Links 6/14/18

High-Climbing Raccoon Finally Reaches Top Of St. Paul Skyscraper And America Exhales Huffington Post. I hate to say it but I was pretty certain she’d fall and I didn’t like thinking about that. So we have a rare happy ending.

The Plight of Birds and the Hand of Man in the Sixth Great Extinction Counterpunch

78 indigenous languages are being saved by optical scanning tech Fast Company (Chuck L)

Einstein’s travel diaries reveal physicist’s racism BBC

How Fuel Breaks Actually Fuel Wildfires (and Spread Invasive Weeds) Counterpunch (Chuck L)

The rate of Antarctic melting has nearly tripled in the past five years (Kevin W)

If iPhone Moves to USB-C, We Must Embrace One Last Dongle Motherboard (Kevin W)

Seawater yields first grams of yellowcake: Yarn-like material collects largest amount of uranium to date PhysOrg. Chuck L: “Just what the world needs. An inexpensive method for obtaining uranium by anyone within hailing distance of sea water. Then all we need is for someone to come up with a similarly easy way to separate the isotopes.”

Dual-gender macrochimeric tissue discordance is predicted to be a significant cause of human homosexuality and transgenderism Hypotheses in Life Sciences (UserFriendly)

NHS ‘picking up the pieces’ of mental illness epidemic caused by social media Telegraph

Pychedelic Drugs Reshape Cells to “Repair” Neurons in Our Brains Inverse (David L). A wee bit incautious…


Ivanka Trump’s ‘Chinese proverb’ tweet mystifies China Reuters EM: “I liked the bit in the article where one Weibo user admits that Chinese people like to make up ancient Chinese proverbs as much as westerners do.”

North Korea

Syria & Iran Prove There’s No Chance For North Korean Peace alt-news (Wat)

South Koreans Reject Pro-War Old Guard as Moon’s Peace Party Wins Big in Local Elections (Kevin W)

Opinion: United States leaves Japan in cold on North Korea DW

The world should welcome Trump’s bold move to engage Kim Jong Un The Hill. Lambert: “I would classify the author, Ian Bremer, as a nimble post-Cold War national security policy entrepreneur, and not especially partisan.”. Moi: Don’t miss the cautionary note at the end re China.”

Centrists Are Very Concerned That Donald Fucking Trump Isn’t Hawkish Enough Caitlin Johnstone (UserFriendly)

The high price of New Look’s low-cost strategy Guardian (UserFriendly)

ECB Seen Signaling the End of Bond-Buying Program Wall Street Journal


Six Labour MPs quit frontbench roles over key Brexit vote Sky (Kevin W)

Security row over EU Galileo satellite project as Britain is shut out Guardian

Brexit: Open thread Richard North. Important. Opens with a telling story.

Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures openDemocracy

Jacob Rees-Mogg defends setting up hedge fund branch in Ireland ahead of possible ‘hard Brexit’ Telegraph

Grenfell Tower: Commemorative events held to mark one year since fire Guardian (Biologist)

France and Italy ramp up dispute over migration Financial Times (UserFriendly)

Migrants put mafia mobsters behind bars in Palermo DW. Palermo was also one of the cities willing to take the migrant ship now headed for Spain.

113: Number of Mexican Politicians Killed Since September Telesur (Bill B)


Yemen war: Fighting rages over vital port of Hudaydah BBC

Yemen – The Starvation Siege Has Begun Moon of Alabama

Nazi swastika flag flown on Australian Defence vehicle in Afghanistan (Kevin W)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Apple to Close iPhone Security Loophole Used by Law Enforcement Bloomberg

A Chip in the Windshield: China’s Surveillance State Will Soon Track Cars Wall Street Journal

Tariff Tantrum

U.S. Prepares to Proceed With Tariffs on Chinese Goods Wall Street Journal (Kevin W)

Trump Transition

Trump tightens grip on GOP The Hill. We compared to a hostile takeover when he won the primary.

Judge green-lights ‘kill list’ lawsuit Politico

Thomas Frank on the Democratic Party, Their Credibility Trap, and the Beleaguered Middle Class Jesse

Obama’s retirement fail Politico (UserFriendly). Sadly not his personal retirement.

Anticipation builds for report on FBI’s Clinton probe The Hill

Under Health Law, Hospitals’ Charity Care Has Dropped Significantly California Healthline Daily Edition

Plan to split California into 3 states eligible for November ballot ABC7 (UserFriendly)

Fake News

‘Fewer people’ are using Facebook for news BBC

GM will soon have a female CFO and CEO. That’s rare CNN (Kevin W)

I was fired from the CFPB’s Consumer Advisory Board last week… Medium

Federal Reserve raises US interest rates again amid trade relations fears Guardian (Kevin W)

Fed hikes rates despite no inflationary signs in data Economic Policy Institute

Class Warfare

A minimum-wage worker can’t afford a 2-bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S. Washington Post (UserFriendly)

How Private Equity Helped Kill Toys ‘R’ Us Atlantic (Eileen Appelbaum)

#JoggerJoe charged with robbery in Lake Merritt incident East Bay Times

People kicking these food delivery robots is an early insight into how cruel humans could be to robots SFGate. UserFriendly: “LOL.”

Antidote du jour (Tracie H):

And a bonus video:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The proverb in question: “Those who say it can not be done, should not interrupt those doing it.”

      Most likely source, I think, is not Chinese, but Spanish. Specifically, Don Juan.

      1. jrs

        It’s rude to interrupt those doing it at any time, even in the park, or under the boardwalk.

      2. Jeff W

        I know the meaning is completely different but I can’t help thinking of Isaac Asimov’s “Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”

  1. Party on

    The link at the end of my post will take you to a chart on the St. Louis Fed website of the USA’s All Sectors; Debt Securities and Loans; Liability, Level (TCMDO) versus their gross domestic product, from 1975 to 2018.

    The following is taken off this same web page:

    “The FRED series Total Credit Market Debt Owed is now known as All Sectors; Debt Securities and Loans; Liability, Level.”

    (To view the chart you have to enable cookies on your computer)

    1. Jim Haygood

      … from which it follows that it now takes four dollars of debt to finance one dollar of GDP growth — up from one to one back in the Leave It To Beaver days of black-and-white TV.

      Obviously this is quite sustainable. [/sarc]

      1. JTMcPhee

        But think of the “investment plays” and arbitrage and control fraud opportunities, Jim! For market players, who have figured out the game, an ever bigger sandbox! Not to mention the knock-on effects of a meltdown-bubbleprick on those awful public employee pensions and the public sector and general welfare generally!

      2. apberusdisvet

        And: given yesterdays’s rate hike with full knowledge of the dire state of the economy, the FED seems ready to crash the markets and further impoverish us all (except the 1%, dontcha know).

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Seems like the markets are irrelevant when

          1. when they go up, we are impoverished.

          2. when they go down, we are further impoverished.

          Perhaps it’s easier to distribute the pie more equitably when the markets go down.

    2. jsn

      Since 2008 at least we’ve been a centrally planned economy with the planning done by bank lobbyists and the Fed.

      As in China the externalities are piling up.

      But the fiat sluice is infinite so it will be real world affects that end the Ponzi: central banks are now running the con, know they are and don’t know how to get out.

  2. ambrit

    Re. People kicking robots. Well, considering how badly people treat each other, the robots should not feel surprised. What will military robots get for battle injuries? Purple Gears?

    1. tegnost

      “…perhaps we should actually be worried about how humans treat tech, rather than the other way around? Besides, after the AI revolution, our little mechanical friends might remember who was doing the kicking.”
      This, added to the comment re how “the man” don’t care if you touch his robot, because it’s got lots of cameras and in true neoliberal form, the gov will punish you for impeding his path to riches…oops I mean the march of progress

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Is he saying whenever he hears the word ‘progress,’ he reaches his wallet to make sure his money is still there?

      2. Oh

        oooooh they’re equipped with 9 cameras. Scary! Nothing a tarp thrown on the robot from afar can’t take of!

        1. zer0

          Ok let’s put some context to this:
          1st, Ive seen similiar robots to these on the sidewalk. They are a nuisance. They do not provide any indication except noice, as in, a human will make eye contact to avoid a passerby. Nice people will walk around. Not so nice people will kick them away if they get near. It’s because NO ONE HAS ANY CLUE WHAT IT IS GOING TO DO. And people think this is cruel? Its animal instinct: anything foreign is responded to with fight or flight.

          2nd, these companies do not usually get the proper licenses to operate these things en masse. They do not advertise much and the technology is nowhere near accepted. This kind of robot couldve been built back in the 2000s, but Im sure people thought otherwise. Its very gimmicky (seriously, what is the value of having something delivered at 4mph by a robot? is it really time to do away these kinds of jobs for such a minimal amount of efficiency? can this robot walk up a flight of stairs? can it use the intercom?).

          3rd, the tech is still so eh. Until they make humanoid robots that can talk and look and replicate human interaction, I would expect this to happen all the time.

          1. Procopius

            Computers/robots are basically very fast adding machines. If you think they have feelings you are delusional. It is not possible to be cruel to a robot. They don’t have feelings.

            I didn’t read the article. The use of the word “cruel” was all I needed to know it was written by an idiot.

