Links 9/27/18

The Second International Conference of Modern Monetary Theory (#mmtconf18), Friday-Sunday, Sept 28-30, The New School, New York City. From the conference brochure:

The Second International Conference of Modern Monetary Theory at The New School will gather scholars, politicians, market practitioners, and activists from around the world to discuss the past, present, and future of Modern Monetary Theory, or MMT. MMT is fast becoming a preferred interdisciplinary framework for people around the world seeking transformative change. With that in mind, this year’s theme is “Public Money, Public Purpose, Public Power”, signaling the MMT community’s efforts to build bridges between social justice movements, inspire broadbased participation, and more deeply discuss how our ideas may be translated into concrete political action.

This humble blog is a co-sponsor. Still time to sign up!

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All-Female Termite Colonies Reproduce Without Male Input Smithsonian

Don’t deploy negative emissions technologies without ethical analysis Nature

EU, Russia and China agree special payments system for Iran FT

How bad maps are ruining American broadband The Verge

NY Pension Chief Cashes in on Natural Gas Capital and Main

Corbyn Now LRB


Jeremy Corbyn names his price for backing Brexit deal Politico

EU prepares five-day plan in case of no-deal Brexit FT

Brexit is already damaging European science Nature

Brexit Noise Drowns Out London’s Cry for Help Bloomberg

These Leaked Messages Show How Tory HQ Used A Twitter Army To Attack Jeremy Corbyn. But They Turned On Theresa May Instead Buzzfeed

A review of Britain’s railways will not consider nationalisation The Economist


Russia’s S-300 Play in Syria Is Creating Geopolitical Waves The National Interest

UN: ‘Credible’ reports of Afghan civilians killed in air strike Al Jazeera (Bill B).

Iran is my home and the US helped destroy it. Now Trump’s war hawks want to finish the job. USA Today

India’s Top Court Limits Sweep of Biometric ID Program NYT


Chinese household debt hits record high, study shows FT

Taiwan Can Win a War With China Foreign Policy

New Cold War

The Battle for Our Minds Consortium News

Forgotten Russia: Is Putin’s Foreign Policy Focus a Fatal Obsession? Gordon Hahn

Trump Transition

Read Trump’s speech to the UN General Assembly (transcript) Vox. “We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”

Trump: I’d ‘prefer’ to keep Rosenstein, may delay meeting The Hill. Quite the presser.

North Korea Nuclear Deal Could Take ‘Years,’ Trump Suggests NYT. Ditto.

Trump seems to encourage Venezuela military coup amid fresh sanctions Miami Herald. Ditto.

GOP sees highest favorability in seven years CNN


Two Men Told Senate Staffers They Had “The Encounter” With Christine Blasey Ford, Not Brett Kavanaugh Buzzfeed. A second doppelganger eruption? No detail.

Who is Julie Swetnick, the third Kavanaugh accuser? WaPo

Debunking 5 (More) Viral Rumors About Kavanaugh’s Accusers NYT

Trump defends nominee Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh, but says he could change his mind USA Today (!).

Red-state Democrats refuse to come out against Kavanaugh Politico. I’m shocked.

My Rapist Apologized The Atlantic. Another article on Kavanaugh’s milieu; very good.

Big Brother Is Watching You

Uninformed Consent Harvard Business Review

Facebook Is Giving Advertisers Access to Your Shadow Contact Information Gizmodo

Google’s privacy chief confirms existence of ‘censored Chinese search engine’ Project Dragonfly SCMP

Former Google Scientist Tells Senate to Act Over Company’s “Unethical and Unaccountable” China Censorship Plan The Intercept

Big Tech Is Fighting to Change Washington’s Pioneering Rules on Election Ad Transparency The Stranger (CL). For “change”, read “gut.”

Class Warfare

Amazon’s Aggressive Anti-Union Tactics Revealed in Leaked 45-Minute Video Gizmodo

Google’s Eric Schmidt accidentally discovers labor unions Fast Company

The problem with Harvard Business School case studies Quartz

The Age of Fraud: the Link Between Capitalism and Profiteering by Deception Counterpunch (helpful in CA).

The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States: Estimates based on demographic modeling with data from 1990 to 2016 PLOS One

Vanished Classmates: The Effects of Local Immigration Enforcement on Student Enrollment NBER

Niche Diversity Can Explain Cross-Cultural Differences in Personality Structure Smaldino, Paul, Aaron Lukaszewski, Christopher von Rueden, and Michael Gurven, PsyArXiv. From the abstract: “This work provides a general explanation for differences in personality structure between populations in both humans and other animals, and also produces several new empirical predictions. It also suggests a radical reimagining of personality trait research: instead of reifying statistical descrip- tions of manifest personality structures, research should focus more attention on modeling their underlying causes.”

It Was America’s First Superhighway. Now Much of It Sits Abandoned (photos) Governing. Look on my Works, ye Mighty

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Wukchumni

    It Was America’s First Superhighway. Now Much of It Sits Abandoned (photos)

    The Arroyo Seco Parkway, also known as the Pasadena Freeway, is the first freeway in the Western United States. It connects Los Angeles with Pasadena alongside the Arroyo Seco seasonal river. It is notable not only for being the first, mostly opened in 1940, but for representing the transitional phase between early parkways and modern freeways.


    Interesting comparisons between the 2 ‘Superhighways’ from 1940, in that one is still a major artery chock full of ‘suicide off-ramps & on-ramps’ where you either have to rather all of the sudden come to more or less a complete stop in a hurry to exit, and on the other hand, you have almost no time or room to merge into oncoming traffic-it’s a white knuckler, with the added bonus of the road being quite twisty, with more curves than straight stretches.

    It’d be weird to see the Arroyo Seco Parkway abandoned, as that would mean Los Angeles probably wouldn’t be a functioning city anymore.

    Earth abides…

      1. fresno dan

        September 27, 2018 at 10:37 am
        Amazing! One can only image if for some reason cars couldn’t exist, how our cities, and even our cultures, would have evolved ….

          1. Wukchumni

            Book Tip:

            Earth Abides is a 1949 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American writer George R. Stewart. It tells the story of the fall of civilization from deadly disease and its rebirth. The story was set in the United States in the 1940s in Berkeley, California and told by a character, Isherwood Williams, who emerges from isolation in the mountains to find almost everyone dead.


            1. The Rev Kev

              Book Tip-
              “The Day of the Triffids” by John Wyndham. Forget the trashy films made from it, read the original book which was once very well know. Lots of food for thought sandwiched between the struggles in living in a world radically changed.

  2. taunger

    The Age of Fraud and broadband maps articles read together are a wonderful argument for systemic fraud performed cooperatively by industry and the state.

    1. Hepativore

      “…But…but…Free Markets!”

      Seriously, though, as a current resident of a tiny unincorporated area called Hammond twenty minutes northeast of Rochester, Minnesota, we do not even have cellular service as there are no cellular towers around for a thirty mile radius and all of the cellular providers refuse to build any towers in the area as they do not see it as worth their while to improve the service for a population of a few hundred. This is in addition to all of the broadband providers who have also flipped us the bird in this regard. When asked about this, both broadband and cellular providers nearby simply ask “Then why don’t you move to an area with better coverage?” not taking into account the exorbitant housing costs in the main Rochester municipal area which are driven up due to its famous Mayo Clinic system.

      Decades ago when the electrification of rural locations in the US and Canada was underway, it is amazing that such a project was ever able to get off the ground in the US. Now, such a monumental task would be used as a political football by both parties and/or defunded or privatized with both parties eventually telling people in “flyover country” to “eat it” or move to a more civilized area.

      1. ChristopherJ

        Plenty of spots in Australia that telcos don’t want to invest in. The fall back is (subsidised) satellite for remote households and businesses.

        And no, you shouldn’t have to move to get what should be a universal service.

      2. Elizabeth Burton

        Funny how in all the noble statements about preserving our national security, none of those in power ever consider the danger to national security of having large blackout zones all over the country, most often in areas that would be perfect infiltration routes.

        Just sayin’.

  3. Steve H.

    > Niche Diversity Can Explain Cross-Cultural Differences in Personality Structure

    Not impressed. Runs a checkers model to talk about chess.

    : Thus, an environment with M niches will
    observe the same maximal capacity for each of its M niches.

    So an environment with two niches, plankton and whales, will have the same number of plankton and whales. Yay, no inter-elite competition. In fact, no elites at all.

    The attempt to address this is through plasticity.

