Links 5/1/18

Posted on by

Happy May Day!

This ocean path will take you on the longest straight-line journey on Earth Science Magazine (Kevin W)

AI Researchers Revolt Against a New Paywalled Nature Journal Slashdot (Chuck L). About time.

Tourist killed after SatNav told driver to go wrong way near Cliffs of Moher, court hears The Journal. PlutoniumKun: “Just a little example of how even satnav systems can kill, its not just self driving cars.”

Assisted suicide: 104-year-old Australian scientist David Goodall wants to die Washington Post (Dr. Kevin)

Daily emissions from personal care products comparable to car emissions: study PhysOrg (Robert M)

Electric Planes Could Soon Be A Reality OilPrice

North Korea

NYT Examines How History Impacts Korean Talks–but Its Own Memory Is Fuzzy FAIR (UserFriendly)

Col. Wilkerson on Korean Peace: ‘We’ve Been Here Before,” But it Fell Apart Real News Network. Not alone in making this observation….

Melbourne’s water supply on verge of “disaster” as population balloons MacroBusiness

Vatican treasurer Cardinal Pell to face trial on historical abuse charges CNN

European income inequality begins to fall once again Bruegel

Luigi Di Maio Facebook. I gather on behalf of 5 Stars he calls for new elections.


Brexit: Government defeat in Lords over terms of meaningful vote BBC. Am I reading this correctly and this could set up a Constitutional crisis? The MPs can’t just tell the Government “stop Brexit”. They’d presumably have to pass a separate bill authorizing/ordering the withdrawal of Article 50. And what if the PM and a chunk of her cabinet resigns? In other words, I read this as very badly thought out.

Can May’s Brexit stance survive its latest Lords defeat? The Spectator

May’s tactics recall Hitler, says peer as Brexit bill suffers ninth defeat The Times

Brexit’s Irish stalemate Politico

New Cold War

Russia’s Bonds Are Toxic Nuclear Waste Again, Hello Bondageddon Russia Insider (Kevin W). Key section, which also happens to apply to Brexit, which is why the “Oh this will be sorted somehow” crowd is in store for a rude awakening:

“Politics is more important than business now and this is a change that will last for years. The people that make politics think that politics is more important than finance,” says Stefan Benedetti, portfolio manager at Pioneer Investment. “This is going to be the biggest change in our lifetime.”

Here’s why the US ‘deep state’ HATES Vladimir Putin The Duran. Peter J: “I know it’s Duran, therefore Russian propaganda, but the second video is unbelievable.”


Palestinians should ‘shut up’ or make peace, Saudi crown prince told Jewish leaders Haaretz (UserFriendly)

PM authorized to declare war in ‘extreme’ situations without consulting cabinet Times of Israel (Kevin W)

The Politics of Water and Peace in the Middle East Antiwar (Kevin W)

Senate Bill To Ban F-35 Sales To Turkey An Unprecedented Attempt To Check Erdogan’s Actions Defend Democracy Press (furzy). This is too funny.

The Real Victor Counterpunch Uri Avnery, Counterpunch (Chuck L)

Netanyahu ruling the US State Department. Pushing Washington to War. Defend Democracy

Weapons Inspector Refutes U.S. Syria Chemical Claims Consortiumnews (UserFriendly)

Imperial Collapse Watch

The Spy Who Came Home New Yorker (furzy). Important.

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

‘Forget the Facebook leak’: China is mining data directly from workers’ brains on an industrial scale South China Morning Post. Lambert linked to this yesterday, but this is in the “Not to be missed” category. Wait till Jeff Bezos gets his hands on this…

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum quits over privacy disagreements with Facebook Guardian (Kevin W)

From Richard Smith:

Tariff Tantrum

China seen taking hard line with Trump administration on trade Australian Financial Review (Kevin W). I didn’t see Mnuchin announcing out of the blue that he might visit China as a sign of strength, particularly after the Financial Times had reported more than once that the Chinese were effectively not talking to the US over the tariff threat.

Trump Postpones Steel Tariff Decision for EU, Other U.S. Allies Wall Street Journal. Why am I not surprised? Trump has more power keeping this in play that deciding either way.

Trump Transition

Impeachment looms large in White House midterm plans The Hill

Steve Mnuchin finally finds a respectful audience in Southern California Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times. OMG, he defended stock buybacks.

“Yes, that is called having a country, with all due respect.” Angry Bear

Democrats need to stop believing this myth about Trump’s base (Opinion) CNN. UserFriendly: “Your daily stupid.”

What Being “Politically Incorrect” Actually Looks Like Current Affairs (UserFriendly)

Robert Mercer and the Tax-Evading Hedge Fund Giving Millions to Republicans and Democrats TruthOut

Marco Rubio Accidentally Admits Republican Tax Cuts Only Worked for the Rich GritPost

T-Mobile/Sprint Merger: Higher Prices, Fewer Jobs, More Privacy Invasions Institute for Public Accuracy

Black Injustice Tipping Point

How lynching was used by whites to destroy competition from black business owners Los Angeles Times (Judy B)

Black employees in the service industry pay an emotional tax at work The Conversation

Injecting Drugs Can Ruin a Heart. How Many Second Chances Should a User Get? New York Times. Bob K: “Is this ethical???” See also: New York Times Feature Seriously Ponders Whether We Should Let People Addicted to Drugs Die Raw Story

The U.S. Just Borrowed $488 Billion, a Record High for the First Quarter Bloomberg (Kevin W)

Tesla Doesn’t Burn Fuel, It Burns Cash Bloomberg. Ahem, contrary to the article’s claims, Uber’s losses say it’s burning cash even faster.

Class Warfare

Calif. Supreme Court Transforms Test for Who Is an Employee Bloomberg Law (Paul R). Wowsers. On the whole, looks good for employees in that the burden of proof of meeting the tests is on the employer (!!!) and one of the three tests is worker autonomy. It also looks to me (and please experts opine) that this will also wreak havoc with another gimmick that employers use, that of using agencies to hire people as supposed temps who aren’t temps (as in they work regular hours for months or more). However, how autonomous autonomous has to be isn’t yet clear, and I am not sure what the court means with the “independently established role” part.

Why Small Businesses Matter for Workers Institute for Local Self-Reliance (UserFriendly). The point re establishments v. firms is big and a rare analytical fail by Bruenig. One of the most important studies of the effect of PE on employment used this survey…and still managed to cook the data (by treating addition of employees by merger, which results in no net hiring, as the same as job additions).

Human capital and the jobs guarantee FT Alphaville

Book Review: History Of The Fabian Society Slate Star Codex. Important. UserFriendly: “​Read past Tony Blair and it’s actually interesting.​”

Antidote du jour. MGL: “‘Golden-slippered’ snowy egret @ Mission San Juan Capistrano”:

And a bonus of sorts from Kevin W. Of course, this was an Australian dolphin:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


    1. UserFriendly

      Urgh… I’m having a flame war in the SSC comments to the Fabian society link if anyone wants to help explain why Amazon not paying any taxes is bad and why the tech billionaires don’t deserve their fortunes for treating employees like crap.

      I made one comment last night because Scott said:

      Even the average stockholder is just some guy just to save money for retirement.

      Which he edited after my comment, but for whatever reason I let them bait me into explaining why capitalism is bad.

      1. JEHR

        I think you did a fine job defending your position; you certainly stayed with the topic a lot longer than I would have. But, people who have an ideological point of view will not easily change.

      2. Elizabeth Burton

        The response to that comment is that those “some guys” are about 16% of stockholders. The rest is in the hands of the top 10%.

  1. JTMcPhee

    Assisted suicide: Now comes the pathway for the Useless Eaters to hurry up and “Just Die.” And one can bet that the neoliberal whizz kids will be finding a way to profit from that, a rent of the “private death rooms” in dumps that will be redolent of the same kind of miasma that one sees and experiences in this “adult products stores” with their sticky, icky “private viewing booths…” And of course a selection of the means of dying, maybe sorted and assorted like the various types of pot on offer in those high-end recreational-MJ emporiums…

    The PE and VC types are already invading the “Death with Dignity” and “Choice” realms, taking positions in hospice and related “opportunities” to profit from death.

    Would one get a rebate for picking a Death Option like having one’s head crushed so as to leave larger reusable body parts to be further sourced for yet another Dr. Frankenstein application in the withered body of some wealthy charmer?

    1. Quentin

      This rant is very one-sided (as a goed rant should be). Euthanasia is not a scam in the Netherlands. In the US it will inevitably turn into one, so I can understand your basic premises. I had to laugh about the ‘sticky, icky “private viewing both…”. Good that you know what your talking about.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Oregon has had legal assisted suicide for over 20 years, and no signs of a “scam.” The numbers remain fairly small, and no sign that it isn’t completely voluntary.

        I see no excuse for involuntarily subjecting people to the last iota of medical torture.

    2. Jean

      So is injecting drugs and even choosing to smoke cigarettes a form of suicide?
      Should we guarantee health care to people who choose to start smoking or inject drugs?

      Two chances to quit seems fair. After that, it’s the right to commit suicide.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Hard to tell if Jean is being ironic or honest.

