Links 8/21/18

Ancestor of all life on Earth evolved earlier than we thought, according to our new timescale The Conversation (KW).

‘Devastating’ dolphin loss in Florida red tide disaster Agence France Presse

Sea level rise is already costing property owners on the coast WaPo

Maersk launches container ship on Arctic route FT

Environmentally-Caused Disease Crisis? Pesticide Damage to DNA Found ‘Programmed’ Into Future Generations EcoWatch (GF).

An alternative to controversial pesticides still harms bumblebees Nature

Rhododendron? Hydrangea? America Doesn’t Know Anymore WSJ


The United States’ Perpetual War in Afghanistan Foreign Affairs

Not One More American Life Should Be Expended for Afghanistan The American Conservative

On Iran, Is It Trump Versus His Own Neocons? Lobe Log

Prospect of a new UK party grows as Brexit shifts ground at Westminster Guardian

Have British Spies Been Hacking the EU? Consortium News

A Gangster State Craig Murray

2018: the year the failure of privatisation and austerity became undisguisable New Statesman

The Greece Bailout’s Legacy of Immiseration James Galbraith, The Atlantic

How Crises and Bailouts Have Changed Greece’s Economy Bloomberg

EU-wide deposit insurance is the best antidote to populism FT. Oh.


Thoughts from my recent Beijing trip The Sinocism China Newsletter

Stronger but with enduring weaknesses: China’s military turns 91 The Strategist

Dagong, which Slashed the US to BBB+, Suspended in China for Selling Fake AA and AAA Ratings to Chinese Outfits Wolf Street

Will Demographic Headwinds Hobble China’s Economy? Liberty Street Economics

Tariff Tantrum

US trade panel hears harsh criticism of proposed new tariffs – and praise for Chinese craftsmanship South China Morning Post. The front page teaser reads “US business reps blast proposed new tariffs, and praise China’s workers.” Not quite the same. Craftsmen tend not to need suicide nets.

New Cold War

White House Counsel, Don McGahn, Has Cooperated Extensively in Mueller Inquiry NYT

In McGahn Report, the New York Times ‘Attempts’ to Find Corruption Andrew McCarthy, National Review

McGahn does not believe he implicated Trump in legal wrongdoing in special counsel interviews, his attorney tells president’s legal team WaPo

* * *

Why America’s former spy chief is worried about Trump’s security clearance policy (interview) Federal Times

Trump Must Defy the Old Bulls of the Intel Community Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Trump Essentially Dares Brennan to Sue Over Stripped Clearance Roll Call

Decoding the Deep State Crooked Timber. Why Clapper told Brennan to STFU?

* * *

New Russian Hacking Targeted Republican Groups, Microsoft Says NYT. Attribution is hard…

Trump Transition

Trump: ‘I should be given some help’ by Fed Politico (UserFriendly).

Fed chairman has chance to keep economic expectations in check FT

Someone Is Waging a Secret War to Undermine the Pentagon’s Huge Cloud Contract Defense One

When Westlaw Fuels Ice Surveillance: Ethics in the Big Data Policing Era (PDF) Sarah Lamdan, N.Y.U. Review of Law & Social Change

Veterans Group Sues to Block VA Shadow Rulers Pro Publica

In the city that claims him, Ben Carson falls from grace Associated Press

Democrats in Disarray

Hillary Clinton steps back into the fray to fundraise for Democrats this fall NBC. So, this time will the Party actually get the money?

Health Care

6-year-old selling lemonade to help with mom’s chemotherapy KTSM. Heartwarming.

The Fact-Checkers Are Clueless Jacobin. More on the Mercatus #MedicareForAll debacle.

Imperial Collapse Watch

The Rise and Fall of Soft Power Foreign Policy

Lockheed to build ALIS data transfer controls for F-35’s foreign customers FlightGlobal. “International development partners and foreign customers of the F-35 have expressed concern that ALIS, which manages and analyses the fighter’s systems, training and flight logs, would automatically transmit information back to Lockheed’s hub in Fort Worth, Texas, possibly giving the company and the USA insight into their military operations.” Oh. Who wrote those requirements?

Class Warfare

Why do American CEOs get paid so much? James Galbraith, Guardian

A Superconductor Scandal? Scientists Question a Nobel Prize–Worthy Claim Scientific American

Stacking concrete blocks is a surprisingly efficient way to store energy Quartz

From Chester Himes to Judy Blume, 10 Writers and Their Cats Literary Hub

Antidote du jour (via):

Having written on the New York subway system, I subscribe to its Twitter feed. Hence this bonus antidote:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. pretzelattack

    of course the party will get the money, and this time lucy will let charley brown kick the football.

    1. Roger Smith

      That selection and Lambert’s linked comment had me laughing out loud. These people are so shameless and dumb. Who do they think this will help? This Third way, DLC nonsense is done, over. Gallup just released a poll showing that 58% of the sample want the United States to increase diplomatic ties with Russia. … and these fools are still going on about a Blue Wave(TM)? A similar distribution is also in favor of universal healthcare… another antithetical policy for the Democrats. This is why I can’t stand when these much more promising younger candidates run under this banner.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Wow. Fifty eight percent? I think I need to keep practicing my conversational Russian skills. They may be needed.

        1. Procopius

          Well, if you’re in a business selling stuff Russians might want to buy it might not be a bad idea. Learning a foreign language is good anyway. It seems to help prevent dementia. It also seems to help critical thinking skills.

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      Received in today’s mail the quarterly whining of the DCCC for money to fight the good fight, complete with cheerleading yet anxiety-laced cover letter from Nancy Pelosi. Included to assure us we actually have input was the same “survey” that comes with every such letter.

      To no surprise, not only is M4A not even hinted at, we are asked whether the Democrats should focus heavily on “saving the ACA.” There’s also a mumble about raising the minimum wage, but no numbers were offered. Not a peep about putting an end to war, of course.