    :If niches are inher
    ited through assortment or limited dispersal, so that parents and offspring have similar
    niches, then natural selection can stabilize phenotypic variation at the genetic level. … Nevertheless, human psychology is highly plastic, our social structure is
    malleable, our intra-population genetic variation is high, and our cultures vary tremen
    dously. We therefore doubt that variation across populations in personality structure is
    primarily caused by the maintenance of heritable variance in specific patterns of trait

    Ignore epigenetic effects for the moment. This assumes access to niches has no variation across population. ‘We therefore doubt’ is based on an unsupported assumption. I doubt that the model can work unless inherited wealth is assumed to be a personality trait.

    There’s more, but let me give some credit to their desire to undercut the notion of fixed personality traits, which would lead to mechanistic social sorting. The model is absurdly oversimplified. The end result is support of a meristocratic perspective, that the best fit for the niche is most likely to end up centrally positioned in the niche.

    Another perspective to consider:

    Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
    My services are bound. Wherefore should I
    Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
    The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
    For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
    Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
    When my dimensions are as well compact,
    My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
    As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
    With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
    Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
    More composition and fierce quality
    Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
    Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
    Got ‘tween asleep and wake? Well, then,
    Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land:
    Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
    As to the legitimate: fine word,–legitimate!
    Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
    And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
    Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
    Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

    1. Ted

      Oh scientific racism, how thy wiley ways so infect the discipline of psychology. Anyway, two of the constructs in the model don’t exist …. “culture” and “personality structure” … unless of course you think that when you calculate an average from 2convenience samples it brings these mystical beasts into the real world. Perhaps someday psychologists will allow themlselves to read the literature of other disciplines, they might start with biology.

      1. In the Land of Farmers

        Is it a reach to think that if the environment does not change then the genetics will not need to change? Where the science is heading in genetics is that it is not as random as they thought, and that through epigentcis there can be a more rapid genetic shift undoing the need for the theory of niche diversity to explain genetic drift.

        And it is racist to say there are genetic differences between people?

  4. Wukchumni

    Two Men Told Senate Staffers They Had “The Encounter” With Christine Blasey Ford, Not Brett Kavanaugh Buzzfeed.

    Not many men plead that they were rapists in retrospect, what a country!

    1. rd

      The woman who claims to be assaulted has to name herself and go on national television to be questioned for several hours while the men who claim to have assaulted her get to remain anonymous.

      And they wonder why sexual assault is so heavily under-reported with women not breathing a word about it for decades, if ever.

    2. JTMcPhee

      I guess the two unnamed bravos are maybe “falling on their swords?”

      “You serve your masters well, and will be rewarded.” Hey, maybe 72 virgins and all the beer you can drink?

      1. Wukchumni

        Yeah, but what happens when your eternal reward is 72 versions of porn that you can surf on the heavenet, in the afterlife?

    3. RUKidding

      Nice slut shaming they got going there. Clearly a feature and not a bug.

      The DudeBros get to stay anonymous and preserve their lily white reputations whilst happily attempting to besmirch Ford’s rep even further.

      Great. So wonderful. Do these DudeBros go to Church every Sunday, too?

    1. MK

      It’s the NY mob mentality.

      Now the guy’s got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with the bill? He can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy’s gotta come up with Paulie’s money every week, no matter what. Business bad? **** you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? **** you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning, huh? **** you, pay me.

  5. el_tel

    re: uninformed consent. Whilst I hesitate to disagree with much in this article, it does link to phenomena which are most certainly NOT as “proven” as the articles linked to would have you believe.

    For example, “In theory people should be willing to pay the same amount to buy a good as they’d demand when selling it. In reality, people typically value a good less when they have to buy it.”. This finding MAY be true, but a lot of the experiments conducted by people in “Kahneman’s orbit” are poorly designed and fail to investigate and rule out an alternative explanation: people are “more certain” of the value of a good they already own, compared to an equivalent they have to buy. In a logit/probit (choose this, or choose that) type model the statistical program assumes your “internal level of certainty” is constant across the experiments. A wealth of evidence in math psych and academic marketing has disproven this assumption, probably for the reason given above. The problem is that running the regressions without accounting for this “certainty variation” means that the good with higher certainty then appears to be more valued when in fact its “intrinsic value” is not higher – this has been known since a groundbreaking 1985 paper. Now this is just an alternative explanation, not a definitive rebuttal of the statement made (indeed it seems intuitive, but trusting intuition in these contexts can be dangerous). But the fact the ASSUMPTION is not recognised (let alone tested) outside of specialised fields using these types of statistical models should make one beware of buying in to the stated conclusion without question. Sorry, bit geeky statsy criticism but it has proven important in a lot of contexts.

    1. Dave D'Rave

      This is well known from studies of the market for Used Cars. Buyers cannot easily evaluate a used car, so they are not willing to pay extra for a good one. This effect is nothing new.

      Why are people making dumb assumptions about the cost of information? This was settled years ago. . .

  6. Carolinian

    Re Eric Schmidt and unions.

    Schmidt’s tweet speaks to a huge blind spot that nearly every technology billionaire seems to have. They see societal problems as things that need to be fixed by some newfangled overlay–and not symptomatic of an erosion of systems already in place. Tech companies have long fought to make sure their companies were not unionized. The industry has become known for its averseness to the employee-advocating organizations. Yet data overwhelmingly shows that as union membership has gone down over the last few decades, so too has overall compensation for lower-income and middle-class workers.

    In a later tweet Schmidt puzzled over a way the government could do more to curb inequality and people explained progressive taxation to him. He said he was amazed and would make it the subject of a TED talk.

      1. Enquiring Mind

        As someone who avoids any Google products like the plague, I tend to distrust every word Schmidt says, including and and the.

    1. Adam Eran

      Why doesn’t some enlightened plutocrat create a union, or an employee organization that collaborates with management? It could improve business.

      It turns out most historical periods of technological innovation were full of collaboration. (See Cities in Civilization). Why not invite management collaboration?


      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Why doesn’t some enlightened Gritty riding a unicorn create a union

        Fixed it for you.

        Its important to remember anything before 1700 in the Western world (tracking the rise of mass newspaper and personal diaries and letters) needs to be taken with a grain of salt if not a heaping mountain. Not everything such as the basic narrative of the Battle of Agincourt, but what were the mechanisms that made those things possible? Those don’t always get written down. Even more recently, what about Obama’s gay rights accomplishments? His devotees have no problem giving him credit when he was forced into any positive actions.

        I would imagine Jeff Bezos doesn’t walk alone through an Amazon warehouse, and this can make a difference. He might in the Hamptons.

  7. Jessica

    About “Taiwan Can Win a War With China Foreign Policy”

    In Taipei in 2014, I met a Taiwanese NCO who was leaving the military. He said that the military there was demoralized, but primarily because they felt that the economic leadership of Taiwan had already sold them all out in exchange for access to cheap mainland labor. He saw any military inadequacies in Taiwan as a result of that sell-out by the elites. Many of the younger Taiwanese I spoke to mentioned that salaries for college graduates had declined even in absolute terms (not to mention any inflation) in the previous decade. They saw the close economic relationships between Taiwan’s top companies and the mainland as the cause of this.
    The sense of being sold out may have changed with the new administration. It had to be one of the reasons why there was a change.
    Part of the Taiwanese population is mainlanders who came to Taiwan at the end of the civil war on the mainland and who killed tens of thousands of Taiwanese as part of a reign of terror when they arrived. (_Everyone_ in Taiwan knows about this.) Most of the rest of the Taiwanese population started arriving during the 1600s. They were part of Japan from 1895 until 1945 and were not directly affected by much of the chaos and violence in China from the Opium Wars and the Taiping Civil War, the end of the Chinese empire, the warlord era, the brutal Japanese invasion, the civil war that brought the communists to power, the mass famines, the Cultural Revolution. That is a huge amount of historical experience that is different for the mainland and for Taiwan. It has made Taiwan a separate nation.
    The KMT (Kuomingdang, Nationalist Party) administration in 2014 was closely associated with the elite that came from the mainland, but the new administration is closely associated with the rest of the population.
    From my experience in Taiwan, were it not for the military threat posed by the mainland government, a substantial majority of Taiwanese would quickly opt for independence.

    1. JTMcPhee

      “were it not for the military threat posed by the mainland government, a substantial majority of Taiwanese would quickly opt for independence.” A lot of “peoples” across the planet seem to have that same sense of best-outcome direction. Seems there begins to be some appreciation and understanding of the defects and destructions of globalism, supply chains, the neoliberal model and the limited possible outcomes from continued forced application of the Great Game model of geopolitics. And what are all the drivers that have folks looking to re-group into sets that might function better from directions like reduced destruction of resources and planetary habitability, local self-reliance with diminution of that horror (increasingly apparent) called “trade and markets,” stepping out of the line of fire between the World Elephants, stuff like that.

