Links 8/13/18

Dear patient readers,

Thank you so much for all your words of encouragement, donations, and other offers of help with the loss of my laptop. I am extremely grateful for your support. The financial contributions will go a long way towards replacing the machine and even the necessary tech support time (like getting information from my backups and moving it onto the laptop I am using now, as well as setting up the new machine).

The laptop is still missing. I have been calling the two police stations where taxi drivers leave lost property with no luck. However, it is more likely, if a passenger gave the laptop to the cabbie, that he dropped it off at the fleet garage when he turned his car back in. My understanding is the garages keep lost property for a bit, but how long “a bit” is is a mystery.

My building does have cameras out front, and the Friday evening doorman suggested having the office check the footage to see if they could read the cab number. If so, then I could track down the driver and the garage.

I hate making yet another request, but I could also use a lead for a new Mac person. I had a good one before, who worked for TekServe up until its closure, but he moved to Japan. One reader had a very enthusiastic recommendation….for a person who charged more than three times as much per hour! I do want to get someone who is capable, but my experience suggests that paying Tiffany rates isn’t necessary. So any suggestions very much appreciated. If you have any ideas, please e-mail me at “yves-at-nakedcapitalism-dot-com” with “Mac support” in the headline.

Thanks again!


Parker Solar Probe: Spacecraft that will ‘touch the sun’ is successfully launched Independent

Builder demolishes newly-built cottages in Buntingford ‘in revenge for not being paid’

Amid heat wave, rare flamingos lay first eggs in 15 years Boston Globe (furzy). See related video below.

It’s Tough Being a Right Whale These Days Atlantic

“To understand magnetism is to understand how the universe and Earth came to be” New Humanist

A warmer world means a greater risk rain lands on snow, triggering floods Ars Technica

‘Fallout 76’ deals with trolls by making them part of the game Endgadget. J T McPhee: “How to incentivize pro-social behaviors? Extra loot for killing the antisocial?? ‘Of course, it’s hust a game…'”

‘They be pirates’ WaPo

Can Aboriginal ecotourism save communities as companies eye land? Al Jazeera

Jakarta, the fastest-sinking city in the world BBC

Burn, Baby, Burn

Interior chief on wildfires: ‘Nothing to do with climate change’ KCRA 3 Sacramento

Almost 600 wildfires now burning across B.C. News 130

California fire map: Latest on Mendocino Complex Fire, Nelson Fire, Holy Fire, Carr Fire and others Mercury News

‘The president’s right’: Interior chief pushes thinning forests to cut fire risk Sacramento Bee

Costs of Extreme Heat Are Huge, But Hard to Quantify Climate Liability News

Brexit: the Dunkirk Option


America is turning up the pressure on Iran – and we want global Britain to stand with us Telegraph Op-ed by US Ambassador.

The art of the Iranian deal: How Trump can talk to Tehran Al Jazeera

Who Profits From Iran’s Oil Major Exodus? OilPrice. com


Explosion at makeshift arms depot kills at least 39 people in Syria Independent


Turkish lira drops further as investors await action plan FT

Asian shares, euro trampled as Turkish rout spreads Reuters

Turkey opens investigation into ‘fake news’ as lira drops FT

Frackers Burn Cash to Sustain U.S. Oil Boom WSJ

For Voters Sick of Money in Politics, a New Pitch: No PAC Money Accepted NYT

The New Business Banker: A Private-Equity Firm WSJ

Big Brother IS Watching You Watch

In-vehicle wireless devices are endangering emergency first responders Ars Technica

Lawsuit Claims the ACT Sells Students’ Disability Data to Colleges Motherboard


Health Care

“Right to Try” Is a Cruel Farce Jacobin

Trump Transition

Conway: Trump White House requires nondisclosure agreements Politico

Trump: Planned boycott by Harley-Davidson owners ‘great’ The Hill

Lax state ethics rules leave health agencies vulnerable to conflicts Politico


Lawmakers struggle with rise of untraceable ‘ghost’ weapons FT


Class Warfare

More Americans are defaulting on their credit cards: analyst NY Post (furzy)

Betsy DeVos’s summer home deserves a special place in McMansion Hell Vox. Kate Wagner.

Throwing Children Away: The School-to-Prison Pipeline American Conservative




Could a pipeline of peace help unite Northeast Asia? Asia Times

Why China cannot rely on consumers to spend their way out of the trade war SCMP


With Palm Oil Expansion, India is Blazing a Trail to a Parched Future The Wire

Undoing a legacy of injustice The Hindu

Media freedom in the Modi age: The cat-and-mouse game is set to get more fierce as 2019 nears

Antidote du jour:

And, a bonus video, Andean flamingo mating dance:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. John Beech

    In another life I was a contractor. I put my home on the line to secure a line of credit to ensure I could pay my employees when those who owed me money were slow. Thus, when I read the story of that builder hopping into a track hoe and demoing a row of homes for which he was owed – ready for move-in homes no less – I found it hilarious. Me? I think it’s karma when an employee who isn’t paid gets his revenge. Let this be a lesson to shady employers everywhere! I can assure you of one thing, they wouldn’t want me on that jury because that guy would walk.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      It can work for the bigger players. Years back I worked for a very large ‘latchkey’ construction contractor in the oil and gas field – the company lore was that back in the 1980’s they had built a refinery for client in a notoriously corrupt north African country. On completion the clients politely informed the contractor that they were about to be stiffed and should be grateful for what they had recieved along with a small completion payment, and btw good luck if you want to go through local courts for satisfaction.

      There was a local religous holiday coming up and (so the story goes, I’ve been unable to find a reputable independent source for it), the company hired every available spare ship in the Med along with a large crew equipped with thermic lances. During the holiday they reduced the refinery to stumps, and sold all the metal for scrap in Italy.

      The financial loss was considered worth it for the message given to clients that it pays to honour your contracts.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Maybe those clients were graduates of Trump University with a Major in stiffing contractors.

      2. John Wright

        This seems to be a quite reasonable response to me.

        Many years ago I worked in manufacturing in Silicon Valley and heard stories of vendors sometimes being given verbal “go-ahead” instructions to build specialized tooling.

        The verbal go-ahead got the process started sooner and probably delivered sooner.

        On one occasion related to me, one vendor was told, after they had built specialized tooling, that since no official PO was issued and the tooling was not needed, they would not be paid.

        Once a vendor is burned by a customer this way, the vendor will demand better terms next time if the vendor is even willing to deal with the customer.

        The company that built the replacement refinery probably insisted on, and received, very favorable terms.

        In light of this, I suspect that Trump knows his undoing of the Iran “deal” will have consequences.

        These consequences may not be isolated to Iran.

      3. perpetualWAR

        Many years ago a tile contractor who was my client told me a story about exactly what this builder did here. The tile contractor was hired by an architect to install a tile to a kitchen counter. The TC told the architect that the end result would not be pleasing because of the specific tile that was chosen. The TC encouraged the client to select another tile. However, the TC said, “It is your project, you can select whatever you choose, just know that I don’t think you will like this on the area you are asking for it to be installed.” The client went ahead with the project as specified. Sure enough, after the TC was finished, the architect and his retail client both said, “We don’t like the product.” The TC said, “Where is my pay?” The architect and his client both told the TC there would be no pay, since both of them did not like the product. The TC went out to his truck and grabbed a sledge hammer. He came back in and demolished the counter, while both the architect and his client screamed bloody murder.

        Does anyone think they can get something for nothing without consequences???

    2. FriarTuck

      I seem to recall that unpaid labor can file what is called a mechanic’s lien to take partial ownership of assets in which they materially improved via labor and materials.

      While definitely satisfying, it probably would have been better to file to show they mean business about getting paid.

      Fun anecdote: I learned about this while listening to a podcast recounting Donald Trump’s history of dealing with laborers.

      1. J Sterling

        That link says you can’t do it in England and you can’t do it with real estate. The story is about real estate in England.

      2. ambrit

        Friar tuck;
        I went through the process of filing such a Lien in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana.
        The time to present the lien for payment is when the original overarching contract is unwound. Most subcontractors must wait till the very end for a usually ten percent escrow fund, used as a completion inducement. Mechanics Liens should be paid out of that completion fund before being handed over to the subcontractor.
        I was encouraged to include the general contractor in my Lien, as a co-defendant. No contractor wants such a claim on their ‘official’ paper trail. It’s bad for business. Hurts the reputation. The general paid me half the claim just to have their name removed from the filing. The sub-contractor paid me with a bad cheque. I never did get that money back, but harassing the subcontractor was a lot of fun.
        There are so many legal and quasi legal ways to defer payments, playing the long game, that collecting on an unpaid construction debt can wear an individual out.
        Now, as to actual sub-contracting: Dad had a small builder stiff him on the final bill for the plumbing in a fourplex in south Dade County, Florida. Thus, the next Sunday morning, very early, as in I watched the sun come up while I worked, several of us removed as much of the finish product from the project as we could in a long day. Understand, doing this is illegal since, legally, the property ‘belongs’ to the bank financing the project. We were stealing our own unpaid for items, but, after being installed, the ownership moved on to the financiers. Something like re-theft of labour was going on. Dad had already ‘disposed’ of the purloined goods, where I never could figure out. When the police showed up to search our house and grounds, nothing was to be found.

    3. Wukchumni

      I knew somebody that got stiffed on payment from a reign of error wannabe, and thought the retaliation fit the bill, in that he bought a thousand crickets, which all went through the mail slot of the debtor’s front glass door early one morning…

    4. bob

      I knew a contractor in the Boston area who got stiffed on a small construction job. A deck he built onto a house. He showed up one morning with a truck and a chain. He attached the chain to the deck and knocked on the door. “pay me now or I’m taking the deck back”

      He didn’t get paid, so pulled the deck off the house and drove it back to his shop. The police pulled him and the deck over and got a big kick out of it. He wasn’t ticketed.