            1. blennylips

              Certainly possible to display cruelty to a robot.

              Cruelty sponges sent amoungst the masses to soak up the psychic sewage…as you say, inert matter don’t care.

    2. JTMcPhee

      Kick a military or “police” robot (same thing?), armed with stuff like M4 machine guns and 40mm grenade launchers and close-defence antiaircraft missiles and sonic and infrared weapons and high-voltage tasers, and no doubt NOT sporting all the Three Laws (or is it Four) in its code? Where the Prime Directive is likely to feature “protect the machine and the MilitaryCorporation’s investment at all costs”?

      I believe I have seen this movie before:

      And Our Ford is also hoping to get in on the action:

      Before the RoboCop future arrives, a robot police car that pulls over speeding vehicles and issues tickets or warnings on its own could someday help ease a shortage of human officers at police departments across the United States. But the vision of a self-driving police vehicle described in a Ford patent also raises many questions about whether such technology is the right tool for law enforcement.

      The basic Ford patent description makes clear that this self-driving police car cannot do the job of a flesh-and-blood police officer. Instead, it focuses on the idea that “routine police tasks, such as issuing tickets for speeding or failure to stop at a stop sign, can be automated.” It goes on to describe the self-driving police car’s capabilities as follows: detecting traffic law violations by another vehicle, tracking and chasing the perpetrator vehicle until the latter pulls over, automatically checking the vehicle license plate or relevant driver’s license with a central database, and deciding whether to issue a ticket or warning based on the violation. Love the part in the rest of the article about how police departments, who serve and protect the Oligarchy, are short thousands of ex-military Israeli-trained officers-with-gunz.

      Luddites, get your kicks in early, or lose the opportunity altogether, without even the satisfaction of breaking a tarsal or metatarsal on the metal-and-composite New Cops.

      1. a different chris

        Interesting — you can program, haha I’ll call it “AI” because I’m such a good sport, you can program AI to chase a vehicle. However, what really happens a lot of the time is said chased vehicle crashes. A chase does not follow road markings, so they will not be an input. So, will the AI vehicle follow it right up to the point where it, also, cannot avoid crashing?

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      You can still insult robots though.

      “Your intelligence is only artificial. Humans’ stupidity is real and natural.”

      1. Norm de plume

        You could try – but surely they would be equipped with language recognition software, coded to recognise insults, cussing etc; along with facial expression and voice analysis capability… they might then have thresholds at which you get tased, or detained. Or shot.

        The wider point though is that its ultimately no fun insulting a machine. Its hard to imagine The Owners being satisfied with robots as targets of their ire, contempt, ridicule and physical abuse.

        This has been nicely illustrated recently in Westworld, generally given to illustrations of man’s inhumanity to the non-human, where William/Man in Black only stops treating the bots like fodder when they start to have real feelings.

        If someone or something doesnt have feelings, you cant hurt them.

      2. Aumua

        I disagree, I think the AI will end up with artificial intelligence, while humanity gets artificial stupidity.

    4. Craig H.

      There surely are video clips of a robot in a star wars movie crying in pain. This is one of those features of that type movie which is very high on the list of reasons that these are children’s movies and adults who care about them for any other purpose than entertaining children are ridiculous. My search skills cannot retrieve the clip. I tried (c3po howling crying pain) but fetched nothing. People who think you can be mean to a robot are as silly as childless adults who stand in line for hours to get in the first showings of a new star wars movie.

      sentient Latin sentiēns, present participle of sentīre to feel

    5. blennylips

      Well, considering how badly people treat each other

      Well Ambrit, I guess that rule in ‘Monkey Dust.’

      Great find, thanks!

      1. ambrit

        Ouch! A blast from the past!
        Now for the “Neo Adventures of Geoff the Economist” in the ‘service’ sector! Tonight, after the late news!
        (I don’t remember who mentioned “Monkey Dust” first, but I do remember stealing the reference from another NC commentator.)

  3. Clive

    Re: Brexit, impacts, trade, CEO indifference etc.

    I think one of the reasons, perhaps the reason for the dichotomy about whether Brexit will impact trade and if so by how much is that it’s symptomatic of the “academics (and other ‘experts’) are from Mars and people (such as those in real, proper, industry — not faux capitalism like FIRE sector businesses) in manufacturing are from Venus” phenomena.

    What happens when the first group tries to understand what the second group actually has to do, day-to-day, in order to keep their businesses running is that they get confronted by such a chasm in their understanding, they don’t really know what they’re looking at. So they either, like North, assume the worst (that all the things they don’t understand in depth will go bad) or they hope for the best (like Rees-Mogg does). Both responses are missing the real point, which is that viable commerce will try to keep itself going with the minimum of adaptation to a change their operating environment, if an adaptation is inescapable it will the made (including toleration for some disruption) but if the adaptation is too costly, the business will either close or make a dramatic change to how it runs itself.

    The tolerance for the cost of the adaptation depends on the imperative to making that adaptation. If failing to adapt is an existential threat to the continuing profitable operation of the business, product quality, compliance with standards or some other key fundamental that goes to make up what you’re selling, the adaptation will be made — unless the cost of doing so is so great that you simply have to shut up shop (or get out of that market, or make major changes to your product lineup).

    Attempting to turn this theoretical principle into something a little more understandable, let’s take car parts as an example. Car parts is a hugely complex business segment. It covers everything from commodity generics to the amongst the most esoteric items manufactured today. Obviously substitutable commodity parts can be, well, substituted more-or-less at will from a variety of suppliers. But where you have specialist components, these often have a single-source supplier constraint. You would do anything to get hold of these, almost regardless of the cost.

    If you manufacture a high-end automobile product, for car air conditioners, Japan’s DENSO is the only game in town. It has unique manufacturing abilities and extensive patents. If you try to move away from its parts, your end product (the vehicle) takes a big hit in fuel economy. Its sub components are deeply integrated into your design. You cannot, easily or quickly, change to a different set of parts. In short, in the medium term, you would do anything to get hold of the supplies you need from that company. Moving to a different parts supplier would be dependent on waiting for the next model of your vehicle or even the one after that (these sorts of design decisions are made very early on in the design lifecycle for passenger cars; dependencies on specific sub components are baked in from that decision point — for instance, despite being unveiled in 2009, the DENSO A/C technology only got introduced in the new 2016 MY Toyota Prius, yes, development and testing takes that long in vehicle manufacturing (done properly, anyway, that’s you I’m sneering at, Tesla)).

    This is one end of the spectrum. The other end is the you-can-get-that-anywhere parts. Car parts will fall somewhere between these two positions. So the answer to the question “what will be the impact of Brexit on trade?” is fact- and context- specific for both supplier and consumer.

    Not, then, a simple subject. And what is “right” and “wrong” depends entirely on who you’re asking — one size doesn’t fit all.

    1. Steve H.

      That’s a great concrete example, thank you.

      Not simple. “It’s complicated”, whether in human relations or quadratic equations, usually means there’s more than one answer. A good question is worth a thousand answers.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      Thanks Clive, thats a great assessment.

      I would say, from my personal experience, that sometimes the people who know what is going to happen are somewhere in the technical mid-levels of an organisation – the ones crunching the numbers and analysing spreadsheets or writing reports. I recall working for a large company and hearing Friday evening beer gossip over an impending financial crunch for the project I was working on. Everyone who had worked out this was coming was complaining that they were hitting a wall when they tried to communicate ‘up the chain’ that there was an oncoming train. I remember that it took a full 12-18 months from hearing these rumours before it ‘hit’ the organisation. There was a crisis and (long story) it was eventually resolved, at great cost. I often wondered whether the top people really did know – but had an incentive to pretend not to know – or they were genuinely clueless, but had their jobs saved by the fact that deep in the organisational bowels of the organisation there was enough institutional memory and knowhow to solve the problem.

      My longwinded point is I think that organisations can sometimes be prepared for something, even if they don’t necessarily know they are prepared. But likewise, an organisation that lacks institutional depth (if, for example, they have farmed off lots of key technical areas), then they may be unable to deal with the problems when they arise. So I think I’d agree that the true impacts are almost entirely impossible to predict.

      I should say though that from my outsiders perception, based solely on hearing direct thoughts from various business bodies, that there is a strong awareness of the problems in most industries – or to be precise, many industries are being warned directly by their trade bodies that it will be bad, much worse than the media are saying. How far this is seeping into the consciousness of many businesses, I just don’t know.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Hah! What would they call this set. The “One of these Pieces is not like the Others” set?

              1. Clive

                The design could be updated to bring it in line with current events I thought — maybe now featuring Theresa May, a pair of scissors in hand, cutting the “lugs” off the UK piece, then trying to make it somehow still stick to all the other pieces…

                1. larry

                  What a good idea. After cutting the lugs off, May may think, We have the technology, to make it stick in a way she is happy with. How about some kind of specially engineered Gorilla glue?

                2. ambrit

                  Maybe be all subtle about it and re-issue the stamp with the Union Jack turned upside down.
                  Thinking of visual messaging. How about a cartoon of a homunculus lying stretched out in a guillotine. Seen from the side, the body could be labelled E.U. The head would be Mays, turned to face the ‘audience’ saying: “Everything’s going to be all right!”