      But always there is that “threat posed by government and supranational corporations…”

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I have a few Taiwanese friends, and I get the impression that certainly among the young, they very definitely don’t feel ‘Chinese’ and deeply resent the KMT and broader establishment and their cosying up to Beijing. It seems very fashionable for all Taiwanese to claim native Taiwan ancestry even when they are mostly of Han descent. The political system there walks a very fine tightrope, there are lots of things that are ‘understood’ but never really said – either not to rock the boat with China, or not to provoke things internally. As you say, there are clear memories of the riots and massacres of the ‘White Terror’.

      That analysis is very interesting – Taiwan is a very defendable island, but the Chinese government has propogandised internally so much about Taiwan being a brakeaway province that a government could well find itself finding itself forced to invade just through sheer weight of public opinion in the event of the wrong circumstances. There is a huge amount of pride involved on all sides.

      I doubt though that the Chinese government military plan is an invasion. Much more likely in the event of a crisis is that they simply try to starve the island out – they are perfectly capable of shutting off all sea and air access. I suspect though that the Taiwanese people would not back down easily. And for the moment, they have a friend in Trump. Obama was happy to sell them out.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      They were part of Japan from 1895 until 1945 and were not directly affected by much of the chaos and violence in China from the Opium Wars and the Taiping Civil War, the end of the Chinese empire, the warlord era, the brutal Japanese invasion, the civil war that brought the communists to power, the mass famines, the Cultural Revolution.

      From Wikipedia, Taiwanese Imperial Japan Serviceman:

      With Japan’s manpower depleting, the Japanese government terminated the army and navy special volunteers programs in 1944 and 1945 respectively, replacing them with systematic conscription.[2] Before Japan’s surrender, there were 126,750 non-combatants and 80,453 soldiers and sailors serving in Japan’s military, with roughly 16,000 of them having been recruited through volunteer programs. A total of 30,304 servicemen, or 15 percent of those recruited and conscripted, were killed or presumed killed in action. Additionally, 173 Taiwanese who served in the Imperial Japanese military were found guilty of Class B and C war crimes. 26 Taiwanese servicemen were sentenced to death, although only two sentences were carried out.

      First voluntary, then through conscription.

      When asked the reason for serving, many veterans stated that they joined for better treatment for them and for their families. According to interviewed veterans, those who served were given extra food and other rationed articles for their families, and were less likely to be discriminated against by the Japanese government.[3] Another reason, as stated by some veterans, was that they were treated more equally with the Japanese in the military because they “were all soldiers for the Emperor.”

      They were not alone, nor exceptional. For example, in France, they had French volunteers in the Wehrmacht.

      After Japan’s defeat and handover of Taiwan, many veterans who survived the war were persecuted by the Kuomintang (Nationalist) government because the Nationalists saw them as Hanjian (race traitors) for serving in the Japanese military.[4] Some veterans later joined the February 28 uprising against the Nationalist government that resulted in further oppression during the White Terror.

      Not sure how political leadership passed to De Gaule, but he was the victor and a patriot, and people welcomed him back, for liberating France. So after the war, similar persecutions or trials were held for those Vichy collaborators.

      In Germany, the victor nations made sure of de-nazification in order to make the world safer.

      Unlike the American Civil War, there were no special requirements for re-admitting into the country. Everyone was Chinese.

      1. JTMcPhee

        “Made sure of de-nazification?” I recall they left a whole lot of Nazis in place,, imported a bunch of them for Rocket Science work and nuclear weapons and stuff,, and brought a lot of them unrepentant and unshriven into the US Imperial State Security Apparatus that brought us the Cold War and all its pseudopodia, .

        More like “spread the virus,” in my view. Think of all the Nazis who picked up their looted art treasures and the gold ripped from the teeth of “lesser breeds” headed into the crematoria, and off to Argentina and such places to keep on doing what they do best.

        But then, a certain world view and behavioral tics of a certain kind of people always seem to generate the power-grabbing, sneaky, subversive, chaos-loving types into that kind of activity. Anywhere you go, any age or era. “I can get away with doing whatever I want to you, mope, and you have ZERO recourse.” Some people just get off on that…

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          From the same Wikipedia article:

          Former President Lee Teng-hui of the Republic of China briefly served as a second lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army in the final months of World War II. His brother, Lee Teng-chin, was killed in action in the Philippines while serving in the Imperial Japanese Navy and his remains were never recovered. Lee Teng-chin and at least 26,000 Taiwanese Imperial Japan servicemen and hundreds of Takasago Volunteers, who were killed or presumed killed in action, were enshrined in the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan.

          Another parallel…in the Yasukuni Shrine…a few left in (high) places.

  8. Zagonostra

    Refer: Amazon/Union

    “We do not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers, our shareholders, or most importantly, our associates. Our business model is built upon speed, innovation, and customer obsession—things that are generally not associated with union. When we lose sight of those critical focus areas we jeopardize everyone’s job security: yours, mine, and the associates’.”

    It’s telling in the statement above, that the “most importantly” comes at the end of the sentence. If the Amazon’s interest was most importantly on its workforce it would have appeared first, instead it appears at the end, and the end of a stick is where they want to keep the Unions.

    What galls me is that my otherwise socially conscious progressive friends love ordering products from Amazon Prime…if anyone is serious about bettering the lives of ordinary working folds, they wouldn’t step inside a Wallmart or order products off of Amazon until they start providing living wages.

    1. Spring Texan

      I disagree – we can change these things only by stuff like unions and legislation, not by “voting by shopping.” Unless there’s an organized boycott that’s likely to be effective, there’s no point in my avoiding Amazon (although i do avoid Walmart simply because I don’t like them).

      I give money to elect candidates who will reign Amazon in and i think that’s far more useful than cutting off my nose to spite my face to no effect.

      1. perpetualWAR

        OMG. It is unbelievable that you think nothing would be accomplished by your decision to change your shopping bad habits. But, after all, this is the “me” generation. You have learned well. Your handlers will be pleased.

        1. Left in Wisconsin

          The history of consumer boycotts is not filled with success stories. And the handful of successful consumer boycotts were all, to the best of my knowledge, organized by unions.

          Amazon needs to be unionized.

      2. Elizabeth Burton

        Consumer boycotts against huge monopolies are impossible. If it makes you feel better not to shop at Amazon and Walmart, that’s lovely. However, the number of people who would have to follow suit to have any effect on Amazon is astronomical. It also overlooks the fact that, unlike Walmart, much of the merchandise sold via Amazon comes from independent sellers, and they are the ones most likely to be damaged by a boycott.

        Not to mention that Bezos could dump Amazon in the Pacific tomorrow and the only ones who would suffer are the people who work there.

  9. Ancient1


    (or honor in American English; either spelling in Canadian English.)[1] is the idea of a bond between an individual and a society as a quality of a person that is both of social teaching and of personal ethos, that manifests itself as a code of conduct, and has various elements such as valor, chivalry, honesty, and compassion. It is an abstract concept entailing a perceived quality of worthiness and respectability that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or institution such as a family, school, regiment or nation. Accordingly, individuals (or institutions) are assigned worth and stature based on the harmony of their actions with a specific code of honour, and the moral code of the society at large.

    Samuel Johnson, in his A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), defined honour as having several senses, the first of which was “nobility of soul, magnanimity, and a scorn of meanness”. This sort of honour derives from the perceived virtuous conduct and personal integrity of the person endowed with it. On the other hand, Johnson also defined honour in relationship to “reputation” and “fame”; to “privileges of rank or birth”, and as “respect” of the kind which “places an individual socially and determines his right to precedence”. This sort of honour is often not so much a function of moral or ethical excellence, as it is a consequence of power. Finally, with respect to sexuality, honour has traditionally been associated with (or identical to) “chastity” or “virginity”, or in case of married men and women, “fidelity”. Some have argued that honour should be seen more as a rhetoric, or set of possible actions, than as a code.”

    I wonder if present day society knows this word or what it stands for, especially in Washington, DC, I don’t’ believe that there are many “honorable men and women” left in our world. Perhaps I am wrong.

    1. ChristopherJ

      Misused word. eg All Members of the Australian Parliament are honourable by default.

      When you address an MP, you must use the word, eg the Honourable Malcolm Turnbull.

      An oxymoron just about every time it is used.

      1. Plenue

        I find time and again that formal social honor systems are so much crap. To the ancient Greeks it was kleos, that a warrior must do ‘great things’ to get people to talk about him. Values have shifted so massively however, that any modern reader of the illiad is likely to see Achilles, the paragon of kleos, as a whiny, petulant dipshit.