    5. Adam Eran

      True contracting story: Folsom prison put its laundry out to bid with an unrealistically short timetable, and a big penalty if that timetable wasn’t respected. Most bidders included the penalty in their bid because they knew they would never be able to install the equipment on time. The winning bidder did not include the penalty, but as soon as they began the job began documenting the evidence for the inevitable lawsuit to get paid the full amount.

      Counting on a lawsuit to get paid qualifies contracting as a tough gig.

    6. Chris

      Back in the day there was a local developer with a reputation for making a profit by not paying his contractors.

      This time he was tackling his largest project yet – a ‘luxury’ hotel. The plumbing contractor couldn’t afford to get stiffed again, so he took out insurance. In the run up to opening day, there seemed to be a problem with the water supply (as in no water). The developer spoke to the plumber who said “You’ll get your water when I get my money.”

      The developer wrote a cheque.

      Having seen cheques bounce in the past, the plumber invited the developer to take a sort stroll to the bank, where the cheque was exchanged for cash.

      The plumber then went back to the hotel, cut a small hole in a plaster wall, and turned on the extra, unspecified stop tap.

      He was the only contractor who got paid in full.

      1. ambrit

        Oh, I like that one! Hiding a ‘backup’ water control valve for the entire building. If it truly was a small hotel, that valve alone was a couple of hundred dollars. Cheap insurance!

  2. Wukchumni

    ‘The president’s right’: Interior chief pushes thinning forests to cut fire risk Sacramento Bee

    A friend works for the Tulare County planning office, and in the midst of the drought, his superiors were calling upright standing members of the community in the higher climes: “straws”, as those trees had the nerve to use water that farmers could have utilized instead.

    It’s far right political thinking in a nutshell for you, it’s those damned trees fault!

    That said, the real issue is the substantial buildup of duff on the ground, and nearly 130 million dead trees in the Sierra Nevada, most of which are good for nothing other than burning them to create energy in biomass plants, the majority of which here have closed down, er whoops.

    1. fresno dan

      August 13, 2018 at 7:20 am
      They took all the trees
      Put ’em in a tree museum *
      And they charged the people
      A dollar and a half just to see ’em

      Don’t it always seem to go
      That you don’t know what you’ve got
      Till it’s gone
      They paved paradise
      And put up a parking lot
      Buck and a half is a bargain compared to what they will charge you for the oxygen created by green things….
      Air…used to be free, but don’t you see without a “free market” and entrepreneurs to harvest it, manage it, price it, and distribute it, air can just be used by the riff raff?

    2. Webstir

      Ok, this quote Wukchumi:
      “the real issue is the substantial buildup of duff on the ground, and nearly 130 million dead trees in the Sierra Nevada, most of which are good for nothing other than burning them to create energy in biomass plants … “

      Wrong. The real issue is planning and zoning. The “issue” you refer to is a result of years of build-up due to decades of fire suppression that has interrupted the natural fire cycle. Why decades of fire suppression? Well, to protect all those structures of course. Why all those structures built in land that typically explodes into flame on a regular basis? Well, the Bezzle of course! The Counties have their property tax receipts. You have a smoking pile of rubble and increased insurance premiums.

      And as for dead trees being good for nothing but biomass utilization? Tell that to the flora and fauna that depend upon them for food and shelter. Expansion of the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) is the greatest threat to native plant and wildlife populations.

      Urbanites … whatcha gonna do?

      1. Wukchumni

        To be fair, fire suppression has been the policy of both local and Federal government for well over a century, to the detriment of the forest for the trees, which was never allowed the chance to thin itself out, as would have happened normally when Prometheus came calling.

        I’ve walked in a good many areas of the Sierra Nevada where there is 5-10 feet of duff underfoot, all lying in wait of ignition.

        Everything then burns so intensely, that trees are replaced by low lying ground cover in the decades to follow, which makes for a great new catalyst in spreading the next conflagration.

        An excellent book on this theme is:

        Fire in Sierra Nevada Forests: A Photographic Interpretation of Ecological Change Since 1849, by George Gruell

        The author found historical photos of the Sierra, and then took modern photos from exactly the same spot, and it becomes very obvious how spaced out trees were in the early years of Americans in California, versus now.

        Want to scare me away from my domiciles surrounded by an oak savanna & pine forest?

        Simply stop allowing me the chance to buy fire insurance…

        1. Webstir

          To be fair, I hadn’t had my cup o’ joe before I hit the comment button this morning and my snark knob was still turned up to 11 — Bad Webstir!.

          Thanks for the interesting thread Wukchumni :)

        1. perpetualWAR

          That controlled burn article regarding the Native Americans was the first bit of good news I’ve read in a long time! It should be mandatory reading.

      2. crittermom

        The PBS documentary “The Big Burn” is regarding fire suppression, & how the Forest Service has changed its views after a century. Quite educational.

        As you mentioned, with so many (of the 1%) building (second, third, fourth) homes in the forest now, that has created a problem.

          1. Wukchumni

            I always feel like i’m cheating on one of our 2 residences, when we’re not there.

            The anguish for McCain & Romney with 7 & 11 residences each, must be quite something.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Wasn’t there a recent NC discussion about rooms in the house people don’t use?

              Like the living room. And some convert it to a bedroom or an office, I recall.

              A second home is a rarely used room, multiplied, in many cases.

              1. J Sterling

                I reject all such discussions of poverty socialism. The point is not for us all to be poor, but for us all to be rich. We can’t all have servants (who would be the servants?) but we can all have room.

          2. perpetualWAR

            “Why can’t they be happy with only one home?”

            Because their big fat egos cannot be contained in just one residence!!! They must have multiple residences to keep up with housing that huge fat ego!

            I’m actually surprised that you had to ask, when it’s readily apparent that these people aren’t like other people. Ego has taken over. Uber alles.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              I only asked because, to some, a second home is not quite as bad as, say, a 5th home.

                    1. Wukchumni

                      The hundred days of hundred degrees chases us up to our pine-à-terre, on the same turf where the Wukchumni went to escape the heat, over a thousand summers.

          3. anon y'mouse

            i actually don’t quite agree with you.

            everyone should have a “home place” which all return to periodically. for reunions, vacations and such. this place is vital element in family life, or it should be.

            similar to the Scandinavians keeping a small cabin for their vacations. a place that can be shared among a larger, extended family. also a bolt-hole for temporarily displaced family members.

            so what’s that? a 1.5 houses? a 1.33 houses?

      1. Wukchumni

        Makes one wonder why most of the pulp & paper mills in Maine are closing?

        Perhaps we could Fedex all of those dead trees back east?

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            In the article you link to: “There were 12 mills operating in Maine as of the end of 2013 and three have shut down this year.” -Tappi Over The Wire.

            That’s a 2014 article, at 9 mills. It’s like a bloody Agatha Christie novel. I wonder how many are still standing (figuratively) 4 years later?

            A number of the towns in Maine were totally dependent on paper production some 50 years ago. It’s really sad to drive through some of them now where tourism hasn’t followed, and – quite bluntly – some of them where it has.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Hey, about those trees in higher climes”. Don’t they keep the soils in place? I recall the story of an ancient Greek port city that is now well inland. The story is that to build their ships and infrastructure, they chopped down all the trees on the surrounding slopes and the upper highlands. The latter were then planted with wheat crops but as the land got abused it was reduced to raising goats as were the slopes. As there were no trees to hold the soils in with their extensive root systems and the rain ran off the soil with the help that the goat’s hoofs did in damaging the remaining plants and soils, the amount of soil running downhill eventually not only filled in the harbour but extended the coastline so that the town is now nowhere near a coastline.

  3. Livius Drusus

    Re: More Americans are defaulting on their credit cards.

    I wonder if this is the canary in the coal mine for the next recession. In addition to credit cards I have noticed an uptick in articles about people being unable to pay back student loans.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I don’t know what the research says, but common sense would suggest I think that credit card debt stress is the leading indicator, followed by car loans and mortgages and student debts. Interestingly, the linked article from China (Why China cannot rely on consumers to spend their way out of the trade war SCMP) suggests the same thing is happening there.

      Economist Christopher Balding, who has taught for the past nine years at Peking University’s HSBC School of Business in Shenzhen, has gone further. Writing for Nikkei Asian Review last month, he estimated that the country’s household-debt-to-income ratio reached 120 per cent in the past year, with an imbalance created by household debt growing at 20 per cent a year and disposable income rising at 9 per cent a year.

      Qin Han, chief fixed-income analyst at Guotai Junan Securities, wrote in a research note last month about the recent emergence of the “consumption downgrade” phenomenon.

      “Mortgages are an obstacle to consumption that cannot be avoided,” he said. “Rents are also significantly squeezing consumer spending.”

      The world seems to be rapidly running out of consumers willing to spend our way out of overproduction.

      1. L

        As the linked article notes auto loans, which had helped to “save” the auto industry, are also seeing much higher default and extend rates so we are already two canaries down.

        1. JTMcPhee

          But… but… that would let those dirtbags who don’t pay their just debts, like I did, off the hook they willingly and intentionally hung themselves on! What kind of policy would that be? I did the hard work of digging out of debt, everyone else (except corporations and the filthy rich, who have a kind of perpetual Jubilee running) should have to do the same! If that drags the whole political economy into a black hole, oh well…(/s, in case it is not absolutely clear from context.)

          1. Wukchumni

            If you get your cherished jubilee, the financial world probably goes tilt, and we get to start over fresh.