        And yes, let us completely ignore the conditions, fostered by the Rulers on us mopes, using all the wiles and trickery and Bernaysian stealth that they can command, as well as the “force of the State” that they have taken ownership of, that lead people to behaviors viewed disinterestedly as self-destructive, growing out of the kind of neoliberal-induced desperation that we are seeing all around us. I guess even us progressives here have read, learned and inwardly digested that Puritan Truth, that all life decisions and experiences are a result of individual choices, and presence or absence, apparently at the whim of the Creator (given predestination, that trumps the mythology of Free Will — see the notion of “the Elect”) of Strong Moral Fiber and Character…

        Kick sideways and down, always remember! It suits our overlords that we do so. Empathy for others at our level shows weakness, neh?

        (It is interesting that the number of cigarette smokers and other tobacco users is declining in the Empire, maybe as a result of ‘changing tastes” affected by removal of all that advertising that promises you will be sexy and glamorous and cool if you puff away on Camel Straights. So the tobacco cartel has to take its wiles and wares to other parts of the globe, to poison other cadres of fellow humans under a yuuuge Cloud of Advertising and Promotion…)

          1. Matt

            Jean must think that if poor people didn’t spend money on tattoos and piercings, they’d be doing fine. What an extraordinarily low cost of living you must enjoy in your area where a single tattoo can pay even a month’s rent.

          2. laughingsong

            Jean, If you ran the world, I wouldn’t be here. I would have been given up on well before I kicked my habit (on and off struggle for 10 years!), and I would not have had a great Systems Administration career.

            Kinda like the Catholic Archbishops of America, who decided that ALL abortions were evil even to save the life of the mother . . . the very same year I almost died from a ruptured tubal pregnancy.

            So I guess you’re in good company . . . :-/ Sorry that the spending my society did for me to end my former addiction so offends you.

      2. Summer

        Every person that injects drugs or smokes doesn’t die.

        Neither do all the people who stuff down the sugar and assorted prescription drugs that can lead to death.

        1. Lambert Strether

          And then there are the people who are addicted* to power and money…

          * For some definition of addicted; I’m not sure whether metaphorical or literal.

        2. Procopius

          A forgotten data point. During the extended luxury cruise in Vietnam, a very large number of soldiers used rather pure heroin, available quite cheaply thanks to a marketing combine of Vietnam, China, and the CIA. Bear in mind these were not combat troops, who could not afford to have slowed reflexes and slow thinking, but rear area troops, avionics repairmen, supply clerks, telephone linemen. In 1970 the problem was widely known. I have heard of a guy who used to live in Bangkok who was said to have deserted in Vietnam and somehow made his way to Thailand, where he continued shooting heroin for at least twenty-five years. I have no idea how he got money to live on. Maybe he inherited a fortune. Anyway, almost all of the rest, when they went back to the Land of the Big PX, just stopped using. The idea that most drug users become addicted is a myth.

  2. David May

    Re: New York Times Feature Seriously Ponders Whether We Should Let People Addicted to Drugs die, because markets.

    one doctor admitted he would not try very hard to save her life. “He said once someone’s been shooting up, you go through all this money and surgery and they go right back to shooting up again, so it’s not worth it”

    America’s slide into outright barbarity continues apace.

    1. Wukchumni

      A friend was a neo-natal RN and told me that she thought 4 out of 5 pregnancies @ her hospital in the CVBB came with major complications such as the mom is a drug user, single mother, financially unable, dad’s in jail, etc.

      That one family out of 5 where it was like “we’re so happy we’re having a baby” was not enough to keep her going, as the other 4 dragged her down mentally to the extent where she up and quit.

      I could only imagine dealing with recidivistic opioid users in need of complicated medical procedures @ an increasing rate, how that would get old quick.

      1. Carla

        Yes, well, if I were in the medical field, caring for filthy rich individuals who keep the rest of us desperately poor and scrambling to survive would get old pretty quick for me, but somehow I’ve never heard doctors and nurses complaining about that.

        1. Wukchumni

          When she was a newly minted RN, the going rate offered per hour working in one of our many prisons was $51, versus $34 toiling for the masses. The burnout rate for the former being something fierce, thus the 50% more battle pay.

        2. Eclair

          Preach it, Carla!

          I have begun to think of the use of injectable antidotes for comatose drug users as ‘catch and release’ programs. Except that we release the temporarily revived humans back into waters polluted with poverty, unemployment, ill health and hopelessness. Only the drug suppliers, of both street and prescription drugs, profit. No one (well, only a few) seriously suggest we, as a society, clean up the waters.

        3. third time lucky

          I have. I’ve seen plenty of doctors who donated their time to work in fee clinics, in MSF, etc. Often as an antidote to cringing moaners. You need to get out more.

        4. Lord Koos

          I’d guess that the vast majority of doctors probably do not cater to the super-rich.

      2. perpetualWAR

        Why do we blame the users? Her depression should have been “Why does this society produce such anxiety, despair and hopelessness?” Because that is the real, underlying question.

      3. newcatty

        OK, let’s conflate drug using pregnant women as having a ” major complication” with poor, being single or having the dad in jail. Not that the drug user is any less in need of or deserving of compassionate and professional care in any hospital if her child is in neo-natal or the newborn nursery bassinet, but to conflate that as a “major complication ” with being poor, uninsured, and dad in jail is faulty reasoning, sounds judgemental and just wrong. How many pregnant women have one or more of the mentioned attributes, but are not the typical, were are so happy to be having a child member of a family, are still new mothers who need professional and kind care like any other woman?
        I know single moms who work hard and always put their kids first in their life. If we start down the road of judging some people as being deserving or worthy of care than its another cruel and rationalized excuse to be a feudal society.

        Maybe, its a good thing the RN you know went on to other more green pastures.

    2. Katniss Everdeen

      Ms. Whitefield, a talkative young woman with brooding eyes, goes by the nickname Shae. She started on opioid painkillers as a teenager suffering from endometriosis, a disorder of the uterine tissue, and interstitial cystitis, a painful bladder condition. She got the opioids from doctors for years, and eventually from friends.

      Some pretty questionable “moralizing” from a member of the profession which has yet to acknowledge its significant responsibility for this, in many cases, iatrogenic epidemic, or to demand that effective treatment be made immediately available to any of the victims of this disease in the interest of personal absolution.

      Exactly what I would expect from “professionals” who feel self-righteously justified in selling “health” only to those who can pay them what they feel they’re “worth.”

      1. Procopius

        I’m an alcoholic, but many of my friends in the program were also addicted to other substances. I was very lucky that my boss in the Army intervened and the Army had a rehab program that required attendance at AA meetings at the time. It worked for me, but I learned it doesn’t work for most people. I believe it is still true, there is no such thing as an effective treatment program. I heard from drug counseling professionals that people who keep coming back have the best chance of eventually succeeding. Maybe 25%. People who go into rehab two or three times have about a 5% success rate. And, then there are many people who use illegal drugs (pot, cocaine) who never seem to have any problem with it, which makes the discussion much more complicated.

    3. m

      Not sure how much I would believe that. From the trenches they get treated as anyone else would, but we all know any assist is in vain since they will use whatever again. Sometimes people will surprise you and that is what everyone hopes for.
      We do the same with frequent flyers with other chronic conditions that are noncompliant.

      1. Aumua

        By the same token, of course, we all know that any health assistance to anyone is in vain, since everyone is going to die anyway so… substandard care for all I say!

  3. The Rev Kev

    “Vatican treasurer Cardinal Pell to face trial on historical abuse charges”

    Bit of context for this story. Last year the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse finally finished up its final report “after five years, 1,200 witness accounts and more than 8,000 private sessions with survivors”. This Royal Commission uncovered a helluva lot of rocks and a lot of “rock spiders” were revealed, especially in the churches. The Catholic Church, for example, was found to be protecting pedophiles for the good of “mother church” which resulted in known pedophiles being transferred from parish to parish instead of being transferred to a monastery or better yet a prison. Cardinal Pell was in a position to protect these priests and for that alone must answer for his actions. Some details on this Commission at

    1. Sam Adams

      No surprise it went on a very long time at catholic schools. The religious principals covered for the teaching brothers in my High School on LI outside NYC. Everyone in my school knew it was dangerous to be alone with which friar and did everyth8ng to avoid them. Nevertheless they were there year in and out. Never really got over it.

    2. Plenue

      One of the reasons the Catholic Church is opposed to letting secular authorities try abusive priests is because it genuinely believes that by becoming a priest a man in some way becomes a kind of avatar of Christ. In other words a superior human. One that is above judgement by temporal institutions. I have no idea why this apparently means the Church itself can’t try and punish them though. The constant shipping around of abusers so they aren’t caught and tried (and as a consequence they just spread their abuse more widely) is revolting.

      I think this is like trying to discuss Israel while avoiding the simple fact that many Israelis genuinely believe they deserve all of the Levant because Yahweh gave it to them (and thus any two state solution, and for some even a single multi-ethnic state, is impossible). You can’t fully understand these situations without factoring in the metaphysical beliefs.

      1. Ook

        I’m not so sure about that. It is more that modern thinking cannot imagine the state as anything other than all-powerful, with the church as subordinate, but that has not historically been the case. Many people see no need to genuflect to the state automatically.

        As for priests being superior human beings, the official view, as first stated by Aquinas, is that priests are Christ’s ministers, not “avatars” of Christ. There is deep awareness that the church is an institution operated by fallible humans, just as the state is, and that there will always be scandals and other human problems.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Priestly calling? That “deep awareness” is used, with other ratiocinations, to excuse the continued predations and frauds and hypocrisies, not only of the Catholic Papal Church, but of so many other “religious” scams. Like Jimmy Swaggart, and Tedd Haggard, and the rest, , a few tears and phony apologies and expressions of remorse, and it’s right back in the saddle.