        To a Tokugawa Samurai, protecting his honor enabled him to cut down a lowly peasant in the street if he felt his honor was insulted (though he would have to prove it was justified at a trial afterward).

        Acid throwing are not uncommon in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. The man permanently disfiguring his daughter or other female relative is fully convinced this is justified to defend his and his family’s ‘honor’.

        It seems to me honor systems institutionalize really awful behavior.

        1. witters

          “Values have shifted so massively however, that any modern reader of the illiad is likely to see Achilles, the paragon of kleos, as a whiny, petulant dipshit.”

          Not me. Is there a study?

          1. Plenue

            Really, you find the guy who refuses to fight because his sex slave is confiscated, then goes into a rage after his boyfriend is mistaken for him and killed, ultimately dragging the killers body around behind his chariot, to be admirable?

            You do you, I guess.

    2. Procopius

      I think that most of them believe the sense of “Honor” as a code of conduct is a quaint relic of the past, while the sense of “Honor” as determining their right to precedence is extremely important. Of course “Honor” has no connection with sexual behavior.

  10. Alex

    Read the LRB piece and what I’m wondering is why it’s so hard to accept that no one is black and white. The fact that Jeremy Corbyn has much more sensible views on the economy and the British would most likely be better off with him leading the government is perfectly compatible with him having certain problematic attitudes.

    Why instead of acknowledging it invent dubious reasons why all his positions are ethically unassailable? Specifically in this piece they say that “there are very good reasons for singling Israel out, such as the deep complicity of Western liberal democracies in its violence. The point is especially pertinent in Britain, which is implicated in everything that is happening in Israel and Palestine today,… occupied Palestine for the thirty years between the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the founding of the state of Israel.” As an argument for singling out Israel it’s absurd as the British are implicated in lots of current conflicts: Rohingya, Sri Lanka/Tamils (in both cases by bringing cheap labour), Cyprus, Iraq, Nigeria (in both cases unifying disparate regions to rule them more easily), Iran (by bringing down Mossadegh), to name a few just a few from the top of my head.

  11. Michael Hudson

    I’ll be speaking Saturday morning at the MMT conference in 1D (9:30 at the 13th St bldg 1205) and 2C (12th St bldg A510).

    1. ChristopherJ

      Wish I could be there Michael and I hope to watch proceedings in due course.

      As an economist myself, yours and others’ efforts to raise awareness on MMT are applauded.

      Any chance now of dropping the word ‘theory’? MMT is not a theory, IMHO, it is a description of how things are.

    1. allan

      Deaths of despair, part 2:

      Researchers Glimpse into ‘Real World’ of Cancer and Financial Hardship

      Nearly one in five older patients with advanced cancer have financial problems that may cause them to delay treatment to cover food and housing costs, which leads to stress and poor quality of life, according to new Wilmot Cancer Institute research.

      The “financial toxicity” study was conducted at several cancer clinics across the country, involving 542 patients ages 70 to 96, said senior author Supriya Mohile, M.D., M.S., a geriatric oncology expert …

    2. JeffC

      Maybe each such suicide leaves another gun free to be pawned?

      Beware assumptions about the direction of causality (even when the topic is unsettling).

      1. Louis Fyne

        you just beat to the same point. that was my knee-jerk thought as well.

        presumably the authors address that point.

    3. Wukchumni

      I knew a fellow that had a few pawn shops in the SF bay area about 30 years ago.

      He told me that his clientele would get a loan on a VCR on Monday, and then get it out of hock on the weekend, so they could watch films.

      …it’s a business that feeds on desperate people

      It’s the bottom rung of finance and people are generally at the end of their assorted ropes (i’d like to see a study on nooses sold in pawn shops that led to the demise of the buyer) so it’s not hard to imagine much higher suicide rates when it comes to hand cannons purchased from them.

      Another possibility is that most all guns sold in pawn shops are used, and perhaps a well worn gat is all they can afford, and besides it only needs to be used once.

  12. The Beeman

    Two Men Told Senate Staffers They Had “The Encounter” With Christine Blasey Ford, Not Brett Kavanaugh Buzzfeed.

    WASHINGTON — Senate Judiciary Committee staff interviewed two men who said they believed that they, and not US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, had “the encounter” with the woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, according to new information released Wednesday night by the committee.

    The revelation — which came on the eve of much-anticipated public testimony from Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused him of assault, Christine Blasey Ford — included few details. The committee didn’t identify the men, offer details about what they said, state whether committee staff found their accounts credible, or indicate whether there would be any further follow-up.

    The committee released a timeline describing how committee Chair Chuck Grassley and his staff had responded to misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh, starting with Ford’s account of being attacked at a party in the summer of 1982. On Sept. 24, the committee said that staff interviewed “a man who believes he, not Judge Kavanaugh, had the encounter with Dr. Ford in 1982 that is the basis of his complaint.”

    1. Montanamaven

      I just heard Lindsey Graham, who is a huge Kavanaugh supporter, say on Fox and Friends that one of these two men is “a loon”.

    2. Wukchumni

      The latest revelation only confirms that yes, there were sexual assaults going on @ the parties Kavanaugh attended, not the kind of in retrospect witnesses you’d want vouching for you.

    3. marym

      The committee didn’t identify the men, offer details about what they said, state whether committee staff found their accounts credible, or indicate whether there would be any further follow-up.

      A Democratic aide told BuzzFeed News in an email that committee Democrats were not told about the allegations, which was a violation of committee rules.

      Last night Republicans released these 2 anonymous claims, and another anonymous claim, from someone they supposedly traced to an anonymous twitter account about another alleged rape.

      Meanwhile, three women have come forward, non-anonymously, asking for a formal investigation, indicating a willingness to testify, and a possible witness/participant. Two of them haven’t been asked to testify, one will be questioned by a prosecutor, not the Senators, and the alleged witness/partipant/friend of Kavanaugh hasn’t been subpoenaed.

      1. pretzelattack

        reminds me more and more of the way anita hill was treated, excluding relevant testimony from at least one other woman on the way thomas treated her.

        1. marym

          Live tweet of the hearing

          One tweet:

          Now Grassley is disparaging Ford’s request for an FBI investigation at length, quoting Joe Biden, again before Dr. Ford has said a word.

          1. Katniss Everdeen

            Watching live.

            Two disgusting, clueless octogenarians–grassley and feinstein–shamelessly and endlessly grandstanding and bickering as if this is all about THEM while Ford has to sit there and listen. The senate is the very definition of irredeemable.

            1. Roger Smith

              I want to know who leaked Ford’s info from a confidential letter to the reporters who started harassing her. Was it Feinstein or WaPo? Both?

              Now PBS has some partisan hack on the screen to give her “objective” analysis as a special prosecutor hot off the press circuit for writing her book about the case for impeaching Trump. Donate today!

              1. Unna

                Who leaked the letter? Yes. Was it leaked in order to force Dr. Ford out into the open w/ her story? That’s why this is an important question. Am still watching this hearing on the computer.

                1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                  I am waiting till it’s over to find out who is more believable to the people in general and if the politicians gain or lose.

                2. Katniss Everdeen

                  Someone should ask feinstein that question. For all the bloviating and posturing about the refusal to call “witnesses” like Mark Judge, I’d like to know exactly how that lettter was handled by eshoo, feinstein and their “staffs.”

                3. Elizabeth Burton

                  As I understand it, Dr. Ford originally sent her letter describing the attack to Feinstein back in July, asking her not to use it without first consulting her. As it became clearer Kavanaugh was going to be railroaded through, Dr. Ford contacted Feinstein and told her to go ahead and use it if she deemed it necessary.

                4. Procopius

                  I still want to see one of the Senators, and I do not care if it’s male or female, Democratic or Republican, demand that the FBI track down the people who sent credible death threats to Dr. Ford and refer them for prosecution for tampering with a witness (h/t digby). I would really like to see more than one demand it, and I would like even more to see this demanded for every person who is a witness at a Congressional hearing who is harrassed, not only by death threats. It will never be done, of course. The FBI is terrified of the idea.

          2. Unna

            FBI investigation: Such an investigation would not be an investigation of Judge K. It would be an investigation of the alleged incident. That means not only an investigation of who remembers what but also of the involved persons habits and general behaviour in regards to sexual activity, drinking, partying, instances of truth telling or telling lies, and even more interesting, an investigation of involved persons general reputations in the relevant community for all of the above. I.e., information that could be used to impeach their testimony. We should wonder if Dr. Ford really wants a bunch of FBI foot soldiers rooting around in her teenage past. And remember, lowly FBI agents would enjoy nothing better than to gather facts and hold up to ridicule persons like Ford and K that are products of elite prep schools and Wash country club society all exemplifying profound economic and social privilege. That may be ugly but that’s the way the world is.