    3. Carolinian

      On the other hand if you are China you can just take those patented, specialized components and copy them (allegedly). Dean Baker often suggests trade fights are all about IP.

      As a side note: the best car AC I have had was in a Toyota with Nippon Denso engine accessories.

      1. Clive

        I remember driving in the heat of a Los Angeles summer in an early XJ40-series Jaguar with a Lucas-era A/C unit which had evidently been designed for a “warm” English summertime day and was from what I could tell having the automotive equivalent of a cardiac arrest trying to deal with the California heat. Jag eventually threw in the towel and fitted DENSO units. And they wondered why Toyota and the rest of the Japanese car industry ate their lunch for 20+ years.

        1. Synoia

          Lucas parts were designed to fail.

          I one had a car with Lucas fuel injection. The injector pump failed. The replacement part in 1980 was £480.

          The whole car cost me under £2,000

          My rebuilt 1962 Series II Land rover has a Lucas coil (it generates high voltage for the spark plugs.) It failed intermittently, on a 180 mile dirt road tom the Kariba Dam to Vic Falls, and was replaced by a Bosch part.

          I’m no fan of Lucas parts.

          1. jsn

            Lucas, the prince of darkness!

            I had a 69 Elan and ripped out everything electrical but the distributor and alternator.

            I built my own wiring harness to escape his evil clutches!

          2. HotFlash

            I once had a neighbour who restored vintage British motorcycles. He would put Japanese and Korean-made replica for all the electrics and often for carburetors and such as well. Looked just like the original Lucas parts but they *worked*.

            1. The Rev Kev

              I take it that Lucas was never familiar with the works of W. Edwards Deming like the Japanese were.

              1. HotFlash

                I don’t think they were even familiar with the works of Sir Isaac Newton. Lucas made this gravity-feed reed carburetor that worked (more or less) fine on flats but died on hills. Note: England is not all that flat.

    4. JTMcPhee

      Thank you Clive. Sounds like more of the real-world immanence of the Tower of Babel mythology…

      Too bad there is never a referendum across the planet on what humans might actually want as the axis of their lives— though maybe most of the going on 8 billion have been trained and convinced that MORE-ism is The Best There Can Be, For Everyone:

    5. vlade

      While I see (I think) what you mean, I’m not sure how that applies immediately – because a lot of the factors are actually outside of the ability of the businesses to affect.

      For example, say there would be a UK company that was creating a critical part for the continental car makers.

      Come crash-out brexit, there is a few possible scenarios:
      – Company does not know abot the problem, and will find out on the day.
      – Company knows about the problem, but the only way to get the relevant EU certifications is once the UK left EU. No exports untill this happens.
      – Company knows about the problem, and could have got all the relevant EU certifications in advance, independently, say via an EU subsidary. Well, but it still has a problem – because the roro trucks logicstics it’s likely using may be severely affected by other companies, including critical food imports. So its ability to export may still be severely hampered – in fact, it could be hampered in any case above.

      I can’t really see how the practical capitalists in Europe could really by-pass this either, as unless they would get regulatory waiver, they could be in a lot of hot water should they put a non-EU certified parts and sold in EU.

      So it’s not necessarily about costs – or things that businesses can affect as part of their daily operations.

      Normally, they would deal with this via lobbying, but I don’t get the impression it makes much of an impact on the currrent govt.

      1. Clive

        On the certification, if they have to stump up and get TUV Nord (or whoever) to issue a recertification because BSI is suddenly persona non grata*, they will. They could do that tomorrow if they wanted to. Granted, there will be a certain amount of lead time to requisition the testing, but it’s a few months, not years.

        But yes, eventually they will run out of runway in a crash-out Bexit, even for that option. That said, if there are manufacturing operations which stick their heads in the sand they will be faced with a stark choice about whether to get a shift on and get recertification done by an EU-approved body (if it wasn’t done originally) ex post facto or change suppliers. Which goes back to the point I was trying to make, which was, whether the changing supplier option is really an option at all. For some components it is, for others, no chance.

        * and even then, there are some options, which sound a bit fudgey, but they seem to think they’ll work.

    6. Ignacio

      I read that UK Government has approved to invest 25 million pounds on 6 projects on autonomous vehicles. Harrington is cited to say these will be commercial within 10 years. It is said that brexit will facilitate subsidies and tax cuts that would be more difficult under UE rules.

      25 million so far is not enough to say that the UK has a strong bet for autonomous vehicles but I wonder if it is wise to follow silicon valley luminaries.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Sounds more like opportunists seeing the opportunity for a £25 million fistful from the national-treasury grab bag. Any sightings of other similar redirections of wealth to privatized things other than general-welfare expenditures?

      2. paul

        25 million over 10 years, that’s more then enough to sort out level 5 and the infrastructure required.
        Good job! UK forward looking government.

    7. Lambert Strether

      It seems that the supply chain has kinks; it is not nearly as flexible as we think. Meridian Magnesium Products dashboards (the plant that caught on fire in Michigan) are one. DENSO A/C is another. I wonder how many of these choke points there are?

      How Ford got production going again:

      Following the fire and a damage assessment, Ford gathered its global team of supplier experts and they put their heads together. The first thing done was to remove 19 dies (a tool used to cut or shape material using a press) from the fire-damaged supplier facility, which involved moving an 87,000-pound die.

      The goal was to transfer these materials from Michigan to Meridian’s Nottingham, UK, facility. Of course, not just any transport cargo plane would do. No, Ford required the biggest one in the world. That would be the Russian-built Antonov An-124*, a plane used to transport trains, dump trucks and even a 25-foot yacht. Ford managed to get permission for the plane to land at Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus, Ohio. The cargo was loaded and sent to the UK. All told, it was a 30-hour journey door-to-door. Ford managed to secure a UK import license only 2 hours before the plane landed.

      So, will this be do-able after Brexit? If not, what happens to the Nottingham facility?

      NOTE * Here is an AN-124 landing on a windy day, just for fun:

    8. Procopius

      An example having nothing to do with Brexit: Boeing had a partnership with a Russian company to produce comples titanium castings. Russia has a large supply of the best titanium ore. I believe China also has a supply of ore, but of an inferior quality. Anyway, the technology for producing titanium castings is very difficult. There is no plant in America capable of producing titanium castings of any level of complexity. Guess what happens to Boeing’s partnership when Trump imposes the Congressional mandated “sanctions” on Russia. I’m waiting to read more about the problem and how Boeing deals with it (haha, I joke, of course).

  4. Steve H.

    > Thomas Frank on the Democratic Party, Their Credibility Trap, and the Beleaguered Middle Class

    I watched the video in the article, he really does lay it out well, doesn’t he?

    Veracity Index active short list tier 2 (really right more than once, but check for false positives or insufficiencies): Frank, Greer, Robb, Turchin, Welsh, Wilkerson. (Turchin may be better, but can’t be verified for three years.) I’m missing some, I’m sure.

    1. Kokuanani

      There’s a one hour version of Frank’s comments.

      Given in AZ and much more organized and coherent than the clip above. [Don’t be scared off by the 1 hr. 25 min time tag; the last 25 min are questions.]

      I’ve already sent it to a number of friends. Highly recommend.

    2. Louis

      Place like San Francisco, Seattle, and other areas with absurdly high cost of living are ground zero for the hypocrisy on inequality: i.e. the Democrats Frank describes will talk about how sad it is that people are being forced out or rendered homeless by an ever increasing housing costs but the same people who claim to care about inequality and displacement turn around and go into NIMBY mode fighting any policy to increase the housing supply.

      If you claim to care about cities being hollowed out by high costs of living vote put up or shut up: either advocate for (and support) more density and fewer single family homes, or shut up.

      1. oh

        The DimRat party loves SillyCon valley and the “liberals” there love the DimRat party. They’re such meritocrats that they believe the “head fakes” of the DimRats. Universally, they’er diverted by Russiagate and Trump. And how, they love tech!

      2. Livius Drusus

        I used to work for a newspaper in an affluent, mostly Democratic suburb. At one point there was talk of building affordable housing and you should have seen the reactions at the town meeting. You would have thought Satan himself was going to be moving next door. Eventually the town met their affordable housing quota by allowing the construction of a nursing home which technically qualified as affordable housing.

        This is the kind of hypocrisy that moves many people to the Right. Talking to older ex-Democrats who became Republicans I found that many of them resented things like school busing because they felt that it and other social experiments were always done in working-class areas and not where rich liberals live. The same thing goes for the immigration issue. Rich people get cooks, nannies, gardeners and other cheap laborers while working-class areas get overcrowded schools that need more funding for English-language education, housing crises and more competition for jobs at the bottom of the income scale.

        This is not to deny the impact of racism, nativism and other unsavory opinions on the Right but it is hard to argue against the claim that many affluent liberals practice NIMBYism.

        1. Lambert Strether

          > Rich people get cooks, nannies, gardeners and other cheap laborers

          The University of Maine in my home town has created demand for privatized dorms; smallish housing estates made up of town houses (crappily constructed so as to fall apart when the student population drops again). Tax breaks, of course. Owned by private equity, so all the profits go out of state. Whoever the electricians and plumbers and construction workers were, they weren’t locals (and were housed on-site). So far as I can tell, the only benefits aside from retail went to the construction firms who paved the roads. Perhaps that was enough to swing the deal.