      All the fault of TRUMP!!! and the Republicans with all those wealthy donors, dontcha know. Oh, and several “generous Democrats” will match donations.

      So, if anyone is still harboring hope the Democrat establishment is even considering moving outside its box, hope no longer. It will be business as usual in November, and if there is a “blue wave” you may be sure they will take credit for it and immediately try to bully the new lefties into accepting the status quo.

      Show of hands: Who thinks I should use their pre-paid envelope to send them a letter suggesting they take a giant leap off the nearest tall building?

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Incredible that “left” is still the label applied to people who don’t want to die (basic healthcare), don’t want to bankrupt the nation killing others for no reason (wars), and want to earn just enough not to be homeless (min wage).
        The social contract that allows us to refer to our land as a “country” is truly gone. It’s every man for him/herself.

      2. wilroncanada

        There already is a blue wave, just not the one they are talking about. It is they,the DCCC Democrats, who are the blue wave, Ms Pelosi is the epitome. You know what happens to old people when they too frequently get their hair dyed. Blue waves. Except for those who overuse hair regrowth formulas, of course. This is your old news for today.

      3. Amfortas the Hippie

        that’s what I do.
        I fill the envelope with a letter, and write all in the margins of their little survey(adding the “D”,”E”, or whatever, for whatever policy choice they “forgot”).
        probably goes straight into the round file when it’s discovered that I’ve “forgotten” to include a check.

        When they call asking for money, I tell them that I will be sure to lay upon the floor in solidarity.

  2. WheresOurTeddy

    Only late stage empires produce people like John Brennan. When you’ve lost Maddow…

  3. Alex V

    The Energy Vault concept is intriguing. The use of concrete needs to however be evaluated from a life cycle standpoint, as the production of Portland cement is a notorious emitter of greenhouse gases. Overall I’m guessing the manufacturing of the system / kWh stored is still better than chemical batteries, but definitely not benign.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, its one of those beautiful ‘why didn’t someone think of this before? ideas. I’ve seen similar proposals using two way train systems on hill-sides (in fact, this is one of the oldest forms of kinetic energy storage, used on many early coal mines), but this seems simpler and easier.

      My immediate thought was that the obvious source of concrete for the weights is fly/bottom ash from existing coal power plants or incinerators. In some countries this is used for construction, but in others (for a variety of reasons) its just dumped, usually close to the power plant. Its easy to turn it into blocks – just add a little lime cement – having a set of these on the site of every major thermal plant or municipal incinerator could be a great way of getting a win-win – using up waste material while providing energy storage.

      1. Samuel Conner

        Perhaps the energy storage blocks could be cast from molten slag produced in iron smelting.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Thats one of the advantages it can be done anywhere and above ground with different materials while reducing land use. It can be put in a quarry instead of along a river. Pumping water runs the risk of where you are digging and leakage. The issues of rescuing the those kids in Thailand. They couldn’t simply pump the water out because it kept coming from everywhere.

        2. Wyoming

          And another option which would work in many locations is the use of large rocks. A bit of squaring up so that they would stack well (much less expensive and environmentally destructive than using concrete) and attaching lift points and you would be ready to go. A big plus is that they would have no practical limit to how long they would last.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Part of the problem with this kind of idea is funding and getting people to care. This model costs $2 million. How do you get from point A to point Z with just an idea? Part of the appeal of Uber as an investment vehicle is much of its actual operation is brought in by the drivers themselves not the investors or Uber founders. But its also slick and done on cool phones. Concrete blocks? Its just not sexy. Elon Musk received all kinds of cash for his car company despite operating with less infrastructure than Delorean, partially because he projected a cool, modern image. Steve Jobs, even Zuck when he was wearing hoodies and jeans before he opened his mouth. Don’t underestimate sex appeal to raising funds. How many Americans road a train in Europe from Paris to Berlin and mindlessly said, “I wish we could take a high speed train from Chicago to New York but for those darn Republicans.” American transit problems aren’t city to city but within the city, but supporting a better bus system which would help congestion just isn’t cool because poor, the elderly, and the disabled ride the bus, hence its ignored by the petite bourgeois.

        By the way coal mines?!?! Like where the deplorables work? What does Silicon Valley say? Oh, they have the HYPErloop. This will always be the problem with good and seemingly simple ideas. They have to battle terrible ideas.

    2. Linden S.

      It is funny to think of a field of wind turbines surrounding a crane lifting and lowering huge chunks of concrete up and down, day and night, forever. The kind of thing anthropologists in the year 3500 could spend a couple of Ph.D theses trying to figure out.

    3. Jeff

      Your usual “rip-off programme for dummies”.
      1. The 20 MWh-storage compares to ~4500L of fuel with an efficient generator. While such a generator and reservoir is hardly bigger than a SUV, the 120m 6-armed crane is huge (and any freestanding 120m high construction has rigidity requirements that you don’t see in the schematic).
      2. The efficiency figure is mostly made up. The ‘perfect’ scheme of current-to-motor and alternator-to-current has difficulties getting beyond 60-70%, and that is before you include SW (ie computers that use power & cooling 24h/day), losses related to wind, acceleration and breaking, and power regulation.
      3. In the beginning, the first blocks are stored just above the initial height, so you use power, but store very little energy (and recover even less). Only the last row(s) of blocks are at the bottom of the stack but must be lifted up to the top of the tower, so these store a maximum of energy. The (iirc only) tidal station in France uses only 3h of the 6h cycle time of a tide, because trying to recover/store energy is not efficient when the difference is not large enough.
      4. (should be point 1), nobody stores energy, but you match production and consumption patterns. In a typical country, >95% of the energy consumption is predictable, and production capacity is planned along. And you use other means to adjust for the last megawatts. In these scenarios, either renewables do not play a big part, and their production rates are within the 5% boundary of the planning, or they do play a big part, and then can be included in planned production rates.

