absolutely no evidence of its assertions, so look for more strange goings on as the wheels come off the May train…

    1. wilroncanada

      But the endeavour did, again, reinforce the pathetic colonial leadership/supplication of the former British colonies, Canada and Australia, to the familyblogging motherland.

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