    3. Lambert Strether

      That’s a great video from Frank. Oddly, or not, he’s at Arizona State, and not Harvard or Yale or Princeton. No wonder he can’t get a forum in America any more for his writing…

      1. Livius Drusus

        I recall Frank mentioning that compared to the fanfare that he received when he wrote What’s the Matter with Kansas? the reaction to Listen, Liberal was pretty cool and he didn’t get nearly as many offers to discuss the book on major talk shows or at prestigious universities. Some of Frank’s recent talk venues have been local libraries and bookstores.

        I think it was brave of Frank to write Listen Liberal since he risked alienating a good chunk of his former readership who probably approved of his critiques of the Republicans but disliked his critiques of the Democrats. For example, if you go on partisan Democratic websites like Democratic Underground or Lawyers, Guns and Money and mention Thomas Frank you will likely get more negative reactions to Frank than positive ones, a big change from when Frank was mostly dunking on Republicans 15 years ago.

        1. Oregoncharles

          What’s the Matter with Kansas? is actually very critical of the Democratic Party. The answer to the question is that because the Democrats have little to offer in the way of economic policy, former populists in places like Kansas go with “cultural” issues like abortion or guns.

          IOW, it’s the Dems’ fault. I’m not convinced that his message has changed all that much; it’s merely become more explicit – AND they’ve lost an election they counted on winning. Never underestimate the shock.

  5. Jim Haygood

    Ben Carlson on the decadal curse:

    CNBC’s Art Cashin recently stated on that every decade since 1850 in the U.S. has had a recession.

    Since the Great Recession ended in 2009, that obviously means we haven’t had one this decade. Someone who thinks correlation implies causation would assume that means we’re due for a recession in the next couple of years before the new decade hits.

    I didn’t doubt Cashin’s stats but I had to dig into this one to see what the historical record shows: [table follows in link].

    It’s true. The U.S. has had at least one recession every single decade since California became the 31st state [on Sep 9, 1950].

    With but 18 months to go, are we going to elude the pox this time round? Don’t bet on it. Eminent experts in flake-o-nomics — renowned names such as Peter Navarro, Robert Lighthizer, Jerome Powell, and Larry Kudlow — are working round the clock in our nation’s capital to ensure that the trains recessions run on time.

    1. diptherio

      …for some definition of recession (the official one). For a lot of people, the 2008 recession never ended. For some, even that recession was a redundancy. As a resident of Alberton, MT told the local radio news some years back, “People talk about economic crisis, well we’ve been having an economic crisis here for the last 40 years.”

      1. Jim Haygood

        Quite right. Growth is overwhelmingly concentrated in a few favored metro areas — San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, Denver, Austin, etc. Left-out metro areas — places such as Detroit, Cleveland, St Louis, Baltimore, Memphis — are hardly growing at all. Ditto for rural America, ex the shale patch.

        A healthy economy would feature across-the-board growth. A few bright spots of growth in a dull gray landscape aren’t going to cut it. Soon even those points of light may be extinguished.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Unlike those ancient Egyptian pyramids, which were erected by free workers, today’s high-tech, cyber mega-bubbles are being built by debt-slaves.

          1. Summer

            There has been evidence to the contrary that slaves or free labor built the pyramids. And, hell no, not talking about aliens.
            We shouldn’t be so quick to adopt idea that “TINA” to economic exploitation or think that it is “natural.”

            1. Lambert Strether

              Michael Hudson:

              If people didn’t want to build these cultural monuments and defense works, they would have run away, as they did after about 1600 BC. But when archeologists dug up the remains of the labor camps for building the pyramids and the temples, they found they weren’t built by slave labor working for porridge rations. There was a lot of meat in the diet. There was a lot of beer at the parties. They arranged it as a socialization process, working on public projects during the time labor was not necessary for planting and harvesting. You find rulers depicted on iconographic, either on murals or on cylinder seals carrying baskets of earth on their head. Backbreaking work, but they got to party afterwards. Socialization and mixing.

              1. Buckeye

                Pyramid building was viewed as a State activity, like warfare. It was done to facilitate the domination of the ruling elite over the masses. Sort of “WE control the power, wealth and religion you need to exist. You OWE us for this.” Therefore, labor was done on a draftee basis, or possibly corvee labor. It was like military service. People were well-fed because they HAD to be for the body-breaking labor they were doing. Author Toby Wilkinson points out that the ancient chronicles conveniently ignore how many died on these projects,

        2. whine country

          Yes the growth is substantially confined to a relatively small portion of the good old US (area wise). Kinda reminds me of the story about a man who drowned in a lake that averaged 6 inches deep.

        3. JTMcPhee

          “A healthy economy would feature across-the-board growth.” For what definition of “healthy?” One that takes into account the depletion of resources, is aimed at achieving sustainability with all that entails, effectuates an end to carbon combustion without substituting something worse, provides real national health care for all (not “access to UNsurance”), an end to FIRE crap and unsustainable debt, one that makes stuff that works and stuff that lasts that people actually NEED, not just the stuff they are suckered into WANTing, that kind of healthy economy? Or just one where the mopes have money to put “risk on” the Casino, and to keep on buying more stuff from slave labor in foreign lands?

          Growth being, according to quite a number of political economists, one of the root causes of the disease that sure seems to threaten to kill a whole lot of us humans and whole swathes of the biosphere we so far still need to sustain our lives.

          Though, of course, wise and subtle people have come up with all kinds of rationalizations for why “growth” is necessary and inevitable to support “the economy.” And as a general rule, those people either have, or serve the ones who have, all the wealth, and are hence mostly immune, through their own lifetimes, to the bad stuff that’s increasingly apparent and itself a “growth phenomenon.” A nice example (TL-DR?): “The Impacts of Economic Growth on Environmental Conditions in Laos,”

          “Growth that enriches ME is GOOD,” or something like that? And one dare not use the word “redistribution,” I understand.

          1. oh

            Growth is something that only enriches the chosen few but take away from most others. An steady economy with little growth and no downturns would benefit all.

  6. The Rev Kev

    “Plan to split California into 3 states eligible for November ballot”

    No confirmation of the rumour that The Presidio in San Francisco is being renamed Fort Sumter.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      One of our earliest military bases abroad.

      Fort Sumter was a tripwire located in the Confederacy.

      The alternative was economic sanctions, boycotts and military exercises off the coast of Virginia.

      Wait, I was thinking of Iran.

      1. drumlin woochuckles

        Fort Sumter wasn’t “abroad” when built. And it didn’t secede from the US when the surrounding state of South Carolina seceded. So in what sense was it “abroad”?

        Or is this some sort of ironic humor which I am too literal to understand?

    2. Darius

      There’s a book out now that says split California into six majority Democrat states, for 12 Democrat senators. Basically that the next time the Democrats are in charge they should toss all the norms and bipartisan nonsense snd go maximalist on everything. Kind of like Republicans. I know. Total fantasy. Right? If California is split up it will be done in a way to benefit Republicans most even though Dems have a lock on the state.

      I spent about 15 minutes on a Google search for the author and book. All I remember is that his first name is David.

  7. sionnach liath

    In my opinion I think this article misses the real point as to what is going on regarding the US/NK dialogue. The real driver of this effort is China. Kim is not in control; he has his instructions from Beijing. NK will give up its nuclear ambitions. China told Kim it has his back right now. The quid pro quo is the removal of US forces from the peninsula. The real issue is that China wants the US out of the western Pacific. China is not afraid of greater cooperation between the two Koreas. The closer they cooperate, the closer China can draw the South into its sphere of influence. Look what it has done to Hong Kong, and is ow trying to do to Taiwan, not to mention other island groups in that area of the Pacific. China’s overtures to countries the US has alienated is important, but is secondary to the principal objective which is their control of the entire western Pacific region.

    All of the above comment is, of course, from the Chinese perspective. Washington will not agree to the removal of US forces – a reduction maybe – but not complete removal. If Trump tries to do that, it will be seen by his adversaries as grounds for impeachment as endangering national security. Without major changes in US military presence and operations in the North Pacific, I cannot see NK giving up much. The two Koreas will, however, continue their Rapprochement because both sides want greater cooperation.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Sounds like we’re looking at a few scenarios here.

      1. We leave and a new hegemon comes or hegemons.

      2. We improve our hegemony, make it kinder and gentler, to save the people in that area from these new hegemons.

    2. Olga

      It is hard not to see China’s approach as something similar to the Monroe Doctrine. When the US decided to view itself as the rising power (1823!), it made sure no other power would assert itself in the neighbourhood. I can’t say that I blame the Chinese (part. given the US record of willful destruction of weaker nations, starting with Yugoslavia). Why is anybody surprised….?

    3. Procopius

      think this is too simplistic. I agree China has probably given Kim assurances, and he needs their continuing aid too much to blithely ignore their wishes, but there’s many centuries of history there. I believe the Chinese are going to understand that the U.S. cannot be trusted, so Kim cannot afford to “denuclearize” unless the U.S. makes real concessions.

  8. PlutoniumKun

    The world should welcome Trump’s bold move to engage Kim Jong Un The Hill. Lambert: “I would classify the author, Ian Bremer, as a nimble post-Cold War national security policy entrepreneur, and not especially partisan.”. Moi: Don’t miss the cautionary note at the end re China.”