      Btw, it is an interesting exercise to compare ‘energy densities’. Eg 1L of gasoline holds ~10 kWh of energy. You need more than 20kg in lead batteries to hold the same amount of energy. Or you need to drop 35 tons of concrete from a height of 120m to recover a similar amount.

      One last point. If you start moving all day such giant concrete blocks (with no steel reinforcements), how many hours before they break under stress? Then what?

      1. Louis Fyne

        Merely mentioning nuclear fission as a stopgap makea some people act like you showed up to a Halloween party in a SS uniform.

        But a Rube Goldberg concrete battery that makes no sense barring some new Star Trek tech, science writers will pound at your door for more info.

        1. FluffytheObeseCat

          Possibly “people” act like nuclear fission proponents showed up in an SS uniform at a costume party…… because they rant online like Chemtrails kooks, and disparage every other idea out there, irrespective of their ignorance of the engineering obstacles involved in either producing or storing energy.

          Nuclear fission may indeed be a critical part of a carbon-neutral energy production system. That does not make lifting weights to store potential energy a Rube Goldberg device that “makes no sense”. We already DO store energy using gravity to meet current demand more effectively. We do it across the nation. It’s a common, normal way of balancing demand shifts over 24 hour periods. We just haven’t yet taken to lifting concrete blocks in order to do it.

        2. Brooklin Bridge

          Merely mentioning nuclear fission as a stopgap makea some people act like you showed up to a Halloween party in a SS uniform.

          Do you have any links that support that claim or is it simply an over-loaded way of conflating skeptics of nuclear power with people who see Nazi’s in their closets? When one uses Nazi (SS is close enough) in a discussion touching upon those who might not agree, caution is probably a good idea in assessing their argument.

          Moreover, we live in an environment in which government regulation of any sort that might eat into corporate profits has been systematically turned into an iron curtain (to use your type of hyperbole) of evil over the last 50+ years of modern media high level saturation. We also live in a period where government and international systems of business and finance are arguably more highly corrupt over a larger and denser span than in any previous period of human history. These same corrupt governments, financiers, and business would be the ones to finance, build, and regulate nuclear power plants. Even if one can argue with a straight face that the technology is finally there (an argument used abundantly in the building of Fukushima, btw), the equivalent political, legal, ethical, and moral environment is not there or anywhere near there to provide confidence in such endeavors involving nuclear fission and particularly in the eventual hugely costly and technically and politically and humanly difficult clean up efforts they require.

          The ONLY thing which seems to protect us (from a corrupt system more than technology) at this point in time is that nuclear power has become less economically viable than other -thankfully- safer forms of energy over the last decade.

          1. Louis Fyne

            look in the NC archives. there are multiple articles with comments suggesting that nuclear fission can reasonably be argued as a lesser of two evils—fission-generated electricty versus the current trend of replacing coal and fission with nat gas-generated electricity

            Many people were not open-minded at the suggestion.

            PS, apologies for using an ironic Godwin’s Law quip. It wasn’t meant for people to take it literally.

            1. Brooklin Bridge

              My beef was with the SS quip, and what I considered an implicit argument that to disagree means to be closed minded on the subject.

              Yes, I’ve read (at least) some of the NC posts where as you say, nuclear fission is reasonably argued as a lessor of two evils. The counter arguments, however, have also been strong and not necessarily all close minded.

              1) what I mention above
              2) extraordinary consequences of statistically inevitable melt downs – cost too high in human terms
              3) Unanswered highly critical questions (and those answers given being highly suspicious and seemingly inadequate) related to storage/disposal of highly toxic over geologically long term waste products.
              4) The argument that nuclear is no longer the only viable alternative to carbon based energy sources. Granted, these alternatives, wind, solar, etc., still have their own flaws, but those flaws are becoming less and less significant as qualifiers for “not even in the same ball park” solutions.

        3. lyman alpha blob

          The problem with nuclear is that it requires a functioning society to maintain it in perpetuity, or things will start to go pear shaped pretty quickly.

          Do note the article above about people not being able to tell Hydrangeas from Rhododendrons. If we’re already losing this type of basic knowledge, how long before there aren’t enough people who know the difference between fission and fusion?

          It doesn’t seem prudent at this point to assume a functioning society.

      2. Mel

        Although with “3. In the beginning, the first blocks are stored just above the initial height, so you use power, but store very little energy (and recover even less)”, the low-altitude, low-energy blocks would go up and down faster, so the power input/output could be constant-ish.
        Can’t quibble with any of the rest.

      3. Kurt Sperry

        Btw, it is an interesting exercise to compare ‘energy densities’. Eg 1L of gasoline holds ~10 kWh of energy. You need more than 20kg in lead batteries to hold the same amount of energy. Or you need to drop 35 tons of concrete from a height of 120m to recover a similar amount.

        The energy density of liquid hydrocarbon fuels is mightily impressive, even as we take it for granted. However, how far up that 120m could one raise the 35 ton dead weight using that single liter of gasoline in a heat engine in any real world scenario? The energy in a fuel is only as good as the useful work it can practically and economically be made to do. The elevated mass can, as a counterweight, easily lift a near equal weight without burning or chemically reacting anything. Not all potential energy is equal.

        1. LyonNightroad

          The portability of liquid hydrocarbon fuels more than makes up for the poor efficiency of internal combustion engines. You need far more infrastructure to generate, transmit, and store electricity for the same purposes. This quickly decimates the EROEI of any hyopthetical all electric future.

          1. Richard Kline

            This. It is the combination of portability, density, and ease of energy release which make liquid hydrocarbons such a devilishly difficult efficiency trap to escape.