              1. Yves Smith

                No, I think the point is she may not understand what she is asking for. Recall the classic warning from a law professor, Don’t Talk to the Police:


                The narrow goal is presumably to force Mark Judge to answer questions. However, I don’t see how an investigation can be credible given how long ago this was (ie, memories are not reliable) and she does not recall the date (it seems even the approximate date) or the location of the abuse.

      2. Carolinian

        I believe it was the Dems who requested release of all Repub accuser and excuser contacts. Seems there have been quite a few as may be true of all SC nominees.

    4. Llewelyn Moss

      That reeks of a Repub smokescreen. 1) Anonymous confessions so conveniently they can’t be questioned. 2) What is their motive for confessing? They are not the victims who have had nightmares for the past 30 years.

      Now the Repubs have brought in a hired gun to do a professional character assination job of the victim. We are about to add yet another sexual perv to SCOTUS. Another anti-consumer/taxpayer, pro-corporate scumbag.

      1. ChristopherJ

        This! If it had been me, why the heck would I dredge up the past? Unless someone gave me incentives…

    5. Mel

      Meanwhile, Ted Rall discusses the political and judicial reasons you really don’t want Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.
      Summing up with the bullet points from Kavanaugh’s work so far:

      Supporting torture. Undermining Congress and the rule of law. Contempt for habeas corpus. Giving the president the powers of a king. Any of these are more than enough reason to oppose Kavanaugh but Democrats ignored or barely mentioned them during judiciary committee hearings. There were no rants, no floor speeches. Liberal protesters did not gather to condemn Kavanaugh on torture. Liberal groups did not air ads about it.

      1. Another Scott

        Maybe the Senate should waterboard Kavanaugh to see if he raped Ford or any of his other accusers to see if admits their stories are correct.

      2. Wash Park Horn

        Rall’s presents compelling reasons for rejecting Kavanaugh. His Circuit Court opinions on modern surveillance techniques support broad government power to surveil and search individuals without a warrant.

        If confirmed, Kavanaugh comes to a Court that split 5 to 4 on the “third party doctrine.” In Carpenter v. U.S., the Court addressed whether the government may obtain cell site data held by wireless carriers (third-parties) without a warrant. “Cell site data” documents the location of a cell user’s phone at any given moment in the past and is stored by the carrier for five years.

        Prior to the 2018 Carpenter decision, the government obtained this data without a warrant under the third-party doctrine (a person has no expectation of privacy for information provided to a third-party, e..g., a cell phone carrier). In a majority opinion authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court found “cell site data” provides a comprehensive chronicle of a cell phone user’s past movement. The majority ruled a person does not surrender all Fourth Amendment protection by venturing into the public sphere. Society expects the government will not secretly monitor and catalogue every movement of a person for a long period of time. This location information reveals the person’s individual movement and his private political, professional, religious and sexual associations. Axiomatically, the government cannot monitor and catalog every movement of an individual without obtaining a search warrant.

        The government argued while it cannot collect this information itself, it may obtain the location data from private companies tracking customer location information. The government maintained an individual waives privacy rights over location information when the customer contracts with a cell carrier. Generally, a person has diminished privacy rights for personal information shared with others under the “third-party doctrine.” The Court found the third-party doctrine did not extend to a moment-by-moment chronicle of a person’s physical location compiled for years by the cell carrier.

        The majority found cell-phone users do not “share” their location data in the tradition sense of the word. Cell phones have become a “pervasive and insistent part of daily life.” Carrying a cell phone is “indispensable to participation in modern society.” Cell sites collect location data automatically as a function of cell phone operation. A cell user does not “voluntarily” turn over access to private information by simply using the phone.

        The Majority in Carpenter was made up of an unusual set of justices. Kennedy (the seat Kavanaugh would take over) dissented and was joined by Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch. Kennedy was not the swing vote – Roberts joined Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. Kavanaugh (or his substitute) is taking over Kennedy’s seat, which – in this small slice of Constitutional Law – should not change the outcome in future disputes.

        I am looking for silver linings . . ., and this is one of the few I found when contemplating Kennedy’s replacement.

  13. a different chris

    So there are “other guys that actually did it”. Well not surprised, will not be surprised if it is true, will not be surprised if false. Memory is a strange thing.

    Anyway, the best article is of the apologizing rapist. Since, even if every detail Dr. Ford says is true, it’s assault not rape then if Kavanaugh had simply apologized, even along the lines of “I hope that didn’t happen, I think she has me confused with somebody else but I was so blackout drunk many times I simply don’t know, and I am so deeply sorry that she has lived with this regardless. My god I have a daughter and can’t even comprehend…” he’d sail right thru and we’d be stuck with another sucky judge. Liberals (not leftists!) apologize for too much too easily, and right-wingers (not small-c conservatives, they are thin on the ground anymore) refuse to apologize at all no matter what.

    Anyway, I’ve had an idea, that if I ever write a sci-fi novel (won’t, too lazy so don’t worry) about judges in general: There are a few at least, maybe more than you think, “lifers” in prison that have sobered up and tried to make whatever they can of themselves. I think they would be perfect for SC and upper-level judges.

    They have no dog in any fight
    They have seen life from the bottom
    They are quite often wicked smart
    They know the court system and how it works, or doesn’t work

    And the high-functioning psychopaths are welcome as well as anybody, in fact they quite likely would be the best at this.

    The obvious problem with my idea in real life is they have nothing to lose, so will be easily bribed in our very corrupt society. Ah well. But, again, it would make a good book. Steal away if, unlike me, you can actually compose a paragraph or two.

    1. rd

      The US is generally quite big on redemption. The recent outpouring of affection for Anthony Bourdain is a classic example of a person who admitted to being a pretty out-of-control and unpleasant human being and then set about righting that.

      The apologizing rapist falls into that category.

      However, I don’t see a Kavanaugh going down that route.

      1. a different chris

        Nope, not him.

        BTW, I want to make sure no-one thinks that I’m minimizing the assault – yeah compared to full-on rape it is a step below. But what stands out to me is that he didn’t just clumsily try to have sex with her due to some drunken misunderstanding, he put his hand over her mouth. That is horrible, and should take it from “you need to apologize” to “Shut up and go sit in jail for awhile”. But that’s for regular people not a prep school future Master Of The Universe, so we’re back to where we started.

    2. False Solace

      Hard partying, heavily drinking Kavanaugh claims he was a virgin through college. So we already know he’s a liar. Ultimately the question is irrelevant. Kavanaugh disqualified himself for high office years ago by making legal arguments in favor of torture and against habeas corpus. He’s a facilitator of war crimes and should be in prison.

  14. Montanamaven

    Amazon article quote

    Our business model is built upon speed, innovation, and customer obsession— things that are generally not associated with union.

    Sad commentary on the sorry state of the end days of this failed economic system.
    It really should say “speed and customer obsession” and then explain the innovation part. The “innovation” is exploiting of desperate people for the love of cheap crap to give customers (people) the appearance of comfort and wealth. Yes, that’s right. Exploitation is not associated with the concept of a perfect union and solidarity among people. People, People, not customers or associates.
    This is one of the most cynical things I’ve read in years.

    1. cnchal

      AI rubs the little narcissist in each of us just the right way, making you feel loved and important by being able to track your crapola to the front door. After the letdown, you do it all over again tomorrow to get that same feeling. It’s an addiction.

  15. Bridget

    “A second doppelganger eruption?”

    Could be the same guy. Ed Whelan by all accounts is a very smart and very thorough and cautious lawyer. If so, it would be entirely out of character for him to be so recklesss as to publish that name with nothing to back up the speculation. Perhaps even the consent or collusion of the doppelgänger.

    I find it quite odd that no news organization seems to have followed up with the doppelganger to, if nothing else, get a denial on record.

    I hope we find out.

    1. Wukchumni

      I remember Chainsaw Al, he reminded me of Anthony Weiner, so over the top cocksure, you knew something was amiss.

    2. Todde

      I took a business ethics course on the topic of Greek debt fiasco and how Goldman Sachs didnt commit an ethical violation.

    3. Arizona Slim

      While my parents were both still alive and able to drive, they’d take me to and from the Philadelphia airport. Nothing like having friendly, loving faces at the beginning and end of a visit to PA.

      The airport used to be a good distance away from the Scott Paper headquarters, but now that building is part of the airport property.