            I’d prefer not to spend the last 30-40 years of my life in a re-earning camp.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            The other way, so that everyone gets money, is to give a set amount of money to all, regardless of whether he or she is in the 1%, 10% or 100%.

            “So, you didn’t go to college and have $100,000 in debt to pay off? Well, you now have $100,000 to either downpay a home purchase, or to get that college degree you missed out on. Or you can spend that $100,000 to travel around the world.”

      2. Yves Smith

        Yo! I have to pull out my copy of ECONNED, but US household debt pre criss was either 130% or 150% of HH income. For an emerging economy with virtually no social safety nets to be at 120% is stunning.

    2. Terry Humphrey

      When these companies can unilaterally enforce higher interests rates as high as 30% for such transgressions as a late payment, what do they expect?

  4. PlutoniumKun

    Brexit: the Dunkirk Option

    I’ve been trying to avoid looking at Brexit for a little while, as unfortunately its all become so farcical and chaotic its something of a waste of time even trying to understand whats going on in London. The other capitals are just looking on with a mixture of bemusement and horror (and are largely distracted I think by holidays and Turkey, or even potential cheap Turkish holidays).

    It thus seems to me that the best way out of the current impasse is to allow a crisis to develop, and manage it as best we can to minimise the damage, while using the political space created to pursue a longer-term objective.

    Such a strategy may be considered very far from optimal, although in the real world, the politically attainable must always take precedence over the unattainable ideal. Pragmatism must be the watchword. If we need a crisis in order to achieve long-term goals, then that must be considered as part of the price we must pay for a sustainable, long-term solution.

    I suspect that this is increasingly the sole strategy that May has. I’ve been thinking for some time that the reflex fall-back of many politicians is to do nothing until a crisis gives them the opportunity to do what they always felt was necessary. I think this is the only hope for May – that an economic (or other) crisis allows her to force through some sort of deal, with all the necessary concessions involved. If she is very lucky, the crisis will pull the EU in so they will make big concessions as they are too busy worrying about something else, like Turkey pulling the European banking system down with it. I think the Brexiter Ultras have similar thoughts, but they are banking on a Spring 2019 crisis to allow them to make the Disaster Capitalism changes they’ve always wanted, and hope somehow to emerge from the other end with Corbyn and the Tory wets vanquished and Boris in charge.

    The problem is that the inevitable Brexit related crisis may well simply come too late. If it had occured last year, then maybe a sort of ongoing crisis management could have come up with either a semi-workable exit, or allowed them to abandon the whole thing with some face saving cover. So I still think a no-deal looks the most likely option, although I think the EU is banking on a panicked Britain accepting the backstop and 18 month transition deal.

    1. Mirdif

      I think May might delay publishing the UK equivalent of the notice to stakeholders until the New Year in an attempt to use their publication to precipitate the needed event.

      My guess is this may well be dismissed as Remoaner Project Fear version X and so it won’t work.

      The only surefire way the Tories have of killing the UKIP dragon is the crash out; anything less and it will remain lurking in the background shouting treason.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I suspect you are right. The Tory instinct is for unity above all – they’ve never had a significant split in nearly two centuries. They may decide that with a weakened Corbyn, they can afford go down in flames with the country, and pick up the pieces from the aftermath with a new face.

        What I’m wondering though is whether the ominous rumblings from Turkey will lead to an autumn banking crisis in London and Europe, that could throw all calculations out the door. I wonder how exposed the City of London banks are to Turkey.

        1. begob

          There was a Wolf Street link here a few days ago, saying the BIS estimated the UK financial sector had the second highest exposure in 2016 – £24b as against France’s £40b.

          On Brexit – surely supermarket shelves have to empty before B-Day as people become sufficiently alarmed. That should be enough to trigger the Civil Contingencies Act.

    2. b

      A month ago I described the “create panic” strategy:

      “My hunch is that Prime Minister Theresa May was tasked with ‘running out the clock’ in negotiations with the EU. Then, shortly before the March 2019 date of a ‘hard Brexit’ would arrive without any agreement with the EU, the powers that be would launch a panic campaign to push the population into a new vote. That vote would end with a victory for the ‘Remain’ side. The UK would continue to be a member of the European Union.”

      1. Mirdif

        I’d hazard a guess that there will never be a UK wide referendum ever again. The establishment has learned it’s lesson and will offer a referendum only in the case of N. Ireland as mandated by the Good Friday Agreement or for Scottish independence.

        An event that can cause a crisis will enable May to act without reference to the referendum as public opinion will change overnight en masse. However, i don’t think such an event is likely.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        The problem with that theory is, as Yves has outlined, it takes a long time to organise a referendum, its not legally, politically or logistically possible to do one in such a short time frame. Plus, it will split the Tories and lead to a UKIP resurgence. So its not an attractive option for Tory Party strategists, even if it may be the only way to avoid a cliff edge Brexit.

        1. Shane Mage

          why should it take a “long” time…or any time at all…to hold a referendum? Parliament (supreme under the UK “constitution”) could be called back into session today, pass legislation by Friday to hold a binding referendum in which a “Yes” vote would be a formal withdrawal of the Article 50 notification, print the ballots over the weekend, set up the voting booths, and hold the vote on Sunday. Of course they won’t. But not because they can’t.

          1. Yves Smith

            Please do homework. I don’t like having to debunk things discussed at length. There are formal procedures for referendums. Minimum time is eight months AFTER referendum has been approved by both houses of Parliament and the referendum question has been worked out. If the pre-existing procedures aren’t followed, you can be assured the Ultras would get an injunction and they’d be right.

            1. vlade

              Technically, ShaneMage is right – because the UK parliament is sovereign, and can pass literally any laws it wants. The Electoral Comission is “just” something that was established by the law, and a new Westminste law could easily make an extemption (and it would not technically require even any supermajorities or whatever – see the Henry VIII powers for a good example what can the UK parliament pass if it wishes so. Cromwell’s dictatorship is another, if a bit older example). So, depending on the wording on the law, it could bypass all the niceties. The UK constitution is “unwritten”, but really the only practical impact is that no past parliament can bind any current/future parliament.

              Of course, the downside of this is it would set up a truly terrible example. I’m not saying precedent, as in the 17th century there was more than one law that junked the previous laws and interpretations – but it’s basically revolutionary. You’d better be very very clear that this is what the public-at-large wants before doing it.

              1. vlade

                Just to be very specific here – no court in the UK (up to and inclusive) of the High Court can overturn ANY primary legislation (i.e. legislation passed by the Parliament). It can overturn secondary legislation (i.e. government issued regulations, not explicitly approved by the Parliament) , or declare primary legislation incompatible with European Convention on Human Rights (which may allow the government to remove the incompatibility by secondary legislation).

                In a similar vein, no UK institution can overturn an Act of Parliament except the Parliament itself.

                So if an AoP was passed that would require a referendum in a week’s time, and EXPLICITLY exempted it from any other electoral requirements of existing laws (this is important), tough luck, a referendum would have to happen in a week’s time, and there’s nothing that could challenge it or the result (again, if it was explicitly written into the law).

                A court (or whatever) could at most state that the process was unfair, but cannot be changed anyways.

                A note should be made here that under Parliamentary sovereignty no referendum can be made binding in practice. To withdraw A50 would require AoP, and such an act could be passed anytime Westminster wishes so – no referendum necessary. Those screaming about democracy could express their views in the next elections then.

                But as I wrote, it would be pretty much revolutionary stuff..

              2. The Rev Kev

                ‘the only practical impact is that no past parliament can bind any current/future parliament’
                You might know British history more vlade, but wasn’t there an Parliament once that decided the exact opposite when it came to the British people? I think that is was the one for King Charles II that not only swore their total allegiance but also the total allegiance for all their descendants forever after? Which why it came about though you and I are at opposite ends of the planet, we are nonetheless expected to swear our lives to a little old lady sitting in one of her palaces a coupla centuries later.

                1. vlade

                  Not sure I understand. Any UK parliament can bind British People (or any people it can exercise its power over), but there’s no institution that can overturn an AoP (except Parliamnt itself).

                  So say unlike US, where the USCC can overturn a law it finds in conflict with the Constitution (which is hard to amend) the UK’s High Court can’t.

                  1. The Rev Kev

                    Must have explained it badly. Try this. In the US any law can be overturned over time as a new generation arises and takes their turn in power. Even the US Constitution can be changed with a voted Amendment. Imagine if the US Senate and House of Reps not only made it law to swear fealty to Donald Trump, but also that all their descendants swear their loyalty to Trump and all his descendants. And that is what happened in the UK about four centuries ago which is why I, living in Oz, can be charged with sedition if I ever planned to make our country independent of the Queen.

                    1. J Sterling

                      It has happened in the past that Parliament stopped that (the Interregnum), and it can happen again. All you’re observing is that it has not happened, just as the US has not yet happened to repeal the 2nd Amendment. The US Constitution is the closest thing to a “no take backs!” principle that Western democracies have, and even it is mutable.

                    2. vlade

                      They may have sworn whatever they wished – the point is, any current/future Parliament may make that null and void. It really is a case of ‘past performance is no guarantee of future’. I know it’s not trivial to grasp, but because there is no institutional check on the UK’s Parliament, it is literally not constrained by the past at all (it is in the sense that all MPs are product of some past).

                      So, you and I may have had to swear allegiance to the Queen – but there’s nothing that would stop the current Parliament to abolish that. In fact there’s nothing that would stop the current (or future) Parliament to drop the Monarchy entirely, should it wish to do so. The interesting bit would be say if the UK did decide to adopt a written constitution, as it would have to re-build its institution a lot.