            We are surrounded by energy in the forms of solar and gravity, but our ability to efficiently convert that is still inefficient, and our ability to store that is primitive. This is, of course, the area where government grant money should be layered on, but instead is applied in a single bottle drip with a Repugnicant on duty rounds.

            I had some hope for flywheels once. But no: the failure rate is high, and the scale up ridiculous. A niche solution at the very best.

        2. John

          Actually, the energy equivalent of gasoline is about 33kWh. After running it through an engine you get about 8 – 12 kWh of electric energy.

          The energy density of gasoline is truly remarkable, though it is a bit of a cheat as it doesn’t count the oxygen needed to release heat energy. Accounting for that you need to divide the energy per mass value by about five. Still very good.

          Nuclear fission power is more expensive than wind or solar. Without subsidies it can’t exist. This will only get worse as we become more clever about building solar cells and inverters. Partially built plants are being shuttered because they are uneconomical.

    4. Xquacy

      Still, wouldn’t this layout be impractical for a constant and steady supply? The fluctuations between the crane arm detaching from the block, moving back into position for another block and reattaching?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Multiple cranes. I imagine a full functioning system would operate multiple cranes at a time, with ones ready to step in, and ones ready to be brought on for regular maintenance. The grids needs fluctuate during the day anyway, so having the cranes be brought off line is an issue of management of the system which is what power companies do anyway with their power plants already.

        Given the relative meagerness of the resources necessary, you could place these anywhere and everywhere. Computers and the internet make this kind of management possible.

      2. Oregoncharles

        The only reason to use cranes is level ground – hard to find in Switzerland, but then Switzerland has plenty of hydropower.

        If there’s a steep slope, you use it for the structure and run your block up and down on tracks.

    5. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      We use Portland Mason Cement for the Coping/Stone/Brick that lines pools edges because it apparently lasts longer.

  4. PlutoniumKun

    Thoughts from my recent Beijing trip The Sinocism China Newsletter

    Thanks for this, a really interesting insights.

    Outside the trade issues I see little reason for optimism. If Xi and his team have come to believe the real goal of the US is to keep China down across all dimensions then we should expect much more friction and competition. Bloomberg had an interesting story Friday about this shift. I would not be surprised if we spoke to some of the same people:

    A common suspicion ran through the conversations — that the tariffs are just a small part of Trump’s plan to prevent China from overtaking the U.S. as the world’s largest economy. Several people expressed concern that the two nations may be heading into a long struggle for global dominance that recalls the last century’s rivalry between the U.S. and Soviet Union.

    “The trade war has prompted thinking in China on whether a new cold war has begun,” said An Gang, a senior research fellow at the Pangoal Institution, an independent research group in Beijing whose experts include former government officials. The dispute, he says, “now has military and strategic implications” — reflecting concern among some in Beijing that tensions could spill over into Taiwan, the South China Sea and North Korea.

    I go further than the Bloomberg reporters in reiterating that I think this shift has already occurred conceptually, and now we should start looking for more concrete actions.

    The Chinese seem to be in some confusion about how to respond to Trumps aggression (which isn’t surprising, as no doubt even Trump probably isn’t clear what he wants to achieve). But I do think this is more than a political scrap – the Chinese elites have believed for decades that the US will never allow China to take its ‘rightful place’ among the great nations, and that they’ll have to force the issue. This of course is what the Japanese elites also thought in the 1920’s and 30’s. I think this will lead to quite a fundamental realignment in the region and internationally, with China either deciding the time isn’t right and stepping back a little (as they did over North Korea), or becoming far more forceful. The manner in which Xi has been clamping down on internal dissent to be suggests that it may be the latter option.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Remembering Xishi – one of the four beauties of ancient China.

      There is too much shi (石, or rock) in Xi, for those into the Dao, when he’s likely better off with water (shui). From Wikipedia, on Xishi, the forerunner of Kim’s Army of Beauties:

      King Goujian of Yue was once imprisoned by King Fuchai of Wu after a defeat in war, and Yue later became a tributary state to Wu. Secretly planning his revenge, Goujian’s minister Wen Zhong suggested training beautiful women and offering them to Fuchai as a tribute (knowing Fuchai could not resist beautiful women). His other minister, Fan Li, found Xi Shi and Zheng Dan, and gave them to Fuchai in 490 BC.

      Bewitched by the beauty and kindness of Xi Shi and Zheng Dan, Fuchai forgot all about his state affairs and at their instigation, killed his best advisor, the great general Wu Zixu. Fuchai even built Guanwa Palace (Palace of Beautiful Women) in an imperial park on the slope of Lingyan Hill, about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) west of Suzhou. The strength of Wu dwindled, and in 473 BC Goujian launched his strike and completely routed the Wu army. King Fuchai lamented that he should have listened to Wu Zixu, and then committed suicide.

      Chinese women are appealing to a lot of Western men, and Xi may be tempted, but to many, that’s distasteful.

      1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

        So the Chinese had their own Bene Gesserit?

        Oh! Mayb they were Fish-Speakers still loyal only to the Yue King?

        1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

          Im sure Id see right through such a ploy and convert them like Princess Irulan.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            From the same article:

            Xi Shi’s beauty was said to be so extreme that while leaning over a balcony to look at the fish in the pond, the fish would be so dazzled that they forgot to swim and sank below the surface.

            Not too many can make that claim.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              “… the corporeal perfection of his girlfriend (she must carry an umbrella while out of doors lest her face cause pilots of overflying commercial airliners to pitch forward, dumb and inert, onto their control yokes)…” –Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

    2. Richard Kline

      Yes, these are highly interesting points. The confusion in China is a function of moment turbulence, but the concerns there regarding the potential for a long term deflection in American policy vis a vis China are germane and real. Trump doesn’t have a coherent policy, but that’s not to say others in his Administration are similarly non compos mentis.