      Any-hoo that building sat there for years, looking sad and forlorn. This was after Scott got the Dunlap treatment, which Mom described as a gutting of the company. We knew many people who lost their jobs — and they didn’t deserve to.

  16. The Rev Kev

    “A review of Britain’s railways will not consider nationalisation”

    Maybe this headline should be rewritten as ‘A review of Britain’s railways will not consider the one option that will fix most of the problems – because markets aka neoliberalism’.

    1. begob

      From the little I know, it seems the problem is the Victorian infrastructure, and nationalisation isn’t going to fix that – at least not in the timeframe government operates by.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The Victorian infrastructure isn’t a negative, its a plus – a vast network where all costs are long sunk and paid for (actually, nearly every Victorian railway lost money, which just goes to show that bubble economics does sometimes leave a good legacy). In comparison to most countries, the UK’s railway network is relatively good quality and coherent – they don’t, for example, suffer the multiplicity of gauges that you find in countries such as Spain. One issue though is that railway lines were frequently designed specifically so the government couldn’t make the original operators co-operate. Thats why, for example, trains from Kings Cross go under the Regents Canal while those from St. Pancras go over – the 20 foot or so vertical difference makes running the same trains on the two lines impossible.

        The problem with the British system is, quite simply, fragmentation. The enormously complex structure caused by privatisation has made it almost impossible to run efficiently. This is why its a money making machine for a few operators, while everyone else suffers. This was driven partly by John Majors nostalgia for the old days of regional companies, and partly by the usual business course led notion that you needed lots of competing companies for a free market, despite the obvious impossibility of this actually working in reality. You could argue that a small number of highly regulated privatised operators on a publically owned infrastructure could have worked (similar to, for example, the way power utilities operate in the US). But that wasn’t tried.

        People loved to hate on British Rail, but the truth was that it worked quite well and delivered value for money for travellers- but of course it was starved of money for a decade or more prior to privatisation to soften it up. For all its faults, fixing a badly run public monopoly is far easier than the appalling mess that is the British rail network.

        1. a different chris

          My first reaction was “I would kill for the Victorian infrastructure in the US”.

          Thanks for this informative post. Fascinating about the 19th century unwillingness to co-operate. It was a time “Great Men”, if by “Great” you also included “top notch (familyblogging)-holes”.

        2. begob

          Thanks for the reply. I remember BR, never had a problem with it. I began going by rail again for a few months in 2005, Branson’s Virgin, and was met by nappy stink throughout the trains – due I believe to a fault in all the septic tanks. Always puzzled me why commuters were forced to endure this. Ten years later I returned to Virgin for a few weeks – same nappy stink.

          I found this comment in the Guardian CIF interesting and depressing:

          Also, for several BTL commenters below, I’ve been working in the transport industry for the 9 years since I graduated, all the talk of nationalisation can do nothing but lower or freeze the costs (which I am in favour of, wholly) but the following is a (honestly) non-patronising explanation of the situation and why improving the network is a long, hard, expensive job that will gain marginal to small gains.

          Headway – The amount of trains capable of being on a line.

          Station capacity and platform length – Variable between stations, you cannot have a train longer than a platform, so the length of the shortest platform on a route dictates the length of a train.

          Fixed block signalling – the signalling system of the UK. Basically, a train enters a section of track, it sends the signal to stop in its exit. This then gets moved to caution and proceed as it motors along into the distance, but it is strictly controlled by track circuitry and Axle counters. This is why your train stops often in service.

          Moving block signalling – The system of some parts of the world, that’re far ahead of us. The train driver is given signals in their cab, the information is constant wireless information relating the train to the ROC (Rail operation Centre). This, in theory allows far more trains to be able to operate on a line as, rather than say a fixed mile between them, a third of that space is needed (if a train ahead has had to stop, the driver will be told to slow down/break immediately or be over-ridden by the system)

          Engineering Hours – The gap of about 5 hours per night, usually disrupted by freight trains, that a team of rail workers gets to work. You may think this is enough, but between getting to site, getting a possession, getting to your worksite (often a 4 mile walk from the nearest access point), setting up, working, moving for the almighty freight trains, then getting the system back to working order and getting back off before the timetable starts again. This all means that, short of the always moaned at Christmas and Easter blocks, no real upgrade work can be undertaken unless we shut a line for the weekend and, for all intents and purposes, rebuild the f*cker on a 48 hour possession.

          So, the UK network is, on fixed block signalling, essentially maxing out its current headway, the ability to roll out Moving Block Signalling is hampered by engineering hours and the fact railways just do not or are not allowed to be shut without (honestly) years of prep work to get a 4 day maximum possession. You can’t simply make the trains longer as that would require expanding nearly all platforms in the country, which when you see the small time frames allowed for working on the network, means it would be a 15 year project to get most platforms extended. Most urban lines, look out of the train, you can see buildings, construction yards, houses etc. You can’t just add more lines in most places, if you can, then this country of people go absolutely NIMBY about helping the national transport crisis and it’ll take billions and years to secure land to build on, even then you won’t get the improvements everywhere and then you get the bottlenecks in these non-upgraded places.

          Add to this the biggest issue of all the rail network, being that since 1995, usage has doubled. More people use it, more people absolutely depend upon it and maybe 15% of the network has been improved in that time, barely covering an inch of the supply and demand issue.

          If it were nationalised, it could be cheaper, but without massive, all encompassing, top priority development, it would not get better. Hell, being cheaper than driving would make it worse, more people trying to use the same, victorian era system.

          1. vlade

            Weeell. The obvious question is: The rest of the world has (apart from fixed vs moving) the same issues. In fact, the line can, in lot of places, stopped for even shorter periods of time than 5 hours.

        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          > The Victorian infrastructure isn’t a negative, its a plus – a vast network where all costs are long sunk

          “Til Dr. Beeching took an axe to it. I bet we’ll wish we had those lines back!

          1. Clive

            Yes, we could then now resemble Japan (which is a very good thing in the context of transportation).

            Don’t it always seem to go
            That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone

        4. vlade

          Disagree. The problem is not so much that is was built by Victorians, as much as it’s not been maintained (much) since then.

          Rail infra is NOT fragmented – it’s actually all under one (and a state owned, at that) company – Network Rail. Was so since 2000 when the privatised operator (Railtrack) blew up after the Hatfield train disaster, and estimated costs of _just repairs_ was then >0.5bln pounds. Which ignores any upgrades and suchlike – but that’s not really an amount that can get accumulated in 6 years since it was privatised, so the roots go much further back.

          Still, nationalisation did not stop all those “signaling problems” that are going left right and centre. Similarly, Victorian Tube is under London ownership (TFL) and was from 1948, and the infra is still falling apart.

          The real problem is the lack of investment to upgrade/maintain properly that infrastructure.

          See, Thames Water tended to get a lot of flak for the fact that is was running the water in Victorian pipes. A lot (majority) of the flak was pretty deserved, but it was also about the unwilingness of the London councils to let it dig out the pipes, which tends to cause major disruptions to trafic – for months. Which was then a convenient excuse for TW.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Oh, I agree that one of the fundamental issues is a lack of long term maintenance. What I mean is that the basic structure is in place for an excellent rail network. When you look at ‘new’ networks around the world it is the capital cost in the first place that is the problem. The Chinese HSR network is fantastic, but the costs of building it are phenominal and it will only stay a good network if a very high proportion of those costs are written off. In fact, the indications are that the network is already starting to degrade due to poor quality construction and funding issues.

            As for fragmentation – yes, in physical terms it is integrated, and Network Rail at least has control over most of the system – but the actualy service network appears to me to be hopelessly complicated. I’m no expert in the running of the franchises, but I understand that trying to sort out each franchises ‘right’ to rail time is one of the biggest problems facing NR. Experience around the world tends to point to having a small number of franchises is a much better option, despite the apparent lack of ‘competition’.

  17. Henry Moon Pie

    For those who think the Kavanaugh stories are more or less limited to the decadent Acela corridor, these Georgetown Prep stories remind me of advice we were given when our son was deciding where to attend high school in a large Midwest city in the 90s. One option was a private school connected to a prestigious university where I was in graduate school in addition to working full-time. A couple of my professors, who had teenage children who did not attend the school, told us that they had decided against sending their children to that school because the social life consisted of weekend parties held at the homes of absent parents.

    My son went to another school, but the lessons it taught were hardly better. This contrasted with my experience in the 60s going from a small, rural high school to a college prep day school in another Midwest city. For me, it was an affirming exposure to a world where intellectual pursuits were valued. For our son, it was a lesson that money and power can make rules dissolve into mist.