                      To an extent, for the more sensible Brexit arguements, the real point was that the UK parliament was being constrained by the EU with real consequences for non-compliance, and that required the UK to change its institutions to fit.

                      TBH, I still don’t buy this, because this is a larger constitutional/sovereignty question of international limits.

                      The EU might have been the most visible limitation on the UK’s Parliament, but in reality most international dealings were already limiting it, and will be. Maybe in the 19th century the UK parliament could afford to ignore the world, but even as early as WW1 it could not anymore. And now, well, it’s way past that stage.

        2. DanB

          I do not disagree with you, but I also ask myself this question: If a sufficient panic is aroused -a la the 2008 fiscal/economic crisis- can’t all the laws and rules be ignored to “save the system”?

          1. Yves Smith

            No. You forget the US didn’t bail out Lehman and the TARP still had to be approved by Congress. Even the Fed was restricted to lending against collateral, although it had a lot of latitude as to what it could accept as collateral.

    3. The Rev Kev

      I saw another ‘Dunkirk option’ back in the 80s. I was going through Europe and met quite a few British soldiers who were part of the British Army of the Rhine. Being interested in soldier’s personal equipment I asked a lot of them what their most important pieces of kit would be that they carried if the Warsaw pact ever came over the border. A lot of them answered “a ferry ticket from Dunkirk back to England” so I suppose you could call that a ‘Dunkirk Option’. Maybe with Brexit the new Dunkirk Option would be a ferry ticket over to Ireland. There are worse places for refuge. In five years of travel I never met a person that visited Ireland that did not like it and I met a lot of travelers in that time.

      1. vlade

        Military service was a requirement in the Soviet block up till early 90s. Talking to people who were doing it, their plan for a Warsaw pact attack was to “surrender to the Western powers as fast as humanly possible” – and it seems to have been a fairly widespread feeling among all reservists, no matter the rank.

        1. a different chris

          >the new Dunkirk Option would be a ferry ticket over to Ireland.
          >“surrender to the Western powers as fast as humanly possible”

          Awesome. “What if they had a war and both sides surrendered?”. Sanity seems to extend to just short of the bozos running things.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Before Warsaw, from Wikipedia, on a problem common in all armies:

          Shtrafbats (Russian: штрафбат, штрафной батальон) were Soviet penal battalions that fought on the Eastern Front in World War II.

          The shtrafbats were greatly increased in number by Joseph Stalin in July 1942 via Order No. 227 (Директива Ставки ВГК №227). Order No. 227 was a desperate effort to re-instill discipline after the panicked routs of the first year of combat with Germany. The order—popularized as the “Not one step back!” (Ни шагу назад!, Ni shagu nazad!) Order—introduced severe punishments, including summary execution, for unauthorized retreats.[1]

          In his order, Stalin also mentioned Hitler’s successful use of penal battalions (known as Strafbataillone) as a means to ensure obedience among regular Wehrmacht units.

          One step back for the German soldiers because their cause was wrong.

          One step back for the Soviet soldiers, when defending the Motherland was a patriotic thing to do and a good cause, was likely due to human nature.

    4. Brooklin Bridge

      Interesting that you make a distinction between May’s use of a Brexit disaster and that of the Ultras. I’ve always assumed (naively) that as a conservative, May would be happy to use any disaster in the service of wholesale privatization specifically and all other forms of financial looting in general. But frequently from your far more informed comments, I notice a very pronounced distinction made between May’s goals and those of the Ultras. Would it be possible to clarify a little?

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I’m not sure anyone knows what May really believes (she was apparently nicknamed ‘the Submarine‘ as a minister because she kept low and silent). But its generally assumed that she is what might be termed a ‘one nation’ Tory. She does seem to genuinely believe in protecting the weaker in a general sense, so she is not ideologically opposed to public services. That brand of Conservativism has always seen the welfare state as a price to pay for social stability and have no particular problem with government interference in the economy, so long as there is something in it for the business sector.

        The Ultras are generally full on Koch Brother Libertarian types (just with a particular twist of old style British Liberalism and nationalism). They see all government action as inherently inefficient and wrong so have no hesitation in destroying it whenever they can.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Thank you, PK. I find the notion of redeeming qualities fascinating, and these observations on May and the Tories (such as the welfare state as a price to pay for social stability) are very helpful for getting a little better glimpse of what’s going on in Britian, especially from a US perspective where, at least as regards conventional conservatives and liberals, there seems to be such an absolute vacuum of redeeming anything.

    5. larry

      OK, PK, but not all deals are equal. And the best deal she could obtain she has rejected. And Corbyn has indicated that he doesn’t understand it, which leads me to wonder how bright he is.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I don’t doubt she won’t get a better deal, but from her point of view what isn’t important is what the deal involves, its whether the deal is politically sustainable – and thats about timing, not content. I suspect she actually doesn’t care at all what the final deal says, what matters to her is that she can say she has ‘delivered’.

    6. vlade

      The only problem with that is that because the concessions are most likely to come from Tories, not the EU, it will still be a death-blow to Tory party. Any deal except no-deal will allow Ultras to claim “see, it would have been better if there was a no-deal” – and any deal (and no-deal even more so) will be economically expensive for a lot of British electorate short/medium term.

      Now, the problem May may have is that she may be genuinely split between loayalty to the country and the party. But there’s no good solution that could deliver both.

      The country one would be as soft a Brexit as possible, including no Brexit (and it seems that the UK public is swinging that way now, includng district-by-district).

      The party one is to drop the ball into Labour’s court, and sort out Tory party first (painful short term, but the only way I believe they can survive as a party).

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, you are right about that. We know pretty well that for most of those Tory types, if its a choice between party and country, they know which one they’ll pick.

    7. ChrisPacific

      I was reading Dickens this morning and was struck by the following passage from Little Dorrit:

      …except at certain constitutional moments when somebody came from some Office, to go through some form of overlooking something which neither he nor anybody else knew anything about. On these truly British occasions… …this somebody pretended to do his something: and made a reality of walking out again as soon as he hadn’t done it – neatly epitomising the administration of most of the public affairs in our right little, tight little, island.

      Some things don’t change, I guess.

  5. Katsue

    The latest version of the Independent article on the arms depot explosion shows a death toll of 69.

    1. JTMcPhee

      One in FOUR 55-64 year olds have virtually nothing. No “properties,” no job, and of course many have crushing debts. (Some would say that’s all their own damn fault of course, dismissing the deductions and frauds that got them there.) And no hope of better. And many are also, from their meager resources, providing food and shelter for their children who, like them, have been Fokkered by the real enemy of the mopery, the oligarchs and banksters and their enablers.

      Trying to drive a wedge, maybe? Yaas, it is so effective to punch sideways and kick down, isn’t it? That will well serve the real Ownership class, the 0.1% that owns what, 75% Of EVERYTHING…

      My younger sister is in your marked-out age set, and has a second property, inherited from my father who inherited it from his parents. She married and career’d well, and has a large main house, had a ski place in Vermont and a classy apartment in NYC that she sold at the top of the markets. (She however happens to be a very generous and pro-social person, sharing and doing good deeds all around. The rest of us are canted on the edge of things.

      Averages, means, medians. Lies, damned lies, statistics, and anecdotes.

      What is the point of your comment, agai?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Not sure about the point exactly, but for me, I’m thinking Free Housing.

        Surely, if we can ask free college, we can think about free housing, for all.

        And while for some others, the point might be classy apartment vs. McMansion hell. But it’s subjective (to me, anyway). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And, so we are back to 0.1%, 1% and lately 9% or 10%, and the same vein, those without one single home, and those with 2, 3 or more homes. Should we not divide here, or there, at all?

        “All is one.”

    2. crittermom

      Yet I remember a recent article in NC (can’t find it now?) about how record numbers of us baby boomers are filing for bankruptcy.
      Stark divisions of wealth within the divisions of age?

      It seems it all depends on the viewpoint as to which figures are correct.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        I seem to remember that as well and for what little it’s worth, I can’t find it either.

        This Post is related,

        Pitting age groups against each other has been frequently touched upon if not exhaustively covered, but I’m striking out on that as well.

        Regardless, it’s alive and well; for ex., it’s become canonical at PBS to refer and assign every utterance possibly related to, “of the people, by the people and for the people,” to the words socialist and millennial mostly in that order.

    3. perpetualWAR

      Huh. My home was stolen in the financial crisis through unlawful foreclosure.

      I am one of the 55-64 year olds beginning over. I wonder what the statistics are for that?

  6. Wukchumni

    A warmer world means a greater risk rain lands on snow, triggering floods Ars Technica

    We had an early April warm storm that rained from around 12,000 feet on down, and it caused a lot of flood damage in the frontcountry and deep into the back of beyond, as the rain melted the existing snow.

    The damage to Mineral King road, was that about 1/4 of a mile of asphalt was stripped away as if some Brobdingnagian had peeled it off with his fingertips, flinging the debris off to the side.

  7. michael hudson

    Dear Yves,
    I’m on vacationwithout my own computer, but I have a GREAT tech guy: Griff everson, at Blue Moon computing. .Every new Mac I’ve had, he’s set me up and transferred the information from my old computer.
    I’ll be back in NYC tomorrow afternoon and will send you his phone. But I’m sure you can find him via Blue Moon.Mention me.

  8. Wukchumni

    The Dollar General opened in Haven at the end of February 2015. Three years later, the company applied to build a similar store in the neighbouring town of Buhler, a 20-minute drive along a ramrod straight road north through sprawling Kansas farmland.

    Buhler’s mayor, Daniel Friesen, watched events unfold in Haven and came to see Dollar General not so much an opportunity as a diagnosis.