    The conclusion:

    If Trump’s negotiations with Kim ever reach that stage, it will mark one more U.S. step away from Asia and another step toward regional dominance for Beijing.

    It may be that at least some in Washington think that enclosing China militarily is unsustainable and there needs to be a slow stepping down, in favour of South Korea and Japan taking up the slack. But as with all things, there may be unintended consequences of this, and the obvious one is Taiwan.

    There is little doubt but that China is entirely serious about its intention to ‘liberate’ Taiwan, whatever the people of Taiwan say. Its already questionable as to whether the US could stop this even if it wanted. In an unwinding situation in the Pacific, this makes Taiwan very vulnerable, something I think the Chinese sense, which is why they’ve been increasing pressure worldwide on countries trading with the island. Maybe not now, but in a few years this could be the next trigger point for war.

    1. ambrit

      If I were china, I’d not worry too much about nukes in North Korea, but Taiwan getting them. From where you ask? Oh, Pakistan, or India, or Israel, or Russia even, perhaps one of the former Soviet States. I wouldn’t put it past Taiwan to build their own. If North Korea could do it, almost anybody can. H—. General Electric could.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve heard Taiwan has, or had, them, though if you google, you find that since 1988, the leaders there have maintained the position that they will not seek them in the future.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The ideal outcome from Taiwan’s point of view, however unlikely, but simply the most ideal, is for the Nationalist army to reconquer Mainland, an old dream of the generalissimo.

        Then, when the Taiwanese masters review their victorious troops from on top of Tiananmen, it’s of course ‘One China,’ for the Taiwanese to lord over. That’s just human nature. Why should they merely confine themselves to one small island?

      3. PlutoniumKun

        Taiwan had a nuclear programme in the 1980’s and were apparently very close to a useable device – it was US pressure that forced them to back down. It is likely they still have the material (its not clear how much enriched uranium or plutonium they possess, but they have research reactors capable of making small amounts in addition to four working light water reactors). There has been talk of them reviving it on various occasions.

        I don’t think there is any possibility of anyone you list helping them, because of the potential blow-back from China, which would be displeased to put it mildly. Its not inconcievable that at some stage in the future the Japanese could help – its generally assumed the Japanese have the designs ‘on paper’ so they could build devices within a very short time if there was some sort of crisis.

        I have to say I’m not sure nuclear weapons would help Taiwan much, as the Chinese response would be to cut of air and sea links, rather than invade – a slow suffocation if you like.

        1. ambrit

          So, the Great South China Sea project has multiple objectives. I should have guessed by now. The Chinese do have that ‘Inscrutable’ reputation to live up to.
          I don’t know what the relationship between Taiwan and Japan is today. Taiwan, (as Formosa,) was a Japanese territory for fifty years before 1945. Would Taiwan even accept surreptitious assistance from Japan?
          It is the most convoluted thinking I suspect; pursuing weapons of mass destruction in order to promote peace.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Remembering the new de facto embassy in Taiwan?

            I think there is a possibility the US takes advantage of Taiwan’s rock in South China Sea – Taiping Island.

            From Wikipedia:

            Taiping Island, better known internationally as Itu Aba, and also known by various other names, is the largest of the naturally occurring Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.[1][2][3][4][5] The island is elliptical in shape being 1.4 kilometres (0.87 mi) in length and 0.4 kilometres (0.25 mi) in width, with an area of 46 hectares (110 acres). It is located on the northern edge of the Tizard Bank (Zheng He Reefs; 鄭和群礁). The runway of the Taiping Island Airport is easily the most prominent feature on the island, running its entire length.

            And militarily:

            In February 2012, the ROC began construction of an antenna tower and associated facilities with the purpose of providing navigation assistance for aircraft landing. The tower had a planned height of approximately 7 to 8 metres, and was scheduled to be completed in April 2012, and fully functional after proper testing in September 2012.[24] In July 2012, ROC authorities revealed a project which intended to extend the runway by 500 metres, which would allow the island to accommodate various kinds of military aircraft.[25]

            In late August 2013, the ROC government announced that it would spend US$112 million on upgrading the island’s airstrip, and constructing a dock capable of allowing its 3,000-ton Coast Guard cutters to dock, due to be completed by 2016.[26]

          2. PlutoniumKun

            Taiwan has excellent relations with Japan. The Japanese occupation was relatively benign (at least compared to their other occupations), and many ethnic Taiwanese (i.e. those who trace their descendents there before the mainlanders arrived mid-20th Century) look back on that period fondly. There is a lot of mutual tourism and Taiwan is a retirement destination for lots of Japanese. Its most likely that there are lots of informal government links, including military discussions, although all Taiwan nuclear plants are US designs, not Japanese.

            1. Jim Haygood

              Thirty years ago, an older generation of Taiwanese cab drivers who grew up under the occupation spoke fluent Japanese.

              Matsuyama Kūkō, kudasai” would get you delivered to Taipei’s Songshan downtown airport in a jiffy.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                From Beitou, back to Japan.

                Beitou District is the northernmost of the twelve districts of Taipei City, Taiwan. The historical spelling of the district is Peitou. The name originates from the Ketagalan word Kipatauw, meaning witch. Beitou is the most mountainous and highest of Taipei’s districts, encompassing a meadow with rivers running through the valley which have abundant steam rising from them; the result of geothermal warming. The valley is often surrounded by mist shrouding the trees and grass. Beitou is famous for its hot springs.[1] In March 2012, it was named one of the Top 10 Small Tourist Towns by the Tourism Bureau of Taiwan.[2]

            2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Turning Japanese.

              From Wikipedia:

              A Taiwanese Imperial Japan Serviceman (Chinese: 台籍日本兵; Japanese: 台湾人日本兵) is any Taiwanese person who served in the Imperial Japanese Army or Navy during World War II whether as a soldier, a sailor, or in another non-combat capacity. According to statistics provided by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the subsequent World War II, a total of 207,183 Taiwanese served in the military of Imperial Japan and 30,304 of them were declared killed or missing in action

              When asked the reason for serving, many veterans stated that they joined for better treatment for them and for their families. According to interviewed veterans, those who served were given extra food and other rationed articles for their families, and were less likely to be discriminated against by the Japanese government.[3] Another reason, as stated by some veterans, was that they were treated more equally with the Japanese in the military because they “were all soldiers for the Emperor.” After Japan’s defeat and handover of Taiwan, many veterans who survived the war were persecuted by the Kuomintang (Nationalist) government because the Nationalists saw them as Hanjian (race traitors) for serving in the Japanese military.[4] Some veterans later joined the February 28 uprising against the Nationalist government that resulted in further oppression during the White Terror.

              1. PlutoniumKun

                Although officially nearly all Taiwanese are considered ethnic Han, many are very proud of proclaiming native Taiwan blood and will freely tell you they consider themselves as having no kinship with Mandarin speaking Taiwanese or mainlanders.

                Its often forgotten outside Taiwan, but the wave of incoming KMT refugees fleeing Mao was a very bloody affair which included mass slaughter of locals.

                1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                  If I recall correctly, in the film, City of Sadness, which was set around the time of the February 28 incident, toward the end, there was a scene of rioting, with native Taiwanese asking bus passengers to pronounce words in Taiwanese, and when they could not, they were beaten, to death even.

                  The so-called Banshan people were especially targeted. They were Taiwanese who came back to Taiwan with the nationalist government after the war.

                  Another film by the same director, Hou, deals with the White Terror that came afterwards. It’s called Good Men, Good Women. The communist heroes of that film were, of course, for One China.

                  1. PlutoniumKun

                    Hou is a great director, although I didn’t see the film either of those films. His Cafe Lumiere in Taipei is a lovely place to spend some time if visiting (I wish I could say the same for the film he made of that name).

                    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                      His latest, The Assassin, is not easy to watch…confusing and well, it seems like he was making that film for himself.

                      I suspect it’s his rebellion against the typical Chinese martial arts film where the visual fails to communicate, so the director has to let the kung fu master yell the style he’s using.

                      “Watch my Crane Dancing Fist!!!” would a typical audio.

                      It’s similar to abstracting paintings. The museum curator invariably feels necessary to comment on it to explain the painting. It’s as if the painter should have been a writer.

                      In one scene in the film Il Postino, the island mailman, Mario, asked Neruda about a particular passage, something like, the smell of barbershop makes me sad, and Neruda said something like, I can’t say more than those words. That is, the art, work (a poem or a painting) must do the job of communicating itself.

                      So, Hou, in rebelling against those martial arts films where every non-verbal action is spoken out loud in order to make up for failing to communicate visually, in that latest film, he decided to have the actors say pretty much nothing…an over-reaction, it seems to me.

                2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                  From February 28 Incident, Wikipedia, on people who died:

                  His troops reportedly executed, according to a Taiwanese delegation in Nanjing, between 3,000 and 4,000 people throughout the island. The exact number is still undetermined, as only 300 Taiwanese families applied for another compensation as recently as 1990.[18] Some of the killings were random, while others were systematic. Taiwanese elites were among those targeted, and many of the Taiwanese who had formed self-governing groups during the reign of the Japanese were also victims of the 228 Incident. A disproportionate number of the victims were Taiwanese high school students. Many had recently served in the Imperial Japanese Army, having volunteered to serve to maintain order. Mainland Chinese civilians who fled were often beaten by Taiwanese.[15]

                  The highlighted part refers to the volunteers, who might or might have been there in Nanjing at the time of the massacre, mentioned above, and also the fact that the innocent victims were not only locals.