          The “official position” of the Church you refer to is carefully crafted eyewash to keep the mopes in line and paying their tithes, andprime the pumps of tearful “understanding and forbearance and forgiveness” so good old Father Gropius, the church ladies just KNOW he is such s holy man, does the Mass and confession with such elan, don’t you know, hate the sin and love the sinner, right? can take another acolyte from behind the altar.

  4. hemeantwell

    Re worker monitoring systems in China: Yikes. I can see that system being integrated with their broader, social media-based individual ranking framework >>> a new Stakhanovism of the Happy Worker. Black Mirror is now.

    1. ObjectiveFunction

      Yes, that one’s well worthy of the AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! meme (link famblog safe but loud), together with the personal care chemtrail. Hitting ZH levels of doomp#rn these days, sad to say.

  5. The Rev Kev

    “Yes, that is called having a country, with all due respect.”

    And that’s the slam-dunk for Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow against Mick Mulvaney. Only way it could have been better is she had asked him: “Can you really look them in the eye in Arkansas and say I need to take some of your tax money to go do something in Niger or Afghanistan?”

    1. Wukchumni

      Who can say that our ongoing stay in the ‘stanbox hasn’t been worth it?

      All we wanted was to have military bases in the first country alphabetically, and mission accomplished.

  6. Mark Gisleson

    Worker autonomy will never be interpreted properly. If it were, every newspaper carrier in California will automatically become an employee because carriers have no autonomy whatsover. Capitalists have long used little boys on bicycles to run cover for the independent contractor scam even though most newspapers are now delivered by adults, usually as a second job before their regular underpaid job and, like delivering pizza, the tips don’t pay for car repairs.

  7. Carolinian

    Re tourist killed–the person died because the driver ran through a stop sign. The driver claimed he missed the stop sign because the instructions from the GPS unit confused him, but that’s a pretty feeble excuse.

      1. Wukchumni

        Despite NPS putting 2 signs up on Hwy 198 advising drivers to continue straight on to the main entrance to Sequoia NP to where the Giant Forest and Sherman Tree are, just about every day in the summer, people drive take a right up the dead ended Mineral King road for 25 miles because their GPS told them to.

        There’s 698 significant curves, of which a good many are blind curves, and sometimes only enough room for 1 1/2 cars on the roadbed. You’l gain 7,000 feet in about an hour and a half going 15-20 mph.

      2. Carolinian

        Sorry, but the GPS isn’t driving the car or exempting the driver from using common sense or obeying road signs.

        1. mraymondtorres

          The driver was distracted. Distracted driving causes accidents.

          The thing about GPS is that you have to shift your attention to it in order to use it. That makes it inherently dangerous.

        2. Eureka Springs

          I’ve witnessed siri make some of the smartest people I know who also happen to have a pretty keen sense of direction do the dumbest things ever on the road. And yet they keep using it. That’s what amazes me most of all.

          This is similar to, but much worse than the ’70s claim calculators would make you dumber. Which they did. By the late 80’s the percentage of people who could do math in their head at a cash register dropped like a stone.

          1. Wendell

            It’s already 25 years since the day I could … not … believe … my … eyes when I saw that some of my first-year university students needed to use their calculators in order to divide by 10.

          2. neighbor7

            And counting change by reading the digital display results in the devil’s sandwich: place bills first in the customer’s palm, lay coins on bills, then garnish with receipt on top. Since my other hand is usually holding a bag, I just shove the whole wad in my pocket to sort out later.

      3. JTMcPhee

        Yah, let us also not forget the Deaths-by-GPS resulting from all those wondrous “Smart Weapons” ™ that are guided by GPS to those “surgically selected” targets by GPSs that are often programmed by fumblefingered Imperial troopers or “contractors” of the Pentagram. (And of course there are many more deaths from plain old “direct kinetic fire” and from munitions that are guided by little sneaks with “laser target designator,” pointing out their prey from miles away in relative security.)

        I wonder: does G_D keep a tally of just how we humans are brought low, on some scoreboard in the great beyond? Those killed by all those Smart Weapons now have to number in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

        And it bears remembering that all those deaths are the result of the wars of aggression and invasions and regime-change actions, undertaken and managed and directed and profited from by Natives of our own, our native land (Aussies get in on it too, of course…), in concert with the Really Smart Weapons and Component Manufacturers that make up the global military manufactory. All of which activities, “in gross violation of international law and norms,” of course, showing what a bunch of hypocritical deluding and delusional yet intentional agathophiles we humans are…

      4. Oregoncharles

        One of them was in southern Oregon a couple winters ago. The GPS directed a California family trying to get to the coast onto a logging road that should have been gated off but wasn’t. They got stuck, in snow they weren’t dressed for, clear out of cell phone range. I remember the week-long drama as the search went on. The wife and kids stayed in the car and survived, the husband tried to hike back for help and died.

    1. Lee

      There’s an app on my phone I occasionally use that recently gave me first, a correct turning direction, but then got confused as to my direction of travel and told me to turn the wrong way, which if followed would have resulted in a collision with another vehicle or a sign that read “dead end”. Fortunately, in this case the error was immediately obvious. Does this mean I’m still smarter than my phone?

      1. Harold

        It’s become difficult and expensive to find up-to-date road maps, which I would sorely like at least to supplement my GPS, which I don’t entirely trust. The maps on the phone don’t give you the big picture, I find — or they leave stuff out.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, I don’t buy your premise of the infalliblity of GPS.

      I told readers the story of one of my recent taxi rides, in FL. Driver decides to take the more or less straight shot from airport to my hotel (40 min ride). Google maps had told me the 2 most likely routes were pretty much similar distance-wise, so I didn’t care.

      He had his GPS lady on. She wanted him to go on local roads. She kept ignoring where he was and calling out local road instructions, which was really bizarres, since stuff like “Turn right in 200 yards onto XYZ Avenue” had to presume that he was somewhere where he wasn’t. And it was not as if GPS lady was telling him how to get from where he was to her local road route. Some of the instruction, like, no joke, “Make a U-Turn” would have gotten us killed.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Reminds me of the British artillery planning in World War I. The troops were supposed to take ground on schedule (!), and the guns were trained ahead of where they were supposed to be, to clear the way. So naturally, the troops were held up, but the guns continued to fire on the original plan, miles ahead, useless in the distance (since there was so such thing as battlefield radio at that time; no spotting).

      2. Lambert Strether

        Reminds me of the British artillery planning in World War I. The troops were supposed to take ground on schedule (!), and the guns were trained ahead of where they were supposed to be, to clear the way. So naturally, the troops were held up, but the guns continued to fire on the original plan, miles ahead, useless in the distance (since there was so such thing as battlefield radio at that time; no spotting).

        1. Swamp Yankee

          Ah, yes, the “rolling barrage” — a unique horror of the Great War.

          As for GPS, in my neck of the woods, GPS recognizes as public ways 18th century cart paths that are simply now forest trails. It will direct drivers to attempt to use them, such that one sign at the edge of passable roads, at least a few years ago, was put up saying “GPS – No”, or some near equivalent.

          We are some ways from driverless anything. Personally, I still enjoy physical maps.

        2. Procopius

          Oh, boy. That reminds me of when I was teaching at a Thai private school. All the classes were taught in English, and some classes were supposed to teach English. One teacher had assigned “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and was having a quiz or test on it, and some of the students came to me about half an hour beforehand to ask about phrases they didn’t understand, like what were “dugouts.” The one that sticks in my mind was from where he’s dreaming of being a heroic soldier in The Great War, and his company has to maintain pace to keep up with the “box barrage.” I happened to know what a “box barrage” was, but it was impossible to explain in the time available. I have read that more than half the casualties in Gulf War I were from “friendly fire.” I wonder what the ratio was in The Great War.

  8. Eustache De Saint Pierre

    ” The Spy Who Came Home ” a brilliant & eye opening ( at least for myself ) article.

    Thank you & my guilt at not presently being able to donate continues to grow, but hopefully so will my fortunes.

    1. DJW

      I agree. The contrasts between the experiences of CIA operative Skinner in the Middle East and Officer Skinner in Savannah Georgia are illuminating

    2. Third Time Lucky

      “I already work for the government,” Skinner replied.

      “Yeah, but I mean the government.” (said CIA)

      This! Exactly what Professor Jeffery Sacks means by “Permanent State” in place of Deep State.

      1. Jean

        Is it possible to forgo paying income taxes to the federal government by donating the same amount to a local hospital or even local police department?

        “No taxation without (local) representation.”

    3. Lambert Strether

      It’s a great article.

      I am also extremely dubious about the social tendency here; it reminds me forcibly of the intelligence community people running on the Democrat ticket (an axis of which The New Yorker is most definitely a part).

      So far as I can tell, the guy didn’t resign over Abu Ghraib, or whistleblow in any way. Or did I miss that part?

      Also, does anybody ever really leave the CIA?