    Friesen understood why dying towns with no shops beyond the convenience store at the gas station welcomed Dollar General out of desperation for anything at all, like Burton, just up the road, where the last food shop closed 20 years ago. But Buhler had a high street with grocery and hardware stores, a busy cafe and a clothes shop. It had life.

    As Friesen saw it, Dollar General was not only a threat to all that but amounted to admission his town was failing. “It was about retaining the soul of the community. It was about, what kind of town do we want?” he said.

    You pretty much know your town has gone to hell, if Dollar General, a payday/check cashing loan place and rent to own furniture & appliance store, opens up all of the sudden.

    DG has been threatening to come to our town, but there is only a couple of places where it could be, and the local owners of said real estate told them to go pound sand, er dirt, somewhere else.

    They were highly cognizant of the risk, and like the Kansas town mentioned above, all that would happen is the replication of locally owned stores that already supply our needs.

    1. Eclair

      Wukchumni, in our travels criss-crossing the US, we have found that a Subway is another marker for decline in small towns. A Subway will exist where McD’s and Burger King fear to go, apparently. Although, we have dined fairly well at a Subway (load up on the veggies!) when no other option existed.

      1. Wukchumni

        We have a great sandwich/salad store in town (they’ve been ranked in the top 100 of all restaurants in the country by Yelp for the past couple of years, and we’re talking about 65,000 eateries in total) and about 5 years ago a Subway opened, and it’s changed hands twice already, and the new owner has decided to have as few employees as possible, the one time I walked in, I was the 5th person in line, with just one employee working.

        About 20 minutes later, I got the chance to order.

      2. Carolinian

        Or alternately a Subway is a much less daunting franchise for a small businessperson to take on. If you travel around you’ll find just about every town in America has these dollar stores and sandwich shops because they also have the less affluent people who are the target customers. And Dollar General has said they have an expansion policy based placing a store in every town too small for a Walmart. It may not be about a “barometer.”

        I like Subway although Wolfstreet says they are in trouble, store count in decline.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I must admit I can never understand why someone would take on a franchise like Subway – how hard can it be to come up with your own sandwich menu? I can never quite see what they can offer a franchisee, apart from a recognised name.

          Most retail chains have very sophisticated algorithms for crunching census returns and other data to find the right location and size for their new branches. Years ago a Union organiser here in Ireland told me that there was one particular store they always closely followed – not to unionise the store, but because this brands core customer were low paid manual workers, and if they set up in a town, this meant there was probably sufficient numbers of non-union workers in the town to justify a Union recruitment drive there.

      3. Jen

        Dollar General built a store in our town a few years ago, and the Subway store was replaced by a local sandwich shop that, as far as I can tell, had more business in its first week that Subway had in all of its wretched existence.

        There’s a lot of wealth in this town, and a lot of poverty.

        My favorite restaurant recently switched from formal dining to a tapas-like menu. The owner said that people aren’t spending $20+ on an entree anymore, and when the next recession hits, if they kept on with the same format the wouldn’t make it.

    2. crittermom

      The state I’m currently stuck in is one of the poorest in the nation.
      There’s a Family Dollar across the street & a Dollar General next door.

      Across town, there’s a Dollar Tree & a Walmart.

      The biggest employers in this now-dead city are Walmart & the two prisons located here.
      And yes, there are ‘quick loan’ offices still operating, in addition to ‘rent to own’ furniture & appliance stores.

      The main drag is now filled with abandoned, crumbling motels, gas stations, eateries & shops. All closed.
      Even the long-time residents agree this city (county seat!) died a couple decades ago, & the evidence is everywhere.

      As an artist, there is not ONE gift shop left open here, so I’ve been unable to supplement my SS by selling my wares as I sit on thousands of dollars in stock of my creations.

      But wait! They now plan to put a refinery IN TOWN, among the houses.
      Gee. What an improvement that will be. /sarc

      Dare I mention the senior complex I’m currently living in has a major gas pipeline ‘station’ right next door that sends gas to numerous states?
      Constructed in 1954.

      I can’t wait to leave (hopefully of my own accord, & not by being blown to bits).

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I hope you (and others want to) who move (your own accord, as you say) on from that apartment complex.

        1. crittermom

          I can’t wait to move. All of the tenants here are so ‘OLD’ (I’m turning 67).
          My own parents taught me by example that age is an attitude, so I am definitely the ‘youngest’ one here!
          At least half of them can’t even walk without a walker, & many use scooters.

          It seems they remain here until they’re ready for the nursing home right next door, & from there they go to the graveyard on the other side. Many have caregivers. None of them (not one!) has any plans for a different future.
          It could be very depressing if I allowed it to be.

          I, however, have a much brighter future planned for me. This is my first experience living in an apt & I hate living with people so close, in addition to living in a city. (Never have)

          Despite the fact the bank stole my home over 6 years ago, I sure plan to buy another if I can come up with the money to get my first children’s book published. (I use my photographs & teach a lesson in each book).
          I already have a second one written, for the next age group, & the photos to complete several more (plots/lessons already in my head).

          Those I’ve shown it to really like it–including a lady who was in the chair next to me during my last chemo. She’d been in the publishing biz for 20 years & after I showed her my book (on my computer), she said I MUST get it published, as it’s a ‘winner’.

          I’d researched the publishing industry for a few years, & had investors who really liked it & were willing to invest–until I got my cancer diagnosis.
          I just take that as a sign I need to do it on my own if at all possible.

          Someone mentioned GoFundMe, so I’ll check that out to see what’s required, as I know little about it.

          FWIW: my cancer
          I’m doing extremely well. My Drs have each told me I’m their star patient, & my plastic surgeon even labeled me as ‘weird’ this last time during my follow-up from my latest surgery, because I haven’t suffered the side effects & pain most do. (Breast cancer reconstruction)
          I didn’t even suffer nausea from the chemo. (cast iron stomach?)

          Cancer still pales in comparison to losing my home. I’ve kept a very positive attitude through it all, which I’ve no doubt has aided in my recovery.
          I remain positive that somehow, some way, I will come out with my books & become a philanthropist as a result.
          How’s that for positive thinking?

          1. crittermom

            I forgot to mention that we also have 2 (or is it 3?) Subways here, too.

            The neighboring town a few miles away also has both a Family Dollar & Dollar General store, as well.

          2. Pat

            Cripes, I hadn’t realized Grants had gotten so bad. Although I shouldn’t be surprised, it started dying when I 40 replaced Route 66, and with the goals of the last decades counter to any real support of small community.

            I am so glad you are doing so well in your treatment and good luck getting published!

    3. Oregoncharles

      My extremely prosperous town has at least 2 Dollar Trees. I buy my reading glasses there – otherwise they’re ridiculously expensive. I also once found a really nice book on Stieglitz’s color work there, remaindered.

      I’m not convinced it’s that much of an indicator. Maybe in small towns.

  9. Wukchumni

    I’d imagine a photo of Betsy DeVos not cackling, was simply not available, so you go with the antidote you have.

      1. Wukchumni

        I lived cheek by jowl near the beasties that strangely resembled the Kardashians in a see me-dig me fashion, who always looked as if they were running late for a coronation, and their anguished cries seemed to come from the soundtrack of 1950’s B horror films.

  10. remmer

    For Voters Sick of Money in Politics, a New Pitch: No PAC Money Accepted NYT

    The steep rise in the number of Democratic candidates pledging to reject PAC money may be part of the recent progressive wave it seems to be. But candidates have been making that pledge since the explosive growth of corporate PACs in the late 1970s, because it sounds good to voters. What voters didn’t understand was that candidates who rejected PAC contributions could take checks from top executives of corporations, and so be as much under their influence as if they had accepted money from the PACs those corporations sponsored. Tracking down all those individual donors and linking them to the corporations they work for is something that only a very small number of people are willing and able to do. So promising not to take corporate PAC money has been a way for candidates to mask the corporate influence they want voters to think they are rejecting.

    This is not a commentary on Dean Phillips or Beto O’Rourke — the candidates mentioned in the article — who probably really are rejecting all corporate money. But our campaign finance system is so complicated that the great majority of voters — and reporters — can’t always tell the difference between a principled stand and a deliberately deceptive one.

    1. JTMcPhee

      It’s not “our” campaign finance system — like most everything else in the Imperial Duhmocracy, it belongs to “them…”

    2. Eureka Springs

      Yet another in a long list of reasons who Progressives are, what they do, why they exist. And why taking over the D party even with the best of democratic socialism is pure folly.

      1. Shane Mage

        The “D party” does not exist. What goes by that name is an institution like the rest of the State’s political, judicial, and executive apparatus. Marxists have always contended that all such institutions need to be destroyed and replaced by institutions of a new, consistently democratic, sort (cf. “The Civil war in France,” “State and Revolution”). But they also cannot be destroyed that way until a true majority has learned, through a long educational process of political struggle to transform those institions from within, that the ruling class would destroy all democratic rights rather than to allow democratic transformation of its Institutions. A process which has been set back so far that in the US it can be said scarcely to have begun. Which is why it is essential to treat the “D party,” not as a party to be opposed but as an institution still providing the arena in which radical politics can be formulated and developed.

        1. Oregoncharles

          “an institution still providing the arena in which radical politics can be formulated and developed.”
          Man, are you dreaming. The party is designed and managed specifically to prevent that sort of thing.

          This is just one more lame excuse to stay engaged with a dying, right-wing institution, thus propping it up just a little longer. Crucially, this strategy has been tried – or at least talked about – for at least 30 years now. The results are in: during tha ttime, the Democratic Party has moved ONLY to the right, to where they are the right wing and the Republicans have been driven into Crazyville. And STILL get elected, because the Dems also can’t or won’t govern.