          3. JTMcPhee

            Not “promote peace” by fielding nuclear weapons, but creating a “credible threat” of nuclear holocaust blowback. Not a stable set of conditions, when all the other weaponizing is going on, and people of a hegemonic bent everywhere are looking (as in cyber warfare, militarizing near-earth and deeper space, for a knockout first-strike punch…

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              China can just seize all the factories own by Taiwanese on the mainland.

              That should do it.

          4. Lambert Strether

            > So, the Great South China Sea project has multiple objectives

            I like to imagine the Chinese turning the South China Sea into land, with their island-building project, and the land into the sea, with One Belt One Road (rail across the World Island).

            This may be just silly, of course; I’m no expert in the great game.

        2. Harrold

          Nuclear bombs are 70+ year old technology.

          How long can we insist that countries not use this old tech?

        3. Oregoncharles

          Unless the fleet is even more deteriorated than it appears, the US could prevent “suffocation.” Blockades aren’t all that easy to maintain, and easy to break if you have naval superiority. Taiwan makes a hell of an aircraft carrier. From a balance-of-power perspective, it would be very foolish of the US to let China take Taiwan, if it can be done short of nuclear war.

          Again, the nukes are very inhibiting, for both sides.

          I doubt the Taiwanese want to be fought over, though.

    2. Kevin

      This whole insidious orchestration was rolled out on our part for one reason and one reason only:
      “Because it looks good on Fox News”

      anyone looking for any deeper meaning will have to view things from China and South Korea’s perspective.

  9. cnchal

    > How Private Equity Helped Kill Toys ‘R’ Us Atlantic (Eileen Appelbaum)


    Apparently President Trump’s basic policy is “It’s America, bitch”, however I believe that has been reality for decades.

    . . . In its court filing, the company laid the blame at the feet of Amazon, Walmart, and Target, saying it “could not compete” when they priced toys so low. Less attention was paid to the albatross that Bain, KKR, and Vornado had placed around the company’s neck. Toys “R” Us had a debt load of $1.86 billion before it was bought out. Immediately after the deal, it shouldered more than $5 billion in debt. And though sales had slumped before the deal, they held relatively steady after it, even when the Great Recession hit. The company generated $11.2 billion in sales in the 12 months before the deal; in the 12 months before November 2017, it generated $11.1 billion.

    Saddled with its new debt, however, Toys “R” Us had less flexibility to innovate. By 2007, according to Bloomberg, interest expense consumed 97 percent of the company’s operating profit.
    In April 2017, an analysis by Newsday found that of the 43 large retail or supermarket companies that had filed for bankruptcy since the start of 2015, more than 40 percent were owned by private-equity firms. Since that analysis, a number of others have joined the list, including Nine West, Claire’s, and Gymboree. An analysis by the firm FTI Consulting found that two-thirds of the retailers that filed for Chapter 11 in 2016 and 2017 were backed by private equity.
    Given private equity’s poor track record in retail, it can be difficult to see what companies like Toys “R” Us hope to get from a buyout. . .

    Let’s pause here. “Hope to get” is a totally misleading. Toys R Us was a publicly traded company taken over and privatized by Pirate Equity, kidnapped and held hostage with a ball and chain of debt hung around it’s neck. There was no hope, and no getting.

    . . . For private equity, however, the appeal is clear: The deals are virtually all upside, and carry minimal risk. Many private-equity firms chip in only about 1 to 2 percent of the equity needed for a leveraged buyout, and skim fees and interest throughout the deal. If things go well, the firms take a huge cut of the profit when they exit. If everything blows up, they usually still escape with nary a burn. Toys “R” Us was still paying interest on loans it got from KKR and Bain up until 2016, as well as millions a year in “advisory fees” for unspecified services rendered. According to one estimate, the money KKR and Bain partners earned from those fees more than covered the firms’ losses in the deal.

    Losses on the deal. Hmmm. Is it possible that the money skimmed during the operation of the bust out is taxed at a low rate and the “losses” generated from the “loans” made by the Pirates, which were not paid back, turn into carry forward losses that offset taxes that would be paid at a higher rate?

    So far, private equity’s string of failures in retail hasn’t caught up with it. Pension funds and institutional investors keep coming back to the promise of a 12 percent (or greater) return on investment, well above what’s offered by bonds or even public companies. But creditors and vendors left holding the bag when retailers go out of business don’t have much recourse.

    Pirate Equity has a proven track record of killing the golden goose of profitable companies paying tax, after getting one or two golden eggs for itself, aided and abetted by pension funds that are screaming that they are underfunded. The more money they give to Pirate Equity in an attempt to shoot for the investment stars to make up for the shortfall, the greater the shortfall becomes. There are a lot of people in this nexus of bullshit jawbs pulling down obscene salaries to keep the scam going.

    Toys “R” Us workers are making the case for severance pay directly to lawmakers. In early May, Ann Marie Reinhart and other former employees met with Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Keith Ellison. Next, they’ll take their demands to KKR, Bain, and Vornado. “We’ve given blood, sweat, and tears to this company,” Reinhart told me. “So to walk away with nothing, it’s just humiliating.”

    Bernie Sanders: The business of Wall Street is fraud and greed.

    It’s America, bitch.

  10. Jim Haygood

    It’s a red QE sunset over the Baltic, comrades:

    In a statement following a meeting in Riga, Latvia, the ECB’s Governing Council said it would continue to purchase €30 billion a month of bonds through the end of September, as planned.

    Then, if data is in line with the ECB’s medium-term inflation outlook, it intends to reduce purchases to 15 billion euros a month through the end of December and then end them.

    At the same time, the ECB pledged to keep interest rates at ultralow levels at least through next summer.

    This might seem an odd time to end QE, with European economic indicators coming in soft. Truth is, the timing has nothing to do with the economy or even inflation.

    Under its own guidelines, the ECB is running out of bonds to buy from some of its member nations. Earlier this year, it was embarrassed by investment-grade corporate bonds (Steinhoff) turning to junk and having to be sold at a loss. Better then to declare victory, get on one’s bike and scurry home.

    Banks wilting and Draghi coming
    We’re finally on our own
    This summer I hear the drumming
    This bubble is nearly blown

    — Neil Young, Ohio

    1. The Rev Kev

      Not financially literate here but that €30 billion a month of bonds sounds pretty excessive. The reason I say that is I looked up the GDP for Latvia and found it to be only €24 billion a year. Or am I missing something that is standard procedure?

      1. Jim Haygood

        Thirty billion is for all of the eurozone, with big countries such as Germany, Italy, and France receiving the bulk of the buying. The ECB’s self-imposed limit is not to own more than one-third of any country’s debt. But they’ve almost hit that restraint in Germany.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Thanks for that. I had assumed that the sale would be mostly internal to Latvia so my mistake.

    2. Ignacio

      Truth is, the timing has nothing to do with the economy or even inflation.

      It has to do with reaction to Fed moves

  11. Carla

    Re: A minimum-wage worker can’t afford a 2-bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S.

    I’d like to see the 1-bedroom apartment a minimum-worker can afford.

    1. pretzelattack

      these days, a studio/efficiency would be a stretch. have to have roommate/s, i imagine. around here 800 or 900 a month is typical, at least in this part of town. a month at minimum is what, $1200 gross about?

      1. Robert McGregor

        I have a customer who was paying $1740 per month for a one-bedroom in a mid-rise in downtown Decatur, GA. Six miles to the east, I have a friend who is paying $600 per month for a large studio in Clarkston, GA. Decatur, GA is “Yuppie Paradise” six miles east of downtown Atlanta, GA. Clarkston approaches the other extreme–mostly struggling working-class blacks, and immigrants. Clarkston, GA is a main landing place for incoming immigrants to the Southeast. There is even a famous book written about it, “What Is the What” by Dave Eggers.

      2. Enquiring Mind

        What is the going rate for a crawl-space pad?
        How about a foxhole?
        Are there any economic agnostics in foxholes?

        1. JTMcPhee

          I hear refrigerators are still being delivered in large numbers from China. What happens to all the cardboard shipping boxes? They should be pretty sturdy, and easy to turn into rentable spaces…

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            We have tent cities all over California and the country…for years now.

            Shocking initially. But we seem to have become desensitized to them unless used by the ICE.

    2. zagonostra

      Ad healthcare insurance and education cost on top and you can see how modern day U.S. has created a permanent underclass that lives a life of economic anxiety, one bereft of leisure and hope of a better future.