      I would read the suppression of internal dissent in China in exactly the opposite way, however. Nationalism is popular there, and confrontation is not only an easy sell but a boost for the powers that be. But it is radioactive internationally, and would produce a reaction overseas directly inimical to China’s present ‘talk softly, act constantly’ policy. Xi and his predecessors have acted in the past to suppress Chinese nationalism on a tactical basis, not inflame it. Suppression of dissent somewhat now given this past context implies conciliatory moves by China that would not play well at home. In a confrontational context, allowing more talk would be the way to go, as the result would very likely be a useful nationalistic validation for government actions.

      I would bet on conciliatory moves by China for the time being if possible, and regardless that would be both strategically right and tactically functional. China is ten years away at least from having their international position sufficiently ‘hardened’ to withstand a serious geopolitical confrontation, and I think Xi knows this. From that perspective, it is notable that China’s response to Trump’s rumpus has been much less vocal and energetic than that of the EU. That is the ‘tell’ to read in this form where I sit.

  5. Quanka

    I think it bears harping on that Koch-funded study of the Medicare for All plan. We spend $800 billion annually on direct military expenditures. The real number could be twice that figure when you add in all the ways we subsidize the military through other federal programs. Medicare for all would cost the federal government $32 billion a year.

    But we most definitely can’t afford it. : |

    So while I love the push back on the fact checking. Could we please have someone point out how freakin small the number is relative to what we already spend. What does the gov’t currently spend per year … something like $2-4 trillion? It would cost 0.032 trillion to solve the problem that is the most important issue for most voters

    But look at those evil Ruskies over there! BOOOOOO!

    1. AbateMagicThinking But Not Money

      How could the the Ruskies could really rub some noses in it?

      Answer: Get themselves a very good national health system. It doesn’t seem to matter to the US that nominally allied countries have decent health systems, but if Boris did achieve it, well that would be a propaganda hit if I ever saw one.

      Perhaps in the course of such organisational improvements and increase in standards the Russians would become a country that immigrants would fight to get into and truly wealthy country to boot (rather than resource rich).


    2. Shane

      Uh, I’m all for MfA, but not sure you got your math right on this one. The report in question says costs to the government would be $32 trillion over 10 years ($3.2 trillion/yr), so you’re off by a factor of 100. If you’re trying to sell it to those not already on your side, I’d stick to highlighting the $2 trillion savings for the American people (not “government,” as the Jacobin article points out) over that decade. The sticker shock of $3.2/yr, while actually a net savings, will likely make the case more difficult to sell.

  6. knowbuddhau

    >>> Not One More American Life Should Be Expended for Afghanistan (The American Conservative)

    Done. Not one American life has ever been expended “for” Afghanistan. It’s explicitly for the dominance. Our brilliant best and brightest intend to dominate Eurasia, and thus the world, from all the way over here, forever. No really, look it up, they call it “full-spectrum dominance.”

    They say it’s to dominate energy sources. I say it’s terminal empire envy among wannabe war gods.

    Apparently, if you put comic-book crazy schemes for perpetual world domination under official letterheads, it’s all good, as long as you have the proper credentials and clearances and its vetted through the proper channels. It seems a snappy uniform with sufficient brass and ribbons makes you infallible. At least to Congress.

    Christ, the Vatican’s got nuttin on us.

    1. noonespecial

      And in Yemen…

      Lockheed Martin’s social media call for photos of their products in action results in not-so-good replies in terms of PR for the company.

      It has been revealed that, “In a now-deleted tweet, Lockheed put out a call for “an amazing photo of one of our products” Wednesday morning to be featured on its World Photo Day celebration Sunday.” Too bad for LM Skynet hardly suffers from amnesia.

      Two lines from a song (Mother Earth is a Vicious Crowd) by the rock group Live seem appropriate for these times: “Armies boisterous and armies loud / Portraits of a vicious crowd.”

      1. Olga

        Yes. I finally read it (borrowed) in 2014 – in light of the Ukrainian tragedy. It is amazing how much arrogance/hubris and disregard for humanity can be fit into such a modest tome.

      2. wilroncanada

        Craig H
        I always thought they were one and the same. Aren’t those 50 thingees on much of the flag jolly rogers? Oh, they’re stars? Who’da thunk-it? Wish I had a buck-an-ear for every victim of the essential nation, though.

    2. Lobsterman

      They’ve got “Conservative” in the title; you have to expect some implicit racist assumptions, not least of which would be a white-man’s-burden lite.

    3. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      Hey, i guarded the F out of some ATC equipment at FOB Shindand next to Herat.

      Even got an ARCOM out of it!


      My Sgt could spin more bullshit than a Cotton Candy Machine. But he was on my side so i roled with it. I mean technically i did guard over 2 mill $$$ worth of Army hardware with no losses…

    4. a different chris

      I don’t entirely – close but not entirely – agree.

      I really think that many of the upper military crust saw themselves settling down as modern versions of feudal lords all over Afghanistan and beyond.

      So yes, it was “for” Afghanistan — for taking it over. Away from us little people, those who “did not serve”. And those who did serve, could continue to serve as glorified butlers and the like.

    1. Carla

      @petal — re: The Whiskey Rebellion — are you referring to Hogeland’s book, or something else?

  7. zagonostra

    Refer: Class Warfare- from the Baffler Online.

    …the Tea Party rebellion was touched off by a dayside CNBC political commentator named Rick Santelli…the most striking achievement of Santelli’s rant was the social world it managed to efface by urging mortgage-holding neighbor to turn on mortgage-holding neighbor; still once more, America’s predator class was simply factored out of the discussion, and placed decorously out of reach of any intruding pitchfork. Here Santelli and the Obama White House he was deriding were in near-perfect accord—and in this single strategic act of omission, you can behold the shitty, bigoted, dishonest political world we’ve all been condemned to live in a decade later.