      1. remmer

        Small donors can be a powerful force now, when the political system has lost its legitimacy. But the likelihood that we will ever have a small-donor democracy is nil. Small donors give because they are passionate about a candidate or a cause, and passions don’t last.

    3. marym

      Individuals can only contribute $2,700. Campaigns are required to disclose the name, occupation, employer, and zip code of anyone who contributes > $200. It isn’t necessarily so difficult to understand where the money came from for a candidate accepting only individual contributions. For example: here.

  11. SufferinSuccotash

    I can’t help but think there’s a symphony orchestra just off-camera providing musical accompaniment to those flamingoes.
    Jest sayin’…

  12. The Rev Kev


    Couldn’t let this topic pass without a comment. Remember a few weeks ago when the Syrian Army were taking back Daraa and the borderlands with Jordan and Israel? And how the UN was calling for the offensive to stop because there were 300,000 refuges wandering the deserts fleeing the fighting? Yeah, about that. When the campaign was over they just could not find those 300,000 refugees. Strange that. Come to think about it, the UN was saying the same stuff about other Jihadist regions that were being taken by the Syrian Army such as East Ghoutta and even Aleppo. It’s almost as if…almost as if…that the UN people there want to help the Jihadists.
    Well, wouldn’t you know it. The UN is now saying that the Syrian Army should not be allowed to take back Idlib province as it would “be a bloodbath”. They are saying that there are three million people at risk, one million of which are children. Simple statistics says that that figure must be off. Turkey is not happy at the thought of their Jihadist buddies being under the hammer either but the Syrians want their country back again. The Russians will back the Syrians up here too. The past several days there has been drone attack after drone attack against their airbase being launched from Idlib so the Russians will help clear out this nest of vipers once and for all.
    And just to add gravy to this development, there has been thousands of men who have volunteered to serve with the Syrian Army against ISIS in that ever-diminishing pocket at Sweida as well as operations to the north. The source of all these thousands of recruits? The men of Darra and the other areas that were formally under Jihadist control. How about that.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yup, its funny how the media has gone all quiet about the south of Syria and the supposed humanitarian crisis. Suddenly it seems people (including those who were probably at least partly sympathetic to the original rebels) actually welcomed the Syrian Army. It was a surprisingly clean sweeping up operation that could only have gone the way it did if the locals were supportive.

      I think its pretty clear that all but the most hard core Isis and Al-Q types know the game is up and better to do local deals with the government than keep on fighting. The war is largely been kept going by outsiders who keep stirring things up.

    2. polecat

      Does it not seem that the UN has become increasingly meaningless and corrupt ?? They lose cred by the day !

  13. Carolinian

    Facebook blocks, then restores Venezuelan news site.

    Facebook has been partnering with the Atlantic Council — funded by NATO, Gulf States and defense contractors — on filtering out so-called fake news from its platform. Venezuela’s regional rival Colombia, which the government blamed in part for the recent assassination attempt against Maduro, became Latin America’s first “Global Partner” with NATO in June.

    Given Zuckerberg’s recent comments he may be sensitive to the danger he is in by becoming part of a propaganda push. Sites like Facebook and Google enjoy their huge success in part because of a perception of neutrality. To the extent that Facebook in particular is a fad it can also fade just as quickly as it rose. The real danger is of governments or ISPs blocking alternative sites as is done in China. We don’t seem to be there yet, although “Terms of Service” wifi sites are now blocking some political sites.

      1. RWood

        And a consideration of the larger spectacle:

        Now, stop for a moment and think: what if the real spooks were to engage in deceiving us for good? I mean, governments have resources and competencies in propaganda infinitely larger than those of a lone troll. What could they do to us if they were to direct us to a completely wrong perception of reality? Do you remember the story of the “weapons of mass destruction” at the time of Saddam Hussein? Now they can do much better than that. Yes, they can deceive us. And probably they do – they are doing that right now.
        So, what’s happening? The anthropologist Roy Rappaport spoke about “diabolical lies,” defined as lies which tamper with the very fabric of truth.  Maybe our whole civilization is being destroyed by lies, diabolical or not, and we desperately need a new epistemology to rebuild trust in our institutions and in ourselves as human beings. This is the task that the early Christian thinkers had engaged in at the time when another civilization, the Roman one, was being destroyed from inside by the very truths it had been built on – by then become diabolical lies. As Poul Anderson said, “all evil is rotten good” and that may well describe our situation.

        1. Carolinian

          Were the Roman’s ever “good” or did they just become more powerful? And arguably the Christians restored trust in institutions by substituting another flawed institution to replace. Call it that Obama favorite: better p.r.

          I’m not too worried about the fate of truth as it will still be true regardless of what the powerful say. The weakness of lying is that it always gets found out although that may take awhile.

  14. JTMcPhee

    Here’s a text I got from one of my ex-US EPA amigos, following discussion yesterday on the vitiating of the “precautionary principle” by successive brands of national rulers.

    There is a rigorous scientific basis for the precautionary principle. I have done the calculations, and the number of cages required to test all possible combinations of no, low, medium and high doses administered to 50 male and 50 female mice in triplicate according to National Toxicology Program protocols for a one-generation cancer study increases exponentially to over 1 billion cages when N equals just ten synthetic substances, let alone the hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of synthetic substances that are now present in our blood at ppb [parts per billion], ppt [trillion] and ppq [quadrillion] levels. That means that testing for safety is beyond the reach of sound science. Therefore, when in doubt, keep it out. That is why Congress in its great wisdom set the goal of the Clean Water Act at zero discharge of any pollutant, not safe pollution, because what we don’t know we don’t know can still kill us.

    That precautionary principle holds that the burden is on the corporation acting to manufacture and disseminate chemicals or things like cell, WIFI, and microwave electromagnetic radiation into the biosphere and our bodies, to PROVE that their disruptive innovations are actually safe and effective in all circumstances. Otherwise, no permission to charge ahead with profit-taking and externalizations.

    Note that if, as is increasingly the case, that it becomes the government’s or the public’s burden of proof to prove that a substance or emanation or something like CDOs and other derivatives causes harm, the “how the heck can we pay for all that testing” question gets raised, and so the testing, pre-manufacture or -rollout, does not get done.

    And so we mopes and our children and the biosphere we depend on become the test animals and setting, and it’s up to people like tort lawyers and collectors of statistical disease and death information that eventually may get fed to “regulators” to try to collect money damages, post-injury, because “we must look forward, not backward”. Try to collect damages that are a tiny fraction of profits, let alone the sim of all harms caused, from corporations that can morph-and-spin-off to excise and shed such liabilities, or disappear them in a bankruptcy proceeding (e.g., Johns Manville with a century of asbestos sickening and killing.)

    It’s a nice principle, just like “Do unto your neighbor as you would have him do unto you,” and that other one, “Love your neighbors as you love yourself. “ US-made smart bombs and cluster weapons are blasting “wogs” as I write, and Monsanto, DowduPont, Bayer and the rest are telling regulators to piss off, and doing what they dam please.

    And if we mopes don’t like it and somehow our regulators get brave and strong enough to halt or even slow them down, well, they will sue our government in an ISDS tribunal and make us slaves generate a cash “judgment” equal to their “lost anticipated profits,” plus interest, penalties, and attorney fees.

    1. anon y'mouse

      this very observation is the reason that the psyop social influencer trolls who tour the internet are so intent on stirring up the “whatever health ills you have, you brought it on yourself” sentiments, coupled with the “and ~i~ shouldn’t have to pay for your bad habits” policy prescription.

      i say, unless proven otherwise, that the corps know that almost everything killing people today (who don’t simply expire of old age, and what small minority is this not beset by complications?) is made by them. they don’t want to admit it, nor stop doing it, nor pay the bill for it.

      just another reason to set us at each other’s throats.

    1. Wukchumni

      To be fair, how else was KBR going to enrich themselves greatly if we’d started peace talks in say 2002?

        1. Wukchumni

          A young friend was in the USMC for a few tours of our war locales, and I asked him who peels the potatoes, does KP and cleans the toilets?

          He looked @ me with a reverse gleam in his eyes, and uttered:

          “Kay-Bee-Arr, bay-bee!”

  15. Wukchumni

    APR rates from predatory lenders on active military was capped @ 36% about a dozen years ago, as GI Joes & Janes had gone so deeply into debt to them, that many had disqualified themselves from going into dubious battle, on account of.

    But that was then and this is now, and our future veterans deserve to suffer usury like the rest of the population, and the reign of error’s best people are working diligently to get rid of the rate that’s about 10x the current rate of interest if you were buying a car or a home, in favor of something more egregious…

    1. Louis Fyne

      >>>How will politicians sell out when they manage to make a completely lawless society for the rich???

      See the twilight of the Roman Republic/Empire. That’s when the generalissimos put 2 + 2 together and realize that they can seize power from the Clinton – McCains of the world with popular applause.

      Politics at the barrel of the gun/sword. What’s Elon Musk or Jon Corzine going to do? Pick up a rifle and lead the charge? Rally an army to fight/die for Diane Feinstein’s real estate mogul husband?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Do you think, fear or hope, that one day, there will be a ‘Green man on the white horse’ coming to rescue humans from Man-Made Global Warming, as there seem to be many urgent actions needed today (or yesterday), and the planet does not wait?

        Will we see a Green Generalissimo who will ban this and ban that, cut out the endless arguing, and the dithering, so we will be saved?

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Thanks for the Wikipedia link.

            I also recall the green tree-men from the Lord of the Rings…the Ents.