      But lets go ahead and keep talking about the futile sick game being played out by the corrupt corporate Democratic and Republican Parties instead of the need for a radical reorganization of society…I can almost hear these jejune remarks falling off the reader like a mote floating in the air…

  12. Tom Stone

    The “Gun Violence” in Mexico should be a wake up call to those who demand that law abiding citizens in the USA be disarmed.
    Mexico has one gun shop.
    And civilian firearms ownership is effectively banned for all but the wealthy and powerful and their “Security” men.
    Just like Chicago, DC, SF….
    Can someone tell where disarming the general populace has reduced violent crime and benefitted the general populace?
    And how about Minorities?
    Should the right to bear arms be based on wealth and class ( That’s been the effect in California of “Gun Control” laws.)?
    The “Unintended” consequences of disarming law abiding Citizens have been so bad that barring cognitive dissonance I can’t see how anyone can support it in good faith.
    Perhaps I simply underestimate the need for virtue signalling…

    1. tegnost

      o come on tom, what if someone shoots the self driving food delivery robot and they’re too far away for the cameras to id them, what part of “travesty” do you not understand?/s

    2. Kevin

      Can someone tell where disarming the general populace has reduced violent crime and benefitted the general populace?


      Regarding Mexico – take a way the drug trade and gun violence plunges imo

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I think in places like Syria, Afghanistan, etc., armed civilians might have reduced and arming civilians might reduce violent crime.

    3. Eureka Springs

      Excellent question Tom. I’ve been waiting a long time to see when someone would raise it. The policio down there always remained highly armed, aggressive and corrupt. Any talk of disarming U.S. citizens without disarming our police is extremely dangerous, imo.

    4. kj1313

      Maybe if the US changed their policy regarding Drugs and NAFTA, Mexico wouldn’t be dealing with the current crisis. Perhaps you should become familiar with the term blowback.

      1. Tom Doak

        Not to mention our policy on guns! Where does the poster think the drug gangs got all their weapons? They are probably not all Russian made.

        1. Elizabeth Burton

          Actually, according to this article, the gangs got a lot of their weapons from the law enforcement and military, who got them from the US. A lot of the rest were purchased across the border where the regulations on sales are most lax.

          I, however, am also among those who do not agree with disarming citizens. I understand why those who think it’s a good idea desire it, but I’m also aware a lot of them have little or now experience with firearms other than what they’ve seen in the movies and the media or read about. There’s a middle ground.

  13. PRX

    Consumer Protection

    Ripple Investor

    It’s not a good thing that Mulvaney is running the show, but I won’t be shedding any tears over that one. Ripple is the scammiest of the already-scammy “major” cryptocurrencies

    1. Quentin

      You’re not for real. The Ukranian-Canadian Russiaphobe of all times. She makes Rachel Maddow look pink, Joseph McCarthy red.

      1. JEHR

        My goodness Quentin, Sid and ambrit! She only obtained an award for her work in renegotiating NAFTA. Do not believe all the propaganda you hear. She achieved an award for her work!

        1. tegnost

          funny because this link sounds a lot like propaganda
          here, for instance is an editorially laden blurb from the same magazine

          “One thing Freeland got indisputably right was her admission that in the free-market euphoria that followed the late 1980s’ collapse of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe, the world’s liberal democracies proceeded under an assumption that turned out to be exactly wrong. “This was the idea that, as authoritarian countries joined the global economy and grew rich, they would inevitably adopt Western political freedoms, too. That has not always happened. Indeed, in recent years, even some democracies have gone in the other direction and slid into authoritarianism—notably and tragically Venezuela. And some countries that had embarked on the difficult journey from communism to democratic capitalism have moved backwards,” she said, citing Russia and China as “a rebuke to our belief in the inevitability of liberal democracy.””

          I bet you can do better than that if your claims are true, but I don’t care about granddad, she’s trying to save global neoliberalism, and for that alone I don’t admire her…on the other hand, people who perceive the world from the traditional left (which has been co opted by the corporate globalists) need to focus on concrete material benefits (not single payer, but medicare from birth, is that what you have in canada)… oh here this is good no bias at this rag!

  14. Jim Haygood

    To everyone’s genuine surprise, attorney general Jeff Sessions remains alive … and he’s talking:

    Sessions spoke to TV show “Rising” just hours before DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected to release a report on Comey’s handling of the Clinton email case in 2016 and his subsequent firing by President Trump in 2017.

    Sessions defended the decision to fire ex-Director James Comey, who he said “made a big mistake” that belied a “serious breach of discipline.” Sessions also made clear that he is open to firing more employees if the Justice Department inspector general’s soon-to-be-released report warrants it.

    “If anyone else shows up in this report to have done something that requires termination we will do so,” he added.

    Readers are advised to lay in a stock of popcorn today, before the IG report sets the chattering classes nattering 24/7 about “constitutional crisis” and suchlike.

    It’s gonna be a long hot summer in Foggy Bottom, especially with August recess cancelled.

  15. George Phillies

    ” Then all we need is for someone to come up with a similarly easy way to separate the isotopes.””

    Crown polyethers. The work was done in France many years ago. Readers may debate whether synthesizing the needed polyethers qualify as ‘easy”.

    1. ambrit

      Are the polyethers commercially available? If yes, or even their predecessors, then the job is as good as done.
      (I seriously would not put it past TEPCO to sell the spent fuel rods recovered from Fukushima to Taiwan through the ‘Black Market.’ Transported there on the “Glows in the Dark Maru.”)

  16. allan

    Peak higher-ed?

    University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement [Chicago Tribune]

    The University of Chicago will no longer require ACT or SAT scores from U.S. students, sending a jolt through elite institutions of higher education as it becomes the first top-10 research university to join the test-optional movement.

    Numerous schools, including well-known liberal arts colleges, have dropped or pared back testing mandates in recent years to bolster recruiting in a crowded market. But the announcement Thursday by the university was a watershed, cracking what had been a solid and enduring wall of support for the primary admission tests among the two dozen most prestigious research universities. …

    On what is surely a totally unrelated note, after a long construction boom
    UChicago has proportionally the highest debt load among its elite competitors.
    Build it and they will come … we hope.

    1. Arizona Slim

      About a decade ago, there was a blog called Edububble. Which predicted this very peak.

      Alas, that blog is gone. I miss it.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Sort of education-for-all, if I don’t question their ulterior motive for financial gains.

  17. Jim Haygood

    Following Ireland’s historic repeal of its abortion ban in a referendum three weeks ago, today after a 22-hour session Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies voted by a narrow margin to decriminalize abortion.

    Meanwhile, Argentina’s truckers launched a one-day strike and the peso is sliding again, toward 27 to the dollar.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I can think of a similar mis-allocation of time here. The UK is only about what, ten months out from Brexit so you would think that May would be busy doing groundwork diplomacy with the EU and foreign partners for post-Brexit trade relations, right? Nope. She is apparently spending her time trying to form an anti-Russia alliance and will spend her time and political capital at the G20, NATO and the European Union summits trying to put one together because that is the biggest threat that the UK currently faces. Delusional. Simply delusional.

  18. Louis Fyne

    anyone following this…wasn’t there studies that asserted that conclusions from substantial percentage Psychology studies couldn’t be replicated

    “One of the most famous and influential psychology studies of all time was based on lies and fakery, a new exposé reveals.

    The Stanford prison experiment purported to show we are all naturally inclined to abuse positions of power – after volunteers randomly assigned to act as prison guards began abusing volunteer inmates in a mock prison.

    But now a report from author and scientist Dr Ben Blum claims the research was all a sham. It points to recordings found in archives at Stanford University which show the study’s author Professor Philip Zimbardo encouraged guards to treat inmates poorly.

    Also, one volunteer prisoner has now admitted to faking a fit of madness that the study reported was driven by the prison’s brutal conditions.

    The revelations have sent scientists into uproar, with some calling for the experiment and its findings to be wiped from psychology textbooks worldwide…”

    1. Arizona Slim

      ISTR reading about a satirical journal called The Journal of Irreproducible Results. I guess that one isn’t so satirical after all.

  19. Jason Boxman

    If these voice menu systems I get whenever I call a large company for service or support had a physical presence, I’d definitely take out my rage on them like the copier in Office Space.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I like your evil turn of mind.

      And, in a country as well armed as the United States, I can’t help thinking evil thoughts about the fate of delivery drones.

  20. Jim Haygood

    Ed Yardeni’s fundamental economic indicator rebounded today on improvements in all three of its components. Chart:

    Bloomberg Consumer Comfort rose; raw industrial material prices were up; the four-week average of initial unemployment claims fell. All good.

    Meanwhile the New York Fed’s GDP nowcast foresees 3.1% GDP growth in the second quarter, as we approach quarter-end.

  21. Summer

    Re: CA into 3 states…Nov ballot

    This is one of those things that could be a shock to conventional wisdom.
    I see see both the folly and the fun of a 3 state solution.

    1. tegnost

      if you think brexit is bad…unwinding the california grift would be the divorce of the century, what with the water rights,…and the water rights, and those giant farms in the CVBB, maybe someone should propose an alternative plan which divides the coast from all the inland regions…hey this could be fun as long as you stay away from california!

  22. s.n.

    one very empty vessel of non- ‘resistance’:
    Laurie Anderson screams in jerusalem

    “…She praised disobedience, the disruption of order via art, and at times she almost called for a revolution. But at the same time, Anderson exemplified this disobedience with insinuations which did not – heaven forbid – upset anyone. She merely made everyone in her imagined community feel warm and fuzzy. ..,.Not a single person disrupted the order and stood up to ask “What about Gaza?…

  23. marym

    Journalist tour of an immigrant child detention center. (Link)

    More on this: (Link)

    Journalist clarifying that this detention center was designed for unaccompanied minors (older kids). Not equipped for additional needs of babies and young children now being seized from their parents by the US government. (Link)

    This center is run by a non-profit which has been providing services to unaccompanied minors for 20 years. According to one of the twitter threads they were not given notice of the new child seizure program. (Link)

    According to the first thread there are multiple murals of Trump in the prison. Here’s the one he included in this report. (Link) The quotation is from one of his tweets. The second link above says there are multiple murals, including one of JFK.