  8. The Rev Kev

    “Lockheed to build ALIS data transfer controls for F-35’s foreign customers”

    I guess that this came out the story where the Norwegian Air Force took delivery of some F-35s and found to their surprise that the jets were having long conversations with the servers at Lockheed Martin in Texas. If that data stream ever got hacked, then the Norwegian Air Force could find itself in the hurt locker in case they ever have to go into action. Looks like all the other F-35 customers recognized this and chipped in the money to fix it. I guess that that $26.1 million contract is so that Lockheed Martin can open up an obscure panel and flick a switch off. Story at-

    1. Matthew G. Saroff

      Everyone is missing the big picture:

      Every F-35 shipped has an off switch in Fort Worth, Texas.

      If they shut down ALICE for a fleet, they shut down the fleet.

  9. L

    Apropos of this: Thoughts from my recent Beijing trip The Sinocism China Newsletter I found this conclusion rather interesting:

    I believe that Xi has decided the US is intent on keeping China down, and while there may be some exploratory efforts to see if a palatable deal exists that mitigates some of the worst of the trade tensions for as long as possible, I do not expect the PRC side to make concessions approaching those demanded by the US in May, even if they are now being slightly watered down.

    Whether Xi believes it or not the fact is that China’s official narrative has become that the US is trying to keep China down. Indeed that has been the narrative for some time. But in many ways I don’t think that this has anything to do with Trump. I saw the same kind of language when I visited during the Obama years.

    Official narratives matter, particularly in a doctrine-driven party like the CCP. In the CCP’s official narrative they, and Xi Jinping in particular, are the only thing holding back the chaos of a world determined to destroy China and they are the ones “putting china back together” (i.e. Hong Kong, Taiwan, the disputed shoals etc.). That kind of narrative requires an overwhelming enemy and these days that is the US. While Trump’s mouth has been a godsend to the propaganda departments I don’t believe that his trade war has changed their mind in any meaningful way.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      What kind of political party would want or need that sort of narrative?

      A weak one, doubting its own stranglehold on power, or a strong, healthy one?

      1. L

        An unaccountable one that is founded on the promise of “stability” not on the promise of “representation”. And one who is well aware that they do not have the hearts and minds of the younger generation. To that end they recently reintroduced the notion that the party must be “at the center of all things” and have stepped up their “patriotic education.” They have also made clear that the anti-corruption campaign is directed at “political corruption” which they define as attempts to make other organizations outside of the party in society.

        So yes a strong one in that their grip on society is hard and their power is quite high. But like all strong autocracies weak in that they know that the people would chuck them in a heartbeat if only they could. Also a fractious one as Xi has increasingly tightened his personal hand in ways that worries everyone who remembers the cultural revolution. Or who has read the secret speech.

      2. Lord Koos

        How different is the Chinese narrative than America’s Russiagate? There always has to be an external threat so that the population’s attention can be misdirected. Fear is always the most effective tool.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          About the neoconservatives and their narrative, there are plenty who disagree with them publicly and say so (here, for example). The dissenters further would say the neocons act out of arrogance, which could be due to the attempt to hide fear or feeling of insecurity or weakness.

          In China, their dissenters are not likely to be able to do so.

          1. Oregoncharles

            That’s political power. Mao was in a position to know.

            Always the danger that looms behind politics.

    2. Olga

      Full spectrum dominance requires the self-appointed hegemon to suppress all emerging powers. I don’t think it requires a trip to China to figure this out. Clearly China – with its large population, centralized system of govt., and manufacturing capacity – has been the main threat to the hegemon for quite some time. They just kinda’ flew under the radar for as long as they could. The obvious cannot be hidden anymore. As Saker would say, this constitutes an existential threat for the hegemon. It will fight back – let’s just hope that the rest of us do not become collateral damage in the process. (So doctrine, or not – the Chinese certainly understand their predicament. The doubters are naive.)

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Keep China down.

        Let China fight.

        From Wikipedia, the Fight between the Snipe and the Clam:

        A clam was sitting out in the sun when suddenly a snipe flew down to peck at the clam. Suddenly the clam slammed the shell shut, gripping the snipe’s beak in between. The snipe said, “If it doesn’t rain today, and it doesn’t rain tomorrow, I shall see a dead clam on the beach.” The clam said, “If I don’t open today, and I don’t open up tomorrow, I shall see a dead snipe on the beach.” While they were still grappling with each other, a fisherman passed by and netted them both.[2]

        Russia potentially could be the fisherman.

        That’s the reality of any divided world, and everyone rationally is better off making alliance with another power to deter or take out the remaining lone, un-allied nation.

        The other pitfall, as in the story above, is to avoid taking on another power, alone, lest the fisherman nets them both.

  10. Olga

    Prospect of a new UK party grows as Brexit shifts ground at Westminster Guardian
    I guess anyone who says he/she wants to set up a new “anti-politics” party should be approached very carefully (“Thirdly, Simon Franks, the millionaire co-founder of the film rental business LoveFilm, is preparing to launch a centrist, anti-politics party, United for Change, perhaps as soon as next month.”)
    Why have a party if you’re anti-politics?

    1. wilroncanada

      What is the precautionary principle in this case? Are these chemical, safe as they claim to be for a particular food plant, going to be safe for all other plants in the neighbourhood, farm district, or whatever. Are the bees going to be somehow programmed (genetically modified?) to only pollinate and at the same time “immunize” one particular plant? How valid is the guarantee going to be for farmers who are certified organic that their plantings are not going to be compromised by this creative technology? Will they lose their status under certain circumstances, or will the new venture be immediately classed as “organic”, like some gmo’s. At this point I wouldn’t bet my BVDs on BVTs without a lot more independent research, that is, if the “inventors” don’t declare their products and methods as secret.