      1. pjay

        This particular individual may be a good person (sounds like he is), and we need them in these professions. But the article was intended to evoke our emotions about individual experience to make us feel positive about (1) the CIA, (2) the police, and perhaps (re Lambert’s comment) (3) both together. I know what the surface message was, but the story serves to mystify the role of the CIA in the middle east through human interest (TV and movies do this constantly – New Yorker readers are not too sophisticated to fall for this). The author also happened to have previously written perhaps the most important propaganda piece in the massive effort by the MSM to demonize Assad in our attempt to Balkanize Syria — with a lot of help from the IC. It is crucial to note these things in these days of media hysteria and manipulation.

        I attempted to mention this yesterday but my comment was apparently flagged. Not sure why.

        1. Jules Dickson

          My reading of this article — and the impressions of many other New Yorker readers that I know — is of a far more nuanced and complicated individual who has taken on two very difficult,dangerous, and polarizing roles. I have also been following Ben Taub (the author) since he began writing for the New Yorker and find his articles to be the opposite of propaganda in their reliance on clarifying a broad set of facts rather than cherrypicking information to elicit a visceral reaction. His pieces on Syria (particularly The War on Doctors and the Assad Trials show a level of research and groundwork that is almost daunting to read and uncommon to find anywhere but the New Yorker. I also highly recommend his article on human trafficking The Desperate Journey of a Trafficked Girl

          1. pjay

            I’m guessing my response did not make it through moderation, so let me try a different tact. I am not trying to be argumentative. I have been an avid reader of NC for years and have been infuriated at the propaganda war against the alternative media (including NC). To me this issue is not minor, but a crucial one in this battle. I have also been a long-time reader of the New Yorker. But (in my view at least), its role has changed considerably in the last few years.

            Regarding the article: you are correct that it was about a “nuanced and complicated individual.” That was part of my point. But that is not the only message conveyed. On Taub: propaganda can be constructed from “facts” selected from particular sources to tell a particular story. Without commenting on Taub’s sources or their accuracy (other authors have questioned both), I certainty see them as precisely biased and one-sided. And the power of the articles you cite is in my view absolutely based on emotional manipulation through the depiction of victims of tragedy, atrocity, etc. At the risk of being labeled an “Assad apologist” (which I am definitely not), I’m afraid many “New Yorker readers” have been manipulated into supporting, or at least tacitly justifying, an illegal and immoral foreign policy.

            Perhaps the best qualified New Yorker author, Seymour Hersch, will weigh in on Assad’s villainy… oh wait.

            1. Jules Dickson

              We can disagree here .But to more fully flesh out my response: 1. I applaud all reporters who put themselves in harms way (which Taub has done) to report information that is not being covered. After reading your comment on questions of accuracy, I did some searching on my own and found that the questioning sources did not rise to a standard of proof that convinces me, but instead were unhappy that the articles were more against Assad than against the US’s long-term policies in that region; 2. I know through more than one reliable source that Taub is not an apologist for the CIA but instead tried to cover the Syrian story on the ground, over months, looking at many sources of information. To accuse a writer of political motives without proof is — to me — irresponsible. 3. Taub’s articles are all LONG and DETAILED. To cover all viewpoints were require a full issue of New Yorker or a book. If other sources want to cover the other arguments in as much detail and can write as compellingly, their work would be welcome. 4. Reports on victims of tragedy and atrocity are necessary as a first step to eradicating crimes against humanity. That alone does not make them propaganda. In these cases, I think the stories are compelling and justify the long and difficult read that they present.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  You offer absolutely zero foundation for any of your insinuations. That is a minimum requirement for commenting here. And by attacking a site admin this way you are attacking the site. I don’t have to defend Jules nor will I descend to doing that.

                  You comment is a violation of written site Policies for multiple reasons that you can figure out yourself.. I am blacklisting you.

          2. Third Time Lucky

            “The Assad Trials” is hardly nuanced, nor is there any historical context.

            Nearly all the sources and funding is anonymous, yet the author does not try to look for any agenda.

            1. Third Time Lucky

              I’d like to add, I wonder what would have been gotten up if even 1/10th the funding had been made for a similar operation to get George Bush Jr. or Barry Obama before a court of international justice? Wikileaks has even done all the heavy lifting.

            2. Yves Smith Post author

              You just made clear you are have no business commenting here because you know know nothing about journalism. The fact that an author anonymizes sources does not mean he does not know who the sources are. In fact, it is virtually impossible for a source to be anonymous and a big part of any writer’s job is to vet sources. Taub’s editors would also have demanded that he tell who his sources. are. And your other insinuation is complete fabrication.

              As for your comment re the earlier piece, the onus is on you to prove your position, not assert it. This too falls short of the standards here.

  9. Stephen Haust

    Re: ocean path

    Sorry folks but the last I’ve heard any straight line, extended far enough, would take
    you straight off the planet. Spherical geometry, anyone. Or maybe fresh competence
    training for the eds at Science Mag.

    1. blennylips

      I Know! Things have gone south since we allowed Gauss, Lobachevsky, Riemann, et. al. to muck with Euclid’s Fifth, let alone go beyond the compass and straight edge.

      Last I heard:

      it is not possible to decide through mathematical reasoning alone if the geometry of the physical universe is Euclidean or non-Euclidean; this is a task for the physical sciences.

      The whole GPS thing would not work if programmed around your “straight” principle.

      If you look close enough, any weird geometry appears euclidean locally, in this universe at least.

      1. Stephen Haust

        …and Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name….

        Plagiarize! But please don’t copy Science Mag on this one.

    2. ewmayer

      Very few laypeople are familiar with the proper mathematical term, “geodesic”. Even my dictionary invokes the word ‘line’ in its definition of that term:

      of, relating to, or denoting the shortest possible line between two points on a sphere or other curved surface.

      In generalist articles like this, I don’t have a problem with using “straight line” in the sense of “locally straight in the distance-minimizing sense of a geodesic”. This sort of “inaccuracy” is common and more or less unavoidable when one is attempting to describe mathematical concepts to non-maths-experts without getting too far into the weeds of the subtle attendant details. For example, most engineering students are taught about Fourier series as an approximation tool. The corresponding notation will invariably have the function being approximated on one side of an equals sign and the infinite Fourier series expansion on the other side. Well, that “=” doesn’t mean what most people think it means. Rather, it means “equals, almost everywhere”, which means “equality except on parts of the real line which constitute a set of measure zero”, which also means “equals in the sense of the applicable function-space norm”, which in the case of Fourier series is the L^2 norm, an integral quantity, in terms of which equality means “the integral of the squared difference of f(x) and its infinite-term Fourier series approximation equals zero”. That’s why it’s perfectly acceptable to show a Fourier series infinite-summation “equaling” a function with discontinuities in the function and/or its higher derivatives, even though anyone who has done the exercise of graphing the various finite-term-truncated Fourier series approximations to, say, a step function, is aware of those famous “Gibbs phenomenon” wiggles around the function’s discontinuities, whose amplitude grows rather than shrinks as one takes more and more terms. In the (practically unattainable but mathematically characterizable) limit of infinite terms in the approximant series, the wiggles never go away, they just get confined to a portion of the real line having zero measure, or more colloquially, “vanishing total width”, such that the square-intergral area underneath the wiggles goes to zero.

    3. ChrisPacific

      ‘Straight’ is, unfortunately, a relative term. For example, most of what you think of as straight lines aren’t technically straight once you allow for the curvature of space-time due to gravity.

    1. The Rev Kev

      You wonder if the Brits will ask for the names on those 280 British passports to get them. Then again, when you think about it, they probably already know exactly who they are. Hint – who issued them with those passports and let them out of the UK to go to Syria?

  10. David Carl Grimes

    Regarding Human Capital on FT Alphaville: Why is the Fed so worried about a 3%+ rise in worker’s wages but not a 6% rise in asset inflation?

    1. paul

      Asset inflation is a measure of accumulated wealth, wage inflation is a measure of cost.

    2. cnchal

      I think you are mistaken. The Fed is worried that a 6% rise in asset inflation is too low.

  11. Webstir

    Re: Russia’s Bonds Are Toxic Nuclear Waste Again, Hello Bondageddon Russia Insider (Kevin W).
    “Politics is more important than business now and this is a change that will last for years. The people that make politics think that politics is more important than finance … .”

    Not that I agree with the sanctions, but …
    Is it the people that make politics, or the people, that think politics is more important than finance?
    I really, really, want to punch people that spout such ignorance of historical norms right in the throat.

    Pity the financier …

  12. Jim Haygood

    A headline today celebrates the current economic expansion having reached the same 106 months as the great 1960s boom. However, today’s ISM purchasing managers survey shows deterioration.

    The main ISM index dropped from 59.3 last month to 57.3 this month, still signaling expansion but weaker. On the other hand, ISM’s prices paid index rose to 79.3 from 78.1, on a scale of 100. Historically when the prices paid index rises into the eighties, it’s a late cycle phenomenon of an expansion on its last legs.

    An index of oil refiners that I maintain is up 56% in the past 12 months — great for them, not so great for consumer-depositors motoring to work. :-(

    1. The Rev Kev

      I wonder how that is all going down on Arab Street. The Saudis attacking fellow Arabs and getting buddy-buddy with the Israelis. Then again, not surprising as I saw a film clip of John Kerry testifying back in 2013 that the Saudis and Gulf States offered to pay the bills if the US decided to launch a full-scale invasion of Syria – it’s fellow Arabs. Yeah, the Saudis wanting to rent the US military out as mercs.