            But here, something more ominous, or perhaps hopeful…Green Uebermenschen…

    2. ewmayer

      Good article – the chart shows Trump et al neatly continuing the downward trajectory during the latter 5-6 years of Obama. The more things change…

    1. John k

      Not a new thing. When we’re they not together? And when did either not fight anybody promoting real benefits for workers?

  16. Lobsterman

    I find the crocodile tears from The American Conservative over the school-to-prison pipeline infuriating. I wish they’d just stop lying.

    1. Angie Neer

      What aspects of the article do you disagree with? Have you actually read TAC, or are you assuming that because it has “Conservative” in the name it must conform to your idea of evil conservative orthodoxy?

      1. sparkylab

        Partisanship: If the ‘other side’ a) says something I disagree with – they are horrible people and b) says something I agree with – they are lying.

  17. superposition

    Re: America is turning up the pressure on Iran – and we want global Britain to stand with us

    I found the third paragraph interesting. It makes perfect sense if you swap “Iranian” for “American”.

    “Rather than investing in the country and its people, the Iranian regime is squandering its money on proxy wars and malign activities abroad. At the same time, Iran’s elite is lining its own pockets at the people’s expense. “

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      If you’re a Human-Nature believer (and many are not), you might find the same in many other countries…throughout history.

      The ‘throughout history’ counters that ‘many, but not all countries today,’ in that we can ask, is there a way to eradicate corruption forever? If not, it seems to point to Human Nature…and an incorruptible dark side of Human Nature at that.

      1. Wukchumni

        The best book ever published in regards to human nature, is a slim volume from 1896 titled “The Crowd” by Gustave LeBon.

        Highly recommended!

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


          The crowd psychology is related to the logical fallacy of ‘argument from authority,’ in that, in every crowd, there is at least one authority.

          According to Wikipedia, a cogent argument can be made if all sides can agree to the reliability of that authority.

          Given the recent link about the problems in reproducing scientific papers, that should give on pause, and re-check our opinions regarding reliability of anyone or any institution.

          The other way to counter the fallacy is to reason, research or experiment oneself. That’s hard in today’s world.

          And I reduce my consumption (when I remember), though I can’t say for sure about the reliability of the various authorities in the climate science field (or any other fields).

          1. pretzelattack

            there hasn’t been a problem in reproducing climate science results, as far as i am aware. do you have any examples?

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              I can’t say for sure.

              Have all climate science results (all, not just 99%) been reproduced, including, say ones from this year or this month?

              Appreciate it if anyone can show that. For now, I can’t say for sure about the reliability of the various authorities.

              Regardless, I will always try to reduce my consumption – this is a separate, though in this case related, issue. My way of life, the desire to not consume needlessly, has more to do with how I feel towards all life forms.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                It’s also important that we approach the problem from the heart, as well as the mind.

                A six year old is not likely to know all the science involved here. That’s one example. There are 7 yr olds, 8 yr old, etc.

                They can see animals, plants and humans, and can intuitively understand the need to not consume the way we are consuming.

                And there are people all the world we can approach without science at all. We, or the Native Americans, for one example, have been doing it for ages.

              2. pretzelattack

                are you aware of a problem with the science in this field? so far, nobody has produced an alternate theory of why the climate is changing. the changes are taking place more rapidly than predicted, if that’s what you mean. climate is measured over longer periods than one month or one year, so i’m not sure what you mean when referring to these short time periods. recent events have not called the reliability of the science into question. the fossil fuel companies have ample money, and ample motivation, to fund studies showing flaws in the basic science, if they exist. so far, that hasn’t happened–the only study they funded outside of their own research, in the 80’s, that i know of, supported the science (the so-called BEST study). i don’t think the fossil fuel industry has funded any subsequent studies. they did manage to come up with money for a propaganda campaign against the science. merchants of doubt, by naomi oreskes, is a very good book on this subject.

                changing our lifestyles is indeed necessary, as is reducing the population over time. we don’t have that much time to deal with this imminent crisis. individual consumer choices will not be a sufficient response. people have to get to work, and for most that involves using fossil fuels.

                1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                  1. We don’t have much time, or we have no time?

                  2. Will a Green strong man appear? Do we reject or embrace him/her?

                  3. Individual consumer choices will not be sufficient. Nor is strict regulations…alone, except 2 above. Do you say we need both – individually and politically (see Water Cooler discussion about Social Democrats social events – politics alone not enough…need both, or all means at our disposable).

                  4. Short term/long term – I was not referring periods under investigate, but papers published continually and how do we reproduce papers from this month, and papers yet to come in the months and years ahead?

                  5. To reach as many adults and kids as possible, we have to look beyond science…unless we accept theyw will simply believe by our arguing from authority.

                  1. pretzelattack

                    1. depends on how much you value human life. how many died because of the delays caused by tobacco industry propaganda? many, many more will die because of delays in regulating fossil fuel use. if you want to minimize the number of deaths at all costs , no time. if you are ok with millions or tens of millions, then we have some time. if you accept the risk of much higher loss of life, then we have maybe 50 years i’m guessing. that may be optimistic, or pessimistic. the business as usual scenario keeps looking worse.
                    2. what?
                    3.sure, we need both. we need to focus on the immediate problem, fossil fuels, because it is the immediate danger, and because we can reduce fossil fuel use much more quickly than reducing population, short of genocide. triage.
                    5. yes, we need to use politics. since we all use science daily, the consensus of scientific opinion is helpful in convincing peole. katharine hayhoe, climate scientist and evangelical, concentrates on changes in the last 6000 years in talking to evangelicals, to avoid problems with the young earth belief. i’m fine with that, whatever gets the job done. the effectiveness of the fossil fuel industry propaganda campaign is tied to assertions that fossil fuel emissions don’t cause global warming. they try to claim their assertions are backed up by science. how could we possibly counter this except by using evidence from science?

  18. Down2long

    Re: Demoing the houses. When Chase came after me to foreclose on a 4 unit and house I had restores (was serving as general contractor) I knew they were coming so had my electricsl contractor file a large mechanic’s lien against the property. Let me just say here I always pay my contractors. That gave the bank pause since they had ro satisfy the lien. The judge gave me back my building, throwing out the receiver. She told the bank “all you are doinf is collecting money. He will finish the building.”

    This pissed of Chase counsel who managed to find a crooked judge and do a vomlntar

    1. Down2long

      Couldn’t edit or finish above post. Long story short, crooked lawyer got crooked judge to grant voluntary foreclosure despite 4 yeara on time payments. I had so hoped throat cancer would kill Slimin’ Dimon or at least increase his compassion. Life can be a flood of disappointments.

      1. crittermom

        And for 7 years I’ve been hoping Dimon would go fishing, fall overboard, & discover the true meaning of ‘underwater’ as those around him failed to save him.

      2. ambrit

        Don’t worry. Someone will ‘liquidate’ that ‘asset.’
        Go long: Pitchforks and Guillotines.

        1. Wukchumni

          For what’s it worth dept:

          The primary weapon of the French Revolution was the pike, and yeah it’s nowhere as glamorous as a pitchfork, if you get my point.

    1. Jason Boxman

      In Ellsberg’s recent book (The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner), he talks at length about incendiary bombings. It’s horrific how many people we’ve killed with “strategic bombing”.

  19. Summer

    Why China cannot rely on consumers to spend their way out of the trade war | South China Morning Post

    In short, the same global neoliberal economics subverting a different political and social system.

    While I suspected as much (because global neoliberal economics has middle class earnings destruction as a feature), it’s hardly written about enough.

  20. georgieboy

    Fascinating link to the Hindu Times piece on the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871.

    The author, presumably a Hindi, places all blame on the British, fair enough and well deserved as far as the law and colonialism go.

    The author seems to be pushing the notion that tribes in India are not hereditary, nor engaged in what most people call “racism”, when in fact many are so engaged in endogamy (strict marriage to tribe members) that they have experienced strong population bottlenecks within the past few thousand years, still present today. And the primary religious driver? Hinduism.

    David Reich in Who We Are and How We Got Here speaks to this:

    page 140, hardcover: The repressive nature of caste has spawned in reaction major religions — Jainism, Buddhishm, and Sikhism — each of which offered refuge from the caste system. The success of Islam in India was also fueled by the escape it provided for low-social-status groups that converted en masse to the new religion of the Mughal rulers.

    page 141: The jati system… involves a minimum of 4600 and by some accounts around 40,000 endogomous groups. Each is assigned a particular rank in the varna system (what outsiders generally think of as the fourfold caste system) but such strong and complicated endogamy rules prevent most people from most jatis from mixing with each other…

    page 145-46: Most people think of India as a tremendously large population. But genetically, this is incorrect. The Han Chinese are truly a large population. They have and do mix freely among themselves, for thousands of years. In contrast, there are few if any Indian groups that are demographically very large, and the degree of genetic separation among Indian jati groups living side by side in the same villages is typically two to three times higher than that between Northern and Southern Europeans.

    The money shot, page 146: The truth is that India is composed of a (very) large number of small populations.

    So, the “British racism” broadside by the Hindu journalist, while quite accurate, is a bit…rich.

    And Mr. Reich’s genetic research adds some color to the enduring hostility of Hindu for Muslim, and vice-versa. Few earn more hatred than those who left the tribe. Sort of like the classical “self-hating Jew” trope in western societies.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Roses are red, and violets are blue.

      And thus those flowers have been conquered since the days of the Bard.

      Before him, the roses divided themselves and the Red Rose conquered the White Rose.

      1. Shane Mage

        “Red Roses For Me” has gotten bad reviews, but when I saw it, so long ago, I liked it.