      Meanwhile, of course, another foolproof plant treatment, atrazine, seems to be messing with hormones to the degree of alarm by those who compare about the health of born and unborn children in the midwest.

      Now, on the southwest coast of Florida, a prolonged red tide is killing sea life, turtles, dolphins, and fish, by the thousands (millions?). Of course, it no doubt has absolutely nothing to do with the major oil spills, including the Great Gulf Despoilation, and the consequent corexit “rehabilitation”. Everyone knows that neither oil nor toxic chemicals can travel all the way to Florida. Only Canadians!

  11. John Wright

    Re: the Brennan Roll Call link

    “Our signatures below do not necessarily mean that we concur with the opinions expressed by former Director Brennan or the way in which he expressed them,” the former officials said. “What they do represent, however, is our firm belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views.”

    I am aware of no attempt to keep “seasoned experts” from sharing their views.

    I have no security clearance and am, thanks to NC, able to share my views, from time to time.

    Those who lose security clearances will no longer have a Golden Parachute security clearance that may add some credibility to their views, thereby increasing their market value to the media.

    It is more of .”is our firm belief that their bank accounts will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to MONETIZE their views because they have security clearances.”

  12. George Phillies

    …praise for Chinese craftsmanship…

    Readers may wish to peruse the reviews on Amazon for Chinese-made 18/10 standless steel flatware (e.g. forks). It is alleged that it rusts after a few dishwasher passes. Chinese-made copper wool, at least the samples I have seen, does rust…I have seen it do so. Readers familiar with freshman chemistry will see the issue here.

    1. Carey

      I think Chinese craftmanship varies a lot. They are producing some stringed-instrument makers whose work is as good as anyone’s, and have been doing so for a while now.

      1. Lord Koos

        I think a good part of the problem is that US manufactures insist that Chinese factories manufacture products at insanely low price points, so that they are forced to cut corners to meet these demands. I’m sure the Chinese can make high quality stuff if they were not forced to make everything so cheaply by their clients.

        1. Elizabeth Burton

          And US retailers. Let us not forget the Walton empire was built by forcing suppliers to keep lowering prices until it became impossible to produce the wares with any degree of quality. Said suppliers then went to China demanding cheaper goods, and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to learn the crappy quality of said goods is retaliation. It’s the old saw about the guy who gets yelled at by his boss coming home to yell at his wife, who yells at their kid, who yells at the dog. Maybe the dog decided to bite the man who started it. Unfortunately, the boss, who should be the bitee, is out of reach.

  13. Unna

    The Brennan Security Clearance issue might also be looked at from the point of view of what current property interest Brennan might still retain in the SC. If he were still employed by the government, revocation of the SC might adversely affect his continued employment, or continued employment in the same position and pay grade, status, promotion possibilities etc, thus threatening income. But Brennan is no longer employed by the government nor does he wish to be. His employment now seems to be as a political pundit and critic of the president on TV. Does Brennan still retain a property interest in the SC in order to continue to successfully pursue these sources of income? Presumably the SC serves to enhance his value as a media personality to his current employers in the form of audience perception of Brennan’s credibility as a critic, thus positively affecting TV ratings and network profitability. If Brennan as a non government employed person does possess such an interest, do American citizens generally posses such an interest if they wish to pursue carriers in the media?

    If depriving Brennan of the SC implicates any First Amendment interest, could it be in Brennan’s now inability to speak in particularity, or even generally, about matters he would have learned through the use of the SC, thus limiting his speech about those matters? But that would only beg the question about whether such speech made in the public media based on information acquired through a SC would itself constitute just cause to revoke Brennan’s SC by the president in order to protect national security. Otherwise, Brennan appears to be happily appearing in the media saying what he wants about the president in the most extreme terms. Apparently Brennan’s willingness and ability to exercise his First Amendment right to engage in political speech does not seem to have been “chilled”.

    Moreover, it seems that Brennan’s original retention of the SC was based on a practice of letting such persons keep the SC for the purpose of their possible future usefulness to the government and not for the usefulness or value of the SC to the person himself. If the government no longer has an interest, for whatever reason, in the resource of Brennan’s SC based advise, what right or interest does Brennan have in forcing his SC based advice upon a government that, in it discretion, no longer wants it?

    And so on and so forth. I’m certainly not an employment lawyer, god forbid. These are just some off hand thoughts I’d be sending to the HR legal department to find out for sure.

    1. John Wright

      There were a number of people with security clearances who did speak out against government actions and without monetary gain.

      They exercised their free speech rights attempting to inform the US public..

      They were the lower-level whistleblowers that the Obama justice department pursued vigorously.

      But Obama did not come down on high level well-connected officials that leaked information for personal gain.

      Brennan is mentioned unfavorably at the above link.

      1. Unna

        No doubt and that article was interesting. My comment wasn’t a what’s good government comment. I was thinking more about if Brennan sued, what would be his grounds for such a suit. Remember, Brennan’s no longer an employee of the government. So he can’t be threatened in his employment. Even if the revocation of his SC was presumed by a court to be “punishment” by Trump for what he was saying, what ‘right’ does he otherwise have to retain the SC? If Trump takes away Brennan’s right to play golf at Trump’s resorts because he insulted Trump on TV, is that actionable? I think not because Brennan has no right to play golf there to begin with. If Trump takes away Brennan’s right to glay golf because of what Brennan said, can Brennan argue that Trump is burdening or chilling his First Amendment rights to engage in political speech by taking revenge on Brennan’s golf pleasures? Would the court then order Trump to sell him golf tickets – or whatever they sell you to play golf? I have trouble seeing this. It sounds easy, Brennan screams about his Firsat Amendment rights. But when you think about it, maybe not.