    2. Jim Haygood

      It’s pure projection for Netanyahu to rant on about Iran’s alleged nuclear program, when Israel is thought to have a couple of hundred nuclear warheads that have never been declared to the IAEA or internationally inspected.

      As Israel’s repeated invasions and bombings of its neighbors illustrate, it’s the last nation that should be trusted with undeclared weapons of mass destruction.

      1. Wendell

        Well …

        ‘Israel’s repeated … bombings …’ might be — shall we say? — curtailed when the Russians bring their S-300s online.

        ‘Israel’s repeated invasions’, on the other hand, haven’t been so ‘repeated’ since the last time, when Hezbollah sent them homeward tae think again.

    3. Louis Fyne

      one of these mornings you’ll wake up to news that the hardliner Salafists overthrew MBS/the Saudi monarchy in the Sunni version of Iran’s islamic revolution.

      we’ll see how far the West has come since the 70’s oil crisis.

  13. Jason Boxman

    As a contractor, I’ve frequently (exclusively) worked for companies that use the temporary worker ploy, while keeping me on routine projects with an infinite timeline alongside regular employees. At Google, you can get an extension after 1 year and are forced out after 2, I presume to try to maintain the legal fiction that contractors there aren’t essentially employees. (At Google, you’re called a “vendor”.) It seems self defeating, given the ramp up time, to discard people routinely. (It takes 3 – 6 months to become fully effective and proficient in whatever the knowledge domain, processes, and tooling are.)

    1. EoH

      Operating cost vs. fixed cost of employees. Serial “temporary” workers are more expensive only if you include costs often ignored – delays, ramp-up and transition costs, for example. These often seem to remain unaccounted for, or games are played about whose budget these costs hit, furthering the myth that temporary workers are less expensive and that they allow for more “flexibility”.

      I think reduced headcount has become a holy grail, sought after regardless of cost.

  14. disc_writes

    About Di Maio, yes, all formation attempts have failed, and new elections are likely. Of the three main blocks, one, the Democrats, refuses to be in government, and the other two, M5S and the right-wing block, refuse to form a coalition together.

    The long formation period is logorating the M5S, who did badly in recent local elections. They might want elections now before the losses mount.

    But there are reasons to consider Di Maio’s message with some skepticism. This might be, in fact, the turning point in the formation process that will lead to a government:

    – M5S might want to use the threat of new elections to force the Democrats in an alliance: the Democrats are polling even worse than M5S.

    – M5S might be trying to force the Democrats to ally with the right-wing block, as happened in the previous government, and as many people believe was their intention all along, anyway. Then the M5S will be able to expose them as liars (such claims are, after all, the raison d’etre of M5S).

    M5S was born as a protest movement: from their recent electoral defeats they must have learned that they lose votes as soon as they get close to power. Maybe they think that they are better suited for opposition.

    – The two points above are not in contradiction: the Democratic party is in chaos and might very well split in two, as Berlusconi’s party did, in similar circumstances, the last time around.

    – An old rule that always applies to Italian politics: MPs only get their disgustingly generous state pensions after 2 and half years in Parliament. If the Parliament is dissolved now, newly elected MPs will get nothing. And around two thirds of the MPs in the upper and lower chamber sit in Parliament for the first time.

    Chances are that they will want a compromise.

    1. DJG

      The whole courtship has brought up many interesting questions >>
      –The papers are having a field day over the vote in Friuli Venezia Giulia, but FVG is a rather un-typical region, so is this mainly “horse race” journalism? (Ahhhh, for the apple strudel in Cividale del Friuli….) What does a loss in Trieste mean, if anything?
      –I give Luigi di Maio credit for excluding Berlusconi. Of course, he’d have Grillo all over him if he compromised.
      –I think that Salvini hasn’t handled himself well. He is only slighlty more sympathetic than Donald Trump. I can’t see him in power nationally.
      –When did Matteo Renzi turn into Hillary Clinton? The pouting is epic.
      –Where are the women in the leadership of the Partito Democratico? Wowsers. Just a little oversight?

      Good thing that I took one of the on-line polls and discovered that I am LeU. And The Social State, senza dubbio.

    2. Kurt Sperry

      Salvini missed a seemingly heaven-sent opportunity to break from Berlusconi and form a coalition last week when a co-founder of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia Party was sentenced to prison time in an anti-mafia process.

      Di Maio, it seems to me, has been brilliant in this electoral season but he unfortunately cannot think for Salvini or Renzi, both of whom seem to need the help.

  15. Bugs Bunny

    I’d like to understand more about the Parliament votes on Brexit – if the Government can’t take final decisions would it mean that MPs and the Lords could delay Brexit forever or would it just mean that the UK would leave without an agreement in place? If they’ve got this much leverage then May would certainly lose a confidence vote but then (eee gads) Corbyn might waltz in to Number 10.

    1. David

      I greatly doubt that anyone who spoke in the debate really knew what they were doing or what the consequences would be. This is not like ratifying a treaty (OK, the UK Parliament doesn’t have that right, but you know what I mean) where the nation-state is in control. In this case, the Art 50 process comes to an end whatever Parliament may happen to be doing at the time, and, at least in theory, the UK leaves without an agreement. Whether the Lords actually understood that, I’m not clear. Again in theory, some kind of a deal could be done with Brussels, but it’s hard to see how the EU could actually reach an agreement (even a tacit one) with someone else than the elected government.
      The fact is that nobody really knows how the British Constitution works until a particular situation is encountered and some kind of resolution is arrived at. In general, there’s a distinction between government policy (where the doctrine of the Crown in Parliament applies) and specific laws and budgets, where the government can be defeated: the decision to invoke Art 50 was a policy decision, and no legislation was involved. Likewise, May could just decide (if the Cabinet agreed) to write to Brussels and say “we’ve changed our mind.” But it’s hard to see by what mechanism either House could actually force the Government to change its mind if it didn’t want to, except for a confidence vote, which would mean a general election, but which would not, by itself, stop Brexit. There’s no mechanism that I know of for forcing a policy change by a government, because it’s the Queen’s government, and Parliament cannot bind the Sovereign.
      There’s a disturbing belief in some quarters (which may be reflected here) that Brexit is an agreement that both sides have to sign uo to. That’s not the case, of course.

      1. Bugs Bunny

        Merci, David. Not that this clears it up completely in my mind but I now have a better understanding of the pressure points – perhaps this will lead to a true constitutional crisis. Though Rule of Law seems to be out of style in 2018.

      2. John k

        Thanks for this. I don’t follow this too closely, what will be will be, but your explanation seems to say only may, or a new pm, could stop the train. Neither seems likely.

      3. Yves Smith Post author

        To add to his point, if this is at all useful: the timetable set by the EU for Brexit (and in Article 50, there is language that the EU has interpreted as letting them do that, which the UK has only very feebly objected to way too late to make any difference), the exit deal must be agreed by October, since members of the EU 27 need to ratify it and some have long runways for that. Approval has to be only a “qualified majority,” not unanimous. It might be possible to push that out a month but not more than that.

        The flip side is I have assumed the UK would be allowed to back out of a Brexit even up to the very last minute (approving a reversal takes a ton less thinking that reviewing a complicated agreement, plus the EU would have extremely strong incentives to figure out how to do achieve this). But procedurally, it’s pretty much certain the UK can’t/won’t do that. There is a general sentiment that “the people have spoken” that is so strong that a reversal would need to be legitimated by a new referendum that approved Remain. And even the idea of a second referendum is see as too dodgy for many MPs to be willing to stand for it. And procedurally, it’s now too late anyway.

        1. Third Time Lucky

          What happens if the EU members don’t ratify it? What is the default position?

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            This is in Article 50. The UK is out as of March 29 no matter what. This is the “crash out” or “disorderly” Brexit, as opposed to a mere “hard Brexit.” It is the worst possible, most chaotic scenario.

            Remember when Lehman failed? Because everyone stupidly assumed it would somehow be salvaged. no one (including the Treasury or Fed!!!) bothered talking to a bankruptcy attorney. Lehman had retained the best in the business, who has a famously well-tuned sense of what is going on, but they didn’t keep him even remotely in the loop. The result was that Lehman filed what amounted to napkin-doogle level bankruptcy forms, when a more complete legal filing would have considerably reduced the chaos and damage of the Lehman collapse.

            1. Third Time Lucky

              Thank you for the complete reply. a itch that needed scratching for a long time has been well medicated.

        2. vlade

          More or less agree with you, with one caveat – if the EU would want to, it would fudge. That said, I don’t see why EU would want to, except after the UK suffered a bit (which _may_ happen before 29 March 2019 if the markets wake up and we’d have a full-blown sterling crisis on our hands), pour encourager les autres.

          On a crisis like that, I’d believe that the “people have spoken” would fly out of the window for all but Moggie ultras (BJ would likely be the first to change tack), as there are very clear polls most leavers want “pony and all” Brexit, and when even relatively minimal costs are involved, they are not happy (see

          1. David

            I agree. There are really three separate things here, each of which has its own dynamic. The first is how opinion in the UK will move as Brexit gets closer, and what the political consequences will be. That’s impossible to say, but obviously among the possibilities is a reversal or (my pet theory) a demand to the EU to stop the clock and allow things to calm down a bit. The second is the EU’s reaction, which I agree will be to go for a fudge if that seems possible. I’m not at all sure that most EU governments have any idea at the moment of the practical fallout from Brexit – I’m sure there are things that none of us have thought of yet, there always are – and as the deadline approaches I think they will get more and more alarmed. In any event, the idea of having every European Council meeting for the next five years dominated by the consequences of Brexit is not very appetising. The third is the mechanics, which don’t, I agree, look very promising. But if the will is there on both sides (a big if) then some kind of jury-rigged solution could be found. I don’t think the EU is passively going to watch a major crisis happen if there is a way out of it. On the other hand, I doubt very much if the 27 would actually trust the current British government, or any variation of it, as far as it could throw them.