    I think this Kavanaugh confirmation process highlights yet again how there is now a total disconnect between the elite’s values, that can be summarized as “winning” is all that matters, and any ethical or moral system that demands that humans treat each other with respect, empathy and honesty. Parents and other adult authority figures look the other way while the young Kavanaughs and Judges “sow their wild oats” as long as they’re making the grades, board scores and connections needed to remain securely in the 10% class. Little wonder that these 10%-ers can grow up to be critical and amoral cogs in Wall Street, the MIC and Establishment media.

    1. Livius Drusus

      And these same people have the gall to lecture working-class and poor people about their personal morality. There is a huge industry out there dedicated to the argument that working-class and poor Americans are suffering because they are immoral. I am thinking of writers like Charles Murray and J.D. Vance who talk about all of the dysfunction of working-class life. Working-class Americans drink too much, they do drugs, they have children outside of marriage, they refuse to get an education, they blow their money on gaudy consumer goods like expensive televisions and sneakers instead of books. Immorality and stupidity are why most Americans are falling behind the rich and upper-middle class, not politics and policy.

      This is an old argument that dates back to the early years of capitalism when drinking, gambling and sexual promiscuity were common elite themes on working-class life. Never mind that many rich Victorian men had mistresses and even forced themselves on poor women who had no choice but to “take it” because they had no power and were considered morally suspect anyway due to stereotypes of working-class women being promiscuous.

      I have reservations about using sex scandals to bring down political opponents but as the Kavanaugh story has unfolded I am glad that people are beginning to see that the rich and upper-middle class are not the saintly meritocracts they think they are. Bill Cosby is another example of this. Here was a guy who constantly lectured poor African-Americans about their personal morality with his Pound Cake speech and image as “America’s Dad” while he was committing adultery on a massive scale and drugging and assaulting women. What a phony hypocrite Cosby was.

      I am also glad to see Christian conservatives get revealed as the hypocrites they are, and I am saying this as a Catholic like Kavanaugh. These are the people who lecture the poor on morality the most and yet they don’t care about morality when it comes to scoring political victories and getting their people onto the Supreme Court. They are also fine with Trump’s immoral behavior while making comparisons to King David while forgetting that David was punished severely for his sins.

      1. Unna

        Sex Scandals. I recall from studying the reign of the Emperor Augustus, back in a previous century, that sex scandals were among the ways contending elites tried to destroy one another bureaucratically and at the imperial court. Augustus tried to reestablish Roman life around traditional values, but of course it was all a fake show for the Roman mopes, as our betters like to call us. Political issues were at an end because the emperor and his advisors decided everything. Local elections were held but centred around family names and public personalities with lots of flamboyant political organizing and advertising, ie graffiti. So sex scandals became prevalent as the best means to destroy a rival. Kinda like in our own day, no real economic or foreign policy differences between many of the senators at the K hearings, personality and publicity driven elections. All because the political process has become a sham.

        Now back to the hearing show.

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      I think this episode demonstrates that the Dems do not understand the full implications of trying to win the votes of ‘Suburban Republican Women.’ To put it bluntly, they would need to back Kavanaugh if they wanted to appeal to SRWs.

        1. bronco

          LOL sure they can obviously not be women if they are voting republican.

          To add to Trump derangement syndrome we have the Kavanaugh derangement also.

          The groper turned gang rapist soon to be the secret son of Adolph Hitler , thats Maddows show tonight.

          We are going full Daily Kos around here now.

          This is why democrats can’t win, they spend all their time playing small ball. If this guy doesn’t get it they will cheer and pat themselves on the back like conquering heroes and then watch Trump nominate a woman with views even more extreme. They will find they have an empty quiver and she will be passed without a word.

          1. FluffytheObeseCat

            “democrats […] spend all their time playing small ball. If this guy doesn’t get it they will cheer and pat themselves on the back like conquering heroes and then watch Trump nominate a woman with views even more extreme”

            Your concern for the long-term success of the Democratic Party is touching.

            You are probably correct about the lame response of Congressional Democrats over time, especially if they fail to take back the House. And I think they will fail. Almost every voter who needs a job can find one now, although they’ll earn little for their efforts. They are short on time. Federal-level Democrats are either unappealing Clinton era hanger-ons, or coastal, urban interest group grifters. With no inherent backbone, and little voter interest, their failure is pretty much a given.

            But, jobs or no, much of the U.S. population is so angry. Angry about governance particularly. You seem to have this idea that Trump’s “muscular” strongman shtick is something that we are all going to lap up……….. despite the bitchy way he sneers at some loser-of-the-moment during every rally.

            We aren’t lapping it up. Not even while ghouls like Feinstein or Pelosi front for the “other” side. All the (limited) change at the moment is showing up on the Dem side. Sanders’ partisans. Military/letter agency types. At the moment, potential new voting and policy blocs are only rising within the Dem hierarchy. The incumbent Republicans are just water boys for Trump, and Trump isn’t providing a new slate to replace them. He’s a one-off.

          2. Procopius

            Yes, I’ve seen descriptions of two women who were on the list Kavanaugh was selected from, and their judicial records are much worse than his. One of them is virtually loony. And since the Democrats have been failing/refusing to talk about legal philosophy I think she’d pass easily. Bear in mind, even with Kavanaugh, we’ve got Manchin and Heitkamp likely to vote for the Trump choice. Collins and Murkowski are NOT going to vote against.

    3. Mike Mc

      Just watched (or re-watched) “Easy A” on HBO – the 2010 film that made Emma Stone a big star. A wonderful satire on both high school and American culture, and a great way to put the Kavanope circus into better perspective.

      This all seems very much like Halberstam’s “The Best and The Brightest” 2.0. The elite have been exploiting the masses from the dawn of civilization; sometimes we proles get the better of them, sometimes they crush us, sometimes the heads roll into the baskets.

      Knowing that aspiring to Ivy League schools may mean debasing yourself or others in spectacularly inappropriate, illegal or even fatal ways may make our current Best and Brightest think a little harder about what getting ahead in this country means, and what it’s worth.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Knowing that aspiring to Ivy League schools may mean debasing yourself or others in spectacularly inappropriate, illegal or even fatal ways may make our current Best and Brightest think a little harder about what getting ahead in this country means, and what it’s worth.

        Or make the rest of us think why we allow these elites to remain elite.

  18. The Rev Kev

    “Forgotten Russia: Is Putin’s Foreign Policy Focus a Fatal Obsession?”

    This article is right. Putin is obsessed with foreign affairs and he should concentrate more on domestic affairs. I have no idea what he is thinking. Unless it is the fact that there is a hostile, militant NATO right on their actual borders. And that NATO holds tank parades a few blocks from the border itself. And that nuclear-tipped missiles are being set up near the borders to give minimal warning to Moscow in case of a first strike. And that Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are being deployed to Russia’s sea borders that have nuclear-tipped missiles. And that a neutral Back Sea is now being militarized to threaten Russia’s southern borders. And that a murderous civil war has been set up on the Ukrainian border and neoNazis running the country. And that over the past few years that Washington has imposed about 60 different sanctions on Russia. And that the west is training, equipping and protecting fanatical Jihadists to be used against Russia’s south. And that Russian personnel have been deliberately killed by the US and other countries because Russia is fighting those same Jihadists. And that the US is trying to ensure that no country in the world will be allowed to buy superior Russian weaponry. Apart from that, there is no reason why Putin should obsess with foreign affairs.

  19. The Rev Kev

    “Russia’s S-300 Play in Syria Is Creating Geopolitical Waves”

    I read that Russia is going to be shipping eight S300s to Syria which will cover the entire country. Maybe the message is that Russia and Syria will be coming for those ISIS and Al-Quada Jihadists in Idlib and this time the west will not be able to do a damn thing to stop it.
    Someone said that Israel could use their magic-bullets – their new F-35s – to go after them but I doubt that the US would let them in any case as if a few got shot out of the sky, the financial repercussions on the US defense industry would be colossal.

  20. tricia

    re My Rapist Apologized

    It is great that this stuff is coming out. So many women can relate to this: “getting our bodies groped at a high-school party was the unfortunate price we paid for having them.” And so many of us have incidents in our pasts similar to hers, and have silently struggled with the aftermath throughout our lives.
    So I really understand the need to oppose this man, as she says, to protect the rights of our daughters to their “bodily autonomy.”

    But I also feel we need to oppose him to protect our children’s other rights. Many of us are not from affluent backgrounds and worry about our kids’ economic rights- ie to health care, education, a meaningful standard of living. And their rights regarding a clean environment. Their rights to privacy. And while my kids don’t struggle under the burden of racism, so many do, and their civil rights could be further eroded. Just overall, perhaps their rights to not live under constant assault by corporate power?