  14. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Maersk launches container ship on Arctic route FT


    Won’t that make more ice melt in the Arctic region, and the route wider?

    1. JTMcPhee

      Self-licking ice cream cone?

      Many species figure out ways to enlarge their niches…

      Why is there such resistance to the realization that most “trade” is just toxic, in all possible ways?

  15. bronco

    whats the deal with the crooked timber link? Article seems to be more Brennan ball polishing apology plus full on trump derangement syndrome in the comments . I tried reading some other posts that don’t touch on Trump and it seemed pretty normal.

    Its disheartening to think that people who most of the time seem normal can at the same time think there is no deep state at all. That they freely perpetuate the reds under the beds bullshit because their candidate lost an election . That they can think it is bad some raving pyscho like Brennan getting his clearance pulled is not right. Why aren’t all these assholes losing clearance if they are out? In the old days if you were in that business you weren’t allowed out short of a bullet in the back of the neck.. The idea that all these former spy types are all over TV talk shows speaking freely strikes me as insane.

  16. anon

    Facebook is quietly rating its users’ trustworthiness

    Sickening, and outrageous. A company with utterly no trustworthiness, has been rating its user’s trustworthiness on a scale from 0-1. I’d love to know the equally untrustworthy politicians in the backroom discussions on this, because I’m betting that’s exactly what happened. For one example:

    Rep. Ro Khanna tapped by Pelosi to draft “Internet Bill of Rights”

    He [Ro Khanna – anon] hopes Silicon Valley luminaries, such as Apple CEO Tim Cook and Zuckerberg, will help him draft the Internet Bill of Rights to demonstrate Silicon Valley’s reputable force.

    Utter insanity.

    (A far less sappy piece re Khanna’s Internet Bill of Rights: Democrats divided over privacy law for Facebook, others)

  17. georgieboy

    The report in Eco-Watch does not ring true.

    The doctor noticed a seasonal peak in birth defects that corresponded with the peak in atrazine spraying in Indiana farm fields (April-May) — and attributed the defects to the peak presence of atrazine during the last 1-2 months of pregnancy.

    It is generally understood that fetal development is most sensitive to environmental insult in the early stages of pregnancy, suggesting that a peak in birth defects caused by atrazine spraying might be expected in, say, December-March of the following year.

    Is the doctor, or reporter, suggesting atrazine is more damaging at 7 months fetal development than at 0-3 months? If so, please elaborate on the mechanism for that.

    That said, the broader issue of epigenetic changes, and environmental insults that may cause them, is a very important topic for more study.

    Just not as helpful a heads-up article as it might have been…

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > epigenetic changes

      I think epigenetics is very important, especially because The Big Sort links class and geography — we didn’t site the state landfill in Cape Elizabeth, after all — but the individual studies sure are hard to sort out. So thanks

  18. bruce wilder

    “Decoding the Deep State” — Henry Farrell’s clueless piece at Crooked Timber about James Clapper slapping down Brennan does contain one gem:
    Maciej Ceglowski (@Pinboard on Twitter) leading with,
    Watching the Derp State . . .

    The Derp State“! Probably that’s already a thing and I missed it because I do not tweet, nor do I twit. If not, it deserves to become a thing.

    I used to read and occasionally comment at Crooked Timber, loving the arch, academic indirectness, but one-by-one the principals came to repel me. On substance, the notion that hand-wringing liberals can make common cause with the ghouls of the intelligence community, send an issue into the maw of our Federalist Society judiciary and hope to come out for a win for free speech and the First Amendment seems to be based on nothing but a loss of any sense of irony.

    But, “The Derp State” restores in me some hope for humanity.

  19. Oregoncharles

    From “The Greece Bailout’s Legacy…,” James Galbraith:
    “Europe is therefore rotting at both ends. Its economy must remain unified, but it is coming apart at its political seams. It needs institutions and policies of social stabilization, financial reform, and full employment—a dramatic change in ideas and action at the continental level to thwart the rising tide of nationalist reaction. There is therefore a growing sense, among those who are watching closely, that a major democratic reform—a New Deal for Europe—is the only way to hold it together in the long run.”

    I hate to be hard on Galbraith, since he’s certainly one of the good guys; but that makes him an important example. He totally funks it at the end. All he can do is call for something that obviously isn’t happening; and since he’s an American, not European, he can do nothing, besides write articles in American magazines, to make it happen. The article encapsulates not only what happened to Greece, but what happened to the entire liberal/progressive enterprise: a complete failure of nerve. Faced with radical circumstances, they cannot embrace appropriately radical, or even likely, responses. And this, too, comes back home; indeed, it started here.

  20. Oregoncharles

    From Have British Spies Been Hacking the EU?: “, it is plausible that this is the work of the spies,” No, it isn’t; if it were, Westminster would hardly have blown the whistle on them by using the information so openly.

    And in answer to the title question: Of course. If they aren’t, they’re guilty of unforgivable negligence. And vice-versa, too. What do they think “intelligence” services are for, anyway?

    I doubt that the author, a former agent, is under any illusions, but she may be required to pretend.

    1. The Rev Kev

      British spies have always hacked the EU but I believe mostly for industrial secrets. I read of one German engineering firm that was victim to this. Even going back to the old Echelon system, a lot of it was for industrial spying so that confidential information could be given to your own country’s corporations in competition against European firms by providing information on the communications going on in the European company. Very helpful stufff in negotiations that sort of stuff.

  21. dcrane

    Ancestor of all life on Earth evolved earlier than we thought, according to our new timescale The Conversation (KW).

    Molecular clocks depend on so many difficult assumptions that they are good for rough guesses only, not distinguishing between age estimates that differ by only 12% (3.9 vs. 3.4 billion years ago).

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