            1. Third Time Lucky

              Thanks, David. You and PK have helped throw a lot of light on a very non-transparent event.

            2. PlutoniumKun

              I agree with you that the key obstacle to some sort of ‘fudge’ is the political dynamics. ‘Fudges’ occur when its in everyone’s interest to pretend that black is white and the sky is green. But I don’t see us anywhere near that dynamic, on either the EU or the UK side. Only a new government could change things on the UK side.

              From the EU side, there has been quite remarkable unanimity on an uncompromising stance on the integrity of the EU as an organisation, and much of this comes from the ineptness of the UK in its attempt to divide and conquer. Outside of perhaps Ireland and maybe the Netherlands, there is no real fear of the consequences of a chaotic Brexit, they seem to think its manageable (and from the perspective of most EU countries, it probably is). There are plenty of business sectors and regions who now think they can benefit by poaching British business. Britain has lost pretty much all its friends and allies within Europe. Merkel and Macron are not in a position to put any political capital on the table in order to push an unsatisfactory deal.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            I don’t agree with you at all on the idea of “a fudge”. This is projecting UK practices on the Continent. Unless you can tell me what you think “a fudge” would amount to and how precisely it comes into effect, I don’t buy it.

            The Continent is civil law. It does not run by fudges. The reason the EU hangs together at all is because it hews to the rules and that provides a measure of assurance to little countries that Germany and France won’t run rougshod over them.

            The cases of “fudges” apply only in the interpretation of rules, after the fact, like in letting France break Maastrict budget limits, and not in the writing of the rules. And there was not a Maastrict handshake, “yeah, you can break rules some of the time later.” This was a concession to facts on the ground,.

            Moreover, Germany and France (and they have surprising unanimity of support from the rest of the EU) has been that they accept that Brexit will cost them. They’ve already market that to market. Everyone who counts from Merkel on down has taken a consistent hard stance. Even the countries with meaningful trade surpluses to the UK have fallen in line. Tell me who the constituency in Europe is for giving the UK a fudge. I can’t find one big enough to count.

            1. vlade

              I understand the continental law and practice quite well – I’m currently suing an insurance company under continental law, and my mother was a prosecutor under continental law.

              Germany fudged the whole re-union thing, but since no-one had any incentive to complain, it went through. So, for example, EU could fudge the UK back even aftre 29 March (within days or weeks, month at most IMO).

              I did not say EU will fudge – but that if it wanted, it could. That it alerady accepted it doesn’t mean it can’t change if circumstances changed (which humiliation of the UK could well trigger).

              1. PlutoniumKun

                I think the key fact about the German re-unification issue is that it was an almighty fudge, but it was one everyone agreed to – there was nobody willing to object, and there was a huge push by the Germans to make it happen. The British were unhappy, but ultimately decided to stand back and let it happen.

                A problem with the Brexit process I think is that there is neither the willpower among the leaders to force through a fudge, and there are many potential objectors – for example, the Spanish would try to get something on Gibraltar, and more than a few business groups or regions will see themselves as gaining from a tough Brexit. So I think Brussels will be aware that an attempted ‘fudge’ could be a high risk option that could easily blow up embarrassingly (for example, if someone took a case to the ECJ).

                My reading on it is that a chaotic Brexit falls under the category of ‘regrettable, but unavoidable’ for much of the EU. There will be no political blowback for EU politicians (except maybe in Ireland) if it happens, and that’s the bottom line for most of them.

        3. Sid_finster

          Since when did governments give a toss for any law that prevents them from doing what they want to?

          1. flora

            Well, not to be too vulgar here, from violating any law that shows them in full monty to the voters, imo.

        4. Oregoncharles

          Barnier has said publicly that the EU would accept a cancellation at any time – before the due date, I suppose.

          So you’re right that the real obstacles are on Britain’s side. However, an advantage of not having a Constitution is that they can ignore “procedure” if Parliament and government agree.

          I keep remembering that May was a Remainer.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            A problem of course with that is that for the EU a cancellation is just that – a cancellation. Without another referendum the only viable political option for a UK politician (including Corbyn) would be a postponement or a suspension, and that certainly would not be acceptable to the EU, at least not in terms of allowing the UK back having a seat at the table.

  16. Jean

    Ban sales?

    We should promote the sale of F-35s to all our enemies, present and future. They will go broke and end up grounding their air forces.

      1. visitor

        I read that those contraptions are full of dangerous polluting substances. Thus, the paint that is supposed to endow the airplane with stealthy properties is reportedly highly toxic.

      2. newcatty

        Ha…If you live in a “historical neighborhood ” then you would have to get permission to display your new “sculpture” in your front yard. Would your neighborhood board go to bat for you? Now, you could argue that your sculpture is an artistic expression not detracting from the historical facade of your historical front elevation. And, since Tucson is an airforce town…it would also be patriotic and inspiring to the locals.

      3. wilroncanada

        A Slim
        Where would you put it among all your other ornaments.
        Pink flamingos on the doorstep,
        Plastic bambis upon the lawn,
        Rotary daisies in the garden,
        Concrete gnomes and a plaster swan
        With a hole in his back to plant geraniums,
        And to adorn the wall
        Three plywood butterflies
        Arranged in order of size,
        And a duck on a stick
        With rotating wings
        That does the Australian crawl.
        Lorne Elliott
        The League of Lawn Art Lovers

        We only really do it just to piss the neighbours off.

  17. Plenue

    “Senate Bill To Ban F-35 Sales To Turkey An Unprecedented Attempt To Check Erdogan’s Actions”

    I dunno. Seems to me giving him F-35s would be a perfect way to gimp the Turkish military.

  18. ex-pat

    Putin oligarch information from Duran misses a key element.
    Oligarchs profited from Marc Rich, fixer extraordinaire.
    You recall Marc Rich, so did Bill Clinton. He pardoned Rich.
    Research Marc Rich to see who also contributed to the 1990s problems.

  19. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    104 year old Australian scientist.

    From the article:

    In fact, until recent years, he appeared to be in good health — he played tennis until he was 90, he performed in amateur stage plays until his eyesight began to decline, and he kept up his work as an honorary research assistant at Edith Cowan University in Perth, even after the school in 2016 deemed him unfit to continue making the trek to campus. The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported at the time that after nearly two decades on the campus, Goodall was told to leave amid concerns about his well-being. The incident gained international media attention, with Goodall, then 102, calling it ageism in the workplace.

    “It’s depressed me; it shows the effect of age. The question would not have arisen if I were not an old man,” he told the news organization at the time.

    University officials later reversed their decision.

    But Goodall said his health is declining.

    He told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that several months ago he fell down in his apartment in Perth and, for two days, he lay on the floor until his housekeeper found him.

    “I called out, but no one could hear me,” he said.

    Goodall said he believes it is time for him to die, but his country’s new legislation is of no use to him because it applies only to those who are terminally ill.

    1. Swiss law prohibits assisted suicide, but only for “selfish motives.” Why go there?

    Why not Belgium?

    In most countries, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are illegal. However, a handful of nations — including Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands — have legalized one or both of the practices, according to the nonprofit group

    2 Only two years, he was a victim of ageism, when he wanted to work. But now he’s not as healthy. When one’s that old, I imagine health can change quickly (not from experience or anything I have read, but supposing). He fell in his house and no one knew for two days. That is a great concern.

    Would he think otherwise, would change his mind, if he had someone, or some more people, living with him? Is being alone a key consideration and is that something that can be addressed, if not in his case, perhaps in others’?

    1. Lord Koos

      My great-grandmother lived to 98. She told us once that “It’s not that much fun to be this old”.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        How we feel now and at that 90, 98 or 104 can be vastly different.

        Like a lot of other things, some will want to keep going, and some won’t. Only two years ago, in 2016, he was arguing to return to his university. It may not have been fun, or as much fun as before, for him, but he wasn’t ready to leave either. And from the article, there wasn’t much about the rest of his health, except he was with loved ones (who presumably don’t live with him on a daily basis) celebrating his 104th birthday.

        The way the article is written, it appears that he is concerning about another accident like that, and the next time, he might be in a lot of pain before leaving this world. Who wants to be in that situation? And can that concern be addressed?

        1. witters

          I should imagine he has had more life experience than any of us – I’d say his judgement here counts. It should be respected.

          1. flora

            Should his wishes ( I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but here goes ) include the right to ask someone else to carry the burden of having killed him? Or is the person who is asked to “kill him” only regarded as instrumental. This is a very serious question.

            1. ambrit

              We’re being tasked with creating and defining a classification of homicide halfway between murder and suicide. I agree, it might not be doable.
              Of course now, we have plenty of people hanging around like the last official hangmen of England, or numerous drone pilots.