    I predict Kavanaugh won’t make it. But we should be worried about all the little reactionary kavanaughs waiting in the wings (including ones w/o sexual predation histories) and the kavanaugh-ish ones already on the court(s).
    These men- and potentially women, too- are real threats to the rights of most people in this country and should be opposed loudly and vocally for all these reasons.

    1. a different chris

      Oh yes we have a lot to worry about.

      I think, and mostly still do, that Obama’s nomination of Garland was basically s(human feces). But maybe there is a bright side… I think that the “Kavanaugh” we get, whether it is the real thing or your “little Kavanaugh”, will not be given the deference once automatically given to an SC Justice. And that will open the whole stupid court up to examination. Pass the popcorn…

      Why in this country so full of praise of “individual effort” does somebody get a lifetime job at the top of the pyramid? Doesn’t our very myth say that those on top are always to be knocked off by somebody better?

      Yes I used the word “myth” deliberately.

  21. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    Further to Brexit, I have caught up with former colleagues dispersed around the City this week. (Hard) Brexit planning is kicking in, but it’s seen as too little and too late. Some big firms are panicking. One former employer approached me with a poisoned chalice, not well paid for the personal risk, last week, but I am not interested and colleagues there said to keep well away. Just to complicate matters, some of the experts on such matters want out of financial services and / or the UK.

    Just to add to the grief, the first round of Li(e)bor class / civil actions are expected next year. One class is considering suing the above employer for £5 billion. Also, the move from Li(e)bor is about to cause chaos.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      I forgot to add that at working lunch for buy side CEOs, one CEO said capitalism was not working for most people and sustainable if a dozen people own more than half the planet. Another added that billionaires buying hideaways in New Zealand or Patagonia would not protect them. Strange times!

      1. Wukchumni

        I remember reading about a German family in the mid 1930’s that saw the writing on the wall, and got the hell out of dodge, to settle on a near deserted South Pacific island named…


      2. ChrisPacific

        They are right. (Ask Kim Dotcom). They might think of it as an escape, but they would still be subject to local laws and extradition treaties.

        Also, if they all fled the USA after wrecking it, they would give up their influence over the government and culture. A sufficiently aggrieved populace with a Trump-style leader would then be free to use all the considerable resources at the disposal of the USA to force them to return and face the music.

        You would think most of them would realize this, but I think many lack the self-awareness to understand what a protected class they are at present. I can think of any number of tone-deaf op eds to illustrate my point.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I forgot to add that at working lunch for buy side CEOs, one CEO said capitalism was not working for most people and sustainable if a dozen people own more than half the planet. Another added that billionaires buying hideaways in New Zealand or Patagonia would not protect them. Strange times!

        Holy moley!

  22. Duck1

    By the way, the post title changed slightly to Link yesterday, and now all I am being served are ads for Sabretts.

  23. Wukchumni

    I was in a courtroom about 25 years ago, when they brought out an 11 year old girl to have her describe being raped by the accused, on the stand.

    I felt so sorry for the little one, enduring the 2nd half of her ordeal in such a fashion…

    I feel the same way watching Mrs Ford now, sad.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Have heard of cases like that here where they would have someone like that give their testimony by video to the court to take off a lot of unnecessary pressure.

      1. Wukchumni

        I was in court as a witness to a takeover bank robbery in LA, and it took forever to get to the docket, so I was stuck in place, when that case came along.

        It shocked me, the sheer callousness.

        1. The Rev Kev

          How hard would it be to go to your local cop shop when it came time to bear witness in that bank robbery trial, prove your identity to the desk-sergeant, and then go to a room with a computer/laptop with a secured Skype connection to give witness? But they don’t think of doing stuff like that, do they?

          1. Wukchumni

            Heck, we don’t even allow photos in the courtroom, ha!

            The ‘court artist’ is probably one of the last mainstream jobs employing somebody in such a fashion.

  24. barefoot charley

    The Corbyn story says he’ll sincerely work with May as long as Britain, er, stays in the EU when it Brexits. Corbyn obviously knows that the EU has monotonously said that the way to stay in the customs union, as Corbyn requires, is to stay in the EU. Period. Does the stenographer reporting this story not know this, after all this time? I get that May will never know it, but still–am I missing anything? Is Corbyn still just dancing on the head of his party’s pin?

    1. False Solace

      The customs union has been discussed on NC previously. It’s hard to say whether Corbyn is as ignorant as the Tories or if he’s just using it to score points. It seems like the British media is using the phrase “customs union” as short hand for something other than it actually is.

      Repeat after us: a customs union is only about tariffs. It has absolutely nothing to do with the other elements of being inside an “internal market,” such as needing to verify if goods meet safety standards or other requirements. So being inside a customs union by itself does zero to alleviate the need for a hard border.

      NC: Yet More Brexit Idiocy: Cabinet Thinks Begging to Stay in Customs Union Will Solve Irish Border Problem

  25. allan

    Philip Rucker Verified account @PhilipRucker:

    “[Ford] is extremely credible and Rachel Mitchell is not laying a glove on her… the president cannot be happy with this.” — Judge Napolitano (a Trump favorite) on Fox News (which Trump surely is watching).

    BK is toast.

    1. blowncue


      The last question from Ms. Mitchell to Dr. Ford, inquiring as to whether she had undergone a forensic interview. I had one reaction, and one question. Reaction: If Ms. Mitchell is aware of the best practice, then why did she consent to act as surrogate examiner for the Republican Judiciary Committee? I don’t know if that is a fair question on my part. Question: I could interpret that question as a rejoinder to Sen. Harris’ invocation of the Maricopa County AZ best practices document. Did Dr. Ford’s attorneys drop the ball for failing to obtain that forensic interview?

  26. Wukchumni

    Lindsay Graham is a little sweaty (a nervous sweat i’d say) as he’s blaming everything on the donkey show in a presser, stick a fork in this nomination.

    1. Llewelyn Moss

      I agree that Kavanaugh should be Toast at this point. But this government is so totally morally bankrupt, so rotted (red and blue parties), I’m betting they slam him through even if it takes bribing a couple red state Dems to cross the line. The Koch Brothers are probably working the phones at this very moment.

  27. Unna

    So far I’m watching Dr Ford and trying to estimate how she would play before a small town jury. How might they react to her personality, use of language, pronunciation of words, upward inflection at end of sentences, tone of and pitch of voice (if I closed my eyes what age would I guess her to be), lack of details of incident before and after (fair or not). Interplay between her hair and glasses. Watching this slowly. The wonders of modern tech. And “fair” has nothing to do with this.

    1. False Solace

      That’s falling into the trap of viewing testimony before Congress as some sort of criminal proceeding. As others have pointed out, this isn’t a trial. It’s a job interview. The committee’s job is not to determine the truth of various allegations — or to determine the “interplay between her hair and glasses” (ugh). If you oppose torture and various other war crimes, Kavanaugh has already failed. The fact that he’s up for consideration is evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the United States, regardless of what happened at an underage party 30 years ago.

      1. Unna

        This is not a job interview. It’s a staged political spectacle, by both sides, intended to win the hearts and minds of mopes and deplorables all over the country in order that they put voter pressure on senators to vote one way or the other. It’s not a dispassionate search for truth. And much with an additional eye to winning the midterms and/or obstructing the nomination until after the election. People watching at home, maybe typical of juries, ordinary people, absorb gestures etc, subliminally and get impressions as to the reliability of people giving testimony by such means. They do not focus their attention only on parsed verbal propositions and statements across hours of testimony. This is not me, it’s a description of the reality of such events.

        As for me, I don’t like K. Not one bit. He will be horrible for America. “The fact that he’s up for consideration is evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the United States, regardless of what happened at an underage party 30 years ago.” I agree with you here 100%. But to acquiesce in a means justifies the end politics is itself morally questionable.

        1. Unna

          Torture and K? Blame Obama, his Atty Gen, and Hillary since she was his Sec of State. Obama could have crushed torture forever by a series of criminal prosecutions. Trump appointed Gina Haspel but Obama could have put her in prison. Aiding and abetting torture is also a crime and a reformist Atty Gen could have made a case against the writers of legal opinions which OK’d torture. But Obama’s Atty Gen didn’t because Obama was a president of zero moral substance. What daylight is there between Obama and the Dem senators on the committee? I care about torture but which Dem senator really cares when they all had an opportunity to do something about it but looked the other way?

          And now, back to my plum butter.

          1. Oregoncharles

            Plum butter – now, there’s an idea. It was rather a big year for plums, and we have as many dried ones as we can use.

            They are good in cobblers, too.

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