    2. ambrit

      Now WaPo is running the old “Trial Subscription” scam.
      Even more annoying is that the site refused to allow me to back click from the WaPo page. I had to pull up the ‘recent history’ box and use that workaround to get back to NC.
      It’s no surprise to hear of a corrupt opinion piece from such a corrupt ‘Organ of the Instrumentality.’
      Money has become so corrosive, handling it should be taught in Chemistry class.

  21. anon

    Re: “Right to Try” Is a Cruel Farce Jacobin

    Anyone know who the sole Senator who voted against it is?

    Perhaps I’m missing something, but I couldn’t find a link for the Senate vote count at the S. 204 Right To Try ‘pages’ on; though I easily found the House Roll Call Vote. A search via the Congress.Gov Roll Call Votes page was also fruitless. Maybe it’s just because I was very used to navigating it, but I really preferred [Do peruse the comments at this link – anon], particularly for searches, with the one exception that some page’s urls were oddly difficult to hyperlink to.

    Also, one might think that our infamous Fourth Estate would note such standout voters (along with what should be a press requirement of always naming the number and title of House and Senate bills), but after a worthless search for the Nay voting Senator, I found nothing. I should have known better than to expect the obvious from the Fourth Estate.

    1. Jason Boxman

      From Jacobin:

      “Despite these serious deficiencies, Right to Try passed in the Senate 94-1. All forty-seven Democratic senators voted in favor. The lone nay vote: Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.”

      1. anon

        Thank you much, Jason.

        Actually, I’m kind of glad I missed that in my quick scan for Peter Thiel’s name (nothing noted about him) in the Jacobin piece before immediately doing a search of the site for both the House and Senate votes, and then searching Main Stream Fourth Estate sites — it’s not disclosed on the New York Times Senate vote coverage, the Bezos/Washington Post Senate vote coverage , or, that I’ve found, on the site — because I feel my prior comment is a valid inditement of the exponentially increasing opaqueness of the US Government, and the utter failings of the Fourth Estate.

  22. Oregoncharles

    “For Voters Sick of Money in Politics, a New Pitch: No PAC Money Accepted”
    This leads to oddities. The Green Party, certainly in Oregon, does not accept PAC or corporate money, nor do its candidates, with an exception: the party itself has a PAC, as do some local chapters. Again, at least in Oregon.

    There are legal and accounting reasons for that, which I’m not expert on, but it means that there are significant advantages to the legal form – and also that you want to be pretty specific in your promise. For instance, Our Revolution operates a lot like a PAC, whether or not it’s called that. It makes sense to take donations from a PAC if it was set up precisely to support a cause you’re promoting.

    1. anon

      The whole PAC™ diversion reminds me of (where there’s a plutocrat funded ‘will’ there’s a way) Trojan Horse, Ro[bama] Khanna:

      Blackstone’s top lobbyist finally found a Democrat he likes

      Khanna has embraced his inevitable characterization as a political disruptor, recently telling Mother Jones, “It’s a fair comparison in the sense that the odds of a startup succeeding are a few percent and the odds of displacing an incumbent are a few percent.” Honda, meanwhile, has sought to use Khanna’s well-heeled supporters against him; his latest TV spot attacks the “billionaires, right-wing activists, [and] corporate interests” funding his challenger. A San Jose Mercury News fact-check of that ad called it misleading—of the billionaires supporting Khanna, only Peter Thiel regularly contributes to right-wing causes—and hypocritical, considering all the PAC money Honda has accepted.

      Whatever point about the influence of big money in the race that the newspaper perceived and the Khanna campaign means to press home seems fuzzy at best. Back in January, Khanna asked Honda to sign a pledge to keep super PACs out of the race. Then in August, one of Khanna’s donors formed one. It has since collected nearly a half-million dollars and is now sponsoring a radio ad that cites the San Jose Mercury News fact-check calling out Honda’s distortions. And, in fact, Berman’s contribution might have fallen afoul of Khanna’s pledge not to accept money from lobbyists but for the fact that Berman hasn’t registered federally since joining Blackstone in 2012. Says Khanna spokesman Tyler Law, “Ro’s proud of the bipartisan support he’s received. When Ro launched this campaign, he pledged not to take donations from federally registered lobbyists or PACs, and that’s a pledge he’s kept.”

      Disclosure: Living in Silicon Valley’s CA District 17, I didn’t vote lesser evil Honda either (neither him, or Khanna had/have spoken meaningfully to the rampant financial corruption, ageism and misogyny in Silicon Valley, all of which have utterly crippled me). I refuse to vote anything but third party (which has been viciously made impossible in Leading Blue State™ California), blame it on California and Silicon Valley’s stunningly betraying Federal, State and Local DemoRats. I’m facing a very high likelihood of homelessness in less than half a year (in which case, I won’t be able to vote anyway, practically speaking), through no fault of my own, with cancer — due to a 60% rent increase on an apartment I’ve now invested almost 2 times the current owner’s tax basis in, and possibly near 3 times over their investment in, since they actually inherited it.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Being homeless while fighting cancer is almost unimaginable; my deepest sympathy. I hope you can make it work somehow.

        Fortunately, Oregon voters rejected the top-two runoff, which only moves the spoiler effect to the primary – and drastically narrows your choices in the general. We’re actually in striking distance of getting RCV statewide, following Maine (I’m a little jealous); my county already has it, though that affects only a few offices.

        Good luck.

        1. anon

          Thank you. California Politics are ultimately corrupt to the bone, pay to play — historically, I’ve come to believe — just like the malarial swamp in DC is.

        1. anon

          Thank you, I’ll return to respond to your question but I must go find some decent priced/decent looking celery for the spaghetti sauce (for example, the more decent priced onions and carrots have been particularly hard to find without mold (really), or being way too old and dried up to be sold at the price, for months now; though one can find them in Silicon Valley abundance, at insane prices — it might be plausible if the ag workers were being treated better and paid more, but I’m positive that’s not the case), eat and try to relax before bedtime.

        2. anon

          Again, thanks very much for your concern, ewmayer. No, I’m not on MediCal, I do have Medicare, the uncovered 20% that I can’t afford being forgiven in a Hospital arrangement. Just one of many valid reasons I’m desperately hoping to be able to stay within a certain mile radius.

          I should note that my fear of homelessness and losing near everything I held dear, or which vastly enables some simple dignity (intangible and tangible losses) in such a horrid culture owned and run by technocratic plutocrats, far outweighs my fear of the cancer.

          Kind of glad I needed to get off the internet yesterday, and was able to rethink my initial idea to reveal far more about the horrid backdrop (pre and post cancer,) to my situation in this response to you. I had been planning to write a little mini essay, but given those multiple persons I have appealed to in vain (would love those countless wasted, abusive and traumatic hours of my life back) regarding a multitude of issues over the last 8 years, I think it’s wiser to remain zip-lipped, versus writing that mini essay where one of those parties might end up reading this in a search to find out if I discussed them online.

      2. ambrit

        I’m sorry too to hear that. Perhaps, if ‘things’ get as bad as you fear, you can invite an anarchist commune to share the apartment, and then let them handle the greedy so and sos for you.
        Often, a ‘scorched earth’ policy is the only effective recourse available.

        1. anon

          Actually, for the years since the current landlord inherited it, I always thought they were very kind, but the tone I was served up the last we spoke, as if an insect in their way (this is what Capitalism pretty much forces otherwise nice people into being, to my mind), pretty much undid me emotionally. Clearly I just need to disappear if I can’t somehow conjure up the extra 60%.

  23. Chauncey Gardiner

    Related to the article from Vox on Betsy DeVos 22,000 sf “summer home”, it appears that the Secretary of Education subscribes to the Leona Helmsley Rule of Taxation: “Only the little people pay taxes,” as she proudly flies the flag of the Cayman Islands on the $40 million yacht she keeps moored on Lake Huron in order to avoid paying $2.4 million in Michigan taxes used to fund public education and the police, as well as to avoid U.S. vessel inspection, safety and certification requirements, and reduce labor costs. The yacht is reportedly one of 10 in the family’s fleet.

    Poignant to see a teacher’s crowdfunding request for $200 in school supplies for their classroom, or when discussing the disallowance of a tax deduction for teachers who buy school supplies, while this administration and congress were granting transnational corporations and the wealthy huge reductions in their tax rates and rolling back loan forgiveness for students defrauded by for-profit colleges. “America First”… for whom?

  24. Brooklin Bridge

    An absolutely fascinating discussion on global Internet governance issues with Richard Hill on RNN. Lynn Fries is the interviewer and is excellent as is Mr. Hill. A very comprehensive and remarkably clear overview of Internet Governance or lack of it for anyone other than the big tech companies, particularly US ones. A lot of historical information as well remarkably well organized in Mr. Hill’s head or else the questions and answers were prepared – which I doubt.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Hardly surprising; they were obviously bubbled. How does the present value compare to when they were introduced? They may have fallen to their stable point.

      Incidentally, silver, at least, has gone through similar peregrinations, not quite as extreme; gold is a bit less volatile.

  25. Susan the other

    New Humanist. We should all come together and acknowledge how insignificant we are… the forces against us are unimaginable. “To Understand How the Universe Came to Be” … we have to understand magnetism. Book review that fails to follow up on the tease. How? I get only the inkling that as matter can neither be created nor destroyed, so magnetism cannot. It can only be eclipsed by extreme heat. Interesting. And at that point I went off on my own tangent, as usu. It’s all entropy. As the disorganization and heat death of the universe expands, good ol’ magnetism gains strength and the expansion turns into a coalescing… Sir Roger Penrose might explain it. And maybe extreme gravity collapsing into black holes can’t hoover up all the elusive magnetism and it escapes to become the dominant force. Somebody please splain me all of this.

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