    2. The Rev Kev

      One of our States, the Northern Territory, enacted Euthanasia back in the 1990s but the Federal government shortly stepped in and made up a new law to make this illegal. This was by a conservative-coalition government (sorta like your Republicans) who firmly believe that every person has the right to a tedious, painful death. More on euthanasia in Australia-

    3. flora

      Interesting we’re seeing stories like this and stories about MD’s suggesting opioid overdoes shouldn’t be treated too aggressively, because what’s the point, coming out after the Skripols’ (sp?) opioid (fentanyl, according to first med reports) overdose attack. Gosh, if only the ER room docs in England hadn’t treated them so carefully they might have died. I think that would have pleased a certain segment in the UK and the US. (Ok, tinfoil hat territory, but still…..)

  20. Jean

    “Why Small Businesses Matter for Workers”

    Not mentioned is the Multiplier Effect of how money spent in a local small business recirculates within the local economy, over and over, thus employing more workers locally, versus being sent off to corporate headquarters,
    (Or to foreign countries as remunerations by ‘migrants’)

    I copied this years ago. The numbers may have changed

    “Multiplier effect

    The private research firm Civic Economics has executed the bulk of studies attempting to quantify the difference in local economic return between local independents and chain businesses. Their first such study (pdf), for the city of Austin, Texas showed an independent bookseller (Book People) and music seller (Waterloo Records) returned more than three times as much money to the local economy as a proposed Borders Books and Music outlet would.*

    Those results since have been mirrored by subsequent studies (ten summarized here), each showing a much greater local multiplier for spending at independent businesses than chains. These studies measured the direct and indirect impacts to determine the base level local economic activity of a purchase made at a chain and a local independent business. On average, 48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores. (See blue graph)

    Content Source:

    1. Jean

      Forgot to mention, one should always spend cash, rather than credit card charges in local businesses.

      Why? They get the money immediately, don’t have 2-6% shaved off by the Wall Street bank owned credit card parasites after a long wait and don’t forgo the entire charge if there is fraud involved because of their own lax online systems and safeguards.

      Plus, there’s privacy and a lack of data mining by the credit card companies that always sell your information to advertisers and leave it vulnerable to hackers and the other snoops.

      1. Expat2uruguay

        Here in Uruguay there’s a 22% sales tax. If you use a foreign credit card at restaurants and hotels that 22% sales taxes waived. It makes it really hard to stick to convictions. I’m now sensitive about using my credit for card for anything under $20

  21. Musicismath

    A little while ago, I went out for dinner with a bunch of academics after a public lecture. The speaker was a Professor at an Ivy League university, but not originally from the US. After a few drinks, they confided in us that they found other American humanities academics entirely mediocre. It was like the system was selecting for unoriginality, a narrow outlook, and an inability to really think. American academia, “home of the unrevised doctoral dissertation”, as they put it.

    I was reminded of that conversation as I read the apparently random selection of half-assed moral judgements, non sequiturs, and Wikipedia-copy-and-paste-level “history” masquerading as serious analysis, entitled “Democrats need to stop believing this myth about Trump’s base” (CNN). “How could a full professor at Princeton be that stupid?,” I wondered.

    Well, I guess the answer is that the logic of the neoliberal university demands that its professors be exactly that stupid. Couldn’t have the professional-managerial classes, those who think they’re “on the right side of history” (a phrase the article even uses), feel even slightly uncomfortable, could we? No. Everyone else is just bad and wrong. Apparently.

    1. Swamp Yankee

      As someone who came through a top US humanities graduate program but is of a working-class background — I believe your interlocutor is entirely correct, Musicmath. I assumed that writer at CNN was some kind of hack Democratic politico or strategist, but it makes sense that they are careerist neoliberals: academia edition.

      Someone somewhere recently said that becoming a tenured professor, or often even tenure-track, at the most prestigious universities, is sort of like becoming a columnist for the NYT — all the interesting and original thinkers are either weeded out or weed themselves out, and what is left are mediocrities and careerists (often the same people) who support capitalist hegemony.

      People who actually take knowledge and thinking seriously are heavily selected against. I s— you not, but have made reference in the past to a battle fought by Alexander the Great and the Persians — Gaugamela, in Mesopotamia — and had a leading light in their field respond, and I’m not making this up, “lol, what is that, the bad guy from The Smurfs?” (that would be Gargamel). It wasn’t enough to not know that battle, which, hey, sure, it is somewhat obscure today, I grant that. It is this jokey kind of snark insistence that even knowing it is worthy of contempt. Cf. also someone in grad school for history declaring “Nothing interesting happened before 1950.”

      Honestly, most of the grad students, or a strong plurality I should say, were what I’ve come to call academy brats. Their parents are professors, and it’s just the family business now. One of these insisted to me that “periodical” was not a word; the same person was a European historian, ostensibly, who’d never heard of the Jacobins.

      Never underestimate the professional-managerial class. As one friend said of our Euro historian who’d never heard of the Jacobins, so we can say of the class as a whole: each time you jump in, the pond just gets shallower.

      1. Swamp Yankee

        That last paragraph, first sentence should read: *It is impossible to underestimate the professional-managerial class.*

          1. Swamp Yankee

            Wow, I never had seen this site Language Log before — it’s really very cool. A great find, thank you for sharing!

        1. Harold

          I went to a conference about the Rape of Nanking organized by a friend (I am not an academic) and on the plane back I sat next to a professor at a midwestern university who had presented a paper and who was an expert on massacres, and just to make conversation I brought up the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew, and he had never heard of it. (!!! ) Only the most famous massacre in all history, probably.

      2. a different chris

        I’m a freaking super-tech-school-masquerading-as-a-university graduate, two actually, and even *I* know about Gaugamela (although I couldn’t spell it on a bet, admittedly). Wow that is depressing.

        PS: points for knowing Gargamel, too! That truely would be beyond me. I assume your children are much younger than mine…

        1. Swamp Yankee

          a different chris, I often found that people who went to less “prestigious” schools had better educations. There were exceptions, but it was often the case.

          And yeah, it was just very depressing. Knowledge of Gaugamela, or factual content generally, like even very simple use of math or hard sciences, was seen as less important than — I can’t really say what they put in its place. Snark? Careerism? They weren’t theorists, not generally. They were mostly apt at trend-spotting and telling their superiors what they wanted to hear.

          Don’t get me wrong, there were great people, who were really wonderful scholars and human beings, but they tended to not be socially or academically dominant like the former clique.

          And as for the Smurfs — I’m in my thirties, so it’s my own childhood familiarity with that (very strange, in retrospect) show. I think Gargamel was an evil sorcerer, IIRC!

      3. Musicismath

        Yeah, what you’ve described sounds very familiar. In academic circles, certainly in the US, “knowingness” (attitude) and “savvy” (a sense of being plugged into the professional network and the wider popular culture) have more or less replaced the need to know anything in particular. Academic American Facebook friends of mine endlessly congratulate each other on their Hamilton fandom and post cute pics of their dogs and cats. Do they discuss or even refer to actual ideas online? Never. I do sometimes wonder what actually goes on in their classes.

        It’s my theory that this is related to Trump Derangement Syndrome. (Because the other thing my academic FB friends do is endlessly and performatively complain about Trump.) When their status is threatened (as it was by the events of 2016), they have no intellectual resources to fall back on and retreat into conspiracy theorising, freeform panic, and just generally lose their [family blog].

        1. Arizona Slim

          Musicismath, your second paragraph is a good summation of why I bailed on Faceborg. The lack of fallback intellectual resources among my so-called friends.

          I’m about to enter my third month of FB sobriety, and I have yet to hear from any of those people.

          1. Swamp Yankee

            Musicmath — that comports with my experience exactly! They aren’t actually interested in the content of their teaching or “work” (“my work explores….”) as much as in its performance. I used to see this when I was an undergrad, people ostentatiously getting study carrels to “work” (read: be seen “working”) on their thesis. I took the books back from the library and worked on it from my dorm room. It was more fun and productive! Most of those work-performers are various species of corporate drone now — well, I guess they always were….

            Even worse in grad school. And yes, Lord a’mercy, the Hamilton stuff was one of the reasons I stepped out of Zuck’s Panopticon for a long time. I’d find myself saying: Which was your favorite part of Hamilton’s program: rule by finance capital, a hereditary Senate, or hatred for popular democracy. Actually, this is their (academic neoliberals’) desideratum, so no surprises there. And yes, I second your comments on their inability to process the world as it is that came to the fore in 2016 and hasn’t calmed down since. Thanks be to Yves, Lambert, Jerry-Lynn, Outis, and everyone here at NC for this space of rare sanity.

            Arizona Slim — good for you! One day at a time.

  22. allan

    Trump doc says Trump bodyguard, lawyer ‘raided’ his office, took medical files [NBC]

    In February 2017, a top White House aide who was Trump’s longtime personal bodyguard, along with the top lawyer at the Trump Organization and a third man, showed up at the office of Trump’s New York doctor without notice and took all the president’s medical records.

    The incident, which Dr. Harold Bornstein described as a “raid,” took place two days after Bornstein told a newspaper that he had prescribed a hair growth medicine for the president for years.