    Article asking whether recent consideration of child internment “tent cities” on a military base may be a bargaining chip for the Sessions regime – keep families together in detention in return for indefinite internment, instead of allowing them to be released pending immigration hearings. (Link)

    They’re also coming for legal residents (Link) and naturalized citizens (Link)

    Material benefits:

    Big Money As Private Immigrant Jails Boom

    The Trump administration wants to expand its network of immigrant jails. In recent months, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has called for five new detention facilities to be built and operated by private prison corporations across the country. Critics are alarmed at the rising fortunes of an industry that had fallen out of favor with the previous administration. (Link)

  24. larry

    Dear Louis Fyne, thank you for mentioning this article.

    I find this article problematic. For one thing, this is probably not “the most famous psychological experiment of all time”. That accolade likely goes to Milgram’s Obedience to Authority experiment where just over 60% of the subjects shocked, they were led to believe, another person in another room (in the base condition) every time they gave a “wrong” answer going all the way or almost all the way to 250V simply because they were told to do so by someone in a white coat. This experiment has been replicated many times and the result is quite robust. The core of this experiment involves deception, precisely what was involved in the Stanford experiment. Misinformation forms a central part of the experimental design in both experimental situations.

    I can’t comment on some of the statements made by the author until I consult Zimbardo’s account of his experiment, The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil (2008). However, I felt that some of the language used was loosely constructed. One example: To be told that they couldn’t leave was part of the experimental design and designed to be misleading. Fakery is not a design fault in this experiment; some fakery is part and parcel of the design – others were invented. The author appears to be being disingenuous here. Whether such an experiment would be allowed by ethics committees now is another question.

    The faking of “madness” would have been encouraged by the experimental design. The guards engaged in behavior that Zimbardo did not approve of but he admits he did little about it as he did not want to interfere with the progression of the experiment. Much of this behavior was not part of the original experimental design but invented by some of the guards themselves. One guard who did not like to take part in such humiliation of others gave excuses that enabled him to leave the experimental situation for varying periods of time while this kind of thing was going on. While he didn’t like it, he never reported it. He was the only guard who never took part in the ritual humiliations of the so-called prisoners.

    Zimbardo’s girl friend, who later became his wife, certainly thought the experiment was dangerous and convinced him to shut it down. His explanation for not seeing this himself was that he was so wrapped up in the experiment itself that he could no longer distance himself from the situation but became deeply influenced by the experimental conditions. As he explains it, he needed an external moral force to jolt him out of his entrapment in the experiment in order that he could look at it dispassionately and objectively, something he found difficult to do even after such a short period of time. I am unable to tell right now how psychologically accurate his account is without going back to it and I do not have it to hand.

    Historical antecedents for this experiment, along with some others, were the Nazi camps and the holocaust. This certainly gave many experimenters of that time a sense of urgency that greater understanding of this kind of social behavior was long overdue.

    1. JTMcPhee

      And speaking of such experiments, dare one say it, what is going on in Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, like “putting Gaza’s on a diet” as in semi-starvation, (and now we learn that maybe the “law” in Israel itself is that only Jews are citizens entitled to the emoluments of what passes for “democracy” there — )

      Other historical antecedents, in places like Guantanamo, and Abu Ghraib, and all those “black sites” (sssshhhhh, mustn’t mention!)? Not to mention spots like Chicago’s own police “black site,” , at Homan Square in the Windy City…

      And as to a sense of urgency among experimenters that this kind of social behavior needed to be better understood, maybe that urgency was bifurcated — some horrified by what the results exposed, others all excited for the opportunities and insights this kind of practice gives to people who want to torture and repress and dominate others. Gotta have prison guards, and cops to shoot and batter civilians, and GIs that will kick down doors and murder unarmed and unresisting people whose countries said GIs have invaded at the instance of the Empire, and who will of course “take revenge” on a bunch of Wogs, because some other group of Wogs altogether had the temerity to ambush and kill or wound some of the Band of Invading Brothers… Or go out and kill and rape Wogs “just for sport:”

      And before the kill-for-sport-team “investigations,” there was this think piece in Wired: “How to spot a whitewash in Army’s Death Squad inquiry,” which both sets the stage as to what happened and what motivations and behaviors were supposed to have been and, per the title, how to spot the whitewash that actually eventuated (quelle surprise):

  25. Duke De Guise

    What’s wrong with you people?

    The Theory of Relativity is developed and spread by an obvious racist, as demonstrated by his diary entries, yet it’s still being taught in our schools?

    Where’s the outrage?

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


          More injustice.

          When men are re-incarnated as women in the future, when reparations are finally given, and women today become men, wouldn’t that be double injustice?

        2. ewmayer

          Except that the linked article does not support the ‘stolen’ CT – and 1905 was *special* relativity (whose key equations were nothing other than the already-well-known Lorentz Transformations, which up to that point were seen more or less as an interesting bit of maths, rather than as describing real-world physics), Einstein didn’t publish GR until a full decade later, and of course there are multiple CTs about his allegedly stealing that from e.g. Henri Poincaré or David Hilbert or Marcel Grossman, none of which survive close scrutiny. People like a juicy scientific whodunnit.

          For an actual well-sourced non-BS history, Abraham Pais’ Einstein bio is, as ever, indispensable. But is as ever, far easier to just make sh*t up than actually do the archival research.

          Even the “one fly in the ointment” snip in the article is easily given a fact-based, much more plausible interepretation:

          There is one fly in the ointment. Maric and Einstein divorced in 1919, but as part of the divorce settlement, Einstein agreed to pay his ex-wife every krona of any future Nobel Prize he might be awarded.

          Weinstein suggests that everybody knew Einstein was in line to win the prize and that in the postwar environment in Germany, this was a natural request from a wife who did not want a divorce and was suffering from depression.

          Walker, on the other hand, says: “I find it difficult to resist the conclusion that Mileva, justly or unjustly, saw this as her reward for the part she had played in developing the theory of relativity.”

          Whereas Wikipedia notes:

          They separated in 1914, with Marić taking the boys [Hans Albert and Eduard] and returning to Zurich from Berlin. They divorced in 1919; that year Einstein married again. When he received the Nobel Prize in 1921, he transferred the money to Marić, chiefly to support their sons; she had access to the interest. In 1930 at about age 20, their second son Eduard had a breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. With expenses mounting by the late 1930s for his institutional care, Marić sold two of the three houses she and Einstein had invested in. He made regular contributions to his sons’ care, which he continued after emigrating to the United States with his second wife (Elsa, his first cousin).

          The notes from John Stachel described in the Wikipedia article amount to a fairly thorough debunking, IMO.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Now, if we could just manage to boycott all the oil that moves through Enbridge pipelines so thoroughly that those pipelines had to shut down.

    2. Jen

      I had no idea that bananas grew in Canada. Who knew? And what the hell is that shrink wrapped blob in the middle of the cart?

  26. Eustache De Saint Pierre

    Yes social media can be depressing – my weekly trawl through the FB posts of absent family & friends included two videos. The first a group of penguins stranded on a small floating island of plastic, followed by a tragic scene featuring an Orangutan attempting to stop a bulldozer destroying his home, being driven by a member of a truly stupid bunch of primates.

  27. Anon

    RE: Plight of Birds

    The video of feeding a homeless cat is an inadvertent method of reducing the song bird population in the human environment (towns & cities). Feral cats are master bird predators. As are urban crows. (Crows (scavengers) expand with the human population–food scraps and spilled flavored coffee are gourmet to them.) Crows decimate song bird nests.

    So don’t feed that stray cat unless you intend to “save” it by keeping it indoors.

  28. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Voters think of “Medicare-for-All” and ‘Single Payer’ as two different things and “Medicare For All” is more popular.

    My guess is that people general avoid anything with the word ‘pay’ in there.

    And that underscores the importance of making sure Medicare For All is free…free of monthly premium, free of co-paying, and everyone gets free prescription medicine.

    1. Summer

      Funny, but true. We already are on the road to single payer…all costs on you – the single payer – after govt and business shift extortionary prices with all those costs onto the individual.

  29. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    NHS ‘picking up the pieces’ of mental illness epidemic caused by social media Telegraph

    Until help arrives, a relatively cheap remedy to mental illness caused by social media is to cover oneself with a sense of humor.

    Another remedy is to just walk away…but that’s easier said than done…for some people (but not too hard for people who are exceptional though).

  30. Lambert Strether

    > If iPhone Moves to USB-C, We Must Embrace One Last Dongle

    I think we’re going to be embracing that “one last dongle” ’til the end of time (or at least ’til the end of the platform).

  31. Lou

    Does anyone know the name of the music in the cat video? There’s probably a website or app that can figure this out but I’m old and can barely navigate the internet to get to the NC website. Thank you.

Comments are closed.