    In an exclusive interview in his Park Avenue office, Bornstein told NBC News that he felt “raped, frightened and sad” when Keith Schiller and another “large man” came to his office to collect the president’s records on the morning of Feb. 3, 2017. At the time, Schiller, who had long worked as Trump’s bodyguard, was serving as director of Oval Office operations at the White House. …

    Bornstein said the original and only copy of Trump’s charts, including lab reports under Trump’s name as well as under the pseudonyms his office used for Trump, were taken. …

    It would be irresponsible not to mention that Schiller is being paid $15,000 a month by the RNC for his silence unspecified services.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Even though what Team Trump did may have been thuggish (even CNN is having to say the fact of what happened at the office are disputed) I have zero sympathy for the doctor. It is an appalling breach of ethics as well as privacy laws to discuss ANYTHING regarding a patient’s condition or treatments to third parties without his consent.

      As I read this, and this isn’t being well reported, patients normally can get copies of their records from the MD. Trump decided they need to take the originals. They don’t have the right to them. But Trump would have been perfectly entitled to sue the doctor into bankruptcy for talking about his medical history to the press.

      1. Arizona Slim

        On this issue, I find myself agreeing with President Trump. Does that make me a backward deplorable?

  23. Ford Prefect

    What is wrong with this picture?

    I think the NRA is allowing themselves to be railroaded into giving up their constitutional right to bear arms by liberal Secret Service agents. I think they should refuse to allow Trump and Pence speak at their convention unless they are allowed the same constitutional right that they are fighting for everyone else to exercise.

      1. JBird

        I know almost nothing about Australian politics. What would make him so scared as to wear a vest? Was there some credible threat or was it The Gunz?

        1. The Rev Kev

          He blamed his security detachment for that decision but I doubt it. It was not a good look for him acting as a ‘courageous’ leader but being afraid to face the muggles. Only funny thing was he went to Washington years later and was asked by the Republicans at one of their big does what his greatest accomplishment was. When he called out gun control, that kinda went down like a lead balloon there.

    1. JBird

      As much as I support the 2nd Amendment ever since Abraham Lincoln, or perhaps Andrew Jackson, American Presidents and even some Vice Presidents have had many, many attempted assassinations (30 plus?) over two centuries along with four successful ones. I don’t blame the Secret Service from being so concerned or demanding at all. Sometimes a little paranoid is good. Something about our political culture that makes the President a common target. Not anyone else like mayors or police chiefs.

        1. JBird

          True, and that list can’t be nearly exhaustive, but how many elected members of even just state and federal offices have there been? They are also more understandable mostly. The Indian Wars, Reconstruction including some of the very very questionable elections, job disputes, love spats, Union suppression, and so on. Many had social or political connections to their murderers with a relatively small pool of likely killers.

          The presidency has been a target over thirty times just by itself. They created the Secret Service after the third assassinated President. Unlike most of the others, the President had no clue that that person has made him the focus of his grievance. The pool of potential killers is the entire nation. Not some politico in his backwoods county or town like most.

          Although I am once again reminded just how violent are country has been. Bombs, guns, and knives in those murderers. The past twenty years has been pretty quiet violence wise, and I think having the level of violence of even the 1970s would cause the nation to go out of its mind. And we are probably going to have a resurgent once serious protests and the resulting violent crackdowns really start.

  24. Ford Prefect

    Re: Mulvaney vs. the Great Lakes

    Half the shoreline of the Great Lakes is in Canada and the outlet is through Canada. Why would the US want to prevent it’s sewers from discharging though Canada? Making America Great Again like before the Clean Water Act.

  25. Anon

    > Calif. Supreme Court Transforms Test for Who Is an Employee Bloomberg Law (Paul R). Wowsers. On the whole, looks good for employees in that the burden of proof of meeting the tests is on the employer (!!!) and one of the three tests is worker autonomy. It also looks to me (and please experts opine) that this will also wreak havoc with another gimmick that employers use, that of using agencies to hire people as supposed temps who aren’t temps (as in they work regular hours for months or more). However, how autonomous autonomous has to be isn’t yet clear, and I am not sure what the court means with the “independently established role” part.

    I am not a lawyer and wouldn’t even call myself an expert, but I have some knowledge in this area.

    The court’s decision is great for workers, but unfortunately, it is unlikely to affect the temp employee scam you refer to except that it may permit a more expansive concept of joint employment (where a temp employee would be considered jointly employed by the temp agency and the user employer). The decision is most relevant to the scenario where companies try to misclassify employees as (1099) independent contractors — think Uber drivers. In the temp agency scenario, the worker is usually considered a (W-2) employee of the temp agency, and the temp agency is a contractor to the user employer.

    The court adopted Massachusetts’ version of the ABC test for differentiating employees from independent contractors. The ABC test, and the Massachusetts version specifically, is the strictest/most pro-worker test for this purpose. The test requires that a worker, in order to be considered an independent contractor, must meet all of the following requirements (this is a summary, not an exact quote):

    (A) free from control in the performance of the services

    This factor is part of most tests for differentiating employees from contractors, including California’s old Borello standard and the IRS’s common-law employee test. The problem is that it can be a really gray area with operations like Uber and leads to a lot of argument in litigation; my view is that Uber and similar operations fail this prong, but Uber’s lawyers use flexible scheduling, the lack of human supervision, the employee’s ownership and choice of vehicle, and other factors like that to argue otherwise.

    (B) the work must be performed outside the employer’s usual course of business

    This is also a part of most other tests (often phrased as “is the work integral to the employer’s business”). It basically means “is the employer in the business of performing the same type of work?” For example, driving is performed in the usual course of business for a taxi service like Uber, so Uber easily and unambiguously fails this prong. (Uber tries to argue, unsuccessfully so far, that they are a technology company producing an app that connects people looking for rides to oh-so-independent drivers.)

    (C) the worker must be engaged in an independently established trade or business

    This just means “did the worker independently establish this business, or did their ‘business’ consist of filling out a job application on the company’s website and suddenly becoming an ‘independent businessperson’.” Besides the date of creation of the “business,” the court will look to other factors to determine whether an independent business really exists: Do they advertise their services? Do they have a website describing their business? Do they have multiple clients, or have they attempted to obtain other clients? Have they made some kind of genuine capital investment in the business (a personal car is unlikely to be persuasive)? Do they have employees or have they shown an intent to hire employees? “Gig economy” workers fail all of these. These are not hardline factors; for example, a worker who drives for both Uber and Lyft is more likely to be seen as analogous to an employee who works part-time for both Walmart and Target, than an independent businessperson with multiple clients.

    This is a nightmare for the “gig economy” because, while they can argue all day about control, they unambiguously fail prongs B and C — and they must pass all prongs in order to classify a worker as a contractor. Also, the unfavorable Grubhub ruling from a few months back, now on appeal to the 9th Circuit, will definitely be overturned based on this new standard.

  26. neighbor7

    Re Fabians: nicely printed pamphlets, given away en masse, instead of endless twitter rants–concrete material benefits?

  27. Oregoncharles

    “New York Times Feature Seriously Ponders Whether We Should Let People Addicted to Drugs Die ”

    That actually happened to my stepson’s friend – only he was taking LEGAL medical marijuana. He was denied a transplant, in Oregon, at the state university hospital, and subsequently died. How they live with themselves I don’t understand.

    OTOH: there is a real ethical dilemma. Transplant organs are very scarce; even those who qualify sometimes wait for years. Consequently, someone has to decide what is the best use of the available organs. I’m glad I don’t get to make that decision.

    1. ewmayer

      Here is a link to an article about the combined medical and ethical considerations. The upshot:

      Organs are allocated based on need, fairness, and the likelihood that the organ will succeed in restoring health. Patients that continue to abuse a substance are not candidates for transplants. Patients that attend alcohol rehabilitation, and are able to change their ways, are candidates to receive a life-saving organ. If wewere to hold them accountable for past mistakes, we would be forced to hold every transplant patient accountable for their mistakes out of fairness, and this would not be possible. In general, if a patient does not follow medical advice when caring for a transplanted organ, they are not a candidate for a retransplant, whereas those who take care of their organs can rejoin the list of those waiting if a retransplant is required.

    1. Lambert Strether

      From the article:

      According to a Fortune report based on court documents, Gibson will repay bank loans while under the control of its prominent bondholders, who will replace current stockholders such as Juszkiewicz in the driver’s seat. Juszkiewicz is expected to remain with Gibson until it emerges from bankruptcy in order to assure a smooth transition. The group of bondholders taking the company’s reins will engineer a new loan of up to $135 million to keep Gibson operating.

      For some reason, the phrase “sucking mandibles” just popped into my head….

  28. Oregoncharles

    “Daily emissions from personal care products comparable to car emissions: study”

    Anyone else go look at their bathroom shelves? I just did, and didn’t find the mentioned chemical listed in anything we have (mostly from the co-op/health food store. There are fragrances, though, almost all plant-derived. I seem to remember that the scrub (chaparral) in southern California sometimes emits a visible smog; plant fragrances are pretty volatile. And a few other substances I suspect are volatile enough to be a factor.

    The very worst might be fabric softener sheets and detergents. We’ve found we can smell people coming way out on hiking trails; it’s their laundry we detect, since we don’t use fragrances like that. I suspect they can’t smell it anymore. Fragrances are by definition volatile.

    The real problem is just having so many people in the same place.

    1. ambrit

      “The real problem is having so many people in the same place.”
      Saint Elon, cousin to Saint Elron perhaps, is working on a solution to that problem with the ‘Mars Project.’

Comments are closed.